Ultravox photo 1

Island Records 1977 press photo Keith Morris




Contributor: Steven Sonsino

What is the best track you hear at 17 years old? Where are you when you first hear it? For me, there’s dancing. So much dancing. It’s the edge of Christmas 1977 and Pete Williams has the run of his family’s isolated Shropshire farmhouse for the entire weekend. Most of the sixth form is here. Some are brought by willing parents grateful for 48 hours’ peace, other students careen down the lanes in hand-me-down Beetles and Allegros, their teenage cargo sitting on each other’s knees and bursting out of the quarter lights. The rest of us commandeer what seems the entire Midland Red bus fleet out of Shrewsbury.

Now, close to midnight, about a hundred graceless 17-year-olds flail uncontrollably in front of the giant open log fire in the farmhouse hall, our shadows leaping faster and higher above us, licking the vaulted ceiling. It’s like something out of the Wicker Man. But this isn’t pagan – it’s pogoing. And we’re dancing because if there’s one thing Pete Williams knows, it’s how to put together a blistering mixtape.

Partly Pete just breathes rhythm. He’s a bass player, after all, and one-third of the best band the school has ever had, the Valuable Snakes, who later go on to support The Stains (a semi-famous Shrewsbury punk outfit led by the adopted son of actor David Hemmings). And partly Pete’s just great at virtual DJ-ing because he has a barnful of old and new vinyl to curate for us. But perhaps most importantly he spends nigh on all his waking hours trawling the airwaves to capture live bands from the radio and TV onto a stream of TDK cassettes. Carefully, as if to avoid unpleasant things on the pavement, he sidesteps Mull Of Kintyre (six weeks at number one for Paul McCartney’s Wings), The Floral Dance by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band (number 2 in the December charts) and It’s A Heartache (a pre-Meatloaf Bonnie Tyler). New wave? Pete is ahead of it.

And it’s this particular mixtape on this particular Christmas that proves the advent for me of a lifelong passion for Ultravox. Don’t get me wrong. It isn’t that Ultravox is the only great thing on this tape. There’s a never-to-be-beaten live version of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll by Ian Dury, from the Live Stiffs tour with Elvis Costello and a host of others. The Jam’s In The City, just a few weeks old. A riot of tracks from Wire’s new album Pink Flag including Ex Lion Tamer, Three Girl Rhumba and Lowdown which are astonishing. And then there’s Wreckless Eric’s new single Whole Wide World, not to mention the very brilliant Love And A Molotov Cocktail by Coventry’s very own The Flys.

But none of these is burned into my life like the track that changes the entire trajectory of my music in the late 1970s. That track is The Man Who Dies Every Day by Ultravox! (Don’t forget the exclamation mark. It lasts for two albums before being quietly ditched.) Billy Currie is outstanding on keyboards and violin, Chris Cross thumps out a driving bassline and soon turns his hand to keys, Stevie Shears handles a mashing kind of rhythm guitar, Warren Cann is brutal on drums and the band is led in this first incarnation by the charismatic John Foxx.


ASIDE #1 – CRASH COURSE: If you’re after a simple if clinical review of the band’s entire history including four (or is it five?) iterations of the band, Wikipedia has this to say.


The Man Who Dies Every DayHa! Ha! Ha! (1977)
Every street you ever walked is mapped out on your face

The version of The Man Who Dies Every Day that Pete plays at that eventful Christmas party is one of his radio bootlegs. It’s from an upcoming live EP, Live Retro, and I love it. It opens with a pounding guitar and drum rhythm, but it’s Billy Currie’s screaming, bending ARP synthesizer that grabs you and never lets go. Then there are the striking lyrics: Every street you ever walked is mapped out on your face seems more sophisticated than, say, Oh bondage! Up yours! from X-Ray Spex. (Which despite making a brilliant point is simply bludgeoned into you by repetition.)

It’s hard to believe that this track from Ultravox’s second album Ha! Ha! Ha! is never released as a single. But Island never really understands the band, which admittedly is ahead of its time every step of the way.


My SexUltravox! (1977)
An image lost in faded films

The Live Retro EP featuring The Man Who Dies Every Day is scheduled for release in February 1978, but sometimes Julie Beaumont, the manager at Durrant Records, lets us have releases a few days early. So, every day during lunch breaks and after school I cross the English Bridge and hack up the winding Wyle Cop – with its exhausting 1 in 10 gradient – to see if it’s in yet. I get very fit this year.

