Midge Ure Rewind 80s Festival Interview
An artist who has received Ivor Novello, Grammy, BASCAP awards along with a flotilla of gold and platinum records, really needs very little introduction.
Musical success is seldom measured in time spans of more than a few years, if not Andy Warhol's often quoted "fifteen minutes", so the fact that by the time Midge's single "If I Was" went to No1 in 1985 he had already crammed several musical lifetimes into a 10 year professional career speaks volumes - Slik, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy, Visage, Ultravox and of course the most famous one off group in musical history Band Aid had by then all had the guiding hand of his musical navigation.
Then you have to take account of Midge's musical directorship of a series of rock concerts for The Prince's Trust, Wicked Women for Breakthrough and in honour of Nelson Mandela; a Lord Provost award for services to Scottish music; record production for Phil Lynott, Steve Harley and countless others; his video direction of memorable hits by the Fun Boy Three, Bananarama and others, or a whole swathe of landmark singles by Ultravox; TV, theatre and film music credits ranging from 'Max Headroom' to stage and big screen.
His musical roots were playing and learning the records of the Small Faces and other rockers who did things very much their own way, Midge appeared to the wider public in a moment of heady teen success with Slik. Their sway-along Bell single 'Forever And Ever' took over at No.1 in the UK from Abba's 'Mamma Mia' on Valentine's Day 1976. Soon outgrowing Slik's pop dimensions, Midge was snapped up by ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock the following year for his new outfit, the Rich Kids, who charted amid an avalanche of press with a self-titled EMI single early in 1978. By April '79, with his name being added to many musicians' contact book, Ure had been asked by Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann to become the new frontman in Ultravox.
The band was a major influence on the new romantic and electro-pop movements of the early '80s and many an open-minded studio and bedroom experimentalist since. Their successful trademark was combining Midge's powerful guitar riffs with sweeping synthesizer motifs, enigmatic imagery and state-of-the-art visuals. Throughout the first half of the '80s, they brilliantly combined the responsibilities of top 10 chart makers and innovative style-makers.
As interest in the 1980's rises again to a new peak in 2011, courtesy of reformations of the likes of Duran Duran and most recently Spandau Ballet, Ultravox's chart catalogue rewards merits new scrutiny. Tracks like 'Reap the Wild Wind', 'Dancing With Tears in My Eyes', 'Love's Great Adventure' and 1981's timeless 'Vienna' were all massive hits the world over as they charted with awesome regularity, not only on single, but with seven consecutive top ten albums in just six years.
Even by then, the Midge Ure story had some individual chapters, of course. He wrote and produced Visage in 1980, then hit the top 10 in the summer of 1982 with his first release under his own name, an atmospheric take on the Tom Rush song made famous half a dozen years earlier by the Walker Brothers, 'No Regrets'. Then came November 25, 1984, a historic day for Midge and all of pop music, as 36 artists by the collective name Band Aid gathered at SARM Studios in west London under Ure's production. They recorded 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' a song he had just written with Bob Geldof as the industry's heartfelt and eloquent contribution to Ethiopian famine relief. 600,000 copies sold in its first week in the UK alone was only the beginning: 800,000 more were bought in the second week, more thanthree million world-wide, and the unstoppable emotion engendered by the project led to Live Aid, the summer 1985 global concert that, all exaggeration aside, spoke for a generation.
Within months, a staggering £8 million had been raised for the starving in Africa, and Geldof said that without Ure's initial enthusiasm for the idea, not to mention his rapidly penned sketch for the single, neither Band Aid nor Live Aid could have happened. Midge is still to this day a Band Aid Trustee.
Just two months after Live Aid, Midge was back at No.1 in Britain, this time under his own name, with 'If I Was', and by the autumn he had a No.2 solo album to accompany it, entitled 'The Gift'. In 1993, that chart-topper was to lend itself to the retrospective album 'If I Was'. After an initial solo outing to the Oxford Debating Society where his response to "What song would you write for Take That" was met with the characteristically witty retort of "An instrumental!" broke the ice, he supported the album's release with a 22-date 'Out Alone' tour of Britain, armed only with a couple of guitars and a keyboard.
In 1996 the new 'Breathe' album was followed by further extensive touring, including dates in the US as special guest to the Chieftains. The Swatch campaign brought spectacular renewed international activity for the record in 1998. The album and eponymous single were subsequently in the top 20 throughout Europe for much of that year, and No.1 in Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland, where Midge toured voraciously. 'Breathe' sold over half a million copies in Europe alone. Respected German composer Eberhard Schoener invited him to perform at the re-opening of the Potzdamer Platz in Berlin, in front of an estimated audience of 500,000.
