Category: Legacy (Page 1 of 5)

New Europeans: The Legacy of ULTRAVOX

Photo by Brian Griffin

What do John Foxx, Midge Ure, Tony Fennell and Sam Blue all have in common? They have all, at some point, been the lead singer of ULTRAVOX.

While Fennell and Blue are now largely forgotten, having only recorded one album each in ‘Revelation’ and ‘Ingenuity’ respectively, there are endless debates about whether the John Foxx or Midge Ure fronted ULTRAVOX is the valid and definitive one.

Like with the Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins led versions of GENESIS, both have their own sound and different audiences, while there are some who even like both. But whatever, the four piece ULTRAVOX comprising of Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure was undoubtedly the most commercially successful, scoring thirteen Top 30 hit singles in the UK over a period of four and a half years, as well as five Top 10 albums including a greatest hits collection.

How John Foxx departed the ULTRAVOX fold and Midge Ure came to join at the encouragement of Rusty Egan, following the first VISAGE sessions at Genetic Studios that included Billy Currie, is now more than well documented. The new quartet soon embarked on a US club tour in 1979 to test the water with their new material.

The thread between the two line-ups was German producer and engineer Conny Plank; he had offered to finance an album himself, such was his faith in the band. When interest came from Chrysalis Records and an offer of two days free studio time to make demos, ULTRAVOX opted to use their opportunity to complete a fully recorded version of ‘Sleepwalk’. It saw the new line-up of the band beef up their Motorik inclinations with lots of “fun-fun-fun on the autobahn” and Chrysalis duly offered a deal to the quartet.

ULTRAVOX were despatched to RAK Studios in London to record an album which was to be given the title of ‘Torque Point’ before the band and label settled on ‘Vienna’. With Ure’s background in power pop with SLIK and THE RICH KIDS, dynamic catchy choruses were to become a new trademark to go with a greater use of synthesizers, while there was a conscious move to utilise more of Billy Currie’s classical music training via his piano, violin and viola playing.

Photo by Anton Corbijn

Released in Summer 1980, one of the key tracks on the ‘Vienna’ album was the robotic spy story of ‘Mr X’ which was voiced by Warren Cann and clearly influenced by KRAFTWERK. With its tight Compurhythm backbone, it was an idea that dated back to the John Foxx-era as its hook was very similar to his ‘Touch & Go’ on ‘Metamatic’ released in early 1980. But ‘Touch & Go’ had been premiered live by ULTRAVOX before Foxx departed.

Another standout was the lengthy instrumental ‘Astradyne’, a glorious statement of intent that was the perfect opener. Under the spell of German acts like LA DÜSSELDORF and RIECHMANN with a fantastic interplay between the band and a final celebratory section coming from an unexpected lift.

Billy Currie told The Electricity Club in 2010 that “Midge came up with that final section lift taking it out of the long ARP solo. I double it! It is a very good strong keyboard part. I used to say at the time: ‘Only a guitarist could come up with that!’, I meant that as a good thing!”

There were more guitar driven songs too with Ure adopting the chunky flanged sound that had been showcased by his predecessor Robin Simon which blended well with the Minimoog, ARP Odyssey, Oberheim OBX and Yamaha SS30 that were in the ULTRAVOX keyboard armoury. ‘Passing Strangers’ was the hit single that never was while ‘New Europeans’ featured a lyric written by Warren Cann which hit the zeitgeist with a narrative about a young man whose “modern world revolves around the synthesizer’s song”.

Meanwhile ‘All Stood Still’ was verging on heavy metal in the vein of THIN LIZZY, perhaps unsurprising given Ure’s time as a stand-in-guitarist for Phil Lynott’s combo when Gary Moore went AWOL before their US tour with JOURNEY; it was this link that led to THIN LIZZY’s managers Chris O’Donnell and Chris Morrison looking after the business interests of ULTRAVOX. Complete with thundering Moog bass, powerhouse drums and Jimi Hendrix impressions using an ARP Odyssey, ‘All Stood Still’ rocked so much that many listeners were unaware it was a tune about a nuclear holocaust…

Sandwiched between ‘New Europeans’ and ‘Passing Strangers’, ‘Private Lives’ was like a less frantic amalgam of the two but if the ‘Vienna’ album had an under rated track, then it was ‘Western Promise’. Relevant today in light of questions about the British Empire’s past role in colonisation, slavery and genocide, the mighty tune used the Far East as its location with a distorted Ure ranting “Oh mystical East, you’ve lost your way, your rising sun shall rise again. My Western world gives out her hand, a victor’s help to your fallen land” like some totalitarian dictator…

But the tune which the wider public remembered most was the title track. When Conny Plank heard the demo of ‘Vienna’, he imagined an old man at a piano in a desolate theatre who had been playing the same tune for forty years. And when Billy Currie came to record his ivory parts, that was exactly the feel which Plank had engineered for the now iconic track. As for the Roland CR78 Compurythm intro, Warren Cann told The Electricity Club that it was perhaps his proudest moment when he presented his idea to the rest of the band and went “How about this?”.

With the ‘Vienna’ reaching No2 as a single and No3 as an album in the UK charts, ULTRAVOX were getting the success they deserved. But for the follow-up ‘Rage In Eden’, they adopted a completely different approach. Whereas lyrically, a fair portion of the lyrics had been written by Cann, this now shifted primarily to Ure.

Photo by Brian Griffin

Although the ‘Vienna’ album had been written and played live before recording, the band decided to decamp to Conny Plank’s residential countryside studio with no material pre-prepared. Living in each other’s pockets for three months, the sessions were tense and that impression came across in the music.

Released in Autumn 1981, ‘Rage In Eden’ began with the optimistic spark of ‘The Voice’ and possessed the Motorik thrust of NEU! while maintaining some marvellous symphonic pomp. Creative tensions that had now emerged between Ure and Cross on one side, and Currie on the other who responded with his magnificent middle eight ARP Odyssey solo and a very proud ivory run.

But aside from that, ‘Rage In Eden’ was a paranoia ridden affair. However, many of its tracks were mighty. Chris Cross’ trademark triggered Minimoog bass synth came to the fore on tracks like ‘We Stand Alone’ and ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’ with Billy Currie working more with the Oberheim OBX for his soloing, although neither was a particularly cheerful affair. In between, there was the tape experimentation of the title track which used the chorus of ‘I Remember’ played backwards to give an eerie Arabic toned “noonretfa eht ni htaed… rebmemer i ho” vocal effect.

Also making a prominent appearance was the Linn LM-1 Drum Computer, a machine that used digital samples for its sounds which Warren Cann acquired, fascinated with furthering the possibilities of programmed percussion that had been opened up. Speaking to The Electricity Club in 2010, he surmised that “Drum machines lent a new dimension to music on two fronts; one, the hypnotic element given by perfect unwavering tempo, and two, the ability to endlessly layer, edit, and re-edit rhythm tracks.”

‘The Thin Wall’ dramatically merged synthesizers, guitar, piano, violin and Linn Drum for a formidable yet under rated hit single, but then the album entered a dense phase of indulgence with the deeply rhythmic but overlong ‘Stranger Within’ and the meandering ‘Ascent On Youth’. The melancholic interlude ‘The Ascent’ provided some relief despite its intensity before the haunting conclusion with the sparse mental breakdown of ‘Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind Again)’.

Not as accessible as ‘Vienna’, only two singles were lifted from ‘Rage In Eden’ whereas its predecessor had four; ‘Rage In Eden’ was ambitious and loosely conceptual but it may have been too much for some, including the band.

So for 1982’s ‘Quartet’ album, ULTRAVOX worked with George Martin, most notable for his work with THE BEATLES. The sound was brighter, more structured and stripped of the density that had characterised the albums with Conny Plank, perhaps coinciding with the use of more digital hardware like the PPG Wave 2.2 and Emulator.

The catchy ‘Reap The Wild Wind’ opened proceedings with an immediacy that was less angular and experimental that anything on ‘Vienna’ or ‘Rage In Eden’ although this poppier approach may have alienated any John Foxx-era fans that had stuck it out into the Ure-era.

However, the quasi-religious pomp of ‘Hymn’ had the anthemic thrust of the previous two albums and in ‘Visions in Blue’, ‘Quartet’ had its own ‘Vienna’ but aside from those, ‘Mine For Life’ and ‘Serenade’, overall it was something of a disappointment. While the mighty motorik attack of ‘The Song (We Go)’ offered some percussive edge, the middle second side trio of ‘When The Scream Subsides’, ‘We Came To Dance’ and ‘Cut & Run’ proved lacking in the delivery of their verses despite strong choruses.

