John Parr’s Song, St. Elmo’s Fire, is the Definition of 80s Music

John Parr’s Song, St. Elmo’s Fire, is the Definition of 80s Music

The 1985 movie St. Elmo’s Fire has a theme song that you may not have heard in quite a while. 

But we’re here to refresh your memory of this hit 80s hit tune. And likely create an earworm for you at the same time!

Music from the 80s is pretty distinctive. But what exactly defines the style of music from that era?

Let’s dive in and see what we can find out about the song St. Elmo’s Fire and how it might exemplify 80s music.

Who Originally Wrote St. Elmo’s Fire?

English singer and songwriter John Parr wrote this hit song from the 80s. 

Born on November 18, 1952, in Worksop, England, Parr started playing music when he was 12. He formed a band with two schoolmates called The Silence. When the trio was old enough to play gigs, they were well-received and gained popularity around the United Kingdom. Once out of school, they toured Europe and enjoyed some success. 

In the early 70s, Parr decided to leave The Silence. He played with another band, Bitter Suite, for a short time before forming a progressive rock group called Ponders End. 

Parr’s new band was considered “the best live act” around Newcastle, England, during the 70s. Despite their apparent success around England, Ponders End never received a record deal and eventually disbanded. 

In 1984, Parr visited America for the first time to work with singer Meatloaf. Parr wrote a few songs for Meatloaf’s fourth studio album, Bad Attitude

After partnering with Meatloaf, Parr signed a recording contract with Atlantic Records. He released his debut self-titled album in 1985, which contained three Billboard Top 100 hits – Magical, Love Grammar, and Naughty Naughty. Parr’s most famous song, St. Elmo’s Fire, appeared as a track on the UK release of the album, but not in the US. 

Why Did John Parr Create the Hit Song?

Movie director, Joel Schumacher, asked John Parr and fellow songwriter David Foster to create a song for his new film. The pair needed to write a tune that included the movie’s name, St. Elmo’s Fire.

Parr had difficulty finding the exact inspiration needed to write lyrics that included the movie’s title. One day, Foster showed Parr a newspaper article about a Canadian wheelchair-bound athlete, Rick Hansen. Rick was traveling the world in his wheelchair to raise awareness for spinal cord injuries. 

This story turned out to be the exact inspiration Parr and Foster needed to start writing the song. In a matter of 24 hours, they finished the St. Elmo’s Fire theme song. 

The lyrics had enough vague references to the movie’s storyline to satisfy Joel Schumacher. However, the words do describe Hansen’s wheelchair journey pretty directly. This is why the song’s full title is St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion.)

In an interview with Songfacts.com, Parr explained, “I wrote the lyric ambiguously, so the film company would think ‘all I needs these pair of wheels’ referred to Demi Moore’s jeep when actually I am referring to Rick’s wheelchair.” 

And “for once in his life a man has his time” actually refers to when Rick would end his journey wheeling back into Vancouver with a million people lining the streets – not when Emilio Estevez finally kisses Andie Macdowell.

St. Elmo’s Fire topped music charts around the globe. It reached #1 on the Billboard Top 100 list in September 1985 and stayed in that position for two weeks. 

What Defines 80s Music?

What comes to mind when you think of music from the 80s? For many people, it’s drum machines, synthesizers, heavy guitar, and anthem songs. 

Much of the music created in the 80s stemmed from the 70s disco era. But with the advancement of electronic instruments, musicians began stepping away from disco in a big way. 

The 80s saw genres like New Wave, Pop, Glam Metal, and Hip Hop rise in popularity. Bands like New Order, Talking Heads, Wham!, and Bon Jovi used synthesized music heavily. 

Granted, a lot of cheesy songs came out in the 80s. But there were certainly some gems from that era. Is St. Elmo’s Fire one of them? We’ll let you decide the answer to that question for yourself.  

So, How Does St. Elmo’s Fire Define 80s Music?

St. Elmo’s Fire seems to encompass all the classic elements of 80s music described above. It has synthesizers, a drum machine, and anthem-style guitar leads. 

From the opening synthesized keyboard notes, there’s no doubt what era this song came from. And if you watch the video, singer John Parr and his permed mullet hairstyle just ooze the 80s!

The song starts fairly easy-going, then builds up into a chorus that makes you want to pump your fist in the air. It sounds very much like an anthem. Knowing the inspiration for the song, you can easily envision Rick Hansen rolling across the globe in his wheelchair. 

Three members of the rock band Toto played on the studio recording of St. Elmo’s Fire. Additionally, members of two other popular 80s bands provided backing vocals, Mr. Mister and REO Speedwagon. Talk about a group of musicians that just scream 80s music!

What Other Movies Has the Song St Elmo’s Fire Been In?

In 2018, St. Elmo’s Fire was used in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. Additionally, it appeared in a 1994 episode of The Simpsons

Like so many other great oldies, it’s been used in TV advertisements. In the late 80s, Ford used St. Elmo’s Fire in ads for their Mustang Pony car. 

Do You Think St. Elmo’s Fire Defines 80s Music?

It sure seems St. Elmo’s Fire is a classic example of 80s-style music. But that’s just our opinion! You could likely come up with many more songs that describe that decade’s music even better. We’d love to hear your suggestions!

One response to “John Parr’s Song, St. Elmo’s Fire, is the Definition of 80s Music”

  1. You’re right! I haven’t thought about this song in a long time LOL. Now it’ll probably be in my head the rest of the day. Regardless, it’s a great example of 80s music!

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