Between April and October this year, sees the vinyl reissues of eight EURYTHMICS albums ‘In The Garden’, ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’, ‘Touch’, ‘Be Yourself Tonight’, ‘Revenge’, ‘We Too Are One’, ‘Savage’ and ‘Peace’ and gives The Electricity Club a welcome chance to look back retrospectively over the duo’s musical output.
Although it didn’t trouble the charts, the debut 1981 album ‘In The Garden’ provided a necessary bridging point between Annie Lennox and David A Stewart’s output as New Wave act THE TOURISTS and their newly convened status as a duo.
Co-produced by the legendary Conny Plank in his Cologne studio and featuring BLONDIE drummer Clem Burke, Robert Görl from DAF, and CAN’s Holger Czukay and Jaki Liebezeit, the album swings between the guitar-driven post-punk sound of ‘English Summer’ and the more rocky ‘Belinda’ which would foreshadow some the band’s more rockist leanings latterly in their career.
Due to Plank’s top notch production and Lennox’s effortlessly beautiful vocals throughout, the album hasn’t dated too badly and if never listened to before certainly doesn’t hint at the stellar jump with their subsequent offering ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’.
Recorded in their newly fitted out 8 track home studio in Chalk Farm London purchased using a £5,000 bank loan, ‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)’ would have come as a complete curveball if as a fan you’d latched onto the more pastoral guitar-based sound of ‘In The Garden’; almost purely electronic in conception and with the backbeat of Stewart’s Movement Drum Computer (which puts in a cameo appearance in the iconic ‘Sweet Dreams’ promo video).
Also significant for the album was the use of Dave Stewart’s EDP Wasp synth which (according to Synth Guru Paul Wiffen) was often recorded using a microphone placed over the in-built speaker in order to capture the sound of the resonating body of the synth’s case alongside its source sound.
With YAZOO’s debut ‘Upstairs at Eric’s’ opening the public’s perception to cold electronics with an accompaniment of soulful vocals, the timing of ‘Sweet Dreams’ couldn’t have been better. There are obvious echoes of Clarke and Moyet in tracks such as ‘Wrap it Up’, but the addition of Stewart’s guitar and the bigger multi-layered vocal production meant that they don’t come across as mere pastiches.
Musically one of the things that becomes apparent on ‘Sweet Dreams’ is Stewart’s knack at creating some truly wonderful synth basslines, often using a Roland SH09. From ‘I Could Give You (A Mirror)’ to the ‘The Walk’, these perfectly counterpointed Lennox’s glacial vocals and set a template for what was to follow with album number three ‘Touch’.
‘Touch’ is often overlooked when it comes to people’s go-to classic electronic albums; this could possibly be down to the huge success of the Calypso-themed ‘Right By Your Side’ which at the end of the day really wasn’t representative of the album as a whole. This is a shame, because ‘Touch’ is arguably the band’s finest hour, tracks such as the singles ‘Who’s That Girl?’ and ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’ are matched by album cuts ‘Regrets’ and ‘No Fear, No Hate, No Pain (No Broken Hearts).
‘The First Cut’ echoes YAZOO’s ‘Sweet Thing’ but brings in some live guitar and fretless/slapped bass to the party; whilst the epic 7 and a half minute closing ‘Paint A Rumour’ takes the listener on a spellbinding musical journey incorporating blippy Kraftwerkian electro pop, dub brass and BLANCMANGE-like Middle Eastern synth elements along the way. Unfortunately the band were never truly this electronic again, with the remix/mini-LP ‘Touch Dance’ eventually giving way to 1985’s ‘Be Yourself Tonight’…….
The next two albums ‘Be Yourself Tonight’ and ‘Revenge’ continued to give the band some huge chart hits; ‘There Must Be An Angel’ was the band’s only UK No1 single from the former, but tracks which had the potential to echo EURYTHMICS earlier electronic work (including the Linn Drum-driven ‘I Love You Like A Ball & Chain’) seemed to become an excuse for Stewart to wig-out with a show-off guitar solo.
Songs such as ‘Thorn in My Side’ started to showcase EURYTHMICS steady mutation (and some would say decline) into a US radio-friendly guitar act with most of their electronic elements gradually being exorcised from the bands’ production. In some ways EURYTHMICS followed a similar career trajectory to SIMPLE MINDS with stadium rock leanings starting to filter into their recorded output and before you knew it, songs appeared to be written specifically for large arenas.
With the next couple of albums there were still a few glimmers of experimentation, THE ART OF NOISE-aping, Fairlight-driven ‘Beethoven (I Love To Listen)’ from ‘Savage’ was an unexpected single choice, but stalled at number 25 in the UK charts.
The highlight of 1989’s ‘We Too Are One’ (with its striking cover photo by Jean Baptiste Mondino) was the melancholic break-up single ‘Don’t Ask Me Why’ which in many ways echoed ‘Here Comes The Rain Again’, especially with its use of pizzicato strings.
