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TV Theme Songs: Barney Miller

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale" of a time when television shows began with awesome TV Theme Songs. "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name" and sometimes you want to go back to when TV Theme songs were special. "Here's a story... of a lovely" time when TV Theme Songs served to identify, distinguish and set the stage for the television program that followed. "You take the good, take the bad, take them both and there you have" what unfortunately has become a lost artform. "Believe it or not", sadly it seems no effort or pride is taken in the TV Theme Song ever since Seinfeld proved a short synth-bass riff could be used instead. “Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!” This regular feature may not "make all our dreams come true", but it will remember some of the best TV Theme Songs from years past (with a focus on the '80s decade). "Come aboard, we're expecting you."


This time we will cover the theme song for Barney Miller. Barney Miller debuted in January 1975 and ran eight seasons and 170 episodes crossing over into the '80s and ending in 1982 (also living on with re-runs in syndication). The show starred Hal Linden in the title role along with an outstanding ensemble cast and is set in a New York City police station. The show has an instrumental theme song that I still consider one of my favorites of all time.


The Barney Miller instrumental jazz fusion theme music was written by Jack Elliott and Allyn Ferguson. Ferguson was a prolific television and film composer who would also co-write the theme song for Charlie's Angels with Elliott the following year. Jack Elliott was first brought out to Hollywood by Judy Garland to become an arranger for her television show in the '60s. In addition to co-writing Charlie's Angels with Ferguson, he later wrote another of my all-time favorite instrumental TV Theme Songs for Night Court.


Allyn Ferguson played piano on the track himself and his son, Dan Ferguson, played guitar along with Paul Humphrey on drums and Chuck Findley on trumpet. But it is the opening bass line that really grabs your attention and sticks with you. That distinctive bass line was performed by studio musician Chuck Berghofer. The bass line was actually improvised by Berghofer at the request of a show producer. It is reported that Berghofer had been listening to James Taylor's Walking Man album on the way to the studio that day and it provided him some inspiration. If you go back and listen to the James Taylor song "Rock And Roll Is Music Now," you may recognize the very bass line towards the end of the song that likely provided that inspiration. I am a big James Taylor fan, so it is cool that he has an indirect connection to this awesome TV theme song.


Here are the opening credits for season 3 of Barney Miller featuring the theme song...



I was too young to watch the show when it first aired, but I definitely remember watching the re-runs as they aired during the '80s so that is why I included it here.As mentioned here before, I generally prefer television theme songs with lyrics/vocals, but there are definitely a handful of them that are just instrumentals which I also consider truly special. I personally used the Barney Miller theme song as my phone ringtone for many years and still continue to use it within my rotation. So it is not surprising that I consider the Barney Miller theme song as another one of those special ones and I probably always will.


Hope you enjoyed tuning in for another "episode" of TV Theme Songs!

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