We’re the young generation, and we’ve got something to say

I was only 11, so I didn’t really understand what was happening.  I was pretty much a pawn in the show business game of foisting a product upon an unsuspecting public.

It was September 1966, and overnight, I became a huge fan of a prefabricated rock band called The Monkees.

“They’re going to be bigger than The Beatles!” I told my skeptical parents.  “They even have their own weekly TV show!”

This was just what the show’s producers were counting on — gullible American teens and pre-teens buying into the sanitized Hollywood vision of what a rock band should look p01bqr6vlike and sound like:  Four zany young guys with dreams of making it big, making their way through one silly weekly adventure after the next, always finding a way to work in at least one “performance” of one of their songs that were being heard concurrently on Top 40 radio.

And it worked.  For a while.

The half-hour NBC-TV show “The Monkees” was an instant hit in the ratings and, at the Emmy Awards nine months later, scored an upset by winning Outstanding Comedy Series, triumphing over shows with far better credentials like “Bewitched,” “Get Smart,” “The Andy Griffith Show” and “Hogan’s Heroes.”

On the Billboard Pop charts, the first songs and albums released by The Monkees all The_Monkees_single_02_I'm_a_Believerwent to #1 and stayed there for many weeks on end.  “I’m a Believer” was the #1 song in the nation for nearly three months.  Here’s a fact that still astonishes me today:  Year-end sales figures for 1967 show that more units of Monkees records were sold than The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined!

But there was a fly in the ointment that soon derailed this runaway success.  When the public learned that the band members weren’t really playing the instruments on the records they were hearing or on the TV performances they were seeing, there was a backlash from which they never fully recovered.  Critics pounced, calling The Monkees “The Pre-Fab Four,” a derisive take on The Beatles’ “Fab Four” nickname.  The TV show lasted only one more season through continually sagging ratings, and was cancelled in the summer of 1968.

There were six commercially huge hit singles between September 1966 and March 1968 that cemented The Monkees’ name in pop music history.  “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I’m a Believer,” “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Daydream Believer” and “Valleri” all reached at least #3, with four of them topping the charts.  They’re so ingrained in my head that I could sing you every word of these songs right now, today.  But then the bottom fell out, with each successive single faring worse through 1968 and 1969, and by 1970, the jig was up.

In retrospect, the case can be made that the four individuals who comprised the band — Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork — were just as much pawns in the show business game as anybody.  They were hired not as musicians but as comic actors playing the roles of musicians in a TV sitcom.

themonkees1960Producer Bob Rafelson had come up with the concept of a TV show about a rock and roll group as early as 1960, but it wasn’t until The Beatles’ spectacular arrival and, more specifically, the success of their film “A Hard Day’s Night” in 1964 that Rafelson got the green light from Screen Gems, the TV arm of Columbia Pictures, to develop his idea.  At first he thought of using an existing pop band to star in the program, but after being turned down by The Lovin’ Spoonful and The Dave Clark Five, he decided to manufacture his own group.

Rafelson concluded that Jones, whose Broadway acting pedigree had already won him a contract with Screen Gems and Columbia as an actor/singer, would be an ideal choice for this project, bringing a charming Brit-pop sensibility.  The rest of the group would be found through auditions, just as was done with any other TV show at the time.

This was the ad copy that ran in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter:  “Madness!  Auditions.  Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers for acting roles in new TV series.  Running parts for four insane boys age 17-21.”

Many rock music fans may not be aware that among the hundreds of hungry young musician/actor wanna-bes who showed up for the cattle-call audition was a young

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Stills (left) soon after declining a Monkees audition in 1966

singer-songwriter named Stephen Stills.  “I went in there to sell my songs.  I told them, ‘I have all these songs.’  They said, ‘Oh, that part of it has already been taken care of.’  I said, ‘What, you’ve got some Tin Pan Alley people writing your songs?’  And they said ‘Yeah.’  I said, ‘Well, I don’t want the job, but I know a guy you might like.’  I was already writing songs and looking to form a band.  I had zero interest in being a damn fake Beatle on television.”

But Stills’ guitarist friend Peter Tork was interested, and he ended up winning one of the three remaining parts, along with Dolenz, a former child actor who had starred in the inconsequential 1950s sitcom “The Circus Boy.”  Rounding out the quartet was Nesmith, a competent songwriter/guitarist with a droll sense of humor and a keen business sense inherited from his mother, a secretary who had invented “Liquid Paper” correction fluid and built it into a multi-million-dollar company.

