Articles > Music
"Two Slippers and a Pair of Sunglasses" is a refreshing new breeze in the local aether. Watching Fendrich playing live at the Vienna City Festival brought back memories of times when he and we had "all the time in the world" back then at a schools out open air in the Linden-Stadium (which after a defeat of the local soccer team had been easily renamed Blinden-Stadium). This time he began the concert in the Vienna city center with the rather unknown song of the "Pied Piper", which had marked the end point of his gigs in the old days. He moved it up for a reason and commented that here at the Heroes Square the one or other rat-catcher had expanded his activities. Thankfully, things changed a lot since those inglorious days, when a cheering crowd had occupied the same spot for a different, not so good reason...
Good Morning, Austria 3
Austrian Wilburys. "Guten Morgen, Oesterreich - Good morning, Austria", believe it or not but that radio signature has burnt into my mind up to a point that I'd use it for the daily wake up call of our kids... This page is about three established Austropop-giants, who revived the local music scene since their very first gala concert for homeless people in December 1997. Local mediocrity as a formula for success and old songs with hymn status in their repertoire, the "Traveling Wilburys of Austria" Ambros-Fendrich-Danzer joined forces under the name of a cheap post-war cigarette brand, some "lung ripper (Beuschelreisser)". Touring the country as "Austria 3", they dug out and revamped their hits of the 1970's and 80's, such as Danzer's street ballad "Who stalks around at night and storm, it is the Ripper with Name Worm (Der Frauenmoerder Wurm)," Ambros' disbelieving "Pinch me, I must be dreaming (Zwickt's me)," and Fendrich's unusual confession "For you have got a heart like a mine, for you drive me crazy, I am fond of ye (Weus'd a Herz hast wia a Bergwerk)".
"Big things to fulfill was my greatest wish by far, big things that small boys believe in. Defeating evil dragons, saving a princess or slapping the kid next door. That would take him by surprise - Grosse Dinge zu vollbringen, war mein allergroesster Wunsch, grosse Dinge, an die kleine Buben glauben. Boese Drachen zu bezwingen, eine Prinzessin zu befreien und dem Buben vom Nachbarn eine abehaun. Der taet schaun." (G.Danzer, 1995, Grosse Dinge - Big Things)
Vienna-Favourites. In the beginning of the "dialect wave" in pop music, Danzer and Ambros had met during a presentation of Ambros' second album "Peculiarities (Eigenheiten)". In the early 1970's, both of them lived in small apartments in the 10th district of Vienna, just separated by the Laxenburger Street, as they revealed during their Austria 3-concerts. Ambros had a flat in the Leibnitz Lane back then, not far from the Napoli candy factory that was torn down in the late 1990's to make room for a new Hofer supermarket. They would meet up regularly to exchange their newest musical outpourings, including Danzer's breakthrough song "Yeh look (Joe schau)", which immortalized the Cafe Hawelka. Apart from recording the duet "Look, sweetie pie (Schau Schatzi)", "The ditch where I sleep (Die Kinett'n wo ich schlaf)" became something like "their song", which they performed together most often live in concert. Ambros-songs often transported messages on a gut level, incredibly direct. With Danzer you could discover the top-heavy, paired with a very original sense of humour and irony.
"Two slippers and sunglasses, I'm sitting on the beach in a light shirt and read an old paper. For days there is no Internet, and I won't miss it. My watch was not waterproof, I've forgotten all about time - Zwei Schlapfen und eine Sonnenbrillen, ich sitze in leichter Kleidung am Stand unter einem Sonnenschirm und lese eine alte Zeitung. Seit Tagen gibt's kein Internet, ich werd' auch nicht vermissen. Meine Uhr, die war nicht wasserdicht, ich hab die Zeit vergessen."
