Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Midge Ure 'If I Was'

Chart Peak: 1


On 1st October 1985, 'If I Was' became the third single featuring Midge to make Number One in Britain. The first was 'Forever And Ever' by the group Slik in 1976 and the second was the Band Aid single. The classic 'Vienna', which also featured his vocal, was kept off the Number 1 spot by Joe Dolce in 1981.
I'm not sure whether it's a significant historical data point or just a reflection of the target age for this compilation that it was considered worth mentioning that 'Vienna' hadn't topped the chart. I don't know exactly when it did develop its reputation as the classic case of a song denied the top spot by frivolous opposition, or at what point everyone forgot it had also been kept off by John Lennon; but that's another story for another album.

In the meantime, we have Midge's consolation-prize Number One to deal with. For a long time I'd casually assumed that this was another example of a lead singer carrying on with his old band's style after they split, but as I figured out a few years back he was still in Ultravox at this point: their last album with him (until 2012) was U-Vox, released almost exactly a year after this. Although the band were generally held to be losing focus at this point (hence the album sometimes being nicknamed U-Bend) this solo spin-off doesn't really sound like a man trying to do things on his own he couldn't have done within the group structure. Although he's working with different people on this track, including Mark King from Level 42 on bass (without the clown costume, let's hope), the effect isn't actually that different from some big Ultravox hits, with that very tight synthetic sound. That doesn't really work in the context of the shy, unconfident lyric - it's a juxtaposition that could have been interesting the other way around but just seems phony this way. Ure's vocal provides the only trace of emotion but it's wasted among the synth pads and the dull melody. Only when the chorus kicks in can I get any sense at all of what attracted people to it in such numbers.

Also appearing on: Now 7
Available on: Pure Hits

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