Photo by Pete Wood

‘Quartet’ had been a big budget effort with recording in George Martin’s Air Studios in London and Monserrat plus a tour with a huge grey gothic stage set to support it, as documented in the ‘Monument’ concert film and soundtrack.

By this time, ULTRAVOX took out a huge amount of equipment live which caused many logistical headaches. There were nearly thirty keyboards and electronic gadgets on stage including ARP Odysseys, Minimoogs, PPGs, Emulators, Oberheims and assorted Yamaha keyboards including the CP70 electric grand piano which could take up to three hours to tune in soundcheck!

Then there was Warren Cann’s infamous percussion console ‘The Iron Lung’ which had the Simmons SDSIII, SDSV and SDSVII drum synthesizers, Roland TR77 and CR78 drum machines, a Linn LM-1, a LinnDrum, the Sequential Circuits Drumtraks and various effects processors like the Roland Space-Echo.

So things became more simplified by ULTRAVOX’s standards for the next album ‘Lament’ released in Spring 1984, with the recording sessions taking place in home studios and self-produced. Largely gone were Billy Currie’s trademark synth solos with the ARP Odyssey although its replacement, the OSCar made a fleeting appearance in that style on the closing song ‘A Friend I Call Desire’. Meanwhile Warren Cann had acquired the MIDI compatible Sequential Drumtraks and there were more obviously programmed rhythm tracks than on previous ULTRAVOX albums while the band seemed quite pleased with their new Yamaha DX7.

Photo by Paul Cox

But one new keyboard acquisition proved to be a major disappointment in Sequential’s giant Prophet T8. “I got it thinking it would be a competitor to the Yamaha CS80 but the action was always far too heavy” remembered Currie, “It was the only other synth that had a totally polyphonic touch-sensitive keyboard. It was about £4000… a bargain!”

The album contained many varying different styles as the band battled for a clear direction. ‘One Small Day’ was a decisively hands-in-the-air rockist statement in the vein of U2 and SIMPLE MINDS.

Meanwhile the brilliant ‘White China’ was a full fat sequencer number about the eventual 1997 handover of British ruled Hong Kong to Red China that developed on NEW ORDER’s ‘Blue Monday’.

Using Far Eastern ethnic influences with a nod towards JAPAN’s ‘Tin Drum’, the title song was an exquisite but obviously mournful ballad. owever the album’s highlight was the magnificent ‘Man Of Two Worlds’, an electro Celtic melodrama featuring a haunting female Gaelic vocal from Mae McKenna with doomed romantic novel imagery capturing a feeling of solitude in an unusual mix of synths, programmed Motorik rhythms and manual funk syncopation.

Notably a re-configuring of ‘Sonnenrad’ by NEU! guitarist Michael Rother from his ‘Sterntaler’ album which Conny Plank had produced and given a copy to Billy Currie, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ was yet another song about a nuclear holocaust. While it might have been a depressing subject to revive, there was the spectre of ‘Protect & Survive’ when Mutually Assured Destruction lingered in the minds of the population. Released as a single, ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ reached No3 in the UK singles charts, ULTRAVOX’s biggest hit since ‘Vienna’.

Photo by Paul Cox

ULTRAVOX had been a consistent singles band but after eleven successive Top30 hits, it seemed as good a time as any to release a greatest hits for the 1984 Christmas market.

At the time of release, ‘The Collection’ was novel. Not only did it feature all thirteen Midge Ure-fronted era singles to date, but in ‘Love’s Great Adventure’, it also included a brand new one too.

It was a perfect package that could be played from start to finish, from ‘Dancing With Tears in My Eyes’ to ‘Lament’ via ‘The Thin Wall’, ‘Vienna’, ‘Sleepwalk’, ‘Reap The Wild Wind’ and ‘All Stood Still’.

After four albums in five years, it was time for Cann, Cross, Currie and Ure to take a break, but instead, the ULTRAVOX frontman took a busman’s holiday. There was Band Aid and then a solo career which yielded a UK No1 in 1985 with ‘If I Was’, a song Ure had co-written with Danny Mitchell from the band MESSENGERS who had played support and augmented the live  ULTRAVOX set-up on the previous two tours.

After an appearance at Live Aid, when ULTRAVOX reconvened in 1986 for the making of their next album, the quartet imploded with Warren Cann unceremoniously fired from the band due to musical differences. By now, Cann had more or less given up the notion of live drums while the other three favoured a back-to-basics approach with more live instrumentation.

Despite Conny Plank returning to produce, the resultant ‘U-Vox’ was poor. The title said it all, a band with something missing. The album saw ill-advised excursions into funk, brass and folk with the latter being a rather sombre collaboration with THE CHIEFTAINS about the threat of a nuclear holocaust called ‘All Fall Down’.

Meanwhile most of the other tracks on ‘U-Vox’ were uninspired pieces of rock, with the lame ‘Moon Madness’ being a particular low point. Despite this, there was a genuine highlight in ‘All In One Day’, a magnificent song about ‘Live Aid’ which featured an orchestral arrangement by George Martin. However, after an underwhelming arena tour, ULTRAVOX split. Midge Ure continued his solo career to varying degrees of success while Chris Cross left music to become a psychotherapist amd Warren Cann moved to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Billy Currie made three attempts at reviving the ULTRAVOX name. However, the first one featuring Marcus O’Higgins as singer and a returning Robin Simon on guitar was blocked; when the recordings from these 1989 sessions were finally released as ‘Sinews Of The Soul’ under the name HUMANIA in 2006, the booklet notes saw Billy Currie launch into an almighty tirade against Midge Ure and Chris Morrison who had taken on the role of sole ULTRAVOX manager after Chris O’Donnell moved on. An interview that Currie gave to Beatmag that year was no less frank.

There was now a lot of bad feeling, so any possible future activity involving the four members of the classic ULTRAVOX line-up was now unlikely… or so it seemed. In 2003, Ure was playing a significant amount of ULTRAVOX material on his ‘Sampled Looped & Trigger Happy’ tour.

Then in 2009, the impossible happened and the classic line-up of ULTRAVOX reunited for the ‘Return To Eden’ tour following an offer from Live Nation, who their former manager Chris O’Donnell was now working for. The show went on two triumphant European stints and things went well enough for a new album to be recorded, with writing taking place at Midge Ure’s log cabin retreat near Montreal in Canada.

Co-produced by Stephen J Lipson, the ‘Brilliant’ album’s title song chorused a cautious optimism in a bittersweet comment on pop culture. Meanwhile as the album opener, ‘Live’ came as message of intent like ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ but without the imminent nuclear holocaust as its superb instrumental breakdown dropped to a magnificent pulsing sequence, piano and lone bass drum reminiscent of LA DÜSSELDORF.

One of the main talking points about the ‘Brilliant’ album was Ure’s voice which now possessed a fragility and honesty only could have come from battle-hardened life experience. But fans were polarised about his use of the Melodyne, an audio pitch modification tool not dissimilar to Auto-Tune.

In his defence, Midge Ure told The Electricity Club in 2015 about how “it’s a tool and no different from any of the plug-ins that I use when I make music. It’s a bit like saying ‘why do you use reverb on your voice?’… well, it’s because it suits the song and makes it more interesting.”

The excellent ‘Satellite’ recalled former glories and even recycled the violin solo from the album version of ‘The Thin Wall’ while the percolating sequences and rhythmic snap of ‘Rise’ emulated Giorgio Moroder for a 21st Century update of ‘Western Promise’.

‘One’ and ‘Remembering’ captured the chromatic romanticism of Europe with its classical influences although the soaring stadium rock pandering of ‘Flow’ was not to everyone’s taste. However, this blip was countered by the whirring ARP Odyssey lines on ‘Change’ which featured some majestic widescreen inflections glossed with beautiful ivory runs bouncing off a shuffling percussive pattern.

Closing with the resignation of ‘Contact’, a sensitive statement about the emotional detachment caused by modern technology, ‘Brilliant’ was a better album than many expected and righted the wrongs of ‘U-Vox’. There was another successful European tour and it looked as though the old wounds between the four had healed. Then came a surprise run of dates opening for SIMPLE MINDS on the arena leg of their ‘Greatest Hits+’ UK tour at the end of 2013 but after that, it all went quiet.

Speaking to The Electricity Club Midge Ure said that “We always said we were never getting back together to take over the world as a band and pretend we were a bunch of teenagers, we all have other things that we do. And we said that if and when something interesting pops up, we would get-together and do it”. But in 2017, Billy Currie made a statement on his website that his tenure with ULTRAVOX was over and even sold his beloved ARP Odyssey MkII on eBay!

