Alphaville is a German synthpop/new wave band which gained popularity in the 1980s. The founding members were lead singer Marian Gold (real name: Hartwig Schierbaum, born 26 May 1954 in Herford), Bernhard Lloyd (real name: Bernhard Gössling, born 2 June 1960 in Enger), and Frank Mertens (real name: Frank Sorgatz, born 26 October 1961 in Enger). The band was at first named "Forever Young" before being changed to "Alphaville". They achieved chart success with the singles "Big in Japan", "Jet Set", "Dance With Me" and "Forever Young".
Alphaville formed in early 1982, when Marian Gold and Bernhard Lloyd met at the music project Nelson Community. Many months later, Frank Mertens joined the project. Together the three wrote Forever Young and recorded their first demo of the same name. In 1984, the newly renamed Alphaville released their debut single, "Big in Japan", which Gold wrote in 1979 after hearing the music of Holly Johnson's band Big in Japan.
Forever Young (1984)
In autumn 1984, they released their debut album, Forever Young, produced by Colin Pearson, Wolfgang Loos and Andreas Budde. Despite its success, Frank Mertens left the band that year and was replaced in January 1985 by Ricky Echolette (born Wolfgang Neuhaus, in Cologne on 6 August 1960), who was credited on the Afternoons in Utopia album. Forever Young on the surface, is a hopeful song celebrating the virtues of youth, but a closer listen reveals teenage angst and death. The song was written during the Cold War, where the singer is "hoping for the best, but expecting the worst; are you gonna drop the bomb or not?"
"Big in Japan" was Alphaville's biggest hit, topping the charts in Germany, Greece, Switzerland, Sweden, Turkey, Venezuela, and the US Billboard Dance Chart (the group's only Top 10 on any Billboard chart). The single also reached the Top Five in Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Austria, Ireland and South Africa. It became the group's only Top 20 single in the UK, peaking at No. 8. "'Big In Japan' tells about a couple of lovers trying to get off Heroin. They both imagine how great it would be to love without the drug: no steal, no clients, no ice age in the pupil, real emotions, true worlds. Even today Berlin Zoo station is an important meeting place for junkies, that's why that place became the venue of the song."
The band's next two singles, "Sounds Like a Melody" and "Forever Young", were also both European Top 5 successes, although the former track failed to make an impression on the American charts.
Amid reports that pop star Laura Branigan was featuring the song on her next album, Hold Me, Alphaville's "Forever Young" was re-released as a single in the US, but it did not prove to be massively popular. Branigan's version, though promoted on stickers adorning the album, remained an album cut in the US. She performed the song as an encore at nearly every concert she performed, until her death in 2004. The Alphaville version was released a third time in the US in 1988, to promote Alphaville: The Singles Collection, and peaked at No. 65, their highest charting (and also last) single on the Billboard Hot 100. International re-releases of Alphaville's "Forever Young" followed in 1989, 1993, 1996, 1999, 2001, 2005 and 2009. Several covers have been recorded featuring male or female vocalists often erroneously attributed to be Alphaville's Marian Gold or Laura Branigan.
Afternoons in Utopia (1986) and The Breathtaking Blue (1989)
In 1986, their second album, Afternoons in Utopia, was released and its first single "Dance With Me" was a Top 20 hit in Germany, France, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, South Africa and in remix form on the US Hot Maxi Singles chart. It reached the Top 30 in Austria, Italy and in the US Club Play chart. The album's second single was "Universal Daddy". For their third single, the band released "Jerusalem" in Germany only, while they went with "Sensations" for Austria, France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland. The final single from Afternoons in Utopia was "Red Rose", in 1987.
The LP was followed up in 1989 with The Breathtaking Blue, including the acclaimed (if not so successful) singles "Romeos" and "Mysteries of Love". The album was released as a CD+G, including black & white stills with original lyrics and German translation. As an alternative to individual music videos, the band enlisted nine directors, among them Godfrey Reggio (Koyaanisqatsi), to create a film entitled Songlines based on the album's tracks.
Prostitute (1994) and Salvation (1997)
The next album, Prostitute, was not released until 1994. The first single released was "Fools", followed by the second and last single from the album, "The Impossible Dream". During the tour for this album Robbie France briefly joined the band on drums. In 1997, Ricky Echolette left the band.
Salvation, a back-to-the-roots opus, followed in 1997.
Stark Naked and Absolutely Live (2000), Forever Pop (2001) and Crazyshow (2003)
Stark Naked and Absolutely Live was released in 2000
In 2001, they released both their remix album Forever Pop and a DVD entitled Little America, which documented two concerts performed in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.
Bernhard Lloyd did not contribute to the 2003 limited-edition album CrazyShow, and shortly after its release on 18 March 2003, he officially left the group. The core stage members of Alphaville then were Gold and new recruits, Martin Lister (keyboards), David Goodes (guitars) and Jakob Kiersch (drums).