The foursome did what was asked of them, learning their lines and playing their parts on the show, but when they showed up at the recording studio, Nesmith and Tork were chagrined to learn their musical skills would not be needed.  Dolenz and Jones were 51YH7+LFxFLtapped to dub lead vocal parts onto the finished tracks.  The show’s musical supervisor was the notorious Don Kirshner, who had selected Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart from his stable of Brill Building pop songwriters to write, record and produce most of the songs for the group’s first album, “The Monkees,” which was essentially intended as a companion soundtrack to the TV show’s first season.

The first sign of trouble, as far as Nesmith was concerned, was when that debut LP appeared.  “The first album showed up and I looked at it with horror, because it made us appear as if we were a bonafide rock ‘n’ roll band.  There was no credit given for the other musicians who actually played on the tracks.  I went completely ballistic, and said, ‘What are you people thinking?’  And the powers that be said, ‘Well, you know, it’s the fantasy.’  I said, ‘It’s not the fantasy.  You’ve crossed the line here.  You are now duping the public.  They know when they look at the television series that we’re not a rock ‘n’ roll band; it’s a show about a rock ‘n’ roll band.  Nobody for a minute believes that we are somehow this accomplished rock ‘n’ roll band that got their own television show.  You putting the record out like this is just beyond the pale.'”

Kirshner, irritated at Nesmith’s objections, plowed ahead, assembling a dozen more  tracks recorded in the same manner and releasing them a mere three months later as the second LP “More of The Monkees.”  Despite the fact that the album was a big commercial hit, Nesmith and the other Monkees had reached their breaking point about what they 02-more-of-the-monkeesfelt was nothing short of fraud.  Kirshner was ousted and The Monkees won creative control of all recordings from then on.

On those initial two dozen recordings, the musical parts were handled largely by the seasoned pros who made up what was known in some circles as The Wrecking Crew.  Some names you might recognize:  guitarists Glen Campbell, James Burton and Louie Shelton; pianist Larry Knechtel (who later joined the soft-rock band Bread); drummer Hal Blaine; bassist Carol Kaye; percussionist Jim Gordon.  Also contributing were Carole King, who wrote “Sometime in the Morning” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and added piano and backing vocals, and Neil Diamond, who wrote “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You” and added guitar.

It’s kind of unfair that The Monkees were singled out for not playing much on their own records.  Truth be told, this wasn’t all that different from what occurred with other hip groups of the period.  On several of the big hits released by The Beach Boys (“I Get Around,” “Help Me, Rhonda,” “Good Vibrations”) and The Byrds (“Mr. Tambourine Man”), the drums, bass, guitar and keyboard parts were played by Wrecking Crew session guys because the record label executives didn’t yet have confidence in the band members’ musical abilities.

Glenn Baker, author of “Monkeemania: The True Story of the Monkees,” put his finger on the real problem that tarnished The Monkees’ image, even to this day:  “The rise of the ‘Pre-fab Four’ coincided with rock’s desperate desire to cloak itself with the trappings of respectability and credibility.  Session players were being heavily employed by many acts of the time, but what could not be ignored, as rock disdained its pubescent past, was a group of middle-aged Hollywood businessmen had actually assembled their concept of a profitable rock group and foisted it upon the world.  What mattered was that the Monkees had success handed to them on a silver plate.  Indeed, it was not so much righteous indignation but thinly disguised jealousy which motivated the scornful dismissal of what 1714899-davy-jones-the-monkees-on-set-617-409-1must, in retrospect, be seen as an entertaining, imaginative and highly memorable exercise in pop culture.”

From my point of view as a teen in 1966-67, The Monkees were definitely entertaining.  My friends and I held instruments and pretended to be Monkees in school skits, aping their movements and lip-synching their lyrics.  The TV show offered half-hour escapes of mindless fun each Monday evening.  Most of the controversy surrounding their legitimacy was, frankly, just not important to me at the time.

The hard-fought freedom The Monkees won to control their recorded output was complicated by the fact that they didn’t share a common vision regarding the band’s musical direction.  Nesmith favored leaning toward country rock and country blues.  Jones fancied the more showy Broadway-type music, while Tork and Dolenz enjoyed dabbling in psychedelia and other more avant-garde genres.  Still, they understood the 03-headquartersneed to maintain some continuity to what their young fan base expected, which was straightforward pop with accessible hooks.

