A Deal with the TV God Edition

Listen to this episode

Speaker 1: Welcome to Hit Parade, a podcast of pop chart history from Slate magazine about the hits from coast to coast. I’m Chris Molanphy, chart analyst, pop critic and writer of Slate’s. Why is the song number one series? On today’s show, 37 years ago, in the summer of 1985, British art rock goddess Kate Bush issued the first single from what would become her best selling studio album, Hounds of Love. The song A Cross Between an Intimate Meditation and a thunderous anthem was called Running Up That Hill God and I Don’t Smoke. In a career that had already generated a string of hit singles and albums in her UK homeland since the late seventies, Bush had as of 85 yet to score a major pop hit in America.

Advertisement

Speaker 1: This song, whose full title was running up that hill parentheses A deal with God, would finally change that. By the fall of that year, it would crack the top 40 on Billboard’s Hot 100 like. However, even a song as powerful as this one could only do. So much to break Kate Bush in the U.S..

Speaker 1: Running up that hill topped out at number 30 on the chart by November 85. Unable to get past current hits by the likes of Dire Straits, Sting and the Cars. But as I speak in June 2022, running up that hill is back on the hot 100. Only this time it’s doing considerably better.

Speaker 1: Just before we recorded this episode, running up that hill not only Re debuted on the Hot 100 all the way up at number eight this week. It leaps to number four at age 63. Kate, Bush has her first ever American top ten hit top five.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: And rightly so.

Speaker 1: So what changed in those 37 years? Did Bush’s American audience grow, Shirley? Did the song become more resonant to younger generations? Probably. But the main thing that catalyzed this comeback was the screen that’s flickering in your living room or den. Television and TV has been making songs hits for a long time. There were pop stars made bigger by TV.

Speaker 3: Keep saying you love me and they’ll look up. Oh, oh, teenagers.

Speaker 1: Oh, man. Pop stars literally made by TV.

Speaker 2: Take the stand. Conversation and pop.

Speaker 1: Songs expressly written for television. Eventually TV went a step further, resurrecting songs that had failed the first time and making them into second chance smashes.

Advertisement

Speaker 2: Or raise my hands too.

Speaker 1: Because when a song fuses with characters, we get into our homes each week. That song starts to seem like a family friend to us. And in the 21st century, music licensing to TV has become big business. It’s the way some artists break wide open. A well-placed song on a hit show could make a career. You. Or turn an oldie into a new classic.

Speaker 1: Today on Hit Parade, we will travel through the tube for a brief history of not just cool songs, but hit songs fueled by TV exposure from the ventures. To Vonda Shepard.

Speaker 2: Tonight I got a song on.

Speaker 1: Your chart history is filled with examples of songs made bigger through TV exposure, but the song we led off this episode with was part of a particularly pivotal moment in 1985. It wasn’t a TV theme then, but funnily enough, the very week Kate Bush cracked the American Top 40 for the first time. The song and the album at number one were the backdrop to a hit TV show, one where the music defined the action. That’s where your hit parade marches today.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: The week ending November 9th, 1985, when Miami Vice theme Bye Yarn Hammer hit number one on the hot 100, while the Miami Vice soundtrack was number one on the album chart. And that same week, cracking the top 40 at number 39.

Speaker 2: It didn’t happen that. Feel. The feel.

Speaker 1: Was Kate Bush’s future hit from TV’s Stranger Things running up that hill. How did we get from John Hummers? Eighties defining TV theme to a time when TV’s showrunners became musical cool hunters. Little did Kate Bush know it in the fall of 85, but she would one day strike a bargain with the boob tube, a compact in cathode rays. Let’s just call it a deal with the TV God.

Advertisement

Speaker 2: And make a deal with God. And I got two small leases.

Speaker 4: Now, yesterday and today, our theater’s been jammed with newspapermen and hundreds of dogs, more of the nation. And these veterans agree with me that the city never has witnessed the excitement stirred by these youngsters from Liverpool who call themselves the Beatles. Now, tonight, you’re going to twice be entertained by them right now and again in the second half of our show. Ladies and gentlemen.

Speaker 3: The Beatles.

Speaker 1: I’m sure you’re familiar with this. Probably the most famous musical moment in TV history. Without question. The Beatles. February 9th, 1964, appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, watched by a then record 73 million Americans. More than a third of the country fueled Beatlemania in the U.S. and sealed the Fab Four’s popularity here for all time.

Advertisement

Speaker 1: However. Oh, yes. As we noted in our Fab Four sweep edition of Hit Parade, the Beatles arrived in New York for the Sullivan Show, already in possession of a U.S. number one song I Want to Hold Your Hand was in its third week atop the hot 100 when they performed it live on the telly. Given the data lag on Billboard’s charts, it had really been number one for about a month. Surely the Sullivan appearance helped accelerate the song’s popularity. Maybe I Want To Hold Your Hand. Wouldn’t have spent seven weeks on top without it, though. That is debatable. The Beatles went on to dominate the charts for the next three months. We’ll never know.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: Now let’s flash ahead a little over three years when The Beatles recorded this. All you need is love. Only existed because of television. It was written by John Lennon and performed by the Beatles. Live in a studio backed by a small orchestra for the first ever global live televised satellite broadcast. Our world watched by some 600 million people worldwide.

Speaker 1: By 1967, the Beatles were savvy enough about television as a catalyst for Hitmaking that they used TV to create and market a hit song. All you need is Love topped the hot 100. About eight weeks after that live satellite TV performance.

Speaker 2: All you need is. All you need is.

