Ure in 2004
|Birth name||James Ure|
|Born||10 October 1953|
Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, Scotland
|Occupation(s)||Musician, singer-songwriter, producer|
|Instruments||Vocals, guitar, keyboards, synthesizer|
|Associated acts||Slik, Rich Kids, Misfits, Visage, Thin Lizzy, Ultravox, Band Aid|
Ure enjoyed particular success in the 1970s and '80s in bands including Slik, Thin Lizzy, Rich Kids and Visage, and most notably as frontman of Ultravox. In 1984, Ure co-wrote and produced the charity single "Do They Know It's Christmas?", which has sold 3.7 million copies in the UK. The song is the second highest selling single in UK chart history. Ure co-organised Band Aid, Live Aid and Live 8 with Bob Geldof. He acts as a trustee for the charity and also serves as an ambassador for Save the Children.
Ure is the producer and writer of several other synthpop/new wave hit singles of the 1980s, including "Fade to Grey" (1980) by Visage and the Ultravox signature songs "Vienna" (1980) and "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes" (1984). Ure achieved his first UK top 10 solo hit in 1982 with "No Regrets". In 1985, his solo debut album The Gift reached number two in the UK Albums Chart and yielded the UK number one single, "If I Was". Ure also co-wrote Phil Lynott's "Yellow Pearl", which served as the theme of Top of the Pops for much of the 1980s.
Born to a working-class family in Cambuslang, Lanarkshire, Scotland, Ure attended Cambuslang Primary School and Rutherglen Academy in Glasgow until he was 15 years old. For the first 10 years of his life he lived in a one-bedroom tenement flat on the outskirts of Glasgow with his brother, sister and parents.
After leaving school Ure attended Motherwell Technical College and then began to work as an engineer, training at the National Engineering Laboratory (NEL), in nearby East Kilbride. He started playing music in a Glasgow band called Stumble (c.1969 – c.1971). The band's line-up included lead guitarist Alan Wright, Fraser Spiers on harmonica, Kenny Ireland on bass and Alec Baird on drums.
Ure joined Salvation as a guitarist in 1972. The band had been formed in Glasgow in June 1970 by the brothers Kevin (vocals) and Jim McGinlay (bass guitar). Jim McGinlay (born James McGinlay) decided to turn Ure's name backwards to "Mij" (Midge) to avoid any confusion caused by two members of the band having the same first name. Ure has since presented himself in the music scene as Midge Ure. The band performed covers as house band in the Glasgow discothèque Clouds. The band also comprised Billy McIsaac on keyboards and Kenny Hyslop on drums.
In April 1974, Kevin McGinlay left to pursue a solo career, so Ure assumed vocals in addition to his guitar duties. In November 1974, the band changed its name to Slik, with Bay City Rollers writers Bill Martin and Phil Coulter providing songs. In 1975 Ure turned down an offer to be the lead singer of the Sex Pistols, stating that he felt at the time that Malcolm McLaren had "his priorities completely wrong!", a position he later reversed.
Slik achieved a UK number one single in February 1976 with "Forever and Ever". In early 1977, Jim McGinlay decided to quit the band, being replaced by Russell Webb. Slik terminated their contract with Martin and Coulter, believing that their boy-band image was hindering their chances of success during the rising punk rock scene. They changed their name to PVC2 and adopted a more punkish style. Ure's only release with the band under this name was the single "Put You in the Picture".
By October 1977, Ure had left PVC2 to join former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock in Rich Kids. He moved to London and soon found himself immersed in a scene he had previously only read about in the pages of the NME. Musical tensions within the band led to Ure's departure. Having acquired a Yamaha CS50 synthesiser, Ure – alongside bandmate Rusty Egan – wanted to integrate the new instrument into the band's sound. With Glen Matlock and Steve New preferring to remain with the traditional guitars and drums approach, the band split.
