Monday, April 09, 2012

The story behind "Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs"

Since I seem to be on a FRASIER jag (and I'm going up to Seattle Friday for the Mariners' home opener), here's a Friday Frasier question that deserves its own post. And a special guest to answer it.

Brian asks:

What's the story of the song "Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs" that Kelsey Grammer sings at the end of the show? Who wrote it? What does it mean? Who's idea was it to put it at the end of the show and for Kelsey to sing it?

To answer I went to the source, the extremely talented, Bruce Miller. (Bruce also did the music for ALMOST PERFECT so you know I'm more than a fan.)

Having been the composer on a show called "Wings", I was asked by the creator's of that show to try to come up with a song for their next effort….that is to submit as one of three submissions for the "prize" in a blindfold test to chose the one they liked best!

I was told they wanted something pretty eclectic and jazzy, but to avoid any direct references to specific subject matter. So it was necessary to stay away from words about psychiatry, radio shows, the name "Frasier", and anything else directly indicating aspects of the show.

I immediately wrote the song/music itself, but then needed a lyric that would work, so I called my friend Darryl Phinnesse who is really talented and really smart. I gave him the idea of the show and he called back with the idea of "Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs". At first I was a bit baffled myself until he explained that these were things that were "mixed up"….like Frasier Crane's patients. Once we agreed on this premise (by the time I fully understood it), we went into completing the song. I actually did contribute a couple lines, but the heavy lifting here was Darryl, and lucky for me that I went to him to him in the first place.

"Hey baby I hear the blues a-callin"-refers to patients with troubles calling into the radio show
"Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs"
"But maybe I seem a bit confused"-Frasier's personality was a bit????
"Maybe, but I got you pegged"-Frasier does understand these people and helps them.
"But I don't know what to do with those Tossed Salads and Scrambled Eggs"-it's a tough business….gotta deal with these "crazies" every day.
"They're calling again"-oh, oh….should be self explanatory.

When I first wrote the song, I instantly thought of the great jazz singer, Mel Torme. He would have been perfect, but the producers wanted me to try Kelsey….and of course, he really made it his own with his interpretation.

As you can see, there were elements of this whole process that came to me from others. Those elements are what eventually helped to make the song successful on the show.

I'd assume the network wanted to get right into the show as quickly as possible (just my guess), so the song needed to go where it could be played full length. When the short little graphics of the Seattle skyline were created for the open of the show, I was asked to compose several different short pieces in the style of the theme, which were alternated each episode, depending upon the particular graphic used for that episode. I recall having composed about 25 of those little main titles by the end of the show's run.


Thanks so much, Bruce. Here's your now-classic closing theme.

64 comments:

Carol said...

Thank you for this! I've been watching Fraiser on Netflix recently, and my son kept asking me why they sing 'tossed salad and scrambled eggs' at the end. I just read this to him. He's very happy to have the mystery solved.

Every time you name comes up in the credits, I think 'oh I know him,' even though I don't. Silly, but there you go.

Mike Schryver said...

I loved the little opening melodies, which seemed to set the mood of the show.
If I may say so, I never enjoyed listening to the end theme. I guess the song is just fine, but it seems to clash with Kelsey's singing style.
He's fine doing operettas or things like "Isn't It Romantic?", but for this type of number, I would've preferred someone like Mel Torme.

Joe in DC said...

Nice post! I love getting the "real story" from the people who were there.

On a separate note, Ken, have you seen this AV Club interview with Zachary Knighton ("Happy Endings")? I wondered what your thoughts were about his discussion of how his show's cast and its writers interact. Do you think it's possible that such collaboration exists? And also, I wondered what you thought about his suggestion that older writers can't write for younger actors.

Thanks as always for a great blog!

Jeremiah Avery said...

Great post! I liked how the intro music was simple, yet elegant and I didn't have to sit through a lengthy credit sequence. I thought the ending theme was peculiar but now it's great to see how the theme really did tie into the show and wasn't completely random.

I've come to enjoy "Frasier" more as I've gotten older and some of the references aren't as over my head as they were when I was a teen. The show never talked down to the audience and I remember reading an article shortly after it ended in which the show was described as "A sitcom for actual adults" - very apropos.

