Music

Midge Ure had steamy fling with Journey icon’s girlfriend during tour together

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Before becoming the enigmatic frontman for Ultravox, co-founder of Band Aid and a successful solo artist, music icon Midge Ure recalled breaking the number one rule of support acts while on tour with Thin Lizzy.

Talking about his career and new book, In a Picture Frame, as part of the Midge Ure: In Conversation event at the British Music Experience in Liverpool, he was asked about the time that he joined Thin Lizzy on a stadium tour, supporting American rock band Journey of Don't stop believing fame.

Asked about the tour and to explain what the first rule of support bands is, Midge said: "Don't go off with the lead guitarist in the main band's girlfriend, on the first night of the tour.

"I subsequently spent three weeks hiding from him."

It is a story that Midge also recalls in his 2004 autobiography If I was, explaining that at the time he met her, he did not know that she was guitarist Neil Schon's girlfriend and he subsequently spent the next few weeks worried about it.

However, he goes on to say that Journey were very friendly, with both groups spending time together completing activities such as water skiing on their day off.

Touring with Thin Lizzy is a time that Midge talks about with much fondness, sharing a humourous insight into the day he first met the late frontman Phil Lynott, before reconnecting with him in 1979 while working with Visage.

"I reconnected with Phil Lynott, who I bumped into to as he was walking around the streets of Glasgow, many years before," said Midge.

"I was driving the van for the band I was in, and I pulled over and said 'do you want to come back to my mum's for some egg and chips?' and he did.

"He remembered this, which was wonderful, so we were hanging out together and he asked me to come and do this television show."

He added: "It's every school boy's dream isn't it? Instead of standing there in front of a mirror with a tennis racket, you're on this television show with Thin Lizzy. Out throwing shapes with Phil. It was just fabulous."

Midge had already had his own chart success with his first band called Slik, with who he had a number one record, prior to touring with Thin Lizzy.

However, after the band broke up, a phone call out the blue set off a chain of events that would bring Midge to London where he met future collaborators Rusty Egan and Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols.

"We decided to pull the plug on Slik as we weren't going anywhere. The whole new wave explosion happened – it was 1977 by this point."

However soon after, Midge explained that the telephone rang, as Glen Matlock of the Sex Pistols, wanted Midge to come down to London to join a new group.

He said: "there's a journalist that used to write for Melody Maker called Caroline Coon, and she was a big fan of Slik. She said, he [Midge Ure] is the guy you need for your band, Rich Kids.

"Based on her intervention and the fact that Glen had seen me on Top of the Pops, he called up and said, come down, come to London. I did and I ended up joining Rich Kids."

He recalled the first night he arrived in London, where after learning three songs, he immediately went out to play live with the band that night and met a few famous faces along the way.

"We learnt three songs the day I turned up, went out that night, played the three songs and opened up for The Police, because their support band didn't turn up.

"Then we went to Warehouse Party and there was Sid and Nancy, The Clash. We played our three songs there and then we went to People's Palace in Camden."

It was during his time in London that Midge bought his first synthesiser, saying "The idea of merging this fairly new instrument, the synthesiser, with traditional rock instrumentation was always fascinating to me."

However, the merging of rock and synthesiser music wasn't to everyone's taste, but Midge and fellow Rich Kids member Rusty Egan decided to persue the idea alongside the launch of the now legendary Billys Club, also known as the Blitz club, where he helped a new music and style revolution to be born.

Midge said: "Rusty just started up a little club called Billys in London, where on a Tuesday night we called it Bowie night.

"Rusty said, what are going to do now?' I said, I don't know, maybe we should put a band together? Rusty said, 'oh we should put a band together of all our favourite musicians'. That was the bones of Visage."

"I came up with a name, I drew a logo, I designed the artwork for the first single and we used a lot of our favourite musicians, one of who was Billy Currie of Ultravox and the guys from the band Magazine," said Midge.

"All we wanted to do was make music, play in the club. Then we met Steve [Strange], who would eventually become the front person, the singer."

Steve Strange would become synonymous with the scene in London, working on the door of Billys and famously choosing who would be let into the club and who would be turned away.

While huge stars like Mick Jagger were some of the people unfortunate enough to be turned away from the club, the most legendary night was when David Bowie turned up.

David would later go on to ask members of the club, including Steve Strange, to walk alongside him on the beach in scenes for his Ashes to Ashes music video.

Talking about the legendary night, Midge jokingly said: "There were many legendary nights, but not many repeatable."

Describing the vibe within the club and how it gave birth to some the decades biggest stars, he said: "Just finding a place where we felt at home with like minded people. And of course it was all the creatives, all the art school crowd.

"At any given moment you'd look round the room and without knowing it, you were looking at future fashion designers, future hairdressers, future film makers, future artists.

"I mean Boy George was in the cloakroom. Steve was on the door going, no, no, no, yes you can come in, no, no, Mick Jagger no, all of that stuff."

Going on from there to find fame as the new frontman for Ultravox, whose hit songs included Vienna became some of the eighties biggest hits, Midge looks back on the influence that his early days in London had on the look and sound of the decade.

He added: "It was a little seed and out of that seed grew an entire revolution and not just a technical, musical revolution, but fashion and style."

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