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SIX DEGREES

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6

MIDGE URE 

009

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, Night of the Proms, Wicked Women for Breakthrough and in honour of Nelson Mandela; 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.

 

Midge appeared to the wider public in a moment of heady teen success with Slik. Their sway-along 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 1979, 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. Their successful trademark was combining Midge's powerful guitar riffs with sweeping synthesiser motifs, enigmatic imagery and state-of-the-art visuals. 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. Indeed, Vienna recently was voted the Nation’s favourite number 2 single of the 80’s, finally granting it a coveted Number 1 position!

 

Even by then, the Midge Ure story had some individual chapters, of course. He wrote and produced “Fade to Grey” for 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 than three 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.

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'. Further solo albums followed with “Answers to Nothing” in 1988 and “Pure” in 1991 on BMG.

 

Delivered in 1994, the new 'Breathe' album was followed by further extensive touring. 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. '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.

 

1999 brought a 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.'

 

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 and also starred Roger Daltry and Manfred Mann. 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.  

He's also received honorary doctorates from both Edinburgh and Dundee Universities, mainly in recognition for his work with Band Aid and Live 8. 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!

 

Midge had long held an ambition to record an album of cover versions of songs that influenced him. 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 songs that influenced the teenage Ure when growing up in Glasgow in the 60s and 70s, so alongside the obvious (David Bowie) are the less obvious - The Carpenters...Lulu. These were the songs that had shaped him as a songwriter.

 

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 DVD release "Return To Eden"

 

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. Brilliant was released 2012 and more touring of the UK and Europe followed, culminating in the band being Special Guests of Simple Minds on their UK arena tour, ending at a sold out show at the O2 Arena, London.

 

Even with huge amounts of Ultravox activity, Midge still continued to perform in his own right, including tours of Australia and the US in 2013. The US tour was recorded and released as “Live in Chicago”. He also recorded an updated audio version of his autobiography “If I Was” and as someone who always enjoys pushing the boundaries of technology, this was released on flash drive in 2014. His radio work with Trevor Dann has also received a pat on the back with prestigious gold & silver New York Awards.

 

Fragile is his latest release - a return to his progressive synth roots with soaring melodies and introspective lyrics. With collaborations by Schiller and Moby, the initial signs are that this album will join the rest of his classic albums on the shelves of discernng music fans, having been playlisted by Radio 2 for 3 consecutive weeks.

 

Midge’s releases always seem to come in pairs, and true to form also currently released is International Blue by Stephen Emmer. Midge’s contribution to the CD, “Taking Back My Time”, has impressed the press. The Times describes it as a “lushly orchestrated show stopper”. Can’t be bad!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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