Their 1967 singles “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and Daydream Believer” are still enormously popular today, but their third and fourth LPs, “Headquarters” and “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.”, exemplified the group’s inner 04-pisces-aquarius-capricorn-and-jones-ltdturmoil and rudderless direction (although both nevertheless reached #1 on the album charts).  By the time of the fifth LP, “The Birds, The Bees and The Monkees,” the TV show had been cancelled, and the experimental film and soundtrack they released in November 1968, “Head,” proved disastrous commercially.  Tork left the band, and efforts to continue as a threesome failed.  The end had come.

It’s interesting to note that both The Monkees’ music and TV show are now regarded with more respect than at their time of release.  If you analyze some of the TV episodes, you’ll find, amidst the silliness, some groundbreaking creativity.  During an era of formulaic domestic sitcoms and corny comedies, it was a stylistically ambitious show, with a distinctive visual style and tempo, an absurdist sense of humor and almost radical story structure.  It utilized quick edits strung together with interview segments and even occasional documentary footage.

When Nesmith asked John Lennon in 1967 what he thought of The Monkees, he said, only partly in jest, “I think you’re the greatest comic talent since The Marx Brothers.  I’ve

Monkee-4-900x600-1

Winning the Outstanding Comedy Emmy in 1967

never missed one of your programs.”

 

It rarely gets the credit for it, but The Monkees’ show was one of the essential pioneers of the music video format, and Nesmith himself later dreamed up and pitched the prototype for what became MTV, the game-changing phenomenon of music delivery in the 1980s.

Writing in 2012 at the time of Jones’ death, columnist James Poniewozik said, “Even if the show never meant to be more than harmless entertainment and a hit-single generator, we shouldn’t sell it short.  It was far better TV than it had to be.  In fact, ‘The Monkees’ was the opening salvo in a revolution that brought on the New Hollywood cinema, an influence rarely acknowledged but no less impactful.  As a pop culture phenomenon, The Monkees paved the way for just about every boy band that followed in their wake, from New Kids on the Block to ‘N Sync to the Jonas Brothers, while Davy set the stage for future teen idols David Cassidy and Justin Bieber.  You would be hard pressed to find a successful artist who didn’t take a page from The Monkees’ playbook, even generations later.”

In 2009, Jones said, “We touched a lot of musicians, you know.  I can’t tell you the amount of people that have come up and said, ‘I wouldn’t have been a musician if it hadn’t been for the Monkees.’ It baffles me even now.  I met a guy from Guns N’ Roses who was just so complimentary of our work.”

Numerous Monkees revival tours have been met with huge, adoring crowds, mostly aging Sixties kids looking for nostalgic memories.  When MTV re-aired the TV show in the late ’80s, a new generation of fans hopped on The Monkees’ train.  New albums in 1987 (“Pool It!”) and again in 1996 (“Justus”) weren’t commercial or critical successes, but they served their purpose of keeping The Monkees name before the public.  Tours image_update_10317dd6223b6aa7_1343571076_9j-4aaqskusually featured only three of the four principals (either Nesmith or Tork holding out), but that didn’t seem to matter to those who bought tickets to see them.

Many middle-aged women wept in 2012 when their teen idol Davy Jones died of a heart attack at age 66.  Social media activity was substantial and brought about increased sales of Monkees material.  Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith collaborated once more on the praised 2016 album “Good Times!” which features several tracks I find worthy of your attention (“You Bring the Summer, “Me & Magdelena”), and even an unearthed track from 1967 (“Love to Love”) on Unknown-35which Jones sang lead vocals.

Just last week, Peter Tork died of cancer at age 77, which will most likely spell the end of Monkees performances…but you never know.  If the twosome of Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey can keep The Who alive in 2019, what’s stopping Nesmith and Dolenz from doing the same thing with The Monkees?

I’m envisioning an upcoming promotional poster:  “Hey Hey, we’re still The Monkees, damnit!”

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I’ve compiled a playlist on Spotify that collects the essential Monkees hits and many additional album tracks I’ve always enjoyed.  I hope you like “A Barrelful of Monkees”!