In January 2010, Rich Kids reformed, for one night only, for a benefit concert for Steve New who was fighting terminal cancer (and died on 24 May 2010). Although it had been over 30 years since they played together, the press reports praised the gig, which included energetic performances of "Ghosts of Princes in Towers" and "Hung on You". Rich Kids were joined on stage by Mick Jones (The Clash) and Gary Kemp. Ure also played an acoustic set of Ultravox and Visage songs.
In 1978, Egan and Ure formed Visage with lead vocalist Steve Strange, and utilised their new synthesiser when they recorded a cover of the Zager & Evans classic "In The Year 2525" for promotional purposes. The line-up was expanded in 1979 with the addition of Magazine members Dave Formula, John McGeoch and Barry Adamson, and Ultravox keyboardist Billy Currie, and the band signed briefly to Radar Records for the release of their first single "Tar". Egan and Ure also formed the short-lived band The Misfits, whose career was curtailed by an approach from Thin Lizzy. Though Visage's first single was unsuccessful, they signed with Polydor Records in 1980; their second single, "Fade to Grey", became a hit.
Ure already knew Thin Lizzy singer Phil Lynott, and in early 1979 Ure received co-writing credit for "Get Out of Here" on Thin Lizzy's album Black Rose. In July 1979 Ure stepped in to help Thin Lizzy complete a US tour following guitarist Gary Moore's abrupt departure. Ure also contributed guitar parts to "Things Ain't Working Out" and "Dublin" for the 1979 Thin Lizzy remix compilation The Continuing Saga of the Ageing Orphans. Thin Lizzy then toured America and Japan. In 1980, during the second part of this tour, Ure switched to keyboards, and was replaced by Dave Flett and then Snowy White as guitarist. At the end of the tour Ure left Thin Lizzy and returned to his primary interest at that time, Ultravox. Ure continued to collaborate with Lynott, co-writing Lynott's biggest solo hit, "Yellow Pearl".
In 1979, Ure and Billy Currie formed a close bond playing together in Visage. Rusty Egan persuaded Billy Currie to ask Ure if he was interested in joining a revived Ultravox. Ultravox had been presumed defunct since guitarist Robin Simon quit and lead singer John Foxx had left to pursue a solo career. In April 1979 Ure regrouped the band and assumed duties as singer, songwriter, guitarist and second keyboardist. This second incarnation would become the classic line-up, with Currie (keyboards, violin), Chris Cross (bass) and Warren Cann (electronic drums). Although Ure had spent the latter half of 1979 on tour with Thin Lizzy, Ultravox found time late in the year to tour in the USA. During this time the band wrote a number of songs which were included on their first album with Ure.
The album, Vienna, was recorded in 1980. Although it was the band's fourth album, it was the first with Ure, and the first one to chart, although it was only a minor success on first release. However, when the title track "Vienna" was released as a single in early 1981 it became a huge hit and spent four weeks at no.2 in the UK singles chart and was the 5th highest selling single in the UK that year. The album itself re-entered the album chart and peaked at no.3. Inspired by the 1949 film The Third Man, the promo video for "Vienna" was directed by Russell Mulcahy utilising cinematic techniques, and became quite influential. In an interview Ure recalled the way that "music video changed after that. All these things that became video clichés – cropping the top and bottom off the screen, shooting on film as opposed to videotape, making it look like a movie ... we were quite a groundbreaking act for a while." The same year that Ultravox released the Vienna album, Visage also released their debut album which made the UK Top 20 and featured the hit single "Fade to Grey" (co-written by Ure and Currie with Chris Payne), also influential in the direction of the New Romantic electropop music scene. For a while between 1979 and 1980, then, Ure was deeply committed to three different bands, all of them quite successful: Ultravox, Visage and Thin Lizzy.
In 1981, Ultravox recorded their second album with Ure as frontman, Rage in Eden, which was a Top 5 hit in the UK. After its release Ure and Currie reconvened with Visage to record the band's second album, The Anvil. Released in early 1982, it was a Top 10 hit; but Ure left the band soon after its release, citing creative differences with frontman Steve Strange. The same year saw Ultravox record and release their third album with Ure, Quartet, with production by Beatles producer George Martin. The album became their third Top 10 hit and featured four Top 20 singles. This period saw Ure work as a producer for other artists, amongst them Steve Harley, Skids and Strasse, and in 1982 he released his first solo single, a cover of the 1968 Tom Rush song "No Regrets" (based on the 1975 hit cover version by The Walker Brothers), which made the UK Top 10.