Advertisement

Speaker 1: The distinction between I want to hold your hand and all you need is love. How each hit used. Television is at the heart of this hit parade episode. I’m focusing on songs that are in some way intrinsic to television, or whose hit status can be largely attributed to the tube. TV’s musical impact comes in many forms. There’s the TV theme, a staple of the medium virtually since inception. And many of these songs are so culturally omnipresent, they feel like hits.

Speaker 3: It’s a story about a man named Brady like Baby Three.

Speaker 1: Here, for example, is the theme song to the late sixties, early seventies ABC sitcom The Brady Bunch. If you’re of a certain age or you’ve digested the show through its decades of syndicated reruns, you can probably sing every word.

Advertisement

Speaker 3: All became The Brady Bunch. The Brady Bunch. Brady.

Speaker 2: That’s the way. He became the.

Speaker 1: Rain. But as culturally omnipresent as it was, the Brady Bunch theme was never a hit song. You would hear on the radio. By the way, in its first season, this theme song was credited to an actual studio band, The Peppermint Trolley Company, but they never issued it as a recording. And by season two, the theme had been rerecorded by the Brady Bunch kid actors. That kiddie version is the one I just played. The Brady Bunch theme is a widely renowned song. How could it not be given its exposure to tens of millions of TV viewers week after week? But it wasn’t a standalone hit song.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: Now, here’s another popular theme song from a couple of decades later. No one. The Rembrandts theme to TV’s friends. I’ll Be There for You was fueled by the smash NBC show, but also had a life beyond it.

Speaker 1: As we discussed on prior hit parade episodes, the Rembrandts recorded a version that was long enough to stand on its own as a radio single piece that. And that version topped Billboard’s Radio Songs chart for eight weeks in the summer of 1995. It was a real world hit outside the confines of the boob tube. This is the distinction I’m looking to make. Even beyond their theme music. TV shows have turned songs into cultural touchstones or put them back into circulation like, say, this ditty.

Speaker 3: Oh, gosh. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God. Oh, God.

Speaker 1: If you’re a baby boomer who remembers the pop hits of the early seventies, you’ll know that as the 1974 hot 100 number one smash. Hooked on a Feeling by Blue Swede. If, however, you’re a Gen Xer or perhaps an older millennial who recalls late nineties television in your head, right now you’re thinking, that’s the dancing baby song from Ally McBeal.

Speaker 1: Indeed, during a 1998 episode of that Fox TV show, the Ally McBeal character hears the blue Swede’s song playing every time she imagines a computer generated baby, a hit meme from worldwide Web version 1.0. Doing a little shimmy to invoke Allie’s ticking biological clock. But neither Ally McBeal nor the late nineties web meme put blue. Swede’s hooked on a feeling back on the charts. Hooked on a Feeling on Ally McBeal was a cultural moment, certainly, but it didn’t lead to a revived hit song.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: So as I’m walking through this episode, I’m sure many of you will be thinking of your own favorite TV musical moments. Whether that’s something as kitschy as the Doobie Brothers in 1978 on the ABC sitcom What’s Happening, as Roge would say, which do the Eubie E. Chocolate chicken or something. As hip and cool as the 2005 finale of HBO’s Six Feet Under, which made brilliant use of Australian singer Sia’s Song Breathe Me as.

Speaker 3: Well as to bring up.

Speaker 1: Song synchronization like these or sinks, in the parlance of Hollywood, certainly help these musicians careers. Placing a song in a hit TV show makes a rising artist that much more culturally relevant. But when a song breaks free, of the few million people who catch it on TV and spreads to the millions more who hear hit songs on the radio, buy them in record stores, or nowadays consume them on digital services. That’s a whole different level of impact. The song may have been catalyzed by its TV placement, but it becomes a standalone hit in its own right. That, after all, is what just happened with Kate Bush’s running up that hill.

Speaker 1: Film, which again was single handedly made a top five hit by TV’s Stranger Things. This instantly ranks it as one of the biggest TV spawned hits of all time. You could argue that Bush’s seemingly improbable, now inevitable 2022 hit is the byproduct of decades of evolution in how TV makes hits to.

Speaker 1: Here. I’ll be focusing in this episode on The Times when TV directly affected a songs chart trajectory, and there are plenty of those. They date back almost to the beginning of TV as a popular medium and the early days of the Billboard chart.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 3: And Dem Mama when he was only three. David Davy Crockett King on the Wild Frontier.

Speaker 1: Music historians call 1955 the start of the so-called rock era. But months before Bill Haley’s rock around the clock went to number one, Billboard’s pop charts sounded more like this. Bill Hayes’s theme from the five part Disneyland TV mini series Davy Crockett. The song was written for the TV series, and while Bill Hayes’s version was not the one heard on the tube, the televised version was by vocal group the Wellingtons. Hayes’s quickly recorded cover capitalized on the Davy Crockett craze in late 1954 and 55.

Speaker 3: He went off to Congress and served a spell. Fixing up the government laws as well.

Speaker 1: To The Ballad of Davy Crockett was released near the dawn of television itself. TV’s were in just two thirds of American homes by 55, and it is the earliest chart topping example of a show’s titular theme song made into an actual hit. But here’s another archetype also from 1955.

Speaker 3: I can go. I owe my soul to the company store.

Speaker 1: Tennessee. Ernie Ford was a five day a week TV personality on NBC’s daytime schedule, as well as a recording artist. He first performed 16 Tones, a 1947 country song by Merle Travis on his TV show and only thought to record it when his label, Capitol Records, insisted they needed another single. Thanks to its exposure on the tube. 16 tons. Sold a million copies in just three weeks, the fastest selling single of the recording industry to date. In the world of 1955, the line another day older and deeper in debt basically became.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 3: A to load 16 tons. But you get another day older and deeper in debt.

Speaker 1: Both Davy Crockett and 16 tons proved to the music biz in the early days of TV that the medium was a great way to sell pop songs. It was also a good way to launch a pop act.

