Mastered for vinyl by Patrick W. Engel at TEMPLE OF DISHARMONY in September 2020. Cutting by SST Germany on Neumann machines for optimal quality on all levels...
Wiltshire’s favourite New Wave Of British Heavy Metal outfit Tokyo Blade did not have an easy start into their career by any stretch of the imagination. Before settling on the name Tokyo Blade, the band was initially called Killer and then Genghis Khan (under which name they recorded a privately pressed double 7” single in 1983). When Alan Marsh (vocals), John Wiggins (guitar), Andy Boulton (guitar), Andy Robbins (bass) and Steve Pierce (drums) finally became Tokyo Blade, they were widely tipped to become the next big thing of the glorious NWOBHM, following in the footsteps of Iron Maiden.
The band’s self-titled debut album, originally released on the then new Powerstation Records in 1983, took the British public by storm. The record received excellent reviews in the press, which widened Tokyo Blade’s fan base quite considerably. When it became time to write and record the songs for their second album “Night Of The Blade”, one could have assumed that the mood inside the Tokyo Blade camp would have been rather optimistic. But this was actually not the case. “I do wonder sometimes what would’ve happened if my dear mother had never bought me my first guitar and if I had never formed my first band,” wonders original guitarist Andy Boulton today. “It’s been a very long and tough road for Tokyo Blade since that first record but I don’t have any real regrets. It would’ve been nice if we could have just made a living from music, so that we could concentrate on doing that but we all have day jobs, like everybody else we have to work for a living. I’ve enjoyed making music all of these years and I’ve enjoyed seeing the fans at shows even more, I have no real complaints.”
“Back then it was much more difficult to write and record songs,” continues Boulton. “I didn’t have my own home studio back then and technology wasn’t as it is now of course. I would play the riffs and chords, while Alan recorded them on an old cassette player which he had to hold the power cable at a certain angle to get it to work. Alan and I have always been very good friends and very close. Also we’ve always written very well together and the second album ‘Night Of The Blade’ was no exception. These days I write the songs and send a copy to Alan, he writes the melodies and the lyrics and we get together often as we live close by each other. We get together and discuss any changes and the general progress of the song, then we demo it and send it to the lads for their input. We put a lot of effort into keeping the songs interesting and hope that other people find them this way.”
The original recordings for “Night Of The Blade” did not go as smoothly as the band might have wished for. Andy Boulton recalls: “With the first album selling very well and the Europeans now going crazy for us, the record company decided we needed a follow-up album. Alan and I with Wiggins as co-writer on a couple had 90% of the songs written for what was to become ‘Night Of The Blade’. We finished off the rest of the songs and told Powerstation that this time we wanted more time and a better studio than we had for the first album, so we ended up in Fairview Studios and the engineer/producer was a guy called Roy Neave.
We had accommodation this time (to use the term loosely). It was a kind of B&B/doss house for the unemployed and a desperate place, even the cockroaches complained about it! The beds were filthy and the breakfast every morning was floating in a sea of grease. We figured that we weren’t going to be there much, so as usual we just got on with the job in hand. As we had no money (as usual), we lived on chip sandwiches. The album was finished in the two week time frame that we had been allowed and we were fairly happy with it. Now we just had to wait for Brian Shepherd to do the artwork. Bryan had done the first album artwork and we wanted him to do the second album and we decided to stay with the Samurai theme.”
As Andy Boulton remarks, the band did not have any doubts about the vocal capabilities of Alan Marsh when they left the studio: “Alan’s vocal strength is fantastic, I personally feel that his singing and writing have progressed massively with age. Alan has always had a very unique voice in my opinion, the strength of which has got steadily even stronger. There’s one million David Coverdale and Robert Plant clones out there at the moment but Alan’s voice is unique and he takes great care with his lyrics and melodies. It’s amazing to me that we have managed to keep the original line-up together today. I know that many people (including myself) believe this to be the strongest line-up of the various line-ups that Tokyo Blade has had during its career and I guess we must be one of the few if not the only band from that era with an original line-up.”
Initially Powerstation seemed pretty happy with “Night Of The Blade” as well. But then everything turned sour: “Powerstation Records had come to see us play at the next big festival, which was the ‘Heavy Sound’ festival in Poperinge in Belgium and they were not impressed with Alan’s performance at the festival. We later discovered they had an ulterior motive which wasn’t obvious initially. Anyway, the representative of the record company persuaded Wiggins and me to come with him on the way home from Holland and during the trip, he announced that they wanted Alan out of the band and that they have a singer who would be much better for Tokyo Blade’s continuing success. We were now between a rock and a hard place, on the one hand, we couldn’t bear the thought of telling Alan that he wasn’t in the band and we didn’t want him to go and on the other hand we have struggled for so long to get signed up and we didn’t want to piss the record company off. It was a very tough position to be in. So when we returned home our manager Ian and I went to talk to Alan and explained that the record company felt that he wasn’t right for Tokyo Blade, but we would fight them. Alan didn’t take this news well and was naturally very upset, he told us that he was quitting. We did try to persuade him not to go and we would fight for him to stay in the band. But Alan wasn’t having any of it and he left there and then so we were now consigned to having another vocalist which was Vic Wright. This left us all with a very bad taste in our mouth. Alan and I had written those songs together and they were going to remove his vocals and put Vic’s on there. What do you do? You’re at a major point of your career and you are totally under the thumb of a record company who is calling all the shots. Basically, if we didn’t do it we could risk losing everything. I wish that it never happened but hindsight is a wonderful thing, isn’t it?”
What you hear on “Night Of The Blade … The Night Before” is the original version of the second album. That was before the record company started to tinker with it, as Andy Boulton shudders to remember: “We did not re-record the album, only Alan’s vocals were replaced. Kevin Nixon from Powerstation decided to leave Alan‘s backing vocals on and some of his lead vocals here and there. I took Kevin to one side and told him that I didn’t think it was fair, he just said: ‘Don’t worry about what’s fair, it’s not your concern, you need to get on with this record, it’s cost us extra money to replace Alan’s vocals anyway’ (immediately forgetting it was him and his slimy mates from the record company who wanted shot of Alan in the first place). But as I say, we were under the thumb, we still hadn’t received any money from them and we felt a little bit powerless. So Vic replaced Alan’s vocals with his own, still singing Alan’s lyrics and melodies, and ‘Night Of The Blade’ was released to tremendous critical acclaim. For the time being, it seemed we could do no wrong. The only thing was, we still hadn’t had any money from any of this and we were living on the goodwill of other people, namely parents and partners.”