Urgh! A Music War re-released – sort of…

Author’s note: I have not received any accounting or payment from Warner Brothers since their re-release of Urgh! in August, 2009. This note was added on March 10, 2018. 

Once again, the strange and twisted saga of the film Urgh! A Music War logs another installment in its nearly 30 year history, as Warner Brothers films has released it as a made for order DVDR from their website on August 4, 2009.

Skafish urgh still 11-21 from FBI’m sure that many of you will be excited to finally see this legendary live concert film re-released, but from the point of view of someone who has been in the film, I have a more complex perspective about all of this.  Even though it’s Warner Brothers releasing the film as opposed to bootleggers, it may not be a fully legal release to begin with.

There are at least two factors that come into play: First, the original contracts with all of the artists allowed Urgh! to be released in the physical formats that existed at that time. As inept as this may sound, it is questionable that all of the original contracts allowed for the film to be released in any all formats available now and those that would be created in the future.

Therefore, new contracts would probably need to be renegotiated for a fully legal re-release. With Klaus Nomi and Lux Interior of The Cramps already passed on and 33 total acts in the film, getting everyone to sign off would be quite problematic for sure. For me, I would have no problem signing off, as I would be elated to see things done hopefully correctly.

In addition, all of the intellectual property/copyright owners of the film (besides Warner Brothers) include at least Michael White, Derek Burbidge, and Miles Copeland. They, presumably, would all need to agree to this release as well. So to make sure what was really going on with all of this, I decided to call Miles Copeland on Friday, August 7, 2009. His office told me that they had not heard anything at all about Urgh! being released by Warner Brothers.

As of this writing, I have not been contacted by Warner Brothers or anyone else involved in the project either. I would be willing to bet that Warner Brother’s lawyers simply advised the company to just put it out and hey, if they get sued, so what. What is the likelihood that most of the artists in the film have the deep pockets needed or the willingness to challenge a corporation such as Warner Brothers in court?

On top of the legal issues brewing here is the fact that Warner Brothers indicated right on their website that they have not remastered the film, or done anything to insure it being of the highest quality possible. They stated that all they did was take the best tape copy they had which will be dubbed onto each DVDR order that comes through. So they spend no money and can perhaps make a lot of money without paying any out. How clever and corporate!

This film may not mean anything to them, but because of how big they are, I would expect more from a major film company such as Warner Brothers regarding a release of Urgh!: Remastering the footage, and remixing the audio into 5.1 surround sound would be great.

The original release of Urgh! A Music War only featured one song by each artist, with the exception being The Police, who appeared at the beginning and at the end of the film.

However, three songs were reportedly filmed by each artist and hopefully, the inclusion of all three numbers would help to offer a richer package. Also, wouldn’t it be great to interview everyone who was involved in the project to put the film in perspective? Now that could make a worthwhile release on DVD — not DVDR.

With this new less than stellar release, it underscores the many problems that have plagued Urgh! for decades. The origins of the project date back to around 1980, when various cutting edge acts were filmed performing live in several locations throughout the world, including London, France, New York, and various parts of California.

My band was filmed in Frejus, France on August 28, 1980 in an ancient Christian Coliseum in front of 20,000 people. For us, it was perfect: The first blatantly sacrilegious rock song ever written being performed in an ancient Christian coliseum and in gorgeous sunlight which made our segment look like a Catholic Holy Card!  We couldn’t have been luckier.

At the time, Skafish was on tour with such artists as the Police, XTC, UB-40, English Beat, Squeeze, and U2 and everything seemed possible in that moment. When the film was theatrically released in 1981, Skafish appeared twice in the original edit: performing Sign of the Cross, and appearing in the film’s finale on the song So Lonely with the Police, members of XTC, UB-40 and Jools Holland. When it was first released theatrically in 1981, the film clocked in at 124 minutes. Also, the soundtrack double LP was released on A&M Records – and for just a few years, everything regarding Urgh! seemed good.

However, the film was only in release for a short time and after it went out of circulation, bootleggers took it upon themselves to blatantly and aggressively pirate copies, making up to hundreds of dollars of profit per copy. They even posted erroneous information all over the internet to justify their thievery that because Urgh! had fallen into the public domain, it was ok for them to do this, which is absolutely not true.

