Episode #132 – Gillan – Mr. Universe (Japanese Version)

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Lead up to the Album:

  • Lineup change: Bernie Torme comes in to replace Steve Byrd who returned to session work.
  • Phil Banfield comes onto the scene to work as Ian’s manager.
  • Ian and Phil went to the south coast to get the picture for the front of the UK album.
  • Gillan says: “He wanted a picture of me with only water behind, and, t o achieve the effect, he said I had to jump. So there I was, with my manager shoultin, ‘Jump,’ and I’d jump. Again and again. From that moment we agreed that when Phil says jump, I jump!”
  • In 1979 Phil got the band in front of audiences, booking the National Jazz Blues and Rock Festival which became known as the Reading Rock Festival.  Gillan were on the same bill as Steve Hcket, Think Lizzy, and Rory Gallagher.
  • ON September 20, 1979 the original version of this album was released in Japan by Toshiba-EMI.  This album was billed as Ian Gillan.  Australia and New Zealand got it later in the year.
  • That version of the album had a different track list.
  • Japanese version: https://www.discogs.com/Gillan-Mr-Universe/release/9594353 including tracks not on the UK release:
SideUK ReleaseJapanese Release
1Second Sight*Vengeance
1Secret of The Dance*Mr. Universe
1She Tears Me DownShe Tears Me Down
1RollerYour Sister’s On My List***
1Mr. Universe
2VengeanceStreet Theatre**
2Puget SoundRoller
2Dead of Night*Puget Sound
2Message in a Bottle*Move With The Times**
2Fighting Man*Sleeping On The Job**

*Tracks that does not appear on the Japanese version.

**Track that does not appear on the UK version but does appear on the 1993 “Gillan – The Japanese Album” compilation.

***Track unique to the Japanese version.

  • In 1993 RPM released a compilation called “Gillan – The Japanese Album” which combined the tracks from the Japanese “Mr. Universe” (except “Your Sister’s On My List”) album with the original Gillan “Japanese” album. 14 tracks in total.
  • Since we’ve already covered 4 of the tracks on the UK version we will focus on the Japanese release of Mr. Universe.
  • When you look at it the UK version is really more of a sort of compilation featuring 4 tracks previously released, one with a different lineup.  The Japanese version, however, is a brand new album.
  • Stargazer – Issue #20 from December of 1979 also breaks down the differences between the versions.
  • Simon Robinson states that he doesn’t detect any real difference between the duplicated tracks.


  • Bass, Mixed By, Arranged By – John McCoy
  • Drums, Arranged By – Mick Underwood
  • Guitar, Arranged By – Bernie Torme*
    • Played in a band called The Urge in the early 70s
    • Also played in a band called Scrapyard with John McCoy in the mid 70s
    • He then formed The Bernie Torme Band which released his first recorded work in 1979 – this was his only recorded credit prior to Gillan
    • Sadly he passed away in 2019
  • Keyboards – Colin Towns
  • Vocals – Ian Gillan


Album Art & Booklet Review

  • Photography By – Mick Gregory
    • Photography for Deep Purple, Bernie Torme solo, Genesis
  • Photography By – Yuka Fujii
    • Visual for Bernie Torme, Iron Maiden (debut album),  
  • Photography By [UK Front Cover] – Victor Watts
    • Only credit on Discogs
  • Artwork [UK Sleeve Design] – Jubilee Graphics
    • Worked with Elton John, ELO, 
  • No Japanese credit for the cover design.
    • Cover is a pic from Ian Gillan at the Reading Festival in 1978 playing with the brand new Gillan

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Album Tracks:

Side One:

  1. Vengeance (Gillan, Towns)
  2. Mr. Universe (Gillan, Towns)
  3. She Tears Me Down (Towns)
  4. Your Sister’s On My List (Gillan, Towns)
    • Robinson: “… has lyrics which you would expect from a title like that! Musically it starts off sounding a little Zeppelin like (early stuff), just the way the riff is constructed and churned out.”
    • Robinson compares the ending of the track to an imitation of “Hard Lovin’ Man.”

Side Two:

  1. Street Theatre (Towns)
  2. Roller (Gillan, Towns)
  3. Puget Sound (Gillan, Towns, McCoy, Torme, Underwood)
  4. Moving With The Times (Gillan, Towns, McCoy)
  5. Sleeping on the Job (Gillan, Towns)
    • Released as the next UK single per Stargazer Issue #20 per Ian.
    • Song is about Leyland night workers
      • Found this article: https://www.aronline.co.uk/archive/sleeping-on-the-job-essay/
      • “The story first hit the headlines on 12 November 1979 when it was revealed that 14 night shift workers had been caught sleeping at a British Leyland plant. The men were found tucked up in sleeping bags when management swooped on the priming shop at the Range Rover plant in Solihull, near Birmingham.
      • “After two days of disciplinary hearings and appeals, BL dismissed 13 Land Rover car workers, who had been caught sleeping on the night shift. A Supervisor who was sleeping was also dismissed, along with a Foreman. The company refused to comment while a hearing was still continuing into charges against a Superintendent.”

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Reception and Review

  • The album reached No. 11 in the UK, selling over 2 million copies worldwide.
  • With all the craziness surrounding the track listing and versions of this album there is also another song from the Mr. Universe sessions that is considered lost.  The song is called “Parliament Square.” 

Reviews from Simon Robinson in Stargazer Issue #20, December of 1979:

Mr.Universe (UK) – Album Review
I recently rated the last studio album, issued only in Japan, as the best ex-purple disc to date. This comprises five tracks from it (three of which have been re-recorded), plus five new tracks. So how could they go wrong? Well they have. How they can honestly turn this out after that Jap. LP is beyond me. The material I can take, what I can’t take is the abysmal mix. It is just bloody terrible. Gillan’s vocals are buried, and though the drummer is presumably playing a whole kit, only the cymbals can be heard.
Mr.Universe (Japan) – Album Review
This contains five tracks from the UK edition (which sound the same to me), plus four new ones. Of those, ‘Your Sister’s On My List’ is quite catchy, and has lyrics which you would expect with a title like that! ‘Move With The Times’ is kept going by bass, drums and piano (sort of Pot Black style!). ‘Sleeping OnThe Job’ is very catchy, but not as good as the live version, because Gillan is mixed down too far. ‘Street Theatre’ is a short Towns instrumental, probably destined for a stage opener some day. Overall, that spark which made Gillan ‘Gillan’ outstanding is absent.
  • Robinson in Stargazer #20 says that the Japanese version is the best ex-purple disc to date.
  • Robinson speaks very unfavorably about the UK version, mostly having issues with the mix.
  • In the UK they promoted the album touring with Randy California.  Samson with Bruce Dickinson were also there.
  • Gillan: “I loved the band; Bernie and John galvanized audiences with their electrifying stage act, and, in John’s case he was described in one review as a ‘walking absurdity’ with a presence that oozed rock ‘n’ roll.”
  • Gillan’s story about meeting back up with Ritchie from “Child in Time” pages 139-140.

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