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|Years active||1978–1985 , 2002 –2011 , 2012 –2015|
|Past members|| Steve Strange |
Visage were a British synthpop band, formed in London in 1978. The band became closely linked to the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement of the early 1980s, and are best known for their hit "Fade to Grey" which was released in late 1980. In the UK, the band achieved two Top 20 albums ( Visage and The Anvil ) and five Top 30 singles before the commercial failure of their third album ( Beat Boy ) led to their break-up in 1985.
The band has seen various line-up changes over the years, all fronted by vocalist Steve Strange, who resurrected the band name in the 2000s. In 2013, the most recent line-up of the band released Hearts and Knives , the first new Visage album in 29 years. The band's fifth and final album, Demons to Diamonds , was released in 2015, nine months after Strange had died following a heart attack.
Founding members Midge Ure and Rusty Egan started working on Visage to produce music to play at the clubs Egan was DJing at. Egan alongside Steve Strange was hosting David Bowie and Roxy Music club nights at Billy's nightclub in London's Soho district at the time and Egan was eager to find new music to play, ultimately opting to create music himself with Ure. Steve Strange had briefly been in the punk/new wave bands The Moors Murderers and The Photons, and Egan was working with Midge Ure in the band The Rich Kids. Ure and Egan recorded a demo which included the original track "The Dancer" of which a version appeared on the debut Visage album and a cover of the Zager and Evans hit "In the Year 2525".Strange was then brought into the band to provide the face and voice of Visage with the line-up being completed with the addition of Ultravox keyboardist Billy Currie and three-fifths of the post-punk band Magazine – guitarist John McGeoch, keyboardist Dave Formula and bassist Barry Adamson (who left the band after playing on its debut single, but returned as a session musician). Producer Martin Rushent had heard some of the band's material at Billy's nightclub and financed further recordings with a view to signing the band to his new Genetic Records label. Visage recorded their first album at Rushent's home studio in Berkshire, but Rushent's label collapsed, and the band instead signed to Radar Records, a new independent label run by Rushent's former colleague Martin Davis (the pair had worked together at United Artists Records). Visage released their first single "Tar" on Radar in September 1979, though the single failed to chart. By this time, however, Strange and Egan had relocated their themed club nights to the Blitz club in Covent Garden and the New Romantic movement had begun in earnest. In mid-1980, David Bowie himself visited the club and asked Strange and three other regulars to appear in the video for his single "Ashes to Ashes", which helped to propel the New Romantic movement into the mainstream.
Although Visage's self-titled debut album had been completed for several months, it was not released until November 1980 when the band was now signed to the major label Polydor Records. The band's second single, "Fade to Grey", was released at the same time.The single became a hit in early 1981, making the top ten in the UK Singles Chart and several other countries, and reaching no. 1 in Germany and Switzerland. The album also became a Top 20 hit in the UK and was certified Silver by the British Phonographic Industry.
After further hits with the singles "Mind of a Toy" and the title track "Visage", Strange struggled to reunite the band's members again to record a second album due to their commitments with their respective bands; Ure had now joined Currie in Ultravox, Formula and Adamson with Magazine and McGeoch had joined Siouxsie and the Banshees.Nonetheless, in the autumn of 1981, Visage went into the studio and recorded The Anvil as a five-piece band without McGeoch and only limited guest work from Adamson. The album, which was named after an infamous gay nightclub in New York City, was released in March 1982 and became the band's only Top 10 hit in the UK Albums Chart, producing two top-twenty singles with "The Damned Don't Cry" and "Night Train". Like their first album, The Anvil earned a Silver disc in the UK. Following this, Ure quit from Visage to concentrate on his work with Ultravox, who were now even more successful than Visage. Creative differences with Strange and Egan were also cited as reasons for his departure at the time.
"The trouble with Visage was that there were too many chiefs, six characters all wanting an equal say without putting in an equal amount of work. I was doing most of the writing and producing, and we all knew Steve [Strange] was the frontman, but when it became successful, jealousy and the nasty side of the business crept in. That was never the way it was intended.
Visage were now without Ure, McGeoch and Adamson, who went on to join Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. Bassist Steve Barnacle was recruited to replace Adamson, and the remaining lineup recorded the stand-alone single "Pleasure Boys", which was released in October 1982. The single failed to prolong their string of hits and peaked just outside the UK Top 40.