Then, they attacked me for trying to stop some of them, as if I was the ogre of Urgh! simply because I didn’t want them ripping off the artists who made this film what it is. These greedy parasites claimed to be so about punk (like “Hey man, this film is for the people so let’s get it out there for everyone”).  However, at $80.00 per DVDR sold plus S&H, they were so about profit – not about punk. One of them even tried to cut me in on the profits if I would just go along with the scam, which of course, I didn’t consider.

Yet another icky twist occurred in recent years when the film was censored and cut down to 98 minutes when being shown at certain times on VH1 and The Sundance Channel. The Cramps number Tear It Up, and the Skafish number Sign of the Cross, both considered too controversial for certain television networks, were sometimes edited out. Being left out of the film that I helped to champion was of course, a very hard pill to swallow.

So when I received an email on August 6, 2009 from someone who wanted to let me know that Warner Brothers had just released Urgh! on their website, I certainly had lots of mixed emotions. If I wasn’t in this current release, that hurts because of being left out; and if I was in it, then there’s all of these questionable legal issues.  It’s not about money for me at all; it’s about the principle of things simply being fair for all concerned.

Still, out of curiosity, I wanted to see if The Cramps, Skafish, and everyone else from before was in the film, so I purchased my own copy. At almost $27.00 including S&H, I got it in the mail a couple of days ago on Thursday, 8-13-09. When I opened the package, the cover of the DVDR box has some silly, random picture I’ve never seen before of a punk, club, new wave looking kid and the package has nothing but a DVDR in it. On the back cover is a short, meaningless written blurb with basic credits, so the package is unimpressive, to say the least.

When I put in the DVDR, the only menu features are the original trailer and the film. Each performance is not a separate scene, but instead, one has to select the scenes in 10 minute intervals, so finding your favorite act is not that easy to do.

So as I began watching the film, it was more like watching an old home movie for me: “Klaus is in,” I fondly noted.  When Miles Copeland stayed at my tiny apartment in the spring of 1983, he told me that Klaus Nomi had died of AIDS – I barely knew what AIDS was back then.

“Even Gary Numan is in. I thought I heard that he didn’t want to be in the movie anymore,” I recalled.

I said, “Oh!  There’s Lux – The Cramps are in it! Good for Lux. I remember performing with the Cramps at CBGB’s in 1977!”

“It’s Sign of the Cross — My nose, it looks so huge! It’s all over the screen — I love it – Larry’s drumming is so phenomenal and Barbie’s having her religious seizure — Go Barbie!” I cheered.

“There’s Sting and me on So Lonely – I actually threw fruit into the audience – I didn’t remember that…. Oh my God, Sting is smiling and he seems so much happier then!” I noted.

So it seems that all of the original acts, including The Cramps and Skafish are in this release. The picture quality is good (although I did watch it on an HDTV) and the sound seemed adequate.

However, in all of my momentary excitement, I knew that the mixed emotions were bound to creep up on me pretty soon, so I just went on about my day and tried to live in the moment. After all, it’s almost 29 years to the day that I was first filmed for Urgh! and what has happened since regarding this film has not always been pleasant to deal with, both artistically and from a business perspective.

So, now it’s Saturday evening, and I’ve been emotionally up and down, yet I refuse to wallow in the past; so as I’ve done my entire artistic career, I’ll find a way to do something positive with this energy like writing some new songs. I’ve always said that if I had the money, I would get everything worked out correctly regarding a proper and exciting release of Urgh! and pay for it myself.

However, for now, I can take comfort in knowing that the number my band and me performed for Urgh! A Music War was beyond the pale, tremendously courageous, and a musically/theatrically flawless performance of great artistic triumph.  For that and the experience itself, I am forever grateful.

62 Replies to “Urgh! A Music War re-released – sort of…”

  1. If Warner Brothers is doing such a sloppy job I bet they don’t have the masters.

    So the question is who owns (or rather has possession) the masters?
    If you can get/beg/borrow/steal/lie/eat boggers in order to get the masters. You can then recut it all.
    It will be much easier to edit now than it was then. Send an email if you do get the masters as my friend Joe Langenfeld has his own video post production studio (and does good work). Ike Reilly has used him in hte past.

    Permission from the dead is like automatic. Then cut around those who don’t want to be on board.

