By Mark Nobes

You can listen the the original 12 inch version of "Japanese Boy" by Aneka in our video above, which is titled "The Endless Music Mix", although it does end after 6 minutes and 39 seconds, I can assure you!
Bizarrely, both the performer and songwriter are Scottish, and defintely not Japanese! Aneka is a Scottish folk music singer called Mary Sandeman. The song was produced by Neil Ross and written by Bob Heatlie, a Scottish songwriter and producer who created a number of hit songs for Shakin' Stevens, including that festive favourite "Merry Christmas Everyone". Heatlie and Sandeman had previously worked together on several Scottish folk albums.
The fake Geisha girl image (basically a wig and kimono) and unconvincing Japanese accent would probably be viewed as "racist" by some of today's generation, and it would be an ill-conceived idea to release such a song, given the backlash it would receive via social media. Back in 1981, of course, nobody batted an eyelid, and it was just viewed as a fun novelty song, although the lyrics are actually quite sad, which I'll come to in a moment.

The novelty single was a #1 hit for one week in the UK during August 1981, and, as mentioned, adopted an oriental image, although some critics claimed that the music was more Chinese than Japanese. Indeed, the song failed to become a hit in Japan exactly for that reason. Nonetheless, worldwide, the song sold around 5 million copies, and in the UK it sold around half a million copies, making it the 24th selling single of 1981. 

The track was included on Aneka's self-titled debut album, which did not chart in the UK, but did reach #12 on the Official Finnish Charts and #19 on Sweden's Topplistan album chart.
The UK 7 inch vinyl (Hansa 5) which was released on the Ariola Hansa label, featured "A Fond Kiss" as the B-side. A 12" version was not released in the UK, but the U.S., Canada and Germany did have a 12" release, and this included The Endless Music Mix (6:34).

In this video, the audience look like they're having the time of their lives. 


The lyrics describe losing a Japanese lover, without knowing the reason why, as in the chorus "I woke up one morning and my love was gone". So despite the upbeat nature of the music, the lyrics are actually quite melancholic "Could it be another he's found, it's breaking up the happy home".

Further Singles

Creating a follow-up single was always going to be a mighty challenge. Do you stick with the same image and limit yourself to an oriental style of music, or create something new? Sandeman chose to keep the same name and Geisha girl image, but release a dull follow-up without the oriental hook, which put a premature end to her music career, in the UK, at least.

The follow-up single "Little Lady" saw Aneka adopt a "slightly modified image", apparently, although she still looks exactly the same to me in the video below. This proved to be a big mistake as the single only crawled to No.50 in the UK singles chart, although it reached No.7 in Austria, No.10 in Germany and No.14 in Sweden.

"Little Lady" featured a very familiar bassline, but there was no distinguished oriental sound and Sandeman just looks uncomfortable miming the song in the performance in the video above. Let's face it, the song was just pants! 

For the third single, "Ooh Shooby Doo Doo Lang", Mary adopted a very different 1930s gangster fashion style. The song had a very catchy, Eurovision style hook, but still failed to become a UK hit. The B-side was suggestively-titled "Could It Last a Little Longer?" - I wonder what she was referring to?

Aneka Japanese Boy The Album

Whatever Happened to Aneka?

Mary Sandeman gave up singing as a career choice in the 1990s. Now in her 60s, she is a chair person for the Gaelic Language Promotion Trust. She now lives alone and also works as a tour guide around the old town and castle in Stirling, Scotland.

Sandeman lost her only brother in a flying accident in 1975. She divorced her husband, Duncan, when she was 38 and had two sons with him. Duncan, now in his 40s, is a full-time piper and younger son Iain, also in his 40s, works as a rope access technician on oil rigs. 

In 2002, the track featured on Flash FM in the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City.

In 2006, Mary Sandeman featured in a documentary on Channel 4 in the UK entitled Bring Back One Hit Wonders. Presented by the infamous Justin lee Collins, Sandeman refused to perform the song again and didn't want to make the trip from her home in Scotland to the London-based studios.

Mary Sandeman as Aneka in 1981 and as herself in 2008