Sunday, July 22, 2018

The music "bumpers" on CHEERS

That's what we call those little musical passages that transition scenes -- bumpers. 

Here’s one of those Friday Questions that became an entire post because I have a special guest to answer it.

Dan Ball asks:

When I watch CHEERS, I always wonder how music was handled? I know Craig Safan scored the whole series (along with some great scores for THE LAST STARFIGHTER and REMO WILLIAMS), but would he actually score each episode or record a bunch of cues at one recording session per season that the director/editor could whip out in the editing room? Was it actually the director and editor who chose those cues? You've probably had to sit in this music chair plenty times in the past, so what's your strategy for picking the best ear candy for us, the audience? Are you more/less demanding in your scoring tastes because of your background in radio?

I didn't select the music cues.  For the shows I ran I had our line producer handle that.  Nor was I involved in the music on CHEERS.   So I personally don’t know the answer to Dan's question, but I figured why not go to the source? Craig Safan was nice enough to provide the answer.

You’re both right! I would score around half of each season’s episodes specifically for individual episodes. Usually these were recorded in groups of three episodes per session as there were union minimums and only one episode’s worth of music wouldn’t fill up that minimum amount of the musicians’ time. But I didn’t score each and every episode… I also recorded a “library” of musical cues in the “Cheers” style at the beginning of each season. Then that library was used for the shows that weren’t individually scored. Of course any new music I’d write for shows during the season would get added to that library so it would become quite extensive and after so many seasons… well you get the idea. It wasn’t the director or producer or editor who would choose the library music cues… it was the music editor. That would be Chips Swanson who was the music editor during the entire run of “Cheers”.

Thank you so much, Craig. And just know I’d be happy to return the favor. If you ever want me to conduct a session for you sometime, just say the word. But seriously, how cool that actual artists give their time to contribute inside info to this blog?

17 comments :

Doug Thompson said...

Very cool Ken. Very cool.

Casey V said...

I always liked the bumper music used throughout Cheers. Some pieces were used several times and others were used only once, and I always wondered about that. The first 2 episodes of Season 3 (Rebound, Parts 1 and 2) had very unique pieces of music that were never used again - I imagine because of the more dramatic nature of these episodes. One of my favorites of the whole series is the 2nd episode of Season 6 ("I" On Sports) - perhaps with one of the most unique time signatures of any bumper music I've ever heard.

Ralph C. said...

Very cool and groovy!! I can dig it!! Thanks, Craig.

tavm said...

Familiar music cues was perhaps the only way anyone would know that the Laurel & Hardy and Our Gang series of shorts were indeed from the same company-Hal Roach Studios. But for years from the '50s through the '90s, those series had different company names attached to them on remade credits because of the selling to them by Roach-L & H to Film Classics Inc. and Our Gang, renamed The Little Rascals because of former distributor MGM's owning of the OG name, to King World Productions (same company responsible for giving us Oparah Winfrey). So you'd hear LeRoy Shield's OG theme "Good Old Days" during L & H's feature Pardon Us when they were in a classroom setting and when Alfalfa and Spanky were getting in trouble, Marvin Hatley's L & H theme of "The Cuckoo Song (Dance of the Cuckoos)" would play. And some of the kids from OG would appear with L & H in one of their films like Butch in Blockheads and likewise, L & H appeared as "grown-up babies" in the OG short Wild Poses. So more than any other movie studio at the time, Hal Roach Studios had family atmosphere.

Y. Knott said...

Interesting! Always enjoy these tidbits of info you can't find anywhere else. Thanks Ken and Craig!

Colin Stratton said...

Very cool. As a Cheers fan, it's always a pleasure to get info on that wonderful show.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Always learn something new on this blog.
M.B.

Donald Benson said...

Similarly: Winston Sharples composed countless cues for Fleischer / Famous / Paramount; they're repeated endlessly through the Popeye, Casper, Baby Huey and other series. Later packaged as stock music, they're heard in made-for-TV toons.

Meanwhile, Hoyt Curtin was likewise prodigious over his decades at Hanna-Barbara, with each new score added to the HB library. Pretty much every HB adventure show drew on his music for "Jonny Quest".

LouOCNY said...

Of course, speaking of cartoons, one must mention the Father of them All, Carl Stalling. Amazingly, he scored almost ever Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies release for almost 20 years! Of course he used cues and musical passages over and over - but did it creatively.

Lemuel said...

LouOCNY: I had a cd of Stalling's music and enjoyed playing it while driving in midday traffic.

Rat Billings said...

Hi Ken,
I have a Friday question, but first off a massive thank you: your posts and archive have been invaluable tools on my journey from wannabe writer to writers assistant to staff writer. You've even answered past friday questions of mine and provided advice that I have leaned on ever since.

So, I follow with another: If a writer ever gets so lucky to go out and meet with potential representation, what should they expect, what are some questions worth asking, and how can that writer make the best impression possible?

Thanks as always,
"Rat Billings"

Mike Doran said...

Carl Stalling had full access to Warner Brothers's entire music library, which led to many standards and Oscar winners finding their way into the backgrounds of Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies.
Thus were several generations of 'toon fans given an education in the Great American Songbook.
… and we lovedit!

Andy Rose said...

The original Star Trek drew from an ever-increasing library of cues, most of which were written by Fred Steiner. Tying back into a discussion from an earlier post, the opening theme was created by Alexander Courage, but he stopped working for the show after he discovered that Gene Roddenberry had written lyrics to his theme specifically to get half of the royalties. Courage didn't create any more music for the show until its third season, after Roddenberry was no longer involved in production.

I always found it interesting how Craig Safan created a style of cues that was immediately recognizable for Cheers, but not really connected to the opening theme. Portnoy and Hart Angelo's tune was 90% piano, with just a little bit of rhythm guitar and drums. Most of Safan's cues used a clarinet in the lead, and the piano parts had more of a ragtime feel.

Donald Benson said...

Scott Bradley had similar access to MGM's library. Now and again you'd hear "The Trolley Song", "If I Only Had a Brain" and other standards from the big musicals as background for Tom & Jerry and others. And like Stalling, he had access to a full orchestra.

The Disney studio, with no access to a major studio's library no inclination to license songs, focused on public domain themes and original compositions. Even when they accumulated a nice library of songs from their features, they preferred lush, original scores for the shorts. They did develop themes for major characters and incorporated them.

gottacook said...

Unlike a sitcom that generally uses only between-scenes bumper music, hour-long drama series like Star Trek also used music behind dialogue. However, like Cheers, music written specifically for a given script would end up as library music selected by the music editor and reused in other episodes. In the case of Star Trek, because of changes in broadcast order versus production order, this would sometimes result in cues being extracted from the episode they were written for before that episode aired - for example, "Friday's Child" (the one with Julie Newmar) was third in production order for season 2 in 1967, but 11th in broadcast order, so some of Gerald Fried's music for that episode was heard in other contexts first.

La-La Land Records produced a true labor of love about 5 years ago with its 15-CD set of isolated, remastered, carefully documented Star Trek original-soundtrack music. I doubt any other 1960s-70s drama series will ever get such treatment, although others probably deserve it (and featured some of the same composers too, such as George Duning, Jerry Fielding, et al.).

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

Ditto ! Thanks Craig

Dan Ball said...

Wow, one of my questions has resurfaced!

Craig's a truly gifted composer. I watched Cheers all the way through a couple years ago and tried to connect it with his compositional style for THE LAST STARFIGHTER and REMO WILLIAMS. Occasionally, I'd get a hint of his thumbprint, but not often. That's the mark of talent: re-inventing yourself.