For the closing artist feature of 2010, and of course the holiday season, we would like focus on the queen of Europop-easy listening in general en Europop Chistmas music in particular (see our other feature on that) Mireille Mathieu. Over the past five decades she has recorded over 1200 songs. Not only in French but in nine different languages, set aside the numerous performances when she wowed audience with a song in local language. Not bad for a girl who performed poorly in elementary school due to dyslexia, requiring an extra year to graduate. For example, her sister Monique is called "Matite" because Mireille couldn't pronounce "Petite" as a child. Abandoning higher education, she began work in a local factory in Montfavet at age fourteen, where she helped with the family income and paid for singing lessons. Mathieu began her career by participating in singing contests. In 1964, though, she won the On Chante dans mon Quartier contest with the Édith Piaf song "La Vie en rose." Her win got her a pre-audition on the televised talent show Jeu de la Chance in Paris. Here she sang two Piaf songs to the audition judges and left dispirited. Non-French cannot hear it, but Parisians at the studio made fun of her Provençal accent, and her dyslexia scrambled words.
During a 1965 summer gala, added to the Enrico Macias concert by Raoul Colombe, she met her future manager Johnny Stark. He took her back to Jeu de la Chance where she won over five-time winner Georgette Lemaire. In France her star rose fast and with linguistic guidance she learned to articulate very well. Mireille spent all of 1966 and 1967 touring not only in France but also the UK . Following her performance at the London Palladium, her French cover of Engelbert Humperdinck's "The Last Waltz" (La dernière valse) generated much publicity in Great Britain. Enough for het record label Barclay to release two English singles in 1968 ‘When You Return / Tonight's the Night’ and ’Sometimes / Sweet Souvenirs of Stefan’. Without much success though even as a Spanish EP ’Rin-Rin’ (1968). Much different was it when she toured Germany. Much more into Mireille’s genre the public immediatelly embraced her. In 1969 two succesful German singles (’Hinter den Kulissen von Paris / Martin’ and ’Tarata-Ting, Tarata-Tong / Das Wunder aller Wunder ist die Liebe’) led to her first German languaged album ’Bonjour Mireille’ in 1971. Actually the album was a split release with a French and German version initiated by her new record label Polydor.
By that time she also released an Italian single ’Scusami se... / Vivrò per te’ (1970) and another Spanish one ’El amor es uno / El viejo amor’. Later on she also released singles in Russian (’Otshi tshernia’ and ’Podmoskovnije vechera’ (Moscow Nights)), Suomi (’Anteeksi suo’(Pardonne-moi ce caprice d'enfant)), Japanese (’Suna no shiro’) and probably some which we forget to mention. The German stayed the most profitable however. So much that her label decided to make a seasonal album in 1976 filled with German Christmas songs. The album ’Und wieder wird es Weihnachtszeit’ featured amongst others a version of the classic ‘Aber Heidschi Bumbeidschi’ that was seperately released as a single. A world wide English hit was not to be untill 1983 when Mathieu teamed up with actor Patrick Duffy from the then wildly popular soap serie Dallas. Their ’Together We're Strong’ became Mathieu’s biggest international hit. To top that she perfomed in 1986 in Beijing, China, and also released a single in Chinese ‘Moli roah’. To get an idea of Mireille’s linguistic talent you could watch her 50th anniversary show from the Olympia theatre. In it she does a medley cramping about fifteen different languages into one.
Regarding here Christmas miss Mathieu released two more seasonal albums that are worth to be mentioned. One in German called ‘Und wieder wird es Weihnachtsziet’ (1993) and ‘Chante Noël’ (2004).
Loredana Bertè (Italy)
Un pettirosso da combattimento (1997) - ♪♪♪♪ Al
Un pettirosso da combattimento’ (‘A fighting robin’) is the first album released by Loredana Bertè after the untimely death of her sister (and popular singer) Mia Martini in 1995. The album is entirely dedicated to her sister and deals with Loredana’s loneliness, bitterness and confusion. The album was produced by Mario Paoluzzi and Nando Sepe, Mia Martini’s manager, took care of the executive production and management.
Loredana is being accompanied by her loyal band members, the ‘Bandabertè’: Lele Melotti (drums), Paolo Costa (bass), Giorgio Cocilovo (Guitar), Nicolò Fragile (keyboards) and Rosasrio Jermano (percussion). The album cover shows a small cartoon of a robin (the only amount of colour on the entirel on the booklet) and a picture of Loredana in black and white in a bird-like position. It looks as if she can fly away any minute now. Prior to the release of the album, Loredana performed the song ‘Luna’ at the San Remo Festival. Entirely dressed in black leather, with her hair as well as her eyes dyed black, she gave a very emotional performance of the song, she co-wrote with M. Piccoli:
‘Luna’ (‘Moon’): “What happened to her? What have we done? / How long, moon, there is no infinite /... / And what happened, my lord? / What we have said was "Farewell, farewell" / And it’s so bad, to feel so alone / And to navigate through this emptiness, in a thousand directions. / And it’s so bad, to laugh at yourself, these nights, moon, looking for other flights. / And what happened? What happened, my lord? What happened!”
