Remember Forever Young in 1984? Interview with Alphaville’s Marian Gold

Forever Young by Alphaville, 1984

Forever Young by Alphaville, 1984

The thing about certain songs is that they give you nostalgia for times, places and hairstyles you don’t even remember because you weren’t there yet – or else, you were just too small and insignificant to realise how good the music actually was back in the day.
Forever Young by the 1980s German synth-pop band Alphaville is one of these melodies.

It was released in 1984 and achieved worldwide success, and its famous refrain Let us die young or let us live forever, We don’t have the power, but we never say never became a sad but truthful generational manifesto for all generations to come, including mine.

Forever Young - videoclip by Alphaville, 1984

Forever Young – videoclip by Alphaville, 1984

Millennials have been obsessed with nostalgia ever since we had nothing to be nostalgic about. As teenagers in the mid-1990s and early 00s, we would look up to people who were born in the late 1970s as if they were heroes. The ones born in 1980 and 1981 counted nothing, but those of 1979 and 1978 were celebrities.
In return, they would look down on us as if we were just spoiled little brats too involved with The Transformers to understand who Kurt Cobain was and why punk never dies.

Now, the lack of respect individuals my age inspire is further proven by the fact that we have let the following generation and their useless rap music, idiotic attitudes, uncovered ankles and ridiculous foods take over everything and make fun of us without fighting back, and this makes me think that we were right to believe we were dumb from the beginning.

Our tastes have been influenced by timeless blockbusters we pretend we have first-hand memories of, while in reality, we were just toddlers when The Neverending Story, Back to the Future and Top Gun were out in theatres in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
And when it comes to rock ‘n’ roll, as a matter of fact, we were decades late for the best music ever, a few years late for the very good music and just in time for some decent 1990s songs that didn’t last enough to make our time relevant.

Alphaville

Alphaville

If you want to kill somebody my age, just go and play them Forever Young by Alphaville, sit down and watch them fall apart crushed by the weight of what they didn’t even live in the first place.

Alphaville’s lead singer Marian Gold is in today to talk about a timeless ballad, his other 1984 signature piece Big in Japan and the more recent philharmonic versions re-releases recorded with the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg for the band’s 2022 album Eternally Yours.
Kids of the 1980s, please don’t cry.

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Marian, how do you feel when you hear Forever Young or Big in Japan playing on the radio?

Big in Japan by Alphaville, 1984

Big in Japan by Alphaville, 1984

It’s a little bit of a shock. I mean, not really when I hear them on the radio or TV, because this is kind of a regular, normal experience, to hear or see songs in this kind of environment; it’s a shock when I’m in an elevator or at the supermarket! But I mean, what I can say? When we perform these songs it just feels just like they are any other songs of any other album, it’s not that we are getting tired of playing Big in Japan or Forever Young just because they’re very old songs. We are very grateful that we have written songs like these and that they became so successful. It’s just a great privilege to have songs like that in your luggage when you’re touring. Yeah, we’re very happy and proud of these songs. The philharmonic versions we put out in 2022 are a little bit different from what people would probably expect from an orchestra because what you normally get is a little bit of orchestra and the rock or pop side of things, but this was not the idea of our album Eternally Yours. We played with this idea for quite a while, and then we came to the decision that we would like to do an album entirely played by an orchestra, so the music would sound like it had been written 120 years ago or whatever. So the arrangement is as original as possible from a symphonic orchestra, and the orchestra plays all the bits of the song, and it was a very interesting journey for us, actually, because we did not know what to expect, and it was much easier than we thought. It really has been a long-term project, and what I think is really interesting about it is that you interpret the songs with the classical symphonic orchestra so you arrange the music in a way that belongs to the past, but exactly what you make by this is making your songs kind of timeless, and that was probably the most amazing moment that I got from this production, which I didn’t expect. Songs like for example Big in Japan get completely disconnected from any present thing which will belong sooner or later to the past, and you just connect the song from these roots.

Which one of your songs are you most attached to?

Necessarily, there are songs that have a more personal origin and these are the songs you feel closer to, which are, for instance, songs that I’ve written for my children, like Moongirl or Moonboy. And then there are songs that have contained stories about persons or personalities that are very close to me, like Lassie Come Home, or Carol Masters. These kinds of songs are the ones I feel much closer to, but then you have different ways of liking songs because you have a personal experience, or they talk about a personal experience. Sometimes it’s just a song that you think is a great achievement in an artistic way like Forever Young, for instance, but also songs like Apollo or Beyond The Laughing Sky.

What do you think of the current state of music? 

It’s still the artists that invent the music and not the industry; the industry is selling the music and you can have different opinions about how you sell your music and how you sell art and there’s always a gap of different interests between the industry and the artists – that will never change. But I believe art as such and music as such are both immortal. Music will always carry on and will always win, I’m very optimistic about it.

What legacy have Alphaville left to the world?

I don’t care about legacies. The things you want to achieve as an artist are to reach the people with your idea of beauty and yeah, I mean, sometimes I have the feeling that we succeeded a little bit with it and then I’m very happy. For instance, when we play in a concert, there are moments during the concert when I have this feeling that we overwhelmed the audience with our idea of beauty, and I think the greatest thing in life is beauty. It’s probably bigger than love, because love is the most beautiful thing.

