Thursday, December 3, 2015

"Maniac" by Michael Sembello

#1 Alert!
One-Hit Wonder Alert!
Song#:  1479
Date:  06/04/1983
Debut:  89
Peak:  1 (2 week)
Weeks:  22
Genre:  Synthpop, Soundtrack, Dance

Pop Bits:  Philly musician/guitarist Sembello was quickly becoming a seasoned session player in his late teens. His work led to being the lead guitarist on the majority of tracks for Stevie Wonder's seminal 1976 album "Songs in the Key of Life." He also began to write songs that got picked up by several high-profile artists included Diana Ross and Donna Summer. As the 80s got underway, Paramount Pictures began searching for songs that would be included in their upcoming film "Flashdance." Sembello's wife gathered some of his demos and sent them to the studio. However, she mistakenly included a song called "Maniac," a crazy tune that Sembello had written with Dennis Matkosky. The studio loved the song and after a change in lyrics, it got included in the film and on the soundtrack. Featured in a famous montage scene in the movie, the song became popular enough to serve as the soundtrack's second single. The tune made a slow climb until it finally reached the top spot of the Pop chart (#6 Dance, #34 Rock, #34 AC). It would also be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song (it would be beaten out by Irene Cara's title-track). It made Sembello a star, but only briefly. Although he would grab a slight Top 40 follow-up, this lone hit got him labeled a one-hit wonder (#22 on VH1's list of Greatest One-Hit Wonders of the 80s).

ReduxReview:  Yeah, I loved this song back then. It wasn't as good as the title song, but the production was great and it zipped right along at a frantic pace. I loved the background "crazy crazy crazy" after the first chorus and the guitar solo was a highlight. I find it more of a relic of the times than something I'd really choose to listen to now, but the song was great for the movie and the era.

ReduxRating:  8/10

Trivia:  The original inspiration for this song came from the 1980 slasher film "Maniac." The low-budget thriller set the wheels in motion for co-writer Matkosky and with Sembello the song took form and was completed. The original lyrics pertained to a serial killer, but Flashdance album producer Phil Ramone asked if the song could be about a woman who is manic about dancing (i.e., kind of what the film was about). The lyrics were updated and eventually the song became an 80s #1 classic.


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