In the annals of Liverpool punk, Big in Japan occupy much the same legendary status as London's the London S.S. -- the major differences being that Big in Japan gigged and recorded with some success (the London S.S. never escaped the rehearsal room), and they were so furiously disliked on the local scene that the young Julian Cope circulated a petition begging them to break up.
Big in Japan formed in late 1977 in Liverpool around guitarist Bill Drummond and several short-lived lineups that finally settled down around vocalist Jayne Casey, guitarist Ian Broudie, bassist Holly Johnson, and drummer Budgie. Violently theatrical, the band was dividing opinions almost from the moment it emerged, with Casey and Johnson particularly prone to flamboyance. Local producer Clive Langer was a firm friend and fan, however; he produced the band's first single, released by the local Eric's label in late 1977 and featuring a track by the Yachts, under their Chuddy Nuddies alias, on the B-side.
The petition failed to break up the band, but Big in Japan were not long for the world regardless; Holly Johnson was evicted and replaced by David Balfe in early 1978 and, in August, the band broke up. Three months later, with Drummond and Balfe helming the Zoo label -- which launched many of post-punk Liverpool's most storied bands, including Drummond and Balfe's Lori & the Chameleons project -- an EP of four Big in Japan tracks was released as From Y to Z and Never Again. Further material leaked out across various compilation albums and revealed just how far-reaching Big in Japan's musical ambitions were.
The group's membership, too, proved astonishingly far-sighted. Casey went on to the brilliant Pink Military, Johnson formed Frankie Goes to Hollywood, and Budgie became a Banshee. Broudie moved through a handful of acts -- Original Mirrors, Ellery Bop, Care, and the long-running Lightning Seeds -- and produced dozens of bands across the '80s, '90s, and 2000s, including Echo & the Bunnymen, the Fall, Alison Moyet, and the Coral. Balfe joined Zoo's the Teardrop Explodes and started Food, an EMI subsidiary that introduced Jesus Jones and Blur to the world. Drummond instigated the KLF and its many offshoots. ~ Dave Thompson, Rovi