The Formative Years – Falco
Talking about formative years, the influence Johann "Hans" Hölzel’s exerted long before my exposure to punk cannot be overestimated. I do not believe in the concept of “guilty pleasures” and to this day, I enjoy music from the Eighties independently from the confines of any genre.
I remember vividly the first time I heard Falco’s Der Kommissar on the radio and I was fascinated by the exciting paranoia ridden tune about thinly veiled drug consumption from the get go as it had something that went beyond the music and it spurned an interest in the man that was to last for many years. It also constituted one of the first times I heard someone “rap”.
Having been socialised in the alternative lefty scene of Vienna and with sound musical pedigree having attended the Vienna Conservatoire, Hölzel honed his craft playing bass in bands like the eccentric shock value performance group Drahdiwaberl, before he reinvented himself and gave birth to his arrogant, nouveu-riche, clean-cut Falco persona, with his provocative song "Ganz Wien" about the omnipresence of heroin in Vienna sort of marking the direction he was going to embark in. The song was banned and caused the controversy he must have hoped for, which got him exposure and seemed to reaffirm his decision to go solo.
What followed was his fantastic first album Einzelhaft, which featured the catchy and dry Der Kommissar, a song whose chorus perverted a nursey rhyme and one that marked what veritably constituted his first major hit, surfing the Neue Deutsche Welle.
His next album Junge Roemer shows the evolution not just as far as his Falco persona goes, but also musically as it gives insight into his musical prowess and diverse abilities.
Things were about to change with his third album, as he was going to join forces with the Bolland Brothers to broaden his appeal and channel their pop alchemy into harnessing Falco’s idiosyncratic approach to make it mass compatible. What resulted catapulted Falco into global stardom with his cliché laden tribute to Mozart in 1986, i.e. Rock Me Amadeus, a song that could be considered as one of the first rap songs to not only enter but top the US and other charts the world over.
The album, which marked the peak of his career, also harboured one of my favourite Falco tracks, i.e. the fantastic ditty Vienna Calling as well as what was perceived as one of the most scandalous songs of the era in the new world, i.e. the highly controversial Jeanny, a song written seemingly from the perspective of a rapist and murder.
The Sound of Music followed, another great song and album, followed by Data De Groove, which took some deliberate artistic detours, and Wiener Blut, which saw his fame taper off - comeback attempts with interesting but not commercially successful albums and him eventually moving to the Dominican Republic, where he died in a car crash days before turning forty-one.
To this day one of the more interesting intelligent, charismatic, entertaining, difficult and eccentrically complex personalities Europe has produced and whose specifically early oeuvre had a massive on me and one that reverberates to this day.