Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Official Music of the XXIII Olympiad Los Angeles 1984 (1984)

Released: 1984 (Columbia)
Produced by: Peter Guber and Jon Peters
Peak on the US Billboard 200: 92

Side One Side Two
Bugler's Dream
Nothing's Gonna Stop You Now
Reach Out
A Chance for Heaven
Moodido (The Match)
Olympic Fanfare and Theme
Street Thunder
The Olympian - Lighting of the Torch

30 years ago, I was attempting to get ready to move off to college while holding down a summer job at Burger King, but all that took a back seat to what was going on in Los Angeles. I was glued to ABC for as much coverage of the summer Olympics as possible from July 28 to August 12, 1984.  As far as I can tell, that Olympics was the first to have its own soundtrack album.  I bought a copy of the album in 1984 and for some reason have held on to it for 30 years.  The album is noteworthy as it contained the first released recording of John Williams' "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" which has become a staple of Olympic television broadcasts.

I don't know the origins of this album, but I'm sure it had to do with money - I seriously doubt that record executives were sitting around trying to figure out how to get Loverboy on an album with Philip Glass.  The album was released on the Columbia label.  Not coincidentally, the included artists were all Columbia artists.  Like most soundtrack releases of the time, there's a a few hits and lots of misses.

For a humorous "interview" with the music from this album, click here (and kindly ignore the fact that the album is referred to as the "Winter Olympics Soundtrack").

  • "Bugler's Dream" by Leo Arnaud:  this brief fanfare is known by anyone who ever watched an Olympic telecast on ABC.  Instantly familiar. 
  • "Nothing's Gonna Stop You Now" (Team Sports Theme) by Loverboy:  the opening riff is promising, but the chorus falls flat and this ends up sounding like a b-side (which I guess it sorta is).
  • "Reach Out" (Track Theme) by Giorgio Moroder:  according to the Internet, this single reached the #1 spot in Germany.  Go figure.  With vocals by Paul Engemann, this single is basically a re-working of Moroder's "What A Feeling" song from the Flashdance movie and "Push It to the Limit" from Scarface.
  • "Courtship" (Basketball Theme) by Bob James: this instrumental is cheesy as hell and I love it.  From the sound of a basketball being dribbled as metronomic percussion to the syncopated accompaniment, it really caught my ear as an 18 year old.  So much so that I bought James' 1984 album, titled 12.  That purchase was a mistake, but that's a story for another time.
  • "A Chance for Heaven" (Swimming Theme) by Christopher Cross:  Written by Burt Bacharach, it must be good, right?  Not so much.  The only interesting part is the bridge and that is buried in crowd noise and over all too quickly.
  • "Moodido (The Match)" (Boxing Theme) by Toto:  an instrumental jam from Toto means plenty of Steve Lukather and that's fine with me.  The verse isn't much to speak of, but when the horns kick in at the driving chorus, I'm hooked.  The drum break about two minutes in sounds like music from a CHiPs chase scene but then the sound of the ringside bell brings me back to Olympic boxing.

  • "Olympic Fanfare and Theme" by John Williams:  composed for the '84 Olympics, but good enough to be heard on every Olympic broadcast since that time.  Classic John Williams (which means it reminds you of everything from his theme from E.T. to his theme for NBC News).  It's all good, but I get goosebumps when the bass line starts descending at around the 2:40 mark. So simple yet so effective.
  • "Grace" (Gymnastics Theme) by Quincy Jones: this cut won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Arrangement for Jones and  Jeremy Lubbock.  A beautiful melody that is indeed graceful.  Wouldn't be out of place on The Dude or Back on the Block.  Sadly, the ethereal nature of the piece just doesn't hold my interest for more than a minute of two.
  • "Power" (Power Sports Theme) by Bill Conti:  "Hey, Bill?  This is Guy Generic from Columbia Records.  We're putting together an Olympics album and we're hoping you could attempt to re-write your famous Rocky theme.  You know - lots of fanfare brass, timpani, and chimes.  What's that?  Yeah, I guess you can add some synths if ya want.  You'll do it?  Thanks."
  • "Street Thunder" (Marathon Theme) by Foreigner:  a bad instrumental probably written and recorded in less time than it takes to run a marathon (about 2 hours, 9 minutes at the '84 Olympics).
  • "Junku" (Field Theme) by Herbie Hancock:  similar to the electro-funk/hip-hop sound that Hancock and Bill Laswell were experimenting with at the time.  If you like "Rockit" you'll like this.
  • "The Olympian - Lighting of the Torch" by Philip Glass:  actually used in the opening ceremonies at the LA Coliseum as Rafer Johnson lit the cauldron.  Typical dramatic, bombastic Glass is perfectly suited to such things. 

  1. Olympic Fanfare and Theme
  2. Bugler's Dream
  3. Courtship
  4. Moodido (The Match)
  5. Junku
  6. Grace
  7. The Olympian - Lighting of the Torch
  8. Reach Out
  9. Nothing's Gonna Stop You Now
  10. Power
  11. A Chance for Heaven
  12. Street Thunder

1 comment :

  1. Thanks for this. Had no idea the Olympic Games were even going on in the Summer of 1984. Between working for the man, frequent trips to the water park, backpacking across Europe, summer school and border-crossing rendezvous with my Canadian model girlfriend at the time, I was barely home let alone near a TV.

    Does every Olmpiad get a soundtrack album nowadays?