 

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All I need is a TV show, that and the radio

“Just sit right back and you’ll hear a tale, the tale of a fateful trip…”

Of all the TV theme songs that have come and gone over the decades, probably none has been so ingrained into our minds as the theme to “Gilligan’s Island.”  The show lasted only three seasons (1964-1967), but the combined music and lyrics created an insidious “ear worm” that burrowed its way permanently into the subconscious of anyone who grew up in the ’60s, and even some in the ’70s and ’80s as well.

And there were others.  The ’60s and ’70s were full of programs with theme songs with Vintage TV - Addams Family - blue screenlyrics that basically explained the shows’ premise in a catchy, sing-songy way:  “Petticoat Junction” (1963-1970), “The Patty Duke Show” (1963-1966), “Green Acres” (1965-1971), “Flipper” (1964-1967), “The Brady Bunch” (1969-1974), “Mister Ed” (1961-1966), “The Addams Family” (1964-1966), “F Troop” (1965-1967), “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” (1970-1977), “All in the Family” (1971-1979), “The Jeffersons” (1975-1985).

Yet none of these songs ever proved popular enough to be played ad infinitum on the radio, but then again, they weren’t really meant for that.  Other theme songs, on the other hand, turned out to be far more suitable as Top 40 hits, sometimes because they were intended as such, more often not.

Most involved lyrics, but a select few instrumental pieces also made the charts.  I’ve chosen 15 TV theme songs of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s that I found either appealing to me or noteworthy enough to examine in more detail.  As I often do, I add a list of “honorable mentions at the end, followed by a Spotify playlist.

If you watched as much TV as I did back then, you I think you’ll find this musical trip very entertaining.

And here we go:

“Happy Days”

Happy-daysWhen the “Happy Days” sitcom debuted in early 1974 as TV’s answer to the film “American Graffiti,” the show used Bill Haley and The Comets’ 1955 classic “Rock Around the Clock” as its opening theme song.  Over the closing credits was an early version of “Happy Days,” written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, and sung by Jim Haas.  By Season 3, the song was re-recorded with different lyrics by the team of Pratt & McClain, and used in both the opening and closing credits for the remaining seven seasons of the show’s run.  When it was released as a single in 1976, it reached #5 on the Top 40 charts.

“Secret Agent”

268x0w-1P.F. Sloan, a successful pop songwriter who wrote more than 20 hits for various ’60s artists like The Turtles (“You Baby”) and Barry McGuire (“Eve of Destruction”), came up with the iconic guitar lick that was selected for use on the American broadcast of the British spy show “Danger Man,” retitled “Secret Agent” by CBS.  Initially, the producers wanted just a 20-second snippet for use in the show’s opening, but eventually Sloan and partner Steve Barri wrote the full length song entitled “Secret Agent Man.”  Famed producer Lou Adler brought in Johnny Rivers, who’d already had four Top Ten hits by then, to record the song (with extra verses) live at the Whiskey A Go Go club on the Sunset Strip.  That recording went to #3 on the Top 40 charts in 1966.

“Welcome Back, Kotter”

MI0000742688When producer Alan Sachs was putting together a Gabe Kaplan sitcom in 1975 to be titled “Kotter,” he wanted a theme song that sounded like one of his favorite ’60s pop groups, The Lovin’ Spoonful.  As luck would have it, Sachs’s agent also represented former Lovin’ Spoonful singer-songwriter John Sebastian, and he brought the two together.  Initially, Sebastian struggled trying to write lyrics that included the Kotter name, so instead he focused on the idea of the series’ premise of a teacher returning to the high school where he’d grown up.  Sachs was so pleased with Sebastian’s song “Welcome Back” that he changed the show’s title to “Welcome Back, Kotter.”  A scaled down version was used for the opening credits, but Sebastian’s full-length recording included two verses, a chorus, and a harmonica interlude, and that version reached #1 on the charts in May 1976 and eventually sold a million copies.

