In my post on former Japan front person David Sylvian’s “Orpheus,” I talked about my weekly record shopping excursions of the mid- to late-1970s.
On one of those trips, I discovered the British new wave band Ultravox (which went by Ultravox! from 1976 to 1978) and their 1977 debut, eponymous album. I don’t remember if I knew at the time, but looking over the record cover today, I saw that the band produced the album along with Brian Eno (maker of one of the first records I ever bought, Taking Tiger Mountain (By Strategy) and who comes up many times on this site), and Steve Lillywhite (who has since produced for U2 and Simple Minds).
Ultravox was one of my favourite bands in those early years. In 1979, Midge Ure replaced founding lead singer John Foxx who left to begin a solo career. Ure had played in the new romantic studio project Visage with Ultravox synthesizer, keyboard, viola, and violin player Billy Currie on a record released a year or so after its production. (Ure also partnered with former Boomtown Rats front person Bob Geldolf to organize the 1985 Live Aid charity concerts for Ethiopian famine relief.)
Ultravox originally formed in 1974 as Tiger Lily before developing the art-rock/glam-rock/new wave style, identity and name that would carry them through to their split-up (1987), a new lineup led by Currie (1992-1996) and then a period of reuniting (2008-2013).
I bought three of Ultravox’s first four albums, Ultravox! (1977), Systems of Romance and Slow Motion (both 1978), then skipped a few, but as the band’s music became a fixture on the club scene, bought Lament (1984). The last record I bought of theirs was their first compilation of hits, The Collection (1984). I still enjoy their 1977-1979 experimental music the most. I also favour some of their more dance-oriented songs of the early to mid-1980s, like the uptempo “Reap the Wild Wind” from the record Quartet (1982), the making of which was overseen by former Beatles producer George Martin (1926-2016).
The track reminds me of the heavy synthesizer focus of their experimental phase, but I didn’t click with most of the rest of that album. I also bought a couple of John Foxx’s solo albums, The Golden Section and Like a Miracle EP (both 1983), but I didn’t connect deeply with his style. I must give them a spin again, though, as I don’t remember them well.
The song title “Reap the Wild Wind” seems like a play on the biblical Old Testament verse, Hosea 8.7: “They sow the wind and reap the whirlwind…” which has also been interpreted as, “Our enemy has sown the wind by provoking this war, and they will reap the whirlwind when we vanquish them.” This meshes with the official music video, featuring air force pilots from the two world wars, recalled by modern-day builders of a war monument (the design of which is also the album logo). The band members play all of these characters in a video that depicts various aspects of war and is dedicated to those who served.
Over their career, the band released 11 studio albums, four live albums, 18 compilations, video and extended play projects, and more than 30 singles.
Now you know a little about why this is my song of the day for today. Thanks for joining me here, and please enjoy.
Here’s the video for the song from Ultravox’s YouTube channel:
Full, unofficial lyrics are available courtesy of AZLyrics.com.