Humanitarian, activist, guitarist, singer, and songwriter, Midge Ure has been a vital performer since the ’70s. Former guitarist/vocalist for Ultravox, he’s cited for charity work (he co-wrote “Do They Know It’s Christmas”) and performing at Live Aid as well as several Prince’s Trust concerts.
Ultravox used electronics with classical and traditional rock instruments, and for all of the notice it garnered, the band never broke in the U.S.
“We wrote in a very European style, which was hugely different from the music being played by U.S. radio in 1980,” Ure said. “College radio was our savior; it took chances, and was responsible for breaking bands like the Police. Still, it was an uphill struggle.”
In those times, Ure relied on an Ibanez Roadstar.
“It was stock until I had everything onstage painted grey for the Return to Eden tour – flooring, backdrop, and back line,” he explained. “It looked fantastic, and the color remained on the guitar after the tour. It became not only my signature guitar, but my favorite. You know how an instrument can feel just right?”
He used it to play his first Prince’s Trust concert. “At a later Trust concert, I used the Ibanez, and Bryan Adams was using its twin,” he recalled. “At another, I had a pink Yamaha, and another had a wide-body Yamaha with a vibrato bridge.” More recently, he has donned a Les Paul Standard and a signature model made by Vintage – the MU V100 Goldtop.
Ure participated in recent Ultravox reunions and released a solo album, Fragile – his first in more than a decade.
“I spent far too long making it, but maybe that worked in its favor,” he said. “I went through a phase of not wanting to finish it simply because I didn’t think it would ever be heard. I didn’t want to put my musical neck in a noose, but I changed my mind.”
Ure produced, engineered, mixed, and played most of instruments on Fragile, which covers familiar sonic turf with is ethereal, moody tones.
“What you write should be a reflection on how you’re feeling, and Fragile does exactly that” Ure opined. “It’s atmospheric and haunting, but very recognizably me.”
Guitars on the album include a black ebony-fretboard Strat pieced together in the Ultravox era, used for cleaner sounds. The rest is the Vintage MU V100 and a Patrick Eggle. Bass parts are mostly samples or synthesizers save for a few played on a Fender Mustang, chosen for its short scale.
“Become” is straight-on techno – and radio-ready. “It’s almost a revisit to my beginnings in (his early band) Visage,” Ure said. “I wasn’t going to put it on the album, but it grew on me.” The instrumental “Wire and Wood” alludes to guitars and morphs through numerous styles.
Ure recently played the U.S. on a solo acoustic tour that continues in the U.K., Denmark, and Germany. “I’m doing it with one guitar and a small pedalboard, and documenting it for younger generations, as I think it’s the world they will inhabit given the music industry of today,” he said.
This article originally appeared in VG August 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.