Wednesday, May 15, 2019

The 100 Most Memorable Songs Introduced by Classic TV, Pt. 5

And we’ve reached the top 20 at last. Hope you’ve enjoyed taking this journey with me, even if your most memorable TV songs are different than mine.

“Different Worlds”

The jubilant “Different Worlds” charted in the top 20, and you can still hear it performed live if you happen to catch the amazing Maureen McGovern in concert. Since Angie has been out of circulation for so long, there’s still a freshness to the tune that is unachievable by themes from more popular shows that run every day on Antenna or Me-TV. 

“Secret Agent Man”
Secret Agent

This Johnny Rivers hit is better known than the show it introduced. In fact, there are probably people who don’t even know it came from a series. 

“Every Beat of My Heart”
Josie and the Pussycats

If you have any non TV-obsessed fans, here’s a record you can play and then ask them if they can name the band. Usually you’ll hear guesses of Motown groups and other 1960s pop trios, but no one would expect such a smooth and sophisticated track to come from Josie and the Pussycats. Of all the songs in my top 20 that were not chart hits, this is the one that most deserved a better fate. 

Shadows of the Night”
Dark Shadows

One of Bob Cobert’s greatest gifts as a composer is the ability to write music that sounds as if it were composed in a bygone century. That’s an especially valuable talent when you’re scoring a series with stories set in the 19th and 18th centuries. “Shadow of the Night,” also known as “Quentin’s Theme,” was recorded by numerous artists including Andy Williams. 

“It’s a Sunshine Day”
The Brady Bunch

If there’s one song that exemplifies Comfort TV for me, it is this one. I’m sure to those that didn’t grow up with it, this innocuous tune delivered with less-than-polished vocals hardly seems special. But if you grew up with The Brady Bunch in syndication, in the era before DVDs and VCRs, there was always some extra excitement every time this episode came around. 

“Welcome Back”
Welcome Back, Kotter

Gabe Kaplan’s sitcom already had a theme selected when former Lovin’ Spoonful lead singer John Sebastian submitted his effort. Producers quickly made a switch and this song, Sebastian’s only solo hit, topped the Billboard chart in May of 1976. 

“Long Lonesome Highway”
Then Came Bronson

This 1969 series lasted just one season and isn’t well remembered now. But the song that played over the closing credits, performed by series star Michael Parks, cracked the Billboard top 20. “Goin’ down that long, lonesome highway, goin’ to live my life my way.” 

“Daydream Believer”
The Monkees

This #1 hit is another obvious pick, and features Davy Jones’ best vocal on a Monkees track (though if you prefer “She Hangs Out” I won’t argue the point). 

“It’s You I Like”
Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood

Music can entertain, motivate and inspire, but I believe it can also help to heal wounded hearts and give people the courage to carry on in the face of adversity. We will never know how many children, and adults as well, found comfort and strength in this tender, uplifting song written and performed by Fred Rogers. 

“Holly Jolly Christmas”
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Of all the Christmas songs to make this top 100 list, this is the only one that became a holiday standard. Fifty years after Burl Ives sang it as a stop-motion snowman, his version has re-entered the hot 100 chart several times over the decades, most recently last year. 


As with Then Came Bronson, here’s a show that didn’t last long and to my knowledge hasn’t played anywhere in decades. But it featured a theme song performed in 1964 by The Beach Boys, at the height of their popularity and creativity. It’s 60 seconds of bliss that leaves one longing for a full-length version. As long as the band is still around, I haven’t given up hope. 

“Sugar Sugar”
The Archies

Producer Don Kirshner knew this was a sure-fire hit and decided it would be a single for The Monkees. But that decision was made just as the group had tired of being told what to do and demanded more control over their musical output. So Kirshner took the song to a cartoon group that couldn’t refuse a direct order – and it was the top selling record in the year it was released. 

“Makin’ It”
Makin’ It

Those still harboring an aversion to disco may not like this high ranking, but genre prejudice aside it’s a great song. As I wrote in an earlier piece on TV theme songs that were better than the shows they introduced, “Makin’ It” was a Saturday Night Fever homage rip-off that debuted in February of 1979, and was canceled one month later. But the theme, performed by series star David Naughton, deservedly reached #5 on the Billboard chart. 