Speaker 1: Ricky Nelson, you might say, represented a third TV music archetype after the theme song and the TV exposed single. Ricky’s entire music career probably wouldn’t have happened if not for his exposure on the ABC TV series The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. Ricky’s launch as a teen idol kicked off on the show, complete with swooning teenagers.

Speaker 1: Indeed, writes Fred Bronson in the Billboard Book of number one hits, quote, After Ricky’s first hit a cover of Fats Domino’s, I’m walking. No one would ever underestimate the power of television again, unquote. Nelson’s stilted cover of the Domino Classic reached number four on Billboard’s bestsellers chart, matching the Domino Original’s peak on the magazine’s radio chart. After I’m Walkin, Nelson became one of the top artists on the charts for the rest of the fifties, so TV could sell singles by the truckload. Could it sell albums?

Speaker 1: Oh, my. Yes. Consider Henry Mancini’s soundtrack to the TV detective show Peter Gunn. The album Underestimated by RCA Records, which only printed 8000 copies at first.

Speaker 1: Wondering who would want to buy an LP of instrumental TV music went on to top Billboard’s best selling LP for ten weeks in 1959. This was yet another TTV to pop charts Marvel. The hit instrumental theme distinct from The Ballad of Davy Crockett, which was more of an explanatory signature song.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: By the sixties. TV was well established and so were the models for spawning hit songs via the tube. There was the TV Idol, a lot of Ricky Nelson, for example. Teen actress Shelley Fabray turned her stardom on the Donna Reed show into a showcase for her single Johnny Angel, which hit number one in 1962.

Speaker 3: Aged.

Speaker 2: So a tangle, really.

Speaker 3: Every time he says it.

Speaker 1: Live on the other end of the age spectrum. Bonanza star Lorne GREENE took his spoken word Western Outlaw story song Ringo to number one in 1964. While that NBC-TV series he fronted was still number one in the ratings.

Speaker 3: But a spark still burns. So I use my knife. And late that night, I saved the life of Ringo.

Speaker 2: Real gold. Ring the gold.

Speaker 1: Yes. TV could even turn this 49 year old into a chart topper, though in 64, one imagines anything titled Ringo would do well on the hot 100. Ringo was bonanza adjacent content, but it wasn’t a theme song. Those were a harder sell on the charts.

Speaker 1: TV was going through its period of the plot explainer theme. Years before the Brady Bunch, themes like, say, Gilligan’s Island were trying to summarize everything you needed to know about a show in about a minute.

Speaker 3: By passenger set sail back day for a 3 to 3 hour tour.

Speaker 1: These explanatory theme songs. Gilligan’s Island. The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres were not chart hits. Neither, by the way, decades later, was the Fresh Prince of Bel Air theme. The trick with a theme song, if you wanted it to succeed on the radio, was giving it a personality not reliant on the show. So, for example, Johnny Rivers theme for CBS’s American broadcast of the British Import Danger Man was titled Secret Agent Man. That song functioned as a stand alone pop hit apart from the show, and it reached number three on the hot 100 in 1966.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 3: Secret. Agent Man’s secret.

Speaker 2: Gentlemen you’ve given. Number.

Speaker 1: Name or Lalo Schifrin, classic theme for the CBS Espionage Show, Mission Impossible, which sounded cool even away from the two. Unlike Henry Mancini’s theme from Peter Gunn, which sold truckloads of albums but didn’t chart as a single Shiffrin’s banger of a theme, actually cracked the hot 100. Just missing the top 40 at number 41 in 1968.

Speaker 1: Part of the issue with chart performance was that the TV and music industries had different priorities a theme as catchy as CBS’s Hawaii five oh, performed by composer Morton Stephens. Was designed to burst out of the confines of a TV speaker over a show’s credits.

Speaker 1: But when established surf rock group, the Ventures got a hold of the Hawaii Five-O theme. They improved the Sonics, extended the melody and turned it into a legitimate pop hit. The Ventures Hawaii Five-O reached number four in 1969. It grooved like a late sixties rock smash, but benefited from the TV shows. Top 20 ratings. Indeed, TV’s megaphone was so big it could make a song a hit. Accidentally.

Speaker 1: In 1968, Tijuana Brass bandleader Herb Alpert recorded a love song for a TV special featured during a short romantic vignette of Alpert with his wife on a malibu beach. The recording This Guy’s In Love With You, written by legendary songwriters Burt Bacharach and Hal David, was meant as a one off. Alpert, a trumpet player, had never sung before.

Speaker 2: You see. This guy. This guy is in love with you.

Speaker 3: Yes.

Speaker 1: But the day after the special aired, CBS was flooded with calls from viewers clamoring for Alpert’s love song to his wife. This guy’s in love with you. Went on to top the hot 100 in June 1968. Ironically, the vocal track was instrumentalist Alpert’s first ever number one hit. It wouldn’t be his last. Hold on to Herb Alpert to name because TV would give him another hit a decade later.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: So Alpert’s hit reinforced a key element of TV musical success. Context mattered. This Guy’s In Love With You wasn’t just a hit because the great Bacharach and David wrote it. It was a hit because viewers associated it with something they loved on their TV screens. No act would benefit more from TV in the sixties and doe eyed viewers sense of televised contextual romance than the pop group that was literally invented to front a TV show.

Speaker 3: We can. Well down the street yet only is.

Speaker 1: Anyone waving the monkeys. We’re TV’s ultimate pre-fab musical creations manufactured by TV executives to capitalize on the Beatles success. The Four Monkeys, Mickey Dolan’s, Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith and Peter Tork in real life actually outsmarted the group that inspired them. Unlike The Beatles, who took over a year to break on the Billboard charts, the Monkees introduced from the jump in millions of American living rooms, scored an instant 1966 number one hit with Last Train to Clarksville.

