TV had its own music.
August 12, 2006 8:37 PM   Subscribe

I found a site with hundreds of old TV theme songs. It’s not much to look at, and the audio ain’t the best, but it’s free (and apparently maintained by a patriotic american, thank you, sir). Spending some hours there reminded me that composers and musicians used to take the craft seriously. You can find just about anything. Good? The Avengers, Barney Miller, Green Hornet, Hawaii Five-O, Rockford Files, Room 222. Feelgood? The Courtship of Eddie’s Father. Cheese? Dynasty, Three’s Company, Flo. 80s schlock? Hardcastle & McCormick, Hunter. Check out the mess that is the theme for The Bionic Woman. Did you remember that Jose Feliciano did Chico and the Man? I bet you didn't know...well...WTF: The Associates. I wondered where the tradition went, but, then, after MTV, I guess all the media became one and ‘TV’ ‘Theme’ ‘Music’ became something like this. My favorite theme? I had to go elsewhere to find it: it’s my own.
posted by toma (58 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
OMG this is a spectacular find! Way to go toma!

(think you'll have to ask Jessamyn pronto to remove the self link to your music though, that's not allowed -at all)

Totally enjoyed the theme music though. Love Branded. Love tons of those old themes!
posted by nickyskye at 8:54 PM on August 12, 2006

Excellent. I have hundreds of new ringtones to choose from!
posted by mrnutty at 8:57 PM on August 12, 2006

Not a self-link if I understood him correctly. His nick is based on the show and it is the theme to that show. Amirite?
posted by weretable and the undead chairs at 8:59 PM on August 12, 2006

Not my music nickyskye, that's the theme for 'Toma,' a 70s cop show where I got my old nickname. Cheers.
posted by toma at 9:00 PM on August 12, 2006

Oops! Never heard of Toma the show. *blushes*. Way cool it's not a self link then. ;-)
posted by nickyskye at 9:05 PM on August 12, 2006

Tangentially related
posted by gimonca at 9:06 PM on August 12, 2006

Funny thing...the Youtube thread about the old fellow Peter had me browsing around and I found the theme-song sequence from the Patty Duke Show -- hadn't thought about it in years, although my friend Mary liked to sing it in college...

"...a hot dog makes her lose control..." Sheesh!
posted by pax digita at 9:08 PM on August 12, 2006

"Not my music nickyskye, that's the theme for 'Toma,' a 70s cop show where I got my old nickname"

And here I was just about to congratulate you, toma, on an insanely good genre-specific creation. I was gonna tell you that you really nailed the thing! So thanks for asking, nickyskye, so I didn't have to make a fool of myself!

BTW, there are excellent compilation CDs of TV show themes (out on TVT Records) called "Television's Greatest Hits". Highly recommended. I think they're up to 6 volumes by now...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:14 PM on August 12, 2006

Compare the original Alexander Courage theme music for Star Trek with its counterpart for the animated children's series.
posted by pax digita at 9:18 PM on August 12, 2006

Man, that kids' Star Trek is all sideways. I wonder why they did that.
posted by toma at 9:25 PM on August 12, 2006

Thanks, I've been looking for a clean version of the Prisoner's them for too long.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 9:27 PM on August 12, 2006

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time....

don't do it!
posted by photoslob at 9:28 PM on August 12, 2006

Why am I getting all kinds of plugin errors, even when I view this site in IE instead of Firefox? Help!
posted by newfers at 9:49 PM on August 12, 2006

Man, that kids' Star Trek is all sideways. I wonder why they did that.

Well, I've read that Alexander Courage held a grudge against Roddenberry for writing bad, rarely-heard lyrics to his original theme, then claiming half the royalties. So he never worked for any Star Trek again, and only snippets of his original theme were used in ST:TNG and I think at least one of the movies.

Don't do the crime if you can't do the time....

don't do it!

So keep your EYYYYYYYYE-EE-YE-EYYYYYEEE on the sparrow!
posted by evilcolonel at 9:52 PM on August 12, 2006

Next to Hawaii 5-0, Mission Impossible is the greatest TV theme song ever written.

Sadly Peter Gunn doesn't seem to be there.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:54 PM on August 12, 2006

I mean, Mission Impossible, dammit.
posted by dirigibleman at 9:56 PM on August 12, 2006

newfers, I think all but one of the links require quicktime player, that might be the problem. I probably should have posted that, sorry.
posted by toma at 9:58 PM on August 12, 2006

Sadly Peter Gunn doesn't seem to be there.
posted by dirigibleman at 11:54 PM CST on August 12 [+] [!]

Voila! (these are zipped, for some reason)

Another great resource, focused mainly on the 80's.
posted by evilcolonel at 9:58 PM on August 12, 2006

Wonderful. I just grabbed the "Twin Peaks" theme for the ipod.

Sadly, no "Rockford Files." I've been hunting that. The iTunes store has several versions, but none are from the actual show.

(I had the 45 when I was a kid. Vanished with the rest of the ... what's the word? effluvia? No, that's not it. The stuff, the rest of the stuff .... )
posted by kenlayne at 9:58 PM on August 12, 2006

As a boy in the 60s I liked the secret agent genre, and there was a show called "Burke's Law" that I can still remember the theme song from. Alas, not listed on that site but I found it (and more) at
posted by revonrut at 10:11 PM on August 12, 2006

kenlayne, ephemera?

Oh, I'm having such fun on that site toma! Woo hoo!

Wow, John Appert really created a labor of love. It's a varied site too with an exceptional page of war movies as well as info about the US and different wars.

And there's a whole separate treasure of kids' cartoon show theme songs/music.

Music I haven't heard in donkey's years. The original Spider Man. The Mighty Hercules. The Jetsons. Yogi Bear. Top Cat. Caspar the Frienldy Ghost. The Woody Woodpecker Show. The Deputy Dawg Show . Dudley Do-right. Felix the Cat. George of the Jungle. The Grinch That Stole Christmas. Huckleberry Hound. Quickdraw McGraw. Snuffy Smith and Barney Google. Speed Racer. Underdog. Wally Gator. Peter Potamus. Pink Panther. King Leonardo. Popeye. Mighty Mouse. Mr. Magoo.

And a whole roster of Looney Tunes. A page of various Flintstone music.
posted by nickyskye at 10:21 PM on August 12, 2006

does buddy ebson sing the theme to beverly hillbillies?

oh, great find. thanks!
posted by brandz at 10:23 PM on August 12, 2006

kenlayne - rockford is there, it's linked in the post itself!
posted by jonson at 10:24 PM on August 12, 2006

MI, yup. Hawaii 5-0, check, especially watching that great montage — e.g., when the beauty whipped her hair around. But don't forget about "Secret Agent (Man)", pelvistically sung by Johnny Rivers:
Swinging on the Riviera one day / layin' in a Bombay alley the next. / Oh don't let the wrong word slip, / while kissin' persuasive lips. / Odds are you won't live to see tomorrow.

Secret Agent Man, / Secret Agent Man. / They've given you a number / and taken away your name.

Genius of a very special variety, folks!
posted by rob511 at 10:26 PM on August 12, 2006

Now you've got me started; just downloaded the theme song from "The Ipcress File" (I know it isn't a TV series, but still) via

It's a .ram file, unfortunately
posted by revonrut at 10:53 PM on August 12, 2006

Thanks Toma,

I have Quicktime Pro installed, but somehow one of my Windows codec packs had messed with Quicktime, so I had to uninstall the codec pack and reinstall Quicktime Pro, and now it all works!

yes, I actually PAID for Quicktime Pro. *sigh*
posted by newfers at 11:01 PM on August 12, 2006

"Next to Hawaii 5-0, Mission Impossible is the greatest TV theme song ever written"

I hear you, dirigibleman. Lalo Schifrin is the man. And it's in 5/4, too! Typically, it gets dumbed down into 4/4 (after an all-too-brief 5/4 intro, as I recall) for the MI movie series theme, which making it almost as stupid as the movies themselves. Don't you hate it when that happens?
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:35 PM on August 12, 2006

oops, that shoulda been "which almost makes it..."

