Sunday, April 27, 2008

If we're ever troubled by the changing times

Back in the day (and by "the day," I mean the late-1970s and early-1980s), TV theme songs were not only freestanding tunes (with verses, choruses, and even bridges), they were more importantly also completely free of irony--45-second wistful reflections on a life in transition or a dream derailed, where things didn't turn out the way one had planned. Lyrics sang about prodigal returns ("the names have all changed since you hung around / but those dreams have remained and they've turned around") and wondered about love lost ("maybe you and me were never meant to be / but baby think of me once in awhile"). They also openly expressed confusion over world events ("We spend each day like bright and shiny new dimes / and if we're ever troubled by the changing times") and reflected financial strain ("temporary layoffs, good times / easy credit ripoffs, good times"). They also talked about some prick named B.J. who thought he was hot sh-t because his best friend was a chimp named Bear. Watching these clips now, it's difficult not to find the earnestness of those songs--and by extension, the shows and the times that created them--completely endearing.

And even as the '80s ushered in the age of Ronald Reagan--with more shows about rich people (Dallas, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, etc.) and featuring instrumental theme songs--the melodies were still tinged with a mild sadness and anxiety. Two examples:

You kids today, with your iPods and internet porn, you don't know how easy you have it!


In case you wondered said...

I learned how to play the theme from Hill Street Blues on the piano. So then when my dad would sit down to watch it, I would run over and pound out my horrible version along with the TV. Thank goodness for DVR.

Barrett the Cat said...

I love the Hill Street theme song. I first heard of Billy Joel from the show Bosom Buddies (which used "My Life" as the theme song), and my 8-year old brain could not get enough of that song. My mom, who went to law school late in life, had a roommate who had some Billy Joel albums, from which I learned the rest of the lyrics to "My Life." The result: as a third-grader, I would run around telling people how I never said I was a victim of circumstance. And I'm convinced THIS is why I never got laid in third grade.