Speaker 2: Take the. The station when I first started. And a bitter conversation.

Speaker 1: And in 1967, the year of Sergeant Pepper and the Summer of Love, the group with the most weeks at number one on the album chart was not The Beatles. It was The Monkees. The year’s top seller was the album More of The Monkees, the group’s second LP featuring real world chart conquering hits like I’m a Believer and their cover of Paul Revere and the Raiders. I’m not your stepping stones.

Speaker 2: I said I. Not just a stepping stone.

Speaker 1: Fans and critics are still debating today the legacy of the Monkees, who became a legitimate group in their own right and wrested control of their recordings away from their TV creators. Diehard Monkees fans are still protesting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for not inducting them. In any case, the template for a TV spawned band proved durable and was replicated in 1969 with a number one hit for the animated Archies.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 3: Sugar Hi, honey.

Speaker 1: And in 1978, with a chart topper for another live action TV combo, The Partridge Family, I.

Speaker 2: Think I loved it.

Speaker 3: This morning, I woke up with this feeling.

Speaker 1: The seventies was the decade of the variety show, giving performers yet another platform to promote hits. The husband and wife team of Sonny Bono and Cher HitMakers of the Sixties launched their Sonny and Cher comedy hour in the summer of 71, just as Cher was pivoting to her solo career. She’d never had a solo number one hit before the TV show. But after performing Gypsys, Tramps and Thieves Live on the show, the song soared to number one in November 1971.

Speaker 2: Did we do a lot of talent here today?

Speaker 3: Did whatever not.

Speaker 1: What really took off in the seventies was the TV theme song, which finally got really polished, popularized by the tube, but able to stand on its own as a radio hit. There were instrumentals that picked up where Hawaii Five-O left off, adding muscle to ditties that were already so catchy to begin with. You wanted them to last beyond a minute.

Speaker 1: For example, in 1974, MF, SB, the studio group associated with Philadelphia International Records and the Philly Soul Sound of producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff recorded the theme to the premier black music show Soul Train. They called it T. S P for The Sound of Philadelphia, and it topped the hot 100 in April of 74. It was the first TV theme to hit number one on the hot 100. And depending on how you regard the limited series story song from Davy Crockett may be the first such number one hit ever in the.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: Two years later, the theme from the short lived crime drama SWAT was issued as a single by the studio group Rhythm Heritage. The funk group’s wah wah tastic version of theme from SWAT hit number one in February 1976. That same year, the composer of theme from SWAT, Barry Diva’s On, scored another TV affiliated hit when his composition Cotton’s Dream.

Speaker 1: The long running theme to the CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless was adopted by Star 1976 Summer Olympics gymnast Nadia Comaneci. Renamed Nadia’s theme The instrumental cracked the top ten in the fall of 76, peaking at number eight. It is still the theme to The Young and the Restless today.

Speaker 1: As for TV themes with vocals, those were doing better on the charts as well. TV producers got the hint that themes with words could prolong the life of a show if the lyrics weren’t to plot and the song could stand apart. Big hits included the theme to Welcome Back Kotter. John Sebastian’s Welcome Back. A number one hit in 1976.

Speaker 3: Welcome back. Dreams are your ticket out. Back to that same old place that you.

Speaker 1: Left or the fifties kitsch theme to Happy Days, performed by pop duo Pratt and McLain, a 1976 number five hit.

Speaker 2: These days around. These days.

Speaker 3: By Gray Scott.

Speaker 1: And the theme to Happy Days spinoff Laverne and Shirley performed by Cindy Greco and taken to number 25 in 76. Both theme songs Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley Road, the top 40. At the same time they’ve got. Me. In the seventies and early eighties, a show didn’t even have to be a ratings hit for its theme song to connect. Actor and one hit Wonder David Naughton took the 1979 theme to ABC’s disco fied show, Making it to number five. Even as the show lasted only two months, making it, the song peaked on the charts. Months after making it, the show was off the air.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: This time with Lifetime’s.

Speaker 3: Back.

Speaker 1: Speaking of disco, Saturday Night Fever co-star Donna Pascal got her own TV show in 79. Angie and its theme by Maureen McGovern. Different worlds reached number 18 on the pop chart and number one on the adult contemporary chart. Angie lasted two seasons.

Speaker 2: Love it since love at times never got this. Rachael Brown.

Speaker 1: And in 1981, the reluctant superhero comedy The Greatest American Hero, lasted for three abbreviated and ratings challenged seasons on ABC. But its theme song by Joey Scarborough. Believe it or not, a number two hit in August of 81 lives on in the annals of beloved yacht rock era hits.

Speaker 2: I’m walking on. Never thought I could feel so.

Speaker 1: Mind you, if the show was a hit, so much the better on the countryside. The Waylon Jennings theme to The Dukes of Hazzard. A TV ratings monster at the turn of the eighties topped the country chart in 1980 and even crossed over to the hot 100 breaking away.

Speaker 3: The only way they know how and. That’s just a little bit more. La la la la la la la.

Speaker 1: I’m a good old, but the most interesting category of TV’s spawned hit one that eventually leads to Kate. Bush’s unlikely 2022 comeback is the song that is unaffiliated with TV that is then resurrected by a hit TV show. These only started to emerge at the dawn of the eighties, when Hollywood music supervisors gained the clout to search farther afield for songs that could motivate a plot and one show another daytime soap opera that was once even more popular then The Young and the Restless deserves a sidebar all its own.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: General Hospital. TV’s top rated soap from 1979 to 1988 was a song reviving jukebox. Driving the show was a long running romantic plot between the characters Luke Spencer, played by Anthony Geary and Laura Spencer, Genie Francis and the monumentally popular Luke and Laura spawned two count them two hot 100 topping hits in 79.

