Harold Faltermeyer

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Harold Faltermeyer
Birth name Harald Faltermeier
Born (1952-10-05) 5 October 1952 (age 62)
Munich, Germany
Genres Film score, synthpop, electronic dance music
Occupations Musician, composer, producer
Instruments Synthesizer, keyboard, piano
Years active 1970s–present
Labels Deutsche Grammophon, MCA Records

Harold Faltermeyer (born Harald Faltermeier; 5 October 1952) is a German musician, keyboardist, composer and record producer.

He is recognized as one of the composers/producers who best captured the zeitgeist of 1980s synthpop in film scores.[1] He is best known for writing and composing the "Axel F" theme for Beverly Hills Cop and the Top Gun Anthem for the film Top Gun. Both works were influential synthpop hits in the 1980s.

As a session musician, arranger and producer, Faltermeyer has worked with several international pop stars including Donna Summer, Amanda Lear, Patti LaBelle, Barbra Streisand, Glenn Frey, Blondie, Laura Branigan, La Toya Jackson, Billy Idol, Jennifer Rush, Alexis, Cheap Trick, Sparks, Bob Seger, Chris Thompson, Bonnie Tyler, Valerie Claire and Pet Shop Boys.

He has won two Grammy Awards: the first in 1986 for Best Album of original score written for a motion picture or television special, as a co-writer of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack; and the second in 1987 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance with guitarist Steve Stevens for Top Gun Anthem from the soundtrack.

Background[edit]

Faltermeyer was born in Munich, Germany, the son of Anneliese (née Schmidt), a homemaker, and Hugo Faltermeier, a construction businessman.[2] Encouraged by his parents (the owners of a civil engineering firm), he started playing piano at the age of 6. At 11, a Nuremberg music professor discovered that Harold had absolute pitch. His boyhood years combined training in classical music with a developing interest in rock 'n roll. He played organ in a rock combo and studied trumpet and piano at the Munich music academy. While waiting to begin university studies he found work at a recording studio. Within three years he was engineering major classical sessions for the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label. Then in 1978, Giorgio Moroder recognized his promise and brought him to Los Angeles to play keyboards and arrange the soundtrack for the film Midnight Express. Moroder and Faltermeyer continued their collaboration the next decade,[3] producing Donna Summer albums and several hits for various artists. Soon Faltermeyer was earning an international reputation for both precise workmanship and trendsetting creativity in his use of synthesizer technology.[4]

Soundtrack work[edit]

Alongside a busy schedule as a record producer, he became increasingly involved in soundtrack work on Moroder's scores (Midnight Express, American Gigolo and Foxes) and was soon hired as composer in his own right—usually composing, performing and producing the complete score as well as a number of pop songs penned for various artists. Early on he created arguably one of his finest works for 1984's Thief of Hearts—a highly sought after CD with noteworthy electronic scoring and songs for Melissa Manchester, Annabella Lwin, Elizabeth Daily and others. Then came his big break with the landmark Hip hop / Breakdance influenced score for Beverly Hills Cop featuring the worldwide hit, the "Axel F" theme (referred to by Faltermeyer himself as the banana theme[5] as it was originally written for a specific scene where Detroit policeman Axel Foley gives a pair of Beverly Hills police officers the slip by shoving bananas up their exhaust pipe, causing their car to stall when they try and tail him).

The year after, the Fletch theme expanded on his trademark electronic soundscapes with experimental phase modulated percussion effects woven into the largely analog synth melodies. He also composed the theme song, "Bit by Bit", sung by Stephanie Mills.

The full scores of these films were not released on album. Only a handful of additional score tracks complemented these hits on vinyl: "The Discovery" and "Shoot-out" from Beverly Hills Cop and "Memories" from Top Gun, and only ever as B-sides on singles. However, The Running Man and Kuffs were graced with full score albums and the Thief of Hearts and Fletch scores also received reasonably good coverage on their respective soundtrack albums. In January 2007, La La Land Records finally released a limited edition soundtrack (3000 CD copies) for Tango & Cash.

