Vienna

Album: Vienna (1980)
Charted: 2

Songfacts®:

  • This song was written by the entire band and produced by Conny Plank, a German Electro wizard. It topped out at #2 in the UK, as "Shaddap You Face" by Joe Dolce infamously kept it from the top spot. Bassist Chris Cross commented to Mojo magazine February 2009 on this song stalling at #2 behind "Shaddap You Face": "It annoyed Midge Ure at the time. This is going to sound terrible, but I quite like that song, I think it's funny."
  • The song and video were party inspired by Carol Reed's 1949 film The Third Man, which takes place in Vienna.
  • Warren Cann, the band's drummer: "The song came together very quickly. I had a drum machine/synth pad (CR-78 & 'Synare' pads) pattern in mind that I'd wanted to do something with and played that... to paraphrase myself, I said something like, "What about this, then?" and began the 'Vienna' rhythm. We started playing something to it and then had the thought of using a chorus idea that we had laying around which we'd previously worked on but had no verse for. It all clicked in a few hours and we ironed out the rough spots the next day. Except for finessing the middle 'solo' section of the song once we were in the studio, that was basically it. A hit a day keeps the dole away.

    We knew it was the musical high point of the album and made it the title track. It was the song that best represented what we were trying to do. We were determined that it would be our third single and fought with Chrysalis over it; naturally, they thought it was far too long at six minutes, too weird for a Top 30 chart hit, and too depressing and too slow. Other than that, they liked it." (courtesy: Ultravox Discography)
  • An innovative video (the first "mini movie" video), was filmed for this song. Partly in black and white, the clip was directed by Russell Mulcahy, one of the biggest directors of the early '80s. The video was mostly shot around London, with scenes at the Gaumont State Theatre and Searcy's. The scenes shot in Vienna were done on the fly, with the band and crew visiting the city for a day and exploring by taxi with the help of a guide book.

    In one memorable scene, a tarantula crawls across the face of a man. This brave soul is Julien Temple, who like Mulcahy was a very popular music video director in the early years of the form.
  • When this was released many commentators claimed it evoked the Austrian Symbolist painter Gustav Klimit and other members of the turn of the 20th century Vienna Secession movement. They were encouraged in their analysis by some interviews that Midge Ure gave. However the Ultravox frontman and songwriter later admitted to Rolling Stone: "I lied to the papers about [the subject] at the time: the Secessionists and Gustav Klimt, whatever. I didn't know about any of that stuff. I wrote a song about a holiday romance, but in this very dark, ominous surrounding."
  • Conny Plank had suggested that on his over-embellished epic, the band should attempt to evoke the spirit of early 20th century Vienna. Chris Cross explained to Mojo: "Conny spoke about how everything was a big façade; how the music was becoming increasingly pompous to the extent that endings were getting longer than the piece of music itself. But trying to make something over-pompous so that it's obvious to the listener is pretty difficult to do."
  • Billy Currie (keyboards) recalled to Mojo: "We were all being very arty, discussing the composer Max Reger, and Midge walked up and said in his Glaswegian accent, 'This means nothing to me,' and turned away. When we came in he'd put down this operatic-type chorus using that very phrase."
  • The song was named the greatest ever single to peak at #2 in the UK in a poll carried out by BBC Radio 2 and the Official Charts Company in late 2012. "We are extremely pleased and very humbled to have been given this honorary #1, especially knowing the outstanding records which were also in the running - 'Strawberry Fields Forever', 'Hound Dog' and 'Wonderwall' to name just a few," said Midge Ure.
  • This was featured in a 2015 episode of the TV series The Americans when a teenage girl, after learning that her parents are Russians spies, is offered a chance to visit Russia to see her dying grandmother.

Comments: 7

  • Stefano Lazzarini from RomaMost probably my favourite song. Heard it for the first time in a dark Dorset night and I was suddenly caught in the crepuscule of Vienna of the emperors and their ephemeral glory, masterfully depicted in an aura of haunting melancholy: in a word, decadence. Years gone by, but that feeling is still there everytime I listen to it.
  • Pedro from PortugalWhat an excelent song. And album
    "Western Promises" my favorite, few lyrics and voice, the keybords just.. fly
  • Darren from Bedford, United Kingdomthe video was shot in Covent Garden Market in London and not, Vienna.
  • Lance from Ingelheim, GermanyBest listened to during the cold, harsh winter months; this song crystalizes the essence of a dead, still winter night. This gem also combine's Midge's blase disregard by his simple-yet-articulate proclamations ("this means nothing to me"). This song carries a heavy load of overdignified splendor, with the video done in abject vain to capture the essence of the then-neo noir arrogance that Vienna possessed. Artsy and excessive - yet the song is optimal in nature. Underated through and through.
  • Adam from Boyce, VaOne of the greatest songs I've ever heard....
  • Don from San Antonio, TxLove this song. I wanna see that tarantula thing!
  • Sonya from Kimball, Miwhat a haunting song. love midge ure's voice.
see more comments

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