Speaker 1: A controversial rape plot between Luke and Laura brought life to a smooth disco instrumental by Herb Alpert. Remember him?

Speaker 1: Rise was intended to be Alpert’s comeback single after a mostly hitless seventies. But it was performing poorly on the Hot 100 before General Hospital’s music supervisor, Jill Phelps chose the song to soundtrack the Luke and Laura rape plot. Rise took off Rising to number one in October 1979. Three years later, Music Supervisor Phelps struck again when she needed a song for another Luke related plot. After Laura was written out of the show and Luke was paired with a new lover.

Speaker 2: They were called to make. Those around you weren’t supposed to be.

Speaker 1: This time, Phelps chose a failed 1981 single by Patti Austin, a duet she did with James Ingram called Baby Come to Me. General Hospital single handedly brought that song back to the Hot 100. More than a year after it peaked and it eventually reached number one in February 1983.

Speaker 2: And all those walks together out in any.

Speaker 1: Just FBI General Hospital was so popular at this time that actors from the show also became pop stars after their exposure on the soap. There’s that Ricky Nelson archetype again. However, neither Rick Springfield who played Dr. Noah Drake.

Speaker 2: You know where we sit. Jessie’s Girl. I find that.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: Naw. Jack Wagner, who played Frisco Jones. Oh.

Speaker 3: To be sure.

Speaker 1: Played their big hits in character on the soap at the peak of their careers. Nonetheless, their careers were significantly boosted by General Hospital. The General Hospital model of recontextualized hits would be supercharged in prime time by NBC’s Miami Vice, a 1984 show whose apocryphal origin story involved NBC President Brandon Tartikoff scribbling in a notepad just the phrase MTV cops.

Speaker 1: Yeah. As on MTV. Miami Vice’s music sequences were highly stylized and impressionistic, as when, for example, Don Johnson’s Sonny Crockett and Philip michael Thomas’s Rico Tubbs drove menacingly through the night time to Phil Collins, 1981, hit in the air tonight that Miami Vice exposure would bring Collins hit back to Rock Station playlists three years after it had peaked on the charts, Miami Vice also rebooted the career of former Eagle Glen Frye, whose 84 B-side Smuggler’s Blues became the plot for a whole vice episode. Turning the song into an aside and sending it back on the charts all the way to number 12. Frye even acted in the episode.

Speaker 3: It’s the nature.

Speaker 2: Of the business since the smugglers move. In the past.

Speaker 3: Soldiers are allowed to paint.

Speaker 1: Glenn Frey then recorded a brand new song, You Belong To the City, for the premiere of Vice’s second season in the fall of 85.

Speaker 2: The series Home to the City. The longer the night has. However.

Speaker 1: Not since Peter Gunn had a TV show made such an impression on the Billboard charts. The soundtrack to Miami Vice hit number one on the album chart. The same month Glen Frye reached number two on the Hot 100 and the aforementioned Miami Vice theme by John Hammer reached number one. The Miami Vice soundtrack spent a whopping 11 weeks at number one on the album chart. Still the longest any TV soundtrack has spent on top of that chart. It affirmed the primacy of the music supervisor in helping to make or break a TV series.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: As impressive as all of this was, Miami Vice proved hard to replicate. Certain mid-eighties TV shows did try to replicate the Miami Vice model. The ABC screwball comedy Moonlighting, for example, starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis, capitalized with a full soundtrack and a radio push for its theme song by jazzy R&B singer Al Jarreau. Moonlighting The song reached number 23 in 1987.

Speaker 1: And basically for prolific TV theme composer Mike Post, he scored some actual hits in the prior decade with his themes for The Rockford Files and Hill Street Blues, both of which cracked the top ten.

Speaker 1: Post tried putting together a 1988 album containing several of his TV themes, and he centered it around his theme for the late eighties, NBC hit L.A. Law. The album failed to chart. These glossy TV soundtracks were hit and miss, but one single flukey song used on NBC’s smash sitcom Family Ties was very much a hit.

Speaker 3: What did you think? I would do at this moment.

Speaker 1: At this moment was a soulful saloon ballad penned by veteran L.A. singer Billy Vera in the seventies and first issued as a single in 1981, when it actually charted briefly peaking at number 79 on the hot 100. Five years later, an NBC producer happened to catch Vera and his band The Beatles in an L.A. nightclub at a moment when the producer was looking for a love theme for the character Alex Keaton on Family Ties, played by Michael J. Fox. The producer offered to license Vera’s song at this moment, and Vera eagerly said yes, but had to figure out how to get his out-of-print recording rereleased.

Speaker 3: To her to. You just don’t love me.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: It took Vera months to convince a label, in this case Rhino Records, to reissue at this moment. It had already appeared on Family Ties twice before. Rhino agreed to put it out.

Speaker 3: Alan. Alex, please let me go. Alan, I’m sorry. I slipped.

Speaker 1: Ellen, NBC and Vera himself had been flooded with requests for the song, but it was only after at this moment appeared on Family Ties a third time in the fall of 1986 that Vera’s rereleased single finally re-entered the hot 100 and began climbing after a dozen weeks in January 1987. At this moment by Billie Vera and the Beatles reached number one.

Speaker 3: NBC says they have never received so many letters and phone calls about one song. They let the recording artist know about it, and he heard opportunity knocking. So he seized the moment and the rest is history. This week, the new number one song in the USA is At This Moment by Billy Vera and The Beatles.