Soon after Midge was busy producing and writing with and for various artists, both established and unsigned, at his studio in Bath, and writing music for films. Other duties included the 'Music for Montserrat' benefit at the Royal Albert Hall alongside Sir Paul McCartney, Elton John and Eric Clapton, and a performance for the launch of the Hard Rock Hotel in Bali.
1999 brought a major Japanese tour and shows for WOMAD in Singapore (where he broke the house attendance record) and Las Palmas, where the band played to a packed town square in a performance broadcast by Spanish TV later that year. Yet another new strand to his career emerged when Midge presented shows for BBC Radio on the careers of Roxy Music, Bryan Ferry and Thin Lizzy, also participating in a 15th anniversary radio show to celebrate the Band Aid success. He has also recorded a contribution to BBC Radio 2's 'Electrifying - The History of the Electric Guitar.'
Whilst completing work on his next studio album 'Move Me', Midge also narrated a tribute to Alex Harvey for BBC Radio, appeared on BBC1's 'A Question of Pop' with Craig David, and made various festival appearances, including a performance with Sir George Martin for 'Wings & Strings', as well as completing another extensive European tour of his own to support the album release.
Following Midge's appearance on the flagship ITV program "This is your Life" in early 2001, EMI released The Very Best Of Midge Ure and Ultravox' which prompted him to go back out on the road in "rock band mode" 'Rewind - The Greatest Hits Tour' a major fifteen date UK jaunt supported the release and performed his hits from across the full spectrum of his career. The show was filmed at the Shepherd's Bush Empire, and released on DVD through Eagle Rock. Once again, Midge was instrumental in the video production, always preferring to keep things under his direct control. Another important milestone was the opening of the www.midgeure.com
online shop; a vehicle which allows him to release his own product, completely under his own control. The first exclusive shop release was "Glorious Noise - Breathe Live", followed by "Intimate Moments"; a collection of previously unreleased material. As he says, "I needed a home for the songs that didn't fit a particular album. They're my Little Orphans!"
As we moved into 2002, once again he combined a series of acoustic shows with a glorious summer spent performing a series of shows in historic building across the UK in band format with "The Pretenders". Another exclusive release also hit the virtual shelves. "Intimate Moments" is a candid record of his acoustic show, captured on a double CD.
Always one to ring the changes, Midge next decided to revisit his "electronic" roots in the "Sampled, Looped and Trigger Happy" tour. The 35 show tour left no corner of the UK untouched by this amalgam of old and new, the old being given a contemporary twist sitting comfortably alongside the new. Songs that hadn't seen the light of day for many a year like Astradyne, Reap the Wild Wind and Sleepwalk and the shows were captured on the tour DVD, If I Was.
German label Hypertension picked up the release and issued it both on DVD and a soundtrack CD entitled Re*Live and his relationship with the Hypertension continues to go from strength to strength.
2005 was the year that Midge undertook both extensive acoustic tours of Germany and the UK as well as performing with the long standing "Night of the Proms" in Germany. This 21 date sell out tour of arenas saw a massive production with full orchestra.
He then went on to be executive producer for the Band Aid 20 single working with the likes of Paul McCartney, Joss Stone and Fran Healey. Midge's services to both music and charity were finally recognised in the Birthday Honours list in 2005, when Midge was awarded a long overdue OBE!
He also released his autobiography "If I Was" through Virgin books, and undertook a promotional tour of bookshops where he did a short acoustic performance and a question and answer session.
He's also received honorary doctorates from both Edinburgh and Dundee Universities, mainly in recognition for his work with Band Aid and Live 8, which took up a lot of 2006! Midge actually managed to fit in a performance at the Edinburgh Live8 show in Murreyfield in July where he played with Eddie Izzard on piano! Surely a first!
In November 2006 Midge and band performed a show with Level 42 and the Cutting Crew for legendary German TV show "Rockpalast" which was received with great critical acclaim! The show was broadcast in early January 2007. He has also performed with German icon Xavier Naidoo at his recent O Livelait show. In September 2006 Midge travelled to Korea with old friends WOMAD and performed with Troy Donockley and AD Chivers there. He also just narrated a documentary about the Cavern Club which was broadcast on BBC Radio 4.
