EXCLUSIVE. “Top Gun”: Terri Nunn, the one who took our breath away

Ldid you know? Even before the 2022 version of Duncan Laurence who won Eurovision 2019, “Take My Breath Away”, the love song of the film Top Gun from 1986, was revived in French by Gérard Lenorman. A slightly surreal chorus, Le Bleu des regrets replaces the famous Take my breath away from the antics of Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis. Bruised like a French spirit? Just one year after the worldwide success of the slow performed by Terri Nunn, the singer of the Californian pop group Berlin, was even listened to in Mandarin in the first feature film by Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai, As Tears Go By. This year, Amir, who participated in Eurovision 2016, was also going to take it back to take advantage of the media boom of the release of Top Gun Maverick. Duncan Laurence finally pulled the rug out from under him…

What do these ersatz. For Orthodox fans of Top Gun of which we are a part, there is only one “Take My Breath Away”, as there is only one F14 for the piloting skills of Tom Cruise alias Maverick: the original Berlin recording with the masterful voice by Terri Nunn. The American singer gives body and life to the song composed by Giorgio Moroder (music), the man of Midnight Express who recorded with David Bowie and Blondie, with sultry lyrics written by Tom Whitlock. A shock duo who also co-wrote the film’s other hit, “Danger Zone”.

We are also surprised that the mythical slow has not been integrated into the new Top Gun: Maverick. Could it be because the love scene in the film has become more chaste and shorter? Why such an absence when we find “Danger Zone” twice during the film? ” I’ve no idea. This is a question that should be asked to the producers”, answers by telephone from his Californian home Terri Nunn, “the voice” of “Take My Breath Away”. The electro-pop synth group, also known for its titles “Sex I’m A” and “No More Words”, continues its career today. He even released a symphonic version of his hits in 2020, titled Strings Attached with a new orchestration of “Take My Breath Away”. Just before her concert under the Pasadena sun at the Cruel World festival with (sorry) Morrissey, Bauhaus and Violent Femmes, Terri Nunn agreed to open her memory box to Point.

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Point : In 1986, how did your band Berlin manage to work on “Take My Breath Away” of Top Gun ?

Terri Nunn: We had released in 1984 a disc with two songs composed by Giorgio Moroder, “Dancing in Berlin” and “No More Words”, our first hit to break into the American Top 40. We were working with him on our new album Count Three & Pray. That’s when he got the job to compose the music for Top Gun. He tried several performers. The producers took them all down. Time was running out, so he ended up telling them (imitating his Italian accent): “Ah, but, I know some great young people, they’re a bit underground, but they’re going to rock the house! »

So it was a risky bet for Giorgio Moroder…

Yes, I think the producers told him a little “ok” out of weariness. We weren’t strangers either. We had signed our first contract with a record company in 1982. Our song “Sex I’m A” played a lot in nightclubs. We were playing underground clubs in and around Hollywood. We were 20 years old. It was in full wave new wave. There was The Cramps, The Motels, Oingo Boingo, The Go Go’s INXS… We in Berlin had a start of international success thanks to “No More Words”, particularly in Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

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How was the recording session of “Take My Breath Away”?

I’m a little ashamed to say this today, but we listened to the demo version and I said to Giorgio Moroder: “Yeah, I don’t really like this melody, it’s not terrible. (see video). The recording girl was singing with a Japanese-like, poppy-like voice. She articulated all the syllables on the couplet like “ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta” “ta-ta-ta-ta-ta-ta”. It didn’t sound romantic at all. It sounded cute and pop, but I didn’t like it.

So I decided to stretch the melody so that it seemed suspended above the music. Like this (she sings the chorus as we know it). By singing longer notes, it was suddenly more languorous and more romantic. The producers of Top Gun and director Tony Scott have given the green light to Giorgio Moroder. But he quickly calmed my ardor. I had added some notes and vocalizations at the end of the chorus. He thought I was doing too much. Giorgio told me: “No. You’re adding too much, Terri. People want to be able to sing with you. If you add too much, they won’t understand all your little notes. You sing Take My Breath Away and you stop, okay? »

I thought “Take My Breathe Away” would suck!

We do not say no to Giorgio Moroder!

I was still skeptical. It was the first time that none of the members of Berlin had participated in the composition or the writing of the lyrics. I came home, and I said to my mother: I will do what he asks me, but this song is finished now. It’s going to suck.

A flop ?

Yes, I did not believe it. And I was wrong. Giorgio Moroder was right, of course.

What has the worldwide success of the film and the title changed for Berlin?

It was huge! We went on a world tour to open for Frankie Goes to Hollywood, which was a hit at the time. We were playing for the first time in the biggest stadiums on the planet, in Europe, in the United Kingdom and even in France. When the song was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song, we were performing a concert in Taiwan. We couldn’t even be present at the award ceremony.

What did you think of the movie Top Gun ?

It was really a good movie. It impressed me because it wasn’t just action, there was also a lot of emotion that the character of Tom Cruise took us through. Top Gun is a much deeper film than an action film. That’s the reason it lasted so long.

Do you think the song fits well with the love scene between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis?

But it wasn’t just the love scene! If you listen carefully, “Take My Breath Away” occurs six or seven times throughout the film. Giorgio Moroder used to say to me in the studio: “I just want you to hum it with “hmm”. When I saw the movie, I thought, “Wow, the song is the star too!” »

What did Tom Cruise think of the song?

I have never met him. Director Tony Scott and producer Jerry Bruckheimer thanked me. It was especially Kelly McGillis who surprised me. She cried when we saw each other and told me that this song had upset her. I never knew exactly why.

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Only one year after the worldwide success of the song, your group Berlin splits up. Why ?

It wasn’t the song’s fault, nor our record company wanting to cash in on the success. We had done a huge world tour and we were tired. We probably would have stayed together if we had taken six months off. We were just too young to get high and breathe.

We all have a memory related to “Take My Breath Away”

Today, in this year 2022, you are together again and you still give concerts. Are you tired of still singing this old song from the 1980s?

On the contrary, I love this song and everything I experienced with Giorgio Moroder. He’s a musical genius. In several interviews, he said that “Take My Breath Away” was his best composition. Just imagine. This guy worked with Bowie, Blondie, composed the music for Midnight Express, Famous, flash dance and won several Oscars, and he says that! It’s crazy, right? ! It’s the greatest compliment I’ve received in my career.

When did you last perform it?

No later than last Saturday. I still love singing the song. I like to get closer to people in the public and see the effect it has on them. I can feel that moment when they listened to it for the first time in their lives, their first kiss, the first time they made love… We all have a memory linked to “Take My Breath Away”.

When are you coming back to sing it in France?

Oh, that would be great! France is one of the best places in the world, if only for your language and your food. France is art!

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EXCLUSIVE. “Top Gun”: Terri Nunn, the one who took our breath away

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