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Visage are a English pop band. Formed in 1978, the band became closely linked to the burgeoning New Romantic fashion movement of the early 1980s.

History

New Wave years (1978–1985)

Founder members Steve Strange and Rusty Egan were hosting club nights at Blitz nightclub in Great Queen Street, London at the time and were eager to find new music to play, ultimately opting to create music themselves. Strange commented about the meaning of the band's name: "The meaning of Visage, apart from being French for face, is that the Vis is for the visual side of the band... and the Age is the new age in dance music. That's how I see it."

Initially, the band was composed of Strange, Egan and Midge Ure. Ure and Egan began working with Strange during their last days with band The Rich Kids, with Strange himself being at a loose end after leaving the new wave band The Photons. The trio recorded a demo which included a cover of the Zager and Evans hit "In the Year 2525". Ultravox's multi-instrumentalist Billy Currie and the core of post-punk band Magazine – guitarist John McGeoch and keyboardist Dave Formula – joined the studio-only band later (Magazine's bassist Barry Adamson also played a minor role in the recording sessions though was not officially listed as a band member on any of Visage's record releases). Visage signed to Radar Records and released their first single, "Tar", in September 1979. The single failed to chart, but the band managed to secure a deal with a larger record company (Polydor) the following year.

1980 saw the release of their second single, "Fade to Grey". The single became a huge hit (making the top ten in the UK and several other countries, and reaching no.1 in Germany and Switzerland) and was quickly followed by the release of their self-titled debut album which was also a chart success.

After further Top 40 hits with "Mind of a Toy" and the title track "Visage", Strange struggled to reunite the band's members again to record a second album because of their commitments with their respective bands (Ure and Currie with Ultravox, Formula with Magazine, and McGeoch with Siouxsie & the Banshees). However, in the autumn of 1981 all musicians (except McGeoch) went into the studio again and recorded The Anvil. The album was released in March 1982 and became Visage's first (and only) UK top ten album, producing two top twenty singles with "The Damned Don't Cry" and "Night Train". The Anvil earned a Silver disc in the UK, as did the band's first album.

Following this, Ure left the band to concentrate on his work with Ultravox, who were by now becoming even more successful than Visage were. Creative differences with Strange were also cited as reasons for his departure at the time. Visage, now without Ure and Adamson (who continued collaborating with Pete Shelley, and joined The Birthday Party) but with the addition of bassist Steve Barnacle, recorded the stand-alone single "Pleasure Boys", which was released in October 1982. Unfortunately, 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. Polydor issued a "best of" compilation in 1983; Fade to Grey - The Singles Collection which included all of the singles released to date and the previously unreleased "In The Year 2525". Limited quantities of the album were issued with a free "Pleasure Boys" 7" picture disc single, whereas the cassette version of the album featured remixes of the singles. Although the album was certified Gold in the UK for pre-release sales to stores, it only peaked at no.38 after its release in November 1983.

With their contractual problems resolved, 1984 saw the return of Visage for what would become their third and final album to date. Beat Boy was released in September 1984 but was a critical and commercial failure, peaking at #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 departed 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 newer musicians Steve & Gary Barnacle and Andy Barnett. A decision to make Visage a live band instead of a strictly studio-based project also failed to meet with success and the band subsequently split in 1985. Their final release was a Visage VHS video compilation of the band's renowned promotional videos and also included footage of Strange's trip to North Africa the year before. 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.

Following the demise of Visage, Strange then formed the short-lived band Strange Cruise. They were signed to EMI and released two singles; these being "Rebel Blue Rocker" and a cover version of Sonny and Cher's "And The Beat Goes On". Neither of these singles made the charts. The band also released one album in 1986, though this too proved unsuccessful. Visage returned to the charts once more when a Bassheads remix of "Fade to Grey" was a UKmarker Top 40 hit in 1993.

Second incarnation (2004-)

Steve Strange reappeared on the music scene in 2002, after several years of battling a heroin addiction. Strange performed several Visage songs on the "Here and Now Xmas Tour" — a revival of 1980s musicians. Some time after the performance, noting he still had a fanbase, Strange decided to launch 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 have made slow progress. An updated version of Fade To Grey was produced in 2005 and Strange recorded the first "Visage mark II" original track, "In the Dark", as part of electroduo Punx Soundcheck's debut double album When Machines Ruled the World. The album was released in Europe in Summer 2006.

In 2007, another new song entitled "Diary Of A Madman" was recorded. 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.

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 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's 'Pop Goes the Band' , a series in which pop stars from the 80s are given a complete makeover in return for a one-off performance. The Visage episode aired on on 16 March 2009, and was the first time that the two men had spoken in over 20 years. The episode focussed (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".

Discography

Media

This section includes music samples of several Visage tracks:

References

  1. BBC biography on Steve Strange
  2. Visage and The Anvil album sleeve credits
  3. New material for Visage finally there
  4. Pop Goes the Band


External links




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