Durrant Records
Durrant Records’ high street window – pop on the left, with the top-20 listed on a velvet notice board, classical on the right. (Picture: Shropshire Archive.)


When she does let us have the EP it’s magical. Not only The Man Who Dies Every Day but a live version of Young Savage, with its superfast Gilbert & Sullivan-style pitter patter. It’s next to impossible to wrap your lips around:

The Jekyll-Hyde of you
I can’t survive the tide of you
The vicious style of love, the whining,
Pits and pendulums of lying

All the tracks on this exceptional EP are recorded live, close mic’d, I presume from the soundboard. It’s a clean live sound and I will never hear a better live recording from any band or singer.

Also on the EP is The Wild, The Beautiful And The Damned, a mid-paced epic, semi-operatic track, with stop-start vocals. Again, it has gripping, surreal lyrics. (You tore some more pages from your old lover’s heart.) It was recorded at the Rainbow last year – that’s 1977. Why wait so long to release it, Island Records? You don’t seem behind this band.

For me the stop-you-in-your-tracks cut on this EP is the moving, mystical My Sex. Slow and stately, it’s a pavane. The poetry glides in and out of time with the backing track and the final lines turn the thoughts over to us, the audience. It’s breathtaking.

Later, when I can afford it, I hear the studio version on the first eponymous album, Ultravox!, and learn that Brian Eno, the album’s producer, shared an old Phil Collins drum loop for the backing track and lent Billy Currie a Moog for one of the solos. (And that version does sound like early Roxy Music in parts. Interesting!)

Even today, if ever I need to feel peaceful, I sit back and listen to this beautiful hymn of a song. And I reflect on the fact that the date on the label reads 1977. The height of the punk, new wave movement. Unbelievable in so many ways. Not least because of the triangle. (On a punk record, heavens alive!)


Slow MotionSystems Of Romance (1978)
Hush! Can you feel the trees so far away?

Of course we are desperate to see the band, so in February 1978 we hire a coach to take us to the legend that is Barbarella’s nightclub in Birmingham. Barbarella’s is small and low-ceilinged. Over a black cast-iron handrail you can see the tiny wooden dance floor just below where we cram in to see the band on a plinth. (It’s really too small to call it a stage.) We have no idea the place will be razed and become the antiseptic site of a bank in the very near future. But in the meantime, if we’re lucky, posters on the walls tell us we can see The Clash, The Sex Pistols, Dire Straits, AC/DC, Echo & the Bunnymen, The Cure and so many others. Sadly, it proves too expensive to trek to Birmingham for any of this. But for a few heady hours we breathe in the sweat and the sweetly smelling smoke, and just dream.

We’re so close to the tiny stage we can touch the synthesizers, which take a few minutes to warm up at the start of the show. And when they do the gig takes off with a new track, Slow Motion. Chris Cross plays a low hum on the keyboard and holds it while we clap and stamp and whistle. When the band is all on stage, all ready to go, his fingers fly across the keyboard, the hum climbing with them till he blasts out the four-note fanfare that sparks the start of the song, the start of the show and eventually the start of the new album Systems Of Romance.

Slow Motion from The Old Grey Whistle Test, November 1978, with Robin Simon on guitar replacing Stevie Shears. Technically this is Ultravox Mark II.


ASIDE #2 – STEVIE SHEARS: The guitarist Stevie Shears is asked to leave the band before Systems Of Romance is recorded and released, and the band now has Conny (Kraftwerk) Plank as producer. Little to go on here, but maybe Shears’ heavier style suits the edgier punky feel of the first two albums, but not the new direction.

Anyway, here’s a great recording of Slip Away from the Ultravox! album, recorded live at the Rainbow in 1977, when Ultravox were support to Eddie & the Hot Rods. This is an amazing recording of the band in 16mm film, upscaled to high definition (1920×1080). You can hear in the second half of the clip how Stevie Shears’ style may not have suited the direction Ultravox is now taking. But it’s a great piece of film – close to 50 years old. Just watch John Foxx nervously glancing back and forth, front and back. He has an amazing stage presence.

