Tag: Ultravox (Page 1 of 15)

CHRIS CROSS 1952 – 2024

Chrisopher Thomas Allen, better known to the music world as Chris Cross, bass engine of ULTRAVOX has passed away aged 71. Bandmate Midge Ure announced the sad news via his social media.

Born in Tottenham, he studied Art and Psychology in London and while he was there, he answered an advert to form a new band by fellow student Dennis Leigh. The band was TIGER LILY and guitarist Stevie Shears, drummer Warren Cann and violinist / keyboardist Billy Currie would complete the line-up.

Influenced by NEW YORK DOLLS and ROXY MUSIC, TIGER LILY released just one single, a cover of Fats Wallers’ ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 1975 recorded for an X-rated arthouse movie of the same name. While David Bowie also loomed large in their sound, music from Germany such as KRAFTWERK and NEU! began to be absorbed into the band.

This led to a name change to ULTRAVOX! complete with exclamation mark in tribute to the later. Dennis Leigh changed his name to John Foxx and Allen who had used the surname St John on ‘Ain’t Misbehavin’ became Chris Cross.

ULTRAVOX! got their big break when they were signed to Island Records and able to secure the services of Brian Eno working alongside a young Steve Lillywhite to produce their eponymous debut album released in 1977. With the emergence of punk, while the follow-up ‘Ha! Ha! Ha!’ had a particularly fierce sound, it saw the introduction of Billy Currie’s ARP Odyssey, notably on ‘The Man Who Dies Everyday’.

Cross also became interested synthesizers and purchased an EMS Synthi AKS, a portable version of the VCS3 built into a suitcase with a touch sensitive blue and black keyboard. This coincided with an opportunity to work Conny Plank whose credits included KRAFTWERK and NEU! as well a change of line-up with Shears replaced by Robin Simon. Relocating to Conny Plank’s farmhouse studio outside of Cologne, Cross used his AKS to write the lead line to ‘Slow Motion’.

Despite the resultant 1978 album ‘Systems Of Romance’ being the most accomplished ULTRAVOX (now without the exclamation mark!) record to date, all was not well in the camp and after a 1979 US club tour, John Foxx and Robin Simon departed. It left the band without a vocalist or guitarist and to add to their woes, Island Records had dropped ULTRAVOX from their roster.

While ULTRAVOX was on hiatus, Billy Currie worked on VISAGE with Midge Ure, Rusty Egan, Dave Formula, John McGeoch, Barry Adamson and Steve Strange. Although at that time in 1979, the project became stillborn, he brought Ure with him to join ULTRAVOX to fulfil the dual role of singer and guitarist. Cross and Ure hit it off immediately and would become close friends.

Around this time, Chris Cross had acquired a Minimoog and began pulsing it from Warren Cann’s drum machines to produce a characteristic repeating synthbass sound on tracks such as ‘Vienna’, ‘All Stood Still’, ‘The Thin Wall’ and ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’. He never forgot his first instrument and songs such as ‘The Voice’ and ‘Reap The Wild Wind’ benefitted from his bass guitar runs.

Signed to Chrysalis Records, over a period of four years, ULTRAVOX conquered Europe with their brand of symphonic synthesized rock with classic albums such as ‘Vienna’, ‘Rage in Eden’, ‘Quartet’ and ‘Lament’. One indirect and amusing consequence of his new found fame was that he would be mistakenly sent royalty cheques for the Grammy award winning American singer-songwriter Christopher Cross.

Cross was versatile and while his role in ULTRAVOX was bass, he deputised for an absent Midge Ure on ‘The Voice’ B-side ‘Paths & Angles’, playing guitar and singing lead on its chorus and closing refrain. Together with Ure, they produced the music for the iconic Levi’s advert ‘Rivets’ which also led to the jeans manufacturer perhaps incongruously sponsoring ULTRAVOX on their 1984 ‘Set Movements’ tour.

With ULTRAVOX very much trailblazing the cinematic video age, Chris Cross and Midge Ure began self-directing ULTRAVOX’s promos and became in-demand separately from the band, working on visual presentations for VISAGE, BANANARAMA and FUN BOY THREE.

The visual aspects of ULTRAVOX were very important to Cross and it was he, through his love of the Factory Records aesthetic, who suggested employing Peter Saville Associates to design their artwork and stage sets including the notable gothic architecture captured on the ‘Monument’ live document.

By 1987, ULTRAVOX had split up and Cross retired from the music industry to become a psychotherapist; he would later jokingly remark that the two fields were not that dissimilar from his point of view.

In 2009, the classic ULTRAVOX line-up of Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure unexpectedly reunited for three headlining tours and a new album ‘Brilliant’ issued in 2012. During ‘Astradyne’, Cross would coolly play bass and synth simultaneously! However, following a UK tour opening for SIMPLE MINDS in 2013, the band were back in hiatus and Cross returned to being a psychotherapist.

Midge Ure paid tribute to Chris Cross saying: “You were the glue that held the band together. You were the logic in the madness and the madness in our lives. It was great to know and grow with you. You are loved and missed old friend”.


Text by Chi Ming Lai
2 April 2024

THE ELECTRONIC LEGAGY OF 1984

1984 saw FM synthesis, sampling and computer controlled systems taking a more dominant role in not just electronic music making but within mainstream pop as well.

The ubiquity of the Yamaha DX7 with its realistic sounds and the dominance digital drum machines meant that inventive electronic sound design would take a backseat. This meant that the otherworldly fascination that had come with Synth Britannia was now something of a distant memory. But despite the popularity of the Emulator at this time for its factory disk derived symphonic strings, brass and choirs, the Roland Jupiter 8 remained the main analogue synth for the likes of THE BLUE NILE and TALK TALK as well as Howard Jones.

While Trevor Horn and his team were well equipped with all the state of the art equipment money could buy for the ZTT releases of THE ART OF NOISE and FRANKIE GOES HOLLYWOOD, OMD and HEAVEN 17 were among those who purchased the Fairlight Series II. SOFT CELL and Gary Numan chose the PPG system while THE HUMAN LEAGUE opted for the Synclavier II.

However, despite all the high tech, the most disappointing record of the year was undoubtedly ‘Hysteria’, THE HUMAN LEAGUE’s lukewarm follow-up to ‘Dare’ which departed from the supreme synthpop formula of its predecessor. ‘Dare’ producer Martin Rushent had left the troubled sessions following disagreements with the band but as the recording continued to be prolonged, his replacement Chris Thomas soon followed him through the door.  Hugh Padgham who had worked with Phil Collins on his key hit recordings was drafted in to finish the record.

Although the excellent ‘Louise’ saw the estranged couple from ‘Don’t You Want Me?’ cross paths again a few years on, the laudable attempt at political observation and guitar-driven dynamics ‘The Lebanon’ confused fans. Meanwhile the remainder of the album was underwhelming, with the reworked version of ‘I Love You Too Much’ sounding a poor shadow of the dynamic Martin Rushent original which had premiered on the Canadian ‘Fascination! EP in 1983.

Those pop acts who had topped the UK charts in 1983 like CULTURE CLUB and SPANDAU BALLET also suffered from lacklustre follow-ups and were superseded by the rise of WHAM! Despite the absence of a new studio album, DURAN DURAN managed to score a No1 with ‘The Reflex’ and a No2 with ‘The Wild Boys’, both in a creative union with Nile Rodgers while making an impact in 1984 was Nik Kershaw.

The split of YAZOO the previous year led to Alison Moyet issuing her first solo album ‘Alf’ but the new Vince Clarke project THE ASSEMBLY lasted just one single ‘Never Never’ featuring the vocals of Feargal Sharkey. Comparatively quiet in 1984, NEW ORDER released their most commercial single yet in ‘Thieves Like Us’.