In ‘Padre padrone’ (Master father’) Loredana explicitly reflects on her youth and her relation with her sister Mimi and her father and mother. It results in an angry, depressing report from her childhood: “With radio Nenni on Sunday morning, the Committee in the square waiting - and then the meeting with the party began / "Red flag" Mimi sang, but we, we walked / Master father I'm searchin, Master father, Master father... God Almighty - Go to hell / And dear mother, you were full every time, what a terrible fate / But as a mother, you bore another girl / and then ... in the front row just us / My father swore so good / But for women there was only a role as an animal, and that sucks”
Most of the songs were co-written by Loredana, but ‘L’esodo’ (‘The exodus’) is an exception, this song was written by singer and friend Mariella Nava. Again, it deals with feelings of anger and depression:
‘L’esodo’ (‘The exodus’): “Wedeparted just asin the exodus, forlandsthatarenotseen, inanabyssalsilence thathurts, ithurts / This isthefarce we call history / Thisisthe present, the present with worstmemories ofrubble, piecesofglass / Weremainnaked bodies, withone hand pointing forwards, andtheotherbehind / Spirits shock by thisdance, palledbyanythingthatmoves inthiscenturyofbitterness / Theawakeningisalreadyabravery”
The last musical track on the album is ‘Padre davvero’, a dramatic cover of Mia Martini’s most popular songs. Then the album ends with just the sound of a heartbeat and Loredana reciting her poem ‘Buon compleanno papa’ (‘Happy birthday papa’), a firm complaint against legislation prohibiting abortion, especially in the USA. When listening to ‘Un pettirosso da combattimento’ you become witness of the sad and dark period in Loredana’s live. It is certainly not uplifting but the expression of raw, intense emotions combined with some of her best songs makes it definitely one of her best albums, if not her all time best.
Artist of the month
lain Maija Vilkkumaa (Finland)
Those of you who still think Finland is one of the musical backwater regions of Europe and Lordi and the Leningrad Cowboys is the best they have to offer should check our website more regulalry. Past years we discovered Finland is a hyve of musical talent and interesting acts. On the forefront of the musical scene is singer-songwriter Maija Vilkkumaa. She has been a constant favourite among Finns for more than ten years and has just confirmed her status with her sixth album Kunnes joet muuttaa suuntaa already enjoying gold sales after its first week on release. Petra Nyman interviewed her for Sixdegrees magazine and with kind permission we reprint it here,
What is the secret behind your success?
I don’t actually think about “success” – that would drive me insane! I make the kind of music that I like. Writing songs is not that hard, but surviving with my own thoughts sometimes is. I don’t like to let myself get away with things, but on the other hand, one can’t be too hard on herself. I move forward with intuition and passion!
What was the initial idea behind Kunnes joet muuttaa suuntaa?
In the beginning of 2009 I had this urge to write more songs. My previous album Superpallo had come out in October the year before. That was the first album where my band had an outsider as a producer, the brilliant Riku Mattila. I wanted to make a new album right away, because the co-operation had started to roll so well. I wanted to make a rock album, but not hard rock – I wanted our musical references to be in punk and new wave, but the sound to be big and shiny. I wanted to create a passionate, irresistible and catchy album.
How have the feelings surrounding the release of a new album changed during your career?
I get just as excited and nervous as at the beginning. But, I’m not quite as scared as I used to be. When I was making my first albums I often had this feeling that “I can’t do this.” Now I don’t have that anymore, which is nice. There’s actually more room for excitement now that the fear is gone.
The stories in your songs are often quite rough. Where do you get your inspiration from?
I like to represent contradictory, forbidden feelings and situations. Everything I represent is somehow familiar to me, or at least I can identify with it in some level. When I’m writing a story for a song I don’t think whether it is real or not, but I try to create a story that best conveys the feeling that I want to capture.
You are one of Finland’s best-selling artists – have you received international acclaim as well?
No, I haven’t! Saying that, I haven’t really tried either, since I sing in Finnish. Of course it would be nice to tour internationally as well, but at the moment I have no plans to conquer the world.
What does the future hold for you – are you already planning your next album?
Right now I’m thinking of gigs. I’m touring around Finland a lot this year, which is great. Performing live you see the audience and really get to enjoy the music. I will come up with plans for the next album when it’s time for that.
