Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Weird, Random German '80s Hits

There are some '80s pop culture jokes I've missed out on, while Zrbo has probably been smiling in gleeful recognition. Why? Because he speaks German and has lived in Germany, which I don't and have not. If I had, I might have been all too familiar with these next three songs.

Zrbo came back from Germany one time and started making jokes about Falco. I didn't really know who Falco was, and I ... still don't! But in 1981 he released "Der Kommissar," the first ... German rap song?

The British group After The Fire recorded an English language version, which might have possibly been the first British rap song (check that - I forgot about The Clash's "The Magnificent Seven"). After The Fire's cover peaked at #5 in the US and became a staple of '80s compilations forevermore. There is a raging YouTube debate as to which version is better. I mean raging.

Falco would achieve American glory under his own name with "Rock Me Amadeus," a song that I had heard about for years but have only heard just recently. Suffice to say, I don't think it compares favorably to the musical works of its subject. My guess is that, if Mozart were alive to hear "Rock Me Amadeus," he would probably not like it.

Oddly, although Nena recorded German and English versions of "99 Luftballons," and the English version was a #1 hit in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and Canada, it was the German version that Americans preferred! Nobody had any idea what the hell she was singing about, and it was probably for the best, according to this (grammatically questionable) Wikipedia summary:
The English (but not the German) version tells about two children who buy 99 balloons at a toy shop and release them into the air, where faulty radar equipment is unable to identify the balloons. The German version starts with the narrator stating he will tell of a story about 99 balloons. Both versions then continue much in the same way with the government immediately put their troops on red alert and scrambles fighter jets to intercept the balloons, which ultimately triggers a nuclear war. Although originally in German, no countries are ever named. In the apocalyptic aftermath, the song's narrator stands in the rubble of the city and finds a single remaining balloon. Thinking of the other child, he releases the balloon.
Wait. Really? That's kind of ... fucked up! I always thought this was just some bland love song. Take your Third World War songs back to Germany Nena, and stay there.


Herr Zrbo said...

You missed his best song, 'Jeanny'. It was highly controversial at the time and was banned on several radio stations. It's sung from the perspective of a man who's either run away with or abducted a 19 year old girl and/or possibly kills her. It's loosely based on some real life abduction of the time. Later, to make the story of the song a little less cruel, he released Jeanny Part 2: Coming Home. There's also a part 3, but I've only ever heard it once or twice.

I don't like the video for the song, I actually prefer this mix which I have on CD that Youtube lists as the "U.S. Unreleased remix", it's a bit longer, but has an English translation of what the newscaster is saying to give it clearer context, and is overall a bit more dramatic. Here's part 2.

Falco died in 1998 in a car accident. He's kind of an Austrian musical hero, apparently he was a very talented musician. I visited his grave in Vienna once. Ok, I've gone on too long, story's over, nothing to see here folks.

Herr Zrbo said...

Actually I'm not done yet. I've never heard the After the Fire version, interesting. I didn't realize there was a controversy as to the 'better version' either.

Rock Me Amadeus was parodied by the Simpsons in the episode that had the Planet of the Apes Musical.

Also, yeah 99 Luftballoons is pretty dark, very cold war-era pop music. Nena is also pretty damn big in Germany still.

Little Earl said...

1) You don't like the video for "Jeanny"?! He's playing piano inside a chateau while rain is running down the window! He's in a straight jacket in an insane asylum! He's walking around in a trench coat with a chalk "F" on his back a la Fritz Lang's M! This thing is gold.

2) Honestly this song is pretty good. I think you're right. I like it more than "Rock Me Amadeus" at least. Killer textbook '80s power ballad.

3) There isn't really a big controversy over which is the better version of "Der Kommissar." It's hard to tell on YouTube.

4) I remember that Simpsons parody, but I certainly didn't get the full joke at the time, not having seen Planet of the Apes or heard "Rock Me Amadeus." At this point it's easier to name things that The Simpsons haven't parodied than the things they have.

Herr Zrbo said...

I dunno, the video is just so... cheesy. Though there are a couple of interesting references to other films (haven't seen 'M'), like the sewers look awfully similar to the ones in The Third Man (I went on a tour in Vienna of them too, really neat down there, like being in a movie). Still, I prefer the song sans video.

Little Earl said...

You know, it doesn't say much for Austria that the best they can do is Falco. I mean, even Sweden has done better than that.

Herr Zrbo said...

Mozart, Falco, Joseph Haydn, Red Bull, Wolfgang Puck, Schwarzenegger, Freud, Hitler, what else do you want from Austria? Hell, Hitler pretty much trumps anything. Yeah, that's right, HITLER.

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