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

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Summer nights: ‘Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp’
TVBut what do we Brits really know about them?
Arts and Entertainment
Dr Michael Mosley is a game presenter

TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
    Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

    'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

    Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
    Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

    BBC heads to the Californian coast

    The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
    Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

    Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

    Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
    Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

    Car hacking scandal

    Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
    10 best placemats

    Take your seat: 10 best placemats

    Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory