The 50 Greatest Songs That Topped The Austrian Charts in the 20th Century, Ranked by Martin CanineOn May 15th of 1964, the Austrian charts were officially released for the first time. The first official number 1 hit was “Gib mir dein Wort (bevor ich fahre)” by Austrian entertainer Freddy Quinn who performed the tune in a western movie he starred in. It’s January 13th as I write this, and hundreds, maybe even thousands of songs, originating from different nations, covering different genres and using different aesthetics and techniques the respective zeitgeist demands, climbed on the top of the single charts. Nowadays, streaming and downloads changed the way music is marketed, consumed and even made, while in the 20th century, physical sales were everything. And that’s exactly the time span I’ll cover in this list.
These are the 50 most positively outstanding tunes that managed to be on top of the Austrian singles charts between May 15th, 1964 and December 31st, 2000. Many of these songs were international hits, too, also in America, others were phenomena of the European, German speaking or even exclusively Austrian music landscape. By ranking the items, we are not talking about influence and legacy here. They all at one point topped the charts - in other words: all of them had an impact on pop culture i a way. All years eligible had the same chance of having songs included, only some had stronger ones than others.
Songs that did not qualify for the list are those that were released in the 20th century but did not top the charts until the 21st. No matter what the reason may be. For example, “Stan” by Eminem feat. Dido was first released in 2000, the last year of the 20th century, and was instantly successful, but unfortunately only peaked at number 1 after the year was over. Another case is “Schrei nach Liebe” by Die Ärzte. The anti-fascism and anti-neonazi song hit number 6 on the Austrian charts when it was released in 1993, and became one of the most iconic German songs of all time. But it did not top the charts until 2015, when it re-entered the charts in the migrant crisis as a protest song. Then we have “All I Want For Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey, which was first released in 1994, and despite international success did not even chart at all initially. It first entered the Austrian charts in 2008, and has since become a Christmas classic. You wanna know when it first topped the charts? 9 days ago. As much as I love all these songs and would have liked having them on my list, they did not qualify.
For double A-Side singles, which were especially common in the 60s and 70s, as well as EPs, as long as they were officially counted as singles on the charts, all songs on the release do qualify for an individual spot on the list.
Are you ready? Let’s go!
50. ABBA - Take a Chance On Me
49. Nicole - Ein bißchen Frieden
48. Salt-N-Pepa - Let’s Talk About Sex
47. Mariah Carey - Without You
46. Ace of Base - All That She Wants
45. John Lennon - (Just Like) Starting Over
44. Herman’s Hermits - No Milk Today
43. Liquido - Narcotic
42. Bellamy Brothers - Let Your Love Flow
41. Peter Alexander - Hier ist ein Mensch
40. Coolio feat. L.V. - Gangsta's Paradise
39. Louis Armstrong - What a Wonderful World
38. Pink Floyd - Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2
37. Frank Sinatra - Strangers in the Night
36. Fugees - Killing Me Softly
35. Falco - Der Kommissar
34. Madonna - La Isla Bonita
33. Laura Branigan - Self Control
32. Elton John - Candle in the Wind ‘97
31. Sinead O’Connor - Nothing Compares 2 U
30. The Kelly Family - An Angel
29. Britney Spears - ...Baby One More Time
28. Scorpions - Wind of Change
27. Bruce Springsteen - Streets of Philadelphia
26. Europe - The Final Countdown
25. 4 Non Blondes - What’s Up?
24. Mike Oldfield feat. Roger Chapman - Shadow on the Wall
23. Rednex - The Spirit of the Hawk
22. Nancy Sinatra - These Boots Are Made For Walkin’
21. Queen - Flash
20. Boney M. - Ma Baker
19. 2 Unlimited - No Limit
18. Nena - 99 Luftballons
17. France Gall - Ella elle l’a
16. The Beatles - Hey Jude
15. Terry Jacks - Seasons in the Sun
14. Whitney Houston - I Will Always Love You
13. The Beatles - Let It Be
12. Boney M. - Still I’m Sad
11. Waterloo & Robinson - Hollywood
10. Enigma - Sadeness (Part I)
9. Meat Loaf feat. Mrs. Loud - I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That)
8. Rednex - Wish You Were Here
7. The Beatles - While My Guitar Gently Weeps
6. Céline Dion - My Heart Will Go On
5. The Beatles - Eleanor Rigby
4. Phil Collins - In The Air Tonight
3. Serge Gainsbourg & Jane Birkin - Je t’aime… moi non plus
2. Falco - Jeanny
1. Mike Oldfield feat. Maggie Reilly - Moonlight Shadow
August 15th to September 30th, 1983.
Nighttime has always brought the poet in us to life. And in no other song does this show better than in Mike Oldfield’s brilliant folk pop song “Moonlight Shadow”. The piece of musical art centers around the unexpected murder of a close person, but puts it into a soothing, mysterious world. Not overly bleak, yet not very happy, built up more like a piece of folklore, the guitar based musical outfit, with an extremely emotionally charged solo in the final third, perfectly fits the storytelling of the tune, filled with imagery about whispering trees, glowing stars and the titular contrast of light and shadow. The combination of sound and text paints a picture that, despite the subject matter, feels calming, as if the scenery of the night swallowed all the pain and turned it to a melody that dances in the wind.
January 15th to February 14th, 1986.