(R.Fendrich, 2013, Zwa Schlapf'n und a Sonnenbrue'n - Two Slippers and a Pair of Shades)
Wake Up of Pop. Pioneer of the local music scene, Wolfgang Ambros ushered a new era in the early 1970's with the dialect pop song of the all-time scapegoat "Jones did it from No.3, he always did seem weird to me (Da Hofa)." Among his evergreens there are: "You are the flower from the public housing block (Du bist die Blume aus dem Gemeindebau)" and "For I wanna skiiiii (Weu I wue schiiiifoarn)." " Rise and Shine (Tagwache)" was an average scandal in 1973, for mocking the wake up call of the Austrian military and in particilar for making statements like: "In civil clothes he was not much, but now at the military he is such." And he always had those sad songs, ideal for rainy days in a life. There is the desperate "When you wake up in the morning, there is no trace of love (Von Liebe ka Spur)", or the pessimistic "And I feel that I will lose (I gspia, I verlier)", or that text about the little boy, sitting godforsaken and afraid of the tree outside the window, asking himself: "How does that end, how does that go on (Wie wird das weitergeh'n)?" He always remained a deeply authentic with a gift to touch people through his songs.
Macabre Celebration. Celebrating the 100th anniversary of a Viennese institution, Ambros' biggest hit was the quite macabre "Long live the Central Cemetery and all his dead (Es lebe der Zentralfriedhof)" with lines like: "Back at marble tomb two skeletons stand, they cheer drinking from two urns in their hands." His Dylan-translations won him the German market and climaxed in performing "Forever young (Fuer immer jung)" in a duet with Andre Heller. In the 1980's he became more philosophical, asking for "The meaning of Life (Der Sinn des Lebens)" and calming down "It's alright, Mom (Is scho guat Mama)" on his thirteenth studio album, simply labeled "No. 13", a final highlight of creativity. Following the footsteps of mumbling actor legend Hans Moser, he recorded the Moser/Hoerbiger song "My nose is so red for I'm so boozed & blue (Mein Naserl ist so rot, weil ich so blau bin)" in duet with Rainhard Fendrich. It was quite interesting to see Ambros in 1996 once more proving his versatility in the "Play of the dear Augustin", the musical score by Robert Stolz from the 1950's updated with his own new composition "I am shabby, but I'm free (Verwahrlost aber frei)".
Pure Reminiscence. In between recharging his batteries in his Greek hideaway Petraki and in Kenya, he also made headlines with divorce and drunk singing & driving. While his greatest times as "Austropop-Kaiser (A-Pop Monarch)" are definitely over, he remains a fixed star in the Austrian pop sky. Even though inventing the unplugged style as early as in the late 1970's, the new millennium saw "Ambros Pure" on tour with an acoustic guitar and his keyboarder Guenter Dzikowski. The name of the program would be explained in his biography: "Ambros Pure, for there are enough snobs, prigs and posers anyway (in Austrian dialect: Ambros Pur, G'spritzte gibt es eh genug)". As Fendrich had once put it, some songs do not belong to their singers any more. They are owned by their audience now and became public domain, in a figurative sense. This is more true to Wolfgang Ambros' musical repertoire than anybody else's. And he would go symphonic, as Fendrich and Falco had done in the past, with his songs newly arranged for orchestra by Christian Kolonovits and performed live at the 2009 "Danube Island Festival".
Teaching Material. During a German lesson about "crime stories" our boy was confronted with the fairly unknown dialect song "Because I can't help it (Weu ich nicht anders kann)" from the rather depressive "Hopeless (Hoffnungslos)"-album, which Ambros had composed in his house in Inzersdorf. Which reminded me of our religion teacher, once playing Reinhard Mey's "The hot battle for the cold buffet (Die heisse Schlacht am kalten Buffet)". Then he asked us to be patient while buying a snack from the baker's stand during the long morning break. Next my boy told me that they listened to the Ambros song "The Meaning of Life (Der Sinn des Lebens)" in their religion class!
"Human I want to stay, and not a number I want to become. And people I want to go see, for I am very much opposed to us building our houses for robots alone, who just watch dull TV at home - A Mensch moecht I bleibn, und ned zur Nummer moecht I werden. Und Menschn moecht I sehen, weil I bin sehr dagegen, dass ma unsere Haeuser nur mehr fuer Roboter bauen, die deppert nur in Fernseher schauen" (W.Ambros, 1974, A Mensch moecht i bleibn - Human I want to stay)
Ambros ultimatively symphonic on the video wall of a rainy Danube Island Festival 2009, performing his hits in orchestra arrangement. Even though most songs were over thirty years old, the audience could sing along most of the words, including us!
