Am I a hopeless romantic because I love new wave? Or do I love new wave because I’m a hopeless romantic?
I’d have to say the former. I was barely of menstruating age when I found myself being wooed by new wave’s poetic lyrics, melodramatic music, and beauteous boys in puffy shirts and eyeliner. After falling head over heels for the likes of Spandau Ballet, Duran Duran, and Ultravox, how could the “regular” boys at school and their scruffy sneakers ever compete?
Midge Ure was a knight in new romantic armor. Cocking one eyebrow, sucking in his cheekbones, and sporting the most immaculate mustache, the swoonsome Scot owned me the second I heard him sing, “This means nothing to me — oh, Viennaaaaaaaaaaa!” It certainly didn’t hurt that the serenade took place in the fog of dry ice.
It would be many years before I realized those lyrics literally meant nothing to him. As he recounts in Mad World: The Book — and he did again on Sunday, for all of the good people gathered at Rough Trade in Brooklyn for my Mad World Conversation With Midge Ure — at the time of this classic song’s writing, Midge had never even been to Vienna.
“I was out to dinner with my old Rich Kids manager and his wife, who was a bit pissed [inebriated],” he recalled. “She said, ‘You need to write a song like that “Vienna”.’ And I was like like, ‘What song “Vienna”?’ She said, ‘You know that Fleetwood Mac song: Vieennnnnnnaaaaa: She was singing ‘Rhiannon.’”
That was just one of the tales spun by the Midgester at our Mad World tribute to the OBE (that’s right: he’s an officer of the Order of the British Empire, as proclaimed by Queen Elizabeth). During the 90-minute Q&A, he also reminisced about his new romantic anthem “Fade to Grey,” resurrecting Ultravox after John Foxx’s and Robin Simon’s sudden departures left it with barely a pulse, and co-organizing Band Aid and Live Aid, as well as his excellent new album, Fragile.
In this video clip, Midge talks about his participation in the recently wrapped Retro Futura Tour, which also included Thompson Twin Tom Bailey’s triumphant return to the stage following a 27-year absence, along with sets by Howard Jones, China Crisis, and Katrina and the Waves singer Katrina Leskenich:
Thanks to Midge for all the beautiful and hopeful music he’s contributed to the soundtrack of our lives — and for our favorite DJ, The Big PA, for spinning an excellent set of it (see below, or follow the Spotify playlist here). Thanks also to Rough Trade for their continued support of Mad World, and to everyone who came out!