The Soundtrack of Your Life
The Soundtrack of Your Life Tour
Midge Ure “Of Ultravox”
An artist who has received Ivor Novello, Grammy, BASCAP awards along with a flotilla of gold and platinum records, really needs very little introduction. Musical success is seldom measured in time spans of more than a few years, if not Andy Warhol’s often quoted “fifteen minutes”, so the fact that by the time Midge’s single “If I Was” went to No1 in 1985 he had already crammed several musical lifetimes into a 10 year professional career speaks volumes – Slik, The Rich Kids, Thin Lizzy, Visage, Ultravox and of course the most famous one off group in musical history Band Aid had by then all had the guiding hand of his musical navigation.
Then you have to take account of Midge’s musical directorship of a series of rock concerts for The Prince’s Trust, Night of the Proms, Wicked Women for Breakthrough and in honour of Nelson Mandela; record production for Phil Lynott, Steve Harley and countless others; his video direction of memorable hits by the Fun Boy Three, Bananarama and others, or a whole swathe of landmark singles by Ultravox; TV, theatre and film music credits ranging from ‘Max Headroom’ to stage and big screen.
Midge appeared to the wider public in a moment of heady teen success with Slik. Their sway-along single ‘Forever And Ever’ took over at No.1 in the UK from Abba’s ‘Mamma Mia’ on Valentine’s Day 1976. Soon outgrowing Slik’s pop dimensions, Midge was snapped up by ex-Sex Pistol Glen Matlock the following year for his new outfit, the Rich Kids, who charted amid an avalanche of press with a self-titled EMI single early in 1978. By 1979, with his name being added to many musicians’ contact book, Ure had been asked by Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann to become the new frontman in Ultravox.
The band was a major influence on the new romantic and electro-pop movements of the early ’80s. Their successful trademark was combining Midge’s powerful guitar riffs with sweeping synthesiser motifs, enigmatic imagery and state-of-the-art visuals. Tracks like ‘Reap the Wild Wind’, ‘Dancing With Tears in My Eyes’, ‘Love’s Great Adventure’ and 1981’s timeless ‘Vienna’ were all massive hits the world over as they charted with awesome regularity, not only on single, but with seven consecutive top ten albums in just six years. Indeed, Vienna recently was voted the Nation’s favourite number 2 single of the 80’s, finally granting it a coveted Number 1 position!
Even by then, the Midge Ure story had some individual chapters, of course. He wrote and produced “Fade to Grey” for Visage in 1980, then hit the top 10 in the summer of 1982 with his first release under his own name, an atmospheric take on the Tom Rush song made famous half a dozen years earlier by the Walker Brothers, ‘No Regrets’.
Then came November 25, 1984, a historic day for Midge and all of pop music, as 36 artists by the collective name Band Aid gathered at SARM Studios in west London under Ure’s production. They recorded ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas?’ a song he had just written with Bob Geldof as the industry’s heartfelt and eloquent contribution to Ethiopian famine relief. 600,000 copies sold in its first week in the UK alone was only the beginning: 800,000 more were bought in the second week, more than three million world-wide, and the unstoppable emotion engendered by the project led to Live Aid, the summer 1985 global concert that, all exaggeration aside, spoke for a generation.
Within months, a staggering £8 million had been raised for the starving in Africa, and Geldof said that without Ure’s initial enthusiasm for the idea, not to mention his rapidly penned sketch for the single, neither Band Aid nor Live Aid could have happened.
Just two months after Live Aid, Midge was back at No.1 in Britain, this time under his own name, with ‘If I Was’, and by the autumn he had a No.2 solo album to accompany it, entitled ‘The Gift’. Further solo albums followed with “Answers to Nothing” in 1988 and “Pure” in 1991 on BMG.
Delivered in 1994, the new ‘Breathe’ album was followed by further extensive touring. The Swatch campaign brought spectacular renewed international activity for the record in 1998. The album and eponymous single were subsequently in the top 20 throughout Europe for much of that year, and No.1 in Italy, Germany, Austria and Switzerland. ‘Breathe’ sold over half a million copies in Europe alone. Respected German composer Eberhard Schoener invited him to perform at the re-opening of the Potzdamer Platz in Berlin, in front of an estimated audience of 500,000.
