…But What About Falco?

Falco; der König des scheißfressendengrinsens

Last week we posted on the notion of “New Wave Or Novelty…?” and the elephant in the room, even though he was not included in the artists and records discussed, was Austria’s Falco. I have been dismissive of Falco for decades. I was exposed to his music as videos on MTV. I can name three songs that I recalled seeing with some frequency. His original “Der Kommissar,” was a rare example of German-language rap that bubbled up in 1982, with the UK New Wave band After the Fire covering it in English and making it a hit in America.

His next big move in The States was the gimmicky “Rock Me Amadeus” which piggy backed onto Milos Forman’s hit movie to reach number one for three weeks in America… while being sung in German! That’s right! He didn’t water down his mojo and record an English version that somehow lost the vital spark, as did Nena with “99 Red Balloons.” That was highly unusual and most impressive, even if I thought the song itself was roadkill. Props for having the ability to pull that one off.

Lats week I was dismissing Falco as usual, when my friend JT took me to task for my callousness. After all, he had been to Austria and had seen Falco’s grave. He’s buried not far from Beethoven in Austria’s most prestigious cemetery. The artist is revered in Europe. He had two hits [one a number one smash, the other a respectable top 20 follow up] in America in his native language. Name any other European who can say that?

This is super real and on tour next year in Germany

Falco died in 1998 in a car accident and has had 23 years for his fame to grow in his absence. He was possibly the first German speaking musician to produce rap music for that market, putting him very far ahead of the trends. In 1982 when “Der Kommissar” was released, rap music was still an underground phenomenon in White America. Right now there is a musical getting ready to tour Germany next year based on his life and packed with his songs, which is getting the full blown Broadway treatment with “Falco: Das Musical!

Alexander Kerbst is Falco on stages throughout Europe

With all of this vitality swirling around the enigma of Falco’s legacy, maybe I was hasty in always dismissing him? The capper was when I was looking into his discography on Discogs, to see its fullest extent, I was alerted to the fact that Not only did I own two Falco recordings, there were two others that I had on my want list!!

my falso collectionI had forgotten this but my wife had bought some 45 rpm singles back in the 90s when we has a booth in an antique mall. She knew to buy any interesting records she ran across and in one batch of 80s 45s, there was a copy of “Vienna Calling” in picture sleeve. Further, I had a Razormaid LP with a Art Maharg mix of one of his later songs, “Charisma Kommando” on it. Wow. Who knew? But the want list items were deceptive. Apparently, Falco did some vocals on a Nina Hagen album I still need. So I needed to hear this stuff and move beyond the two songs I knew him for. Three, if you counted “Vienna Calling,” whose sampled hook remained in my skull for lo these many years.


falco - Vienna calling cover art
A+M Records | US | 7″ | 1986 | AM-2832

Falco: Vienna Calling [The New ’86 Edit/Mix] – US – 7″ [1986]

  1. Vienna Calling [The New ’86 Edit/Mix]
  2. Tango The Night

Both songs were from his best-selling “Falco 3” album, though the A-side was heavily remixed in the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink manner of “Rock Me Amadeus.” The resulting track seemed less like a song than a coked-up demo of Fairlight “Page R” sequencer. The intro with the phone dialing in one channel and a Strauss waltz in the other was brutally overpowered by the annoying stutter sampled Falco himself saying “h…h…h…˙…hello” like some Austrian Max Headroom®.

The only likable aspect of this track for me was the flute solo, which I’d swear that Love + Rockets might have listened to carefully before crafting “No New Tale To Tell.” The worst of the middle eight was very obnoxious with cut up samples [“welcome to Vienna, we hope you enjoy your stay”] and faux live stadium chanting with fake soccer stadium crowds singing the chorus as the music dropped out. And to have a squealing hair metal guitar solo pull out of the middle eight as the stutter samples of “h…h…h…h…h…h…h…hello!” went into overdrive was peak obnoxious. Then the worst edit I have ever heard inserted four more bars of Falco cutups over a poor man’s drop before circling back to more hair metal squeal for the repulsive climax to this cheap and nasty waste of four minutes of your life.

The B-side, in comparison was like a Casiotone demo of a tango with Falco proffering his oily smarm at full power; which is almost a thing to behold replete with gaping maw. This time the chorus was in English, not that it improved things any. Hearing Falco intone the final “olé” in every chorus was bad enough, but the way he drew out the final “olé” onto a strangulated death rattle croak was not for the faint of heart. At 2:26 the song’s swift ending was a kindness.

razormaid how slow can you go USP LP
Razormaid | US | 2xLP | 1991 | SP-018

Various: …Maid! How Slow Can You Go? – US – 2xLP [1991]

  1. Coil: Windowpane (Digital Mix By Joseph Watt)
  2. Falco: Charisma Kommando (Digital Mix By Art Maharg)
  3. Praise: Only You (Digital Mix By Joseph Watt)
  4. Enigma: Voice Of Enigma Medley (Digital Remix By Joseph Watt)
  5. Cabaret Voltaire: Runaway (Digital Mix By Art Maharg)
  6. Dusty Springfield: Occupy Your Mind (Digital Mix By Art Maharg)
  7. Claudia Brücken: Kiss Like Ether (Digital Mix By Art Maharg)
  8. Vanessa Paradis: Tandem (Digital Mix By Joseph Watt)

The last glimpse into Falco’s world was from 1990 and his partnership with Dutch brothers Ferdi and Rob Bolland out of which came the rancid imperial era of Falco, had ended. He was once again writing with Robert Ponger who had co-written Falco’s first two albums. “Charisma Kommando” was immediately different. The gaudy chrome and neon detailing of the “Falco 3” era was a distant memory. Replaced by the exact same funky dope drum loops and wah wah samples that literally every other pop star was using to make music in 1990 with. This music was far more faceless and therefore less “Falco” than I was accustomed to. It didn’t make it any good, but it was ignorable, and therefore, bearable. Falco didn’t even appear until almost three minutes into the mix with his terse, petulant rapping barely there, thank goodness.

So I have given all of the Falco in my Record Cell multiple spins since since last week and I’ll admit, I still can’t stand the guy. In fact, I now had an even larger body of his work to actively dislike. I am incredulous that his back catalogue had been mined for a European A-list musical production but that concept’s spreading like wildfire these days so I shouldn’t be shocked at how low the IP sharks are swimming in their quest for filthy lucre. But the big takeaway from all of this is that… maybe I’ve been a bit unfair to Taco in retrospect.

-30-

About postpunkmonk

graphic design | software UI design | remastering vinyl • record collector • satire • non-fiction
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5 Responses to …But What About Falco?

  1. Tim says:

    I wonder if the musical will include his Jenny songs. Not really the fare for that kind of thing but then the Police had their stalker hit with Every Breath You Take so….
    Speaking of duets, he also did one with Brigette Nielsen which was named “Body To Body.” Falco 3 had two interesting tribute songs, one to war photographer Robert Capa & then the aspiritional tune “The Kiss of Kathleen Turner.”
    I mean, like the guy or not, who else in the 1980s was writing biographical pop songs about war photographers?
    …and his take on “It’s All Over Now Baby Blue” isn’t half bad (really).
    I file what I have by him under the tag “Guilty Pleasure.” Sometimes I just need me a Falco fix.

    Like

  2. Echorich says:

    I have to agree with Tim. For me Falco is 80s Pop Music, heavy on production and visuals…and a guilty pleasure.

    Like

  3. negative1ne says:

    Hi Mr. Monk,
    I don’t know much from Falco, besides the usual tracks.
    But for some reason, I came across a 12 inch, he did
    with his cover mixes of ‘Steely Dan’s – Do it Again’. Which aren’t
    half bad. I was surprised at how good a job he did on
    it. It was a US 12 inch only too.

    later
    -1

    Like

    • postpunkmonk says:

      negative1ne – I love that Steely Dan song and it was a huge hit in America, so not shocking that they would release that. I can see him almost fitting in that song as Fagen was always kind of smarmy anyway.

      Like

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