Friday, October 26, 2007

Post Tribute Post

Let's leave the droopy indie kids for a moment...

For those of us who grew up in the 1980's, (I know that era reached saturation 5 years ago, but stick with me on this) television memories include shows like The A-Team,
St. Elsewehere and The Greatest Amerian Hero.

What many of them had in common was television theme composer Mike Post. The melancholy, yet hopeful piano ballad that opens Hill Street Blues was written by Mr. Post. As was the signature guitar riffing over heavy orchestral strokes of Magnum P.I. Post often worked with tv producer Stephen J. Cannell, who created the aforementioned The A-Team, The Greatest Amercian Hero and other 80's pre-pubescent shows like Hardcastle and McCormick, Riptide and Sonny Spoon. Mr. Post’s themes always matched Cannell’s style of combining humor and quirky characters with straight action. In short, Mike Post’s music was the soundtrack to my funny shoot ‘em up boyhood fantasies.

Mr. Post began his work in the 1970s and first gained attention for co-writing the theme to The Rockford Files, for which he eventually won a grammy. That show starred James Garner as aging and irreverent ex-con turned private detective Jim Rockford. The show’s theme is a strange juxtaposition of style – blues harmonica and country twang guitar played against a nasally 70s synthesizer. But somehow it works. Mr. Post makes it easy to picture Garner dragging his bad back up a set of stairs in a back alley as Suzanne Somers giggles in bemusement while wearing a pair of yellow hot pants. Like all of his themes, it struck me how creative yet economical he was in putting together this piece of music. It establishes the whole attitude and style of the show in .58 seconds.

Given how often (but not always) great the music is by Mr. Post and other tv composers (especially from 1970's shows like Maude, Fish, The White Shadow and of course, Barney Miller,) it’s disappointing to think about the decline of this really fun genre. It is due in part to the trend of licensing songs already written by singers or bands, so I shouldn't really complain about that. Nonetheless, there is something lost when the theme is not specifically written for a show. A good tv theme welcomes you into the world that you’ll be visiting for the next 30-60 minutes. And more so than the show itself (whose image details are too specific,) a theme can evoke memories of the particular time in your life when the show was aired. Lastly, a theme can simply work as a catchy and tightly arranged instrumental piece to be enjoyed on it’s own merits. For example, you can still hear the theme to Hill Street Blues on some lite fm stations. But don't hold that against Mr. Post, because he is a master of the form.


Sally said...

Have you heard of a musician named Kenna (sp?). I heard an interview with him and I thought you should know about him. I guess he's sort of down with Neptunes but very different music (kind of new wave influenced rock). Ethiopian-American guy. I think our age.

matt field said...

law and order!

ive always been sort of facsinated by mike post. that guy really is everywhere! nice to see a post about him.