Poster boys for the New Romantic movement until Spandau Ballet and Duran Duran came along, took their ball and ran off with it, Steve Strange’s Visage had more of a career than most observers imagine.
While their December 1980 single Fade To Grey was (and remains) a landmark single for the scene – and for the whole synth pop movement in general – the band knocked out five more Top 40 singles before the end of 1982.
The line-up included (at various times) Midge Ure, Ultravox keyboard player Billy Currie, and no fewer than three Magazine alumni (bass player Barry Adamson, guitarist John McGeoch and keyboardist Dave Formula).
Ure left the band in 1982 to concentrate on his work with Ultravox, who were by now becoming even more successful than Visage. Creative differences with Strange (real name Steven John Harrington) were also cited as reasons for his departure.
Visage, now without Ure and Adamson but with the addition of bassist Steve Barnacle, recorded the single Pleasure Boys, which peaked just outside the UK Top 40.
Visage then took a two-year hiatus from releasing any new material due to contractual difficulties, which were finally resolved in 1984. Visage returned for their third and final album, Beat Boy, which was released in September 1984 but proved to be a critical and commercial failure.
A decision to make Visage a live band instead of a strictly studio-based project also failed to meet with success and the band subsequently split in 1985. Their final release was a video compilation of the band’s renowned promotional videos, interspersed with footage of Strange’s trip to North Africa the year before.
Following the demise of Visage, Strange formed the short-lived band Strange Cruise before disappearing from public view. He reappeared on the music scene in 2002, after several years of battling a heroin addiction and a three-month suspended sentence in 2000 for stealing a Teletubby doll of all things . . .
He performed several Visage songs on a revival tour of 1980s musicians and decided to launch a “Mark II” version of Visage.
An updated version of Fade To Grey was produced in 2005 and Strange recorded the first Visage mark II original composition, In the Dark, as part of electronic music duo Punx Soundcheck’s debut double album, When Machines Ruled the World (2006).
In 2007, another new song entitled Diary Of A Madman was made available for download from the band’s website, in return for a donation to the charity ‘Children in Need’.
Steve Strange died on 12 February 2015 of a heart attack. He was 55.
Steve Strange (Harrington)