Category Archives: musicians

2020 ➤ Yes, Midge Ure has Fleetwood Mac to thank for his landmark hit Vienna

40
YEARS
ON

❚ ON THIS DAY in 1980 Ultravox released one of the three most significant albums of the year that exemplified Britain’s new wave of synthesised electronic music – the others coming from Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (in February) and Japan (in October). None of them acknowledged any association with the New Romantics movement. Ultravox’s 12-track album Vienna made an immediate impact, though its title track was only its third to be released, hitting No 2 in the charts in January 1981, later winning Single of the Year at the Brit Awards and an age later voted “the UK’s favourite No2 of all time” in a BBC poll.

It was produced by the German Conny Plank with an evocatively romantic landmark video directed by Russell Mulcahy who was creating a stunning visual vocabulary for the then novel music video. Midge Ure can take full credit as lead singer and guitarist for breathing a subtle blend of Roxy Music’s style and krautrock clarity into Ultravox and building them into a credible vanguard for electronica. Even as the word punk was given the heave-ho in favour of the term “new wave”, Ure was probably the first active player of a synth among any of his clubbing pals, having bought his first, the polyphonic Yamaha CS-50, in the summer of ’78.

As one of the most innovative musicians of the new decade, having had fingers in more pop pies than most, Ure is well qualified to stake his claim to have shaped the music of the Blitz Kids (among whom he was very much an honorary member), and here he describes the inspiration for Vienna, in an extract from his eloquent and candid 2004 autobiography If I Was (Virgin Books):

The first time I plugged in and made a noise with Ultravox was in April 1979 at a rehearsal room in the Elephant and Castle. Right from the first minute I knew I had come home. This noise was what I had been searching for, not only could these people make that noise, but they also could teach me how to make it. [These people being Chris Cross, Billy Currie, Warren Cann.]

What we were doing was radical and new: synthesisers, drum machines and electric guitar mixed together, synth bass with regular drums playing on top of it, the electronic and the organic. It had never been done before. Our sound was massive, this weird crossover between Kraftwerk and the guitars, bass and drums that belonged to every rock band in the world…

I might have been a one-time teeny-bop guitarist but once I was behind the technology, the music that made me famous was the darkest, most serious stuff I’d ever done. Those early days in Ultravox were the best time of my life. The result was a complete crossover, maybe that’s why it worked. The music came from all of us: everyone contributed and we split all the songwriting credits four ways. The classic example of all of us working together was Vienna.

Midge Ure, Ultravox, pop music, Swinging 80s,

The day job: in 1979 Midge Ure (moustachioed) resurrected the name of Ultravox along with Billy Currie, Chris Cross and Warren Cann. © Getty

One night I was sitting having a conversation with my old manager, Gerry Hempstead, who had co-managed the Rich Kids, when his wife Brenda said to me: ‘Midge, what you need to write is a song like that Vienna.’ I looked blank and she went, ‘You know, the Fleetwood Mac song.’ I looked blanker. ‘No, it wasn’t Vienna,’ said Gerry, ‘it was Rhiannon.’ That was the night I went home with Vienna lodged in my brain.

The next morning it was still there. I walked into the kitchen in my little flat and said to Billy, who was staying over, ‘I’ve got a line running around in my head I can’t get rid of, “this means nothing to me, this means nothing to me, Vienna”.’ We built the song from that one lyric. Every component element came from all four of us. It wouldn’t have been Vienna without Warren’s heartbeat drum sound, and it wouldn’t have been Vienna without the bass synth notes and Billy’s eerie viola… / Continued in Chapter 10 of If I Was

➢ Buy Midge Ure’s If I Was: The Autobiography

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1978, Midge stakes his claim as the weathervane of synth-pop who helped shape the British New Wave

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
110+ acts who set the style for the new music of the 1980s

FRONT PAGE

2020 ➤ Star drummers salute Ringo Starr in an ear-opening demonstration of his gifts

80
YEARS
ON

❚ HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY, SIR RICHARD STARKEY, aka Ringo from the Beatles… “Four drums that’s all Ringo needed”… “He’s a song drummer”… “He used his kit in a very different way”… “Ringo was the king of feel”… “Very innovative”… “It’s a Ringo swing: he washes the windshield on your high-hats”… “It’s that sloppy, swampy, falling down the stairs kind of sound that’s the coolest thing ever”.

Watch some of the world’s greatest drummers – including Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins of the Foo Fighters, Stewart Copeland of the Police, Questlove of the Roots, Tré Cool of Green Day, Max Weinberg of Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band, and Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers – all salute Ringo Starr from behind his famous Ludwig kit.

➢ Celebrate Ringo’s 80th birthday with The Big Birthday Show on YouTube 5pm PST

anniversary, Ringo Starr, Paul McCartney, Ludwig drums,

Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney: the surviving Beatles go on celebrating together. (Photo: Fred Duval)


➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1961, No wonder The Beatles changed the shape of music after 456 sessions practising in public

FRONT PAGE

2020 ➤ Sheeran and Radcliffe bag the big bucks in Sunday Times Rich List

2020 Sunday Times Rich List, Rich List Young 50, , musicians

Top dozen popsters in The Sunday Times Rich List Young 50. (Pix from PA)

THE UK’S HIGHEST EARNING YOUNG MUSICIAN is Shape Of You singer Ed Sheeran aged 29, with a fortune of £200m, according to today’s 2020 Sunday Times Rich List Young 50 – the 30-and-under age group. He trounces his nearest rival among the under-30s, Harry Styles, by £137m. Ed is also the youngest person on the main musician list, tied with Sir Rod Stewart and Sting. 32-year-old Rihanna comes second in the main list with £468m, thanks mainly to her Fenty cosmetics brand… In the Young 50, Harry Styles tops fellow Directionists with £63m while the Little Mix girls come in as a group at number four with £48m between them and Sam Smith is at number eight with £33m.

rel="nofollow"

Topping the actors in the Young 50 is Harry Potter’s Daniel Radcliffe, 30, with a £94m fortune. His co-star Emma Watson, also 30, follows with £52m and they are placed ninth and eleventh overall. Model-turned-actress Cara Delevingne, 27, is listed worth £27m, while Aaron Taylor-Johnson, 29, who starred in the Kick Ass films, clocks £24m. Star Wars actors Daisy Ridley and John Boyega make the list for the first time, both worth £17m each.

Sport dominates the Young Rich List with 18 of the 50 places. Ranked at number seven is Welsh footballer Gareth Bale as the richest young sportsperson on £114m.

2020 Sunday Times Rich List, Rich List Young 50, Daniel Radcliffe, actors

Richest young actor: Daniel Radcliffe, most recently in Guns Akimbo

➢ Young Rich List 2020 at The Sunday Times

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Rich List puts George Michael top of the popstars
from the un-lucrative 80s – flashback to 2010

FRONT PAGE