Tag Archives: Midge Ure

➤ Visage: out of the 80s frying pan into the 21st-century fire

Steve Strange, Visage,Shameless Fashion

The face of Visage today: Steve Strange behaving shamelessly. Peter Ashworth Photography. Makeup by Lara Himpelmann

Visage 1979: Rusty Egan, John McGeoch, Barry Adamson, Dave Formula, Billy Currie, Steve Strange, Midge Ure. Photographed © by Sheila Rock

Visage 1979: Rusty Egan, John McGeoch, Barry Adamson, Dave Formula, Billy Currie, Steve Strange, Midge Ure. Photographed © by Sheila Rock

❚ THE STUDIO BAND VISAGE were central to defining the electropop sounds of 1980 thanks to the musical nous of Midge Ure, who had bought his first synthesiser in 1978 because he felt synths “embodied a kind of nostalgia for the future”. He’d been faffing around with Glen Matlock, Steve New and drummer Rusty Egan in the 60s-flavoured one-hit power pop group Rich Kids, and sensed an appetite in the zeitgeist for a more soulful version of Kraftwerk plus a return to melody. Intent on making vibrant dance music for the “visa age”, Ure dreamed up the name Visage for his new experimental band with Rusty Egan on drums.

They co-opted Rusty’s flamboyant Welsh pal Steve Strange as face-painted frontman to give visual expression to a range of what were being called “moderne” fashions. Dressing up in the face of a grinding economic recession was the destiny that Bowie’s children were to fulfil. Visage’s songs captured the sidelong humour and knowing irony that came to characterise the 80s, while their explosive backbeats, electronic fills and synth riffs changed the vocabulary of British chart pop. This TV generation dreamed in both sound and vision.

Supercool in ’78: Egan, Strange and Ure establish Visage

What Strange lacked in vocal proficiency he made up for in promotional value, since he soon became a walking advertisement for the cooler-than-cool clothes shop PX in Covent Garden where he was an assistant. Run by Stephane Raynor and Helen Robinson, they more than any other designers in 1980 set the template for New Romantics fashion, favouring oversized chemises, medieval doublets, breeches and frilly lace. The shop’s followers were soon dubbed posers, and the Pose Age was born. Disposable identities, portable events, looks not uniforms – for his disciples, Bowie’s imperatives became the norm.

As a studio project – the original lineup never played live – Visage probably was a case of too many cooks. The band took in several musicians, all of whom had other loyalties, while the creative drive came from Ure and Billy Currie. Even so, Currie was persuading the restless Ure to help resurrect the synth band Ultravox following John Foxx’s departure. By 1982 when Ure quit Visage in favour of Ultravox, Visage had enjoyed four top-20 singles hits in the UK and one top-ten album with The Anvil. As we now know, Ure went on to mastermind the Band Aid fundraising hit single and the subsequent Live Aid charity concert with Bob Geldof, and duly earned himself an OBE.

Visage, Fade to Grey,albumsIn 1984 a Visage lineup comprising Strange and Egan along with newer members Andy Barnett, Steve and Gary Barnacle put out a so-so third album, but when it flopped they soon called it a day. The truth was that Visage failed to invest single-mindedly in themselves as a musical enterprise: their progress simmered rather than blazed as individuals pursued their own favoured goals. Occasional tracks sizzled on the dancefloor – In the Year 2525, Fade to Grey, Mind of a Toy, Night Train – but the band lacked unity and commitment.

Nobody can deny Strange’s fizz and chutzpah which in 1979 coralled a disparate group of post-punk no-wavers and outcast fashionistas when he co-hosted the agenda-setting Neon Night at the Blitz Club in Covent Garden. It lit up London in an explosion of invention, gender-bending and ridiculous hair. As the club’s stand-out stars became media celebrities, these exponents of modern dance and stance began forcing the pace of change across the creative industries. Thanks also to Rusty Egan as a mould-breaking deejay, whose mixing did much to change the sound of clubland music, the pair went on to reshape London nightlife at two notable venues, Club for Heroes and the Camden Palace, during the early 80s. At the end of the decade, dance music as we knew it was swept aside by the craze for E’s and rave. Egan set out to make a fine reputation deejaying on London’s boutique nightclub circuit, while Strange can claim a ghosted autobiography as full of fantasy and foggy memories as you’d expect from an arch-poser who’d been out on the town every night for 20 years.

