Steven Jones and Logan Sky were introduced to each other by their mutual friend Steve Strange.
The late VISAGE front man and Blitz Club figurehead had been working with Logan Sky in the rebooted version of that band which returned with the ‘Hearts & Knives’ album in 2013. As if born into the wrong era, Steven Jones’ neu romance lyrics with their slight dystopian edge have often been inspired by a fascination for international travel and the inherent history it uncovers. Having released their debut full length long player ‘Hans und Lieselotte’ in 2018, further albums ‘The Electric Eye’ and ‘Rotating Angels’ followed in quick succession.
And now the duo present their fourth in three years. As the title track, ‘European Lovers’ bookends the album, the opening variant pulsating the mood while sweetened by soothing sax from the ever dependable Gary Barnacle who himself played with VISAGE and SOFT CELL. Steven Jones ably delivers the fractured mannered baritone that could be seen to be deriving from anyone one of Scott Walker, David Bowie, Bryan Ferry or Midge Ure. Meanwhile the closing postscript provided a hypnotic arpeggio and Polymoog vox humana to accompanying a spoken word take on ‘European Lovers’.
Lost in the rainy streets of Mittel Europa, Jones ponders his ‘Survival’ over tinkling ivories like Ferry on ‘A Song For Europe’ where “the dream of dying is the dream of living”. But the album paces up with ‘When The Night Falls In’, an infectious syncopated electro set-piece accented by the occasional burst of synthetic toms.
Echoing ‘Fade To Grey’, Charlotte Condemine provides an alluring Gallic monologue to the wonderful ‘Sons of Hallucination’. Meanwhile Jones borrows some phrasing from ‘Wishing Well’, the 1987 hit by Terence Trent D’Arby which was produced by Martyn Ware of HEAVEN 17. It’s a curious mix that is ultimately satisfying for the headphones of any passing New Europeans. And when the soprano sax comes in, it all becomes reminiscent of BLACK if Colin Verncombe had into VISAGE.
‘Awaken From The Dream’ utilises an electric piano for a short intermission while the exquisite synth tones of ‘The Girl On The 8.45’ captures an inevitably doomed romance in a tale of unrequited love for a beautiful stranger on the daily commute.
With an ear for obscure jewels, a tense offbeat squelch shapes ‘Cafe Europe’, an excellent cover of a song by FATAL CHARM who supported ULTRAVOX and OMD back in 1980; the cult Nottingham duo too had a fascination inter-continental travel and their Midge Ure-produced single ‘Paris’ captured the days before The Channel Tunnel.
Both projecting a stark austere, the bubbling melancholy of ‘Lovers & Losers’ and spy drama chill of ‘All Her Things Are Gone’ mine an era of long overcoats when The Third Man could walk in at any moment. And although ‘Like A Ghost’ uses a largely similar drumless template to ‘All Her Things Are Gone’, its subtle congas provide an atmospheric backbone alongside the virtual muted guitar loop. As the penultimate statement to the main act, the mournful piano ballad ‘Past & Future Lives’ recalls CULT WITH NO NAME.
For those who opt for the CD, there are three bonus tracks and assorted remixes of ‘Lovers & Losers’ including a brooding one from American gothwavers VANDAL MOON. ‘The Shape Of Darkness’ does what it says on the tin as another electric piano spoken word piece accompanied by an eerie falsetto backing vocal, while ‘Politics & Gesture’ is a rather sombre observation on the state of the nation.
Meanwhile ‘Another Hallucination’ exhibits a threatening throb at the start of a darker alternate take of ‘Sons Of Hallucination’ that allows more room for Gary Barnacle’s soprano sax, with Jones offering another spoken interpretation alongside the feminine prose en Français.
‘European Lovers’ is exactly as it suggests and harks back to a Europe after the rain, conjuring up images of mysterious shadows and enigmatic romances.
An authentic accomplished collection, it contains some terrific moments, although its emphasis on monochromatic mood is perhaps a challenge over so many tracks.
However, what Steven Jones and Logan Sky have is a genuine understated passion for the heritage of their influences, very much the antithesis to the genre hopping style over substance posing of HURTS and la faux sincérité of other duos that could be mentioned.
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.
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK 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 ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK is all about.
Presented in yearly and then alphabetical order with a restriction of one track per artist moniker, here are our 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
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.
‘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
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: “we were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound”.
