Vienna (Ultravox song)

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"Vienna"
Ultravox-Vienna single.png
Single by Ultravox
from the album Vienna
B-side
  • "Passionate Reply"
  • "Herr X" (12" single only)
Released 9 January 1981 (1981-01-09)[1]
Format
Recorded February 1980
Studio RAK Studios (London)
Genre Synth-pop, new wave
Length
  • 4:37 (single edit)
  • 4:53 (album and 12" version)
Label Chrysalis
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Ultravox singles chronology
"Passing Strangers"
(1980)
"Vienna"
(1981)
"Slow Motion"
(1981)

"Vienna" is a song by British new wave band Ultravox. It was released as the third single from the band's fourth album Vienna on 9 January 1981 through Chrysalis Records.[1] It spent four consecutive weeks at number two in the UK Singles Chart without ever getting to number-one;[2] it was kept off the number-one spot by John Lennon's "Woman" for a week,[3] and then by Joe Dolce's novelty hit, "Shaddap You Face", for a further three weeks.[4][5][6] "Vienna" ultimately sold more copies than both of these records, however, and ranked as the fifth best-selling UK single for 1981.[7] The single was certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry in February 1981,[1] for UK sales exceeding 500,000 copies. Nevertheless, the single peaked at number one on the Top 40 charts in many European areas including the Netherlands, Belgium and Ireland.

It also won "Single of the Year" at the 1981 Brit Awards. The song is regarded as a staple of the synthpop genre that was popularised in the early 1980s. The song was also performed at the 1985 Live Aid concert in Wembley Stadium. 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.

It was 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. It was awarded an honorary number one by the OCC.[8]

Background[edit]

"Vienna" was written in January 1980.[9] The song features a dramatic grand piano in the verses and chorus, and a viola solo in the middle of the song. Other sounds include a solid synth bass line played on a MiniMoog, an Elka string synthesiser and a Roland CR-78 drum machine. The drum machine pattern created by Warren Cann was the basis of the song.[10] The classically trained Billy Currie wanted to create something that might sound like it had been written by a late-19th-century romantic composer, and the romantic violin solo was influenced by the German composer Max Reger.[9] The lyrics, which are about a brief love affair in the city of Vienna, were quickly written by Midge Ure. According to Currie, Ure was hesitant about the overly classical romantic feel of the orchestration, and said: "This means nothing to me," to which the producer Conny Plank replied: "Well, sing that then." Ure said that he had in his mind only the line "The feeling is gone, this means nothing to me – oh Vienna!" when he went into studio.[9]

In interviews at the time it was said that the song took its inspiration from the 1948 film The Third Man, which is based around the Austrian capital, but Midge Ure later admitted he made that up when asked what the song was about.[10] Ure is said to have been influenced by The Walker Brothers' 1978 single "The Electrician".[11]

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."[12]

Release[edit]

The song became the title track on the band's album Vienna, released in 1980. The record company Chrysalis Records was reluctant to release the song as a single, as they thought it was too slow and too long to be successful. But the band wanted to released it as a single and it was released as the album's third single in January 1981. The single was hugely successful and reached number 2 on the UK Singles Chart, and peaked at number 1 in Belgium, Ireland and The Netherlands.[9]

Music video[edit]

The grave of Carl Schweighofer in 2009

The music video, directed by Russell Mulcahy,[13] 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.[citation needed]

"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 Cann, Explaining the location details to Jonas Wårstad[14]

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.[citation needed]

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"
Ultravox Vienna 1993 single cover.jpg
CD single #1
Single by Ultravox
from the album If I Was: The Very Best of Midge Ure & Ultravox
B-side
Released January 1993 (1993-01)
Format
Recorded February 1980 at RAK Studios
Length 4:37
Label Chrysalis
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
Ultravox singles chronology
"Vienna 92"
(1992)
"Vienna"
(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 number 13 in the UK Singles Chart.[15] 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.TitleLength
1."Vienna" (Single edit)4:37
Side two
No.TitleLength
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.TitleLength
1."Vienna"4:53
Side two
No.TitleLength
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.TitleWriter(s)ArtistLength
1."Vienna" Ultravox4:37
2."Answers to Nothing"UreMidge Ure3:40
3."The Voice" Ultravox4:24
4."Wastelands"
  • Ure
  • Daniel Mitchell
Midge Ure4:22
  • UK: Chrysalis / CDCHS 3937
No.TitleWriter(s)ArtistLength
1."Vienna" Ultravox4:37
2."Call of the Wild"UreMidge Ure4:18
3."One Small Day" Ultravox4:27
4."Hymn" Ultravox4:24

