ULTRA, IN TIMES OF PANIC.

The rise and fall of the ultramodern Dutch take on post-punk pop experimentalism (1978–1983)

aka Har$
9 min readDec 30, 2023

--

The Young Lions, performing in Amsterdam record store Boudisque, February 1980 (photo: Young Lions)

In some respects, the state of 2012’s world bears a striking resemblance to that of approximately the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was an era dominated by unemployment, recession, austerity measures, and the rise of far-right ideologies across Europe. ‘No Future’ was the prevailing sentiment, or at least, if any, then that future appeared grim. The newspapers reported it, the radio echoed it, and television broadcasts reflected the prevailing uncertainties — much like today’s ([note while translating], actually, in the upcoming 2024-days they are definitely worse).

Back in those late 1970s and early 1980s days though, young musicians and artists displayed a remarkable lack of concern. Motivated by the ‘do-it-yourself’ ethos of punk rock, they seized control of their destinies. Day in and day out, they enthusiastically and confidently reinvented music and art, eschewing traditions and defying conventions. The spirit of ‘doing everything yourself’ found a receptive environment in the Netherlands, particularly within the squatting movement. This movement established an alternative infrastructure in major cities, offering centrally located spaces for use as studios, rehearsal spaces, and venues for concerts and exhibitions. These spaces required minimal investment and allowed for a grassroots approach to creating one’s own venues, labels, radios, art, and music. Though the scale was modest, the impact was substantial.

ULTRA or ULTRA’s, an abbreviation for ‘Ultramodernen’, was the title bestowed upon a series of concerts that Wally van Middendorp, Rob Scholte, and myself organized on Wednesday evenings from September 24, 1980, to April 15, 1981, at the then Youth Centre Oktopus on Amsterdam’s Keizersgracht. Wally, the driving force behind the independent record label Plurex, was also the frontman of the Minny Pops. Meanwhile, I collaborated with Rob, then a student at the Gerrit Rietveldacademie, in The Young Lions, an ‘avant-garde pop group’ whose mini-album had been released by Plurex in early 1980.

--

--

aka Har$

is Harold Schellinx, a writer, artist, scientist living, working & roaming Amsterdam & elsewhere (harsmedia.com).