20
Nov 09

FALCO – “Rock Me Amadeus”

FT + Popular53 comments • 3,798 views

#569, 10th May 1986, video

The lyrics to “Rock Me Amadeus” cast Wolfgang M as casanova and punker, not that 95% of its English-speaking audience cared. We just got off on the bug-eyed spit-shower of consonants and the sudden detours into cod-Wagnerian backing vox. Almost everything about the record is staccato – the jittering drums, Falco’s jumpy gutturals, the layers of jabbing keyboards behind him.

It was a post-film cash-in, though only in the loosest sense: Peter Schaffer’s florid examination of genius and jealousy simply gave Falco the excuse to raid the costume box and party. Just as well – any attempted weightiness would have distracted from “Rock Me Amadeus” colossal likeability: its easy, addictive silliness that casts some of this year’s attempts at comedy in an even worse light.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    MikeMCSG on 21 Nov 2009 #

    I’d forgotten this one when I said Jennifer Rush was the last Europop number one.
    Notable for being the first chart topper to be predominantly in a foreign language.Chanson D’Amour is more than 50% English.(One suspects that the majority of its purchasers found the lyrics to Uptown Top Ranking incomprehensible but it is basically English). A reflection of our more cosmopolitan outlook perhaps.

    It was around this time that Radio One took the fateful decision to re-introduce a daytime playlist which had a big effect on subsequent charts. In the next few months you had massive hits from unknown artists who’d made the list (It Bites,Hollywood Beyond,Owen Paul, Cutting Crew, Robbie Nevil etc.)and conspicuous failures by artists who could previously have counted on radio support (Howard Jones, Nik Kershaw,China Crisis,Ultravox,Paul Young).This was very disruptive. The new boys had no fanbase and disappeared when the follow up didn’t make the cut while the older acts were now branded as failures; only Young managed any sort of comeback. Thus a vacuum leading to the first no 1 of 1987 being a record with absolute zero support from the station and then the SAW onslaught.

    #20 Billy it’s pretty close to being mine. It’s between that and the first and last chart-toppers from the same album. I thought the film was pretty good too; Walken’s performance is terrifying.

  2. 27
    swanstep on 21 Nov 2009 #

    @25, Wichita. I enjoyed Amadeus quite a lot when it was released (its ending with Salieri forgiving/absolving us all for overlooking his goodness etc. packed quite a punch/left one feeling absolutely terrible!). For whatever reason, however, I’ve not rewatched it since, whereas I’ve often revisited stellar contemporaries such as Once Upon a Time in America, Paris Texas, Blood Simple, Terminator, Brazil, Blue Velvet, Back to the Future. Amadeus feels a little worthy and middle-brow compared to those perhaps. [Somewhat similarly, I’ve only seen Forman’s ’70s smash Cuckoo’s Nest once (and enjoyed it a lot), whereas I rewatch contemporaries such as Chinatown, Godfather 1&2, Jaws, Shampoo, Badlands etc. at least every couple of years.]

  3. 28
    Mark M on 21 Nov 2009 #

    Re 26: first chart topper predominantly in a foreign language… what about Je T’Aime?

  4. 29
    Conrad on 21 Nov 2009 #

    …and more recently Julio Iglesias, “Begin the Beguine”

  5. 30
    lonepilgrim on 21 Nov 2009 #

    #20 I am another Live to tell fan – agree with #22 & #26 re the tune and the movie – both terrific

  6. 31
    Tom on 21 Nov 2009 #

    Yes, LTT is wonderful – love how diffuse and cryptic it is.

  7. 32
    MikeMCSG on 21 Nov 2009 #

    # 28 & 29 You’re entirely right. I suppose I could argue that Je t’aime is predominantly wordless whereas RMA is a very wordy record but Julio no it’s the English title that deceived me when I scanned the list. Sackcloth and ashes time !

    #31 Tom, if you’ve seen the film the words do make sense.

  8. 33
    Steve Mannion on 21 Nov 2009 #

    btw the Amadeus pastiches in the 30 Rock episode ‘Succession’ is likely the most I have laughed at anything on TV this decade.

  9. 34
    Pete on 21 Nov 2009 #

    The fake out ending on Live To Tell is not only one of my favourite bits of pop ever, but also is one of my favourite moments in one of my favourite pieces of art too: Candice Breitz – Queen (which I will return to at a later date when more appropriate).

    As for Rock Me Amadeus, this seems tied to some sort of Jonathon King Entertainment USA feedback loop to me, and one of the first times the video is the only Top Of The Pops memory I have of it.

  10. 35
    Izzy on 21 Nov 2009 #

    #26: the last Europop number one?! Surely there are piles from the mid-90s when Europop got harder and dancier – and even a few by British acts.

  11. 36
    Jungman Jansson on 21 Nov 2009 #

    Depends on your definition of “europop”, of course. I think it’s a slightly dubious term anyway – not that I don’t use it myself, it can at times be practical as a shorthand – but it’s not very clearly defined, and as far as I understand it’s also a retronym (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing in itself).

