Midge Ure OBE, Scottish musician, singer songwriter and producer chats with Kevin Cooper about Live Aid, Bob Geldof’s bad texting, the hit single Vienna, and his forthcoming 1980 tour of the UK.


Midge Ure OBE is a Scottish musician, singer-songwriter and producer.  He joined a band called Salvation as a guitarist in 1972 with other band members, one of whom was called James McGinlay.  Because that was also Ure’s Christian name, it was decided to turn his surname backwards to avoid any confusion.  Jim subsequently became Mij which was later changed to Midge, a name which Ure has continued to use.

In 1974 the band changed their name to Slik which had moderate success.  A year later Ure turned down the offer to be the lead singer with the Sex Pistols but in 1977 he joined former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock to form Rich Kids who split in 1978.  They reformed for one night only in January 2010 for a benefit concert in support of Steve New who lost his battle with terminal cancer later that year.  In 1978 he formed Visage with Steve Strange and went onto have a hit with Fade To Grey.  He also stepped in to help Thin Lizzy complete their tour of America following guitarist Gary Moore’s abrupt departure.

In 1979 he regrouped Ultravox who went on to release eleven studio albums, the last one being Brilliant in 2012.  The single Vienna from the album of the same name was released in 1981 and spent four consecutive weeks at number two in the UK Singles Chart.

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 also co-organised the charity super group Band Aid, with Bob Geldof and Live Aid in 1985 followed up by Live 8 in 2005.  He acts as a trustee for the charity and also serves as an ambassador for Save the Children.

For a while between 1979 and 1980 Ure was deeply committed to three different bands, Ultravox, Visage and Thin Lizzy.  He went on to co-write Phil Lynott’s hit Yellow Pearl, which served as the theme for Top Of The Pops for much of the 1980s.

During his solo career he achieved his first UK top ten solo hit in 1982 with No Regrets and 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.

Whilst busy rehearsing for his forthcoming tour, he took some time out from his busy schedule to have a chat with Kevin Cooper and this is what he had to say.

 

Midge, good afternoon, how are you?

I’m very well Kevin, how are you doing today?

All is good thank you, and before we move on let me firstly thank you for taking the time to speak to me today.

It’s no problem at all, it’s my pleasure.

And just how is life treating you at this moment in time?

I have to say that life at the moment is treating me well.  You know what; it is all surprising that I am still alive to be able to do this.  Whenever I wake up in the morning there is a whole new day sitting waiting for me; either in a studio or in a rather smelly rehearsal room the likes of which I am in right now (laughter).  Every day is a challenge, every day is a joy and I have to say that it is fantastic.

I once asked a well-known American artist the same question and he said, “all is well, at least I have woken up on the right side of the grass” (laughter).

(Laughter) that is, I have to say, a really great answer.  In fact, thinking about it, I think that I will have to start using that answer myself (laughter).

We have to talk about your forthcoming 1980 Tour.

Yes, we must.

I was going to ask you if you were looking forward to being back out on the road with the tour, but it appears that you never take a break.

That’s right, I don’t.  It’s one of those odd things that the touring that I do really is like commando touring; you never know that I am out doing it unless I am playing in your town.  Having said that, this tour is very much a ‘get out there and do a fully-fledged tour’ but you are right, it really is nonstop.  I have just finished playing a full summer of those 80s festivals, which I tended to be playing every other weekend.  I did that over a couple of months during the summer, but yes, it really is nonstop.  The world really is still a big place you know, we really do get about (laughter).

You are going to be performing Vienna which is the fourth studio album recorded by Ultravox, having been released on Chrysalis Records on 11th July 1980.  Will you be performing the album in its entirety and will it be as it was recorded and how it appears on the album?

What can I say, it will be as close as we can get it, but I think that the idea is to get the essence of the album, and not try to replicate it note for note.  There is a lot of stuff on there that is forty years old which we do not want to replicate.  What we want is something that sounds like Vienna.  But if you had never heard the album during the last thirty-five years, then this will sound like the album.  We have changed the arrangements on a couple of things, a couple of the intros and a couple of little bits and pieces, but we are also not only playing the entire Vienna album, we are also looking at doing the odd B-Side, perhaps something that has never been performed live ever, plus a few tracks that haven’t been played for many years.