With bands like A FLOCK OF SEAGULLS, THE PSYCHEDELIC FURS and U2 having achieved success in North America with a more rock derived template, the lure of the Yankee Dollar steered SIMPLE MINDS towards that less artful bombastic direction with the ultimately flawed ‘Sparkle In The Rain’. The purer synthesizer sound was now less desirable in terms of Trans-Atlantic marketability and pressure was put on acts to use more guitar and live drums, something that would become even more prominent in 1985.

So until then, here are 20 albums selected by ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK seen as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1984. Listed in alphabetical order, there is a restriction of one album per artist moniker


ALPHAVILLE Forever Young

Fronted by Marian Gold, German trio ALPHAVILLE broke through in the UK with a Zeus B Held remix of ‘Big In Japan’ and while that particular version is not included on the ‘Forever Young’ album, the original mix held its own alongside songs like ‘Sound Like A Melody’ and ‘Fallen Angel’. Meanwhile, the poignant title song has since become an evergreen anthem borrowed by the likes of THE KILLERS and JAY-Z!

‘Forever Young’ is still available via Warner Music

https://www.alphaville.earth/


THE ART OF NOISE Who’s Afraid Of?

From the off, THE ART OF NOISE were rattling cages. ‘Beat Box’ was the track which scared KRAFTWERK enough for them to delay the release of their ‘Technopop’ album and rework it as the underwhelming ‘Electric Cafe’. The crazy staccato sample cacophony of ‘Close (To The Edit)’ which was later borrowed by THE PRODIGY for ‘Firestarter’ still sounds as fresh and mad as ever while ‘Moments In Love’ heralded a new age in mood music.

‘Who’s Afraid Of?’ is still available via ZTT

https://www.facebook.com/artofnoiseofficial/


BLANCMANGE Mange Tout

On the back of hit singles in ‘Blind Vision’, ‘That’s Love That It Is’ and ‘Don’t Tell Me’, the brilliantly titled second BLANCMANGE album ‘Mange Tout’ became their biggest seller. Another surprise came with a melodramatic cover of ABBA’s ‘The Day Before You Came’; considered an odd but daring decision at the time, it was something of a cultural prophecy with ABBA now fully reabsorbed into mainstream popular culture.

‘Mange Tout’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.blancmange.co.uk/


THE BLUE NILE A Walk Across The Rooftops

Glum Scottish trio THE BLUE NILE had an innovative deal with Linn, the Glasgow-based high quality Hi-Fi manufacturer where their crisply produced debut ‘A Walk Across The Rooftops’ as used by dealers to demonstrate the sonic range of their products. ‘Tinseltown In The Rain’ and ‘Stay’ got BBC Radio1 airplay and while they were not hits, the artful album became a favourite among the cognoscenti and other musicians.

‘A Walk Across the Rooftops’ is still available via Confetti Records

https://www.facebook.com/TheBlueNileOfficial


BRONSKI BEAT The Age Of Consent

When BRONSKI BEAT first appeared, they were nothing short of startling, thanks to their look, melodic synth sound and Jimmy Somerville’s lonely earth shattering falsetto. ‘The Age Of Consent’ used their position as openly gay performers to make important statements such as ‘Smalltown Boy’, ‘Why’ and ‘Need A Man Blues’ as well as the anti-consumerist ‘Junk’ and the self-explanatory protest song ‘No More War’.

‘The Age Of Consent’ is still available via London Records

https://www.facebook.com/officialjimmysomerville


CABARET VOLTAIRE Micro-Phonies

Featuring the blissful ‘Sensoria’, the second Some Bizzare long playing adventure of CABARET VOLTAIRE saw Stephen Mallinder and Richard H Kirk at possibly their most accessible yet while still remaining alternative. With a Fairlight CMI now taking over from the previous tape experiments alongside the punchy rhythmic backdrop, tracks like ‘Do Right’ and ‘Slammer’ exemplified their alternative club direction.

‘Micro-Phonies’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://mute.com/artists/cabaret-voltaire


DEAD OR ALIVE Sophisticated Boom Boom

With Pete Burns now looking more and more like Gina X, it was no big surprise that her producer Zeus B Held was helming DEAD OR ALIVE’s electronic disco direction. An energetic cover of KC & THE SUNSHINE BAND’s ‘That’s The Way’ was the hit breakthrough but there was also mighty sequencer dance tunes such as ‘Misty Circles’ and ‘What I Want’, as well as the Morrissey fronting ABBA serenity of ‘Far Too Hard’.

‘Sophisticated Boom Boom’ is still available via Cherry Pop

https://www.discogs.com/artist/46720-Dead-Or-Alive


DEPECHE MODE Some Great Reward

Despite more adult songs with S&M metaphors about capitalism and doubts about religion, ‘Some Great Reward’ was the last innocent DEPECHE MODE album. With Gareth Jones now taking on a co-production role with Daniel Miller, the sampling experimentation was honed into the powerful metallic pop of ‘Something To Do’, ‘Master & Servant’, ‘If You Want’ and ‘Blasphemous Rumours’ while there was also the sensitive piano ballad ‘Somebody’.

‘Some Great Reward’ is still available via Sony Music

https://www.depechemode.com/


FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD Welcome To The Pleasure Dome

The Trevor Horn produced ‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ was a double album that should have been edited down to a single record but that would have missed the point. Featuring three supreme UK No1 singles in ‘Relax’, ‘Two Tribes’ and ‘The Power Of Love’, FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD had their place cemented in musical history, regardless of the radio bannings and controversial marketing stunts.

‘Welcome To The Pleasure Dome’ is still available via ZTT

https://www.hollyjohnson.com/


MANUEL GÖTTSCHING E2-E4

Best known for his work as ASHRA and the album ‘New Age Of Earth’ in particular, Manuel Göttsching improvised an extended piece based around an understated Prophet 10 sequence and a gentle but hypnotic backbone as something to listen to on his recently purchased Walkman for an upcoming flight. Influenced by minimalist trailblazers Steve Reich and Philip Glass, the end result was the hour long suite ‘E2-E4’.

‘E2-E4’ is still available via SpaMG.ART

https://www.manuel-goettsching.com


HEAVEN 17 How Men Are

The success of ‘The Luxury Gap’ brought money into HEAVEN 17 and this was reflected in the orchestrally assisted Fairlight jamboree of ‘How Men Are’. “I think it’s an underrated album and that was when we were probably in our most daring and creative phase” said Martyn Ware and that manifested itself on the sub-ten minute closer ‘And That’s No Lie’ and the outstanding Doomsday Clock referencing opener ‘Five Minutes To Midnight’.

‘How Men Are’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.heaven17.com/


JEAN-MICHEL JARRE Zoolook

Having been an early adopter of the Fairlight CMI on ‘Magnetic Fields’, Jean-Michel Jarre utilised it further to create an instrumental palette sampled from 25 spoken languages on ‘Zoolook’. It also saw the use of notable musicians including Marcus Miller, Yogi Horton, Adrian Belew and Laurie Anderson who lent her voice to the delightfully oddball ‘Diva’. The magnificent highlight was the 11 minute ‘Ethnicolour’.

‘Zoolook’ is still available via Sony Music

https://www.jeanmicheljarre.com/


HOWARD JONES Human’s Lib

‘Human’s Lib’ was the beginning of Howard Jones’ imperial phase, with four hit singles ‘New Song’, ‘What Is Love?’, ‘Hide And Seek’ and ‘Pearl In The Shell’ included on this immediate debut. But there was quality in the other songs with ‘Equality’ sounding like an arrangement blue print for A-HA’s ‘Take On Me’ and the title song about Ruth, David and Dennis touching on the complexities of love triangles!

‘Human’s Lib’ is still available via Cherry Red Records

http://www.howardjones.com/


GARY NUMAN Berserker

After the jazzier overtones of ‘Warriors’, ‘Berserker’ was conceived as “a science alternative album” by Gary Numan and therefore much more of an electronic proposition. Dominated by the PPG Wave system which had been the heartbeat of FRANKIE GOES TO HOLLYWOOD, ‘My Dying Machine’ pumped like ‘Relax’ while the rhythmic title song and the exotic ‘Cold Warning’ provided other highlights.

