Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The 100 Most Memorable Songs Introduced by Classic TV

It’s been a while since we’ve tried a multi-week feature, and anything related to music here usually draws an enthusiastic response. So over the next few weeks let’s take an in-depth look at some memorable moments when television and music came together. 

First, a couple of ground rules: to qualify a song must have both music and lyrics. That means no Twilight Zone or Route 66 themes, awesome as they are. Also, as a list like this could easily be dominated by a handful of music-themed shows, I’m going to limit the number of songs from any one series to just three.

Let the countdown begin with our first 20 entries – in reverse order. Don’t get too hung up on the rankings – the only real goal here is to bring back some happy memories. And if you don’t see a personal favorite by the time we get to #1, my apologies. Your musical taste is probably better than mine anyway.

“Country Magic”
Here’s Lucy

If you checked out the Here’s Lucy episode referenced in my previous blog entry on commentary tracks, then you heard this song with a Bo Diddley beat, performed by Desi Arnaz Jr. and Ann-Margret. Admittedly the visual of the performance is better than the song, but that’s what happens when two objects of a million crushes join forces.

“Goolie Get-Together”
The Groovie Goolies

Many Saturday morning series incorporated music into their weekly adventures (as we’ll see as we work our way up this list). Some just did it to fill time; others actually put some effort into finding catchy tunes. Filmation shows like The Groovie Goolies happily fell into the latter category. The theme is the one most baby boomers best remember, but also check out “Midnight” and “Save Your Good Lovin’ For Me” on YouTube. 

“The Kelly Song”

It’ll never become a standard or win a Grammy, but you’re already hearing the “Kelly, Kelly, Kelly” refrain in your head. So it did its job. 

“How Will I Know My Love?”
The Mickey Mouse Club

Annette Funicello sings this country-tinged ballad in the Annette serial, which aired on The Mickey Mouse Club in 1958. The public response was massive, and resulted in the song being released as a single, and Annette (who by her own admission was not an accomplished singer) having a successful recording career. It’s a very sweet tune, but it’s okay if you still prefer “Tall Paul” or “Pineapple Princess.” 

“The Hooterville Hop”
Petticoat Junction

This was a half-hearted attempt to launch a dance craze by adding new lyrics to the series’ theme song. It didn’t take, but it’s the kind of moment that is quintessential Comfort TV. 

“I Love You, You Know”
The Love Boat

While no one has ever clamored for more of the song stylings of Richard Dawson, this poignant ballad has a '3 a.m. in the piano bar' vibe that makes me think it could have been a hit if Sinatra sang it 20 years earlier. 

H.R. Pufnstuf

Decades before Cartoon Network thought they cornered the market on hipster Dadaist kid shows, Sid and Marty Krofft were expanding the horizons of impressionable young minds with bizarre puppetry and psychedelic landscapes. While I liked Jack Wild’s English dancehall songs on Pufnstuf, none of them were as unforgettable as Witchiepoo’s musical list of rhymes for oranges. 

It’s a Living

The show may have been about struggling waitresses in Los Angeles, but its boisterous theme sounds like something that came out of a classic 1940s Broadway musical. I always see a line of chorus girls dancing as they belt this out. 

“A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock and Roll”
Donny & Marie

It was a song created to introduce medleys of other songs, but along the way it became the most memorable moment in this popular variety series. Forty years later, the Osmond siblings still sing it every night on the stage of the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. 

Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors

1980s kids grew up with cartoons created primarily to sell toys. The themes were mostly generic, but the intro to Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors had an over-the-top hair metal vibe that still sounds great. And the toys were underrated too. 

“Milwaukee Moon”
Laverne & Shirley

This song, performed in a tag scene from an otherwise typical season three episode (“Bus Stop”), features the entire cast, harmonizing on a doorstep on a hot summer night. It was written by Michael McKean (Lenny). 

“When It Hit Me (The Hurricane Song)”
The Kids From C.A.P.E.R.

This was one of those short-lived series from the 1970s that probably deserved a better fate. This was its biggest song, and the video invites you to stare lovingly into the eyes of Tom Hanks’ future wife. 

“And Then There’s Maude”

A great TV theme song should catch your attention while also providing an introduction to the show that’s about to start. Donny Hathaway’s voice here accomplishes the former, and a great lyric tells you everything you need to know about Maude Finlay. Right on, Maude. 

“Make a Wish”
Make a Wish

Tom Chapin (brother of Harry Chapin) wrote the music for this inventive, ingenious Sunday morning series about the joys and quirks of the English language. I’d sell a kidney to get this series on DVD. 

“Bump a Dump”
Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In

There was a lot of original music in Laugh-In, and I don’t know why this is the tune that stuck with me – though I’m sure it has something to do with the impossibly cute Goldie Hawn. The line “Maybe we’ll both star in a movie” in this bouncy duet with Henry Gibson was prescient, as within about a year Goldie would win the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for Cactus Flower. Watch for yourself – the song starts at about the 3:10 mark in this video. 

“The Preamble”
Schoolhouse Rock

Thanks to Lynn Ahrens, now a composer of Broadway musicals, every kid who came of age in the 1970s can still recite the Preamble to the United States Constitution from memory (even if they have to sing it). 

Nanny and The Professor

This is a very loopy but undeniably catchy tune written and performed by The Addrisi Brothers, who sound slightly British (fitting for a show about an English nanny) but are actually from Massachusetts. They had one other claim to fame by writing “Never My Love,” a hit for The Association. 

“Thank You For Being a Friend”
The Golden Girls

There were still a lot of TV theme songs in the 1980s, but this is when they started to become somewhat generic. There’s a nostalgic appeal now to the themes from shows like Growing Pains and Family Matters and Perfect Strangers, but they all sounded like they rolled off the same factory assembly line. Andrew Gold’s “Thank You For Being a Friend” has stylistic similarities but it’s still a cut above its contemporaries. 

“Eep Opp Ork Ah Ah”
The Jetsons

From the classic episode “A Date with Jet Screamer,” this song was revived in the 1990s with a great cover by the band Violent Femmes. 

“Friday Night”

Given how many talented singers packed the cast of Fame, it’s always struck me as ironic that one of the series’ most popular songs was performed by one of its least vocally trained actors (Carlo Imperato as Danny). 

One Day At a Time

The best TV show theme songs are those that merit (and often achieve) full-length versions that could hold your interest beyond the time it takes to introduce a series. I’m not sure this one qualifies, but for about 45 seconds it’s perfect for getting you up on your feet. 

 Next Week: #s 79 through 60

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