However, having said all of that please don’t hold me to it because once we have rehearsed it, if it sounds absolutely dreadful, then it will never see the light of day (laughter).  But right now, in my mind, that is what is going on (laughter).

The last time that you performed the album in its entirety was on its release way back in 1980, so I have to ask, why now?

That is correct.  Yes, we played the album in its entirety back in 1980; the album had been released so that was what we played.  When Ultravox went out on tour we played the Vienna album together with a handful of older Ultravox tracks in order to make up the set.  What you have to remember is that this tour is not celebrating the Vienna album as such; it is celebrating the year, 1980.  I have to say that, in my opinion, 1980 was such a pivotal year for music, and I don’t say that simply because I had two albums and two singles charting at the same time, with Ultravox and Visage (laughter).  There was also a technological revolution happening at that time.  Of course, you could buy synthesizers well before 1980, but round about that period the Japanese manufacturers started making reasonably affordable synthesizers.

So suddenly, all of this technology became accessible; drum machines, synthesizers, home recordings, all of a sudden you didn’t have to be in a studio that cost two thousand pounds a day, which therefore meant that you had to have a record company give you a massive advance so that you could make music.  Suddenly you could start generating things at home.  It really was an amazing period.  Whenever you think of the sonic changes that happened then, the technological changes that happened then, the fashion changes that happened then, suddenly, bands were making video clips, and there is a whole clump of stuff that just landed within that year.  For me, that was everything. 

I am so pleased that you mentioned the fashion changes, because with the exception of the late Humphrey Bogart, you are the man who singlehandedly launched the Macintosh.

(Laughter) I am pleased that you mentioned Humphrey Bogart as I could never take all the credit for that fashion statement.  The story is very simple, the first money that I ever made from anything, I was given a very small publishing advance, and I went out and I bought that Burberry raincoat, which cost me more than a month’s rental in my mortal flat (laughter).  But I had to have it, and of course wearing it in videos and stuff, it suddenly became iconic.

You have mentioned the Visage side of the tour.  Will it be a greatest hits selection of songs, a homage to the late Steve Strange?

I must be perfectly honest with you and say that looking at the Vienna album, I really do feel that it has stood the test of time, plus I thought Ultravox were a much more serious band than Visage.  You must remember that Visage was meant to be a studio-based project; making European dance music to be played in the clubs that Rusty (Egan) and Steve (Strange) were running at that time.  That was it; it wasn’t a game plan to change the world.  So, when I was looking back at a lot of the Visage stuff, I just thought ‘I can’t do this live’.  It was fun in the studio because it was all tongue in cheek, but it’s simply just not me to do it now.

I would feel quasi-ridiculous at sixty-five years old standing up there on stage singing Malpaso Man or Moon Over Moscow.  So I have selected the songs that I think will work really well live and talking to you now, you are the only person that I have spoken to who I can say “they really do sound great” simply because I have rehearsed them now so I know that they are going to sound great (laughter).  I have chosen the ones that will really make the transition from what was a simple, studio-based project, into something live.

Steve sadly passed away in February 2015.  Do you think that he had got more to offer?

It really is kind of hard to say.  I personally felt that Steve was a bit like a fish out of water once Visage had crumbled and went away.  He was still doing his Night Life thing, he was still the fashion icon that he always was, and he continued to hang out with the cool people, but I think that musically he was a bit lost.  Steve didn’t generate music as such.  What Steve bought to Visage was everything else.  He bought the style, the image, the photography, the makeup artists, the models, all that stuff.  Steve was the front man for the entire thing.  However, musically, Visage was made up of individuals who were very, very good musicians.  The whole idea of the concept came from Rusty and I; we were walking down the street one day and Rusty said “wouldn’t it be great to work with a band full of our favourite musicians” and I said “great, let’s do it”.

So, it was the guys from Magazine together with Billy Currie from Ultravox who just so happened to be our favourite bands at that time (laughter) So, we suddenly had this nucleus, this little group of incredibly talented people, creating this fun dance music.  So once Steve was out of that he felt a bit lost.  He never really delved into the music side of things that often.  So, who knows what might have happened had he carried on.  He had started doing some stuff live with a version of Visage, so maybe he was planning on doing more live performances.  However, unfortunately we will never know. 

