Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers. Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.
Released in December 1984, the critically-acclaimed film BEVERLY HILLS COP not only shot Eddie Murphy into superstardom, the action comedy was one of the biggest films of the 1980s, and for nearly 20 years, it was the biggest R-rated film of all-time (today, it’s ranked at No. 7).
BEVERLY HILLS COP was even nominated for an Academy Award (Best Original Screenplay), two Golden Globe Awards, and won a Grammy Award for Best Soundtrack Score Album. Thirteen people shared that Grammy Award, including Keith Forsey (Billy Idol, THE BREAKFAST CLUB score) and a Munich, Germany-born musician, composer and producer – Harold Faltermeyer.
Harold Faltermeyer has scored nearly 20 films, including BEVERLY HILLS COP II, FLETCH, THE RUNNING MAN, THIEF OF HEARTS and TOP GUN (both with Giorgio Moroder), and contributed to several more, including MIDNIGHT EXPRESS and AMERICAN GIGOLO (again, with Giorgio Moroder). But, Harold Faltermeyer didn’t get his start in films. Over the years, he’s worked as a songwriter, producer, arranger, musician and remixer for artists like The Sylvers, Janis Ian, Sparks, Laura Branigan, Billy Idol, Pet Shop Boys and Bonnie Tyler.
What started as a 1978 trip to Los Angeles to help Giorgio Moroder with the MIDNIGHT EXPRESS soundtrack turned into a 10-year collaboration between Giorgio Moroder and Harold Faltermeyer. In 1979, Harold was involved with Giorgio on the making of BAD GIRLS, the double album by the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer. Harold co-wrote five songs on the the album, including the first single, “Hot Stuff.”
“Hot Stuff” was a massive hit that spent 3 weeks at No. 1 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 and 14 weeks in the Top 10. For 4 of those weeks, “Hot Stuff” and 5-week No. 1 “Bad Girls” (which Harold Faltermeyer arranged) were in the Top 3 simultaneously.
In 1984 and 1985, Harold got his big break with the BEVERLY HILLS COP soundtrack. In addition to scoring the film, Harold also co-wrote (with Keith Forsey) Glenn Frey’s hit from the film, “The Heat Is On” (which spent a week at No. 2 on the Hot 100 in March 1985) and “Axel F,” the Synthpop instrumental theme from the film.
Originally referred to by Harold Faltermeyer as “the banana theme” (“You’re not gonna fall for the banana in the tailpipe?!”), “Axel F” (short for Eddie Murphy’s character, Axel Foley) was a huge hit in its own right, spending three weeks at No. 3 on the Hot 100 in June 1985 (held out of the top spot by two big No. 1 songs – “Everything She Wants” by Wham! and “Everybody Wants To Rule The World” by Tears For Fears).
Around the globe, “Axel F” was a huge hit, reaching No. 1 in Holland and Ireland, and the Top 10 in the U.K., Austria, Belgium, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and Switzerland, plus No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart AND Adult Contemporary chart (no easy feat), and No. 13 on the R&B chart.
In 2005, “Axel F” became a massive hit again, this time in the form of a novelty song by Crazy Frog (also known as the “Crazy Frog Song” – some of my youngest nieces enjoyed that version, God help me). Somehow, this version was even bigger than the original, reaching No. 1 in 11 countries, while here in the U.S., it stopped (thankfully) at No. 50.
Most recently, Harold Faltermeyer scored – at the request of one of my all-time favorite directors, Kevin Smith – the 2010 film, COP OUT, starring Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan.
Though “Axel F” was Harold only American hit, he did reach No. 1 on the Hot 100 one more time as a writer, on Bob Seger’s “Shakedown” (from BEVERLY HILLS COP II; co-written with Bob Seger and Keith Forsey). It was nominated for an Academy Award and a Golden Globe Award.
Now 63, Harold Faltermeyer’s been pretty quiet for the past several years, but to me, he’ll always be a hit-writing, film-scoring, Synthpop pioneer, and the lone hit under his own name lives on for eternity through one of THE best films ever, by way of a banana…