Soon after Midge was busy producing and writing with and for various artists, both established and unsigned, at his studio in Bath, and writing music for films. Other duties included the ‘Music for Montserrat’ benefit at the Royal Albert Hall alongside Sir Paul McCartney, Elton John and Eric Clapton.
In 2005 Midge undertook both extensive acoustic tours of Germany and the UK as well as performing with the long standing “Night of the Proms” in Germany. This 21 date sell out tour of arenas saw a massive production with full orchestra and also starred Roger Daltry and Manfred Mann
He then went on to be executive producer for the Band Aid 20 single working with the likes of Paul McCartney, Joss Stone and Fran Healey.
Midge’s services to both music and charity were finally recognised in the Birthday Honours list in 2005, when Midge was awarded a long overdue OBE. He also released his autobiography “If I Was” through Virgin books.
He’s also received honorary doctorates from both Edinburgh and Dundee Universities, mainly in recognition for his work with Band Aid and Live 8. Midge actually managed to fit in a performance at the Edinburgh Live8 show in Murreyfield in July where he played with Eddie Izzard on piano! Surely a first!
Midge had long held an ambition to record an album of cover versions of songs that influenced him. He managed to record his own version of No Regrets in 1982, but it was to take 25 years and a change of format from LP to CD before he would record a full set of his favourite songs.
TEN was recorded in a log cabin in Eastern Canada during the long snow bound winter of 2007 – 2008 and was released again by German label Hypertension in September 2008.
The CD contains songs that influenced the teenage Ure when growing up in Glasgow in the 60s and 70s, so alongside the obvious (David Bowie) are the less obvious – The Carpenters…Lulu. These were the songs that had shaped him as a songwriter.
April 2009 saw the unthinkable happen – ULTRAVOX REFORMED and subsequently released a new album in 2012 and toured the UK and Europe culminating in the band being Special Guests of Simple Minds on their UK arena tour, ending at a sold out show at the O2 Arena, London.
Even with huge amounts of Ultravox activity, Midge still continued to perform in his own right, including tours of Australia and the US in 2013. The US tour was recorded and released as “Live in Chicago”. He also recorded an updated audio version of his autobiography “If I Was” and as someone who always enjoys pushing the boundaries of technology, this was released on flash drive in 2014. His radio work with Trevor Dann has also received a pat on the back with prestigious gold & silver New York Awards.
The critically acclaimed ‘Retro Futura Tour’ of North America followed in 2014 with Midge performing alongside 80’s electro pop pioneers Tom Bailey (Thomson Twins), Howard Jones and China Crisis.
Fragile was released in 2014 and was a return to his progressive synth roots with soaring melodies and introspective lyrics. With collaborations by Schiller and Moby,was playlisted by Radio 2 for 3 consecutive weeks. This led to Midge touring North America completely unaccompanied on his Fragile Troubadour tour. This came about after Midge did a masterclass at Paul McCartneys Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts during where he realised while talking to the students about his the halcion days of multi album recording deals and world tours that these aspiring musicians would most likely never experience anything like that in the current music industry climate. In order to show the reality of what their future might really hold, he set about six weeks of touring the US and Canada totally alone, no crew or tour manager, documenting the ups and downs of life on the road.
2015, being the 20th anniversary of Breathe being completed, Midge decided to perform the album in it’s entirety for the first time. Ably accompanied by the boys from The India Electric Company, who had caught Midge’s attention at a show in 2013, the songs took on a new dimension and the show was a total success both with the critics and audiences throughout the UK and Europe. A live CD of the show was released by Oblivion/SPV.
Paul Antony Young was born January 17th 1956. He was the middle child of three, has an elder brother Mark and a younger sister Joanne. His interest in music dates back to when he was very young, when he learnt to play the piano and then the guitar. On leaving school he worked, as did his father and brother, for Vauxhall Motors and played in various bands at night. He played bass guitar in his first and second band, but always wanted to become the singer. However his preferred style of music, blues and in particular soul, was not that popular in Luton. So his second band, Kat Kool & The Kool Kats, gave him a small section in the middle of the set where Paul chose to sing covers of Bill Withers and Albert King amongst others, as well as a couple of self penned songs.
