Goodnight Vienna is Ringo Starr’s fourth solo album. The follow-up to his career-peak Ringo, it was recorded at Los Angeles’ Sunset Sound Recorders and Producers Workshop in August 1974, and produced by Richard Perry.
The album featured John Lennon, who wrote and performed on the title track. Lennon had recorded a demo of ‘(It’s All Down To) Goodnight Vienna’ on 28 June 1974 during his Walls And Bridges sessions, which was sent to Starr ahead of the recording session. Lennon also suggested Starr cover The Platters’ 1955 hit ‘Only You (And You Alone)’ – the album version featured Starr’s vocals over Lennon’s studio demo.
Other guest performers included Elton John and Harry Nilsson, who donated the songs ‘Snookeroo’ and ‘Easy For Me’ respectively.
The cover photography for Goodnight Vienna was based on a still from the 1951 sci-fi film The Day The Earth Stood Still. Starr’s head was superimposed on the body of the alien Klaatu, played by actor Michael Rennie, standing behind the robot Gort.
The sleeve art direction was by Roy Kohara, and inner sleeve photography, a montage of studio shots, was by Larry Emerine.
The album credits contain the postscript: “By a Terry Southern book”. Southern’s image was included on the cover of The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band at Starr’s request. The author’s works included the book and screenplay for The Magic Christian, and the book Candy; both films starred Starr.
Southern wrote the books Candy (1958) and The Magic Christian (1959). Starr starred in the film adaptations of both; the screenplay of The Magic Christian was also co-written by Southern.
The lead single from Goodnight Vienna, ‘Only You’, was released ahead of the album on 11 November 1974 in the USA. The non-album track ‘Call Me’ was on the b-side.
‘Only You’ reached number six on the Billboard Hot 100, and topped the Easy Listening chart in January 1975. It was released in the United Kingdom on 15 November 1974.
The album was released on 18 November in the USA, where it peaked at number 8 on the Billboard 200. It was also a top 10 hit in Austria, Denmark, and France.
A single, ‘No No Song’ backed with ‘Snookeroo’, was released in the US on 27 January 1975, and reached number three on the Billboard Hot 100.
‘Snookeroo’ was a UK single on 21 February, with ‘Oo-Wee’ on the b-side. It failed to chart.
The fourth and final single was a medley of ‘(It’s All Down To) Goodnight Vienna’ and ‘Goodnight Vienna (Reprise)’. ‘Oo-Wee’ was on the flipside of the single, which was released only in the USA on 2 June. It peaked at 31 on the Hot 100.
Goodnight Vienna was first released on compact disc on 30 November 1992 in the UK, and 23 March 1993 in the USA.
A commercial for the album was shot at the Capitol Records tower in Hollywood, in which Starr was abducted by a flying saucer. The finished advertisement featured a voiceover dialogue by Starr and John Lennon.
Lennon: “Is that Ringo Starr advertising his new album Goodnight Vienna on Apple Records and tapes?”
Starr: “It certainly is, John.”
Lennon: “My, you look so wonderful!”
Starr: “Thank you!” […]
Lennon: “Goodnight Vienna on Apple Records and tapes.”
Starr: “Thanks John.”
Lennon: “It’s a pleasure, Ringo!”
Immediately after shooting was complete for the advert, a promotional film for ‘Only You’ was made. Directed by Stanley Dorfman, it also featured the flying saucer on the Capitol tower, plus Starr miming to the song alongside Harry Nilsson, who was reasing the music paper Radio & Records.
The ‘Only You’ clip was shown on the BBC’s Top Of The Pops on 19 December 1974, its only outing in the UK.