When you recorded Vienna the single, did you think that you had written and recorded something special?

No, not at all, Vienna was simply an album track.  It was never meant to be any more than that.  It was simply an interesting piece of music.  We had recorded the entire album in just three weeks, and at the end of every long session in the studio, starting at ten o’clock in the morning and finishing at midnight or whatever, we would play a couple of tracks that we had recently recorded just to vibe ourselves up, just to think ‘okay, that is what we have been doing all of this hard work for’ and we would listen to the playback.  And, of course, every night Vienna would be one of the tracks because it had captured something which I don’t think that any of us knew just what that was, it was just something rather unique and special.  And of course, when the album came out, that was a highlight song which we would play live.

Of course, Vienna was a highlight song long before it was ever considered to be a single.  When the record company suggested to us that it should be a single, they said that it was too long, and they wanted to chop it down and edit it.  Naturally we all said “no” and so we had this wrangle with the record company for quite a while until they eventually said “okay, do what you like and put it out the way that it is” so we did (laughter).  We ended up saying to them “get the same people in who edited Bohemian Rhapsody, Wuthering Heights and Hey Jude” to which they replied, “they weren’t edited” to which we said, “well there you go” (laughter).  So, as you can imagine, by this time we were quite prepared for Vienna to come out and disappear because it was too long for the radio, it just didn’t fit that three-minute radio format.   However, something resonated with people and, as they say, the rest is history.

Do you ever tire of singing the song?

Being totally honest with you, I think that you can tire of it.  Back then we all thought that music had a shelf life of three months.  You would put a record out and if something charts, or the album does well, it stays around until you write the next one, and then you never hear it again.  Nobody saw the advent of the internet and specific genre radio stations, which there are now millions of all around the world.  And I have to say that they play Vienna constantly.  Nobody saw this stuff ever being played again some forty years down the line.  So yes, you can get bored of it.  However, I can never get bored of the response that it gets because everybody on the planet seems to know that song, or at least the hook line.

When I do find myself getting bored of it, as a performing artist you know that most of the people in your audience will be waiting to hear that song and that you would be hung, drawn and quartered if you don’t do it.  So, what I have done over the years is alter the arrangement.  When I play festivals, I tend to play the rock version of it, so I play it with a guitar solo as opposed to a violin solo simply because I don’t have a violin player there (laughter).  But, on this tour I will be playing it with a four-piece band who are multi-faceted musicians so it will be much more authentic.   So, in a way it is a kind of novelty for me to go back and sing it as it was and to perform it in the way that it sounded on the record which I have adapted over the years.

We all know that Vienna is the most famous song never to get to number one.  Surely that must rankle with you?

(Laughter) you know what, it rankles with everyone on the planet except us.  You must remember that Vienna got to number two in the charts, and you also have to think just how remote having Vienna become a hit was back then.  It was a ten million to one shot that this would ever get played on the radio.  It was over four minutes long, it is a slow meandering track that speeds up in the middle with a violin solo, and you think ‘really’ (laughter).  You couldn’t put something more obscure together.  So, for us to get something like that to number two in the charts, for the amount of time that it did, changed everything for us.

We went from playing seedy little clubs where we were all squashed together onstage to playing large theatres, amphitheatres and whatever else.   It would be brattish for me to sit there and say “why on earth didn’t we get to number one” which would be the typical thing for me to do wouldn’t it (laughter).  It’s rather like winning a million pounds on the lottery and sitting there saying “bugger, we only won a million pounds; if only we had won five million” (laughter). 

As we all know, Vienna was, criminally in my opinion, kept off the number one spot by Shaddap You Face a song written and performed by Joe Dolce.  Have you and Joe ever spoken about it?

No, not at all.  Weirdly enough, I was in Australia doing a tour a couple of years ago now and the promoter said to me “Joe Dolce lives around the corner, do you want me to invite him round” and I said “no” (laughter).  It was not because I have a gripe with the guy; I have never met him and I am sure that he is perfectly nice, but for forty years now I have had to answer questions like this, all about Joe Dolce.  And I do not want to spend the rest of my time on this planet talking about what it was like when I finally met him because that will be the next question and I’m not going there.  I simply would rather not meet him because of that (laughter). 

