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Sunday, April 06, 2014

Rock Me Amadeus

You know, I've been having a lot of fun with the Sunday Jukebox for this year so far.  Since I made it a personal mission to feature a #1 hit for every week in 2014 (well, at least until December comes), I've had a lot of fun trying to choose songs, and have since learned a lot more about the world of music, and what makes a #1 single.

And I've also learned along the way that even one-hit-wonders can still hit the #1 spot on the charts.

Today's featured song happens to be one of those one-hit-wonders.

For today's chart, we're going back in time to the year 1986 - a year in which a total of thirty songs topped the chart!  Now you might actually think that broke a major record, as nowadays it's not uncommon for songs to stay at #1 for six or more weeks.   But actually, both 1988 and 1989 surpassed 1986 as having the #1 songs with 31 chart-toppers in each year.

I guess the late 1980s really were a decade of change.

But just going back to the year 1986, the artists who all hit the top of the charts that year were all at different stages in their lives. 

For instance, take the band Starship.  You may remember them by their old names of "Jefferson Airplane" and "Jefferson Starship", but the band scored a #1 hit with "Sara" in 1986 - nearly two decades after they first hit the scene.  Rock band Boston also scored a hit with "Amanda" in 1986 - ten years after they busted out with "More Than A Feeling".

Other artists had gotten their careers started earlier in the decade and were continuing their streak of #1 hits.  Just ask Prince, who arrived on top with "Kiss", or Madonna, whose hit "Papa Don't Preach" also topped the charts in '86.

And some artists had their very first #1 single in 1986.  The Pet Shop Boys, Simply Red, and The Bangles all scored their very first chart-toppers within that year.

And then there's our one and only one-hit-wonder of '86.  The only person to have a number one hit in 1986 and never have another one again in the United States.  The only person on the entire 1986 chart who never even had so much as more than one Top 40 hit. 

The only person to ever have a number one hit that was recorded with a mixture of English and German lyrics.

(Yep, not even Nena's "99 Luftballons" was a number one Billboard hit.  It stalled at #2.)

I suppose you want to know what the song is, huh?  Okay, I've kept you waiting long enough.  Here it is., wait.  That's Troy McClure singing "Dr. Zaius" from that Planet of the Apes musical featured in that Simpsons episode "A Fish Called Selma".  Silly me.

(We still miss you Phil Hartman!)'s the real song.

ARTIST:  Falco
SONG:  Rock Me Amadeus
ALBUM:  Falco 3
DATE RELEASED:  June 16, 1985

Ah yes..."Rock Me Amadeus" by Austrian born crooner Falco (b. Johann Holzel on February 19, 1957).  And, while he was a huge star in his native Austria and Germany, he only had one #1 hit in the United States.

Though it's not as though Falco didn't try.  Since emerging onto the music scene in 1981, Falco released a total of seven studio albums, and had much success in Europe.  And, there's an interesting story to tell in regards to Falco's first hit.

In 1981, he released "Der Kommissar", which did extremely well in the European scene but failed to chart in the United States (although in Canada, it surprisingly peaked at #11 in 1983).  In all likelihood, the reason why the song failed was because "Der Kommissar" was recorded entirely in German, and nobody could understand it.  Interestingly enough, one year later, the group After The Fire" released an English version of "Der Kommissar", and the song became a Top 5 hit - as well as a one-hit-wonder for the band because they split up just as the song was climbing the charts!  Imagine that, a one-hit-wonder band getting a hit by a singer who would also become a one-hit-wonder in America.

So, let's talk about "Rock Me Amadeus".

The song itself was written by Falco himself, with assistance from Dutch music producers Bolland & Bolland.  And, the inspiration for this song came to Falco after watching this film.

The film was the 1984 classic "Amadeus", which starred Tom Hulce in the title role of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  And, remind me one day to actually cover the film "Amadeus" in one of the future Monday Matinee pieces, because it truly was a great movie.

