Maniac

Album: Flashdance Soundtrack (1983)
Charted: 43 1

Songfacts®:

  • This was featured in the movie Flashdance, starring Jennifer Beals as a welder by day, dancer by night. Phil Ramone, who was the music supervisor on the movie, produced the track. He also made another contribution to the movie: After seeing some kids breakdancing in New York City, he alerted the movie's producer, who shot footage of the dancers that was used in the film.
  • Sembello wrote this with his songwriting partner Dennis Matkosky, who got the idea when he saw the William Lustig movie Maniac, which is about a serial killer who stalks his victims in New York City. Sembello told Songfacts: "He came up with the original kernel of inspiration and to me with the basic idea and groove and I believe the temporary lyrics for the chorus he had were:

    He's a maniac, maniac that's for sure
    He will kill your cat and nail him to the door


    That direction obviously wasn't going to work at which point the genius of Phil Ramone, producer of the soundtrack who had the vision to see the potential of the song, asked us to change it to the present concept of a girl possessed with the passion of a gift for dance. Without Phil it would not have happened."
  • The 1983 Oscar for Best Original Song went to another song from the movie, "Flashdance... What a Feeling." "Maniac" was nominated, but apparently disqualified. Michael Sembello explained: "It was nominated for an Academy Award and was disqualified according to 'academy rules' because the song was changed from the original and was not originally written solely for the film, which pisses me off to this day."
  • This was accidentally included on a tape of Sembello's songs his wife sent to Paramount for consideration in Flashdance. The studio loved it and used it in the movie.
  • The dance scenes in the video (and the movie), were performed by body double Marine Jahan. It was a well-kept secret that Jennifer Beals did not dance in the film.
  • The video was the first to use nothing but scenes from the movie, with no shots of the artist. This kept the focus squarely on the film, making the video almost a movie trailer, but it stiffed Michael Sembello, so most of us had no idea what he looked like. Over the next few years, videos for songs featured in films leaned more toward film scenes and less on performance footage. Videos for the songs used in Pretty Woman and Dirty Dancing are good examples.
  • The quick little notes that sound like a cowbell on speed were generated with a Linn Electronics LM-1, the first drum machine loaded with samples of real instruments. The rest of the rhythm was made up of Simmons electronic drums played by Carlos Vega and synthesizers programmed by Sembello and Dennis Matkosky. A cello played by Dennis Karmazyn is also in the mix.
  • With a BPM of 159, "Maniac" was a hit in aerobics classes, which was a big trend at the time. It's a great song to get that heart rate up.
  • In 2007 this was reworked in commercials for Kia cars, which show a Kia salesman doing a similar dance and "selling like he's never sold before." The idea is that he's making great deals like a Maniac. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    MusicianJohnPaul - Bay Area, CA
  • There have been some bizarre covers of this song over the years. Herb Alpert did a horn-y version with his Tijuana Brass on the 1984 album "Bullish." The European act Topmodelz did an electro cover in 2008; and in 2020 the German band Rising Insane did a metalcore version with an '80s-themed video.

Comments: 21

  • Sage from EnglandIn season 6: episode 10 of Orange Is the New Black at 44:08 young Barbra hums 'Maniac' after her and her sister Carol murder their sister Debby.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn October 22nd 1983, Michael Sembello performed "Maniac" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    At the time the song was at #63 on Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart; a month earlier on September 4th, 1983 it peaked at #1 {for 2 weeks}, it had entered the chart on May 29th and spent 22 weeks on the Top 100...
    And on the same 'Bandstand' show he also performed "Automatic Man", at the time it was at #42 on the chart and eight days later on October 30th it would peak at #34 {for 1 week}...
    Michael Sembello will celebrate his 61st birthday this coming April 17 {2015}.
  • Sam from Plymouth, Mn"If you've ever seen someone dancing who's never danced before, you'd realize that the lyrics are mocking the subject of the song, not praising her. ;-)" Bob, you make an interesting point. I never realized that these very words can have two meanings - she's dancing in a way she never has when she'd danced in the past, or - she's dancing in a way that gives the illusion that she's never danced before in her life.
  • Luis from Costa Rica, -Oh my, Mr. Sembello is taking time to write here!!!! Amazing, love your work, specially your contribution to Songs In The Key Of Life. Seeing the Classic Albums program about this record lets us see your amazing talent, thanks for your work!!
  • Isabel from Tarkio, Moawesome..and tommy boy is the best movie ever!!
  • John from This City, AustraliaGood song and I enjoy you always.
  • Musicianjohnpaul from Bay Area, CaThe 2007 Kia Commercial...
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QOyQK5jBalE
    Great Song Michael! (absurd commercial)
  • Jeff Commings from Tucson, AzNot to correct the songwriter, but I don't think the song was disqualified from competition. If so, the song would not be on the Academy's Web site as a nominee. A famous example of a nominee being disqualified is Nino Rota's score for "The Godfather." If you look at the nominees for Original Score in 1972, you will see the asterisk explaining this. In the original song nominees for 1983, "Maniac" is listed as a nominee. So, Mr. Sembello, you can stop being pissed off. Your song was eligible.