"Uncovered" is his latest live incarnation - launched onto the UK theatre circuit in 2008.... Combining his own classic hits with a selection of songs that have been a major influence on him along with a smattering of personal reflections, all done in an acoustic format.
Midge has long held an ambition to record an LP of cover versions of songs that influenced him...... the ambition was born when as a teenager in his first hit band Slik he saw The Walker Brothers performing No Regrets on Top Of The Pops in 1976.... He managed to record his own version of No Regrets in 1982, but it was to take 25 years and a change of format from LP to CD before he would record a full set of his favourite songs.
TEN was recorded in a log cabin in Eastern Canada during the long snow bound winter of 2007 - 2008 and was released again by German label Hypertension in September 2008.
The CD contains 10 (surprise!) songs that influenced the teenage Ure when growing up in Glasgow in the 1960's - 70's, so alongside the obvious (David Bowie) are the less obvious - The Carpenters...Lulu !!! - All songs chosen for their unique qualities and lasting impact on Midge.... songs that somehow shaped his songwriting.
In November 2008 Midge joined and participated in the Burnsong project, which aims to encourage up and coming young songwriters in the "black art" of writing hit songs.
A spin off from this project was Midges' involvement with the Burns Humanitarian Awards in Scotland in May 2009 - where the Burns Humanitarian Trust award was awarded to Guy Willoughby of the Halo Trust which removes landmines worldwide. April 2009 saw the unthinkable happen - Ultravox Reformed!
Six months of talking between Midge and other Ultravox band members Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Warren Cann led to a 3 week tour of the UK and Ireland.... The last UK show at London's historical Roundhouse was filmed for the HD DVD release "Return To Eden"
Summer 2009 saw Midge combining further Ultravox festival appearances, solo acoustic shows, outdoor festival appearances with his own 4 piece band, and appearances at the ever popular "Here & Now " outdoor shows which play at stately homes across the UK with other 1980's guest vocalists. A second Ultravox tour in 2010 took in Europe and Scandinavia, and following that plans were made to record an original new set of songs together for the first time in 26 years... work started in September 2010 in Canada, and continued throughout the winter into Spring 2011.
Midge has also branched out into the world of online downloads with his new music portal called "Tunited" - aimed predominantly at providing upcoming artists a platform of communication and contact with the public. November 2010 also saw Midge return to his role of MD for the Princes Trust at the Royal Albert Hall with a cast of the usual suspects including Eric Clapton and Phil Collins As summer 2011 beckons its business as usual in camp Ure...which means busy busy busy!Rewind 80's Festival
The UK's iconic Rewind - The 80s Festival is heading to Australia for a new weekend music event to be held at BlueScope Field in Kembla Grange from 28 to 30 October, 2011, boasting the biggest live outdoor line-up of 80s recording artists and performers ever!
Originally launched at England's Henley-on-Thames in 2009, the 80s Rewind Music Festival was the surprise success of the year attracting 30,000 people. In its second year at Henley-On-Thames (2010), the festival grew to capacity at 40,000 people saw the biggest line-up of artists since Live Aid.
Now the organisers have announced that an Australian version of the Festival will be launched at the beautiful BlueScope Field on the New South Wales' south coast and will feature a massive line-up of international and local 80s artists as well as loads of other festival fun from Silent Discos to Live Karaoke bars along with Camping and "Glamping" options, with more on all the additional festival extras, opening times, stalls etc to be announced.
