This Week’s Theme: Television Show Theme Songs
I am not ashamed to say that I watch a lot of television. There have been periods of my life when I didn’t watch much at all, and other times when I probably watched too much, but there has always be a tv in my home. For this week’s show I have selected 28 tv themes to represent the variety of music that television has given us over the years. Some of them are simple lead-ins that run less than a minute while others are full length compositions. Some were radio hits, some won Emmy Awards, and some are so well known that anyone who grew up during the show’s era knows the song even if they never watched the show. This week’s Faux Show is all about nostalgia, but I’ve also attempted to incorporate the normal mini-themes on which every show is based. “Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale,” because “here’s a story” about “movin’ on up.” Television shows – “Ain’t we lucky we got ’em?”
Welcome to Radio Faux Show number twenty-six.
First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.
TV Show Selections
Peter Gunn (1958-1961): Henry Mancini “Peter Gunn”
Mister Rogers (1962-2001): Fred Rogers “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
Doctor Who (1963-present): Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire “Doctor Who”
The Monkees (1966-68): The Monkees “(Theme From) The Monkees”
Sesame Street (1969-present): The Sesame Street Kids “Sesame Street Theme”
Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969-1974): The Band of the Grenadier Guards “The Liberty Bell”
The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77): Sonny Curtis “Love is All Around”
The Odd Couple (1970-75): Neil Hefti “The Odd Couple”
Sanford and Son (1972-77): Quincy Jones “The Streetbeater”
Happy Days (1974-1984): Pratt and McClain “Happy Days”
S.W.A.T. (1975-76): Rhythm Heritage “Theme from S.W.A.T.”
Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-79): John Sebastian “Welcome Back”
Laverne and Shirley (1976-1983): Cyndi Grecco “Making Our Dreams Come True”
Taxi (1978-1982): Bob James “Angela”
Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1985): Alan Thicke “It Takes Diff’rent Strokes”
Cheers (1982-1993): Gary Portnoy “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”
Square Pegs (1982-1983): The Waitresses “Square Pegs”
Miami Vice (1984-1990): Jan Hammer “Miami Vice Theme”
The Golden Girls (1985-1992): Andrew Gold “Thank You For Being a Friend”
Seinfeld (1989-1998): Jonathan Wolff “Seinfeld Theme”
The Simpsons (1989-present): Danny Elfman “The Simpsons”
Twin Peaks (1990-91): Angelo Badalamenti “Twins Peaks Theme”
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-96): DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air”
Friends (1994-2004): The Rembrandts “I’ll Be There For You”
30 Rock (2006-2013): Jeff Richmond “Theme from 30 Rock”
Mad Men (2007-2015): RJD2 “A Beautiful Mine”
Reply 1988 (2015-16): Kim Chang-ki “Hyewahdong (or Sangmundong)”
Fresh Off the Boat (2015-2020): Danny Brown “Fresh Off the Boat”
Several of this week’s songs are by artists who were successful before recording the show’s theme. Most notably, John Sebastian was the lead singer and songwriter for The Lovin’ Spoonful and Quincy Jones is a famed producer, arranger, and composer who worked with hundreds of artists including Frank Sinatra, Ray Charles, and Michael Jackson.
During his decades-long career, Neil Hefti was a jazz trumpeter, arranger, composer, and recording artist. He recorded with jazz bands, including Woody Herman’s First Herd and Count Basie’s Orchestra and composed scores for film and television. In addition to his score for the film and television show The Odd Couple, he is most famous for one of the most iconic tv themes in history, the theme from the classic ’60s show Batman.
The Waitresses were great. I would argue they are the coolest band to ever record a tv theme. The show Square Pegs is one of the best one-season tv shows ever made, and is the New Wave generation’s greatest gift to television history.
Before he was the dad on Growing Pains, Alan Thicke was a successful composer of TV theme songs. In addition to his theme for Diff’rent Strokes, he wrote the theme song for it’s spin-off, Facts of Life. Surprisingly, he did not write the theme for Growing Pains.
