Star Scene: Throwback Thursday – Sir Midge Ure

July 17, 2011

The Rewind Festival – an 80s music festival that has been going for about 6 years in England – is coming to Australia. Sir Midge Ure will be one of the headliners. He spoke to us from his home in Bath about the festival.

Are you looking forward to coming to Australia for the show?
I am, I’ve been trying to remember the last time I was there and I think it was 85, when Australia did their version Live Aid, I came down for that, and for whatever reasons I’ve never been asked back.

Oh, that’s a pity
Well, you know, it’s the way these things work and I think sometimes to you guys it must look like I’ve fallen off the edge of a cliff or something and disappeared completely. But, it’s not for lack of trying at my end so I’m really looking forward to coming down.

It’ll be a lot warmer here when you get here which should be good
Well I’m looking forward to that, because we don’t get any summer here

Have you played at any of the other Rewind Festivals?
I have, I’ve done a couple of them here in the UK, which were hugely successful. There’s a massive resurgence of interest in music from that era. It kind of showed itself. You see it in the media all the time, 80s fashion, 80s music, The rewind Festivals here in Henly have been phenomenal, I think they had something like 50 or 60,000 people pop up at the festival last year, over a 3 day event and that’s just huge. I mean, that’s as big as Isle of Wight festival or something, you know, big established rock festivals.

And it’s not all people from that era, not just people reliving their youth. There’s a entire sea of people who’ve discovered music from the 80’s thanks to radio still playing it. And they’re coming along, which is just quite incredible.

I’m pretty impressed by the amount of 80’s bands that are playing
I’m impressed that most of them are still alive!

It’s a great lines up, you’ve got Tony Hadley [Spandau Ballet] and Martin Fry from ABC, Human League, it’s a pretty comprehensive bill. I just hope the planes don’t give out on the way there otherwise the 80s would be wiped out!

You don’t mind playing the 80s music again, it doesn’t bother you?
I still play it. I would be hung, drawn and quartered if I did one of my shows and not played Vienna or Dancing with Tears in My Eyes or If I Was or, you know, Fade to Grey, or any of those things.

People still expect you to do those. There’s a great story about Elton John back in the 70s, played Crystal Palace Ballroom, just outside London. He played his entire new album. Irrespective of how great the songs were, people still wanted to hear Daniel and Yellow Brick Road, or whatever. There’s a nostalgic thing about it, there’s a comfort in hearing the songs you remember those artists for. You want to hear those songs performed. It’s totally understandable that people want to hear those things. I don’t have a problem playing those at all. I think given a choice I’d rather be playing something new, but that’s me as a musician, you always want someone to hear what you’ve just done. But I don’t have a problem playing stuff that I did a while ago.

I’ve noticed there’s a lot of solo people coming out. Is there going to be a house band or will you all have your own bands with you?
I don’t think we’ve all got our own bands. This time around I’m using the ABC band. I saw ABC perform. I live in Bath, just 100 miles west of London, and I saw ABC perform here a few years ago and Martin’s band were just phenomenal. So it just seems a bit like redesigning the wheel bringing out loads of great musicians who can all do the exact same thing. So I think I’m using them, but there are bands out there – the Human League will be completely self sufficient, ABC are self sufficient, I don’t know of Nik Kershaw is going to be using someone else’s band. That’s the kind of idea. It’s a very 1960’s idea. They used to do these tours where they’d have a house band where they’d bring on different artists to play 2 or 3 of their hits and just keep the whole thing going so instead of paying your money and sitting watching a bunch or road crew changing equipment round for half an hour every time someone goes off, it’s non stop, just music filled. It works, it tend to work. It makes sense economically – bringing an extra 50 musicians all the way to Australia is just going to kill the promoter

Do you know any of the Australian artists that are on the bill?
Yeah, Mental as Anything I remember, because they were around the same time as Ultravox. Ultravox did a lot of touring in Australia, we did quite a few tours down there and they were around in that period. I don’t know many Australian artists. I haven’t been back in Australia for 25 years, so it’ll be interesting to have a little taste of it all again.

Are you going to do any other shows while you’re here?
Unfortunately no. I’m hoping that when I get back there I’ll bump into a few people, like old promoters, because I do a lot of shows here in the UK & Europe. Small acoustic shows, and get the band together to larger shows. I’m still going on tour with Ultravox which we’ve been doing for the last couple of years. After a 25 year break. So I’m hoping there’s going to be connections made and I get invited back.

