Wednesday, March 04, 2015

The most important ten seconds of your show

I was watching a documentary on old time television and several people made reference to 77 SUNSET STRIP. This was a detective show in the ‘50s, known more for style over substance. But it had a very distinctive theme song. And when anybody brought up the show in any context the first thing they did was sing the logo and snap their fingers. It had become that ingrained in their psyches. If you’re familiar with the show I guarantee when you saw the words 77 SUNSET STRIP the first thing you thought of was that logo.

Musical cues, especially distinctive brief ones, can be powerful reminders of your show, product, network, radio station, whatever. It’s like whatever you are selling gets put in the desired person’s memory bank. There’s a Nationwide Insurance commercial I saw recently where Peyton Manning subconsciously just keeps humming the logo. Check it out.



It only takes a few notes, but if they’re the right notes, it’s GOLD. Here’s the 77 SUNSET STRIP theme:



For a hundred years NBC has been identified by a three-note signature. If those three notes show up in that order in any song you immediately think NBC.



Before he became a pop star, Barry Manilow used to create commercial campaigns. Some of his best known songs are only ten seconds long. Here’s a medley he does in his act.



And finally, radio stations have long used the musical jingle to brand themselves. Especially in the ‘60s when there were always two competing Top 40 stations both playing the same songs, the only way to really distinguish one from the other was from the jingles. And where they were placed was also important. When Bill Drake and Ron Jacobs re-invented Top 40 radio in 1965 they only played jingles going right into songs. That way the audience subconsciously connected KHJ with music. And if they heard a lot of jingles (KHJ’s were very short) over time they figured that KHJ played more records than their competition. Pretty crafty, no? Here’s a sample of radio jingles. If you lived in one of these towns you probably can sing along.



There was a time when TV shows were allowed to have theme songs. What glorious days those were. But today networks want only ten second intros. My point here is to not just use that as a throwaway. With the right notes, the right logo, those could become the most valuable ten seconds of your entire show.

56 comments:

Mike Barer said...

I remember the theme song, even though I was real young (preschooler) during the show's run. I also remember "Car 54, Where Are You", another show that went to sitcom heaven in the mid 60s and was never seen again.

Stoney said...

The most identifiable cue of the last two and a half decades isn't even ten seconds; that two-note "Law And Order" pivot cue.

Best one around today is the opener to "Better Call Saul". Love the way it cuts off before the last note. There's also a theme song by country singer Junior Brown that's not used in the show.

Curt Alliaume said...

Whatever we may think of The Odd Couple reboot, they've done a nice job with the rearrangement of the original 1970s theme.

Richard Rothrock said...

Theme songs used to do so much to set up the characters and tone of a show. Imagine "M*A*S*H" without "Suicide Is Painless". Imagine "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" without "You're Going To Make It On Your Own". I believe a lot of what made Archie Bunker likable was he and Edith singing the opening theme song each week on "All In the Family" before the arguing and the social issues got started.

Even Saturday morning cartoons had great theme songs like "The Jetsons" and "Jonny Quest" and the ever singable "Flintstones" theme song (which, yes, was originally a prime time show).

I'm hard pressed to come up with a current theme song that has stuck with me. The only one I can think of at the moment is "C'mon C'mon" which was the theme song for Denis Leary's "Rescue Me".

Brian Phillips said...

This is the original version of the 77 Sunset Strip theme. Ken Levine posted a remake I hate remakes!

I grew up not watching the show, but with a version on a 45 by the Frank Ortega Trio on Jubilee Records. That also means that I grew up with the flipside, "77 Sunset Strip Cha-Cha".

Brian Phillips said...

This is the original version of the 77 Sunset Strip theme.

I grew up not watching the show, but with a version on a 45 by the Frank Ortega Trio on Jubilee Records. That also means that I grew up with the flipside, "77 Sunset Strip Cha-Cha".


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WrrcSieqMH8

Pete Grossman said...

Growing up with WABC, it was great to hear those jingles. Thanks!

Boomska316 said...

Half the appeal of Cheers was the fun theme song. And anybody who watched would immediately recognize the opening notes of the song.

tavm said...

The theme song that's always on my mind as the "Hawaii Five-O" one. NOT the current which is only 30 seconds but the classic one that plays for a minute or more and has perhaps the greatest montage ever done on a TV show by Rezi Badelyi. (Hope I spelled that last name right!)

