Ultravox (band)

Ultravox were one of the primary exponents of the British electronic pop music movement of the early 1980s. The band was particularly associated with the New Romantic movement, although it both pre- and post-dated New Romantic by several years, drawing inspiration variously from punk, the artier side of glam rock, pub rock and latterly straightforward synth-pop.

The band was formed in 1973 on the initiative of vocalist, songwriter and keyboardist John Foxx (born Dennis Leigh). They were originally known as Tiger Lily, and were comprised of Foxx plus Chris Cross (bass guitar), Billy Currie (keyboards/violins), Steve Shears (guitar) and Warren Cann (percussion). The group released one single in 1974, a cover of "Ain't Misbehaving", before changing their name to Ultravox!, with an exclamation mark (a reference to krautrock band Neu!). On the strength of their live act, they signed to Island Records in 1976, releasing their debut album in Februrary of 1977.

In common with many other bands which would go on to form Britain's punk and New Wave movements, Ultravox! drew their inspiration from the art-school side of glam rock, from bands such as Roxy Music and The New York Dolls, plus David Bowie and Brian Eno's early pop albums. Their eponymous debut album was co-produced by Brian Eno (whose next job after these sessions was working with Bowie on his Low album) and Steve Lillywhite. Sales were disappointing, and neither the album nor the associated single My Sex managed to enter the UK charts.

Ultravox returned later in 1977 with the punkier Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, although sales of both the album and its lead single "ROckwrok" - which, despite a chorus featuring the lines "Come on, let's tangle in the dark / fuck like a dog, bite like a shark", was played on BBC Radio 1 - were still unimpressive, again failing to chart. Steve Shears left the band and indeed the music industry altogether. Although most of the album was dominated by guitars and electric violin, the final track, "Hiroshima Mon Amour", was a prototypical synth-pop song. It remains a critical and fan favourite of the group's early incarnation, and was performed by the group on the Old Grey Whistle Test. During 1978 the group quietly dropped the exclamation mark, becoming simply Ultravox.

Their third album, 1978's Systems of Romance, was recorded under the ear of Conny Plank at his studio in rural Germany and featured new guitarist Robin Simon. It also failed commercially and Island dropped the band. John Foxx left to pursue a solo career whilst Robin Simon left to join Magazine. Musically, the album was very similar to Ultravox's subsequent work, bringing synthesisers to the forefront of the group's sound. Island released a compilation of highlights from the group's first three albums in 1979, Three Into One, which was until the mid-1990s the most widespread of Ultravox's early releases.

Midge Ure, an already accomplished musician, asked to join the band. He had achieved minor success with semi-glam outfit Slik and Glen Matlock's more punk-inspired The Rich Kids, although in 1979 he was temporarily playing with hard rock band Thin Lizzy. Midge Ure and Billy Currie had met in the Visage project, a band fronted by Steve Strange. Midge therefore replaced John Foxx for their next album, which would become their most successful to date; as with Systems of Romance, it was produced in Germany by Conny Plank.

The band released the album Vienna on the new label Chrysalis Records and achieved a substantial hit with the title track, which was accompanied with a distinctive video. It topped out at number two (Joe Dolce's "Shaddap You Face" infamously kept it from the top spot) on the UK top forty in 1981. The album reached number five, and was soon followed by the dour Rage in Eden, the band returning to Conny Plank's studio for what turned out to be a difficult recording session.

Ultravox teamed up with legendary producer George Martin for 1982's Quartet and this became their most successful album in the USA. The group appeared at Live Aid.

Upon completion of 1984's Lament, Warren Cann left Ultravox to pursue a solo career, and the remaining members, along with Big Country's Mark Brzezicki, resurfaced with U-Vox in 1986 before going their separate ways. Billy Currie and Robin Simon reformed the band in 1993 to record Revelation and Marcus O'Higgins lent his voice to their final release, Ingenuity (1996).


  • Ultravox! (1977)
  • Ha! Ha! Ha! (1977)
  • Systems of Romance (1978)
  • Vienna (1980)
  • Rage in Eden (1981)
  • Quartet (1982)
  • Monument (1983)
  • Lament (1984)
  • U-Vox (1986)
  • Revelation (1993)
  • Ingenuity (1996)

External links

nl:Ultravox pt:Ultravox (banda)


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