My theme song collection on 45 rpm
Sometime in the 80's when I was going to college in San Diego, I somehow became enamored with television theme songs. It was also around the time a series of records - yeah, those vinyl ones - had just debuted in commercials, simply and succinctly entitled "Television's Greatest Hits". I can't remember if buying the first volume (there would eventually be seven) fueled my collector's mentality or if it was my many visits to the local Tower Records with its well-stocked 45 rpm shelves that did it. But it was certainly around that time that my interest in searching for and collecting theme song recordings was born.
Some treasured LPs of mine
Now I was bred on sixties and seventies sitcoms, so I remember with fondness the shows of those decades. And in my humble opinion, those shows contained The Best theme songs ever written! There was such a variety of them too, ranging from pop to jazz and novelty to epic orchestral, that without knowing it, they also were teaching us kids about the varied styles of music that existed. So, when I eventually started getting into researching and collecting theme songs I, in my own geeky way, began to appreciate them even more. And I coined, to myself anyway, the term "20th century folk songs" to describe them, to elevate them, from just fun, nostalgic jingles to what I felt they really were.
TV Theme Songs are a unique invention of the 20th century, used to tell, share and identify stories about our culture. And when they are shared down from generation to generation, it's the same practice as was done with traditional folk songs like . Granted, some may argue these stories are nonsense, that they aren't meaningful. But I say you're just an ol' fuddy duddy if you do. Remember the time when someone mentioned an old TV show you grew up watching and thinking about its theme song made you smile? Or the time you pointed out to someone that there were different lyrics at the end of the Gilligan's Island theme? Or when you started singing a few lines or hummed a melody from a theme song like Peter Gunn or Hawaii Five-O because friends around you would recognize it or it was just plain fun to do? And when you did that, didn't you just share a moment with others that uniquely sprang from our modern culture, our youth, from the days were grew up? Didn't you just share a folk song?
"Leave It to Beaver" lyrics...and my warning
Alright, maybe I did or maybe I didn't convince you that they're our folk songs. But that's my story and I'm sticking to it.
But that fact that I thought of them as folk tales comes from the moment when I discovered another magical quality about TV theme songs, that some of the ones I'd only known of as wordless yet signature musical compositions actually HAD LYRICS!
In 1984, I discovered a timely little book called "The TV Theme Song Sing-Along Song Book" by John Javna. I still have it, along with the second volume he released a year later (both are shown in the photo above). And in it was a revelation. That classic instrumental theme songs for the shows Bewitched, The Andy Griffith Show, Bonanza and more actually had lyrics written for them. And they were included in these books with sheet music to boot. A companion LP followed, The TV Theme Song Sing-Along Album, and that's about when my head exploded. For the first time, I heard these lyric-filled recordings of the "I Love Lucy Theme" and "The Andy Griffith Show Theme", songs that for decades were only instrumental tunes in my memory, now fortified with vocals, vocals sung by Ricky Ricardo and Sheriff Andy Taylor themselves. (Now, I wasn't that big an I Love Lucy fan at the time, but now I know the song had actually been sung on one of the episodes. So to Desi and Lucy fans, it wasn't a revelation. But it was to me.) The album also included extended versions of some of my favorite theme songs like Mission: Impossible and Bonanza which until then I'd only heard in their minute-long broadcast version at the top of their shows.
The TV Themes section of my CD library
So for the past twenty-odd years I've been the proud collector and owner of hundreds, maybe thousands even, of these 20th century folk songs across 45 rpms, 33 1/2 LPs, CDs and even a cassette tape or two. Why? Because "fan" comes from the word "fanatic", and I'm wear that title fairly often as it is being a Star Trek fan, comic book fan and Disney fan. Just par for the course.
And I'm certainly not alone! I've wanted to do this blog for some time now. And when I planned to include recordings of some of my favorite TV theme songs, some with those unknown lyrics, I knew there were bound to be other fanatics like me who not only owned them too but would post them as videos on YouTube. So for your enjoyment, I present some of my favorite 20th century folk songs below, presented in ways you likely haven't heard them presented ever before.
And if you liked this blog, "Y'all come back now, y'hear?"
Retro Warning: If you were born in the last, say twenty years, and don't watch much TV Land or retro TV type stations, these tunes may not mean a darn thing to you.
"I Love Lucy" (with lyrics)
Lyrics by Harold Adamson
Music by Eliot Daniel
Vocals by Desi Arnaz
"The Fishin' Hole"
Theme from The Andy Griffith Show
Lyrics by Everett Sloane
Music by Earle Hagen and Herbert Spencer
Vocals by Andy Griffith
"Hogan's Heroes March"
Words and music by Jerry Fielding
Vocals by Robert Clary, Richard Dawson, Ivan Dixon and Larry Hovis*
* These are the cast members from the show.
Composed by Neal Hefti
Arrangement by David Slonaker
Performed by Joel McNeely conducting The Royal Scottish National Orchestra and Chorus
Arrangement inspired by "The Batman Theme" by Danny Elfman composed in 1989
"Medley of Television Themes"
- The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
- Dr. Kildare
- Room 222
- Star Trek: Voyager
- The Waltons
- Barnaby Jones
All composed by Jerry Goldsmith
Arrangement for concert performance by Morton Stevens and Jerry Goldsmith
Jerry Goldsmith started composing for television before going on to create memorable films scores for films such as Patton, The Omen, Poltergeist, Planet of the Apes, Total Recall, Mulan, Gremlins, Rudy, Hoosiers, The Mummy and Star Trek: The Motion Picture. (wikipedia link)
On December 7, 1979, Star Trek: The Motion Picture arrived in theatres ten years after its last first-run episode aired on NBC. I became a fan - a Trekkie - while watching the reruns during the 70's. And I remember being caught up in the excitement of the release of the new movie and the new starship and the new uniforms, even as I knew watching it that something was definitely off about this latest “episode” of Star Trek. But there were clunkers among the show’s 79 episodes (e.g., "Spock's Brain"), so no matter what, fans like me would forgive the fact that the movie, like any one of the carbon-based units in the film, is not perfect. Star Trek was back one last time (so we thought at the time), and that was great!
Star Trek: The Motion Picture, referred to commonly as TMP, arrived two years after Star Wars and Close Encounters of the Third Kind and a year after Superman: The Movie. Those were the films that John Williams astounded moviegoers’ with, introducing heroic scores and signature themes that would make him The Composer for fantasy adventure films of the day. Naturally, he influenced the works of other film composers working on similar projects. I bought his records and sought out any other works that were just as exciting to listen to, that carried a weight that was as epic, romantic and inviting as Williams' work. And Jerry Goldsmith’s score to TMP easily met the criteria.
Jerry Goldsmith and John Williams are contemporaries. Both started working in the 50’s in Hollywood, both composed music for scores of 60’s television shows – Goldsmith counts The Twilight Zone and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. among them and for Williams, Lost in Space, Land of the Giants, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea – before moved on to scoring for films. Williams won his first Oscar for adapting the music from Fiddler on the Roof for its film adaptation. Goldsmith earned his one and only Oscar for his score to The Omen. But you’ve also heard Goldsmith’s work in Patton, Chinatown, The Wind and the Lion, The Sand Pebbles, Legend, Planet of the Apes, Alien, Rudy, Hoosiers, Gremlins, First Blood, Air Force One, The Mummy and Poltergeist.
If by chance none of the above films are familiar, everybody still knows at least one Goldsmith piece of music. The "Main Title" from TMP was re-used as the theme for Star Trek: The Next Generation. Specifically, the music wasn’t composed to be a TV theme, but no one can argue the theme sounds right for a Star Trek show. It exudes confidence, adventure, discovery, even a little whimsy. Hum a few notes and everybody knows the show you’re talk about.
On June 4, 2012, Jerry Goldsmith’s seminal work on TMP was celebrated at an event promoting the release of a new expanded edition of his score to the film. Titled “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” Soundtrack Celebration, it was sponsored by La-La Land Records and Creature Features and featured a panel of speakers who worked with Goldsmith including some who were orchestra members during the TMP scoring sessions. In addition, the discussion featured video interviews of Goldsmith, who died in 2004, and footage from TMP with rare music cues composed by Goldsmith that were re-written after feedback from director Robert Wise. A screening of the 2001 Director’s Edition of TMP concluded the evening.
Some friends and I attended the event, where we also got to buy our copies of the new 3-disc collection a day before its official release date plus have them autographed by two of the panelists. The 115-minute panel discussion, hosted by Jeff Bond, included among others the soundtrack's producer and long-time Goldsmith recording engineer Bruce Botnick, and Craig Huxley and David Newman who both performed on this score. It was a much better program than I had expected it to be. Many of the anecdotes that were shared were very informative or very entertaining. David Newman, who played violin in the score and would become a successful film composer himself, scoring the Star Trek-inspired comedy Galaxy Quest and the sci-fi cult favorite Serenity, explained that Williams’ popular romantic style of film music that had quickly become the norm to film goers and filmmakers, and that challenged Goldsmith’s own modernistic style of music, a challenge he slowly but obviously successfully overcame. Goldsmith’s agent Richard Kraft shared with us the composer’s annoyance of a young James Horner who hung around the recording sessions to watch Goldsmith but also spend a lot of time talking to the Paramount execs. Horner would later go on to compose the score to TMP’s next two sequels, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock before scoring Titanic.
Another highlight of the evening was a demonstration of an instrument called the blaster beam. It’s featured prominently in the TMP score. In another intersection of the Star Trek universe, the creator and performer of the blaster beam, Craig Huxley, was formerly a child actor who was cast in two episodes of the original Star Trek series. As he explained at the event, he went on to become William Shatner’s musical director when the actor “…wanted to combine beat poetry and jazz scat singing with outer space.” He produced Shatner's infamous “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and "Rocket Man" during those days.
Huxley told the audience how excited and intrigued Goldsmith was when he learned about the blaster beam, and how the composer was eager to use it in his score for TMP. In the middle of the panel discussion, Huxley stepped behind the blaster beam to recreate some of the tones Goldsmith composed for it in the score and sounds used in the sound design of the film. For all the geeks in the room, it was an amazing experience to hear these familiar sounds performed live in front of us! I recorded the entire demonstration. Take a look at it below.
Since that evening, I’ve played the hell out of my new CD purchase! My friend has too, sharing with each other over the next few days how nostalgic it's made us feel and how much we love the new recordings, which were drawn from a different source as any previous releases which essentially makes every track on the set previously unreleased. And let me tell you, the fidelity of every bit of the score is AMAZING!! It even inspired me to pull out a book that I've owned for quite a while, Star Trek: Phase II: The Lost Series, and finally read the story of what would have been the 1970's return to television of most of the original cast in a series continuation before Star Wars and other factors forced Paramount to elevated the project into a motion picture production.
The new Star Trek: The Motion Picture 3-disc original soundtrack collection is limited to 10,000 copies and can be ordered from La-La Records or Screen Archives Entertainment.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!