The confirmed line up for Rewind 80's Festival Australia is as follows:
Saturday, 29 October, 2011: Kool and the Gang
: With their first release back in 1969 Kool & The Gang are one of the most successful RnB groups, selling over 70 million albums worldwide, have won two Grammy's and have influenced the music of three generations. Their funky soulful jazzy hits Celebration, Cherish, Jungle Boogie, Summer Madness, Ladies Night and Open Sesame are some of the most sampled songs of all time. Sister Sledge
: Forming in 1971 in Philadelphia, four sisters, Debbie, Kim, Joni and Kathy better known as the RnB act Sister Sledge hit the music scene with their first single "Time Will Tell". There big hit came with a new disco sound in 1979 when they released "We Are Family" which put them in the commercial spotlight leading them to produce more pop flavoured songs like "Frankie" which went top 20 in the US and Number 1 in the UK charts for 4 weeks. The sisters continued performing together throughout the 90's and recording their 9th studio record.Bananarama
: Formed in 1982 as teenagers they came to the attention of The Specials' Terry Hall, whose band Fun Boy Three they later collaborated with on the hit Ain't What You Do. They went on to take the world by storm, with solo hits including Cruel Summer, I Heard a Rumour, Robert De Niro's Waiting, Love In The First Degree and Venus - their first US No.1. Today they still hold the record for the world's most successful girl band with over 30 UK Top 40 hits and 40 million record sales.ABC
: Fronted by the dapper Martin Fry, their debut album The Lexicon of Love crashed straight into the UK charts at No. 1, showcasing a string of hits including The Look of Love, Tears Are Not Enough and Poison Arrow. AfterKoo five further albums and a Greatest Hits collection, ABC bowed out of the spotlight in the early nineties, only to resurrect the name at the end of the decade much to the delight of their fans. Whether performing as a band or with an orchestra in the Albert Hall, Martin Fry is the consummate show man.Midge Ure
: Slik, Thin Lizzy, Visage, Ultravox, The Rich Kids and Band Aid are all part of the musical successes of Midge Ure. Silk's single 'Forever And Ever' knocked Abba's 'Mamma Mia' off the number one position in the UK charts in 1976. Midge was then asked to join Rich Kids in 1978 before moving on to become the front man for Ultravox in 1979. In 1984 Midge produced and co-wrote the world wide smash hit 'Do They Know It's Christmas with Bob Geldof, which sold over 3 million copies world wide helping raise £8 million for the Ethiopian famine relief. "If I Was" topped no 1 in the UK 1985 under his own name and a number 2 solo album. Midge still produces for various artists in the UK and was awarded an OBE in 2005 and is the MD for the Princes Trust at the Royal Albert Hall.Ross Wilson
: With a career spanning over four decades it's clear to see why Ross Wilson is one of Australia's most respected musicians, writing the rock anthem "Eagle Rock" with Daddy Cool in the 70's. He formed Mondo Rock and continued writing chart topping songs throughout the rest of the 70's and the 80's along with producing other legendary Australian acts Skyhooks, Jo Jo Zep and The Johnny's. In 2010 Ross released 'I Come In Piece' and continues to tour the singles release from this album. Mental as Anything
: The Mentals started their career with a year long residency at the Unicorn Hotel in Sydney, using the pool table as a stage in 1977, followed by another year long residency at the Civic Hotel before releasing their debut album 'Get Wet' which hit top 20 in Australia. The band then released 'Fundamental As Anything' which had the hit "Live It Up" in the mid 80's that sent them on tours around Europe and the UK. Fast forward to 2009 the Mentals were inducted into the ARIA Rock n Roll Hall of Fame and their Greats Hits entitled "Essentials As Anything" is released through Warner Music.
Sunday, 30 October 2011:Human League
: David Bowie wasn't wrong back in 1979 when he described The Human League as "the sound of the future". With contemporary artists citing them as hugely influential, they're as relevant now as they were back in 1981 when their debut album Dare! took the world by storm.30 years later, with four UK top 10 albums and eight UK top 10 singles to their name including Love Action (I Believe in Love), (Feeling) Fascination and the iconic Don't You Want Me, the band continue to produce new material and wow audiences worldwide.Tony Hadley
: Lead singer of the recently reformed Spandau Ballet, Tony is one of the eighties' best-known names and voices. Selling over 23 million albums, the band topped the charts around the world with such timeless classics as True, Gold and Through the Barricade". After the band spilt in 1989, Tony went on to have a successful solo career and continues to perform his favourite Spandau Ballet songs to enthralled audiences worldwide.Nik Kershaw
: Nik released his platinum selling debut album "Human Racing" in 1984, which included the hits Wouldn't It Be Good and I Won't Let the Sun Go Down on Me. The equally successful The Riddle followed and in 1985 Nik performed at Live Aid. As well as a career as a performer, Nik is still a highly respected producer and songwriter, working with such artists as Elton John, Imogen Heap, Gary Barlow and Ronan Keating amongst others.Go West
: Starting out as Cox and Drummie, Peter Cox and Richard Drummie quickily changed their name to Go West, bursting on to the UK music scene with their debut single 'We Close Our Eyes' which reached no: 4 in the UK charts and became a top 10 hit in the states. Their first self-titled album GO WEST sold over 1.5 million copies worldwide helping them earn a Brit Award in 1986. The duo went onto release 4 more albums together and in 2010 released the 25th Anniversary album of the band's first self-titled record back in 1985.John Paul Young
: In 1972 John Paul Young's signed to Albert Productions and joined forces with Vanda & Young ex The Easybeats who wrote "Pasadena" kick starting JPY's music career forcing him to put his job at Clyde Engineering on hold. In 1975 "Yesterday's Hero" was released giving JPY his first top 10 hit. "Love Is In The Air" followed in the 1978 hitting number 3 in the Australian charts, number 7 in US Billboard charts and number 5 in the UK charts. This single soon dominated the European charts crowning JPY the king of Pop in Australia. In 2009 Young was inducted into the ARIA Hall of Fame performing all his hits.Pseudo Echo
:They were the first and only unsigned band to be featured on the legendary Australian music show Countdown, becoming one of Australia's most influential electro bands during the 80's. The band had a string on hits with "Listening", "A Beat For You", Living In a Dream" and their biggest hit "Funky Town", which sat on top of the charts for 12 weeks in Australia and break into the top 10 in the UK and US charts. Pseudo Echo are still hitting the stages with the classic line up of Brian Canhma, Pierre Pierre and James and VinceLeigh.