After a ten year hiatus, ‘Peace’ saw Lennox and Stewart reconvene with the understated ‘I Saved the World Today’ giving them some chart success, only narrowly missing the UK top 10. With its almost PORTISHEAD retro-style textures, it went some way in distancing the band from its more bombastic productions.
By overviewing the band’s output, the listener could cynically surmise that EURYTHMICS jumped on the Synth Britannia bandwagon; riding on YAZOO’s coat tails by adopting an electronic aesthetic and then slowly revealing themselves as the rock band that they actually were all along (underneath all of the production surface). That would however do a huge disservice to their early work, which includes some of the VERY best electronic pop tracks from that era.
Interestingly, Dave Stewart confirmed the spiritual link with YAZOO by eventually going on to work with Alison Moyet, co-writing / co-producing ‘Is This Love?’ under the pseudonym Jean Guiot (used to avoid problems with his music publishers).
The mid-period and latter albums (although in many places giving the band deserved huge commercial success) do however chart EURYTHMICS slow transformation into an entirely different musical beast altogether. For those that bemoan the way DEPECHE MODE now deliver their songs live, should take some solace in that Lennox and Stewart committed far worse musical crimes to some of their iconic synth pop hits than Gahan and co are doing now…
So in terms of influence, what is there left to say about EURYTHMICS legacy? Their nearest contemporaries now would be GOLDFRAPP and PURITY RING; acts that use that male synth / female vocal dynamic.
Completists could possibly complain that the soundtrack to the motion picture ‘1984 (For The Love Of Big Brother)’ and ‘Touch Dance’ albums should have made the set up to a round 10, but for most, ‘Sweet Dreams’ and ‘Touch’ still remain the essential albums to own, with ‘In The Garden’ being seen as more of an interesting curio in the band’s back catalogue.
EURYTHMICS’ back catalogue is reissued by Sony Music in three stages through 2018
Named after the opera by Richard Wagner, Düsseldorf’s RHEINGOLD were part of Die Neue Deutsche Welle movement which also included artists such as NENA, PETER SCHILLING and ALPHAVILLE.
Between 1980 to 1984, RHEINGOLD released three albums ‘Rheingold’, ‘R.’ and ‘Distanz’, all working with the legendary Conny Plank.
Led by Bodo Staiger, the band also featured his now-wife Brigitte Staiger on backing vocals and Lothar Manteuffel on keyboards.
Singing primarily in Deutsch, they also differed from their electronically driven contemporaries by having a more melodic vocal style and a distinctive rhythm guitar template.
Staiger starred in the 1982 West German horror film ‘Der Fan’ directed by Eckhart Schmidt which warned against the dangers of fanaticism, but RHEINGOLD never performed live so have almost become a forgotten band whenever the history of German pop is discussed.
However, the inclusion of 2010 reworkings from a ‘Best Of’ album of their domestic hits ‘Fluss’ and ‘Dreiklangdimensionen’ on the splendid ‘Electri_City 1_2’ 2CD compilation, released by Grönland Records, deservedly placed their work alongside LA DÜSSELDORF, HARMONIA, RIECHMANN, DAF, NEU! and DIE KRUPPS.
RHEINGOLD are certainly one of the most under rated acts from the German New Wave, but this year’s excellent new album ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’ was a fine return after an absence of original material for many years.
Bodo Staiger kindly took time out to talk to The Electricity Club about the career of RHEINGOLD.
In 2010, you re-recorded the old hits like ‘Fluss’ and ‘Dreiklangdimension’, having also done the ‘Electric City – Düsseldorfer Schule’ 2007 covers album, so why was the time right for a brand new RHEINGOLD album?
There was a collection of about 50 songs / layouts over the last years and in 2014, I got back the lightness of playing guitars, so I felt that is the right time for a new album.
What was different about your approach to ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’ compared to your debut and ‘R.’?
Compared to the 80s albums, I have learned a lot about studio work, technology and production.
So this time, I knew exactly what I wanted and how RHEINGOLD should sound today without changing the style.
You give thanks to Karl Bartos in the ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’ album credits, how was he involved?
Karl is one of my best friends, we’ve known each other for a long time and I really appreciate his musical competence. Since I started to work on the selected songs, there were many telephone calls, MP3s and comments between us. Finally he wrote the lyrics for ‘Im Lauf der Zeit’ and ‘Weisses Licht’ for the new album.
The artwork also features some nostalgic photos including ones of you and Conny Plank who was involved in all the previous RHEINGOLD albums, what was he like to work with?
The photos document my musical journey – over time – starting in 1967 with a band called HARAKIRI WHOOM with a young singer called Marius Müller-Westernhagen, who today is a big rock star here in Germany and also the band SINUS with Karl Bartos, THE LILAC ANGELS and my own project RHEINGOLD.