In 1987 Faltermeyer recorded an album called Harold F with vocal tracks featuring various guest singers plus "Axel F" which appears as a bonus track. The song "Bad Guys" is based on the (otherwise unavailable) main theme for Beverly Hills Cop II.

In 1990 he co-produced the album Behaviour with Pet Shop Boys at his studio near Munich after Neil and Chris were looking for his "sound", being longtime fans. The album was released later the same year and is considered by many to be Pet Shop Boys' best album.[citation needed]

Influence[edit]

The highly recognizable "Axel F" theme was recorded using five instruments: a Roland Jupiter-8 (lead), a Moog modular synthesizer 55 (bass), a Roland JX-3P (chord stabs), a Yamaha DX7 (bell/marimba), and a LinnDrum drum machine. It has been covered by numerous artists and in May 2005 a re-recording of the classic reached number one in the UK singles chart after being remixed with the Crazy Frog ringtone.

The theme changed the sound of contemporary urban action/comedy, just as the Top Gun Anthem became synonymous with seductive depictions of working class heroes striving for the top (like Bill Conti's "Rocky theme" did 10 years earlier).

The music for 1988's flight simulator computer game F/A-18 Interceptor from Electronic Arts was obviously inspired by the "Top Gun Anthem" and many film scenes, spoof or serious, have been scored in a faux-Top Gun fashion.

In 1991 Sylvester Levay (himself a past Moroder collaborator) faithfully re-created the theme's atmosphere in his Hot Shots! parody score (paradoxically, this score was released on CD by Varese Sarabande while the original Top Gun score has still not been released officially, although in 2006 a bootleg appeared in small circulation among collectors.)

In many ways, Faltermeyer's work on action films during the 1980s presaged the work that Hans Zimmer would embody and perpetuate during the mid-1990s. Faltermeyer's style defined the 1980s style of action scoring, heavily synthesized, very tuneful and rhythmic. Zimmer and his many protégés redefined it for the 1990s and beyond, but embodied the same kind of hybrid textures that Faltermeyer first laid down in the 1980s.[citation needed]

Later career[edit]

"After Tango & Cash I made a decision to go back and raise my children in Germany, where I was born", Faltermeyer said in a 2006 interview for the Tango & Cash soundtrack CD. From his Red Deer Studios Estate in Munich, Germany, he has continued producing hit records and soundtracks mainly for the German market.

In 2002, he went to Vienna and wrote a musical with Rainhard Fendrich, Wake Up, which played for nearly two years in Vienna's famous Raimund Theater. The following soundtrack CD employed Copy Control technology and features an orchestral ouverture as well as 16 songs.

"But now I think it's time to come back where I started from." Faltermeyer has become re-associated with his Los Angeles agency, Creative Artists Agency, and is looking forward to getting involved again in Hollywood film scoring. Earlier in 2006, Faltermeyer wrote the in-game soundtrack music for the computer game, Two Worlds.

In late 2009, Faltermeyer was approached by Kevin Smith, director of the action comedy Cop Out starring Bruce Willis, to do the soundtrack score. Faltermeyer's return to scoring was for this film, which opened in February 2010.

Discography[edit]

Soundtrack albums[edit]

As composer
As arranger only

Albums[edit]

