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Listen to the whole song, dummy!
May 6, 2011 7:04 AM   Subscribe

I always loved the Quincy Jones-composed theme song to 70s sitcom Sanford and Son, but up until a few minutes ago I'd never heard the entire piece: three minutes and six seconds of delightfully infectious, playfully bright instrumental pop-funk. It's called The Streetbeater, and its creative and ever-changing arrangement includes snippets of the rarely heard bass harmonica. The piece is just a hella lotta fun.

So, yeah, this got me thinking about the bass harmonica... very cool instrument. Check out this demonstration (just try to ignore the guy's shirt...)

And back to 70s black sitcom themes, how 'bout let's move on up to the East Side, with the catchy gospel number that opened The Jeffersons. And just so JJ won't feel left out, let's lend an ear to the Good Times theme, shall we? DY-NO-MITE!!
posted by flapjax at midnite (70 comments total) 57 users marked this as a favorite

 
Another favorite: What's Happening?
posted by grabbingsand at 7:12 AM on May 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


I love that song, grew up listening to it. It was my grandfather's favorite show.
posted by Mister_A at 7:14 AM on May 6, 2011


Man, that thing looks like a silly prop, but it sure does sound cool. It's hard to tell if he's being earnest or silly in the demo video. Maybe a little of both.

And, true story, the first time I had a cell phone that could have real audio ringtones, the Sanford & Son theme song was it. It was totally bad ass.
posted by uncleozzy at 7:14 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another favorite: What's Happening?

That bWAAAAAooohhh synth bit in there is pretty funny.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:16 AM on May 6, 2011


There was a Toronto house band at the Rex that used to stretch out on this one.

Yes, the chromatic harmonica is a thing of beauty in the right hands.
posted by clvrmnky at 7:23 AM on May 6, 2011


Enjoyed this and bonus points for the bass harmonica info.
posted by RolandOfEld at 7:26 AM on May 6, 2011


This is great. I had no idea there was so much to that tune.
posted by kinnakeet at 7:28 AM on May 6, 2011


Flapjax, thanks for taking me back to my childhood through this funky, funky music.
posted by Jaymzifer at 7:28 AM on May 6, 2011


From the same album, check out the delightful Manteca.
posted by saladin at 7:28 AM on May 6, 2011


"Do you see what you get, Carla? Do you see what you get when you mess with THE WARRIOR?"
posted by inturnaround at 7:32 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Quincy Jones has a way with the catchy melody. Canadians of a certain age will recognize his Soul Bossa Nova as the theme from notoriously cheaply-made seventies game show Definition.

It was always funny growing up near the border to see people on the American channels (on The Price Is Right or Family Feud or whatever) competing for brand new cars or Hawaiian vacations while on CTV on The Mad Dash, contestants might win a case of Orange Crush or an atlas.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:35 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


the chromatic harmonica is a thing of beauty in the right hands.

Stevie does Alfie.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:37 AM on May 6, 2011


I am in your debt, sir.
posted by usonian at 7:38 AM on May 6, 2011


I love Quincy Jones, although I think Ai No Corrida is my all time favourite.
posted by londonmark at 7:38 AM on May 6, 2011


Can't hear a bass harmonica without thinking of this song (AKA "I Know There's An Answer") from Pet Sounds.

Thanks for the post.
posted by ibmcginty at 7:40 AM on May 6, 2011


"What's Happening" (and other fine TV theme songs) is by Joe Raposo, best known for the Sesame Street Music. He's no Quincy, but he wrote some damn fine music too.
posted by Aquaman at 7:41 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Check out Shane Theriot's recording of The Streetbeater.
posted by emelenjr at 7:43 AM on May 6, 2011


Speaking of cult TV themes cut off in their prime...
posted by The Ultimate Olympian at 7:44 AM on May 6, 2011


The bass harmonica demonstration guy with the shirt, Jacob Venndt, is a force of nature himself. If you google his videos, you are in fora treat. and thanks again, flapjax, for another wonderful post.
posted by dorgla at 7:44 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Whenever I need cheering up, I listen to the Phiharmonicas play Powerhouse.

