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Chariots of Fire (instrumental)

"Chariots of Fire"
Chariots of Fire album cover
Single by Vangelis
from the album Chariots of Fire
Released March 1981
Genre New-age, Film score
Length 3:32
Label Polydor
Writer(s) Vangelis
Producer(s) Vangelis
Vangelis' "Chariots of Fire - Titles" from Chariots of Fire

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"Chariots of Fire" is an instrumental theme written and recorded by Vangelis for the soundtrack of the 1981 film of the same name. The recording has since been covered by numerous performers and used as theme music for various television programmes and sporting events.


  • Overview 1
  • Plagiarism case 2
  • Chart positions 3
  • Music video 4
  • Cover versions 5
  • Appearances in other media 6
    • Olympics 6.1
    • Apple Macintosh Introduction 6.2
    • Parodies in film 6.3
    • In commercials 6.4
  • See also 7
  • Notes 8
  • External links 9


On the film's soundtrack album, the piece is called "Titles" because of its use in the movie's opening titles sequence, but it widely became known as "Chariots of Fire". According to Allmusic, the track title was listed as "Chariots of Fire - Titles" on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, and simply as "Chariots of Fire" on the Adult Contemporary chart.[1]

A 1989 CD single release also gave the title of the piece simply as "Chariots of Fire".[2] When the single debuted at #94 on the Billboard Hot 100 during the week ending December 12, 1981, it was known simply as "Titles." Seven weeks later, when it moved to #68, the Hot 100 chart dated January 30, 1982, the single was now listed as "Chariots of Fire" and stayed with that name for the remainder of its chart run. The new title made it easier for both listeners and radio DJs to identify the piece.

Plagiarism case

Vangelis was accused of plagiarising "Chariots of Fire" from a piece by fellow Greek composer Stavros Logaridis called "City of Violets". Vangelis won in court by (a) persuading the judge that he had had no opportunity to hear Logaridis's piece before he composed "Chariots of Fire"; and (b) demonstrating to the judge's satisfaction that the key musical sequence described as “the turn” (which consisted of the four notes F-G-A-G), the only sequence where the judge noted a clear similarity between the two compositions, was already common in music, and had previously been used by Vangelis in a piece "Wake Up” that predated "City of Violets."[3][4]

Chart positions

"Chariots of Fire" stayed for one week at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in May 1982, after climbing steadily for five months (it made #1 in its 21st week on the chart), and to date remains the only piece by a Greek artist to top the U.S. charts. It was Polydor's first-ever #1 single in the U.S. in the 1980s— Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" and Peaches and Herb's "Reunited" were also #1 tracks on Polydor in 1979.[5]

The single spent 64 weeks on the Australian charts, although it only peaked at #21. In Japan, "Chariots of Fire" was the biggest-selling single of 1981.[6] The track proved moderately successful in the UK, where it reached #12, but its parent album peaked at #5 and spent 107 weeks on the album chart.

Chart (1981/82) Peak
Canadian Singles Chart[7] 4
Dutch Top 40[8] 12
Irish Singles Chart[9] 15
New Zealand RIANZ Singles Chart[10] 8
UK Singles Chart[11] 12
U.S. Billboard Hot 100[12] 1
U.S. Billboard Adult Contemporary[12] 1

Music video

A music video was made for "Chariots of Fire," consisting of Vangelis playing a piano in a concert hall, with scenes from the film projected on a screen behind him.[13]

Cover versions

Many cover versions of "Chariots of Fire" have been recorded in all styles by all manners of artists, including the orchestral sounds of Zamfir, and the jazz of The Bad Plus. Ween also plays a portion of this piece at the end of Japanese Cowboy live.

Vocal recordings of "Chariots of Fire" have been made by Melissa Manchester, Jane Olivor, Mireille Mathieu, Demis Roussos, Taiwanese singer Tracy Huang 黃鶯鶯 and Italian soprano Gioaria — all with lyrics, "Race to the End" provided by Jon Anderson.[14][15][16]

Alvin and the Chipmunks hummed the instrumental, after leaving the lyric sheet at home, for their 1982 album The Chipmunks Go Hollywood.

Phish performed the piece as background music during the awards ceremony for the 1st Annual Runaway Jim Memorial 5K road race held at their IT Festival in Limestone, Maine in 2003.[17]

The Band of the Coldstream Guards recorded a version of "Chariots of Fire", which is included in their 2011 album "Pride Of The Nation".

