BGM (album)

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YMO - BGM album cover.jpg
Studio album by
ReleasedMarch 21, 1981
RecordedJanuary 15, 1981
StudioAlfa Studio "A", Shibaura, Minato, Tokyo
ProducerHaruomi Hosono
Yellow Magic Orchestra chronology
Singles from BGM
  1. "Cue" / "U•T"
    Released: April 21, 1981
  2. "Mass" / "Camouflage"
    Released: September 5, 1981

BGM is the fourth studio album by Yellow Magic Orchestra, released on March 21, 1981. The title stands for "Background music",[1] though Japanese TV and press advertising alternately used "Beautiful Grotesque Music".[2] This album was produced by Haruomi Hosono. Recording started on January 15, 1981, in an effort to release the album by March 21, 1981. The album was the first of any kind to feature the Roland TR-808, one of the earliest programmable drum machines;[3] YMO had already been the first band to use the device, featuring it on-stage as early as 1980.[4][5] In addition to the TR-808, this was also their first studio album recorded with the Roland MC-4 Microcomposer.


Alfa Records, YMO's record company, had installed a 3M 32-track digital recorder in its studio shortly before YMO started recording BGM. Since Hosono was not fond of its overly sharp sound quality, he recorded all the rhythm sections for BGM on a TASCAM 80-8 analog recorder first and copied them with the 3M machine, resulting in the fuller, much compressed rhythm tracks. Unfortunately, no known working samples of the 3M recorder exist in Japan today, making it quite difficult to play the master tape.

One of the earliest uses of the TR-808 for a live performance was by Yellow Magic Orchestra in 1980 for the song "1000 Knives", an electro rendition of member Ryuichi Sakamoto's "Thousand Knives" (1978). The hand-clap sound was later publicized on this album, being used again on "1000 Knives" and in "Music Plans", another of Sakamoto's songs.

Peter Barakan debuts as YMO's co-lyricist, replacing Chris Mosdell. Barakan had previously provided lyrics for Ryuichi Sakamoto's solo track "Thatness and Thereness".[6] Sakamoto himself was often absent from the BGM recording sessions due to creative differences with Hosono; he notably refused to play on "Cue", and his distate of the song was so strong that he refused to play the song's keyboard parts live, instead switching to drums while Takahashi played keyboards. Sakamoto turns in "Music Plans" as his only new composition for the album, since "1000 Knives" (from his 1978 debut album Thousand Knives of Ryuichi Sakamoto) and "Happy End" were new recordings of his earlier materials.[6] Sakamoto's version of "Happy End" was released as the B-side to his solo single "Front Line" in April 1981. Another song, "Rap Phenomena", was an early attempt at electronic rap.[1] "Loom" is a re-working of "The Infinite Space Octave" by YMO computer programmer Hideki Matsutake, and features a slow, upward glissando similar to the Deep Note, THX's audio logo. A similar sound was previously used by YMO members Haruomi Hosono and Ryuichi Sakamoto for their 1978 album Cochin Moon. Like most YMO albums, song titles were printed in both Japanese and English, as listed below. "来たるべきもの" more accurately translates to "What should come".


Professional ratings
Review scores
Stereo Reviewpositive[7]

When released in 1981, the album's reception was positive. Stereo Review described the recording as "crystalline" and the performance as "the twain meet", praising the album for its "remarkable" blend between "East and West", its "catchy tunes", its "ambitious collection of electronics" and for "pushing at the frontiers of electronic rock", but noted that this affected the album's accessibility.[7]

Track listing[edit]

Side one
1."Ballet" (バレエ)Yukihiro Takahashi, Peter BarakanTakahashi4:34
2."Music Plans" (音楽の計画; "Ongaku no keikaku")Ryuichi Sakamoto, BarakanSakamoto4:34
3."Rap phenomena" (ラップ現象; "RAP genshou")Haruomi Hosono, BarakanHosono4:33
4."Happy End" (ハッピー・エンド) Sakamoto4:33
5."1000 Knives" (千のナイフ; "Sen no KNIFE") Sakamoto5:24
Side two
1."Cue" (キュー)Takahashi, Hosono, BarakanTakahashi, Hosono4:33
2."U•T" (ユーティー) Yellow Magic Orchestra4:34
3."Camouflage" (カムフラージュ)Takahashi, BarakanTakahashi4:34
4."Mass" (マス)Hosono, BarakanHosono4:32
5."Loom" (来たるべきもの; "Kitaru beki mono") YMO, Hideki Matsutake5:21
  • All CDs released between 1984 and 1998 feature an alternate take of "Happy End", with audible differences throughout the second half of the track. The original version appears on all CD and later vinyl releases from 1999 onwards.


Yellow Magic OrchestraArrangements, Electronics, Vocals, Voices on "U•T", Mixing engineers

Guest musicians



  1. ^ a b c Mills, Ted. "BGM – Yellow Magic Orchestra". AllMusic. Retrieved 16 June 2015.
  2. ^ the ultimate visual data of YMO 1978-1984 1993 / PERIOD. Japan: 徳間書店. 1993. ISBN 4-19-860001-5.
  3. ^ Jones, Mikey IQ (22 January 2015). "The Essential... Yellow Magic Orchestra". FACT Magazine. Retrieved 24 August 2017.
  4. ^ Jason Anderson (November 28, 2008). "Slaves to the rhythm: Kanye West is the latest to pay tribute to a classic drum machine". CBC News. Retrieved 2011-05-29.
  5. ^ Mickey Hess (2007), Icons of hip hop: an encyclopedia of the movement, music, and culture, Volume 1, ABC-CLIO, p. 75, ISBN 978-0-313-33903-5, retrieved 2011-05-29
  6. ^ a b c Yoo, Noah (7 March 2021). "Yellow Magic Orchestra: BGM". Pitchfork. Retrieved 7 March 2021.
  7. ^ a b "Yellow Magic Orchestra: BGM". Stereo Review. CBS Magazines. 46: 38. 1981. Retrieved 2011-06-01.