This wasn’t enough though for Paul, and after hearing Paul’s demos at a local recording studio, he left the Kool Kats, and moved to London in 1976 taking up the offer to be in the better known Streetband.
…Were from the Harrow/Watford area and had been on the circuit for a while, but decided they needed a front man. After Paul joined the band they secured a record deal with Logo, and Chaz Jankel (of Ian Dury and the Blockheads fame) was sent to the John Bull pub in Chiswick to see the band perform, with a view to producing their first album. It was on this particular night that guitarist John Gifford broke a string, and the road crew were not yet adept enough to change a guitar string, so John went off to change it himself. Whilst the band were waiting, they doodled around musically and Paul struck up a rhythm whilst talking over the top, eventually ending the chord sequence on the word Toast. In a couple of minutes it was over and John rejoined the band to continue the set. However it was not over: when the recordings for the first single “Hold On” commenced, Chaz insisted that ‘Toast’ would make a great B-side. The band’s fate was sealed… Although the rest of their material was more Cockney Rock laced with a hint of The Who and the Mod bands of that era, “Toast” was flipped to become the single’s “A” side, it became a hit, and effectively the band’s cards were marked. The band responded by playing everything louder, angrier and faster, and scared any fans they may have had away…
In December of ‘79 Streetband broke up and Paul went on to form the Q-Tips, together with the bass player and rhythm guitarist. During the next three years Paul introduced himself to more and more of the British public through the Q-Tips extensive touring. This period of intense activity gave Paul the chance to develop his unique voice and stage persona. Sadly, although radio gave them a fair chance with such singles as ‘Tracks Of My Tears’, ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’ and their last track on the Chrysalis label ‘Stay The Way You Are’, it didn’t really translate into record sales. But that didn’t stop them competing with chart-topping acts of the time such as Madness and Bad Manners in terms of concert attendances, playing 700 shows over three years in the UK and Europe, and supporting such acts as Bob Marley, the Average White Band, J. Geils Band and the Who. Eventually the Q-Tips found their large membership of musicians worked against them in the new wave of synth-pop duos, and after struggling to find a record deal, they did one more tour then went their separate ways at the end of ‘82. Paul signed as a solo artist with CBS/SONY Records in that same year.
THE SOLO YEARS
CBS’ main idea was to get a crack team of great R&B musicians behind Paul and cut the album that the Q-Tips ‘should have made’. However, in Paul’s mind he was now free to use some of the modern influences he had been listening to, and mix them with R&B into a new sound… So the first recordings were tentative, and all songs had to be agreed by both sides!
The first single released in the UK was ‘Iron Out The Rough Spots’ in November 82 but despite strong radio support it wasn’t a success; initially it was the same for the following release ‘Love Of the Common People’. Success came at last with ‘Wherever I Lay My Hat’, which maintained the number 1 spot for the summer of 1983. The album ‘No Parlez’ pushed Paul and The Royal Family (his newly-formed band) to the top of the charts. If the rest of Europe didn’t completely agree with ‘Hat’, that soon changed when ‘Come Back & Stay’ was number one in Germany for six weeks, and the rest of Europe followed. (He met his future wife, Stacey Smith whilst making the video of ‘Come Back and Stay’.)
After an exhausting touring schedule around the world (that at one point had Paul doing 13 live shows in 14 days across America), the end of 1984 saw Paul singing the first line of the historical Band Aid record ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ for Ethiopian Famine Relief.
With the second album, ‘The Secret Of Association’ his status as a world star was confirmed. ‘Every Time You Go Away’ hit number one in America in the summer of 1985, (shortly after his appearance at the historic Live Aid) and in any other unconquered countries too. It was and still is his biggest worldwide hit.
In 1987 he went to studios in Milan to record his third album ‘Between Two Fires’ and met the Italian singer Zucchero. They became good friends, to collaborate later. 1987 was also the year of the birth of his first daughter Levi.
In 1989 Paul appeared in The Nelson Mandela Tribute Concert and sang a song by Crowded House –‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ – which his fans pushed him to record later for his 1991 Greatest Hits album.
There followed a period of time out to be with his family, followed by time spent in America where he was to write and record in Los Angeles and New York the material for his fourth album ‘Other Voices’, released in 1990.
