Instrumental Hits of the '80s
Remember the Instrumental Hits of the '80s?
Music changed in the '80s, Punk, New Wave, Electronic music, Hip Hop, and more, really hit their stride. These changes even began to show up in the instrumental hits of that time period.
As you look at these non-vocal hits, you will hear electronic keyboards, Moog synthesizers, and even turntable techniques and Hip Hop influences. For this reason, some of these hits were particularly popular in dance clubs. However, both the big and small screens had a heavy influence on our music as well. Many of the other instrumental hits of this period came in the form of theme songs on popular television shows and films.
Below you can sample some of the most popular instrumental tunes from the '80s.
Like many instrumental hits of the '80s, Axel F was featured in a popular film. 1984s Beverly Hills Cop was the first of several movies that focused on the antics and crime fighting of Axel Foley, played by Eddie Murphy.
Axel F was written and performed by Harold Faltermeyer and hit the charts in 1985. It's an electronic piece which can be heard below.
Love Theme From St. Elmo's Fire
The 1985 movie "St. Elmo's Fire" produced a couple of musical hits. One was a vocal called "Man in Motion" (performed by John Parr). The other hit was an instrumental (by David Foster) that is known as the love theme. It has of course, been recorded since, including vocal versions.
Hill Street Blues Theme
This instrumental hit came from a very popular television show in the U.S. versus a film. It was the theme song from "Hill Street Blues" a police drama that ran for several years, starting in 1980.
The song was written by Mike Post and can be heard below.
Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass became popular in the 1960s and on through the '70s. The group disbanded, but then Alpert reformed a group in the early '80s. One of the hits that came from this was Route 101 which hit the charts in 1982.
Like so many instrumentals, you may not know the song by it's name, but if you listen to it, it will likely be familiar.
Chariot's of Fire
The movie Chariots of Fire won numerous awards in 1981 including an Academy Award as well as honors at Cannes. The film included a new composition by Vangelis as the theme. Like the film, the electronic music of the theme song was very popular with audiences.
There were a few popular tunes to come from the television show "Miami Vice". The show's theme song was popular but so was the song later known as "Crockett's Theme". The song enjoyed success in Europe as well.
This instrumental was composed by Jan Hammer and can be heard below.
The '80s did have a few instrumental hits which were not merely a theme in a popular movie or television show. This song is one example. In 1980, Canadian pianist Frank Mills' "Peter Piper" performed well on the charts, although not as well as his earlier hit "Music Box Dancer".
You can hear this tune below.
Herbie Hancock's "Rock It" was a big instrumental hit in 1983. This song introduced turntable techniques, and scratching in particular, to a mainstream audience. It was a huge hit in dance clubs across the country.
Below you can hear it performed.
Saxophonist Kenny G released Silhouette in late 1988 and it was a hit. This instrumental earned him a Grammy nomination in 1989.
Sirius is an instrumental recorded by the Alan Parsons Project in 1982 on the album "Eye in the Sky". It is played as a stand alone tune or as an introduction to the song, Eye in the Sky. It has since been used in movies, television, and at athletic events so it is sometimes recognizable to those who weren't even around at the time of it's release.
Themes From Magnum P.I. and L.A. Law
Like many hit instrumentals from the era, this one is the theme for a television show. It comes from Mike Post who also had success with theme songs from Hill Street Blues, The Greatest American Hero, The Rockford Files, L.A. Law (which you can also hear below) among others.
L.A. Law Theme
© 2010 Christine Mulberry