While the show is very funny, overall, I think the truly laugh out loud moments came from David Hyde Pierce. A simple expression or one line could have me cracking up. (e.g. in "Agents In America, Part III" when Bebe answers the door wearing just Frasier's shirt and Niles just rings the doorbell again and has a slight smirk on his face. Ending it with, "Ah, paid your commission up front, I see.")

D. McEwan said...

Thanks for this most-interesting post. Now, does anyone now a really effective psychic? You see, my mother enjoyed Frasier. She disliked Kelsey rather a lot, but she so deeply loved David Hyde Pierce, she'd watch him in anything, and so she enjoyed Fraiser as long as Kelsey was offstage, or if Bebe, who alway broke her up, was on. (Same thing with Cheers She only wanted to see episodes that featured Bebe.)

BTW, Mom was a Republican, so it wasn't his politics that cheesed her off. I never did figure out why she disliked him so. I at least had his conservatism as a reason to loathe him, but I seldom had any problem with him as an actor, at least until I saw his rather unfortunate performance as Sweeney Todd.

However, she just did not "get" Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs. Nor did I, but I enjoyed it. (The closing theme song for Red Dwarf is similarly out of left field, and features the line: "Drinking fresh mango juice," which in their accents, the singers unintentionally made sound like "Drinking fresh mangled Jews," a lyric I always found a tad disturbing.) Mother was bothered by it, and so she labeled it "stupid," and tended to hit the "Mute" button whenever it came on. (Before the very talented Bruce Miller takes offense at my mother calling Tossed Salad and Scrambled Eggs "stupid," please bear in mind that Mother thought Mary Baker Eddy was the most-brilliant genius who ever lived, so my Mother was an idiot.)

Mother died in 1997, so it would be nice if a psychic medium could read her this column in The Next World. She'd probably get it now. Daphnee?

D. McEwan said...

PS. I guess, in light of Mother's unwavering faith in the idiocy dispensed by Mary Baker Eddy, that I should not say that Mother died in 1997. Rather, reflecting her particular religious delusions, I should say Mother has been "Manifesting a belief in Death" since 1997. She manifests it very convincingly.

Kirk said...

I, for one, like Kelsey's version of the song. In fact, he may have missed his calling as a jazz or blues singer. With the ingruous pairing of "tossed salad" and "scrambled eggs", I always assumed it was about confusion, but Frazier's own confusion, not his patients. Even though Kelsey sang it, I never imagined it coming from Frazier himself, unless he had a hip alter ego that was never revealed on the show.

I always like it in movies or TV shows when a song expresses the overall theme or mood, but the lyrics can't really be taken literally. Best example: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head" comes on. Obviously, it's not raining in that scene, but it best describes Butch's insouciant attitude.

Breadbaker said...

Nice to know you'll be at Opening Day on Friday. It will be so surprising to be playing the A's again. I'll try to wave at you in the booth (we sit right behind the screen just past the Diamond section.

John said...

Side question -- Starting with the 1994-95 season, NBC was the first network to eliminate closing title themes, going instead with the annoying microscopic side title bar, while a network promo occupied three-quarters of the screen.

All the NBC shows starting in the fall of '94 were hit ... except for 'Frasier', which managed to keep its end titles and theme all the way to the end. Was it due to the action/gags continuing on through the closing titles, or coming off 'Cheers' did the production team simply have enough clout with the network to avoid seeing the end title theme eliminated and the credits crushed against the left side of the screen?

RCP said...

Nice to get clarification on this - I've always enjoyed Frasier's closing theme (didn't catch on for a while that it was Grammer doing the singing).

D. McEwan said...

"Does anyone know a really effective psychic?"

With all due respect to your mom, I found your post very funny. You know, I happen to be a bit psychic myself and if it's okay with you, I'd like to attempt a frequency...wait a minute...

"Yes? Hello? Mrs...Mrs. McEwan? Oh you know what I'm going to ask? Yes? I'll do that, thank...yes? Got it. Thank you."

She still thinks it's stupid. And pick up your socks.

Johnny Walker said...

Haha! Wonderful post and hilarious comments by D McEwan, too.

The left-fieldness of Frasier's theme song always bugged me. I'm glad there's logic to it... I always felt there was something I wasn't "getting". Now it seems obvious.

As for Red Dwarf, that classic show, that always made sense to me. I guess I saw it as the internal wishes of the characters: Getting out of space and back to earth.

