Steve Strange: 1959-2015

Steve Strange © 2013 Phillip Waterman

Steve Strange © 2013 Phillip Waterman

Frequent commenter Echorich just told me of this. Steve Strange suddenly died of heart failure today while in the hospital. I was deeply saddened, since Steve overcame an awful lot in the best way possible. The 2013 Visage album, “Hearts + Knives,” was my favorite of that year and a textbook comeback album. It really did manage the not common trick of sounding like a Visage album recorded in 1979 but reflecting the here and now with a very different lyrical vibe from the posing and hedonism that typified all previous Visage. It was a mature and emotional record… that still sounded fantastic. Especially with the genius stroke of getting Robin Simon to play guitar [thanks Rusty]. It didn’t hurt that the band and producer were all highly talented. It’s funny. I initially bought Visage records 34 years ago because of the players from my favorite bands. The singer meant nothing to me. One by one, they all left. Then it was up to Steve alone. Now he’s gone, and there simply can’t be a Visage any more.

 

Today’s must reading:

http://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2015/feb/13/steve-strange-pop-secret-architects-visage-new-romantics-blitz

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18 Responses to Steve Strange: 1959-2015

  1. Taffy says:

    I’m speechless. I was just listening to the orchestral album yesterday, wondering when my (delayed) autographed CD booklet was going to arrive (we’d been informed that Steve was late in signing them, due to ill health, but that they were done and awaiting shipment). I can’t stress enough how much the Visage and Anvil albums meant to the young(ish) Taffy. Sad sad day.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Taffy – I had not known about the delay on the booklets, because I had not yet ordered a copy. I’ve been lax at selling off chaff from the Record Cell to fund the ever lengthening want list. At least Steve left us on a sustained high note. The new work had been superb, in my opinion. Stay frost… Never mind.

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  2. Echorich says:

    A sad end to a story of artistic and personal redemption. He leaves a body of work that was singular, unapologetic and in the end, enjoyable. A pop artist can’t ask for much more. He was an iconoclast of the first rank, lived life on the edge unapologetically throughout much of it and suffered for it over the years. But he brought us The Blitz was a foundational exponent of the New Romantic and Synth-pop scenes.
    He was working on a book of art and fashion of the New Romantic Era when he passed. I hope it will see the light of day as it would be a fitting close to a career he managed to bring back to life in such a successful way.

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  3. Simon H says:

    Very sad news. I picked up Hearts and Knives and one of the remix singles as a result of your comments after not buying a visage record for many years. A great comeback.

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  4. Tragic, shocking, terrible news. I’m glad he got a second act before the end, but I was so looking forward to much more Visage music …

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      chasinvictoria – Treasure the sacred, holy relic that I recently sent you! Now more than ever!! Work of that caliber that Visage were making look easy must have been very gratifying for Steve. And I hope, redemptive. The last singles charted high or topped the Amazon UK singles charts.

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  5. VersionCrazy says:

    This is such a sad event. Steve made his way through humiliating trials and tribulations in his latter day personal life enough to rise again and realise a new incarnation of Visage that was a joy to listen to. The ‘Hearts and Knives’ album itself was more than good enough, but with each subsequent single pulled from the album, good quality remixes and imagery were sourced that tapped straight back to the 1980 spirit and made each news announcement on the visage.cc website exciting. The very fact that the album was strong enough to support 5 singles in physical format, not some spurious download-only frippery, tells its own story. Goodbye Steve and thanks again. So many acts who have made the decision to reform and record anew have failed to reconnect and justify the effort. ‘Hearts and Knives’ has, I think, been the best such rebirth, to such an extent that I was genuinely looking forward to a second ‘new’ album as and when it might appear. It’s so sad to realise now that there can never be such a thing with Steve’s passing, despite the conundrum that the music of Visage has been the product of so many and varied talents, each of whom are equally deserving of praise but were never ‘the face’ of Visage.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      VersionCrazy – I know! Five singles [with at least one more candidate left on the album] drawn from a 2013 album, with vinyl and CD formats makes all others look like the timid players they really are in these, the end times! The last time I bought a Simple Minds CD single new was 13 years ago! Only Visage and OMD seem able to rock that real single action in this fallen world! Simple Minds have been particularly weak of late in this regard, much to my dismay. I miss buying physical singles more than anything.

      As for Steve, he had a lot of odds to overcome to contribute to this project. I have not followed his troubled personal life very closely, though the drugs and arrests were so high profile they weren’t avoidable. I made the decision not to read his autobio, as I perceived that it would largely focus on non-musical goings on. He must have burned a lot of bridge in his life. The sniping on the sidelines, or by former associates seemed very small following the achievements that Visage had clearly and decisively made with “Hearts + Knives.” The thing that I respected the most about it was the emotional content of the material that was worlds away from the slick and impressive, but shallow material even on their classic first two albums. Say what you may about the musicians, but it was what Steve brought to the project. Yes, it sounded like classic Visage material, but it was older, wiser, and more humane than anything this band had ever done. Every heritage act trying for a comeback talks about making an album with the sound and energy of their “classic” period but with a relevance to today. Only Visage have done it to this extent. OMD or Simple Minds flirt with that goal to varying degrees, but they were still fairly wide of the mark compared to what I got from Visage. And won’t get again, sadly.

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  6. Vlad says:

    These news shocked me. Completely unexpected. From the outside, his life was on an upward spiral (didn’t know about his illness, though) and yes, he delivered in his late years – against all odds. Who would’ve thought!

    I remember listening to “Orchestral” and feeling this sadness. Certainly Visage were renowed for being melancholic, but those new arrangements brought out something even deeper. I listened to the last song of the album, “The Silence”, today – and its lyrics are really poignant, prophetic even! “Now there’s nothing left to hide, nothing left inside” – like he was bowing out (knowingly or not). That’s what only an artist is capable of.

    I don’t want to sound cruel, but in a way I feel a relief for him. He was a troubled soul, both from his addictions and unwanted life turns, and looked lost in this new world. Now he may rest in peace finally (I really hope so). And it’s time for him to be evaluated for what he’s done, to gain respect he deserved all along.

    Farewell, Steve, you won’t be forgotten!

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Vlad – I will admit approaching news of a Visage II project with an even mixture of cautious interest and trepidation over the last decade. When it finally happened with a third lineup in recent years, I actually listened to online samples to judge how much interest I should have in it. Hearing that Robin Simon was the guitarist sealed the deal for me, conceptually, but I still sampled “Shameless Fashion” and found it acceptably good. When they released the sample from “Never Enough” it was so amazingly great that I was chomping on the bit to get my pre-order in. When I had the album in hand, it delivered even more than I had hoped for. I am disappointed that I still have not ordered “Orchestral,” as well as the last three [four if you count the 12″ of “Never Enough”] from the web store. But the money has not been there. My greatest disappointment will be that there are no more Visage albums in the pipeline.

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  7. Echorich says:

    The Guardian summed it up in one brilliant sentence – “He played one instrument: his aesthetic.”

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      Echorich – And he played it exceedingly well. Taste counts for more than talent in my book anyway. Talent with taste is very rare, but I’d say that Billy MacKenzie certainly had it in spades. Talent without taste is rampant. It leads to phenomena like Eric Clapton or Whitney Houston. Ech.

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    • postpunkmonk says:

      JT – Somehow, I don’t think Steve would have had it any other way… Thanks for sharing that. I was wondering what was up with Steve’s funeral and was about to go looking.

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