Scoring Miami Vice

If you were around in the mid eighties, you’ll remember the mania that surrounded Miami Vice. It was the hottest thing since sliced bread, and it seemed that everyone started dressing like Don Johnson overnight with the sport coats, lighter colors, and Ray Bans. (It’s hard to believe Vice is thirty years old this year.)

You may also recall the show’s synth pop music that was created by Jan Hammer, especially his memorable Miami Vice theme. Hammer was one of the pioneers of jazz / fusion, and his Miami Vice theme was one of the most memorable synth movie tunes of the eighties, along with the work of Harold Faltermeyer, who did the music for Top Gun and Beverly Hills Cop.

Hammer told Rolling Stone that a friend suggested he meet Michael Mann when he was putting the show together. “We were talking about what music would work to make something that was like nothing on television at the time. I had some sketches that I played him – and that turned out to be the theme for the show. I had already recorded most of it.”

Rolling Stone also pointed out that Miami Vice was the first show presented in stereo, and many viewers didn’t have stereo at the time. “At the same time it was fantastic,” Hammer continues. “Because you could do something with the atmosphere; it was much more like a movie experience. I didn’t have to worry about trying to break though a Mono speaker like in the old AM radio days.”

Hammer had complete freedom to write what he wanted, and the only note he remembered getting from Mann came half-way through the second season: “Let’s have more music.”