Vienna (Ultravox song)

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"Vienna"
Single by Ultravox
from the album Vienna
B-side "Passionate Reply"
"Herr X" (12" single only)
Released 15 January 1981 (1981-01-15)
Format 7" vinyl, 12" vinyl
Recorded February 1980 at RAK Studios
Genre Synthpop, art rock, new wave
Length 4:37 (single edit)
4:53 (album and 12" version)
Label Chrysalis
Writer(s) Midge Ure, Chris Cross, Warren Cann, Billy Currie
Producer(s) Ultravox and Conny Plank
Ultravox singles chronology
"Passing Strangers"
(1980)
"Vienna"
(1981)
"Slow Motion"
(reissue)
(1981)

"Vienna" is a song by the British new wave band Ultravox. It was the third single and the title track from the band's fourth album.

The single was released on Chrysalis Records on 15 January 1981, and is notable for spending 4 consecutive weeks at #2 in the UK singles chart without ever getting to #1.[1] "Vienna" was kept off the UK #1 slot by John Lennon's "Woman" for a week, and then by Joe Dolce's novelty hit, "Shaddap You Face", for a further 3 weeks,[2] although "Vienna" did sell more copies than either of these records and ranked as the 5th best selling UK single for 1981.

It also won "Single of the Year" at the 1981 Brit Awards. To date, it remains Ultravox's signature song, being their most commercially successful release and is often played live by Midge Ure in solo performances, as well as being voted Britain's favourite single to ever peak at number two in the charts in a 2012 poll run by BBC Radio 2 and the Official Charts Company.[3] It was awarded an honorary number one by the OCC.

Ure said of the track: "We wanted to take the song and make it incredibly pompous in the middle, leaving it very sparse before and after, but finishing with a typically over-the top classical ending."[4]

Background[edit]

"Vienna" is a synthpop ballad. Unusually for its genre, two of its most distinctive sounds are those of conventional instruments - the dramatic grand piano in the verses and chorus, and the viola solo in the middle of the song. Other sounds include a solid synth bass line played on a Oberheim, an Elka string synthesiser and a Roland CR-78 drum machine[5] The song is regarded as a staple of the synthpop genre that was popularised in the early 1980s. The song takes its inspiration from the 1948 film The Third Man, which is based around the Austrian capital Vienna. Midge Ure is said to have been influenced by The Walker Brothers' 1978 single "The Electrician".[6]

Music video[edit]

The grave of Carl Schweighofer in 2009

The music video, directed by Russell Mulcahy,[7] is particularly evocative of The Third Man. It was Ultravox's second video, after "Passing Strangers" (also with Mulcahy), and cost £6000–£7000, footed by the band after Chrysalis refused to fund it.

"It may come as a surprise to know that approximately half of it was shot on locations in central London, mainly at Covent Garden and also in the old Kilburn Gaumont Theatre in North London (now a Bingo hall). The embassy party scene was in some house we’d rented in town. Can’t remember where, but I do remember that it took the crew a long time to set up the lights to prepare for filming. So long that we all got impatient with waiting and dipped into the many cases of wine we’d laid on for refreshment after the shoot. By the time the crew was ready to film, we were all well partying for real."

"The other half was in Vienna. We did it on the cheap. There was just us and Nick, our trusty camera man. We took an early morning flight to Vienna, ran round like loonies in and out of taxis as we filmed, and soon discovered that, due to it being the winter off-season, many of the splendid places we’d been counting upon filming were either shut for redecorating or covered with webs of scaffolding. “What do you mean it’s ‘closed for repairs’?!” We finished up in the cemetery for the shots with the statue which had been used for the single’s cover (a gentleman who made pianos for the rich and famous of his time, I believe), did the sunset shot, and then dashed back to London to start editing."
Warren CannExplaining the location details to Jonas Wårstad[8]

The gravestone that is shown in the video and on the single cover is part of the grave of Carl Schweighofer and is located on the Zentralfriedhof in Vienna. Schweighofer was a famous Austrian piano manufacturer.

B-sides[edit]

The B-side to the single is "Passionate Reply", a light, poppy synthpop song similar to many tracks on the Vienna album. The 12" single also features "Herr X", a version of the Kraftwerk-esque album track "Mr. X" sung entirely in German by Warren Cann with the aid of native German producer Conny Plank. Both tracks were included on the remastered CD version of the Vienna album as bonus tracks.

Reissue[edit]

"Vienna"
CD single #1
Single by Ultravox
from the album If I Was: The Very Best of Midge Ure & Ultravox
B-side "Wastelands"
"The Voice"
"One Small Day"
"Hymn"
"Answers to Nothing"
"Call of the Wild"
Released January 1993 (1993-01)
Format 7" vinyl, cassette, CD
Recorded February 1980 at RAK Studios
Genre Synthpop
Length 4:37
Label Chrysalis
Writer(s) Midge Ure, Chris Cross, Warren Cann, Billy Currie
Producer(s) Ultravox and Conny Plank
Ultravox singles chronology
"Vienna 92"
(1992)
"Vienna"
(Reissue)
(1993)
"I Am Alive"
(1993)

In 1993 "Vienna" was re-released by Chrysalis, to promote the Midge Ure/Ultravox greatest hits compilation If I Was: The Very Best of Midge Ure & Ultravox. This reissue peaked at #13 in the UK Singles Chart.[9] Like the compilation album, the single also included songs by Midge Ure (as b-sides).

Track listings[edit]

All songs written and composed by Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie and Midge Ure, except where noted.

