A couple nights ago, me, Macedo, and his friend Jane, were splitting lanes up the Bay Bridge from San Francisco to Oakland, when, for no apparent reason, he started to sing the Magnum P.I. theme. It took a minute to figure out what he was singing (it’s never easy to decipher vocal versions of an instrumental, and Macedo made it extra difficult by opening his cover on the middle-eight). Not long after, Macedo took on a few requests and we started to toss out suggestions for a definitive list of the greatest TV theme songs.
My early vote went to Good times, and I’m still not convinced that there was ever a better example of how moving irony can be as those lyrics. No one else could remember it though, so it was abandoned. There were some mutterings about the theme from Night Court, and an extended cover of the A-team theme; but what we did finally agree on was that the theme for Taxi was probably the best of the late 70s, if not ever. Macedo whistled the intro, before singing a rendition of the Fender Rhodes part that made my soul whimper.
The skinny about that theme song: Its real title is “Angela,” composed and performed by the jazz-fusion keyboardist Bob James off his 1978 album Touchdown (his band included heavyweights Ron Carter on bass, and genius of the hi-hat, Idris Muhammad, on drums). Heads will recognize him from James’ legendary track “Nautilus” off the album One (1974), which everyone, from Eric B. and Rakim to Run DMC to Jeru the Damaja have sampled from.
For what it’s worth, I can’t think of a theme song from the last decade, and certainly not for a sitcom, that was either as sensitive or complex (three movements in 45 seconds) as Taxi‘s. The 70s were a golden-era (Mash, The Jeffersons, Welcome back, Kotter, All in the family), and even the 80s held it down (Cheers, Family ties, The Cosby show), but the 90s ushered in a generation of theme songs that were maybe punchy and recognizable, but ultimately just soulless jingles. All I can honestly remember, a decade removed, is that fart of a slap bass solo on Seinfeld, and that awful Rembrandts’ Friends theme. Was there anything these past nine years that could possibly compare to this: