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Midge Ure

You’re coming to Nottingham next week to do what?
A totally acoustic set. It’s me and a guitar just singing a bunch of songs that are hopefully worth singing - and hopefully I’ll be able to sing them (laughs).

Where is the OBE you were awarded and what do you do with it?
I’ve got no idea where it is. Like most of the things you get over the years it ends up in the loft. I couldn’t put my hands on it right now if someone put a gun to my head. I don’t know what to do with it. Maybe if you’re writing letters to the school you might put OBE at the end of your name so it makes you sound officious. You know, if you’re trying to get the kids out of trouble.

You took the name Midge as an inversion of your real name Jim?
That’s right. It was the band I joined in 1972, called Salvation, they already had a Jim and he was one of the leaders of the band. He said ‘we can’t have two Jims so you’re now Midge’. When you’re a spotty long-haired youth you don’t really argue.

 I read you were a member of Thin Lizzy?
I never joined them but I did work for Thin Lizzy. I was in the studio putting the finishing touches to the first Visage album and I’d just joined Ultravox when Philip (Lynott), who I’d known for a long time, called to say Gary Moore had left the band. Can I jump on a plane tomorrow and finish the American tour? They sent me out on Concorde, which was ridiculous. Within 24 hours I was on stage with them playing The Boys Are Back In Town and having a ball. Then we did a Japanese tour and an Irish tour. So I was a token member of Thin Lizzy.

Is it true you co-wrote Yellow Pearl with Phil Lynott, which of course became the Top of the Pops theme for many years?
I did. It was something we used to jam with Thin Lizzy during sound checks. I’d just start playing this little riff and Phil said ‘great, I’ll put that on my solo album’. The remixed version is the one that ended up as the Top of the Pops theme. Money for old rope really. Every time it was played on the television you could hear the cash registers ringing.

Is it true that in 1975 you turned down an offer to be the singer with the Sex Pistols?
I don’t know. I turned down being in the Sex Pistols but I don’t know if it was to be the singer or the guitarist because Malcolm McLaren never got round to asking if I was a singer or a musician. I was stopped in the street of Glasgow by Bernie Rhodes, who went on to manage The Clash. McLaren was sitting in a car in a mohair jumper and a dog collar, which was quite an odd sight at the time. He told me all about his plans for this band he was putting together. But he didn’t even ask if I played anything. I looked a bit like James Dean so he was more interested in style than content, which I didn’t think was right, so I said no.

Don’t you find it bizarre that despite being one of the top five biggest selling singles of 1980, Vienna didn’t actually reached No. 1?
Yeah, it outsold all the others that kept us off the No. 1 spot: Joe Dolce (Shaddap You Face) and John Lennon (Woman). It’s just the way it works. It wouldn’t happen today because neither John Lennon, Joe Dolce or Ultravox would get played on the radio today. It’s so formulaic now that oddities, as Vienna was, wouldn’t get through. Even though it only got to number two it changed our lives forever.

You have four honorary degrees from Scottish universities. What do they mean to you?
And I’m about to get another one later this month from Bath University, as I live down here now. I’m not a vindictive person but the old, battleaxe, vindictive teachers I used to have at school, who used to tell me ‘boy, you will amount to nothing’... in a way I wish they were there to see me getting these things.

Is it right that the first time you spoke to Bob Geldof about the famine in Ethiopia, which would lead on to Band Aid and Live Aid, was when you were rehearsing with Ultravox for The Tube and Paula Yates handed you the phone?
That’s right. Bob and Paula and I had been friends a long time. We were just chatting when the phone went and it was Bob at home asking her about keys or something. She said ‘he wants to talk at you’ and handed the phone to me. He had just seen the Michael Buerk footage that night and said ‘I want to do something, will you help?’ And that was it.

Who: Midge Ure
Where: Rescue Rooms
When: Thursday November 11, 7.30pm
Tickets: £13, 0845 413 4444

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