Despite this, the legacy of this particular incarnation of ULTRAVOX lives on, with Ure going out on the road in 2019 with his solo band to play the ‘Vienna’ album in its entirety on ‘The ‘1980 Tour’ as a testament to its artistic longevity. And now there is a 40th Anniversary boxed set complete with a new 5.1 surround sound mix by Steven Wilson.

ULTRAVOX also brought the sound of the NEU! axis to a mainstream British audience and even re-exported back to Germany – in acknowledgement, Ure had the music of Michael Rother played before the shows of ‘The 1980 Tour’.

Meanwhile, there has also been a substantial and diverse ULTRAVOX legacy within modern popular culture. The Manchester pop duo HURTS effectively played on being TAKE THAT dressed as ULTRAVOX, especially with their single ‘Stay’ and its accompanying promo video. Meanwhile for their quintet reunion album ‘Progress’, TAKE THAT themselves interpolated ‘Vienna’ for a song called ‘Eight Letters’ which resulted in the rather unusual credit “written by Barlow / Donald / Orange / Owen / Williams / Ure / Cross / Cann / Currie”!

Photo by Chi Ming Lai

But the biggest ULTRAVOX legacy can be found in the stadiums of the world via the Teignmouth rock trio MUSE. It is not difficult to imagine Midge Ure singing ‘Starlight’ while ‘Vienna’ has been borrowed not once but twice, first on ‘Apocalypse Please’ where the middle eight bass synth section was more or less lifted note-for-note while the second time was more obviously with the drum intro to ‘Guiding Light’.

ULTRAVOX were indeed a jigsaw sequence, but no-one could see the end.


‘Vienna’ is released as a 5CD+DVD and 4LP clear vinyl boxed set by Chrysalis Records on 9th October 2020, pre-order from https://ultravox.tmstor.es/

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/UltravoxUK

https://twitter.com/UltravoxUK

https://www.instagram.com/ultravoxuk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
12th September 2020

In Deutsch: The Legacy of KRAFTWERK

Photo by Maurice Seymour

“Meine Damen und Herren – Ladies and Gentlemen – Heute abend aus Deutschland – Die Mensch Maschine KRAFTWERK”.

Many electronic music fans know KRAFTWERK, but how many know their work in their native language?

In days gone by, German editions of KRAFTWERK albums were sought after but expensive in the UK. School exchange trips often left little pocket money spare to make a purchase after buying the obligatory gifts for family.

But the ‘Computerwelt’ that KRAFTWERK predicted in 1981 has led to ‘Trans Europa Express’, ‘Die Mensch-Maschine’, ‘Computerwelt’, ‘Techno Pop’ née ‘Electric Café’ and ‘The Mix’ (in Deutsch) being made available openly outside of Germany, Austria and Switzerland for the first time. With the recent passing of founder member Florian Schneider, this wider international digital release of KRAFTWERK’s albums in German is particularly poignant.

Desiring a new Germanic cultural identity ignoring Trans-Atlantic rock traditions, KRAFTWERK fused sound and technology, graphic design and performance, modernist Bauhaus aesthetics and Rhineland industrialisation to conceive a Gesamtkunstwerk or “synthesis of the arts” that was to change the course of modern music.

Of course, KRAFTWERK’s breakthrough record ‘Autobahn’ in 1974 was unique in being very German but the willingness to gain a wider acceptance, particularly in the US, led to the bilingual format of its follow-up ‘Radio-Aktivität’ in 1975.

However, the ‘Radio-Aktivität’ title song was notoriously ambiguous in both English and German. The stance infuriated the increasingly strong Green political lobby in the Bundesrepublik. Meanwhile, KRAFTWERK did not help their cause by controversially having promotional photographs taken at a Dutch nuclear installation.

But in 1991, KRAFTWERK stopped sitting on the fence and notably reworked the track for ‘The Mix’ to contain an explicit anti-nuclear message to “STOP RADIO-AKTIVITÄT” while also highlighting the tragedies and disasters in Chernobyl, Harrisburg, Sellafield and Hiroshima.

Developing from the alles Deutsch ‘Autobahn’, ‘Trans Europa Express’ was the first KRAFTWERK album that was released in distinct standalone English and German versions.

Perhaps the most lyrical of all their imperial phase long players, it manifested an accessible spirit of cultural adventure In KRAFTWERK, thanks to their central European location in Düsseldorf.

Deep inside their psyche, ‘Europa Endlos’ was a forward thinking piece that, despite its nostalgic romanticism, was aspiring to a continent without borders that supported a vision of peace and unity. The syllable count on the title hook was more of a mouthful compared with the English version but the 10 minute journey was still glorious in whatever language.

Effectively a spoken word piece with a subtle footstep backbone, ‘Spiegelsaal’ worked like an original Brothers Grimm tale set to music. But with ‘Schaufensterpuppen’, the tight punchy rhythms complimented KRAFTWERK’s Teutonic lyrical sentiment in response to criticism that when performing live, they did not move and acted like showroom dummies. But of course, relishing the opportunity to turn a negative statement into their own positive, they revolted while “Wir gehen in den Club und wir fangen an zu Tanzen”.

By 1978, the classic KRAFTWERK line-up of Ralf Hütter, Florian Schneider, Wolfgang Flür and Karl Bartos were at the height of their powers with ‘Trans Europa Express’ becoming an unexpected favourite on the New York dancefloors.

‘Die Mensch-Maschine’ possessed a sense of humour which was very apparent in ‘Das Modell’, already made third person gender thanks to the German quirk of the neuter designation for girls. KRAFTWERK were enjoying their local VIP status and stalking the Mora discotheque in Düsseldorf for attractive models and hoping to impress them.

Regularly taking their orders for expensive champagne, the club’s resident eccentric waiter was invited to Kling Klang to butt in and shout “SEKT! KORREKT!”, satisfied that he was earning even more commission.

‘Neonlicht’ though remains fabulous in Englisch oder Deutsch while on the title track, “Halb Wesen und halb Ding” translated directly as “Half being and half thing”.

The Giorgio Moroder-inspired ‘Spacelab’ and ‘Metropolis’ though displayed Hütter’s minimalist interest in lyrics by preferring vocal expression using just singular words, but ‘Die Roboter’ made use of the Russian phrase “Я твой слуга – “Я твой работник” to reinforce KRAFTWERK’s view that they were Musikarbeiter or “musical workers”.

But 1981’s ‘Computerwelt’ was the one album though that lost some of its Germanic impact by being worked into English, with simple nursery rhyme lyrics being coupled to probably KRAFTWERK’s most accessible work in their history.

On the title track in particular, the darker more sinister implications of surveillance were highlighted in German.

While “Interpol und Deutsche Bank, FBI und Scotland Yard” paralleled the English version, there was the addition of “Flensburg und das BKA” who are respectively Germany’s DVLA and Federal Crime Agency.

The phrase “Haben unsere Daten da” highlighted how those security and financial institutions held personal data. ’Computerwelt’ may have been written nearly 40 years ago but the consequences of its prophecy are very relevant discussion points today.

But there was more in die Kristallkugel; substituting one of the bridging “Computer World” phrases with “Denn Zeit ist Geld”, die Musikarbeiter concluded that “time is money…”; this was before “Automat und Telespiel – Leiten heute die Zukunft ein – Computer für den Kleinbetrieb – Computer für das Eigenheim” anticipated that “Arcade games and video consoles introduce the future today, with computers for small businesses and computers for the home…”

Launched using their own KRAFTWERK branded Casio VL-80 musical calculator, ‘Taschenrechner’ had its own charm but would go on to be surpassed in affection by ‘Dentaku’ and ‘Mini Calcolatore’, respectively versions in Japanese and Italian. Meanwhile, the wonderful masterpiece ‘Computer Liebe’ mirrored the sentiment of the English translation, although the harsher intonation made the sentiment less forlorn and sympathetic.

However, ‘It’s More Fun To Compute’ remained Anglophile in its sentiment, while ‘Nummern’ and ‘Computerwelt 2’ were identical to the ‘English’ versions thanks to their international counting calls, although eagle-eared enthusiasts will have noted an extra “eins – zwei – drei – vier” dropped into the fade.

In the interim, there was what became an standalone single in ‘Tour De France’ released in 1983. The original was in French anyway and was rendered rather pointless in German as all the place names mentioned as part of the race route were in France anyway! Remixed by François Kevorkian in 1984, the New York-based Frenchman was recruited to help mix their next album which ‘Tour De France’ had originally been intended to be part of.

On the much delayed ‘Techno Pop’ née ‘Electric Café’ for 1986, ‘Der Telefon Anruf’ was distinctly more impactful in German with Karl Bartos making an impressive turn in his only vocal performance for KRAFTWERK. But the assertive automated phone messages became an even more sharpened metaphor for female empowerment.

