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03 April 2024

Chris Cross, Ultravox Bassist & Co-Founder, Dies Aged 71

Chris Cross Ultravox Dies 71
Photo: Gonzales Photo/Alamy Stock Photo
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Chris Cross, Ultravox bassist and co-writer of the band’s biggest hit, Vienna, has died aged 71.

The highly-respected musician – whose real surname was Chris Allen – sadly passed away on 25 March, with the news confirmed by Ultravox frontman Midge Ure, who admitted Chris was “the glue that held the band together”.

Ure said in a touching tribute on the Ultravox Instagram page: “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.”

Billy Currie, who played the keyboard and strings with Ultravox, paid tribute to Cross in a separate statement. “Very sad to hear about Chris,” Currie wrote on Facebook. “We had some amazing times together. Laughing mostly.”

Born in Tottenham, London on 14 July, 1952, Cross played with several local bands before joining Stoned Rose alongside future Ritzi members Pete Hughes and Mick Carroll. In 1974, he co-founded Tiger Lily, whose original lineup was comprised of Cross (then known as Chris St. John), vocalist Dennis Leigh (later known as John Foxx), guitarist Stevie Shears, and drummer Warren Cann, with Currie joining shortly after. After signing to Island Records in 1976, the art rock band settled on the name Ultravox! and released their self-titled debut album in 1977. Co-produced by Steve Lillywhite and Brian Eno, the record was a commercial flop, but has since been hailed critically.

Follow-ups Ha!-Ha!-Ha! and Systems of Romance were also modest sellers, first leading to Shears being replaced by Robin Simon and then the group being dropped from Island in 1978. Foxx’s departure the following year seemed to signal Ultravox’s demise, but Currie brought in Midge Ure to be his replacement.

With Ure as the lead vocalist, Ultravox went on a run that saw them release five Top 10 albums in the UK. Their breakout record, 1980’s Vienna, peaked at No. 3 — thanks in no small part to the smash hit title track (co-written by Cross), which reached No. 2 on the singles chart. The LP was followed by Rage in Eden, the George Martin-produced Quartet, Lament, and U-Vox.

Cross left Ultravox after the latter album and remained out of the spotlight until reuniting with Ure, Currie, and Cann in 2008 to tour with the band’s classic lineup. In 2012, the group released their final album, Brilliant, which featured Cross co-writing all the tracks with Ure and Currie.

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