Speaker 1: But decades later, in an article for Billboard about songs resurrected by TV like Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill, radio consultant Sean Ross said, quote, I think at this moment had a lot to do with starting the trend because it established a route to radio for songs that weren’t of a piece with what else was on the radio, unquote. TV itself was not the immediate beneficiary of this trend. Sean Ross noted that the would have been should have been fad of the late eighties, which we talked about in our hit parade pilot episode about the chart return of you be forties. Red Red wine was the most obvious successor to at this moment.

Speaker 1: Also, at first, movies more than TV took advantage of the trend, bringing back such hits as The Beatles Twist and Shout from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Benny King’s Stand by Me from the 1986 movie of the same name. And, of course, Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody, which was resurrected in 1992 by a TV sketch comedy routine turned hit movie Wayne’s World.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Stand up on that night, Dave Barry. Barry Finding Fame. Galileo Galilei.

Speaker 1: But in the decade after, at this moment, TV was no slouch in the bring back movement. The Wonder Years, a late eighties show about sixties nostalgia, used Joe Cocker’s cover of The Beatles with a little help from my friends and got that song back on Adult Contemporary Playlists. The song had only been a number 68 hit back in 1968. Fans have.

Speaker 1: In addition to giving the Rembrandts a huge theme song, hit Friends also gave Hootie and the Blowfish an unlikely hit with a former B-side called I Go Blind. At the peak of Friends mania, I Go Blind reached number 13 on the radio songs chart and number two at adult top 40 stations.

Speaker 2: However, it’s. Lack of time. I like to find areas.

Speaker 1: You and the mid-nineties Fox TV hit Party of Five chose an obscure song by roots rock band The Bo Deans. Closer to free as its theme song and turned it belatedly into a top 40 hit closer to free reached number 16 on the hot 100 in 1996. Three years after it was first released.

Speaker 2: It was to be.

Speaker 1: Even cartoon metal heads Beavis and Butthead were resurrecting songs and artists in the nineties. The animated duo arguably sparked the entire career of hard rocker Rob Zombie when they endorsed his band White Zombie and their 1992 funk metal single Thunder Kiss 65.

Speaker 3: This band is cool.

Speaker 1: As with the bodies, White Zombie found themselves with a belated hit. Thunder Kiss, 65, broke on Billboard’s rock charts in late 1993, more than a year after it was released.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 3: They had played the video all day long, ballet on the radio, and.

Speaker 1: It reached number 26 on the mainstream rock chart, giving Rob Zombie his big break. It was still possible for TV in the nineties to break artists as well as songs, for example, back in 1992. The short lived Fox TV show The Heights spawned a fake band of the same name and like The Monkees or The Partridge Family before them, The Heights scored a real world number one hit with How do you talk to an angel?

Speaker 2: How to talk to an angel?

Speaker 1: To the lead singer of that fake band. Singer actor Jamie Walters spun off that success into a brief career as a pop hitmaker akin to the Ricky Nelson model. WALTERS Hold on. Building off of his fame from the Heights, as well as on Beverly Hills, 90210 reached number 16 in 1994. But perhaps no performer was given a bigger break by TV in the nineties than singer songwriter Vonda Shepard. Back in the eighties, in a bit of a fluke, she appeared on a top ten hit duetting with balladeer Dan Hill on his single Can’t We Try?

Speaker 2: Just a little bit more. Can we.

Speaker 1: Though? Can’t we try reached number six in 1987. It didn’t do much for Shepherd’s career. She spent the early nineties recording and scoring only minor hits. It was Fox’s aforementioned legal satire Ally McBeal, that turned Vonda into a star. In 1997, the show cast her as a nightclub singer and gave her multiple televised performance slots, as well as picking her five year old single Searchin My Soul as the show’s theme song.

Speaker 2: Songs like. Governments around the. Now.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: My search in my soul made the charts in a half dozen countries, and in America it reached number 22 on the adult contemporary chart. More than half a decade after it was first recorded, even when a TV show picked a proven contemporary hit for a sink, the TV association could rebrand that hit and extend its life. Consider Paula Cole’s single. I Don’t Want To Wait.

Speaker 3: So open up your morning line and say a little prayer for you know that if we are to still love and see the best.

Speaker 1: In 1998, the teen drama Dawson’s Creek chose Cole’s single as its theme song. By the time the show premiered on the WB network on January 20th, 1998. I don’t want to wait. Had already that very week reached its peak of number 11 on the hot 100 independently of the TV show. To that point, it had had a 12 week chart run.

Speaker 1: But that wasn’t the end of the story for Cole’s hit film. Mr. Dawson’s extended the life of I Don’t Want To Wait. Cole’s single remained lodged in the top 20 for months. All told, I don’t want to wait. Rode the hot 100 more than a year, 56 weeks, thanks largely to Dawson’s Creek, whose success encouraged radio stations to keep rotating it long after it had peaked.

Speaker 2: I. Over the years. So Will.

Speaker 1: By the time the Cold Song finally dropped off the chart, Dawson’s was deep into its second season.

Speaker 1: Entering the new millennium, TV showrunners and music supervisors were looking further afield for sinks as the term is now known songs their TV shows could, in a sense, own if a song was previously undiscovered or under heralded. And the show made it bigger, so much the better.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: In 2003, a new Fox teen drama The O.C. became renowned for curating a selection of fairly hip indie rock for its soundtrack. Phantom Planet, an L.A. power pop band that developed a larger following after drummer Jason Schwartzman became a famous Hollywood actor provided the Oasis theme song, California.

Speaker 1: California had already been a minor hit on the modern rock chart in 2002, but the premiere of The O.C. happened to coincide with the launch of Apple’s iTunes music store. California quickly became a best selling 99 cent download. By 2005, when The O.C. was in its third season, California became Phantom Planet’s only gold certified single, thanks largely to digital downloads. The O.C. also helped break the career of British electropop artist Imogen Heap.

Speaker 3: Spinning me around again. And. Myers is called the.

Speaker 1: Moody Electronic a cappella single Hide and Seek soundtrack. The show’s season two finale. Like California, Hide and Seek became a gold selling digital download, and it eventually spawned a hot 100 number one hit when later in the decade, Jason Derulo prominently sampled it for his 2009 smash, What You Say?

Speaker 3: Let’s say. Well.

Speaker 1: Let’s. Which probably would not have existed had The O.C. not popularized.

Speaker 1: Imogen Heaps Original among millennial TV shows The King of Sinks, you might say, was Shonda Rhimes long running ABC medical drama Grey’s Anatomy. Two major pop hits of the aughts were essentially made by Grey’s. The ballad Chasing Cars by the Scottish Irish band Snow Patrol Before Year.

Speaker 2: If I just.

Speaker 1: And the pop rock song How to Save a Life by Denver, Colorado band The Fray. Well. Both Songs Soundtrack Major Plot Points in Grey’s Anatomy’s Second Season. By the fall of 26, both tracks were in the hot 100 top five. Simultaneously, chasing cars reached number five. How to Save a Life. Number three. Each track sold millions of downloads and still rank among the best selling rock songs in digital music history, all because of their association with the doctors of Seattle Grace Hospital.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: But probably the most celebrated and debated TV sink of the decade was this ditty. A point of clarification. Journeys Don’t Stop Believin. Originally, a number nine hit on the hot 100 in 1981 was not singlehandedly revived in the aughts by TV journey. Songwriter and keyboardist Jonathan Cain says he noticed the song’s digital sales first shot up in the fall of 2005, when baseball’s Chicago White Sox adopted Don’t Stop Believin as the theme of their celebrated 2005 World Series run.

Speaker 1: However, in 2007, Don’t Stop Believin became better known for this televised. Like. The legendary and infamous finale of HBO’s The Sopranos, which cut to black as Tony Soprano listened to the Journey song on a Holsten’s Diner jukebox with his family. The incongruous ness of the soaring rock anthem with this domestically wholesome, possibly murderous final shot captured the public’s imagination as 12 million viewers watched the finale after the exposure on The Sopranos.

Speaker 1: Digital sales of Don’t Stop Believin shot up nearly 400% in a week, 41,000 downloads sold in that week alone. Billboard’s rules at this time precluded old songs without current pop radio airplay from re-entering the Hot 100. For an explanation of these rules. Please listen to our previous hit Parade episode about Mariah Carey’s All I Want for Christmas is You.

Speaker 1: Nonetheless, the Journey anthem did reach number 21 on Billboard’s Digital Song Sales chart, a sign it could very well have re-entered the hot 100. Much the way Kate Bush’s anthem did later in 2022. And Don’t Stop Believin just kept selling. It went on to become the all time best selling catalog song in iTunes history, with more than 7 million downloads sold. Thanks, you might say, to the jukebox tastes of Tony Soprano.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: In the last decade and a half, television showrunners and music supervisors have mixed and matched elements of all of these approaches in their efforts to brand and define their shows. For example, the Fox TV hit Glee, built entirely around music and a cappella singing, proffered a mix of classic oldies like that Journey song prominently featured in the show’s pilot.

Speaker 3: Back up and down. Up, down.

Speaker 1: And more contemporary hits like The Glee CAST’s acclaimed Take on Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream.

Speaker 2: Make Me Feel Like I’m Dating a Teenage Dream.

Speaker 3: When you’re at.

Speaker 1: The height of Glee’s TV popularity and the height of the dollar download, the show sold so many digital tracks that it briefly set a record for the most chart entries in hot 100 history by a single artist with an asterisk. Of course, that this so-called single artist was actually a multifarious array of singer actors.

Speaker 3: Kylie And got your girl. Dusty Got on the talents to build a photo.

Speaker 1: In any case, the Glee CAST’s 207 hot 100 entries was later eclipsed by rapper Drake. More important, the show was evidence that TV viewers who love the song now had faster ways than ever to express that love through digital consumption and see the results directly on the charts. TV, aimed at children and tweens, also experienced a digital song explosion. Whether it was the show that launched Miley Cyrus’s career, Hannah Montana. Get. You. Or the Disney Channel movie series High School Musical, which spawned its own universe of hits, including the number four. Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens hit Breaking Free.

Speaker 3: Breaking Free.

Speaker 1: Premium cable shows continued to mine and recontextualize classic oldies such as Bad Finger’s 1972, number 14 hit Baby Blue, used memorably in the 2013 series finale of AMC’s Breaking Bad.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: Yes, I got what I deserve. Kept you away.

Speaker 1: As with Journey on The Sopranos. The reaction on digital services to the Breaking Bad finale was immediate. Billboard reported that in the handful of hours after the finale aired, Baby Blue sold 5000 copies, up from under 200 the previous week. And by 2013, with Spotify taking off in America, streaming services also tracked the baby blue renaissance. Streams on the song blew up by more than 9,000%. The Badfinger song broke onto Billboard’s digital songs chart. At number, 32.

Speaker 2: Days became so long.

Speaker 1: But even with all that digital activity, the Badfinger song did not return to the Hot 100. In fact, even today, deep into the streaming era on the charts, it’s still pretty hard for an old song. These so-called television bring back hits to make an actual comeback on the big chart.

Speaker 1: A sudden burst of digital sales and streams does help, but against the competition of current hits, which have not only digital consumption but also current radio airplay in their favor. And Billboard’s Rules, which state that an old song can only come back if it’s combined points, would put it within the top 50. The bar is very high, which is what makes the current status of Kate Bush’s running up that hill so remarkable.