Is there any difference in music between today and when you started out in the 1980s?

Marian Gold in 1984 © to the owners

Marian Gold in 1984 © to the owners

I think so. Some things never change. The business as such never changes, it’s always the same rules to make projects financially and contracts are the same, but the music is such an ever-changing thing, the music that is produced these days is a completely different thing from what was being produced 20, 30 or 40 years ago, and it’s a completely different thing because people are consuming music in a completely different way. To me, it sounds a little bit negative to say that I don’t want to change and I don’t want to go with the time, but it’s not like that. There are some good things about the past that are there in the present and probably in the future. The good thing was that you would dig a little bit deeper into the core and the idea, the artistic idea behind the album and behind the music. Back in time, for instance, it was always a very interesting experience when I was buying an album; if I didn’t know the band, I would probably buy it because there was one certain song that I’d heard on the radio and I’d thought “Oh, that could be interesting”, so I would buy it and listen to that one song and secondly, I would listen to the whole album, and there were songs on it that I didn’t like that much – but after a while, the songs I did dislike in the beginning turned out to be the ones that I liked the most. Similarly, the songs that I liked straight on, were probably the ones that I considered quite boring. But today, it’s as if no one gives you the possibility to dig a little bit deeper into the substance of the artistic idea which is behind the music. Just think about David Bowie; every Bowie album is different from the one before, and for me, it was always a shock to listen to the next album, it always took me some time to get into the music and then when after a while I understood what he was trying to do as an artist, it was absolutely overwhelming and fantastic. This patience to take on board new ideas is not so present these days; people do not want to invest the time to do so, or they don’t have the time or it’s just not working like this anymore. You know, because of companies like Spotify we can select songs, and be in a kind of echo chamber.

In another interview, you said that, as a German musician, the East-West dichotomy was always on your mind in the 1980s, and that the world was ‘easier than today’. What was it like to make music in Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall?

That’s a difficult question. Making music wasn’t a problem, it was just about the inspiration that you get from the environment around you because as you mentioned, the world was much easier to understand as it was clearly divided into a capitalistic and a communist part. You had two superpowers and it was just a very clear political environment. These days, on the other hand, it is very confusing and asymmetrical as people say, everything is asymmetrical these days and we have lots of different political streams that influence history and the occurrences in this political world. And so, our world is much, much more complicated, these days. I think this is probably one of the reasons why the 1980s are still so popular because it was the last period where people could… party on the volcano, but now we are almost falling into the world, and there’s not so much partying anymore.

How can musicians avoid being forced to take a stand about whatever is written on the global political agenda these days?

Marian Gold today © to the owners

Marian Gold today © to the owners

I don’t feel forced; I give my opinion about many different political occurrences, and I don’t have a problem. If you expect a political opinion, it’s just a standpoint and there are so many standpoints. And people may have different opinions about some things, and I’m not a person that says that my standpoint is the only one that is right or whatever, so I can also learn from other people’s standpoints. As an artist, you are occupied with so many different social occurrences and you’re influenced by that, and the way you write songs is influenced by all these things, and if you are an artist, you have to have an opinion about all these things. And then, in this world of social media and everything, there is a good opportunity to express your opinion.

What do you think of talent shows like The X Factor? 

I find them quite uninteresting. I got lots of offers to take part in things like that, and I always reject them because I am not a teacher who wants to teach other people how to make music or whatever. I’m an artist, and everybody should make their own music and not be taught by others how they have to do their music. That goes against my idea of liberty. There was only one TV show in Germany I went to, and I kind of liked the idea, there were a couple of people invited to the show that are all artists and played each other’s songs. So I played a song from the other four artists and they played my songs, that was quite interesting and very funny. But that was the only kind of show of this sort that I ever did in my life, I didn’t do any of The X Factor or other rubbish, I don’t believe in these. And among all these people that win the shows, there are only a few that are really good. I don’t know – it’s just not my cup of tea.

What’s the best song of all time?

God, you’re asking such questions. You are killing me with your questions. Because I’m just buried under a myriad of really fantastic songs, I feel like I’m buried alive. I don’t know, I think it’s all about how you feel at the very moment when you are asked this question, and there are just too many options. So, today I’d say it’s probably a song by The Beatles. On another day, I would probably say it’s Heroes from David Bowie. It really depends, there are songs that really changed my life. You know this moment when you buy a new album that probably someone recommended and you put it on the CD player or on your record player? And then you hear the first song and from the very, very first note, you realise that now something very special is going to happen? And so you know that every song you’re gonna hear will be a fantastic song? It doesn’t happen very often, it happened like two or three times to me, and this is the greatest moment as a listener, you just want to cry because it’s too much, it’s too much beauty, it’s like… the butter on the cake. For instance, when I was listening to David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, I heard the first couple of bits of this drum and there was no song and nothing, but I just knew something amazing was going to happen. And then, for the first time in my life, I heard his voice, and it was just the voice of an alien or somebody who really had to be from another planet. He was so great.

Alphaville

Alphaville © original pictures to the owners

Unless stated otherwise, pictures have been provided by Marion Gold’s publicity team © belongs to their respective owners

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