Alain Klári Katoná(Hungary)
Éjszakai üzenet (1986) - ♪♪♪♪ Al
Released in 1986 Katona’s and Presser’s night message (as the album title translated means) could be interpreted as a love album, or maybe as a view on a socialistic state in demise. But fact is that giving political comment was never Katona’s style. Still, ‘Éjszakai üzenet’ lyrics gives suggestion to dig further and deeper into the Hungarian consciousness then can be expected on first listen. With her fairylike voice and stylish music the album almost has a pagan feel to it. In a time when authorities weren’t to keen on historical folklore fueling local sentiments a song like ‘Nagy találkozás’ (Great encounter) could be a hidden message tracing back to the legend of the Wonder Stag which is the originating legend of Hungary. In it Hunor and Magor (sons of Nimrud, ruler of ancient Mesopotamia) went hunting. They saw a great white stag which they pursued. The stag continuously eluded them and led them to a beautiful and bountiful land. This vast land was Scythia, where Hunor and Magor eventually settled with their people. Of course the text phrase: “And still waiting for the big meeting / Waiting for a new wonderment / So why do some mock / expanding in a silence, that does not exist” could easily be a normal love story but why not place it in a bigger perspective; a comment to find the legendary land of Scythia and thus Hungary again. In Hungarian mythology the world is divided into three spheres: the first is the Upper World (Felső világ), the home of the gods; the second is the Middle World (Középső világ) where is the world as we know it, and finally the underworld (Alsó világ). Indeed mister Tolkien must have been aware of this division but that is another story. Tales of the Middle World are filled with stories of love and hurt. Fairies, witches and dwarves inhabit this world. Would ‘Mindig, mindig’ (Always, Always) be a wish to those mythological times? “Tremor between dawn seeped through / It hid most beautiful dreams / You see, so we all ran out of miracles / Childhood and the pockets turned out and now / And the last nyersalmába bitten me”. Could ‘Mama’ not be a simple a plea for independence from daughter to mother but a pledge to the mythical Istenanya ('Mother God'), also known as Boldogasszony ('Blessed Lady'; later identified with the Virgin Mary)? “The drawings have healed / the childhood wounds / I'm already very far / The frozen chain swings /take care of the snow for the winter”.
By side B the lyrics become even more cryptical. The night message of the title song (Éjszakai üzenet) asks: “Where is the throne and the beauty /there is a beggar and hunger / How much of life, / without a past. /How much fire faded”. But the key song on the album is the 11.50 minutes long ‘Nélküled’ (without them). “Come on! Grave silence falls on you, and cover up / Come on! Come on! because it is already past” is the beckoning start of the song to turn after five minutes in a dramatic statement “I am not the heart that can beat. / I am the flame which does not burn / I am a chord that does not thrill / I am the voice that is not silent / Snowflakes, which passes hand to hand, the magic of water, it has already melted / Nice dreaming Gods, Sacrifice a false light / I am a mystery that does not unfold / Which will not be completed without them”. Who the ‘them’ are stays unclear. Could it be the figures of those stories from the past, which without the Hungarian people will lose their identity. Closing song ‘Enchanted night’ again enfolds some hints to those legends “There the night stretches from yesterday and tomorrow / Intervening into all the magic / somewhere the miracles are sacrificed / think about why./ Look, huddled in the many branches of the trees who already understood / The landscape is bare white, pure as the winter / On this enchanted night”. Of course Gabor Presser and Klari Katona could just as well have produced a simple and very well crafted album about love, relationships and the loss of childhood innocence. But maybe they unwillingly put a deeper more magical meaning to it. But who knows it is just in my imagination.
Artist of the month
lain Annette Humpe (Germany)
This month Annette Humpe turns 60. Reason enough for a small retrospective. Born on 28 October 1950 in Herdecke, she was already very musical as a teenager. Together with her younger sister, Inga (2raumwohnung) she was playing in different bands. After graduating (1971), she studied at the Musikhochschule in Cologne, but they did not finish the study. Mid-seventies, Annette moved to West Berlin, where it collects as a pianist (including at Group Therapy) first experience. A short time later she founded, along with her sister Inga drawn also to Berlin, the Neonbabies. In the summer of 1980 she left the band and joined forces with Ernst Ulrich Deuker and "Eff Jott" Krueger, the group ideal.
In November 1980, appears the self-titled debut album 'Ideal' that struck like a bomb and became a bestseller. A million albums were sold - double platinum for the young band, which then becomes one of the heroes of the "Neue Deutsche Welle" musical genre. Now it is a saying that you should stop at your peak - after two more successful albums and a live LP called 'Encore' Ideal stopped in 1983. Acoording to Anette due to the growing shallowness of the Neue Deutsche Welle.
Humpe was already clear at this time, she wanted to act more in the background, to limit their live presence on stage to a minimum, "I was with me as a singer and entertainer never quite satisfied. True stage performers like to draw attention to itself, I do not like that! "She concentrated more and more on producing other artists.
With her sister Inga (who just quit Neonbabies) she started the project DÖF (Deutsch-Österreichisches Feingefühl) with Austrian comedians Joesi Prokopetz and Manfred O. 'Fredi' Tauchen. The album included the No. 1 hit "Codo" which was sold in 1983 over 1.2 million copies around Europe, and was five weeks No. 1 on the German single charts . Two years later, in 1985, Annette teamed up with her sister Inga, calling themselves Humpe & Humpe, which released two albums. Including the successful single, "Careless Love".
In 1986 she helped the German rockers Rio Reiser with "König von Deutschland" at the start of his successful solo career. Four years later in 1990, after her only solo album (originally called ‘Solo’) she solely focussed being a producer and songwriter With hits for Udo Lindenberg, Lucilectric, Sin with Sebastian and Die Prinzen, she was still "fat" in the business.
