I'm a super TV theme song junkie and
have always appreciated a good tune to set the mood of the show.
Too often, TV Themes have been maligned or looked down upon by many,
but as you'll see, some of the songs have the greatest composers of
the modern era behind them, and are as cool and fantastic as any
"real" song ever made. But by no means are we going to ignore
the fun, silly, and infectious songs that aren't very serious,
either. We've used over 2 years of reader feedback, and expert
research to come up with a list that you're sure to love with many
of your favorites guaranteed to be included. The initial list
had more than 200 to choose from, so there was a lot of painful
heartbreak in weeding out many worthy contenders. I hope
you'll have more than a few favorites here, and that you learn a
thing or two about it while you're browsing.
WRITTEN BY PAUL HENNING & CURT
and PERFORMED BY CURT MASSEY (1963)
As a part of the holy trinity of Hillbilly shows
(along with The Beverley Hillbillies and Green Acres) Petticoat
Junction was blessed with an equally catchy theme song.
Written and performed by Curt Massey, the theme is a great
storytelling theme song that sets the show up for newcomers nicely.
It was one of the better show openings to watch, as well, cause you
could see Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo, Betty Jo, and that sexy little Benji
getting caught bathing in the Hooterville water tower. If
there ever was a more aptly named town, I've never heard of it
(well, except maybe for that time I went to Colostomy Bagopolis, a
town made entirely of colostomy bags!). I always like the end
of the theme song that said, "And that's Uncle Joe, he's a movin'
kinda slow at the Junction...Petticooooooaaat Junction!"
CLICK HERE to see a swell page
where you read the original lyrics (and see the revised ones they
had to use after "Kate" died), as well as a bunch more Petticoat
CBS SPECIAL THEME
UNKNOWN COMPOSER (1973)
I can't remember an actual
CBS Special that followed this kickass theme song, but I'll always
have a fond glow for those crazy drums and horns with the swirling
"SPECIAL" logo with 70s rainbow after effects. You can
CLICK HERE to see a killer website
that archives every single CBS Special Theme song from 50s through
the 90s, and even see the video clips that accompany them. And
just when I thought I was crazy for loving such an obscure theme,
I'm gratified that the fine folks at
HOMESTARRUNNER.COM know the
goodness of this theme.
WELCOME BACK KOTTER
THEME COMPOSED AND PERFORMED
BY JOHN SEBASTIAN (1975)
Though a member of The
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as the lead singer for The Lovin'
Spoonful with hits like "Summer In The City" and "Do You Believe In
Magic", John Sebastian may be best known for his theme to Welcome
Back Kotter, "Welcome Back". Written specifically for TV, the
show's popularity spurred the release of a single that ended up
reaching #1 in May of 1976. It's really sweet song about a guy
who had dreams to leave his the city, but his dreams led him back to
be a teacher, where he could lead a classroom of 40 year old kids
pretending to be high school students, with all the brown corduroy
jackets you could wear. You can listen to the them at
Tim's TV Showcase.
THE ODD COUPLE
BY NEAL HEFTI (1968 for the
film, 1970 for Series)
Though the music was
originally used in the 1968 film it was based on, the brassy TV
show's arrangement of The Odd Couple is what most people will
remember. The song was composed by Neal Hefti, who worked with
Count Basie and Frank Sinatra, and also wrote the legendary theme
song from the 1966 Batman TV series. retroCRUSH reader
Patricia Willard also points out, "And long before his association
with Basie and Sinatra, he led and played trumpet in his own popular
jazz orchestra, was a major soloist with the Woody Herman Orchestra
and arranged and conducted for the great singer Frances Wayne, whom
he married." This is another one of those unusual theme songs that
is known as an instrumental, but actually had
lyrics written for it. They
were rather horrible, and thankfully were never used in the film or
DANGER MAN/SECRET AGENT/TEEN TITANS
PERFORMED BY THE RED PRICE
SEASON 2 THEME PERFORMED BY EDWIN ASTLEY (1965)
US THEME PERFORMED BY JOHNNY RIVERS (1965)
TEEN TITANS THEME BY PUFFY AMI YUMI (2004)
I can't think of any other
show that's had 3 different theme songs, let alone 3 that are so
equally cool as the British spy show "Danger Man" and it's American
repackaging called "Secret Agent". It's a complicated history,
so sit tight! In 1960, Patrick McGoohan starred in a UK show
called "Danger Man", that lasted 1 season. After the success
of the first two James Bond films Dr. No, and From Russia With Love,
the show was brought back in 1964 and given a brand new theme song,
that wasn't so brassy and adventuresome as the first, but had a
swell element of intrigue and suspense to it as performed by Edwin
Astley. As the show was repackaged as "Secret Agent" for the
United States in 1965, Johnny Rivers recorded a brand new theme
which had some rockin' guitar and lyrics so influential that they
were ripped off for use in the new Teen Titans cartoon. You
CLICK HERE To see the original vinyl
releases and actually listen to each version. And
CLICK HERE To hear the Secret Agent
influenced Teen Titans theme by Puffy Ami Yumi.
