Rock Me Amadeus
March 1, 2017
Todd plays "Rock Me Amadeus" on the piano.
ROCK ME AMADEUS - FALCO
A one-hit wonder retrospective
Todd: Ooh! Rock me, Amadeus!
- Clip of Falco - "Rock Me Amadeus"
Falco: Rock me, Amadeus Ro-ro-rock me Amadeus (Amadeus Amadeus...)
Todd: Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song! And uhh... ok, full disclosure. You know how I said I was done with requests for a while? Well, a uh, couple people contacted me and told me uh, hey; you missed me.
[Screenshot of a message Todd received on Patreon with the Losing Horns playing in the background]
Todd: I'm not, good at, interacting with people. This requester in particular.... [Another message screenshot] apparently he's been waiting for like 2 years (Laughs nervously). So, I better uh, get a jump on this, huh? And yes, we are going back, to the 80's. It's such fertile ground for this show. And by the 80's, I mean the 1780's, cause we are about to get down, with everyone's favourite tribute, to a classical period musical genius, that also makes a good soundtrack to breakdance to!
Falco: Amadeus Amadeus
A-madeus, Amadeus Amadeus
A-madeus, Amadeus Amadeus
Oh, oh, oh Amadeus
Now come and rock me Amadeus
Todd (VO): Rock Me Amadeus is one of the singularly weird pop songs of the 80's. Up there with, Mr. Roboto, Ghostbusters, Tarzan Boy...there's just, not anything really like it.
Todd: I mean there's no...
Todd (VO): ...disco tribute to [Portrait of] Vivaldi. No one's ever rapped a biography of [Photo of] Rachmaninov.
Todd: Also, it's in foreign!
Falco: Er war Superstar
Er war populär
Er war so exaltiert
Because er hatte Flair
Todd (VO): A weird kind of foreign that kinda tricks you into thinking it's in English but it isn't.
Falco: No Plastik money anymore, die Banken gegen ihn
Todd: Well! Finally, those 3 years of high school German are gonna come in handy! Sehr fantastisch.
Falco: Now come and rock me Amadeus
Todd (VO): The man behind this new wave oddity is, of course, the Austrian superstar of the 80's - [Pic of Arnold Schwarzenegger] No, the other one [Back to "Rock Me Amadeus"] - Falco! And while I usually do this show to try and figure out why artists could only score one hit, I think the bigger question is how Falco got even one hit! The hell was going on in 1985? Todd: Seriously, did, the guy just, have a halloween costume he wanted to re-use? Yeah, I think that's what happened here.
Falco: Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow! Ow!
Before The Hit Todd: Our story begins in a little town called:
[Image of City Hall in Vienna.....]
Todd (VO): Vienna! The birthplace of young [Photo of a young Falco] Johann Hans Holzel. [More footage of Vienna] Vienna is also of course, where Mozart wrote all his big hits. [Portrait of] Mozart started writing music when he was 3...
Todd: ...and apparently young Hans was a bit of a prodigy himself.
Todd (VO): But he didn't wanna be a classical prodigy...
Todd: ...he wanted to be a pop star.
Todd (VO): So he dropped out of the Vienna Conservatory for the Arts as a teenager, and started hanging out with the punks in the club scene. Joined a few bands, changed his name to Falco.
Todd: The name, obviously, comes from...
Todd (VO): ...alpine ski jumper Falko Weißpflog.
Todd: Look I, I, I don't know. It's, it's Austria.
Todd (VO): I don't know what they really have over there; they got, [Image of] chocolates, they got, [Footage of] classical music, they got [Image of] Alpine Skiing. [Back to footage of Falko Weißpflog] Although, this guy wasn't even Austrian so I (sighs)... I- I don't, don't ask.
Todd: I think he just thought the name was cool. It's a pretty cool name.
Super Smash Bros. Melee announcer shouting: FALCO!!
Todd (VO): Anyway he had a band for a little while, but then he went solo. Eventually in 1981, he scored a massive international hit. [Video for "Der Kommissar" plays] Didn't make it over here obviously but, it was huge in most of Europe. Let's see what, goofy lost in translation europop he was making.
Falco: Sie sagt: Sugar Sweet
Jah' got me rappin to the heat!
Ich verstehe, sie ist heiß
Sie sagt: Baby look
I miss my funky friends
Sie meint Jack und Joe und Jill
Todd (VO): OK uh... not so lost in translation; I'm picking up some English in there. I'm guessing the, rapping and, Deutschlish is going to be a recurring theme in this episode. Todd: But I'm digging the groove here.
[Todd bops along to the music]
Falco: Hey man, wanna buy some stuff, man?
Todd: Does this sound familiar to anyone else? I can swear...