After the live album Monument in 1983 Ultravox released their fourth studio album with Ure, Lament, in 1984. The album was another Top 10 success and contained the Top 3 hit "Dancing with Tears in My Eyes". The band released their first "greatest hits" album at the end of the year, featuring all the singles from 1980 onwards. The album peaked at no.2 in the UK and was later certified triple platinum.
After Ure's successful debut solo album in 1985, the fifth and final Ultravox album with Ure, U-Vox, was released in 1986. Although another Top 10 hit, the album (and singles) fared less well than their earlier releases. After the end of the U-Vox Tour Ure left Ultravox. He stated in an Extreme Voice Fanzine 1991: "The spark kind of went out of it for me, Live Aid and Band Aid had a lot to do with it, I suppose. We had a long break from each other and when we came back together we were all working in different directions".
In April 2009, Ure and the other members (Cann, Currie and Cross) reformed Ultravox for the Return to Eden tour to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Vienna album, and in their own words, the "anniversary of their classic line-up". Ure stated in a BBC interview in April 2009, "we are not trying to get our youth back, nor the hair that's fallen off already". After appearing at the Isle of Wight 2009 Festival Ultravox followed up the next year with a second round of the tour. In late 2010, Ultravox started working on their sixth album fronted by Ure. This album, titled Brilliant, was released in May 2012. Following this release the band embarked on the 'Brilliant Tour' performing shows in the UK and Europe in late 2012. In November 2013, Ultravox were special guests on a four-date arena tour with Simple Minds.
Band Aid and charity work
In 1984, Ure co-wrote the Band Aid hit, "Do They Know It's Christmas?" with Bob Geldof. Ure was rehearsing with Ultravox for an episode of the Channel 4 music show "The Tube" when host Paula Yates handed him the phone. It was her then husband, Geldof, who proceeded, recalls Ure, "to rant on about the Michael Buerk BBC news report on the Ethiopian famine". Geldof provided the initial lyrics, with Ure working the musical theme on a small keyboard in his kitchen. The second half was composed by Ure, with the bridging chorus only assembled in the studio when the artists had gathered. Ure has described the song as not one of the best he has ever written, commenting that "the momentum the artists gave it in the recording studio is what made it".
At the studio recording Ure took on the production duties for the song. Although Trevor Horn had been approached to undertake this role, he needed more time to fulfil other obligations than was available. Ure stepped into the breach, with Horn providing his studio, remixing the track and producing the 12" version. Ure and Geldof jointly set up the Band Aid Trust, and he remains active as a Band Aid Trustee. He also co-organised the Live Aid concert of 1985 along with Geldof and Harvey Goldsmith. Geldof and Ure have been honoured with two Ivor Novello awards for writing the song.
In 1988, Ure helped to organise the Nelson Mandela 70th Birthday Tribute, which he also performed at. He has also been the Musical Director and performed at The Prince's Trust rock concerts in 1982, 1986, 1987, 1988, 2010 and 2011.
Ure performed at Music for Montserrat on 15 September 1997 to raise funds for the Caribbean island of Montserrat. It had been devastated by Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and again in 1997, when the island was impacted by volcanic activity. Ure himself lost a house on Montserrat, which was destroyed.
On 24 July 1999, Ure was the Musical Director of the Wicked Women concert for the Breakthrough Breast Cancer charity held at Hyde Park in London, featuring artists like Robbie Williams and Lisa Stansfield.
In 2005, he organised Live 8 concerts with Bob Geldof with the aim of pressing G8 leaders into taking action to end world poverty. Later that year he was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to music and charity in the 2005 Birthday Honours. He has received five honorary degrees and was made an Honorary Doctor of Arts in 2005 by the University of Abertay Dundee for his artistic and charity work over the past 30 years. He was made a Doctor of Music by University of Edinburgh in 2006. In 2007, he received his third honorary doctorate, from the University of Paisley, for his contribution to Scottish culture and charity work. In 2008, Glasgow Caledonian University awarded him his fourth honorary doctorate, for his musical and humanitarian achievements.
