Thursday, March 17, 2011

Surfin' the Tube

Surf Music: Part 3
The surf rock craze had an impact on the musical composition of several TV themes and movies in the 1960's, even shows that had nothing to do with the actual sport. Here are a few of these opening credits of classic TV shows influenced by surf music:

First up, it's the popular theme song from the original Hawaii Five-O, a CBS crime drama set in Hawaii that ran for 12 seasons from 1968 to 1980. This theme was written by Morton Stevens, an American film score composer who studied at Julliard Music Conservatory and went on to be an arranger/conductor for members of the Rat Pack. A part of the show's legacy, the theme has also been performed by The Ventures, and is particularly popular with college and high school marching bands, especially at the University of Hawaii where it has become their unofficial fight song.

Another memorable TV theme comes from The Munsters, an American sitcom about a family of legendary monsters (and their normal niece!), which ran from 1964 to 1966 on CBS. This surf rock theme was written and arranged by American guitarist/conductor/composer Jack Marshall, one of Capitol Records' top producers in the 1950s and '60s. Nominated for a Grammy Award in 1965, this tune is definitely a popular classic.

And who can forget the infamous "Na na na na na na na, Batman!," the title theme from the 1966 ABC show Batman? Based on crime-fighting heroes, Batman and Robin, the show only lasted for two and a half seasons, however, it aired twice a week, resulting in 120 episodes. Written by American jazz trumpeter/composer/arranger, Neal Hefti (who also wrote the theme to the film and TV series The Odd Couple), the theme song became a hit single in 1966, covered by several other groups including The Marketts, The Ventures, Link Wray, The Kinks, and The Who. A minimal tune based on a simple twelve-bar blues progression (three chords), it combines the sound of spy film scores and surf music, and remains a significant pop-culture tune to this day.

Speaking of spy music (yep, an actual genre), another classic, surf rock-inspired theme is "Secret Agent Man," written by American songwriters/record producers Steve Barri and P. F. Sloan. The most famous recording of this song was performed by singer Johnny Rivers, which reached #3 on the Billboard charts in 1966. This version was the opening titles for American broadcast of the British spy series Danger Man, which aired in the U.S. as Secret Agent from 1964 to 1966. The memorable guitar riff was written by guitarist Chuck Day, and was inspired by the opening guitar sound of the James Bond films.

And of course since I mentioned it, we'll finish this post with the main signature theme from those James Bond spy films, first introduced in the opening sequence of Dr. No in 1962. Released during the surf rock craze, this song also uses a surf rock sound with a memorable guitar riff, however, there is much debate over who is the actual composer. Both being film composers, Monty Norman is credited for writing the theme and John Barry was the arranger, however the latter went on to compose the score for a total of eleven Bond films. Lawsuits have even taken place as recent as 2001 to try to determine the official composer, but it appears that Norman will continue to collect the royalties. Although this theme has even briefly shown up in the most recent films, it's generally associated with the Bond era of actor Sean Connery. Here's the theme with film clips that pretty much sum up Dr. No.


Well, that about wraps up Surf Music Week and its many forms. Thanks for reading, and "Hang Ten!"

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