Archive for April, 2010

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THEME SPOTLIGHT: TO TELL THE TRUTH (Syndicated 1969-1978)

April 30, 2010

Composers: Charles Fox and Bob Israel for Score Productions

Instrumentation: British Invasion/Carnaby Street Rock ensemble with backing string section. Unknown male vocalists.

TO TELL THE TRUTH was a show I got to see on occasion when I was growing up. I say this becasue the house I grew up in was on a hill, and while our antenna got the Boston stations, and WMUR in Manchester NH clearly, we could only watch the Providence stations on a little black and white we had downstairs in the dining room. And we never used that, except for special reasons.

Anyway, when we did get access to the Providence stations, and TO TELL THE TRUTH was on, I was a happy camper. I liked the idea of the game. Let’s face it, Mark Goodson was a god in my childhood eyes. But that theme was awesome.

I honestly didn’t know back then that having lyrics to game show themes was possible back then. Of course, now I know otherwise. There was only one problem: From my TV’s slightly fuzzy picture, and the three inch speaker, I had no idea what they were singing. I just thought they were vocalizing. When the show went off the air, I thought I’d NEVER get to hear the song clearly.

Not so fast! Along comes the internet and some well connected fans managed to write them down on their sites. So this theme actually turns out to be a confrontational love song about a guy who’s girl is always lying to him. Who’d a thunk? Then a CD company gets their hands on 20 themes from shows that were airing on the fledgling GSN (don’t get me going on their alleged lineup), Right there in the first 10 tracks was the theme I was looking for. I was in heaven. As I get older, I’m constantly amazed at how well this theme was crafted, and how it could have stood as a hit song in its own right. A satellite dish company seems to think so too. You may have seen their homage to this great show. It’s not perfect, but it’s an admirable effort. I wish GSN would take the hint and negotiate the rights to air this classic version again. But GSN lately seems to be the kind of network that wouldn’t get it if they were handed a large box labelled “IT”, In any case, here’s a great Youtube montage of photos accompanying the theme:

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THEME SPOTLIGHT: MAKE ME LAUGH (1979)

April 15, 2010

Syndicated, with reruns on USA in the mid 1980’s

Composer: Artie Butler

Instrumentation:  Brassy 1970’s disco band with vocalizations, but also heard without vocals

This is what I call a one hit game show theme wonder.  It’s really hard, in my opinion to write music for a comedy game show.  There’s the temptation to come up wioth something childish that ultimately suggests that the format isn’t strong enough on it’s own, and the comedy needs to be in your face with childish clowning around music.  Fortunately, this rarely happned during the golden age of daytime, and Artie Butler’s MAKE ME LAUGH is a prime example of a theme that could have worked for almost any concept.

I only got to see this version of MAKE ME LAUGH during the USA run.  I couldn’t believe my ears when the show started.  I was expecting childish clowning around pastiche.  Instead, I got something that was closer to DISCO INFERNO.  I loved it!  What’s more, there was a chorus vocalizing, and punctuating the theme with the occasional shout of “Laugh!”.  I always liked vocals in game show music, anyway.

Needless to sy this theme has stayed with me for 25 years, and it still makes me feel like dancing when I hear it.  As for the game itself.  I tried playing along at home, but rarely made it past the first 15 seconds of the first comedian.  Especially if Yakov Smirnov was in the lineup.  I’d love to post a Youtube link, but there’s only one clip from this version featuring gameplay, and I want you to hear this in it’s glory.  So here’s a link to the music on tvpmm.com-the Television Production Music Museum.  This site will be my backup if YouTube doesn’t deliver: http://tvpmm.com/documents/49.html

You’ll have to copy and paste. The link feature doesn’t seem to be working.

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Theme Music Spotlight: TRIVIA TRAP (1984)

April 13, 2010

I think it’s time for a new feature, don’t you?  In keeping with the current direction of the blog, I figure that every now and then I’ll talk about my favorite pieces of TV music.  When possible, I’ll post a Youtube clip that features the theme.  Naturally, I want to start with one from the world of game shows, since that’s where a lot of favorites of mine come from.

Network: ABC

Who wrote it:  Edd Kalehoff

Instrumentation: Mostly synthesizers, with a flute-like synth lead, slap bass, and percussive drum kit.

This may seem like an odd choice, since TRIVIA TRAP didn’t light the fires of ABC’s daytime lineup, especially since it went up against a certain 60 minute CBS megahit, but I did want to start with one that I knew had a Youtube link.  What I love about Edd’s theme is it’s unfailing optimistic sound.  This is accomplished with the flutey synth lead’s rising note sequnce.  It’s cheerful and fun, and never flags.  The backing instrumentation is classic Kalehoff, with the heavy bass guitar leading the way for the backing synthesizers.  Those backing synths, by the way, get their own chance to shine as the theme approaches the final chorus.  I fell in love with this theme the first time I heard it.  Every time I play it on my desktop, or on my Minidisc player, I feel great.  Edd would soon work with the game show creators at Nickelodeon, so it’s possible that this was one of Edd’s last daytime network pieces, except for new cues written for PRICE IS RIGHT.  Anyway, here it is. Enjoy!