Thursday, 12 February 2015

RIP Steve Strange...soundtracking my childhood and forever more

I wouldn't normally post something like this on here. I'm barely posting anything as it is. But I am very sad about the news about Steve Strange, the singer and frontman for the band Visage. I have such scattered but fond memories of the music of Visage across my life and I've ended up in a bit of a reminisce.
I remember seeing Fade To Grey performed on a Saturday morning kids show, either performed or some part of the video shown....then my mum's hairdresser taped us the album which I remember listening to so much at a very young age. My brother got The Anvil on vinyl but I never really remembered that much about it.
I have a particular memory of listening to that first album so much especially in 1985 when I was in my 2nd year of juniors at primary school...lying on the lounge floor in the early winter dark, small lamp on top of the TV on, doing a topic book on COMPUTERS and recreating pictures of ZX Spectrum games (for some reason doing a wobbly hand drawn picture of the isometic game Fairlight comes to mind)
About a year later, in my odd little Cubs/ Scouts diary that I got the previous Christmas there was one entry which went on about making a compilation tape of singles and tracks and I was particularly buzzing from Night Train.
Probably around 86/ 87 my parents got me a Visage VHS video comp (think it was the Woolworths own brand of retail VHS, Channel 5 - I had Escape From New York on the same label) which I absolutely watched to death - The Steps felt like some strange abstract apocalyptic mix of the end of the world meets a fashion show...then there were tracks we'd never come across, the Pleasure Boys with The Wild One/ borderline gay bikers black and white video but such a fabulous pompous driving track...then basically a jolly for Steve Strange going to Egypt, dancing on top of pyramids and polishing a bald man's head in an airport (not a euphemism) before swanning off to Africa. Record companies in the 80s, eh? Money to burn...I must have watched this VHS endlessly - oddly, the opening of the video was all a bit mangled, so it was about 20 years later when Universal re-released the comp on DVD that I was able to see the opening 20 seconds clearly.
The band always remained a mystery - who was Rusty Egan? Was it the strange peroxide blonde woman in some of the early videos? It would only be after the rise of the internet that I would finally get the answers.
I finally got a proper vinyl copy of the debut album around this time and found the front cover, almost nostalgic 30s/ 40s with a cold modernism baffling and wondered whether it was the correct album. I also got a singles comp, which has the Pleasure Boys on it and the first time I heard In The Year 2525. Visage's version unsurprisingly is better than Ian Brown's.
With no idea of how many records they'd done, I'd ask my parents to get me any albums when they were in Nottingham and they got me Beat Boy from Selectadisc (where I would end up working nearly 10 years later) at a very knocked down price apparently. I listened to it so much.
By this time the band was gone and Steve Strange had started Strangelove - I regret missing out getting this on an ebay auction several years ago, as I think it was quite hard to get at the time....recall my dad tracked it down in Tower Records in London for my brother.
Then I guess it went quiet after that peak, I would go back to them over the years, aware that sometimes they sounded a bit naff and a bit dated, but strangely some aspects and tracks and have gone full circle and sound better now than they did in the 90s.
Around the time I was at Selectadisc I realised that the first album was pretty much a supergroup, with Barry Adamson and John McGeoch involved in it, which seemed to give it a bit more credibility to my mind.
After I really got into LCD Soundsystem I genuinely felt that Visage's debut album was the equivalent of that album but 20 years earlier. I still sorta stand by that, but I probably couldn't explain why. I still adore the bizarre Moon Over Moscow and Visa-Age is an abrasive cold electronic classic full of the romance of travel.
A couple of years ago I watched the online spat between Steve Strange and Rusty Egan (who was definitely not a peroxide blonde woman) over the ownership of the name, which all seemed very sad.
I'm so glad I got to see Visage play two years ago - they weren't amazing (ironically I thought the instrumentals were some of the best bits they did) but I was so glad I got to see them. I got to meet Steve briefly during one of the instrumentals when he ran over to the signing table and I got my records signed - some chap near to me said that Beat Boy was apparently rare now, ironic that it was bargain bin at Selectadisc. I gave Steve a copy of my short film The Crunch, as I'd had his Fade To Grey make up on a mood board for my friend and make up artist Debbie (also a big Visage fan) when we were designing the look of the film - Steve looked at it, puzzled, then sort of threw it back at me, until I told him it was a gift, at which point he seemed enamored and grateful for it, hugging it and being over the top grateful. I got some pictures with him, he ran back on stage with my film sticking out of his pocket for a completely knackered version of Fade To Grey - he was so under the weather the audience basically had to sing the song for him. It doesn't sound like a great show, but for me it was.
And if nothing else, Steve Strange definitely remains cool for pissing Midge Ure off for wanting to ride a camel through New York's 5th avenue to promote The Anvil...which ironically inspired the lyrics to a breathy tranny disco-go-go meets Spagna song my friend Jim and I recorded one night on my Mac.
RIP Steve.
Here's the photo of me, him and The Crunch dvd...

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