TV shows with hit songs as themes

Discussion in 'TV Shows' started by Chris Lockwood, Sep 30, 2004.

  1. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    All 3 CSIs use classic songs by the Who. LAX has an ELO song. The Apprentice has an old hit for its theme. All of these are by the artists who wrote them or made them famous.

    Anyone else notice this recent trend of familiar hit songs used as themes for TV series? There are probably more than what I listed. Has there been a time when this was more prevalent than it is now? (I'm only talking about theme songs, not pop hits used within an episode. And I only mean shows that use previous hits that were not written for the show, not TV themes that become hits after the show is on the air.)

    A few years ago there was a trend of having no theme song, just starting the show with credits over the scenes.

    Any idea what the royalties are for using these recordings as theme songs? Pete Townshend must be making a fortune just from CSI.

    A partial list:

    CSI (Who Are You - the Who)
    CSI: Miami (Won't Get Fooled Again - the Who)
    CSI: NY (Baba O'Riley - the Who)
    LAX (Mr Blue Sky - ELO)
    The Apprentice (For the Love of Money - the O'Jays)
    Happy Days (Rock Around the Clock - Bill Haley)
    Married with Children (Love and Marriage - Frank Sinatra)
    The Wonder Years (With a Little Help from My Friends - Joe Cocker)
    China Beach (Reflections - the Supremes)
     
  2. AnthonyC

    AnthonyC Cinematographer

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    70s:
    Happy Days
    Welcome Back Kotter
     
  3. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    Happy Days using Rock Around the Clock is an example of what I meant.

    I thought the Kotter song was written for the show. If so, that's not what I was talking about.
     
  4. Kenneth

    Kenneth Supporting Actor

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    Well, there was "Love and Marriage" used for "Married with Children". I think it depends on the show or people connected with the show what direction they want to pursue.

    Kenneth
     
  5. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    The "Kotter" theme was written for the show, but it was released in advance of the series and became a legitimate radio hit on its own, if I recall correctly. I think it may have done more to help the show succeed than the other way around. [​IMG]

    I haven't seen Happy Days in years, so forgive my poor memory, but did they use "Rock Around the Clock" as a closing theme? Because it sure wasn't the main title theme - that was a song called "Happy Days" written for the series as far as I can remember.

    Some series or another used "Runaway" as a theme song, but recognizable popular hits used without irony (which excludes Married with Children) have been extremely rare until quite recently - mostly for reasons of cost, I suspect, but also because that just hadn't been the way things were done and Hollywood is nortoriously a place very resistent to change, innovation, originalilty, call it what you will.

    I think we're seeing more pop music (and mostly "vintage" music) now for a couple of reasons. The first two CSI shows gave it the appearance of a trend. (When in fact it was an accident. They picked "Who Are You?" for CSI because it suggested mystery, and was a driving, high energy song that they thought work well with their glitzy, fast-paced Vegas series. When they were unexpectedly offered a sequel they liked the idea of using another Who song, and by the time the third series was offered them it was practically a tradition.) Since both CSI shows were huge hits, and since the networks and studios always fixate on easy-to-copy externals when trying to duplicate successful shows, the word went out to use "real" songs. Also the baby boom generation is now producing the shows and running the networks and studios. The first generation to be raised on both TV and rock 'n' roll is naturally using what it finds familiar to attract an audience with the same cultural points of reference. (Even the younger demographic groups will likely have heard their parents' music enough to be familiar with it, just as their parents know on an almost genetic level the music of Frank, Dean and Sammy.) The same music is increasingly turning up in commercials aimed at the older and more affluent demographic for the same reason. (Mid range "sporty" car commercials may use hip-hop, but luxury sports commercials use classic rock. There's a reason. [​IMG])

    Some of the shows on the edgier cable networks are also using popular music in their shows, including as opening and closing themes, though that music tends to be of more recent vintage. Rescue Me on F/X is the one the immediately comes to mind, but I'm pretty sure there are others.