Now that's some harmonica playing!
posted by cptnrandy at 7:48 AM on May 6, 2011 [6 favorites]


Quincy Jones has a way with the catchy melody. Canadians of a certain age will recognize his Soul Bossa Nova as the theme from notoriously cheaply-made seventies game show Definition.

Or, pretty much any one of the seven hundred gazillion people who've ever seen an Austin Powers movie...
posted by OneMonkeysUncle at 7:52 AM on May 6, 2011


That's it, I've officially added bass harmonica to my list of instruments I'd love to get my hands on but would never be able to devote enough time or energy to to actually become proficient. I've always liked the bass harmonica in Simon & Garfunkel's The Boxer.
posted by usonian at 7:52 AM on May 6, 2011


I never knew that a harmonica demonstration could be so entertaining!
posted by iwhitney at 7:52 AM on May 6, 2011


Flapjax... Every groove you post is funky.
posted by Stu-Pendous at 7:56 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


You could do a whole FPP on low-rent Canadian game shows...Pitfall, Just Like Mom, Guess What, The Mad Dash, Bowling For Dollars....
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:07 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


So you like Q's theme-song work? Then here's 'Hikky Burr!'

Also, 'What's Happening'? Henry Mancini!
posted by box at 8:08 AM on May 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Great post, thanks! Although, my personal favorite was the theme song to LOST.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:14 AM on May 6, 2011


'Three's Company'? Ray Charles!
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:15 AM on May 6, 2011


'Taxi'? Bob James!
posted by box at 8:19 AM on May 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Speaking of theme songs funked out...Sly & Robbie reggae funk version of the Sesame Street theme.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Rockford Files"? Mike Post!
posted by grubi at 8:22 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Very cool - I always wondered what that bass harmonica sound was, and now I know it was a....bass harmonica! IMO, the only TV theme song that can hold a candle to Sanford & Son was the first 20 seconds or so of the theme to Barney Miller. Too bad I can't find the extend-o-mix version of that.
posted by the painkiller at 8:22 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, yeah - I also wanted to say, "Damn you, flapjax! Now I have to get a double bass harmonica. Like I had time for another obsession!"
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:23 AM on May 6, 2011


'Chico and the man? Jose Feliciano

This is my favorite tv intro. Perfect combination of music and images. The actual show doesn't hold up quite as well.
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:26 AM on May 6, 2011


Flapjax, thanks for taking me back to my childhood through this funky, funky music.

Ditto. It's an easy and cool form of time-travel, without all the annoying paradoxes!
posted by rtha at 8:29 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


You know, Jose Feliciano, you got no complaints.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 8:32 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also one of my favorite bits of tv theme song trivia...Neal Hefti, who was responsible for the swingin "odd couple theme" also brought us the always awesome "Batman Theme".
posted by billyfleetwood at 8:39 AM on May 6, 2011


My mates and I have listened to a long version for awhile (thanks Napster) but this is even longer. We called it "Lamont's Lament".
posted by juiceCake at 8:50 AM on May 6, 2011


There used to be a local band around here that would play this song from time to time with the help of Long Butt Larry on the sax.

Nice post flapjax.
posted by Sailormom at 8:56 AM on May 6, 2011


MIA: URAQT
posted by boo_radley at 8:59 AM on May 6, 2011


I've always been of the opinion that the "mmm-hmm" humming outro theme to The Jeffersons needs to be mashed up with "The Great Gig in the Sky" somehow.
posted by sonascope at 9:02 AM on May 6, 2011


That Suzuki commercial lead me to finding a youtube looper and doing this: http://www.endlessvideo.com/watch?v=LUxVCHuHS9c&start=2m10s&end=2m14s
posted by smcbride at 9:10 AM on May 6, 2011


Raise your hand if you're walking around whistling this today.

