It is a late Friday afternoon in early April. I’m standing in the kitchen at home with a friend, making a coffee and introducing Snaps, our small nine month old white haired Tibetan Tripehound. To many, my friend is known as The Mighty Warren Cann, from Ultravox. It is a day off work for both of us and a time to relax and catch up while our wives do the same somewhere out of mobile and husband range in London. As we talk, we move into the dining room and look at some of the artwork, old framed maps and books that I’ve picked up along the way and that have shaped my life so far. One piece, a painting, takes more of our attention than the other items; it is European in origin and quite unlike any of the artists other works. We look at this together both from close up and as far away as the wall opposite will allow so as to be able to appreciate its full beauty. In-between reflecting silently on what the artists intentions and thoughts could have been and my dog running around our feet wanting our attention to play, we discuss the concept that art is not something that is actually owned - well, not in the conventional sense - but that whoever possesses a piece at any point is merely a custodian, safeguarding it until it passes on to the next keeper or next phase. It’s a conversation I will keep in my mind over the next few days. The moment passes; we finish our drinks and move on to meet other friends in town for dinner.
I’m writing this on the afternoon of Monday 12th April 2010. Earlier today, bathed in beautiful sunlight, I am walking Snaps on one of the many river paths close to home while listening to a mixed selection of songs on my iPod. This collection of tracks was meant as background for another time, but as I walk I hear two songs in a different light that remind me of the previous week’s conversations. Both are cover versions; one is Jem’s elegant version of Paul McCartney’s post Beatles song Maybe I’m Amazed, and the other is Life On Mars, sung by Seu Jorge in Portuguese with only an acoustic guitar for accompaniment. For the latter, the song has a translation that may or not be accurate but the fact that I neither speak nor understand the language does not matter. The music and phrasing is sparse but beautiful, with a depth and passion bought to the song that for me equals David Bowie’s original. It shows how music is sometimes so much more than its component parts, and I am left with thoughts of wanting to be elsewhere, specifically with my wife. I have seen four concerts in four cities in the past six days and I am tired, something I always seemingly am at the moment, and as the music gently catches me emotionally I start to cry. I kneel down and hold my dog close to me so as not to let passers by see I am upset, but my tears, gentle at first but now flowing, are not just because of tiredness. The journey to this point today has been long, often exciting, sometimes tortuous but always fascinating. I am nearly 39 years old and have followed this band for nearly 30 years. I’ve been very fortunate in how things have fallen to get me to this point with some of the opportunities I have had. But I have also worked hard to make these things happen. On this particular afternoon I am only too aware that my tears are for things that I no longer want to control and that I need to leave behind.
For some time now, it has become obvious that some people in this strange little world of ours do not consider us as anything but an irritant, only to be engaged at times suitable for themselves and only as a resource or a means to an end for things they themselves can not do. Despite being treated as amateurs - which it is hard to argue we are not - and being ignored at times when we request things that would help everyone, we continue to provide a professional service without objection to those who need us more than we need them. Along the way I discover that I am being briefed against by people with whom I have no contact, their view being that I should not be trusted as my motives may be impure and that I should be treated with caution. Although this does not necessarily come as a surprise, I am nevertheless left slightly numb when I learn of this Machiavellian behaviour. I rationalise this information and will ultimately forgive the circumstances as to why this could have been said, but I will not forget the words or the detrimental effects I believe it was intended to cause had my relationship with the others not been so strong. But it does help shape my activities for the remaining time I set myself.
Yesterday afternoon I helped Cerise Reed and Robin Harris run an event in Central London, a Voxgate, which exceeded all our expectations and provided nearly 180 people the unique opportunity of attending a magnificent one off event in a venue where some of the greatest musicians that have ever lived have played before. It is what Sting once described as a ‘Shea Stadium’ moment, the final piece of my personal jigsaw and an event that I doubt we could ever better even if we wanted to. To put this event on, we discuss and organise everything ourselves, and spend a lot of money in the process turning this idea into reality. We ask people to help by buying tickets, yet will eventually discover that between us we will lose several hundred pounds staging ‘Party Fears Three’ and ‘Messengers’, but to take only the view of finances misses the point of why we are doing this for the last time. We organise this day because we want like minded fans to come to the capital and join us, having an afternoon to enjoy music and to have fun. However, unknown to the majority this event also doubles as my leaving party. As ‘Extreme Voice’, Cerise and Rob are the official web presence that represents Ultravox as best it can without the unnecessary and often underhand interference of outsiders. As we help set up the venue and let people in, I privately hope to myself that they continue to do so as there is no one better to be custodians of all these things outside of the band themselves. They are my friends and I love them; they are deeply loyal, knowledgeable, friendly, maddening, tenacious individuals who have always approached works and relationships with a consistent sense of openness, decency and fairness. It is for these qualities that when people like Colin King and Daniel Mitchell are asked by them whether they would like to play for fans, they are listened to. They go about getting results quietly, away from obvious eyes, the openly naked politicking some people thrive on and the endless inevitable, frustrating speculation that comes from a world where the need for space and privacy does not register in outsiders minds.
I have spent nearly seven years of my life discussing, debating, arguing and disagreeing with them on many things, sometimes to the point of it being unclear why we continue to communicate. In retrospect, their drive for excellence with ideas and execution in work, and to question every little detail is what has kept things to the highest standards imaginable. They have helped keep the Ultravox name and body of work in the public eye, sometimes against a million different unhelpful influences. I have always maintained I am a ‘with’ rather than an ‘and’ when it comes to credit with the projects I’ve been involved in, and this view has not changed. Cerise and Rob are the constants in this world and I have dropped in to help them along a small part of the way only. I do not forget today that together we have completed some amazing works, sometimes at a greater personal expense than people will ever realise. I will miss what being involved with EV has meant and given me, and I will miss them both when leaving them to complete the work we have already started. But I am tired; I can give no more, and it is time to move on from all these things that dominate my life. Tonight, I will travel for the fifth time in a week to see my friends at work and play. The final UK concert on this tour closes this part of the journey for me, and as we hug each other I leave my role as the third person in the EV organisation with some tears, but no regrets.
I can not name everyone who has helped me in my time being part of this community, and despite me being the one writing, this post ultimately is not intended to gain reaction from others, hence my asking Cerise and Rob to close the thread before replies are sent. I will remain a forum member and will continue to post, albeit from a different position. So many people have played a part and I am privileged to have so many friendships that have grown from this website. I would like to say thank you to you all who matter to me, wherever you are.
Like art, the ones to safeguard music from neglect or decay are those who truly appreciate what it represents, and in this case, music is kept alive by you, the people who buy it, who critique it for good and bad, who attend concerts and support the artists through thick and thin; the fans. Enjoy the music for what it represents for you personally and support the band and website positively, but don’t take it all too seriously. Life has much to offer and is best approached with an open mind, a true heart and clear messages.
With every best wishes,