Lost in the ’80s: Ultravox

lit80s

The recent release of a cleaned up and remastered Ultravox greatest hits compilation (including a bonus DVD with all the Midge Ure-era videos) got me thinking about how much I used to love this band, despite their being so serious all the time.

Despite hooks and squiggly synths galore, Ultravox seemed to be consumed with capital-A Art.  From the somewhat pretentious nature of their lyrics (“The Voice,” “Vienna,” “The Thin Wall,” etc., etc.), to the lavish and sumptuously shot videos, the group seemed to always be on a quest to make a grand statement.  The lighter side of Ultravox’s talent seemed to be saved for Ure and Billy Curry’s work with Visage, the New Romantic vehicle for Blitz Kid Steve Strange.  But thankfully, every so often Ultravox would prove they weren’t completely devoid of humor or whimsy.

To be fair, they proved this pretty early during the Ure era with “All Stood Still,” (download) the fourth single from Vienna, the band’s first album to feature Midge.  Copping Devo right down to the simply Mothersbaugh-esque vocals and paranoia-infused lyrics, the track ended up being the group’s second Top Ten hit in the U.K., scoring them a spot on Top of the Pops:

After that, it was back to A-R-T, with tracks like the “Vienna” retread “Visions In Blue,” the splendid but over the top “Reap The Wild Wind,” and “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes.”  It wasn’t until the band’s first greatest hits compilation, Collection, and its new single, “Love’s Great Adventure,” (download) that the guys lightened up again.  With a soaring synth riff and some wacky breaks, it was a pleasant change of pace.  Even the video was an amusing Indiana Jones pastiche, unlike the usually deadly serious Ultravox clips:

The classic Vienna/Rage In Eden/Quartet/Lament Ultravox line-up reformed in April and are currently touring Europe on the Return to Eden tour.  Unfortunately, no United States dates have been announced, so unless you’re planning a trip overseas this summer, you may have to make do with the CD/DVD compilation, which, despite being so serious, is highly recommended.

Neither single charted in the United States.

Get Ultravox music at Amazon or on Ultravox




  • Eric H.

    I picked up some Ultravox records back in 1980, 82 and 83. Ultravox always seemed like two bands to me. The first one with John Foxx on vocals for the first three albums. The second band features Midge for albums 4, 5, 6, & 7. The Midge version was more popular in the day, but to my ears the John Foxx version has held up better over the years. Those first three albums were reissued in Germany a few years ago and they are really outstanding. I picked up these remastered CDs early in 2008 and was quite impressed. I also bought Vienna on CD a year ago and memories of late night college DJ shifts came flooding back. But, as the summer rolled along, it was the first three albums I kept gravitating towards.

  • http://www.bullz-eye.com DavidMedsker

    I love how deathly serious these songs are. “Please remember to mention me / In tapes you leave behind…” Still, I played the daylights out of The Collection, and still do.

  • Ruud

    Vienna was in the 80ties the first lp I fully adored. Every song was great. When the record turned on the recordplayer listening to it was like a trip. No kidding here. Now I discovered Ultravox with John Foxx. But I have to say the John Foxx soloworks (The Garden etc) are more appealing to me. And John Hughes keep up the good work. My kind of blog!! Thanks.

  • Ruud

    Vienna was in the 80ties the first lp I fully adored. Every song was great. When the record turned on the recordplayer listening to it was like a trip. No kidding here. Now I discovered Ultravox with John Foxx. But I have to say the John Foxx soloworks (The Garden etc) are more appealing to me. And John Hughes keep up the good work. My kind of blog!! Thanks.

  • Ruud

    Vienna was in the 80ties the first lp I fully adored. Every song was great. When the record turned on the recordplayer listening to it was like a trip. No kidding here. Now I discovered Ultravox with John Foxx. But I have to say the John Foxx soloworks (The Garden etc) are more appealing to me. And John Hughes keep up the good work. My kind of blog!! Thanks.