"I have often railed about life over and over again - but believe me, being dead is also no good bargain! For in such a grave it is too tight. Let me one more time see the sunlight - Ich hab oft auf's Leben geschimpft und wia - aber glaub mir, tot sein ist auch kein Mezzia! Weil in so an Grab, da is ma zu eng. Lass mi amoi no d'Sunn aufgeh'n sehn!" (G.Danzer, 1976, Lass mi amoi no d'Sunn aufgeh'n sehn - Let me just see the sunrise one more time)
They call him Schurl
Don't Call Me Up. Georg Danzer, with nickname "Schurl" (as in Schurlibua/Georgie-Boy), had been one of the most active Austrian singer-songwriters. Not only would he between 1972 and 2006 nearly every year release a new studio album, but also wrote songs for colleagues from Marianne Mendt, Erika Pluhar to Wolfgang Ambros, to whom he provided such classics as "Today I'm going home and it doesn't hurt at all (Heite drah i mi ham)" and "A goulash and a small beer that is a life elixir (A Gulasch und a Seidl Bier)." His songs often had a very personal background. "Don't call me up, for you already know that I don't want it and I can't stand it anymore (Ruaf mi ned an)" helped him (and probably many of his fans) to overcome a crisis following the breakup of a relationship. The same song would contain his most famous rhyme: "I know, now you got a boyfriend with a Porsche, gosh, tell him to get lost fast and come back home to me." It just doesn't rhyme in the same way in English, I suppose. Sometime later, "Mom please don't cry, daddy come home (Mama bitte wein nicht, Papa komm heim)" reflected his own and his parent's divorces.
Silence before the Storm. His live appearances were full of stories about growing up with his family, including his grandma, who used to staple leftovers in between the windows until it got darker and darker in the kitchen. And sometimes he just told others to leave him alone: "Jump into the mud, make waves heavily, but don't you bother me (Hupf in Gatsch)." His song "Let me out (Lasst's mi aus)" humorously concluded a mistaken hospitalization to the lunatic asylum: "You know, in Steinhof everybody is crazy, but there are many more madmen in Vienna. And you have to be careful in this city, for the mad ones take the bright ones in custody." In the 1980's he lived in Germany, a creative period that climaxed in "I dreamed of White Horses, wild white horses on a beach (Weisse Pferde)." Then it got quiet around him. An exception was the 1986 single "Doppelganger" with the refrain "Da-dadl-dam-der Danzer" (bearing similarities to the Western theme song "Da-dada-dam Bonanza"), which he also performed in the Austrian TV charts show "Grossen Zehn", moderated by Udo Huber dressed in stylish overall.
Back from Nebraska. 1990 marked his return with "In Vienna again (Wieder in Wien)." The new millenium saw him recovering from his role as do-gooder and chairmanship of the organization "SOS Fellow Human" by recording "13 Dirty Songs (13 Schmutzige Lieder)". In L.A. he made the extremely cool album "From Scheibbs to Nebraska (Von Scheibbs bis Nebraska)". A former Austrian gendarme dreams of being a respected US sheriff: "From Scheibbs up to Nebraska it's a long way. And when I come home to rest from my hard day, I'm dreaming of Nebraska, though I have never been there, I was with the country police force in Scheibbs over here!". The phrase "Somewhere between Scheibbs and Nebraska" is a blurred definition of location between a proud American state and a modest Lower Austrian village. Notably, in Bavarian this would equal to the localized expression "between Mississippi and Auer Muehlbach", describing someplace between the mighty American river and a small German creek.
Heavy Resistance. Revealing his severe illness in September 2006 in an interview, Georg Danzer had still optimistically spoken of "100 kilo resisting power". His lung cancer had surfaced three years after he quit smoking. He summed up: "I have always had this feeling that there was an ally in space, something out there which means it well with me. I have lived my life like somebody, who lies down on water and finds out: It carries me! Only those afraid of water drown. Who has faith, doesn't go down. That is what I trust in now as well. I let it carry me - Ich hatte immer das Gefuehl, ich hab einen Verbuendeten im All, es gibt irgendwas da draussen, das es gut mit mir meint. Ich hab mein Leben so gelebt wie aner, der sich aufs Wasser legt und merkt, es traegt mi. Nur Menschen, die Angst vorm Wasser haben, ertrinken. Jemand, der vertraut, geht nicht unter. Darauf vertrau ich jetzt auch. Ich lass mich tragen."