(Laughter) swiftly moving on.  John Foxx left Ultravox in March 1979 to embark upon a solo career.  When Billy Currie called you and asked you to step in and take over as lead singer, guitarist and front man how long did it take you to consider the offer?

It took me about a nano second.  What you have got to remember is that at that time Ultravox were a broken band; they had been dropped by their label, they had no money, and everyone thought that the band was finished, because they had no prospects, but I joined the band instantly.  We put whatever we had in our pockets together and booked a rehearsal room for a couple of hours, which is all that we could afford.  We went in there with the basic equipment that we had, and we made the most glorious noise that you have ever heard.  From that moment on it was sealed in stone, and that was it.

At that moment in time, did you already have a clear vision as to exactly where you wanted to take Ultravox?

Yes, I did.  I had already bought a synthesizer back in 1978 and had taken it into The Rich Kids, the band that I was in at the time.  I wanted to integrate this electronic thing into rock music, being inspired by the likes of Ultravox and their songs Slow Motion, Quiet Men and all that stuff that we were playing in clubs that Rusty and Steve were running in London.  These things just sounded fantastic, and this combination of instruments was great.  So, when it fell into my lap, we had already been working on the Visage project at this point, so I knew Billy and I knew what was going on and that Ultravox were still in existence.

It was during that period where I was working on the Visage stuff, which I would say spread over a year that Ultravox went over to America and came back a broken band.  So yes, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the band and these three guys; Billy (Currie) Chris (Cross) and Warren (Cann) all had the knowledge.  They knew all about synthesizers, they knew about drum machines, they knew about clicks and samples, and all of that.  So, it really was amazing.  I joined Ultravox after John and Robin (Simon) left which totally changed the dynamics of the band.  I think that a certain fashion sense or style came out around that period because that was deemed as being very important at that time.

I think that musically, we all knew that whenever you take elements of anything new it is like playing musical Jenga; you take certain things out and put certain things back in again.  It is a different beast and it takes on a different form.  That’s what happened when I joined Ultravox.  I didn’t make it better, I didn’t make it worse; it was simply different because I was now in the band, we were now a four piece, we thought things through differently and we reacted to each other differently. 

I recently spoke to Glen (Matlock) and you came up in conversation.  Glen said something that I thought was rather nice about you.  He said, “whilst Midge and I move in completely different circles what I can say is that he is a great musician and a top bloke”.

Really, wow that is lovely.  I see Glen every so often and I have to say that he is a great guy.  It pains me that we now live a hundred miles apart, and we don’t get to spend much time together.  But every so often the remnants of The Rich Kids get up and do something and it is always great fun.  Glen is just one of these guys who floats through life; he is very laid back, and he is just one of the loveliest guys within the industry and he has been since the (Sex) Pistols days.

It’s funny that you should mention Glen being laid back because when I spoke to him, he was actually turning over his allotment (laughter).

(Laughter) that sounds very much like Glen.  During the last conversation that I had with him I said something like “god this rock and roll lifestyle, I have got to go and do whatever” to which Glen replied, “I have got to get off and buy a paint sprayer” (laughter).  I thought ‘what is happening, here is one of the Sex Pistols going off to buy a paint sprayer’ (laughter). 

On the subject of the Sex Pistols, their manager Malcolm McLaren once asked you to join the band.  Do you have any regrets at saying no?

No, not at all.  It was at best a half-baked idea and a very strange conversation that Malcolm and I had in the back of a car in the middle of Glasgow.  At that time, Malcolm hadn’t quite formulated exactly what it was that he was doing, and exactly what it was that he was trying to put together.  But to me it was obvious that it was going to be a vehicle to sell his clothes.  And I have to say that the line-up that he finally put together was absolutely brilliant.  I wouldn’t have been able to change any of it.  (John) Lydon was fantastic, Paul Cook’s drumming was superb, Steve Jones’ guitar sound was brilliant, and Glen is a great songwriter and bass player so in all honesty I think that I would have ruined the band.  I was far too squeaky clean (laughter).

It has been widely reported that when you left Ultravox in 1988 you cited both Live Aid and Band Aid as the main reasons for wanting to walk away from the music business.  Is that correct?

