80’s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/ Bands ~ Visage

Great synthesizer music is like a strong opiate that soothes the weary soul. Many bands have tried to make synthesizers the hallmark of their sound, and have failed miserably. It’s too formulaic, too predictable, too bland, too much like elevator muzak. But those who are successfully able to blend synths with guitars, bass, drums, and more, have produced some of the most jarring and emotionally charged music to come out of the 80’s era.

Visage is one such band. Founded in London in 1978, the original members were Steve Strange, Rusty Egan, and Midge Ure (Ultravox). Billie Currie (Ultravox), John McGeoch (Magazine, Armoury Show, and Siouxie &The Banshees), and Dave Formula (Magazine) joined Strange, Egan, and Ure in the studio to record the band’s self-titled first album. Their best-known single “Fade to Grey” preceded the album’s release. Followed by singles “Mind of a Toy” and “Visage,” the album proved to be a success.

All of the musicians, except for McGeoch who was busy with his commitments to Siouxsie & The Banshees, returned to the studio to record a second album, The Anvil. This release charted in the UK top 10, with two singles, “The Damned Don’t Cry” and “Night Train” making it into the top 20.

Ure left the band citing creative differences and a demanding schedule with Ultravox. Bassist Steve Barnacle joined the band who subsequently released the standalone single “Pleasure Boys” in 1982. This single failed to break into the top 40.

The band didn’t regroup to release their third album until 1984. Beat Boy flopped, Billie Currie and Dave formula split, and the band tried taking their act to the road in an attempt to stay alive. In 1985, the surviving members called it quits. Visage eventually reformed in 2004 with Strange at the helm of a different line-up with a different sound. It’s a shame the original band did not live on in the 80’s to continue to fuel the era it helped to launch.

Purchase original Visage music here.

“Fade To Grey” via YouTube user niyazov:

“The Anvil” via YouTube user Industrial82:

“Visage” via YouTube user retrotubedotnet:

“The Pleasure Boys” via YouTube user Industrial82:

Discography

Visage (1980)

The Anvil (1982)

Beat Boy (1984)

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80’s Music Rules ~ Criminally Underrated Artists/Bands ~ Armoury Show

as29Few 80’s musicians affect me in the way that Armoury Show does. Since I first heard “Castles in Spain” on the recommendation of my 80’s mentor several years ago, I was hooked. Sure, Richard Jobson was mercilessly criticized as being nothing more than a showman, acting out every nuance and feeling, emoting each emotionally charged lyric; but in my mind, and to my ear, it worked beautifully. Add to the mix the supreme and seasoned talents of John McGeoch (RIP), Russell Webb and John Doyle, and what you have is an unmatched combination that produced only one album of outstandingly lovely songs.

 

So what happened?

 

I wish I knew. I am fortunate to have the LP Waiting for the Floods in its entirety. No matter how often I play this collection, nas31o matter how many times I put my favorite selection, the song identically named “Waiting for the Floods” on repeat, I am overcome. Jobson had a way with wringing the sentiment out of each song that shot daggers into even the coldest and unyielding of hearts. This was a huge leap from his previous punk roots as the angry lead singer of The Skids.

 

John McGeoch’s pedigree included Howard Devoto’s group Magazine and contributions to Siouxsie and the Banshees. He went on to further his career with Public Image Ltd. Webb followed Jobson from the Skids and left Armoury Show to pursue a solo career. Doyle, too, came from Magazine and post-Armoury Show, went on to rejoin Devoto and play with the Buzzcocks.

 

There are a few offerings from YouTube that will familiarize those of you who have never heard Armoury Show with their rich music. Unfortunately, the sole and home-made video on YouTube for “Waiting for the Floods” cuts off at the end. The song is a full 5:23 in duration, yet the video clocks in at only 4:23.

 

From the YouTube user RNregina ~ Waiting for the Floods:

 

From the YouTube user GallowayHills ~ We Can Be Brave Again:

 

From the YouTube user godisatan ~ Casles in Spain:

 

From the YouTube user godisatan ~ Kyrie:

 

  as271

In terms of time, Armoury show, as a group, may have only been a short flash in the pan of a burgeoning era of post-punk and New Wave music. But, they left an indelible mark on the decade with a single album that remains as a testimonial to their talent. Why they were unable to take the world by storm will remain one of life’s ironic mysteries. Meanwhile, if you can find a copy of Waiting for the Floods, I urge you to buy it. Every 80’s music collection deserves to have this gem.