Catching Rays on Giant (2010)
The album Catching Rays on Giant, the first commercial studio album in 13 years, was released on 19 November 2010 and entered the German album charts at number 9 in its first week of release. The touring musicians became members of the band at this point. The second single from the album was the track, "Song for No One", released on 4 March 2011. It is available in two formats, one as a 12-track CD and the other a deluxe edition with CD plus four bonus tracks and DVD. It is also available digitally from various download platforms. The DVD in the deluxe package includes the video to the first single and a documentary titled Audiovision, which is there in a normal version and also in a 3D version. The package contains 3D glasses. The band held an album release party, where they played a short unplugged set, at the Quasimodo Club in Berlin on the evening of 18 November 2010 to which their closest fans and friends were invited. The album featured band member Martin Lister on lead vocals for the track, "Call Me Down". In 2011 Maja Kim joined the band on bass.
As of 2011, the band was touring and working on new material and had signed a new deal with the Universal Music Group. The first single and album releases were available at first only in Germany and through online shops and download platforms in German-speaking countries. The first single from album was titled "I Die for You Today". This became available as a digital download on 8 October 2010. The single was released in CD format on 22 October 2010. It entered the German charts at number 15 in its first week of release and stayed in the top 100 for 8 weeks. Invited by the designer Michael Michalsky, Alphaville performed songs from the new album as well as old hits at the StyleNite on 21 January 2011 during Berlin Fashion Week.
Martin Lister died unexpectedly on 21 May 2014. The news was announced by the band, via their Facebook page and Yahoo mailing list, a few days later. He was replaced by Carsten Brocker. In 2016 bassist Maja Kim left in order to follow new challenges following this Majas' position was filled in by Alexandra Merl.
Strange Attractor (2017)
The most recent Alphaville album is titled Strange Attractor. Following the album's extremely long production time, the new album was released on April 7, 2017. A video for the single "Heartbreak City" was shot and this single was available for order as of March 10.
Gold has released two solo albums (So Long Celeste, 1992, and United, 1996, both mixing personal creations and covers), alongside his work in the band.
Lloyd also worked on a project named Atlantic Popes with singer Max Holler, a 13-track CD. In 1996, Frank Mertens started a musical project called Maelstrom, which was a combination of ambient-style music, impressionistic and colourful art in the form of paintings and sculptures, and etheric poetry. This project was abandoned, though, as Mertens has not been visibly active with it.
Alphaville toured the album, Catching Rays on Giant, across Germany in March 2011. In August of 2017, Alphaville performs their 'Alphaville Live In Concert 2017 USA Tour' beginning in the United States towns of: Houston, TX, New York City, Chicago, IL, San Jose and Burbank, CA.
Alphaville's song "Forever Young" was featured in the movie Listen to Me (1989) featuring Kirk Cameron in one of his first film roles. "Forever Young" was played in a high school prom-related scene in the 2004 film Napoleon Dynamite. It appeared in an episode of the sitcom It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia entitled "Underage Drinking: A National Concern" during a scene in which a main character attends a high-school prom, and in a goodbye montage of an episode of 30 Rock. In 2007 when Tourism New Zealand featured the song in its "Forever Young" 100% Pure New Zealand Television Commercial, the commercial peaked on YouTube's Global Homepage for 24 hours. "Forever Young" was also featured in the Canadian movie 1987 (2014). "Forever Young" was featured in the animated series Regular Show in the episode "Skips' Story", where Skips relates the story of how he became immortal.
Swedish melodic metal band Embraced did a cover of "Big in Japan" on their 1998 Album Amorous Anathema. In 2000, Guano Apes covered "Big in Japan" in their second full-length album, Don't Give Me Names. In 2008, "Big in Japan" was featured in the commercial for the Swedish TV show Stor i Japan (Translated: Big in Japan) and was also used several times within the show, using different cover versions as the opening theme. VH1 Classic's show 120 Minutes often features the song.
In the first part of 2006, Australian guitar band Youth Group took their remake of "Forever Young" to No. 1 in the Official Australian Charts, thanks in part to exposure the track had received from being on popular US TV series The O.C. and its fifth TV soundtrack CD, Music from the OC: Mix 5.
The Alphaville song "Big in Japan" was sung by contestant István Szarka on the Hungarian talent show Megasztár in May 2010. The song quickly became a YouTube sensation dubbed "Bikicsunáj", complete with subtitles mocking Szarka's lack of understanding and poor pronunciation of the English lyrics.
"Young Forever" is the fourth single by American hip hop rapper Jay-Z from his album The Blueprint 3 on the Roc Nation label. The song was produced by rapper Kanye West. It is a mild rework of Alphaville's 1984 song "Forever Young": the original melody is retained, Mr Hudson sings the original lyrics (primarily during the chorus), and Jay-Z raps in place of the verses.
Norwegian singer Ane Brun, did an acoustic cover version of "Big in Japan" as a bonus track on her studio album "Changing Of The Seasons" (2008). The cover-version can also be heard on a recorded live concert, available on the album "Live At Stockholm Concert Hall" released in 2009.
In Brazil a cover version of "Forever Young" was performed in a Skol Beer commercial in 1985.
In 2016, "Forever Young" was used in season 2 of the popular Norwegian drama series Skam