On November 2nd, I turned on Sirius/XM to hear my beloved Foo Fighters Radio and was met with a Christmas logo and the sound of jingle bells. After a long, “Nooooooooooooooo!,” I watched as the screen popped up the title of the next song, “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” All my rage vacated as I remembered the first time I heard the song in 1984. I was in the throes of an unrequited love of John Taylor and Duran Duran and I played that record over and over and over. Even now, decades later, that song brings back so many wonderful memories of Christmas, music, and artists from the ‘80s.
Although I say it brings back wonderful memories, the song was born out of tragic times. Recorded as Band Aid, the many amazing artists contributed to the track to bring awareness to and raise money for the famine in Ethiopia. The single raised more than 14 million dollars for famine relief and has since been re-recorded and re-written for other charities, and yes, remains a staple on holiday music channels.
Often credited as a Bob Geldof creation, Band Aid and the song were created by Geldof AND Midge Ure. The Scottish singer, songwriter, guitarist, and producer not only wrote the music for the song, but he produced the track. As you can imagine, blending a track with multiple voices over multiple days was not an easy project!
Band Aid was not a one off for Ure and he continues to be heavily involved in charity. He is a trustee for the Band Aid Trust (also Ure and Geldof give their writing royalties for “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” to the charity), has organized many charitable events (Band Aid and Live Aid concerts, Nelson Mandela Birthday Tribute, The Prince’s Trust concerts, Music for Montserrat, Breakthrough Breast Cancer, COVID-19 relief events) for charity, and has been awarded multiple honorary doctorates and well-respected honors.
As if that was not enough to earn icon status, Ure was also part of several of the pioneering bands of the new wave movement – Visage, Rich Kids, Slik, Thin Lizzy, and of course, front-man for the legendary Ultravox.
In the late ‘70s, Slik made a name for themselves with “Forever and Ever” and Ure was even approached to be the singer for the Sex Pistols. He declined and after some member changes, Slik became PVC2 and headed in a punk direction. A common trend of that time and that area of England, more band changes occurred as Ure did stints with Rich Kids and then Visage, where he incorporated synthesizers. The path then led to Thin Lizzy, and finally, Ultravox in 1979.
This was the best time and area in new wave music… all the greats were forming and creating music that would slowly make its way to us deprived kids in the United States. Bauhaus, Echo and the Bunnymen, Depeche Mode, OMD, The Cure, New Order. Such an amazing time and Ultravox was there. In fact, Ure was still involved in three bands which all found success in the same two-to-three-year period (Ultravox, Visage, and Thin Lizzy).
For Ultravox, Ure took on singer duties along with songwriting, guitar, and second keyboards, while Billy Currie (formerly of Visage) handled first keyboards, Chris Cross took on bass, and Warren Cann covered the electronic drums. Their album “Vienna” was recorded in 1980, and the title track hit big in 1981.
They followed up with “Rage in Eden” and “Quartet,” both of which included songs that gained them attention: “The Voice,” “The Thin Wall,” “We Came to Dance,” “Visions in Blue,” and the most popular era-defining song, “Reap the Wild Wind.”
Their 1984 release brought another big single, “Dancing with Tears in My Eyes.” While it may not have had mainstream success, it – along with “Reap the Wild Wind” – remains a staple at new romantic era stations and helped the band’s greatest hits album reach triple platinum. Countless artists and journalist cite this song as one of the top era defining songs of all time.
Ure went on to do solo projects and honestly, has not sat down since! As mentioned, 1984 was the year Band Aid happened and Ure has remained busy musically and charity-wise since. Ultravox even regrouped for some tours and an album. As for his solo material, Ure has done well with “If I Was,” “Dear God,” “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Breathe,” “Dark, Dark, Night,” and new this year, “Das Beat” with Band Electronica. Next year Midge Ure and Band Electronica will hit 26 cities in the UK for the Voices & Visions tour, and perhaps celebrate the 40th anniversary of Ultravox’s “Rage in Eden” and “Quartet” albums.
Despite previously saying he did not think he would do another solo tour because of the work involved, Ure changed his mind after the pandemic. “It’s one thing performing in front of your computer for hardcore fans around the world. It was no substitute for face-to-face. So I decided to jump on board and go and put myself through the rigors again,” he said.
While stuck home in 2020, Ure created Backstage Lockdown Club for fans to enjoy live music from Ure, plus allowed him to expand his musical and technical abilities. The club also gives fans presale information and exclusive question and answer sessions.
To top it all off, Midge Ure is royalty, well kind of. In 2005 Ure organized 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 made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to music and charity. Despite this noble designation, you would never know he had this honor. Ask anyone who knows him and they will tell you he is as genuine and down to earth as anyone on the planet. That is most likely why he is so beloved and respected worldwide.
But why am I giving you this history lesson about the legend that is Midge Ure? Because the man himself will be here! He is wrapping up his Unzoomed and Face to Face tour in California with performances at The Concert Lounge (Riverside) on Friday, The Coach House (San Juan Capistrano) on Sunday, and Belly Up Tavern (Solana Beach) on Monday.
Make plans to see the man who helped bring you so many amazing things… Ultravox, Band Aid, and all things new wave. Get out your dancing shoes and experience living history!