Midge Ure on why he’s got no plans to retire
Midge Ure defined an era with Ultravox and organised Live Aid with Bob Geldof. He tells MARION McMULLEN why he’s now bringing the iconic sounds of the 1980s back
‘IAM now at the age when people have started to ask me if I’m thinking of retiring ... far from it,” says Midge Ure, before adding with a chuckle, “I’m not going to find anything better that I can do.”
The former Ultravox frontman turns 66 next month, but has no plans to hang up his guitar or put his songwriting on hold.
But then this is the man who co-wrote and produced the bestselling charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas? back in 1984 and showed that the music world could make a real difference to the lives of people by co-organising Live Aid with Sir Bob Geldof.
He’s now counting down to a major international tour that will keep him busy well into 2020 ... and cannot wait.
“Bob Geldof and I were talking five or six years ago and he said something that has stayed with me. He said ‘We are not going to find anything comparable. We have no other skills. This is it’.”
Midge laughs: “I’m not going to be a brain surgeon now. I’ve wanted to do this since I was in short trousers and I wanted an electric guitar. I’m not leaving what I love to do.”
The 1980 tour, with Band Electronica, will see Midge performing the ground breaking Ultravox album in its entirety for the first time in 40 years and he will also be playing highlights of the Visage album which gave birth to the single Fade To Grey.
Both records were co-written, recorded and produced by Midge and proved life changing for him.
“I think 1980 was a pivotal year,” he says. “The Vienna and Visage albums both came out and I was part of both and they both charted and were successful at the same time.
“It was the technical revolution with synthesisers and drum beats. You could do anything in your bedroom if you wanted to.
“But we didn’t think it would last. When you are young, you are looking through the telescope at the future. You are looking through the wrong end and the idea of being around for even five years is tremendous.
“In the 70s and 80s, we simply didn’t think music had longevity. We didn’t think a career in pop or rock music was a thing. Being 35 was ancient in rock music back then and the idea of carrying on doing it for the rest of your life was not even dreamed of.
“Of course in folk, blues and jazz you have performers in their 80s who are celebrated, and the songs I wrote 40 years ago are still played.
“There has been a lot of interest in everything 80s in the last few years and 80s festivals have become huge. I want to celebrate this period and, as we pass from 2019 into 2020, play the Vienna album in its entirety along with highlights from the eponymous Visage album.”
With the 40th anniversary of both releases approaching, the
Scottish singersongwriter says he has many great memories of his days with Ultravox and can even look back on the early photos without cringeing too much.
“We were reasonably unscathed,” he laughs. “We never had the bouffants or wore headbands like lots of bands did. We were more dead man’s clothes. We used to buy clothes from Oxfam and thrift shops.”
He winces: “We did far too much make-up, far too much eye shadow and blusher. My parents were a bit confused by the entire thing. They would come to the concerts, but not really understand it all and then I did This Is Your Life and they understood being on something like that. I think my kids are suitably embarrassed and proud of what I did back then.”
Midge went from pop band Slik to post-punk band The Rich Kids and then worked as a stand-in guitarist for Thin Lizzy before Ultravox entered his life.
“I was working on the Visage project with Billy Currie and I was invited to join Ultravox. The work we did that winter on Vienna was an exhilarating rush of creativity the likes of which I had never experienced before.”
The new tour will take him across the UK, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
“A tour like this takes a lot of preparation and I’m having to re-learn the songs,” says Midge with a smile. “I never listen to my stuff... it’s weird if I have to go back ... and we are going back quite a long way with 40 years. I’m listening to everything again. I don’t want to forget the lines of Vienna or lyrics of the big hits.”
■ Midge Ure & Band Electronica – The 1980 Tour starts on October
6. See midgeure.co.uk for details.
My parents were a bit confused by the entire thing. I think my kids are suitably embarrassed and proud of what I did
Midge Ure on his early years in music
Midge Ure still loves being on stage in his 60s
Midge, third from left, in his first pop band Slik
Midge with Bob Geldof at Live Aid