Dec 08


FT + Popular64 comments • 6,500 views

#475, 21st February 1981

The extended artist credit is a giveaway: Aussie origins or no, this is a music hall number – perhaps the last such to get to No.1, complete with comical national caricature and audience participation. On record, the all-join-in section demolishes the song’s momentum, turning it into a chore. On screen, blackboard at the ready, Dolce made more sense, and at the time “Shaddap You Face” was a welcome relief after two months of piety. But almost anything would have been.

People upset that Ultravox were kept from the top by this have a good case: for a start, “Vienna” is a great deal funnier. The laughs in Joe Dolce arrive from i. the deathless comic value of a mock Italian accent, ii. the joy of yelling “Shaddap-a you face!”. I can vouch for ii, having submitted it to continuous testing that spring, but it’s not a gag whose appeal has crossed the gulf of years.



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  1. 31
    The Lurker on 12 Dec 2008 #

    #29 – It would certainly be a worthy contender (and a better song than Vienna). But I just had to look up whom it was number two to, despite the fact I was a Pulp-loving student in 1995 – I don’t automatically associate the song with being number two to R***** & J*****, whereas I do associate Vienna with being number two to Joe Dolce. Extrapolating wildy from my own experience, I think that would be the case for a lot of people.

    #30 – I’m sure there are – but they’re not automatically remembered as part of this particular club.

  2. 32
    Lex on 12 Dec 2008 #

    Remembered by whom? My point is that I’m wary of “immortalising” records in this manner, as though this judgment arose out of consensus agreement. I mean, I don’t subscribe to that particular trio of “great records” in the slightest.

  3. 33
    LondonLee on 12 Dec 2008 #

    There are so many potential jokes in the phrase “worthy number twos” I don’t know where to start.

    Ignore me, I’m juvenile.

  4. 34
    AndyPandy on 12 Dec 2008 #

    Yes but by the time of “Common People” (notwithstanding that artificial record company engineered Oasis vs Blur thing I mean it was hardly the Beatles versus The rolling Stones was it)did many people give a toss who was number 1 anyway?I’m pretty sure in the 60s and 70s and up to the late 80s the “man in the street” (whoever he was) knew who was Number 1 but by the mid 90s who cared? And wasn’t that a few years later proved by the final demise of Top of the Pops after its sad descent from a 10 million plus ‘all-the-family-gathered-round-the-telly’ occasion to a show that was living on borrowed time fueled by sentiment for far too long.

    Beware relatively irrelevant tangent approaching: PS I hate “Common People”.Oh yes those posh London art students who he gets so worked up with in the song must have been VERY posh to call someone called Jarvis (not exactly your typical proletariat name in early ’60s Sheffield was it?), who’d managed to be a student for about 10 years and who’s mother eventually stood as a Tory councillor in a posh Derbyshire village; a “common person”.I got dragged along to Pulp farewell do at Magna in Rotherham by some Pulp loving friends and am pleased to say I was one of I think I estimated about 50 people who stayed in the other room listening to one of LFO deejaying while Pulp played their final concert. LFO, Royksopp and Green Jelly notwithstanding it wasn’t the best of nights overall – you had to queue for about an hour for a drink, the beer ran out, it was freezing, there were hardly any taxis and we had to walk half the way back to my friends’ house in Sheffield.

  5. 35
    Gavin Wright on 12 Dec 2008 #

    Hi all, been lurking here a while – finally decided to join in with this one as it was number one when I was born.

    I’ve just re-listened to the song on YouTube and the best thing I can say about it is that it’s shorter than I thought it was. Other than that, it’s terrible. Can anyone shed any light on who actually bought the single? Very young kids? Racist dads? Going on what I know of the early ’80s pop scene it doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere but then I guess that’s the point of a novelty/comedy single.

    As for ‘Vienna’, I remember it making the charts as a reissue in 1993 (trailing a best-of I assume) and loving it then – the oddness of it appealed to me I guess. Still enjoy it now, although I’d pick ‘All Stood Still’ as their best Midge-era song. Anyway, Joe Dolce’s getting a 2/10.