Referring to Conny Plank, we met in 1970 and I recorded – with Marius and Karl – my first tracks with Conny that year were at the Rhenus Studio near Cologne. To work with him was always a pleasure, he was relaxed, very competent and had the talent to listen what the artist wants. And he also brought some good ideas and inspiration. For example, the percussive synth sound on ‘Dreiklangsdimensionen’ was his idea.
Like classic RHEINGOLD, there are several great instrumentals on this new record. Was the opening track ‘Kraut’ intended as a kind of statement?
Yes, of course.
‘Sternstaub’ is very electronic compared with other RHEINGOLD tracks, what inspired this?
When I digitalized our old 24 track tapes in 2010 and I found this song on a tape of the first album from 1980. I think because of the limitation of time on the vinyls, we didn’t use it. So I kept the original recording and mixed it 2016 in for the 1st time. But I forgot what inspired me 🙂
The wonderful ‘Paradieshafen’ sounds like OMD meets Michael Rother?
I take it as a compliment.
‘Theme ‘84’ recalls LA DÜSSELDORF, is it true you gave Klaus Dinger guitar lessons? What he a compliant student?
That’s correct, musically regards to Klaus. I don’t remember the guitar lessons, but I played a lot of sessions with Klaus at his studio Im Grund here in Düsseldorf… maybe I showed him some chords or licks and tricks.
Of the songs on ‘Im Lauf Der Zeit’, which ones have become your favourites and why?
I can’t answer this question.
You disliked working with drummers and preferred drum machines, were there any particular reasons for this?
Since I got the Roland CR-78 drum machine in 1979, I liked the sound, the groove and tightness of this unit. But we also worked with a drummer – on ‘Fanfanfanatisch’ and ‘Das Steht Dir Gut’ from the second album ‘R.’
RHEINGOLD did not perform as a live band; do you ever regret this?
No, RHEINGOLD was always a one man band. I never thought about performing live.
How do you feel about the renewed interest in RHEINGOLD?
Well, we enjoy it. But let’s see the result end of the year.
What were your career highlights with RHEINGOLD?
The first years – ’81 to ’84 were our good times, TV shows and films and sales.
What is next for you, either as RHEINGOLD or with your other musical interests?
First of all, we’re trying to promote the new album and keep our Rheinklang studio going.
The Electricity Club gives its grateful thanks to Bodo Staiger
DEUTSCH AMERIKANISCHE FREUNDSCHAFT or DAF are the influential pioneers of electronic body music.
Forming at Die Ratinger Hof in Düsseldorf, DAF’s punky ethos became fully realised thanks to the availability of newly affordable synthesizer technology from Japan. Attaching the powerful sound to heavy rhythms and Teutonic expression, the energetic aggression of the music reflected their militaristic aesthetic, as exemplified by songs like ‘Der Mussolini’ and’ Kebabträume’.
Between 1981-1982, the nucleus of Gabi Delgado on vocals and Robert Görl on drums and electronics released an acclaimed trilogy comprising of ‘Alles Ist Gut’, ‘Gold Und Liebe’ and ‘Für Immer’ which were produced by the legendary Conny Plank and originally came out on Virgin Records.
That trilogy along with what was the first album ever released on Mute Records ‘Die Kleinen Und Die Bösen’ (which Plank also worked on) form the bulk of ‘Das Ist DAF’; a celebratory boxed set released by Grönland Records, the set also features a bonus disc of respectful remixes while the lavish vinyl edition exclusively contains the treat of a brand new DAF single entitled ‘Die Sprache Der Liebe’.
While DAF fell under a haze of “sex, drugs and sequencer” after 1982, Görl began a solo career with the cult favourite ‘Mit Dir’ in 1983. This was followed by ‘Night Full Of Tension’, an album which saw Görl embracing synthpop and the English language. It featured vocal contributions from Annie Lennox of EURYTHMICS.
Fast forward to the present day, Görl and Delgado-Lopez have more than occasionally reunited for DAF shows, while the DAF drummer has been showcasing his ‘Glücksritter’ live only project to audiences around Europe, most recently at the 2017 ELECTRI_CITY CONFERENCE in Düsseldorf.
With the success of the ‘Das Is DAF’ boxed set and the accompanying authorised biography of the same title due to break cover, Robert Görl kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about DAF’s past, present and future while also reminiscing about the beginnings of his solo career and working with Conny Plank.
Are you pleased with the ‘Das Ist DAF’ boxed set and what it has achieved?
Yes, I’m happy, we put in just the core albums and I thought the different remixes were a great idea plus of course, there is a very special new DAF single in the box.
It’s taken a long time to get new DAF material together, what was the idea behind ‘Die Sprache Der Liebe’?
The working process how we did it was completely old school, like in our old days. I have to say when me and Gabi come together, we don’t do so many new records, we have lots of different projects and sometimes we do DAF. The last DAF album was already 15 years ago! But sometimes we meet and talk about maybe doing something new and this time, it worked because we had Grönland and they said they would be very happy if we did at least a single.
