On 11 February 2019 I set myself the challenging of reading 1001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die by Robert Dimery (ed.) and following the book’s advice to the letter. I’ve previously read 1001 Films… and started 1001 Albums… but felt 1001 Songs… would be a sensible place to start for what I have in mind here.
My challenge is to read about one song per day and listen to it (YouTube and Spotify, I need you tonight!) before sharing my own thoughts. Some songs I will love, others I’ll hate, and I’m sure there will be those that leave me perplexed but listen to them I shall.
I’ll also try, and most likely fail, to pinpoint the best song from the 1001 on offer but I’m nothing if not foolhardy. Instead of one song, I’m predicting I’ll have about 100 favourites by the end and may have to resort to a Top 10 so far to maintain any semblance of sanity.
So long as I post everyday (including Christmas) then this challenge should come to an end on Wednesday 8 November 2021. Staying with the Barney Stinson theme I am hoping that the whole experience will prove to be…
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)
Back to the UK today, dear reader, and we find ourselves in London once again. Formed in 1974 as Tiger Lily, the group became Ultravox in 1976 and were led by John Foxx in the 1970s. When Foxx left in 1979 to pursue a solo career, he was replaced by Midge Ure who turned the group into a commercially successful outfit. We join them in 1980 with what would be their biggest hit – Vienna.
Although concerned with Vienna, the song itself is not an ode to the great city but a lament for a brief but failed romance that takes place there. We know little about this love story other than it has come to an end and the narrator is full of sorrow and anger at the fact. The narrator describes the initial warmth of being with this woman but now everything has turned cold, not just the emotions but in their general surroundings. As the parting of ways is confirmed this woman fades into memory and the narrator uses the refrain of, “this means nothing to me” perhaps as a sincere reaction or more likely as bravado to try and convince himself he isn’t hurting.
This beautiful and haunting song is one of the great achievements of the 1980s and the accompanying video, inspired by Carol Reed’s classic 1949 flick, The Third Man, is well worth checking out if you haven’t seen it before. The music here is atmospheric and eerie while Ure’s stunning but ghostly vocals complement the melody perfectly. The song was victim to one of the great tragedies in the UK charts, reaching no.2 and being kept off the top by Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face. Incredulity burns strongly to this day.
Favourite songs so far:
The Animals – House of the Rising Sun (1964)
Simon & Garfunkel – The Sounds of Silence (1965)
The Doors – The End (1967)
The Beatles – A Day in the Life (1967)
Pink Floyd – Wish You Were Here (1975)
Meat Loaf – Bat Out of Hell (1977)
Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now (1978)
The Police – Message in a Bottle (1979)
Joy Division – Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)
Ultravox – Vienna (1980)