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R.I.P. Chris Cross: Bassist and Founding Member of Ultravox, Dead at 71

Cross played on all of the band's biggest hits, including 'Vienna,' 'All Stood Still' and 'Dancing With Tears in My Eyes.'

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Source: MEGA

Chris Cross of Ultravox performs live at Palace Theatre Manchester Manchester, England - September 30, 2012

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Chris Cross, the bassist who came to fame as one of the founding members of the band Ultravox, has died.

Born Christopher Thomas Allen in Tottenham, London, Cross - who reportedly died on March 25 of as-yet-unspecified causes - was 71 at the time of his passing. His death was announced by his former bandmate, Midge Ure, in a social media post. Demonstrating the age and depth of their friendship by addressing him as "Chris Allen," Ure wrote of Cross, "We worked together, we played together, made music and directed videos together. We were instant friends as well as Ultravox comrades. Even after years apart we managed to pick up where we left off like the years in between never existed. You were the glue that held the band together. You were the logic in the madness and the madness in our lives. It was great to know and grow with you. You are loved and missed, old friend."

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Source: Chrysalis

Ultravox, as pictured on the cover of their 'Vienna' album.

Cross began his music career in Tottenham, playing in various bands around the area before joining the band Stoned Rose in Preston, Lancashire with Pete Hughes and Mick Carroll, future founding members of the band Ritzi (“Too Much Fandango”). In short order, however, he returned to London to attend art college, and it was there that he answered an ad to join a band that would come to be known as Tiger Lily. Although they didn’t last long in this incarnation, only releasing a single song (a cover of “Ain’t Misbehavin’”), the members of the band would soon change their name to the Damned.

Unfortunately, after a few weeks of calling themselves the Damned, they found out that there was already another band using that name, so they changed it to...Ultravox!

Please note, however, that in this case, the exclamation point isn’t intended to give the sentence a particularly emphatic ending: initially the band actually did have an exclamation point at the end of their name. And that’s not the only thing that separates this early incarnation of Ultravox from the later years with Midge Ure: they were very much a more experimental band at this point in their career, slowly dismissing the more glam-rock aspects of their music whilst easing into the synthpop side of things. This is perhaps best evidenced by their 1977 album Systems of Romance, which secured the band enough notice to earn them a spot on The Old Grey Whistle Test.

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After the band’s first three albums (Ultravox! and Ha!-Ha!-Ha! in ’77 and the aforementioned Systems of Romance in ’78), Ultravox went through some growing pains, losing their exclamation point as well as a couple of their members: guitarist Stevie Shears and vocalist John Foxx. By 1979, however, vocalist/guitarist Midge Ure had joined the band, effectively reinventing Ultravox and transforming them into a hit-making machine.

And, no, that’s not hyperbole: their next album was 1980’s Vienna, an LP which climbed to No. 3 on the UK Albums chart and provided a title track that hit No. 2 on the UK Singles chart. More hits would follow, including the top-10 hits “All Stood Still” (No. 8) and “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes” (No. 8), and a plethora of top-20 hits, among them “The Thin Wall, “The Voice,” “Reap the Wild Wind,” “Hymn,” “Visions in Blue,” and “We Came to Dance.” Indeed, Ultravox was so popular that even “Love’s Great Adventure,” the obligatory new track on their greatest-hits collection, hit No. 12.

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Ure, as you may well know, also co-wrote the holiday charity single “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” with Bob Geldof, and when he went to participate in the video, Cross came along with him to participate in the backing vocals. In turn, when Live Aid rolled around, Ultravox was in the mix, performing a four-song set of their hits.

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After taking a break for a bit, during which time Ure recorded his debut solo album, The Gift, Ultravox reconvened to record 1986’s U-Vox, an album which Ure famously trashed in his memoir, saying, “We should have called it U-Bend, because he should have gone down the drain. It deserved to. It was an album that should never have been. During the recording of the album, we were headless chickens, and our song ideas were splintered.” The band toured behind the LP, but upon the tour’s conclusion, Ultravox decided to call it a day.

It would be another two decades before the classic Ure-era lineup of Ultravox would reunite, doing not only a tour but, indeed, a new album: Brilliant, released in 2009.

“I think even up until about six months ago none of us thought [a reunion] would ever happen,” Cross said in a 2009 interview with This Is Not Retro. “I hadn’t thought about doing it, and then suddenly when it came up, I thought, ‘Well, I suppose we could!’ It’s so bizarre. It does feel like yesterday [since we last played together] in some respects, yet there’s a whole 20 years to catch up on!”

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In closing, although Cross wasn't prone to doing much in the way of projects outside of Ultravox even after the band's breakup, he was part of a project with Ure called The Bloodied Sword, an electronic album featuring narration by Maxwell Langdown. It definitely doesn't sound like Ultravox, but it's an interesting curio, to be certain, and if you're an Ultravox fan who's never heard it, you might as well give it a spin in Cross' honor.

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