Over the Bay Bridge with Taxi on the mind

I want to be... big. 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:

– Thumbu Sammy


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Brother of L. Augustus Del Pietro

7 thoughts on “Over the Bay Bridge with Taxi on the mind”

  1. Oh I remember the theme to ‘Good Times’ and you couldn’t be more right.
    I always thought the show was too depressing, but the upbeat tune of the theme song promised so much more fun. Until you listened to the lyrics.

    Temporary lay offs. – Good Times.
    Easy credit rip offs. – Good Times.
    Scratchin’ and surviving. – Good Times.
    Hangin in a chow line – Good Times.
    Ain’t we lucky we got ‘em – Good Times.

    Actually, this could be the theme song to my life right now.

  2. Also, the theme song to ‘Family Ties’ still brings a tear to my eye. Sha-na-na-na.

    Whose lanes were you splitting, btw? Hope you left your number.

  3. I love that song, and that show. Sad thing is Eric Monte, the creator of Good Times (and Cooley High, and The Jeffersons, and Sanford and Son, and apparently, the Cosby Show) is broke and in an LA homeless shelter, these days. Good times.

    There was a brilliant interview with him in Wax Poetics, years ago. http://tiny.cc/6W1OJ

  4. I think ‘Golden Girls’ and ‘Family Ties’ are hard for us to assess honestly, ’cause nostalgia plays such a big factor. I always thought that closing lines for GG were “You would be the biggest gift you gave to me, and the card attached would say…,” etc. Genius, right? When I found out what it really was, I was deeply disappointed.

  5. Haha Golden Girls… that’s a corny one. That and Family Matters, especially when they would pose as their name popped up.

    Bay area emcees givin’ props to public transportation thanks to Taxi!

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