  2. Hi Jim,

    Always a pleasure reading your latest blog post. I want to express my thoughts on this subject. I am very happy to see that Urgh! has a somewhat official release but at the same time I am quite disappointed. This is just an easy way for Warner Music to make a quick buck just like all the bootleggers have done over the past two decades. I am sure more than half of the performers are not even aware of this release. As you said, you were not even contacted prior to this release or thereafter. I agree with everything you have said Jim, they should have just taken the extra step to make this release official instead of a cheap online buy that is only available from their website. I am not sure how they are going to promote this release but I would have never known about it, if it wasn’t for your posting. I have never purchased a DVD bootleg, but I did spend a high amount a few years ago for the VHS tape. I am sure there are bootleg versions that are much better out there than Warner’s release. It’s silly not to have each performance chaptered. What is most important is that your performance as well as The Cramps performance is there and uncut. “Sign Of The Cross” will always remain my favorite performance on Urgh! and you Jim will always remain my hero. : )

    Thank you,

  3. The greed does not surprise me, hopefully they too will be in their last years as the major labels fall. I spit on their graves. I wish I could afford to financially produce URGH, I believe it to be an important musical document of the most exciting era in music in the history of music! I shall have to procure a copy for myself….have a great sunday evening….Michael

  4. Paul — I’m not sure Warner Brothers cares enough to get this done right, but possession of the masters would only be one piece of the puzzle, because of all of the legal complexities I mentioned in the article. Jim

  5. Justin — Your words are greatly appreciated. I would like to see this done right at some point in the future, not only for Lux Interior, Klaus Nomi, Barbie Goodrich and all of those who have passed into spirit, but for all of us who are still here. Jim

  6. Michael — When the major labels keep hurting artists without cause as they’ve done since their inception, it comes back to them.

    Amen to financing Urgh! and I agree with you — if I had the money, I’d pay for it myself. Jim

  7. Thanks for keeping us up to date. No surprises from Warner, just more corporate thievery. I would love someday to buy the real deal from a source who cares about the quality. I will rely on you to keep us in the loop….and I thank you. Your sincerity toward, and commitment to, the art in music inspires me.

  8. I guess that I’m also being lead by my own wants.
    The difference is that I want to buy the best possible audio/video from this performance. And I’m very disappointed that regardless of how much I spend I will not be able to get the quality level I desire.

    Thanks for letting me know there was one more amazing concert that I managed to miss ;>)
    So many bands so far to travel so little time.

  9. I’d also like to see an official release with extra’s, however I am very pleased that Sign of the Cross is back. I was pissed the first time I saw the bowdlerized version on VH1. Didn’t they take out Invisible Sex as well? Making the film available at all is a step in the right direction, and will provide exposure to the artists in this film that they all deserve. Eventually, if enough interest is generated, I would imagine they could get their legal departments to come up with a solution. Till then I think it’s great that this is available.

    Thanks for the great post Jim.

  10. Todd O — I am also inspired by your words, as I have devoted my entire life to the art and I will absolutely keep you posted on what happens with Urgh! Jim

  11. rouselle — The film means a lot to me and I do believe that it deserves to be out there in the best way possible. Thanks, Jim

  12. Jim, I appreciate your desire for this to be “Righted” unfortunately it seems unlikely.
    I purchased a BootLegged DVD last year and was happy to have it because of my love of this Historical Musical Paragon. I have also ordered the Warner Bros. DVD to obtain the best possible visual copy I can get, and will digitally re-dub the audio to the best quality I already possess. As a result I will finally have a copy worth viewing. With that said, I must also comment that it would probably be next to impossible to get all of the performers and production contributors to consent to a release of the film. It’s a shame, but sometimes things just become unobtainable and there is little anyone can do about it. I wish you the best of luck in your pursuits of all areas of your life, and hope that you can bask in the glory of this release, even if just for another brief moment in the history/legacy that ie URGH!

  13. Jim, since there are video cassettes of Urgh! A Music War out there, maybe Joe Langenfeld can create a DVDR with individual chapters of each band in the film, since he owns a video production studio? Just a thought. FYI, Woodstock visionaries Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld, had to sell their shares in Woodstock Ventures to Warner Bros. in 1969, and in the first decade of the release of the Woodstock film, Warner Bros. made a reported 50 million dollars and Michael Lang and Artie Kornfeld didn’t receive a dime. The only thing Warner Bros. is interested in is the bottom line. Which is what appears to be happening with the Urgh film.

  14. It appears that the Splodgeness Abounds performance is missing from this new release, as well….which seems curious if Warners did no clearance. Was this particular song ever excluded from a past ‘Urgh!’ release?

