Sammy Davis Jr. Sings his Eight Favorite TV Theme Songs

One of my guilty pleasures are Sammy Davis Jr’s craptastic TV themes song covers… some of which he must have commissioned just to sell records (who knew there were vocals to KOJAK!?). Here they are:

1. KOJAK

2. THE JEFFERSONS

3. THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW

4. CHICO AND THE MAN

5. MARY HARTMAN, MARY HARTMAN

6. HAWAII FIVE-O

7. BARETTA

8. MY MOTHER THE CAR

Joel Goldsmith

Joel_goldsmith_01I'm deeply saddened to learn that composer Joel Goldsmith died earlier this week after a long battle with cancer. I was fortunate to work closely with Joel on two series — Diagnosis Murder and Martial Law.  

Bill Rabkin and I were big fans of his work, so when we took over Diagnosis Murder in the late 90s, we brought him in to reorchestrate the theme and revamp the score so the series no longer sounded like it was produced in 1964.  He did such a great job for us that when we were later hired to take over Martial Law, we brought him in to create a new opening title theme to replace the original Mike Post theme (which our star Sammo Hung loathed) and score the first episode to set the musical sound for our show.  He alternated scoring duties after that with John Keane and Corey Lerios & John DeAndrea. 

He was easy-going,  extremely creative, and one of the friendliest people I've met in the business. I always looked forward to our spotting sessions and knew he'd give us  cues that not only delivered what we needed, but would add levels to the action, comedy or character beats that weren't in the scenes before.

I'm a big TV theme nut, and we spent lots of time talking about our favorites. Naturally, many of mine — like Police Story and Barnaby Jones – were done by his father, Jerry Goldsmith. It couldn't have been easy for Joel to to follow in his father's considerable musical shadow….and I don't think he ever got the acclaim that he deserved. 

Joel and I lost touch with one another in the years since and I regret that. 

Here's Joel's reorchestration of the Diagnosis Murder theme….and his theme for Martial Law.

I Love GOLD

One of my favorite soundtracks, and guilty pleasures, is Elmer Bernstein’s score for GOLD, a terrible thriller starring Roger Moore about a flood in a South African gold mine. But the big, bold, brassy and extremely cheesy theme song and score are absolutely wonderful…and it’s on sale this week for just $14.95 from Screen Archives Entertainment. Here’s the main title sequence from the film…

Craptastic Sammy A-Go-Go!

It doesn't get much more craptastic than this — Sammy Davis Jr. sings the theme to "My Mother The Car," one of the worst sitcoms in television history. What the hell was he thinking!?

UPDATE 5/30/2010: YouTube has blocked my clip, so  here's another one… and this one is even better. You can actually see Sammy performing the song with dancers on his TV show!

But wait, there's more! Here's Sammy singing the theme to "The Jeffersons"

And, in case you missed'em before, here's Sammy singing the themes to KOJAK, HAWAII FIVE-O, MARY HARTMAN, CHICO AND THE MAN and MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW

They Say That Cat is a Baaaaad Mother

Shaft
I can't stop listening to "The Shaft Anthology" while I write. It's an incredible, 3 CD collection of original soundtrack cues from "Shaft," "Shaft's Big Score," and the TV movies, brought to you by the terrific folks at Screen Archives.

The "Shaft" soundtrack that has been available up to now was actually a re-recording of the original cues. But this anthology presents the original score for the first time. Here's how Screen Archives tells it:

The original 1971 Shaft
was one of the seminal films of “blaxploitation” movement, as Shaft
gets involved in the Harlem rescue effort of a gangster’s kidnapped
daughter. The score by Isaac Hayes not only set trends in film music
but pop and R&B, with its spoken/sung lyrics, disco-era wah-wah
guitar and high-hat cymbals, and lush, soulful orchestrations. The
soundtrack was widely distributed on a 2LP set (later a CD) by
Enterprise (Hayes’s personal label on Stax Records) but that was a
re-recording done in Memphis. For the first time, this CD presents the
original Hollywood-recorded film score featuring primordial versions of
the source cues as well as all of the dramatic underscoring (little of
which was adapted for the LP). It is a fascinating glimpse into Hayes’s
creativity and an important archiving of this legendary work.

