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TV Theme Songs: Hill Street Blues

"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 Hill Street Blues. Hill Street Blues debuted in January of 1981 and ran for seven seasons and 146 episodes on NBC. The police drama was created by Steven Bochco and Michael Kozoll. Bochco's later creations include L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D. and NYPD Blue. Hill Street Blues featured an excellent ensemble cast and garnered considerable critical acclaim. It was nominated for a total of 98 Emmy Awards throughout its run winning 26 of those including four consecutive wins for Outstanding Drama Series from 1981 to 1984. Another impressive feat was accomplished in 1982, when for the only time in Emmy Award history all five nominees in an acting category (in this case, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series) were from a single series. The show's instrumental theme song was composed by the prolific Mike Post. Mike Post is credited with many great television theme songs including co-writing one of my very favorites, The Greatest American Hero, with Stephen Geyer. He also created The Rockford Files, The White Shadow, Magnum, P.I., The A-Team, Hunter, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, M.D. and Quantum Leap among many others. For Hill Street Blues, even though it was a piano-driven tune, Post brought in accomplished guitarist Larry Carlton to perform on the track. Before he transitioned completely to a solo career, Carlton became one of the most in-demand studio musicians with more than 3000 studio sessions under his belt by the early '80s he had performed on over 100 gold records. It is reported that Mike Post explained that when he screened the show with Bochco and discussed the music, they decided to forgo the typical hard-driving, street sound that was typical of these kind of shows in favor of something more poignant, but not too sentimental. This would play up the more human aspects of the show, letting the viewer know that there will be plenty of emotion to go along with the chase scenes and other police activity. This certainly turned out to be the right direction and he created a winner. Not only did it set the proper tone for the show, but it registered with the listening audience making it a legitimate hit song. "Hill Street Blues" was released as a single in August of 1981 and spent over five months on the U.S. pop charts peaking at #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also reached #4 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The chart success is quite impressive in its own right, but "Hill Street Blues" also actually won two Grammy awards in 1981 for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Instrumental Composition. Not too shabby especially for an instrumental TV theme song. My favorite part is the very starting slow piano opening over the sirens. Here are the opening credits for Hill Street Blues featuring the theme song performed by Mike Post featuring Larry Carlton..

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. Hill Street Blues is certainly one of those and makes many lists of the best theme songs of the '80s and all time. "Let's be careful out there.

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


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