I admit it's pretty left-field though!

cadavra said...

One of my favorite DHP moments came when one of the others defended a comparison between two things that were practically identical. Beat, then he deadpanned, "Ah. The distinction being...?"

Denny said...

Opening and closing credits and theme music. How quaint.

xjill said...

Love this story! I always wondered...

Chris said...

Very technical friday question: any idea why in the Seinfeld pilot the general frame looks like it's shot on tape (so like crap) and the close ups look like they're shot on film (way better)?

I'm watching the HD version, the difference is huge.

Frank Abe said...

Ken,
Any chance you'll meet with Seattle readers this weekend?

Frank

Ken Levine said...

Frank,

That's a great idea. Let me post something and see if there's enough interest. Maybe Saturday lunch at F.X. McCrory's.

Ken

Max Clarke said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LouOCNY said...

McEwan - you could always get the great Madame Mertzola...

"Ethel to Mrs. McEwan..Ethel to Mrs McEwan..."

Max Clarke said...

Thanks, Ken, I have always wondered why in the world Frasier would sing about tossed salads and scrambled eggs. Kelsey does it so well, it's unlike any tv series song I've heard.

Now that you've explained it, the song title sounds a bit like the album Emerson Lake and Palmer released in the 70s, Brain Salad Surgery.

Interesting that ELP was mentioned by Rebecca in the last episode of Cheers. That was the fictitious law firm she claimed to work for,"...yeah, they're a pretty famous group..."

Sparky said...

It would've been great to have Kelsey sing something in character at the end of "Boss."

Larry said...

Wow, so all those years I completely misunderstood what the song was about.

I like shows that have unexpected and different themes at the end, like "WKRP" and "The Young Ones."

D. McEwan said...

" RCP said...
Yes? Hello? Mrs...Mrs. McEwan? ... She still thinks it's stupid. And pick up your socks."


Tell her I'll give her words the same weight I did when she was alive, which means I just dumped the rest of my socks on the floor. Oh, and please do tell her of my toting all her Bibles and other tons of religous "literature" to the dump to rot when she'd been gone less than a week.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, I always felt the song was about Frasier being a bit down and sick. (Given all that goes on during the show) And at the end, his illness gets the best of him.

RockGolf said...

Big time, Ken, big time.

This article has been linked to in from EW.com - click on my name to link back to the article.

FIRST TIME VISITORS: Set awhile and read some of the other articles.

Ruth S said...

I always figured that was all he could cook.

RCP said...

D. McEwan said...

"Tell her I'll give her words the same weight I did when she was alive, which means I just dumped the rest of my socks on the floor. Oh, and please do tell her of my toting all her Bibles and other tons of religous "literature" to the dump to rot when she'd been gone less than a week."

I’m sorry, but I can’t be in contact with your mom right now. A lovely woman, but she started nagging ME about the Bible – so I’ve been forced to use my own mute button.

Mark S. said...

This article bugs me: I smell bovine excrement.
"Tossing a salad" is prison slang for manual sex. There are two things "tossed salad" could mean and that's one of them. Given that combined with the fact that the show featured three bachelors mostly striking out in the relationship department,"scrambled eggs" really could not have any but the same meaning.

I'm sorry for any unwanted mental images, but that's quite definitely what the song is about.

Anonymous said...

Makes perfect sense. Now I know the meaning behind "Toss Salad and Scramble Eggs" whenever I watch Fraiser.

Anonymous said...

I always thought those lyrics described Frazier's life after divorcing Lilith; tossed salads and scrambled eggs sound like things a single-guy would make/eat to sustain himself.

Dale said...

Who were the musicians who played on the session?

Eric said...

Mr. Levine:

Are you scheduled to call any Mariners games this year?

I hope so.

Eric said...

Mr. Levine:

Are you going to call some Mariners games this year?

I hope so.

D. McEwan said...

"Mark S. said...
'Tossing a salad' is prison slang for manual sex. There are two things "tossed salad" could mean and that's one of them. Given that combined with the fact that the show featured three bachelors mostly striking out in the relationship department,"scrambled eggs" really could not have any but the same meaning."


Ah yes, because Niles and Frasier were noted for their constant employment of ephemisms au currant with the Incarcerated Community. Why, Frasier was practically Oz, only with 99% less male nudity and rape scenes. When I think the Crane Brothers, I always think: "Prison Slang."

