There are more people on this planet right now who are familiar with the music of Harold Faltermeyer than just about any other film composer this side of John Williams, I'd wager, yet his name is perhaps not as well-known.
After studying at Munich's prestigious Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Faltermeyer, like many German and Bavarian musicians of his generation, decided to explore electronic music.
Circumstances led to his working with Giorgio Moroder at the famous Musicland Studios. And this is where he co-wrote a song for Donna Summer destined to net him substantial royalties for several decades and counting.
|2009. (RIP, Donna Summer)|
My friend and co-conspirator of epic deeds over at The Von Klum Letters used to work at the New Neon Movies in Dayton, OH. Working at a movie theater gives you an entirely different relationship with trailers and before-movie commercials, as you hear and see them multiple times on a daily basis. Time bends, in other words. And although it was probably only two or three months that the Neon played the trailer for The Full Monty before every film, for my friend, it felt more like two or three years. I remember I could trigger a physical cringe or shudder during this time if I so much as whistled any part of "Hot Stuff" to him or sang Don't want another night on MY own... (caps on account of how Donna Summer sings it.)
Anyway, I can't hear "Hot Stuff" to this day without chuckling about that. I used to go and hang out there when he was working, back in the days when you could just loiter places and smoke cigarettes in the lobby, so I saw that trailer a few hundred times, myself.
From there Faltermeyer made the jump to Hollywood and began scoring films, whereupon he became an inescapable presence for anyone who had cable for (at least) the next ten years. Here are my top 10 Harold Faltermeyer tunes. (I'll just embed the YouTube videos, so hopefully these will stay up there and active for awhile.)
Tango and Cash
That's the whole thing - the rest of the videos won't be the full soundtrack. But it's such an 80s action movie soundtrack, damn. Showcasing it in its entirety seems an appropriate way of including it here. Tango and Cash is one of those Stallone movies that should be way better than it actually is, (unlike, say, Cobra or Nighthawks) but it's cast an especially long shadow. Have you noticed that? I always ask people when the last time they saw it was. Usually the answer is something like the early 90s.
Anyway, the soundtrack is as musically evocative of its era as bell bottoms or Mondrian mini-dresses are for their respective ones, visually.
After retiring from film soundtracks to raise a family back in Munich, Faltermeyer returned to Hollywood in 2009, first with High School with Adrien Brody, and then this little gem from Kevin Smith's Cop Out. Which I've never seen, but Kevin Smith hasn't made a film I've enjoyed since Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, so I'm in no rush. If this was the best part of the proceedings, I wouldn't be at all surprised.
The Running Man
Hoo boy! This movie. What a ridiculous mess. But what can you do? The Ahhnold Era of Moviemaking was, at least at the time, irresistible. This Lordhelmchen guy, by the way, has edited together a few dozen of these soundtrack suites on YouTube - these get me through many a workday. He does commendable work.
Fletch - Exotic Skates
Fletch - Diggin'
This soundtrack is 80s gold, by the way, every last track. My 13-month-old daughter agrees with me on this. (More on that, though, when we get to #4.) If I could watch a montage of my day to day, I would like it scored to either of these. (Well, anything from here on down to #1. Or by John Carpenter.)
I know I've seen this movie, but damned if I can remember anything about it. I was happy to discover Leon Rippy's (and Bruce Boxleitner's) name in the credits, though.
Nothing too fancy with this one, just straight up synthpop. Parts of it remind me a bit of the Happy Mondays.
Thief of Hearts
Same for this one - know I saw it back in the day but couldn't tell you anything about it. Though looking at the wiki, I see both David Caruso and George Wendt in the cast, which makes George Wendt the only guy to appear in more than one film in our countdown. (The other being Fletch.) My blog header-photo will undoubtedly be tickled pink by this unexpected coincidence.
I'm shocked this won a Razzie for worst soundtrack! Okay, not really. But really, sort of. It's the sort of thing you normally hear in giallo films or anthology cable shows of the late-80s/ early-90s. But I include it here - and pretty high on the list - for its acoustic time travel qualities. If you were alive when this sort of stuff was the rule and not the curious artifact, it is a TARDIS of the highest order.
As is this next one.
Fletch - Running for Love
The Fletch soundtrack has two versions of this - the other has vocals by Dan "I Can Dream About You" Hartman instead of the synth doing the melody. (Same saxophone solo, though, don't worry.) I adore Hartman's version, and it would definitely be my number one karaoke choice everywhere I went if that was a possibility. But it's relatively hard to find, even on the web (no YouTube link for example, though you can hear one of his other tunes on the soundtrack "Get Out of Town." Go north to Alaska / or south to Rio! )
I've always loved this instrumental version, too. And I now love it even more for the time it lulled my daughter to sleep in my arms while we were dancing to the Fletch soundtrack one afternoon. Something that will likely make me the only guy at the nursing home 2050-ish who will be bawling his eyes out when Fletch comes round for Geezer Movie Night.
Beverly Hills Cop - Axel F
It's difficult to tell which is the Faltermeyer tune more well-known, this or "Hot Stuff," but it's definitely one or the other. I think everyone in my elementary school and junior high could play this on the piano in the music room.
It's been remade and remixed and paid tribute to multiple times over the years, but my personal favorite nod might be the one from Family Guy. It's hard not to sing the melody like Peter Griffin does here, when I hear it now.
Fletch - Main Theme
There are shorter versions out there, but this 7-minute version (on vinyl no less) is my personal favorite.
I don't know how many times I've seen Fletch over the years. It's one of those movies that I'm powerless before when I'm cable-flipping. Beetlejuice is another one. These are habits my wife has chided me for on more than one occasion.
Co-written by Steve Stevens, who plays the guitar on this.
|Also known as that other guy in all those old Billy Idol videos.|
Sidenote: Steve Stevens' old band, Atomic Playboys, was very likely the last pop-metal I ever absorbed completely uncritically. I used to love that tape. Sometime between its release in 1989 and the release of Ratt's Detonator in 1990, I developed a "Say... this is ridiculous, isn't it?" self-consciousness. (I blame those girls I used to work with who got me into The Cure, Love and Rockets, Siouxsie and the Banshees, et al.)
Nowadays, of course, that ridiculousness is a great deal of fun. So Ivory Tower Man / Was it part of the plan? / Turn the sea into sand / with a one way ticket to the promised laa-an-nnd / ATOMIC PLAYBOYS! / WE ARE RADIATION RO-ME-O-S!
Anyway, this theme from Top Gun is as over the top as it gets. It's the 80s movie equivalent of the solo from Pink Floyd's "Comfortably Numb." When you hear it, you can't help but visualize playing the guitar atop a fifty-foot wall before hundreds of thousands of swaying concertgoers. Or waving the stars and stripes from atop Mount McKinley.
Or starting World War III while out on patrol but being celebrated as the conquering hero upon your return instead of as Greg Stilson.