  6. 36
    Billy Smart on 13 Dec 2008 #

    Cover version Watch: EMF, on the 1992 NME ‘Ruby Trax’ compilation. Absolutely atrocious – though perhaps not as bad as their 1995 Vic Reeves disembowelling of ‘I’m A Believer’.

    However, Vic Reeves’ aforementioned version of ‘Vienna’ is also on the album – new verses about the Belgian Police and all – and is very good indeed.

  7. 37
    Mark G on 13 Dec 2008 #

    I think Jarvis was
    1) Commenting that he understood what it was to be working class, not saying he was
    2) being taken aback that this girl had decided hewas “common people”..

    anyway, back to…

    When the Beatles ‘took’ america, a thought was posited that it was a reaction to coming out of mourning for Kennedy.

    So it is, that as we all came out of grief for Lennon, what we needed was a bit of singalonga “shut-uppaya-face”

    And rightly so. Give it 5 from me.

  8. 38
    wichita lineman on 13 Dec 2008 #

    Re: 37 Which makes Joe Dolce our very own Singing Nun.

  9. 39
    peter goodlaws on 13 Dec 2008 #

    I’m ashamed to say that I thought this was great in 1981 but then I had only just turned six and liked simple songs and it was a birthday present. I bet all you older ones thought the same about something like “Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep” ten years before. I don’t care about it stopping Vienna. I agree with the person who said that Vienna is remembered more as a number two than it would have done had it gone one better. As for Shaddup, I now wish it would because of course the song is for kiddies or piss heads like Waldo who sing anything when bladdered. As someone also said you never hear this now outside chart shows and we all know why. Shocking record.

  10. 40
    Kat but logged out innit on 13 Dec 2008 #

    #34: some people definitely cared what got to number one in the mid-90s, i.e. me and my mates at school! It only really got ridiculous post-Spice Girls.

  11. 41
    Taylor on 13 Dec 2008 #

    The first record I ever bought.

    I remember being very annoyed at the singalong section, because the audience kept shouting “hey!” at the end of every line, when Joe had very specifically told them that they should shout “hey!” at the end of the first line, then he would “singa the rest” – at which point they could all sing “shaddap-a your face.” They JUST DIDN’T LISTEN. I can feel myself getting slightly cross when I think about it now, actually.

    What’s strange is that they could have fixed that pretty easily – this is one of the great “not really live” recordings, its in-concert facade about as convincing as “The Seeds – Raw And Alive”, or The Beatles At Shea Stadium. In fact, sonically, it’s one of the most synthetic things I’ve ever heard, like it should be coming out of a greetings card. There’s clearly a “proper” band playing there, but they sound like they’re one inch tall and thin as paper. Something else peculiar about this record: it lasts more than three minutes, but feels a great deal shorter. I mean, a lot shorter. I’m not sure why. Perhaps Mr Dolce’s hatred of his mother is just so vivid it warps your perception of time.

    I have no idea what made me want to go out and buy this, and can only assume it was the joy of hearing someone shouting “ah shaddap-a you face”, and being able to join in; sort of punk for pre-teens. The B-side was “Ain’t In No Hurry”, which I think I preferred slightly, a nasty boogified AOR number with another “interaction with the audience” interlude: Joe tells everyone that they’d “smoked a lot of cigarettes” and “drunk a lot of coffee” and had finally reached the B-side of “Shaddap You Face”. I remember being slightly confused by that, but only in a vague, casual way, like I’m confused that this was the first record I ever bought, but don’t really care.

    As for “Vienna”, it’s the sort of record that sounds pretty impressive to a kid, horribly pompous to a teenager, then laughably irrelevant to an early-20s Music Expert – but right now, it sounds… fascinating. I’ll never love it, as it calls to mind too much of what I didn’t like – and still don’t – about the early Eighties (and indeed about Midge Ure), but it’s also saved by having been made in the early Eighties, in that it lacks the weight and power of a 70s production or the digital force of a more recent production – either of which would have added weight to its pretensions, and sunk the whole thing. Rather, it’s delicate and slightly dinky, a perspex symphony. Simulataneously tacky and beguilingly unreal, like a remake of “The Third Man” filmed on 1981-vintage videotape. The instrumental break is fantastic, lovely strings gliding over a nasty Binatone music box backing, growing steadily more saturated till they white out and go snowblind. The drop in pace back into the last chorus does quicken the heart slightly, corny as it is, and the “Countdown”-style pssstcheowwws in the background undercut that daft grandiosity. I haven’t listened to this for many, many years – my memory had touched it up, made it the record Midge would have wanted, booming and foggy and classic, and completely wretched. I’m pleasantly surprised: it’s nothing like that at all. I like this “Vienna” far better.

