In April 2004, I put together a theme show for my little 80s radio program, STUCK IN THE 80s (on WMPG community radio in Portland, Maine). This wasn’t your ordinary theme show – it was actually about themes, TV themes to be exact. The show was called DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ADJUST YOUR SET. In the course of 120 minutes, I played a total of 63 80s TV themes, along with some bits from shows like WKRP IN CINCINNATI and CHEERS. I also played a special remix on TeeVee Toons Records (later TVT Records), named after a line in one of the favorite cartoons of my youth (THE JETSONS), “Jane, Get Me Off This Crazy Thing!” It was co-produced by Ivan Ivan (who produced Book Of Love’s wonderful debut album), and featured TV themes from the 50s and 60s.
Fast forward 12-and-a-half years, and on tonight’s show (10.23.2016), I’m going to revisit the show – DO NOT ATTEMPT TO ADJUST YOUR SET: THE SERIES FINALE. In listening to the 2004 show this past week, apparently I concentrated more on quantity than quality, but this time I’ll bring back the coolest and most memorable themes of the 80s, and some I didn’t get to last time, including “Falling” by Julee Cruise (the vocal version of the theme from TWIN PEAKS, which was released in 1989, in advance of the show itself), and an entire set dedicated to 80s TV theme show legend, Mike Post.
Most of Mike Post’s theme songs were instrumental gems, but there was one song he wrote the music for that had vocals (songwriter Stephen Geyer wrote the lyrics). It was for a television show called THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO (starring William Katt, TV veteran Robert Culp and the lovely Connie Sellecca), and it was sung by California native and Pop singer, Joey Scarbury.
Joey Scarbury had a minor hit back in 1971 with a song called “Mixed Up Guy.” It reached No. 73 on the BILLBOARD Hot 100. By the end of the decade, he had started working with Mike Post, and when the opportunity came along to record a theme song for this new TV series, Joey was given the chance to sing on it.
THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO debuted with a 2-hour pilot episode in mid-March 1981, and was a huge success. That success inspired Elektra Records to release it as a single, and within just a couple of months, it flew into the Hot 100 at No. 85.
A couple of months later, in mid-June 1981, “Believe It Or Not” rocketed into the Top 40 at No. 27, and on July 4th (I’m not making this up), the theme for THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO made its way into the Top 10. Unable to penetrate the stranglehold Diana Ross and Lionel Richie had at No. 1 with “Endless Love” (the second-biggest song of 1981; two other songs would fail as well), “Believe It Or Not” had to settle for a couple weeks at No. 2.
Though it never made it to No. 1, “Believe It Or Not” did sell a million copies in the U.S. alone, it spent half a year on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, and was ranked at No. 11 for all of 1981, beating out No. 1 songs by Sheena Easton, Air Supply, two songs by Blondie, and “Medley” by Stars On 45.
With the success of “Believe It Or Not,” Elektra Records gave Joey Scarbury a chance to do an entire album, called AMERICA’S GREATEST HERO, which turned out to be the only album he ever released. It did, however, generate one more single, “When She Dances,” which reached No. 49 on the Hot 100.
THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO spent three seasons on ABC before flying away from our TV sets. Joey Scarbury would go on to write songs for Kenny Rogers, Eddie Rabbitt and The Oak Ridge Boys, among others, but it’s the song co-written by Mike Post that will forever stay in the hearts of many (yours truly included) – you can believe it…