A Young Person’s Guide To: Urgh! A Music War [part 2]

Andy Partridge of XTC

Andy Partridge of XTC

So yesterday we took a look at the double album version of “Urgh! A Music War.” Due to the wide ranging tentacles of the Copeland family musical empire, it stands as a rather thoroough snapshot of the New Wave scene as it stood in 1980. Since that was a year before MTV, it can be argued that it captured a defining moment before the scene began changing to become more commercial. The so-called New Music scene. What other variants of the project exist? Plenty!

A+M Records | US | CD | 1988 | CD 6019

A+M Records | US | CD | 1988 | CD 6019

Various Artists: Urgh! A Music War US CD [1988]

  1. The Police – Driven to Tears
  2. Wall of Voodoo – Back in Flesh
  3. OMD – Enola Gay
  4. Oingo Boingo – Ain’t This the Life
  5. XTC – Respectable Street
  6. The Go-Go’s – We Got the Beat
  7. Klaus Nomi – Total Eclipse
  8. Jools Holland – Foolish I Know
  9. Steel Pulse – Ku Klux Klan
  10. Devo – Uncontrollable Urge
  11. Echo + The Bunnymen – The Puppet
  12. The Cramps – Tear It Up
  13. Joan Jett + The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation
  14. Pere Ubu – Birdies
  15. Gary Numan – Down in the Park
  16. The Fleshtones – Shadow Line
  17. Gang of Four – He’d Send In The Army
  18. 999 – Homocide
  19. X – Beyond + Back
  20. Magazine – Model Worker
  21. Skafish – Sign Of The Cross

Right off the 36 song performances of the movie/2xLP were trimmed for the CD, issued in 1988 and now an OOP disc commanding three figures. For some reason, the soldier on the cover has been removed as well. Bands that were signed to A+M/IRS seemed to have been spared the knife, probably due to rights issues. So bands that added some breadth to the original film/album, like Toyah Willcox or The Members were scrapped while more obscure fringe acts like Klaus Nomi or Skafish survived. But most of what passed the editing process were bands that were clearly successful New Wave bands with real followings. Of course, that accounts for the musical side of things. This was a movie project so the various home video versions are where it’s at, really.

CBS Fox/Lorimar | US | BETA | 1985

CBS Fox/Lorimar | US | BETA | 1985

Various Artists: Urgh! A Music War US VHS/BETA [1985]

1. The Police – Driven to Tears
2. Wall of Voodoo – Back In Flesh
3. Toyah Willcox – Danced
4. John Cooper Clarke – Health Fanatic
5. OMD – Enola Gay
6. Chelsea – I’m On Fire
7. Oingo Boingo – Ain’t This the Life
8. Echo & the Bunnymen – The Puppet
9. Jools Holland – Foolish I Know
10. XTC – Respectable Street
11. Klaus Nomi – Total Eclipse
12. Athletico Spizz ’80 – Where’s Captain Kirk?
13. The Go-Go’s – We Got the Beat
14. Dead Kennedys – Bleed for Me
15. Steel Pulse – Ku Klux Klan
16. Gary Numan – Down In The Park
17. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation
18. Magazine – Model Worker
19. Surf Punks – My Beach
20. The Members – Offshore Banking Business
21. Au Pairs – Come Again
22. The Cramps – Tear It Up
23. Invisible Sex – Valium
24. Pere Ubu – Birdies
25. Devo – Uncontrollable Urge
26. The Alley Cats – Nothing Means Nothing Anymore
27. John Otway – Cheryl’s Going Home
28. Gang of Four – He’d Send In The Army
29. 999 – Homicide
30. The Fleshtones – Shadowline
31. X – Beyond And Back
32. Skafish – Sign of the Cross
33. Splodgenessabounds – Two Little Boys
34. UB40 – Madame Medusa
35. The Police – Roxanne
36. The Police– So Lonely
37. Klaus Nomi – Aria

I own a ßeta copy of this video, as shown in the photo above. I bought it from a ßeta dealer about a decade ago and I have to say that the tape stayed in excellent shape over the years. When I played it in my SlHF-2100, there were only two [brief and briefer] dropouts, ironically both during a Police number. Miles Copeland had filmed three songs by each of the bands here, but only The Police had all three of their songs released in the film, since they were the only band here who had hit platinum status at the time of release. The Go-Gos would break by the time the film was in the theaters, and DEVO had just come off of a gold selling album with their only hit single, “Whip It.” The only other chart veteran here was Gary Numan, who also hit the US top ten with “Cars” the previous year. The rest were pretty underground.

Interestingly enough, there is more music on video/film than even on the 2xLP, which is limited to around 90 minutes of running time. The home video version is 124 minutes long. What artists and songs were cut for the soundtrack from the film?