COMPOSED BY JACK ELLIOTT (1984)
Jack Elliot may well be
the Godfather of cool TV theme songs. Responsible for such
great themes as "Charlie's Angels", "The Rookies",
and "Barney Miller", among numerous others, it's his work on "Night
Court" is one of my favorites. That great slap bass and
saxophone set the mood for the late cool late night hilarity that
was always bound to follow. I still can't get tired of
listening to it.
to listen to the theme song (including a rare 3 minute version of
it), and then while you're all nice and relaxed, check out our swell
MARKIE POST GALLERY, too!
THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN
THEME COMPOSED AND PERFORMED
BY OLIVER NELSON (1973)
rebuild him, we have the technology!" Who'd have thought a
show about a man who ran in slow motion would be so cool? The
awesome theme song by Oliver Nelson played a large part in the
show's cool factor. A beautiful mixture of sirens, computer
beeps, heartbeat sounds, and military drums accompany the radio
sounds of a crashing rocket jet, while a throaty narrator tells you
how they can build Steve Austin as the familiar theme kicks in.
I used to hum the song to myself all the time while I'd run down the
street in my red jogging suit pretending I was Steve Austin.
Lee Majors, the show's star, was my ultimate idol in the 70s,
because not only was he The Bionic Man, but he got to go home to
Farrah Fawcett after a hard day of throwing giant Styrofoam rocks
and beating up Bionic Bigfoot. The theme's composer, Oliver
Nelson, was a famous Jazz musician who worked with Quincy Jones and
created other memorable TV themes from Columbo and Ironsides, and
dies just 2 years after the show's premiere.
CLICK HERE to learn more about this
amazing artist, and hear the original theme song as well. By
the way, it's a mystery to me as to why this show isn't on DVD yet.
I imagine it'll probably come out when they release the Jim Carrey
remake in theaters.
SPACE BATTLESHIP YAMATO/STAR BLAZERS
ORIGINAL THEME PERFORMED BY
ISAO SASAKI (1976)
Such a wonderfully grim
and inspirational TV theme. Originally a Japanese cartoon
called Space Battleship Yamato, it was later refaced as an American
cartoon in 1979 called "Star Blazers". You can just imagine a
ship full of spacemen singing "We're off, to outer space, we're
leaving Mother Earth, to save the Human Race, OUR STAR BLAZERS!"
You have to love a song that starts with a mission statement.
"Our home, we've got to save! If we don't in just one year, Mother
Earth will disappear!"
CLICK HERE to see some great images
from the show and listen to the theme song. There's actually a
different version of the song in a later series that substitutes the
destination of Iscandar in the original with The Comet Empire (which
you can hear if you
CLICK HERE). Of course, the
original Japanese version is the best of them all, with a superior
arrangement and eerie female vocals at the end that makes it sound
even more magnificent.
CLICK HERE to listen to it after
you've heard the English versions, so you can appreciate it even
CASPER THE FRIENDLY GHOST
LYRICS BY MACK DAVID, MUSIC BY
JERRY LIVINGSTON (1950)
Casper The Friendly Ghost
made his debut, as did his famous theme song, in short cartoons that
originally appeared in movie theaters, but it's his show in the 60s
that knocked the theme song into the heads of America's youth.
I love how the lyrics reinforce that Casper is "the friendliest
ghost you know", as if you already know several ghosts and need to
figure it out. I always wondered if the Casper cartoons
were just trying to teach our kids tolerance of people that were
different. Back in the days when ghosts had to drink from
separate water fountains, these sorts of cartoons were important.
CLICK HERE to listen to it
yourself. The New Casper Cartoon Show packaged the old Casper
cartoons together and had
its own rockin theme to go with it.
Casper came back again in 1979, with
Casper and The Angels which had a
truly atrocious theme, a lame instrumental riff on the classic
version that was polluted with annoying space sound effects.