  15. Warner Brothers would do EXACTLY what you bet they would…I don’t think they bother to check if ANYTHING they do is legal anymore, because that’s what their battery of lawyers is for…to pry them out of any shit they happen to land in, using legal vagaries and filing endless motions until the other party tires out and they win the war through attrition. Corporate indeed!

    Do Sting or Bono have anything to say about this? As arguably the most commercially successful artists from the film, their resources are such that they could make lots of noise at Warner Brothers if they were unhappy. (Or perhaps they don’t even care, it being but a drop in their already swollen buckets?)

    That said, I would love to see this film, since I never have before (in those days, we didn’t even have CABLE, so even an edited version would have missed me). It sounds fascinating, though. Sort of “The Secret Policeman’s First Ball,” before the balls dropped, so to speak. 🙂

  16. Aaron – I agree with you, that the lawyers are ready to take on whatever happens legally because of “who they are.”

    I would love to see Sting get involved, but I’m not sure the he’s that interested in doing so. Thanks, Jim

  17. Michael Buck, that’s right! Splodgeness Abounds performance is missing from this new edit and I have no idea why they are left out.

    It’s funny, because in the trailer to this new release, the announcer mentions “34 bands,” but in the actual DVDR and on the Warner Brother’s website for the film, there are only 33 bands.

    That is a great point and thanks for mentioning it. Jim!

  18. Benito — There are so many legal complexities regarding Urgh! that it’s not just a matter of obtaining the masters and re-editing. I’m not sure how all of those issues are going to shake out. Jim

  19. William – Thanks for the thoughts. I do appreciate the experience on many levels, especially the initial excitement that was there back in the day. At this point, I accept whatever happens with appreciation. Thanks, Jim

  20. I have my original VHS tape, my original record and a DVD I bought somewhere online years ago. The DVD is to watch so I do not mess up my VHS tape. I did not realise there were more songs done by the bands and would love to have the whole package. I would prefer to have it in a legal version with all parties involved agreeing. I do so hope eventually this will happen because not only myself, but my son and my grandchildren all love to watch URGH!

  21. Most heinous! Warner Brothers may have thought they were doing everyone a favor.
    In the end they will have to answer to God.

  22. “However, for now, I can take comfort in knowing that the number my band and I performed for Urgh! A Music War was beyond the pale, tremendously courageous, and a musically/theatrically flawless performance of great artistic triumph. For that and the experience itself, I am forever grateful (Skafish).”

    Fans are encouraged when hearing band leaders speak from their heart. Thank you for being you.

  23. Ron — It’s so easy to do the right thing if we take into consideration everyone who will be affected by what we do. I wish Warner Brothers would try and do that.

    I truly appreciate your other comment about speaking from the heart. The greatest gift we can give to anyone is to be who we are. Thanks, Jim

  24. Athletico Spizz 80 had two tracks as well. Only listed as one on the tracklisting but Spizz successfully argued with A&M that ‘Clocks are Big’ was a track in its own right and doubled his royalties. I have a UK video on the Guild label and Invisible Sex and Splodge are on it – no Dead Kennedys tho’ – a far as i know they didn’t make it on to any cut.
    Jim, any chance of a CD issue of the rough cut of ‘conversation’ i read about somewhere?
    Thanks. R

  25. R – Thanks for the info. The Dead Kennedys were in some of the edits, I remember, and thankfully, they’re in this Warner Brother’s release. I really like their performance.

    My next project will hopefully be out by spring 2010, and after that, we’ll see what happens regarding the outtakes you’ve spoken of. I would love to see them out there too. Thanks, Jim

  26. You wrote: “Also, wouldn’t it be great to interview everyone who was
    involved in the project to put the film in perspective?

    In 2004 I began working independently on a documentary about URGH! A MUSIC WAR, hoping to finish it in time for URGH’s 25th anniversary in 2006. Obviously I missed that anniversary, and have had to put the project on the back burner until scheduling and interest warrants further attention. While I was actively working on it, though, I tried to line up interviews with anyone associated with URGH who, A). had a tour date in my area (Baltimore/Annapolis/DC), and B). I could find contact information for in
    order to request an interview. I managed to shoot interviews with Stewart Copeland (The Police), Gary Numan, Mark Mothersbaugh & Gerald Casale (DEVO), John Doe (X), David Thomas (Pere Ubu), Peter Zaremba, Keith Streng & Bill Millhizer (The Fleshtones), David Hinds & Selwyn Brown (Steel Pulse), and plenty of fans.