‘Berserker’ is still available via Eagle Records

https://garynuman.com/


OMD Junk Culture

With its embracement of calypso, reggae, indie and mainstream pop, ‘Junk Culture’ was perhaps even more experimental than ‘Dazzle Ships’ and took OMD outside of the Germanic sound laboratory they had emerged from. Known for two slightly inane hits, ‘Locomotion’ put them back into the UK Top5 while ‘Talking Loud & Clear’ only just missed out on the Top10. However, the best single from the album ‘Tesla Girls’ stalled at No21!

‘Junk Culture’ is still available via Universal Music

https://omd.uk.com/


SECTION 25 From The Hip

Co-produced by Bernard Sumner of NEW ORDER, ‘From The Hip’ followed founder member Larry Cassidy’s statement that “you can’t be a punk all your life”. Recruiting vocalist Jenny Ross and keyboardist Angela Cassidy, ‘Looking From A Hilltop’ with its clattering drum machine, pulsing hypnotism and ominous synth lines was the album’s standout while ‘Program For Light’ explored further electronic territory.

‘From The Hip’ is still available via Factory Benelux

https://www.section25.com/


SOFT CELL This Last Night In Sodom

If ‘The Art Of Falling Apart’ was the difficult second SOFT CELL album, ‘This Last Night In Sodom’ was an even more challenging proposition with some tracks even mixed in mono! The thundering percussive cover of ‘Down In The Subway’ was a metaphor for Marc Almond’s mental state while ‘L’ Esqualita’ provided some fabulous gothic menace alongside the frenetic rush of ‘Soul Inside’, all aided by Dave Ball and his PPG Wave 2.2.

‘This Last Night In Sodom’ is still available via Some Bizzare

https://www.softcell.co.uk/


TALK TALK It’s My Life

Now a trio, the second TALK TALK album saw them work with producer Tim Friese-Greene who would also have a songwriting role alongside Mark Hollis. Still reliant on synthesizers for its aural template, the initial five song sequence from ‘Dum Dum Girl’ to ‘Tomorrow Started’ was superb, taking in the title song, the magnificent ‘Such A Shame’ and the emotive ballad ‘Renée’. It sold well in Europe but was largely ignored in the UK.

‘It’s My Life’ is still available via EMI Music

https://www.facebook.com/talktalkfans


THOMPSON TWINS Into The Gap

Following their breakthrough record ‘Quick Step & Side Kick’, ‘Into The Gap’ was the most commercially successful THOMPSON TWINS studio album, putting the quirky trio into the US Top10. With Tom Bailey now taking on a co-producer role alongside Alex Sadkin, it featured the megahits ‘Hold Me Now’ and ‘Doctor Doctor’ while the neo-title song ‘The Gap’ offered an Eastern flavoured take on ‘Trans-Europe Express’.

‘Into The Gap’ is still available via Edsel Records

http://www.thompsontwinstombailey.com/


ULTRAVOX Lament

With self-produced sessions in the Musicfest home studio of Midge Ure, there were more obviously programmed rhythm tracks than previously while tracks ranged from the earnest rock of ‘One Small Day’ to the sequencer-driven ‘White China’. The apocalyptic Michael Rother influenced ‘Dancing With Tears In My Tears’ that gave ULTRAVOX with their biggest hit since ‘Vienna’ although the Celtic overtures of ‘Man Of Two Worlds’ was the album’s best song.

‘Lament’ is still available via Chrysalis Records

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


Text by Chi Ming Lai
24 February 2024

THE ELECTRONIC LEGACY OF 1980

David Bowie had famously dropped in to see THE HUMAN LEAGUE at The Nashville in late 1978 and hailed them as “the future of rock ‘n’ roll”.

But it was TUBEWAY ARMY fronted by Gary Numan who beat THE HUMAN LEAGUE to the top of the UK singles charts in Summer 1979 with Are Friends Electric?’ while just a few weeks earlier, SPARKS had been become willing conspirators with Giorgio Moroder on ‘The No1 Song In Heaven’ to effectively invent the synth duo.

Although it was the dawn of synth, 1980 was a transitional time when the synth was still the exception rather than the rule. The landscape was changing and the seed of what became the New Romantic movement had been planted.

Following the critical mauling he received for his 1979 album ‘Lodger’ but aware of his burgeoning influence in these futuristic sounds, Bowie headed down to The Blitz with RCA assistant and club regular Jacqueline Bucknell to cast extras including the late Steve Strange for the video of his new single ‘Ashes To Ashes’. It hit the top of UK charts and confirmed that once again “There’s old wave. There’s new wave. And there’s David Bowie…”

While Bowie’s was not an electronic artist in the way some of the next generation of artists had declared themselves, he couldn’t resist a sly dig at the acts that he’d inspired, using the line “same old thing in brand new drag” on the track ‘Teenage Wildlife’ from his next album ‘Scary Monsters’. And he was eventually to beat previous winner Gary Numan to the year’s ‘Best Male Singer’ accolade at the BBC endorsed British Rock & Pop Awards.

Belatedly looking back to 42 years ago before automatic stations came, here are 20 albums which ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK sees as contributing to the electronic legacy of 1980. They are listed in alphabetical order with a restriction of one album per act.


BUGGLES The Age Of Plastic

Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes met while working with Tina Charles and her producer Biddu. Together they would go on to form BUGGLES and score a No1 with ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’. From the parent album ‘The Age Of Plastic’, ‘Astroboy’ developed on the duo’s sonic adventures while ‘The Plastic Age’ and ‘Clean Clean’ provided further if minor hits. Horn would go on become a top record producer.

‘The Age Of Plastic’ is still available via Island Records / Universal Music

https://twitter.com/Trevor_Horn_


DALEK I Compass Kum’Pas

Before OMD, the electronic duo on The Wirral was DALEK I LOVE YOU. However, by the time their debut album ‘Compass Kum’pas’ was released, OMD were having hits and keyboards man Dave Hughes had left to join their live band. Although Alan Gill’s vocals could polarise opinion, ‘Destiny’ was their most immediate song with a precise percussive appeal while ‘The World’ was eccentric and retro-futuristic.

‘Compass Kum’Pas’ is still available via Mercury Records

http://www.discogs.com/artist/Dalek+I


FAD GADGET Fireside Favourites

The success of the singles ‘Back To Nature’ and ‘Ricky’s Hand’ attracted a loyal fanbase, so a FAD GADGET album  ‘Fireside Favourites’ was eagerly anticipated. Developing on the minimal industrialism of the singles, the superb ‘Coitus Interruptus’ was a cynical commentary on casual relationships while offering his own brand of romantic macabre in the fear of the imminent nuclear apocalypse was the neo-title song ‘Fireside Favourite’.

‘Fireside Favourites’ is still available via Mute Records

https://mute.com/artists/fad-gadget


JOHN FOXX Metamatic

On the ULTRAVOX! eponymous debut,John Foxx announced “I want to be a machine”. On signing to Virgin Records as a solo artist, he virtually went the full hog with the seminal JG Ballard inspired ’Metamatic’. ‘Underpass’ and ‘No-One Driving’ were surprise hit singles that underlined the dystopian times while the fabulous ‘A New Kind Of Man’ and the deviant ‘He’s A Liquid’ were pure unadulterated Sci-Fi driven by the cold mechanics of a Roland Compurhythm.

‘Metamatic’ is still available via Metamatic Records

http://www.metamatic.com/


HARALD GROSSKOPF Synthesist

Having worked with Klaus Schulze and Manuel Göttsching, drummer turned keyboard player Harald Grosskopf took the plunge to go solo with the mind bending album ‘Synthesist’. A work comprising of eight instrumentals that blended a sonic tapestry of synthesizer soundscapes with drumming that provided colour as opposed to dominance, it musically followed in the exquisite tradition of his Berlin electronic friends.

