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Music / Klaus Nomi

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"Total eclipse
It's a total eclipse
It's a total eclipse of the sun
Can't come to grips with the total eclipse
Just a slip of the lips and you're done"
— "Total Eclipse"

Klaus Nomi is...



He just is.

Klaus Nomi (born Klaus Sperber, January 24, 1944 – August 6, 1983) was a falsetto Dark Cabaret / New Wave cover singer, performance artist, and pastry chef who rose to fame in the 1970's. Raised in Germany (and coming from outer space), he started out singing operatic arias in vaudeville shows before becoming one of the most lauded New Wave talents of the era. Sadly, he became a victim of Executive Meddling, and eventually lost control over most of his music. Even more tragic was his early death at age 39 from AIDS, being one of the first celebrities to die from the disease.

He cited Elvis Presley and Maria Callas as his biggest influences, and it shows — his cover songs are a delicate balance between rock and opera, with a strong New Wave vibe. He appeared on Urgh! A Music War. where he performed his Signature Song, "Total Eclipse" (which was covered by Nina Hagen). He also worked with David Bowie (as a backup singer for Bowie's first Saturday Night Live appearance in 1979), and they inspired each other's wardrobes for a short while.

Klaus Nomi still has a massive fanbase, and is considered by many to be one of New Wave's most defining and unique voices.

The only person to even come close to his brand of "post-modern theatricality" is Lady Gaga, who cites him as an influence. It shows.

...And he sang The Wizard Of Oz.


The works of Klaus Nomi contain examples of the following tropes:

  • After the End: "Total Eclipse" and "After the Fall" both deal with the apocalypse. The main difference is the first song just decides to accept the end of Earth and dance before it happens, while the second song sings that life will go on somehow.
  • Anonymous Band: Initially, Klaus's band all wore black and ski masks to avoid distracting the audience from Klaus's theatrics. Then they realized it wasn't a problem.
    • Averted for the Urgh! performance, which featured a band in weird white outfits, much to the original band's disgust.
  • Anti-Love Song: "You Don't Own Me."
  • Countertenor Boy: Nomi didn't just put up a funny voice: He was actually trained as a countertenor singer.
  • Cover Version: Many. "Lightning Strikes," originally by Lou Christie (Christie was so impressed by Klaus's version of "Lightning Strikes" that he wanted to work on a space opera with Klaus), "The Twist," originally by Hank Ballard and the Midnighters (and popularized by Chubby Checker), "You Don't Own Me," originally by Lesley Gore, "Just One Look," originally by Doris Troy, "Falling in Love Again," originally by Marlene Dietrich, "Can't Help Falling in Love," originally by Elvis Presley, "I Feel Love," originally by Donna Summer. "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead," originally from The Wizard of Oz. And the opera songs.
  • The Cover Changes the Gender: Averted with "You Don't Own Me:" "Don't say I can't play with other BOYS!" It makes sense, considering that Nomi was gay.
  • The End of the World as We Know It: "Total Eclipse," about a nuclear disaster taking place, but Nomi invites everybody to just sing and dance a final time.
  • Epic Instrumental Opener: "From Beyond," "High Wire," and "Fanfare."
  • Fake-Out Fade-Out: "Samson and Delilah (Aria)" seems to end, but then a space rocket sound is heard, after which the song closes for real.
  • Genre-Busting: Klaus is... Pop music covering opera performance art with heavy reliance on synthesizers? Let's just say it's New Wave.
  • Gratuitous French: "Samson and Delilah (Aria)" and "Enchante."
  • Hey, Let's Put on a Show: After his first performance at the New Wave Vaudeville, Ann Magnuson asked people who didn't even know Klaus to start a band for him.
  • Iconic Outfit: His tuxedo suit, big black tie, white make-up, black lipstick, and hair stuck up straight.
  • Incredibly Long Note: "The Cold Song" ends with one.
  • Indecipherable Lyrics: The Za Bakdaz album.
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Samson and Delilah (Aria)" ends with a UFO takeoff.
    • He does this twice in a row on his first album. The otherwise calm "Nomi Chant" becomes a Scare Chord in its last second, and his rendition of the aria "Mon Coeur c'ouvre a ta Voix" from Samson and Delilah ends with what can only be described as him getting back in his space ship and taking off. It makes sense in his live shows.
  • Mystical High Collar: In his late career, Nomi ditched his iconic tuxedo and started wearing Renaissance-inspired clothing with high collars and ruffs. This added to the otherworldly nature of his performances, especially given that he was often performing Renaissance music, but it also allowed him to hide the lesions of the Kaposi's sarcoma that would kill him.
  • New Wave: The genre he's most closely associated with.
  • Opera: He was a countertenor and thus could sing quite high.
  • One Countertenor Wail: "From Beyond" and its reprise, "Return."
  • Power Ballad: New Wave Power Ballad!
  • Protest Song: "You Don't Own Me," a Lesley Gore cover, where the protagonist sings about how his lover doesn't have to right to rule him.
  • Pun: Several instances of Nomi/Know me.
  • Rearrange the Song: Nomi covered songs, both from pop and classical music, in ways that sound extremely bizarre and otherworldly.
  • Revolving Door Band: The original band is not the album band is not the Urgh! band.
  • Rhyming with Itself: "Total Eclipse:"
    Total eclipse! It's a total eclipse!
  • Rockumentary: The Nomi Song.
  • Scare Chord: "Nomi Chant" ends with one.
  • Self-Titled Album: His debut album, Klaus Nomi.
  • Sequel Song: one way to interpret "After The Fall" in relation to "Total Eclipse".
  • Song of Song Titles: In "After the Fall" from Simple Man:
    So I told you about the total eclipse now, but still it caught you unawared...
  • The Song Remains the Same: Despite his tendency to Rearrange the Song, the opera pieces are left basically untouched.
  • Stage Names: He's really Klaus Sperber.
  • The Something Song: "Nomi Song" and "The Cold Song."
  • Title Track: "Simple Man" from Simple Man and "Za Bakdaz" from the never-finished project he worked on before his death.
  • Touched by Vorlons: He pretended to be from outer space in his lyrics. Not that odd considering he was once a back-up singer for David Bowie.
  • Word Salad Lyrics: "Cre Spoda, "Za Bakdaz," and most of that album, really. Also, the album version of the Samson and Delilah aria isn't actually French.