Some Rain. His last big concert was posthumously released on CD under the title "And sometimes it can also rain (Und manchmal kanns auch regnen)". On that evening Ambros and Fendrich had joined him one last time on stage to sing "Let me just see the sunrise one more time (Lass mi amoi no'd Sunn aufgeh'n seh'n)." The latter being one of these song lyrics to contain riddles for foreigners as well as locals though. For the line "being dead is also no Mezzia" uses an old expression for "bargain" or "lucky opportunity", which is derived from the Yiddish word "Metsiah". On the occasion of Danzer's 65th birthday, 27 of his 32 studio albums were remastered and reissued, including masterworks from the early 1980's such as "Silence before the Storm (Ruhe vor dem Sturm)".
"All of a sudden, without warning, into the crashing waves you say: I just got my diagnosis. I think, my life is over, by the way - Auf einmal sagst Du ohne Warnung, so in die Brandung nebenbei: Ich habe heute meine Diagnose gekriegt. Ich glaube, mein Leben, das ist vorbei." (R.Fendrich, 2010, Abschied - Farewell)
As you exit the U6 stop New Danube towards the Danube Island, there is an unmarked walkway below the subway line, which is since 2009 called "Georg Danzer Steg." Continuing further to Handelskai (Quay of Commerce), it is referred to as Danube Promenade.
Life Award. In May 2007, at age 60, Danzer received the Amadeus Austrian Music Award for his lifework. Unable to personally attend the ceremony, he sent a video message and a sad song, one he said he could identify with the most: "Just a little boy in winter, in a by far too light coat (Nur a klana Bua im Winter)." It had been inspired by a childhood photograph in the same St.Johann Park. That is what I have always admired. Being proud of the child within, whatever age you may be. As he had put it: "I have written songs about dying in the 1970's already, have dealt with the thought that we have an expiry date. The younger you are, the easier you write about death. The older you get, the more you are glued to life and the harder you detach from it." One month after the award he had to go.
"The air is full of noise and smoke, that is the mixture that I need. In the hand a glass of wine. Today it won't be the last of mine - Die Luft is voll mit Laerm und Rauch, des is die Mischung, die i brauch. In meiner Hand ein Glaserl Wein. Es wird heut' nicht das letzte sein." (Rainhard Fendrich, 1982, Zwischen eins und vier - Between 1 and 4 AM)
He is from Austria
Between 1 and 4. The youngest of the incredible trio, Rainhard Fendrich started up in the early 1980's with "Strada del Sole", a funny song about an Austrian on vacation in Italy, getting ripped off his money (Italian Lira) and beautiful girlfriend ("bella ragazza"). Seeing Fendrich live in the local stadium had been my first open air concert ever, an impression that stays on. Later I saw him again at the time of his "Everything is possible, but nothing is for sure (Nix is fix)" album, which was accompanied by an own TV format. In particular I remember his Schwarzenegger-parody and a guest appearance by Jerry Lewis on the TV show. At the Ambros and Fendrich 1983 open air in the West stadium of the soccer club Rapid-Vienna, the fans still interrupted Fendrich's performance with "Wolferl" choirs. Later their success would follow reversed signs, as he emerged into an all-round entertainer and witty showmaster.
Record Match-Maker. In 1992 together with the Vienna Symphony orchestra opening the Vienna Cultural Festival Week "Wiener Festwochen" he would attract a huge audience of 60,000 fans in front of the Vienna City Hall. I guess on that evening he really saw the whole "Vienna by Night (Wien bei Nacht)". An allround talent, he reached big audiences not only by singing and songwriting but also by moderating quiz shows on Austrian and German TV from the "Dating Game (Herzblatt - an expression for sweetheart, coming from the hearts card suit)" via "Who wants to be a Millionaire (Millionenshow)" to "Don't Forget The Lyrics (Sing and Win)". Together with Harold Faltermeyer, composer of the Beverly Hills Cop-Theme "Axel F", he would even write the musical "Wake Up". Apart from all his super hits, including the hair dying hymn "She wanted to be blond like a bun, even blonder than the sun (Blond)", a musical blonde joke.