Falco: Drah' di net um, oh oh oh
Schau, schau, der Kommissar geht um! Oh oh oh
Todd (VO): (Sings) "Don't turn around, uh-oh". Todd: Huh. Okay
[Video for After The Fire's version of "Der Kommissar" plays]
After The Fire: Don't turn around, oh uh oh
Todd (VO): I am obviously more familiar with the more famous, english-language version of this song. But uh... yeah this was originally in German, and by Falco.
Todd: Don't turn around indeed.
Todd (VO): [Video for "Maschine Brennt"] Now like, nearly every goofy foreigner who has one hit in America, Falco was a huge deal in his home country and... again through most of the continent. He's practically the, David Bowie of Austria apparently. [Video for "Junge Roemer"] But, his second album, didn't do that well anywhere. Falco's official website tells me it was: "too ahead of it's time".
Todd: If you say so guys. Sounds pretty of it's time to me.
[Video for "Junge Romer" plays...]
Falco: Seht weißes Licht, seht nur Gefühl
[...which is then followed by the video for "Let's Dance" by David Bowie, as a comparison.]
David Bowie: Put on your red shoes and dance the blues.
Todd (VO): Falco himself thought it flopped for a different reason.
Todd: It was just, too...
Todd (VO): ...in German. Clearly he needed to write more in English about topics us dumb Americans could understand.
Todd: I mean, who would want to listen to an Austrian man sing about stuff in Austria?
The Big Hit
Todd: OK. As it turns out, around 1984, Americans did care quite a bit, about at least one Austrian subject. That was the year...
[Footage from the "Amadeus" trailer]
Todd (VO): ...that a little movie came out called "Amadeus". About the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and had won like 103 Oscars and it, even did really well at the box office which, is amazing considering it's a costume, award-bait drama with, a lot of powdered wigs and tights and stuff. Falco, apparently already a big fan of Mozart, decided to make a song out of it. Todd: A rap song.
[Music Video for "Rock Me Amadeus" plays]
Todd (VO): Rock Me Amadeus would not have existed without the movie. And almost certainly wouldn't have been a hit in America without the movie.
Todd: Which is weird cause, Rock Me Amadeus...
Todd (VO): ...is about Mozart being like this 18th century rock star; partying it up with women and drugs.
Falco: Er war ein Virtuose <He was a Virtuoso>
Er war ein Rockidol <Was a rock idol>
Und alles rief <And everybody shouted>
Come and rock me Amadeus
Todd (VO): Whereas, if you actually watch "Amadeus", [Clips from the movie] it, seems to be about how Mozart is this, irritating, punchable jackass who just happens to be a genius because life's stupid and not fair. [Montage of Mozart's laughs throughout the film] It's, it's, it's like watching a movie where Steve Urkel, is a Virtuoso. [Back to "Rock Me Amadeus"] But yeah, none of that is in the song. In the song, (in German accent) "Wolfgang" (back to normal accent) is the original punk rocker.
Falco: Er war ein Punker
Todd: And yeah it is there in the movie a little; he does [More clips from the movie] party and drink and throw cash around and get laid. He even has crazy dyed hair. The pink wig was the spiked Mohawk of its day.
Todd: But still, the music's, 200 years old; I, I, I can see how it can all seem a little stuffy.
Todd (VO): That's why, we all loved Rock Me Amadeus. Because it, recontextualized what could have been stiff old orchestral music, into the modern day.
Falco: Rock me all the time to the top
Todd (VO): I am of course... Todd: ...bullshitting profusely we all love it cause it was goddamn ridiculous.
Falco: Amadeus, Amadeus
Todd (VO): (Laughs and stumble a little) Ther-the-theere's no way around it. No one likes this song, because of any connection to Mozart. It got big because it's a mess of guttural, random sounding syllables that... even in Germany, I have to believe it was taken as mostly a joke. Todd: I mean how can you listen to all that, Wagnerian chanting and not just laugh?
Falco: Amadeus Amadeus
A-madeus, Amadeus Amadeus
Oh, oh, oh Amadeus
Todd (VO): (Laughs a little) And seriously, yeah; give it up for Falco's weird, froggy delivery.
Falco: Es war in Wien, war Vienna
Wo er alles tat
[Todd imitate's Falco's rapping]
Falco: Und jede rief
Come and rock me Amadeus
Todd (VO): Does he have the hiccups? He sounds like when, [Footage of...] The Fat Boys would beatbox.
[The video for "Rock Me Amadeus" plays again, followed by a video featuring The Fat Boys' beatboxing]
Todd (VO): And there are like a billion different mixes of this song. But what they all basically have in common is that they just keep adding more and more crazy shit after the second chorus. Todd: KEY CHANGE! [Coda goes up a key] VIOLIN SOLO! [Remixed version plays, featuring a synthesised violin solo] More women cooing over Mozart!