For me and Gabi, the two songs we did was kind of a test, I did the sequences, made all of the music and then the drumming before Gabi did the lyrics and singing. It’s in the same style like in the old days.
It’s not like what many bands do… Gabi lives in Spain and me in Berlin, but I don’t send audio files for him to progress further before sending it back to me or for a third person to mix it… I don’t like this style of working when people don’t even see each other to do a record. This for me is very boring.
So me and Gabi had to meet and come together, I played him my sequences. He sees everything like my drumming and I see Gabi while he puts down his first lines and makes them better while I’m in the studio.
Gabi says you still love your vintage synthesizers?
Yes, I still love them. For example, this single is a Korg MS20 and the Korg sequencer as is the B-side ‘Ich Bin Nicht Da’
Did you and Gabi choose the remixers?
Grönland suggested these guys like WESTBAM and BOYZ NOISE, we were happy with them and agreed. Apparently when they approached Giorgio Moroder, he said “Greetings to the DAF guys, tell them I really want to do it” – this was fantastic.
There is this new authorised book ‘Das Ist DAF’? Is it a tale of “sex, drugs and sequencer”?
The most interesting part of the book is it tells the hard truth. We were interviewed many times for the book and it is not about a band where everything worked fine, where it’s a nice and successful polished career. No, in this book, the reader will see how at many points, Gabi and me had discomfort and there were times when it was not so nice. We never had fist fights but we did split and said “you go your way and I go mine”. We talk very honestly about what happened and when it was sh*t *laughs*
So was your first solo album ‘Night Full Of Tension’ a result of one of these splits?
Yes, we’d worked for 5 years together as DAF and we were burned out. This was the first split and very heavy, we could not even see each other anymore because we were together day and night for those 5 years. I wanted to do something else.
How did it feel on that album to not be drumming as well as writing and singing in English?
Around this time, I was getting more into pop. When we split DAF at this highpoint, when you look at our style and how we behaved with these three successful DAF albums, we were like pop stars, more or less. We had lots of money and good clothes, I could just book a flight to New York and go… we had everything that we wanted. I wanted to make a pop album and at this time, I was invited to London and New York a lot.
People suggested to me if I wanted to really make it worldwide, I should do an English album. In the 80s, the kingdom of pop music was still London so for me, it was normal and not a big compromise.
What was it like working with Annie Lennox?
She was involved in helping me with lyrics, I went to Montpellier for 2 weeks to write the basic ideas and then I showed her them in London.
She would make suggestions so we worked together on the lyrics, that’s why she was also on the album.
You released a great standalone single ‘Mit Dir’ before ‘Night Full Of Tension’. Have you heard DJ HELL and STEREO MCs cover version of it as ‘With You’?
I think they did a good well-produced version; ‘Mit Dir’ is my favourite solo song…
…DJ HELL also did a remix with you of ‘Liebe Auf Den Ersten Blick’ for ‘Das Ist DAF’?
Yes, I liked it… I had a few arguments about how he did it, but in the end it was a good product.
There was also the Prada commercial using the ‘Headed For The Sun’ version by MURK.FM?
That was a good one…
The ‘Das Ist DAF’ boxed set highlights your productive relationship with Conny Plank on those classic albums? What sort of person was he?
Conny was like home, he made it comfortable for all the bands he produced. What I really liked about him was he gave you comfort. Even at lunchtime, we met many times in the kitchen and he would just give Gabi and me his studio. He said “Take my studio, it’s yours”. He gave us time and wouldn’t look at the watch saying “we must do this and this and that now”, he was not like this.
Was he like your favourite uncle?
He was almost like a father to me, we lived at the studio so it was all very familiar. We had a room and slept there, we would go down in the morning and he would be making breakfast, while his girlfriend Christa Fast would make cakes. It was the very homely feeling that we remember most. And this made it easier for us to feel good and create without having a heavy head.
Other studios can give you headaches because of the deadlines, it was the opposite at Conny’s Studio. He would come down in the afternoon, listen and say “hey, this sounds good, let’s record it”… it was warm and comfortable with no pressure. He was a fan of our music and he was a gentleman. He always found the moment when we were hot… this was very good.
The Electricity Club gives its warmest thanks to Robert Görl
Eberhard Kranemann is a one-time member of KRAFTWERK who later recorded an album ‘Fritz Müller Rock’ with the legendary Conny Plank.
A graduate of the Dortmund Conservatory, the multi-instrumentalist also worked with NEU! but it was in 1967 while as a member of the band PISSOFF that he met Florian Schneider.
More recently, Kranemann has formed KRAUTWERK with Harald Grosskopf who played drums on Klaus Schulze’s ‘Moondawn’ and recorded a number of albums with Manuel Göttsching as a member of ASHRA.