Ure was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws from the University of Bath in December 2010. As an ambassador for Save the Children, Ure returned to Ethiopia in 2004 and 2009 and visited Sierra Leone in 2006.
After working on the Band Aid project and during a hiatus from Ultravox, Ure pursued a solo career in 1985. The single, "If I Was", was a UK number one single, and his debut album, The Gift, reached No. 2. Ure recruited Mick Ronson to play guitar on his upcoming solo tour. They rehearsed, but musical differences put an end to it and Zal Cleminson took over in the five-piece band, alongside Craig Armstrong on keyboards and Kenny Hyslop on drums. After returning to Ultravox for what would be their final album together, the band effectively disbanded in 1987 and Ure concentrated solely on his solo career but with less commercial success.
The second album Answers to Nothing (1988) failed to make the UK top 20. It featured a duet with Kate Bush called "Sister and Brother", and the single "Dear God", which helped Ure gain his first foothold with American audiences. It reached #6 on the US Billboard Mainstream Rock chart and at #4 on the US Billboard Alternative Music chart. The following year Ure toured in the US with Howard Jones.
A change of label to Arista-BMG for his third solo album Pure (1991) saw him back in the UK Top 40. It contained the single "Cold, Cold Heart" which reached UK Top 20, and "I See Hope in the Morning Light", a song written about the possible release of Nelson Mandela and recorded as a celebration. 11 November 1991, Ure played at the Royal Albert Hall, with a five-piece band featuring drummer Mark Brzezicki, multi-instrumentalist Willie Dowling and keyboard player Josh Phillips. From 22 March to 22 April 1992 Ure toured in the U.S. with four songwriters, Don Henley, Chip Taylor, Darden Smith and Rosie Flores. The tour was called "In their own Words".
If I Was, a retrospective compilation of solo and Ultravox hits, was released in February 1993 by Chrysalis. To support the release he went on a tour in the U.K. called "Out Alone" which saw Ure performing on his own, accompanying himself primarily on just an acoustic guitar and a keyboard. His fourth solo album Breathe (1996) was produced by Richard Feldman. This album had a very Celtic feel with a plethora of acoustic instruments from Uilleann pipes to mandolins and accordions. In 1998 the single "Breathe" became a hit-single, in several European countries boosted by its use in a Swatch TV ad campaign, two years after its original release. It entered at #1 both at the Italian and the Austrian charts.
Ure also recorded the soundtrack to the American film, directed by Richard Schenkman, Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God...be Back by Five.
Ures fifth solo album, Move Me, was first released September 2000, on Arista label in Germany, later to be released 2001 in the UK on Curb Records. In March 2001 Ure was a Guest Star in This is Your Life on BBC1.
In 2008 10 was released which contains Ure's own interpretations of songs that influenced him and shaped his songwriting. The album was recorded in a log cabin in Eastern Canada, near Montreal, during the long snow bound winter of 2007 – 2008.
On 1 December 2017, the Orchestrated album was released. It features orchestrated re-recordings of Ultravox and solo career songs arranged by the composer Ty Unwin, and a new track called "Ordinary Man".
Ure returned to North America in the summer of 2018 on a co-headline tour with Paul Young, called "The Soundtrack Of Your Life Tour". In 2019 Ure continued to tour with The Band Electronica with "The 1980 Tour", during which they perform Ultravox's Vienna album in full and also include highlights from Visage's self-titled debut album.