Available on the FATAL CHARM album ‘Plastic’ via Fatal Charm
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’.
Electronic pioneer Richard James Burgess said: “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 of the single featured a very early use of the term “electronic dance music”.
“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.
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?!
If there was a song that truly represents ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK’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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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!
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 ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK, “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.”
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.
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.
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 Autumn 2017 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, here is a look 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 and even Irish rocker Phil Lynott frequented it. ‘Yellow Pearl’ was a LA DÜSSELDORF inspired co-composition with Ure, while Rusty Egan later played drums on the remix which became the ‘Top Of The Pops’ theme in 1981. A VISAGE track in all but name, ‘Yellow Pearl’ was so draped in the involvement of Ure and Egan 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: “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 Rubellan Remasters
MIDGE URE & CHRIS CROSS Rivets (1982 – released 1984)
Midge Ure and Chris Cross worked together on an eccentric synthesized spoken word album with eccentric British poet 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’. Levi’s® sponsored ULTRAVOX’s ‘Set Movements’ tour and ‘Rivets’ was part of a cassette that came with the souvenir programme!
Originally released on 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 ULTRAVOX’s 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: “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 lead 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 he 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 said: “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”.
Nottinghamshire’s FATAL CHARM were, like several bands during the post-punk era, on the cusp of the big time on several occasions during their career but never quite broke through despite opening for ULTRAVOX and OMD.
Despite the nucleus of Sarah Simmonds and Paul Arnall having recorded a number of outstanding singles, they never got the recognition they deserved.
First making waves on their local scene in 1979 as an all male new wave band, they made contributions to a Dead Good Records LP sampler ‘East’ which also included those great white synth hopes B-MOVIE who later featured on the legendary ‘Some Bizzare Album’. However, it was only when Arnall recruited Simmonds as lead vocalist that FATAL CHARM began to make real progress.
The fresh female fronted outlook impressed and eventually led to tours supporting ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980. The excellent first single with the new line-up ‘Paris’ was issued on Double D Records in 1981 and produced by Midge Ure. Indicative of their potential, ‘Paris’ had been given a low key independent release in 1979 voiced by the band’s main songwriter Arnall. But with the lyrics unchanged and now embroiled in Simmonds’ feisty passion, it gave a freshly charged sexual ambiguity to the long distance love story written in the days before the Channel Tunnel.
This new version reflected the synth flavoured sound of the period and obliquely connected FATAL CHARM with the New Romantic movement. Meanwhile, its more guitar driven flip ‘Christine’ showcased the band’s punkier roots that had more of an affinity with BLONDIE and X-RAY SPEX.
However, line-up changes and label issues stalled any momentum gained on the ULTRAVOX and OMD tours via flexi-disc giveaway ‘Western Laughter’ / ‘Dark Eyes’.
It wasn’t until 1984 when FATAL CHARM released probably their best known song ‘Summer Spies’ that things started moving again. Issued on the Carrere label, the single was championed on BBC Radio 1 by Janice Long and even edited into a jingle for Long’s show. Crossing the sweeps of OMD with the classical resonance of ULTRAVOX, ‘Summer Spies’ featured Simmonds’ dramatically melancholic voice alongside her own serene whispers. The single’s popularity subsequently led to an appearance on Channel 4’s prestigious music show ‘The Tube’ but unfortunately, a hit was not forthcoming.
The follow-up single ‘King Of Comedy’ kept up the standard while its amusing B-side ‘We’ll Just Wait For Your First Hit’ reflected on the frustrations of trying to secure a record deal.
Indeed, record label politics were to be FATAL CHARM’s Achilles Heel. And with Carrere Records distracted by their surprise No1 ‘Move Closer’ by Phyllis Nelson in Summer of 1985, the debut album ‘Endangered Species’ slipped out largely unnoticed.
But 1986 saw the band sign to Native Records and the release of another excellent single ‘Images Of Fire’ saw them secure airplay during the crucial daytime slot on Radio1 from early afternoon DJ “woo” Gary Davies.
It made the UK Independent Charts and FATAL CHARM appeared to be on the ascent again. However, the next single ‘Lucille’ was not afforded such treatment and repeating history, the parent album ‘This Strange Attraction’ did not emerge until 1989 due to record label issues. Released on their own Really Great Records, Simmonds and Arnall were tiring of the label upheavals that were stalling FATAL CHARM’s progress.
