Computer Game – Yellow Magic Orchestra (1978)

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Posted May 12, 2013 by James Day in Editorial

Going into this article I assumed that Buckner & Garcia were going to be our starting point. Little did I know that a full four years before ‘Pac-Man Fever’ a trio of Japanese electronica wizards were already capitalising on the rise of video games.

One of the first bands to find international chart success through music comprised entirely of synthesised sound, Yellow Magic Orchestra would go on to greatly influence the direction of many genres of electronic music including electronica, house, techno and J-pop.

One of their first chart hits released from their eponymous début album, ‘Computer Game’ wears its influences on its sleeve right from it’s title. The full version of the track even opens with extended sound samples from the arcade games Space Invaders, Circus and Gun Fight.

Though I couldn’t find hard Japanese sales figures for the single it was ultimately a success and was the first step towards YMO’s domination of the pop music charts in Japan into the early 1980s. ‘Computer Game’ was hugely successful abroad, selling 400,000 copies in the US and peaking at #17 in the UK singles chart.

While this track might not have been created for or based on one specific game, the two-way relationship between YMO and video games cannot be understated. Both helped electronic music become accepted by the masses and games industry would in turn take inspiration from the band. Several big name game composers have cited YMO as having influenced their work, with Sega’s Takenobu Mitsuyoshi even going on record to state that they were the single biggest influence on his music.


About the Author

James Day
James Day

James likes video games and writing. Nintendo and Star Trek are also among the things he likes.