‘Synthesist‘ is still available via by Bureau B

https://www.haraldgrosskopf.de/englisch/home.html


THE HUMAN LEAGUE Travelogue

With THE HUMAN LEAGUE learning lessons from their debut ‘Reproduction’, ‘Travelogue’ had more presence by creatively utilising the harsh screeching frequencies from overdriving their studio desk. ‘The Black Hit Of Space’ had its surreal Sci-Fi lyrics while ‘Dreams Of Leaving’ was a fantastically emotive slice of prog synth. There were glorious cover versions in ‘Only After Dark’ and ‘Gordon’s Gin’. While it was a breakthrough, all was not happy…

‘Travelogue’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://martynwareofficial.co.uk/


JAPAN Gentlemen Take Polaroids

Dropped by Ariola Hansa, JAPAN found a refuge at Virgin Records. The bossa nova driven ‘Swing’ explored exotic grooves while the haunting ‘Nightporter’ was the ultimate Erik Satie tribute. An interest in Japanese technopop produced the brilliant ‘Methods Of Dance’ and saw leader David Sylvian collaborate with YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA’s Ryuichi Sakamoto on  ‘Taking Islands In Africa’.

‘Gentlemen Take Polaroids’ is still available via Virgin Records

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


JOY DIVISION Closer

While not strictly an electronic album in full, half of ‘Closer’ was dominated by polyphonic synthesizers. Featuring an ARP Omni and an early version of Simmons drums, ‘Isolation’ was the most electronic track JOY DIVISION ever recorded. On the second side, ‘Heart & Soul’, ‘The Eternal’ and ‘Decades’ provided the solemn but beautiful Gothic backdrop producer by Martin Hannett for Ian Curtis’ elaborate musical suicide note.

‘Closer’ is still available via Rhino

http://joydivisionofficial.com/


LA DÜSSELDORF Individuellos

LA DÜSSELDORF were fronted by the late Klaus Dinger of NEU! There was a greater presence of electronics and the first half of ‘Individuellos’was dominated by variations on ‘Menschen’, a grand statement sounding like a blueprint for Phil Lynott’s ‘Yellow Pearl’. ‘Dampfriemen’ was a quirky slice of synth oompah with comedic chants and a kazoo section while the piano laden ‘Das Yvönnchen’ provided a beautiful closer.

‘Individuellos’ is still available via Warner Germany

https://www.discogs.com/artist/152540-La-Düsseldorf


NEW MUSIK From A To B

Time has shown that Tony Mansfield and NEW MUSIK with their strummed guitar alongside pretty synth melodies were underrated. Featuring the hits ‘Living By Numbers’, ‘This World Of Water’ and ‘Sanctuary’ as well as ‘On Islands’ which was later covered by CAMOUFLAGE, the band were dismissed as a novelty act due to the silly voices in their songs. Mansfield went on to produce A-HA, NAKED EYES and VICIOUS PINK.

‘From A To B’ is still available via Lemon Records

https://www.new-musik.co.uk/


GARY NUMAN Telekon

The negative side of fame got into the psyche of Gary Numan and his new songs took on a more personal downbeat nature away from the Sci-Fi dystopia of his previous work. ‘This Wreckage’ and ‘Please Push No More’ summed up the self-doubt but while ‘Remind Me To Smile’ could have been a single, ‘Telekon’ suffered from not having the hit single ‘We Are Glass’ and ‘I Die: You Die’ included on the original LP release.

‘Telekon’ is still available via Beggars Banquet

https://garynuman.com/


OMD Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark

OMD released two albums in 1980 but their self-titled debut captured Andy McCluskey and Paul Humphreys using the most basic equipment, the duo not even having a polyphonic synth at the time. With energetic post-punk synth numbers such as ‘Electricity’ and ‘Bunker Soldiers’, on the other side of the coin were ‘Almost’ and ‘The Messerschmitt Twins’. An early version of ‘Messages’ pointed to hit singles.

‘Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark’ is still available via Virgin Records

http://www.omd.uk.com/


ROBERT PALMER Clues

Although rooted in the blues via his previous band VINEGAR JOE, Robert Palmer took an interest in synths having become a fan of Gary Numan. That led to two collaborations including a version of ‘I Dream Of Wires’ released before Numan’s own recording and the Eastern flavoured ‘Found You Now’. The electronic centrepiece was the beautifully world weary ‘Johnny & Mary’ while ‘Looking for Clues’ added synthy art funk to the mix.

‘Clues’ is still available via Island Records / Universal Music

http://www.robertpalmer.com/


SILICON TEENS Music For Parties

Following the acclaim for THE NORMAL, Daniel Miller undertook a new project SILICON TEENS as a fictitious synth group where rock ’n’ roll standards such as ‘Memphis Tennessee’, ‘Just Like Eddie’, ‘Let’s Dance’ and ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ were enjoyably reinterpreted in a quirky synthpop style with Miller adding his deadpan monotone vocal. Frank Tovey aka FAD GADGET played the role of lead singer “Darryl” for videos and press.

‘Music For Parties’ is still available via Mute Records

https://mute.com/artists/silicon-teens


SIMPLE MINDS Empires & Dance

Tours opening for Gary Numan and Peter Gabriel took SIMPLE MINDS around Europe to experience Cold War tensions at closer hand. Their wired mood was captured on ‘Empires & Dance’. With its speedy Moroder-esque influence, ‘I Travel’ was a screeching futuristic frenzy and ‘Celebrate’ brought some industrial Schaffel to the party. ’30 Frames A Second’ took a trip down the autobahn but ‘Twist / Run / Repulsion’ messed with the headspace of listeners.

‘Empires & Dance’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://www.simpleminds.com/


SPARKS Terminal Jive

Following the Giorgio Moroder steered album ‘No1 In Heaven’, SPARKS were despatched by Virgin Records to record a swift follow-up. Although Moroder was still nominally at the helm, Harold Faltermeyer took the majority of production duties on ‘Terminal Jive’. ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll People In A Disco World’ seemed to reflect the confused direction but ‘When I’m With You’ was a massive hit single in France, leading to the Mael Brothers’ relocation.

‘Terminal Jive’ is still available via Repertoire Records

http://allsparks.com


TANGERINE DREAM Tangram

After experiments with vocals on ‘Cyclone’ and live drums on ‘Force Majeure’, with the recruitment on keyboards with Johannes Schmoelling to fill the difficult to fill void left by the departure of Peter Baumann, Edgar Froese and Christopher Franke got back on track, combining a more immediate sequencer drive with the melodic New Age resonances on the two part ‘Tangram’ set that would characterise TANGERINE DREAM’s later work.

‘Tangram’ is still available via Virgin Records

https://tangerinedreammusic.com/


TELEX Neurovision

The second TELEX album ‘Neurovision’ continued with the trio’s tradition of deadpan electronic covers and a gloriously metronomic take on ‘Dance To The Music’ showcased their penchant for mischievous subversion. But this mischief came to its head with their lampooning self-composed number ‘Euro-Vision’, a bouncy electropop tune which they actually entered for 1980 Eurovision Song Contest, coming seventeenth!

‘Neurovision’ is still available via Mute Artists

https://mutebank.co.uk/collections/telex


ULTRAVOX Vienna

Following the first VISAGE sessions, Midge Ure was invited to join Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann in ULTRAVOX. Providing a sonic continuity from the John Foxx-led era was producer Conny Plank while the robotic spy story ‘Mr X’ voiced by Cann provided another link. Opening with the mighty instrumental ‘Astradyne’ and closing with the synthesized heavy metal of ‘All Stood Still’, the ‘Vienna’ album was a triumph.

‘Vienna’ is still available via Chrysalis Records

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


VISAGE Visage

Formed as a reaction to the shortage of new electronic dance music to play at The Blitz Club, ex-RICH KIDS members Midge Ure and Rusty Egan recruited its figurehead Steve Strange to front the project under the name of VISAGE. Billy Currie, Dave Formula, John McGeoch and Barry Adamson joined later and captured a synthesized European romanticism that boasted the German No1 ‘Fade To Grey’ as well as two other hits in ‘Mind Of A Toy’ and the eponymous title track.

