My best teacher

10th December 2004 at 00:00
Andy Park was a wonderful teacher because he didn't do a thing for my education. He was meant to teach me art at Rutherglen academy in Glasgow, but he left me to paint and draw while he wrote musical scores. He was a jazz musician, a bohemian; I think teaching put bread on the table.

He was talented and went on to head Radio Clyde and then to produce TV movies. He didn't forget me - years after I left he phoned and asked if I wanted to be in a film with Robbie Coltrane. The Bogie Man was set in Glasgow and I played a gangsterdrug dealer. I had to be shot quite a few times, and lying about a cold graveyard at 3am was not my idea of fun.

It was the classic musician-tries-to-turn-actor theme, which seldom works.

It didn't help that they played "Vienna" at the end of the film and had other in-jokes about Ultravox and a mysterious Mr Ure in the script. I saw Andy about 10 years ago, when he took me out for lunch. He's such a knowledgeable character and was always my kind of teacher.

I was rubbish at most subjects and only interested in art and music. At my first school, Cambuslang primary, Miss Gebbie taught me how to draw. She was like Snow White: beautiful, and, aged eight or nine, I fell in love with her. The facilities at the school were primitive. It had a piano you weren't allowed to play, a tambourine you weren't allowed to shake and beanbags that didn't make any noise.

The school still had corporal punishment and there was a feeling that if you hadn't been made of stronger stuff you might not have got out alive.

The headmistress, Miss Munro, had taught my mother at the same school - how frightening is that? Miss Munro had her hair tied in a bun and looked like the mother from The Broons, a cartoon strip from the Sunday Post. I stayed on an extra year at the school because I failed my 11-plus - I took it at 10 as I was one of the youngest in the class.

I was probably seen as a dunce in a lot of people's eyes. I had great hopes when I went to the academy. I thought I'd be able to do music, but they wouldn't let me because I didn't have my grade 3 piano certificate.

I had a guitar and knew a few dozen chords. The only place I could play was in the after-school folk club run by a fantastic teacher called Alistair McNaughton. Mr McNaughton was big, with a red beard and dressed in tweed.

He used to sing these ancient Scottish folk songs with vigour. They were about things as bizarre as candle wax, but he gave me a chance to play my kind of music, like the classic 12-bar "Worried Man Blues".

I left school at 15 without any qualifications. There was so much emphasis put on learning stuff like algebra, stuff you never need once you leave school; you learned to feel inadequate and stupid. That experience makes me want more for my four daughters. They are all-singing, all-playing, and my eldest, Molly, who has just left school at 17, is in a band.

I've always thought of producer George Martin as a musical cross between a father and my favourite teacher. He was a working-class lad who went to sea in the Merchant Navy and came back with an education. He taught me a lot when he produced Ultravox's Quartet album in 1982. We spent weeks in his studio in Montserrat. It was like Jackanory with us gathered at his feet listening to his great stories, including what it was like to record the Beatles' Sgt Pepper on a four-track.

Band Aid has been a big part of my education and a huge learning curve; Bob Geldof's taught me a lot. The person who has had a profound affect on me recently is Birhan Woldu, the little girl who featured in the original Live Aid video. She survived (she's 23 now), got an education and is training to be an agriculturist. It was an incredibly moving moment when she came into the studio at the "Band Aid 20" recording.

When I returned to Ethiopia with Save the Children recently, people told me how our money has made a difference and saved lives. Tony Blair, as a child of Live Aid, is now in a position to help bring change through the Commission for Africa. We have to go beyond sticky plasters and treat the causes of the continent's difficulties.

Musician Midge Ure was talking to Karen Hooper

The story so far

1953 Born James (Jim) Ure, Scotland

1968 Attends technical college for six months before apprenticeship as engineer; leaves mid-70s to join Salvation, later Slik. Changes name to Midge

1978 Moves to London to join Rich Kids. Plays guitar on Thin Lizzy US tour

1979 Joins Ultravox and forms Visage with Steve Strange

1981 Ultravox's 'Vienna' goes to no 2 in the charts

1984 Band Aid collaboration 'Do They Know It's Christmas?' with Bob Geldof, which, over 20 years, has raised pound;70m

2004 Returns to Ethiopia to film 20th anniversary documentary; 'Band Aid 20' and 'Live Aid' DVD released; autobiography 'If I Was' (Virgin Books); Here and Now 80s nostalgia tour, December 10-18

January 2005 solo tour planned

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