Hit Music From The Movies: 1981 - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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Hit Music From The Movies: 1981

For your ears only...

Time now to insert six fresh D-sized batteries into the tape-to-tape ghetto-blaster (with high speed dubbing) and look back at some of the big chart hits of 1981, and the movies which were playing at that local three screen cinema that spawned them. Starting of with the the theme tune for the twelfth official James Bond film...

For Your Eyes Only: For Your Eyes Only - Sheena Easton
Ah, wee Sheena. After coming into the public eye in a 1980 episode of the first British musical reality television programme The Big Time: Pop Singer, she scored multiple UK top ten hits. Then, in 1981, her debut US release "9 to 5" (retitled "Morning Train (Nine to Five)" for the US market, for reasons we will get to shortly) topped the US Hot 100, making her only the third UK female solo artist to achieve this feat. She then went on to record the theme tune for Roger Moore's fifth Bond film, and, fact fans, is the only artist (to date) to be seen singing the theme song to a Bond movie during its opening titles.

The song was a huge hit, reaching number four on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number eight on the UK Singles Chart, plus it was nominated for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards in 1982.

For Your Eyes Only the film ended up being the eighth biggest grossing movie of the year, and Sheena Easton's title track was the twelfth biggest selling single. Ten places higher...

Endless Love: Endless Love - Diana Ross & Lionel Richie
Outperforming the film of the same name, Endless Love hit number 7 on the UK chart, and number 1 on the US Billboard chart, where it stayed for nine weeks, ending the year as the second biggest selling single of 1981 and receiving Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for "Best Original Song", along with five Grammy Award nominations. Not bad at all.

Although a duet, Endless Love inspired Lionel Richie to launch a solo career. Legend has it he was out of the performance game. He'd left the Commodores behind and was happily concentrating on penning and producing hits for other people (like "Lady" for Kenny Rogers, which hit No. 1 in 1980), and indeed had intended to do just that for Diana Ross with this track. When it was felt it would work better as a duet, Richie stepped out of the production booth and voila... You have the biggest-selling single of Diana Ross' career, even including her time with The Supremes!

In the film, Endless Love, the character Susan (played by Jamie Bernstein) sings the song during the course of the movie. Based on the 1979 novel of the same name written by Scott Spencer, the film received almost all negative reviews when it opened in July 1981. The author was no fan either,
"I was frankly surprised that something so tepid and conventional could have been fashioned from my slightly unhinged novel about the glorious destructive violence of erotic obsession".
Spencer described the film as a "botched" job and wrote that director Franco Zeffirelli "egregiously and ridiculously misunderstood" the novel.

So a case of the song far outdoing the film, but as well as having an incredibly popular soundtrack, Endless Love the film also included Tom Cruise in his first ever on-screen credited role.

9 To 5: 9 To 5 - Dolly Parton
Although the film of the same name was released in December 1980, the single hit the chart in early 1981. A number 1 in the US and Canada, the song garnered Dolly Parton an Academy Award nomination and four Grammy Award nominations, winning her the awards for "Best Country Song" and "Best Country Vocal Performance, Female". It was the ninth biggest selling single of 1981 in America.

Surprisingly, considering just how well it's known, 9 To 5 missed out on a top 40 space in the UK, only reaching number 47. But although it wasn't successful upon release here, as of 2017, it is Dolly's biggest download song in the UK.

It's possible 9 To 5 wasn't a big hit in the UK as just a few months before Parton's song and the film's release, Sheena Easton released her single also called "9 to 5". Perhaps there was some kind of confusion among the record buying public? It's not a far fetched suggestion because, as we mentioned above, when Easton's song was released in the U.S. the following year it was renamed "Morning Train (Nine to Five)" under the record company's instructions so to avoid confusion for the consumer. It was clearly a simpler time.

Arthur: Arthur's Theme (The Best That You Can Do) - Christopher Cross
The fourth biggest movie of the year (behind Raiders of the Lost Ark, On Golden Pond, and Superman II) spawned the single which won the Oscar for Best Original Song. In the US, Arthur's Theme reached number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and on the Hot Adult Contemporary charts during October 1981. It peaked at number 7 in the UK.

Arthur the film proved to be the comedy hit of 1981 and Dudley Moore's widest remembered picture. He plays the eponymous Arthur Bach, a drunken New York City millionaire who is on the brink of an arranged marriage to a wealthy heiress, but ends up falling for Linda Marolla, a common working-class girl from Queens, played by Liza Minelli. John Gielgud co-stars as the butler Hobson, a role for which he was awarded the Best Supporting Actor Oscar. The film was written and directed by Steve Gordon, and was his first and only film as he sadly died in 1982 of a heart attack at age 44.

Arthur's Theme has quite a pedigree behind it. Cross wrote it in collaboration with the legendary Burt Bacharach, and Bacharach's frequent writing partner and then wife Carole Bayer Sager. A fourth writing credit went to Liza Minnelli's ex-husband and Australian songwriter Peter Allen, also a frequent collaborator with Bayer Sager. In fact the line "When you get caught between the moon and New York City" from the chorus was taken from an unreleased song Allen and Bayer Sager had previously written together.

Chariots of Fire: Chariots Of Fire (Titles) - Vangelis
The 1981 British historical drama film, Chariots of Fire, tells the story of two athletes in the 1924 Olympics: Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God, and Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay. It also won the Academy Award for Best Original Score, amongst which was its memorable electronic theme tune by Vangelis,

"Chariots of Fire" the single (which originally had the word "Titles" listed in parenthesis but was dropped shortly after charting) stayed for one week at number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in May 1982, after climbing steadily for five months. In fact, it made #1 in its 21st week on the chart! To date it remains the only piece by a Greek artist to top the U.S. charts. In Japan it was the biggest-selling single of 1981. In the UK it peaked at #12, but its parent album peaked at #5 and spent 107 weeks on the album chart.

The composer himself, Vangelis, was actually accused of plagiarising "Chariots of Fire" from a piece by fellow Greek composer Stavros Logaridis called "City of Violets". Vangelis won in court by (a) persuading the judge that he had had no opportunity to hear Logaridis's piece before he composed "Chariots of Fire"; and (b) demonstrating to the judge's satisfaction that the key musical sequence described as "the turn" (which consisted of the four notes F-G-A-G), the only sequence where the judge noted a clear similarity between the two compositions, was already common in music, and had previously been used by Vangelis in a piece "Wake Up" by Aphrodite's Child that predated "City of Violets."

As the Chariots of Fire theme has gone on to soundtrack a plethora of slow-motion sequences and/or parodies of the sports genre in various films, television episodes, and commercials, I'm sure Vangelis is very pleased he won the case and gets to keep all those PRS cheques.

Next time we look at the hit music from the movies of 1982.

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