Mad World

Mad World Meets Midge Ure 0

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!


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Midge Ure vs. Mad World: A LIVE Event! 0

A Mad World Conversation With Midge Ure:

Ultravox, Visage, Band Aid & Beyond

Midge Ure is immortalized in Mad World as the Zelig of pop. He’s the star of, not one, but two chapters —  Ultravox! Band Aid! (There would have been a third if we had been able to extract enough info from Steve Strange on the two occasions that we got him on the phone for an interview re: Visage.)

Now, the very special relationship between Midge Ure, OBE, Duke of Ultravox, and Mad World reaches a new level of intimacy in the form of a live event at Brooklyn’s Rough Trade store.

Come and witness our fearless Mad World co-author and long-time Ure-ologist Lori Majewski as she interviews the prolific Scot about his lengthy career — including Visage (have you heard him singing his rendition of “Fade to Grey” on the Retro Futura tour?!). She’ll also ask him about co-writing and producing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” — which turns 30 this November — and his first solo album in eons, Fragile. There will also be time for YOU to ask him a few questions, and straight after, there will be a Mad World book signing/meet-and-greet.

Memorize these details:

Date: Sunday, Sept. 14

Address: Rough Trade,  64 N 9th St, New York, NY 11249

Time: 5:00 to 6:30 p.m.

Admission: Free!

DJ: The Big PA spinning an all-Midge-all-the-time soundtrack

Please help to spread the word to fellow fans by sharing our Facebook event page and tweeting about it tagging @madworldbook and @midgeure1.

Then all you have to do is come along and meet the man responsible for all of this:

 And this:

 And this:

 And even this:

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Mixtape: Songs of Summer Playlist 0

It’s here. It’s hot. Time to hit the beach for some; time to close the curtains and hibernate till fall for others. Here are a bunch of songs that reflect our mixed feelings on the hot season. (Click here to play the Spotify playlist.)

LM’s Picks

“Vacation,” The Go-Go’s

Summers seemed to last forever when we were teenagers, didn’t they? The upside was you didn’t have to wake up and schlep to school, but there was also a downside: being stuck on your own with nothing to do for days on end whenever friends and significant others went away with their families. “Two weeks without you” — in the middle of August?! BOR-ING! But this being the run-up to Memorial Day, let’s focus on the positive, shall we? Whenever I hear this song, I want to get up and do the Belinda — you know, that side-to-side dance move with the snaps? I am a huge fan of the Go-Go’s: every album, every video, every band member. And every single song sounds like summer vacation (see “Surfing and Spying,” “Beatnik Beach,” “Our Lips are Sealed”…).  If the stories are to be believed, then the ladies very likely crawled out of a drug den on all fours in order to make it to the video set, yet they all look so fresh-faced and pretty here (particularly Belinda, whom I always preferred with a modicum of baby fat).

“Rio,” Duran Duran

Sun, sand, and Simon Le Bon in a speedo! What else could one possibly want?! “Rio” is a spirited romp however it’s delivered: on record, via video, or live in concert, where it’s almost always the last song — a literal showstopper. Everything about it is iconic: the lyrics, the bassline, the image of the boys on the front of the boat. And don’t forget Rio herself: the Nagel image on the single and album covers, and the gorgeous girl come to life who gets the best of the guys every single time, whether she’s giving Roger Taylor crabs (not that kind) or causing our Simon to fall on his bon-bons. John Taylor famously hates to name his favorite Duran songs, but in Mad World he lists “Rio” as one the band’s top-three tunes, and, really, who could disagree? Everything you love (or hate) about the band is right here.


“Suddenly Last Summer,” The Motels

The song title is taken from a Tennessee Williams play that was made into a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, about a young woman being considered for a lobotomy after witnessing her cousin’s death. The music and lyrics are appropriately dark, with a sense of foreboding. Pouty, full-lipped Martha Davis — herself a sort of new wave Liz Taylor — brings the drama, both vocally and in the video. Oh, and there’s an eerie ice cream truck that sends everyone running. This summertime tune is the opposite of a day at the beach…which is why I like it!


