The Scottish singer-guitarist Midge Ure is remembered for a band (the new-wave group Ultravox from the 1980s) a song (1984’s charity single Do They Know It’s Christmas) and the blockbuster benefit concerts he co-organized with Bob Geldof. This week, however, he revisits a smaller part of his career when he performs the Celtic-tinged solo album Breathe in its entirety at Hugh’s Room. We spoke to him from his home in Bath, England.
Why are you revisiting the 1996 album Breathe, and not some of the more popular material you recorded earlier with Ultravox?
Strangely, it’s a lot more difficult to look back at songs I wrote prior to Breathe and still be connected to them. Ultravox was fabulous, but a lot of the songs were the audio equivalent of video snippets. Little soundbites that created images in your head.
How did your songwriting change after you went solo?
Songwriting is an evolving thing. You start off not being very good, emulating your favourite musicians and writers, and then you grow into yourself. I think that happened at the end of Ultravox. I started writing songs about specific subjects.
Your old cover of David Bowie’s The Man Who Sold the World is making a comeback, with its placement in a video game. You knew David well?
I can’t say we hung out and went to dinner all the time, but I met him on social occasions and I met him work-wise. Obviously he was connected with Band Aid and Do They Know It’s Christmas. He wasn’t on the record, but he presented the first-ever showing of the video on British television, on the BBC.
The reaction to his death was huge over here, but what was it like in England?
It was almost like we went into national mourning. You know, when something like that happens, you become connected to your own mortality. Because when your heroes start disappearing off the planet, you start thinking. “It’s my time soon.” You never expect your heroes to go, especially someone like him, who seemed to be elevated above the status of just mere mortal.
The way musicians of Bowie’s era were elevated, I think that’s going to die off with them. Do you think younger generations are missing out on something in that regard?
I think they are. Music is still being consumed at a huge rate. Ask anyone on the street, and they have a phone with thousands of songs on it. Whether they’re connected to the songs the same way we were, I wonder. You used to go into a record store and you had money in your pocket and you had two or three albums you would like to get, but you could only afford one. So you had to make a big decision.
So, music has lost none of its appeal, but it’s lost its value.
Well, there’s a reason people who bought vinyl probably still own that vinyl. They committed to it. They would walk down the street with the album facing outward so everyone could see it. Because it defined who you were, when you really didn’t know who you were yet.
Midge Ure, Feb. 2 and 3, 8:30 p.m. $35 to $40. Hugh’s Room, 2261 Dundas St. W., 416-531-6604.Report Typo/Error