Midge Ure happy to revisit Ultravox hits as he gets back on tour
He’s thrilled to be back. Midge Ure is still reeling from the after-effects of the two-year Covid lockdown, which put those in his industry out of work.
While he busied himself writing and making new music, his heart went out to his crew, who found themselves out of work with little or no financial support.
So as he returns, for his eagerly-anticipated and fast-selling The Voice And Visions Tour, he is, frankly, delighted.
“I can’t wait,” he says. “For poor old musicians it was a double whammy. We were missing what we do and we were unable to earn. It was an odd couple of years. The tour was supposed to happen in 2020, then 2021, but it was postponed twice. It was heartbreaking, not just for the audience and the artist, but the crew, the people who run the trucks, the PA, and the lighting companies.
"They were all struggling and on their uppers. The carpet was pulled from under their feet. So coming back is an absolute joy. There were moments when I thought it was all over and when it wouldn’t come back.”
Midge did what most musicians do – carried on regardless. He has his own recording set up and made music to stay sane. Planning the tour helped, too. The last time he was on the road, the dates were cut short because of Covid.
“When that happened, I instantly started planning the follow-up tour, which is this. Look, it’s just a tour, it’s what we do, I don’t want to make anything sound incredible. But I can’t deny that we’re very happy to be back.”
On Midge’s last tour, his band played the Vienna album, in addition to other songs. The response was phenomenal and fans contacted Midge to say they wanted to hear two other Ultravox albums that they hadn’t heard since the early days, namely Rage In Eden and Quartet, which were released in 1981 and 1982, respectively. Both are peppered with hits.
“It’s been an interesting process for me. Once I do something, it’s done and I move on. So I had to buy the songs online and relearn them because I literally didn’t own the albums. It’s bittersweet going back to the older work.
“It’s difficult to get your head into the same head space. I can’t connect with it all because it’s 40-years-old. We all get slightly older and you can’t quite be the same person you were. But the flipside of that is that there are songs that take on more significance over time. You find things that are incredible. it’s a great thing to do.”
On Quartet, Midge enjoyed such hits as Reap The Wild Wind while also working with legendary producer George Martin.
“That was a very different experience to Rage in Eden and Vienna. George was very different from our earlier producers. He’d sit around the piano and if he thought we were taking things too far and needed to be pulled back, he’d say so. Ultravox didn’t want to listen to other people, but he was the guy, so we listened. He taught us all, we grew up listening to his work. It was an amazing experience. He was one of the loveliest raconteurs that you could hope to spend time with.”
The early years of Ultravox were an incredible period. Midge had grown up near Glasgow before working with former Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock in Rich Kids. He moved onto the brilliant Visage, with Steve Strange, before playing alongside the much-loved Phil Lynott, in Thin Lizzy. Afterwards, he and Billy Currie, who’d played with him in Visage, joined Ultravox, with Rusty Egan.
“It was an amazing period. I joined in 1979 and from the moment we met, with nothing, no prospects, no record label, the band were a mess. But the moment we plugged in and made a noise, it was fantastic. Prior to recording anything, it felt like a success. Vienna was the antithesis of a hit record. The success gave us the space to do what we wanted. We went to the German countryside to record Eden. We’d earned the right to do that. Then we worked with George Martin in a very different way.”
Perspective comes with time, of course, and Midge is able to look back fondly at a remarkable career. There were highs and lows, challenges and unexpected triumphs.
“When I joined Ultravox, I met three guys who knew the things I wanted to understand. They knew about this atmospheric, cinematic music. It was a marriage made in heaven. The great thing is some times you are seen as riding high, but you remain a working musician. That’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. Sometimes it takes you to the heady heights and sometimes the darkest corners.
“There are moments when you thing you’ve recorded the best things you’ve ever done and the machine doesn’t like it. I can’t make a hit record. I can just do my best. There are moments when you have these things, yes, but you can also find yourself in dark places, wondering why you are doing it.” Then the answer dawns: “You realise you were born to do it.”
His alliance with Bob Geldof, for Live Aid, remains a career highlight.
“I remember Bob talking about the whole Band Aid thing. It took us ages to write the song but it’s stood the test of time. All we saw was a Christmas single. That was it. We had a very narrow vision. Our concept was to pull in our pals, write this thing and raise £100,000, which is what an artist would generate.
"Then it grew. Nobody saw this supposed six-month project morphing into something that continues to reach people to this day.We didn’t see it lasting 38 years. We hadn’t thought it might get played every Christmas. Bob and I gave those royalties to the Band Aid Trust, so it continues to make money for them – it carries on generating money.”
And now he is back to doing what he knows and loves best – making music and taking that on the road. Soon, there’ll be a new record – a neo-classical number – but for now, it’s about getting on the road and, simply, he really can’t wait.
Midge Ure and Band Electronica play Birmingham Symphony Hall on May 25 and tickets are available from the box office.