COMPOSED BY ROBERT ISRAEL
The original Family Feud
with Richard Dawson featured an incredible hillbilly hoedown full of
fiddlin', pickin', and grinnin' you ever did hear! Robert
Israel was the composer, who already had classic themes for "To Tell
The Truth", "The Price is Right", "All My Children", and the classic
"Match Game" shows under his belt. Rumor has is that
the original theme for this show was "Dueling Banjos" from
Deliverance, but the constant outbreaks of hillbilly rape on the set
made it too much of a financial liability. You can listen to the Family Feud theme
and a TON of other game show tunes, if you
COMPOSED BY ORTALA LE CLERC
GERMAINE, NARRATED BY WALLY COX (1964)
"Speed of lighting, ROAR
of thunder, fighting all who steal or plunder...UNDERDOG!" are among
the powerful and inspiring lyrics in the kickass theme to the
Underdog cartoon. The song was composed by Ortala Le Clerc Germaine
(how come nobody names their kid that anymore?) is also famous for
arranging the famous "Three Blind Mice" theme used in 1940s Three
Stooges features. DJ Clawson has a very interesting
UNDERDOG WEB SITE that contains,
get this, UNDERDOG FAN FICTION! And I thought my
DRAKE AND JOSH FAN FICTION site was
COMPOSED BY GLEN LARSON AND
STU PHILLIPS (1978)
Glen Larson was one of the
most successful TV producers of the late 70s and 80s with such shows
as Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider, Quincy, The Fall Guy, BJ and
The Bear, and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries under his belt,
but when you realize that he also composed the theme songs to each
one of those TV shows (with his partner, Stu Phillips), it's even
more amazing. His theme to Battlestar Galactica is an
incredibly powerful piece of work that is as impressive as John
Williams' theme from Star Wars. An even weirder Battlestar
Galactica related song that I still have in my head was the jingle
for the bizarre toy, The Cylon Bubble Machine. Sadly, I can
find no mention of it on the internet (what kind of world do we live
in where you can find 800 pages of Amputee Goat Porn, but not one
mention of a childhood toy you used to own...not that I'm
complaining), but the song was amazingly goofy with a chorus
yelping, "Battlestar Galacticaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa ...CYLON BUBBLE
MACHINE!". If you'd like to join the Battlestar Galactica Fan
THE LONE RANGER
COMPOSED BY GIACCHINNO ROSSINI
Though I was largely against
including pre-existing music that was co-opted for TV show themes in
this list, one can't deny the impact that "The William Tell
Overture" had as theme song for The Lone Ranger. The show,
lasted from 1949-1957 (and was rerun on all three major networks
until 1961), is one of the great and early success stories of
television. The theme music, is so synonymous with the show
that more people probably know it as "that Lone Ranger song" than
it's real name. You can read a lot of interesting details
about the creation of the TV theme version at the ridiculously (and
thankfully) thorough site
HONG KONG PHOOEY
COMPOSED BY HOYT CURTAIN,
PERFORMED BY SCATMAN CROTHERS (1974)
Hong Kong Phooey was one
of my favorite cartoons as a kid, and the theme song as sung by the
wonderfully incomparable Scatman Crothers was the main reason why.
Super cartoon veteran (who brought us such amazing theme songs as
Johnny Quest, The Superfriends, and The Flintstones, and a
whole lot more Hanna Barbera Classics) outdid himself
with this catchy theme. Hoyt passed away in 2000, and there's
a nice tribute to his work you can read if you
HERE. There's also an amazingly cool Hong Kong Phooey web
site you can read if you
COMPOSED BY JONATHAN WOLFF
How fitting that the theme
song from a show "about nothing" seems to be nothing more than a
string of sound effects rattled off with seeming effortlessness with
a tune that seems to be throwaway nonsense, that become impossible
to forget. With his work on over 70s shows to his credit, it's
the theme to Seinfeld that Jonathan Wolff will forever be
remembered. I asked Jerry Seinfeld about the theme, and he
said, "You know...it's a funny thing, our theme song doesn't have
any words, and you can't sing it. Who's the marketing genius
who thought of that? I don't know. I mean what kind of
words would you have in it anyway? Nobody's stranded on an
island, there's no hillbillies striking oil, I don't know. And
did you ever wonder what happens to that other sock you lose in the
dryer? Is there some magic place where those socks go to?