Here’s a piece telling the story behind the Rainbow footage and how it came to be released onto the internet by the label – or dumped rather – with no fanfare.


Hiroshima Mon AmourHa! Ha! Ha! (1977)
Futures fused like shattered glass

I don’t have a part-time job yet, though I’m hoping Andy Whelan can get me something at John Menzies on Pride Hill. (The staff discount he brags about on records and books is hugely attractive.) So, I’m not yet able to afford the Ultravox albums I desperately want. I have them on tape, of course, but I really want the vinyl. (It sounds so much brighter than tape.) At Durrants, however, the manager Julie has managed to get me ex-jukebox copies of a bundle of singles including ROckwrok, but she couldn’t tell me why the capitalisation is so weird. (I wonder if I’ll ever know?) The song is a belter, very funny, all about sex (mostly), and gets played a few times on the radio until someone actually listens to the chorus and hears a short curse word beginning with ‘f’.

The B-side is also a scorcher, Hiroshima Mon Amour, based thematically on the 1959 Alain Resnais film of the same name, written by Marguerite Duras. The track kicks off with screeching violins, courtesy of Billy Currie, appearing to duel with Chris Cross’s pulsing bass line and simultaneously with Stevie Shears slashing guitar. Then John Foxx comes in with another dazzling lyric, this time in a nerve-jangling recitative. But this version pales when you compare it with the final take on the second album Ha! Ha! Ha!. This new version is genius. A pure joy to listen to. In fact, it’s a masterclass in new wave electronica that so many bands will struggle to come close to in the coming decade. If my memory is right, this is the only song John Foxx doesn’t speak – he sings.

Walk through Polaroids of the past
Futures fused like shattered glass, the suns so low
Turns our silhouettes to gold
Hiroshima mon amour

If you remember nothing else from this Toppermost, and if you only ever listen to one Ultravox song, make it Hiroshima Mon Amour. It’s unique among Ultravox songs, not least for the beautiful saxophone on the track from Gloria Mundi’s cc (or C C Smith). You can hear this on the Spotify playlist at the foot of this piece.

With its downbeat drum machine refinements and the glowing synthesizer sound, Hiroshima Mon Amour comes to define Ultravox’s next album Systems Of Romance. Meanwhile here’s another brilliant version of the song, where Billy Currie takes the saxophone melody and makes it his own. From The Old Grey Whistle Test in November 1978.


DislocationSystems Of Romance (1978)
Waving gladly, swimming madly

I listen to Systems Of Romance on repeat. It’s like nothing else I know. The Stranglers are unignorable, exciting – Something Better Change, Straighten Out, No More Heroes. (Come on!) And Elvis Costello is riveting, so clever – Detectives, Chelsea, Pump It Up. But with Systems Of Romance Ultravox is on a plane beyond. And the most distinctive track for me, I just can’t shake it, is Dislocation. It picks up so many of the themes Foxx writes about in his beautiful lyrics. Alienation. Despair. Identity. And the music’s jarring point and counterpoint parallels the verbal dislocations in the lyric.


And then it’s over. Once again Ultravox sales are poor. So Island drops the band, just weeks after the performance on Old Grey Whistle Test. I’m devastated.

Frankly, the band has never sold well. They just don’t fit any of the evolving music categories. The first album, Ultravox!, mashed a number of styles together, not least reggae with Dangerous Rhythm. The second album, Ha! Ha! Ha!, was a mash-up of punk with minimal electronica – sometimes on the same song. (Distant Smile, for example, opens with a haunting piano sequence you could mistake for Satie or Philip Glass before a whiplash-inducing edit into thrash metal.) Then there’s Systems Of Romance. It’s a coherent framing of new music that no one is yet playing. And that’s the problem. Without a label no one knows where to put Ultravox on the shelf.

At a loss for what to do now, with a great new album barely out of the starting blocks, the band funds a US tour itself, from east coast to west. But after an arduous tour and symbolically losing his voice, John Foxx leaves after the last show in Los Angeles. He hates touring, he says, and he doesn’t want to be in a band anymore. He even bequeaths the Ultravox name to the rest of the group. He did say, in a prescient track on Systems…

Let the scenery dissolve
into some other life,
Because I, I can’t stay long

(from I Can’t Stay Long)

So he’s gone.


