Story of the Song: 'Vienna', Ultravox (1981)
Friday 22 August 2008
Fans thought Ultravox had pulled the plug on any chance of success in 1979, when their frontman John Foxx quit and they were dropped by Island.
The arrival of Midge Ure heralded an unlikely revival of fortunes for the proto electro-poppers; Ure had charted with the Scottish teeny-bop outfit Slik, before teaming up with Rusty Egan and the former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock in The Rich Kids.
His association with Egan brought him to the attention of a mutual friend, Billy Currie, Ultravox's keyboard player. Currie was impressed with Ure's guitar playing and his ability to sing rather than "shout with attitude". With Ure, in 1980 Ultravox began rehearsals for a new album.
Several sessions in, the drummer, Warren Cann, rolled out a pattern in search of a song. "I said something like, 'What about this, then?' and began the 'Vienna' rhythm," Cann recalled. A couple of verses were prepared by Ure and, working in an existing chorus idea ("It means nothing to me, Vienna"), the song was ready. The band settled into RAK, Mickie Most's London base, with the German producer Conny Plank, who had steered Kraftwerk to stardom.
Currie tinkled on the piano and played a violin solo, but synth pads and a Roland drum-machine defined the austere sound. For some, the song evokes the Vienna Secessionists or Carol Reed's film The Third Man. But not Ure: "I lied to the papers about [it] at the time," he told Rolling Stone. "I wrote a song about a holiday romance, but in this very dark, ominous surrounding."
"Vienna" was the title track to the band's fourth album, released in summer 1980 (and remastered and reissued in 2008). Ure thought it might make a single, dismissing concern at Chrysalis, the band's label, who viewed it as too long and slow. It made it to seven-inch in January 1981. With a memorable black-and-white video shot in Covent Garden and the Austrian city, "Vienna" was kept from No 1 by Joe Dolce's novelty hit "Shaddap You Face". It charted again in 1993 and has been performed solo by Ure.
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 What happens to your body when you give up sugar?
- 2 Drugs Live cannabis trial: Hash is less harmful than any other drug, expert claims
- 3 Turkish Airlines flight TK 726 crash-lands on Nepal runway amid dense fog
- 4 Penis size: Study revealing 'what's normal' sends international media into meltdown
- 5 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
The Great Comic Relief Bake Off, review: Alexa Chung's secret skills impress but Chris Moyles makes Paul Hollywood gag
Drugs Live: Twitter responds to Jon Snow and Jennie Bond smoking cannabis
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
Seth Rogan's pot fumes delay hacked Sony boss’s office move
India's Daughter: BBC Four documentary provokes outrage on Twitter
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
Durham Free School: 'Creationism taught at' free school facing closure
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
Ukraine crisis: Top Chinese diplomat backs Putin and says West should 'abandon zero-sum mentality'
Boris Nemtsov shot dead: Outspoken Putin critic who had expressed fears for his life is killed near the Kremlin