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Andy Sullivan: Against the Grain

Every weekend, I have Alexa wake me up to SiriusXM ‘80’s on 8.  Sunday mornings, they replay their countdown from that week in a chosen year of the ‘80’s.  The song that caught my ear was “Chariots of Fire” from Vangelis.  The instrumental was written and recorded by Vangelis for the film called, you guessed it, Chariots of Fire. 

The film was a 1981 British historical drama based on the true story of two British athletes in the 1924 Olympics.  One was Eric Liddell, a devout Scottish Christian who runs for the glory of God.  The other was Harold Abrahams, an English Jew who runs to overcome prejudice.  The film was conceived and produced by David Putnam.  It was nominated for seven Academy Awards and won four, including best picture and best original screenplay.  Ranked 19th in the British Film Institute’s list of top 100 British films, the film’s electronic theme tune by Vangelis won the Academy Award for Best Original Score. 

Here’s another interesting tidbit I didn’t know: the film’s title was inspired by the line “bring me my chariots of fire” from the William Blake poem adapted into the British hymn “Jerusalem”.  The hymn is heard at the end of the film.  The original phrase “chariot(s) of fire” is from 2 Kings 2:11 and 6:17 in the Bible.  (

“Vangelis” was easier to pronounce than the composer’s full name, Evangelos Papathanassiou.  Prior to his work on “Chariots of Fire”, he was best known for his work in the group Aphrodite’s Child with John Anderson of the group Yes.  On the original release, the name of the song was “Titles”.  Two months later, the name was changed to “Chariots of Fire”.   The song was used in a classic scene in the movie where they are running in slow motion.  The scene has been spoofed many times, most notably in a season 4 episode of The Office called “Local Ad”.  It plays in the commercial Michael and the Scranton staff create for Dunder Mifflin.  (

I hope you have enjoyed this look into one of the classic songs of the early ‘80’s.  Maybe you’ll even be inspired to check out Chariots Of Fire. 


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