On radio jingles-Here's my favorite from when I was a teen during the '80s:

"Baton Rouge, you're special
And we're a special place for you
You're the Tigers at LSU and FM 102
You're the bridge at the Mississippi
Southern, you and me
You're the cooking from a Cajon chef and WFMF
When it's all said and done
You're the only one
And all around Baton Rouge we've got a friend in you
WFMF, FM 102
Baton Rouge is our home town and we're proud to be here
It's all that's happening all around, any time of the year
The capital city listens to its music and its friends
You're favorite songs are always on WFMF!"

Eric J said...

Wings, Cheers and MASH immediately came to mind when I started thinking about this. More followed with a little thought, but those two came to mind immediately.

Camped a couple weeks ago at Malibu Creek State Park and walked the MASH outdoor set. It was REALLY small, esp. the heli pad.

tavm said...

On "The Odd Couple" theme: Obviously Neal Hefti's version from the movie and Randall/Klugman series is classic. The version done for "The New Odd Couple" (Ron Glass/Demond Wilson) was a nice jazzy version from '82-'83. The current version is too short but I guess that's TV now...

tavm said...

My correction on my "H50" post: The correct spelling is Reza Badiyi.

VP81955 said...

Sometimes you only need a few notes -- think of the bass guitar riff that immediately signals "Seinfeld," or the "ba-ba-ba-ba, ba-ba-ba-ba...HEY!" for "Hot in Cleveland."

John Hammes said...

The opening 10 seconds or so of The CBS Radio Mystery Theater... if you heard it only once, you could never forget...

Well, the program used the same ominous notes to close out the hour, so you probably heard it at least twice.

"... I'm E.G. Marshall. Until next time... pleasant... dreams...?"

Steve Bailey said...

I couldn't agree more. 40 years after moving away from Illinois, I still occasionally catch myself singing, "Double-u-L-S!" in tribute to Chicago's famed AM-radio pop station, WLS.

Brent said...

There were many instantly recognizable themes from TV shows in the 60's; from Hawaii 5-0 to Peter Gunn to Batman. But Mission Impossible has to top the list. That 5/4 meter is so distinctive.

H Johnson said...

They're still out there but not many. Monk had two great opening themes. The Sopranos. Parks & Recreation's is nice. Maybe the growth of DVD sets has more to do with their demise. After watching just a few episodes you tend to skip over them. Maybe the new execs know that?

Loved the Barney Miller opening.

Aloha

Oat Willie said...

The Corporation has trained us to accept bits of percussion as themes, making more room for Flo and Doritos.

chuckcd said...

Always loved the "Cheers" theme.

Caroline Carrigan said...

I've been watch HOC and I cheerfully sit through the magnificent opening credits every time. That music is just fantastic.

Joe C said...

How about WKRP in Cincinatti?
or Sanford and Son? And for the hour long dramas, Rockford Files and Baretta....."Don't do it!"

chuckcd said...

And NCIS:New Orleans uses a cover of the John Lee Hooker song Boom Boom by Big Head Todd and The Monsters, which is pretty cool, but why didn't they use the original?

BetterYeti said...

This is interesting coming the day after Ken's post on The Bob Newhart Show. Surprised that in over 40 comments, nobody mentioned the opening theme. One of the classics.

Pat Reeder said...

Now you're talking my world. I met my wife (Laura Ainsworth) when we were both working at TM Productions in Dallas. She was there because her late dad, Billy Ainsworth (a big band sax and clarinet prodigy and arranger who was playing with Tommy Dorsey at the age of 17) was brought from L.A. to Dallas by Tom Merriman to work in the burgeoning jingle business. He arranged and played on a lot of those classic radio jingles created by TM, Pams, CRC and others.

Like Laura, he was also a singer with perfect pitch. He was the vocal group leader and middle male voice on those classic jingle sessions. Laura wrote jingles for a while (she even had to write one for a funeral home, a la "WKRP in Cincinnati"), but she didn't become a professional singer until after her dad's death. I think she was too intimidated because he was the ultimate perfectionist when it came to singers. When he wasn't cutting jingles, he was playing in showrooms behind people like Ella Fitzgerald, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, as well as other famous singers he did not think nearly so highly of. I never met him, but he was reportedly both spot-on and quite blunt in his assessment of vocalists. That's why those jingle singers were always exactly on pitch and in perfect unison. If you weren't, you didn't last long!

Angel J said...

We played the Hogan's Heroes theme in junior high band. It was a fun one.

Carol said...

The Monkees had a great theme song!