‘Visage’ is still available via Rubellan Remasters

https://www.therealvisage.com/


Text by Chi Ming Lai
29 December 2023

MIDGE URE: A Life In Music Interview

Midge Ure celebrates his 70th birthday and a life in music this Autumn with a special concert at The Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 4 October 2023.

The start of his career included a spell as a teen idol in SLIK, embracing punk in its offshoot PVC2 and a doomed attempt to cross THE SEX PISTOLS and BAY CITY ROLLERS in the power pop of RICH KIDS with Glen Matlock, Steve New and Rusty Egan. But the demise of the latter coincided with the wider emergence of electronic music such as KRAFTWERK, LA DÜSSELDORF and YELLOW MAGIC ORCHESTRA which inspired Ure to buy his first synthesizer, a Yamaha CS50.

Licking his wounds, Ure went on to help pioneer the sound of the New Romantics in VISAGE with a collective project inspired by an idea from Rusty Egan and fronted by Steve Strange, the face of The Blitz Club. Another involved in VISAGE was Billy Currie and at his invitation, Ure joined him, Chris Cross and Warren Cann in the classic line-up of ULTRAVOX in 1979; the quartet had an impressive run of hit singles and albums with their unique brand of symphonic electronic rock which has since been borrowed and taken into the stadiums of the world by MUSE.

With a successful solo career that has included several No1s around the world, the lad from Cambuslang near Glasgow can also add his central role in BAND AID as well as collaborations like ‘Yellow Pearl’ with Phil Lynott, ‘After A Fashion’ with Mick Karn and ‘Dark Dark Night’ with Moby to his name.

This is all without mentioning a number of adverts including original music for ‘Levi’s’ in their iconic ‘Rivets’ campaign and the title song from his 1996 album ‘Breathe’ soundtracking a memorable Swatch campaign in Europe; more recently ‘Fade To Grey’ which Ure co-wrote with Billy Currie and Chris Payne has featured in reels for fashion houses Chanel and Dior. Meanwhile, there have been a number of key TV synchronisations, one of the most notable being the use of ‘Vienna’ during the final episode of the unsettling 2017 Netflix series ’13 Reasons Why’.

Midge Ure spoke to ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK about his recent live tours, his back catalogue, music technology, collaborating with a former member of KRAFTWERK, his upcoming 70th birthday concert and his future plans…

You are fresh off the back off the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour and had the ‘1980’ tour before the pandemic, has the success of these tours surprised you?

Yes! I won’t lie! I really wasn’t sure how things would pan out. The thing about the music business is it’s like riding a rollercoaster. Sometimes it takes you to the heady heights of fame, the other times it takes you to almost obscurity.

I just consider myself a working musician, it’s all to do with perception. There are people out there who given the opportunity of finding that you’re playing somewhere, will come and see you because they bought the records or followed you for “X” amount of years. But they get side-tracked with family or whatever; then they’re off the radar and don’t know what you’re doing because they don’t go to venues, they’re not on social media, they don’t look at posters, they don’t buy music papers (if there is such a thing anymore), all of that stuff!

So it was a new young agent who came along and said “you’re missing out on a lot of people here” and he was brilliant at marketing. When we did the ‘1980’ tour, I was stunned at the amount of people who said “Wow! Are you still touring?”… WELL YEAH! CONSTANTLY! But I could be playing down the road from you and you wouldn’t know! *laughs*

It’s just how it works so it’s been a lot of that. The ‘1980’ tour was great and I had trepidations about the ‘Voices & Visions’ tour not being able to stand up next to it… but I think it’s superceded it, I think it got better so yeah, I’m very pleased that was the case 😀

Your audience generally doesn’t appear to like standing up and dancing much?

You have to understand the demographic you know, there’s a lot of the audience who do want to stand up but a lot of the theatres and venues that you play don’t want people standing up for whatever reason! I mean, they’re hardly the age group that’s going to start trashing the joint!

But a lot of venues, when you do see people standing up to have a little dance or try to get into the aisle or come down the front, you’re not allowed to do it. Also, there is an element of the audience who can’t, they want to sit down… I’m sure they’d love to be able to get up and do whatever but it doesn’t work that way, a lot of venues just won’t let them do it and physically they can’t.

In an ideal world, you’d have a venue that has a seated upstairs and a standing downstairs, that would appeal to everybody but it’s just one of those things, we can’t control that. So usually at the end of the set, I’m sure you’ve seen it, in the last couple of songs, I say “Right! Stand up, it’s too late to throw you out so get up!” and they do.

Yes, the ones they do always seem to get up for are ‘Dancing With Tears In My Eyes’ and ‘All Stood Still’, two songs about nuclear Armageddon which does have a sort of amusing irony about it… *laughs*

That IS an amusing irony about it, I hadn’t thought about that! *laughs*

But it’s probably more to do with the fact that we’re doing slow atmospheric tunes… normally when you build a set, you would finish with the last 5 or 6 songs all up there like ‘Hymn’, ‘Dancing…’ and ‘If I Was’. You stack it full of things so that people don’t get a chance to sit down, that’s how you would do it. But in true ULTRAVOX form, we ended up finishing with ‘Visions In Blue’ and coming back on to try and build it all back up again, making it difficult for ourselves! *laughs*

Your pal Glenn Gregory once said to me that HEAVEN 17 has three distinct audience types, the loyal fanbase, those who only like the first two albums and those who only like the hits, have you worked out your audience demographics?

Not really, I suppose the majority of the audience will be people who bought the ‘Vienna’ album and all of that stuff in the first place, so they’re kind of revisiting their youth. They’ve probably never gone away as such as music lovers, but there’s maybe an element of the whole retro thing about it, everyone would like to be 18 again and relive the folly of what they were up to and re-wear the clothes and still have the hair they used to have, all of that stuff!

But there’s also people, a much smaller element, who have just discovered you though a sync on movies or Netflix series or video games or whatever, they’ve discovered you through an entirely different route and in a retrospective way, they hear a track they find interesting and then look you up to find a world of music they didn’t know existed and they work backwards. That’s great that it happens so there’s them and people coming back reliving their retrogressive thing. It’s a bit of a mixed audience, but I can’t categorise them all lie that. I’ve got solo fans who won’t necessarily like ULTRAVOX and vice versa.

Were there any particular of those ULTRAVOX and VISAGE songs which you played on those two tours that have you rekindled a love for?

Yeah, I absolutely loved doing ‘Rage In Eden’ which is a lovely one to do. I love that little textural section we did in the middle of the ‘Voice & Visions’ show where is all kind of calmed down and got moody and all simplistic. I love doing that stuff as much as strapping on a guitar and making all the noise. I don’t get the opportunity to do that often, to delve back in and pull things out.

In the same way on previous tours, we rediscovered ‘I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)’, we rediscovered ‘Lament’, you kind of forget about them. You categorise them in your brain and go “that was then, I’ll do other things now” and then you play it out of the blue and it just comes back again, the reason that you liked it and the feeling you got from playing it all comes flooding back… it’s not gone away, I’ve pushed it away, put it in a cupboard and locked it. But now I’ve opened up the cupboard again, it’s the exact same thing! It’s fantastic there are many songs that still lend themselves to live performance.

One non-single track that found a place on both tours is ‘Astradyne’ which is still mighty after all these years; I was saying to Vicky Harrison of POLYCHROME at the Cambridge gig about how the synthwave scene seems to think the soundtrack of ‘Drive’ and other synthwave instrumentals are The Bee’s Knees, but I always throw ‘Astradyne’ at them! *laughs*

Yeah, it seems to work, it works on many levels for me having just sung on stage for an hour and a half, it gives me a 6 minute respite, a chance to catch my breath and let the vocal chords rest a bit. By the time I’ve done ‘Astradyne’ which was the first track in the encore, I’ll be screaming my head off doing ‘Dancing’ and ‘All Stood Still’ on top of having just done the main show. So in that respect, it’s good for me, it paces me and it gets me ready for the last couple of songs.

