I can chart my John Foxx fandom back to February/March of 1981. Once I finally found a copy of Ultravox’s “Vienna” album in December of 1980, I wasted little time in quickly absorbing all of the earlier Ultravox! albums, the Visage album, and the John Foxx solo album, “Metamatic.” I was an instant John Foxx fan; just add water. One resilient feature of the scant few Foxx interviews that managed to pass my eyes back then, was that Foxx always talked about this “book” he was writing. It was called “The Quiet Man” and we foolishly thought that we’d see a copy in a few years. The title had been taken from the song of the same name from the “Systems Of Romance” album and for a decade or so, there was no prose from it that we’d managed to see, but that all changed in the late 90s.
Parts of the writing filtered out first in the pages of Extreme Voice, the Ultravox fanzine. They had published excerpts in the 1990s here. Once I finally got to read some of it, it became apparent that “The Quiet Man” was the literary framework that built the entire thematic point-of-view that accounted for virtually every song John Foxx had written from 1978 going forward! Brian Eno liked to build cybernetic systems that generated the music he wanted to hear, by imposing arbitrary rules along certain guidelines. And that’s fine. But Foxx seemed to have decided what his themes were and then he created this literary construct to flesh out the details in prose. Prose that frequently became not only the thrust of the songs, but also their lyric structure as well.
As I have read excerpts of “The Quiet Man,” I could not fail to notice that large chunks of lyrical content were taken from the writing. In 2009, Foxx’s Metamatic label issued a spoken word CD, narrated by Justin Barton, with a piano soundtrack by Foxx that featured five long excerpts from “The Quiet Man” and more of these passages were familiar from lyrics to songs of the last 20-30 years. But the project gave the prose room to breathe beyond the excerpts that had been previously published thus far. It’s 2019, 41 years after the song “The Quiet Man” made its appearance, and we need to get ready for the whole thing.
Our friends at Rocket88 Books, have pre-anounced publication of “The Quiet Man” as designed by his long-time designer, Jonathan Barnbrook. The book will have original photographic images and drawings by Foxx, along with a CD of Foxx doing readings from some of the stories. This is to be released later this year and all we know for certain is that it will be in two editions; normal, and “executive.” Either will have the CD, but the limited edition will include signed art prints. Judging from the DEVO Book that Rocket 88 published last year, I expect that the regular edition will be an affordable book of less than $80. Pre-ordering will certainly net some sort of discount; it’s Rocket 88’s M.O. The signed edition will be several hundred dollars if we look back to the spudboys’ tome.
Currently, all we can do is to sign up for more information once it will be released at the “Quiet Man” microsite here. I’m in no hurry as dollars are currently tight. The news of this book finally being published at first gave me pause; as it seems as if Foxx could be putting a period at the end of his musical career by doing this. While it would be churlish of me to insist that my favorite artist keep producing music, his output has been particularly prodigious over the last 20+ years; second only to perhaps Bill Nelson. I can’t begrudge the man should he decide to draw it all to a close, just because I never got a chance to see him perform live. Though that would hurt. But I have some hopes that it’s not all behind Foxx as Benge has revealed that the long mooted John Foxx/Robin Simon project is still underway. Until we get more tantalizing detail on that note, let’s all just start setting aside our pocket change with the notion of buying this fine volume at some point later this year.
– 30 –