Psych had a good opening theme song. And they changed it around sometimes, depending on the show's plot. One time Curt Smith of Tears For Fears sang the theme and it was awesome.

And one time they changed it to sound like Twin Peaks.

I've been watching Friends while exercising lately, so THAT theme song is stuck in my head.

Victor Velasco said...

The street that wears the fancy label! Thanks; I keep waiting for 77 Sunset Strip to turn up on Cosi or MeTV. How many times can they trot out the same 40 or so episodes of Run For Your Life?

Hank Gillette said...

I love several of the television themes already mentioned. A couple additional favorites: Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and Zorro (the Walt Disney version with Guy Williams).

I guess everyone has heard the story that the three notes of the NBC chimes (G-E-C) stand for “General Electric Corporation”? GE was a partial owner of NBC until 1930, so it’s an interesting coincidence if not true.

Jean said...

No only do we get tiny intro themes, we get less than 20 minutes of actual programming. It's not about the show it's about the advertising they can sell.

tavm said...

Which version of the "Happy Days" theme would any of you prefer-the rerecorded version of Bill Haley's "Rock Around the Clock" or the actual "Happy Days" song done after the second season? I think I prefer "RATC" as the theme since it's so evocative the the '50s setting while the other one is obviously '70s-inspired.

Cap'n Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

"Who is the tall dark stranger there? Maverick is the name.
Ridin' the trial to who knows where,
Luck is his companion,
Gamblin' is his game."

John said...

One of the things you didn't see happen often was for a production company or a network to kill a popular show jingle. But that's what happened with 77 Sunset Strip in its final season, when ABC and Warner Bros. decided to try for a complete reboot of the show, discarding everyone but Efrem Zimbalist Jr., and putting Jack Webb in as producer.

Since there's no finger snapping in a Jack Webb show theme song, this was the result. It was not successful, but if nothing else, probably was a good transition for Zimbalist from this show to "The FBI".

Anonymous said...

The 1950's/early 1960's was the Golden Age of theme songs. Westerns ruled.
IT's hard to pick out the best one -Maverick is certainly up there, but it's hard to overlook Rawhide (the Blues Brothers certainly didn't), The Rebel and my own favorite Have Gun Will Travel. Throw Gunsmoke, Bonanza, Wild Wild West in the list from a little later, and it's as good as it gets.
Of course detective shows weren't too far behind in the 1950's and early 1960's. As good as 77 Sunset Strip was, I would have to place it behind Mancini and Peter Gunn, and Count Basie and M Squad.
Of course one could argue that as good as any of those was Nelson's Riddle's Route 66.
Lot of jazz back in the late 1950's early 1960's theme songs. the you get to I Spy, Mission Impossible, and Secret Agent.
Most of you readers probably won't remember these, but they were all classics.

Anonymous said...

The MTM song is technically entitled Love Is All Around.
Written and sung by Sonny Curtis, one cool guy from Texas.
An old running mate of Buddy Holly back in the 1950's, he wrote some of Buddy's stuff and wrote I Fought The Law and Walk Right Back, an Everly Brothers classic.
Not the guy you would have associated with Mary tossing her hat in the air in a Minneapolis winter.

benson said...

So many comments; I agree, we need opening themes, but I own the Randall/Unger Odd Couple DVD's and skip past the intros now. Those are classic but had to be a minute long. But DVD's are not once a week, either.

Had the House of Cards music running through my head this weekend. Gee, wonder why?

Pat Reeder might be able to comment on the Baton Rouge jingle, but back in the late 70's, there was the "You" jingle package. (You are the reason we do what we do, blah blah blah) the most self indulgent self serving blather. Maybe they worked but I don't see how.

It's probably been mentioned here before, but the second verse to "Cheers" is classic. "And your husband wants to be a girl!" (and, suddenly, timely, too. Maybe E! can license just the second verse)

And yes. W-L-S.


benson said...

FYI, to anonymous right before me.

I just saw today that the FAA is considering re-opening the Buddy Holly plane crash investigation.

Ron Rettig said...

Going thru donations to history group I saw a rusty "Burgie" beer can and immediately started singing "Burgermeister, Burgermeister, it's so light and golden clear, Burgermeister, Burgermeister, it's a truly fine pale beer." That was a 1950's jingle.

Ron Rettig said...

Where's the KFWB jingle?

Smurch said...