As a piece of music, ‘Astradyne’ still works, it’s incredibly simplistic and it takes me right back to what it was like in that rehearsal room with ULTRAVOX and we started throwing our ideas round for the ‘Vienna’ album. I remember distinctly prior to the album coming out in America when I was there to do some promo and when they thought we were going to be huge there, they had me in a limousine with a couple of record company bods. We were driving to Long Island to do WLIR which was one of the New Wave radio stations that would play us and the record company bods wanted listen to the album. So I put this cassette on and you could see their faces drop a minute in when realised there weren’t any vocals! They asked “Is this is the first track?”, I replied “Yup! This is the opening track” and they were telling me “you can’t use that!” *laughs*

It worked for us and it brings back good memories.

Was ‘Himmelblau’ by Wolfgang Riechmann an influence on ‘Astradyne’ at all?

I’m not sure, but Riechmann was one of the artists that Rusty Egan used to play at Billy’s and The Blitz Club. It was probably more CAN, NEU! and eventually LA DÜSSELDORF, all that kind of melodic German stuff. The idea for the melody, I did that and I have no idea where it came from, it’s probably subliminal, there’s probably snippets of styles and elements that I’d heard in the club. It’s not a melody as such because I’m not a keyboard player, it was something that just came up with my natural sense of melody. Of course, Billy was doing that lovely piano thing underneath it all and it made it all move, it was great. I love doing it.

‘Fade To Grey’ continues to have a life of its own and has been used recently in those stylish Gris Dior and Coco Chanel Crush adverts… have you seen them and how well do you think they’ve used the music?

I think they’re re-recordings aren’t they? Or is one of them an original?

They both sound original, especially the Coco Chanel Crush one…

It’s a very dodgy area, I know some adverts use the original recording but since Rusty and Steve Strange tried to get together in 2011 to do a VISAGE Part 2, they opened up a nest of worms and certain people were allowed access to the songs! There are some very good copies out there that sound very much like the original that Steve sang, so it’s very difficult to tell what the original one is! These programmers just do an amazing job and copy it note-for-note, then the original recording doesn’t have to be paid for or whatever. So there’s a way round the whole sync thing and the cost of putting originals on commercials and films!

A lot of artists do it and re-record their own songs note-for-note and try to make it sound like the original so that when they’re asked for example, a ‘Vienna’ or whatever, you’ve already done a brand new ‘Vienna’ that sounds exactly like the old one and then you get all the money… but I couldn’t think of anything worse, I’d rather go to the dentist and have my teeth pulled out than go back and try and recreate something that you’ve done! *laughs*

Talking of VISAGE, ‘The Anvil’ album is in my opinion, one of your most underrated bodies of work and it didn’t get included as part of the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour?

It didn’t and that’s simply because if you start cherry picking and looking at the stuff AND things people would expect to hear, you’d be on stage for 3 hours, it would have been crazy!

Yes, there was something quite grown-up about that record I think. The first VISAGE album was done in a very sporadic way, it was grabbing moments of studio time, and it was rare there was more than two people from VISAGE in the country at the same time! It was spread out like over a year or so, a pocket of time here and a pocket of time there. So it was a very broken up project.

When it came to doing ‘The Anvil’, it was more succinct, you could get together and go write, get a studio in London. The first VISAGE album was done in Martin Rushent’s studio before he had even built it, in his hut at the bottom of his garden; the facilities weren’t great but we still managed to pull it off.

So there’s something more coherent about that second album and it had moved on from just the electronics, there was Gary Barnacle and his sax on ‘Night Train’. Is it overlooked? I don’t know, a few people cite that as one of their favourite albums, maybe because it was a bit more “human”, more “soulful” than the first, and maybe because a bit more time was spent on it, rather than scattering seeds to the four winds you know…

You are celebrating your 70th birthday at the Royal Albert Hall, will this be an all-encompassing career show or will it mostly centre around the BAND ELECTRONICA format which you have had since 2017? Are you planning any special guests, is there anything that you can talk about? 

Anything I can talk about? That I know about of course! *laughs*

No, not that I know of! When I did the Albert Hall in 1991 under my own steam, I had a gospel choir, guests like Paddy Moloney from THE CHIEFTAINS, all these people coming on and I’ve kind of done that. The speculation online is just rife, like “ULTRAVOX are back!”, “there’s going to be a choir”, “there’s going to be an orchestra” and “the full ‘Orchestrated’ album is going to be performed”… AAARGH! I’m not sure!

It’s like when you have a new record coming out and you’ve just started it, you’re doing interviews about it and people ask “what’s it called?”… well, I’ve got no idea, it will be called something when I’ve finished the album *laughs*

So I’ll know what will be in the show when I’ve formulated those ideas, because it’s still very fresh… when you get the Albert Hall, you have to tell people it’s going to happen and then figure out how you’re going to fill it and what the content is going to be. But I’m already formulating a few little things, but I don’t want to throw the kitchen sink at it because that can just detract from what it is. It’s a celebratory thing, I will cherry pick songs in various formats that I think were important during those 70 years I’ve been breathing oxygen. I still haven’t figured out how I’m going to do it, but the basis of it will be the BAND ELECTRONICA basis because we’re up and running, we’re hot just now and we have to consolidate what we have already to be sensible about it.

Have you ever thought about doing ‘Rivets’ live, perhaps as an intro into another song like how you did with ‘Yellow Pearl’ in your various show?

I haven’t! BUT IT’S NOT A BAD IDEA!

But then again, you’d have to figure out where you would do something like that. Doing that in front of your own audience is fine, but doing that in the ‘Let’s Rock’ and ‘Rewind’ Festival things, people are still scratching their heads as to why I’m playing the ‘Top Of The Pops’ theme because the majority there, they’re not your audience! *laughs*

My audience, there’s a very good chance they will know that ‘Rivets’ was a piece of music that I did with Chris Cross… it’s certainly food for thought, I’ve never played it live so it would be interesting! *laughs*

Of course, what became ‘Love’s Great Adventure’ was intended as music for a Levi’s advert? What happened there?

The ‘Rivets’ thing was very last minute, I got a phone call from one of the guys at Chrysalis saying he was on this board and he saw this big budget Levi’s commercial that was filmed by one of the Scott brothers, it had gone right up to the line. It was shown at this big premiere in Stockholm and someone at Levi’s said they didn’t like the music! This person said he needed something that was rousing and atmospheric like ULTRAVOX. So this Chrysalis guy said he knew me and I got the call a few days later. I saw the clip in the afternoon and wrote the ‘Rivets’ piece of music that night. I recorded my parts in the studio but then did the mix with the ad agency and the Levi’s people which was a pain in the backside because all they did was talk through it and I was getting fed up. I was telling them “This is your piece of music, do you want it good or do you want it bad? If you want it good, don’t talk, get out and leave me alone! Let me do the music”.

They had no time to sit and think about it, so they put it on and they loved it. It got a fantastic response so 6 months later, they come back to me and said “we’re doing a follow up called ‘Threads’”, because it was all about the rivets before, but now it was threads! So this ad had been filmed in Mexico, there’s this guy fishing for marlin, there’s all these marlins jumping out of the water, it’s a man in the sea against beast type of thing and he’s fighting and then he cuts the line and the line disappears through the water and you zoom in on the line and you see it’s a Levi’s thread to show you how strong it is!

