Buried Treasures – Ultravox Mark I & II



 

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin? Who knows? But when it comes to post-punk rarities, I try to have a better understanding. I have spent the last month or two attempting to record every Associates/Billy MacKenzie record I own to hard drive. Since The Associates/MacKenzie are what constitutes a core collection to me, that represents a lot of records. What is a core collection, you ask? That’s where I attempt to get every recording that a group/artist has made. Every single. Every mix. Every obscure variation (we like those the best). Furthermore, since I am triply enamored by The Associates, I throw caution to the four winds and buy every record that I can get my hands on. That means that if both cuts on a 7″ also appear on the commensurate 12″ I’ll still own both. That even means that I may even obtain picture discs, which as any audiophile knows, are barely worth the thin, noisy plastic they’re pressed on. So needless to say, listening to every track I own on vinyl by The Associates, represents a large undertaking. I’d estimate it at 60+ records. The ultimate goal is for me to remaster cuts that are technically not on any of the albums proper to what I call a BSOG® (boxed set of god). All of this represents a huge amount of work. But why do I set myself up for so much redundant time spent? I may have six or seven identical tracks on a multiplicity of releases.

When you collect, as I do, there are often undocumented surprises awaiting the presumably jaded collector of vinyl antiquities. Case in point, I love Ultravox. I’ve been buying their records since 1980, beginning with the band’s Mark II incarnation, fronted by Midge Ure. I remember that when “The Thin Wall” [Chrysalis CHS 12 2540] came out in September of 1981, it had “I Never Wanted To Begin” as the B-side. I saw the import 12″ single in one of my city’s best record stores, but budgetary constraints prevented my purchase that day. At that point I was not yet collecting Ultravox and was just beginning to get exposed to import 12″ singles, having only just wrapped my head around the 7″ variety a scant year or two earlier.

I didn’t buy the record as a fresh release, but a few months later, I sought and obtained the lovely Japan-only Ultravox compilation “New Europeans” [Toshiba-EMI WWS-81465]  and “I Never Wanted To Begin” was part of that program. Eventually, at some point in the mid 80s I found the original 12″ in a used bin somewhere to great rejoicing. I recall it was among the last Ultravox Mark II 12″ singles that I managed to track down. But whenever I made a tape of it’s B-side, I used the Japanese LP as the source. After all, how could you top a Japanese pressing bought new versus a used 12″ for amazing sound; even at 33 instead of 45 r.p.m.?


Flash forward to 1997 and the Ultravox album “Rage In Eden” [EMI Gold CDGOLD 1097] was being remastered to CD for the 2nd time, this time with a handful of bonus tracks. The good people at Extreme Voice who were helping EMI with the packaging noted in their fanzine of the same name that the CD would have both versions of “I Never Wanted To Begin,” the short 7″ mix and the extended 12″ version. …Whaaa…??! Well, you could have used a spatula to scrape my eyebrows off of the ceiling! I had sat on an extended version of one of my favorite Ultravox B-sides for well over a decade at that point! But wait… it gets weirder.

I had a much harder time tracking down all of the Ultravox mark I singles. These dated from the band’s 1977 to 1978 period on Island Records, with their original vocalist, John Foxx. I managed to get a 7″ single of their final single, “Quiet Men,” [Island WIP 6459]  in the early 90s via mail-order. I already had the 7″ remix version of the A-side on the Post-Vienna Island cash-in double 7″ of the sublime “Slow Motion,” [Island DWIP 6691] so I was familiar with the A-side. The B-side, the nifty electro number “Cross Fade,” was the prize here. As mentioned earlier, Island Records tried to cash in on the success that Ultravox found after being signed by Chrysalis and releasing the successful “Vienna” album. They compiled a decent selection of tracks from the three albums that Ultravox had recorded for them and called it “Three-Into-One.”



Early on, I had the common US release of the “Three-Into-One” [Antilles AN-7079] album. I managed to get a UK pressing [Island ILPS 9614] of it many years later. Truth be told, I never listened to any of these records, since I had the albums they were drawn from. Further on, in 1988, Island released a CD version of “Three-Into-One” [CID 9614] and it was a significant thing for me since it marked the first time that Ultravox Mark I tracks were ever released on CD. I listened to this disc a lot, to put it mildly.

Here’s where the weirdness enters into it. In 2001, while paying a visit to Spin-More Records in Kent, Ohio, I happened across the heretofore unknown 12″ of “Quiet Men.” As a grizzled veteran of record stores, it doesn’t get much better than running across a record you don’t have and furthermore are not even aware of by one of your favorite artists! And look, it’s white vinyl just like the four copies of the previous “Slow Motion” 12″ single I had easily managed to scare up over the years! I took it home and saw the A-side marked “(full version)” so being curious, I played it. It was an extended remix of the A-side! Like the nifty 7″ version, but longer. I was shocked to say the least! Who knew post-punk rock groups were releasing extended remix 12″ singles a full two years ahead of 1980, by rights ground zero for such shenanigans?

A bit later in 2001 I was reading one of the last print issues of the great Ultravox fanzine, Extreme Voice, when it revealed that the UK pressing of “Three Into One” actually had the 12″ mix of “Quiet Men” on it but the CD for some niggling reason, didn’t! Sonnuva…!! Again, I had a unique remix variation just sitting on my racks for unknown years. Another “buried treasure.” In times like these, I have learned my lesson. When compiling those BSOGs that I have been planning for 7-15 years, take nothing for granted! Review every recording that you have and every now and then, you will be rewarded with hidden obscurities.

 

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Buried Treasures – Ultravox Mark I & II

  1. Ron Kane says:

    Sounds familiar, Jim-san. "Always try and play everything at least once" was the rule around here for years. With a CD, you could just pop it in, check the track lengths and maybe you needed to play it or not. The "Play everything once" came alive again when bonus tracks began appearing, particularly on Japanese CD's. Ultravox MK. I were always a tough band to collect, probably because of their early association with Brian Eno. I bet the silly Eno freaks who bought the debut U-Vox album never even played it.

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  2. chas_m says:

    I had a similar experience "discovering" that my (Japanese, I think) 7" Buggles singles were *completely different* to the album tracks! Wheee!

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  3. REVO says:

    Ron:I thought that Ultravox MKI were hard to collect because they didn't sell. I did manage to get everything but the original pressing of the Gull 45 by Tiger Lily. I also have many foreign single variations. I need to review the collection since I can't remember what I have off the top of my head.

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  4. REVO says:

    Charles:Actually, I believe that all nationalities of the Buggles 7" singles from album were different recordings. I only have singles from album #2. Ron, can you confirm? The only thing better than a different mix is a different take!

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