Ghosts (Japan song)

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Japan - Ghosts 7 inch.jpg
Single by Japan
from the album Tin Drum
B-side "The Art of Parties (Version)"
Released March 12 1982
Format 7" and 12" vinyl
Recorded 1981
Length 3:55
Label Virgin
Songwriter(s) David Sylvian
Japan singles chronology
"Visions of China"

"Visions of China"
Alternative cover
12" single.
12" single.

"Ghosts" is a song by English band Japan. It was released in edited form in March 1982 as the third single from their 1981 album Tin Drum.

It reached number 5 in the UK Singles Chart in April. Although it was their biggest hit, this was not enough to stop the band splitting a few months later. Journalist Todd Hutlock called it "one of the most remarkable and unlikely entries in British chart history."[2]


Writing credits for the song are attributed exclusively to David Sylvian, while instruments credits on the single sleeve are attributed to Sylvian, Richard Barbieri and Steve Jansen, therefore excluding fourth band member Mick Karn. The lyrics describe deeply personal feelings. Sylvian has since said to Mojo magazine that "Ghosts" pre-empted the band splitting up: "It was the only time I let something of a personal nature come through and that set me on a path in terms of where I wanted to proceed in going solo."[3]


"Ghosts" was released as the third single from Tin Drum in March 1982. It reached number 5 in the UK Singles Chart in April.[4] The group appeared on Top of the Pops on 18 March 1982 when the single was at number 42 in the charts. A week later it had shot up to number 16.[5]


Bereft of drums, the minimalist track would not be described as a "commercially viable" single in most circumstances. However, Japan's popularity at the time, in addition to the early 1980s fashion for new wave music, allowed the single to become unexpectedly popular. Writing in Smash Hits, Tim de Lisle described the single as "arguably the best thing they've ever done – slow, spare and mesmerising".[6] Record Mirror made it Single of the Week, with reviewer Runie describing it as "the most stunningly original single you've heard for a long time".[7]


The 7" single was an edited version of the original album track. The single version is featured on a bonus disc issued with the box set release of the Tin Drum album in 2003.

A live version of "Ghosts" is included on the band's live album Oil on Canvas (1982). Japan also performed the song live on The Old Grey Whistle Test on 4 March 1982.[8] The band line-up included Ryuichi Sakamoto and David Rhodes and this new version of Ghosts, allegedly arranged by Sakamoto, remains unique to this performance.[9]

In 2000 David Sylvian re-recorded "Ghosts" using the original Japan backing track and included it on his compilation albums Everything and Nothing (2000) and A Victim of Stars 1982–2012 (2012). Sylvian has said that "Ghosts" was the first track that indicated the new direction of his compositions after the Japan period. Sylvian also performed the song during The First Day Tour (1992) and Slow Fire Tour (1995).[10]


The song was played in episode six in the BBC series of Ashes to Ashes, a spin-off of Life on Mars, and, since April 2008, it has been used in the trailers for another BBC series, Waking the Dead. The song is also featured in the 2008 Norwegian film The Man Who Loved Yngve.

The song's lyric provides the title for theorist Mark Fisher's 2014 critical work Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures.

The song appeared on the 2006 DJ mix album "Late Night Tales: Air".[11] Deftones covered this song as an iTunes exclusive for their album Diamond Eyes.

"Ghosts" has been sampled by:

Goldie for the 1993 drum and bass track "Ghosts of my Life", under his Rufige Kru alias.[13]

  • Tricky for the song "Hey Love", from his 2013 album False Idols, with writing credit to David Sylvian.[14]

Track listing[edit]

A. "Ghosts" (single mix) – 3:55
B. "The Art of Parties (Version)" (live) – 5:18


  1. ^ a b Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures. Zero Books, May 30, 2014. ISBN 978-1-78099-226-6
  2. ^ a b Hutlock, Todd. "David Sylvian and Japan". Red Bull Music Academy. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  3. ^ "Ghosts by Japan". Retrieved 2016-05-31.
  4. ^ "Japan | Full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts. Retrieved May 2016. Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  5. ^ Popscene TOTP Episode guide - 1982
  6. ^ "Singles Review". Smash Hits: 25. March 18, 1982.
  7. ^ "Singles". Record Mirror: 14. March 11, 1982.
  8. ^ The Old Grey Whistle Test Vol. 3 (DVD). BBC Video. 2006.
  9. ^ "Japan - Television: 4 March 1982 - "The Old Grey Whistle Test" BBC TV". Retrieved 2016-05-31.
  10. ^ "Ghosts - Japan". Retrieved 2016-05-31.
  11. ^ "Air . Releases . Homepage . LateNight Tales". Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  12. ^ Template:Cite Ghosts
  13. ^ "Rufige Kru's Ghosts of My Life sample of Japan's Ghosts (Album Version)". Retrieved 2015-07-08.
  14. ^ "Tricky's Hey Love sample of Japan's Ghosts". Retrieved 2015-07-08.

External links[edit]