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.
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 1986, 1987, 1988, 2010 and 2011.
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, and keyboard player Josh Phillips. From 22 March to 22 April 1992 Ure toured in the US 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 1993 by Chrysalis, and was followed by extensive touring on his acoustic ‘Out Alone’ and ‘Performance’ tours of the UK. Ure said: “Ultravox was big, big stage sound and big production. I decided to go out and do the exact opposite, not hide behind anything, just sit there on stage with a guitar and a keyboard and play with no setlist.”
His fourth solo album Breathe (1996) was produced by Richard Feldman and recorded mostly in Los Angeles. 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 SwatchTV ad campaign, two years after its original release. It entered at #1 both at the Italian and the Austrian charts, #10 in Spain and #12 in Germany. 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 November 2004 Ure released his autobiography If I Was through Virgin books.
Ure resides near Bath. He has been married twice: to actress and writer Annabel Giles (with whom he has one daughter, Molly, who found fame with The Faders) and to Sheridan Forbes (with whom he has three daughters, Kitty, Ruby and Flossie).
Ure’s two main passions are music and cooking. He was able to indulge the second of these in the 2007 Celebrity MasterChef series, winning his heat and progressing to the final on 15 June, alongside Nadia Sawalha and Craig Revel Horwood. Although all three competitors greatly impressed the judges, the trophy was won by Sawalha.
Ure is a recovering alcoholic, something he discusses in his autobiography If I Was. In an interview with The Guardian in 2012 Ure said: “If my family hadn’t supported me through my alcoholism, I don’t know if I’d be here today.” He said that the turning point came when he was on a holiday and he went back to his car to get a bottle of alcohol. “As I turned round there was my then 11-year-old daughter looking at me and it was utterly heartbreaking and devastating to see the look on her face.”
80s Studio Albums