  1. John Cooper Clarke – Health Fanatic
  2. Chelsea – I’m On Fire
  3. Dead Kennedys – Bleed for Me
  4. Surf Punks – My Beach
  5. Au Pairs – Come Again
  6. Invisible Sex – Valium
  7. Splodgenessabounds – Two Little Boys
  8. UB40 – Madame Medusa

Interesting that future superstars UB40 never made any of the soundtrack releases. Personally, the Chelsea track makes me want to hear more! It’s great melodic punk served up with spirit. The Dead Kennedys could work for me, but “Bleed For Me” as performed here, is an overlong track for what was known as a hardcore band at the time. The Surf Punks were an obnoxious novelty act at the time, but it can be argued that they were actually one of the more influential bands here in that it’s hard to imagine the snotty attitude that drove The Beastie Boys without their antecedent.

Of course the single most intriguing band here is the mysterious band Invisible Sex, who have a single song in this film, which seems to be their only historical footnote. Perusal of the video credits reveals only pseudonyms [all starting with Gene] and the identities of the members are obscured by their costuming, so their turn here might have been their only manifestation. Five’ll get you ten that one or more members personally knew a Copeland; hence their appearance here. There might have been a US laserdisc of this title, and if not, certainly a Japanese one, but this is what I was able to dig up thus far.

CBS Fox/Lorimar | US | CED | 1983

CBS Fox/Lorimar | US | CED | 1983

Various Artists: Urgh! A Music War US CED Videodisc [1983]

  1. The Police – Driven to Tears
  2. Wall of Voodoo – Back In Flesh
  3. Toyah Willcox – Danced
  4. John Cooper Clarke – Health Fanatic
  5. OMD – Enola Gay
  6. Chelsea – I’m On Fire
  7. Oingo Boingo – Ain’t This the Life
  8. Echo & the Bunnymen – The Puppet
  9. Jools Holland – Foolish I Know
  10. XTC – Respectable Street
  11. Athletico Spizz ’80 – Where’s Captain Kirk?
  12. The Go-Go’s – We Got the Beat
  13. Dead Kennedys – Bleed for Me
  14. Steel Pulse – Ku Klux Klan
  15. Gary Numan – Down In The Park
  16. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation
  17. Magazine – Model Worker
  18. Surf Punks – My Beach
  19. The Members – Offshore Banking Business
  20. Au Pairs – Come Again
  21. The Cramps – Tear It Up
  22. Invisible Sex – Valium
  23. Pere Ubu – Birdies
  24. Devo – Uncontrollable Urge
  25. The Alley Cats – Nothing Means Nothing Anymore
  26. John Otway – Cheryl’s Going Home
  27. Gang of Four – He’d Send In The Army
  28. 999 – Homicide
  29. The Fleshtones – Shadowline
  30. X – Beyond And Back
  31. Skafish – Sign of the Cross
  32. Splodgenessabounds – Two Little Boys
  33. UB40 – Madame Medusa
  34. The Police – Roxanne
  35. The Police– So Lonely
  36. Klaus Nomi – Aria

Probably few remember RCA’s Selectavision videodisc format, but surely every new home video format must have two, competing, radically divergent technologies, right? ßeta/VHS? HD-DVD/Blu-Ray? Videodiscs were no different. Pioneer/MCA developed the laserdisc in 1978, which was like an analog 12″ CD that played one hour of video per side. A laser read the optical disc, which never wore out. All subsequent optical disc technology is descended from the research that went into the format, first posited in 1964!

Your guess was as good as mine as to why RCA dumped over half a billion dollars into developing the radically different CED disc format known as Selectavision. These discs were vinyl and read with a stylus, subject to wear and degradation just like a record. The 12″ plastic caddies protected the disc while loading it in and put of the player! The one act edited out of the film was, ironically Klaus Nomi, who was still featured on the reverse of the disc case. Which doesn’t make sense, because the CED version of the movie is spread across three sides and two discs. Unlike the next version of the film.

urgh - UKLDA

Lorimar | UK | LD | 1983 

Various Artists: Urgh! A Music War UK Laserdisc [1983]

1. The Police – Driven to Tears
2. Wall of Voodoo – Back In Flesh
3. Toyah Willcox – Danced
4. John Cooper Clarke – Health Fanatic
5. OMD – Enola Gay
6. Chelsea – I’m On Fire
7. Oingo Boingo – Ain’t This the Life
8. Echo & the Bunnymen – The Puppet
9. Jools Holland – Foolish I Know
10. XTC – Respectable Street
11. Klaus Nomi – Total Eclipse
12. Athletico Spizz ’80 – Where’s Captain Kirk?
13. The Go-Go’s – We Got the Beat
14. Dead Kennedys – Bleed for Me
15. Steel Pulse – Ku Klux Klan
16. Gary Numan – Down In The Park
17. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation
18. Magazine – Model Worker
19. Surf Punks – My Beach
20. The Members – Offshore Banking Business
21. Au Pairs – Come Again
22. The Cramps – Tear It Up
23. Invisible Sex – Valium
24. Pere Ubu – Birdies
25. Devo – Uncontrollable Urge
26. The Alley Cats – Nothing Means Nothing Anymore
27. John Otway – Cheryl’s Going Home
28. Gang of Four – He’d Send In The Army
29. 999 – Homicide
30. The Fleshtones – Shadowline
31. X – Beyond And Back
32. Skafish – Sign of the Cross
33. Splodgenessabounds – Two Little Boys
34. UB40 – Madame Medusa
35. The Police – Roxanne
36. The Police– So Lonely
37. Klaus Nomi – Aria

