TV Theme Songs: Pee-wee's Playhouse
"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 Pee-wee's Playhouse. "Come on in and pull yourself up a chair (like Chairry)". Pee-wee's Playhouse debuted in September of 1986 and ran five seasons and 45 episodes (plus a Christmas special). It aired on Saturday mornings on CBS as one of the few live-action shows among mostly other cartoons. It was created by Paul Reubens featuring his iconic Pee-wee Herman character alongside all of his friends and neighbors. Pee-Wee's Playhouse was designed as an educational yet entertaining and artistic show for children, but the show quickly acquired a dual audience of kids and adults. I remember trying to catch it every week and still found them entertaining even when I went back and watched them 20 years later with my daughter.
One of the musicians who provided music for the show was Mark Mothersbaugh from Devo who most remember for their biggest hit "Whip It". Since Devo, Mothersbaugh has developed a successful career writing musical scores for film and television and that really started after he worked on Pee-wee's Playhouse. In film, he went on to work frequently with filmmaker Wes Anderson, scoring four of his feature films (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou). He also composed for The Lego Movie and Thor: Ragnarok. He worked on other children's television shows like Rugrats, Beakman's World and Clifford the Big Red Dog. He wrote the new theme song for the original Felix the Cat show and the theme song for the Super Mario World TV series. Mothersbaugh was tasked with writing the opening theme song for Pee-wee's Playhouse and really hit a home run in my opinion. The theme song introduces us to most of the other characters and really sets the tone for the fun, colorful show.
The opening prelude theme is an interpretation of Les Baxter's "Quiet Village". The Pee-wee's Playhouse theme song was actually performed by Cyndi Lauper imitating Betty Boop (some people don't realize that because she was credited as "Ellen Shaw"). For some reason, Lauper didn't want people to know she sang the theme thinking it might hurt her album sales, so she requested to be credited by that alias. For the final season in 1990, a new version of the prelude theme was recorded, and the opening theme was slightly edited. Here are the original lyrics as written by Mothersbaugh (probably with some assistance by Reubens):
Come on in and pull yourself up a chair (like Chairry) Let the fun begin, it’s time to let down your hair Pee-wee’s so excited 'cause all his friends have been invited (that’s you) To go wacky at Pee-wee’s Playhouse There’s a crazy rhythm comin from Puppetland (what’s that) Dirty Dog, Cool Cat and Chicky Baby are the Puppet Band (yeah) He’s got a couple of talkin' fish and a Genie who’ll grant a wish Golly it’s cuckoo at Pee-wee’s Playhouse
Globey’s spinnin', Mr Window’s grinnin' 'cause Pterri’s flyin' by hello The Flowers are singin', the Picture Phone is ringin' and the Dinosaur family goes Hi Mr Kite’s soarin', Conky’s still a snorin' there’s the flashing Magic Screen The Cowntess is so classy Randy’s kinda sassy A nuttier establishment you’ve never seen Spend the day with Pee-wee and you’ll see what we mean (Come on) Get outta bed there’ll be no more nappin' (Wake up) 'Cause you’ve landed in a place where anything can happen Now we’ve given you fair warnin' It’s gonna be that kind of mornin' For bein' wacky (ha, ha, ha) For getting nutty Golly it’s cuckoo At Pee-wee’s Playhouse!
Enjoy the opening credits for Pee-wee's Playhouse featuring the theme song performed by Ellen Shaw (Cyndi Lauper)...
If you're like me, you may find yourself humming the song the rest of the day after hearing it. Even though it was for a Saturday morning "kid's show", I do think that Pee-wee's Playhouse had one of the best theme songs of the late '80s for sure. "Golly it’s cuckoo... at Pee-wee’s Playhouse!"
Hope you enjoyed tuning in for another "episode" of TV Theme Songs!