No, I must be honest and say no, it wasn’t as deliberate as that.  When I was doing Band Aid and Live Aid it took me away from the band for maybe two years.  Then when I got back with Ultravox again it was like every relationship, things had changed and the dynamics had changed.  I had by that time released a solo album and had been working with Mark King from Level 42, Mick Karn from Japan, Mark Brzezicki from Big Country, and I had finally had a taste of working outside of a band.  So, when I got back with Ultravox again, we were all simply not thinking in the same way.  That can be clearly heard on the last album U-Vox.  On there we had everything from orchestrated stuff with George Martin to Celtic stuff with The Chieftains.

There was even a bloody horn section on there; we were just all over the place.  Maybe, had we stuck it out we might have found our connection again, so it was partly that, and it was partly that we felt that a lot of bands were doing stuff that was kind of similar to what Ultravox had been doing.  I suppose that we should have seen that as a pat on the back, seeing these people who had been influenced by what we had done, but there seemed to be a lot of bands out there who were now using synthesizers and doing the same atmospheric, textual, ambient, European music.   I think that we just struggled to try and find just where Ultravox would fit into all of this.  But as I said, had we bitten the bullet and seen it through, who knows what could have come out.

On the subject of Live Aid, do you have a lasting memory of the day?

That would probably be watching the other artists who all seemed to do a hell of a lot more than I did on the day (laughter).  For me it was just being there and seeing what was going on and to be in a position to watch artists who I didn’t think that I would like (laughter).  I sat there thinking ‘oh god this is going to be rubbish.  I hate this guy’ or ‘I hate this band’ and then they come on and they are just brilliant.  And that is how they became as famous as they did because they are really good at what they do.  So, I just sat there and watched this thing unfold.  So that to me was a highlight.  However, the Ultravox set I don’t really remember much about it at all.

Those eighteen minutes flashed by in a nano second.  What I will tell you is that it was petrifying, not just because of the size of the crowd, but because there was no sound check, especially for Ultravox.  We were using masses of technology which was flaky at best (laughter).  We walked on and we didn’t know if the keyboards would work, if the drum machine would work, so I really do think that it was a relief towards the end, not because you had finished your set, but because it had happened, it had worked.

Was there ever a low point when you thought ‘why have I bothered’?

No, not really.  Everyone appreciated why it was all done.  There were a few low points when we were all sat in the accountant’s office, surrounded by experts in the field, all talking about high protein biscuits, shipping, medication, trucking or whatever.  I was put on this planet to hit some strings on a piece of wood, as opposed to sitting there making decisions about the best way of getting goods in and out of Ethiopia.  And that went on for hours and hours and hours every day.  So, I think that there were most probably a few low points there because sometimes you simply can’t see the wood for the trees.  You just think this is dull; this is boring after months and months of it.  However, we all knew what it was about, and we have all seen the results.   

In 1982 you released your version of No Regrets, the song having been written and originally recorded by American folk and blues singer songwriter Tom Rush.  Did you ever receive any feedback from Rush himself?

Yes, I did weirdly.  Somebody told me, because Tom Rush really is huge on the song writing circuit over there in America, they told me that they had seen me performing the song and that Tom had said that he loved my version.  That was great to hear, especially when you consider that I cut out one of the versus (laughter).  I’m sure that he wasn’t really very happy about that (laughter).  But once again, that was down to the three-minute single thing with the radio stations (laughter).

In 2012 you and Ultravox got back together to record and tour the Brilliant album.  Were you happy with the fan’s response to both?

Yes, I was, it really was astounding.  I think that it was in 2012 that I finally joined Twitter and I had joined Twitter just to prove that the four of us were actually in the same room at the same time.  So, it finally proved to the fans that the album and the tour were finally actually going to happen.  I can still clearly remember the moment that I did it.  In true Ultravox style we took six weeks to do a three-week tour (laughter).  That’s how we did things.  It certainly wasn’t to come back and do a bank raid.  This was all about us being back and playing those songs again as well as we possibly could.  And I have to say that it really was great.  A lot of people, myself included, had forgotten just how powerful a band like Ultravox were.

Is there any chance of seeing you all back together again?