Because the song was based off of that movie, it was only natural for the song's music video to feature people dressed in period pieces and suitable costumes for the period in which Mozart lived (which would have been the 18th century as Mozart died in 1791). 

Well, everyone except Falco that is.

Sure, Falco does have some close-up shots of him in a Mozart wig looking slightly deranged singing "Rock Me Amadeus", but the rest of the time, he's sort of dressed up like an Austrian James Bond with his hair slicked back and clad in a tuxedo.  He seems to be the only modern thing that happens to be in the video at times - although that brief scene in which "Amadeus" Falco is posing with that biker dude is quite funny.

In the United States, the song first hit the top of the charts the week of March 29, 1986, but the song was recorded nine months earlier in June 1985, where prior to being released in North America had topped the charts in Austria, Germany, New Zealand, Sweden, and South Africa.  The song even hit #1 in the United Kingdom - the only time that an Austrian singer achieved that feat.

By the way, I know that some of you are listening to the song right now wondering what the heck he is singing.  I know when I first listened to the song, I was wondering what the song was all about.  Apparently, the song happens to be all about the life and times of Mozart from his birth right up to his death.  Of course, if you don't have at least a working knowledge of the German language, you would never have known that.

Actually, even if you did know German, you might still have difficulty as the song was essentially a mixture of English and German...and no version exists where the song is written completely in English.  But if you click HERE, you can access the lyrics to "Rock Me Amadeus".  See if you can decipher them.  If you can.

Certainly 1986 was the year of the Falco.  But after the success of "Rock Me Amadeus", he seemed to disappear from the music scene. 

What happened to Falco?

Sadly, the story's end is not a happy one.

Although his career in North America essentially tanked after "Rock Me Amadeus" set fire to the 1986 Billboard Hot 100 charts, Falco still managed to have success in Europe.  In fact, his follow up album to "Falco 3", 1986's "Emotional", was a huge hit for him, and it even spawned a world tour which took him to places all over the continent and even Japan.  Not surprisingly, North America was not listed as one of the concert destinations.

And, here's some random trivia for you.  During the 1980s, Falco recorded a duet with a woman who also had her peak of popularity in the 1980s - actress Brigitte Nielsen.  Who even knew that Brigitte Nielsen could sing?  To some people, she'll only ever be known as Flavor Flav' of the month!  As I said, random trivia.

However, by 1992, Falco was beginning to have trouble getting an audience.  1992 was when he recorded his final studio album, and by that time many people had switched from generic pop music to the depressing grunge era.  Certainly Falco was down, but not out.  It took him five years, but he made the decision to attempt a comeback, both for his European fans, but also attempting to try and break out in America once more.  He already had several tracks recorded by the time 1998 arrived, and he had already planned for 1998 to be the year in which he would make his long awaited comeback.

Who ever thought that 1998 would end up being the last year he would be alive?

Less than two weeks before his 41st birthday, on February 6, 1998, Falco was killed in an automobile accident in the Dominican Republic, near the town of Puerto Plata.  His Mitsubishi Pajero had collided with a bus and he died of his injuries sustained in that crash.  As the investigation into Falco's death progressed, it was determined that the crash was not Falco's fault, but the fault of the bus driver, who admitted that he had been speeding when he hit Falco's car.  The bus driver served three years in prison for his role in the crash.  Now, to me that seems as though he got off lightly, but given that the crash happened in the Dominican Republic, I suppose they might have different rules.  At the very least, I hope he wasn't allowed to drive a bus again!

Since Falco's death in 1998, the album that he was working on prior to the crash was released just a few days after he was laid to rest in Vienna, Austria.  That album - "Out of the Dark (Into the Light)" did extremely well in Falco's native Austria, and several surrounding European nations, and many commented that it was a perfect final album for the singer.  It was such a success that it actually re-entered the Austrian album charts in 2008 - a full decade after the album's initial release!

It just goes to show you that even though an artist may be considered a one-hit-wonder in one doesn't mean that they are worldwide.  And although America barely knew who he was, in his native Austria he was considered a star...

...a star whose light dimmed way too soon.




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