Although still recording, Visage then took a two-year hiatus from releasing any new material due to contractual difficulties with their management company. Polydor issued a "best of" compilation, Fade to Grey – The Singles Collection , which included all of the singles released to date and the previously unreleased "In the Year 2525". Although the album was certified Gold in the UK for pre-release sales to stores, it only peaked at No. 38 in the UK Albums Chart after its release in November 1983.
In 1984, with their contractual problems resolved, Visage returned with their third album, Beat Boy . 79 in the UK. Two singles from the album, "Love Glove" and "Beat Boy", also failed to make the UK top 40. By this time, Billy Currie and Dave Formula had also left the band (though they received a "special thanks" credit on the album sleeve for their input), leaving only Strange and Egan from the original line-up along with Steve Barnacle and new recruits Gary Barnacle (Steve Barnacle's brother) and Andy Barnett who also was a member of FM and ASAP. A decision to make Visage a live band instead of a strictly studio-based project also failed to meet with success and the band split in 1985. Their final release was a Visage video compilation of the band's renowned promotional videos and other footage, including Strange's 1983 trip to North Africa. The compilation does not, however, include the original video for the "Love Glove" single which was filmed at a late-night Dockland location in London in 1984.Released in October 1984, the album was a critical and commercial failure, peaking at No.
Following the demise of Visage, Strange and Barnacle then formed the short-lived band Strange Cruise, though this too proved unsuccessful. Visage returned to the charts once more when a Bassheads remix of "Fade to Grey" was a UK Top 40 hit in 1993.
Steve Strange reappeared on the music scene in 2002, after several years of battling a heroin addiction and other personal problems.He performed several Visage songs on the Here and Now Xmas Tour – a revival of 1980s pop acts. Some time after the performance, Strange decided to create a "Mark II" of Visage with people from several electronic bands and projects: Steven Young, Sandrine Gouriou and Rosie Harris from Seize and Ross Tregenza from Jetstream Lovers/Goteki. After the announcement of the formation of the new line-up and several television appearances, plans for reworking old material and releasing a new record made slow progress. An updated version of "Fade to Grey" was produced in 2005. In 2006, Strange also collaborated with the electronic duo Punx Soundcheck and provided vocals on the track "In the Dark", which was included on the duo's debut double album When Machines Ruled the World. The first Visage mk II track was released in 2007, entitled "Diary of a Madman". Written by Strange with Visage mk II member Ross Tregenza, the track was co-produced by original Visage member Dave Formula. This song was made available for download from their official website in return for a donation to the charity Children in Need. However, no further new material surfaced from this line-up.
The long-since deleted Visage VHS video collection was repackaged for release on DVD in Summer 2006, though it was mistakenly titled Visage Live.
In 2008, Strange (and Visage II keyboardist Sandrine Gouriou) made an appearance in the BBC drama series Ashes to Ashes which is set in 1981. In it, they performed the song "Fade to Grey" in a scene set in the "Blitz" nightclub.
In 2009, Strange and Egan appeared in Living TV's Pop Goes the Band, a series in which pop stars from the 1980s are given a complete makeover in return for a one-off performance. The Visage episode aired on 16 March 2009, and was the first time that the two men had spoken in over 20 years. The episode focused (like others in the series) more on getting them fit in the gym than on the current state of their relationship, though they appeared to get on well enough. At the culmination of the episode, they performed "Fade to Grey".
In 2010, new remixes of "Fade to Grey" were produced by club DJs Michael Gray and Lee Mortimer to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the song. The remixes were included on a new compilation album, The Face – The Very Best of Visage, which was released in March 2010.
On 8 January 2013, Strange appeared as a guest on the Channel 4 News programme to discuss the forthcoming David Bowie album The Next Day . During the interview he mentioned that a new Visage album was also due for release in Spring 2013.
Also on 8 January 2013, Visage launched their new website, Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud accounts and announced their new line-up, consisting of Steve Strange, former Visage bassist Steve Barnacle, former Ultravox guitarist Robin Simon, and Lauren Duvall on vocals. A single from the album, "Shameless Fashion", was made available as a free download from the band's Facebook page, and a physical CD-single was released on 6 May 2013. The band's new album, Hearts and Knives , was released on 20 May 2013. A second single from the album, "Dreamer I Know", was released in July 2013, and a third single, "Never Enough", was released in December. Throughout the second half of 2013, the band also embarked on a series of live dates in the UK and Europe. "Hidden Sign" was the fourth single to be taken from Hearts and Knives, released in May 2014and "She's Electric (Coming Around)" was released as the fifth and final single in August 2014.
