COLLECTORS CORNER - Japan
'Collectors Corner - Japan' is a sound up of the Japanese Kraftwerk collectables, by IC
Japan has proved to be one of the most collectable markets for Kraftwerk rarities - and this is easily reflected in the high prices commanded for releases from this territory. The primary appeal for collectors is no doubt the novelty of some of the releases - the 7" singles for example come packaged in a unique fashion in comparison to other territories, with their clear plastic poly bags, full colour glossy paper inserts and high-quality vinyl pressings. Sleeve design for the singles in particular are often extremely different from the norm, another tempting feature. The albums also tend to benefit from extra packaging - as well as nice, thick quality card for the covers there tends to be extra inserts with reprints (often highly inaccurate!) of the song lyrics and extra Japanese text and photos too more often than not.
To understand quite why Kraftwerk's releases from Japan command such high prices it's worth noting that the actual amounts of these items in circulation are relatively small - the Japanese record market, while large, is primarily dominated by home-grown artists. An act such as Kraftwerk does not generate a vast number of sales - additionally, Japanese releases are often some months behind other territories releases of the same title, which allows imported copies to saturate the market and diminish the demand from the home shores. This leads to an additional complication, since Japanese collectors themselves seem keen to track down these home-grown releases that were neglected first time round - other than Kraftwerk, you will find new wave acts (for example, The Stranglers, Siouxsie and The Banshees, etc) where prices asked for Japanese releases are pretty extreme, particularly for 7" singles.
Kraftwerk's 7" releases from Japan are very keenly collected items and the earliest examples are extremely scarce and command high prices on the relatively infrequent occasions that they appear for sale. 'Autobahn' was the first such single ('Autobahn' (Edit) (3.28) / Morgenspaziergang (4.02), Vertigo, SFL-2023  ). Like all of the subsequent 7" singles, this item comes packaged as follows; the record itself comes in a standard company record sleeve - this then comes housed in a thin clear plastic sleeve and an additional colour picture sleeve printed on thin, glossy paper is included. It is this unusual style of packaging that no doubt appeals to collectors, i.e. the fact that it is by no means a 'normal' picture sleeve. The 'Autobahn' sleeve features the painting that graces most of the LP releases covers, i.e. the 'motorway painting' as depicted by Emil Schult. In addition, there are large Japanese text/graphics printed on the front. The rear side of the picture insert includes Japanese text and a small reproduction of the LP cover design, in black and white. Get used to the idea - all of the Kraftwerk Japanese 7" singles follow the theme of colour picture on the front and black and white reverse. This is an extremely scarce single - copies are very few and far between. In terms of how much you should be looking to pay to secure a copy, well... find a copy first and then worry about the cost! Seriously!
About equal in rarity value is the 'Radio-Activity' 7" single ('Radio-Activity' (Edit) (3.18) / 'Antenna' (Edit) (3.05), Capitol, ECR 10929,  ). Regular and promo copies are available - though if you can find either release you will be doing very well indeed! The picture insert on this occasion is quite novel in that while using the standard LP sleeve design on the front the art department at the Japanese arm of the record company also saw fit to include Kraftwerk themselves on the front of the radio set design, cut and pasted into the circle of the radio set speaker! Like 'Autobahn', there is nothing actually unique about the music on the disc - standard edits as can be found elsewhere. Primarily it appears to be the packaging and sheer rarity of the damn things that appeal to vinyl junkies soft spots.
Japanese 7" promos are distinguishable from regular stock copies by the fact that the labels are printed in only black and white and the record company bags are also just plain white. The picture inserts also have a perforated hole to mask the price as printed on the sleeve.
Quite why I am not sure, but there does not appear to have been any single releases from the 'Trans-Europe Express' era from Japan. Strange... One is tempted to think that there must have been at least one such item, as a promo even, but as yet no such signs.
This takes us on to the 'Man Machine' era and two releases which are probably the most commonly found Japanese 7" release from Kraftwerk; these appear to have been imported quite widely and were readily available at the time from mail order shops such as Adrians in Essex. 'The Robots' is a nice item in its fairly unique sleeve layout ( 'The Robots' (Edit) (3.44) / 'Trans-Europe Express' (Edit) (3.54), Capitol, ECR 20476,  ) while 'Showroom Dummies' ( 'Showroom Dummies' (6.11)/'The Robots' (6.11), Capitol, ECR 20658,  ) has a fantastic sleeve design with a unique photo of Kraftwerk's mannequins on display pictured against a 'Man Machine' artwork backdrop - worth getting your feverishly sweaty fingers for this alone if you're a fan of the Kraftwerk image!
