Midge Ure: 'We thought our music had a shelf life of three months'
The 80s hitmaker and co-organiser of Live Aid is coming soon to Cambridge to perform one of his classic albums in its entirety.
From Fade to Grey to Vienna, Midge Ure had an indelible impact on the 1980s electronica scene.
The Scot also co-organised Live Aid and played in Thin Lizzy for a time.
In a move that is sure to delight his many fans, Midge will be performing his band Ultravox’s classic 1980 album Vienna in its entirety – for the very first time – with his Band Electronica on tour later this year.
He will also be playing tracks from Visage’s self-titled debut album – yes, the one that includes Fade to Grey – which will also be the first time that many of these songs will be played live.
The music will be performed in a stage setting designed to reflect the atmosphere and ambience the albums deserve, and Cambridge will get the chance to be a part of the experience when the show rolls into the Corn Exchange on Thursday, October 10.
However, Midge isn’t just sitting around waiting for the tour to start – far from it.
“I don’t know how it’s happened, but there’s a wealth of ’80s-oriented festivals throughout the summer every year now, not just here in the UK but abroad as well,” he notes.
“So I’ve been doing all the festivals, which is fantastic, and I managed to get myself to Bali – I went all the way to Bali to sing six songs, which was great!
"And in between the festivals, I’m in the studio writing and recording new material.”
On the ongoing popularity of ‘synth-pop’, Midge, 65, says: “I don’t think it ever went away...
"I suppose when we were making music back in the 80s, you think it’s got a shelf life of two or three months, and then it goes away and is never heard of again until you die and Radio 2 play it as a memorial – but that didn’t happen.
“All of a sudden, there were independent radio stations and then the radio stations would diversify into specific genres, and with the advent of the internet, that music is getting played non-stop.
"As we’re speaking right now, somebody in Taiwan or whatever is listening to [Ultravox’s] Dancing with Tears in My Eyes – it’s just everywhere.”
Was that partly what encouraged Midge to take Vienna out on the road? “I think it was a bit of that, a bit of retrospective nostalgia on my part,” he says.
“That year, 1980, was a pivotal period for me. Both Ultravox’s Vienna album and the first Visage album came out at the same time. They were both successful and I was part of both of them.
“Looking back at that period, I didn’t just kind of break through a barrier at that point, I broke through a barrier in huge style, with two sets of singles from different artists in the charts at the same time – and directing videos for people and writing film music...
"All of that stuff happened around that period.”
Midge, whose real name is James Ure, did initially toy with the idea of doing both albums from start to finish.
“I thought, ‘I’m not quite going to do that’ because some of the stuff, when you look back at it, in my opinion, is kind of dated and has lost its sparkle – which after 40 years is quite right that it would...
“Also, people were asking for specific songs that they wanted to hear live, which were from neither of those albums – so I’m going to maybe top and tail the entire the entire show with a few random tracks, then go into the Visage stuff, then go into the Ultravox thing.
"I haven’t quite formulated how it will work yet but I’m trying to cover a lot of bases.”
Although his ‘genre of choice’ appears to be electronica, Midge first started playing guitar at the age of 10 and didn’t purchase a synthesiser until 1978.
“Guitar is my instrument,” says Midge, “but by the time 1978 rolled around and I was in London in the band the Rich Kids, I wanted to incorporate this new technology with traditional rock instruments, just as we did with Ultravox, and half the band hated it and it broke the band in two.
"The two guys who liked it were myself and the drummer, Rusty Egan, and we set about putting Visage together.”
In 1984, Midge got together with Bob Geldof to write Do They Know It’s Christmas? a charity single featuring many of the biggest pop stars of the day under the collective name Band Aid.
The Christmas number one that year, the song was created in response to the famine in Ethiopia.
This in turn led to the famous concerts in London and Philadelphia which took place simultaneously the following July, organised by Geldof and Ure and known as Live Aid.
“The story has been well written-up over the years,” says Midge, “but the reality is that we expected to generate £100,000 from the record – that was it.
"And of course it generated a lot more than that and then grew into this global movement, which led to Live Aid, which led to Live 8 [in 2005] and numerous Band Aid incarnations. None of us saw that happening at all.”
The stand-out act of a long day of music at Wembley Stadium was undoubtedly Queen, who ran through a selection of their hits, including Bohemian Rhapsody, Radio Ga Ga and We Are the Champions.
This breathtaking performance was recreated for the 2018 Freddie Mercury biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody.
“I haven’t seen the movie but I’ve seen the Live Aid clip,” says Midge, “and it’s bizarre in its accuracy.
“It’s so uncanny. I’m one of the lucky ones who managed to see that view from the stage and it’s totally realistic.
"I know it’s CGI, I know they didn’t get 80,000 extras to come in and jump up and down, but it’s just amazing. It brought it all back...”
Midge Ure will be bringing Vienna & Visage – The 1980 Tour to the Cambridge Corn Exchange on Thursday, October 10, at 8pm.
Tickets: £27.50, £30.50, £35.50.