Friday, April 07, 2006

Another slice of Vienna roll

Now that the Vienna conundrum from the previous post has been cleared up thanks to WG and Anonymous, does anyone know where the name Ultravox comes from?
The online version of Brewer's Dictionary of Modern Phrase and Fable (the joys of working in the information industry!) provides the following explanation:

Ultravox: “from Latin ultra, 'beyond', and vox, 'voice', the intended meaning being 'the ultimate voice' or more precisely 'the voice from beyond'”

But if anyone can elaborate on this or provide an alternative theory, your contributions would be much appreciated.

Thinking of the Ultravox songs reminds of those nostalgia-fuelled TV quasi-documentaries where they show grainy archive footage of news events with the chart hits of the time playing in the background – cue images of striking miners, long-haired bearded men wrapped in blankets in filthy cells, war on windswept, sheep-infested South Atlantic islands, urban riots, Thatcherism and Reaganomics, embassy sieges, Russian tanks rolling over Afghanistan, famine in Ethiopia, anti-apartheid demonstrations, etc. Despite the awful fashions of the time, the 80s was certainly an interesting decade.

This in turn reminds me of that Billy Joel song “We didn’t start the fire” where the entire song conists of rhyming off various groundbreaking world events of the 20th century in chronological order. Incidentally this was adopted by Tyrone GAA supporters during the 2003 All-Ireland campaign, with Joel’s original lyrics replaced by amusing parochial references – the Ballygawley roundabout gets a mention somewhere – and the chorus changed to “We’ll win the Sam Maguire”, but that’s another story,

From this I’m reminded of REM’s “It’s the end of the world as we know” which has a similar format. Michael Stipe rhymes off various cultural and political icons which seem to herald the end of the world (as we know it), before declaring that he feels fine. What’s all that about?

In another classic Ronnie Corbett style digression, this brings me off on a another tangent - the tendency for “serious” musicians to name-drop obscure literary figures and references from arty films in their songs to give the impression of being all cultured and sophisticated. Jimmy Car-lookalike, Lloyd Cole is one of the main culprits here. The stereotypical image of disillusioned arts students in dreary industrial university towns in the union bar writing bad poetry springs to mind.

I’d love to discuss this all night, (so futher comments/views/analysis all most welcome), but I really must dash off now. Can’t miss Mike Baldwin going gentle into that good night…

Left: Lloyd Cole
Right: Jimmy Carr

Could they be related?


IanW said...

Hi Ciaran,
Great blog.
Greetings from Auld Reekie,

Caroline said...

I liked Lloyd Cole's bad poetry at the time although I can't claim to have played any of his stuff in recent years. Maybe I'll dust off those CDs now that you've prompted the notion.

Ultravox passed me by completely. Vienna is the only tune I could name by them and as for the name I have no clue either, but I'll take a guess and say they got it off a piece of amplification equipment or the like.

CW said...

Funny you should mention that, Caroline. I was in a charity shop recently and just by chance came across a cassette tape of the definitive Lloyd Cole album "Easy Pieces" from 1985 when he was still with the Commotions. It's got some classic tracks like "Why I love country music", "Cut me down" and "Lost Weekend". Good for listening to over a glass of wine when you've got back from work and you're in that pensive, contemplative mood.
"Lost weekend in a hotel in Amsterdam...This morning I woke up from a deep unquiet sleep
With ashtray heart and Miss Lonelyheart's pen
With which I wrote for you a love song in tattoo upon my palm..."

Well, at least it's something for Jimmy Carr to make jokes about.

Caroline said...

You bought it? I have Easy Pieces and Mainstream but can only vaguely remember what is on either CD... hmmm I spent a few too many weekends in Amsterdam at that time.

Do you think those older CDs will be worth anything in years to come. I think some of mine still play although I generally rip everything to MP3 these days. Handier.

karilyn said...

I think that jimmy has found the half brother that his father neglected to mention. Soon there will be a live renunion on tv and the actual fight over the carr estate in buckinhamshire, with the debate on who will inherit the land or the teapot.

CW said...

You could be right there Karilyn. I did a Google search to see if the Lloyd Cole/Jimmy Carr thing had been discussed anywhere else. Someone on Lloyd's own blog ( actually asked him if it was true that Jimmy Carr was his evil brother. Lloyd with his quickfire wit replies "I was under the impression that I was the evil one".

Now is it just me or does Manchester United's John O'Shea look like a slimmed down version of comedian Peter Kay?