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Tumbling Down the Chris Thompson Rabbit Hole

"When the Night Falls In," the rabbit hole opens...

A few weeks ago, I was preparing a Song of the Day post for Chris Thompson's "When the Night Falls In"—an incredibly badass tune from an obscure early-'90s German TV show called Jolly Joker that I know absolutely nothing about. As is often the case, I only knew of the song 'cause I'm huge fan of '80s/early-'90s soundtracks (Thompson also recorded Jolly Joker's title track), and have collected many hours' worth over the years.

As I was finishing off my notes for the write-up, I noticed that I had a number of other Chris Thompson tracks in my iTunes library—all impressive cuts from assorted movie/TV soundtracks. That got me thinking, "Who the hell is this Chris Thompson, anyway?"

And then it happened...

A quick Google search returned that Chris Thompson is an English musician who has amassed one hell of a discography from the mid-'70s through to the present—largely as a member of Manfred Mann's Earth Band, and as a solo artist. But more importantly, at least for me, even a cursory glance at his Wikipedia page reveals some pretty mind-blowing statistics. Songwriting credits involving Michael McDonald and Patrick Simmons (both for The Doobie Brothers and for Simmons' solo debut, Arcade)? And, wait, what's that? He was among the writers of the John Farnham classic "You're the Voice"? What!?

Holy shit. I'm in. Let the hours of back-and-forth browsing between Google, Wikipedia, and YouTube begin!

The Soundtracks

Soundtracks are what introduced me to Chris Thompson, so let's start there. In addition to the above-mentioned Jolly Joker contributions, here are a few other masterpiece moments...

Jennifer Warnes & Chris Thompson, "All the Right Moves," from All the Right Moves (1983)

Jennifer Warnes is probably most known for another duet—with Bill Medley—"(I've Had) the Time of My Life," from Dirty Dancing (or, yet another duet, the theme song from Growing Pains), but this team-up with Thompson for the early Tom Cruise feature of the same name is strangely dark, and makes for a killer tune.

"Love and Loneliness," from American Anthem (1986)

I was a surprisingly enormous fan of American Anthem when I was a little kid. I have no clue why. Gymnastics? Go figure. But, in retrospect, the soundtrack was pretty damn good. Maybe that had something to do with it? (This track also appeared on The High Cost of Living, Thompson's third solo album, released the same year.)

"It's Not Over," from Playing for Keeps (1986)

This catchy and uplifting Chris Thompson ditty became a Top 10 hit the following year, when Starship recorded their own version for their second album, No Protection. Truth be told, however, I prefer Thompson's rendition. (Ignore the fact that the video clips are from The Goonies. It's the only embed I could find for Thompson's recording of the song.)

"Never Turn Away," from Dream a Little Dream (1989)

Another big-chorused gem, this time from the last in line of the flawless run of late-'80s Corey Haim/Corey Feldman flicks.

The Sporting Events

I have zero interest in sports, and would never in a million years have expected to uncover a musician's contributions to the world of athletic competition. That being said, Chris Thompson can be linked to several significant sporting events...

Manfred Mann's Earth Band, "Runner," from the 1984 Summer Olympics (1984)

A giant "FUCK YES!" song if ever there was one, this Ian Thomas cover—featuring Thompson on lead vocals—was one of the biggest hits for Manfred Mann's Earth Band. If you're old enough, you may recall "Runner" for its use during the 1984 Summer Olympics, as referenced by the song's music video. (It also appeared on the soundtrack to The Philadelphia Experiment.)

"The Challenge (Face It)," from the 1989 Wimbledon Championships (1989)

Tennis will never be cooler than this impeccable union of Chris Thompson and co-writer/producer Harold Faltermeyer (he of "Axel F" fame, not to mention the "Fletch Theme"), which could've easily backed an '80s movie training montage. The pair joined forces again the following year to pen "Hold the Dream" for Wimbledon 1990, which was performed by Franzisca. (I can't find the damn thing online, though!?)

1990 ended up being a prolific year for the duo, as they also co-wrote a handful of songs for the Fire, Ice & Dynamite soundtrack—including "Never Give Up," performed as a duet between Thompson and Marietta Waters.

"This is the Moment," from the 1990 Commonwealth Games (1990)

Granted, it's less motivational than the stiff competition of "The Challenge (Face It)," but this cheery and inspirational tune served as the official theme song of the 1990 Commonwealth Games, held in Auckland, New Zealand.

As a Vocalist

In addition to backing vocal appearances on a number of albums from artists such as Gary Moore, Trevor Rabin, and the mighty John Parr, Thompson's top-notch pipes have also been featured on lead vocals for a number of established artists...

Steve Hackett, Feedback 86 (1986)

Though inexplicably not released until well over a decade later, 1986 saw Chris handling lead vocals on the majority of former Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett's Feedback 86 solo album.

Mike Oldfield, Earth Moving (1989)

In 1989, Thompson sang lead on two tracks for another diverse and long-running English musician, Mike Oldfield—"See the Light" (above) and "Runaway Son."

Alan Parsons, Try Anything Once (1993)

And, again, helping out another high-level English artist a few years later, Chris fronted a pair of cuts from Alan Parsons' first solo album in 1993—"Back Against the Wall" (above) and "Turn it Up."

Jan Hammer, "Seeds of Life" (1993)

Also in 1993, Thompson worked with Jan Hammer (he of Miami Vice theme fame) on this track that was featured in the early-'90s Mind's Eye computer animation series—hence it's one of the cheesiest-looking music videos in the history of all living things. (Solid tune, though!)

As a Songwriter

As mentioned previously, Chris Thompson's songwriting credits involve more than a few artists of note...

John Farnham, "You're the Voice," from Whispering Jack (1986)

A joint writing effort between Chris Thompson, Andy Qunta (Icehouse), Keith Reid (Procol Harum), and Maggie Ryder, this mega-hit topped the charts not only in Farnham's native Australia, but also in Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. Thompson frequently performs the song live, and has recorded his own version, but you just can't top Farnham's brilliance on this one.

Starship, "Blaze of Love," from Love Among the Cannibals (1989)

The aforementioned "It's Not Over" wasn't the only Chris Thompson-penned track recorded by Starship. Chris also had a hand in this tune from 1989. While very solid, in this case I much prefer Thompson's gruffer recording of the song.

Michael McDonald, "One Step Away," from Take it to Heart (1990)

Thompson also contributed to the writing of one of the better tracks from Michael McDonald's third solo album. It's incredibly hard to compete with Michael McDonald, but Thompson's recording of the track holds its own incredibly well, I must say.

Chris Thompson performing live in Tübingen, Germany, 2012.

It Never Ends...

Perhaps the most insane aspect of all this is that everything cited above is really just scratching the surface. The music included only rolls up into the early-'90s, and barely touches upon Thompson's solo career. The dude has been kickin' all along, and just released his most recent album, Toys & Dishes, earlier this year. But, in this age of short attention spans, it'll be a minor miracle if anyone even reads this far, so... I'm calling it a day.

Let's be honest: if the examples herein aren't enough to convince you that Chris Thompson is a friggin' genius, there's nothing more I can do—beyond encourage you to get your hearing examined, of course!

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