As songwriter / producer / arranger / musician / remixer
  • Amanda Lear: I am a Photograph (1977)
  • Suzi Lane: Ooh, La, La (1978)
  • Roberta Kelly: Gettin' The Spirit (1978)
  • Dee D Jackson: Cosmic Curves (1978)
  • Giorgio Moroder and Chris Bennett: Love's in You, Love's in Me (1978)
  • Giorgio Moroder: Battlestar Galactica (1978)
  • Janis Ian: Night Rains (1979)
  • The Sylvers: Disco Fever (1979)
  • The Three Degrees: Three D (1979)
  • Donna Summer: Bad Girls (1979)
  • Donna Summer: The Wanderer (1980)
  • Sparks: Terminal Jive (1980)
  • Giorgio Moroder: E=mc2 (1980)
  • Donna Summer: I'm a Rainbow (1981, shelved until 1996)
  • Al Corley: Square Rooms (1984)
  • Laura Branigan: Self Control (1984)
  • Laura Branigan: Hold Me (1985)
  • Richard T. Bear: The Runner (1985)
  • E. G. Daily: Wildchild (1985)
  • Billy Idol: Whiplash Smile (1986)
  • Donna Summer: All Systems Go (1987)
  • Jennifer Rush: Heart Over Mind (1987)
  • Jennifer Rush: Passion (1988)
  • Chris Thompson: The Challenge (Face It) (1989)
  • Franzisca: Hold The Dream (1990)
  • Pet Shop Boys: Behaviour (1990)
  • Dominoe: The Key (1990)
  • Chris Thompson: Beat of Love (1991)
  • Falco: Jeanny (Remix) (1991)
  • Falco: Emotional (Remix) (1991)
  • Chaya: Here's to Miracles (1993)
  • Marshall & Alexander: Marshall & Alexander (1998)
  • Bonnie Tyler: All in One Voice (1999)

Selected singles[edit]

As songwriter / arranger / producer
  • Camino De Lobo: "Carmen Disco Suite" (1983)
  • Valerie Claire: "I'm a Model (Tonight's the Night)" (1984)
  • Valerie Claire: "Shoot Me Gino" (1985)
  • John Parr: "Restless Heart (Running Away with You)" (1987) (not available on the Running Man soundtrack album)
  • Kathy Joe Daylor: "With Every Beat of My Heart" (1990)

Selected singles including instrumental themes[edit]

  • Artists United For Nature: "Yes We Can" (1989) (7" & CD including instrumental version)
  • Harold Faltermeyer: "Axel F" (1984) (7" including "Shoot Out")
  • Harold Faltermeyer: "The Race Is On / Starlight Express" (1987)
  • Harold Faltermeyer & Steve Stevens: "Top Gun Anthem" (1986) (including "Memories")
  • Glenn Frey: "The Heat Is On" (1984) (7" including "Shoot Out")
  • Patti LaBelle: "Stir It Up" (1984) (7" including "The Discovery")
  • Marietta: "Fire and Ice" (1986) (7" & 12" including instrumental dub version)
  • Chris Thompson: "The Challenge (Face It)" (Wimbledon 1989 theme, 7" & CD including instrumental version)

Solo releases[edit]

  • Harold F (1987)
  • Worldhits (1988?) (Instrumental disco arrangements of various well-known songs)
  • Harold Faltermeyer featuring Joe Pizzulo: "Olympic Dreams" (1992) (CD single)

Collections[edit]

  • Portrait of Harold Faltermeyer: His Greatest Hits (2003 double CD)
  • Movie Greats (1986) (only CD to feature the Fletch theme)
  • Stephanie Mills: The Collection (1990) (CD including "Bit by Bit (Theme from Fletch)", otherwise LP-only track)

Audio sample[edit]

An excerpt from Axel F

Problems playing this file? See media help.


See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Kuffs soundtrack, liner notes (unknown author), Milan 10151-2 (1992 CD)
  • Tango & Cash soundtrack, liner notes by Randall D. Larson, La-La Land Records LLLCD 1052 (2006 CD)

References[edit]

  1. ^ Discogs - Harald Faltermeier profile and discography
  2. ^ "Harold Faltermeyer Biography (1952-)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved 2012-02-15. 
  3. ^ "Harold Faltermayer (interview)". Daeida magazine. October 2012. 
  4. ^ Schweiger, Daniel - "AUDIO: On The Score With Harold Faltermeyer" at the Wayback Machine (archived April 30, 2010) - FilmMusicMag.com
  5. ^ CreaTVty Ltd, Take 2 TV Partnerships and NBD Television Ltd: Music Behind The Scenes, Episode 4 - Humour

External links[edit]