The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Ultravox (re-visited)

Ultravox (with John Foxx); I got to see Ultravox with John Foxx about six times – I just followed them wherever they played in Southern California, end of ‘78. I was 20 years old, fully employed, busy chasing girls etc. It was the perfect soundtrack for my young adulthood. I am somewhat ashamed to admit, but I got interested in them because I finally tried them when the “Slow Motion” 12” single arrived from England on ‘clear vinyl’. True, I was working in a record store when the debut album came out, but it didn’t catch my ear. In fact, I didn’t even try “Ha Ha Ha” when it came out. So, I came in at the last possible moment, before John Foxx left the band to a seemingly lucrative solo career.

I did see the post-Foxx Ultravox at The Whisky – with two bass players on stage. The show is a good memory, but I really never went for any of the Chrysalis-era releases. I got about as far as “All Stood Still”…for the Midge Ure version of the band.

Strangely, I now listen to Midge Ure’s pre-Ultravox group, Slik. It’s that UK 70’s glam rock thing, y’know.

I believe there was a long break after about ’85 or so in Foxx’s solo career. When he began issuing music again – I had moved on.

2007 brings me back to the first three albums by Ultravox. They were re-mastered in England in 2006, and the Japanese duly made kami sleeves ( = little paper album covers) of them. Perfect in every detail, the Japanese even (kindly) left the (English-language) liner notes intact!

To brass tacks: “Ultravox!” (1977) is the proper UK 9 track (Matte sleeve) album with 4 x live tracks added: “Slip Away”, “Modern Love” (not found on album #1), “The Wild, The Beautiful & The Damned” and “My Sex” – yes, the New Zealand band Mi-Sex were named after this track! “Ha! Ha! Ha!” (also 1977) is the proper UK 8 track (Matte sleeve) album with 6 x bonus tracks added: “Young Savage”, “The Man Who Dies Every Day (Remix)”, “Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alt. Version)”, “Quirks” and two live tracks, “The Man Who Dies Ever Day” and “Young Savage”. The Japanese also re-produce the insert sheet found in the original LP. Finally, “Systems of Romance” (1978) is the proper UK 10 track (Glossy sleeve) album with 2 x bonus tracks added: “Cross Fade” and “Quiet Men (Full Version)” – as well as re-producing the inner sleeve. These three kami sleeve reproductions look beautiful, sound great.

So, now I can re-live the days of not knowing what to think of this young & snotty band – “produced by Eno” – a good thing? A passé thing? Is this punk rock…or not? How does it relate to David Bowie? Kraftwerk? David Sylvian? Ultravox were one more ingredient in the British new wave melting pot – it becomes harder with each passing year to separate and identify each and every part of the puzzle. I stand by the first three albums by Ultravox, just as I stand by the first three albums by XTC, The Simple Minds, Magazine, Wire etc.


Anonymous Jim Donato said...


So you think YOU'RE a Johnny-come-lately? How do you think I feel, after only having heard them upon viewing their [admittedly, wicked cool] "Passing Strangers" video?

7:59 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

I got to the new wave party late...I was still busy chasing Italian horror film soundtracks...

8:53 PM  

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