    “Eurodance” is something else, as it implies a rather narrow set of parameters which define the genre. I don’t have any issues with that. “Britpop” is also reasonably specific.

    But “europop” seems rather like the hopeless “retro” label – vague, nebulous, means too many things to too many different people to be of any real use.

  12. 37
    thefatgit on 21 Nov 2009 #

    Europop is indeed a broad church, it can encompass Eurorock, Eurodisco etc. I personally think it’s ok to use in terms of chart music from the Continent.

  13. 38
    thefatgit on 21 Nov 2009 #

    Those Live To Tell lyrics:

    I have a tale to tell
    Sometimes it gets so hard to hide it well
    I was not ready for the fall
    Too blind to see the writing on the wall

    Chorus:

    A man can tell a thousand lies
    I’ve learned my lesson well
    Hope I live to tell
    The secret I have learned, ’till then
    It will burn inside of me

    I know where beauty lives
    I’ve seen it once, I know the warm she gives
    The light that you could never see
    It shines inside, you can’t take that from me

    (chorus)

    2nd Chorus:

    The truth is never far behind
    You kept it hidden well
    If I live to tell
    The secret I knew then
    Will I ever have the chance again

    If I ran away, I’d never have the strength
    To go very far
    How could they hear the beating of my heart
    Will it grow cold
    The secret that I hide, will I grow old
    How will they hear
    When will they learn
    How will they know

    Repeat Chorus x2

  14. 39
    Jungman Jansson on 21 Nov 2009 #

    Fatgit @37 – But that was just what I meant. You’re defining something merely in terms of its “otherness” – it’s not from here (or even from there, which in this case probably means the US) – so it’s something else. It’s a definition that hinges on geographical origin rather than the form of the actual music.

    I’m not railing against it merely because I’m part of “the Continent” from a British perspective; the same thing happens here. Living on a peninsula on one outskirt of Europe gives rise to the same phenomenon as living on an island on another outskirt. It’s not uncommon to hear Swedish people talking about “the Continent” or even “Europe” as something else, foreign, distant, that they themselves aren’t part of.

    It’s just that I fail to see the true utility of that kind of negative definition. British versus non-British music, viewed from a British perspective – that I could understand. But I guess that sharing the language with the US and (at least partially) Canada, Ireland, and quite a few other places, makes it easier to frame it as anglophone versus non-anglophone (not necessarily regarding the music itself, but at least regarding its writers/performers/producers).

  15. 40
    thefatgit on 21 Nov 2009 #

    You’re right, we don’t define Springsteen as “US Rock” or U2 as “Irish Rock”. We don’t define Kylie as “Aussie Pop” or Celine Dion as “Canadian Pop”. Maybe it’s a particular British blindspot. The examples I give above sound clumsy and unnecessary, and in a geographically specific way so does “Europop”. As far as I’m concerned though, it’s an established term that, despite it’s faults seems unlikely to be replaced anytime soon. I’ll keep using it until there’s a consensus on an appropriate alternative.

  16. 41
    lonepilgrim on 21 Nov 2009 #

    when I think of EuroPop I think of music which to my ears draws more strongly on European folk and music hall traditions rather than on American (Rhythm and) Blues. This can affect the melody, harmonies and/or rhythms of the music.
    British Pop of the 60s and 70s drew on both (as well as other sources such as the Caribbean). Much of the jangly indie music of the mid 80s seemed to lose the syncopation that earlier bands had borrowed from black music(s) and drew on UK folk traditions – I believe Johnny Marr has spoken of the influence of Bert Jansch for instance.

    This is a vast over simplification of course – but even when Boney M perform ‘Rivers of Babylon’ it sounds more oom-pah-pah than skank.

  17. 42
    Jungman Jansson on 21 Nov 2009 #

    fatgit – That’s fair enough, I was actually just curious. I hope I didn’t come across as too aggressive, as that wasn’t my intention.

  18. 43
    Steve Mannion on 21 Nov 2009 #

    I’ve never heard Europop used to describe Abba so it strikes me as something that acts from outside the UK (or US) have had to transcend via sustained success, when consistently knocking out danceable pop songs at least. Did people also label a-ha this way (at least until their fourth album), given that synth pop as a term was presumably losing favour (by the same token describing the Pet Shop Boys as ‘synth pop’ never feels quite right)?

  19. 44
    MikeMCSG on 21 Nov 2009 #

    #35 Hi Izzy, what I meant by Europop was the bright,often deliberately trashy and usually bordering on the plaigiaristic (esp of the Hi-NRG scene)dance pop characterised by such acts as Boney M, Baltimora,Modern Talking, F R David, Sandra etc. It was a recognisable sound and the term was often used when such records arrived in the UK chart months after dominating on the continent. The Pet Shop Boys were unabashed fans of the genre and they declared one of their future no 1s to be their attempt to write a Princess Stephanie record. SAW’s trademark sound owed a lot to Europop too

    It fell into disuse in the late 80s when the chart became full of Italian and Dutch techno acts although the likes of Aqua were very squarely in the old tradition.