In a merger of the Schools of Düsseldorf and Berlin, Kranemann and Grosskopf transmit their cosmic sonic visions of today, tomorrow and beyond in an updated take on art school kosmische with a lively and rhythmic self-titled debut album.
Following an enthusiastic talk at the 2017 ELECTRI_CITY_CONFERENCE in Düsseldorf, Eberhard Kranemann kindly chatted to The Electricity Club about the genesis of KRAUTWERK and his observations on the vibrant post-war German music scene that ultimately impacted the world’s musical landscape.
So what is the concept of KRAUTWERK?
There is no concept, we are just two guys who are making music for fun. We did know not each other until one year ago. I heard Harald for the first time at a festival in Sulingen where he was doing a solo performance and I had a performance in another room.
I liked his kind of drumming, he doesn’t play natural drums and doesn’t use those crazy boom-boom-boom drums from a computer, he plays a special electronic kit with sticks on plates. He doesn’t use the pure electronic sounds, he changes them via Ableton with his special effects… they had so much power, I had never heard this before. I thought “I must work with him”
Then, he came into my room… I’m a more experimental musician using wired sounds and he didn’t like it! For him, it was too dissonant! So when I telephoned him to suggest working together, he did not want to… but 4 weeks later, he said “OK, we try something”
He came into my studio, but I did not tell him before that I’d prepared it to record our whole session professionally. I recorded 40 minutes of what we had played. We had never played together before but this 40 minutes was so great, it was wonderful music.
We made another date 4 weeks later and did 20 more minutes.
So we had 60 minutes in total and this is our first LP, CD and digital download. It was two old guys making music for fun, but then a label heard it and other people liked it very much.
So we did a British tour which was a big success, we will be going to Stockholm and next year, we play in China. People in America want us to go there too.
Both you and Harald Grosskopf have a lot of history in German electronic music, Harald was in ASHRA and released a great solo debut in ‘Synthesist’, had you been aware of his previous work?
No, I wasn’t interested in the Berlin School of Music, for me it was boring, it was just synthesizers going on and on and it was not enough. For myself, I need more power or action.
You were in KRAFTWERK?
Me and Florian Schneider were the originators of KRAFTWERK, one year later Herr Hütter came into the band and now he is the only man who makes it exist, he gets a lot of money out of it because he is a businessman.
A band who spends 30 years not making any new music and only the old sh*t comes out every year in new clothing, this is not for me. I must make new music going into the future and when I began this project with Harald, I had the idea of starting at a point 30 years ago when KRAFTWERK stopped making music because when they now play concerts, they don’t make music… they stand there like roboters and the music comes programmed from the computer, I do not like this.
When I played in KRAFTWERK in 1971 and the years before, we used techniques between man and machine but there was a lot of freestyle, everyone could play. But they stopped it and did this very cool, reduced music… you can do this if you want, they are very famous for it and they do it very well, but I think my friend Florian left the band he didn’t like it anymore. He is a real musician and he wanted to make music, he doesn’t want to stand on a stage with the sounds coming from the computer
So how do you make technology work for you in KRAUTWERK?
There is a difference between Harald and me; Harald works very much with technology and computers. But I don’t do it as much as he does, because I’m more of a traditional musician. When we play live, I play cello, Hawaiian guitar and sing. But I don’t tell stories, I use the voice like another instrument and make rhythm with it like “boom-tschak-boom-bah-tschak”… so I sing like a drummer and then Harald comes in with drums.
As Fritz Müller, you worked with the legendary Conny Plank, what was he like?
He was a very important man, for me in the last century, Conny Plank was the most important producer, engineer and mixer in the whole world, THE BEST! He was so great that he even turned down David Bowie and U2. He was very honest, he didn’t want to work with them.
He was very clear and only wanted to make music with people he liked… not only liked but loved! There was a lot of love between him and the musicians, it was so wonderful to work with him, he had a good gut feeling about people. I was the person in the background that put him in contact with KRAFTWERK and NEU!
The Electricity Club gives its sincerest thanks to Eberhard Kranemann
‘Krautwerk’ is released by Bureau B in CD, vinyl and digital formats
Eberhard Kranemann and Harald Grosskopf play Kraken Sthlm in Stockholm with FAUST on Friday 17th November 2017
MIDGE URE needs no introduction as one of the UK’s most highly regarded songwriters and musicians.
Best known for his involvement in ULTRAVOX’s ‘Vienna’, voted “the UK’s favourite No2 of all time” in a BBC Radio2 poll in 2013, the diminutive Glaswegian first found fame as the front man of SLIK when their single ‘Forever & Ever’ became a UK No1 in 1975 and turned Ure briefly into a teen idol.
Luckily, SLIK could play their instruments and write their own material so in 1977 under the name PVC2, they released ‘Put You In The Picture’ on Zoom Records, a punkish single that sold more than anything by SIMPLE MINDS during their tenure on the label.