Oh well, kinda gives it that English-as-a-second-language vibe, New York cabbie-speak.

Nothing against New York cabbies, you understand...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:39 PM on August 12, 2006

I wanted to fucking throttle the guy with the melodica playing the tv theme medley on the subway at 2am.
posted by sohcahtoa at 12:37 AM on August 13, 2006

My favourites are the old cowboy shows:

Move 'em on, hit 'em up,
Hit 'em up, move 'em on,
Move 'em on, hit 'em up,


All but one man died,
There at Bitter Creek,
And they say he ran away...
Scorned as the one who ran

posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:45 AM on August 13, 2006

Said jonson: kenlayne - rockford is there, it's linked in the post itself!

Ah shit, look at that. I would like to claim that I was just drunk, but a certain toddler was demanding a Homestar Runner cartoon before bed, so my attentions were in conflict.

Hooray! Now I'll grab that Rockford.
posted by kenlayne at 1:25 AM on August 13, 2006


And the Blues Brothers really tore that one up at Bob's Country Bunker. No YouTube clip, though...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 2:26 AM on August 13, 2006


"suicide is painless... " aaah my heart beats for Hawkeye
posted by infini at 2:42 AM on August 13, 2006

Great find! I have hundreds of these myself but it's wonderful to find some that I don't have. I was particularly pleased to find The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. I've been looking for that for ages.
posted by azina at 5:36 AM on August 13, 2006

Wonderful! And thanks for all those kids' shows, nickyskye—many of those were the soundtrack to my childhood. Of course, I was too young then to appreciate the nifty sax on Woody Woodpecker!
posted by languagehat at 6:35 AM on August 13, 2006

Awesome post.
posted by Bugbread at 6:37 AM on August 13, 2006

I remember the bad old '70s, when TV was all action and sitcom. Then this came along: serious actors, reasonably serious plots, pretty amazing kids for a network show (Kristy McNichol, Quinn Cummings, Meredith Baxter)-- and when you tuned in, you got to listen to a theme by John Rubinstein.

It sounded like this.

I miss ya, Family. Come out on DVD soon.
posted by Topkid at 6:46 AM on August 13, 2006

I don't know if I agree about "The Bionic Woman." The drums in the first half sound very Lalo Schifrin -- the "theme music god" who penned openers for Mission Impossible, Mannix, along with soundtracks for movies like Bullitt and Enter the Dragon. (Wish I had a link.)
posted by Gordion Knott at 7:10 AM on August 13, 2006

...and one of the greatest album titles of all time, There's a Whole Lalo Schifrin Going On.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:59 AM on August 13, 2006

wow - the spiderman theme tune - best sung in a mark e smith type voice.

a 'friend' of mine mentions he would rather like to find the Littlest Hobo theme tune if it's around !
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:07 AM on August 13, 2006

Found it , I'd like to propose a sing song in this thread.
posted by sgt.serenity at 8:11 AM on August 13, 2006

It doesn't have UFO, which had the best theme song ever.

And the title sequence that kept flashing 1980 so you'd know it was deeeep in the future. Sigh.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:11 AM on August 13, 2006

This is completely awesome. I just downloaded half of it, and took a vivid time trip back to my childhood.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:19 AM on August 13, 2006

There are loads of British (and other) ones at TV Cream.
posted by teleskiving at 8:51 AM on August 13, 2006

GordonKnott: the Bionic Woman is here- it's actully composed by Jerry Fielding (use pull down menu for alphabetical listing).

Rou_Xenophobe: that site also has the UFO theme, which I agree is awesome.

My favorites: Sanford and Son, the original Adam-12 theme. Ironside turned out not to be as good and creepy as I remembered.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:49 AM on August 13, 2006

Oh, and Speed Racer. It's just so swingin'.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:53 AM on August 13, 2006

Wow, this thread just gets better and better with all the added goodies.