A very, very likely runner for both the greatest Austrian and the most controversial (partially) German language song ever recorded, Falco’s “Jeanny” is a tale of haunting emotional intensity. In it, Falco portrays a man that’s obsessed with a 19 year old woman called Jeanny who he talks to throughout the song. In his imagination, they are together as a couple, although it becomes very apparent from his phrasing (and the iconic music video) that in reality he either assaulted and kidnapped her, or killed her, and that he is now fleeing from the police who are after her when she is reported missing (heard in a newsflash that is used as the third verse). His schizophrenia and paranoia get more extreme as the song goes on, and it all culminates in a frightening finale of desperate “Jeanny” screams.
October 15th to November 14th, 1969.
French songwriting genius Serge Gainsbourg and his then-girlfriend, British actress and singer Jane Birkin, recorded what would turn out to be the most sensual, erotic song ever caught on tape. What makes the song so very beautiful and elegant, and wonderfully poetic, is how artfully and tastefully it is all brought to life. How the pace is slow and steady, how it keeps increasing its tension, how much passion was put into both the whispery vocals that occasionally give in to pleasure also during the singing (knowing Gainsbourg, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of it isn’t just well acted) and the sweet instrumental, and then, of course, the lyrics, which are about savoring the moment of the act, instead of excess. In the infamous parts consisting entirely of Birkin’s breathing, you can hear her body arch back in a rush of hormones.
April 15th to 30th, 1981.
Austrian radio stations love this song more than any other. It’s on at least twice per day, but that’s the minimum. Once you heard - truly heard it, soaked it up into you - you know how eye wettingly atmospheric a piece of music can get. Starting off minimalistically, with few dreamy synths, some feedback far in the background and almost whispery drums, it suddenly bursts into what became the most memorable drum break that ever made it into a song, and becoming a surreal, percussion dominated ballad that invents a completely unique vision of sound that has never since been copied. With metaphorical lyrics, often having been interpreted as being about a person drowning and the singer not saving their life, but more likely being about a toxic relationship or a false friend, Collins created a song that feels like a trip into subconsciousness: everything is strange and unusual, but it’s laden with inexplicable feeling in every note.
November 15th to December 14th, 1966. Double A-Side with ”Yellow Submarine”.
Originating from the major turning point in the group’s career (“Rubber Soul” was more trippy than everything before, yet still fully pop, but “Revolver” is when the drugs and sound experiments completely took over), “Eleanor Rigby”, the 2 minute strings and multi-layered vocals mini-epic, may be the best thing The Beatles ever recorded in their career. The melancholy in the vocals, the bitter melody, the sentimental sound of the instrument as it keeps on playing from all sides of your speakers, the fact that a song that’s both short and minimalistic on paper feels so lush and operatic when it’s actually heard - it all makes the tune an experience you’ll never forget, and something that was never there before and afterwards.
February 15th to March 21st, 1998.
Forever tied with the sometimes dreamful, sometimes tragic images of the greatest epic Hollywood ever made (“Gone With The Wind” comes in second place), the story about a love that “touched her one time and lasts for a lifetime” feels as powerful and emotionally heavy as the movie it originates from (whose biggest heartbreak doesn’t originate from the love story, but from that of evanescence, subtly symbolized by naming the protagonist after a withering flower). While in the lyrics, Céline Dion clearly stands in for young Rose, the inevitability of death can be felt throughout. The strong feeling of love no matter what, brought to life by intense singing and a delicate flute, make this arguably the greatest dramatic ballad of all time.
March 15th to May 14th, 1969. Double A-Side with “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da”.
George Harrison did write some really good Beatles songs - although, of course, he was overshadowed by the Lennon-McCartney duo - but this is his magnum opus. Every second and note of it is overflowing with brilliance, the very bleak melody of the verses, how it brightens up in the chorus, at least in terms of composition, just to turn bleak again, and, of course, how the the titular guitar (overdubbed by Eric Clapton) gently weeps, the more the longer the song lasts. This is some really expressive music we got here, a tune that just feels naturally moving by its instrumentation alone and how it is played.
July 23rd to September 30th, 1995.
Rednex, who were already extremely popular for their danceable, pounding European country upbeat tracks “Cotton Eye Joe” and “Old Pop in An Oak” (7 and 10 weeks on top of the Austrian charts, by the way, but didn’t make the list), made a 180 degree change of style with their follow up single and released what is one of the ultimate ballads of the 90s. Vulnerable in voice and strong in instrumentation, the wistful song about a woman desperately wanting her man back cuts deep and burns itself into your heart through its all-devouring loneliness, which was something nobody expected from a band that made often self-ironic squaredance music popular across Europe. But everyone who once heard it on the radio was captivated. It’s the “Jolene” of the 1990s, but coming from Sweden.
December 9th, 1990 to February 2nd, 1991.
Michael Cretu, the mastermind behind Enigma, invites us to a sensual, hypnotic voyage through different soundscapes of the new age genre. The soft, trip hop inspired beat work forms the fundament for a meditative journey through thoughts and desires, through Sandra’s lustful whispering about Marquis de Sade, through Gregorian chants, through chimes and bells, through cosmetic synthesizers and magical flutes, before an ecstatic break introduces guitar sounds and a male voice as a counterpart. Cretu slows it all down and embraces the sensations of our minds, resulting in a breathtakingly beautiful fusion of religious and erotic aesthetics, united in a symphony of warm tones.
NOTE: The 11 minute song “Principles of Lust” from the album “MCMXC a.D.” has been split into two different singles: “Sadeness: Part I” is the first of the three overall segments of the song, while the single titled “Principles of Lust” contains the middle section.