By Chris M. Junior
Movie theaters and pop-radio stations were very much in tune 30 years ago.
Of the 26 No. 1 hits on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, eight had ties to contemporary films. What makes that fact even more impressive is the eight songs topped the pop-singles chart within an eight-month period.
Six of those No. 1 songs were included on soundtrack albums to films that played in theaters in 1985. A seventh had previously appeared on the soundtrack to a 1983 movie. And another tune — an Oscar winner, no less — was featured in a 1985 theatrical release but not part of its soundtrack.
“Crazy for You” by Madonna
In early 1985, Madonna wasn’t exactly known for ballads, and neither was producer-remixer John “Jellybean” Benitez. That changed when Madonna and Benitez did “Crazy for You” — not once, but twice — for the movie “Vision Quest,” starring Matthew Modine and Linda Fiorentino.
The first version of the song also involved producer Phil Ramone and was used in a scene where Madonna played a club singer. When it was decided there would be a “Vision Quest” soundtrack, Benitez says he was asked by Geffen Records to record a new version “more in keeping with what Madonna was doing,” and have it be something that could be released as a single.
Benitez remembers Madonna not being thrilled with the song’s middle-eight section.
“She had written a new bridge for the song, and the songwriters didn’t like it at all,” Benitez says. “So Madonna said, ‘Well, I’m not singing it with (the original) bridge. …They don’t want to use (my bridge); I don’t want to use what they wrote.’ So being a remixer, I said, ‘I’ll just take it out.’ And she looked at me and said, ‘You’re right: We can do that.’ ”
Doing his first ballad was a “sexy and cool” opportunity, Benitez recalls.
“Everything I had done before ‘Crazy for You’ was up-tempo and rhythmic,” says Benitez, who started as a club DJ in New York before landing studio work. “For me, as we were recording, in my mind it was remembering what it was like as a teenager to dance to slow records.”
The soundtrack version of “Crazy for You” (arranged by Rob Mounsey) was recorded at Sigma Sound in New York on a tight deadline, Benitez says, because the powers that be “were ready to go with the original version.”
According to Benitez, songwriters John Bettis and Jon Lind “freaked out a little bit” upon hearing the bridge-free recording of “Crazy for You,” but they eventually gave the soundtrack version their blessing.
“At that point, Madonna had a lot of (success and momentum),” Benitez says, “and I guess they realized, ‘OK, well, if we don’t agree to what Jellybean’s done, they’re going to pull the song.’ Because Madonna would have said, ‘Forget it. I’m not doing a song for the soundtrack. Use the movie version that Jellybean mixed.’ And they didn’t want to do that because they didn’t feel they had a hit single that way.”
“Crazy for You” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the magazine’s issue dated May 11, 1985, and it spent one week at the top. A few days after getting a call from Geffen that it was the biggest song in the country, proud producer Benitez shared the good news with Quincy Jones and Lionel Richie.
“We were having dinner at the same place, at separate tables,” Benitez says, “and I went over to them and said, ‘Hey guys, my song just went to No. 1. We just kicked “We Are the World” out of No. 1.’ ” [The famine-relief single “We Are the World,” credited to the supergroup USA for Africa, was produced by Jones and written by Richie and Michael Jackson.]
“And Quincy grabs my arm and says to Lionel, ‘OK, you pull. We’ll just break him in half,’ ” Benitez adds with a laugh.
These days, Benitez does about 100 DJ gigs a year around the world, and he’s also the executive producer and program director for SiriusXM’s Studio 54 Radio channel.
“Don’t You (Forget About Me)” by Simple Minds
Corey Hart was offered the song. The record label wanted Billy Idol to record it. Bryan Ferry may have been considered, too.
These were just some of the interesting anecdotes and differing memories that were included in Andrew Unterberger’s oral history of “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” that appeared on Spin.com in late February.
In his piece, Unterberger tracked down key players involved with the song, its video and the related movie, the John Hughes-directed detention drama “The Breakfast Club.” They included song co-writer and producer Keith Forsey along with “Breakfast Club” co-producer Michelle Manning, and they both claimed Simple Minds initially turned down the chance to record the tune.
“It was actually more that we did not write the song and were averse to doing material written outside of our group,” Simple Minds singer Jim Kerr said in Unterberger’s piece. “That said, the demo of the song presented to us blew no one away, to put it mildly. Not bad, but nothing great — sounded much more suited to Psychedelic Furs than Minds. It took us a while to bond with the idea of doing the song and making it our own.
