Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Ultravox 'Vienna'

Chart Peak: 13 [2 in 1981]
'Vienna' originally ade No. 2 in 1981... It returned to the chart in February '93 reaching No. 13... lead singer Midge Ure also had a successful solo career as well as having earlier hits with Slik and Visage.
You might have noticed that I've been a little late (like, about three weeks) with some of these posts. My apologies for that but on the positive side, it means I can report on what happened when a group of Eurovision fans including my brother went to Austria for the contest.

I've also had time to discover that somebody appears to have done an Ultravox/Shostakovich mash-up. It's handy to have a bit of extra content actually, because the trouble with writing about 'Vienna' is that everyone knows it. At least, I'm fairly confident that anyone who bothers to open this post will be very familiar with the song that was stuck in the runner-up position behind John Lennon and Joe Dolce. It was re-issued to promote a combined Ultravox/Midge Ure compilation and as it worked its way up the chart, I remember my Mum joking that it was at risk of being kept off the top this time by Rolf Harris, who was charting with his version of 'Stairway To Heaven'. Of course it didn't come to that in the end, but it was a big enough hit to justify an appearance on Now 24, if only to make up for the fact that there weren't any Now albums in 1981.

I've kind of vacillated in my opinions of the song over the years. Obviously I was too young to really notice it when it was in the chart originally, then as a slightly older child I wasn't interested in a slow song. Later I learnt of its history as a song denied the Number One position by a novelty record and came to the conventional wisdom that this was a travesty... then I decided it was pretentious and boring (as Tom Ewing said on Popular, 'Vienna' is certainly funnier than 'Shaddap You Face'). Now I've moved on again, probably as part of my greater appreciation of the music of the 1980s, and I've come to see the song's overwrought nature as a feature, more than a bug. I like that they've combined a very icy synth-pop melody with a big (and well-recorded) grand piano part and a string section, and also that this is a rare example of a hit single that speeds up in the middle. It has a proper big finish too, and for that reason I think this probably should have been pushed one place further back in the running order. Still, it's safely in my Top 3 Ultravox songs now with 'Young Savage' and 'The Voice'.

Also appearing on: Now 3
Available on: The Best Of Ultravox

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