Who knows?  Warren has retired now; he is currently living out in Los Angeles looking after his dogs and stuff.  No one has really heard anything from Billy in the last couple of years, but what you have got to remember is that we spent five times longer apart than we were ever together.  The idea was that Ultravox would be a project and a project where the door would be left open.  But it was never ‘let’s get back together to rule the world musically with this band again’.  It was definitely a case of dipping your toe into the water and see how it feels.  So, let’s just see how it feels in the future.   Whilst I would never dismiss anything, nothing is written in stone either.

And what about a new Midge Ure solo studio album, any thoughts at this moment in time?

It’s funny that you should ask me that because there is a new compilation coming out later this week.  It is called Soundtracks which covers 1978 to 2019.  It is a thirty-two track Best Of but it is not just the singles.  I have chosen the tracks that I personally feel are the standout songs and are pieces of interesting music from that whole catalogue.  So that is coming out imminently.  I am half way through, I am going to say halfway but I am actually about a third of the way through making a new record.  I have been working on some new songs, but something has got to give when you are out touring all the time.  In-between doing shows and things I do manage to get myself into the studio and chip away at some new recordings. 

Earlier you mentioned working with Mick Karn.  I loved After A Fashion which you recorded with him in 1983 and was wondering just what Mick was like to work with?

First and foremost, I have to say that Mick was a fantastic bass player.  Having said that, he had absolutely no idea what he was doing or playing.  It was all in his fingers.  You could never ask Mick what notes he was playing simply because he wouldn’t know, nor did he want to know because if he did then it would change his style.  He did everything by ear and feel and he described himself as a sculpture.  He once told me that he felt the strings, he felt the wood, he felt the sliding whilst he heard the notes in his head.  Mick would create something beautiful out of that.  Whilst Mick was totally untrained, he was able to create that sound.

And then he would double track exactly what he had played.  He was able to remember exactly what he had played, every little nuance, every slide or whatever, and he would double track it.  That was what gave him that weird, modulated, sliding sound.  Mick is often copied but never bettered.

How did it feel when the late Phil Lynott called you inviting you to become one of the harmony guitarists in Thin Lizzy after Gary Moore had left the band whilst they were in the middle of an American tour in Arkansas?

That was great.  It really was every schoolboys dream, touring America with a rock band having all the fun and none of the pressure.  I was a mere passenger (laughter).  It really was fantastic.  I had seen Thin Lizzy playing live on their very first tour of the UK back in the early 70s when they were still a three-piece band.  They were brilliant then with Phil singing melodic, heartfelt, high quality songs which sounded like poems that had been put to music.  Back then they were tasteful.  Anyway, when I got the call from Phil to join them it was at the time that I had just joined Ultravox.  I had never been to America before, and I loved Thin Lizzy and what they were doing, and I had always thought that Phil was a great writer.

When I got home after spending the day in the studio there were a pile of tapes and a set list waiting for me together with a plane ticket (Laughter).  The ticket was for a flight which was leaving the UK the very next day so I thought that I would be able to learn the songs on the plane.  However, that didn’t quite work out as, little did I know, they had booked me onto Concorde, so I only had three hours or so to learn the entire set (laughter).  So, within twenty-four hours there I was on stage with Thin Lizzy giving it The Boys Are Back In Town; it really was fantastic (laughter).  For me to be onstage with the rest of the band playing all those songs that I loved, it really was fantastic.  What I will say is that it was so incredibly loud and powerful.  From my point of view, it really was pure Spinal Tap (laughter).

In 2005 you were appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to music and charity.  That must have felt pretty special?

Yes, it did but it didn’t feel as special to me as it did to my parents (laughter).  It completely took both of them aback.  After the ceremony they give you a video of you accepting your award, and I think that my mother used to sit and watch it every day (laughter).  So that was quite something for both of them to see.  The disappointing thing for me was just how crap the music was (laughter).  When you go to the Palace, there is a house band playing and for some reason I had expected them to be playing some classical music.  How wrong could I be as they were playing Food, Glorious Food from Oliver rather badly (laughter).  It really was all a little bit Les Dawson (laughter).  It didn’t quite fit with the visual surroundings. 

In 2007 you appeared on Celebrity MasterChef where you won your heat and progressed to the final.  Did you enjoy that whole experience?