There's actually a third meaning for "Tossed Salad": a salad that has been mixed by tossing, but no. Frasier was undoubtedly just singing his jazzy prison slang terms, given it was a show about two Harvard-grad psychiatrists who were gay in every imaginable way except that they still thought they were straight and went after women who responded the the manliness of discussing dead opera divas and undetectable differences in slight color-shade gradations before going off to their wine-tasting club.

I still treasure that episode where Niles accidentally shanked Daphnee.

"Anonymous said...
I always thought those lyrics described Frazier's life after divorcing Lilith; tossed salads and scrambled eggs sound like things a single-guy would make/eat to sustain himself."


I like that one. Of course Frasier Crane's bachelor meals are more likely to be tossed caviar and quiche, but still, I could see that one, even if it misses the obvious prison masturbation references so glarlingly clear in the song.

Julieta Pedrosa said...

Thank you for the explanation! I`m Brazilian and a big fan of Frasier. I have all its seasons in blu-ray and/or dvd and I think it`s one of the most sophisticated/witty and funny American sit-coms ever!

pumpkinhead said...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/04/12/frasier-tossed-salad-and-scrambled-eggs_n_1422023.html?ref=tv

Marsha in San Diego said...

WOW... The inventive comentaries are almost as interesting as the explanation... OMG... PRISON SLANG ?? I for one, and possibly more than one, can imagine Mel Torme singing, but Frazier's voice, intonation, and the song's ability to provide a continuation of the show past it's ending was a great "wrap-up." For those who do not know the PSYCHIC, BIBLE, Christian Science "tie-in" by a post member who had a love hate relationship with his Mother... SHE WAS CHRISTIAN SCIENCE... having been a youngster who was toted off to Sunday School to learn about the power of healing and love is reflected in love philosophy, by Mary Baker Eddy, it was not all bad... actually, I've put it to good use. Just pick up your socks on Sunday... Mommy loves you.

Joel said...

One thing that made interpretation of the lyrics more confusing was Kelsey Grammer's occasional ad libbing. "Scrambled eggs all over my face. What is a boy to do?" Definitely sounds like food references and not a euphamism. Makes me wonder if he understood the song himself! Thanks for clearing up the mystery.

Anonymous said...

Still love that show and watch the reruns all the time. Have all the episodes on DVD. Thanks for explaining makes sense and Kelsy did a great job with it. Still one of the best shows out there!

Sue said...

Love that show after all these years-Watch the reruns whenever I can and have all the episdoes on DVD. Thanks for the explanation. A really fun theme song.

jeff said...

"Oh, and please do tell her of my toting all her Bibles and other tons of religous "literature" to the dump to rot when she'd been gone less than a week. "

Agnostic myself, but that is an impressive dickish thing to say. I still have my parents bibles. Cause they belonged to my parents.

Back Maskerson said...

I always thought that any meaning in the jazzy little ditty was eclipsed by Kelsey Grammer's ego. And Eddie doing something cute.

But that was before I played the sound file backwards.

When you play the song backwards, you clearly hear, "Brip jum brip murple yim D McEwan's mother tosses salads in hell byup blim yumba."

And then it all made so much sense.

blogward said...

I'd so much like to hear William Shatner doing this.

ktbird21 said...

Too bad Frasier isn't "practicing" anymore- sounds like D. McEwan could benefit from a few sessions! Repressed anger much?

Jane said...

BThanks so much for the information. My roommates really didn't "get" the song and this explanation is fantastic! I am a huge Frasier fan and it is great to read the history of the song! Congrats on a huge hit!ao23

Anonymous said...

Great post. Follow-up question: Towards the end of the fifth season there is an episode in which KACL becomes a Spanish-language music station (due, as usual, to Frasier's well-intentioned bungling - scrambled eggs all over his face again), and at the end of the episode they cleverly played a Spanish version of the title song. Anyone know the lyrics/author of the Spanish version?

Phread said...

I'm sorry if this is inappropriate ,however I could not listen to the song without feeling ill. Tossed Salad is slang for "oral anul" , then later when he added "Scrabbled Eggs all over my face" It was sickening, and Grammar knew this. I believe it was his way of saying he was bi-sexual.

N. K. Albritton said...

I have loved watching Frasier for many years and now watch it in syndication every night on Hallmark. The theme song has always been interesting to me (I like it) and I wondered what it was about.