Both of these singles come with the maroon and silver coloured Capitol label design and are housed in green Toshiba-EMI company bags. The white-labelled promo copies are also available for both items. Prices for the regular copies can be seen going upwards of £30 but if your sensible and, more importantly patient, you'll find copies selling from £7 or so, which is a much more reasonable reflection of the record's true rarity. The promo copies, unsurprisingly, are scarcer and will require you to empty your pockets for upwards of £25 or so most likely.
1981s 'Pocket Calculator' is unique in that it features the specially recorded Japanese language rendition of the track on the A side ( 'Dentaku' (Edit) (4.34) / 'Pocket Calculator' (Edit) (4.34), EMI/Toshiba, EMS 17145,  ). Not as unique as one might first think since most other countries used 'Dentaku' as the B side for their releases of 'Pocket Calculator'. Similarly, the sleeve design uses the standard design of other countries but with Japanese text/graphics - most of which can be found on the back side of picture sleeves from elsewhere. Still a nice little item however. Again, promo versions also available.
1982's UK number 1 hit status of 'The Model' saw the almost worldwide re-release of this song and Japan too followed suit ( 'The Model' (3.38)/'Computer Love (Edit) (3.45), EMI/Toshiba, EMS 17223, ).
This comes in a superb, totally different sleeve design which pictures Kraftwerk posing in front of a backdrop of various digital clocks displaying the world's time-zone differences - very desirable for this image alone. This particular 7" is much in demand and sells for much more than the three previous examples just mentioned.
Surprisingly, this appears to be the last Kraftwerk 7" Japanese release - I say surprisingly since there appears to be no release for 'Tour De France' at all, which really puzzles me, one would have expected a promo edition at very least. Sadly, no signs of such an item as yet. By 1991 and the release of 'The Mix' versions of 'The Robots' and 'Radioactivity', the humble 7" single was a dying format and in fact there appears to have been no single releases at all in Japan of either of these tracks, far less on 7" format.
Moving on to the bands 12" singles from the land of the rising sun and we get into the seriously mega-rare territory. There appear to be only three such releases, all of which are promo-only affairs. The first to appear is a Kraftwerk mega-rarity. 'Showroom Dummies' ('Showroom Dummies' (6.11) / 'The Model' (3.38), Capitol, PRP-8132,  ) comes packaged in a unique sleeve design like no other Kraftwerk release at all. Both sides feature a similar pattern in which there are two entirely different designs. On the 'Showroom Dummies' side there is a drawing of a simplistic robotic lady! - complete with bosom and high heels, oh yes! (see illustration). The text at the top of the sleeve states 'Special DJ Copy - Not for Sale'. Side two features 'The Model' and the sleeve design features a similar mesh of lines but with a printed circuit board design this time. Value? Difficult to say - hardly ever turns up for sale. Probably whatever you are willing to pay to secure the item if you like the look of it! Yes, that could well be over £100!
A similarly elusive item, but perhaps even more of a quirk since it features Kraftwerk on one side and Duran Duran, no less, on the other is the promo 12" for 'Dentaku' (Side one: Duran Duran: Planet Earth(Night Version) (6.18)/Planet Earth (4.02) Side Two: Kraftwerk: Dentaku(4.35)/Pocket Calculator(4.35) Toshiba-EMI PRP-8179,  ). One side of the cover features the Duran Duran design, the flip features the familiar Kraftwerk design. Again, it's a genuine rarity that is hard to come by, hence an exact value is equally elusive.
Finally in the realm of the 12" single we have 'Musique Non Stop' from 1986 (Musique Non Stop (6.16)/Musique Non Stop (Radio Edit)(4.11), Toshiba-EMI, EMS 14159,  ). The original version of this article stated that this was a promo-only 12", in picture sleeve. This is now known to be incorrect. There are both regular copies and also promo copies too. I was also rather vague about the sleeve design in the original article. The sleeve design is as per other countries, though there is text/biography insert sheet including one 'wire frame' picture. Rare and in demand but probably not in the same league as the other two 12" singles pricewise.