“Once we came up with the intro,” Kerr added, “and especially when our drummer, Mel Gaynor, started to showboat with his groove, it all started to feel like we were in control.”
Released by A&M, Simple Minds’ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” entered the Billboard Hot 100 on Feb. 23, 1985, eventually reaching No. 1 in the magazine’s edition dated May 18 and staying at the top for one week.
The “la-la-la”s near the end caught co-writer Steve Schiff off-guard. Kerr, in justifying their existence, said, “You don’t plan (them). They just pop out. (David) Bowie and Marc Bolan littered many of their songs with ‘la-la’s. They led the way for us.”
Kerr understands the lasting appeal of “Don’t You (Forget About Me).”
“The song ticks lots of boxes,” he said in Unterberger’s oral history. “It has great simplicity, it makes people feel good. It rocks, it grooves, it is full of pop hooks, great dynamics, killer chorus. It is also now an icon of a certain generation — thanks to the movie.”
“Heaven” by Bryan Adams
Canadian rocker Bryan Adams’ fourth studio album, 1984’s “Reckless,” contained six hit singles, and they all reached the Top 15 of Billboard’s pop chart, where he was a mainstay throughout 1985. The lone No. 1 hit from that bunch was “Heaven,” which was actually written and recorded for a 1983 film called “A Night in Heaven,” starring Christopher Atkins and directed by John Avildsen of “Rocky” fame.
In a detailed post about the song on his official site, Jim Vallance (who co-wrote “Heaven” with Adams) remembered that the recording session, which took place in June 1983 at the Power Station in New York, “didn’t go smoothly.” With the session running behind schedule, drummer Mickey Curry had to bail out before work was complete; he had previously committed to recording with Daryl Hall and John Oates. Adams then called up a famous name to pinch-hit for Curry: Journey drummer Steve Smith.
A&M released the soundtrack to “A Night in Heaven,” which in addition to “Heaven” also included recordings by The English Beat, Gary U.S. Bonds and Rita Coolidge, among others. According to Vallance, “very few people saw the film, and even fewer purchased the soundtrack album,” therefore the Adams track “was untainted” and “still a new, unheard song.” Even so, when Adams was making “Reckless” for A&M, he was unsure at first whether the song was a good fit for the album, but at the last minute decided to include it.
Vallance recalled keeping in touch with Adams, who was on a U.S. tour during the summer of 1985, as “Heaven” was making its way up Billboard’s pop-singles chart. He also made a promise to Adams: Should the song hit No. 1, Vallance would fly to wherever Adams was for a celebration.
In its 10th week on the Billboard Hot 100, “Heaven” hit the top for the week ending June 22, 1985.
“Two weeks later, I was on a flight to Cincinnati!” Vallance wrote on his site.
“A View to a Kill” by Duran Duran
Small talk at a social event sometimes can lead to a big opportunity, and that’s pretty much how Duran Duran got the job to do the title song for “A View to a Kill,” the 1985 James Bond movie. (It marked Roger Moore’s seventh and final film appearance as the suave British spy.)
While at the historic London restaurant Langan’s Brasserie for Michael Caine’s birthday party, Duran Duran bassist John Taylor and keyboardist Nick Rhodes were introduced to Albert “Cubby” Broccoli, who at the time produced the Bond movies.
“John didn’t miss a beat,” Rhodes recalls. “He said, ‘Hey, we’re from Duran Duran, and we’d love to do the soundtrack to your next movie.’ And Cubby said, ‘OK, give me a call tomorrow.’ ”
It helped that Duran Duran was red-hot at the time, Rhodes admits, and that nobody had been locked down for the title song. The band, he adds, viewed the opportunity “as an exercise to merge the sound of Duran Duran with James Bond.”
Rhodes and singer Simon Le Bon began by coming up with the opening line: “Meeting you with a view to a kill.” Then they convened with the rest of the band to develop the song. Finally, longtime Bond movie composer John Barry put his stamp on it, marking the first time Duran Duran wrote with an outside collaborator.
“Adding Barry’s strings and brass gave it that classic Bond style, and we were able to keep our own identity with the song we wrote,” Rhodes says. “We always loved that dark, English, moody vibe anyway, so it really was a good fit.”
“A View to a Kill,” which was the last Duran Duran song by the classic five-piece lineup until the 2004 album “Astronaut,” hit No. 1 on Billboard’s pop-singles chart in the magazine’s issue dated July 13, 1985. It was the band’s second No. 1 hit in America and the first Bond theme to top the Billboard Hot 100.