Background Singers: Baby Baby oh, do you rock me
Todd (VO): And that chorus; that is just, undeniable; it's, impossible to get out of your head. But, I don't really think the song ever really gets passed being a novelty. I mean it's fun, it's... funny and weird, it's one-of-a-kind but... it's not like it led to any new trends; there wasn't a, rush of German language hits. Todd: In fact, the only real hit song that really resembles Rock Me Amadeus I think is uh....
[Music Video for "Gangnam Style" by Psy plays]
Todd (VO): ...is Gangnam Style honestly. I mean that's another goofy foreign hit with some random English thrown in.
Psy: Aaaaaayyyy, Sexy Lady!
Todd (VO): In fact, that's exactly what this song sounds like. [Music Video for "Rock Me Amadeus"] It's, like the first, K-Pop hit. Only it's from Austria.
Todd (VO): And while this may seem like a joke to you and me and... I'm pretty sure everybody, Falco did remain a huge pop star in Europe for a long long time.
Todd: Let's see why.
The Failed Follow Up
Todd: After Rock Me Amadeus, Falco released his follow up, [Mock up cover for the single...] "Let's Jam Salieri". It did just okay and, critics consider it largely mediocre compared to Rock Me Amadeus. (Long Pause)
[Music Video for "Vienna Calling" plays]
Todd (VO): OK, I'm kidding. The next hit was called "Vienna Calling". Like I said; the man was very proud of his homeland.
Falco: Hello, woah-oh. Vienna calling, calling, calling...
Todd (VO): Kno-you know (sighs), this Falco guy he certainly knows his way around a hook. He's got a way with these, big slamming choruses that you can't forget. That's why this song was actually a [Screenshot of "Vienna Calling" placed at No. 18 on the Billboard Hot 100] Top 20 hit. Seriously. I mean I have never heard of this song ever; no one, remembers it or talks about it, but... apparently Falco is one of those, borderline, kinda/kinda not one-hit wonders.
Todd: So um... that's why I never got to this request in two years obviously; it's not, really a one-hit wonder.
Todd (VO): So why doesn't anyone remember this song? Well, I have a theory. I mean even if you don't speak a word of German, I think you can get the gist (of) what Rock Me Amadeus is about. It's about Amadeus and, how he rocks.
Todd: Vienna Calling? I have no clue what it's supposed to be, even (when) translating the lyrics.
Falco: ...spielen kleine mädchen heute, hier und dort und da
Ob in Tucson, Arizona; Toronto, Canada
[Todd just shrugs]
Falco: Vienna calling, ca....
Todd (VO): I assume that's a take-off on, The Clash's [Single cover for...] "London Calling"? [Video for said song] Of course, the phrase "London Calling" comes from, dispatches from the [BBC advertisement from WW2] British government during World War II. [Back to the video for "Vienna Calling"] I, don't think Vienna calling is a reference to anything. [Music Video for Jeanny begins to play] And then there was his other hit from that album. A Foreigner-style power ballad called "Jeanny".
Falco: Jeanny, quit livin' on dreams
Jeanny, life is not what it seems
Such a lonely little girl in a cold, cold world
Todd (VO): Like I said: the man knew how to write those big 80's choruses.
Falco: Schon spät, komm
Todd (VO): And then the rest of it is in German. But, I assume it's about some girl who doesn't realise that... Todd: ...Falco loves her and, so on.
Falco: Es ist kalt wir müssen weg hier komm... <It is cold, we have to get out of here Come on>
...hast gesagt mach mich nicht an <You said... "Leave me alone">
Aber du warst durchschaut <But I saw right through you>
Augen sagen mehr als Worte <Eyes speak louder than words>
[Todd is taken aback by the lyrics]
Sie kommen <They're coming>
Sie kommen dich zu holen <They're coming to get you>
Sie werden dich nicht finden! Niemand wird dich finden! Du bist bei mir!!! <They won't find you! No one will find you! You're with me!>
Todd (VO): Well! I think we don't have to, think very hard about why his, creepy, serial killer anthem didn't catch on in the States! I mean I'm, I'm sure we had some of our own but... not in German. Todd: The-the German is just... makes it too much.
[Another clip of the "Jeanny" video where Falco screams in an Asylum]
Did He Ever Do Anything Else? Todd: Oh yes; quite, quite famous for the rest of his life.
[Video for "The Sound of Musik" plays]
Todd (VO): This one is called "The Sound of Musik"
Falco: ...bang-boogie, say up jump the boogie
Do the rhythm on the boogie the beat
Background Singers: The sound of musik
Falco: Do the bang-bang-boogie, say up, jump the boogie
Todd: The man likes his hip-hop; what can I say?