“Johnny Angel”
The Donna Reed Show

Shelley Fabares will be the first to tell you she’s not really a singer. But with the right song, the right arrangement, and backing vocals by the likes of Darlene Love, “Johnny Angel” became her first and only #1 hit. She recorded several albums after the song’s unexpected success, but never got close to a hit again. 

“Summer Days”
The Partridge Family

Why “Summer Days” was never released as a single remains a classic TV music mystery. It’s not just my favorite Partridge Family song – it’s one of my favorite records from any group and any musical era. From the explosive opening riff to David Cassidy’s exuberant vocal to a buoyant chorus that bounds and rolls out of your speakers, “Summer Days” delivers three minutes of unbridled joy. The 1970s may not have been as carefree as the song suggests, but while it’s playing you can close your eyes and pretend they were really that wonderful. 


“I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”
Coca-Cola Commercial

As with “Country Sunshine” from earlier on the list, this is a song that originated in 1971 as a Coca-Cola jingle, in one of the most famous commercials ever broadcast. The success of that much-beloved ad inspired full-length recordings by The New Seekers and The Hillside Singers. One hundred years from now, when television’s best commercials are still being ranked, this commercial featuring teenagers from around the world gathered in song will still be fondly remembered. 


“Hello Mary Lou”
The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet

Originally released as the B-side to “Travelin’ Man,” this song first written and recorded by Gene Pitney became a hit in its own right. It’s also the only Ricky Nelson song to be covered by Led Zeppelin. 


“I’m a Believer”
The Monkees

This is not only one of the band’s most popular and successful songs (seven weeks at #1), I think it belongs in the select company of the most perfect pop records ever made, alongside The Ronnettes’ “Be My Baby.” 


“Love is All Around”
The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The season one version of The Mary Tyler Moore Show theme by Sonny Curtis is more than just a catchy tune or a means to introduce characters; it told the story of a generation of women breaking free from traditional stereotypes (“How will you make it on your own?”), and encapsulated a transitional moment in the culture. In subsequent seasons the lyrics changed to a celebration of the charms of Mary Richards, thus rendering the theme less substantive but still memorable.


  1. My favorite version of "Quentin's Theme" isn't Andy Williams' version but the version sung by his then-wife, Claudine Longet. Her voice sounds much more haunting than Andy's, and I think her version had some great harpsichord lines. (I'm always a sucker for harpsichords.) Unfortunately I can no longer find Claudine's version on YT.

    Trying to find "Daydream Believer" on YT a short time ago, I came across a version by its writer, John Stewart. It sounds a bit country, and he has some silly fun w/ the lyrics near the end.

    Based on what you previously wrote about "Summer Days" in a previous column, I've found that it's one of my fav PF songs now too. It has some great harpsichord notes, and I can't resist trying to harmonize w/ David Cassidy on the chorus. A friend gave me a PF CD, which includes this tune & a lot of other great PF tunes whenever I want to hear them while driving.

    My fav version of "Hello, Mary Lou" is a country version by the Statler Bros. ("Flowers on the Wall"). I especially love bass singer Harold Reid's lines in it, since I sing (somewhat ok) bass myself.

  2. Just back from reviewing the complete list.
    Frankly, I'm astonished that the Maverick theme didn't make the cut at all.
    Since you largely disregarded the composers and lyricists, I suppose I shouldn't be quite as surprised as I came to be …
    … Still, I wonder if you might have noticed that the Maverick theme
    has something in common with # 71 on the overall list; I'll leave it to you to look it up.

  3. Interesting surprise being the last Captain Kool and the Kongs song True Love is on its way is very similar to music artist Josie Cotton would put out years later (kind of a 60's surf new wave hybrid). One song I'd put in is the theme song to the one season Saturday morning show Hot Hero Sandwich.

  4. While I cannot argue against the success of the Monkees singles listed, my personal favorite is the song "Don't Call on Me". A somber, pensive, tune that was only shown on the Monkees in Paris documentary episode because the the quiet tempo did not match the show's slapstick manic persona.