The only LD version of the film that I can verify is the UK PAl LD of Urgh! which has a dramatically different cover design hyping The Police, as one would have reasonably expected in all of the other markets the home video was sold in, actually. The fact that Lux Interior of The Cramps was on every home video cover may warm the cockles of my heart but it doesn’t make commercial sense, honestly. And the back cover shows Gary Numan, as bold as life. All of this made for a more sellable product and thankfully, the film wasn’t cut for the format. But what they probably did is even worse. Since LDs had a 60 minute per side playback limit, this implies that the dirty secret of laserdiscs had come into play.

In the early days of the format, before videophiles raised a stink, video companies often sped up films during conversion so that slightly more than 2 hours could be placed on a single disc, which kept manufacturing/shipping costs lower for the manufacturer. Of course, the audio was pitched slightly higher than what would be consisdered normal! That looks like exactly what happened here. Another anomaly of this edition only, was that the soundtrack was in mono, when the source materials, and indeed, all of the other home video versions are in stereo. That’s highly ironic and so wrong, in that the laserdisc in 1983 had the highest quality stereo sound of any home video format, before the development of ßeta Hi-Fi stereo, which had 85 db of signal to noise ratio.

Warner Brothers | US | DVD-R | 2010

Warner Brothers | US | DVD-R | 2009

Various Artists: Urgh! A Music War US DVD-R [2009]

1. The Police – Driven to Tears
2. Wall of Voodoo – Back In Flesh
3. Toyah Willcox – Danced
4. John Cooper Clarke – Health Fanatic
5. OMD – Enola Gay
6. Chelsea – I’m On Fire
7. Oingo Boingo – Ain’t This the Life
8. Echo & the Bunnymen – The Puppet
9. Jools Holland – Foolish I Know
10. XTC – Respectable Street
11. Klaus Nomi – Total Eclipse
12. Athletico Spizz ’80 – Where’s Captain Kirk?
13. The Go-Go’s – We Got the Beat
14. Dead Kennedys – Bleed for Me
15. Steel Pulse – Ku Klux Klan
16. Gary Numan – Down In The Park
17. Joan Jett & The Blackhearts – Bad Reputation
18. Magazine – Model Worker
19. Surf Punks – My Beach
20. The Members – Offshore Banking Business
21. Au Pairs – Come Again
22. The Cramps – Tear It Up
23. Invisible Sex – Valium
24. Pere Ubu – Birdies
25. Devo – Uncontrollable Urge
26. The Alley Cats – Nothing Means Nothing Anymore
27. John Otway – Cheryl’s Going Home
28. Gang of Four – He’d Send In The Army
29. 999 – Homicide
30. The Fleshtones – Shadowline
31. X – Beyond And Back
32. Skafish – Sign of the Cross
33. UB40 – Madame Medusa
34. The Police – Roxanne
35. The Police– So Lonely
36. Klaus Nomi – Aria

Against all odds, in 2009, the Warner Archive Collection somehow got the home video rights to Urgh!, who then proceeded to issue the title on DVD-R on demand. The cover is yet another dramatic divergence from the other issues, and the DVD-R has been mastered from a professional video source used to make the earlier home videos of the title, not the original 16 mm films in the Copeland archives. And unlike any DVDs I master on my iMac, these discs have no chapter stops. There is simply an index point every ten minutes of the film, precluding random access to any particular tracks. And wouldn’t you know it, they left off a single track again. This time it was Splodgenessabounds with their cover of the 120 year old song “Two Little Boys,” ironically.

So this is what we have in 2012, and in all honesty, it beats trashed VHS rental copies going and coming. But if it wasn’t so prohibitive to clear all of the copyright material involved for modern home video formats, there could conceivably be a DVD boxed set of this project. Imagine one with all three songs by every artist for up to six ours of Urgh! As for me, I’ll stand by my dual layer homeburn DVD+R that ably clones my ßeta copy! It looks and sounds great and will do for me until heck freezes over and the collector’s box of Urgh! gets the nod.

– 30 –

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
This entry was posted in New Wave Compilations and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A Young Person’s Guide To: Urgh! A Music War [part 2]

  1. chas_m says:

    Hopefully the box set you describe will be called UNCONTROLLABLE URGH!

    Like

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