ASIDE #3 – ULTRAFOXX: If I had my way I’d do an entire Toppermost just on Mark I & II Ultravox and it would look something like this.

The Man Who Dies Every Day
My Sex
I Want To Be A Machine
Hiroshima Mon Amour
I Can’t Stay Long
Slow Motion
Quiet Men
Just For A Moment

At all good independent record stores you can get The Island Years, a boxed set of all three Island albums, with a host of fantastic bonuses including Live Retro. Top recommendation.


A Sibling Interlude

In 1978, my younger brother Simon becomes a superfan of all things new wave, including Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army and Steve Strange’s Visage. Numan, it transpires, is a big fan of Ultravox and John Foxx. Here’s Numan explaining why some years later.

This is fascinating in that Numan uses Ultravox’s style (and even its personnel in the form of Billy Currie) to crossover to the pop mainstream and make the huge impact that Ultravox never could.

Billy Currie on his blog later tells the story of how he met Numan and was invited to tour with Tubeway Army in 1979. It’s worth a read.

But, frankly, make your own mind up. Here’s Tubeway Army and Gary Numan on The Old Grey Whistle Test (22 May 1979). They’re playing Are Friends Electric?, a massive mainstream hit, and at stage left (on the right as you watch) you can see Billy Currie on keyboards.

Billy Currie is also very much in evidence on a brilliant version of On Broadway that Simon gets on an EP. I love this. So much so that I share it on a tape with my music-loving grandparents. Inexplicably, they’re not persuaded they need to become Gary Numan fans. (A big loss, IMHO.)

For more of Currie’s insights check out this terrific two-part interview at Electronic Café. Worth your time.

Part one starts at 2m46 on this video. And part two starts at 4m08 here.

I discover later that Billy Currie writes the track that becomes Visage’s Fade To Grey while on tour with Numan. They ask someone else involved with Visage, one Midge Ure, to write the vocal.

It’s inevitable that after the Numan tour, Currie invites Midge Ure into Ultravox and a new chapter in the Ultravox story begins: Mark III Ultravox.


SleepwalkVienna (1980)
Destined, we had to collide

At university in Aberystwyth, missing home dreadfully in 1979, I get a letter from Chris Rowlands, a great friend from school.

“Ultravox is playing at the Cascade Club next week. Can you get here? Shall I get tickets?”

I think he’s mad, Ultravox has split of course. Nevertheless, that evening I grab a handful of coins from my phone jar and join the inevitable queue for the booth at the halls where I’m staying.

My first words to him when I get through: “Ultravox split didn’t they?”

“Yes, but they got Midge Ure to replace John Foxx.”

“What? Slik Midge Ure?”

“Yeah, but don’t forget he was in Rich Kids and Thin Lizzy, too. Do you want to come?”

“Of course I do!”

As well as getting tickets to the gig, I also book tickets for the 4am milk train back to Aberystwyth. (Can’t miss my chemistry class. Hate it, but gotta do it.)

The Cascade Club in Shrewsbury is an old riverside warehouse, just over the English Bridge at the foot of the Wyle Cop. You climb a shaky open staircase to one of the back rooms and you soon discover that the club is mostly a bar with a sticky floor. You also notice it doesn’t really have a stage. It doesn’t even have a plinth like Barbarella’s. It has a shelf. The band members have to hoist themselves up to it from where we’re standing in the pit. But the gig … the new Ultravox’s first-ever show with Midge Ure (on a four-date mini tour before heading to the US) … well, it’s honestly amazing. The band dress in white, largely, and Midge’s hair is quiffed forward, like Bryan Ferry on the cover of his first album. The untied bottle-green cravat hanging down his shirt is like a dishevelled Bryan Ferry from the cover of his second album, Another Time, Another Place. But the pencil moustache is pure Lando Calrissian from Star Wars. Whatever the outfits are meant to convey they certainly say ‘we’re not punk’.