There appear to be no CD singles from Japan - for some reason there were no Japanese releases of either of the 1991 singles from 'The Mix'.
When it comes to packaging, the Japanese album releases have their particular appeals, perhaps just because of their look. In general, all the sleeves have tended to reproduce the familiar LP cover designs from Europe. However, Japanese releases can normally be easily spotted by the thin, removable paper 'banderole' title strips that wrap round on one side of the covers. Additionally, the albums quite often come complete with additional inserts sheets including lyrics, text and pictures not to be found on other territories releases.
All of Kraftwerk's standard album releases have been issued on vinyl in Japan, with the exception of 'The Mix' only. Therefore, 'Kraftwerk', 'Kraftwerk 2' and 'Ralf and Florian' are available in Japanese pressings. 'Kraftwerk' (Philips, BT 8101  ) comes in a single, not gatefold sleeve unlike the original German releases. The original article stated that there appeared to be no title strip to this release. It is now known that the releases for 'Kraftwerk', 'Kraftwerk 2' and 'Ralf and Florian' should in fact come complete with the title strips wrapped on the outside of the cover. Further, it appears that there are two different title strip designs available for each (possible two separate pressings/issues of each release?): red/black/white coloured and blue/yellow/white.
Equally of note, this 'Kraftwerk' LP dates from 1979, obviously quite some time on from the initial release, perhaps a move to mop-up more sales in the post 'Man Machine' success. Musically, the same as the regular issues. 'Kraftwerk 2' (Philips, BT 8108  ) follows the same pattern, obviously released at the same period - again, not a gatefold sleeve. One anomaly - the number '2' has been removed from the sleeve design!
'Ralf and Florian' ( Philips, BT 8102  ) is also a 1979 re-issue. A single sleeve but this time unique from other countries releases in that on the back cover it does not use the familiar photo of Ralf and Florian seated behind their instruments in the early Kling Klang studio that the other sleeves sport - no, this instead features a lengthy biography on the band in both Japanese and English. The front of the cover uses the German sleeve design motif - i.e., the black and white portrait photo of Messrs. Hütter and Schneider. Also of note, there are promo copies of this LP available.
Most Japanese LPs are quite scarce, tending to command prices from £15 upwards, but with the three early LPs being rare in any shape or form, the prices for those are considerably higher, tending to aver towards the £50+ region more often than not.
Moving onto 'Autobahn' and we get into a multitude of releases. The original 1975 release ( 'Autobahn', Vertigo, RJ 7010  ) sports the 'motorway painting' cover on the front and the hippy-ish band pic on the back (you know, the 'back seat of a VW Beetle' one!), but with different title graphics. The additional insert sheet that comes with this version also features some black and white live pictures of Ralf and Florian from 1973. There is also a title strip too.
There are at least two other issues that I know of; 'Autobahn' ( Philips, BT-5191  ) is part of a 'Rock Super Collection' series of releases from 1978. This version also comes with an additional insert sheet, but it is a different one to the original release, though the sleeves design seems to be exactly the same. Once again, complete with a title strip. The other re-issue ( 'Autobahn', Philips, BT 8103  ) is obviously from the same re-issue period, judging by the catalogue number, as the 'Kraftwerk', 'Kraftwerk 2' and 'Ralf and Florian' LPs. This time round, the front is the same as before, but the rear does not feature the band pic, instead there is just text. Also, there is no insert and no title strip.
And that appears to be it for the Japanese releases of the bands early (Philips/Vertigo era) material - or is it? It seems odd that there isn't at least one compilation LP, since so many other countries issued their own unique compilations. No signs of such a release as yet, but, who knows? At the back of my mind I recall seeing a Kraftwerk compilation LP in a local record store back in 1981 which I assumed to be the German 'High Rail' compilation, but when I eventually tracked down a copy of that some years later it was not the record sleeve I remembered. The one I recall also features a train illustration - is my mind playing tricks? I've had two Aktivitaet readers express similar stories. Could there be a very rare Japanese compilation, or is it another countries release? Any clues would be greatly appreciated!