Appearances in other media


Owing both to its sweeping tune and the content of the movie in which it first appeared, "Chariots of Fire" has become somewhat synonymous with the Olympic Games. It was the official theme for the 1984 Winter Olympics in Sarajevo,[18][18] and it was played prior to the start of the mens 100m race final at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

It became prominent leading up to, and during the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Runners in a test event at Olympic Park, whose route ended at the grand opening of London's Olympic Stadium, were greeted by the piece as they finished their route into the new stadium.[19] The piece was also used to fanfare the carriers of the Olympic flame on parts of its route through the UK. The piece, and other remixes of it, was also used during each medal ceremony of the Games.[20][21]

The piece was also performed by the London Symphony Orchestra during the opening ceremony of the games, as part of a skit starring comedian Rowan Atkinson reprising his role as Mr. Bean, seen playing a repeated note on a synthesizer whilst using a cellphone, and later an umbrella to play the note while trying to grab a tissue to blow his nose, and then falling into a daydream parodying the opening "beach run" scene from the "Chariots of Fire" film itself.[22]

Apple Macintosh Introduction

The piece was played when Apple Inc.'s then-chairman Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh on January 24, 1984 at a technology demonstration event, and at another press conference celebrating 100-day anniversary of the release of the first Macintosh.[23]

Parodies in film

In light of its original use, the piece is often used for slow-motion sequences and parodies of the sports genre. It was used in the soundtrack of National Lampoon's Vacation and Mr. Mom (both 1983 and both written by John Hughes), Happy Gilmore (1996), Good Burger (1997), How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), Bruce Almighty (2003), Old School (2003) and Madagascar (2005, also included in the soundtrack album), in all cases in parodic slow-motion sequences, including an episode of "Doogie Howser, M.D." with Neil Patrick Harris and Max Casella.

In commercials

  • This was used in Airborne Express commercials from 1983 that compared Airborne to Emery and Federal Express.[24][25]
  • A cover version was featured in a few Duracell commercials from the early 1990s.[26] [27]

See also


  1. ^ "((( Chariots of Fire > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles )))". allmusic. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  2. ^ "((( Chariots of Fire [Single] > Overview )))". allmusic. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  3. ^ Paul Sipio, Robert Cason, Daniel Müllensiefen (2011). "EMI Music v. Papathanasiou [1993] E.M.L.R. 306". UCLA School of Law. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  4. ^ "EMI Music v. Papathanasiou [1993] E.M.L.R. 306" (PDF). High Court, Chancery Division. 1987-02-18. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  5. ^ "Vangelis interview to ''Keyboard'' magazine, December 1992". 2000-11-17. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  6. ^ “”. "BBC Top of the Pops 2, January 1982". Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  7. ^ "Top Singles - Volume 36, No. 16, May 29, 1982". CollectionsCanada. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  8. ^ "Nederlandse Top 40 Archives" (pdf) (in Dutch). Top40. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  9. ^ Irish Charts Archives (Retrieved 4 August 2010)
  10. ^ "Titles from Chariots of Fire", in various singles charts (Retrieved 4 August 2010)
  11. ^ UK Singles Chart (Retrieved 4 August 2010)
  12. ^ a b "Vangelis > Charts & Awards > Billboard Singles". AllMusicGuide. Retrieved 4 August 2010. 
  13. ^ “”. "Vangelis - Chariots of Fire (Video on YouTube)". Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  14. ^ "Lyrics of Music by Vangelis". Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  15. ^ "Dennis Lodewijks' Elsewhere". 2007-04-12. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  16. ^ "Dennis Lodewijks' Elsewhere". 2005-04-02. Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  17. ^ "Live Phish Search Results: Chariots of Fire". Retrieved 2012-08-03. 
  18. ^ a b "Dennis Lodewijks' Elsewhere". Retrieved 2010-07-29. 
  19. ^ "London 2012: Olympic Park Runners Finish Race". BBC News. 31 March 2012.
  20. ^ "Musicians Set to Fanfare the Flame". Northamptonshire Evening Telegraph. 3 April 2012.
  21. ^ Bucholtz, Andrew (2 August 2012). """Greece is struggling, but Vangelis is having a good Olympics thanks to "Chariots of Fire.  
  22. ^ "Mr. Bean's 'Chariots Of Fire' Skit At 2012 London Olympics Opening Ceremony". International Business Times. Retrieved 29 July 2012. 
  23. ^ The Lost 1984 Video: young Steve Jobs introduces the Macintosh on YouTube
  24. ^ Video on YouTube
  25. ^ Video on YouTube
  26. ^ Video on YouTube
  27. ^ Video on YouTube

External links

Preceded by
"I Love Rock 'n' Roll" by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
Billboard Hot 100 number one single
May 8, 1982
Succeeded by
"Ebony and Ivory" by Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder
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