Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Do You Remember My Face?
Charismatic, if slightly weird, band leader, singer, songwriter and prime animus parts company with cultish band in not entirely happy circumstances (musical/personal differences, frustration at lack of commercial success, sense of compromised integrity, claustrophobia, drug-related sacking, etc); is widely tipped to carve out hugely successful yet iconoclastic solo career while jobbing ex-colleagues return to obscurity whence they had sprung.
Watches as said bandmates recruit new singer, reinvent selves as mainstream act, storm charts, become megastars.
Syd Barrett - The Pink Floyd
Peter Gabriel – Genesis (‘Was feeling part of the scenery/Walked right out of the machinery’, etc)
John Foxx - Ultravox!
Foxx (real name Dennis Leigh) trained as a graphic artist - a career to which he returned in the 1990s having quit the music business. He had been active on the glam scene from as early as 1974 with his band Tiger Lily, once tried out as vocalist for the nascent Clash (then known with Year Zero tastelessness as The London SS), fell in love with the music of the electronic avant garde and Kraftwerk, formed the band Ultravox! (always with an exclamation mark) and enjoyed critical acclaim, hipster status and the production services of Brian Eno on Island records for two years before being unceremoniously dropped by the label in 1979.
Signing to Virgin as a solo artist, Foxx released ‘Underpass’ (MP3), which peaked at number 31 on the singles charts. Subsequent singles grazed the lower reaches of the Top 40, then later only the Top 75; albums picked up some plaudits, but failed to substantially scratch the consciousness of either post-punkers or synthpop kids.
Meanwhile Ultravox regrouped, dropped the ! , hired a guy that used to sing in a teen band and.....“Aaaah, Vienna!”…
I always thought Foxx was interesting and loved his cold, alienated keyboard landscapes and chipped vocals – a major influence on (the also much more commercially successful) Gary Numan.
I had the free-with-Smash Hits yellow ‘flexidisc’ (!) of an obscure Foxx track called ‘My Face’ (MP3) for many years before the crease it sustained in the mail finally made it unplayable, and though we did nickname it ‘Underpants’ at school, his debut stuck with us more than its chart position would indicate.
Might I also suggest that ‘Europe After The Rain’ (MP3) (number 40, August 1981) is one of the very best proto electro dance tracks of the 1980s?
It is surely time for a Foxx revival. I would like to start it here.
Five quid gets you this budget compilation – a sterling slice of the best of Dennis Leigh from the synthrock 80s through the rather marvellously ambient 90s. It includes 'My Face' !!! Buy!
(John Foxx's official website here).