Touching on a similar theme, ‘Sex Objekt’ was an ironic response that originated from one of the band making unwanted advances on a lady in a club. Now while it is amusing to hear Herr Hütter’s disdain at being treated as an object of lust, it’s the overlong passage of KRAFTWERK hacking through various slap bass, guitar and percussive presets like an online Yamaha DX7 tutorial that is now funnier!

 

However, tracks like ‘Boing Boom Tschak’ and ‘Musique Non Stop’ were phonetic and multi-lingual so language was no longer a barrier as the world got smaller and smaller. But with the lack of a sufficiently intriguing theme on ‘Electric Café’ proving underwhelming, KRAFTWERK lost crucial momentum creatively. And so it was that the classic RFWK line-up had split by the time of 1991’s ‘The Mix’, a largely disappointing digital rework collection of Die Klassik Werks that dated within a year.

However, it would be fair to say by this time KRAFTWERK had transcended their nationality and were no longer just a German band, but actually the most influential act on the planet. They could now present their work in any language and it no longer mattered.

Indeed, when ‘Tour De France Soundtracks’ came out in 2003, there was no German or English edition.

There was just one release for all markets and the voices on it just happened to be in French; KRAFTWERK’s dream of ‘Europa Endlos’ was now reality.

In 1977, KRAFTWERK sang “Das Leben ist Zeitlos” or “Life is timeless” and now after five decades since releasing their self-titled debut album, so is their music.


‘Trans Europa Express’, ‘Die Mensch-Maschine’, ‘Computerwelt’, ‘Techno Pop’ and ‘The Mix’ are released by EMI Music and available worldwide on 3rd July 2020 via the usual digital platforms

http://www.kraftwerk.com/

https://www.facebook.com/KraftwerkOfficial

https://twitter.com/kraftwerk

https://www.instagram.com/kraftwerkofficial/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
26th June 2020

In Search Of Hades: The Legacy of TANGERINE DREAM

TANGERINE DREAM were formed during the Autumn of 1967 by Lithuanian artist Edgar Froese, a lover of Surrealism, sculpture and THE ROLLING STONES.

Based in Berlin, Froese became disillusioned by the rock scene at the time, took the band name from a lyric by THE BEATLES and set about forging a musical project which had sonic experimentation at its very core.

With a fluctuating line-up which at its conception included respected synthesist Klaus Schulze, the band finally started to gain recognition and commercial success in 1975 with the now acknowledged ‘classic’ line-up of Froese, Chris Franke and Peter Baumann.

Following the passing of Froese in 2015 and with their founder’s wishes, TANGERINE DREAM continue with a line-up that still exists today of Thorsten Quaeschning, Ulrich Schnauss and Yoshiko Yamane. TANGERINE DREAM are rightly acknowledged as one of the pioneers of electronic music and the body of work they produced (including the Froese / Franke / Baumann era) has had a huge influence on many musicians to follow.

‘In Search Of Hades: The Virgin Recordings 1973-1979’ covers this imperial phase in TANGERINE DREAM’s timeline, featuring a 16CD + 2 Blu Ray set including a lavish vinyl sized booklet and newly remastered versions of the albums ‘Phaedra’, ‘Rubycon’, ‘Ricochet’, ‘Stratosfear’, ‘Encore’, ‘Cyclone’ and ‘Force Majeure’.

The remastering has been done by Steven Wilson from the available first generation master tapes, but what is most interesting for fans of the bands is the inclusion of a host of previously unreleased material including album out-takes, three London concerts and the full 75 minute soundtrack to the Chichester stage play ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’.

Although much of the band’s rarer material has been well served with the ‘Tangerine Tree’ / ‘Tangerine Leaves’ band-sanctioned bootleg series, a quality set such as this has been long overdue.

The title of TANGERINE DREAM’s 1970 debut album ‘Electronic Meditation’ is a bit of a misnomer in that the work itself featured no actual synthesizers, but utilised organs, tapes and found sounds including a backwards playback of Froese reading from a ferry ticket. ‘Electronic Meditation’ was free-form and experimental in its nature as were the band’s next three albums; ‘Alpha Centauri’, ‘Zeit’ and ‘Atem’.

Primarily eschewing melody for experimentation and atmosphere, it was common for the band have tracks that took up the whole side of an album and this approach continued until 1981 when TANGERINE DREAM started to focus on shorter, more concise pieces. At the heart of the band’s sound was a willingness to experiment with new equipment to the point where music technology manufacturers (including Wolfgang Palm’s PPG) would customize equipment specifically for the band for it to meet their needs.

It was however with their signing to Richard Branson’s fledgling Virgin label and 1974’s ‘Phaedra’ that the band had their major breakthrough commercially. The album itself was a stellar jump musically and was one of the first to feature the sequencer patterns that would go onto to define TANGERINE DREAM’s sound.

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images

Although largely ignored in their own country, the album went on to sell well in the UK, charting at number 15 mainly through word of mouth.

Pivotal to the band was the band’s album cover art, a trademark being the featuring of Froese’s son Jerome either on the front or within the gatefold of the design; most of TANGERINE DREAM’s iconic covers were created by Monique Froese and they help to beautifully encapsulate the music held within.

1975’s ‘Rubycon’ was a close sister to ‘Phaedra’ and could be seen as a refinement of its predecessor with the Mellotron atmospherics and hypnotic sequencer runs all present and correct. Listening back to the work retrospectively now, ‘Rubycon Part One’ still sounds absolutely stunning; after a short two minute intro (which teases the listener that it’s a return to the band’s experimental roots), the track opens up into a beautifully melodic ambient section with electronic birdsong and lush synth pads. The piece then transitions into a sequencer section that was latterly sampled by Alan Wilder’s RECOIL project and went on to secure TANGERINE DREAM’s highest chart placement to date by hitting number 10 in the UK.

The follow-up ‘Ricochet’ differed from the albums that preceded it, in that it was partially comprised of live recordings made at Croydon Fairfield Hall, but with additional studio sections added, including the live piano and Mellotron part that opens ‘Part Two’.

‘Part Two’ remains a breathtaking piece of work with the stunning contrast between the pastoral piano introduction and the interlocking sequencer part that follows. If there is a progression in sound it is the advancing complexity of the band’s Moog sequencer work; whereas ‘Phaedra’ and ‘Rubycon’ featured single lines, ‘Ricochet’ starts to up the ante with multi-layered ones and sets the template for what is now referred to as the ‘Berlin School’ of sequencing.

The album that kept the band occupied between ‘Ricochet’ and ‘Stratosfear’ in 1976 was equally important in securing the band’s reputation and also getting them further work in a different field. ‘Sorcerer’ was a film eventually released in 1977 by ‘The Exorcist’ director William Friedkin and saw the band diversify into mainstream soundtrack work.

Friedkin was an early innovator of using electronic music acts as soundtrack sources and with ‘Sorcerer’, he took the risky approach of getting the band to write their music for the film from looking at the script rather than giving them rushes to work with.

The impact of this approach also meant that the director could play the music on set for the actors and crew to help influence their art and Friedkin even edited much of the footage to fit the music rather than the opposite way around. Although ‘Sorcerer’ wasn’t a huge box office success (and lost a considerable amount of money due to its spiralling budget), it has since been critically re-evaluated and its electronic score certainly puts it ahead of its time when many films of the period would typically be soundtracked orchestrally.

Friedkin has since been quoted as saying that had he discovered TANGERINE DREAM sooner, he would have used the band to soundtrack ‘The Exorcist’, which is now inextricably linked with MIKE OLDFIELD’s ‘Tubular Bells’ instead. It is a shame that ‘Sorcerer’ is not present in the new box set, especially as the poor audio quality of the original vinyl pressings of the soundtrack don’t really do the work proper justice.

Released in 1976, ‘Stratosfear’ saw a departure for TANGERINE DREAM; rather than having side-long 20 minute pieces, a more concise approach was used with 8-10 minute tracks being constructed instead.

An early mix from PINK FLOYD’s Nick Mason was abandoned due to disagreements between the band and Virgin Records.

Although miles away from what could be considered a ‘chart friendly’ hit, the title track would centre around a musical theme that could almost be considered “catchy”! ‘Stratosfear’ has since become a live staple for the new line-up for the band and features on their current tour.

‘Encore’ was touted as TANGERINE DREAM’s first live album ‘proper’; supposedly recorded during the band’s North American 1977 Spring tour, the truth of the matter was far different. In Wouter Bessels’ sleeve notes for the boxset, he refers to the album as a “jigsaw”, with the four long tracks featuring “bits and pieces of recordings mainly made at soundchecks and pre-tour rehearsals in Berlin”. The only track that was truly live was the version of ‘Monolight’, an edited version of a performance captured at the Lisner Auditorium in Washington DC.