It was not until 2005 Annette can be heard as a singer again. With the Berlin singer Adel Tawil she develops a band project called Ich + Ich. Although Humpe wants it to be a studio-only project she agrees to a short club tour where she stands on stage behind the keyboards for the first time in over 20 years. With Ich + Ich she released three succesfull albums untill now. Live performances she leaves to Tawill however. “Who wants to look at an old woman on stage anyway” is het respons. This 28 October Annette celebrates her 60th birthday. For the event a special double-CD ‘Zeit geschichte - Das Beste von Annette Humpe’ is released. CD number one contains a lot of hits from her long career and some new interpretations. Particularly interesting is CD 2 with a collection of interpretations of her songs. Here we find Adel Tawil, Peter und der Ulf (Peter Platte from Rosenstolz), Unheilig, 2raumwohnung, The BossHoss, Selig, Klee and Casper performing a song from the Humpe catalogue. Next to that you’ll find the songs she wrote for Die Prinzen, DÖF and Udo Lindenberg.
At the start of the seventies Turkish composer and singer Baris Manço had a cult status amongst youngsters. The establishment thought him a bit of an oddity though, with his long hair, big moustache and colourful caftans. His first album ‘Dünden Bugüne’ was actually more a compilation of his beat-period but by 1974 he was ready for the next step. Released a year later ‘2023’ was his first non-compilation LP. The concept of the album was around a man living in the year 2023 and looking back at a hundred years of modern day Turkey. To understand the context of the album we have to take you back to what happened in Turkey in 1923. In that year the old and powerful Ottoman Empire (which was around since 1299) crumbled under the force of their alliance in WW1 and the military campaigns against offensives of Greece, and of the Turkish-Armenian conflict and Franco-Turkish War. The Turkish Nationalist Movement started their revolt in May 1919 which we now know as the War of Independence (Turkish: Kurtuluş Savaşı). The recent, and last sultan, Mehmed VI Vahdettin fled the country on November 17, 1922 after only four years of reign. Thus ending the sultanate and the Ottoman millet system. The new independent Grand National Assembly of Turkey (GNA) was internationally recognized with the Treaty of Lausanne on July 24, 1923. The GNA officially declared the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923. The Sultan and his family were declared personae non gratae of Turkey and exiled and Atatürk's reforms commenced creating Turkey as Manço experienced it in 1975.
The poem ‘Kayaların Oğlu’ (Son of the rocks) that starts the centrepiece on the A-side of the album is a reminisce of these historical events: “A warm October morning of famous 1923 / was born in the land where the rocks struck the vertical / I'm the son of the father of rock anayla soil / Mother earth loving, full of blessings / Anatolian mother earth mother earth”. It then continues in a ten-minute instrumental using many traditional instruments and melody cords. Backed by his new band Kurtalan Ekspres (named after the express train which travels between Kurtalan and Haydarpaşa). Closing track on the A-side ‘Uzun İnce Bir Yoldayım’ (Long And Winding Road) hints to the long and difficult road Turkey had to take to reach the 20th century. “I'm going day and night on the long and winding road / where I'm going I do not know / what day and night”.
The 13 minute long centre piece on side B ‘Baykoca Destanı’ explains more about the hazards Turkey found on it’s way. Without being to explicit Manço’s lyrics can be read as a report of the several violent military coups the country experienced. By 1974 they already had two military coups d'état (1960 and 1971) and the country launched a military campaign occupying part of Cyprus in 1974. “A star was born in the mountains above / 12 thousand girls were included in the ledger / As a party we took to the roads / Ha ha Shoot Shoot Shoot Shoot / Düğünmü think I'd stolen the drums? / Sweet flag, you think I'd come? / Ships lie in the Black Sea / The sky is the harvester in the Artillery Mountains” Little did he know that three more coups would follow. In Manço’s imagination Turkey would develop into a rural community perhaps based on ideas of the socialist movement he witnessed in Paris and Brussels when he studied there in the Sixties. On closing track ‘Kol Basti’ he envisions the socialist revolution has run its course: “Rivers run through the meadows / Active green leaves / you feed the black soil / Persian daughter's daughter / I wear the red / Genesis at the top of mountain water / You raise the daffodil / Come on raise your hand / We are not afraid of it now”. He could not have guessed that by 2010 the centre-right AK Parti would rule Turkey taking a turn to a more conservative political course. But we’re not in 2023 yet!
Artist of the month
lain Alexandra Slađana Milošević (Serbia)
In a month when Lady Gaga receives eight MTV awards, is heralded for her unique sense of fashion and comes on stage dressed in a garment made of raw meat we have no choice in pointing our dear readers attention to Serbia where Slađana Milošević has been putting the High into fashion since 1978. And long before Miss Gaga (or Stefani Germanotta) was even in the making (she was born in 1986). On her debut single ‘Au-au’ Slađana still looked like that nice 21-year old girl from Belgrado. But by then she already had a whole career as a violinist, a member of "Belgrade Radio - Television Orchestra and leadsinger for the Sasha Subota Orchestra. Although dressed in a simple grey sweater the lyrics of the song were already hinting towards things to come: “Everyone says I have my own style and that I’m their type / I turn to see how they all watch”. Mind you, these were the latter days of Tito’s reign and displaying a female self-consciousness on stage was not a regular event. By then the musical environment was already into change turning the Yugoslav progrock scene into New Wave and punk. Magazines like Polet from Zagreb and Džuboks from Belgrade jumped into the new scene. But for Slađana the Belgrade TV show Rokenroler would turn out to be the perfect platform in creating artistic music videos. By 1978 her second single ‘Sexy dama’ showed Slađana in a jaguar-print suit and performing on TV in a glitter-catsuit or white leather and fur ensemble. This might not seem very daring nowadays but then people’s eyes popped out. Slađana mission to challenge the hypocrisy society at the end of the seventies seemed to get attention. Also from the authorities but by then her single ‘Amsterdam’ (1979) already was a big hit and she appeared in full punk gear. Dyed up hear, shredded t-shirts and leather jacket. By 1981 she was popular enough that she wanted to have a go for the ESC. She enlisted with the song ‘Recept za ljubav’ but the RTB demanded she changed her hairstyle (let alone her dress). Obviously Slađana declined to do that.