Having become fascinated by KRAFTWERK when they hit the UK charts with ‘Autobahn’ in 1975, he purchased his first synth, a Yamaha CS50 in 1977. So when Ure joined RICH KIDS and met drummer Rusty Egan, it was to change the course of his career when he subsequently founded VISAGE and joined ULTRAVOX.
VISAGE had been started in 1978 by Ure and Egan as a project to make up for the shortage of suitable European styled electronic dance music to play at The Blitz Club where the latter was the resident DJ. Needing a front man, they turned its doorman Steve Strange to act as Pied Piper to the colourful clientele who were later to be dubbed the New Romantics. Ure would subsequently help to deliver the movement’s signature song ‘Fade To Grey’.
Others involved in VISAGE included MAGAZINE’s John McGeoch, Dave Formula and Barry Adamson but also crucially Billy Currie, taking a break to heal his wounds from a recently fragmented ULTRAVOX following the departure of leader John Foxx. At the suggestion of Egan, Ure joined the band and the rest is history.
The classic ULTRAVOX line-up of Ure, Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann had a run of twelve consecutive Top 40 hits singles in the UK before they imploded due to good old fashioned musical and personal differences, in the wake of Ure’s parallel solo career and his charity work with the Band Aid Trust.
But Ure was always been happiest in the studio and during his first ULTRAVOX phase, he also produced tracks for FATAL CHARM, PETER GODWIN, RONNY, PHIL LYNOTT and MESSENGERS, as well as working on the second VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’.
The last ten years have been particularly busy for Ure. A regular on the live circuit with his endearingly intimate acoustic gigs featuring career highlights in stripped back form, he also undertook a number of key musical collaborations with European producers. But his most high profile project was the reformation of the classic ULTRAVOX line-up in 2009.
Following the winding down of ULTRAVOX after an arena tour opening for SIMPLE MINDS in late 2013, Ure returned to the acoustic format for two live tours backed by INDIA ELECTRIC COMPANY. But this autumn sees Ure returning to synthesizers and electric guitars with his ‘Band Electronica’ tour.
He said on his website: “I want to revisit some material that I’ve not really been able to perform with the recent acoustic line-up, so you can expect to hear songs that haven’t been aired for a while as well as the classics and a couple of surprises! I’ve really enjoyed touring with a band and now I want to expand back to a four piece and return to a more electronic based format”
With that in mind, The Electricity Club looks back at the career of MIDGE URE and his great adventure in electronic music via this twenty track Beginner’s Guide, arranged in chronological order and with a restriction of one track per album / project…
RICH KIDS Marching Men (1978)
Fresh from being ousted out of THE SEX PISTOLS, Glen Matlock offered Ure a place in his new power-pop combo RICH KIDS. An anti-Fascist anthem produced by the late Mick Ronson, ‘Marching Men’ was notable for Ure’s first use of his Yamaha CS50 on a recording, much to the dismay of Matlock, whose idea of a keyboard player was Ian McLagan from SMALL FACES. Eventually, the band imploded with Matlock and Steve New thinking guitars were the way to go, while Ure and Rusty Egan felt it was electronics.
Despite the rejection by EMI, the first VISAGE demo of ‘In The Year 2525’ attracted the attention of producer Martin Rushent who wanted to release the collective’s music via his Genetic imprint through Radar Records. ‘Tar’ was a cautionary tale about smoking dominated by John McGeoch’s sax and Billy Currie’s ARP Odyssey. Alas, Radar Records had funding pulled from its parent company Warners just as the single was released, stalling any potential it had. As the album was put on hold, Ure found yet another lifeline.
Available on the VISAGE album ‘Visage’ via Spectrum
Ure joined ULTRAVOX to record the now classic ‘Vienna’ album, although it was testament to Conny Plank’s faith in the band that he continued to work with them after John Foxx left. On ‘All Stood Still’, Ure put his live experience with THIN LIZZY to good use on this fine barrage of synthesizer heavy metal about an impending nuclear holocaust. Driven by Chris Cross’ triggered Minimoog bass and Warren Cann’s powerhouse drums, the interplay between Ure’s guitar and Currie’s ARP Odyssey was awesome.
Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Vienna’ via EMI Music
German music formed a large part of Rusty Egan’s DJ sets at The Blitz Club between 1978-1981 and even Irish rocker Phil Lynott frequented it. ‘Yellow Pearl’ was a LA DÜSSELDORF inspired co-composition with Ure that also featured Billy Currie, while Rusty Egan later played drums on the single remix. A VISAGE track in all but name, ‘Yellow Pearl’ was so draped in the involvement of Ure, Egan and Currie that it was almost forgotten that the figurehead of the song was the frontman of THIN LIZZY!