‘Encore’ set the precedent for the band in the “is it live or isn’t it?” stakes with the most infamous being the 1988 ‘Live Miles’ album which when compared with a bootleg recording of the Albuquerque concert (that it was meant to represent), showed that it featured no actual music from the show itself! It is interesting to ponder why the band actually did this, were they dissatisfied with the recordings of the performances?

Surely it was inevitable that this ‘deception’ would eventually catch up with them with the huge amount of bootlegs out there in the public domain. These quibbles aside, ‘Encore’ provides a fitting enough tribute to the end of the Froese / Franke / Baumann era and is certainly entertaining from the perspective of hearing of several over-excited Yanks “whooping” during the band’s sequencer passages. However, 1978’s ‘Cyclone’ went to prove to be one of the most polarising albums in TANGERINE DREAM’s back catalogue.

Former member Steve Joliffe was asked to rejoin the band by Froese to contribute vocals and flute to ‘Bent Cold Sidewalk’ and ‘Rising Runner Missed By Endless Sender’. If anything, these additions were a retrograde step for the band, with much of ‘Cyclone’ appearing to align itself with other progressive rock acts of the day.

The lengthy ‘Madrigal Meridian’ which formed the whole of the second side was arguably more representative of where the band was heading, but the addition of vocals wasn’t to be repeated until the William Blake influenced 1987 album ‘Tyger’.

Although rather “hey nonny, nonny” and ‘Blackadder’-ish in places, Jolliffe’s vocals on ‘Bent Cold Sidewalk’ do actually work and The Electricity Club does have a soft spot for ‘Bent Cold Sidewalk’, its brassy synth melodies and sequencer driven middle section go together to create an excellent audio triptych which bears up to repeated listens.

The follow up to ‘Cyclone’, ‘Force Majeure’ saw a return to pure instrumentals for the band with the blissed out Balearic acoustic guitar based intro for ‘Cloudburst Flight’ and the stunning extended sequencer passage on ‘Thru Metamorphic Rocks’ providing the album highlights. The latter proved so successful that its elements were recycled and ended up on the Michael Mann directed motion picture ‘Thief’ as ‘Igneous’. ‘Cyclone’ drew this era to a close and on the near horizon was the joining of Johannes Schmoelling who would go onto have a huge impact on the band and help redefine their sound for the next six years or so.

For purchasers of the box set, the main attractions are the remastering, the previously unreleased material and Blu Ray content. Long-term fans of the band who open the box will likely gravitate to ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ first; a set of tracks composed for Keith Michell’s adaptation of a work which was performed on 18th August 1974 at the Chichester Festival Theatre.

‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ has been mixed by Steven Wilson from the original multitracks and is sonically stunning, certainly nothing like a 1974 rarity which had been buried in an archive would be expected to sound like.

The opening couple of tracks ‘Overture’ and ‘Act 1’ revert back to the band’s earlier experimental pre-’Phaedra’ sound, but are nonetheless entrancing all the same. Where the set really finds its feet is in ‘Act 2: Battle’; after opening with white noise based percussion, the piece eventually breaks into one of TANGERINE DREAM’s trademark sequencer workouts which ebbs and flows for the remaining ten minutes before ending on a short Mellotron flute coda. ‘Act 3’ is undoubtedly the centrepiece here and gives much of ‘Phaedra’ and ‘Rubycon’ a run for their money in terms of sheer innovation and quality.

Another bubbling sequencer line takes centre-stage and the audio quality of Wilson’s mix makes ‘Act 3’ sound like it was recorded yesterday and not 45 years ago. Wilson’s usage of panning and reverb sensitively update the band’s sound and it is clear that the mix was done with the utmost respect to TANGERINE DREAM’s roots and original sonic template. There is also a 5.1 surround version of ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’ on one of the two Blu Rays in the box set.

Photo by Michael Putland / Getty Images

The Blu Ray content also includes Steven Wilson’s excellent 5.1 mixes of ‘Phaedra’ and ‘Ricochet’ as well as the Coventry Cathedral concert (which still unfortunately has the overdubbed ‘Ricochet’ soundtrack on it rather than the original concert recording).

There is however some consolation in that the original Coventry Cathedral piece is present on the ‘Stratosfear’ disc within the box set.

Listening back retrospectively to the actual recording of this concert makes it easier to try and comprehend why the film maker Tony Palmer deemed it necessary to try and overdub the footage that he had; the first 25 minutes of the segment featured is uncompromisingly bleak. But the decision to shoehorn these two elements together has continued to raise the hackles of TD fans for several years now, especially as the film footage is beautifully captured.

Tony Palmer pops up again on another of the Blu Ray’s extras, the 1976 German documentary ‘Signale Aus Der Schwäbischen Straße’; this is a fascinating archive piece including contributions from Monique Froese, Richard Branson (misnamed here as ‘Richard Barnes [!]’) and an interview face-off with the band. A rather awkward looking John Peel and journalist (who is only referred to as ‘Miles’) watch as the band fend off a selection of increasingly antagonising questions by Tony Palmer. A finger wagging Froese becomes visibly annoyed by the end, especially with Palmer’s assertion that much of TD’s music is too highbrow and a working class audience just wouldn’t “get it”!

The documentary also features some of the best close quarter footage of the band’s equipment and live performance from this era. The most prescient point in the whole documentary occurs when the journalist ‘Miles’ makes the point that one day, “synthesizers will be able to play chords… that mass production of those synthesizers will open up a new field and will eventually be as affordable as electric guitars”. And when this happens “English groups will be able to make more electronic music as well!” The film ends with Froese in disguise, pointing at the band’s reel-to-reel tape recorder and comically questioning whether they actually play live or not…

Also of interest are the three live sets from the era, one from their debut UK performance at the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park in 1974, one from a gig at Victoria Palace and a recording of the band’s Royal Albert Hall concert from April 1975. All of these recordings are above average in quality considering their age and appear to be unaltered snapshots of the three live sets.

What is incredible about these recordings is the band’s desire never to repeat themselves, which meant that a live gig ‘rehearsal’ would usually entail a short discussion minutes beforehand along the lines of “Let’s start in E and then go up to a major third to G and then end on A”. The fact that the band was also fighting the unreliability of much of their equipment (Moog oscillators were notorious for going out of tune when temperatures fluctuated), meant that what they were doing was technically a hyper-pure form of Jazz… but instead of using upright bass, drums and piano, they were using new and unreliable electronics instead.

Although the music remastering and track selection has been done extremely well here, there are some points of controversy. Several inaccuracies feature in the lavish booklet (which takes up half of the package), this includes incorrect dates, photos which have been wrongly attributed and typographical errors. The most verbal beef has come from Jerome Froese who feels that his mother Monique has been airbrushed out of the project (although she is mentioned in the booklet, but only gets a single mention for her artwork in the rundown of credits at the front of the booklet).

Fortunately, there are vinyl album size reproductions of her iconic sleeves within the package, which put the new ones created for ‘Oedipus Tyrannus’, ‘Royal Albert Hall’, ‘Victoria Palace’ and ‘Live At The Rainbow’ totally to shame.

These gripes aside, ‘In Search of Hades’ is a fitting audio tribute to the early years of TANGERINE DREAM, Steven Wilson has done a fantastic job with his remastering / remixing of the material and the next question for many fans of the band will be “if” and “when” a Johannes Schmoelling-era box set will be released?

Without question there remains only two true titans of electronic music, KRAFTWERK and TANGERINE DREAM, both German and both fortunate enough to be able to afford the best electronic equipment available. Most importantly they were able (in their own differing ways) to use those resources to create an incredible early body of work which would set the template to influence countless artists afterwards.


In memory of Edgar Froese 1944 – 2015

‘In Search Of Hades: The Virgin Recordings 1973-1979’ is released as a 16 CD + 2 Blu Ray boxed set by UMC

http://www.tangerinedream.org/

https://www.facebook.com/TANGERINEDREAM.OFFICIAL

https://twitter.com/QTangerineDream


Text by Paul Boddy with thanks to Andy King and Wouter Bessels
24th June 2019

The Electronic Legacy of EUROPE

Europe is the spiritual home of electronic music, inspiring it not just artistically but forming an important bond with the continent’s classical tradition through the romance of its historical imagery.

Continental Europe is defined as being bordered by the Arctic Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Often considered to be separated from Asia by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas and the waterways of the Turkish Straits, it includes the part of Russia where Moscow and St Petersburg are located.

