Ultravox started out as sort of glam infused new wavers, but after three cool but not particularly successful albums, their label dumped them, front man John Foxx went solo, and the other members wandered off in various directions. Which would have been the end of things if keyboardist-violinist Billy Currie hadn’t run into Midge Ure (his first name was actually Jim) while working with original New Romantics, Visage. The rebooted Ultravox took the New Romantic thing and ran with it, first with Vienna, then 1981’s Rage In Eden, with the title track a study in contained, cinematic noir. Like peering out a window at the new decade as a thick fog rolled in – interesting times whether you wanted them or not.
“Tony Banks (keyboard guy and founding member of Genesis) partners with Toyah Willcox (actress, proto punk, emergent pop songstress, and in 1986, only recently married to Robert Fripp) to deliver the definitive Genesis track of 1980s. Sort of. Because it was definitely the track that made me realize it wasn’t my former favourite band that I’d become allergic to, but their front man. Because given a big, ambitious Banks composition to work with, she sent things out of the stratosphere. At least that’s how it hit me late one night, alone, a little high, headphones on, listening to a mixtape a friend had left in my car. Suddenly I was that lion, free and savage and symmetrical (whatever that was supposed to mean). Epic stuff.” (Philip Random)
NoMeansNo finally got it right on Wrong: the ferocious musicality of their live thunder captured in the studio, pressed to vinyl, unleashed upon the world. The whole album tends to flow together as one prolonged eruption of ugly-beautiful wrongness, but The Tower gets it singled out because it f***ing towers.
Killing Joke were mixing metal with repetitive beats with their own unique apocalyptic take on life-the-universe-everything long before it was a thing, and to solid, intense effect as Wardance makes abundantly clear. “It’s a 1980 track but I didn’t hear it until 1982, with the Falklands War in full weird roar far, far away. An apparently civilized nation going enthusiastically to war for a more or less random chunk of rock in the remote South Atlantic. It had to be a joke, definitely a joke. And it would kill almost a thousand people before it was done.” (Philip Random)
Utopia was initially formed because Todd Rundgren felt a need to rock progressively, some would argue excessively. Which was definitely the case come 1977’s Ra, their third album, with material ranging from an overlong children’s fantasy concerning a glass guitar to a genuine communion with the sun god of ancient Egypt. The singular highlight was Hiroshima, a blistering, metal-infused ode (with guitar and keyboard freakouts) to the worst split second in the history of mankind (also Nagasaki, three days later). Don’t you ever f***ing forget.
If the summer of 1983 had an official soundtrack album, New Order were on it. Or perhaps Power Corruption + Lies (and the non album monster single that preceded it, Blue Monday) was that soundtrack. Because power, corruption and lies were all the rage that summer – Ronald Raygun in the White House, the wicked witch of the west Maggie Thatcher running things in the UK, the Cold War in full acceleration mode, nuclear winter in all the forecasts even if the sun was shining. Your Silent Face seemed to be a love song, except if you actually listened to the lyrics, you realized it was packing as much bile as anything else. It was that kind of summer.
The Solid Time of Change is our overlong yet incomplete history of the so-called Prog Rock era – 661 selections from 1965 through 1979 with which we hope to do justice to a strange and ambitious time indeed, musically speaking.
Part Twenty-Eight of the journey went as follows:
Jethro Tull – Dharma for One [live]
Strawbs – where is this dream of your youth?
Strawbs – Benedictus
Alice Cooper – I Love the Dead
Tiny Tim- the other side
Vangelis – he-ho
Vangelis – we were all uprooted
Moody Blues – melancholy man
Procol Harum – a salty dog
Yes – to be over
Doors – The End
Pink Floyd – careful with that axe Eugene
Van Der Graaf Generator – my room [waiting for wonderland]
Fresh episodes air pretty much every Saturday night, starting 11 pm (Pacific time) c/o CiTR.FM.101.9, with streaming and download options available within twenty-four hours via our Facebook page.
FM, straight outa Toronto, hit the so-called prog-rock scene just as everything was falling apart amid the combined assaults of punk, disco, overall societal skepticism toward heavy and bloated concepts. But their first album Black Noise was still a cosmic delight, particularly One O’clock Tomorrow. “It forever abstracted my sense of space-time-everything, though LSD was also a factor.” (Philip Random)
Neil Diamond‘s Hot August Night, possibly the greatest live album ever released, starts well indeed with Crunchy Granola Suite, the power of which is only slightly negated when you realize it really is about eating well, lots of nuts and berries. From the album’s liner notes: “Then softly, the music begins, the lights dim. The music rises, the stage is a smoky, opalescent jewel in the darkness. But one light shines brighter than the others, a white pool in the brilliance, and for an instant, sound hangs suspended, only the air breathing. Then he’s there, the crowd exploding, Neil Diamond, casual, as if it’s the most natural thing in the world, those 5000 people demanding his soul. And for the next 107 minutes, he gives it to them.”