She left for Munich (Germany) and let her style go wild. Returning to Yugoslavia with the single ‘Miki, Miki’ she perfected the punk/new wave imagery into an own personal style. Towers of hair, dresses with lace and leather, panther-like make up…you name it, she did it. In 1983 she got involved in computer animation with the ground breaking TV-series ‘Devojcica u svetu cipova’ who used computer techniques and real life actors (read Slađana). The next year she returns to the ESC with Dado Topic. For Slađana’s standards she toned down the dress to match Dado’s white tux. But for obvious the hair stayed huge. ‘Prinzessa’ failed to enter the ESC but would be one of the biggest hits for both singers. After some absence she returned in 1988 for a one-woman show around her jazz-project with Darko Kraljicem. For the show she took her wardrobe to a whole new level dressing in numerous evening-gowns, high-fashion ensembles and outrageous hats. Let’s just say it was not all prêt-a-porter but it looked great. By the Nineties she disappeared from Serbia, moved to the US and took more then ten years to return at the turn of the Millenium. Although she does release new music a lot of her focus at the start of the Millenium goes to the battle against piracy and copy right infringement. And what better way to get attention then appearing in interviews dressed as an ice-goddess from the Planet Xonis. Although she did not stop piracy with her initiative ‘Ars et Norma’ she did get everyones attention. In 2005 she joined in the project ‘Pod zlatnim suncem Srbije’ (Under the Golden sun of Serbia). The song written with her brother was performed with a complete orchestra and choir at the Saint Sava Academy. For her dress she mixes elements from medieval Serbian culture with modern elements. Critique that she’d gone nationalistic are waved aside. In 2007 she ireceives the special award "Zlatna znacka " from Cultural and Educational Community of Serbia with the explanation: "We award Alexandra Sladjana Milosevic for her selfless , dedicated and long-term work and creative contributions to the dissemination of culture" . Who would have thought that 30 years ago. Since then her old record company has released a compilation with a bonus DVD with clips from the past and she appeared this year in a special TV show on TV Sarajevo.
You can watch the recent show, her 1988 one-woman show and lots of her old performances on her own Youtubechannel. Slađana informed us that most of the costume designs are done by herself. Click here to go directly to Slađana's page on europopmusic.eu
The best album from...
3 (1985) - ♪♪♪♪ Al
Three time’s the charm is an expression that certainly applies to the ambitions of Austrian singer Falco. Born as Hans Holzel his whole life was focused on being a rock star and make it in America. He entered the Vienna Music Conservatory in 1977, but left after one semester to "become a real musician". He learned it the hard way as bass player in several punk and discobands before he suddenly found the key to success at the start of the nineties. While the rest of the band still walked around in leather and jeans Hans changed his name into Falco and dressed in tailored suits. The transformation was complete when he met Robert Ponger and created ‘Der Kommissar’. Although Austrian radio and music critics scorned his music the single became a huge European hit. But Falco’s highest goal, the Billboard chart, wasn’t reached. That, although the band After the Fire did have an American hit with a song sampling pieces of ‘ Der Kommissar’. But the album ‘Einzelhaft’ did not confirm Falco’s success and the follow up ‘ Junge Roemer’ sold even worse. Falco’s dream to become the first German speaking hitartist in the Billboard chart was almost gone before it actually began.
On the verge of a nervous breakdown his German manager fired Ponger and sought the help of the Dutch production duo Bolland & Bolland for one last attempt. Falco moved to Hilversum, Netherlands, and was introduced. It was not love at first sight. Falco behaved himself as the star he not yet was thrashing hotel rooms and enjoying the Amsterdam drug scene. Meanwhile he disliked the songs presented to him and he threw a fit during recording sessions. That much that the Bolland brothers finally kicked him out and left Falco screaming in front of their house. After mediation of Falco’s manager the trio continued. One song they agreed upon was a track inspired by the movie ‘Amadeus’. They transferred the figure of Wolfgang Amadeus to a modern punkpop star and created the song around that. Released as a teaser for the album in 1985 ‘Rock me Amadeus’ shot in the European charts like rocket. The following album ‘3’ was released shortly after and contained two more hits. ‘Vienna calling’ and ‘Jeanny’. Especially this last single caused a stir . Losely based on serial killer Jack Unterweger the song reports of a violent kidnap and rape from the perspective of the killer. The song was dubbed to controversial for many radiostations and feminist groups filed a complaint against Falco. This only caused the song to become an even bigger hit.