Mark Reeder was one of the first British music personalities to fully adopt Europe, making West Berlin his home in 1978 and subsequently releasing a number of themed compilation albums such as ‘European’ in 1995 and ‘Assorted (E For Europe)’ in 1999 on his MFS label. His fellow Mancunian and friend Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER said to The European in 2016: “I feel European, I regard myself as a European… as a musician I’ve always been massively influenced by Europe and its people”.

From Paris to Vienna back to Düsseldorf City, Europe fascinated British musicians who having been open-minded enough to use synthesizers, now embraced many different mindsets, languages, cultures and cuisines, all within a comparatively accessible geographical land mass. Meanwhile, European instrument manufacturers such as PPG, Elka, Crumar, RSF, Jen and Siel found their products in the thick of the action too.

The Electricity Club stands proud of its Eurocentric focus. Esteemed names like Hütter, Schneider, Flür, Bartos, Moroder, Jarre, Vangelis, Plank, Rother, Dinger and Froese have more than highlighted the important debt that is owed by electronic music to Europe.

While the UK may have scored an equalizer with Synth Britannia, it was the Europeans who took that crucial half time lead. So to disengage with the European tradition would be betraying everything that The Electricity Club is all about.

Presented in yearly and then alphabetical order with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are The Electricity Club’s favourite twenty electronic tunes that were inspired, either directly or obliquely, by the legacy of Europe…


DAVID BOWIE Warszawa (1977)

‘Warszawa’ was named after the Polish capital city but accurately captured the Cold War tensions in Europe without the need for lyricism. At Hansa Studios where the sessions were being mixed, the watch towers in East Berlin could look into the windows of the building! Tony Visconti’s production only enhanced the collaborative drama between David Bowie’s enigmatic wailing over Brian Eno’s Minimoog and Chamberlain keys. This formed part of an all instrumental suite on the ‘Low’ album’s second side.

Available on the DAVID BOWIE album ‘Low’ via EMI Records

http://www.davidbowie.com


KRAFTWERK Europe Endless (1977)

With KRAFTWERK utilising a customized 32-step Synthanorma Sequenzer and a Vako Orchestron with pre-recorded symphonic string and choir sounds sourced from optical discs, if there was such a thing as a musical European travelogue, then the romantically optimistic beauty of ‘Europe Endless’ was it. This lengthy work influenced the likes of NEW ORDER, OMD and BLANCMANGE who all borrowed different aspects of its aesthetics for ‘Your Silent Face’, ‘Metroland’ and ‘Feel Me’ respectively.

Available on the KRAFTWERK album ‘Trans Europe Express’ via EMI Records

http://www.kraftwerk.com/


THE DURUTTI COLUMN For Belgian Friends (1980)

‘For Belgian Friends’ was written in honour of Factory Benelux founders Michel Duval and the late Annik Honoré. Although not strictly electronic in the purest sense, Martin Hannett’s technologically processed production techniques made Vini Reilly’s dominant piano sound like textured synthetic strings, complimenting his sparing melodic guitar and the crisp percussion of Donald Johnson. This beautiful instrumental was one of Reilly’s best recordings, originally on the compilation ‘A Factory Quartet’.

Available on THE DURUTTI COLUMN album ‘LC’ via Factory Benelux Records

http://www.thedurutticolumn.com/


FATAL CHARM Paris (1980)

Nottingham combo FATAL CHARM supported ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980. Their excellent first single ‘Paris’ was produced by Midge Ure and could be seen reflecting the electronically flavoured new wave template of the period. Singer Sarah Simmonds’ feisty passion gave a freshly charged sexual ambiguity to the European love story written in the days before the Channel Tunnel. Instrumentalist Paul Arnall said to The Electricity Club: “we were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound”.

Available on the FATAL CHARM album ‘Plastic’ via Fatal Charm

http://fatalcharm.co.uk/


IPPU DO German Road (1981)

Did you hear the one about the Japanese band impersonating a German band and doing it rather well? Influenced by the motorik backbeat of NEU! and also heavily borrowing form its guitarist Michael Rother’s solo track ‘Karussell’, IPPU DO’s leader Masami Tsuchiya was something of a multi-cultural sponge, later joining JAPAN for their final ‘Sons Of Pioneers’ tour in 1982. Meanwhile IPPU DO are still best known in the UK for their startlingly original cover version of THE ZOMBIES ‘Time Of The Season’.

Remixed version available on the IPPU DO album ‘Essence: The Best Of’ via Sony Music

http://www.ne.jp/asahi/masami/london/


LANDSCAPE European Man (1980)

Electronic pioneer Richard James Burgess said to The Electricity Club: “I think we all embraced this new direction because of our raw excitement over the new technology…We discussed it in the band and everyone was on board so I started working on the lyrics that became ‘European Man’”. Colin Thurston was the producer assisting in realising this new direction and interestingly, the rear artwork of the first issue featured an early use of the term “electronic dance music”.

Available on LANDSCAPE album ‘From The Tea-Rooms Of Mars…’ via Cherry Red Records

https://twitter.com/Landscape_band


SIMPLE MINDS I Travel (1980)

“Europe has a language problem” sang Jim Kerr on ‘I Travel’, adding “in central Europe men are marching”. Aware of the domestic terrorist threats that were apparent in every city they were visiting on tour, SIMPLE MINDS captured a claustrophobic tension within its futuristic frenzy like a doomy disco take on Moroder. It was a favourite of DJ Rusty Egan at The Blitz Club where its shadier spectre was highly welcomed by its clientele, reflecting their own discontent closer to home.

Available on the SIMPLE MINDS album ‘Empires & Dance’ via Virgin Records

http://www.simpleminds.com


TELEX Eurovision (1980)

TELEX’s manifesto was “Making something really European, different from rock, without guitar.” Having previously visited a ‘Moscow Disko’ and with tongues firmly in cheeks, they entered the 1980 Eurovision Song Contest with a bouncy electropop song that had deliberately banal lyrics about the whole charade itself. Performing to a bemused audience in The Hague with the sole intention of coming last, unfortunately Finland decided otherwise! Who said the Belgians didn’t have a sense of humour?!

Available on the TELEX album ‘Ultimate Best Of’ via EMI Music Belgium

http://www.telex-music.com/


ULTRAVOX New Europeans (1980)

If there was a song that truly represents The Electricity Club’s ethos, then the synth rock fusion of ULTRAVOX’s ‘New Europeans’ is it! Noting that “his modern world revolves around the synthesizer’s song” in lyrics largely written by drummer Warren Cann, it all pointed to an optimistic way forward “full of future thoughts and thrills” that would later be opened up by direct train travel across the channel with freedom of movement to and from the continent for “a European legacy and “a culture for today”.

Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ via EMI Records

http://www.ultravox.org.uk/


VISAGE Moon Over Moscow (1980)

While in his dual role as DJ at The Blitz Club and VISAGE’s drummer, Rusty Egan had become inspired by the melodic interplay of Japanese trio YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA which had been European influenced: “I liked the album and played it along with TELEX and SPARKS. The sound was an influence on VISAGE. By the time we recorded ‘Moon Over Moscow’, that was to include Russia, Japan, Germany and France in our sound… the drummer was also using the same drum pads as me!”

Available on the VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Alliance Import

http://rustyegan.net/


ASSOCIATES White Car In Germany (1981)

ASSOCIATES first musical signs of a fascination towards European influenced electronic music came with the funereal pulse of ‘White Car In Germany’. The swirling electronics, cold atmosphere and treated percussion were intended to sound as un-American as possible. Billy MacKenzie’s observational lyric “Aberdeen’s an old place – Düsseldorf’s a cold place – Cold as spies can be” accurately captured post-war tensions under the spectre of the bomb.

Available on the ASSOCIATES album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

https://www.facebook.com/theassociatesofficial/


JOHN FOXX Europe After The Rain (1981)

Foxx admitted he had been “reading too much JG Ballard” and had thawed considerably following ‘Metamatic’. Now spending his spare time exploring beautiful Italian gardens and taking on a more foppish appearance, his new mood was reflected in his music. Moving to a disused factory site in Shoreditch, Foxx set up a recording complex which he named ‘The Garden’ and the first song to emerge was the Linn Drum driven ‘Europe After The Rain’. Foxx had now achieved his system of romance.

Available on the JOHN FOXX album ‘Modern Art: The Best Of’ via Music Club

http://www.metamatic.com/


JAPAN European Son (1981)

Recorded as a JAPAN demo for the 1979 Giorgio Moroder sessions that produced ‘Life In Tokyo’, this sequencer heavy number was rejected by the Italian disco maestro. Left dormant in the vaults of Ariola Hansa, the song was finished off under the supervision of John Punter and later given a single remix by Steve Nye with redone parts by Mick Karn. ‘European Son’ showed David Sylvian’s vocals in transition from the catty aggression of earlier albums to the Ferry-ish croon most now associated with the band.

