Interview by Gig Scene Editor Graham Chalmers
And so after all the awards and success in a career less ordinary, Midge Ure is back where he started as an aspiring youngster in a one-bedroom tenement flat outside Glasgow – a musician, pure and simple.
Except it’s not quite as simple as that.
I don’t bother to bring up Live Aid or the knighthood he never got when I’m talking to him in the build-up to his Harrogate show next week.
So Midge kindly brings it up for me.
“People are more concerned that I haven’t had a knighthood than I am. I never wanted acclaim.”
When Midge Ure OBE steps onto the stage of Harrogate Theatre tonight, Wednesday, May 29 for An Evening With Midge Ure, fans can expect him to cover the whole extraordinary breadth of his career – Ultravox, Visage, The Rich Kids, even Thin Lizzy, perhaps.
How about Slick, the baseball outfit-wearing proto boy band he fronted to a number one hit in 1976 with Forever and Ever, I ask.
“I don’t go back so far as Slick. I hated that song. I wasn’t allowed to play on the single. I remember being on Top of the Pops on New Year’s Day with Slick having been out the night before in London. I was young and hung over with too much hair.”
Fortunately for Midge, the Melody Maker’s Caroline Coon (incidentally the first UK journalist to use the term “punk”) took him under her wing and suggested to Glen Matlock, ex-Sex Pistol that he would be right for his new band, The Rich Kids.
There then followed swift moves to Visage, Thin Lizzy then Ultravox.
Like a man with the midas touch, hits followed him at every turn.
“I’d already had my 15 minutes of fame and was very lucky.
“I’m very aware my musical map makes me look like I’m a dreadful tart. It’s a weird family tree. ”
This likable underdog, who has Grammys, Ivor Novellos and a multitude of platinum discs to his name, likes to give the impression that he simply fell into everything.
But it was he who brought the synthesizer to Visage, the synthpop band he formed with the Rich Kids’ Rusty Egan and it’s his name on co-writing credits for every hit band he ‘s ever been a member of, including Do They Know It’s Christmas.
McCartney to Geldof’s Lennon, without Midge’s sheer musical versatility and approachable nature, it’s doubtful Live Aid could have happened at all.
“Just after Live Aid I had my first solo album out, which did really well and I was playing Wembley.
“Bob sent me flowers with a note saying ‘you lucky bastard.’
“I thought, hold on, I may have a hit album but Bob’s been talking to the UN. He’s a mover and shaker in world politics.”
I skip tales of his, ultimately, victorious battle against alcoholism.
In the long run it’s always the music that matters most, not only in terms of the money but as something to do and believe in.
Midge, who turns 60 this October, will be doing a bit of everything when he plays in Harrogate, all the way from those cover versions as a bedroom musician to the glory years and the big hits.
“It’s not the OBE from The Queen or playing for Nelson Mandela that tick the box for me. My favourite moments are the music. Having Kate Bush doing a duet on one of my songs. Sitting down in my little house in Montserrat playing the blues with Eric Clapton, one to one. You don’t even dream of that as a youngster in a flat in Glasgow.”
An Evening With Midge Ure at Harrogate Theatre, Wednesday, May 29.
For tickets, telephone 01423 502 116 or book online at www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk