“I used to have some friends called Geoff and Dawn who were in a band in Leicester called The Moving Fingers (Geoff was also previously in the almost famous legendary Leicester prog metal band Black Widow) and relocated to Norwich and opened a recording studio in about 1983 – The Deep Freeze Mice recorded one of our albums there. The Kamikaze Sex Pilots also recorded there and I met the main guy, who’s name I’ve forgotten, when were up there once. If “Sharon’s Been Deflowered…” is the one I’m thinking of Geoff made a guest appearance on it as Sharon’s boyfriend in a Jilted John sort of way. I think they changed their name to The Kamikaze Pilots later” – Alan Jenkins (Deep Freeze Mice, Cordelia Records)
An indiepop mystery to solve? Let’s start from the beginning…
The Kamikaze were suicide attacks by military aviators from the Empire of Japan against Allied naval vessels in the closing stages of the Pacific campaign of World War II, designed to destroy as many warships as possible.
The Japanese word Kamikaze is usually translated as “divine wind” (kami is the word for “god”, “spirit”, or “divinity”, and kaze for “wind”). The word kamikaze originated as the name of major typhoons in 1274 and 1281, which dispersed Mongolian invasion fleets.
In Japanese, the formal term used for units carrying out suicide attacks during 1944-45 is tokubetsu kōgeki tai (特別攻撃隊), which literally means “special attack unit”. This is usually abbreviated to tokkōtai (特攻隊). More specifically, air suicide attack units from the Imperial Japanese Navy were officially called shinpū tokubetsu kōgeki tai (神風特別攻撃隊, “divine wind special attack units”). Shinpū is the on-reading (on’yomi or Chinese-derived pronunciation) of the same characters that form the word kamikaze in Japanese. During World War II, the pronunciation kamikaze was used in Japan only informally in relation to suicide attacks, but after the war this usage gained acceptance worldwide and was re-imported into Japan. As a result, the special attack units are sometimes known in Japan as kamikaze tokubetsu kōgeki tai.
Let’s fast forward 38 years. 1983. This is when The Kamikaze Sex Pilots release their first 7″ on Lowther International (same label as Vital Disorders). A great two track round bit of plastic that included on the A-side the song “Dark Night of the Soul” and on the flipside we had “Red Indian Song”. Both of them really brilliant songs. Sadly I still haven’t found a copy of this record for myself. Shame! The catalog number of this record was HCN 002 and was released on an edition of 1000. Though, all the records seem to say on the matrix number on the vninyl: “This Is No. 666 In A Limited Edition of 1000″. And here comes the first hint: it was recorded at Spaceward Studios. Is this the studio Alan Jenkins was talking about?
But it wouldn’t be until 1985 that Cordelia Records would work with the band. On the compilation LP “Obscure Independent Classics: Volume 1 “Magnificent March Of The Dead Monkeys”” the fab song “Sharon’s Been Deflowered and Defoliated” was included. What a song! Should have been a one-hit wonder. Everytime I listen this track I feel like it was The Parallelograms grandparents who wrote it! Bouncy, funny, catchy, as poppy and punky as it can be! Should DJ it more often!
Surprisingly the internet throws in some answers. At a “Norwich bands” facebook group someone tells a bit about the main guy whose name Alan had forgotten:
“Kamikaze Sex Pilots”, Jon Ward was a very underrated guitarist if a little bonkers and sadly he was another one who didn’t go the distance (r.i.p) Remember when he stood for the local elections in the early 80s? He got me and Mick Smith parlimentary passes to oversee the counting of the votes in St Andrews Hall but he got so bladdered in the Festival House he never even showed up pmsl!!
So Jon Ward it was. We can track him back to a previous band called “Carl Gustav and the 84s”. The Messthetics site has a bit more about them as they put the song “Through Birds, Through Fire, But Not Through Glass” (name taken from an Yves Tanguy painting of course) on a compilation.
Carl Gustav and the 84’s certainly had fun with their lyrics. After quoting Cicero, Baudelaire and Clausewitz (long before the Reaganauts and Bushies revived his legend) on their hand-folded sleeve, you’d think they’d be trying to tell us something rather important in “Through Birds, Through Fire, But Not Through Glass,” but we’re not so sure. Still, the images are arresting: “I disemboweled myself to please her / She keeps the pieces in the freezer.”
And I can even track him even further back, to a band called The Painkillers.
And there and back again. 1983. The Peaceful Green Fair. The Kamikaze Sex Pilots played a show there. There is a live recording of it here. But it sounds very different to the songs on the 7″ or the one on the compilation. I wonder why. On this same festival Nick Nation played. What’s the connection? Well, at one pointit seems Sian from the Kamikaze Sex Pilots played with him according to Nick Nation’s myspace.
It also seems that there was a promo video for “Sharon’s Been Deflowered and Defoliated” made by Digby Rumsey. Sadly the streaming of it seems not to work. If only someone could upload it to Youtube. How I wish I could see this video!
Quite close I’d say. I have many more questions, starting with why they change the names from The Kamikaze Sex Pilots to just The Kamikaze Pilots, and more importantly, are there any more songs on tapes lying around somewhere. I really enjoy what I’ve heard so far and would love to hear more from them. If someone has a spare copy of the 7″, if anyone has more stories to tell, or more questions to ask, or just more mysteries to solve. The indiepop detective is ready for another job.