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Ultravox star Chris Cross, who co-wrote hit Vienna, dies aged 71

Bass guitarist who helped write some of the group’s biggest hits is described by former bandmate as ‘the glue that held the band together’

Roisin O'Connor
Tuesday 02 April 2024 10:22

Chris Cross, the bassist who rose to fame as a member of the new wave band Ultravox, has died aged 71.

The news was announced by his bandmate Midge Ure, who paid tribute to “the glue that held the band together”.

“We worked together, we played together, made music and directed videos together. We were instant friends as well as Ultravox comrades,” Ure wrote in a post shared from the band’s Instagram account.

“Even after years apart we managed to pick up where we left off like the years in between never existed. You were the glue that held the band together. You were the logic in the madness and the madness in our lives. It was great to know and grow with you. You are loved and missed old friend.”

Born Chris Allen, the musician reportedly died on 25 March, but the news was not shared with the public until this week.

Ultravox (styled as Ultravox!) formed in London in 1974 and initially performed under the name Tiger Lily. They achieved a number of Top 10 albums and 17 hit singles between 1980 and 1986, including their 1981 No 2 single “Vienna” from the album of the same name.

“Vienna”, which opens on moody synths before blooming into a sprawling, mournful epic, is widely regarded as a defining song of the synth-pop scene that dominated the UK in the early Eighties, and was performed by the band during the 1985 Live Aid concert at Wembley Stadium.

It marked something of a resurgence for the band after their original frontman John Foxx quit and they were dropped by their record label, Island. However, Ure’s arrival gave Ultravox a new lease of life, and together he and Cross helped co-write what would become their biggest track.

“Vienna” was kept from the top spot on the UK singles chart by Joe Dolce’s novelty hit “Shaddap You Face”, but charted again in 1993.

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In 2012, it was named as the UK’s favourite No 2 single in a national poll by Radio b2 and the Official Charts Company, beating hits such as “Fairytale of New York” by The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl.

“It is probably the most apt winner, given the fact that it was kept from the chart summit in 1981 by Joe Dolce’s ‘Shaddup You Face’, which has long been considered one of the biggest chart injustices of all time,” then-managing director for the OCC, Martin Talbot, said at the time.

Fans paid tribute to Allen on Ure’s Instagram post, with one writing: “As a devoted fan of Ultravox this is truly sad news.”

“Rest in peace Chris, you are a legend,” another said.

On X/Twitter, journalist Alastair Coleman wrote: “Devastated to learn of the death of Chris Cross, bass player from Ultravox. Rest in peace, guy.”

“Such sad news about the passing of Chris Cross,” artist James Tansley said. “He was an integral part of both incarnations of Ultravox and a great musician who will be sadly missed.”

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