More than you ever wanted to know about my Ultravox obsession...
Wound up getting home around 0400 Sunday, ripping the recently acquired Ultravox CD Slow Motion onto Cowzilla so that I can do a personal best CD after The Island Years and Systems of Romance arrive. It was great to hear the title track again as well as songs like "Distant Smile", "Just For A Moment", and "Young Savage" again. Those of you not familiar with Ultravox, or who only know the band in its second incarnation with Midge Ure as lead singer, should take a look at this site, and this site though the latter is of interest mainly due to its having a PDF file format copy of the Warren Cann interview which takes you through the band's history up through Vienna, which is the first of the Midge Ure albums and the last one, imao, which was worth anything.
Foxx' solo career after Ultravox led him into regions of electronica not usually experienced by most fans, unless we're talking Matt Howarth and people who follow his lead into the arcane branches of modern rock. He released several albums of unique music that carried the themes of alienation, mystery and technophilia first seen in Ha! Ha! Ha! and brought to bloom in Systems of Romance to full blossom in Metamatic and The Garden. Listening to the latter, it would be hard to believe that Foxx had begun his musical career as front man for a proto-homocore* band that helped define the punk movement.
My first exposure to Ultravox came in 1978. I was up late one night listening to Georgetown U's WGTB, which played all kinds of New Wave and yet stranger music (I remember one late night when whale songs segued into some kind of synthpop, Britpunk and then into Urban Verbs tunage before finally fading back into whale songs) when the DJ played "Slow Motion". I spent the next couple of weeks trying to find the Systems of Romance album, and once I did I played it for digex and our mutual friend Mr. B, who were both very into Kraftwerk and electronica in general. They loved it. We waited in vain for a followup album; in those pre-internet days it wasn't so easy to find out what was going on with foreign bands. I didn't see another Ultravox album until I got to Germany in 1979 and acquired Three Into One and Ha! Ha! Ha! on cassette. Those releases were very different from Systems of Romance , much harsher and punky with a definite sound that would later become known as homocore. You could hear traces of the later album in such songs as "Distant Smile" and "Hiroshima Mon Amour", though, and when Vienna finally came out in 1980 I was excited and very pleased that despite the change in members the band was staying the course and still doing the kind of affecting, languorous mood music I'd come to love.
Unfortunately, the next Ure-vox album, Rage In Eden, was nothing like that. It was everything I would come to hate about Europop...posturing affectations replacing real feeling, danceable beats instead of complex rhythmic programs, simple tunes instead of lush forests of sound. I was so bitter over the change that I left their Mannheim concert halfway through, ruining a good T-shirt in the process by ripping off the band button I'd pinned to it. After a few weak follow-on albums, Ultravox broke up, but many years later the albums became available on CD, and now I can finally afford other people's used copies. Yay for eBay! Hurrah for half.com! I'm not much interested in recapturing my childhood, but the music of Ultravox is the sound track for my first year on active duty at DLI and that last excessively interesting year before I enlisted. It's good to have it back.
*I guess that according to Wikipedia, Ultravox doesn't really qualify as such since it came along before homocore/queercore allegedly started and doesn't have the anticapitalist content of later bands known as such. Sod them. I know what I'm hearing, and the early Ultravox is all about the queerness and not conforming to what society expects. I'm not sure there's all that much difference between queercore and the New Romantic genre anyway, and if there is it's the difference between Oscar Wilde and Kenneth Anger. Your call. [shrugs]