Billboard #1s for the Week Ending September 7, 1985

This week’s Time Capsule!

Chart Title Act Weeks
Hot 100 St. Elmo’s Fire (Man In Motion) John Parr 1
R & B Saving All My Love For You Whitney Houston 1
Country I Don’t Know Why You Don’t Want Me Rosanne Cash 1
Adult Contemporary Cherish Kool and the Gang 3
Rock Lonely Ol’ Night John Cougar Mellencamp 1
Album Brothers In Arms Dire Straits 2

jan_hammer-miami_vice_themeThis week sees an unsual confluence of pop culture accomplishments enter the Hot 100. When producer Michael Mann introduced his pioneering, highly stylized crime drama Miami Vice in 1984, one of the most notable aspects was its soundtrack. Mann tapped composer, keyboard player, and producer Jan Hammer to create a distinctive sound for the show, allowing him extraordinary freedom to build the music. Mann also spent huge amounts of money to land new, original songs and license older hits to add to the show’s atmosphere.

Hammer’s Miami Vice Theme, a surging, distinctive bit of synthesizer work, debuted on the Hot 100 this week at #59. It was the second hit from the show, following Glenn Frey’s Smuggler’s Blues [#12]. Frey followed the theme with another smash, the #2 You Belong to the City. These songs and a dozen others formed a soundtrack album that spent 11 weeks at #1, the most successful TV soundtrack ever for a non-musical show. The theme was also Hammer’s only Hot 100 hit, making him a true One Hit Wonder.

When Miami Vice Theme hit #1 on November 9, 1985, it made Hammer one of a handful of chart-topping One Hit Wonders. It was also the last instrumental to top the Billboard charts, bringing decades of instrumental success to a close. Instrumentals were a huge part of the charts in the big band years, and their success carried over into the early years of the rock era. Since the introduction of the Hot 100 in August 1958, two dozen instrumentals have topped the charts. The biggest hits of 1960 (Theme From A Summer Place by Percy Faith) and 1962 (Stranger On the Shore by Mr. Acker Bilk) were instrumentals.

The British Invasion saw a reduction in successful instrumentals, but they were still around. There was a resurgence during the disco years, but by 1981 they were fairly rare. After Vangelis topped the chart with Titles from Chariots of Fire in late 1981, there were a few more minor hits, then a couple of years with no instrumental hits at all. Since Miami Vice Theme hit #1, only a half-dozen instrumentals have made it into the Top 10.

INTERESTING SIDE NOTE: There are a handful of songs that are instrumental tracks with minor vocal elements. Some of these are considered instrumentals by the editors at Billboard. Four disco-era #1s — TSOP by MFSB and the Three Degrees, The Hustle by Van McCoy, Fly Robin Fly by Silver Convention, and  Gonna Fly Now by Bill Conti — are such semi-instrumentals. In 2013, trap and bass producer Baauer spent five weeks at #1 with Harlem Shake, another track in this category. If one counts these songs, Baauer finally broke the instrumental chart-topper dry spell after almost 30 years.

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About Robert Hulshof-Schmidt
Freelance writer, researcher, online comic vendor, and project manager. Fan of a wide range of music -- especially folk and 80s pop -- vintage comics, British TV, and LGBT fiction.

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