1. "Woke Up This Morning" - Alabama 3
Criminally known as A3 in North America to avoid confusion with the Country band Alabama from the state of the same name, Alabama 3 are an English band known for fusing rock with electronic, blues and even country music into one. Their biggest North American hit is "Woke Up This Morning" which has been used for the opening credits of the HBO show The Sopranos. The song is now virtually inseparable from gangland culture and throbbing machismo, even though it was originally written through the woman's point of view who was sick of enduring an abusive relationship.
2. "Closer To Free" - BoDeans
Going from being virtually unknown to the top of the Billboard charts overnight is an experience that Wisconsin's BoDeans can live to tell about. In 1996 the TV show Party Of Five used their song "Closer To Free" which is about people being able to have a relationship with whomever they choose, as it's main theme. The song landed at #16 in 1996 despite being originally released 3 years earlier on their 1993 album Go Slow Down.
3. "Maybe Tomorrow" - Terry Bush
In 1975 Canadian Televsion network CTV decided to revive the classic 60's series The Littlest Hobo, a series about an ownerless dog traveling the country side and helping people along the way. When the producers approached Terry Bush to write the theme song, they initially rejected his song "Maybe Tomorrow", but later came back to Terry and accepted the song. Bush wisely retained the writes to his song and in 2005 he released a more commercially appealing version. While us Canadians may remember a mangy German Shepard trotting down a dirt road to this tune, it's been gaining popularity in the UK recently, being used in several TV ads.
4. "Superhero" - Jane's Addiction
When the HBO series Entourage debuted in 2004 it needed a theme song that would catch the ear and also fit along with the crash-bang lifestyle the starry-eyed protagonists lived. Which better band to provide the song than notorious larger-than-life rockers Jane's Addiction. "Superhero" was the song and now it's almost tough to hear the tune without picturing Vince and the boys cruising the Sunset Strip.
5. "WKRP Cincinnati" - Steve Carlisle
Don't ask me who Steve Carlisle was because I don't know, but it seems like he was merely the vocalist chosen to sing a theme song written for the show. WKRP In Cincinnati was an iconic show from the mid 70s to early 80s that many broadcasters (such as myself) hold dear and many critics praised for it's realistic take on the world of Radio Broadcasting. Though it was out before my time, I have many fond memories watching the show in syndication and being very excited whenever I heard this magical theme song.
6. "We Used To Be Friends" - The Dandy Warhols
Some theme songs are picked because they line up perfectly with the plot or themes of the show they are promoting. Other times certain artists are approached by the showrunners to write a song specifically for the show. In this case however, Dandy Warhols front man Courtney Taylor-Taylor has no idea why his song "We Used To Be Friends" was picked for the opening theme for Veronica Mars, he figures they just dug the track.
7. "South Park Theme" - Primus
When Matt Stone and Trey Parker got the green light to bring their filthy, animated creation South Park to television their first choice for the theme song was Primus. Frontman Les Claypool watched one of their shorts and came up with the idea rather quickly. Though the original theme song was deemed to long to be acceptable, Stone and Parker simply sped up the music and asked Claypool to re-record his vocals over the accelerated track. The result is what is played before every epsiode.
8. "I'll Be There For You" - The Rembrandts
The ever iconic theme song to the 90's ratings juggernaut Friends was written by professional songwriters and given to the LA group The Rembrandts to record. Originally a simple 30 second ditty, as are most TV themes, "I'll Be There For You" was soon being played on the radio by DJs who had recorded the song and looped it to make it around 3 minutes. Soon the heat was on for The Rembrandts to release it as a proper single, but since they didn't write it they refused. A compromise came about which saw the group write a second verse and the bridge, which allowed the band to receive writing credit and the song was released as a proper single in 1995. it hit #17 in the US and #5 in the UK.
9. "With A Little Help From My Friends" - Joe Cocker
Written and recorded by the Beatles for the album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band "With A Little Help From My Friends" was not released as a single until Joe Cocker covered it in 1968. Impressed with his version Paul McCartney and John Lennon printed an ad in a music paper praising it. In 1988 the TV show The Wonder Years used it as the theme song. Joe's signature scratchy voice and slowly drawn out 3/4 waltz timing really helped cement this song in the time frame that The Wonder Years was set.
10. "Where Everybody Knows Your Name" - Gary Portnoy
In 1982 when the show Cheers was seeking out a song to use over it's opening credits, the producers were looking for something more serious and adult themed rather than the poppy-silly theme songs that saturated the airwaves of the 80's. Songwriter Gary Portnoy and Judy Hart Angelo came up with this sad tune that is reminiscent of those played by piano men at the bars that Cheers was based on. Instead of hiring an established star to record the theme the producers were impressed with Portnoy and even got him to record a longer version when audiences would request the sheet music and pressings of the song.
11. "Having An Average Weekend" - Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet
The Kids In The Hall were a sketch-com group composed of 5 young lads from Canada. When they were given a weekly show on A&E they recruited equally surreal and quirky Canadian instrumentalist band Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet. Most of their songs were short and fast-paced. "Having An Average Weekend" (The show's theme) is no exception.
Seriously a big list is coming!!