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  6. Mikel_Cooperman

    Mikel_Cooperman Producer

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    A few of these were hits after the shows were on:
    Greatest American Hero
    Cheers
    China Beach
    Wonder Years
    Golden Girls
    The theme to Angie.
    I think even Dallas and Dynasty were released and ware a hit.

    Mike Post who did Hill Street Blues and a number of other shows released a CD of his theme songs and I think that was a hit.
     
  7. Joseph DeMartino

    Joseph DeMartino Lead Actor

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    "Thank you for being a friend" was an existing song, although the version used for The Golden Girls was not the original artist.

    The theme from China Beach was "Reflections", a huge hit for Diana Ross and The Supremes during the period in which the series was set, not a new song that became a hit thanks to the show.

    The Wonder Years used an existing song originally recorded by a group called "The Beatles". You may have heard of them. [​IMG] I think they used Joe Cocker's recording, which was also a hit, or someone doing an imitation of Joe Cocker.

    Yeah, a number of Mike Post TV themes over the years became legitimate hit singles racking up plenty of air play as well as sales, and Hill Street was one of them. (Years earlier composer Morton Stevens had a similar pop success with his instrumental theme for Hawaii Five-O, so there was precedent.)

    Regards,

    Joe
     
  8. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    > I haven't seen Happy Days in years, so forgive my poor memory, but did they use "Rock Around the Clock" as a closing theme?

    It was the opening theme for some seasons. If I remember, it was the original, then the Pratt & McClain song came later.

    MWC- good example there.

    If Kotter was written for the show, it's not an example of what I mean in this thread. Neither are any of the ones in the last post, where the theme became a hit later. That's pretty common. What's rarer are the examples I gave, which were songs that had been out many years before the shows. My whole point was about using an old pop song rather than writing a new theme for a show.

    Now I'm thinking maybe some of the WB or UPN shows might have songs that qualify...
     
  9. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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    I don't know if BOSS OF ME was written specifically for Malcolm in the Middle, but it appeared on a They Might Be Giants album just like any other song of theirs. (Not that they have ever had a "hit" LOL)

    What about "Woke Up This Morning and Got Myself a Gun" from THE SOPRANOS?
     
  10. Jason Seaver

    Jason Seaver Lead Actor

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    ObExample - "Bad Boys" for Cops; I'm pretty sure that pre-dated the series, although Cops owns it now.
    I think part of it was that networks are spending more money on their series, with CSI being both an example and an instigator. Jerry Bruckheimer, for all the crap he's produced, doesn't stint on anything, and when he got into TV, he brought his high-gloss ways with him. Part of that was the upscale theme song.
     
  11. Angelo.M

    Angelo.M Producer

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    Bosom Buddies used Billy Joel's, "My Life." Right?
     
  12. Chris Lockwood

    Chris Lockwood Producer

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    Dawson's Creek may be another, if that song was not written for the show.
     
  13. Linda Thompson

    Linda Thompson Supporting Actor

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    Maybes:

    Hawaii 5-0 (? - which came first, song or show?)

    James At 15/16 - It's All Up To You (England Dan & John Ford Coley)

    Secret Agent - Secret Agent Man (???)

    Movin' On - Movin' On (Merle Haggard)

    In The Heat Of The Night - In The Heat Of The Night (Quincy Jones & somebody) -- Qualifier: the song pre-dated the TV show, but it was a carryover from the earlier movie (I believe)

    Baretta - Keep Your Eye On The Sparrow (wasn't this a Dave Grusin song prior to the show?)

    Party Of Five - some Bodeans song, not sure if it was done specifically for the show or not
     
  14. Linda Thompson

    Linda Thompson Supporting Actor

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    And, one honorable mention:

    Not exactly a "hit song", but the Schubert piece used for Wings was excellent.
     
  15. Dan Rudolph

    Dan Rudolph Producer

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    Enterprise
     
  16. Don Black

    Don Black Screenwriter

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    The WB seems to be following this track pretty closely this season. I guess the success of the themes to the OC and One Tree Hill proved the model in recent months.
     
  17. Lee Ford

    Lee Ford Agent

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    The Drew Carey Show used "Five O'Clock World" for a couple of seasons.
     

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