Five-minute memoir: Benjamin Anastas recalls his deeply unpopular obsession with Ultravox

'I started wearing gel in my hair so I could look more like Midge Ure'

Trust me when I say that no one else at school liked Ultravox. I might have been the only 12 year old in the state of Massachusetts who filled the dead time in his geometry class by drawing the band's logo on the cover of his notebook over and over again – this was the squared, futuristic lettering from the album Vienna, not easy to reproduce in number-two pencil – or who couldn't wait to get home after school, flip on the stereo, and drop the turntable needle on the album's first track, "Sleepwalk".

No matter how many times I listened to the song, with its swooshing intro that sounded like a backwards cymbal crash, I felt a surge of excitement that I couldn't explain. It wasn't anything like the music that I'd grown up with; it wasn't the hard rock and heavy metal that all the other boys in my school liked, scrawling 'Twisted Sister' and 'AC/DC' on their own notebooks; it was new wave, emphasis on the 'new', and everyone else in the eighth grade was stuck in the past.

When I brought friends home and played my Ultravox album, hoping for the same effect, a conversion experience like the one I'd had listening to Vienna for the first time, on a boombox in the woods, my friend Geoff – he was older, at least 14 – looking at me with expectancy in his eyes and going, "See? See? I told you…", I only found disappointment.

"Yeah, I guess they're all right."

"You really like 'em, huh?"

"Ultrawhat?"

"What else you got to listen to?"

"Ultravox sucks."

I didn't mind the fact that no one else liked Ultravox. If anything, the fact that most of my friends hadn't even heard of Ultravox only increased the band's allure in my eyes. I was an evangelist for a great and noble cause. When I bought Rage in Eden, the band's second album with Midge Ure at the helm – and its best, by any honest measure – my immersion in the church of Ultravox became complete. The band's logo was harder to reproduce on my school notebooks now (the album cover for Rage in Eden featured a strange-looking Cubist head with one rectangle eye, far beyond my skills as an artist), but the songs were better than ever.

Once again, the genius of Ultravox was lost on the friends I brought home to hear Rage in Eden:

"You're still into Ultravox?"

"That's it, I'm getting bored."

"Is that a piano?"

"I hate piano."

"Ultravox sucks."

I was undaunted, though. Ultravox was still my favourite band. They were my secret, my discovery. I sent away to England for a skinny Ultravox tie and a Rage in Eden pin. I started wearing gel in my hair so I could look more like Midge Ure. The pointed sideburns I couldn't duplicate yet, but I bought a pair of wool herringbone trousers and a Scottish driving cap like the one I'd seen him wear in pictures.

I went to Newbury Comics, an import record store, and scoured the London fan magazines for any news about the band. I sent away for a poster, and when it came eight weeks later, damaged from the trip, I hung it up on my bedroom wall and gazed at it whenever I didn't want to do my homework. I didn't care what the world thought. As Midge sang in "The Thin Wall", my favourite song from Rage in Eden:

And those who sneer will fade and die
And those who laugh will surely fall
And those who know will always feel
Their backs against the thin wall

Breaking up with a favourite band doesn't happen overnight. You grow older and your taste in music changes. Bands get worse and you feel personally betrayed. Other bands arrive on the scene and you start straying in the record store, with a feeling of guilt and excitement. My love for Ultravox died hard, but it did die, for all of the reasons I've listed above; the band betrayed me first (remember "Dancing With Tears in My Eyes"? Or the Raiders of the Lost Ark-themed video for "Love's Great Adventure" from 1984?) and I never quite forgave them.

I kept my Ultravox poster on my wall through most of high school, but they were replaced in quick succession by Simple Minds, The Cure, The Smiths, Billy Bragg. I did see them live once, at the Orpheum in Boston, and it was our last hurrah. The lights went down. The intro music started playing, and we rose to our feet. The curtains flew open with a burst of blinding light and the pulsing bassline from "The Thin Wall". The crowd roared. I roared too. Ultravox!

Benjamin Anastas is the author of 'Too Good to be True', published in eBook by Blackfriars, £3.99

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk