By the time Johann ‘Hans’ Hölzel (Falco) released his monster ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ in 1985, it was the Viennese enfant terrible had more to his arsenal than shock tactics or impassioned exhibits of persuasive, passionate intentions determined to unify Europe as one exciting terrain.
And in an effort to appear more palatable to American audiences, Falco embodied the facets of the three Beatles who had the most enduring imprint on the country. He had an ascerbic wit that was pleasantly Lennon-esque, bolstered by a rock steady, Ringo-like beat, and a doey eyed charm that warmed him to the public at large a la McCartney. However, for whatever reason. he never seemed to care for the spiritual yearnings of George Harrison‘s work, but hey ho.
And perhaps because of the way he presented himself to the public – all touseled quiffs and natty, unruffled sleeves – Falco enveloped as the incendiary pop star that melded the classical arias of the past with a more hurried style of music that bore an uncanny resemblance to Yé–yé rock. It was pop for the 1980s, yet reverent of the records that came before it. Determined to embrace the decade, Falco threw himself into the realm of the music video with perilous abandon, curating a series of videos that were exhilarating in their realisation.
Falco’s fire was most noticeable onscreen. The Vienna-born singer gravitated from chilling to canny, accruing global fame greater than any German-speaking performer since Nena, and he was quick to encapsulate a city that was more angular and more accessible to the portraitures visualised in Midge Ure’s astonishing electronic opus.
He was hard hitting, and deeply funny, writing from a point of view that was extremely comical in its outlook, although the violent milieu of ‘Jeanny’ – written from the perspective of a kidnapped woman conversing with the man who kills her – was met with some concern, considering the content of the tune. For audiences of the 1980s, he created a sense of perspective, stemming from a changing landscape that offered a sense of a Europe that was being established from the ground up.
His influence amassed audiences who didn’t normally subscribe to the proclivities of pop. “He was a great pop star,” Ilse Kraus admitted. “There was Beethoven, there was Schubert and there was Falco.” Falco offered Vienna a more modern perspective that showed it could survive outside of the realm of classical music.
It was as thriving a musical port as Hamburg was, bringing a more modern sensibility that showcased a sincere aesthete, circumnavigating the place as a central hub of connectivity and change. Austria was becoming more of a destination than a concept, which made sense because it was so close in position to Prague and Berlin, two colossal cities built on hard craft and grit, laced with a sense of aestheticism that showed the place could be historical as well as hagiographic.
History was building around him, and he sensed that it was another way of shimmering through the precipice to become one of the more established voices of his generation. He sang in German, but it wasn’t the painterly efforts of David Bowie, but something rooted in the field of punk and everyday pop. And in his own idiosyncratic way, the singer showed that he had a universality to his work, that only needed the loosest and smallest of translations.
After The Fire kept the swagger and the style of ‘Der Kommissar’, complete with a smoulder that was sung in English and German. The British band brought Falco back to the top of the charts, complete with a chilling interpretation of his most noteworthy chorus: “Alles klar, Herr Kommissar?”