Nottingham combo FATAL CHARM supported ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980. Their excellent first single ‘Paris’ was produced by Ure and their sound could be seen reflecting the synth flavoured new wave template of the period. Singer Sarah Simmonds’ feisty passion gave a freshly charged sexual ambiguity to the long distance 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
Co-produced by Conny Plank, with the Motorik thrust of NEU! and a marvellous symphonic pomp, ‘The Voice’ was a fine example of the creative tension that had now emerged between Ure and Chris Cross on one side, and Billy Currie on the other. Characterised by the swimmy Yamaha SS30 string machine, a magnificent middle eight ARP Odyssey solo and piano run was the icing on the cake. The song took on a life of its own in a concert setting with an extended closing percussive barrage.
To the public at least, it was business as usual with the second album ‘The Anvil’ and its launch single ‘The Damned Don’t Cry’. Very much in the vein of ‘Fade To Grey’, it was full of synthesized European romanticism. But with Steve Strange and Rusty Egan now finding success with their club ventures and ULTRAVOX becoming ever more popular, it was unsurprising that ‘The Anvil’ lacked the focus of its predecessor. Internally, things had gone awry and tensions with Egan led to Ure bidding adieu to VISAGE.
Available on the VISAGE album ‘The Anvil’ via Cherry Pop
MIDGE URE & CHRIS CROSS Rivets (1982 – released 1984)
Ure and Cross worked together on an eccentric synthesized spoken word album with Maxwell Langdown entitled ‘The Bloodied Sword’. But their involvement in ‘Rivets’ came about when Levi’s® were about to launch their expensive new TV advertisment… an executive, unhappy with the soundtrack shouted “What we need on there is ‘Vienna’”! The campaign was a successful one and Ure was commissioned to submit music for the next commercial entitled ‘Threads’; however his ’633 Squadron’ inspired electronic tune was subjected to demands for rewrites by the paymasters so tired of the politics, Ure withdrew the track… that piece of music became ‘Love’s Great Adventure’!
Originally released as part of ULTRAVOX ‘Set Movements 1984 Interview’ cassette, currently unavailable
‘After A Fashion’ was a blistering sonic salvo that crossed the best of JAPAN’s rhythmical art muzak with ULTRAVOX’s ‘The Thin Wall’. However, it stalled at No39 in the UK singles charts and sadly, there was to be no album. But Mick Karn later played on ‘Remembrance Day’ in 1988 and Ure briefly joined JBK, the band formally known as JAPAN sans David Sylvian for an aborted project in 1992. Sadly Karn passed away in 2011 after losing his battle against cancer.
Glaswegian duo MESSENGERS were Danny Mitchell and Colin King whose only album ‘Concrete Scheme’ as MODERN MAN in 1980 was produced by Ure. The pair toured with ULTRAVOX as support during the ‘Quartet’ tour, as well as joining them on stage to augment their live sound. MESSENGERS’ debut single ‘I Turn In (To You)’ was also produced by Ure but criticised for being ULTRAVOX lite, although the song held its own with its dramatic widescreen passages.
Originally released as a single via Musicfest, currently unavailable
An electro Celtic melodrama in four and a half minutes, the magnificent ‘Man Of Two Worlds’ was the highlight from the self-produced ‘Lament’ long player. Featuring an eerie female Gaelic vocal from Stock Aitken & Waterman backing vocalist Mae McKenna, the doomed romantic novel imagery capturing a feeling of solitude with haunting synths, programmed Motorik rhythms and manual funk syncopation was an unusual template, even for the period.
Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Lament’ via EMI Music
‘No Regrets’ had been a big solo hit in 1982 so with ULTRAVOX on break, Ure took a busman’s holiday and recorded his first solo album ‘The Gift’. A song demoed by Danny Mitchell of MESSENGERS for their aborted long player, while there was a big anthemic chorus and vibrant string synth interludes, ‘If I Was’ was a very different beast from ULTRAVOX in that this was a love song. Featuring LEVEL 42’s Mark King on bass, it became a UK No1 single in the Autumn of 1985.
Available on the MIDGE URE album ‘The Gift’ via EMI Music
As a reaction to the pomp of ULTRAVOX, Ure went back to basics with his ‘Out Alone’ tour in 1993 which featured acoustic renditions of his own songs and covers assisted by a pre-programmed keyboard. One song he performed was Peter Green’s ‘Man of the World’, a bittersweet song about a man who has everything he wants, except the companion he craves. A live recording ended up as a bonus track on the ‘Guns & Arrows’ single, but a studio version appeared on 2008’s ’10’ covers album.
Live version available on the MIDGE URE double album ‘Pure + Breathe’ via Edsel Records
For Jam El Mar and Mark Spoon’s attempt at a ‘pop’ album, the German dance duo featured vocals on all the tracks and among those recruited were Dolores O’Riordan of THE CRANBERRIES and SIMPLE MINDS’ Jim Kerr. For his return to full blown electronica, Midge Ure’s contribution ‘Something To Remind Me’ was big on beats. Recording coincided with preparations for the ‘Sampled Looped & Trigger Happy’ tour which saw Ure use a more technologically driven format for live shows for the first time in many years.