I don't know!" You can read an interesting interview with
Jonathan Wolff, that wasn't made up, if you
THE GREEN HORNET
COMPOSED BY AL HIRT (1966)
The success of the 1966
Batman TV series spawned The Green Hornet show from the same
network. Facing the seemingly impossible task of living up the
immortal theme song from the Dynamic Duo's show, legendary
trumpeteer Al Hirt rose to the challenge and created an insane fast
and action-packed theme song that made you want to fight. So
influential, this song has been, that Quentin Tarantino lifted it
for use in a major fight scene in KILL BILL VOLUME 1 (when The Bride
fights The Crazy 88s). It almost makes you want to slice up a
room full of ninjas after just one listen. Arnold Shaw, of the
Radio Corporation of America, wrote of the theme in 1966,
"Excitement and vigor—these are the man. And these are the
infectious qualities of the Horn. No wonder that when Al recorded
the racing, buzzing, breathless theme of "The Green Hornet" TV show,
it became a fast seller. And, though another Hirt album was ready
for release, there was no denying fans the opportunity of hearing
Al's virtuoso treatments of some popular TV themes." You can
read the entire piece about Hirt, if you
LAVERNE AND SHIRLEY
WRITTEN BY NORMAN GIMBEL and
CHARLES FOX, PERFORMED BY CINDY GRECCO (1976)
The theme was so popular that
it was released as a single and it went as high as #25 during the
Summer of '76. I sure wish I could find more about Cindy
Grecco, who performed the theme. I used to imagine Shirley
Feeney singing the song when I was a kid, but now when I listen to
it, I imagine this hot chick from the 60s with a beehive hairdo, and
go-go boots singing away (if you have any info about Cindy Grecco,
I'd love to hear from you at
firstname.lastname@example.org). I like this song so much when I
was in the first grade, that I remember trying to write the lyrics
down in class from memory, and making up all sorts of new verses to
it. Did I mention I didn't have any friends when I was growing
up? I also had quite the crush on Laverne, though when I see
Penny Marshall sitting on the sidelines of a Lakers game now, it's
just not the same.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
COMPOSED BY SHEILA COLE (1972)
I absolutely love the to The Price Is Right, it makes me happy to listen to in ways that I
haven't felt since I last ate a York Peppermint Patty. I
remember watching this show in the 70s when a black guy won a
tanning bed as the grand prize, he smiled and said "Thanks!" but he
seemed pretty disappointed. Here's a
SALUTE TO THE PRICE IS RIGHT GAMES you might want to check out,
and don't miss out on the
bobbarker.com website, which
doesn't seem to really be about the famous game show host.
PERFORMED BY ALABAMA 3 (1999)
The opening of each
Sopranos episode is incredibly powerful thanks to the song "Woke Up
This Morning" by Alabama 3 that plays while Tony Soprano drives
around various New Jersey landmarks puffing away on a cigar.
The fuzzy bass sounds that resonate at the theme's beginning can put
the woofers of any home stereo system to the test, while the Tom
Waitsesque gravely vocals take over until it ends in a frenzy of
beeps and twangs and a final jarring old school vinyl record
scratch. According to the band, Sopranos creator David Chase
was just driving down the highway listening to virtually unknown
song, and thought it would be perfect for the show's theme song.
It's a good thing he left his Leo Sayer CD collection at home, or
The Sopranos opening would have really sucked. You can visit
Alabama 3's Official Website and
listen to the song and read the lyrics, yourself.
PERFORMED BY THE WAITRESSES
Talk about a show that's
overdue for a DVD release, this Anne Beats show about high school
teens that was funny enough for adults to watch was super cool.
And to get The Waitresses, who did the snotty classic "I Know What
Boys Like" to perform the theme song only threw fuel to the cool
fire. The show only lasted 20 episodes before it was canceled,
but it still stands out as one of the 80s best and funniest
programs. Sadly, The Waitresses broke up about the same time
the show ended, and the lead singer Patty Donahue died of cancer in
1996 at the way too young age of 40. There's a great
Waitresses Tribute Site you can view if you
CLICK HERE. You can also read
the lyrics and listen to the original theme song
COMPOSED BY JUDY HART ANGELO
and GARY PORTNOY
PERFORMED BY LEON REDBONE (1985)
If only every TV show
theme song was sung by Leon Redbone, the world would be a perfect
place. A testament to how great this song ("According to Our
New Arrivals") is that I absolutely hate watching Mr. Belvedere, but
I'd stop and listen to the theme because Leon kicks so much else.
This may be the best theme song on the worst show ever made.
Of course, the theme's composer, Judy Hart-Angelo is a big reason
for the theme's success, who also wrote the legendary "Cheers"
theme, as well. It was also during this mid-80s time, when
Leon's golden voice was used in a Budweiser and All detergent
commercial, too. If you're a glutton for punishment,
check out a pretty intensive
Unofficial Mr. Belvedere Site.
COMPOSED BY BOB COBERT (1966)
One of the more eerie
theme songs ever created, Bob Cobert's work on the Dark Shadows
intro is a creepy masterpiece that utilizes a Theremin to create the
spooky atmosphere. Cobert even received a Grammy nomination
for his work on the show's soundtrack. The daily soap opera
about vampire Barnabas Collins lasted from 1966-1971 and is
considered one of the most successful and well-loved cult shows of
all time, paving the way for other occult themed series like The
Nightstalker, The X-Files, and Who's the Boss for years to come.
