Falco ~ Johann (Hans) Hölze

Falco began to show signs of unusual musical talent very early. As a toddler, he was able to keep time with the drumbeat in songs he heard on the radio. He was given a baby grand piano for his fourth birthday; a year later, his birthday gift was a record player which he used to play music by Elvis Presley, Cliff Richard, and the Beatles. At age five, he auditioned for the Vienna Music Academy, where it was confirmed that he had perfect pitch.

falco

In 1963, Hölzel began his schooling at a Roman Catholic private school; four years later, at age ten, he switched to the Rainer Gymnasium in Vienna. Shortly thereafter his father Alois Hölzel left the family. From then on, Hölzel was raised by his mother and grandmother and remained very close to them all his life.

He left school at sixteen in 1973 due to absenteeism. His mother then insisted he begin an apprenticeship with the Austrian employee pension insurance institute, but this only lasted a short time. At seventeen, he volunteered for eight months of military service with the Austrian army.

He entered the Vienna Music Conservatory in 1977, but left after one semester to “become a real musician”. For a short time, he lived in West Berlin while singing in a jazz-rock band and exploring the club scene. When he returned to Vienna he was calling himself “Falco”, reportedly in tribute to the East German ski jumper Falko Weißpflog (he changed one letter to make the name more international), and playing in the Austrian bands Spinning Wheel and Hallucination Company.

En route to becoming an international rock star in his own right, he was bass player in the Austrian hard rock-punk rock band Drahdiwaberl (from 1978 until 1983). With Drahdiwaberl he wrote and performed the song “Ganz Wien” (“All of Vienna”), which he would also include on his debut solo album, Einzelhaft (Solitary Confinement ). He also played bass with the space disco band Ganymed in 1981.

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Falco image via Flickr

Unique Success

At a Concert of Drahdiwaberl in 1981, Falco was discovered by Austrian producer Markus Spiegel who offered him his first record contract. Falco’s first hit was “Der Kommissar” from the 1982 album Einzelhaft. A German language song about drug consumption that combines rap verses with a sung chorus, Falco’s record was a number-one success in many countries but failed to break big in the US. The song, however, would prove to have a life of its own in two English-language versions. British rock band After the Firerecorded an English cover version, somewhat loosely based on Falco’s lyrics and also ‘titled’ “Der Kommissar” (with “uh-oh”, “ja, ja”, “alles klar Herr Kommissar” and the shout “cha” the only other lyrics held over from the original). This time, the song shot to number five in the United States (their only major hit there) in 1983, though it failed to crack the UK Top 40. That same year, American singer Laura Branigan recorded a version of the song with new English lyrics under the title “Deep in the Dark” on her album Branigan 2.

Der Kommissar (song)
Der Kommissar (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After a second album, Junge Römer (Young Romans) failed to provide a repeat to his debut single’s success (outside of Austria and Germany, where the album topped the charts), Falco began to experiment with English lyrics in an effort to broaden his appeal, and chose a new production team: Bolland & Bolland. The result would be the most popular album and single of his career.

Falco recorded “Rock Me Amadeus” inspired in part by the Oscar-winning film Amadeus, and the song became a worldwide hit in 1986. This time, his record reached No. 1 in the US and UK, bringing him the success that had eluded him in that major market a few years earlier. The song remained in the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 for three weeks and his album, Falco 3 peaked at the number three position on the Billboard album charts reached number six in the Billboard Top R&B Singles Chart. Falco 3 peaked at number 18 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums charts. Ultimately, “Rock Me Amadeus” went to the No. 1 spot in over a dozen countries including Japan. Follow-up single “Vienna Calling” was another international pop hit, peaking at No. 18 of the Billboard Charts and No. 17 on the US Cash Box Charts in 1986. A double A-side 12″ single featuring remixes of those two hits peaked at No. 4 on the US Dance/Disco charts.

“Jeanny”, the third release from the album Falco 3, brought the performer back to the top of the charts across Europe. Highly controversial when it was released in Germany and the Netherlands, the story of “Jeanny” was told from the point of view of a possible rapist and murderer. Several DJs and radio stations refused to play the ballad, which was ignored in the US, though it became a huge hit in many European countries, and inspired a sequel on his next album.

In 1986, the album Emotional was released, produced by Rob and Ferdi Bolland (Bolland & Bolland). Songs on the album included “Coming Home (Jeanny Part II, One Year Later)”, “The Kiss of Kathleen Turner”, and “Kamikaze Capa” which was written as a tribute to the late photojournalist Robert Capa. “The Sound of Musik” was another international success, and a Top 20 US dance hit, though it failed to make the US pop charts. In 1987 he went on the “Emotional” world tour ending in Japan. In the same year, he sang a duet with Brigitte Nielsen, “Body Next to Body”; the single was a Top 10 hit in the Germanic countries. The album Wiener Blut (Viennese Blood) was released in 1988 but it did not get much publicity outside Germany and Austria.

Emotional (Falco album)
Emotional (Falco album) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1990, he wrote a song about Cindy Crawford and Tatjana Patitz, “Tanja P. not Cindy C.”, which appeared on the album Data de Groove.

After 1986 there were a number of European hits, but Falco was rarely heard in the US and the UK. His 1992 comeback attempt, the album Nachtflug (Night Flight) including the song “Titanic”, was successful in Austria only.

Flickr Images Link

Falco - Awards

December 20, 2015 – Harry Fuchs’ Photo of the Gold Award for the Falco album “Night Flight”

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