TRMW Archives

* FYI, this stuff is old. The current TRMW is here.

December 22, 2005

Infinity Multiples: Behind the Mask (mp3)

OK, this one has been brewing for a while now. It started way back at this year’s installment of the annual PRA Foozball Tournament. Marius is spinning records on the porch, with dueling foozball tables on the front lawn (this is the Portland I love). And right before the water balloon fight breaks out, Marius drops this jam:

Greg Phillinganes - Behind the Mask

I recognize the opening synth riffage from the Yellow Magic Orcestra album I slsk’d after this interview. Which makes sense: Marius makes music that can be compared to YMO, Marius plays YMO. But no, this funk guitar kicks in, and all of sudden there’s this dude just BUSTING out disco-soul vocals over the top of what was already a pretty much perfect slice of classic electro. It’s like WTF?! right into OH HELL YES!!

So I’m geeking out pretty hard. I ask Marius what the track is and he shows me this amazing cover art:


Marius actually has the Behind the Mask single, which looks like this. He also has no scanner.

I flip over the back and it’s “Behind the Mask”, credited to “C. Mosdell / R. Sakamoto / M. Jackson.” Worlds collide, my head explodes.

Some Googling later, the story is clearer (tho I can’t find the links now to back it up… help?). Yes, “Behind the Mask” is one of the raddest tracks off YMO’s synthtastic 1980 album X? Multiplies:

Yellow Magic Orchestra

Yellow Magic Orchestra - Behind the Mask

But the next part is a little weird: apparently at some point none other than Quincy Jones hears the track, digs it, and suggests Michael Jackson record a version of it for Off the Wall. Michael plays around with it, adds some very Micheal lyrics and ultimately decides not to include it on the album. But Michael’s keyboard player, yep, Greg Phillinganes, is really into it, and asks Michael if he can use it on his solo thing. Micheal says yes. Hence the song Marius played.

But it doesn’t even end there. As the 80′s trudge on, Phillinganes gets a new gig playing keys for freaking Eric Clapton, and, yes, he also records the song. Hence… this, off his 1986 Phil Collins produced studio R&B album, August:

Eric Clapton - Behind the Mask

So there you have it. Japanese Electropop >> Disco Michael >> Crappy Clapton. You can’t make this shit up.

YMO vs. Human League


Human League did a super-campy house version of “Behind the Mask” that was released in 1993. Check the piano breakdowns! Feel it, feel it:

The Human League vs. Yellow Magic Orchestra - Behind the Mask

Orbital remixed the track for the 90s YMO remix comp Hi-Tech / No Crime. It’s peaky:

Yellow Magic Orchestra - Behind the Mask (Orbital Remix)

And I have no idea what this is all about:

Yellow Metal Orchestra - Behind the Mask

CONCLUSION: Good music transcends time and space. And music is trippy.

  • Kai

    This is some serious shit.

    You should submit it to Wax Poetics or something, I bet they like.

  • Donnie

    Phillipinganes album art is amazing. I’ve never felt so intimitaded by a keytar in my life. I’m a little confused-was he michael’s guitar player or keyboard player? all it has in his bio is keyboard/keytar work.

    oh, and as usual E-Clap just annihilates anything he touches. he’s like the avian flu of classic rock.

    awesome saga!

  • Matt

    Shit Don, you’re totally right! Derrrr… Ok, changing that now.

  • Donnie

    I wasn’t trying to be all english teacher on yo ass-I thought maybe he played both, then realized! he could combine the style and grace of the guitar with the flexibility and utility of the keyboard! and became the greatest keytarist the world had ever seen.

  • k-town

    do you know–I have woken up humming to myself and realized, after my morning coffee, that it was this song? I think it was a post-cheese factory experience.

  • e*rock

    lets talk marius into working on a cover of “the mask” too? !

  • copy

    thats not a bad idea eric……….

  • 20jazzfunkgreats

    very nice blog on this one matt, never heard the Yellow Metal version before, but i think i’m a fan.

  • Matos W.K.

    Great post, but Clapton early on was actually pretty fucking great–I prefer his “Little Wing” (w/Derek & the Dominos) to Hendrix’s original, which is saying a lot.

  • Dave M.

    great post!

    also i’m embarassed to know this, but the sample (the Philliganes version by the sounds of it) is sampled in U.K. novelty hip-hop group Goldie Lookin’ Chain’s er…classic… “Your Mother’s Got A Penis”.

  • stevem

    amazing! i had stupidly grown up thinking this was a Clapton song (called “Who Do You Love?”)! but at the back of my mind i knew i had heard a disco/synthpop version at some point over the years. i went to see The Knife last Monday and the DJ beforehand played the YMO original and I realised I had to track it down, not realising it was YMO and as old as it is. thanks so much for putting up the numerous versions, remixes and covers of it.

  • Ian S.

    Has anyone found a MIDI file for the YMO version?

  • Simon

    Actually….I think Clapton’s version is by far the best one. But Greg Phillinganes is good too.

  • Wally

    You should definitely add Senor Coconuts remixes to your list. The 15 minutes version is great as well.

    And thanks for your research! YMO still, along with Kraftwerk, is the band the influenced me the most when I was (much) younger…

  • karat

    here’s Sugizo’s remix of Behind The Mask, appearing on the YMO REMIXES TECHNOPOLIS 2000-00 album.

  • Anonymous


  • Ben

    Awesome post! That Greg Phillinganes version is killer.

  • christopher o

    Aw yeah. Funny, was going to a post on this record too….seeing the pic on flickr>>your blog>>reminded me. He scores a pop hat-trick on side A and then it kind of fizzles with the ballad…

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