Since I could not figure out the meaning, I thought that it might be part of a whole song and the remaining words would help me understand the meaning. Tonight I decided to look for the lyrics to the whole song and found this blog that explained the meaning. All I can say is GENIUS!

Lisa D. Sparks said...

Caught in a Netflix Frasier marathon (working from home today) and I was curious about the theme's lyrics. So to Google I went. And this was the first sit that popped up. So glad I now know.

Bittersweet though. The mystery is now gone.

Elizabeth said...

I love this. I honestly grew up with Frasier both on cheers and Frasier and recently started watching the reruns.
I've always thought "scrambled eggs" fit very well because of the "cracked " people who called or sometimes the way they acted. Never could figure out the "tossed salads". And of course "they're callin' again" is so self explanatory.

Elizabeth said...

Never heard the phrase "egg all over my face" meaning "embarrassed ". I think it fits.

Jarno Partanen said...

Hi!

Thanks a lot! Almost always the answer is found on internet and once again found it, it didn't let me down. I've been also wondering why he sings tossed salad and scrambled eggs. Now I know why :)

Frasier is the best and I've always enjoyed a lot by watching it.

Anonymous said...

WOW thanks for that!!! I always wondered what the heck this song meant. I knew it couldn't possibly be a lament about having to go to the bathroom to take a dump after a bad meal, like it initially seemed to me LOL Seriously, it could almost double as an Imodium commercial.

Hungarican Chick said...

I had some idea that eggs and salad represented something that wasn't right or ordered. Mixed up things... Tossed salad... Scrambled eggs. But I guess I needed someone to tell me I was on the don't path. The rest of the lyrics are fairly easy ti figure out otherwise. I always come away from hearing the music with a yen for fluffy scrambled eggs and buttery toast. Go figure. I've been marathoning the series this past month, netflix has then all to stream so I have bee. Watching a few episodes each night on my smartphone before I turn off the light. I always loved the show... Brilliant writing. And I have never really liked Kelsey. He comes off as such a Dbag in real life. But I have to credit him his due props for Frasier... He is nothing short of genius. DHP however is the one I love the most. I am in mid season ten and am already lamenting that it will soon be over. Then onto Wings I suppose. ::sighs::

Anonymous said...

Love the show, love the music. I get up at 6 AM just to watch. Great way to start off the day.

janathon said...

Glad for explanation of "TSASE". On a different note. I am puzzled. S3/E18 ("Chess") shows Daphne emerging from her room apparently around the corner from Frasier's room (when smoke detector goes off). Her room has always been down the hall from where the piano sits. Mistake?

Noah Vale said...

Why, during all of this talk about the song, is Gary Burton, who p[lays it with his group behind the singing, not even mentioned?



























Kerem Gogus said...

This is brilliant! I'm a long time fan of the show. Watched all episodes when it was on the air and now I have it's dvds and watching everyday! Most wonderful thing ever produced on TV!

Anonymous said...

Fascinating. I always just figured it had to do with strange food cravings being a psycological thing. Always wondered if there was a specific episode that went into detail about Frasier craving salad and scrambled eggs. Now I know why there's not.

Cheesesteak said...

Yeah, Niles stole the show on Frasier... Enjoyed the writing on that show, top notch. Its cool to hear the explanation of the theme song finally

Anonymous said...

The information here on the theme song is very enlightening. I always wondered about the words, especially the phrase, "They're calling again". In my youth, that phrase referred to something that a person ate that was being regurgitated, so then the thought of salad and eggs made me think of someone who was eating a clash of foods that would make them sick. I'm glad that is all cleared up for me now! Thank you!

Jessica Collins said...

Thank you Ken Levine...

Come to this post late but I've just booked a holiday to Seattle, so thought of Frasier, rather than Starbucks. Big fan of the show and good to have had two British actors. Niles Crane and fainting from blood gets me every time.

Good to hear the lyrics meaning from the actual writer - if that's what they mean then no extrapolation is needed.

Jess from London, England

Anonymous said...

On a side note (no pun intended) the cast member that received the most fan mail was Eddie.

Anonymous said...

A bit late, but just for info. the song for Red dwarf refers to one of the characters desire to leave space duty, move to Fiji and set up an idyllic life.