Talk about DIY Á¢€” when club promoter and all-around Paris-Hilton-famous-for-merely-being-famous trailblazer Steven Strange didnÁ¢€â„¢t like that there werenÁ¢€â„¢t enough good songs to play on his club night, he grabbed some friends, some synths and made his own.

Under the name Visage, Strange, alongside a few former Magazine members and a couple of future Ultravox members including Midge Ure, created the template for the New Romantic movement of the early Á¢€Ëœ80s Á¢€” moody chords, high-hat heavy automated percussion and lyrics about fashion, clubbing and nightlife. They scored a club hit with their first few singles, Á¢€Å“TarÁ¢€, a remake of Á¢€Å“In The Year 2525Á¢€ and of course, Á¢€Å“Fade to GreyÁ¢€, which ended up going to the Top Ten of the pop charts in the U.K.

Then came follow up time.

Mind Of A Toy

Luckily, VisageÁ¢€â„¢s debut album was pretty strong from front to back, so culling a few more singles wasnÁ¢€â„¢t a problem. In fact, Á¢€Å“Mind of a ToyÁ¢€ is one of the better songs on the album, an ode from the point of view of a discarded toy, campy to the extreme, especially when Steven spits out Á¢€Å“spiteful girl, hateful boyÁ¢€ during the chorus. I still laugh every time, 25 years later. A nouveaux classique, to turn a phrase.

When it came time for album #2, dubbed Á¢€Å“The AnvilÁ¢€ after the notorious NYC leather bar, things started to fall apart. There are still some great tunes, but the album as a whole was nowhere as strong as their first. Standouts were the title track, Á¢€Å“We MoveÁ¢€ and the first single, Á¢€Å“The Damned DonÁ¢€â„¢t CryÁ¢€, which instead of merely emulating Á¢€Å“Fade to GreyÁ¢€â„¢sÁ¢€ sound and success, built upon it. ThereÁ¢€â„¢s a little less humor, a little more struggle for depth, unfortunately, the boys just werenÁ¢€â„¢t good enough to pull it off completely. Reviews were scathingÁ¢€¦I canÁ¢€â„¢t find it anywhere online, but I remember Rolling Stone eviscerating Á¢€Å“The AnvilÁ¢€, awarding it a measly one star and proclaiming it Á¢€Å“fashion over music.Á¢€ ThatÁ¢€â„¢s when I knew I had to own it.

Damned Don't Cry 12

After Á¢€Å“The AnvilÁ¢€, Ure and most of the musical braintrust left, leaving Strange to wobble on with new backing for one final album until giving up. Strange later went on to a smack habit, culminating in an arrest in London for attempting to shoplift a Teletubbie. HeÁ¢€â„¢s apparently clean now and fronting a new version of Visage that was on tap to remix Kelly OsbourneÁ¢€â„¢s last single Á¢€Å“One WordÁ¢€, a song that more than liberally borrows from Á¢€Å“Fade to GreyÁ¢€. That remix has yet to surface.

Listening to both albums today, I find they both hold up a lot better than works by VisageÁ¢€â„¢s contemporaries, including Spandau Ballet and Gary Numan. Visage sort of became the bridge between Morodor-era Donna Summer and more commercial new wave that came after VisageÁ¢€â„¢s time in the spotlight, sort of an Áƒ¼ber-disco.

Á¢€Å“The AnvilÁ¢€ is currently out of print, having its most recent reissue in 1997 by One Way Records, but you can still get Visage’s first album fairly cheaply on Amazon as a import.

Download “Mind of a Toy”
Download “The Damned Don’t Cry (Dance Mix)”.

Neither single charted in the U.S.

About the Author

John C. Hughes

John C. Hughes began his Lost in the ’80s blog in 2005 and is now proud to be a member of the Popdose family, where he’s introduced LIT80s’s companions, the obviously named Lost in the ’70s and Lost in the ’90s, alongside the slightly more originally named Why You Should Like…

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