Hit Music From The Movies: 1980 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Hit Music From The Movies: 1980

Grab your carton of Kia-Ora and a big bag of Opal Fruits, we're off to the Flicks for some musical memories...

The movies and music go hand in hand. After all, the original moving pictures did just that to a musical accompaniment, either played live by an organist or synced with one of those new-fangled 78rpm discs. As technology improved, composers were sort to score cinematic features. Musical movies of the 1930s and 40s had accompanying albums to enjoy at home. Then, as the charts exploded with pop music in the 1950s, crossover single hits began to emerge. These were songs featured in both the film and on the radio. As they were often performed in full as part of the film, this gave us, in hindsight, the first sorta music videos to ever exist.

After the musical made a comeback in the 1970s, thanks in part to the glory days of disco, the charts were set alight again with never ending hits from films like Saturday Night Fever and Grease, but arguably the crossover hit was used to maximum effect in the 1980s. Songs were often as big as the film itself. Take, for example, Back to the Future and The Power of Love, Top Gun and Take My Breath Away, Ghostbusters and, er, Ghostbusters. The movie and hit song are forever linked. In the form of the latter, it's hard to even mention the film title without doing so in song or adding "Who you gonna call?"

Of course, not every time a song was featured in a hit film did it equate to a hit single, and the same is true vice-versa. Remember the Michael McDonald song Sweet Freedom? Of course you do! Remember the film Running Scared? Anyone? Anyone? Nope, probably not. But that's a few years off for now, and half a dozen articles away. It's the start of that decade where we're beginning today, with a new feature looking back at some of the big hits of the year and the movies that spawned them.

Flash Gordon: Flash - Queen
Just like Ghostbusters the movie and Ghostbusters the single, it's hard to even think of th 1980 Flash Gordon film without referencing something from the hit single by Queen.

The band had been offered movies before but when approached to record the soundtrack for this feature it was the sci-fi element that swung it for them. The majority of their soundtrack album was recorded in the first half of 1980, from screenplay elements and rough-cuts of certain film scenes. For the title track they had the movie in it's entirety for inspiration. They went in to the studio in October 1980 and soon came up with a novel idea, as the band's drummer Roger Taylor explained.
"The album was totally under our control and it was our idea to put dialogue on the album. That wasn’t the original idea [but] we thought we’d get little snippets to give some idea of what was happening in the film and some atmosphere of the story."
Gordon's alive! Just think, had Queen not come up with the idea of inserting quotes from the film would phrases like that or "Flash, Flash, I love you. But we only have fourteen hours to save the Earth" have seeped into modern day pop culture? Probably not.

The movie debuted in December 1980, two weeks after the single Flash was released. The single peaked at #10 on the UK chart, #42 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100, #3 in Germany and #1 in Austria.

Fame: Fame - Irene Cara
Back to the Summer of 1980 now, and one of the biggest hits of the year, both in the cinema and in the charts. Fame the film chronicled the lives and hardships of students attending the New York High School of Performing Arts. It received mixed reviews upon release but went on to spawn a very successful TV series.

Fame the song was performed by Irene Cara, who played the role of Coco Hernandez in the original movie (one she didn't reprise for the series). In the United States, it was released as a single, and reached number 4 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart. The song won the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1980, and the Golden Globe Award the same year.

It was never released as a single in the UK in 1980, as the film hadn't performed especially well there, but after it's VHS release and the subsequent TV show hit big (which used this song as it's opening theme music), the single was finally released in the United Kingdom in May 1982, entering the UK Singles Chart on July 3rd at number 51. The following week, it rose to number four before peaking at the top position of the U.K. charts on July 17, where it stayed for 3 weeks. Selling over a million copies, becoming the second biggest selling single of that year.

Xanadu: Xanadu - Olivia Newton-John and E.L.O.
Back in 1980, Olivia Newton-John was a major chart act. Having scored massive hits from the film Grease, her return to a musical feature, in a film which also starred legendary Hollywood actor Gene Kelly (in what would be his final role), was hyped to be a massive hit at the cinema. However, Xanadu was a box office flop! It earned mixed to negative critical reviews and was an inspiration for the creation of the Golden Raspberry Awards to recognize the worst films of the year.