I thought great but this time, they said they wanted it more rhythmic and for me not to do anything melodic, they wanted this pounding thing. So I went off, got my little sampler and banged a garage door again like I did on ‘The Chieftain’, I hit everything and made this very Burundi style rhythmic metallic sounding beast of a thing! I thought it was fantastic and that they’d love it. 3 weeks later, they said “there’s not much tune!”… but they asked for something with no melody or tune! “Oh but we need a melody, we need something that people can sing…” 🤦‍♂️

So OK, I watched the film again and I saw the marlin jumping up and I came up with this triumphant ‘633 Squadron’ type thing with this stomp. I took it to them and told them “this really works well”… 3 weeks later, I get the phone call, “Umm, can you put more bass on it?” and I was like “do you mean bass guitar or bass drum or bass synth or overall bottom end, more body?”. Then this is the straw that broke the camel’s back, they said “we want it to sound like the feel of Formica!”. At that point, I asked them to give me the music back, I gave them back their money and that was that.

I think they got Jeremy Healey of HAYSI FANTAYZEE to do some music, I took the track back and Billy Currie put various bits on it, I wrote some lyrics, a topline and turned it into ‘Love’s Great Adventure’. Their advert failed miserably, it goes topped and a month later, they had to put on ‘Rivets’ again as they had all these bookings in the cinemas around the world for this ‘Threads’ advert! It was an interesting thing but it wasn’t my planet!

You’re known for guitars and also for synths, so you combined the two when you got a Roland GR700 guitar synthesizer in 1984 and demonstrated it on ‘Old Grey Whistle Test’, how did you find using it and why do you think they never really took off in the way say wind synthesizers did?

They probably did, they’re much better now than they were back then, they didn’t track very well. A keyboard, unless you actually press a key down, you don’t get a note from it. If you touch the strings on a guitar synth, it triggers the synthesizer! So just by scratching the strings (which is all part of the sound of normal guitar playing), there’s a sound. So you have to play a guitar synth with kid gloves, you had to be really careful how you played things!

We used it on stage with ULTRAVOX, I can’t remember what we used it on but it was on a couple of things, it was just so volatile and not user friendly. You would have to use it in the studio and it wouldn’t do things that a guitar would do, you can dub strings on a guitar or a violin, but you couldn’t really dub stings on a guitar synth because the synth sound would still come out whether you were holding the strings down or not. So it was a very different way of playing.

They are much better than they were, I’ve got a synth controller guitar here in the studio and it seems to work incredibly well. But technology then hadn’t yet caught up with the idea, so it went the way of many things…

Did you have a favourite keyboard-based synthesizer?

I liked the PPG Wave because it was a hybrid of analogue front end with rotary controls and digital internal. So it was one of those synths that you think you know what kind of sound you are looking for, but on the way to that sound, you create something better or more interesting, this leftfield that’s gone off on a tangent.

A major part of the end of ULTRAVOX and the beginning of the solo stuff, a lot of sounds that are very definable that weren’t presets, that were my sounds, are from that. It was a good instrument to do that with. But you end of getting rid of all the hardware and you end up with software instruments and you’re back to square one *laughs*

Your most recent new track in 2021 was ‘Das Beat’ which you co-wrote with Wolfgang Flür who was in KRAFTWERK, does collaborating with other electronic trailblazers interest you at all?

I wouldn’t have done this had Wolfgang not asked, he came to see me in Germany doing the ‘1980’ tour and we met backstage. He said he was doing an album and he’d love me to be part of it. I thought “great” but it was a matter of what, when and how. The next day on the bus, this thing kept going around my head, ‘Das Boot’ the Wolfgang Petersen movie and then I was thinking ‘Das Beat’ because Wolfgang is the maestro, he’s the electronic rhythm guy, he was the guy we all listened to, the master of “Das Beat”… it tied in so well but he wasn’t too keen on the title until I found out it doesn’t mean anything in German! *laughs*

Wolfgang said it should be “Der Beat” as the correct way of saying it but of course, me not speaking German, I thought ‘Bas Beat’, you are the guy, THE BEAT! He wasn’t keen and I think he wanted to try his hand at his own lyrics. I said that there was no reason why we can’t do 2 versions, so he did his own thing on his eventual ‘Magazine 1’ album although he kept the chorus that I’d written with my vocal and I had my own BAND ELECTRONICA single.

But it was great fun delving back into the influences that sparked me off down that particular route, the sounds and the style and writing something in the vein of a very catchy pop version of KRAFTWERK. When I heard him half speak / half singing his lyrics and stuff, I thought “My God, it’s so good, it sounds brilliant!”

I never plan collaborations, they come about just because you meet somebody that you like and they like you, they like what you do and you like what they do. Low and behold, you end up doing something, otherwise, it’s a bit like hard work… you mean you want me to go and write something? *laughs*

What’s next, is a ‘Lament’ + ‘The Gift’ tour a possibility in the future?

Everything is possible in the future, I said many times prior to this ‘Voice & Visions’ tour about how difficult it was fiscally, because we’d agreed costs and fees back in 2019 and the cost of doing it in 2023 was horrendous. I kept saying this was unsustainable, you cannot keep doing this and do this at a loss. The days of record company advances and people buying large amounts of your records are well and truly over. So you have to try and make it work, fiscally as well as musically.

I think the bottom line is we scraped through by the skin of our teeth on this one without having to raise ticket prices… I’m not saying it’s always going to be like that, but you have to figure it all out. You have to think “X” amount of people will want to see you, it costs “X” amount to do the show, “X” amount to pay the crew, the buses, the trucks, the lights etc. And people expect high quality performance, they want to see the great light show, they want to have the atmosphere there. I’m loathed to say we have to stick a fiver on the price of a ticket to make that happen! The end result was great, the response we got from the tour was fantastic.

Being able to do the Albert Hall is phenomenal and I expect next year, there will be plans… we haven’t got anything in place right now for something, but whether I carry on with the two albums retrospective thing or not, I really don’t know. There may be some time out there for some solo stuff, do some of the solo stuff that doesn’t get an airing very often! *laughs*

You recently sold your back catalogue, what will this give you as an artist, is it financial security for yourself and your family?

Well, my family more than anything… I’m a fairly basic character these days, I think I learned humility with the demise of ULTRAVOX and the beginning of BAND AID. I don’t need a lot, I’m fairly satisfied with what I have. But the music industry is such a complex thing, my kids aren’t part of the music industry, they would never understand where money comes from or where you would go to get it that’s your royalties. It’s so complicated because labels sell on to other labels. You find releases that you didn’t even know were coming out but you are still on the royalties for it and you have to find these things.

It took years to try and sort it out and tie it all up with one big ribbon. A lot of artists are doing the same thing. I mean, if I’m not around, nobody is going to know where this is and it always goes into a big black hole and disappears. So it was the sensible thing to do to get your ducks in a row before you sing your final note…

What has been your artistic career highlight? How do you look back on getting a solo No1 in ‘If I Was’, something which was cruelly denied to ULTRAVOX?

There are loads and it’s not usually the big things, the No1s or whatever! I suppose it’s the collaborations, the buzz you STILL get from meeting someone you respect and admire, and THEY know who you are! You can’t buy that! That’s just crazy, there’s still that kid walking around Cambuslang in awe of everybody else and then you find you are stomping the same stage as them.

Those moments were great, playing guitar with Eric Clapton one-on-one, the duet with Kate Bush or being on stage with Peter Gabriel, whatever it happens to be. They’re the moments that success brings you, not owning the fleet of cars or a boat or whatever, those things are transient.

But the other stuff is real and that’s just amazing! So if you could tie all those up in a documentary, I’d sit and watch it! *laughs*


ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Midge Ure

Special Thanks to Warren Higgins at Chuff Media

Celebrating 7 Decades and A Life In Music, Midge Ure plays a special concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Wednesday 4 October 2023 – tickets available from https://www.royalalberthall.com/tickets/events/2023/midge-ure/

Other Midge Ure 2023 live appearances include:

Let’s Rock Shrewsbury (15 July), Forever Young 2023 (16 July), Rewind Scotland (23 July), Wickham Festival 2023 (6 August), Chepstow Castle (18 August), Let’s Rock Norwich (19 August), Oostende W-Festival 2023 (25 August)

The ULTRAVOX ‘Vienna’, ‘Rage In Eden’ + ‘Quartet’ Deluxe Edition boxed sets are released by Chrysalis Records and available via the usual retailers

The deluxe 4CD edition of ‘The Gift’ is released on 22 September 2023

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Text, Interview and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
11 July 2023

MIDGE URE + INDIA ELECTRIC CO Live at Cambridge Corn Exchange

With the success of his ‘1980’ tour celebrating ULTRAVOX’s ‘Vienna’ album and his work as a member of VISAGE, Scottish music veteran Midge Ure finally got his long awaited ‘Voice & Visions’ adventure on the road.

