Remember when TV theme songs ruled the pop charts?

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Some TV theme songs actually topped the Billboard chart.

Once upon a time, TV theme songs were top of the pop charts. Some, including ‘Welcome Back,’ even made it to No. 1. Take that, ' Lost’s’ zoom-by sound effect.

You wouldn’t know it by listening to music on the radio, but the themes for ' Desperate Housewives,’ ‘The Tudors,’ ‘Six Feet Under’ and ‘The West Wing’ have all won Emmys for original main title song in the last decade.

As original theme songs continue to disappear, get replaced by existing songs ( ‘CSI’ uses the Who’s ‘Who Are You’) or shrink — note the zoom-by sound effect in ‘Lost’ — it’s worth recalling that there once was a time when TV themes not only populated but also actually topped Billboard’s Hot 100 sales chart.


The first songs to do that were Rhythm Heritage’s ‘S.W.A.T.,’ from the ABC crime drama of the same name, and John Sebastian’s ‘Welcome Back,’ from the sitcom ‘Welcome Back, Kotter,’ both in 1976.

Joey Scarbury’s sunny hit ‘Believe It or Not’ from ‘The Greatest American Hero’ reached No. 2 in 1981, but it was Jan Hammer’s wordless theme from ‘Miami Vice’ that next claimed the No. 1 spot in 1985. It’s a feat no instrumental has achieved since.

After that, ‘How Do You Talk to an Angel,’ the ballad that opened Fox’s short-lived drama ‘The Heights,’ became a sales success, hitting the top in 1992 (one week after the series was canceled).

Despite its ubiquity, the ‘Friends’ theme — the Rembrandts’ ‘I’ll Be There for You’ — climbed only to No. 17 on the Hot 100, but it did top radio airplay rankings in 1994.

Other TV themes that have cracked Billboard’s Top 10 over the years include ‘Dragnet’ (No. 3, 1953), ‘Peter Gunn’ (No. 8, 1959), ‘Three Stars Will Shine Tonight’ from ‘Dr. Kildare’ (No. 10, 1962), ‘Secret Agent Man’ from ‘Secret Agent’ (No. 3, 1966), ' Hawaii Five-O’ (No. 4, 1969), ‘The Rockford Files’ (No. 10, 1975), ‘Makin’ It’ (No. 5, 1979), ‘Hill Street Blues’ (No. 10, 1981) and ‘Bad Boys’ from ‘Cops’ (No. 8, 1993).

--Denise Martin


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