Despite the lackluster performance of the film, the soundtrack album released in June 1980 became a huge commercial success around the world. The original LP release featured one side of songs by Newton-John, and on side two songs by ELO, who were equally massive in the pop-charts of the time. The soundtrack was certified double platinum in the United States, with the title track above (a collaboration by Newton-John and Electric Light Orchestra) reaching number one in the United Kingdom and many other countries around the world.

But that's not all. Long after the film was forgotten at the cinema, the soundtrack continued to spawn hits. The song "Magic" was a U.S. number one hit for Newton-John, and her duet with Cliff Richard, "Suddenly", hit number twenty. "All Over the World" and "I'm Alive" were big hits for the Electric Light Orchestra, reaching 13 and 16 respectively.

Xanadu the film has since become a cult classic for the way it mixes the storyline from an old-fashioned 1940s fantasy with modern (for 1980 that is) aesthetics, and of course the inclusion of some very strong late 1970s & early 1980s rock and pop music.

And now another big box-office flop that lives on, thanks largely, to its soundtrack...

The Jazz Singer: America - Neil Diamond
This and the last film have a lot in common. Xanadu was a remake of the 1947 film Down To Earth. The Jazz Singer a remake of the original 1927 film of the same name. They both featured pop stars in the lead role. They both flopped big time and they both featured heavily at the inaugural Golden Raspberry Awards.

For The Jazz Singer, Neil Diamond picked up Worst Actor, and distinguished legend of stage & screen Laurence Olivier got awarded Worst Supporting Actor for his portrayal of Yussel Rabinovitch's father Cantor. One of Diamond's own compositions for the film, You Baby, also snaffled Worst Original Song!

Legendary media impresario Lew Grade, who invested in the film, said the box office "results were disappointing and we weren't able to recoup our prints and advertising costs", but since the movie had been pre-sold to American television for $4 million, the losses were minimised. The soundtrack album, however, was so successful that it ended up making more money than the film itself!

Released in November 1980, a month before the film would receive its premier, the soundtrack, despite that Worst Original Song accolade, was enormously successful, eventually reaching multi-platinum status and becoming Diamond's most successful album to date. It gave him three charting singles in the shape of America (above), Love On The Rocks & Hello Again, reaching #8, #2 and #6 respectively in the singles chart. Love on the Rocks was only held off the top-spot in Christmas 1980 after the death of John Lennon prompted a surge in sales of his music, with his single (Just Like) Starting Over take pole-position.

American Gigalo: Call Me - Blondie
Make no mistake, Blondie scored themselves a massive hit with the theme to the 1980 film American Gigolo.

The film itself was a crime drama which firmly established Richard Gere as a Hollywood leading man. It tells the story about a high-priced male escort in Los Angeles who becomes romantically involved with a prominent politician's wife while simultaneously becoming the prime suspect in a murder case. A huge hit upon release with critics and audiences alike, American Gigolo went on to make over $52 million on it modest $4.7 million budget.

As for the hit single, legend has it that Italian disco producer Giorgio Moroder had originally asked Stevie Nicks from Fleetwood Mac to help compose and perform a song for the soundtrack, but she declined. Moroder then turned to Debbie Harry and Blondie, presenting Harry with a rough instrumental track called "Man Machine" and a rough-cut of the film itself. Harry was asked to write the lyrics and melody, a process that Harry states took a mere few hours. She wrote the lyrics from the perspective of the main character in the film (for a good time, call me). Harry later said,
"When I was writing it, I pictured the opening scene, driving on the coast of California."
Which is perhaps why the two go hand in hand so well, as evidenced in the video above.

Released in the US in early 1980 as a single, "Call Me" was No. 1 for six consecutive weeks on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it became the band's biggest single and second No. 1. It also hit No. 1 in the UK and Canada, where it became their fourth and second chart-topper, respectively. In the year-end chart of 1980, it was Billboard's No. 1 single of the year. No small feat whatsoever and all the evidence you need to prove that the crossover hit was serious business.

Next time we look at the hit music from the movies of 1981

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