Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’ tops poll of greatest No 2 singles

'Fairytale Of New York' also features on list of songs that missed the top spot

Ultravox’s ‘Vienna’ has been named the nation’s favourite No 2 single.

It was a poll to find the greatest song to miss the top of the UK singles chart, organised by BBC Radio 2 and the Official Charts Company.

‘Vienna’ was released in January 1981, and despite huge radio play and massive sales, it wasn’t enough to outdo novelty track ‘Shaddup You Face’ by US-born Australian Joe Dolce.

Perhaps destined to always be No 2, The Pogues and Kirsty MacColl‘s single Fairytale Of New York came second on the poll. The song, first released in 1987 and often cited as the best Christmas song of all time, was held off the top of the chart 25 years ago by Pet Shop Boys‘ cover of ‘Always On My Mind’. The song was originally a hit for Brenda Lee, later for Willie Nelson and most famously Elvis Presley.

The poll was launched to celebrate 60 years of the singles chart, and DJ Tony Blackburn will play the whole Top 40 of No 2s on his three-hour New Year’s Day show, The Nation’s Favourite Number Two Single.

He was among a panel of experts – including Radio 2’s Ken Bruce and Janice Long, Radio 1’s Annie Nightingale, Official Charts Company managing director Martin Talbot and former NME staffer and BBC 6 Music presenter Steve Lamacq – who compiled a shortlist from 941 singles which have made it to number two. Radio 2 listeners then voted.

Ultravox frontman Midge Ure said: “We are extremely pleased and very humbled to have been given this honorary number one, especially knowing the outstanding records which were also in the running – ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’, ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Wonderwall’ to name just a few.

“A huge thanks to everyone who took the time and effort to vote for ‘Vienna’. It has restored our faith in the idea that the public will always recognise the good in music, and that this song has proved this.”

Radio 2’s head of music Jeff Smith said: “‘Vienna’ is a brilliant track; a true classic. It was up against hits by some of the world’s biggest acts – ‘We Are The Champions’ by Queen, ‘Rocket Man’ by Elton John and ‘Rolling In The Deep’ by Adele. The countdown is packed with some amazing songs.”

The Who‘s ‘My Generation’ was 12th in the list, ‘Wonderwall’ by Oasis finished at 13, ‘Rolling In The Deep’ was at 34 and ‘Rocket Man’ was at 37.

1 – Ultravox – ‘Vienna’, 1981 (Joe Dolce – ‘Shaddup You Face’)
2 – The Pogues feat. Kirsty MacColl – Fairytale Of New York , 1987 (Pet Shop Boys – ‘Always On My Mind’)
3 – Don McLean – ‘American Pie’, 1972 (Chicory Tip – ‘Son Of My Father’, Nilsson – ‘Without You’)
4 – James – ‘Sit Down’, 1991 (Chesney Hawkes – ‘The One And Only’)
5 – The Stranglers – ‘Golden Brown’, 1982 (The Jam – ‘Town Called Malice’)
6 – The Kinks – ‘Waterloo Sunset’, 1967 (The Tremeloes – ‘Silence Is Golden’)
7 – The Beatles – ‘Penny Lane’/’Strawberry Fields Forever’, 1967 (Engelbert Humperdinck – ‘Release Me’)
8 – Queen – ‘We Are The Champions’, 1977 (Abba – ‘The Name Of The Game’, Wings – ‘Mull Of Kintyre/Girls’ School’)
9 – The Beach Boys – ‘God Only Knows’, 1966 (The Beatles – ‘Yellow Submarine’/’Eleanor Rigby’)
10 – A-ha – ‘Take On Me’, 1985 (Jennifer Rush – ‘The Power Of Love’)

Oasis’ ‘Wonderwall’ didn’t reach the top of the charts thanks to Robson And Jerome’s ‘Up On The Roof’. Incidentally, Mike Flowers Pops version released a couple of months later went to No 1.

Robson And Jerome, meanwhile, also kept Pulp’s Common People from hitting No 1 with another of their massive-selling, Simon Cowell-produced cover versions.

Other famous No 2s include Deee-Lite’s ‘Groove Is In The Heart’, T-Rex’s ‘Ride A White Swan’, and Sex Pistols‘ ‘God Save The Queen’. The band’s John Lydon has said on many occasions he thinks the song, released in the Queen Silver Jubilee year of 1977, was deliberately held off the top spot by government forces. In truth, it just seems more people bought Rod Stewart’s ‘I Don’t Want To Talk About It’, which beat it to the top.

What are your favourite Number 2 singles?