Down memory drain...Neat to hear the music for Are You Being Served (reminds me of the Pink Floyd's Money), Fame, Taxi...Cadbury's Fruit and Nut, McVities Digestives.
posted by nickyskye at 12:00 PM on August 13, 2006

nickyskye : "Are You Being Served (reminds me of the Pink Floyd's Money)"

Huh. Googling about, it appears that the Are You Being Served cash registers predated Money. I had assumed it was the other way around.
posted by Bugbread at 12:58 PM on August 13, 2006

The persuaders: best theme ever.
And Benny Hill of course.
posted by jouke at 2:19 PM on August 13, 2006

Thanks, I needed that today. Amazing what kind of memories are set off from theme show music.

Of course, I first checked to see if they had Simon and Simon's cheesy end theme. [self-link] They didn't. So I had to find a taped episode and post it myself.

A good related site is Classic Themes, but the focus there is information not audio files.
posted by ?! at 2:44 PM on August 13, 2006

It strikes me as awfully ambititious to expect to explore the universe in five. short. years. Hell, it'd take that long just to get a grip on exploring one strange new world, let alone a universe of them.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:05 PM on August 13, 2006

bugbread, Thanks for finding that out! Now you had me Google it. Apparently the Are You Being Served theme predated Money by 2 years. I wonder if Pink Floyd consciously created Money with the Are You Being Served theme in mind? The initial phrase is remarkably similar in both pieces of music, with the heavy base coming in after the rhythmic cash register, spilling coins...
posted by nickyskye at 4:04 PM on August 13, 2006

The other thing that gets me all curious is that, apparently, the cash register bit from Money was really hard to make, what with samplers not existing back then. They had to time the sounds, measure out how much audio tape each sound took, then copy the tape of each sound, cut it, lay the strips out on the floor, and tape them all together in order to get them in proper time/rhythm/length. So, knowing that, it seems really bizarre that Are You Being Served would do something so complicated for the opening theme. Did the composer for Are You Being Served just have a much better system for creating audio loops, or better equipment, or what? (Probably not Googlable, so that's pretty much rhetorical)
posted by Bugbread at 5:08 PM on August 13, 2006

Here's the UFO theme.
posted by black8 at 5:18 PM on August 13, 2006

bugbread: I've heard that story before too, although it does sound a little apocryphal. I mean, it was only the 70's, and nothing in Money requires a sampler - they certainly had multitrack & varispeed recorders then. Though maybe they did choose the hard way in order to prevent generational loss affecting the audio quality.

And the BBC was a hotbed of creativity in parts - one of those now-overlooked advantages of government work where periods of nothing to do but dick about alternate with periods of intense pressure to get things done fast and right. Time to innovate, and time to use those innovations. Remember, cut-and-paste techniques similar to the Money story were used to make the theme for Doctor Who - 10 years earlier.

Anyway, to stay slightly off-topic: Why you have the Israeli-Palestinean conflict to thank for Are You Being Served.
posted by Pinback at 7:12 PM on August 13, 2006

Pinback, Actually, it's not apocryphal, that info about how Money was taped is in the Dark Side of the Moon documentary, seeable right there on YouTube.

More about the Are You Being Served theme song. From Wikipedia: The theme song, written by show co-creator David Croft and composer Ronnie Hazlehurst, consists of a female lift operator (whose voice was provided by Stephanie Reeve) announcing each floor over the sounds of a cash register (which basically serves as the only percussion instrument) and a simple musical accompaniment...The theme's distinctive bass guitar sound likely comes from a Rickenbacker 4001, a prevalent instrument in the early 1970s.
posted by nickyskye at 7:49 PM on August 13, 2006

(On dial-up at the moment, but I'll check that YouTube link later - does it mention why?)

As for Ronnie Hazlehurst, I just popped back here to add an interesting RealAudio interview from the BBC website (see last entry on page), and to note, as you have already, that the AYBS? theme was done on the cheap to avoid using union musicians - a common story in 1970's Britain TV & music land, though it's surprising the BBC of the day let him get away with it (it was a bit of a "no ticket, no play" closed shop).
posted by Pinback at 8:10 PM on August 13, 2006

From Pinback's "off-topic" link:

(Rather limply, Inman always denied that the character was homosexual.)

posted by languagehat at 6:32 AM on August 14, 2006

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