    The same number of artists, for one reason or another, either turned down or ignored my interview requests: Echo & The Bunnymen, Stan Ridgeway (Wall of Voodoo), Andy Summers (The Police), Gang of Four, Joan Jett, Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), and the one that upsets me most, The Cramps. For most of the ones who turned me down, I was told it was a scheduling issue and not for lack of interest. I would still like to finish the documentary some day, this time interviewing whomever I can arrange an interview with, whether I go to them or they come to me.

    Of course, all along, I’ve fantasized that my documentary would eventually be included as an extra on an official DVD release of URGH. As for clearing all the rights in order to re-release URGH, it simply needs for someone to make the effort. We don’t know it’s impossible until it’s tried. If Warner Bros. would put me on the payroll, I’d gladly take a stab at tracking down all the rights holders and convince them all to sign off on a DVD re-release of URGH.

  27. Skizz — Great that you interviewed people! Thanks so much for sharing. It has been a long and winding journey, and hopefully, it will come together in the right way at some point. Jim

  28. Hi everyone,

    I’m the one that tipped off Jim. I’ve watched the WB dvd now at home on my regular tv and at my mom’s on her flat-screen & super-nice tv. The dvd is rather well done, considering that it’s a dvd-r. Anamorphic, nicely colors and the grain that’s present doesn’t negatively affect it.

    Someone on a forum elsewhere raised the possibility that perhaps WB can get away with releasing the dvd-r because there was no such thing as the internet or dvd-rs back when contracts were drawn up. What I’m hoping is that all the artists do see some kind of compensation eventually.

    Jim, I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to link your article to the Home Theater Forums where those involved with WB regularly monitor and get involved with talking up their releases.

  29. Jim,
    While I would love to have a visual momento of those years of all those artists, I think I will stay a supporter of websites, and continue to support these artists legally.
    I have so enjoyed my experiences with you and the rest of your band. Its amazing when your heroes respond to you and you can reach out to them. Thanks for all you do~

  30. Four quick nitpicky points:

    1) Skip the DVD re-release. Go straight to Blu-Ray 1080p.

    2) For god’s sake skip the surround remaster. Remaster the original stereo mix, which is actually really good! Don’t compress it; give us all 24 bits. This music was created in the age of stereo, and how many surround remixes end up being anything other than gimmicky and MP3’d? Surround music is best when conceived in surround.

    3) There’s a version that has floated freely around on peer-to-peer networks for years that was transferred from a slightly superior Betamax copy, and has proper navigation and chapter indexes. i made my own years ago from my VHS copy. You’d think WB might try and outdo that. One of the fancy High-Definition cable-subscriber channels has shown it on TV a few times last year, so perhaps they made a proper HD copy from a film print.

    4) Thanks for your obvious continued passion about this. i’ve generally considered URGH! to be the best record of all the bands included (did any of the bands’ recorded versions of the songs equal the power of their URGH! performances? i think not!) and this says something in the day of current non-bands whose records are meticulously polished but their live show is a mess. Cheers!

  31. Ben — We had heard that Warner Brothers bought out Lorimar Film’s interest in Urgh!, and had also heard rumblings that Warner Brothers was thinking of releasing it.

    We just always figured that we’d hear something from Warner Brothers, which we didn’t, and thank you for letting me know about the actual release. Jim

  32. Tim – I feel passionate about this film and will do whatever I can to help it along in the right way. Jim

  33. I have the original VHS and double album, so I’m more than happy, I don’t think anyone can improve anything (especially the performance of your good self and Lux) but I would love to see the other songs performed by each band, if that were possible. The purists among us will no doubt argue that the sound and/or video quality etc etc could be improved but I will leave that up to them. Good luck with your fight for the rights, Jim. RIP Klaus, Barbie & Lux.

  34. Kevin — I would love to see all 3 songs released as well and will do whatever I can to assist. I appreciate your kind words regarding Barbie and share the same sentiments regarding Lux and Klaus. Thanks, Jim

  35. Jim – Thanks for being part of URGH! and for caring so much. I find it hard to believe that URGH! doesn’t get the attention it deserves, not only from the labels, but also from some of the artists. To me, it is without question the best document of that era and still an absolute pleasure to watch.

    I can’t help but wonder whether the Criterion label could be convinced to give the film a proper restoration and re-release. They’re really the best at that kind of work, and I think they are always looking for new and unusual material.

