Thanks to Heather over at Ugly Floral Blouse for pointing out that VH1 Classics is showing seminal post-punk/new wave concert film Urgh! A Music War tonight (10/30) at 9PM. If you’ve never seen it, Urgh! features performances by Echo & the Bunnymen, Gang of Four, XTC, Wall of Voodoo, Devo, Joan Jett, the Cramps, Gary Newman, Klaus Nomi and many, many more when what they were doing was actually fresh. Other than Penelope Spheeris’ Decline of Western Civilization, this is the most important punk/new wave film that has yet to be released on DVD. (Except for those who don’t worry about legalities.)
There are several different versions of Urgh! floating around, so who knows which one VH1 Classics will actually show. The last time I know it was televised, on IFC in 1999, the footage of Gary Newman’s "Down in the Park" (perhaps the film’s most classic moment, along with Nomi’s "Total Eclipse") was not included. When the Onion screened it at Anthology Film Archives last year, other footage (Pere Ubu, 999) was missing. But whatever version is being shown is worth catching.
Some of the footage is just incredible. Gang of Four’s "He’d Send in the Army," Klaus Nomi vamping it up in "Total Eclipse," The Cramps’ Lux Interior doing awful things to a microphone (I feel bad for whoever had to use it afterwards), and Gary Newman driving a weird little go-kart onstage… classic stuff. Plus bands you’ve never heard from since: Skafish, Invisible Sex, and the unforgettable (if hard-to-pronounce) Splodgenessabounds. Plus, for you sting fans, two songs by the Police.
Of course, a lot of it has found it’s way onto YouTube, but if you consider yourself a music fan at all, you owe it to yourself to see this essential document of a vital era in music.
From the soundtrack: