‘I am carving my own niche in this world of craziness.’
Quote Of The Week
‘I was born with a happy nature and a happy heart. I was born with the gift of understanding people and loving them and I’ve never been unhappy. I’ve always seen the light at the end of the tunnel.’
Quote Of The Week
‘Sometimes the most political act is being yourself.’
–George O’Dowd from ‘Take It Like A Man‘ The Autobiography Of Boy George, with Spencer Bright.
Celebrating The Life Of…Falco
If anyone remembers Falco, it will usually be for the wrong reasons, either for being known as a one hit wonder, or for dying relatively young and tragically.
Some people must have found the one hit wonder, ‘Rock Me Amadeus‘ annoying, as it made its way into a Top Ten Readers Poll of The Worst Songs Of The 80’s but it also got into VH1’s Top One Hundred Songs Of All Time, so, in complete contrast, others loved it and still do. Me included. I found it annoying at times, only for the fact that it stayed at number one for ages in the pop charts and I’ve never been one for the pop charts, or for songs staying at number one for too long. Both the pop charts and stubborn No.1’s are incredibly annoying. I found it even more irritating as a teenager, just like nails down a blackboard. Thankfully, now that I’m old, I don’t have to partake in any way, even passively.
‘Rock Me Amadeus’ was a number one hit in 1985 both the U.K and the United States and later in Canada in 86. It was originally recorded in German. He was the only artist, whose main language is German, to have a vocal number one in America. He is the biggest selling Austrian musician of all time, selling more than 20 million albums and 40 million singles.
‘Rock Me Amadeus’ was just a tiny slice of Falco’s life. And, he wasn’t even Falco really. His name was Johann Holzel and he was born in Vienna and rather pampered as a child. This was not surprising, as when his mother was pregnant with triplets, he was the only one that survived. He was given a baby grand for his fourth birthday and was something of a musical prodigy, auditioning for the Vienna Music Academy at the tender age of five and attending the Vienna Conservatoire at sixteen. He dropped out of that university through sheer frustration. Perhaps he felt he’d already outgrown them musically.
After a short stint in the Austrian army, he played bass in nightclubs where he was spotted and signed as Falco, the solo artist. His first release was Ganz Wein, then Der Kommissar, a catchy, quite disco-y, new wave but not corny tune. It did well in Europe and German speaking countries but hardly left a mark in the U.S and the U.K at the time. It looked like Falco was destined to spend his music career on the sidelines, until a group called ‘After The Fire’ covered it and American singer Laura Brannigan put out a tweaked version for her second album. These both ended up bringing a renewed interest in Falco’s original ditty and kick started his career all over again.
Some of his most prominent single releases include, The Sound Of Musik, Jeanny and Out Of The Dark. Ten studio albums were released, two, posthumously.
My personal favourite is Push!Push! released not long before he died. It’s such a powerful, passionate and chaotic sounding track and great to dance to. Although, his music was very varied and he released many strong ballads, it hints at where he might have been going musically, before he left us.
There are accounts of his life in those last years, where he could hardly stand up during rehearsals, couldn’t even speak coherently, preferring instead the blissful blur that self medicating can often bring. He died in a traffic accident at age 40, his car colliding head on with a bus, in February 1998. Alcohol and cocaine were in his system at the time of the crash.
So what led him down that path? What leads anyone down there? I’ve been down there myself on some level, maybe still am. I’m always interested in that kind of thing. I’m saddened but interested or interested but saddened and I like to chew over the possible whys and wherefores of a situation. It probably won’t make it better but to understand and rationalise, even on a basic level , usually brings some sense of closure in my book.
He was reputed to be unlucky in love. This would seem to pan out, in the long run, as he discovered, through a paternity test, that his seven year old daughter wasn’t his daughter after all. The relationship with her became strained after that and he allegedly cut her out of his will. She even wrote a book about it called Falco War Mein Vater. (Falco Was My Father)
This may have been a breaking point, driving him deeper into the false sense of security that drink and drugs can bring.
He may have also had survivors guilt, being the only survivor out of triplets. It has been suggested that his earlier depressions were through wondering about the siblings he survived and that age old question, ‘Why Me?’
So, the perfectionism, the touch of genius and I don’t like to use that word lightly but I think there was a touch there. The discovery that his seven year old daughter wasn’t his and the whole survivors guilt issue. It was all a cocktail of issues, that took him to that other cocktail, of alcohol and cocaine. In his lyrical tribute to Mozart he writes,
‘He was a punk
And he lived in a huge city
It was Vienna, was Vienna
Where he did everything
He has debts because he drank
But all women loved him
He was a superstar
He was popular
He was so exalted
Because he had that certain appearance
He was a virtuoso
Was a rock idol
And everyone called:
Come on and rock me Amadeus’
from ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ by Falco & Rob & Ferdi Bollard
Perfectionism always brings its own particular problems. His fear of failure and of not livng up to his own expectations, as a former child progidy, would have been stressful enough, but he also knew he was extremely musically talented, just like that other troubled Austrian musician before him.
Celebrating the life of…Johnny Cash
I’ve been thinking about Johnny Cash. As you do.
Just finished reading a bio by Steve Turner, The Man Called Cash, which is an authorised biography. Not many people like authorised biographies, for obvious reasons. What are those obvious reasons? Sycophantic? They usually are. Like those sickly T.V bio’s and this is no exception, but it does attempt to show the man in a balanced light, albeit a balanced ‘golden’ light.
Cash is as cool as they say. He wore black. He was a christian, without judging others. He once said. ‘I gave my flesh to the devil and my bones to God.’
An amphetamine addict for a large portion of his life, he had various lapses, relapses, clean/straight times. His amphetamine habit aged him, gave him that characteristic haggard look that we all know so well. He wasn’t an angel, yet he was fairly confident that he would be forgiven of that. He saw God as a merciful God. He performed in prisons because he had an affinity with the men who were incarcerated there and felt he could have ended up in the same boat. He went to prison for a short time, for picking flowers, so he knew how easy it was to end up in the slammer. These guys however, had murdered people…and more.
He started off as John R. Cash. The ‘Johnny’ thing was a stage name. He hated the ‘Johnny’ at first. John’s father, Ray, made the young John Cash watch, as he drowned puppies in a weighted sack. His father shot anything that moved and was a strong dominant force within the family. As a result, John found confrontation difficult.
He saw death in his formative years, usually of the furrier kind, but then his older brother, Jack, a beautiful, wise soul, met with an untimely death as a teenager, some awful freak accident with a circular saw. Inadvertently, his father blamed John for the tragic event. This affected him deeply and influenced his outlook and creative output in later years. He sought solace in drugs and avoidance. On the plus side, he had a very loving mother, who believed in him and the voice that would one day make him famous.
He was married with four young children when he embarked on an affair with June Carter, who was also married at the time. After he divorced Vivian, his first wife, he married June and they had a son. June Carter was a very positive influence in his life. He liked to surround himself with strong women.
An army buddy gave Johnny Cash the idea for ‘Blue Suede Shoes’. He then passed it onto Carl Perkins, who then gave the song to Elvis to record.
Cash did a theology degrees and passed with flying colours. He went to church to preach, at the peak of his popularity, but fame got in the way. People began to take advantage, tried to pitch their songs while he was praying over them. So he got out of that. He was reluctant to leave the church, but felt he had no choice.
After leaving the support of the church, he returned to amphetamines.
There are many testimonies, from many different people, friends, acquaintances and people he knew, where he freely gave money, food, board and any favours he could, whenever he could. He was always trying to help people according to their needs.
Like I said before, not trying to make him look like an angel, but it sounded like he had integrity, love and warmth, like many of us have, to some degree.
While performing at San Quentin (he had already cut his teeth performing at Folsom prison) he could have incited a riot just by raising an eyebrow. He had all the men in the palm of his hand. He evoked strong emotions in them, not just because of the music and lyrics but through his charisma and unspoken philosophy. . .which was, we could all end up in this position, given the right circumstances and conditions.
They saw that he was real and that got them ready and waiting for a sign. No doubt there was a rebellious streak in them to begin with, but it wouldn’t have taken much to incite them to riot. He knew the power he held. He knew he only had to snap his fingers or whatever and that would be that. He chose not to do it.
Johnny had a very successful T. V show at the height of his career. One day, during the show, he naturally and instinctively, as a christian, began to talk about demonic influences in the christian life. The broadcasters of the show warned him that they were gong to cut it, as it would mess up his ratings. He said, if you do that, I’m outta here. They kept the footage in and his ratings went right down. Did he care? Na. He was never comfortable with the T.V show to begin with.
There was an incident with Richard Nixon, President Of The United States. Mr. Nixon asked Cash to play a couple of songs, ‘Welfare Cadillac’ which had a go at people on benefits and ‘Oskie from Muskogee’, which attacked Vietnam war protesters, Cash said he didn’t know those songs and declined to sing them. He refused the requests of the president.
I think, most of us, for good or bad, will remember, the last video Johnny Cash made before he passed. ‘Hurt’ was originally penned by Trent Reznor, lead singer of Nine Inch Nails. The meaning has been controversially disputed by many. Some say ‘Hurt‘ is about addiction and self harm, others say it’s about suicide and depression. It’s what we want it to be, it’s mercurial, and that’s the beauty of the song and no-one should take that away from us.
It reminds me of that song by Frank Sinatra. It Was A Very Good Year. It’s about a life spent. It doesn’t matter what happened in that life. It’s when we come to the end and look back, whether our life is ended prematurely or not, again, it doesn’t matter. There’s nothing so fragile and delicate and beautiful as a life spent. It’s an aching beauty. Every person is important. The ending of such vibrancy is very moving. We are moved to tears, to sorrow. The song ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash is the epitome of all those emotions, grief, pain, hurt, sadness. It pre-empts a great release, a great change. It’s not so sad at the end of the day. Change is a good thing.
I hate that whole ‘cool’ thing. Hero worship. Really cool people are people you never get to know about, the person who lives next door to you, the bus driver who takes you to work every day, the cleaner in The Pound Shop. I don’t believe in ‘lauding’ people because they’re rich and famous. It’s okay to admire them and it’s lovely when they inspire you and give you incentive to do better but they should never be hero worshipped. I don’t believe he would want to be either.
John had his faults and his failings, like all of us. He seemed to be a good guy, we can see that he had integrity regarding his dealings with people, and that he wasn’t intimidated by the American President. He tried to do the best thing by people. He was a very good musician and songwriter. He is remembered by most, celebrated by all.
When people think of Johnny Cash, they think of a really cool musician/singer/songwriter who always dressed in black. He wasn’t always so cool, but then again, neither were we.
Quote Of The Week
‘Animals do not judge you by the way you look, the clothes you wear, how much money you have in the bank, or what your sexuality, colour or creed is. If you are kind to them, they are kind to you.’
– Holly Johnson. A Bone In My Flute
It’s Holly Johnson’s birthday today. Happy Birthday Holly! Many Happy Returns.
Quote Of The Week
‘Give in, give out, but never give up.’
Quote Of The Week
‘Fame doesn’t make you somebody. You are already somebody.’
Quote Of The Week
‘Ultimately, achieving something positive in life – leaving darkness behind and discovering the light – is about wisdom, the wisdom that comes from surviving experience.’
Quote Of The Week
‘I have to speak up, because if I speak up, someone might hear. And perhaps they will think twice about the way they approach the next situation they find themselves in, or they will speak up when they see an injustice towards another human being. It’s always a great impetus to believe in what you believe and try to embody that. It’s that incredible phase, be the change you want to see.’