When the single slowly started to climb the Billboard chart it seemed Falco’s dream was about to come true. But this also had a downside. He began to show even more diva-like behavior and also started a troubling relationship with Isabella Vitkovic. Not the person for commitment she took him off guard and annouced she was pregnant in the summer of 1985. When Katharina Bianca was born (March 1986) the unbelievable happened and ’Rock me Amadeus’ reached number one in the USA. What happened next is anybody’s guess but the movie ’Verdammt wir leben noch’ (about the life of Falco) tells that Falco took notice of the fact that he reached his life’s goal and as a result had a complete emotional meltdown. He smashed his studio and gold records confronted with the fact that he reached the top of his success. In the months that came his biggest fear, to be a one-hit-wonder in the US, became true. He would never have another hit and even in Europe his star gradually started dimming. In his own country he held his iconic status however untill his death in 1998.
’Rock me Amadeus’ continued it’s life after Falco. Suprisingly there are a lot of metal-covers of the song around. Megaherz, Umbrag et Imago, Molotov and Strumgeist al recorded coverversions of the song. The song also pops in samples of the Bloodhound Gang (Mope), Momus (Folk me Amadeus), the Muppets (Rock me Amadogus) and, one of the oldest, in Bruce & Bongo’s Italo hit ‚Geil’ (1986). In 2010 U2 even covered the song as an encore during their show in Vienna.
Artist of the month
lain Alain Chamfort (France)
This month we point the lime light on the eternal dandy of French chanson, Alain Chamfort. Alain, just past sixty years now, is the living proof that pop singers can age in a credible way. In his VEELBEWOGEN career he has seen it all. From the classical studies to the pop tunes in the sixties. Then onto the disco and punk in the seventies and the new wave in the eighthies. In the nineties he re/invented himself, again, as a more mature singer-songwriter. He started in the entourage of Claude François, caerfeully constructing an image of the dandy and 'beau garçon'. In the second half of the seventies, he met Serge Gainsbourg who inspired and helped him to develop his own musical style. It was in this period that he scored many hits in France: 'Manureva' (about a French solo sailer who parished into the ocean), 'Bambou' (about Gainsbourgs lover) and 'La Fièvre dans le sang'. All these hits are now part of French pop history. It was also in this period that Chamfort started to collaborate with Jacques Duval and Marc Moulin, for his own material but also for other contemporary artists like Lio (in many ways his female counterpart) and the duo 'A Cause des Garçons'. With hindsight it is a remarkable achievement that Chamfort did not gave in to the commercial call of cheap synthesizer-based tunes that were so common back then. He always stick to his own style, accessible pop tunes with a slight touch of avant-garde and underground.
And now, seven years since his last album, Alain is back with a remarkable concept-album, entirely about fashion icon Yves Saint Laurent. He must have other motives than commercial ones, since record lables were not interested in funding this project. According to an interview, Chamfort was told by one record company: "Instead, why not write about Zidane?" So he released it as an independent, through his own label. The album was created with Pierre-Dominique Burgaud and contains sixteen songs in which they reveal the mysterious YSL. In a way, making an album, about the fashion icon might be explained as an emphasis on his dandy-image. On the other hand, it is also a sign that the artist is still willing and trying to develop himself, to start new experiments in stead of just retiring or singing the old hits over and over again. Yes, Alain Chamfort really aged in a credible way! If you are interested in learning more about Chamfort, just watch the dvd 'Impromptu dans les jardins du Luxembourg'. This dvd contains a concert in the Luxembourg gardens in Paris, where Chamfort starts to perform without prior notification, just for the people passing by. Naturally, the crowd grows and grows. And for some of the songs some frineds are invited (Dani, Hélena Noguerra). It is a fantastic showcase of his contributions to the French popmusic!
The best album from...
Özlem Tekin (Turkey)
Tek Başıma (2002) - ♪♪♪♪♪ Al
I do not know if Özlem Tekin was going through relational problems at the time, but this seemingly light, poppy album contains ten songs, of all which deal with the break up of a relationship.
After starting in a punkpop band (with Sebnem Ferrah), Özlem started her career as a solo artist in the mid nineties. She released some popular records with catchy tunes. She even introduced electro-dance to Turkey with her album 'Öz' in 1996. On the 1999 release 'Laubali' we already got a glimpse of the more serious songwriter Tekin would become on the 2002 release 'Tek Başıma'. The album starts catchy (especially when you cannot understand the lyrics because of the language), but the sngs do not sound as poppy as the ones on her previous records. But when the fifth song starts, all happiness is obver. 'Kırıldım' ('Broken') is an elegy for a love lost, with sad lyrics on an electro/techno tune.
'Kırıldım' ('Broken'): "Flows from age, my eyes cannot see /
My heart is broken, I cannot see the way /
How can I escape from the city /
When you have removed all the roads"
And in one of the next songs Òzlem puts it even more clearly when she speaks to her lover that it is over:
'Aşka Dair' ('About love'): "Maybe in another time, another place /
You will find love again /
But this time it is going to end"
The theme of love and the break up of a relationship is not very unique or special, yet Özlem describes it all very beautifully. And thanks to the popy, yet very decent pop tunes, it does not get too heavy.