“The Monkees”

Single Spain RCA 3-10357 Monkees Theme pwIn 1966, producer Don Kirshner was tasked with the job of coming up with a TV series that mimicked the zaniness of The Beatles’ 1964 film “A Hard Day’s Night.”  He held auditions and signed one true musician (guitarist Mike Nesmith), one struggling musician (bassist Peter Tork) and two actors who could sing (Davy Jones and Mickey Dolenz) to become The Monkees (derisively known as “the Prefab Four”).  Kirshner employed staff songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to write not only the group’s infectious debut single “Last Train to Clarksville” but also “Theme From The Monkees,” which introduced each episode of the show, which ran for three seasons (1966-1968).  Released as a single in early 1967, “Theme From The Monkees” reached the Top Ten in Mexico, Australia and Japan, but curiously, it didn’t chart in the US, pushed aside in favor of the enormous hit “I’m a Believer” and its follow-up, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You.”  Still, it gets a fair amount of radio play on oldies stations even today.

“Dr. Kildare”

R-1526198-1392323700-4638.jpegThe fictional character Dr. James Kildare was created in the 1930s for a literary magazine, then made into a series of theatrical films in the 1940s, a radio program in the 1950s before becoming a Top Ten-rated TV show in the early 1960s.  The instrumental theme music used for the series was written by Jerry Goldsmith.  Although it was never heard as part of any “Dr. Kildare” episode, the theme music had lyrics and the parenthetical title “Three Stars Will Shine Tonight.”  Actor Richard Chamberlain, who had a decent singing voice as well, took a shot at recording the full version and releasing it as a single, and lo and behold, it peaked at #10 on the Top 40 charts in 1962.

“Laverne & Shirley”

maxresdefault-22“Happy Days” proved to be so wildly popular that it successfully spun off another sitcom starring two supporting characters, Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, who became stars in their own right on “Laverne & Shirley.”  A young lady named Cyndi Grecco was tapped to sing the theme song, “Making Our Dreams Come True,” written again by Normal Gimbel and Charles Fox, the same songwriting team behind the “Happy Days” hit tune.  Grecco’s rendition reached #25 on the Top 40 charts in 1976.

“Miami Vice”

R-160921-1408974527-7861.jpegJazz-rock keyboard virtuoso Jan Hammer came up with a catchy synthesized instrumental piece that swayed the producers of Miami Vice to make it their theme song beginning in autumn 1984. The show, which used a lot of rock music in its soundtrack, was conceived by NBC honcho Brendon Tartikoff in two words he wrote on a napkin one evening:  “MTV Cops.”  The original “Miami Vice” soundtrack LP, which included Glenn Frey’s #2 hit “You Belong to the City” as well as “Smuggler’s Blues,” was the #1 album in the country for six weeks in November/December of 1985.  Hammer’s “Theme From Miami Vice” also topped the singles charts that year.

“Peter Gunn”

MI0002958720The original “night in the city” music, written by the great Henry Mancini.  He said he was trying to evoke a mysterious “danger lurking” feeling that has been imitated hundreds of times since, most notably by John Barry when he wrote the James Bond Theme three years later that has been used in every Bond film since.  Meanwhile, Ray Anthony and His Orchestra recorded a full-length version of the 45-second theme music used in the show (which ran from 1958-1961), and it ended up #8 on the Top 40 charts in 1959.  Mancini’s original soundtrack album “The Music from Peter Gunn” won an Emmy for Album of the Year in 1959.

“Moonlighting”

R-1171786-1266736043.jpegThe punchy dialog and sexual chemistry between David Addison (Bruce Willis) and Maddie Hayes (Cybill Shepherd) made “Moonlighting” one of the most popular shows of the 1980s, although it lasted only four seasons (1985-1989).  The Los Angeles locale required a jazzy, jet-setting theme song, and who better suited than singer Al Jarreau to co-write and perform it?  His recording of “Moonlighting” reached #23 on the Top 40 charts in 1987.

“Hawaii Five-0”

H50-Retro-Cover_100510It’s no surprise the the producers of a detective show called “Hawaii Five-0” would want to use surf music as the basis for its theme song.  Morton Stevens, a successful film and television score composer, wrote the instrumental music in 1968 for the show’s first season, played by the CBS Orchestra.  It became so popular that it was soon re-recorded by the California pop group The Ventures and released as a single.  It reached #4 on the Top 40 charts in early 1969.  “Hawaii Five-0” lasted another 11 years (and was recently revived in a new prime-time version, so the theme music has become a dominant soundtrack in popular culture.