As to the music, the synthesizers are striking, but also to the fore is Midge Ure’s abrasive guitar sound, much harder and grittier than either Stevie Shears or Robin Simon from UltraFoxx. It’s right there from the start of the set in a long instrumental which I later learn is Astradyne. Brilliant musicianship all round. The new Ultravox then launches into some thrilling guitar-oriented tracks – New Europeans and Passing Strangers – and a few Foxx-era tracks, too. Slow Motion, Hiroshima Mon Amour, Quiet Men and Dislocation – they all stick in the mind, though Ure can’t match John Foxx for vocals. In the second half there’s a tense spoken piece, Mr X, by the drummer Warren Cann, but the standout track of the night is Sleepwalk. It’s obvious single material and it just rips. Rather than tell you about it here’s some concert film, virtually 50 years old, recorded in St Albans. And I have to say, although this band has synthesizers, everyone in it knows how to rock.

After six months on the road, playing most nights and writing more material as they go, they produce the crispest, tightest, cleanest Ultravox album you will ever hear, Vienna, at Conny Plank’s studio in Cologne. And there’s so much great material they will be able to fill B-side after B-side with amazing outtakes.

The best B-side? That’s Waiting, the B-side of Sleepwalk. It just doesn’t fit on the album. (Facepalm!)


ViennaVienna (1980)
This means nothing to me

Though John Foxx brought so much of his art to the artwork of Ultravox Marks I & II, Midge Ure brings a desire to define Mark III Ultravox with arthouse videos. Passing Strangers is an excellent black & white video for the period. (The track is written by Brian Eno, incidentally.) But the Ultravox video you’re most likely to see – even if you’re not an Ultravox fan – is the Vienna video, actually filmed in Vienna, in a Carol Reed, Third Man-style. Mark Brownlow, a writer based in Vienna, lists the locations from the film if you’re interested.

Both videos are directed by Russell (Highlander) Mulcahy, but according to Wikipedia the band’s label Chrysalis refuses to foot the bill, so the band does – to the tune of around £7,000.

The track Vienna itself is beautifully put together (Billy Currie channelling his inner Grieg at the piano) and it’s unusually longer than most pop songs, close to 5 minutes, so the band expects it to disappear without trace. Perhaps supported by its soon-to-be-iconic video it climbs to number 2 in the charts, only to be kept off the number 1 slot by Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face. No one knows at the time that Vienna will stay Ultravox’s most successful single. For context you should watch Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face. What is the British public thinking? (Or rather, IS the British public thinking?)

To wipe Joe Dolce from your mind, here’s a live version of Vienna filmed in 1980 in St Albans. You will watch this in 50 years and marvel at a phenomenal live performance from a band at the peak of its powers.



The Thin WallRage In Eden (1981)
Living lines from books we’ve read

The tracks that made up Vienna were played live for months before the band recorded the album, in just ten days straight, at RAK studios in London before taking them to Conny Plank. Rage In Eden on the other hand has to be recorded from scratch in Plank’s Cologne studio. It’s hard work and takes three months to lay down. But the album is strong, with a heavy rock feel, nowhere more so than in The Thin Wall, the first single from the album. It’s a track where you begin to hear the repetitive drum-pad backing that comes to define not only Ultravox, but the swathes of copycat pop that soon floods the charts. The official video to promote the single is even weirder than Vienna, with its blend of Dali-esque scenes and film noir. (I recognise more references every time I watch the film.)


I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)Rage In Eden (1981)
The pictures of the past would haunt us still

As with Vienna, the album, you can listen to Rage In Eden on repeat and there’s an elegant variation across the tracks that keeps you coming back. The minimal and disturbing Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind Again) is a highlight, but the track that will stay with me for the longest time is I Remember (Death In The Afternoon). Nothing to do with the brackets, though. (Honest.) And it’s a track the band plays live brilliantly, even on the kiss-and-make-up tour 30 years later, Return To Eden. What’s it about? Nostalgia, war, perhaps a bit of Hemingway. Can’t think why it wasn’t a single. (Irony.)


The VoiceRage In Eden (1981)
In strong low tones

The second single from Rage In Eden is The Voice, which opens the album, and it’s another killer live track. In fact, on the Monument Tour in 1982 the brilliant ending of the track has the all-in-black Midge Ure, Billy Currie and Chris Cross come forward with synth pads to riff with Warren Cann on drums. Impossible to do credit to this in words. Here it is on video.

This is an outstanding live band – a rock band – nothing on tape, nothing sequenced, just playing together brilliantly.


