Alphaville Biography

This polished Euro rock band had its origins in the Westphalian provinces of North Germany. They came together in Münster and started their career as a trio in Enger, near Bielefeld on New Year’s Eve 1982 under the moniker Forever Young with Marian Gold (Hartwig Schierbaum, 26 May 1954, Herford, Germany; vocals), Bernhard Lloyd (b. Bernhard Gössling, 2 June 1960, Enger, Germany; synthesizer) and Frank Mertens (b. Frank Sorgatz, 16 October 1961, Enger, Germany; synthesizer). In mid-1983 they changed their name to Alphaville, inspired by Jean-Luc Godard’s eponymous science fiction film from 1965. After producing their first single in the German capital (Studio 54) they adopted Berlin as their new base. Singing in English and constructing simple, synthesizer-led pop, Alphaville had a huge success in 1984 with the single ‘Big In Japan’, a cleverly constructed but hollow lament that predated A-Ha’s Europop follies and lifted heavily from Ultravox’s synth-pop sound. Vocalist Gold remained the band’s focus, but on much of their debut album, Forever Young, his melodramatic delivery, which had given the single much of its appeal, sounded affected, and follow-up singles to ‘Big In Japan’ were disappointing. The science-fiction concept of Afternoons In Utopia stretched credulity further, with 31 musicians credited in addition to the now reshuffled band itself, in which Mertens had been replaced by Ricky Echolette (b. Wolfgang Neuhaus, 6 August 1958, Cologne, Germany in 1985. With co-production from Tangerine Dream’s Klaus Schulze, The Breathtaking Blue might have offered new possibilities. However, with Gold still intent on perfecting his Bryan Ferry impersonation over ersatz jazz and pop rock, it had even less appeal than earlier outings. The fact that the CD was graphics-encoded, with pictures of still photographs and illustrations, at least proved mildly diverting, which is more than can be said for the previous year’s Singles Collection. This saw the band’s one hit reprised in two different versions, along with their three other singles, ‘Forever Young’, ‘Red Rose’ and ‘Dance With Me’.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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