    In any case, good luck and cheers!

  36. Bill — Your suggestion is great. I would love to see the film restored correctly. That would be great! Jim

  37. OK, so the idea fermented in my brain a bit, and I went ahead and sent this note off to suggestions@criterion.com:

    Dear Criterion,

    Let me first thank you for all the wonderful work you have done. I think I have watched nearly 80% of your titles up till now, and I have enjoyed every one. Please keep up the stellar work!

    I’d like to suggest a project that is near and dear to quite a number of extremely devoted fans, including myself. I don’t know how large the market would be for it, but bootleg copies of a truly wretched quality have been known to fetch more than $100, and the original rights holders seem to have lost interest in restoring and re-releasing this crucial document.

    The film I refer to is “URGH! A Music War” which was released in 1981 and features live performances of many wonderful popular musical acts of that era. For more information, there is a good synopsis at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Urgh!_A_Music_War . The film focuses on cutting edge acts with an avant garde, artsy, new wave or post punk style. This seems to me to be an ideal match for Criterion’s commitment to film as art. URGH! has never seen a proper release past the VHS era, but it is an incredible record that should be preserved. The film was created from several concerts around the globe, and was professionally and carefully filmed. I’m sure the original elements have a remarkable image.

    I suspect that the licensing issues for a film with over 30 acts could be rather cumbersome. On the other hand, performers who appear in the film have stated that a total of three songs per act were originally filmed even though only one song each made the final cut. Thus, there would be lots of bonus material if the original elements can be accessed. There might even be the possibility of a companion CD. I am also aware of a filmmaker who began a documentary on the making of URGH! in 2004, including interviews with many of the original acts, so that would be a great bonus feature as well. Also, some satellite TV channels have at times presented a shortened version, so there would be an opportunity to present the “complete and uncut” original version. I’m sure all of these would help to excite interest in the film.

    Recently, Warner Bros. themselves have begun offering a made-to-order DVD-R of URGH! (see http://www.wbshop.com/Urgh+-A-Music-War-+EST-MOD/1000112990,default,pd.html#tcontentVideo) but, as they freely admit on that website, no effort has been made to restore or remaster the film, they simply digitized the best quality videotape copy they had on hand. In fact, I’ve read that the DVD-R has no indexing of the individual tracks, but rather has simple 10 minute chapter breaks. When I see this shoddy work, I immediately ask why they can’t treat it as well as I know Criterion would.

    Please have a look at this project and give it your full consideration. I know the original filmmakers would be ecstatic to work with you on restoring the film, and the fans would do backflips. In a couple of years, it will have been 30 years since the film’s release, and I’m afraid it might be another 30 before someone who can do it justice takes the time to do it right. It’s a remarkable and exciting film and I hope you agree.

    Thank you for your time!
    Bill Morgan

    It may be a long shot, but we’ll never know if we don’t try!

  38. I’d like to make it clear, without sounding like an apologist for WB or trying to defend them, but the WB Archives dvd of URGH! is most definitely NOT videotape quality. The transfer certainly was done within the last number of years. It is widescreen (anamorphic, too) and the colors look nice. I would compare the quality with the Paramount releases that Legend Films did last year (The Skull, The Deadly Bees, Phase IV, and many others). Good looking, film-like transfers without much done to spruce up the image.

    Don’t know if this will work, but here’s a screen cap I did:


  39. Jim, love the blog, love the passion, love your background info on a film that is very much woven into me. We’ll just keep our finger crossed that someday…someday.

    I am curious if anyone who has ordered this Warner version has the BetaMax dvd version as well. I would love to see how they compare as the Beta tape that was made from was mine and a good friend did the transfer and chaptering. He did a fantastic job on the menus with a screen cap for each track. I scored the Beta tape of ebay for $5 at a time when old VHS rental copies were going for $70 and up. The Beta source is just about pristine in every way down to the packaging. Would love to hear what a comparison comes up with.

    Thanks again Jim, Sign of the Cross is legendary to me. Please keep up the good work.


  40. Chris — I’m not sure what the comparison would be, but perhaps, someone will pop up who would know.

    The passion is what drives me and I appreciate the acknowledgment of that energy. Jim

  41. Hey Everyone, today is Jimmy Skafish’s Birthday. Please join me in singing Happy Birthday to him. “Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you, Happy Birthday dear Jimmy, Happy Birthday to you…..& many more”. Peace & Love, Benito

  42. Benito! Thanks so much! I truly appreciate your well wishes and am grateful to have made this journey with all it has been. With each day, I see it through the eyes of celebration, divine unfoldment and the wild abandon of my spirit.

