Rolling Stone October 26, 1985
"Miami Vice" goes on record
LP features Glenn Frey, Chaka Khan, Jan Hammer
FROM "HAWAII FIVE-O" TO Welcome Back, Kotter to Hill Street Blues, television shows whose theme songs have become hit singles are nothing new. But the hippest show of the Eighties, the show that will soon have its own line of shoes, that has people staying home on Friday night- that show needed something more. Miami Vice needed its own album.
Music from the Television Series 'Miami Vice' combines new material with songs closely identified with the show's first season. There are five instrumentals by Jan Hammer, who composes each episode's neon score. There are previously released hits by Glenn Frey, Tina Turner and Phil Collins, all of which were incorporated into past episodes. And there are three new songs that will accompany Crockett and Tubbs' gunfights this year: "Vice," a crackling rap by Grandmaster Melle Mel; Chaka Khan's "Own the Night," produced by Arif Mardin and co-written by Fran Golde, who penned the Commodores' "Night Shift"; and "You Belong to the City," by Glenn Frey.
"Last January," says one of the LP's executive producers, Danny Goldberg, "I said to Michael Mann (the series executive producer), 'You're showcasing all this music. Why not create some original music and have a hit record?' "
Phil Collins was too busy, but one artist who was eager to participate was Glenn Frey, whose song "Smuggler's Blues" was the theme song for an episode (in which he also appeared) this season. "They wanted me to write a song for the season opener," Frey recalls. "Because both Miami Vice and myself have mutually benefited from our relationship, I was more than happy to do it for them."
Since the two-hour opener is set primarily in New York, Frey aimed for "more of an urban sound, a kick-ass disco record, but with intelligent lyrics, as opposed to 'Baby, baby, baby.' Frey says that it's "a very visual tune." When writing the song, he imagined "a rainy street, Sonny Rollins blowing on the Fifty-ninth Street Bridge."
"It's written from Tubbs' point of view," Frey explains. "He started out in New York on the very first episode, before going down to Miami and staying there. The song is about going back to a place where you lived before The tide means the city is something you can't get out of your blood."
Jan Hammer's "Miami Vice Theme," which he composed "accidentally" while fooling around with his Fairlight synthesizer, is racing Frey's "You Belong to the City" up the singles chart Remix masters Francois Kevorkian and Ron St. Germain have also turned it into a twelve-inch dance record, complete with squealing tires and police sirens - "all in tune," Hammer notes happily. The success is especially gratifying for the thirty-seven-year-old keyboardist, who left his native Czechoslovakia just before the Russian invasion of 1968. "When I met Jan, he was certainly going through a difficult period," says Goldberg. "He hadn't found an outlet for his genius. He was making solo records, but they weren't selling particularly well, and he wanted to get into scoring." A founding member of the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Hammer had already scored several movies (A Night in Heaven and Secret Admirer), as well as some foreign television shows, before we made him the Henry Mancini of the Eighties.
"Ever since the first episode" he says, "I've gotten letters asking where people could buy the music. I've gotten letters from people in Nebraska, places you wouldn't think of as being hip, saying they love the music." Hammer spends up to eighty hours each week in his one-man studio in upstate New York, composing, playing, engineering and mixing the twenty plus minutes of original music that goes into each episode. The music ranges from calypso to hard rock to electronic - but Nebraskans like it all, Hammer believes, because of the melodic instinct that he has carried over from the Eastern European folk music he grew up on.
The last television album to top the charts was a soundtrack LP from Peter Gun, which spent ten weeks at Number One in 1959. But if Music from 'Miami Vice' becomes successful, there will surely be more TV albums. this will be the Flashdance of television, in terms of breaking new ground commercially," Goldberg predicts. - "If it works, it will be a whole new bastard genre of rock & roll." The possibilities boggle the mind: Molly Hatchet guest-starring on Simon & Simon, Bryan Ferry recording a song for Dynasty.
"It'll happen," Goldberg says. And it will be awful. - Rob Tannenbaum