Rock G.P.A.: Visage [part 3]

visage - fadetogreythesinglesGERCDAVisage – The Singles Collection | 1983 – 4

I remember hearing that Midge Ure was out of Visage following their second album. This was not shocking in that the real surprise was that he continued in Visage while simultaneously having a career in Ultravox during their imperial period. Plus various and sundry production and playing side trips. Not forgetting his burgeoning video direction career with partner Chris Cross with clips by Fun Boy Three, Banananrama, and Visage in addition to all of the Ultravox clips under his belt. Looking back, I just readily soaked it all up since it was all good. Then there was that whole “Live Aid” thing. Was it any wonder his spark burnt out by 1985?

Even so, I was truly shocked that just a year after “The Anvil” a “greatest hits” album appeared for Visage with a scant two albums to their credit! More shocking still was that the US, immune to the charms of the band, got the album released domestically. I bought it because if wisely goosed the running order with rare and remixed material. It dealt a powerful card up front with the “previously unreleased” 12″ remix of “Fade To Grey.” Well, that was a factor of the UK artwork not being changed for America. We had the wicked John Luongo remix two years earlier. See here for the whole story. Still, the dubbed out majesty of the mix is always worth hearing. Straining my memory, I do believe that this was the first remixed 12″ single I can recall hearing, and it’s too bad they all weren’t this good.

This album features many straight 7″ A-sides and a few B-sides used to fill out the program, which would have been an EP with just the A’s. “We Move” was the band’s fairly blatant ripoff of Bowie’s “Fame” which was the B-side to “Mind of A Toy” and it appeared on the previously linked US “Visage” EP in the 12″ mix that has made it to many a subsequent reissue. I have never heard the version on the “Mind Of A Toy” 7″ B-side, but that’s not what’s here. The cut here is a unique mix of the track, positively slathered with wet reverb. It may have been mixed from the 12″ version, but I need to obtain the 7″ mix on vinyl to discern the differences.

The bog selling point was the early demo of  60s camp classic “In The Year 2525” given a techno makeover in the band’s early days. The recording dates from 1978 but all versions to reach the public ear were remixed in 1983 by the group’s engineer John Hudson. The distinctive loping beat of a CR78 and a heavy reliance on vintage vocoders gives it a vintage kick. The sound is this due to the fact that this was probably just Ure, Egan and Strange in the studio at the time.

“The Anvil” was released as the B-side to the non-LP single “Pleasure Boys” following the release of “The Anvil” album, and the tune here is remixed. I am familiar with the 12″ remix but only have the 7″ release of “Pleasure Boys” on a pic disc. I should spin the flipside to see if the short remix here is identical to the “Pleasure Boys” single or perhaps another mix unique to this compilation.

The liner notes indicate that the version of “Night Train” is remixed, but more accurately, it’s re-edited down from the LP mix, since the sound, if not the timing, is identical. I have the 12″ of “Night Train” but should have the 7″ to determine any differences. A post-Punk Monk’s work is never done! This is why it’s just good policy to fill in all of the outlines on one’s core collections! It’s the only way to be certain of these things!

visage - pleasureboysUK12AFinally, the newish single “Pleasure Boys” appeared here in its 7″ edit. The 7″ A-side was simply faded at the halfway point from the 12″ single version. The cut showed that Midge Ure was not necessary for the project to function at the top of its form with this decadent slice of homoerotic electro with thick slabs of sequencers giving the track an abrasive, sawtooth kick. The use of a sampling keyboard to rhythmically manipulate a motorcycle rev is one of the more sensible early uses of sampling that quickly fell by the wayside when everyone rushed to old James Brown hooks instead, sigh. Finally, the version of “The Damned Don’t Cry” here is simply the 7″ edit with 40 seconds shorn of its playing time.

While I questioned at the time the wisdom of culling a comp from a band with two albums, this did a good job of cherry picking the highlights and including enough variant, or in the case of the Zager + Evans cover, completely archival material to make purchase valid. I got the CD of this when it was released in Germany in 1988, so for years, this was the only way I had to hear “The Damned Don’t Cry” on CD; reason alone to purchase it. But it seemed to suggest that the band was no more. That in spite of the guardedly optimistic liner notes which seemed to suggest that Visage was going to perhaps continue in a matter that was more rockist and more about “making it real” than the group had previously cared about.

Next: …that difficult third album

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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4 Responses to Rock G.P.A.: Visage [part 3]

  1. Echorich says:

    Aside from the inclusion of some rarities and a well balanced track list, the thing that the Collection shows is that Steve and Rusty were not about to let things go just yet… I know we will get to that in the next installment, but with the ‘stop-gap’ single and collection album, this became Steve’s band…


    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – I think about the paradox of Visage/Steve Strange all of the time. Steve was a doorman who Was in the right place at the right time. Did I initially buy Visage records to hear Steve? Of course not! I wanted more of that Ultravox/Magazine DNA! Steve was a frontman for the members of other bands who eventually bolted. New musicians were brought in with variable results. Then the band tanked and Strange Cruise happened. Then that tanked. Years later in the early 90s I came across a Steve Strange solo single “Bolan-esq.” It was not half bad. In fact, I liked it more than “Beat Boy” at the time. And after that I just wondered if Steve had any other tricks up his sleeve. Then I waited 20+ years!


      • Echorich says:

        I’m no great fan of the Steve Strange I know…that SS was an angry, inebriated, chemically addeled, wash up who was only bested on that front by one George O’Dowd. This was 1986 and I was in London “working” for the Limelight Club which was the current hot spot having expanded from NYC. One of my friends still maintains SS lifted his wallet and bought his hangers on drinks with the proceeds one night.
        But for all that he was seen as just the frontman, I think he had a lot to do with giving Visage its character and with each new album – within each new album – became more involved in the shaping of the sound. It was the era of the pop group frontman – look at LeBon, Tony Hadley.
        I think SS has learned a lot over 30 odd years. Doubt he’s any better at making/keeping friends, but I’m enthusiastic about Hearts & Knives….


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