A while ago, I was watching a repeat of Family Guy (bet then I usually am, because dozens of episodes seem to be repeated every day). This was the episode “German Guy”, and there is a part where a puppet performs a song that I wasn’t familiar with. But as this sounded rather like 80s synthpop which is my kind of thing, I had to discover more, and there is a rather curious story.
The original version of “Der Kommissar” was released by Falco in 1981, the Austrian-born musician (I think someone should’ve told Family Guy that Falco was Austrian, not German). But the lyrics were not in English, so although this did well in some European countries, it was felt that this wouldn’t have too much of a chance of succeeding in the English-speaking markets like this country and the US, where this didn’t make the Top 100.
To seemingly try to make “Der Kommissar” more suitable for the English-speaking markets, in 1983 the American singer Laura Branigan (best remembered for her hits “Gloria” and “Self Control”) made a song called “Deep In The Dark”, which had newly-written English lyrics that were performed to the tune of “Der Kommissar”, but ultimately this wasn’t released as a single.
Also around this time, the British group After The Fire (who had a couple of minor UK hit singles in 1979) released their version of “Der Kommissar”, which had the lyrics translated into English, and was accompanied by a rather bizarre video. In April 1983 this reached no. 47, and was their final hit in the UK, but this did reach the Top Ten in America, so at least one version finally succeeded there.
But Falco did finally find fame in 1986 when he had a Transatlantic chart-topper with “Rock Me Amadeus” (one week at Number One in the UK, and three weeks in the US). And of course, this didn’t contain English lyrics either, making the idea that he wouldn’t ever be able to break the UK and US by releasing non-English language songs somewhat incorrect. By the end of the year he had somewhat gone “down the dumper” though.