First Hit #1: May 8, 1982
Instrumentals become increasingly rare on the pop charts, so unlike the early days when an instrumental is just part of the regular makeup of the music scene, one has to actually consider how Vangelis sneaked up there. One could argue that it’s because Vangelis’ music makes mundane tasks seem incredibly important, something I realized when I had the Conquest of Paradise soundtrack playing while going to get some cheese. Very important cheese, mind you, because Vangelis was playing when I was going to get it.
But in the case of Chariots of Fire, it’s the marriage of sound and image that propelled it upwards. The song is naturally part of the soundtrack to the film Chariots of Fire, the story of two Olympic runners in the 1920s. It is no coincidence that the song was part of this year’s Olympic opening ceremonies, and was part of a parody of that films iconic sequence, that being a group of men running on the beach, scored to this music. Change the score, that scene could be anything. Put on some Yakety Sax and you’ve got comedy, for example. But as mentioned, Vangelis has the ability to make things more important. So that sequence, with the chugging synthesizers and steadily building piano, becomes one of the iconic images of the modern era. Even if you haven’t seen the film – and I haven’t myself – the combination of these two parts makes for a story in itself, a tale of determination and struggle towards a certain goal, probably a goal involving running. It kind of encapsulates the themes of the film, even though I’m guessing the themes based on a brief plot synopsis, and it becomes a go-to piece of inspiring instrumental music because it recalls those images and the feelings they represent. On its own, it’s a quality instrumental, but with its history, it becomes something else entirely.