Then things begin to fall apart …

The Long Goodbye

After a massive global tour and a short live album, Monument, which captures some of the magic, the band turns to George (Beatles) Martin, perhaps to reboot some chart visibility. 1984’s Quartet is the result and sees poppy singles emerge as a result – Reap The Wild Wind, Hymn, Visions In Blue and We Came To Dance, but for me the production is muffled, pedestrian and safe. The abrasive edge of the band is lost overnight. So I don’t buy any of these singles, or the album.

Lament follows in 1984 and the band produces it themselves figuring they have enough experience. But it isn’t bold enough or different enough from George Martin. A few more singles drop, including Dancing With Tears In My Eyes, in which Ultravox makes a fair stab at impersonating the Scandipop A-ha. Don’t ask me why. I don’t buy these singles, nor the album neither.

Late in 1984, I almost buy the standalone single, Love’s Great Adventure, based purely on the strength of the spoof Indiana Jones video, but I can’t figure out what’s going on with the band so decide to pass.

In 1985, Midge Ure is sucked into the vortex that is Band Aid and Ultravox vanishes from view, though my wife Jackie does get to see Ultravox on stage at Wembley. They play Vienna and three of the new singles in a fairly lacklustre performance.

Embed from Getty Images

After Live Aid and a weakish Midge Ure solo album (The Gift) and before a new Ultravox album can be recorded in 1986, Warren Cann is thrown out. (Creative differences which you can read about all over the internet).

So, the resulting 1986 album U-Vox by Ultravox Mark IV is dire. In his autobiography, Ure calls it U-Bend. Why? Well, the Big Country drummer Mark Brzezicki on drums ensures Ultravox now sounds like Big Country. And The Chieftains. Because the Chieftains play on the album, too.

Then the band splits.


Mark V Interlude

In what remains of the 1980s Billy Currie keeps making interesting music and my brother Simon keeps sharing that to keep me interested in turn. Transportation by Humania featuring Steve Howe, is a good example.

And there’s a take of an old Mark II song from Systems Of Romance, I Can’t Stay Long. Not a patch on the original, but it passes the time of day.

And then Currie gets a new Ultravox together (Mark V). They record two albums and a live album – Revelation, Ingenuity and Future Picture – but I’m going to let you explore that configuration at your leisure. It means nothing to me.

Time passes.


Return To Eden (2009)

It’s striking that when the Mark III band – Ure, Currie, Cross and Cann – reforms 20 years after the dreadful U-Vox, for one last live show … and then a tour … and then an album … and a DVD … they call it Return To Eden. It’s a great way to scoot over decades of dross to get back to the rock band that Ultravox proves it still is. They do include some of the poppy singles, but only about three quarters of the way through the set, after playing much of Vienna and Eden. You can watch the entire Roundhouse recording here starting with Astradyne.


Brilliant (2012)

The writing is on the thin wall. The success of the reunion tour prompts the band to record an album of new stuff. They dare to call it Brilliant. It isn’t to me, but my brother Simon likes it and it’s a better way to round off the Ultravox canon than anything from the past three decades. At least it sounds a bit like Ultravox.



If you want the singles from pop Ultravox Mark III you don’t have to look very hard, but the best greatest hits album is actually The Very Best Of Ultravox CD and DVD set from 2009 which you’ll need to search on a second-hand site.



And now it’s over. Chris Cross passes away in Spring 2024. So there’ll be no more new Ultravox. But you know what? The Ultravox that I keep returning to is UltraFoxx (Marks I and II). For me this Ultravox is far stronger lyrically than any of the Ultravox variants that followed. So, dear reader, let me round off this Toppermost with two bonus tracks.

First, I Want To Be A Machine from Ultravox! (1977). The title is a quote from Andy Warhol and it highlights Foxx’s determination to stay emotionless and detached in his writing. Which is why, despite his best attempts or perhaps because of them, John Foxx’s lyrics are imbued with such emotion.

And finally, Just For A Moment, which ends the Systems Of Romance album and the John Foxx years in 1978.

If you want more Mark I and II Ultravibes then check out the John Foxx Toppermost and his more recent work with the Maths (Benge and Hannah Peel) and Belbury Circle.