Speaker 1: But just as we noted at the top of our show in its first run in 1985, running up that hill, topped out at number 30 on the hot 100. Kate Bush’s only American top 40 hit ever. And ironically, as I noted, it was peaking on the big chart at the same moment as the hits from Miami Vice.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: But oh, how the charts have evolved since that peak vice moment. Those TV sinks had to make their mark on the charts through physical record stores and a different generation of top 40 radio stations. John Hummers and Glen Frye’s hits were set up with the public and radio programmers for months before they reached their chart peak. Whereas now the public reacts to a song on a TV show instantaneously, like they did with Journey Song in The Sopranos. Given.

Speaker 1: But even that digital phenomenon is on steroids now that Spotify, Apple Music and other streaming services reach about a third of U.S. households. It’s one thing to buy a single digital copy of Don’t Stop Believin. It’s quite another to play it on a streaming service over and over again.

Speaker 1: There’s also another kind of streaming that didn’t exist when The Sopranos was first broadcast. Streaming TV. These services Netflix, Hulu, Disney plus Amazon, Apple TV plus HBO. Max collectively reach millions more people than premium cable did in its heyday, and few streaming hits are as big as Netflix’s Stranger Things.

Speaker 3: Mom and Dad were both arguing in the next room. So I played you the mixtape I made you. And it was the first time you got into music. Real music. I don’t. Yes. You got it? Yes.

Speaker 1: The Duffer Brothers teen sci fi horror series set in the early to mid 1980s makes ample use of period specific eighties songs. And The Stranger Things Music Supervisors gives special showcases to songs that weren’t necessarily big hits the first time.

Speaker 3: Should I stay or should I go? Should I stay or should I go now?

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 1: The clashes. Should I stay or should I go now? One of the most recognisable songs of the post-punk era was only a number 45 hit in 1982. The Clash song played a prominent role in Stranger Things first season. Its streams grew as a result of the show, but it didn’t return to the hot 100. Neither did eighties synth pop veteran Le Mal.

Speaker 2: Read more on the pages is the answer to that.

Speaker 1: Lamar’s synth pop classic The Never Ending Story, a number 17 hit in 1984, was prominently featured in the finale of the third season of Stranger Things.

Speaker 3: And What You See will be.

Speaker 1: He has. In July 2019, Le Mans, 35 year old Hitt blew up on download and streaming services, but again, not quite enough to make Billboard’s charts. But Kate is running up that hill in the just issued fourth season of the show. The song is practically a character.

Speaker 2: With an. You’re not.

Speaker 3: Really here.

Speaker 2: But I think part.

Speaker 1: In the world of the show. Running up that hill has the power to break the character Max out of her prison in the dark realm known as the upside down. The placement of the song is as heartfelt as at this moment. Was in Family Ties as aching as I Don’t Want To Wait was in Dawson’s Creek and as soaring as Don’t Stop Believin was in The Sopranos.

Speaker 1: But unlike those prior TV song sinks running up, that hill is benefiting from its newfound exposure instantaneously.

Speaker 1: As of the week I’m recording this billboard reports that running up that hill is the number one download in America. Remember, even after The Sopranos Journey song got no higher than number 21 in downloads. It’s also now the most streamed song in the country, streamed more than 29 million times. That’s something that neither bad fingers Baby Blue nor the Stranger. Songs by The Clash and Lemole pulled off running is even generating airplay at current top 40 stations. Last week, its radio audience totaled 2.4 million, nearly as big as current hits by Post Malone and Justin Bieber. Sales Streams. Radio. These are the components of the Hot 100 and Kate Bush’s song is blowing up in all of them.

Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement

Speaker 2: There is no doubt in our hearts here.

Speaker 1: So, yes, Kate Bush’s 1985 hit is a 2022 mega hit, thanks largely to TV and the way the charts have evolved in the last half century. We’re long past the days of Davy Crockett, Hawaii Five-O and even Miami Vice. But at the end of the day, running up that hill is just a brilliant song, one that’s been waiting for discovery by a new generation. In an age when Gen Z listeners compile playlists where all songs have an equal shot at immortality regardless of their era. Kate Bush’s song just sounds like it fits. Picture it playing on a 2022 teenagers Spotify playlist next to the latest sad voice synth pop by Glass Animals. Sometimes I.

Speaker 3: Can go. But as you say, nice, nonchalant. You. He was freaking me out.

Speaker 1: For a self-assured sigh of a single by Billie Eilish. If. The transition to running up that hill even 37 years after Kate Bush recorded it is seamless. It’s already matched the top five success of those hits from Grey’s Anatomy. But will Kate Bush’s song Reach Number one the way Billie Vera or John Hammer did in the mid eighties? Who can say? At this moment, only one thing is certain. Kate Bush finally has an American top five hit. Not just because her song was on TV or because it reminds us of the past, but because it still sounds like the future.

Speaker 3: Good.

Speaker 1: And God and the girls.

Speaker 1: I hope you enjoyed this episode of Hit Parade. Our show was written, edited and narrated by Chris Molanphy. That’s me. My producer is Kevin Bendis. Alicia montgomery is the executive producer and Derek John, the supervising narrative producer of Slate Podcasts. Check out their roster of shows at Slate.com Slash Podcasts. You can subscribe to Hit Parade wherever you get your podcasts. In addition to finding it in the Slate Culture Feed, if you’re subscribing on Apple Podcasts, please rate and review us while you’re there. It helps other listeners find the show.

Speaker 1: Thanks for listening and I look forward to leading the hit parade back your way. Until then, keep on marching on the one. I’m Chris Molanphy.

Speaker 3: Doing.

Speaker 2: It’s you and me. Once you.