So coinciding with the post-Second Summer Of Love environment in the wake of Acid House, the duo changed their name to STATE OF GRACE and signed to 3rd Stone while FATAL CHARM was placed in hiatus. They released ‘Pacific Motion’ in 1994 which led to a deal with RCA in the US for their 1996 album ‘Jamboree’. STATE OF GRACE continued until 1998 while Arnall also ran a parallel solo project UNDERGROUND HOUSE ORCHESTRA.
In 2005, FATAL CHARM relaunched and issued the self-released ‘Pop’ via their website. More rock orientated than their previous work and featuring new versions of material such as ‘Paris’ and ‘Western laughter’ alongside new compositions, for the first time FATAL CHARM appeared to be in step with the contemporary music scene, thanks to the success of acts such as CURVE and GARBAGE. ‘Pop’ reinvigorated interest in FATAL CHARM, leading to the self-released compilation CD ‘Plastic’ featuring all their singles and B-sides from back in the day including the free flexi-disc from the ULTRAVOX and OMD tours.
Today, FATAL CHARM continue to play live in their home city of Nottingham and occasionally record. Paul Arnall and Sarah Simmonds kindly took time out to chat to look back at their career…
How did the FATAL CHARM sound come into being and who were your influences?
Paul: In the mid ’70s, I worked at a record shop called Select-A-Disc in Nottingham. As the concept of dividing artists by genre didn’t exist in those days, it was constantly a voyage of discovery; CAN sat next to CHIC, FUNKADELIC next to FREE etc… so my influences were many.
At the time of forming FATAL CHARM, I was probably listening to a lot of new wave stuff – WIRE, TELEVISION and TALKING HEADS along with CHIC and CAN.
When did you become interested in using synthesizers and what was your first synth?
Paul: In the early ’70s I played in a band with a very talented keyboard player, Paul Simons, he’s a bit of a boffin. Around ’73 he made his first synth, a couple of years later he reproduced his first Minimoog copy; you’d really have to look at it very closely to realise it wasn’t the real thing. It sounded amazing and even had the same tuning problems when it got hot. It was used on the first FATAL CHARM demos along with a Solina string machine, and the first keyboard I owned, a Hohner clavinet. Paul still dabbles making synths; the last time I saw him he was working on a Moog Modular 55 and still had some spare Minimoogs for sale, he can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
How did Midge Ure become interested in producing you?
Paul: I’ve no idea; it was all handled by our then label Double D…
Sarah: Of course, we went on tour with ULTRAVOX before we recorded with him, but I think it was a package deal!
‘Paris’ in particular does have his stamp on it. What do you remember about recording it and how do you think it stands up now?
Paul: The version of ‘Paris’ produced by Midge is really no different an arrangement to the original, the major difference was we were able to use Midge’s Yamaha synth which gave it his sound. ‘Paris’ is a song of its time and not one of my favourites.
Sarah: Ha ha! Yes, it goes too fast for Paul these days! We have played it a couple of times in the last couple of years but Paul grumbles too much so we have to leave it out!
You toured with ULTRAVOX and OMD in 1980, how do you think FATAL CHARM went down with those audiences and what are your own favourite memories?
Paul: The response was fantastic, sadly we had no single to promote… not great planning from our record label. But very fond memories as it was the first time we’d played venues of that stature.
Sarah: I have a memory of wearing a leotard with a pale green and pink jacket over the top! Not one of my better fashion choices… I also remember playing at the Hammersmith Odeon in London and having to go onstage without a soundcheck. The audience were already coming in and we were frantically setting up, while roadies checked that everything worked. Seat of the pants stuff – character building!
‘Summer Spies’ is the song you are best remembered for. Can you remember its genesis and how the song’s expansive atmosphere developed in the studio?
Paul: Hmm, it was 30 years ago!!!! It was influenced bizarrely by HOT CHOCOLATE… I was having a post-gig pint and a HOT CHOCOLATE song was playing on the juke box. I noticed it had no fills in the drum track. It was something I’d always wanted to try so that was my starting point as I really liked the idea of a constant rhythm. I’d come up with this nice rhythm pattern and basically jammed around it with a Roland Jupiter 4.