Charts[edit]

Chart (1981) Peak
position
Australia (Kent Music Report)[16] 11
Austrian Singles Chart[17] 8
Belgium (Flanders) (Ultratop)[18] 1
Germany (Media Control Charts)[19] 14
Irish Singles Chart[20] 1
Netherlands (Single Top 100)[21] 1
Netherlands (Dutch Top 40)[22] 1
New Zealand Singles Chart[23] 2
South African Singles Chart[24] 8
Swedish Singles Chart[25] 7
UK Singles Chart[2] 2
Chart (1993) Peak
position
UK Singles Chart[15] 13
Irish Singles Chart[20] 20

Vienna 92[edit]

"Vienna 92"
Ultravox Vienna 92 single cover.jpg
Single by Ultravox
B-side "Systems of Love"
Released April 1992
Format
Recorded Berwick Street Studios, London
Genre
Length
  • 4:35 (The classic mix)
  • 7:31 (Goodnight Vienna remix)
Label ZYX
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s)
  • Ultravox
  • Rod Gammons
Ultravox singles chronology
"All in One Day"
(1987)
"Vienna 92"
(1992)
"Vienna"
(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.TitleWriter(s)Length
1."Vienna 92" (Goodnight Vienna remix)7:31
Side two
No.TitleWriter(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.TitleWriter(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 in an episode of television sitcom Father Ted, titled "A Song for Europe", 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 is set.

In the premiere 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.

"Vienna" can also be heard as background music during the twelfth episode of the third season of The Americans.

The song is played in the season finale of 13 Reasons Why over Hannah Baker's final message to Clay Jensen.

The chorus of "Vienna" is featured during the cold open of the final episode of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story as Andrew Cunanan (played by Darren Criss) shoots and murders Gianni Versace (played by Édgar Ramírez).

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "BPI > Certified Awards > Search results for 'Ultravox' (page 2)". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  2. ^ a b "Official Chart Company - Ultravox". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  3. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 75 > 08 February 1981 - 14 February 1981". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  4. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 75 > 15 February 1981 - 21 February 1981". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  5. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 75 > 22 February 1981 - 28 February 1981". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  6. ^ "Official Singles Chart Top 75 > 01 March 1981 - 07 March 1981". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  7. ^ "UK-Charts.Top-Source.Info > Top 100 1981". uk-charts.top-source.info. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  8. ^ Barnes, Anthony (31 December 2012). "Ultravox hit 'Vienna' named nation's favourite number two single". The Independent. 
  9. ^ a b c d Sullivan, Caroline (18 July 2017). "How we made Ultravox's Vienna". The Guardian. 
  10. ^ a b Webb, Robert (22 August 2008). "Story of the Song: 'Vienna', Ultravox (1981)". The Independent. 
  11. ^ Dave Thompson. "Nite Flights - The Walker Brothers | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  12. ^ Dave Thompson. "Vienna - Ultravox | Listen, Appearances, Song Review". AllMusic. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  13. ^ Garcia, Alex S. "Ultravox - Vienna (version 1: concept)". Music Video Database. Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  14. ^ Wårstad, Jonas (1997). "Ultravox: The Story" (PDF). pp. 44–45. Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  15. ^ a b "Official Singles Chart Top 75 > 07 February 1993 - 13 February 1993". The Official UK Charts Company. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  16. ^ Kent, David (1993). Australian Chart Book 1970–1992 (illustrated ed.). St Ives, N.S.W.: Australian Chart Book. p. 317. ISBN 0-646-11917-6. 
  17. ^ "Ultravox - Vienna - austriancharts.at" (in German). Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  18. ^ "Ultratop > Ultravox - Vienna" (in Dutch). Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  19. ^ "Offizielle Deutsche Charts > Ultravox - Vienna (single)" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  20. ^ a b "irishcharts.ie search results". Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  21. ^ "dutchcharts.nl - Ultravox - Vienna" (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  22. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 - Week 15, 1981" (in Dutch). Retrieved 26 July 2009. 
  23. ^ "charts.org.nz > Ultravox - Vienna (song)". Hung Medien. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  24. ^ "SA Charts 1969 - 1989 (As presented on Springbok Radio/Radio Orion) > Acts U". Sugar Music. Retrieved 8 February 2016. 
  25. ^ "swedishcharts.com - Ultravox - Vienna". Retrieved 26 July 2009. 

External links[edit]