Gentlemen Take Polaroids

Gentlemen Take Polaroids is the fourth (and penultimate) studio album by the English band Japan, released on 24 October 1980 by Virgin Records.

Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Studio album by
Released24 October 1980
RecordedAugust 1980
StudioAIR Studios and Townhouse Studios, London, England
ProducerJohn Punter
Japan chronology
Quiet Life
Gentlemen Take Polaroids
Tin Drum
Singles from Gentlemen Take Polaroids
  1. "Gentlemen Take Polaroids"
    Released: October 1980
  2. "Nightporter"
    Released: 12 November 1982


Gentlemen Take Polaroids was the band's first album for the Virgin Records label, after leaving Hansa-Ariola who had released their first three albums. It continued in the vein of their previous album Quiet Life, drawing on its elegant Euro-disco stylings coupled with more ambitious arrangements.[2] This was the last Japan album to feature guitarist Rob Dean, who left the band in spring 1981.


The album was preceded by the release of the title track as a single in October 1980, which peaked at number 60 in the UK Singles Chart, the group's first single to chart.[3]

The album itself was moderately successful in the UK. It peaked at number 51,[3] and was later certified Gold by the BPI in 1986 for 100,000 copies sold.[4]

No further singles were immediately taken from the album, though "Nightporter" (influenced by the works of French composer Erik Satie, most particularly his Gymnopedies) was remixed and released as a single in November 1982, just after the band announced that they were breaking up. It peaked at number 29 in the UK Singles Chart, though both the edited 7" version and the full-length 12" remix remain unreleased on CD to this day.

The album was reissued in 2003, with slightly different cover art (taken from the same photo session as the original cover) and three bonus tracks, including the instrumentals "The Width of a Room" (the only track in the band's catalogue composed by guitarist Rob Dean) and "The Experience of Swimming", composed by Richard Barbieri. Both tracks had previously been released as B-sides in the early 1980s.


Professional ratings
Review scores
Smash Hits[5]
Trouser Presspositive[6]

Gentlemen Take Polaroids has been well received by critics. Writing in Smash Hits magazine in November 1980, Steve Taylor gave the album 8/10 and wrote: "If Brian Eno, rather than Bryan Ferry, had rerouted the original direction of Roxy Music, this might well have been the result..."[5]

In his retrospective review, Ned Raggett of AllMusic called it "unquestionably the album in which Japan truly found its own unique voice and aesthetic approach."[2] The Quietus wrote that the album "took the sound of Quiet Life and refined it into a series of oblique, almost cinematic avant-pop creations that exquisitely surround the frontman’s woozy post-Bryan Ferry croon in layers of pop textures that sounded like little else by Japan’s contemporaries.[1]

Track listing

All tracks are written by David Sylvian, except as noted.

Side A
1."Gentlemen Take Polaroids"7:08
3."Burning Bridges†"5:23
4."My New Career"3:52
Side B
1."Methods of Dance" 6:53
2."Ain't That Peculiar"Smokey Robinson, Warren "Pete" Moore, Marvin Tarplin, Bobby Rogers4:40
3."Nightporter" 6:57
4."Taking Islands in Africa"Ryuichi Sakamoto, Sylvian5:12

† The track "Burning Bridges" was put on the album as a last-minute replacement for a track titled "Some Kind of Fool", with quite a lot of UK and German pressings of the album listing the latter song on the inner sleeve and on the track listings. "Some Kind of Fool" was also going to be released as a single, but was replaced by "Nightporter". An overdubbed version with new lyrics was released on Sylvian's solo album Everything and Nothing in 2000, but the original Japan version has never been released.[7]


Year Song UK Chart Additional information
1980 "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" 60 released as a double single pack: "Gentlemen Take Polaroids" (edit)/"The Experience of Swimming" and "The Width Of A Room"/"Burning Bridges" (a Sylvian-produced version unavailable elsewhere)
1982 "Nightporter" 35 released edited and remixed with "Ain't That Peculiar" (remix) on the 7" single and "Methods of Dance" on the 12" single


Additional personnel
  • John Punter – production, mixing, recording, engineering
  • Colin Fairley – recording, engineering
  • Nigel Walker – recording, engineering
  • Steve Prestage – recording, engineering
  • Nicola Tyson – back cover
  • Stuart McLeod – front cover


  1. Burnett, Joseph. "Thirty Years On: Japan's Oil On Canvas Revisited". The Quietus. Retrieved 14 March 2016.
  2. Raggett, Ned. "Gentlemen Take Polaroids – Japan - Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards - AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  3. "Japan - Artist - Official Charts". Official Charts. Retrieved 20 December 2014.
  4. British Phonographic Industry online database Archived 15 March 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  5. Taylor, Steve (13 November 1980). "Album Reviews (Japan – "Gentlemen Take Polaroids")". Smash Hits. EMAP Metro. 2 (23): 29.
  6. Robbins, Ira; Aswad, Jem. " :: Japan". Retrieved 1 June 2016.
  7. "Gentlemen Take Polaroids – Japan". Nightporter. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
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