    Not sure it’s worth going back and checking out Ure’s Ultravox, though. I had their greatest hits at one point, and there was some really gruesome stuff on there – “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes” stands out as particularly strained, seemingly sung while wearing the expression of someone who’s just made it 4-3 in the last minute of the Champions League final, but without any particular purpose. Very grimy pig-iron: the filth comes off on your hands. I mean, I misremembered “Vienna”, but I’d be flabbergasted if all these years on, “Love’s Great Adventure” was anything other than galloping, mock-heroic horseshit.

  12. 42
    rosie on 15 Dec 2008 #

    Straying way off the point, a package drops through my letterbox thsi morning containing, unsolicited, a book by Mr Stuart Maconie: a man of whom I know sod all and care less except that I gather that in some Populista circles, possession of anything with his name on spells social death!

    My correspondent tells me that he writes about Barrow, and I suspect that he has come here to sneer as Mancunians will, but given the fact that the book is called “Pies and Prejudice” I am hoping that he will be shown the error of his ways with the help of a meat-and-potato pie or two from Messrs Green of Jarrow Street.

  13. 43
    Erithian on 15 Dec 2008 #

    Rosie – Maconie gives Manchester a bit of treatment too, being a Wigan pie-muncher rather than a Manc. “Monumental hubristic vanity… Manchester has fancied itself rotten for as long as anyone can remember”, he comments after an account of the “Manchester Passion” production of Easter 2006 (the one where Judas sings “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now”). It’s an entertaining read and I think you’ll enjoy it. (Barrow doesn’t come out too badly either.)

  14. 44
    Billy Smart on 15 Dec 2008 #

    TOTP Watch: Joe Dolce appeared on the edition transmitted on February the 5th 1981. Also in the studio that week were; The Stray Cats, Fred Wedlock, and The Passions. The host was Simon Bates.

  15. 45
    pjb on 15 Dec 2008 #

    # 41 Very much like the description of Vienna. It’s the combination of earnest (indeed in this instance meaningless) pretension and a slightly cheap pop aesthetic that made the new romantic hits of 1980/1981 so great. And despite their ropey reputation these days, at the time this felt, to me at school in Yorkshire, like a proper trendy record (almost) hitting the top. There are very few #1s among the canon of early eighties new romantic/synthpop records, which makes the infamous #2 status of this one a bit sad.

    Personally I still like the Ure-era Ultravox, particularly this and the subsequent Rage in Eden album (although yes, point taken regarding Love’s Great Adventure and everything that followed).

    Nothing whatsoever to say about the actual thread subject I’m afraid.

  16. 46
    Matthew H on 15 Dec 2008 #

    Rosie @ 42 – I received Pies & Prejudice as an unsolicited present too, a year or two back. It’s good fun. I say that as someone born in South Yorks and brought up in the Home Counties. Whatever effect that might have.

    As for the record, as a kid I enjoyed ‘Shaddap You Face’ but also ‘Vienna’. I don’t have a burning desire to hear either right now. My favourite Ultravox singles are ‘Visions In Blue’ and ‘Reap The Wild Wind’, while we’re clearing things up.

  17. 47
    Matthew H on 15 Dec 2008 #

    #41 I like “perspex symphony”.

  18. 48
    Tom on 15 Dec 2008 #

    “Visions In Blue” was about someone dying in a war, or something?

    My favourite Ure Ultravox song (then and now I think) is “The Thin Wall”. I’m not sure I could quite articulate why, I’m feeling a bit dozey today.

