Photo source (above): dailymotion.com
In 2013 Youtube revealed a video of Falco performing Vienna Calling with an orchestra and band in Wiener Neustadt in 1994. This concert was meant to be captured as a live showpiece but they screwed up the recording of the orchestra on the night and it took until ten years after his death for it to be reconstructed for release. A big professional disappointment at the time, one supposes, but in all likelihood he grasped the bathos too, having described Rock Me Amadeus as the worst thing that had ever happened to him.
Vienna Calling is witty and cynical (“Du kannst auf mich verzichten, nur auf Luxus nicht”) (‘You can do without me, just not without luxury’) and the theme of international hookers may even be metaphorical but the verse that addresses Vienna itself is plain enough.
Du kennst mich up, kennst mich down
Du kennst mich
Nur Wien, nur Wien, du nur allein
Wohin sind deine Frauen?
In the biopic Falco: Verdammt wir leben noch, the actor is wrong, he belongs in an indie band, mumbling like a stoned vampire, and the project lacks charisma. Falco didn’t talk like that. Misguided efforts to recreate concert appearances do not help either. Falco was larger than life but it’s no wonder he looked like shit in the Donauinsel concert of 1993, in front of a hundred thousand people. According to the film he was practically comatose beforehand. At least for the symphonic concert a year later he looked much better, back in a suit, though still ten years older than he was.
Junge Römer really comes into its own too in the symphonic version, when it gains a kind of wistful pathos. It had been a bit too Bowie-ish for the Eighties time that was in it but the single nonetheless made the Austrian top ten and number two in Spain. The song only came into its own in popularity after the relative failure of its initial release, whereas Jeanny became just horribly ironic after Priklopil and Fritzl. Imagining a lady killer for a pop hit is one thing but he couldn’t imagine inflicting a living death, like they did.
There are gems elsewhere in the Euro trash. In Falco’s case, the most basic requirement for rising from the trash seems to have been a sense of humour, which he most definitely had. The Sound of Musik is the funny side of the rubbish. The Japanese number one with Brigitte Nielsen is pure trash, though, and done for the money, as he freely admitted in a pleasant 1996 interview with Heike Makatsch. In that interview he also indicated that the bathos of losing an empire was the basis of the sarcasm of the Viennese sense of humour known as Wiener Schmäh.
Apart from the junk, the wonderfully sleazy Wiener Blut is a dance record that rocks in more ways than one. The cynicism of the funky Monarchy Now remains resolutely liberal. The apocalyptic Ganz Wien is very good and really comes alive in the lush symphonic version. In the seventeenth minute of the film his character is writing Ganz Wien when he cracks it, the contradiction between speaking German every day and trying to reproduce the English language of pop culture. At such times the film is oddly moving, at others just a bit crass.
There are interesting pieces of non-musical Falco footage on Youtube too, such as a 1992 appearance on a German chat show. Falco Angriffe – ‘Falco Attacks’ – is the name of the longest clip. It is hosted by a woolly-haired chap who apparently graduated to being a sports presenter. Across the round table sits a motley crew of arseholes who presume to try to bait him. These include a few politicians, though Falco refuses to comment on German politics, adding that Austrian contributions had not always been successful there and that each country had its own problems. There is also a bespectacled professor named Ringel, who only wakes up during proceedings, and a woman called Alida Gundlach who gets a cheap laugh from the cheap studio audience by saying she understands why his wedding lasted longer than his marriage, while the glad eyes and intermittent giggling reveal what she’s really thinking.
All the while Falco keeps his cool, his only props being a cigarette and a glass of red wine as he wonderfully takes the piss out of them all, answering a question about Jörg Haider by talking in double entendres about Alfons Haider, a gay cabaret artist in Vienna. At the end the presenter asks him if he will just continue to ‘ride the decadence wave’ until the year 2000. Mein Gott wir haben die Dekadenz gepachtet, in Wien… Herr Professor weiss das (‘My God we have the lease on decadence, in Vienna… Herr Professor knows that’).
Another clip finds him in London near the end of the Thatcher era. It’s a rambling interview shot at night, partly on the street, in King’s Cross, where Falco calls over a tanked-up Geordie passer-by.
Interviewer: “Do you know this guy?”
Geordie: “Never seen ’im befo’ in me life.”
A policeman in the background won’t remain uninvolved, probably due to the SWP member holding up a “Break the Tory Poll Tax” poster behind them. The Geordie goes on to tell Falco in his Newcastle accent that his poll tax bill is £640. Let’s hope he never paid it. In the interview, when he’s not clowning around, Falco explains that he has come to London for inspiration and innovation. Despite the fact that his lyrical attempts in English rarely if ever share his flair in his native language – in a 1991 interview his mother said his school reports stated he was good at English but very good at German – he even says he feels more connected to the Anglo-American Sprachraum than the German one. As it happens the only flair in English shown in Männer des Westens is the phrase “McRonald’s Circus” but, had he been Irish, he would have grown up between England and America and probably not bothered with any other language, even his own.
Instead he says, Nichts ist tiefer als die deutsche Sprache und nichts seichter als die deutsche Rede (‘Nothing is deeper than the German language and nothing shallower than German speech’). That seems a very Austrian thing to say – Karl Kraus had already written something very similar – and the contradiction mentioned earlier remained incompletely resolved but there’s a kind of grass-is-greener innocence in the reason he gave for being there, in London, like someone believing in the Sixties. On the other hand he also finds the English funny before going on to remark on all the peculiar British symbols he’d seen in Australia. Moreover, the deep, genuine laugh, as displayed in London, is totally absent from Verdammt wir leben noch. Hans Hölzel was one of the boys. Alles klar, Herr Kommissar.