    Here's the link to the info on "The Godfather": http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/DisplayMain.jsp?curTime=1193789015248

    And here's the list of Original Song nominees for 1983: http://awardsdatabase.oscars.org/ampas_awards/DisplayMain.jsp?curTime=1193789119251
  • Brandon from Peoria, IlChris Farley sang this while getting hosed off at a gas station in "Tommy Boy."
  • John from Corfu, GreeceReally awesome song! It is obvious that sembello adjusted the lyrics, in order to fit with the Flashdance's theme (hey the movie has to do with dance, not with a serial killer). So,"a steel town girl" may had replaced "a small town girl" and "she's a maniac on the floor" with something else hehehe ^^
  • Pete from Ny, NyAn exciting, pulsing song that still sounds terrific today. Its association with 'Flashdance' always kind of ruined it for me, though.
  • Bob from Oakland, CaIf you've ever seen someone dancing who's never danced before, you'd realize that the lyrics are mocking the subject of the song, not praising her. ;-)
  • Kian from Dublin, IrelandA 1990's remix by, if my memory serves me right, Memory of Sound, of this track was often played live by an Irish club DJ, Mark McCabe, who took to MC'ing over it, a recording of which spent nearly the entire summer of 2000 at the top of the Irish charts.

    However, for whatever reason, it was never sold outside of Ireland. But it did bring Sembello's original music back onto the radio for quite a while afterwhile
  • Elson from Los Angeles, CaIn the '70s, Michael Sembello was a popular studio session guitarist. He played guitar on Stevie Wonder's legendary album, "Songs in the Key of Life."
  • Elson from Los Angeles, CaIn the '70s, Michael Sembello was a popular studio session guitarist. He played guitar on Stevie Wonder's legendary album, "Songs in the Keys of Life."
  • Michael from Fort Lauderdale, FlAlso used in American Wedding-Michael
  • Michael from Fort Lauderdale, Fl
    sorry to be a pest but this part of the lyric is wrong on your site:

    She's a maniac, maniac, I sure know
    And she's dancing like she's never danced before
    She's a maniac, maniac, I sure know
    And she's dancing like she's never danced before

    it is just the same as the first chorus:

    She's a maniac, maniac on the floor
    And she's dancing like she's never danced before
    She's a maniac, maniac on the floor
    And she's dancing like she's never danced before

    Thanks, Michael Sembello

  • Michael from Fort Lauderdale, Fl
    This is Michael Sembello Artist and co-writter of maniac. I love your site very much but some of the facts are wrong and i would like to update you if you don't mind and add some you don't know about,most important is the fact that partner and co-writter of the song dennis matkosky saw the lustig movie(not chain saw massacre)
    and he came up with the original kernal of inpiration and to me with the basic idea and groove and i believe the temporary lyrics for the chorus he had were:

    " He's a maniac,maniac that's for sure
    He will kill your cat and nail him to the door"
    Which that direction obviously wasn't going to work at which point the genius of phil ramone producer of the soundtrack who had the vision to see the potential of the song asked us to change it to the present concept of a girl possesed with the passion of a gift for dance,without phil it would not have happened.

    another fact is it was nominated for an academy award and was disqualified according to
    "academy rules" because the song was changed from the original and was not originally written soley for the film,which pisses me off to this day.
    So thats the whole truth,and the rest of the story.Glad to be of help-Michael sembello

  • Luke from Manchester, EnglandSung by Groundskeeper Willie in the Simpsons
  • Antony from Preston, EnglandRumour has it that the song was originally intended for the William Lustig film Maniac (1980), one of the more notorious "video-nasty" titles that were the subject of a media frenzy in the early 1980s. However the song was rejected in the end and wound up in Flashdance with largely re-written lyrics.
  • Jonathan from Natchitoches, LaAppeared in Season 1 Episode 23 of Cold Case on CBS. The name of the episode is "Lover's Lane."
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