Friday, March 14, 2008

"If You Won't Leave Me I'll Find Somebody Who Will"

TV theme tunes.

It's a tough job, picking or writing a theme tune for a TV show. You've got to make it readily identifiable, for a start. By now, I imagine that anyone who hears the opening bars of The Rembrandts' "I'll Be There For You" is immediately transferred to a sanitised, family-values-friendly simulacrum of New York and the daily goings-on of the Friends. So, mission accomplished on that particular front.

Secondly, it's got to be hummable. John Sebastian's cheery, beery "Welcome Back" ("Welcome Back, Kotter") is a perfect example, though the trend for macho rock-oriented themes, or digital, futuristic themes ("Knight Rider", anyone?) sort of threw us all off track.

And ideally, it's got to give you a hint about the show itself, and here the genius of the TV executives who chose the Rembrandts song for "Friends" shines through. The show itself may be questionable, and the song itself may be a bit bland, but as a TV theme it leaves no room for misinterpretation.

So what do we make of this?:

"Ever look out your window, babe,
And wonder what was going down in the street below?
Out where the four winds blow?
Ever stand in the crossroads, babe,
And know it didn't really matter which road you chose?
Heaven knows...
I'm a refugee from the mansion on the hill
And if you won't leave me, I'll find somebody who will."

Forty-three seconds. Restless rock beat.

There's alienation, confusion, even a hint of desperation in there. Not what we'd call prime-time television. Which is what makes this so great, and makes me wonder what the hell kind of TV show this was meant to be the theme for.

Because it never got made.


Uncle E said...

Great post. Good Times, Mike Post's Rockford Files, the theme from S.W.A.T, Chico and the Man and the supremely funky Barney Miller theme are just a few of my favs.
Ever notice the fact that most of the themes are FAR more memorable than the tv shows they represent?

John said...

actually, Zevon wrote it for a remake of the Route 66 show, about 15 years ago or so. So that's why it's so short.
Drove me nuts trying to find it and it was finally issued on a greatest hits comp, I';ll Sleep When I'm Dead.

great song, wish there was more of it.