Flashback Fridays: Take My Breath Away
Like a cool Summer breeze Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" pulsates with a real sense of style and nostalgia. It defines that period between the late 1980s and early 2000s when movie soundtracks would produce the defining hits of the times. It was an epoch when dual classics on the big screen and radio dial.
"Take My Breath Away" was featured on the soundtrack for Tony Scott's 1986 "Top Gun," the first of producer Jerry Bruckheimer's long catalogue of big budget, visually slick action extravaganzas which continue today with the "Transformers" franchise.
"Top Gun" was not great cinema, the story is about a fighter pilot called Maverick, played by Tom Cruise, who tries to win the affections of his boss, instructor Charlie Blackwood (Kelly McGills). All this while facing off with fellow pilot and rival Iceman, played by Val Kilmer in one of his early, defining roles.
Essentially the film is part of the corny, over the top, testosterone-fueled thrill rides that defined the Reagan 80s. This was the decade of Rambo, Indiana Jones and Rocky Vs. the USSR. But audiences loved this hybrid of a macho action movie meets Friday night date flick. Such a film called for a specific soundtrack and Bruckheimer and Scott put together an album that pulled no stops in delivering the full, romantic vision of 1980s pop.
The album, a major chart topper, featured a line up of names such as Cheap Trick, Kenny Loggins and even a revival of the Righteous Brothers' velvety, Wall of Sound-immersed "You've Lost That Loving Feeling."
But it was "Take My Breath Away," by the New Wave band Berlin, that defined the album and has stood the test of time. It would go on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song as well as the Golden Globe in the same category.
It was written and crafted by Giorgio Moroder, one of the era's synth gurus who also composed the score for Brian DePalma's 1983 gangster classic "Scarface" and was the mind behind Blondie's exhilarating hit "Call Me."
Awash in Moroder's waves of sound and driven by Terri Nunn's lush vocals, "Take My Breath Away" is pure, crystalized romanticism. It moves along with the rhythm of a heartbeat as Nunn evokes lyrics that have a pop eloquence when she sings "On this endless ocean finally lovers know no shame."
The song builds a beautiful crescendo that could almost be defined as synth-pop opera. It's one of those #1 hits that is so unique in its character that no covers can do it justice. Consider Jessica Simpson's ill-fated 2004 version video, which replaced Moroder's rich layers of sound with stale, acoustic-tinged, 2000's style boredom. She takes an evocative love song and turns it into a lame, mushy track to fill airspace.
"Take My Breath Away" helped usher in an epoch of romantic hits that were fueled by the movies. There's a direct line between it and songs like "Kiss From A Rose" from "Batman Forever," "Everything I Do" from "Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves," "Have You Ever Really Loved A Woman" from "Don Juan De Marco," and of course that played out standard "My Heart Will Go On" from "Titanic."
But none of them reached the level of "Take My Breath Away." It's pop and avant-garde, intense but tender, poetic yet as simple as any speedily composed love letter. Listeners who have never seen the movie know the song. It is as immortal as Pablo Neruda's love poetry. One for the ages.