Look, man—I’m not going to waste my time disagreeing with you that Michael Sembello’s 1983 hit “Maniac” is a pretty foolish song. There’s no denying it’s wonderful cheesiness. Does it really matter anyway? Schindler’s List and Forrest Gump are brilliantly written cinematic masterpieces, but that doesn’t make Dumb and Dumber any less enjoyable.
Get off your soap box, dude.
I loved “Maniac”, though to be fair probably more so for the video than the track itself. Back during the rise of the MTV generation music videos were often as important, and occasionally more so than the actual record. The song was alright to me, but the accompanying video in it had me obsessed. Thank you, Marine Johan (who?!?!).
The second single from the Flashdance soundtrack on my list (Irene Cara came in at No. 66 earlier), I’ll repeat much of what I said when describing Cara’s hit. I was totally into watching Jennifer Beals boogie and the video for “Maniac” was pretty much a non-stop montage of what appeared to Beals dancing.
Of course, I later learned the dance scenes were all body double Marine Johan emulating Beals. Sad!
The funniest part about the song’s inclusion in 80s pop culture lore is that it was sent to Paramount Pictures by Sembello’s wife accidently. The lyrics originally were inspired by a tiny budget horror movie sharing the same title as the song. The studio liked the song and wanted to use it but had Sembello change the lyrics to reflect a woman being a maniac on a dance floor, as opposed to a knife wielding psychopath.
“Maniac” along Oliva Newton John’s “Physical” (more on that song soon enough) essentially became anthems at fitness classes. I may have gotten my exercise on to “Maniac” a time or two myself.
Chart Success: “Maniac” was one of the biggest hits of 1983—reaching number-one on the Billboard Top 100 and stayed at the top for two weeks in September before being knocked off by Billy Joel’s “Tell Her About It.” The song spent 22 weeks on the charts and finished ’83 ninth on the year-end Billboard Top 100.
Great Lyrics: Just a steel town girl on a Saturday night. Who on this earth wouldn’t desire a steel town girl?
“It can cut you like a knife
If the gift becomes the fire
On the wire between will and what will be
She’s a maniac, maniac on the floor
And she’s dancing like she’s never danced before”
Fun Fact: The video for “Maniac” made music video history, becoming the first song ever to have its accompanying video feature scenes from the movie exclusively. In that way it was a pioneer in the music video game. The downside, at least for Sembello is as a result (plus being a one hit wonder) I never even knew what the dude looked like.
100. Hall & Oates – I Can’t Go For That (No Can D0)
99. Michael McDonald – I Keep Forgetting
97. The Police – Every Little Thing She Does Does Is Magic
96. Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
94. Cyndi Lauper – Time After Time
93. Kenny Loggins – Danger Zone
92. Peter Gabriel – In Your Eyes
91. Night Ranger – Sister Christian
89. Journey – Don’t Stop Believing
87. Debbie Gibson – Foolish Beat
86. Glen Mederios – Nothing’s Going To Change My Love For You
85. John Cougar – Jack and Diane
81. Billy Squier – Everybody Wants You
80. Debbie Gibson – Only In My Dreams
79. Shelia E. – The Glamorous Life
77. Whitney Houston – Greatest Love Of All
76. Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson – Say Say Say
75. Flock of Seagulls – I Ran (So Far Away)
74. Twisted Sister – We’re Not Gonna Take It
73. Musical Youth – Pass The Dutchie
72. The Police – Every Breathe You Take
71. Survivor – The Search Is Over
70. REO Speedwagon – Keep On Loving You
69. Hall & Oates – You Make My Dreams
68. Bobby Brown – Don’t Be Cruel
67. Kenny Loggins – Meet Me Halfway
66. Irene Cara – Flashdance…What A Feeling
65. Tina Turner – What’s Love Got To Do With It
64. Phil Collins – One More Night
63. Europe – The Final Countdown
62. Patrick Swazye – She’s Like The Wind
61. Matthew Wilder – Break My Stride
60. Men Without Hats – Safety Dance
59. Duran Duran – Hungry Like The Wolf
58. Huey Lewis & The News – Power Of Love