In December 2014, Visage released Orchestral , a mostly live album containing twelve Visage songs remade with a symphony orchestra. A single of the orchestral version of "Fade To Grey" was released ahead of the album in November 2014.
On 12 February 2015, frontman Steve Strange died of a heart attack while on holiday in Egypt.While Strange's death ultimately meant the end of Visage, the band opted to complete the album they had already been working on with Strange prior to his death. On 2 September 2015, an organisation known as The Steve Strange Collective was announced. Run by Strange's friends and relatives, they oversaw the release of the final Visage album, Demons to Diamonds , which was released on 6 November 2015.
Ultravox were a British new wave band, formed in London in April 1974 as Tiger Lily. Between 1980 and 1986, they scored seven Top Ten albums and seventeen Top 40 singles in the UK, the most successful of which was their 1981 hit "Vienna".
William Lee Currie is a British violist, violinist, pianist, keyboardist, and songwriter from Huddersfield, England. He is best known for his work with new wave band Ultravox, who achieved their greatest commercial success in the 1980s.
James Ure is a Scottish musician, singer-songwriter and producer. His stage name, Midge, is a phonetic reversal of Jim, the diminutive form of his actual name. Ure enjoyed particular success in the 1970s and 1980s in bands including Slik, Thin Lizzy, Rich Kids and Visage, and as the frontman of Ultravox. In 1984, he co-wrote and produced the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", which has sold 3.7 million copies in the UK. The song is the second highest-selling single in UK chart history. Ure co-organised Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8 with Bob Geldof. He acts as a trustee for the charity and also serves as an ambassador for Save the Children.
"The Damned Don't Cry" is a song by British pop group Visage, released as a single by Polydor Records in 1982.
Rusty Egan is the former drummer for the British new wave band Rich Kids. They were founded by former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock, with Steve New and fronted by Jim Midge Ure, from their inception in March 1977 to their disbanding in December 1978. He continued working with Ure, and later collaborated with The Misfits, Skids, Shock, and Visage. However, Egan did not return to Visage when they reformed with a new line-up in 2004.
Stephen John Harrington, better known by his stage name Steve Strange, was a Welsh pop singer. From the late 1970s he was a nightclub host and promoter. He became famous as the leader of the new wave synth-pop group Visage, best known for their single "Fade to Grey", and was one of the most influential figures behind the New Romantic movement of the early 1980s.
Beat Boy is the third studio album by the British new wave band Visage. It was recorded at Trident Studios between 1982 and 1983 and released on Polydor Records in October 1984. Reaching No. 79 on the UK album chart, the album was poorly received by critics and would be the band's last studio album for almost thirty years.
The Anvil is the second studio album by the British rock/pop band Visage, released in March 1982 by Polydor Records. The album reached No. 6 in the UK and was certified "Silver" by the British Phonographic Industry in April 1982.
Visage is the debut studio album by the British new wave band Visage. It was recorded at Genetic Sound Studios in Reading, Berkshire and released on 10 November 1980 by Polydor Records.
"Fade to Grey" is the second single by the British new wave band Visage, released on Polydor Records in 1980.
"Mind of a Toy" is the third single by the British pop group Visage, released on Polydor Records in March 1981. It was taken from the band's eponymous debut album, following up their international hit "Fade to Grey".
"Tar" is the debut single by the British pop group Visage, released in 1979.
"Night Train" is the sixth single by the British pop group Visage, released by Polydor Records in June 1982.
"Visage" is the fourth single by the British pop group Visage, released by Polydor Records on 29 June 1981. It is the title track from Visage's eponymous debut album. The single peaked at no.21 in the UK Singles Chart.
"Pleasure Boys" is a single by the British pop group Visage, released on Polydor Records in October 1982.
The Damned Don't Cry is a compilation album by the British synthpop group Visage released in 2000.
Master Series is a compilation album by the British synthpop band Visage released in 1997.
Visage is a compilation video by the British band Visage, released in 1986.
Hearts and Knives is the fourth studio album by the British rock/pop band Visage. It was released on 20 May 2013 and was the band's first album of new material in 29 years.
If I Was: The Very Best of Midge Ure & Ultravox is a 1993 compilation album by Scottish musician Midge Ure, featuring songs from his solo career and as part of the new wave and synthpop band Ultravox, along with Ure's collaborations with Mick Karn, Phil Lynott, Visage, and charity supergroup Band Aid.