Tickets from www.moshtix.com.au
For more information see: www.rewindfestival.com.au
Interview with Midge UreQuestion:
Are you excited to be heading to Australia for the Rewind 80's Festival? Midge Ure
: I am, I love Australia! I must have upset some people the last time I was there because I haven't been asked back in 25 years (laughing)! Now, finally I get to come back down to Australia and play. The last time I was in New Zealand was many, many years ago and Ultravox headlined the Sweet Water Festival, which was a big festival in New Zealand. Question:
Have you played at any of the other Rewind 80's Festivals? Midge Ure
: Yes, here in the UK and they're always great fun because they're such a big thing with all the artists going on and playing their hits. It is quite unbelievable when you hear that many top 20 global records all being played back to back, by the artists. Question:
What should audiences of the Rewind 80's Festival expect from your set? Midge Ure
: It is a bit like any of the festivals with multi-artists featured, everybody gets the brief "keep it recognisable" because the audience wants to hear the songs, that they know. I will be playing the most popular hits that people know including Ultravox and solo hits. I'm not quite sure yet how long I am on for, so at this stage I can't say how many songs I am playing.
The great thing about the Rewind 80's Festival is that you go on and play your hits and straight on after your set you will have Nik Kershaw or Bananarama or ABC or Human League or one of the many other artists that are at the Rewind 80's Festival. Question:
When you first started playing music, did you ever think you'd still be playing music 30 years later? Midge Ure
: I think when you're young you are very naive and I think naivety is a good thing that you do live for the moment, you write music for the moment, you record and make records for the moment and nobody ever saw anything beyond the current success that you had. The Ultravox records were made back in the beginning of the early 80's and we didn't have radio stations that played older music and we didn't see a longevity in our music, even though The Beatles music had lasted for 20 years, we didn't think other music would exist for 20 years and people would still be listening to it way, way after it was created. The key to longevity is good music, radio stations are still playing our stuff and our videos will forever be on YouTube.
It's not about new music and old music now, it's about good music and bad music and good music will always be available.Question:
What has been your favourite part over the past 30 years, of becoming a music artist? Midge Ure
: I don't ever remember the opposite. I don't ever remember having a moment where I thought about giving up music and going to sweep the street or drive a van or whatever; I am not capable of doing anything else. I've never had a moment were I have seriously considered not doing music because I do what I want to. I get to do what started as a hobby, my passion and that has now become my livelihood, my job. Actually, it's not really a job after this I will get down to the studio and work on new material, recording and I don't feel like I am working.Question:
You worked with a lot of music artists, you could collaborate with any artist, who would it be? Midge Ure
: I have been very fortunate and I have been able to collaborate with most of the people that I really respect including Kate Bush, Eric Clapton, Sting and all of those guys. Every so often something comes along and you think 'that's phenomenal, I'd love to be a part of that' but it has to happen organically, you have to meet the other person somewhere and they have to respect you as much as you respect them otherwise it doesn't work. All of the collaborations you see between modern day multi-selling artists are all done by record companies and the artists very rarely meet and their parts are sung in different studios in different parts of the world and then it is stuck together - it's a marketing tool. All of the collaborations I have done are purely on a music level. I do keep my eyes and ears open and if something does come along, I keep my fingers crossed that our paths will cross.
Interview by Brooke Hunter