“Come On Eileen,” Dexys Midnight Runners

“Call Me Maybe.” “Get Lucky.” “Come On Eileen.” All songs of summer in their heyday. “I liked songs that reminded you of the summer,” Kevin Rowland says in Mad World of the inspiration for “Eileen.” “Like the Beach Boys, like ‘Do Anything You Wanna Do’ by Eddie and the Hot Rods, like ‘Concrete and Clay’ by Unit 4+2 — good songs that sounded good in the summer.” FYI the “Eileen” in the video is played by Máire Fahey, sister to Siobhan of Bananarama, who make an appearance in JB’s picks below.


“Pulling Mussels From a Shell,” Squeeze

JB wrote a book about British slang, so he probably knows that “pulling mussels” is code for having sex. I had no idea. I just thought this was a sweet song about kids eating dinner while at summer camp. At least I got the camp part right! Curiously, this was released the same year as the movie Little Darlings and a summer after Meatballs. Guess the “horny kids at camp” theme was having a moment.


“She’s On It,” Beastie Boys

A main plot point is the Three Stooges-like Beasties’ plan to use a homemade bomb to blow up a hot blond in a gold bikini. Only in the 80s, folks!


JB’s Picks:

“Cruel Summer,” Bananarama

At their best, which they are here, Bananarama gave off the air of a clique of cool girls eternally cracking up at a private joke you were never going to be let in on. IRL, that’s infuriating but, as pop stars, that air of insouciance kept them alive a lot longer than any other British girl group of the era. It’s not that they couldn’t sing; they just couldn’t be bothered to put in the effort to do more than chant in unison. It’s not that they couldn’t dance; they just thought it was funnier to stumble and slouch. A smidgeon of their attitude was detectable in the DNA of the Spice Girls and Girl Aloud, but the British band in whom the schlumpy, workshy chemistry of Bananarama lives on is One Direction.


“Long Hot Summer,” Style Council

Paul Weller really went out of his way to alienate any remaining Jam fans with this soft-focus odyssey into homo-erotic waters. It didn’t take long before Weller was winning back the faithful with characteristically taut anthems of class inequality and bloodshed in the streets of Britain, but in the summer of 83, this torch song is the sound of a guy relishing the fact that he can do anything he wants.


“Here Comes the Summer,” The Undertones

As I’ve mentioned before, the war-torn streets of 70s Belfast were a breeding ground for a remarkable number of powerpop groups who specialized in songs about broken hearts and girls-next-door rather than police brutality and sectarian violence. I can’t imagine summers in the Undertones’ hometown of Derry were any less cloudy and damp than those I enjoyed in Glasgow, but they tear into this 90-second throwaway like they were walking on sunshine.


“Fun at the Beach,” The B-Girls

Jangly lo-fi Toronto trio whose ridiculously catchy record I remember playing to death over a particularly drizzly Scottish July.


“A Place in the Sun,” Marine Girls

In her excellent memoir, Bedsit Disco Queen, Tracey Thorn has this passage about how, as a young artist, she took it for granted that someone was always going to want to put out her records and take her picture and interview her. That’s because when she was a teenager, she formed a group with two of her friends, and even though they barely did more than mumble into a tape recorder, hit things and strum along, an indie label was happy to put out a record, late-night radio stations played it, journalists wrote about them, promoters gave them shows, and people like me paid money to hear them. Obviously, I’m overstating the Marine Girls’ ineptitude for comedic purposes. Even as a teenager, Tracey Thorn’s husky sullen vocals transcended their surroundings. The Marine Girls still have a certain clunky charm, but I hope even the non-famous portion of the group appreciate what a charmed life they led back in the day.


“Tantalise,” Jimmy the Hoover

Amid the post-Adam and the Ants explosion of cultural pillage that included Bow Wow Wow, Haysi Fantayzee, Wide Boy Awake, and Malcolm McLaren, one-hit wonders Jimmy the Hoover used their African influences to craft a sinuous summer song that sounds fresher today than it did back in 1983.


“In the Sun,” Blondie

From the fantastic first album, a perfect mixture of heartfelt love for the innocent surf-loving 60s and the arty disdain of too-cool Lower East Siders. The accompanying clip is a perfect example of why America initially ignored them and Europe immediately loved them.

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