Nope, Not a 1-hit Wonder: Falco
Sometimes a pop artist has such a huge and iconic hit that it defines the rest of their career. You can’t hear their name without that one big hit popping into your mind. Many of these artists disappear from sight just as quickly as they exploded on the scene. Typically we call these lucky/unfortunate folks “1-hit wonders.”
But often they only really match that name in our faulty memories.
The international pop superstar who became known as Falco was born in Austria in 1957 as Johann Holzel. He showed an aptitude for music as a small child, and was reportedly identified as having perfect pitch when he was just five years old.
He studied at the Vienna Music Conservatory in 1977, but left after just one semester claiming he wanted to “become a real musician.” After spending some time playing clubs in Berlin, he returned to Vienna calling himself “Falco.” After playing with a couple of musical groups, Falco recorded the song “Der Kommissar,” which was a huge hit in mainland Europe, but failed to chart in the U.S. Instead, a band called After the Fire produced an English language version of the song and it shot to #5 in the United States in March of 1983.
After switching his production team, Falco began including English lyrics in his songs and wrote his huge enormous giganto hit “Rock Me Amadeus” after seeing Milos Forman’s Oscar-winning Mozart biopic Amadeus. The mixture of heavy beats, Austrian rapping, and echoing male chorus added up to an unlikely #1 hit in the U.S.
And that’s it, right? He didn’t have any more hits stateside, did he?
Actually…he did. Less than two months after “Rock Me Amadeus” peaked on the charts, a second hit by Falco graced American airwaves. That song was called “Vienna Calling,” and it charted for eight weeks in the U.S., peaking at #18.
That’s a pretty high peak considering that the song has gone mostly forgotten since. It is tempting to say that “Vienna Calling” simply rode in on the coattails of its more successful predecessor, but the song is every bit as catchy and amped-up as Falco’s signature recording. Perhaps the bizarre qualities of “Rock Me Amadeus” have continued to fuel a sort of sentimental schadenfreude, resulting in its long-lasting status. I personally recall hearing “Vienna Calling” played at the neighborhood pool, but I don’t think I heard it once for more than 20 years after that.
Falco was planning a comeback in 1998 when he was involved in a motor accident with a bus and passed away from his injuries. Most pop fans will remember him for his booming pean to Mozart, but I would suggest that we all take at least one more listen to “Vienna Calling.”