    It is always deep in my heart for everyone to manifest their dreams and their highest good! Jim

  43. A head’s up to fans. There’s an article in the new issue of the Chicago Reader about the URGH! dvd. Unfortunately, Miles Raymer did not accurately report the dvd quality. He refers to it as video-quality. It is no such beast. Although it should be noted that unless a film is a digitally-shot or -animated feature, it will always come from video when transfered to dvd.

    He further states that the OST was only ever released on vinyl — which is not true of course. I plan on emailing him once the article posts on the Reader’s online site.

  44. To everyone who has taken the time to post comments here, just wanted to let you know that the Chicago Reader did a story about the re-release of Urgh! A Music War that posted online today, 9-3-09, and came out in print yesterday. Here is the link if you want to check it out! http://bit.ly/6MggL

  45. Just an fyi: while this new version is stated as “widescreen”, it’s apparent that they merely cropped the 4:3 film to fit a 16:9 ratio. See image here: http://img32.imageshack.us/img32/7750/urgcompare.jpg with the original in back and the new one superimposed. (MGM also pulled this shady behaviour on the Koyaanisqatsi DVD release)

    On the plus side, the color and detail are MUCH improved, and it appears they’ve gained some image on the sides. But they’ve definitely cropped away top and bottom image.

    I guess this just shows how desperately this film needs a PROPER treatment.

  46. Krok! Thanks for the info. It is appreciated. I think we all hope that things can be done right regarding the film. Jim

  47. Jim: Indeed.

    If anything, this whole recent debacle HAS had one benefit: I discovered this site!

    I have to admit, the Skafish performance in URGH has always been a favorite of mine–even though at the time I was just coming into my concert-going age. I’m sure it’s been said before, but the entire Frejus show would be a blast to see, and I’ve crossed my fingers over the past 25+ years that it might happen.

    Anyhoo, I’ve bookmarked your site and will check back often!

  48. Kork! It would be great to see the entire Frejus show. It really was a great moment on many levels, and one can hope. After all, stranger things have happened! Jim

  49. At the risk of prying, what would the royalty rate be for you and the other featured artists if Warners *was* paying the usual royalties? I bought the _Urgh!_ DVD-R without knowing that the artists weren’t being compensated. And while I’m certainly glad to have the film on DVD, having read this column I feel as though I should send you a cheque.

  50. Doug! No need to send a cheque but thanks for the offer! That’s Warner Brothers job that they probably won’t do, but at least the movie is out there. I’m Glad you’re enjoying the DVD — Jim

  51. Hey Jim!

    I just picked up the Urgh! DVD-R via Amazon. It has better artwork than the one you have (with the Eno-looking kid circa Roxy Music on the cover). Mine has the black movie poster with the guy playing bass and the “Live it cause you can’t stop” tag line. Anyway, wasn’t sure if you were aware: XTC’s Terry Chambers listed Skafish as his fave new band in their 1980 tour book. Here’s a link: http://chalkhills.org/images/bstp/bstp0809.html

  52. Bill! I was aware of that nod from XTC which meant and still means a lot to me. They were nothing but fantastic when I toured Europe and the US with them in 1980. What an honor it was to work with them and meet them. Thank you for the link because that gives me a reference of it. Hope all is well in your world — Jim

  53. Jim, hope you are doing well! Just wondering, has anyone considered or discussed starting up a crowd funding project to help get this DVD properly released?

  54. Alan, thanks for the comment! The money is only one piece of the puzzle. Even if it were crowdfunded, there is also the issue of ownership which is complicated for sure. However, I hope the whole shebang can be released someday!

  55. My detailed review comments below are for the 2009 Warner “burn on demand” DVD of “Urgh! A Music War”. This official DVD (NTSC, 16:9 anamorphic, 24p Dolby 2.0 stereo, single layer DVD-R) release of Urgh! is almost everything I could have hoped for. It has clearly been made as a transfer from excellent condition film (not video) and the original film frame has been cropped to 16:9 (rather than the 4:3 crop applied to all the videotape and LaserDisc editions). I comment on the format, video and audio quality of the Warner DVD – as well as on the two previously available bootleg versions.