  19. 49
    SteveM on 15 Dec 2008 #

    re #34 ‘LFO, Royksopp and Green Jelly’

    was that a deliberate mistake?! thanks for reminding me of ‘Three Little Pigs’ tho

  20. 50
    Lex on 15 Dec 2008 #

    I’ve just heard ‘Vienna’ for the first time on ye olde Youtube. It’s the most pointlessly pompous song I’ve ever heard, I think. It’s not very good at all, I had to turn it off about midway through because I couldn’t take the voice or the po-faced plodding beat or the general hollow air hanging over it. I dare say it’s still better than ‘Shaddap You Face’, though, which I have no intention of hearing.

  21. 51
    H. on 15 Dec 2008 #

    Hmmm. ‘Vienna’ is probably one of those ‘you had to be there’ records. I remember being quite obsessed by it at the time, to the extent that I even bought a Berlitz pocket guide to Vienna! Of course, I later read that Ure et al. had never actually been to Vienna when they wrote the song. I wonder why a whole swathe of postpunk was so wrapped up in ‘ye olde continental Europe’ imagery.

  22. 52
    Malice Cooper on 15 Dec 2008 #

    utterly hideous garbage that was about as funny as a world war

  23. 53
    Erithian on 15 Dec 2008 #

    #51 – In the case of “Vienna”, repeated viewings of the aforementioned “The Third Man” probably had a lot to do with it. I know when I visited the city for the first time I was actively looking out for echoes of the postwar café culture and the atmospheric cityscape that the “Vienna” video sought to portray – and I was gutted that the Riesenrad, the big wheel in the Prater and scene of Harry Lime’s “cuckoo clock” speech, was closed off-season. “Ye olde continental Europe” seemed very much the chessboard upon which the Cold War was being played out, and that probably influenced many a track of the time.

    Billy #44 – Fred Wedlock! Now there was a comedy record that was funny more than a couple of times.

  24. 54
    vinylscot on 15 Dec 2008 #

    I had been a fan of Foxx-era Ultravox, having seen them support Eddie and the Hot Rods in 1976-ish at the Apollo. Midge Ure Ultravox started off OK, but to my mind rather disppeared in a flood of post-Vienna pretentiousness. (The two pre-Vienna singles, Sleepwalk and Passing Strangers had both been quite strong, and far more like the Ultravox I knew) I liked Vienna; in comparison with a lot of what was around at the time it was really quite good, especially the late instrumental break, but it’s not really the classic the media would have you believe.

    Funnily enough, Ure-era Ultravox did have a decent (first time round) end to their career with their collaboration with the Chieftains (All Fall Down), and their overblown but quite splendid (in a naff sort of way) take on Live Aid, “All In One Day” – the 12″ is just so OTT it is brilliant!!

  25. 55
    AndyPandy on 16 Dec 2008 #

    Re 49@ No it wasn’t it was a real mistake I meant Lemon Jelly (just before they had that hit song about “ducks in the rain’) werent Green Jelly some American rock band from I’d guess the early 90s when I used to still sometimes come into contact with Radio 1?

  26. 56
    Martin Skidmore on 18 Dec 2008 #

    I’m with Lex re Vienna.

    I didn’t hate Dolce as much as most seem to – I quite liked his sweet, high, small, trilling voice, and I thought his delivery was quite bouncy and likeable. Obviously the yellalong chorus did get annoying pretty instantly.

  27. 57
    Brooksie on 19 Feb 2010 #

    @ Lex # 50:

    Vienna is overblown and pompous, but if it’s the first time you’ve heard it you should also bear in mind it’s something of a grower that improves with repeated listenings.

  28. 58
    thefatgit on 19 Feb 2010 #

    In a perverse way, I’m glad that Joe Dolce kept Ultravox off the top spot. It serves as a salutory lesson that sometimes, not getting to #1 can make a record all the more memorable, not for it’s own merits, but because it was held off by a far inferior novelty piece. The truth is, that “Vienna” would most probably be regarded as a High-Concept novelty piece itself, these days.

    At the time, I loved “Vienna” in a way only a teenager could. I bought into the whole imagery, read The Third Man and bought a trenchcoat from Oxfam to wear to an Ultravox concert at Hammersmith Odeon. A whole bunch of us caught the Green Line coach there, dressed in skinny tie & trenchcoat combos (even the girls!) like some weird spiv-gestapo jolly boy outing. The gig was OK. “All Stood Still” was the stand-out song. “Vienna” was saved for the encore. I seem to recall Billy Currie had a neon bow for his violin (or was that with Gary Numan, the previous year? Memory playing tricks again?).