I did, I really did have a great time right up until it became a serious competition.  I know that it is a TV show but come on; you can’t make anything half decent in forty-five minutes. 

The reason why I mentioned it is because your good friend Paul Young appeared on the show a year before you did and when I recently spoke to him, he mentioned that he was considering opening a couple of restaurants.

That’s right, I think he is.  He has also been talking about doing some TV show presenting all about food and wine.  You know the sort of thing, a travel cum cooking show kind of thing.  Apparently, that has now been on the cards for a while.  Paul is a good cook, and he is into his Tex-Mex recipes in a big way. 

Is that something that would interest you?

What can I say, at this moment in time not really as I still do enjoy making music and working within the music industry despite its ever-changing moods (laughter).  I still love what I do.

Do you have a favourite Ultravox track?

I think that after that tour where we all got back together, I think that we rediscovered a couple of things.  One was Lament, which we had always considered to be just another track, when we did it, we liked it but then we had forgotten all about it.  So, when we played it live again it really came into its own.  For me personally, on the last album Brilliant there is a track called One, which really is a beautifully, poignant song.  It’s Ultravox just slotting straight back into what they were really good at.  What about you?

I’ve got two, The Song (We Go) from 1982’s Quartet album and White China from 1984’s Lament album.

I’m so pleased that you have mentioned White China because that track should have been a single.  I don’t know what happened but all that I can say is that we missed the boat there.  We were either touring at the time or the label didn’t come up with the idea.  We pushed for it, but it never happened.

You mentioned Mark King earlier, what was it like being the MC for the Princes Trust Band?

That was great fun.  Don’t get me wrong, it was petrifying but great fun.  The first time that I did it, when they told me the line-up it was ludicrous who was in the band (laughter).  The people in the band really were bizarre; there were the likes of (Eric) Clapton and Elton (John) and you can’t tell those people what to do.  So, I think that I was there to try to soften out the egos or any potential outrage that may happen.  I did it for three years and then suggested that Mark come in and take over because he was so musical.  In fact, he did quite a few of them and then the very last one Mark and I did it together.  He really is a great character.

Mark recently told me a story about the Princes Trust when he and the late George Harrison were performing together.  He said that he saw George walking past him so Mark being Mark started giving it his all on the bass at which George turned on his heels, walked back to Mark and whispered in his ear, ‘do you really have to play that thing so bloody loud’ (laughter).

(Laughter) good old George.  When he played the Princes Trust with me, he walked in carrying a Fender Stratocaster without a case.  He had obviously just taken it off the wall in one of the studios, and the reason why he didn’t have a case for it was because he hadn’t toured for such a long time (laughter). 

In November 2004 you released your autobiography If I Was.  Was it something that you felt that you had to do, or that you needed to do?

I think that I mistakenly thought that it would be cathartic, and it would be a fun thing to do (laughter).  But of course, once you start delving into it, it is either good times that have come and gone, never to return or its bad times that you are recalling; so it is not a particularly pleasant thing.  The sad thing was that I couldn’t remember a lot of it which meant that I had to go and talk to a lot of old friends from the time.  When you sit down and start talking all the stories come flooding back.  What I will say is that it was a great refresher.  Because I couldn’t remember a lot of what had happened back then I started the book by saying “this is my recollection of what went on, which may well differ from other peoples”.

I pre-empted it by saying “nobody is infallible”.  It was a weird thing because you have got to watch that you are not doing a kiss and tell, and you are not writing stuff that is going to harm other people whilst still being true to the story.  It really was a weird process I have to say.   

Are there any plans to bring it up to date?

The current edition brings you up to Live 8 but thinking about it that is a long time ago now (laughter).  It might be worth me having a look at it and maybe resurrecting it as a lot has happened since then of course.  Every day that you wake up you could add another couple of chapters to it (laughter).

Taking you back to 1976, you were twenty-three years old, a member of Slik, and you had just had a number one hit with Forever And Ever.  How did it feel?

It should have felt better.  When I got the phone call telling me that it was number one, I didn’t feel anything.  It wasn’t mine.  I didn’t write, I didn’t produce it, and I wasn’t allowed to play on it.  So, why would I feel ecstatic about having a number one record.  Having said that, things have changed over the years and it was a bit of fun eventually, but it wasn’t mine, it didn’t feel like my fifteen minutes of fame.  The song belonged to the songwriters Bill Martin and Phil Coulter and to the session guys who played it.  All that it was of me was my voice.  I may as well have been a session guy.

