Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Infectious 90s TV Theme Songs

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I'm not saying our generation watched too much TV, but it's pretty telling that I've yet to witness someone break into, "Innnnn West Philadelphia, born and raised..." without an entire room of 20-somethings clambering to joining in. If I even overhear someone humming what sounds to be the opening bars of Rockapella's iconic Where in the World of Carmen San Diego theme, I'm wont to fill in the mid-range harmony bits from distances of up to 100 feet. True story. It may or may not have happened at the gym.*

It's almost a physiological reaction; we just can't help ourselves. Somewhere along the way, we've collected an arsenal of television theme song lyrics that are laying dormant in the darkest nether regions of our brains. We have an excellent command of the instrumental themes as well, but they fail to command the same involuntary knee-jerk reaction. Singing along to your old favorite TV intros has a way of transporting you right back onto your childhood couch, covered in Pringle crumbs, sipping on a Kool-Aid Burst. It's the magic of memory. Or maybe just a testament to the innumerable hours we all logged in front of the tube during our formative years.

Whether or not you liked the shows was almost irrelevant. Some of them were worth watching on the merit of introductory song alone. For the most part, though, they lived up to the immense promise of their catchy theme tunes. For whatever reason, they were irrepressibly memorable:



Where in the World is Carmen San Diego?




Love it or hate it, you've got to admit Rockapella did their homework. PBS commissioned the Carmen San Diego children's game show in direct response to the abysmal perfomance of American students on geography standards. Rockapella managed to squeeze almost every location on earth into their three-minute theme song, not to mention the wealth of groan-inducing puns they sprinkled throughout.

Some of these puns I'm willing to accept as legitimate jokes. You know, "We never Arkansas her steal" and that kind of thing. But at a certain point, they're really pushing it; I don't care how alluring their multi-part harmonious arrangement is, it's never okay to say, "She stole the beans from Lima." I get it, I get it, but it's not even the correct pronounciation. Rockapella did make up for their grevious pun infractions, though, by breaking it down in a major way at the end of the song. Well done, Rockapella.



The Fresh Prince of Bel Air




Expository theme songs are great the first time you tune in to a show. If you have no clue of the premise or back story, it'll fill you in pretty much right up until the events of the current episode with aits incredibly informative and detailed lyrics. In some cases, it all gets pretty tiresome after the first few viewings. In a time before DVR, there was no fast-forwarding through the credits.

Luckily, this was not the case with The Fresh Prince's theme song. We just couldn't get enough. Sometimes I'd watch the show just to see the opening credits. This one was a keeper, destined to go down forever in 90s TV theme history. So many of us worked tirelessly on memorizing this one. The furthest I ever got was to, "You're moving with your auntie and uncle in Bel Air", so I'm achingly jealous of all of you who know all of the verses by heart.



Saved By the Bell




The sheer exposure to this one was more than enough to commit it to memory. Saved By The Bell played in seemingly continuous loop in syndication throughout our youth. For awhile it seemed that we couldn't turn on the TV without flipping by an episode of SbtB. The theme song lyrics rivaled the show's subject matter in cheesiness, but both had a certain alluring quality.

This song takes a lot of liberties in fitting in syllables, working in well-pruned lines like "And the 'larm gives out a warning". Yes, you heard right. The 'larm. Alarm just wouldn't fit. It didn't really matter to us, though. So long as they kept parading attractive teen stars across our screen, we'd listen to whatever they wanted.



Salute Your Shorts



Salute Your Shorts' theme played out like a camp anthem parceled out amongst the main characters. As in any good teen sitcom, we all just assume that there are indeed other campers somewhere on the premises, though none quite as interesting and plotline-worthy as our major players. Sure, there might have been some other kids stationed at Camp Anawanna over the summer, but none quite as enthralling as Budnik or Donkey Lips.

Toilet humor is like comedic gold to children, so it's no wonder we delighted in the line, "Camp Anawanna, we hold you in our hearts/and when we think about you/it makes me wanna fart!" We all knew Ug was just a huge spoilsport for reprimanding the gang. I guess we've got to cut him a break, though. He was the almost only adult we ever saw, save for the mysterious disembodied voice of camp director Dr. Kahn. You'd probably be pretty tightly wound, too, if you were the only grown-up in a sea of teenagers for an entire summer.


Full House



Even a few bars of the jazzy "ba-ba-ba-de-ba-bop-bop" at the end is enough to jar us all back into full Full House mode, yearning once again to be raised by a zany, madcap team of ill-equipped and uncompatible male role models. The opening sequence became incredibly well known throughout the show's multi-season run. You'd be hard pressed to find someone who can't complete the line, "What ever happened to predictability? The milkman, the paper boy..." See, you're just itching to fill in the blank, aren't you?



Hey Dude



Who would have thought that a western song about working summers on a dude ranch could be so compelling? Hey Dude represented the classic era of Nickelodeon, and its signature theme song did not disappoint. Well, at least not in melody; lyrically it could have used some rethinking. It doesn't really make sense, per se (It's a little wild and a little strange? Really?) but it all adds up to a part of the show's charm. Yippee ki yi ay, lil dogie.


We may not have known it at the time, but even after all these years these themes are as recognizable and catchy as they ever were. The downside, of course, is that they'll be tumbling around in your head on spin cycle for the rest of the day, but it's a fair trade off to get to relive all of those gloriously cheesy 90s TV anthems. Or at least that's how you can justify it when the guy at the next cubicle tells you for the twelfth time to please keep it down.

*Okay, okay, it did happen at the gym. Someone's iPod was blaring it from the bank of treadmills. I couldn't resist.

20 comments:

P said...

I do love the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme tune but my personal favourite was Blossom!

Sadako said...

Speaking of Fresh Prince I heard some Christian minister got "Fresh Prince Rolled." People sent in testimonials of how they were doing bad and then Jesus helped them and then the minister was reading about this guy who grew up in West Philadelphia and then a couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in his living area, then he got sent to Bel Air...and the minister was corrected on air and told it was a prank by his producer.

http://www.urlesque.com/2010/01/28/fresh-prince-prankster-calls-christian-tv/

Fresh Prince rocks!

Tara said...

I had totally forgotten about Salute Your Shorts and Hey Dude! I love this blog and how it reminds me of things I've forgotten and really brings me back to the 90's.

Meghan said...

Oh, I love me some "Hey Dude"! I had totally forgotten about it until this post!!!

Cee said...

One of my friends constantly sings the Fresh Prince song (rap?) when she gets drunk. it's pretty funny!

Charlotte said...

Great post!

As soon as I saw the subject title, I thought of the Fresh Prince theme. Love that one! Full House was the next to come to mind - it, along with some other TGIF favorites (like Family Matters and Step By Step), are just such classic 90s theme songs to me.

Though I didn't immediately think of it myself, I have to agree with P that the Blossom theme song was awesome. Not to mention the credits sequence. Who wouldn't want to tap dance on a piano or bust a move with Joey Lawrence?

Kristie said...

I loved Full House and I actually have the complete series on DVD. I just finished reading "Unsweetined" by Jodie Sweetin. Great book.

Court said...

LOL!!!! If Saved By The Bell wasn't on here I was going to fire you. Good job! Carry on! LOL!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Ahhhhh! Salute Your Shorts! I love when Ug says "get it right or pay the price!"

rsparks said...

How about "Spaaaaaaaaaaaaaace Cases?" Also a classic, I say.

Anonymous said...

I taught my little sister the entire Fresh Prince rap when she was about four! :) Great post but it would've been made perfect with the addition of the BSC theme song!

Sebastien said...

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme song was possibly the greatest TV theme song of all time.

I always wonder what happened to the third verse that got cut out after the first few episodes about him being on the airplane to LAX.

It starts something like "first class drinking orange juice out of a champagne glass."

coulrophobic agnostic said...

Sadako, that is awesome.

And I love that someone at the gym was working out to the Carmen Sandiego song.

Jenn said...

Dropping by from 20sb 'WeLoveComments' Group. I TOTALLLLLY miss all those shows, and shall now have Where in the World Is Carmen San Diego in myhead for the rest of the day!!!

Katie said...

I still can't watch an episode of the Fresh Prince w/o breaking into song.

Karen said...

Thanks for all the great memories! But what about Clarissa Explains it All?

Lil' Woman said...

Fresh Prince of Bel Air is a classic....as are the rest but I recite that one by heart.

Monika said...

The proverb goes a well began is half done. Yes i heard form my parents that in 1970's few show are very popular not for the content but also for the title song. People used to sing title song as a modern song. So , actually they were campaigning for the show . I love watching TV in my Dish TV and i am also love title songs.

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