John Punter version available on JAPAN album ‘The Very Best Of’ via BMG

http://www.nightporter.co.uk/


THE MOBILES Drowning In Berlin (1981)

THE MOBILES’ were from the sleepy shores of Eastbourne; while ‘Drowning In Berlin’ may have come across as a ‘Not The Nine O’Clock News’ New Romantic parody on first listen, its decaying Mittel Europa grandeur was infectious like Hazel O’Connor reinterpreting ‘Vienna’ with The Master of Ceremonies at the Kit Kat Klub. And like ‘Vienna’, ‘Drowning In Berlin’ was inspired by a holiday romance, in this case one that singer Anna Maria had while visiting the divided city.

Available on THE MOBILES album ‘Drowning In Berlin: The Best Of’ via Cherry Red Records

https://www.discogs.com/artist/98916-Mobiles


BERLIN The Metro (1982)

Inspired by acts like ULTRAVOX and KRAFTWERK, Californian band BERLIN with their approach to synthesizers were a far cry from the way they were being used Stateside within rock. And in ‘The Metro’ with its frantic motorik drum machine and Teutonic pulses, songwriter John Crawford aimed to capture the tense filmic romance of Paris despite never having visited the city, a vibrant but detached feeling ably projected by partner and singer Terri Nunn in a similar fashion to FATAL CHARM.

Available on the BERLIN album ‘Best Of’ via Geffen Records

http://www.berlinpage.com/


DEPECHE MODE Oberkorn (1982)

Radio Luxembourg broadcasted pop music to the UK using the most powerful privately owned transmitter in the world. But when DEPECHE MODE played the country in early 1982, they were booked to perform in a small town called Oberkorn. With a glorious ambient instrumental on the B-side of the then soon-to-be-released single ‘The Meaning Of Love’ requiring a title, Martin Gore needed no further inspiration, unconsciously capturing the air of the Grand Duchy’s countryside and oceanic climate.

Available on the DEPECHE MODE boxed set ‘DMBX1’ via Columbia Records

http://www.depechemode.com/


THE MOOD Paris Is One Day Away (1982)

Before the days of the Channel Tunnel, young York based New Romantic trio THE MOOD noted the how long it took by boat and train to get to the French capital. ‘Paris Is One Day Away’ was the hit that got away; reaching No. 42, it secured a slot on ‘Top Of The Pops’. However, it was the 1982 World Cup and a match heading into extra time meant that a hasty edit was made. And it was THE MOOD’s performance as the new and unknown act that ended up on the cutting room floor!

Available on THE MOOD album ‘The Singles Collection’ via Cherry Red Records

http://www.themood.info/


RATIONAL YOUTH Saturdays in Silesia (1982)

After ‘Dancing On The Berlin Wall’, RATIONAL YOUTH mainman Tracy Howe turned his attention towards Poland. “What was it like to be young person behind the Iron Curtain? What did they do on a Saturday night anyway?” he told The Electricity Club, “Did they have clubs to go to? Probably underground ones. They’d probably break down the door. Apart from the fact that there are no ‘navy docks’ in Silesia, this record makes a jolly racket and may well be the first recorded instance of a Roland TR-808.”

Available on the RATIONAL YOUTH album ‘Cold War Night Life’ via EMI Records

https://www.facebook.com/RationalYouth/


IAN ANDERSON Different Germany (1983)

Fascinated by the likes of Thomas Dolby and Gary Numan, JETHRO TULL frontman Ian Anderson went synth in 1983. Assisted by Peter John Vitesse, ‘Different Germany’ embraced both the electronic and progressive sides of Anderson’s career perfectly with a marvellous middle section featuring a bristling keyboard solo. The end result sounded not unsurprisingly like Tull fronting ULTRAVOX; of course, the circle was completed when Midge Ure covered ‘Living In The Past’ in 1985.

Available on the IAN ANDERSON album ‘Walk Into Light’ via EMI Records

http://jethrotull.com/ian-anderson-bio/


THE STRANGLERS European Female (1983)

Born to French parents in Notting Hill, THE STRANGLERS’ bassist Jean-Jacques Burnel was a loyal European, even releasing a 1979 solo album entitled ‘Euroman Cometh’ where “a Europe strong, united and independent is a child of the future”. Taking lead vocals for the beautiful ‘European Female’, it possessed an understated quality with subtle Spanish guitar from Hugh Cornwell alongside Dave Greenfield’s sparkling synths and Jet Black’s electronic percussion to celebrate the allure of continental mystery.

Available on THE STRANGLERS album ‘The Very Best Of’ via EMI Records

http://www.thestranglers.co.uk/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
18th April 2019

Play To Win: The Legacy Of HEAVEN 17

HEAVEN 17 started as a pop subsidiary of BRITISH ELECTRIC FOUNDATION, a production company signed to Virgin Records formed after Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh left THE HUMAN LEAGUE in 1980.

With Glenn Gregory as lead singer, the trio eventually became almost as successful as their former sparring partners Philip Oakey and Adrian Wright who had recruited Ian Burden, Jo Callis, Susanne Sulley and Joanne Catherall to score a chart topper in ‘Don’t You Want Me’ on both sides of the Atlantic.

THE HUMAN LEAGUE had a huge selling hit album as well in ‘Dare’, for which Ware and Marsh received a small royalty as part of the original divorce settlement. Whereas at the time, THE HUMAN LEAGUE had a purer synthesizer vision, Ware had been keen to incorporate his love of soul and disco into proceedings.

“We wanted a little distance between what THE HUMAN LEAGUE had been and probably were still going to be, and what HEAVEN 17 were about to become..” remembered Glenn Gregory, “The balance in any group is obviously changed when anyone leaves or joins… things were naturally heading in a different direction just by the very fact that the dynamic of the group had changed, I suppose the real turning point was when we had written ‘Fascist Groove Thang’ (only about ten days after THE HUMAN LEAGUE had split) and Martyn had suggested we put a bass guitar solo in the middle breakdown…”

Featuring young Sheffield bassist John Wilson who also turned out to be a master on rhythm guitar and powered by Simmons SDS-V drums, ‘(We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang’ was a salvo of urgent electronic funk that won the support of the serious music press, but got a ban from the BBC due to its Ronald Reagan baiting lyrics and warnings about the resurgence of extreme right wing ideology. It only fired the trio up even more!

The resultant ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ album was released in Autumn 1981. It was a landmark achievement, cleverly combining electronics with pop hooks and funky disco sounds while adding witty social and political commentary. It fell into two halves, the ‘Penthouse’ side being more electronic avant pop like an extension of THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s ‘Travelogue’ while the other ‘Pavement’ side was aided and abetted by a game changing piece of digital technology; “The Linn Drum became within a day, the new direction” recalled Martyn Ware, “that and discovering John Wilson were the two things that defined ‘Penthouse & Pavement’.”

In a mood of buoyant optimism, ‘Play To Win’ celebrated aspiration, while the title song with its blistering burst of guitar synth by Wilson wittily captured the greed of yuppie culture during the Thatcher era. But on the other side of the coin, ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’ and ‘Height Of The Fighting’ reflected The Cold War and the horrifying spectre of Mutually Assured Destruction. The album fittingly ended with ‘We’re Going To Live For A Very Long Time’, a humourous ode to the dangers of religious fundamentalism that had a connected end groove on its original vinyl to ensure it went on for infinity…

With electronic music technology becoming more sophisticated while affordable and user friendly, Ware upped the ante with its production values; “We’d moved on by then to programming using the Roland MC4 Microcomposer so there was a lot of numeric programming on that album.” he said, “That drove my System 100 and Ian’s System 100M. The original demos are really just the programmed parts which then got layered over with real instruments.”

Securing the talents of notable session musicians such as Ray Russell, Simon Phillips and Nick Plytas as well as retaining John Wilson, ‘The Luxury Gap’ had a glossy sheen which combined synthesizer programming and digital drum computers with orchestrations, brass, jazz piano, rhythm guitar and guitar synths.

The first single ‘Let Me Go’ with one of the first uses of the Roland TB303 Bass Line sequencer was a striking slice of art funk, offset by deep delayed thrusts of Jupiter 8 but again failed to be a Top40 hit.

Interestingly, its recording had concocted a few conundrums in the studio. “When we finished ‘Let Me Go’” remembered Gregory, “we realised we’d lost the original beauty of the demo so we did it again…so basically, ‘The Best Kept Secret’ is ‘Let Me Go’ but redone with an orchestra. So we got two songs out of it.”