Henry Mancini is one of the most successful film composers in history. In addition to his groundbreaking, Emmy winning score for the tv show Peter Gunn, Henry Mancini composed the music for albums, soundtracks, and films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, all of the Peter Sellers Pink Panther films, and hundreds more.
There is a subset of those songs we call “One-Hit Wonders” that is composed of television theme songs. This makes perfect sense considering that most of these songs are created by television studios and the songs are usually hits based on the popularity of the shows and not the artists. Four of the theme songs selected this week fall into this category.
John Sebastian “Welcome Back”: See above (Theme Highlights)
Jan Hammer “Miami Vice Theme”: See below (Trip Around the World and Electronic Music)
Pratt and McClain “Happy Days”: Happy Days was a show about teens growing up in the ’50s, and was the show that introduced the world to “The Fonz.” The first two seasons of Happy Days used the song “Rock Around the Clock” as the theme song and used the song “Happy Days” during the closing credits. For the third season, the producers hired Pratt and McClain to re-record “Happy Days” in order to use it as the theme. In 1976 the song became a hit, and Pratt and McClain became one of the luckiest one hit wonders of them all. The song peaked at #5 in 1976.
Cyndi Grecco “Making Our Dreams Come True”: After Happy Days became the #1 show on television during its third season, Laverne and Shirley was immediately spun off as a new show featuring characters introduced on Happy Days. Airing right after Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley quickly became a huge hit as well. By its third season, Laverne and Shirley was the #1 show on television. All of this was good luck for Cyndi Grecco who was asked to sing the theme song. Although her career never took off after this #15 hit, she is a beloved one-hit wonder for this performance. This is Ms. Faux’s favorite theme song.
A Few TV Theme Songs that Weren’t Selected
One hurdle I faced in selecting this week’s songs was that I only wanted to use the original songs by the original artists. There are cover versions of just about every tv theme song ever written, but some of the originals are not available (at least I couldn’t find them). I also left off some of the most treasured classics in order to include some that I think are great even though they aren’t as famous. But don’t despair. Grab a seat on the couch and veg out to these classics.
Artist of the Week: Cocteau Twins
Scottish band Cocteau Twins spent almost twenty years perfecting their dream pop sound, a genre of alternative music they pioneered, before breaking up in 1997. During that time, they released eight albums which are now part of the alternative music canon. Their first six albums on the 4AD label helped define the “4AD sound” in the ’80s, culminating in their masterpiece Heaven or Las Vegas. The combination of Robin Guthrie’s guitars and ethereal vocals of Elisabeth Fraser gave their music a unique blend of beauty, power, and soul.
Elisabeth Fraser’s vocals were often indecipherable, but she possessed the unique talent of making you believe you understood. Along with Siouxsie Sioux and Kate Bush, Fraser was THE female voice of British alternative music in the ’80s.
Unlike many of their contemporaries, Cocteau Twins albums still sound as fresh now as when they were released. Bands like U2, R.E.M., The Pixies, The Smiths, and The Cure are now looked upon as the leaders of alternative music in the ’80s, but back when it was happening Cocteau Twins were the band that you could throw on the turntable and get people to say, “What is this? It’s really good.”
Over the last few weeks we have lost several music legends. Four of these artists are icons of their respective genres. One of them is a true rock god.
Charlie Watts was the drummer of The Rolling Stones from 1963 until his death on August 24, 2021. He was a master of all styles and the Stones would not have been THE STONES without his drumming. There are too many examples of great Stones songs so I went with one of my favorites, “Under My Thumb,” from their 1966 album Aftermath.
Don Everly was one half of The Everly Brothers. They are rock and roll pioneers who fused country and R&B into a unique style. Their “close harmony” vocals were a major influence on The Beatles and Simon and Garfunkel, and their music influenced scores of ’60s artists. Don was also a legendary writer of guitar riffs, one of the most important and often overlooked talents for rock guitarists. Don Everly died on August 21, 2021.
Dennis “Dee Tee” Thomas was a founding member of Kool & The Gang. He played alto sax and was a member of the band from its inception until his death. Before they became a Top 40 hit machine in 1979, Kool & The Gang were a foundational funk band whose sound was based around the tight connection of the rhythm and horn sections. Thomas was also the band’s live show MC and their wardrobe stylist. He died on August 7, 2021.
Tom T. Hall was a country music singer/songwriter who not only had many hits of his own but also wrote some of the best know hits of his era. Known as “The Storyteller,” he wrote songs that were recorded by Johnny Cash, George Jones, Loretta Lynn, Waylon Jennings, and many others. He wrote the #1 country/pop crossover hit “Harper Valley P.T.A.” in 1968, which won a grammy, sold over 6 million copies for Jeannie C. Riley, and was turned into a movie and television show. Tom T. Hall died on August 20, 2021.
In 1989, rap music was just starting to make its way into US popular culture and out to other parts of the world. The television show Yo! MTV Raps had been on the air for about a year, you could probably count the number of Top 40 rap hits on your fingers and toes, and rap music was still struggling to get airplay on all radio formats. Discounting Blondie’s #1 hit “Rapture” in 1980, the first rap song to hit #1 was in 1990, “Ice Ice Baby.” This is all to say that any hit by a rapper, and especially Biz Markie’s #9 hit from 1989, “Just a Friend,” was a giant step in the development of rap into the most popular form of music in the world and a driver of modern-day popular culture. Biz Markie died on July 16, 2021.
3 Chunks of Funk
Kool & The Gang “Funky Stuff”: This is a funk classic from one of the truly great ’70s funk bands.
Jackson 5 “ABC”: This song is good.
Quincy Jones “The Streetbeater”: Funkiest tv theme ever made?
Happy Birthday (August 29)
Michael Jackson: As a child, Michael Jackson was the lead singer of a Motown group called The Jackson 5. He later enjoyed moderate success as a solo artist.
Julio Fernandez: Julio Fernandez joined Spyro Gyra in 1984 and is still their guitarist.
Sterling Morrison was a founding member and guitarist for The Velvet Underground. Everyone remembers Lou Reed and John Cale, even Mo Tucker gets mention here and there, and Doug Yule gets recognition as the poor guy who had to put out the last VU album all by himself. Sterling Morrison is the one people forget, but he was an essential element of their sound. He is under-rated as a rhythm guitarist, and “What Goes On” is a great example of his work.
Elisabeth Fraser: Fraser was the iconic vocalist for Cocteau Twins, the Artist of the Week.
Charlie Parker: See A Little Jazz below
Chris Copping: Chris Copping was the organist and bassist for Procol Harum from 1969-1977. Although he joined after their debut, which featured “Whiter Shade of Pale,” and didn’t play on their classic album A Salty Dog, he was a member during the years and albums that define them. Procol Harum is one of the most under-rated bands of the ’70s, and the song “Grand Hotel” is the title track to my favorite album by the band.
Mallu Magalhaes: Mallu Magalhaes is a young Brazilian vocalist.
Hiroki Kikuta: Hiroki Kikuta is a video game composer and designer. One of the dozens of games he has worked on is Secret of Mana. “Fear of the Heavens” is one of the main compositions for the game.
Dinah Washington: Dinah Washington sang jazz, blues, R&B, and pop music. She died tragically at the peak of her career, aged 39.
Diamanda Galas: See Difficult Listening below
The Everly Brothers “Wake Up Little Suzy” and “Bye Bye Love”: These are their first two singles.
Andrew Gold “Thank You For Being a Friend”: This song was a #25 hit in 1978 and was then used as the theme song for The Golden Girls seven years later.
Cyndi Grecco “Making Our Dreams Come True”: 1976, #15
Jan Hammer “Miami Vice Theme”: 1985, #1
Jackson 5 “ABC”: 1970, #1
Kool & The Gang “Funky Stuff”: Their first hit, 1973, #29
Pratt and McClain “Happy Days”: 1976, #5
The Rembrandts “I’ll Be There For You”: 1995, #17
Rhythm Heritage “Theme from S.W.A.T.”: This was their first hit, 1976, #1. They also had a hit with the theme from the tv show Baretta.
John Sebastian “Welcome Back”: 1976, #1
Dinah Washington “What a Difference a Day Makes”: Her first hit, 1959, #8
Tom T. Hall “I Love”: This is his only pop hit, 1974, #12
2 for “Two”day
The Everly Brothers “Wake Up Little Suzy” and “Bye Bye Love”
Charlie Parker “Bloomdido” and “Yardbird Suite”
Mallu Magalhaes “Barcelona”
Let’s Take a Trip Around the World
Cocteau Twins “Cherry-coloured Funk”: They are the Artist of the Week
Czech Republic (Czechoslovakia)
Jan Hammer “Miami Vice Theme”: What do you want me to say? It’s all about the white suit.
Kim Chang-ki “Hyewahdong (or Sangmundong)”: This is the theme song to my favorite K-Drama, “Reply 1988.” If you watch K-Dramas and haven’t seen this one, you should. If you don’t watch K-Dramas and want to start, this is a great one to begin with. If you don’t watch K-Dramas and don’t want to start then I don’t know how to help you.
Hiroki Kikuta “Fear of the Heavens”: This is one of the main compositions from the video game Secret of Mana. This 1993 game was the first to spin off of the Final Fantasy series. It was released for Super Nintendo and was my favorite Super Nintendo game.
Mallu Magalhaes “Barcelona”: Mallu Magalhaes began her career when she was a teenager by saving up some money to record four songs and then posting them on her MySpace page (before Facebook, MySpace ruled the internet). Over the following 13 years she has released 5 albums, including her 2021 release Esperenca. Each of her releases has garnered increasing praise and success. I was not familiar with her work until this week, and her new release is already on my short list for album of the year.
Hiroki Kikuta “Fear of the Heavens”: I have been playing video games since I discovered Asteroids at my local pizza parlor in the ’70s. Although the obvious reason to play video games is the games themselves, anyone who plays them knows that the right music makes a good game even better. Although many modern games now license the use of popular music, the art of good video game composing is an important part of the electronic music genre over the last forty years.
Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire “Doctor Who”: Composed by Ron Grainer and electronically arranged by Delia Darbyshire, this is one of the most important early electronic recordings.
Jan Hammer “Miami Vice Theme”: Over his 50+ year career, keyboardist Jan Hammer has been an extremely prolific composer, session musician, and recording artist. In addition to his work with The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Jeff Beck, and Al DiMiola, Hammer is best known for his work on the show Miami Vice, for which he won two Grammy Awards. He is a member of the Keyboard Hall of Fame.
“Because sometimes you need to challenge the accepted norms and say ‘this is music,’ even if it requires an expansion of the boundaries of your musical understanding” – some music geek somewhere probably said something like this
Diamanda Galas “Twenty Five Minutes to Go”: Diamanda Galas is an incredibly interesting artist who has pushed the boundaries of voice, piano, opera, electronic music, performance art, painting, installation art, and film for over 40 years. An investigation of her recordings is a voyage into a variety of experimental styles, but all with a focus on her most identifying feature – her voice. At times gospel blues, at times soprano from hell, she vocally attacks every performance with a vengeance. Her recordings strip everything down to raw emotion. Listening to an entire album can leave the listener exhausted and shaken to the core. Galas will never acquire a massive fan base because the world is not built for her to succeed in that way, but we should all be grateful that there is a place in the world of music for artists like her.
The Get Down
DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince “Fresh Prince of Bel Air”: The show that launched Will Smith into super-stardom.
Biz Markie “Throw Back”: Not the song we all know.
Danny Brown “Fresh Off the Boat”: It isn’t Cypress Hill, but it sounds like it!
A Little Smooth Jazz
I take a lot of ribbing in the Faux household for my unapologetic enjoyment of smooth jazz. Faux Junior not only doesn’t like smooth jazz, he takes offense at the claim that it can be called jazz at all. But this week, due to forces beyond my control, I am able to include two smooth jazz classics in the show. Redemption!
Spyro Gyra “Shakedown”: My favorite smooth jazz band is Spyro Gyra. There, I said it and I am prepared to face any consequences that come my way. I have listened to just about every one of their albums from their over 40-year existence. The song “Shakedown” is the first track from their 1985 album Alternating Currents. This is the first Spyro Gyra song I heard and the first Spyro Gyra album I owned.
Bob James “Angela”: This is the theme from Taxi. It is from his 1978 album Touchdown, a classic of the smooth jazz canon. In addition to his work as a jazz artist and smooth jazz innovator, Bob James‘ recordings have been sampled by hip hop artists for years, including his song “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” which provides one of hip hop’s most revered breakbeats – you’ve heard the bells, trust me (Run DMC “Peter Piper,” LL Cool J “Rock the Bells,” Beastie Boys “Hold it Now, Hit It,” and many more.
A Little Jazz
Charlie Parker “Bloomdido” and “Yardbird Suite”: To call two of the greatest Charlie Parker tunes “a little jazz” is like calling a 5-course dinner a little snack. Let’s keep it simple and just say that all jazz that came after Parker was influenced by his playing.
This mini-theme is usually a set of songs by artists who make a living recording music for children, but this week’s show includes what are most likely the most listened to songs for children ever written.
Fred Rogers “Won’t You Be My Neighbor”: I am not going to go on and on about how too many people make fun of Mr. Rogers instead of respecting him as the greatest gift to childhood that television has provided. Let’s just say that Mr. Rogers is a Faux Household favorite.
The Sesame Street Kids “The Sesame Street Theme”: What needs to be said? Sesame Street.
“It’s” (…something completely different)
This is my favorite television show. Of all television shows. Ever in the history of television.
Thanks for listening (and reading)!
|1||Jonathan Wolff||Seinfeld Theme|
|2||Kool & The Gang||Funky Stuff|
|3||The Jackson 5||ABC|
|4||Quincy Jones||The Streetbeater|
|7||Sonny Curtis||Love Is All Around|
|8||Gary Portnoy||Where Everybody Knows Your Name|
|9||John Sebastian||Welcome Back|
|10||The Everly Brothers||Wake Up Little Suzy|
|11||The Everly Brothers||Bye Bye Love|
|12||The Rolling Stones||Under My Thumb|
|13||The Monkees||(Theme From) The Monkees|
|14||The Velvet Underground||What Goes On|
|15||Cocteau Twins||Cherry-coloured Funk|
|16||Kim Chang-ki||Hyewahdong (or Sangmundong)|
|18||Hiroki Kikuta||Fear of the Heavens|
|19||Jan Hammer||Miami Vice Theme|
|20||Ron Grainer and Delia Derbyshire||Doctor Who|
|21||Angelo Badalamenti||Twin Peaks Theme|
|22||Dinah Washington||What a Diff’rence a Day Makes|
|23||Diamanda Galas||Twenty Five Minutes to Go|
|24||Rhythm Heritage||Theme from S.W.A.T.|
|25||DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince||The Fresh Prince of Bel Air|
|26||Biz Markie||Throw Back|
|27||Danny Brown||Fresh Off the Boat|
|28||Pratt and McClain||Happy Days|
|29||Cyndi Grecco||Making Our Dreams Come True|
|30||Andrew Gold||Thank You For Being a Friend|
|31||The Rembrandts||I’ll Be There For You|
|32||The Waitresses||Square Pegs|
|33||Procol Harum||Grand Hotel|
|34||RJD2||A Beautiful Mine|
|35||Henry Mancini||Peter Gunn|
|37||Charlie Parker||Yardbird Suite|
|38||Jeff Richmond||Page Off Intro/Theme from 30 Rock/Kenneth Chokes (Medley)|
|39||Neil Hefti||The Odd Couple|
|40||Alan Thicke||Different Strokes|
|41||Tom T. Hall||I Love|
|42||Fred Rogers||Won’t You Be My Neighbor|
|43||The Sesame Street Kids||Sesame Street Theme|
|44||Danny Elfman||The Simpsons|
|45||The Band of the Grenadier Guards||The Liberty Bell|
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