*Raises Hand*
posted by Mister_A at 9:14 AM on May 6, 2011


*Raises Hand*

Actually, that's a lie. I haven't whistled it once. It is, however, running around and around in my head on a continuous loop, which would be quite annoying if it wasn't such a charming song. Now I'm trying to go all Fripp on its ass, playing the loops against each other until the feedback makes my teeth ache. Good times!
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:24 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


He also does the excellent themes for "Ironside" and The Anderson Tapes starring Sean Connery
posted by Hoopo at 9:32 AM on May 6, 2011


Just yesterday, in fact, I realized that when I call my cats (with that sound that's between tsking and clucking) I do it to the tune of the Sanford and Son theme song.
posted by Ruki at 10:00 AM on May 6, 2011


That Sanford and Son version is on a the Quincy Jones album "You've got it bad Girl" which I happened to find lying around one day in an inherited record collection. There's prominent harmonica throughout the album and a killer horn section along with a helping of Quincy cheese. Side 2 features a heavy rendition of Stevie Wonder's Superstition along with one of my favourite versions of Manteca. Don't forget his Bill Cosby co-written Chump Change.

(sorry for the low-quality youtubity... Maybe I'll set up a streaming server for my turntable one day)
posted by tronfunkinblo at 10:02 AM on May 6, 2011


Don't care for the name, but The Streetbeater is one cool tune. TV really lost something when they got rid of the theme songs.
posted by Kevin Street at 10:03 AM on May 6, 2011


Welcome Back, Kotter? John Sebastian!

WKRP in Cincinnati? Tom Wells and Hugh Wilson!

"Rockford Files"? Mike Post!

And Greatest American Hero!

IMO, the only TV theme song that can hold a candle to Sanford & Son was the first 20 seconds or so of the theme to Barney Miller.

I'm partial to the Twin Peaks theme myself, but if we're talking about '70s funky TV basslines, Barney Miller is certainly No. 1.

Dear John? John Sullivan!

Hello, Larry? Kurt Farquhar

(also, ilovetvintros.com ... good lord, help it's the hair bear bunch!)
posted by mrgrimm at 10:04 AM on May 6, 2011


> That Sanford and Son version is on a the Quincy Jones album "You've got it bad Girl" which I happened to find lying around one day in an inherited record collection.

That album also has Jones' version of Summer In The City, which is awesome and has been sampled to death.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:18 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Some CanCon TV themes:

The Collaborators
Here Come The Seventies
Seeing Things
The Beachcombers
The King Of Kensington
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:25 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh god, The Beachcombers! King of Kensington! Songs that are stamped right onto the hypothalamus through thousands of repetitions. The theme to Seeing Things is hilariously awful, but then, so was the show...
posted by Kevin Street at 10:36 AM on May 6, 2011


o crap I linked to the wrong Ironside theme.
posted by Hoopo at 10:46 AM on May 6, 2011


Oh I love the Sanford and Son theme song. I also had this as a ringtone for years, until I swapped it out for the Banana Phone song just cos it made me laugh.

Love all of these old time tv theme songs - The Jeffersons I was guilty of singing along with as a kid. So it's not weird to put these on my ipod? It doesn't make me a tv nerd? Also - Three's Company - that was RAY CHARLES??

/Goes off to listen to all of them again
posted by routergirl at 11:05 AM on May 6, 2011


Just amazing to finally hear what is beyond the :50 second mark. Never thought there was more there, thanks for the great post!
posted by fatbaq at 11:17 AM on May 6, 2011


I'm totally enjoying the great music from both the post and comments -- thanks all!
posted by safetyfork at 11:21 AM on May 6, 2011


One of the neatest things about 70s black sitcom themes (as flapjax put it) is that they were an introduction to genres like funk and gospel for millions of people who had never heard such things before. Broadcasting in the truest sense of the word.
posted by Kevin Street at 11:21 AM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know someone's always post a link to the Three's Company theme, but I wanted to add that I've always loved the guitarist going absolutely bonkers with his wah-wah pedal underneath the vocals...
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:26 AM on May 6, 2011