There's a nifty Jonathan Frid site where you can listen to him read
some classic Edgar Alan Poe stories for free that you can see if you
And you can
CLICK HERE TO LISTEN to the
COMPOSED BY MIKLOS ROZSA (1951)
The first 4 notes of
Dragnet are perhaps the most recognizable intro to any theme song
ever written. Miklos Rozsa, a classically trained violinist
who became an incredibly prolific film composer who created work for
classics like Double Indemnity, Ben-Hur, Quo Vadis, and the
Hemmingway tale, The Killers. His 1946 score for The Killers
featured the debut of the famous music that would later be used in
the Dragnet theme. Though Walter Schumann was credited with
originally creating the Dragnet theme for the 1947 radio serial, a
plagiarism lawsuit was brought about that ruled that Schumann swiped
it from Rozsa, showing that he was working on the Universal Studios
lot at the same time The Killers was being made. Later, all
goodness related to Dragnet was nearly erased forever in 1986, when
a film version starring Tom Hanks and Dan Akroyd was made, and they
recorded a rap song to promote the film called
of Crime" (scroll the 1987 section, and prepare for the
COMPOSED BY JOE RAPOSO (1977)
Three's Company is that
odd mixture of retarded and catchy that few TV theme songs have ever
achieved. Created by Joe Raposo (a TV Theme song all-star who
gave us the Sesame Street, Electric Company, and the classic Sesame
Street songs "Sing" and "It's Not Easy Being Green". What many
people don't realize is that the original arrangement of the song
featured a bizarre mixture of dogs and cats performing the tune,
which you can hear for the very first time if you
And while you're at it, check out our hot
Suzanne Somers retroCRUSH Gallery.
COMPOSED BY JAY LIVINGSTON and RAY EVANS
VOCALS BY SHELDON ALLMAN
Not only did Sheldon Allman providehe singing voice of the
title character and got to belt out the immortal closing line, "I
am Mister Ed!", but he even got to sing other songs as Mr. Ed on
the show, like "The Empty Feedbag Blues." Allman is also well
known for creating the incredible "George of the Jungle Theme Song",
too. Not satisfied with just writing songs, Allman joins Alan
Thicke as a famous composer who also did some acting, appearing in a
ton of TV shows like "Little House on the Prairie" and "Bonanza".
You can find out more by checking out
ED ONLINE (your ultimate online Mister Ed resource).
And see our entry for Bonanza, which is #22 o our list to read more
about the composing duo of Livingston and Evans.
BOB JAMES (1978)
Every time I drive across a
girder bridge, I can't help but whistle the theme from Taxi to
myself. That opening sequence of a Taxi driving across the
famous 59th Street Bridge always gives me goosebumps. It's
certainly one of the more pleasant theme songs. According to
Gribble's Taxi Pages, Bob James
wrote the theme to Taxi, originally as a song called "Angela" that
was intended for the second episode, but the producers of the show
liked it so much they used it for the show's theme.
TV THEME SONG WEBSITES
I'd like to thank the following websites
for proving to be invaluable resources in putting this feature together.
Some of them have incredible multimedia libraries for your listening
pleasure. Each of them has a nice specialty, and they all have the
retroCRUSH seal of approval.
MIKE'S CLASSIC CARTOON
THEMES A ton of high quality MP3 files of many era's classic
cartoon theme songs, with pictures of each show, to boot!
While you're there, make sure you visit
MIKE'S CLASSIC TV
THEMES as well, for all the non-cartoon greatness.
CLASSIC TV THEMES Tons of information about TV shows up through
the early 70s with many interesting behind the scenes story and drama
about each of them.
80S TV THEME SUPER SITE Lots
of obscure, weird, and alternate versions of things to listen to here.
Includes areas dedicated to network promos, commercials, and game shows.
THEMES.TV Another fun TV archive, with some neat interactive
things to look at.
RETRO JUNK Cool 80s focused site with a lot of great actual video
clips so you can SEE the TV Themes they way they were meant to be enjoyed.
And RETRO VANDEGRIFT looks to
be a German site with a similar setup.
US not a dedicated theme site, but a nice directory of themes to
listen to, nonetheless.
KIT JUNKIE a huge
list of TV show themes to click and listen to, including many rare and
unusual ones from the UK.
BIG CARTOON DATABASE Tons of information about nearly every single
ONLINE has a lot of obscure multimedia and information for SITCOMS
TV TOME has just about
everything for every TV show, ever!