The spy-themed “A View to a Kill” music video “was a little more miserable to make” than previous Duran Duran clips, Rhodes says, because the band members “weren’t really getting on” at that time. Adding to the discomfort was the video’s early shoot time.
Rhodes explains: “I think it was about 4 or 5 a.m. As soon as the light came up, we were out there on the Eiffel Tower. It had to be open to the public, so we could only use it incredibly early in the morning. There was so much to do in a limited time.”
In the 30 years since the song’s release, Rhodes believes “A View to a Kill” has aged well.
“I do think ours holds up as being one of the strong Bond themes, without a doubt,” he says. “I’m still very proud of the fact that it’s the only one that’s been No. 1.”
“Paper Gods,” the new Duran Duran album, is due Sept. 11. The band begins a stretch of U.S. tour dates on Sept. 14 with a show at Terminal 5 in New York.
“The Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News
“It was really just a project we were doing between albums,” guitarist Chris Hayes says about Huey Lewis and the News contributing new music to “Back to the Future,” starring Michael J. Fox. They contributed two songs — and one was “The Power of Love,” which would become the first No. 1 hit for Lewis and the News on the Billboard Hot 100.
An early version of “The Power of Love” (written by News guitarist-saxophonist Johnny Colla) was passed over by movie personnel, Hayes remembers, so Lewis and band manager Bob Brown asked Hayes to take a shot at writing one. Colla added a punchy keyboard part to the introduction of Hayes’ composition, and combined with Lewis’ lyrics, they had a keeper.
“I was always trying to write things that had single potential — things that were poppy and catchy,” Hayes says. “That was always the intent. However, writing that song, I wasn’t thinking, ‘This is pop and commercial and definitely going to work.’ I was trying to write a guitar-centric song.”
Hayes is especially proud of the song’s bridge.
“That I consider one of the better things I’ve written,” he says. “I like it because it has a couple of chords in there that aren’t the usual harmonic things that would be in a pop song.”
Asked about his guitar solo, Hayes says he wanted it to be “more melodic than acrobatic” and “kind of bluesy,” similar in style to Stevie Ray Vaughan.
“He and Double Trouble opened up for us on tour for a few months,” Hayes says. “I got to be pretty good friends with him, and I always thought he was a great guitar player.
“We didn’t just want to put some heavy metal solo on the song,” he adds. “We wanted it to have a little bit of credibility, so we tried to make it more of a blues solo instead of a rock thing. It was definitely inspired by Stevie, I would have to say.”
“The Power of Love” spent 19 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at No. 1 in the magazine’s issue dated Aug. 24, 1985.
“St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” by John Parr
English singer-songwriter John Parr had just one major U.S. pop hit to his name (“Naughty Naughty”) when his manager got a call from Canadian composer-producer David Foster about writing a song for the drama “St. Elmo’s Fire,” starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore, among others.
“I was a little ignorant of his incredible resume,” Parr says of Foster, who by the mid-1980s was a multi-Grammy winner and had worked in the studio with Michael Jackson and Chicago, to name a few. “I had only been in the U.S. for a fairly short time, so the hot ‘backroom boys’ of the day hadn’t really registered.”
When they got together around May 1985 in Los Angeles, Parr recalls being asked to sing over a music track Foster had recorded earlier. Parr, thinking the result was mediocre, pressured Foster into trying something else.
Within 30 minutes, they had written a song called “Dirty Pictures,” which Parr liked more than Foster did. Within another hour, they had composed another song that Parr says had promise — but Foster wanted to try composing another. The third attempt at writing together proved to be the charm: “St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” came together in short order, and the music and lead vocals were recorded the next day.
Having not seen the film at that point — and knowing very little about the plot — Parr says he struggled at first with the lyrics. Inspiration came when Foster played him a video of a news segment about paralyzed Canadian Rick Hansen’s planned wheelchair trip around the world to raise awareness for spinal-cord injuries. In the clip, there’s an RV with the words “Man in Motion World Tour” above the windshield — and upon seeing that, Parr says, “it was like a bomb went off in my brain.”
He adds, “Clearly Rick’s story had nothing to do with the movie, but it had to be told.”
Parr also drew from his 20-year struggle to make his dreams a reality, all the while realizing he needed the lyrics to fit the movie.
