Friday, April 25, 2008

Der Kommissar Or Just 'Commish' To His Friends

Johann Holzel, but known to the world as Falco, holds the honour of being Austria's most successful popular music export (if you discount Mozart). The Vienna born singer hit big time in Europe with his debut 1982 album 'Einzelhaft' (German for 'solitary confinement') and found even more friends with the huge European hit 'Der Kommissar' - referring to the term used for a German government official, or 'the commissioner' (no not the old guy from the 'Batman' TV show). 'Der Kommissar' failed to make an impact on the mainstream U.S. and U.K. charts (though was a big hit on the dance floor), but did attract the interest of Australian fans reaching #7 in mid '83.

The song debuted on the Australian charts in the week ending 11 April 1983, and just one week later was joined by an English language cover version by U.K. quartet After The Fire. After The Fire's version only reached #17 though in Australia, which tells me that a certain percentage of the Australian record buying public bought Falco's version just to try and learn the words phonetically to impress their friends.

After The Fire formed in 1977 and comprised Andy Piercy on vocals/bass, John Russell on guitar, Peter Banks (ex of Yes) on keyboards and Pete King on
drums. They enjoyed far greater success with 'Der Kommissar' in the U.S. where the song
surged to #5 but could only limp to #47 on their home U.K. chart. They would have one more minor hit Stateside with 'Dancing In The Shadows' (#85) before someone (possibly Falco) threw a giant bucket of cold water on their parade and they never charted again.

Falco by contrast still had his greatest chart success ahead of him. 1986 saw the release of the single 'Rock Me Amadeus', a contemporary pop-dance tribute classical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart'. Falco managed to incorporate a strong German-rap element into the song and with the hip promo clip saturating the playlists of MTV and the like, the song rocketed to #1 in both the U.S. (3 weeks) and U.K. (1 week) but in relative terms only achieved a disappointing #15 in Australia (perhaps the whole phonetic German lyric recital craze had run its course by then).

Falco, whose professional name, was in reference to the East German ski jumping great Falko Weissflog, had a follow up U.S. Top 20 hit with 'Vienna Calling' but though continuing to have a strong presence on the Euro charts didn't achieve the same level of 'cross-over' success again. Tragically he was killed in a car accident in early 1998 at the age of 40.
And a big SHOUT OUT to all those fans of 80s classics in Adelaide, Australia - you know who you are ;)

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