In the world of music, it seems quite rare when a song without lyrics hits the charts. But there have been some instances in which instrumentals have done very well.
In fact, I can name quite a few instrumentals that have managed to get a lot of airplay. Below, you can find a list of them, when they charted, their peak position on the charts, as well as the artist who sang them. In chronological order, here are some of the instrumentals that charted on the Billboard Charts.
Tequila, The Champs, 1958, #1
Calcutta, Lawrence Welk, 1961, #1
Mexico, Bob Moore, 1962, #1
Wipeout, The Surfaris, 1963, #2
Love's Theme, Love Unlimited Orchestra, 1974, #1
The Hustle, Van McCoy & The Soul City Symphony, 1975, #1
A Fifth of Beethoven, Walter Murphy & The Big Apple Band, 1976, #1
Rise, Herb Alpert, 1979, #1
Give It All You Got, Chuck Mangione, 1980, #18
Chariots of Fire, Vangelis, 1982, #1
Rockit, Herbie Hancock, 1983, #71 (#1 on the Dance Club Play charts)
Love Theme from St. Elmo's Fire, David Foster, 1985, #15
Theme From Mission Impossible, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen Jr., 1996, #7
That's quite a long list of successful instrumental songs, isn't it? And notice how many ended up topping the charts! Of the thirteen examples that I have posted, eight have been #1 singles! So, I think I've proven that there is a place for instrumentals in this world.
So, why am I bringing up the topic of instrumentals in this blog entry, especially since today happens to be a Monday Matinee? Well, as it so happens, I want to focus on an instrumental that managed to hit the Billboard Charts...an instrumental that happens to be a part of one of 1984's most successful films.
But first, let's have a listen.
ARTIST: Harold Faltermeyer
SONG: Axel F
ALBUM: Beverly Hills Cop Soundtrack
DATE RELEASED: January 21, 1985
PEAK POSITION ON THE BILLBOARD CHARTS: #3
Ah, yes, Axel F. The song that made German-born musician Harold Faltermeyer a household name for a spell. Mind you, the song Axel F was hardly his first foray into composing songs for soundtracks. Aside from composing hits for Donna Summer, Laura Branigan, and the Pet Shop Boys, he ended up contributing songs to films such as “Fletch”, “Top Gun”, “The Running Man”, and “Tango & Cash”.
But there was something about Axel F that was special. I can attest to this fact alone. Although I was barely four when it was released, I remember the song being played everywhere. You couldn't turn on the television without seeing some clip of Harold playing his multiple keyboards. For some reason, it's one image that will forever be burned into my memory, as it was one of the few from early childhood that I remember vividly.
And for those of you who remember the movie, “Beverly Hills Cop”, you know that this song features quite prominently in the film. So, I decided to pick this film for the subject of today's blog. Not just because it has a killer soundtrack (which also features songs by Glenn Frey, Patti LaBelle, and the Pointer Sisters), but because it's a great movie.
The film was released on December 5, 1984, and was the film that turned Eddie Murphy into a huge Hollywood star. Would you believe that Murphy was only 23 years old when this movie was filmed? The film was directed by Martin Brest, produced by the team of Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson, and also starred Judge Reinhold, Lisa Eilbacher, John Ashton, and Ronny Cox.
The film was a box office bonanza, taking in over $300 million in profits alone! It stayed at #1 on the box office ratings for fourteen consecutive weeks between late 1984 and early 1985. And just to give you an indication as to how successful the soundtrack of the film was, it ended up winning a Grammy Award in 1986! The film also spawned two sequels, one in 1987, and one in 1994.
Although the film was completed in 1984, the idea behind the film was actually born seven years earlier, in 1977. The first draft of the script that would become the screenplay for Beverly Hills Cop was written by Danilo Bach. The plot went through several changes in development. Initially, it was about a police officer from East Los Angeles who was transferred to Beverly Hills. By the time the film was ready to be filmed, it had evolved into the story of an East Coast cop who went out to Beverly Hills to avenge the death of a friend. Oh, and the main character was named Axel Elly.
TRIVIA: Would you believe that the only reason Martin Brest took on the directing role of the project was due to the luck of a coin toss? He flipped a quarter to determine whether he would accept the role or not. Reportedly, that quarter is now framed and is now hanging up on Brest's wall.
The initial casting for the main character of the movie was a lengthy process. Jerry Bruckheimer actually gave a bit of insight into the casting process behind the scenes. Initially, the project was intended for Mickey Rourke. Rourke had even signed a holding contract worth $400,000 in order to do the film. So what happened? Well, due to revisions of the script and other preparations needed for the film, Rourke's contract expired before filming could begin, and he walked. The project was then offered to Sylvester Stallone, but two weeks before filming was slated to begin, Stallone was out, and Eddie Murphy was in.
TRIVIA: Other actors in the running for the lead role reportedly included Richard Pryor, James Caan, and Al Pacino!
Oh, and here's another piece of trivia. You know the character of Billy Rosewood, played by Judge Reinhold? Back when Stallone was cast, the original script called for Rosewood to be KILLED OFF! Could you imagine? The only thing that ended up changing the producers minds about that plot point came down to casting. When John Ashton (who played the role of John Taggart was paired with Judge Reinhold, the director had a change of heart once he witnessed their chemistry with each other, and kept Rosewood alive to live through two more sequels!
The movie even boasted advanced technology, as there is a scene in the movie where Axel and Rosewood are being tracked via a GPS device, which didn't become commercially available for civilian use until the 1990s! No real reason to add this point in, I just thought it was cool!
Oh, and one final thing. The casting of Eddie Murphy in the main role meant that the whole movie had to be completely revised and some parts written entirely. The name of the main character was changed as well. Instead of Axel Elly, the name was changed to Axel Foley...or Axel F. Hmmm, where have I heard that name before? ;)
So, instead of Axel being from the East Coast, Axel now became a native of Detroit (some of the film was actually filmed in Detroit, Michigan). Axel Foley ended up becoming a police detective in Detroit, but prior to that, he was a juvenile delinquent in and out of trouble. At the beginning of the film, we see Axel try (and fail) to bust up an unauthorized cigarette smuggling operation, which earns him the wrath of his boss, Douglas Todd (Gilbert R. Hill).
Shortly after, Axel is surprised by an old childhood friend (who decides to break in rather than use the doorbell). His name is Mikey Tandino (James Russo), and he informs Axel that he now has a job as a security guard in Beverly Hills, California. Apparently, it was their mutual friend, Jenny (Eilbacher) that hooked Mikey up with the job. The two men head out for a few drinks, and all seems fine. But when they return to Axel's apartment, the two men are ambushed. Axel is knocked unconscious and Mikey is killed after he was questioned about some missing German bearer bonds.
Axel is devastated by the loss of his friend, and he demands to be a part of the investigation into his murder. But because Mikey was his friend, the police department in Detroit deem it a conflict of interest, and Axel is left out.
But does this stop Axel? No. He takes all of his unused vacation time and boards a flight to Beverly Hills, determined to launch his own investigation into the events that lead up to Mikey's demise.
He happens to run into his old friend Jenny at an art gallery that she happens to be working at, and after he fills her in on what happened to their friend, she offers Axel some insight behind what was happening. She tells him that before Mikey flew up to Detroit, he was hired by her boss, art dealer Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff), as a favour to Jenny. With a lead to go on, Axel attempts to find out more information by paying Maitland a visit...and then this happens.
I suppose that's one way out.
So, despite the fact that Axel is a member of the police force in Detroit, he is arrested and taken to the closest police station where he first meets Taggart and Rosewood. Initially, Taggart and Rosewood are assigned to follow Axel around to keep a close eye on him, and certainly the path is not an easy one. After all, with tricks like the one below, it's a wonder that Taggart and Rosewood even still have their badges.
But ultimately, the trio manage to form a mutual respect of each other, especially after foiling a robbery at a strip tease bar.
This is all fine and good, but there's a mystery to solve. What connection does Maitland have to Mikey's murder? Why is he so keen on keeping Axel from sneaking around? And, just what other criminal activities is Maitland involved in?
Well, I can't tell you. You know I never reveal movie endings. In this case, I'm especially being vague because I find the movie so interesting and entertaining, you have to really see it for yourselves.
After all, it made a star out of Eddie Murphy, it was one of 1984's most successful films, and it gave Harold Faltermeyer a Top 5 hit.
Which Crazy Frog proceeded to destroy twenty years later...