The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Foxx, John
John Foxx is the stage name of
English musician Dennis Leigh. He was the original
lead singer of the band Ultravox!, before embarking on a solo career
in 1979. Primarily associated with electropop music, he has
also pursued a parallel successful career in graphic design.
Born in Chorley, Lancashire, Leigh first began experimenting with tape recorders
and synthesizers whilst on a scholarship at the Royal College of Art. He
was the first lead singer with Ultravox! (pre-Midge Ure), a seminal pop band
whose style would fuse punk, glam, electronic and new wave. Around this
time, Leigh adopted his stage name of John Foxx.
Like the Krautrock band Neu!, an exclamation mark was part of Ultravox!'s
identity. However, by the third album, Systems of Romance, released
on 9 December 1978, the exclamation mark had been dropped along with
many of the connections to the sounds, visuals and attitudes associated
with the preceding albums. The album used synthesisers and Foxx's neo-romantic
lyrics to provide a lush and driving soundscape. Its sound was generally
imbued with a late European romanticism, partly inspired by German band Kraftwerk,
whose close associate, the producer Conny Plank, co-produced Systems of Romance.
Foxx left the band and signed to Virgin Records, asnd his parent album Metamatic
appeared in 1980. Foxx played most of the synthesizers and "rhythm machines",
as they were listed on the jacket. Metamatic explored the strange synthesis of harsh
electropop, deadpan vocals, but deeply romantic subject matter in the lyrics.
Foxx's next album was The Garden (1981) was a departure from the stark
electropop found on Metamatic, bearing a greater resemblance to Foxx’s
swansong with Ultravox, Systems of Romance. The Garden's
starting point was in fact a song called "Systems of Romance", written by
Foxx for the earlier Ultravox album but not released at the time.
Foxx set up his own recording studio, also called The Garden, housed in an artists'
collective surrounded by sculptors, painters and film makers. He made demo
recordings for Virginia Astley's first
album, From Gardens Where We Feel Secure, a classic of English
In September 1983 his third solo album The Golden Section was released.
A development of the sound of The Garden, Foxx described this album as a
"roots check" of his earliest influences such as The Beatles, English psychedelia, and other
pre-punk musical sources.
After In Mysterious Ways (1985), Foxx gave up a public career in pop music.
He sold his recording studio and returned to his earlier career as a graphic
designer and artist, working under his original name of Dennis Leigh.
An example of his work at this time include the book covers of Jeanette Winterson's
Sexing The Cherry. He also began experimenting in ambient music, working
on a project called 'Cathedral Oceans'. At about this time, Foxx released vinyl
electronica dance tracks under various names.
In 1997 Foxx made a return to the music scene with the simultaneous release of two
albums, Shifting City and Cathedral Oceans. Shifting City
was categorised by many commentators as an updated stylistic return to Foxx's
Metamatic electropop sound. However it also displayed the influence of 1990s
underground dance music and the "triphop" style, along with the psychedelic
pop first apparent on the Ultravox song "When You Walk Through Me".
Cathedral Oceans was a solo John Foxx record, an ambient return to his Catholic
youth and his love of the ancient cathedrals of England and Europe. Its roots
included traditional evensong, Gregorian Chant, Brian Eno, Harold Budd,
and Roedelius. From his own music Foxx drew on such pieces as "My Sex"
from the first self-titled Ultravox! record, "Hiroshima Mon Amour"
from Ha!-Ha!-Ha!, "Just For a Moment" from Systems Of Romance,
and the title track from The Garden. Foxx released two further volumes of Cathedral Oceans, in 2003 and 2005.
In August 2003, Foxx released a double CD with Harold Budd, Translucence / Drift Music.
In 2004, from September through October, a collection of Cathedral Oceans images
was exhibited at BCB Art, Hudson, New York.
In June 2006, Foxx released a new instrumental solo album,
Tiny Colour Movies. The album contains fifteen electronic tracks which
his website describes as having the "filmic, atmospheric approach" of
the Metamatic-era instrumental B-sides "Glimmer", "Film One" and "Mr No".
Foxx plans to release a new album called "Impossible", in which he once
again collaborates with Louis Gordon. As of yet there is no solid release date, but it is set for release in mid-October.
Selected early works:
Ultravox - Systems of Romance (1978)
The Garden (1981)
The Golden Section (1983)