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Midge Ure to perform Breathe in Sage Gateshead gig

It was the album that nearly didn't make it but Midge Ure fans will hear the whole thing 20 years on

Midge Ure who is coming to Sage Gateshead
Midge Ure who is coming to Sage Gateshead

In 1995, states the press release, Midge Ure “delivered his fourth solo album, Breathe, to BMG just 10 years after the phenomenal successes of Band Aid and Live Aid”.

The Scot, who teamed up with Bob Geldof to get those epic charity fund-raisers off the ground, picks up the difficult birth theme in a telephone interview.

“This album went through hell trying to come out, real hell. It was the worst selling record I’d ever made.

“It was only because Swatch picked up the title track and used it in a commercial that Intimate Moments (a live solo acoustic album) became huge and bounced all around the world.

“I wanted to go back and look at that album (Breathe) again because it delves into my Celtic roots.”

This he is currently doing on his Breathe Again tour which brings him to Sage Gateshead at the weekend.

But first a few words about those roots of his. Fame and fortune may be his to enjoy now but the online biogs talk of an early childhood spent in a Glasgow tenement flat.

In amused and measured terms he reasons: “I didn’t know anybody who lived in different circumstances.

“When I lived in a tenement on the edge of Glasgow, everyone lived in a tenement. It’s only when you’re on the outside looking in that you might think it’s not a great place to live. I didn’t know anything better.”

The life he lives now, though, could not have been foreseen.

“Music was never going to be something I did. It was something I could dream of but the reality of that time (James Ure – ‘Midge’ because it’s Jim backwards – was born in 1953) was that Scotland was a musical desert.

“Music was fantasy. Most kids wanted to be football players but you probably had more chance of playing for Celtic or Rangers or Hearts or Hibs than of making it in music.

“The only connection I had with music was the radio. We didn’t even have a record player until I was 10 or 11 and if you were serious about being in a band you had to move south.”

At some point in the 1960s, Midge got his hands on guitarist Bert Weedon’s book, Play in a Day, and proceeded to make his own luck.

There was “lots” of parental encouragement, says Midge, “but not to do it instead of a job”. His father, a van driver, wanted his sons to become engineers.

Midge did go down that route, training at the National Engineering Laboratory in East Kilbride. But the pull of music was too strong.

It claimed him and the rest is music history, Thin Lizzy leading to Visage and Ultravox and a successful solo career interspersed by the Band Aid and Live Aid adventures.

Even his parents got excited, he recalls, but only when he was on This Is Your Life and Eamonn Andrews appeared with his famous red book.

There have been many hits – notably Vienna (with Ultravox), Fade to Grey (with Visage) and Do They Know It’s Christmas? (with Geldof) – but what of Breathe?

“If I wrote down what happened around that period it’d seem like an over-dramatic soap opera,” says Midge.

Telling a tale of woe involving trans-Atlantic record company in-fighting, he reflects: “I was like the child in a divorcing family.” Meanwhile, his album featuring Uilleann pipes, mandolins and accordions was almost stillborn.

“I didn’t write it for an advert but in the end that was the only way to get it out there,” he says through a residue of frustration.

The album is out there now. Accompanied by the duo India Electric Co, Midge is delivering it to fans along with other hits that had a smoother entry into the world.

Catch the gig in Sage Gateshead’s Hall Two on Saturday, June 27 at 8pm. Tickets: 0191 4434661 or www.sagegateshead.com


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