Glad the Mary Tyler Moore theme and the Bob Newhart Show themes were mentioned - both are classics, and both can transport me back to growing up in the '70s. But let's not leave out "Phyllis": "... who charms the clams of Fisherman's Wharf right out of their shells? Who lights the lamps of Chinatown just by walking in view? Who? Who? Phyllis (repeat name twice more) - It sure isn't... You!"

Still makes me giggle after all these years.

James said...

A little bit of heaven
94.7
KMET -- tweele-dee

Primigenius said...

By the way, the three tones of NBC were the tones G, E, and C on the musical scale: the initials of the General Electric Corporation, which owned NBC in the early days.

Canda said...

I would love to know what legal mess stops 77 Sunset Strip from being sold on DVD, or shown on a nostalgia channel.

Buttermilk Sky said...

"There's a holdup in the Bronx,
Brooklyn's broken out in fights,
There's a traffic jam in Harlem
That's backed up to Jackson Heights,
There's a Scout troop short a child,
Khrushchev's due at Idlewild,
CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?"

That's a permanent part of my brain, for better or worse (the last line really dates it).

Back in the present, I saw the premiere of "CSI Cyberpunk" or whatever it is. Another CSI, another check for Pete Townshend.

mmryan314 said...

I smile when I hear " Hey hey hey hey"- Jimmy Fallon`s intro. Short but memorable.

cadavra said...

Canda: 77SS and its brethren are full of pop songs that would have to be relicensed for DVD. The publishers want a bloody fortune, and given the regrettably limited market for those series, Warners would never break even. (They HAVE put out western series like "Maverick" because there's no such issue with them.) I hate it, but I understand it. FWIW, they can still be broadcast, so hopefully one of the nostalgia channels will take the plunge soon.

Three other favorites nobody's mentioned yet, and by a titanic coincidence, all were ABC shows in 1963: "Jonny Quest," "Burke's Law" and "The Outer Limits."

Al in Portland said...

Can anyone hear the first five notes by The Tonight Show band and not picture Johnny Carson coming out from behind that curtain?

YEKIMI said...

I think the earliest TV theme show tune I can remember was the "Cap't. Kangaroo" theme. [aka Puffin' Billy]. I heard that and came running to watch the show.

Rich Shealer said...

Speaking of finger snapping theme songs; The Addams Family.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6QzbvH-ZNo

ODJennings said...

50 comments and no one has mentioned the Andy Griffith Show yet? (Go ahead and whistle it, we'll wait . . .)

Of course, any kid growing up in the 60's has the lyrics to the Beverly Hillbillies, Flintstones, Jetsons, Green Acres, and Gilligan's Island themes burned into their brains forever.

Kathleen said...

Some of my favorite TV theme shows are from WKRP, Bob Newhart, any by Mike Post (Magnum PI, Rockford Files, Law and Order, which is killer), Hawaii Five-O, Odd Couple, and Mission Impossible.

@Ron Rettig
My dad worked for Crowell Collier in the early to mid 60's (he did a short stint at KFWB in the summer of 1961 then moved to KDWB in St. Paul). Crowell Collier was brilliant at "branding" - The "Good Guys", and the jingle ("KDWB Channel 63). They also had longer orchestral versions of the theme which were really cool.

Bill O said...

Burke's Law another show that had undergone a reboot,dropping the supporting cast, from detective to spy. Amos Burke:International Man of Mystery. The theme was retained, reorchestrated into a John Barry-like mode, which worked equally well in both formats.

Daddy Background said...

Over the last week I've managed to watch two - count em, TWO! - episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise on Netflix, admittedly the weak sister of the franchise.

But in spite not having watched much of it, the theme song has been playing non-stop in my head for days.

Tom Quigley said...

George Carlin, in his bit where he was a deejay at a radio station, had a great jingle for his imaginary employer, whose call letters were W-I-N-O. Of course, whenever he mentioned the station's call letters, he'd punctuate it with their signature jingle in a light, airy, sing-songy voice, "Wonderful Wino!"... Naturally, it got the message across that here was the hook that grabbed you and kept you listening.

JoeyH said...

I'm a big fan of jingles and theme songs.

It's been 45 years since tobacco advertising was banned on U.S. broadcast stations. And yet most baby boomers can still the Winston jingle.

The mention of WLS...WCFL also had great jingles.

Steve Clem said...

Ken: Love the radio jingle montage! Was this five-minute clip part of the longer "Ken Levine Jingle Sampler" that I had a copy of on reel to reel in the early 1970s?