[Back to video]
Falco: It's Pavarotti, he's the biggest Bobby Dylan fan
Background Singers: The sound of musik
Falco: It's Lennon, McCartney, Cole Porter too
Todd (VO): You notice he only namechecks artists that Americans would know. Still uh, still chasin' that, crossover that wasn't ever gonna happen again I think. After a while, his success was mostly limited to the German-speaking part of the world but... otherwise he was still a pretty big deal. War ein superstar.
Todd: Just one problem.
Todd (VO): Around this time, he started hitting the Schnapps pretty hard. And it would really start to destroy him. But, let's check out what else he did. [Video plays for "Coming Home"] This one is called "Coming Home". Alright, let's see who's coming home. [The doll from the "Jeanny" video appears again] Wait, the doll again? [Cover of the "Coming Home" single, camera zooms in on the text saying "(Jeanny Part 2, Ein Jahr Danach)"
Todd: Oh, come on!
[Back to the video]
Falco: I would give anything just to see you again
Todd (VO): Leave this poor girl, alone! I mean, i-i-it's not like it's a bad song but, it was in fact, super controversial over in Europe, so I'm not sure why he felt the need to go back to the, creepy-girl-abductor well so many times. Todd: Let's see what else, what else?
[Video plays for "Body Next to Body"]
Falco: ...maybe you're in love
Do the bang bang boogie stand up, turn up the boogie you say
Todd (VO): This guy really liked his Sugarhill Gang, huh?
Brigitte Nielsen: Show me the way, you move your body, night into day
Todd: Wait, holy crap is that Brigitte Nielsen?
Brigitte Nielsen: Life on the run
Todd (VO): Yeah. That is (Picture from...) Red Sonja herself. (Back to music video) Fresh off the success of [Poster of...] "Cobra".
Falco and Brigitte: Body next to body turn the pain...
Todd: Lets be real; there are....
[Photo of Brigitte Nielsen with Flavor Flav]
Todd (VO): ...worse musicians she coulda teamed up with. [Music video for "Wiener Blut"] Here's one called: [Single cover for...] "Wiener Blut". I like that one cause it's fun to say.
Falco: Wiener Blut.
Todd (VO): Apparently it just means "Viennese Blood". (Sighs) The Red Hot Chili Peppers don't write about, California as much as... Todd: ...Falco raps about Vienna, Goddamn.
[Footage of Falco in concert]
Todd: Okay after the 80's, the guy largely disappears; his albums stop selling... also he's, starting to have real, real problems with [Stock image of Jagermeifter] "der alkohol", [Stock image of cocaine spelt out in German] and "das kokain". [Music video for "Out Of The Dark" plays] OK, then he moved to the Dominican Republic for tax reasons. He was working on his comeback, but, the drugs and alcohol finally got to him. He was driving drunk and got hit by a bus, and died, in 1998, at the age of just 40.
Falco: Wann kommst du meine Wunden küssen
[Music video for "Verdammt Wir Leben Noch" plays]
Todd (VO): Shortly after his death, the label released two, posthumous albums. "Out Of The Dark" and, my favourite: "Verdammt Wir Leben Noch". Which translates to... Todd: ..."We're Still Alive, Goddamnit".
Falco: Denn wer's net kapiert hat wird's nie...
Todd (VO): In the video, he's hanging out with, all these... dead legends; Elvis and Einstein, Bogart, Freddie Mercury.
Falco: Verdammt wir leben noch, na immer noch
Todd (VO): And in his home country, he is now basically a dance music legend himself. And much like his idol Mozart, his untimely death, only, secured his legacy. Todd: Although I hope he got a better send-off then Mozart did.
[Cut to Mozart's funeral scene in "Amadeus", where Mozart's body is just dumped into a mass grave.]
Did He Deserve Better? Todd: Well, he did well enough in his home country obviously but, did he deserve to be bigger in the US and the UK? (Pauses) No.
Falco: Amadeus, Amadeus
Todd (VO): I'm not saying he's bad; I-he's actually very interesting it's just, I can't, imagine a world where Falco has a sustainable career in America. And according to (his) biography, he tried, many times but it just never came together. Apparently, he arguably wasn't even a one-hit wonder. But even if every one of his singles had crossed over, you'd think of him as a one-hit wonder anyway. Rock Me Amadeus is just, a thing, that shouldn't even be. And yet, so wonderfully, is. And that's the way it should be listened to. A bizarre experiment never to be repeated.
Todd: Falco, (says farewell greeting in German).
Closing tag song: "Rock Me Amadeus" by Megaherz
"Rock Me Amadeus" is owned by A&M Records.
This video is owned by me.
THANK YOU TO THE LOYAL PATRONS!