Urgh! A Music War (1982)

I still remember coming across Urgh! A Music War back in high school, sometime around 1982 or 1983. The USA Network had launched Night Flight, an alternative to MTV running overnight on weekends that played music videos from acts a little less mainstream than those on MTV, as well as cult movies and weird clips from old documentaries and educational films. Basically fodder for stoners and insomniacs. At some point Night Flight started showing Urgh!, a movie that compiled a bunch of live clips from various punk and new wave acts.

The movie itself was... odd. It was choppy, filmed in various locations, with a seemingly random collection of bands. You had a few acts that had found mainstream success (The Police, The Go-Go's, Joan Jett), UK new wave and post-punk pop acts (Echo & The Bunnymen, OMD, XTC), US punk bands (X, Dead Kennedys), some more artsy oddball acts (Devo, Wall of Voodoo), a bit of reggae (Steel Pulse, UB40), and some pretty out-there fringe music (Klaus Nomi).  

Some of the music I absolutely loved -- Echo, XTC, X, OMD were all relatively new to me (maybe I'd heard some of their songs here and there -- certainly XTC's "Generals & Majors" was already a key song for me), and I was totally captivated. Some was fun to watch, but not necessarily something where I'd be inclined to run out and buy the album. Some was definitely not for me. But I just remember it having a huge impact. It was probably my first realization that there was a whole world of new and exciting music that was largely untouched by MTV and the radio, I just had to figure out how to find it. (That would happen a couple years later, when I got to college and joined the radio station and found all the great bands I knew had to be out there.)  

It helped that the music was all live, with interspersed shots of the audience, giving a sense of excitement, that this was happening right now, somewhere just outside my cloistered suburb (something is happening, and you don't know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?).

Here's Devo from the movie:
And here's XTC (who, sadly, stopped touring shortly thereafter and became an entirely studio operation):
And here's Echo:
(You can find most of the movie compiled on YouTube.)

The official soundtrack doesn't stream on Spotify, but I compiled my own playlist with live versions of the songs. In a few cases I couldn't find a live version of the song performed in the film and used a different, comparable track instead; I omitted a number of bands who didn't have any live music on Spotify.