Moving on to the bands Capitol and EMI eras, we have first of all 'Radio-Activity' ( Capitol, ECS-80418,  ), which features a sleeve design identical to the standard issues. It also comes with the standard inner sleeve but does also feature an additional one-sided insert with text in Japanese. The title strip on the front cover is in blue and lime and gives a welcome a splash of colour to the otherwise monochrome sleeve. Promo copies are also available for this LP.
'Trans-Europe Express' ( Capitol, ECS-80833,  ) come with the 'black' sleeve design, as per the UK issue, again with corresponding inner sleeve too. Once more, an additional black and white insert, double sided this time with Japanese text, an additional photo of Kraftwerk (at Duesseldorf railway station) plus a translation of the albums lyrics - which in the case of 'Europe Endless' are woefully inaccurate - 'elegance and thick curtains' indeed!! Complete copies once again come with a title strip on the front. Promo copies also doing the rounds too.
'The Man Machine' ( Capitol, ECS-81083,  ) has the regular sleeve design present and correct, except when it comes to the inside - no inner sleeve this time, just a black and white insert with extensive Japanese text overprinted on a Kraftwerk pic. Does include a title strip however. The label designs are as per the German edition - i.e., different in comparison to the UK issue. Promo copies available. A re-issue of 'The Man Machine' (Capitol, ECS-63028) is also available, this time wrap-over title paper, no wrap-around strip.
'Computer World' ( Toshiba-EMI, EMS 91030,  ) is a nice item for completists who wish the novelty of having the Japanese language 'Dentaku' on LP, since this is included in preference to the English 'Pocket Calculator'. Sleeve design is as per the UK edition, with yellow heads on the computer screen, though the labels are like the German edition, green and black. This time round there is no printed inner sleeve but there is a gatefold colour insert with the regular inner sleeve photos on one side (with extra credits relating to this Japanese issue in the appropriate section) while on the other there is a brief year by year (1968-1981) biography, some of the graphics from the 'Dentaku' single, a 'TEE'-period band photo and translations (a bit hit and miss) of the song lyrics. A nice enough item really, again a title strip should also be present and correct in complete copies.
There are promo copies too - these are often listed as having a gatefold sleeve. To the best of my knowledge this is an inaccuracy - the inserts are gatefold, but the sleeve is as per the standard copies. If anyone knows otherwise I would be glad to hear from them with details.
'Electric Cafe' (Toshiba-EMI, EMS 91205,  ) is the final Kraftwerk LP to be issued on vinyl in Japan. A nice package, again with a four page gatefold biography and text insert (does it also have the regular inner sleeve too?). Title strip to look out for completists. Promos available for those with more select tastes.
Like the singles, all Japanese promo LPs have a white label with black writing and also a small promo sticker on the title strip.
Cassettes tend to be of slightly less importance for many collectors, since the packaging tends to be rather sparse. For their fans, here are the details; 'Radio-Activity' (Capitol, ZR25-383), 'Trans-Europe Express' (Capitol, ZR25-384), 'The Man Machine' (Capitol, ZR25-221), 'The Man Machine' (Capitol, ZR28-366) - this appears to be a more expensive issue, available at the same time as ZR25-384, maybe an 8-track tape? - 'Computer World' (Toshiba-EMI, ZR28-613), 'Electric Cafe' (Toshiba-EMI, ZR28-1417).
Like the vinyl LPs, the compact disc releases tend to benefit with an extra text/lyric insert and also a small title strip on the outside case too.
The Nipponese market has seen quite a number of CD releases of Kraftwerk's material, particularly the Capitol-era work. The earliest Kraftwerk album available on CD format in Japan is 'Autobahn' (Toshiba-EMI, CP 32-5609  ). A re-issue with a different cat. no (Toshiba-EMI CP 28 1019) has also been listed, don't know much about this issue at the present though.
Moving on, as well as the original CD issue of 'Radio-Activity' (Toshiba-EMI, CP 28-1010) from 1989 (?) there has been a reissue from 1995 (Toshiba-EMI, CP 28-1010/CDP 7 46474 2)  as part of the 'Greenline' series.
