Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fade to Grey by Visage

While the label New Romantics was coined in an interview to describe Spandau Ballet, Steve Strange and Rusty Egan, scenesters who managed The Blitz and Billy's, two massively popular nightclubs in the very late 70s and early 80s, are usually credited with having invented it. Rusty was the DJ who collected appropriately themed Roxy Music, David Bowie and Kraftwerk tracks, and Steve was the doorman who wouldn't let anyone in who didn't have the right "look." If one wants to get what the gist of the movement is all about, checking out this video from the band that they formed, Visage (pronounced "viz-AHZH") to explore the New Romantic sound and imagery, would be the ideal way to find out what New Romanticism was all about. In theory, anyway.

According to this video, New Romanticism, therefore, presages Lady Gaga's approach by almost thirty years. It's style, image and bizarreness over everything, with gender ambiguity present in heavy doses. Eh… maybe that theory doesn't really work. I don't know that I'd call those hallmarks of, say, Duran Duran, Japan or Ultravox, who are also poster children for New Romanticism. Heck, Midge Ure and Billy Currie, two of the musicians most responsible for Ultravox's sound, were also among those most responsible for Visage's sound, too.

The song "Fade to Grey" itself is also no stranger to controversy; there's a rather heated disagreement amongst the band members (and even Gary Numan's gotten involved) about who actually wrote the song, or came up with the various elements of it. And then there was a breach of copyright lawsuit involving Kelly Osbourne's single "One Word" which is very transparently a reworking of "Fade to Grey."

Visage is one of those bands that got very little airplay in the US, and besides, whatever airplay it did get would have been too early for me to have been paying attention to it anyway, since I was just a kid at the time. But I heard about them later, and Visage led me on a very merry chase, trying to find the CD that was supposedly still in print but which nobody had or could special order. After looking for months… possibly even years, I finally was able to track down a copy in 1988 or so of the initial eponymous (I really like that word, by the way) CD by Visage, and shortly thereafter their second album The Anvil on vinyl. I think the difficulty of that hunt partly influenced how much I liked and valued my Visage stuff.

Even though, ironically, just two or three years later Virgin re-released most of the Visage catalog on CD, making it extremely easy to find. Oh, well.

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