Roll forward to 2010. John Pitcher, who fronts a music services provider called MRC, established a Blitz Club record label and an associated website, and Strange and Egan launched it in January 2011 by throwing a Return to the Blitz party at the site of the former club. The event raised a few media ripples but little groundswell and only three remixes have been released in as many years. With 80s band revivals making waves all around them, that old Blitz magic had lost its charm. Egan said this week: “Pitcher registered everything for us, so he owns everything, including the website and the Visage brand.” Growing personal differences hindered collaboration between the three. These worsened last year when Egan made allegations that Strange had squandered a substantial sum of accrued Visage royalties paid via Strange and that he failed to share them among the original lineup. This week Egan said: “Try telling John McGeoch’s daughter her dad’s [share] was spent by Strange.”

Visage, Steve Barnacle, Steve Strange, Lauren Duvall , Robin Simon

Visage 2013: Steve Barnacle, the inimitable Steve Strange, Lauren Duvall and Robin Simon. Photography © by David Levine

When Strange proposed reviving the band name of Visage after almost 30 years, neither Ure nor Egan could see the point and they disputed Strange’s right to do so. Ure told an American newspaper in January: “Visage was always something Rusty Egan and I created and controlled. The idea of doing a Visage 2 was never appealing to me so I wasn’t interested. I walked away from Visage when it got ridiculous and supremely hedonistic and I will probably leave it that way.” In response to Strange’s claim on German TV last November that Ure was collaborating on a new album together, Ure tweeted: “He is deluded if he thinks that. He knows that isn’t happening.”

EARLIER BACKGROUND

➢ 2013, A couple of slaps in the Visage
as Strange and Egan squabble

Rusty Egan remains aggrieved that Strange has not resolved recent differences. He is angry that Strange should make any claim to creative input into Visage’s lyrics and music, and maintained this week: “Strange had nothing to do with the music in The Blitz or Visage.” In January Egan said: “There has never been a Visage album without me. It’s my group and Strange is a singer. He is not Visage.”

Yet for all this, and Strange’s sad personal saga of ill-health, the vocalist has doggedly set about persuading a new circle of supporters to bring Visage back to life. In the face of widespread disbelief – the garrulous Strange’s little weakness, after all, has always been for exaggeration and melodrama – last year he announced a new “Visage” lineup, with a gorgeous singer called Lauren Duvall, plus Steve Barnacle (fretless bass) and Robin Simon (guitar). Keyboardist Mick MacNeil, from Simple Minds, was enlisted to contribute on a range of vintage analogue synthesisers which include an early Moog Source.

At last, what is being called a fourth “Visage” album titled Hearts and Knives is due to be released on May 27.

“It has been 29 years since the last Visage album and during that period it often seems like we have all lived through several lifetimes,” says Strange. Indeed, “bruised and wounded” declare the rueful lyrics of Shameless Fashion, the new group’s first single, available this week. It isn’t clear whether this refers to the very many contributors we see jostling for credits on the new “Visage” packaging. The Visage 2013 camp is probably keeping fingers crossed.

➢ A free download of the new single Shameless Fashion is available from today at the Visage website

➢ 1980 at the Blitz, Strange days, strange nights, strange people

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➤ A couple of slaps in the Visage

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❚ OOPS! RECENT RUSTLINGS IN THE DOVECOTE suggest all is not well between founder members of the 80s synthpop band Visage who gave the world The Anvil and a couple of other albums and confirmed Steve Strange as king of the pop posers.

Talks about talks to make their first album since Visage fell apart in 1984 have been going on for a year or more but the three founding members – synth pioneer Midge Ure, drummer Rusty Egan and vocalist Steve Strange – haven’t seen eye to eye since last summer. Then in November differences went public when Strange performed their biggest hit Fade to Grey on German TV [see video above] and in the ensuing interview he claimed that Midge Ure was still collaborating. At the three-minute mark Strange says: “We’re in the studio now doing a new fourth album with Midge Ure – Midge is writing the songs with me.” When a Tweeter asked if this was true, Ure’s denial was immediate: “He is deluded if he thinks that. He knows that isn’t happening.”

