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Music: “The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned” (and A Tale of Two Ultravoxes)

May 25th, 2007 · 1 Comment · Culture, Music, New Wave, Video

Here’s a nice video find for Friday: “The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned” by Ultravox! (the early, John Foxx-led incarnation of the band). This song has possibly the most figuratively ambitious lyrics you’ll find in any song not written by David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, or Bob Dylan. And what a thrill to watch John Foxx performing them.

I’ll send you truckloads of flowers from all the worlds that you stole from me
I’ll spin a coin in the madhouse while I watch you drowning …
Don’t ask for explanations
There’s nothing left you’d understand
You’re one of the wild, the beautiful and the damned …

But wait, there’s more!

Here’s a fabulous video of John Foxx and Ultravox! performing “Hiroshima Mon Amour” live on the Old Grey Whistle Test TV program. The sound mix is fascinating — very different from the familiar recorded version of the song, but I love how it sounds here. More earthy and feline somehow. Wish I could get this version on record!

And Foxx’s presence and energy in this performance are absolutely riveting.

… by the way, for those who may not be clear on the concept of the two Ultravoxes:

  • Ultravox! #1: The original edition of the band, fronted by John Foxx. A little punkier and rougher around the edges. Energetic, experimental, groundbreaking. Feels like the junction between glam rock and early, spiky-haired New Wave.
  • Ultravox #2: The better-known lineup, fronted by Midge Ure. Also groundbreaking, in more of a Club Blitz New Romantic sort of way. This is the version that served up Romo hits like “Vienna,” “Passing Strangers,” “Reap the Wild Wind,” and “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” after John Foxx went solo. Still imaginative, lyrically inventive, and more than willing to experiment, but smoother and more polished as well.

You might say that Ultravox #1 is like a double espresso, whereas Ultravox #2 is more like a mocha, or possibly a high-caliber Earl Grey tea.

One way to tell them apart — the John Foxx edition usually had an exclamation point after the name, like this: Ultravox! Somehow the exclamation point disappeared shortly before Midge came on board.

Personally, I love both Ultravoxes equally. If the John Foxx edition helped invent New Romanticism, the Midge Ure version refined and perfected it.

Here’s my favorite video by the Midge Ure lineup: “Passing Strangers,” from the Vienna album. New Romanticism at its most exuberant and innocent.

… of course the video for “Vienna,” the album’s title song, is similar in style and probably much better known.

  • “The Wild, the Beautiful and the Damned” and other John Foxx-era treasures are available on the excellent Ultravox! compilation The Island Years, if you don’t already have ’em.
  • For the Midge Ure edition of Ultravox, the best collection to start with is called, well, The Collection.


One Comment so far ↓

  • Aaron

    I like the edgier sound myself…but I suppose that in the wake of the more techno-pop oriented 80s, and with a personnel change, that was destined to go by the wayside to some degree.

    I remember being terrorized by the video for “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” when I was a teenager! Oy!