Originally it was all Jupiter 4 and 606 drum box recorded at home on my old Akai 4000DS. We were able to get some studio time in Chappell Music 8 track studio, we replaced the 606 with the Linn Drum and added grand piano. My original intention was for it to have no guitar on it, but when I went down to do the 12″ version we needed to expand it. Our engineer suggested a guitar solo but I had no guitar with me. Eventually they searched around and found an old Yamaha guitar with no top E or B strings so the guitar solo was played just on the G string.
‘Summer Spies’ got a lot of radio play with Janice Long being a particular champion while you also appeared on the TV show ‘The Tube’. Do you have any thoughts in hindsight why it didn’t become a hit?
Paul: Our record label Carrere were a small label and to be honest, really didn’t understand us. I think ‘Summer Spies’ was released at the end of July, it picked up some nice airplay but had no tour to promote it. And in fact, it was Sarah that got us ‘The Tube’ appearance… by that time it was November. Even so, our chart position the next day after ‘The Tube’ was 97, I think it had dropped to around 130 by the time the chart was released as the shops had sold out.
Sadly there were no copies left in the warehouse to ship out to the shops. As it was coming up to Christmas, all the pressing plants were busy doing the Christmas runs. By the time they’d pressed more, it was mid-December and too late, c’est la vie…
Sarah: Carrere’s boss admitted later that the song should have been a hit, and apologised.
Your debut album ‘Endangered Species’ finally appeared in 1985. Why did it take so long for it to be completed and how did it affect the band’s momentum?
Paul: This was a quick release if you compare it to RCA who took over 2 years to release the STATE OF GRACE album. The album was recorded over 2 weeks, early ’85 I think. It took so long because as mentioned, Carrere didn’t understand us… on one occasion when listening to a batch of demos, the
A&R guy stopped the tape and asked us why the song was so slow! I looked at Sarah, she looked at me and we both knew we were doomed… ‘Hold On’ was later released on ‘This Strange Attraction’.
1986’s ‘Images of Fire’ was another great single of yours which appeared to cross KATE BUSH with ULTRAVOX?
Paul: I loved Kate Bush and loved the first 3 ULTRAVOX albums; I can’t say either of them influenced ‘Images of Fire’.
Why did the parallel STATE OF GRACE and UNDERGROUND HOUSE ORCHESTRA projects emerge alongside FATAL CHARM?
Paul: STATE OF GRACE was a forced name change; our label 3rd Stone believed, and rightly so, that the FATAL CHARM name had been around for too long to be able to get interest from major record labels. They were proved right as we were signed to RCA New York in ’93.
UNDERGROUND HOUSE ORCHESTRA is just a platform for me to release my own recordings. I originally planned to do one off albums under different guises across different genres of music. My first recording was as Space Harriers in Transit (trash pop), followed by Projectile (trance) released on Native Records, Fantastic The Feedback (pop) and Bombshell (homage to CAN)… but even I got confused so I decided to cover the lot under tUHO.
FATAL CHARM returned in 2005 with the album ‘Pop’ and you seemed to be in synch with the scene at the time with acts like GARBAGE and CURVE?
Paul: As my main instrument is guitar, I just fancied re-recording some of the old songs with just guitars and minimal keyboards, as I can never leave anything alone. Some more keyboards were added when I remastered the CDs in 2010.
Despite all the upheavals, the core of FATAL CHARM remains Paul Arnall and Sarah Simmonds. What has enabled you both to still be able record and perform together after all these years?
Paul: Ever since 1981 when the original line-up split, it’s just been the two of us, whether as FATAL CHARM or STATE OF GRACE, what can be better than recording and performing with your best friend.
Sarah: Ah, thanks Arnie! And we always have a lovely cream cake or other tasty snack when we meet J.
FATAL CHARM still play live occasionally in the Nottinghamshire locality. Are there any future plans?
Paul: This spring or early summer we’ll be playing again as STATE OF GRACE (we fancied a change)… we’ll be playing songs from all decades.
Is there anything you would have liked to have done differently back in the day?
Paul: Get a decent manager!!!!
ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to FATAL CHARM
Their singles including ‘Paris’, ‘Summer Spies’ and ‘Images Of Fire’ are all collected on a CD entitled ‘Plastic’ which is available from their website along with their debut album ‘Endangered Species’, 2005’s comeback ‘Pop’ and all the STATE OF GRACE material.
A selection of FATAL CHARM’s music is available via Amazon and iTunes including their most recent collection ‘April 13’ and a reworked 2010 version of ‘Summer Spies’