It probably goes a bit too far to claim that Özlem modernised Turkish pop music. On the other hand does she present herself as a very strong role model for Turkish girls and women. Her lyrics are written from the perspective of a strong and self-conscious young woman, who takes live and fate into her own hands. And together with collegues like Sertab Erener, Sebnem Ferrah and Candan Erçetin, she follows the path laid out by the great Sezen Aksu. If you want to hear some of Özlems tunes, click on the following link (and do not let yourself be fooled by the cover picture of the album).
Artist of the month
Patty Pravo (Italy)
A symbol of Italian pop culture, diva controversial and unconventional , sinuous body and a hoarse voice and a pioneer of the 60s to beat to experimenter of new sounds, last april "the Piper girl" turned sixty . We celebrate her crown year with a short trip through her career from A to Z.
A stands for Arabic. For her latest album, a tribute to the French/Italian/Egyptian singer Dalida, Patty recorded a song in Arabic. She says: “I got to explain the text syllable by syllable by percussionist Adel Shams El Din. And it was a long job because Arabic goes from A to B along the entire galaxy. It was one of the most difficult languages I ever sung in."
B stand for Bye Bye Patty. In 1997 this was the sarcastic title of her comeback concert at the Piper club. Since then she became more popular then ever.
C stands for Cocciante. At the start of the seventies composer Riccardo Cocciante wasn’t that much of a big deal. Until Patty recorded his song ‘Poesia’ making it one of hers and his biggest hits. C could also stand for a young Paolo Conte of which she recorded his ‘Tripoli 1969’.
D stand for Discography. In more than forty years of career Patty Pravo has outlived many record executives and as many record deals. Her catalogue is spread all over the Italian business which makes compilations a hard thing to compile. She worn out ten labels: ARC (1968) , RCA (1969 to 1979), Philips (1971 to 1972) , Memories (1976), CBO (1982), CGD (1984 & 1997 ), Virginia (1987 ) Fonit Cetra (1989), ZARD (1994) , Sony Music (1997 to 2005), Universal (2002) and BMG (1993 & 1997).
F stands for Film. During the over 40 year career , Patty Pravo was not only a singer but also played in several movies. All in 1967. Her first film "Il ragazzo che sapeva amare’ featured Patty as a waitress with a marvelous voice that, along with her four colleagues went for success. Their story is the backdrop to the troubled love story between the protagonists . Between songs, the young Nicoletta plays 'Totó YeYe' and 'L'immensità'. This is followed by ‘Una ragazza tutta d'oro’ a musical film with Iva Zanicchi, Caterina Caselli, Rita Pavone and Adriano Celentano. She also pops up in 'I ragazzi di Bandiera Gialla' and 'La più bella coppia del mondo'. After 1967 she'll never act again
G stands for Guy Magenta. Nicoletta 's career in fact began in England under the pseudonym Guy Magenta. She performed for the local Londoners with beat songs that would soon become the new cult music.
I stands for Ideogrammi. Or the commercial suicide album. Released in 1994 (three years prior to her comeback) the album is as experimental and artistically brilliant as a test for her fans and commercially unmarketable. Produced in China, the album features a Chinese-Italian mix and vibe. According to Patty: "Singing in Chinese is much easier then Italian.”
K stand for kid-years. Although highly associated with the city of Rome, Nicoletta Strambelli actually spends her years as a kid in Venice where she was born on 9 April 1948.
L stands for Lennon. One of the few and oddest duets she did. Released on ‘Bravo Pravo’ (which was also the name of a TV show) you’ll find Patty performing ‘Hey Jude’ as an piano based instrumental leaving only the ‘lalala’- chorus with John Lennon chanting along.
M stands for Mogol. Another songwriter that had a big hit with Patty performing. ‘Il Paradiso’ would turn out to be a breakthrough for Mogol and his co-writer Lucio Battisti in the sixties.
N stands for narcotics . Since the D was already given we took this letter, but they obviously stand for drugs. And narcotics almost took the best of Patty when she reached the eighties. During the '90s , the singer goes a few days to jail for possession of hashish. Nowadays Patty still confesses she smokes a joint every day which helps her going to sleep. She is a big supporter of the liberalization of soft drugs. In a recent TV interview she utters her surprise that we think it’s normal to give anti-depressant drugs to children but are afraid of biological weeds. She warns however for the heavier stuff (we guess she talks from experience).
O stands for Oltre L’Eden. A song released in a period that Patty’s popularity was at a low point she regularly regards this one as one of her favorites (and of ours). Although difficult to sing she still squeezes it into her setlist of her live shows.
P stand for Piper.The Piper Club was founded and opened in Via Tagliamento in Rome in February 1965 by Alberigo Crocetta and Giancarlo Bornigia. At first the place was a gallery including works by Andy Warhol, Mario Schifano and Piero Manzoni. But soon the Piper club became a hive for the sixties beat scene blowing over Europe. It became the favorite hang out for popular artists like Romina Power, Gabriella Ferri and Rita Pavone. Later followed by Loredana Berte and Renato Zero. But the most eye catching was this young blond dance girl called Nicoletta. She took on the name Patty Pravo and was nicknamed the ‘Piper girl’. The name was partly inspired by the wicked souls of Hell of Dante Alighieri ‘Inferno’. (Pravo studied Dantism with Professor Chiarini). From Gianni Boncompagni to Renzo Arbore and Luigi Tenco were among the spectators of her first performance at Piper. Her comeback in the nineties of course took place at the Piper club.