Are many of the original members still in Ultravox?
All of them! Believe it or not they’re all still breathing! It’s an oddity, two years ago a big promotion company got in touch with us all individually and said they’d like to do a tour if we were up for doing it. We were all interested and said, well lets see how it goes, we’ll meet up first. Some us hadn’t spoken for 25 years. Of course, the moment we got together again, plugged in and made a noise it was just “that” sound, it was just that Ultravox sound again, it was just uncanny. It was just fabulous. So the original lineup from when I joined the band in 1979, the Vienna lineup, it’s great, it works brilliantly.

It would be great if you could bring them out to Australia…
I would love to. There was talk of it last year, I think, for the Grand Prix. We were going to come out and do some stuff with Simple Minds. For whatever reason it went away like a lot of these things do. So I know that there were connections made there and there’s rumblings of coming and doing something.

We’ve just finished a new record and we’ll be out promoting that and I’m hoping that someone will bring us down and we can show the world that we can still do it.

I was interested to see that you were in Thin Lizzy for a while?
I was, yes. I was what I’d call a “hired gun”. I never actually joined the band. I’d just joined Ultravox, although the media wasn’t interested in Ultravox at all at that point. I had just put together Visage, so I was in the studio recording “Fade to Grey” and I got a phone call from Phil Lynott who was in America, saying that Gary Moore was out of the band, so could I come out and finish the tour. I’d never been to America so I went off and I did the American and the Japanese tour with them. I did some dates in the UK and Ireland all the time knowing that they were looking for another guitarist, a permanent replacement and I was going to go straight back to recording with Ultravox. It was a fantastic experience and a great period cause I loved being there. I thought Phillip [Lynott] was a fabulous singer and a brilliant songwriter.

And the weird thing is where I live now I’m back in touch with his family. His daughters are all grown up and have children of their own and they used to come and baby sit for us, now we babysit for them. It’s just amazing how the circle seems to have been completed after all this time.

Then that all finished off and you went on to Ultravox…
I went back to Ultravox. We’d already been writing and trying to get a record deal and all of that technical side of things was all going on while I was doing the Thin Lizzy thing, which was great. I did Thin Lizzy and Billy, Ultravox’s keyboard player went off on tour with Gary Neuman who had just become very successful at the time so it gave us the finances to come back and buy the equipment we needed for Ultravox cause we had no money. So it worked out incredibly well.

I know you’ve done a lot of charitable work – Live Aid & the Princes Trust – do you still do a lot of that?
I do, I was on television just doing an appeal the day before yesterday because of the big pending drought/famine problem in the horn of Africa right now in Kenya. So I’m still very much involved in that as an ambassador for Save the Children. I’m still a Band Aid trustee and have been for 26 years so since Band Aid started, so that is an ongoing thing and I don’t think it will ever disappear. I suppose at some point, because of the nature of what Band Aid was, because of the money generated by our Christmas record and that Christmas record gets sold and played every year. It generates money every year at some point, Bob & I are getting pretty old and craggy these days we’ll have to decide how that’s going to carry on cause that will obviously carry on long after we’ve gone.

That does still sell very well [the “Do you know it’s Christmas” song]?
Yeah, every year, there it is. When October comes around and you walk around the supermarket and you hear that clanging chime of doom there’s the Band Aid song. You think, oh God, it’s not even Halloween yet and Christmas has kicked in. So every time that’s played it’s generated income.

You know when they advertise the best Christmas CD ever, you know, the old faithfuls – you know Slade, Wizzard and old those old Christmas songs. Band Aid is obviously on all of those and every time one of those compilations is made the money that’s generated from that track goes direct to the Band Aid trust. Which goes to Africa, which continues the long term development of all the projects we’re putting in place.

Bob and I gave the writing royalties, which is 50% of the income, to Band Aid forever, so every time that’s played it’s generating money for the trust.

Thank you very much for spending the time and I’m hoping I’ll be able to come and check out the festival.
Yeah, well, as I said, the festival in the UK just grows year by year and they’re just such fun events because it not just people. You don’t just sit there and listen to half a dozen songs you’ve never heard before in your life to get to the one you’ve gone there to hear. And the great thing about them is it’s a great thing for the curious, they know who you are, but they’ve not necessarily gone out and bought one of your records.

You do get the odd comment at the end like – I didn’t know you could sing. And you think well, what have a been doing all these years? They tend to think you’ve only every recorded one song. They hear Vienna and they go – that’s what you did, isn’t it? that one? And they hear the others and they go, oh my god, I’d forgotten you did all of those. So it’s a nice thing to do, it’s a good thing.

I hope that I see you in October then.
I hope so. Look forward to it.
This article originally appeared in
July 17, 2011 – 9:11pm — Mandy Hall

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