Midge Ure, Visage

Before Christmas Egan suddenly went public with a serious allegation about Strange’s handling of a substantial Visage royalties payment (accumulated revenue intended for all members of the 80s band) which he had allegedly received in 2004. I asked Egan whether his move was a little unwise, and he replied: “Sorry to say but as Steve Strange is blaming the hold up of Visage on me. I just can’t listen to any more of his complete rubbish. There is NO VISAGE ALBUM. There is Steve Stange [sic] and some blokes cashing in on the success of Ultravox.”

The same day Strange tweeted [below]: “there are 2 sides 2 every story”.

Steve Strange, Visage

Dozens of fans piled into Facebook to comment and in the first week of January Strange typed erratically: “thank you all 4 bringn 2my attention it s,ilegall slanderous lies by an ex member of Visage. As an agreement,we as a 4 piece ?4igned an agreement not 2 mention ,this story ? As this person is talkn in. public a lega restraining order is soon to be put in place .tThis Visage album will not be derailed .”

Only days later Strange announced to the world on Facebook “The New Visage Line up” in a glam studio portrait [below] which showed him beneath a marcel wave alongside Lauren Duvall, Steve Barnacle and Robin Simon. Strange commented on the pre-Christmas allegations: “There s always got ? Too be , the voice of doom n gloom. Not a band reunion a new lineup.” [sic]

This week a despairing Facebook follower asked Egan why the pair couldn’t resolve their differences. Yesterday Egan replied: “the way was to make a visage record and Steve repay ——* royalties. We failed.”
[* word deleted by Shapersofthe80s]

➢ 2010, Feast of remixes on new ‘Very Best’ of Visage album

Visage 2013, Steve Barnacle, Steve Strange, Lauren Duvall ,Robin Simon

Visage 2013: Steve Barnacle, the inimitable Steve Strange, Lauren Duvall and Robin Simon. Photography © by David Levine

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➤ Do they know? How modest Midge wrote the biggest selling pop single of his generation

Do They Know It’s Christmas?, Band Aid, Live Aid, Midge Ure, Bob Geldof, 1984,pop music, UK charts,

Pop artist Peter Blake’s Band Aid sleeve… The original vinyl can be yours today for £6.99, US$11.25, €8.60 at eil.com

❚ 1.1 BILLION VIEWS FOR GANGNAM STYLE at YouTube!!! Merry Christmas, pop pickers. Now spare a few minutes to listen to the original demo of the tune that for 13 years endured as the biggest selling UK single of all time. In 1984 Do They Know It’s Christmas? was at No 1 in the pop charts.

Midge Ure: recording the Band Aid single, here with Paul Young and Tony Hadley © 1984 Mercury Records

Midge Ure: recording the Band Aid single, here with Paul Young and Tony Hadley (© 1984 Mercury Records)

It was recorded under the artist name of Band Aid by a megagroup recruited from 47 of the biggest hitters in British rock and pop. It raised huge funds for famine relief in Africa and a year later led to Live Aid, the biggest global rock concert ever, viewed by two billion people in 60 countries, who coughed up still more dollars. Live Aid is said to have raised £150m (about £400m or US$650m at today’s prices).

The idea for Band Aid was proposed by one down-on-his-luck musician, Irishman Bob Geldof, who had been moved by a horrifying BBC TV news report on the famine in Ethiopia. The song was written and produced by Scotsman Midge Ure of Ultravox, one of the most genuinely multitalented shapers of the 80s. Here’s the original demo version of the Do They Know It’s Christmas? in a video where both men remind us how the song and the Band Aid project sprang out of a telephone call while Midge was appearing on The Tube, the weekly pop TV show broadcast from Newcastle.

HERE’S MIDGE’S DEMO IN A TV DOC …

… AND HERE’S TOTP CHRISTMAS SPECIAL

❏ Above: Sir Geldof lures the Band Aid all-stars (plus a few other pop strays) into the Top Of The Pops studio to perform the song in December 1984

MORE BAND AID STORIES AT SHAPERS OF THE 80S

➢ 1984, Band Aid, when pop made its noblest gesture but the 80s ceased to swing

➢ 2001, Hear about the many lives of Midge Ure, the Mr Nice of pop

➢ Midge Ure and Gary Kemp lift the lid on the shenanigans that led up to Band Aid

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1984 ➤ Band Aid: The smash hit that earned 47 artists three platinum discs each

Band Aid, Do They Know It’s Christmas,Peter Blake

The Band Aid band, Nov 25, 1984: most of the pop stars who performed, plus artist Peter Blake who created the record sleeve for Do They Know It’s Christmas?