Ure lives near Bath. He has been married twice: to actress and writer Annabel Giles, and to Sheridan Forbes. He appeared on the 2007 Celebrity MasterChef series, winning his heat and progressing to the final on 15 June, alongside Nadia Sawalha and Craig Revel Horwood.
|1985||The Gift||2||–||Chrysalis||0946 CCD 1508||–|
|1988||Answers to Nothing||30||88||Chrysalis||CCD 1649||–|
|2000||Went to Coney Island on a Mission from God... Be Back by Five||–||–||EvenMore Entertainment||–||Instrumental soundtrack.|
|2000||Move Me||–||–||Arista||74321 77290 2||–|
|2008||"10"||–||–||Hypertension||HYP 8264||Cover versions album.|
|2014||Fragile||66||–||Hypertension Music||HYP 14302||–|
|2017||Orchestrated||33||–||BMG Rights Management||4050538344417||–|
Compilations and live albums
- Live in Concert – (1999, Strange Fruit, SFRSCD086) – Live album recorded at the Manchester Apollo, 12 November 1991.
- If I Was: The Very Best of Midge Ure & Ultravox – (1993, Chrysalis Records Ltd) (No. 10 UK Albums Chart) – Compilation album.
- No Regrets: The Very Best of Midge Ure – (2000, EMI Records Ltd, 528 5622) – Compilation album comprising studio and live sets.
- A Glorious Noise – 'Breathe' Live – (2001, Environment Records, ENVCD 001) – Live album. Released exclusively via the web site.
- The Very Best of Midge Ure & Ultravox – (2001, EMI Records Ltd, 535 8112) (No. 45 UK Albums Chart) – Compilation album.
- Little Orphans – (2001, Environment Records, ENVCD 002) – Unreleased tracks. Released exclusively via the web site.
- Intimate Moments: 12–22 April 2002 – (2002, Environment Records, ENV03) – Live album. Released exclusively via the web site.
- One Night in Scotland: 21 November 1988 – (2002, Environment Records, ENV04) – Live album. Released exclusively via the web site.
- Once Upon a Time in America – (2003, Environment Records, ENV05) – Live album (CD & VCD). Released exclusively via the web site.
- Septemberfest – (2004, Environment Records, ENV06) – Live album (CD & VCD) recorded in Germany 1996. Released exclusively via the web site.
- If I Was: Sampled Looped And Trigger Happy On Tour – (2005, Environment Records, ENVDVD07) – Live album recorded during the Sampled Looped and Trigger Happy Tour UK 2003. Released exclusively via the web site.
- Re*Live – (2005, Hypertension, HYP 5235) – Live album recorded in 2003 from the UK 'Sampled, Looped and Trigger Happy' tour.
- Duet – (2006, Environment Records, ENVCD 009) – Live album with Troy Donockley recorded 1998/99. Released exclusively via the web site.
- A Live Christmas – (2007, Environment Records, ENVCD 010) – Live album recorded at Wembley Arena 23 December 1985. Released exclusively via the web site.
- Intimate Moments 2 – (2008, Environment Records, ENV10) – Live album (CD & DVD-R) recorded in Germany 2006 / 2007. Released exclusively via the web site.
- Live In Chicago – (2013, Environment Records, ENV12) – Live album USA Tour 2013.Released exclusively via the web site.
- Breathe Again Live And Extended – (2015, Oblivion – SPV 299392) – Live album, recorded in Scotland over the week of 16 to 21 March 2015.
- Something From Everything – (2016, Environment Records, ENV 015) – Live album. Recorded Live and in Rehearsals 2016. Released exclusively via the web site.
- Electronica Live – (2016, Environment Records, ENV 017) – Live album, recorded in Newcastle and Berlin 2017. Released exclusively via the web site.
|"After a Fashion" (with Mick Karn)||1983||39||—||—||—|
|"If I Was"||1985||1||—||—||—||The Gift|
|"That Certain Smile"||28||—||—||—|
|"Call of the Wild"||27||—||—||—|
|"Answers to Nothing"||1988||49||—||26||—||Answers to Nothing|
|"Cold, Cold Heart"||1991||17||—||12||—||Pure|
|"I See Hope (In the Morning Light)"||—||—||—||—|
|"Guns and Arrows"||166||—||—||—|
|"You Move Me"||2001||—||—||—||—||Move Me|
|"Beneath a Spielberg Sky"||—||—||—||—|
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