What can you tell me about your first appearance on Top Of The Pops?

The first thing that I noticed was that the studio was so tiny.  There were three small stages that the bands would setup on.  They would then herd the audience in front of one of those stages when it was your turn to do something.  My first Top Of The Pops was in 1975, and we went down to London on the train just after Christmas, to record the New Years Day episode and they had put four new bands on the show who were having singles out in January 1976.  We were one of the four bands that were chosen, so we went on the show, did it, got back on the train to travel overnight to Glasgow because you cannot spend New Year in England (laughter).  By the time that Top Of The Pops went out at three o’clock on New Years Day afternoon everything changed.  Suddenly, I was famous.  In those days they had viewing figures of twenty-two million.  I watched the show with a slight hangover and the whole experience was bizarre (laughter). 

Who has musically inspired you along the way?

A hell of a lot of different people have.  If we are talking about music, then it changes all the time as you are growing up.  The difference between liking a piece of music when you are twelve and liking a piece of music when you are sixteen really is vast.  I started off with The Small Faces, then I moved on into the British Blues, then onto David Bowie, Roxy Music and it just goes on and on and on.  Anyone who sticks to their guns, anyone who doesn’t succumb to having to do bad out of tune remixes that have been done by some DJ who can’t play two notes together, and it falls by the wayside, so anyone who avoids that is okay in my book.

What was the first record that you bought?

(Laughter) I keep telling people that it was a Small Faces record, possibly Tin Soldier or All Or Nothing but in reality I think the first record that I bought was most probably one of the Woolworths records.  Back then, Woolworths had their own record label called Embassy and a single at the time, a proper single cost around six shillings whereas you could buy a copy version of your favourite song recorded by a bunch of session musicians on the Embassy record label for like two shillings.  Plus, it would have another hit on the B-Side (laughter).  So, in all honesty I think that would have most probably have been the first record that I bought.  As you can see it was not as cool as The Small Faces (laughter).

Who did you first see performing live in concert?

The first proper band that I went to see was Black Sabbath on a UK package tour, but they pulled out.  They couldn’t make it, but the other bands on the tour were Family and Chicken Shack.  I also saw The Marmalade performing on one of those Radio One Roadshows in Glasgow.  I popped along from college, to see this Roadshow and The Marmalade were there playing live.  I remember that clearly.  The management company of a band who I was in later owned The Glasgow Apollo, so I then got to see everybody.

What was the last song or piece of music that made you cry?

Oh God, where the hell did that come from (laughter).  That really is a tough one.  I have recently been listening to Scala Radio which is a quasi-classical station and they play movie soundtrack music together with a lot of instrumental stuff.  I have to say that some of that is just heart wrenching.  I quite happily sit in the car for hours on end listening to soundtrack music.  There is something about soundtracks that adds a lot to the movie, but a lot of the time because you are concentrating on the actors you miss a hell of a lot of what the music is doing.  So, when you hear it out of context, it is fantastic.  It really is brilliant.  So, I am glad that Scala Radio is playing this stuff. 

This is my last question and a chance for you to dispel a few urban myths.  How do you and Sir Bob (Geldof) get along?

Great, absolutely fine, it’s all nonsense.  I have absolutely no idea where all of this stuff comes from.  We are very derogatory about each other but that’s all down to comradely, that’s what you do.  I don’t see Bob that often but when I do see him, I see the other side of Bob.  I don’t get the full faced, serious, shout you down Bob.  I get the goofy big guy who I have always known, the fun character and it has always been that way.  People will always look for the bad in everyone but let me tell you, there is no bad there.  I tell a lie, the only bad thing about him is his bad texting (laughter).  He texts in abbreviations.  He texts like a five-year old and it takes me well over an hour to decipher his texts (laughter). 

On that note Midge, let me once again thank you for taking the time to speak to me today, it’s been a pleasure.

Thank you very much Kevin.  I’m so pleased that we have finally managed to do it.  You take care and I hope to see you in Birmingham.

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