And the other Ray Charles being remembered mostly as "the other Ray Charles" and "the guy who sang the Three's Company theme that isn't the 'real' Ray Charles" is almost as sad as Gordon Parks being remembered as "the guy who directed Shaft" or Geoffrey Holder being "the 7-Up guy"...
posted by Ian A.T. at 11:26 AM on May 6, 2011


but I wanted to add that I've always loved the guitarist going absolutely bonkers with his wah-wah pedal underneath the vocals...

I love me some wah-wah too...on that note, here's little-known wah-master Eddie Fisher (no, not THAT Eddie Fisher) and his songs "Jeremiah Puckett", "Either Or", and "East St Louis Blues", just because it's awesome.
posted by Hoopo at 1:11 PM on May 6, 2011


As far as "the other Ray Charles" goes... Whenever I watch Antiques Roadshow, I will say to anyone in the room with me... "He's a Mark Wahlberg, but he's not the Mark Wahlberg."
posted by hippybear at 1:45 PM on May 6, 2011


If you're into the ska thing, a band called Perfect Thyroid does a perfectly excellent cover of the Sanford and Son theme.
posted by MrBadExample at 2:05 PM on May 6, 2011


Despite its classic TV theme song schlock, I always admired the dueling sax solo from Cagney and Lacey. The rest sounds like a bad CHIPs chase theme.
posted by readyfreddy at 4:46 PM on May 6, 2011


smcbride: That Suzuki commercial lead me to finding a youtube looper

And I gotta know, has Kutiman (or anyone else) thought of doing a follow-up to Thru-You? I know it was part gimmick (so many songs are based around samples now), but it's a fun gimmick that brings to light some odd performances.
posted by filthy light thief at 5:17 PM on May 6, 2011


No one brings the funk like Quincy Jones. As boo_radley mentioned, M.I.A. and Diplo built a whole song around this, URAQT. The "you big dummy" sample is particularly inspired but the whole thing is a masterful Diplo construction.
posted by Nelson at 5:56 PM on May 6, 2011


Man, Sanford & Son was a really big deal in my life. I have, a few times, lived in neighborhoods in which I was the only white guy and having a little Red Foxx/Fred Sanford in me made all the difference.

I was in a band once that after losing the bassist to either drugs or a girl, decided to hire the first guy that could bang out the Barney Miller theme. Totally worked.

Thanks for the great post flapjax!!!1
posted by snsranch at 7:44 PM on May 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


I love this post.
posted by bdave at 8:22 PM on May 6, 2011


This post is a great example of why I love Metafilter!

No harmonica thread is ever complete without Toots Thielemans (here with the great Peggy Lee!)

Also, as for TV theme songs, I must mention the BEST theme song for any animated TV show ever, right here.
posted by Quasimike at 11:47 PM on May 6, 2011


One of our favorite sign/countersigns growing up was the first guy going "chick, chick, atta-chicka, chick", the second guy responding "wa wa waa WAAAAA wa, waa", and then everybody together "doot doot doo-doot . . ."

And just because, here's a link to The Fat Albert Theme.
posted by whuppy at 4:37 AM on May 8, 2011


Two things:

1. A higher-quality version of THIS is my ringtone. Awwwww yeeeahh, y'all. Funky! Who recorded this? Who wrote it? This has rocked my socks since I was 5.

2. Chaz Jankel, who was/is a member of Ian Dury and The Blockheads ("the cute one") wrote Ai No Corrida in ~1980. Quincy borrowed it. Weirdo late 70s video alert.
Almost 30 years later, in 2008, he recorded this. Plus, his sister Annabel co-created Max Headroom.

Why these two people aren't more famous, I cannot fathom.
posted by droplet at 9:00 PM on May 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


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