    Anyway, looking back I kind of wish I hadn’t been such a prat, being so up-my-own-arse about Ultravox, and Vienna in particular. It’s a fine song, but SO up-it’s-own-arse. In a bad way. I can’t listen to it without cracking up into hysterics now. The Ultravox phase passed as soon as it arrived, as is the case with fickle teenage fancies. But for a few months in ’81, they were all I really cared about.

  29. 59
    Rory on 21 Oct 2010 #

    I just learned this and had to post it somewhere: Joe Dolce subsequently co-wrote and produced a song that ended up on the soundtrack of… The Terminator. It’s not bad, either.

    No, really. If you like that electronic dance-oriented 1984 sound, go and have a listen. He doesn’t sing on it, one of his Aussie collaborators does.

    While I’m here I may as well respond to a couple of the old comments. Dolce only moved to Australia from America in his late 20s, in 1978, so he had only been there a couple of years when this song became a hit. If I’d made a record in 2003 and someone had called me Scottish or British, I’d have been rather bemused… but Australians do take any excuse to claim migrant/expat-led productions as their own, as long as there was some local involvement; c.f. Men at Work, Crowded House. The song was inspired by Dolce’s own Italian-American grandparents – so, caricature and affectionate – but the Italian emigrant experience was certainly something Melbourne audiences could relate to at the time. 1981 was at the tail-end of ’70s attitudes to race in comedy, before the alternative comedy boom started questioning these stereotypes and getting all postmodern about them; but the reclaiming and reworking of racial stereotypes by the children of migrants in late-’80s Australian comedy arguably wasnt that different from what Dolce did.

    That doesn’t mean the joke of “Shaddap” didn’t wear thin pretty quickly in Oz too. I heard plenty of it around the playground at the time, and the catchphrases lingered in the collective memory, but nobody played it on radio after 1981 much.

  30. 60
    Kinitawowi on 9 Feb 2013 #

    It remains a truism that the perceived quality of any given Number 2 is proportional to the rubbishness that denied it the top spot; Vienna’s quality is magnified beyond proportion when compared against this. 1991 will see my vote for Favourite Song Of All Time – Sit Down by James – denied in similar manner, while in 1995 A Design For Life by the Manic Street Preachers is blocked off by… well, just wait. The perfect counterexample is provided in 1984, where the biggest selling Number 2 of all time is sort of accepted as “fair enough” because the actual Number 1 is perceived as sufficiently worthy to top the chart.

  31. 61
    Mark G on 15 Oct 2013 #

    A song about an entertainer and his highs/lows? Think about it: He tells his audience how humble his beginnings are and the temptations of bunking off school to play pool with the bad kids (shades of Maggie May?), but what he wants to do is to become an entertainer, get rich and famous, but will keep his humility and happy-go-lucky nature (still dance and sing), but in his darker moments he hankers for some support and love, but he knows this resource is not unlimited..

    Possibly the saddest sound since “Chirpy chirpy cheep cheep”

    Anyway, it’s not that I hate “Vienna”, it’s just that I couldn’t think of a moment when I’d rather not listen to “Shaduupa you face” instead..

  32. 62
    iconoclast on 16 Oct 2013 #

    @61: It’s certainly a plausible reading of the song, although even if it’s correct it gets a bit lost in the not-very-funny comedy.

    I’d rather listen to “Vienna”, though; it’s a dead cert TEN in my books. But I think the “honorary number 1” is nonsense; “Penny Lane”/”Strawberry Fields Forever” is a more appropriate choice.

  33. 63
    Mark G on 17 Jul 2016 #

    Playing the PM Dawn album yesterday, heard a couple of lines from this in there..

    ‘What’s the matter you, why you look so sad?’

    I was, like, really?

  34. 64
    Gareth Parker on 8 May 2021 #

    I would go with Tom’s 3 here. The singalong section with a minute to go, is just painful in my opinion.

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