1981[edit]

7" vinyl
  • UK, Australia: Chrysalis / CHS 2481
  • Germany, Netherlands: Chrysalis / 102 905
Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Vienna" (Single edit) 4:37
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Passionate Reply"   4:17
12" vinyl
  • UK, France: Chrysalis / CHS 12 2481
  • Germany: Chrysalis / 600 352-213
  • Netherlands: Chrysalis / 12.2481
Side one
No. Title Length
1. "Vienna"   4:53
Side two
No. Title Length
1. "Passionate Reply"   4:17
2. "Herr X"   5:49

1993[edit]

CD
  • UK: Chrysalis / CDCHS 3936
  • UK: Chrysalis / CDCHSS 3936 ("Limited edition collectors pack CD1 of a 2CD set", with space for the second CD)
No. Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Vienna"     Ultravox 4:37
2. "Answers to Nothing"   Ure Midge Ure 3:40
3. "The Voice"     Ultravox 4:24
4. "Wastelands"   Ure, Daniel Mitchell Midge Ure 4:22
  • UK: Chrysalis / CDCHS 3937
No. Title Writer(s) Artist Length
1. "Vienna"     Ultravox 4:37
2. "Call of the Wild"   Ure Midge Ure 4:18
3. "One Small Day"     Ultravox 4:27
4. "Hymn"     Ultravox 4:24

Chart performance[edit]

Chart (1981) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[10] 2
Australian ARIA Singles Chart 11
Austrian Singles Chart[11] 8
Belgian Singles Chart 1
Dutch GfK chart[12] 1
Dutch Top 40[13] 1
German Singles Chart 14
Irish Singles Chart[14] 1
New Zealand Singles Chart 2
South African Singles Chart 8
Swedish Singles Chart[15] 7
Chart (1993) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[9] 13
Irish Singles Chart[14] 20

Vienna 92[edit]

"Vienna 92"
Single by Ultravox
B-side "Systems of Love"
Released April 1992
Format 12" vinyl, CD
Recorded Berwick Street Studios, London
Genre Synthpop, electronic
Length 4:35 (The classic mix)
7:31 (Goodnight Vienna remix)
Label ZYX
Writer(s) Midge Ure, Chris Cross, Warren Cann, Billy Currie
Producer(s) Ultravox and Rod Gammons
Ultravox singles chronology
"All in One Day"
(1987)
"Vienna 92"
(1992)
"Vienna"
(Reissue)
(1993)

In April 1992, a re-recorded version of "Vienna", by a new Ultravox line-up, was released as a single in Germany. This line-up consisted of original Ultravox member Billy Currie on keyboards, violin and percussion, and Tony Fenelle on vocals, guitar and percussion. The backing vocals on B-side "Systems of Love" were performed by Alison Limerick and Jackie Williams. The single did not chart. On the album Revelation, it was not included.

Track listings[edit]

12" vinyl
  • Germany: ZYX / 6767-12
Side one
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Vienna 92" (Goodnight Vienna remix) Warren Cann, Chris Cross, Billy Currie, Midge Ure 7:31
Side two
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Vienna 92" (The classic mix) Cann, Cross, Currie, Ure 4:35
2. "Systems of Love"   Currie, Rod Gammons, Tony Fenelle 4:31
CD
  • Germany: ZYX / 6767-8
No. Title Writer(s) Length
1. "Vienna 92" (The classic mix) Cann, Cross, Currie, Ure 4:35
2. "Vienna 92" (Goodnight Vienna remix) Cann, Cross, Currie, Ure 7:31
3. "Systems of Love"   Currie, Gammons, Fenelle 4:31

Cover versions[edit]

The song has been covered by various artists since its release:

Reference in popular culture[edit]

It was jokingly suggested on "A Song for Europe", an episode of TV sitcom Father Ted, that "Vienna" was written and performed by a priest called Father Benny Cake who changed his name so that nobody would know he was a priest, presumably referring to Ure even though the song was incorrectly stated as having got to number one in the UK. However the song did reach number one in Ireland where Father Ted was set.[16]

In the première episode of Ashes to Ashes, 21st century Detective Inspector Alex Drake awakens aboard a floating brothel in 1981 whilst "Vienna" plays, it is then heard on Edward Markham's Walkman.

The song is also heard on Professor Grisenko's Walkman in the Doctor Who episode, "Cold War", set in 1983.

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Chart Stats - Ultravox - Vienna". Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  2. ^ "Chart Stats - All The Number Ones - 1980's". Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  3. ^ Barnes, Anthony (31 December 2012). "Ultravox hit 'Vienna' named nation's favourite number two single". The Independent. 
  4. ^ Dave Thompson. "Vienna - Ultravox | Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  5. ^ Webb, Robert (22 August 2008). "Story of the Song: 'Vienna', Ultravox (1981)". The Independent. 
  6. ^ Dave Thompson. "Nite Flights - The Walker Brothers | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 2014-07-03. 
  7. ^ Garcia, Alex S. "Ultravox - Vienna (version 1: concept)". Music Video Database. Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  8. ^ Wårstad, Jonas (1997). "Ultravox: The Story". pp. 44–45. Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  9. ^ a b "Chart Stats - Ultravox - Vienna (1993)". Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  10. ^ "Official Chart Company - Ultravox". Retrieved 7 June 2013. 
  11. ^ "Ultravox - Vienna - austriancharts.at" (in German). Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  12. ^ "dutchcharts.nl - Ultravox - Vienna" (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  13. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 - Week 15, 1981" (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  14. ^ a b "irishcharts.ie search results". Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  15. ^ "swedishcharts.com - Ultravox - Vienna". Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  16. ^ Father Ted (25 August 1999). "Priests we merely hear about". Father Ted Canonical Priest List. Retrieved 26 July 2009. 

External links[edit]