I was stunned when Jerry Bruckheimer and Don Simpson told me I was doing the soundtrack for Top Gun. Of course, my agent said, "Just do it, don't even ask." We'd had a huge success with Beverly Hills Cop, after all, and we hadn't become enemies, so why not do another one? I remember the way Bruckheimer pitched it, because he had a great way of expressing himself. "You have to know that these guys are sitting in their planes waiting for the take-off clearance", he explained, "and they're listening to Billy Idol with their Walkmans on".
I knew exactly what they were after - not another version of Raiders Of The Lost Ark with a big orchestra, but something rock 'n' roll, something different. So I tried to develop and compose themes and images towards rock 'n' roll. When I came up with the first part of the Top Gun Anthem Bruckheimer asked me to dinner with Tom Cruise and Don Simpson. Did I have a theme, they asked, and I told them that I did but that it wasn't recorded yet. Tom said he'd like to hear it, so they took me to a studio with a huge grand piano and I played it to them. Simpson, who was sitting in the control room, just said, "I love it." It was like old Hollywood- a stunning moment. No fancy demo, no nothing. Just the four of us in a studio in LA.
I'd have loved to have written more songs on Top Gun, but because they changed the cut every day, scoring was intense and there wasn't much time to work on songs. It was pretty easy to change dialogue, because the pilots had the oxygen masks on, but it wasn't as easy to keep changing the score. These day you can time-stretch with elastic audio but back then you had to write cues from scratch. We also had to fly to Chicago to work with Cheap Trick. It was very intense work so I didn't get the chance to write more songs unfortunately, but Giorgio Moroder is a very clever guy and he delivered a couple of great songs, like Danger Zone with Kenny Loggins.
At one point we had almost finished the score, but then the film had its first previews and because the ratings were not so great, they had to re-edit it. That led to another set of scoring so I almost did the score twice in the end! We had to re-record things, but the major themes in some of them - this whole stuff when Maverick gets rid of his thoughts of flying after Goose's death - I think are great. I still get fan mail asking which synthesisers I used on this track or that track.
We didn't even get another platinum or double platinum record each time we sold a million more Top Gun albums. We just got a little jet airplane with Velcro on the back that said 'one million' or 'two million' and stuck it on the original platinum CD. That's how big this was. This was the time of the iconic soundtracks when you could have huge success with soundtracks. It was fun being in the music video for the Top Gun Anthem too. We got picked up from LA at five or four o'clock in the morning in a big RV and driven out to Chino Air Force Base, where everything was set up and Tony Scott was watching. I remember Steve Stevens, our guitarist, standing on the wing of a jet. It was great.
The last time I watched Top Gun was with my kids. We watched it recently because they wanted me to show them what we did - my son is a sound engineer, so he's in the business - but I'll be getting the 3D version for the next time we watch it. I was proud as hell that a little guy from Germany got the opportunity to write a score for an epic drama, for such an American thing.