Vice Rewind

My childhood was filled with music. Not in some artsy fartsy way, just that my Dad always had some album playing. For the bulk of my childhood we lived in a long, ranch-style home that he had wired from end to end with a system of ginormous speakers that were magnificently 80’s, standing at twice my height. Pillars of sound that shook the house with mostly 70’s and 80’s tunes from bands like Foreigner, Genesis, Van Halen, and Duran Duran; Mozart and Beethoven on Sunday mornings over pancakes. The speakers were hidden under huge fishing baskets woven from reed and stained a dark brown. My parents had bought them when we were stationed in the Philippines and they had followed us around the world. They also were a great place to hide while playing.

The heart of that stereo system could be found in the living room within a large, beautiful, hand made mahogany cabinet my family had also brought from the Philippines. Holes had been carefully drilled in the back to allow for multitudinous wire that splayed in every direction. Also within that cabinet was a massive array of cassette tapes, some with legit album cover art, most with handwritten labels indicating that the cassette had been copied from somewhere else. Here I discovered The Doors, Michael Jackson, and even a Monty Python album. I accidentally listened to the Python album, not knowing what it was. It had been recorded from a vinyl record my Dad no longer had and would soon consume a whole different part of my listening (that’s a whole other post.)

That was the thing, I didn’t know who the bulk of these musicians were. I’d just pull a cassette off the shelf (later they’d be CDs) and start listening. I had a long bus ride to school and reading made me motion sick, so they and my crappy little tape player were my best friends. Soon I had a stable of favorites that included giants like The Police, The Cars, Peter Gabriel, and… The Miami Vice Soundtrack.

Miami Vice Soundtrack, 1985
Our cassette had likely been lovingly copied from this, the real deal.

Little did I know or even until recently realize that The Miami Vice Soundtrack would be a touchstone for my future musical tastes. I was drawn to Jan Hammer’s synth pop beats and the eclectic mix of well known artists whose tracks fit the sometimes smokey, sometimes up tempo theme. I had never watched the TV show. I still haven’t watched the TV show. But I listened to that album relentlessly.

It all came rushing back. I was playing the violent video game Hotline Miami which boasts a suitably throbbing soundtrack. I’m still listening to that amazing collection of songs long past playing the game.

Recommending the Hotline Miami soundtrack to a friend I struggled to describe it, settling on “Miami Vice Electronica.” Saying those words triggered a rush of memories, and a vision of that old cassette labeled with my Dad’s small print dominated my brain. I had to track it down. Surely The Internet, which stores all things, would quickly lead me there.

It’s easy to find a track listing from the 1985 album, so long as you avoid confusing yourself with the soundtrack from the awful 2006 movie starring Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx. I could even find a CD on Amazon, but nowhere had someone assembled a digital playlist. I needed to listen it as soon as possible but buying a physical CD and waiting for it to arrive in the mail wasn’t going to indulge my impulsivity. Plus this is the year 2017 and I’m not going to buy a CD. There was only one course of action: assemble an unofficial YouTube playlist of the various songs.

  1. Original Miami Vice Theme (Jan Hammer):
  2. Smuggler’s Blues (Glenn Frey):
  3. Own The Night (Chaka Khan):
  4. You Belong To the City (Glenn Frey):
  5. In the Air Tonight (Phil Collins):
  6. Miami Vice Theme (Jan Hammer):
  7. Vice (Grandmaster Melle Mel):
  8. Better Be Good to Me (Tina Turner):
  9. Flashback (Jan Hammer):
  10. Chase (Jan Hammer):
  11. Evan (Jan Hammer):

It’s such a weird mix of genuine mega hits like Collins’ In the Air Tonight, the goofy and underrated Smuggler’s Blues by Frey (who gets TWO tracks on the album), and Hammer’s unique instrumental tracks. In a funny twist of fate, I mentioned this whole nostalgia trip over breakfast with my Dad and he excitedly reported that he had the CD in his car at that very moment. Of course he did. I’ve been jamming to The Miami Vice Soundtrack at work because after borrowing the CD, it occurred to me that I have no device to play it at home. Thankfully I’ve got my YouTube playlist to fall back on, and like my school bus rides of old, I can’t stop listening.



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