'Trans-Europe Express' (Toshiba-EMI, CP 21-6044 , including fold-out insert/text sheet, has also been made available with two further reissues - one as part of the budget price 'Past Masters' reissue series, including additional insert sheet (Toshiba-EMI, CP 21-6024/CDP 7 46473 3)  and also from 1996 as part of the 'Cool Price' series (Toshiba-EMI, TOCP3086, .
A similar story with 'The Man Machine' (Toshiba-EMI, CP 21-6045 , including fold-out insert/text sheet) -firstly the budget price 'Past Masters' series reissue, with additional insert sheet (Toshiba-EMI, CP 21-6045/CCM-46039  ) and the 'Cool Price' reissue (Toshiba-EMI, TOCP3087 .
Obviously these were all 'after the fact' releases. The first Kraftwerk CD to appear at its original time of release was of course 'Electric Cafe' (Toshiba-EMI, CP 32-5175 , complete with an additional fold-out insert/text sheet. Moving onwards to 1991 and 'The Mix' (Toshiba-EMI, TOCP-6804,  ) - again, an additional text sheet is included. There are also promo copies in circulation too.
A Japanese only release appeared in September 1993 with a 'The Best of Kraftwerk' compilation (Capitol, TOCP-7913,  ), featuring tracks from the three Capitol-era albums, 'Radioactivity', 'Trans-Europe Express' and 'The Man Machine'. The full tracklistng is; 'Geiger Counter', 'Antenna', 'Europe Endless', 'Showroom Dummies', 'Trans-Europe Express', 'The Robots', 'The Model', 'The Man Machine'. Of note, these are all the album-length versions - and it is only 'Trans-Europe Express' (6.52), not also including 'Metal on Metal'. As for the sleeve design, it is unlike any other. Which is not necessarily to say it is good! - in fact, it's pretty poor. It features what at first looks to be a very dark, random pattern on the front - this is in fact a 3D 'stereogram' image, which reveals, if you can focus your eyes on such things, the word 'Kraftwerk'. The rest of the design is quite plain and there are no pictures at all of Kraftwerk on the design. This CD has since been reissued (Capitol, TOCP-50115,  ) in yet another new sleeve design, this time with some computer-generated imagery, again of little relevance to past Kraftwerk designs.
Which only leaves 'Computer World' (EMI, TOCP-8974  ). Strange to think that this album has never previously been available in Japan on CD format until January of 1997! And it was by no means an easy journey. The CD re-issue was announced for release earlier in 1996 and was scheduled to include three bonus tracks - 'Dentaku', 'Tour De France' (7" Version) and 'Tour De France' (Instrumental). Had this re-issue gone ahead as planned then it would have been the first Kraftwerk CD album to have included 'Tour De France' in any form. However, the reissue was delayed... and delayed... and delayed... When it finally appeared in January of 1997, only one bonus track was to be found, the Japanese language 'Dentaku'. Many readers have expressed dissapointment, looking forward to securing 'Tour De France' officially on CD for the first time. Still, this is the only appearance of 'Dentaku' on CD, so that alone is of interest. The packaging is as per the US and 1995 UK re-issues, but with an additional fold-out text/lyric sheet.
'Hellow! New Wave' (EMI, PRP-813?) is a various artists compilation vinyl LP (from 1980?) which includes the Kraftwerk track 'Showroom Dummies' (6.11). Other artists include Buggles, B-52s, The Specials, The Selecter. Pic sleeve has something of a new wave flavour with a picture of a 'punk baby'(!). Rare no doubt, but as it doesn't feature any otherwise unavailable material not particularly essential.
'Spirits of Germany - From Düsseldorf with Love' (Toei Video) is a 51 minute compilation video featuring video clips of 'Die Roboter' and 'Trans Europa Express' plus video clips from other German acts such as DAF, Der Plan, Die Doraus und Die Marinas, Palais Schaumburg and Rheingold, with impressions from Duesseldorf city spliced inbetween the music. If you can track down a copy, buy it - then worry about how to view it. Obviously quite a rarity.
'Frontiers of Progressive Rock' No. 7' (Pioneer SM 048-3227) is a laserdisc featuring a very early Kraftwerk TV appearance of the otherwise unreleased track 'Rueckstoss Gondoliere', from the well-known 1971 Beatclub German TV appearance. Like the previous video, something of a rarity - and unless you have a laserdisc player you will not be able to view it!
Updated: 16 : 5 : 2010