Sometimes the most important questions do not get asked. Or at least they’re asked by the wrong people, never get answered, and fade away.
Yesterday, as I knocked out dishes and laundry, I listened to the American Top 40 rerun of the week. It was from September 1985. Good times for me, back then. In my first month of high school, the Royals had just caught and passed the Angels and were on their way to two more comebacks in October.1 We were also about to move into a house, the first of my life after 14 years in apartments, duplexes, etc. I think I was drinking a lot of Cherry Coke, too, which had just hit the market.
More importantly, though, there was a certain television show that had captured my imagination, along with that of the nation. A couple stylish cops from Miami who drove fast cars and tried to battle the local drug kingpins. As important as Crockett and Tubbs2 were to the fall of 1985, so was their soundtrack, headlined by a Czech electronic artist named Jan Hammer.
The biggest mover on yesterday’s countdown was the “Miami Vice Theme”, which jumped 13 spots to 21 in its second week in the Top 40. There was probably no hotter point in the Miami Vice craze than late September/early October 1985.
Which got me thinking about another artist similar to Jan Hammer, Harold Faltermeyer. Most famous for “Axel F,” his synthesizer-driven theme for Beverly Hills Cop, Faltermeyer was another central European artist (German in his case) that used the exploding possibilities of electronic music to hit the American charts.
So, after all that, I was left with a simple question: who was better: Jan Hammer or Harold Faltermeyer?
Hammer, who worked with tons of people as a session musician in the 1970s, didn’t do much else after he stopped doing the music for Vice in the late 80s. He does get bonus points for keytar use, though!
Faltermeyer handled the themes for two other huge movies: Fletch and Top Gun. He also did the music for a couple other movies. He got his start with Giorgio Moroder, helping the legendary Italian artist with the music for Midnight Express and to produce music for Donna Summer. Faltermeyer also worked with Laura Branigan, Billy Idol, Pet Shop Boys, and Bonnie Tyler, among others.
You could spend hours going back-and-forth between the Miami Vice Theme and Axel F, attempting to decide which was better. But when it comes to overall body of work, Harold Faltermeyer was much better than Jan Hammer.