An exclusive Tomorrow interview with the legendary Midge Ure.
As a teenager growing up in the suburbs of Birmingham, the notion of me one day meeting the cool, immaculately dressed lead singer of Ultravox would have seemed preposterous, even more so when he went to create the ground-breaking, era-defining Band Aid. And yet, here we were, in Moncarapacho, sipping coffee. It was a chance to meet Midge Ure, a man whose work has formed the soundtrack of so many lives and who must rank as one of the nicest people in the music industry.
As I discovered when arranging the interview, Midge signs off his emails with the phrase, ‘Listen like there’s no tomorrow’. “It’s just a little way of reminding myself and others, I guess, to live in the present and make the most of the time we have,’’ he says. It also goes some way to explaining why Midge and his wife spent 2022 in the Algarve. “My wife and I have holidayed here many times and love the region. As we all know, the last couple of years have been a little crazy, so we finally decided to do something we’ve talked about for some time, which was to spend a year or so in Portugal.”
Early in 2022, Midge and his wife rented a delightful property in the hills north of Tavira. It was the perfect place to recharge their batteries. “I was on tour in Australia when COVID broke out. It was a close-run thing getting out, especially with how tightly they locked things down. And then in the summer of 2021, I was on tour in the US when I contracted the virus and was locked up in a hotel room in New York City for several weeks.”
All of this led to tour dates being rearranged and, once COVID restrictions had lifted, a scramble to secure new tour dates. But the really good news is Midge and his band Electronica are picking up where they left off, with thirty gigs in the UK during April and May. The concerts will be fantastic, covering the whole back catalogue of Midge’s remarkable career.
Midge was born on the outskirts of Glasgow. There was no musical heritage and no silver spoon. “I was a young lad from a working-class background. The expectation was that you would take on some form of manual labour, but music has always been part of my DNA and there was nothing I enjoyed more than playing live with my mates. I still do.”
Midge first made his name in the mid-70s, scoring the number-one hit “Forever and Ever” with the band Slik. Even before that, he was already making a name for himself in the industry. The year prior, he’d turned down the chance to be the lead vocalist with the Sex Pistols!And before you ask, there are “No Regrets” he didn’t go down that route, with Midge suspecting he was being recruited for his ‘look’ rather than his musical prowess.
More success was to follow with Midge joining Glen Matlock (of the Sex Pistols) in Rich Kids before going on to form Visage. “Fade to Grey” was the band’s most successful single, reaching number one in several countries and the Top 10 in the UK. Midge had a short stint with Thin Lizzy before joining the band in which he became a household name: Ultravox.
Ultravoxhad already released three albums before Midge joined them, but none had really captured the public’s attention. That was all to change, however. With Midge onboard, the revitalised band saw its fourth album Vienna peak at number two.
When the now iconic title track was released as a single in early 1981, its haunting tones and outstanding video made it a massive hit. Midge was not only the memorable face (and voice) of the film noir-themed video, he was also the song’s writer and producer.
Ultravoxwent on to make another six Top 10 albums and 17 Top 40 singles with “Reap the Wild Wind”, “Hymn”, “Visions in Blue”, “We Came to Dance”, “Dancing with Tears in my Eyes” and“Love’s Great Adventure” all hitting the Top 20. Midge also recorded his first Top 10 solo hit in 1982 with his cover of “No Regrets”. I’ve always wondered whether a songwriter knows when they’ve written a hit. “Not really,” said Midge, “because so many things have to come together for any song to be a hit and many of those are outside your control. But you know when you’ve hit the standards you’ve set yourself, and that’s always a nice feeling.”
In 1984, Midge co-wrote and produced “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” The record was recorded on 25 November 1984 in London. When it was released on 3 December, it became the fastest-selling single in UK chart history, selling an astronomical million copies in its first week. It has gone on to sell nearly four million copies in the UK, making it the second highest-selling single in UK chart history. It reached number one in another thirteen countries.
The impact of Band Aid could not have been more momentous. The public was inspired, with many buying the record and sending it to friends instead of sending Christmas cards. “It was an incredible period,” said Midge, “if a little scary at times. What many people didn’t realise was that we only had a week to write the song, record it, and get it out before Christmas. We gave away all the rights and wanted to write something that would be replayed for years and so generate recurring revenue for good causes.”
Midge then went on to co-organise Live Aid and, subsequently, Live 8. As with all momentous events, everyone can remember where they were when the momentous, era-defining Live Aid concert took place at Wembley Stadium in 1985 and the work continues to this day. Midge is still a trustee for the charity (along with his co-collaborator Sir Bob Geldolf) and serves as an ambassador for Save The Children. With the memorable hit single and subsequent concerts, Midge Ure is someone who has quite literally changed the world and our perceptions of it.
Midge received an OBE in 2005 in recognition of his work supporting good causes and, in 2010, an honorary degree from the University of Bath, which has been his hometown for the last 25 years. He’s been the subject of This Is Your Life and he’s published two books – an autobiography in 2004 titled If I Was and, in 2021, Midge Ure … in a Picture Frame, which showcases his musical career, his talent for photography and collaborations with other artists. I’ve noticed how supportive Midge is on social media when interacting with his contemporaries, such as Howard Jones, Nick Kershaw and Claire Grogan. He told me they have more interaction now than they did back in the 80s when “I think we were all too busy trying to look cool!”
And here we are in the Algarve, with Midge readying himself for his much-awaited UK tour. I asked Midge what he’s enjoyed most about being here. “The warmth, the food, the people, and how unspoilt certain areas still are. especially further inland. We’ve loved it out here and are thinking of finding somewhere permanent.”
Thanks to his work with Band Aid and Save The Children, Midge Ure changed the world, but he didn’t change himself. Funny, interesting, helpful and humble, he must surely rank as one of the nicest people in the music industry. It was a pleasure meeting the legendary Midge Ure.