  20. 45
    Jungman Jansson on 21 Nov 2009 #

    lonepilgrim – good point, especially when it comes to various kinds of Caribbean music. It seems as though the UK has long acted as a gateway, or filter, between American (in a wide sense) music and the rest of Europe. There are probably obvious reasons for this – the shared language as well as a large community of immigrants from the Caribbean. And, I assume, also from African countries where English is widely spoken.

    So you get American music (which in itself draws on African roots), that gets exported to the UK, which does its own take on it, and then the result is further exported to the rest of Europe which in turn combines that with various local traditions. I can’t speak for other European countries but I think this holds true for Swedish music at least up to the real mainstream acceptance and hence popularity of rap music, in which case the UK seems to have been bypassed entirely as a source of influence. And that appears to have been a turning point after which British music no longer is anywhere near as influential. But this means we’re talking about the mid- to late 90’s, so I’ll leave it for now.

  21. 46
    thefatgit on 22 Nov 2009 #

    In terms of the UK, I think we are uniquely placed as a centre for pop from all over the World as a whole. Could you imagine such diverse genres as bluegrass, bhangra, soca or reggae etc. being popular in any one country at the same time? In the UK, that is possible more so than anywhere else.

    Jungman @42 No you weren’t aggressive. I think the point you were making was that Europe as a whole has a huge amount of cultural bases from which popular music can obtain influence from, and to bundle it all together for the purposes of a “label” such as “Europop” undermines it’s cultural diversity. 23 miles of English Channel is a geographical and cultural gap wide enough for us to be inclined to set ourselves apart, whether that is right or wrong.

  22. 47
    Izzy on 22 Nov 2009 #

    #39: Sweden-as-island is part of a theme that’s been recurring in a lot of my (non-pop) reading over the past year – Europe’s extraordinary political, economic and cultural vitality explained by its unusual internal divisions.

    The idea being how natural and then political barriers have allowed Europe, a very small area in world terms, to function in modern history as a collection of separate, competing laboratories and progress essentially via conflict rather than consensus – achieving far more than, say, China has managed over the period. It’s affected my view of the map too – it’s possible to see Europe splintering into a whole series of islands round its northern and western edges, such that not just the British Isles but also the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, and even Spain and Portugal for most of the last 200 years, have been able to perceive themselves as being elsewhere and different from ‘Europe’.

    I don’t know how well the theory applies today, now that communications are better and there is at least some progress towards a durable European political whole. I suspect pop works to too quick a timetable for competition to be anything other than transient anyway. There certainly are differences between gabba, balearic and italo, say, but it’s hardly like comparing folk, waltzes and flamenco.

  23. 48
    Martin on 22 Nov 2009 #

    I too vastly prefer “Der Kommissar.” Unlike its presentation in the After the Fire cover/video, the song has nothing to do with espionage and is in fact a surprisingly moving song about kids taking drugs in Vienna. (“Der Kommissar” is the kids’ snarky way of saying, “Watch out, there are cops around.”) I believe that Johann Hölzel, aka Falco, was kind of a jerk and uninterested in discussing the hip-hop roots of his music. But believe the tale, not the teller: “Der Kommissar” is clearly a fairly successful attempt to import hip-hop for Europop ends (or something). One more thing: “Der Kommissar” becomes much more enjoyable if you understand German, particularly if you understand Viennese dialect, which is itself a very playful register of speech, and Falco did a lot with it in that song.

  24. 49
    Billy Smart on 23 Nov 2009 #

    TOTPWatch: Falco twice performed ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ on Top Of The Pops;

    3 April 1986. Also in the studio that week were; Big Audio Dynamite, A-Ha and The Real Thing. Janice Long and John Peel were the hosts.

    8 May 1986. Also in the studio were; The Cure, Chas & Dave and Billy Ocean. Janice Long and John Peel were again the hosts.

  25. 50
    Erithian on 26 Nov 2009 #

    Funny, you know, I’m quite partial to a bit of German-language rap now and again, since the language does quite lend itself to the delivery. You don’t have to understand it – in my case I understand maybe a third of it! – to be taken along by the rhythm and, in the case of “Rock Me Amadeus”, the sheer silliness and the way he carries it all off. Although I agree “Der Kommissar” was better.

    Last time I was in France I found a German top ten rundown on the hotel TV, and number one was a track called “Hey Du” by a character called Sido, a rap about growing up in the GDR before the wall came down and what happened when he got to the West. Cracking stuff actually: http://lyricstranslate.com/en/hey-du-hey-you.html-2

    Oh, and I thought “Live To Tell” was beautiful – certainly high up in my Madge-list.

  26. 51
    punctum on 26 Nov 2009 #

    Apogee of German rap.

  27. 52
    thefatgit on 27 Nov 2009 #

    @51. I just can’t find the words…

  28. 53
    hectorthebat on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Critic watch:

    1,001 Songs You Must Hear Before You Die, and 10,001 You Must Download (2010) 1002
    Bruce Pollock (USA) – The 7,500 Most Important Songs of 1944-2000 (2005)
    VH-1 (USA) – Nominations for the 100 Greatest 80s Songs (2006)
    Giannis Petridis (Greece) – 2004 of the Best Songs of the Century (2003)

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