8 Best Classic Television show Theme Tunes Featuring Vintage Synths
The synth-laden opening track for the Netflix hit, Stranger Things, is a great showcase of how these instruments can set the mood for a television show. While some modern television shows incorporate synths for nostalgic reasons or to emphasize the time period of the show, there was a time when almost all shows used them. This resulted in a couple of very memorable tunes with some very catchy hooks. Here are just a few of the shows from the eighties and nineties that went all out with synths for their intros.
It is impossible to have a list of classic television shows with synthesizer soundtracks without including Knight Rider. The show originally aired in 1982 and starred David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a crime-fighter with a talking car named KITT. Stu Phillips and Glen A. Larson composed the theme song for the show, making use of multiple synths to create the catchy arrangement. It is one of the best examples of analog synths used for a television show theme and the track has been sampled many times over the years by various musicians.
Randy Edelman is the man responsible for the catchy theme song for the 1985 television hit, McGyver, as well as scoring many of the episodes. The show is about Angus MacGyver, a secret agent with the uncanny ability to get out of almost any pickle using ordinary objects in unusual ways. Unfortunately, when the show was rebooted in 2016, the iconic theme tune was also replaced by a more bland version that lacks any synths.
When you have a show about an impossibly cool looking high-tech helicopter you need to have a theme song that is equally impressive. Fortunately Sylvester Levay, the composer for Airwolf, delivered a track that is a perfect match for the style and tone of the show. Jim Cox, one of the synth players who worked on the show, revealed in an interview that they used everything from an Oberheim OB-8 to a Roland MSQ-700 sequencer and Linn Electronics LinnDrum for Airwolf.
Crime fighters with high-tech vehicles were all the rage during the eighties, so it is surprisingly that Street Hawk only lasted one season. It starred an ex-motorcycle cop named Jesse Mach who is recruited by the government to ride an advanced motorcycle and fight urban crime. With incredible speeds and the firepower to match it, Street Hawk was not something you wanted to mess with. However, what really sets the show apart was its theme song, which was composed by Tangerine Dream. The show used the title track from Tangerine Dream’s “Le Parc” album as its theme, which was definitely a great match.
Crockett and Tubbs, the stars of Miami Vice, didn’t have futuristic vehicles to help them out, but that did nothing to diminish the popularity of the show. It first aired in 1984 and quickly gained a reputation for featuring original recordings instead of the usual made-for-television music. However, it was the theme song, composed by Jan Hammer, that stood out the most. Hammer managed to coax synth tones that almost sounded like guitars out of his instruments. According to Hammer, the most important machine he had in his arsenal was the Fairlight CMI, which he used to sample his drums and percussion.
CHiPs ran from 1977 until 1983 and is probably responsible for a lot of viewers dreaming of joining the California Highway Patrol under the mistaken impression that the job involves solving crimes. In addition to plenty of crazy freeway pileups, the show is also known for its very catchy theme tune. The track, which was composed by John Parker, has a decidedly disco-influenced sound, but also makes good use of synths.
There were fewer television shows featuring synth opening themes by the nineties, which made the tracks in Twin Peaks stand out even more. Featuring an investigation into the murder of the town’s homecoming queen, Twin Peaks blended crime drama with supernatural elements resulting in a show that gained cult status. The opening theme for the show was composed by Angelo Badalamenti and it is basically an instrumental version of the Julee Cruise song, “Falling.” The song went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and the soundtrack made use of everything from the Roland D-50 to the Roland MKS-70 and Yamaha DX-7.
The X-Files originally started airing in 1993 and quickly became a hit. In fact, the popularity of the show saw it last for nine a nine season run until 2002 as well as a revival in 2016. With its blend of science fiction, drama and supernatural elements along with compelling characters, The X-Files is considered by many to be one of the greatest cult shows to grace television. The theme song, composed by Mark Snow, is every bit as iconic as the show. The spooky, repeating synth sound featured prominently in the track sets the mood perfectly, but according to Snow, it is the result of him accidentally putting his elbows on the keys after accidentally engaging a delay effect. He then padded out the sound and came up with the six-note melody after finding the “Whistling Joe” patch on his E-mu Proteus/2 orchestral synthesizer.
There are many other shows that incorporated synthesizers, so use the comments below to let us know which ones were your favorite or if you know what instruments they used.