X-PERIENCE Personal Heaven – Desert Dream radio mix (2007)
Thanks to his continued popularity in Germany, Ure was much in demand as a guest vocalist and was persuaded to record a song he had written with HEAVEN 17’s Glenn Gregory by dance production team X-PERIENCE. Duetting with Claudia Uhle, who provided her own sumptuous vocals to compliment the electronics and muted synthetic guitars, the punchy Desert Dream radio mix was particularly effective.
Named after the German poet and dramatist Friedrich Schiller, Christopher von Deylen’s domestically popular ambient electro project recruited Ure to sing on the dramatically widescreen ‘Let It Rise’; he said to The Electricity Club: “SCHILLER’s got his very own, very good and distinctive style which is much more of a laid back, trip-hop dance thing”. Ure revisited the track for his own ‘Fragile’ album in a more stripped back arrangement.
Available on the SCHILLER album ‘Atemlos’ via Universal Music
In 2009, the impossible happened and the classic line-up of ULTRAVOX reunited for the ‘Return To Eden’ tour. Things went well enough for a new album to be recorded and writing took place at Ure’s retreat in Canada, Produced by Stephen J Lipson, several of the tracks like ‘Live’ and ‘Satellite’ recalled former glories while with this take on Giorgio Moroder, the percolating sequences and rhythmic snap of ‘Rise’ could be seen a robotic 21st Century update of ‘The Thin Wall’.
Available on the ULTRAVOX album ‘Brilliant’ via EMI Music
LICHTMOND is an ambitious audio-visual project led by sound architects Giorgio and Martin Koppehele to “Experience Dreamlike Time”. Very progressive in its outlook with “A magic triangle of electronics, ethno and rock songs”, Ure featured on load vocals and said on the album notes: “For me LICHTMOND is a unique combination of music, visuals and brilliant imagination. All coming together to make one great big piece of art. Enjoy it!”
Although Ure had been regularly touring and playing festivals, there was a gap of 14 years between the ‘Move Me’ and ‘Fragile’ long players. The ULTRAVOX reunion was the spark he needed to get his sixth solo album of original material finished. The lead single was ‘Become’, a romantic and less abrasive take on ‘After A Fashion’. With a danceable metronomic beat, it had a classic synthpop sound that Ure admitted to The Electricity Club was “kind of harking back to early VISAGE”.
Available on the MIDGE URE album ‘Fragile’ via Hypertension Music
‘Glorious’ not only reunited our hero with Rusty Egan but also Chris Payne who co-wrote ‘Fade To Grey’; Ure told The Electricity Club: “I liked the music, Chris Payne and Rusty had done a great job but I didn’t think the song / melody / lyrics were strong enough… I stripped the demo down to the basic track, edited it down into a more ‘song like’ format and started working on a glorious melody. I added the main melodic synth line and layered guitars over it, ending with the ‘hopefully’ uplifting solo over the outro”.
MIDGE URE’s ‘Band Electronica’ 2017 live dates include:
Frankfurt Batschkapp (Sep 27), Munich The Electricity Clubhnikum (Sep 28), Cologne Kantine Kulturbetriebe GmbH (Sep 29), Bochum Zeche (Oct 01), Hamburg Gruenspan (Oct 03), Berlin Columbia Theater (Oct 04), Glasgow Royal Concert Hall (Oct 10), Liverpool Philharmonic Hall (Oct 11), Bournemouth Pavillion Theatre (Oct 13), Guildford G Live (Oct 14) , Milton Keynes Theatre (Oct 15), New Theatre Oxford (Oct 17), High Wycombe Swan Theatre (Oct 18), Folkestone Leas Cliff Hall (Oct 19), Skegness The Embassy (Oct 20), Edinburgh Playhouse (Oct 22), Dundee Caird Hall (Oct 23), Gateshead Sage (Oct 24), Manchester Opera House (Oct 25), Dartford Orchard (Oct 27), Basingstoke Anvil (Oct 28), Sheffield City Hall (Oct 29), Halifax Victoria Theatre (Oct 31), Buxton Opera House (Nov 01), Birmingham Town Hall (Nov 02), York Grand Opera House (Nov 03), Southport Theatre (Nov 04), Blackpool Grand Theatre (Nov 05), London Shepherds Bush Empire (Nov 07), Torquay Princess Theatre (Nov 08), Portsmouth Guildhall (Nov 09), Salisbury City Hall (Nov 10), Truro Hall for Cornwall (Nov 11), Nottingham Royal Concert Hall (Nov 14), Eastbourne Devonshire theatre (Nov 15), St Albans Arena (Nov 17), Amsterdam Q Factory (March 09), Breda Mezz (March 11)