Oh and don’t forget a new soundtrack for a live version of E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” from 2017. The soundtrack album is called simply – and without irony – The Machine.

Got to end with this track from John Foxx and the Maths, using analogue synthesizers, featuring Mark II guitarist Robin Simon. It’s recorded live at the Roundhouse and available on the Analogue Circuit DVD as well as here on YouTube. It’s a track called The Man Who Dies Every Day.


ASIDE #4 – ULTRAVOX MARK III: Here’s my Toppermost for the Mark III Ultravox.

New Europeans
Western Promise
The Thin Wall
We Stand Alone
I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)
Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind Again)
The Voice

And here’s my brother Simon’s top 10, but I think he’s cheating:

I Want To Be A Machine
All of Ha! Ha! Ha!
Slow Motion
Quiet Men
Western Promise
We Stand Alone
Stranger Within
Accent On Youth
Your Name (Has Slipped My Mind Again)

Vinyl purists may be alarmed to discover what Simon has done to a limited edition white 12 inch of Quiet Men. At least he looks at it a lot even if he can’t play it anymore.

Ultravox Quiet Men



The Man Who Dies Every DayHa! Ha! Ha!
My SexUltravox!
Slow MotionSystems Of Romance
Hiroshima Mon AmourHa! Ha! Ha!
DislocationSystems Of Romance
The Thin WallRage In Eden
I Remember (Death In The Afternoon)Rage In Eden
The VoiceRage In Eden
I Want To Be A MachineUltravox!
Just For A MomentSystems Of Romance

All these tracks are on this Spotify Playlist …




Embed from Getty Images
l-r: Warren Cann, Midge Ure, Chris Cross, Billy Currie (photo: Brian Aris 1980)


Ultravox official website

Billy Currie Official Website

Metamatic: The Official John Foxx Website

Midge Ure Official Website

Ultravox biography (AllMusic)

Steven Sonsino saw the John Foxx Ultravox at Barbarella’s in Birmingham (1978) and the very first gig of the new Ultravox with Midge Ure at the Cascade Club in Shrewsbury (1979). His wife Jackie, however, saw the band at Live Aid (1985), which wins every argument about iconic performances.

TopperPost #1,121


  1. David Lewis
    Jul 9, 2024

    Two points on this excellent article – not critical.
    1) I never knew that the history of Ultravox was so complex. I was a bit younger then 14 in 1977 and where I lived you couldn’t get much of this stuff. (If you read my Boomtown Rats topper, you might get a sense of how limited my access was to such groups.) This meant I really enjoyed this article.
    2) I was ten years old when I realised that Visage wasn’t Ultravox. But they were! But they weren’t.!

    • Steven Sonsino
      Jul 9, 2024

      Hi David, I have read your Boomtown Rats piece which is great! And ‘yes’ Visage! (Which I really disliked. Perhaps because it was my brother’s ‘find’.) Thanks for your kind words. It’s a blast to trawl the memory banks for these isn’t it?

  2. Andrew Shields
    Jul 9, 2024

    Thanks for this great piece Steven. Definitely a trip down memory lane – ‘Vienna’ was such a huge song back then. And then of course there was Midge’s brief and rather incongruous stint in Thin Lizzy. He discusses it very entertainingly in the Phil Lynott documentary…

    • Steven Sonsino
      Jul 10, 2024

      Andrew thanks for writing and your kind words. You’re right, Vienna was huge. So unusual. Nothing like it before or since. (Which is why I love the live version from St Albans in 1980. Full on with no clue it will become such an iconic track.) And you’re right again about Thin Lizzy. Even Midge can’t figure out why they picked him!

  3. Martin Smith
    Jul 10, 2024

    This is a great piece! Thanks for putting it together.
    I had the pleasure of doing a similar profile of John Foxx a few years ago.
    And you SAW FoxxVox in 1978??
    That trumps every kind of cool I can offer.
    Brilliant work – cheers!
    (Martin’s toppermost on John Foxx is here and his twitter timeline here… Ed.)

    • Steven Sonsino
      Jul 10, 2024

      Hi Martin, I love your John Foxx review, it highlights some stunning pieces which really need to be more visible. And I suppose that’s the challenge for someone like John Foxx!
      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on the Ultravox piece – I really appreciate it.

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