Delayed in the wake of the worldwide pandemic, the second leg of the tour which had originally been arranged as the first part has been playing to appreciative crowds at packed theatres throughout the UK. Midge Ure will be 70 this coming October but he has shown no sign of wavering with his voice remaining intact, save a few very high notes which are discreetly worked around. Meanwhile, he continues to play guitar and keyboards with an enthusiasm that is obvious for all to see.

The concept of the ‘Voice & Visions’ tour was to air material from ULTRAVOX’s second and third Ure-era long players ‘Rage In Eden’ and ‘Quartet’; the former was the product of three months spent in the isolated countryside studio of German legend Conny Plank near Cologne, while the latter was a comparatively brighter affair with THE BEATLES producer George Martin at the helm which included a mixing sojourn in sunny Monserrat. These two very different approaches netted six Top 20 single in the UK. “This is the logical and emotional follow up to the 1980 tour” Ure said.

After a number of years performing acoustically and solo, Midge Ure introduced his Band Electronica concept in 2017 to perform full-fat renditions of the key milestones of his glorious musical career, some for the first time since the classic ULTRAVOX line-up reunion with Chris Cross, Warren Cann and Billy Currie that thrilled fans between 2009 to 2013. The format also provided another opportunity to hear some of best electronic pop of the Synth Britannia era in a live context.

With the live band comprising of long standing drummer Russell Field and the talented multi-instrument duo of Cole Stacey on bass, keyboards + guitar and Joseph O’Keefe on keyboards + violin, it was this trio who opened proceedings with a selection of songs that the two youngsters have recorded as INDIA ELECTRIC CO.

Presenting a modern take on traditionally-derived music forms, songs such as ‘Only Waiting’ and ‘Heimat’ showcased Stacey’s earnest vocal style and O’Keefe’s emotive violin playing with Field providing a variety of acoustic percussive colours. An enjoyable cover of Bruce Springsteen ‘I’m On Fire’ sprung a surprise with Stacey using mini-keys and Field taking to penny whistle while O’Keefe displayed another string to his bow with some six string dexterity.

The elegant ‘Parachutes’ had touches of folk and Americana while at the other end of the scale, ‘Lost in Translation’ saw synths and electronic arpeggios brought into the spritely equation. To close the INDIA ELECTRIC CO support set, ‘Statues’ brought mandolin loops, funk, jazz, classical and synth into an unusual but engaging hybrid of styles.

With an impressive 20 minute turnover time, Stacey, O’Keefe and Field returned to the stage to set the scene for Midge Ure’s arrival. Taking full advantage of their presence, the ULTRAVOX Mk2 front man launched into impassioned rendition of ‘Dear God’; the song he premiered at Wembley Stadium for the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute concert in 1988, its call for peace and unity was particularly poignant in relation to current world events.

Maintaining momentum, the rousing ‘If I Was’ was a reminder of his 1985 solo UK No1 single while the evergreen ‘Fade to Grey’ was another of his No1s, albeit in West Germany where the VISAGE song became the Bundesrepublik’s biggest selling single of 1981.

Ure’s solo career actually began in 1982 with a cover of Tom Rush’s ‘No Regrets’; originally an acoustic number by its author, it was a comeback hit for THE WALKER BROTHERS in 1976. While just simply a great song, his cover of a cover still possesses an icy resonance to compliment the bittersweet lyrics.

However, the audience at Cambridge Corn Exchange were there to hear ULTRAVOX songs and Ure duly delivered. There were the hits ‘The Voice’, ‘The Thin Wall’ and ‘Reap the Wild Wind’ but there was also ‘We Came to Dance’ which had not included in any of the 21st Century ULTRAVOX reunion shows. But many were there for the album highlights from ‘Rage In Eden’ and ‘Quartet’; ‘We Stand Alone’ was enhanced by Joseph O’Keefe’s chilling synth stabs while ‘I Remember (Death in the Afternoon)’ saw a THIN LIZZY style of twin guitar interplay between Ure and Stacey.

‘Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind Again)’ recalled the claustrophobic intensity of the ‘Rage In Eden’ album while on the atmospheric title song, Cole Stacey impressively nailed the Middle Eastern toned “noonretfa eht ni htaed… rebmemer i ho” phonetics of its haunting chorus. From the ‘Quartet’ album, the synth rock of ‘Mine For Life’ made its return since that particular tour which was preserved on the ‘Monument’ live artefacts.

Meanwhile the more frenetic ‘Serenade’ was another welcome inclusion as a song that had never been performed live until this ‘Voice & Visions’ tour. Finishing the main part of the set with ‘Hymn’ and ‘Visions in Blue’, the end of show crescendo may have been better served if the order of those two songs had been the other way around.

For the four song encore, there was the unexpected inclusion of the mighty electro-prog instrumental ‘Astradyne’ and of course ‘Vienna’ with duel ivories from O’Keefe and Stacey to provide a continuous piano passage that, due to physical practicalities, would have to be interrupted during ULTRAVOX renditions of “The Greatest No2 of All Time” as voted by BBC Radio2 listeners.

Concluding the evening with ‘Dancing With Tears in My Eyes’ and ‘All Stood Still’, this pair of cheerful ditties about Mutually Assured Destruction reflected the Cold War paranoia during which they were created in; as with ‘Dear God’ at the beginning of the set, that angst has scarily returned to today’s uncertain world. Critics used to consider ULTRAVOX pretentious and pompous but they offered intelligent and thoughtful real life observations and concerns.

A triumph all around, the ‘Voice & Visions’ show was complimented by a straightforward but very effective light show and crystal clear sound. This revisiting of Midge Ure’s back catalogue has got potential to run even further and ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK has its fingers crossed for a ‘Lament’ to ‘The Gift’ 1984-1985 based tour in the not too distant future 😉

And for those waiting for the DEPECHE MODE dig, to the idiotic Devotee who said that Martin Gore was a better guitarist than Midge Ure… err, no! 🤣


With thanks to Cole Stacey

ULTRAVOX ‘Rage In Eden’ + ‘Quartet’ are available via Chrysalis Records as deluxe boxed sets

Midge Ure 2023 festival appearances include:

Middlesbrough Let’s Rock the North East (10 June), Let’s Rock Leeds (17 June), Let’s Rock Scotland (24 June), Let’s Rock Exeter (1 July), Let’s Rock Shrewsbury (15 July), Forever Young 2023 (16 July), Rewind Scotland (23 July), Wickham Festival 2023 (6 August), Chepstow Castle (18 August), Let’s Rock Norwich (19 August), Oostende W-Festival 2023 (25 August)

http://www.midgeure.co.uk

https://www.facebook.com/midge.ure

https://twitter.com/midgeure1

https://www.instagram.com/midge_ure/

INDIA ELECTRIC CO will be touring later in 2023, dates include:

Deepdale Festival (24 September), Manchester Band On The Wall (17 October), Glasgow Glad Cafe CIC (18 October), Cambridge Junction 2 (24 October), London Kings Place (25 October), Aylesbury Waterside Theatre (26 October), Totnes Barrel House (27 October), Lyme Regis Marine Theatre (28 October)

https://indiaelectricco.com/

https://www.facebook.com/indiaelectricco

https://twitter.com/indiaelectricco

https://www.instagram.com/indiaelectricco/


Text and Photos by Chi Ming Lai
31 May 2023

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