❚ SPANDAU BASSIST MARTIN KEMP REMINDS US via Twitter that on this day in 1984, he and 46 other mainly British superstars went into the studio under the group name of Band Aid to record the fund-raising single, Do They Know It’s Christmas? This collabarative gesture in the name of charity held the record for 13 years as the UK’s biggest selling chart single of all time. It raised millions for the Ethiopian famine and led directly to the global rock concert Live Aid in 1985. Kemp said today: “It still gives me a tingle when I hear it” and then proudly posted a picture of the three platinum discs he and every other participant received a year later after it had clocked more than 3 million sales in the UK.

➢ Band Aid ’84, when pop made its noblest gesture but the 80s ceased to swing
➢ Ure and Kemp on the shenanigans that led up to Band Aid

Martin Kemp, Band Aid,BPI, Do They Know It’s Christmas

Martin Kemp’s three platinum discs presented by the BPI for sales of Do They Know It’s Christmas?

❏ iPAD, TABLET & MOBILE USERS PLEASE NOTE — You may see only a tiny selection of items from this wide-ranging website about the 1980s, not chosen by the author. To access fuller background features and site index either click on “Standard view” or visit Shapersofthe80s.com on a desktop computer. ➢ Click here to visit a different random item every time you click

➤ INDEX of posts for June 2011

Boy George, 50th birthday,Jon Moss, Barbara Moss,

That Man in the Middle: George O’Dowd at his 50th birthday party with former Culture Club drummer and father of three children, Jon Moss and his wife Barbara. © Dave Benett/Getty

➢ Jarvis takes his lyrics to Eliot’s publisher Faber — video interview with Pulp’s songwriter

➢ Too cool to crow — Paradise Point just happen to be gigging in Hyde Park before Grace and Pulp top the bill

➢ Lest we forget: man has changed his ways since Peter Wyngarde cracked the sickest joke on vinyl

➢ Irrational, Professor Cox! Discussing science in a tent at Glastonbury?

➢ Martin Kemp’s Stalker gets autumn DVD release

➢ Will the magical blasts from the past follow St Martin’s out of Soho? Plus — Pulp’s finest hour at the art school’s farewell party

➢ Heaven 17 remind us how electronic music can send the soul soaring!

➢ The Blitz Kids WATN? No 28: Stephen Linard, fashion designer

➢ Hot days, cool nights, as Blue Rondo join the new Brits changing the pop charts — first glimpse of the crazy seven-piece as the 1981 charts fill with the new British pop

Pepsi DeMacque, Shirlie Holliman, Pepsi & Shirlie, then and now,Here & Now, tour

Back on tour: Pepsi & Shirlie in 1987, and this year photographed by Shirlie Kemp’s daughter, Harleymoon

➢ When Shirl asked Peps if she fancied an arena tour, Peps said to Shirl, Why not? — TV interview

➢ EPIC forecasts for the 2015 media landscape loom closer than we think

➢ Aside from the freaks, George, who else came to your 50th birthday party?

➢ One million people think Charlie really is SoCoolLike — meet  the UK’s most popular YouTuber

➢ 1904, The day Nora made a man of Joyce — Bloomsday celebrated

➢ Boy George hits the big Five-0 and he now says, yes, he has ‘lots of regrets’

Paradise Point, Run In Circles , video, Cameron Jones,pop music

Cameron Jones: Paradise Point vocalist

➢ Hear about the many lives of Midge Ure, the Mr Nice of pop — This Is Your Life, 2001

➢ Wise-cracking Sallon shimmies back onto London’s party scene — Boy George’s best friend recovers after assault

➢ Mix your own version of Bowie’s Golden Years with a new iPhone app

➢ 2010, Lady Gaga ousts Lily Allen as UK’s most played artist

➢ Martin Rushent is dead — friends pay tribute to the man who made stars of the Human League and shaped the sound of 80s electro-pop

➢ What happens when retromania exhausts our pop past — Simon Reynolds on our compulsion to relive and reconsume pop history

➢ Up close and cool — Paradise Point’s first official video wins Boy George’s approval

Farewell St Martin’s, Pulp, Jarvis Cocker,University of the Arts, CSM,

Pulp playing at St Martin’s: Jarvis Cocker bids farewell to his old art school at the best party for years. Grabbed from gstogdon’s YouTube video

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