Revelation. In the meantime spending a lot of time in Mallorca, unfortunately the War of Roses with his wife was also news as was his withdrawal from cocaine addiction in 2006. Up to that point regarded as the country's favourite son-in-law, he would admit that he had spent the equivalent value of a Ferrari on the white powder. Some may have been remembered of his early song "It hurts so much when you lose (Es tut so weh, wenn man verliert)". No less than 17 years after the death of his infant daughter, Fendrich articulated his grief in a song about "The Roses" with the line: "It got cold in my garden. It was not yet your time to go, for the roses, they still so lovely blow." I would always remember him as that shy boy, plucking the wandering guitar and humming a melody or just singing one of these ol' songs...
Fill in for Farewell. Fendrich filled in for the late Georg Danzer as main act at the Danube Island Festival 2007. He honoured his A3-mate with cover versions of "Don't call me up (Ruaf mi net an)", "Suburb-womanizer (Vorstadtcasanova)" and especially "Greece (Griechenland)". As Fendrich put it: "The only comfort we've got is that he will live forever through his songs..." In 2010, Fendrich dedicated the new song "Farewell (Abschied)" to his late friend: "How much is missing all at once is only understood, when a friend, a friend is gone for good." Promoting his new biography, Ambros revealed in a radio interview that quarrel after catching Fendrich with drug-widened "button eyes (Knopferlaugen)" before A3-concerts divided them by three ("Das hat uns entdreit..."). As a result, a comeback of "Austria 3" under the new name "Extra 3" with Ambros, Fendrich and "Dancing Star"-moderator Klaus Eberhartinger from the First General Uninsurance, replacing the late Danzer, was put on hold.
National Anthem. Talking about international success, about travel, about the longing for the far away, it always feels good to be back home again. There is this song, this hymn by Rainhard Fendrich, which you can't ignore. A voice full of pathos, credible even if mocked by others, one may feel something deep inside, when listening to it. In the supporting video he would play the guitar as he leans against the summit cross on top of the Grossglockner, the highest mountain of the Austrian Alps. Just in time for the European Soccer Cup 2008, hosted by Austria and Switzerland, he recorded yet another pathetic hymn "We are Europe, the heart of this world (Wir sind Europa)" together with the Vienna Boy Choir and Austrian soccer players. Following a portrait of the "famous Austrian singer" on Chinese TV - in a program about "Europe's richest people" that had aired on Pearl channel in late 2007 - I had been asked for an English translation of the lyrics of "I am from Austria", the song some call the inofficial second national anthem...
At the Vienna City Festival 2012, Fendrich had to explain the context of some older material. He introduced "Strada del Sole" as a song from a time before the Euro currency, when Italy was still using Lira. The show climaxed in the unusual love song "For you've got a heart like a mine".
Live at the Heroes Square. Fendrich opened his concert at the Vienna City Festival 2012 with the rather unknown song of the "Pied Piper". He commented that here the one or other rat-catcher had expanded his activities, a side blow against the cheering crowd on the Heroes Square in front of German occupation troops three quarters of a century earlier. Introducing the song "My Generation (has earned an applause)", he amused the audience with a comment by his son that he already had two hundred friends in a social network, and that he even would know one. In the old days, one had fewer friends, but knew them personally. He called the song "Sometimes I'm still thinking of you" one of the "biggest evergreens he ever wrote during the time of Austropop", a "Hadern", a slang term he had to explain when touring Germany. And he felt a little ashamed that the kids nowadays rather knew the lyrics of his popular hymn "I am from Auistria" than the text of the official national anthem.
"Your high time is long gone, and also hell you left behind. Not much remaining of fame and glory. Tell me, who tips the hat in front of you... except for me? I know the people, I know the rats, the foolishness that screams to heaven. I stand by you in light and shadow, anytime. No matter what you do, thatís where Iím from and I belong. Where ice melts from my soul, like from a glacier in April. Although we may have forgotten it already, I am the apple, you the tree. Just like water runs downstream, irresistable and so clear. Almost like the tears from a child, my blood get under pressure suddenly, I tell the world with all my pride, even alone, if you prefer: I am from Austria. Often I have envied those storks, today I fly away much further, I mostly see you from far apart. Who can understand how much it hurts sometimes. No matter what I do, thatís where Iím from and I belong." (R.Fendrich, 1990, I am from Austria - translation 2007)
So much for Local Greats.
Let's now go to Falco.