Samiksha Jaiswal (Editor)

Vienna (Ultravox song)

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7" 12"


"Passionate Reply" "Herr X" (12" single only)

9 January 1981 (1981-01-09)

February 1980 at RAK Studios (London)

4:37 (single edit) 4:53 (album and 12" version)

"Vienna" is a new wave/art rock song by British band Ultravox. It was released as the third single from the band's fourth studio album of the same name. The single was released on Chrysalis Records on 9 January 1981, and is notable for spending four consecutive weeks at number two in the UK Singles Chart without ever getting to number-one. "Vienna" was kept off the UK number-one slot by John Lennon's "Woman" for a week, and then by Joe Dolce's novelty hit, "Shaddap You Face", for a further three weeks, although "Vienna" did sell more copies than either of these records and ranked as the fifth best-selling UK single for 1981. The single was certified Gold by the British Phonographic Industry in February 1981, 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. 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.

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."


"Vienna" features a 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 MiniMoog, an Elka string synthesiser and a Roland CR-78 drum machine 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".

The song was also performed at the 1985 Live Aid concert in Wembley Stadium.

Music video

The music video, directed by Russell Mulcahy, 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 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.


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.


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. Like the compilation album, the single also included songs by Midge Ure (as B-sides).

Track listings

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


7" vinyl
  • UK, Australia: Chrysalis / CHS 2481
  • Germany, Netherlands: Chrysalis / 102 905
  • 12" vinyl
  • UK, France: Chrysalis / CHS 12 2481
  • Germany: Chrysalis / 600 352-213
  • Netherlands: Chrysalis / 12.2481
  • 1993

  • UK: Chrysalis / CDCHS 3936
  • UK: Chrysalis / CDCHSS 3936 ("Limited edition collectors pack CD1 of a 2CD set", with space for the second CD)
  • UK: Chrysalis / CDCHS 3937
  • Vienna 92

    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

    12" vinyl
  • Germany: ZYX / 6767-12
  • CD
  • Germany: ZYX / 6767-8
  • Cover versions

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

  • Kirlian Camera (Todesengel. The Fall of Life, 1991)
  • Vic Reeves (NME compilation Ruby Trax, 1992) (this comedic version features different lyrics in the verses)
  • Celestial Season (Solar Lovers, 1995)
  • Dump (I Can Hear Music, 1995)
  • King's Singers (Spirit Voices, 1997)
  • Gregorian (Masters of Chant, 2000)
  • Russell Watson (The Voice, 2000)
  • Rax1 (1987)
  • Clawfinger (A Whole Lot of Nothing, 2001)
  • Infernal (From Paris to Berlin, 2005)
  • FranKo (2011)
  • Fraser Aitken (Night of Nine Joints, 2014)
  • References

    Vienna (Ultravox song) Wikipedia

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