More obviously pop oriented than its predecessor ‘The Luxury Gap’ hosted two international hits. ‘Temptation’ was euphoric soul fusion of epic proportions utilising strings and the voice of Carol Kenyon. “Martyn had the idea for the Motown backbeat but it’s still very electronic really… there was this part that built and we decided to try an orchestra.” Gregory explained, “So we were in the studio with this massive orchestra and it was like ‘oh my god’, it was amazing because it was so different. It was a complete game changer.”

Meanwhile ‘Come Live With Me’ was a heartfelt cinematic ballad with no instrumental break which was delivered so sincerely, that it veiled its origins as an inter-band joke. “I was at that time I wrote it, seeing a young girl and I was getting a few jibes” recollected the HEAVEN 17 front man, “The words were making us laugh! It was all messing around! That’s where it all came from and we were quite surprised we’d written quite a beautiful song by the end of it because we were laughing like mad.”

‘Crushed By The Wheels Of Industry’, ‘Who’ll Stop The Rain’ and ‘Key To The World’ pointedly explored the themes of ‘The Luxury Gap’ and maintained HEAVEN 17’s socio-political consciousness despite their entry into the mainstream. But there were other highlights; ‘Lady Ice & Mr Hex’ provided a weird fusion of jazz piano, polyrhythmics, Linn Drum and acid squelches while the frantic energy of ‘We Live So Fast’ presented what it said on the tin.

Success brought money and this was reflected in Autumn 1984 with the Fairlighted jamboree of third album ‘How Men Are’.

“The operational reasons for moving to the Fairlight were that Ian had bought one without asking anyone and with his own money… £40,000!” affirmed HEAVEN 17’s musical director of their newly accquired workstation, “I was going ‘Are you sure about this Ian?’, it seemed a little extreme but he was keen”.

The results were mixed and the many options provided by the computer from Sydney, Australia led to the start of HEAVEN 17’s artistic confusion. But without doubt, ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’ was an outstanding opener. Referencing The Doomsday Clock and following on from ‘Let’s All Make A Bomb’ to highlight the absurdity of Mutually Assured Destruction, it used and abused the Fairlight, throwing in ‘Protect and Survive’ styled civil defence announcements, deathly whoops and a doomy orchestral crescendo bringing a frightening finality to proceedings…

“I’m a big fan of ‘How Men Are’ looking back on it” said Ware, “I think it’s an underrated album and that was when we were probably in our most daring and creative phase.” That daring creativity manifested itself on the sub-ten minute closer ‘And That’s No Lie’, an ambitious adventure in sound that threw in everything from abstract sonic experiments, jazz piano, Fairlight samples, gospel voices and an orchestra, plus some excellent live bass and guitar work from John Wilson and Ray Russell respectively.

Although there were hits in ‘Sunset Now’ and ‘This Is Mine’, these singles highlighted that with the exception of ‘Flamedown’, the ‘How Men Are’ album material was not ultimately as strong as it had been on ‘The Luxury Gap’. One case in point was ‘The Skin I’m In’, an insipid ballad in the vein of SPANDAU BALLET’s ‘True’ although it was partly saved by a plucky acoustic guitar solo created using a Roland System 100!

But the world was changing. Synthpop was falling out of fashion and while potentially there was still success to be had across the Atlantic with the advent of MTV, thanks to the unexpected success of SIMPLE MINDS, British acts were under pressure make themselves more palatable to American audiences.

“So consequently when it came to making ‘Pleasure One’, we’d lost our confidence a bit because it felt like we were slipping.” Ware recalled, “So we started employing more session players and moving towards a more traditional rock sound. And that wasn’t a deliberate decision. We lost confidence not in our songwriting but in the sound that we had, so it like really lost a bit of identity… We wanted to move on but there wasn’t anywhere to move on to from a sound point of view.”

But to be fair, a good number of acts from the school of Synth Britannia like THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD, ULTRAVOX and BLANCMANGE were having something of an existential crisis and even those who had tasted major success in the US like DURAN DURAN were falling apart.

Released in Autumn 1986, the conventionally band driven ‘Pleasure One’ which also saw the return of Carol Kenyon was given a lukewarm reception. Highlights included the groovy call for world unity ‘Contenders’ and the LEVEL 42 aping ‘Trouble’, while ‘If I Were You’ brought in an unexpected influence from THE BEATLES. But overall, HEAVEN 17 had lost momentum.

Ware’s success as a producer for acts like Tina Turner and Terence Trent D’Arby was perhaps placing his artistic focus elsewhere, but when Glenn Gregory appeared on the album cover of 1988’s ‘Teddy Bear, Duke & Psycho’ wearing a Stetson and cowboy boots, the writing was on the wall.

“‘Teddy Bear, Duke & Psycho’ was the nail in the coffin; we’d completely lost our way by then as far as I was concerned! We were retreading some ideas and some of the things we were doing were not working. I think we all knew it had run its course at that point” lamented Ware, “But ironically, it wasn’t that we’d run out of musical ideas, it was just that vehicle because at that time, I was doing Terence Trent D’Arby album which showed myself, Glenn and Ian that we’d still got creative ideas but we’d lost focus on what HEAVEN 17 should be at that point.”

‘Teddy Bear, Duke & Psycho’ were the affectionate nicknames given by Terence Trent D’Arby respectively to Ware, Gregory and Marsh, but the album possessed none of the enthusiasm or spirit of the former GI who Ware had been working with on ‘Introducing The Hardline According To…’. ‘The Ballad Of Go Go Brown’ was the cue for some fans to exit, although ‘Train Of Love In Motion’ was a better single. Meanwhile ‘Big Square People’ was as good as some of blue eyed soul of the times.

But with mainstream audiences finding younger acts such as WET WET WET, HUE & CRY and JOHNNY HATES JAZZ more to their liking, HEAVEN 17 effectively went on hiatus between 1989 to 1995, although a dance enhanced Brothers In Rhythm remix of ‘Temptation’ became a surprise UK Top5 hit in 1992.

Then in 1996, the trio reunited to re-explore their electronic roots with a new album ‘Bigger Than America’ and in 1997 toured as the opening act for ERASURE whose 1993 album ‘I Say I Say I Say’ had been produced by Ware.

Although there has only been one further album ‘Before / After’ in 2005 and the departure of Ian Craig Marsh not long after, HEAVEN 17 have been regulars on the live circuit since 2008, often showcasing ‘Penthouse & Pavement’ and ‘The Luxury Gap’ in full where their political commentary still remains sadly relevant in the modern world.

‘Play To Win – The Virgin Years’ captures the glorious imperial phase of HEAVEN 17 and the developmental pace of music technology through these five albums. Featuring a 36 booklet with new interviews and archive photos, the CD version is particularly desirable with its plethora of extended mixes, radio edits, instrumentals and non-album tracks such as the standalone single ‘I’m Your Money’ and its B-side ‘Are Everything’ plus the brilliant and very different demo version of ‘Temptation’ which took its lead from SOFT CELL’s cover of ‘Tainted Love’.

Gregory, Ware and Marsh’s ultimate legacy is being able to use music to deliver socio-political statements with good tunes and a sense of humour while also applying a juxtaposition of programmed technology with live musicians to provide a unique sound for the times.

“Some things will always be relevant” summarised Gregory, “We wrote about subjects that touched our lives and our souls, things that mattered not just to us as individuals but also to us as a part of a political or social system. We never preached and always (I hope) ranted with wit and humour”.

As the band once stated during their 1996 return: “TRUST US – WE’RE ENTERTAINERS”.


‘Play To Win – The Virgin Years’ is released by Edsel Records as a 10CD or 5LP coloured vinyl 12” x 12” boxed set on 29th March 2019

HEAVEN 17 will be opening for SQUEEZE on their 2019 tour, dates include:

Scunthorpe Baths Hall (17th October), Sheffield City Hall (18th October), Gateshead Sage (19th October), Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (21st October), Leicester De Montfort Hall (22nd October), Birmingham Symphony Hall (23rd October), Oxford New Theatre (25th October), Brighton Centre (26th October), Southend Cliffs Pavilion (27th October), London Royal Albert Hall (29th October), Bath Forum(30th October), Hull City Hall (1st November), Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (2nd November), Manchester Salford Quays The Lowry (3rd November), Northampton Derngate (5th November), Guildford G Live (6th November), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (9th November), Bournemouth Pavilion (11th November), Cambridge Corn Exchange (12th November), Cardiff St David’s Hall (13th November), Llandudno Venue Cymru (15th November), Harrogate Convention Centre (16th November), Reading Hexagon (17th November), Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall (19th November), Ipswich Regent (20th November)

https://www.heaven17.com/

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https://www.instagram.com/heaven17official/


Text and interviews by Chi Ming Lai
12th March 2019

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