    I’ve been a huge fan since I saw Urgh! in its limited cinema season in Brisbane (Australia) circa 1981. I immediately bonded with artists like The Cramps, Klaus Nomi, Skafish, Fleshtones, X, Au Pairs, Alley Cats, Go Go’s, Joan Jett and Pere Ubu – bands I may not have known otherwise. I was already a devotee of Devo, Wall Of Voodoo, Dead Kennedys, XTC and Gang Of Four. I also came to appreciate just how damned good the Police were (the ultimate rock 3 piece). I bought the LaserDisc and was happy enough with that for the next 20 years – even though it had lots of video noise, was only mono and did not include Wall Of Voodoo (one of the film’s highlights). I also bought the 2 disc vinyl LP, so I knew the soundtrack ought to have been in glorious stereo.

    Comments on the 2 “unofficial” DVD versions of Urgh:

    Until this Warner Archive release, there was the distinct expectation that the best anyone could have expected to own was an unofficial DVD-R copy of a transfer made from damaged videotape (which was itself transferred from less than perfect film). I bought two different “unofficial” DVD versions – the dodgy “Urgh-dvd….” version was absolutely terrible in both video and audio quality – with lots of errors, including a full 11 seconds missing from the start of the Fleshtones. The “Antisoc…” version was made from a much better source tape, with just a few video glitches, but it was still quite blurry and with about 14 noticeable and annoying audio glitches (including a full second missing near the start of the Dead Kennedys). Both versions have the audio annoyingly out of synchronisation throughout, by about a tenth of a second ahead of the video – with Pere Ubu and Devo both a glaringly obvious third of a second ahead of the video. The perfect synch in the Warner DVD is a stark improvement to the enjoyment of this film. “Antisoc…” had done his best to enhance the look of the video and had applied loudness and compression to the audio (which is OK at low listening levels, but grates at high volume). Both these versions were 4:3 fullscreen and in stereo.

    The rest of my review is specifically about the Warner Archive DVD version: The video and audio quality are both fantastic. It is truly astonishing to note the amount of extra detail discernable as compared to all previous versions – and it makes a very real difference to the enjoyment of the music. Most of the time we’re viewing virtually from the mosh pit – and at such close range nothing on stage should be blurry. You can clearly read the rude message that Stewart Copeland has scrawled on the heads of his toms.

    Synchronisation is absolutely perfect throughout and examination of the 24fps progressive scan video proves that the transfer has been made from pristine or very carefully restored film. The original film frame has been cropped to 16:9 anamorphic, offering more detail left and right of what was visible in the 4:3 fullscreen versions, and the whole film works perfectly in widescreen (as you’ll witness on a big widescreen TV).

    The only technical errors are a split second of distracting introductory vocal which remains at the start of the Jools Holland song (it should just start with a piano note), and that the last couple of seconds of audio is repeated for both Devo and Gang Of Four (where I suspect there was a change of film reel). Warner have chosen to leave out the British band “Splodgeness Abounds” with their punk restyling of “Two Little Boys” (a soppy sixties hit by Australian Rolf Harris) – they must have thought that bit of English humour would be wasted on Americans. There are so many people in Splodgeness that they take up a big slice of the onscreen credits and they should have remained included, especially because they fitted perfectly forming a bridge between Skafish and UB40.

    The audio is very dynamic and sounds increasingly better and more powerful the louder you crank it – and this movie is meant to be enjoyed very loud.

    The Warner Archives DVD is a single layer Dolby 2.0 stereo disc, which isn’t in itself a problem – because I can’t imagine it looking or sounding much better as a dual layer PCM stereo disc. However a quibbling point is that it doesn’t have a “scene selection menu” or even chapter marks for each song – just one every ten minutes. It would have been good manners to include a track list on the DVD cover or as an insert, so that people who are not already Urgh! fans might know which bands and songs to expect, and in what order. However it’s the sort of film that I’ve always been inclined to watch from start to finish anyway.

    Warner are probably just playing it overly safe regarding DVD-R compatibility with the warning on the lower back of the packaging. It plays perfectly in my PC, my DVD recorder and other players.

    The fact that this version has been able to exist – with such good quality video and audio – offers slim hope that a perfectly edited and fully featured complete official version is still possible. But that will only happen if the owners of the distribution rights see the potential for sufficient profit.

    Undoubtedly a five star film, and even in this “bare bones” DVD format it’s still a very good 4 star product.

  56. John — Your attention to detail and your keen work ethic is fantastic — always good hearing from you! Jim

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