Being the geek that I am, I have been obsessively comparing cues between the original and the re-recording…and I definitely prefer the original cues. The anthology also includes the music from "Shaft's Big Score" and the never-bef0re-released cues from the half-dozen "Shaft" TV movies by Johnny Pate ("Shaft in Africa), who used the iconic Shaft theme in a variety of clever and entertaining ways. The collection also comes with surprisingly detailed and informative liner notes.

It's great stuff, a must for any soundtrack collector. But if you want to buy it, you'd better hurry. This is a limited edition of 3000 copies.

The Worst Bond Theme Ever

Here's "Another Way to Die," the main title theme from QUANTUM OF SOLACE, performed by Alicia Keys and Jack White. I hate it. The Los Angeles Times likes it more than Chris Cornell's "You Know My Name" from CASINO ROYALE, but that's not saying much.

Any hooks by the song are provided by riffing on the instantly
recognizable Bond theme, not by anything new offered in the song. And
Keys, usually a relatively bold, in-your-face R&B singer, seems
oddly tamed here, her voice not meshing well with White's yelled
warble. In her defense, it's hard to not sound silly when you sing,
"Suit 'em up, bang bang!" And there's some odd, out-of-place sudden
electronic textures here and there, resulting in an overly-crowded song.

This song is so hideous it almost makes Ah-Ha's "The Living Daylights" and Lulu's "Man with the Golden Gun" seem like classics by comparison.  "Another Way to Die" is much more suited to a Coke Zero advertisement than James Bond main title, as you can see for yourself:

The Name is Geek, Big Geek

The theme song for CASINO ROYALE is so bad, that it made me long for the good old days of Shirley Bassey.  Here’s my ranking of the Bond songs…

1. Goldfinger (Shirley Bassey)
2. Live and Let Die (Paul McCartney)
3. Tomorrow Never Dies (KD Lang) The original intended opening theme song. It played over the end credits and is referenced throughout the score
4. Diamonds Are Forever (Shirley Bassey)
5. Thunderball (Tom Jones)
6. Goldeneye (Tina Turner)
7. Nobody Does It Better (The Spy Who Loved Me) (Carly Simon)
8. A View to a Kill (Duran Duran)
9. For Your Eyes Only (Sheena Easton)
10. You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra)
11. We Have All The Time in the World (Louis Armstrong) (This technically wasn’t a theme song…but it plays a big role in On Her Majesty’s Secret Service)
11. Tomorrow Never Dies (Sheryl Crow)

(from this point on, they are all pretty bad, so it’s hard to rank them)

12. Die Another Day (Madonna)
13. From Russia, With Love (Matt Munro)
14. You Know My Name (Casino Royale) (Chris Cornell)
15. Man With The Golden Gun (Lulu) (As bad as this song is, it’s one of my guilty pleasures anyway…it’s so incredibly cheesy that it’s irresistable…"love is required, whenever he’s hired, it comes just before the kiillllll…")
16. Never Say Never Again (Lani Hall)
17. License To Kill (Gladys Knight)
18. The Living Daylights (Ah-ha)
19. The World Is Not Enough  (Garbage)
20. All Time High (Octopussy) (Rita Coolidge)
21. Moonraker (Shirley Bassey)

UPDATE: A bigger geek than me has edited the original TOMORROW NEVER DIES theme (KD Lang’s SURRENDER) into the movie’s main title sequence so we can see how it might have been if the producers stuck with it instead of going with Sheryl Crow. Thanks to William Simon for the link.

Someone else with way too much time on their hands put Alice Cooper’s rejected attempt a MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN theme (released on his "Muscle of Love" album) onto the main titles of  THE MAN WITH THE GOLDEN GUN.

Bum Bum Bum-dee Bum Bum…

I didn’t like MISSION IMPOSSIBLE 3…but I absolutely love the soundtrack. I can’t stop listening to it. The score is exhilirating in a way the movie wasn’t. Composer Michael Giacchino did a fantastic reinterpreting Lalo Schifrin’s classic cues and added some great ones of his own. I’m also a huge fan of Giacchino’s THE INCREDIBLES soundtrack, a rousing and fun-loving homage to the John Barry 007 scores of the 60s and 70s (particularly ON HER MAJESTY’S SECRET SERVICE).  I’m hoping the Bond folks pick Giacchino to score CASINO ROYALE…