569. ‘Rock Me Amadeus’, by Falco

Questions arise pretty quickly, as I listen to this next bizarre little chart-topper. Is it based on the ‘Beverly Hills Cops’ theme? Is it about Mozart? And most importantly: is it a novelty record…?

Rock Me Amadeus, by Falco (his 1st and only #1)

1 week, from 4th – 11th May 1986

Before answering any of those, I’m going to have to admit – I’m really enjoying this. It’s funky, throbbing, moody… and completely ridiculous. Despite it being ponderously slow, you can dance to it. I’m also most fond of synths when they are used in this clanking, industrial way; rather than for showy flourishes. It’s a record I knew by title, without ever having properly listened to.

It’s a German chart-topper, which isn’t unusual for the 1980s, when we’ve seen the likes of Kraftwerk, Nena, Nicole and The Goombay Dance Band reach the top. What is unusual is that Falco has done so while still singing in German. Rapping in German even! The harshness of the language complements the thumping synths, I think, in a way that wouldn’t work if this was in French, say.

On a more serious level, though, is the fact that Falco performs the song in German the reason I instinctively treated this record as a novelty? Are we guilty – yes I’m including you in this! – of English language snobbery, of discounting anything not in English as lesser and silly? Especially something in ze harsh, guttural sounds of das Deutsch? At the same time, Falco’s antics in the video show that ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ is at least meant to be fun, if not truly a novelty song.

Said video also definitively answers one of my other earlier questions: this is very much about Mozart. Falco plays the man himself – the song was inspired by the 1984 movie ‘Amadeus’ – as men in powdered wigs dance with leathered-up bikers. The lyrics tell the story of big Wolfgang as the original rock star, about his way with the ladies and his fondness for a tipple: He was a superstar, He was popular, He was exalted, He had flair… And everybody screamed ‘Come rock me Amadeus’…

Which leaves me with just one question to answer: does anybody else hear the ‘Beverly Hills Cop’ theme in the synth riff? I can’t find much evidence online that agrees with me, but I definitely hear it. That theme, AKA ‘Axel F’, will of course have its moment atop the charts, but the mere thought of it makes me shudder…

By the end this song has gone completely bat-shit, with Falco screaming, scatting and yodelling things to a conclusion. Not something you’d want to hear every day, but great fun if you’re in the mood. Falco – real name Johann Hölzel – was Austrian, like Mozart. The first Austrian to top the charts in both the UK and the USA, unlike Mozart (though he’d surely have had hit after hit had the charts existed in the 1780s…) In Austria, Germany and much of Europe he was huge, but in Britain he struggled to have much further chart success – though the follow-up ‘Vienna Calling’ did make #10. Sadly, and again much like the hero of this song, Falco died very young, in a car crash, aged just forty.

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12 thoughts on “569. ‘Rock Me Amadeus’, by Falco

    • On Wikipedia, it lists 21 different remixes…! (Though quite a few are from years later). I think the version I reviewed is the original, though I don’t know if that’s the version that got the airplay at the timr…

      • The video you provided, I’d never heard, before. It was such a popular song, here, that our two versions got played a lot and you get used to nuances & structure. The official video you provided is just different enough that I was like “that’s new.”

        Twenty one versions. Good god.

        I loved the song. Still do.

  1. Oooh this has gotta be one of the the best songs of the 80’s! The version I would listen to was on a compilation album (CD) called “Pure 80’s” I can’t remember which volume. But it’s a great version of it.

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  3. I remember the song and movie… it’s a shame about him dying so young. The version that Vic showed was the one that I knew.

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  5. Falco was great fun. I also loved Vienna Calling, but he struggled in the UK beyond that to hit again, and Rock me Amadeus just caught the mood of the day, and the mood was indeed fun. Plus it’s bloody catchy. We’d had German Language hits in the charts before (my early fave was the Elizabethan Serenade German choral version) but this was an actual moment when the obligatory English-language version of a monster-hit wasn’t needed. Me, I always enjoy OTT throw-everything-including-the-kitchen-sink records, so not a surprise I still enjoy this. It’s not one that could endure regular play as an oldie though.

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