For listeners of a certain age, the line "This means nothing to me, oh Vienna," has the same resonance as "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn," did to an earlier generation. The title track to Ultravox's fourth album (Midge Ure's first with the band), "Vienna"'s arrival in October, 1980, was met with astonishment and, from some quarters, even stunned disbelief.
This epic was not merely unlike anything the group had ever attempted previously (although it was, to a certain extent, foreshadowed by "Hiroshima Mon Amour", it was entirely unlike anything any band had attempted. "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," Ure explained. "The whole thing was a bit tongue in cheek."
Most listeners missed the joke, concentrating open-mouthed instead upon the song's sense of grandeur and glamor, its yearning for love lost and, by extension for a lost world and the nostalgia of the fallen empire that the accompanying video so exquisitely invoked - all of which made a nonsense of Ure's claims. In fact, "Vienna" was the apotheosis of all the New Romantics held dear: the romance found in the lush waltz in its center, the melancholy that rippled through its milieu, the feeling of isolation implicit in its minimalist opening and, indeed, its very opulence and pretentiousness, all were the leitmotif of the movement. No song better skewered the genre's fascination with a long decayed past.
And the single, released in January, 1981, waltzed its way up the British charts, finally breathing its last at #2. Indeed, so thoroughly did it zap the zeitgeist that "Vienna" has long lingered and, when reissued in Britain in 1993, it again made its stately way into the Top 15.