"The Sex Pistols were like the One Direction of their time": Midge Ure on why he turned down Malcolm McLaren's invitation to join the Sex Pistols

Midge Ure and Sex Pistols
(Image credit: Midge Ure - Anwar Hussein/Hulton Archive/Getty Images | Sex Pistols - Express/Express/Getty Images)

Midge Ure has revealed why he turned down an offer to join the Sex Pistols, telling The Telegraph that he considered that taking up the invitation from the band's manager Malcolm McLaren would have been like "joining a slightly edgier Bay City ­Rollers".

The former Ultravox man, who also later briefly toured with Thin Lizzy, received the offer to join the fledgling punk band back in 1975, while on a visit to McCormack’s instrument hire shop in Glasgow.

"I was stopped in the street by the Clash’s manager, Bernie Rhodes, who then introduced me to Malcolm McLaren," Ure tells The Telegraph. "I didn’t know who either of them was, but they literally asked me to join the Sex Pistols without even asking what I did. To me it would have been like joining a slightly edgier Bay City Rollers, so I turned them down. The Sex Pistols were like the One Direction of their time. Malcolm was just looking for four clothes horses to wear Vivienne Westwood’s clothes. It was all manu­factured and put together and that’s not what I wanted."

At the time, Ure was in the pop band Slik, who would have a number one single the following year with Forever and Ever, a song which, Ure tells The Telegraph "I didn’t play on, write or produce". When that band split, the singer "didn’t feel that my 15 minutes was up", and six months after the group's demise, Ure hooked up with former Sex Pistols bassist Glen ­Matlock in Rich Kids.

In a 2020 interview with The Telegraph, Ure revealed that, on the very first weekend he jammed with Rich Kids (who also featured Steve New on guitar and Rusty Egan on drums), he learned the only three songs the band had written at that point, and then played three gigs in a single night, first supporting The Police at the Hope and Anchor, in Islington, then a warehouse party with The Clash, Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen, then a third show supporting the Boomtown Rats in Camden.

"And this was all on the same night!" Ure recalled. "So it was a baptism of fire. And I met everybody! The only person that turned his nose up at me was Billy Idol, because he was more of a pop star than I was."

Midge Ure is releasing a deluxe edition of his 1985 solo album The Gift on September 22.

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.