Brief Interview with The Official Music of the XXIIIrd Olympiad, Los Angeles 1984

The 1984 Los Angeles Olympics had a soundtrack of its own, and that soundtrack was very 1984 and very Los Angeles. It's probably best not to talk about it.
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I was more nervous than usual going into this interview, but I steeled myself, tried to be professional.

And so I showed up at the spot: A small one bedroom apartment located in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago, IL, an apartment with meager trimmings and a sputtering A/C unit in the window. An inoffensive number of dishes cluttered the sink; there was what looked like a decent record collection, which was far more respectable than the dust-coated book collection nearby, which was in turn far more respectable than any of the furniture in the place by a long shot. There were absolutely no quarters in the change jar. An unnamed odor hung in the air.

I was there to conduct an interview with a digital copy of The Official Music of the XXIIIrd Olympiad Los Angeles 1984, a hubristic relic from the 80’s featuring Loverboy, Toto, Foreigner, Christopher Cross, Herbie Hancock, Philip Glass and more. It was a totem so curious and fascinating I had to go directly to the source to inquire about its mythic orgins, its impact on the Olympiad, its frankly bizarre sequencing, why smooth-jazz maven and Taxi theme song writer Bob James would write the theme song for the Basketball event, and why Sergio Mendes was involved in this project in any way at all.

I got as close as I could get, which for me was an illegally downloaded copy of the album I found on a weird blog, which I listened to in my one bedroom apartment—which, coincidentally, also features meager adornments and a sputtering A/C, and is located in the Lakeview neighborhood of Chicago.

What follows is the unabridged interview with a folder of mp3s comprising of The Official Music of the XXIIIrd Olympiad Los Angeles 1984 (conducted 7/23/2012).

The Classical: Thanks for taking the time. I really appreciate it. So, Ok. 1984 was the first year that the IOC signed off on an officially licensed soundtrack to the games.The games were held in L.A. and there was a lot of tension that year, with the Soviet Union and its allies boycotting the games due to aggressive anti-communist sentiments harbored by the United States and its citizens. But of course you know all this. My question, then: You seemed to avoid tackling any of those geopolitical issues on this soundtrack in favor of bands self-plagiarizing and/or faxing-in songs for some of that TV money. My question is why?

1984 Winter Olympics Soundtrack: [...]

TC: Ok let’s... on this soundtrack songs are categorized into events.There’s a Boxing theme, a Swimming theme, Track theme, but there's one category that's simply “Team Sports”, immortalized by Canadian rock group Loverboy’s anthem "Nothing's Going To Stop You Now"

Incidentally the lead guitar lick from that song is the exact same melody as "I've Never Been in Love Before" a classic duet from Guys And Dolls. So, are you a Broadway musical fan?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Ahh, it’s okay. Anyway, was there a decision behind lumping all the Team Sports into one category, or did you feel that the Handball team didn't deserve a Rick Springfield b-side?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Not even a Michael McDonald one-off?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Let’s move on to the next track. Actually let’s start with the very end of the Loverboy track, which has frontman Mike Reno riffing over some riffs, and the band chanting “Reach out! Reach out!” underneath. As Loverboy fades into silence, in comes the signature synths of Giorgio Moroder and the first words we hear in Paul Engemann’s melodramatic voice are, no joke, "Reach out". Did you want people to to just, like, totally laugh there?

Or reach out, maybe? Did you listen to yourself all the way through at one point and say “Yeah, that seems totally fine, seems like a wrap on this one?"

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Incidentally, “Reach Out” also sounds a lot like Paul Engemann’s other studio hit, "Push It To The Limit" from Scarface. Did you hear “Push it to the Limit” and then call Engemann and say “Hello, Paul. Would it be possible to take that song you did for that Al Pacino cocaine movie and refashion it for a global celebration of athletic virtuosity, friendly competition and good vibes?”

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Sorry, sorry. I understand these things can still be sensitive sometimes. Let’s switch gears. When I say “Boxing”, what’s the first word that comes to your mind?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Is it violence? Sweat? Blood? Canvas? A name, maybe. Evander Holyfield? Muhammad Ali? Pernell Whitaker?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: I ask because it seems like your answer was “Toto”, the 80’s studio-musician band responsible for “Africa” and “Rosanna”, among others. They turned in the instrumental “Moodido” to underscore the Boxing events. And with all due respect to "Moodido", it seems fair to say that the 8-bit theme to Mike Tyson's Punch-Out! has more teeth than this song. Did you feel that Toto, who once penned the lyrics “Hold the line/love isn’t always on time”, represented the storied ferocity and warrior ethos of Boxing?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: I think possibly the more egregious juxtaposition is Bob James’ theme for Basketball, actually. It’s titled "Courtship". Do you have any comments on that song or title?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: I want to read for you a quote from the YouTube user “ultraborb” who uploaded this song. “We're talking a combination of early Bob, with a large dose of later Bob. It's just a fantastic, whimsical, romantic track...” Were you looking for something with this vibe as you imagined Michael Jordan, Chris Mullin, and Country Steve Alford stomping all over the rest of the world?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: I understand, and I'm sorry the question came off that way. But to answer your question, I mean, whatever. Literally whatever: any other song. You could have used Run-D.M.C.’s "Rock Box" I think that would've worked. Or literally any other song would've worked.

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Do you still keep in touch with Bob?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: [...]

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Fair enough. And this is a good talk. So let's get off that. One of the more memorable and long-lasting inclusions on this soundtrack was written by John Williams, "Olympic Fanfare and Theme." The theme is still used today, and every two years when its clarion, triple-tongued horn parts resound through the living rooms worldwide, it reminds people of the spirit of the games. There’s something universal about that composition, even if it does sound like something Williams tossed off in the waiting room at the dentist’s office. It transcends, it endures, it resonates still to this day, despite the dentist's office thing from just now. So do you realize that Christopher Cross’ theme for Swimming, "A Chance For Heaven" is categorically the exact opposite of this?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: In hindsight, do you ever think that the ephemerality of pop music doesn’t quite align with the mythos of The Olympics in any form, no matter how “honest” it is at the time, and that vague, inspirational anthems about “reaching” or “striving” or “winning” or “giving it all you’ve got” often sound like vacuous, manipulative treacle that people will see as a complete joke only one decade later?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Well, let's just call that an agree-to-disagree. But I’m curious if you think that pop music and The Olympics can ever truly be congruent?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Because, and other than Philip Glass’ contribution which is also quite good, the music on this soundtrack sucks. Just awful, man. I'm sorry to be so blunt like that, but it's terrible. It sounds like farts and feels like farts and you didn’t even let Foreigner sing on the Marathon theme "Street Thunder" . Which, also, again with these song titles! But at the risk of belaboring the point, that is a Foreigner instrumental. Even Herbie Hancock’s Field Theme "Junku" which sounds like a version of "Rockit!" that was brutally shrunk in the dryer, sort of has some words in it.

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Isn’t it sad that the soundtracks and official themes to The Olympics are just another in a long line of examples of failed combinations of pop music and sports?

1984WOS: [...]

TC: [...]

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Well, I guess. I mean, that Christopher Cross song actually isn’t too bad. I could see myself swimming to that. That key change at the end is clutch.

1984WOS: [...]

TC: Anyhow, I think that’s it. Thank you very much for your time. I feel like this went well.

1984WOS: [...]

TC: No, point taken. I don't know that I'd blame all of it on cocaine, but point taken.


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