Sunday, January 9, 2011

Urgh! A Music War (1981)

For our list (with videos!) of "The Better Parts of Urgh! A Music War"* please come visit The Big Takeover!

Urgh: A Music War was a filmed document of the British and American punk and New Wave scenes circa 1980, while Derek Burbidge's film was not an artistic achievement on par with say, The Decline of Western Civilization, it's creation of a permanent visual records of oft-neglected but deeply influential bands was a gift to the ages.

Of the artists herein, The Police, John Cooper Clarke, The Go-Go's, Dead Kennedys, X and Devo have all been featured on this retro-fitted, nostalgia-driven backward-looking blog. (And more of them are yet to come!)

1. The Police – "Driven to Tears"
2. Wall of Voodoo – "Back in Flesh"
3..Toyah Willcox – "Danced"
4. John Cooper Clarke – "Health Fanatic"
5. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark – "Enola Gay"
6. Chelsea – "I’m on Fire"
7. Oingo Boingo – "Ain’t This the Life"
8. Echo & the Bunnymen – "The Puppet"
9. Jools Holland – "Foolish I Know"
10. XTC – "Respectable Street"
11. Klaus Nomi – "Total Eclipse"
12. Athletico Spizz 80 – "Where’s Captain Kirk?"
13. The Go-Go's – "We Got the Beat"
14. Dead Kennedys – "Bleed for Me"
15. Steel Pulse – "Ku Klux Klan"
16. Gary Numan – "Down in the Park"
17. Joan Jett and the Blackhearts – "Bad Reputation"
18. Magazine – "Model Worker"
19. Surf Punks – "My Beach"
20. The Members – "Offshore Banking Business"
21. Au Pairs – "Come Again"
22. The Cramps – "Tear It Up"
23. Invisible Sex – "Valium"
24. Pere Ubu – "Birdies"
25. Devo – "Uncontrollable Urge"
26. The Alley Cats – "Nothing Means Nothing Anymore"
27. John Otway – "Cheryl’s Going Home"
28. Gang of Four – "He’d Send in the Army"
20. 999 – "Homicide"
30. The Fleshtones – "Shadowline"
31. X – "Beyond and Back"
32. Skafish – "Sign of the Cross"
34. Splodgenessabounds – "Two Little Boys"
35. UB40 – "Madame Medusa"
36. The Police – "Roxanne/So Lonely"

The soundtrack for this incredible document remains stubbornly out-of-print although the Warner Brothers site does sell a non-remastered, non-restored DVD-R of the film itself on its website.

UAMW link is in the comments

AND speaking of comments, please leave us one about what YOU think are the better parts of the movie!


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  2. Jeffen

    Definitely a crime that this has not been remastered(& maybe expanded) and reissued in a proper form.Maybe it involves rights issues.

    My personal favourites are Toyah,Klaus Nomi,John Otway, and Spizz.

    And how about the chunky Belinda Carlisle!


  3. Hi Jeffen! What a great post. Urgh! was a highlight of my musical education and the first time I actually got to see what a lot of these artists looked like. My favorite performances were The Police, The Members, XTC, Devo, UB40, Steel Pulse. I remember my jaw dropping when I saw Skafish, Klaus Nomi and Gary Numan!

  4. hooray! i've been looking for this soundtrack, off and on, since the police were my favorite band way back in high school in the 80's.

    i don't know if i have a favorite part of the movie... frankly, i'm not even sure if i've seen it. i should rectify that straight away.

  5. Picked up the record and saw the film later here in Houston. I had seen the groups which had passed through Houston by that time (Police, XTC, Gang of Four, GoGos, X, E&TB, B52s, Joan Jett, Numan, Steel Pulse and DEVO) and loved seeing footage of Au Pairs and Alley Cats especially.

    I often lump this one in with 'Beat Crazy' (the ska film which came out around the same time, to same theater - Greenway Plaza in Houston).

    Thanks for the memories!

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  7. amazing soundtrack not a dud on there,i would love to get hold of a remastered copy of film, favs are spizz police numan dead kennedys do i need to go on?

  8. Digging this. Digging your site. Thank you.

  9. After seeing this post of another great slab 'o music I decided it was high time I got off my duff & wrote some appreciative words to you.

    Thank you.

    P.S. - I'd come & wash your car to show my thanks, but got a cramp in my right hand.

  10. Urgh! I'm just a tad too young (43) to have experienced this first time around. This music makes me wish I'd been born about 10 years earlier and in a time/place to allow me to have experienced "the scene" first hand :)

  11. Thanks, never saw the movie can't wait to hear the music.

  12. Great Post. Thanks. Saw the movie back in the day. Highlights for me are Dead Kennedys, Chelsea, 999, The Members, The Cramps, Joan Jett and The Go Go's. The movie really needs to be reissued on dvd. I had read somewhere that there is lot's of recorded footage that was never used in the actual film. Not sure how true that is. Great extras for a dvd issue if it is true!

    Angry (Days of Our Youth)

  13. Never saw the movie, but bought the double album when it came out, so great to have it digitally again, thanks. But did you add some numbers? I remember only 1 Police track..., no complaints!

  14. Does anyone have the Surf Punks 'Locals Only'?

  15. Thank you. I sold my beat up vinyl copy of this years ago. Never seen the DVD. Post of the year.

  16. Man, Klaus Nomi OWNS this movie.
    Why don't musicians dress like that anymore?


  17. I credit urgh with putting me on the trail and later osbession with XTC. Great perfomance in this filn with Respectable Street

  18. I credit Urgh with putting me on the trail and later obsession with XTC . Great performance in the film

  19. XTC great performance in this film

  20. I saw this first on USA Network's "Night Flight" in the 80s -- great great stuff. So many startling performances it's hard to single any out: Gang of Four, Pere Ubu, Wall Of Voodoo, XTC, X, and especially the blond guy with ill-fitting glasses in the moshpit in the L.A. footage. Thanks so much.

  21. a friend had a bootleg copy of this that i got to see around 1996.

    the one performance that still sticks out to me was Gary Numan's. driving around the stage in a car/coffin/command station thing was awesome.

  22. Wow -- haven't seen this for a long time -- thanks for bringing back the memories!

  23. Doug
    Expanded version needs to be done -trickier projects have been realized.

    With that line it was the "first time I actually got to see what a lot of these artists looked like." you put your finger on the difference between then and now.

    Yeah I've owned the soundtrack but never thew film.

    that's a great list of shows (and a great Springsteenian user name)!

    yeah it is hard to stop at a few faves here.


    The car is encrusted with ice 0 so just keep enjoying the music!

    I sometimes wish that too.


    Deluxe edition!!

    This version that I found seems to be the entire soundtrack to the film (not the 2 X L.P) which seemed like a nice bonus!

    I should check out more SP, I haven't listened to them in a long time.

    Wow, post of the year in early January - I can coast from here!

    One could be so...excessive in that era.

    Makes me regret that XTC retired from the road so early in their career.

    I think the director can be forgiven for just letting the camera roll with performance this good.

    I always remember loving Numan's "Cars" when i was just wee.

    Always glad to bring back memories.

  24. urgh a music war was avilable to rent from my local video store and i got it out every weekend to watch.but the store closed down.i had a copy of it and me and another dude from north america put lots of this on the net.the rest is history..the best track is klaus nome total eclipse question about it....

  25. I LOVE this album. I hate to admit it, but I lived this (the '80s) and I would tell anyone that the soundtrack is the perfect primer for anyone attempting to experience it. It's more accurate what it was LIKE to live it than you might realize from just the stuff we hear now from the '80s (not as edgy) this was a mixture of Rockabilly, Punk, New Wave, Alternative and Ska. It was just a lot more nuanced than the impression you get nowadays. I agree it needs remastering, I'd even volunteer, bit to respond to someone above, Yeah, I think there were a LOT of rights issues. I read on another blog that they fought for years, although I did get the impression a re-release was cleared.
    Personally I've never had the fortune to see the movie. I would REALLY REALLY REALLY like to have a copy. I bet it's awesome!

  26. We need a re-issue with a CD/DVD.


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