“So with a line like, ‘Just once in his life, a man has his time,’ (that could be interpreted as when) Emilio Estevez’s character gets the girl,” Parr says. “And ‘All I need is a pair of wheels’ (could be) Demi Moore’s Jeep. So we got away with it. The movie company never questioned a line.”
“St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion)” hit No. 1 in Billboard’s Sept. 7, 1985, issue, and it stayed there for two weeks. Parr says he still plays the song at every one of his concerts.
“Separate Lives” by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin
During his lengthy career in the music business, Doug Morris has worn many hats, among them songwriter (The Chiffons’ “Sweet Talkin’ Guy”), producer (Brownsville Station’s “Smokin’ in the Boy’s Room”) and label executive (most notably as president of Atlantic Records).
He also served as an important liaison in pairing Phil Collins with Marilyn Martin for the hit duet “Separate Lives,” which was part of the soundtrack to the Taylor Hackford-directed “White Nights,” starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines.
Morris had signed Martin a few months before Collins turned in his “No Jacket Required” album to Atlantic, “so I guess I was on Doug’s radar,” Martin says.
She was in California working with Kenny Loggins on his “Vox Humana” video (in which she poses as a keyboard player) when she got a call from Morris in New York saying a duet with Collins on “Separate Lives” (a Stephen Bishop-penned song originally in the running for “No Jacket Required”) was going to happen.
“I don’t know what Doug said to Phil that persuaded him to sing with me. I chalk it up to being a miracle,” Martin says. “I remember telling Kenny and seeing the incredulous look on his face. He must have thought I had become delusional because opportunities like that are unheard of.”
Atlantic flew Martin to England, where she met Collins at a dinner held at Eric Clapton’s house and subsequently recorded her vocals with producer Arif Mardin in a London studio.
“I was given Phil’s original recording of the song, so I was able to study it fully,” she says. “I didn’t know until I got into the studio which lines I would sing and which I would harmonize to. The biggest concern for me that day was that I was getting a horrible cold and my throat was on fire, but I made it through.”
During the filming of the song’s video in London, Martin says she was instructed by the director to not look at Collins — presumably “to create an air of separation,” she believes. The single’s picture sleeve, with Martin and Collins gazing in opposite directions, was taken during the video shoot.
“Separate Lives” hit No. 1 in Billboard’s issued dated Nov. 30, 1985, and it stayed at the top for one week. Martin has performed the song in concert with Loggins and Michael McDonald, but never with Collins.
“That’s definitely a dream of mine,” she says.
Look for Martin’s “Walk in the Light,” a new album of faith-based songs, later this year.
“Say You, Say Me” by Lionel Richie
Of the movie-connected No. 1 singles in 1985, Lionel Richie’s “Say You, Say Me” is an outlier. While featured in a film, it’s the only song that didn’t appear on the accompanying soundtrack, and it’s the only one to win an Academy Award.
As recounted in Fred Bronson’s book “The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits,” director Taylor Hackford asked Richie to write the title song for the movie “White Nights.” But Richie apparently couldn’t create a song with that title, so he offered up “Say You, Say Me,” which Hackford and Gary LeMel of Columbia Pictures’ music department felt fit the film.
According to LeMel, Motown — Richie’s longtime label — would not permit “Say You, Say Me” to be included on Atlantic Records’ “White Nights” soundtrack. Ultimately, Motown issued the song “in time to promote the picture,” LeMel said in Bronson’s book. “The movie didn’t suffer,” LeMel added, “(but) the soundtrack album would have sold more had (Richie’s song) been on (it).”
“Say You, Say Me” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the magazine’s issue dated Dec. 21, 1985, and its reign at the top continued into early 1986.
On March 24, 1986, Richie’s “Say You, Say Me” won the Academy Award for Best Original Song, topping a field that included the fellow No. 1 movie-linked pop singles “Separate Lives” and “The Power of Love,” as well as a tune from the Steven Spielberg-directed “The Color Purple” called “Miss Celie’s Blues (Sister),” for which Richie contributed lyrics.
In his Oscar acceptance speech, Richie was brief, humble and graceful.
“Outrageous, in the truest sense of the word,” he said. “This represents a dream come true — many, many years of believing and dreaming and a lot of friends and a lot of family that said, ‘You can do it. Just keep on trying hard.’ I want to say to all of them and to all of the people that have supported me over the years: Thank you very much for keeping up with my foolishness.”
For his 2012 album, “Tuskegee,” Richie recorded “Say You, Say Me” as a countrified duet with Jason Aldean and performed it with him that same year on the “Late Show With David Letterman.” GM
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