In 1991 Paul recorded a duet with his friend Zucchero on the soon to be worldwide popular ‘Senza Una Donna’ which, along with the aforementioned ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ were featured on his Best Of album, ‘From Time To Time’. At this time also, Paul had moved the family to California to prepare songs for the next album.
1992 was spent touring the world, which culminated in Paul’s wonderful appearance at the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert singing “Radio Gaga” and the release of what turned out to be his final album for Sony, ‘The Crossing’ in 1993. This gave Paul the chance to work alongside some of his musical heroes; Tony Joe White, The Memphis Horns, and Billy Preston among many others. Working with the producer Don Was on the material for ‘The Crossing’, Paul was exploring new styles of music and the gulf between the musical past and future had begun to seem impossible to bridge. The single ‘Otis Blue’ from this album would be the last hit single with CBS, now Sony. Once freed from his contract Paul took time out to take a breath and to reflect; “Every artist wants to change, yet every record company wants them to stay the same”.
In 1993, after ten years of his solo career he reformed the Q-Tips with his old partners for a series of concerts.
Also, around this time, Paul responded to the hiatus in his career by calling up friends and suggesting they get together in an informal group, simply for fun. The result was a loosely styled Tex-Mex band, Los Pacaminos. More of this comes later.
At the end of 1994 he released a compilation of soul songs for Christmas, ‘Reflections’ and went on tour to promote this album, which was only released in the UK. His wife Stacey gave birth to their much awaited second daughter, Layla, in August 94.
In 1995, Paul took part in various Festivals in Europe and a summer tour in France.
During 1994-6 Paul also prepared new material with long time collaborator, singer-songwriter Drew Barfield and songwriters in Nashville, to assemble a collection of songs for the next album. A new single called ‘I Wish You Love’ was released on May 5th 1997 in the UK and the album, called ‘Paul Young’ and produced by Greg Penny was released on May 19th.
Two songs from this cd were covered by Country artists; ‘Then There’s You’ by The Wilkinsons and ‘Tularosa’ by Ray Vega. A third song written in Nashville, ‘The Last Time You’ll Ever Have To Say Goodbye’ although not making it onto Paul’s album, was covered by the Country band Blackhawk.
He also became the happy father of a son called Grady-Cole in January 1996.
Early 1999 saw Paul getting together again with his friends in “Los Pacaminos”. They recorded a four track CD-ep that found it’s way into London’s only Country music station and their self-penned song “Shadows On The Rise” was played on heavy rotation for three months. Obviously, the next step was an album…
During the summer of 99’ Paul undertook a tour of smaller intimate venues across the UK. Performing new and old material with stripped down arrangements built around his voice and acoustic guitar with piano, accordion and backing vocals provided by long time musical collaborator Matt Irving.
The self titled “Los Pacaminos” album was released in 2002, the year that saw Paul supporting himself on a small tour of the UK, where Los Pacaminos were the support act on a Paul Young tour!
In 2006, with the help of producer Dieter Falk and uber-arrangers Steve Sidwell and Simon Clark, Paul released a Swing/Big Band Album for the German, Austrian and Swiss markets entitled ‘Rock Swings – On the Wild Side of Swing’, and was released in the USA in early 2010… Song choices swing wildly (!) from Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’ to Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ to Eminem’s ‘Lose Yourself’.
In 2009 he toured Israel, New Zealand and Croatia for the first time, amongst the many other countries he regularly visits. These dates were in support of the “No Parlez 25th Anniversary Edition” re-release of his first Solo Album….
Also, Paul’s hobby of cooking turned into more of a career, and after appearing in high profile TV shows such as Celebrity Masterchef and Hell’s Kitchen, and six months as guest chef at a famous local restaurant, Paul released a cookbook, “On My Travels” in the summer of 2012.
In 2014 Paul divided his time between Los Pacaminos in their 22nd year and releasing their new album “A Fistful Of Statins” on June 30th, being a radio dj, promoting his cookbook, recording more Paul Young material, and performing live concerts.
2016 has seen a new solo album release in April from Paul called ‘Good Thing’, a collaboration between veteran producer Arthur Baker and top musician/producer James Hallawell. Also, together with Los Pacaminos he recorded extra tracks for the deluxe versions of both their studio albums which saw their re-release in May. This in turn has filled the calendar with live shows in the UK and Europe supporting all the new material.