Saturday, August 16, 2008

An Opus From Austria

Largely thought of as a one hit wonder in most English speaking countries, Austrian pop-rock group Opus have enjoyed a marathon career spanning more than 30 years. The band formed way back in 1973 and spent most of the 70s establishing themselves as a major live drawcard on the European rock scene.

The band’s core line-up featured Herwig Rudisser (vocals), Ewald Pfluger (guitar), Kurt Rene Plisnier (keyboards), Niki Gruber (bass) and Gunter Grasmuck (drums). They released their debut album ‘Daydreams’ in 1980, and produced a steady stream of albums over the next few years, including ‘Eleven’ (1981) and ‘Opusition’ (1982). But it would be their 1984 album ‘Up And Down’ that would include the original version of a track which would catapult Opus to the attention of the big U.K. and U.S. markets.

‘Live Is Life’ was a very anthemic song, encouraging crowd participation on the chant like chorus. It wasn’t really arena rock per se, in fact to me it sounds more like a reggae-style song with a solid rock beat. But such was the song’s popularity when the band performed it live, that it formed the basis for a live album ‘Live Is Life’ in 1985. The band’s record label saw the potential for a mainstream rock hit and released the live version of ‘Live Is Life’ as a single. The song soared to #6 in the U.K. during 1985, spending 15 weeks inside the charts. ‘Live Is Life’ also broke Opus on the American charts, peaking at a very respectable #32 in early 1986. The song also hit #1 in Austria, Germany and France, making it one of the biggest European hits of 1985. I don’t recall hearing the song at the time of its release, and it didn’t chart at all here in Australia. I discovered it back in the mid 90s when it was included on the track listing for one of the 1985 volumes in a Time-Life CD series celebrating the 80s.

The album ‘Live Is Life’ also included a live version of the power ballad ‘Flyin’ High’ which was more indicative of the Opus sound. Other tracks worth mentioning (just because of their quirky titles) are ‘Opuspocus’, ‘The Opusition’ and ‘Double Bubbles’. But as regular readers of this blog would recall from an earlier post, Austria’s most noted modern day pop star was Falco, who similarly enjoyed his biggest hit in America during 1986 with ‘Rock Me Amadeus’. During the same period Falco had occasion to join Opus on stage to perform ‘Live Is Live’.

Opus has remained very popular in their native Austria, Germany and Switzerland in particular, releasing albums such as ‘Opus’ (1987), ‘Magical Touch’ (1990), ‘Love, God & Radio’ (1996) and ‘The Beat Goes On’ (2004). They’ve scored a number of Austrian top 10 hits, most notably ‘Whiteland’ (#3-1987) and ‘Gimme Love’ (#9-1992), continuing to maintain a loyal fan base and proving that the Opus beat truly does go on.

The beat has gone on for the song ‘Live Is Life’ as well, with cover versions recorded by several European based acts such as Laibach, and most recently by the Hermes House Band featuring DJ Otzi, in 2003.

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