R stand for Ragazzo triste. The debut single for Patty in 1966.
S stand for San Remo. There has always been a love-hate relationship between the Piper girl and the Festival of Italian song. The first appearance dates back to 1970 when she took fifth place. In 1978 she would host the event, not to everybody’s amusement. As a singer she would return in 1987, and event that would also mark her return from rehab. During the show she descends from the staircase singing 'Per una bambola' dressed by Versace with clothes and hairstyle inspired by that of a geisha. It met with an accusation of plagiarism (linking it to the 72 song "To the Morning " by Dan Fogelberg). Eventually the charges are dropped but to late to safe the competition. Three years later, she refused to perform her song " Woman with You " considering it detrimental to the rights and dignity of women. Anna Oxa would take over. Later she finally does win something at San Remo, when she receives the critics award for 'E dimmi che non vuoi morire'’.
T stands for Tanto. In the mid seventies Patty teams up with Greek synthesizer wizard Vangelis who produces some tracks in her album ‘Tanto’. The title song is an electronic goth opera that stunned the Italian public. It marked one of the more experimental periods of Patty.
V stand for Voice. In Patty’s own words: "Mine is not a trade. It is a grace . Maybe I do not believe in priests, rituals, even in a particular religion. But I often say to God , I thank you for the gift you gave me . "
By 1985 Michel was one of the big stars in France. Enjoying success as a performing artist he was also a renowned producer and songwriter. His musical 'Starmania' was a major success and he produced the album ‘Rock ‘n roll attitude’ for Johnny Hallyday and was already working on ‘Babacar’ for his live-partner France Gall when ‘Differences’ hit the stores. The album was already anticipated due to the hitsingle ‘Chanter pour ceux qui sont loin de chez eux' ('Singing for those who are far away from home'). Placed in perspective ‘Chanter pour ceux...’ was perhaps the perfect song for the state of mind France and Europe was in at the time. Elections were on in France, the Cold War was reaching it’s third and final stage with Gorbatsjov coming into office. Meanwhile the civil war in Lebanon (under French rule till 1946) was lightning up again. A battle that also attracted French adventures. And, on 10 July, Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) agents attacked and sunk the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior in an Auckland harbour. It turned Michel’s ballad into an anthem of hope and a plea for humanitarian approach to World politics. “Who stole their story? Who stole their memory? / Who has trampled their lives as we walk on a mirror? / That one will want bombs, this one will count the days / By aligning sticks like prison bars”. In 1998 the song would kick start the career of Tunesian/French singer Lâam.
But back to the album. Because contra the years before 1985 when doom and gloom dominated society Michel brings a message of hope. “Let this dream tomorrow / Less hate, less war / Less and less blood tears / Less hope to be powerful / Less power and less money / And more than feelings” ('Plus de sentiments'). He urges the people to take the dive into positive thinking. Album opener ‘Si tu plonges’ ('If you dive in') says it all: “If you dive in / There's mountains of love that await / Are there hands, there are fists stretching / If you dive in / You will take your drive toward the sky / As when the bird spreads its wings”. The cover of the album shows a diversity of people dressed from the extravagant to the more plainly dressed. It is these differences that draw is together is what Michel wants to say to us. Who are you to judge people when they look out of the ordinary. The give your life colour, you should embrace the. He penned this central theme down in ‘Quand on est ensemble’ ('When we are together'): “There are so many people who look like their shadow / There are so many people who dress in dark / To blend in with the largest number / There are so many people who have hatred in their hearts / Who want to destroy what was best / And as we are afraid of everything / They accuse us of good feelings, who cares? / It is still alive, still standing”.
The entire album Michel shows he perfected his capability to write seemingly simple songs, but to give them a deeper layer with his arrangements. Like on ‘Il vient de toi’ which looks like a normal love song: “It comes from you / This rhythm in me / It comes from you / This beat in my fingers”. But he doses the song musically between some piano here and drums there. It is the art of leaving things out that he masters perfectly by this time in his career. On top of that he comes up with the mysterious line: “At the heart of Zimbabwe / You dance and you pray / In comes the rain” at a time when the Matabeleland Massacres in Zimbabwe are at their height and Robert Mugabe was about to take power. It stays unclear if Michel hints towards the incident or that it just sounds good. Near the end of the album he warily shakes his head as he passively looks at the world on the ballad ‘Ça la fait pleurer pour un rien' ('It makes her cry for nothing'): “It makes her cry for nothing / All these wars and all these troubles / For anything / She leaves for distant lands / When I try to touch her hand / For nothing”. With albums like Bruce Springsteens ‘Born in the USA’, Madonna’s ‘Like a Virgin’ and Phil Collin’s ‘No Jacket required’ in the charts Michel’s ‘Differences’ was a sophisticated breath of fresh air and a noble plea for a better and tolerant world.