Urgh! A Music War – Suppose they gave a music war and everybody came?


Getting older sure does sneak up on a person (I won’t cop to “old” just yet, just “older”). It’s a shock to consider that people born in 1994 are now old enough to vote. To me, the modern world began in the ’80s. That’s when we started getting computers, when I graduated from high school (1983), and when we got New Wave. There are a lot of adults out there who never even heard of many of my favorite artists, including ones I tend to assume everyone knows about, just because they were popular when I was in my teens and 20s.

That’s why the recent availability of Urgh! A Music War (1981) is so important. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a documentary that gives a snapshot of the music scenes in America and England at the time. The performances are absolutely electrifying. Some of the performers are well-known, others less so, some I never heard of till I saw Urgh. I think it would be a great introduction to New Wave and Postpunk music.

Some of the better known performers include The Police (no surprise there, the documentary was produced by Miles and Ian Copeland, brothers of Police drummer Stewart Copeland), Oingo Boingo, Devo, Gary Numan, Dead Kennedys, Magazine, Gang of Four, Echo and the Bunnymen, The Cramps, XTC… I’m not going to list them all, but it’s basically a who’s who of the 1980s. There were also some killer performances by acts like 999, Toyah Wilcox, John Cooper Clarke, Au Pairs, X, Skafish and more (They might be well-known to people that are hipper than I am, as plenty of folks are).

I finally got a chance to watch the whole thing last weekend, thanks to a friend who wanted to introduce all his friends to the documentary that shaped his musical taste. I had seen it in bits and pieces before, but never got to just sit down and watch it through. It only became available on DVD recently. Before that, people were paying over $40 for used VHS tapes and scouring the Internet for bad DVD-R copies.

If you’re a music lover, this ought to be in your DVD collection. It will soon be in mine. Meanwhile, here’s a taste.



My friend saw this when he was a teenager and immediately went out and bought everything in Gary Numan’s discography. Growing up in rural Texas, if I had seen this when it was new I don’t know what I would’ve done. It certainly would have had a huge impact – seeing it in my 40s impressed the hell out of me.

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6 Comments

Filed under music, new wave, postpunk, review, video

6 responses to “Urgh! A Music War – Suppose they gave a music war and everybody came?

  1. Jonathan B (Barlights)

    Thanks Charles, I had never heard of this. Goes to the top of my wishlist.

  2. Awesome, of course I know it, but you know, I’ve never seen it. We’re of the same generation, and think we were fortunate to experience such cool music. I was a musician back then too, which makes that time even more special to me. Thanks for the reminder…

  3. Oh and I experienced Numan as it happened…Down in the Park still gives me chills. Only thing is I never saw him live but wish I had…but his music was a great influence in me becoming a musician in 1982…

    • I wish I had seen him live too. I was mainly into hard rock at that time – they weren’t really calling it metal so much yet – but I loved “Cars.” If I’d seen him come out on stage in that chair, I would’ve freaked out. I was a big sci fi nut at the time. Still am, kind of.

      Now Klaus Nomi… I think if I had seen him live as a teenager, my head might have exploded 😉

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