“Batman”

118321The theme song to the campy TV version of the Caped Crusader story was basically an infectious guitar riff that was part spy movie score and part surf music, with “Batman!” shouted ten times by a female chorus.  Neal Hefti wrote the three-chord blues structure and gave it to The Marketts, a popular Hollywood-based surf music combo of the mid-’60s, who had already scored a #3 hit with “Out of Limits,” based on the “Outer Limits” TV series.  The “Batman!” song ended up reaching #17 on the Top 40 charts upon its single release in the fall of 1966.

“S.W.A.T.”

220px-Theme_from_S.W.A.T._-_Rhythm_HeritageComposer Barry DeVorzon, who also wrote “Nadia’s Theme” for “The Young and the Restless and “Bless the Beasts and the Children” for The Carpenters, wrote “Theme From S.W.A.T.,” a disco song used in the short lived “S.W.A.T.” series in 1976.  DeVorzon’s orchestra recorded the short version used during each episode’s opening, but the full length version, recorded by Rhythm Heritage, had a dance arrangement and catapulted to #1 on the Billboard Top 40 chart in late 1976.  The song is remembered far more than the series that inspired it.

“The Rockford Files,” “Hill Street Blues,” “The Greatest American Hero,” “Magnum P.I.”

281738874500Mike Post is one of the most successful writers of television theme songs, winning multiple Emmys and Grammys for his work over four decades.  It’s Mike Post’s music you heard on each episode of “Law and Order,” “Law and Order: SVU,” “NYPD Blue,” “L.A. Law,” “Quantum Leap,” “The A-Team,” “Murder One” and “CHiPs,” among many others.  His breakthrough came in 1974 with his “Theme From The Rockford Files,” an instrumental piece that ended up reaching #10 on the Top 40 charts in 1975.  In 1981, the music he co-wrote with jazz guitarist Larry Carlton as “Theme From Hill Street Blues” also reached #10 on the Top 40 charts.  One of Post’s few theme songs which had lyrics was “Theme From Greatest American Hero (Believe It Or Not),” co-written by Stephen Geyer, which became a #2 hit single in 1981 for one-hit wonder Joey Scarbury (although he later had success as a songwriter on the country music chart).  Finally, in 1982, Post’s “Theme from Magnum P.I.” charted at #25 on the Billboard Top 40.

“Makin’ It”

220px-David_Naughton_Makin'_It_singleDon’t recognize this TV show?  You’re not alone.  If you blinked in 1979, you missed it, because it aired for only eight episodes.  Created to capitalize on the popularity of the “Saturday Night Fever” film and the disco craze, the show was a victim of poor timing, debuting as the public’s love affair with disco was dissipating.  The show starred actor David Naughton, who later starred in the 1981 film “An American Werewolf in London,” and it was also Naughton who sang the show’s disco-based theme song, written by Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren.  Naughton’s recording of “Makin’ It” reached #5 on the Top 40 charts in May 1979, two months after the show’s cancellation.

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“Friends”

R-1015660-1426612606-2484.jpegFrom 1994 to 2004, there was “Friends,” and then there were all the other shows.  Wildly popular, the show about six friends based in Manhattan still pulls in a billion bucks a year in syndication residuals.  Danny Wilde and Phil Solem, savvy music veterans who had been writing and touring as a duo called The Rembrandts, were signed to write and record a theme song for this new sitcom.  In 1995, a Nashville DJ looped the one-minute theme into a longer version and put it on the radio, where it proved so popular that The Rembrandts had to go back into the studio and re-record it as a proper single.  “I’ll Be There For You” reached #1 in Canada and #3 in England, and it reached #17 on the US Top 40 that year.

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“The Beverly Hillbillies

886444229869_1080W_1080HPaul Henning, who also wrote the “Green Acres” theme song, wrote “The Ballad of Jed Clampett,” the theme song that tells the story of how Tennessee hillbillies came to live in a Beverly Hills mansion.  Bluegrass musicians Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs recorded the song, with two verses, for the show opening, with Flatt handling the vocals, then recorded the third verse as a separate bit for the show closing.  The single version released to radio, merging the opening and closing lyrics, ended up at #1 for three weeks on the Top Country Hits.

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Other notable “honorable mention” theme songs that got radio play:

Theme from Taxi (Angela),” Bob James, 1978

Theme From Bonanza,” (1959-1973) Al Caiola & Orchestra, 1961

Theme From M*A*S*H (Suicide is Painless),” Johnny Mandel and The Mash, 1972

Theme From Cheers (Where Everybody Knows Your Name),” Gary Portnoy, 1982