Japanese electronic music pioneer BORN 1952
INSPIRED BY The Ventures’ percussionist Mel Taylor, Tokyoborn drummer Yukihiro Takahashi dropped out of a design degree at Musashino Art University to play in college bands and on TV commercials. He replaced Hiro Tsunoda in Osaka’s Sadistic Mika Band in 1972, the glam-rockers enjoying some success abroad, including a support slot on Roxy Music’s Siren Tour. Takahashi starred in spin-off outfit Sadistics before showing his solo hand with 1978’s Saravah!, drawing much of its inspiration from French pop.
The following year he and session keyboardist Ryuichi Sakamoto appeared on ex-Apryl Fool singer Haruomi Hosono’s LP Paraiso, sowing the seeds for forward-facing supergroup Yellow Magic Orchestra. Kitted out in Maostyle suits designed by Takahashi, YMO’s fervent embrace of computer technology resulted in a global smash in Computer Game (from 1978’s self-titled debut). The peculiar abstract textures and funky edge of 1979’s Solid State Survivor cemented their position as electronic pioneers, selling over a million copies and proving an abiding influence on hip-hop, techno and dance.
Despite splitting in 1983, Sakamoto and Hosono regularly played on Takahashi’s unpredictable and often tonguein-cheek solo ventures, whether toying with a reggae version of Stop! In The Name Of Love (on 1980’s Murdered By The Music) or flirting with Burt Bacharach-like pop (1985 soundtrack Poisson d’Avril). He pushed the envelope farthest on 1981’s Londonrecorded Neuromantic, a rhythmically focused slab of sophisticated electro-pop featuring guitar and sax from Phil Manzanera and Andy Mackay, epitomised by its Roxy-esque highlight Drip Dry Eyes.
Cutting an elegant figure in his trademark fedora, trimmed goatee and thick-rimmed glasses, Takahashi started suffering severe headaches in summer 2020. Despite successful brain tumour surgery, he was in and out of hospital afterwards, and sadly proved too ill to perform at a Tokyo concert celebrating his 50th anniversary in music last September.