I am delighted to announce my latest project as producer: the very first authorized soundtrack from the classic 1960s series The Wild Wild West. Many of you will remember the Robert Conrad-Ross Martin series, a kind of “James Bond in the Old West” adventure that aired Friday nights on CBS. Despite its popularity, no recording (even of its memorable theme by Richard Markowitz) was ever issued of this music. La-La Land Records, in the wake of our success with Mission: Impossible, authorized a two-year project involving a search for original musical elements, a massive restoration and eventual creation of a 4-CD box consisting of the excerpts from the 26 best scores over the series’ four seasons. The set even premieres the original recordings of an unused Dimitri Tiomkin theme for the series. Among the other composers represented: Robert Drasnin, Richard Shores, Dave Grusin, Harry Geller, Jack Pleis, Fred Steiner and Walter Scharf.
As you know, I tend to wax nostalgic about classic TV music of the ’60s and ’70s. But there’s a lot of really exciting work being done now in television, too, and much of it was showcased in a Television Academy concert called “Words & Music” Thursday night, June 29, at the Academy’s Saban Media Center in North Hollywood. Music from Homeland, Luke Cage, Empire, Underground, Feud, Narcos, This Is Us, The Americans, The Good Fight and many others was played live by a 27-piece orchestra with a number of vocal soloists. I reviewed the evening here in a piece for Variety.
Madeleine Brand, the host of KCRW’s daily talk show “Press Play,” invited me on today to talk about music in television. As always with Madeleine — one of L.A.’s best radio hosts, endlessly curious and super-well-informed — it was lots of fun, discussing music in Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Outlander, Empire and more. Here is a link to the show, where you can listen online.
My editors at Variety asked me for a slightly different spin on TV music this year. I had been fascinated by how many composers felt strong support for orchestral scores at ABC, singling out Dawn Soler, the head of music for ABC Studios. Here‘s the story.
Everybody loves TV themes — from the silly Mr. Ed and The Addams Family to the intense Mission: Impossible and Peter Gunn to the atmospheric Hill Street Blues and The X-Files. But few people know how this music is made, or the stories of the men and women who have worked tirelessly (and often anonymously) to create it.
This book offers the complete story of this important musical field, giving it the serious, and colorfully anecdotal, history it deserves. Divided into chapters on each genre — from “Crime to a Beat” detailing cop and detective shows, through Westerns, Sci-Fi and Fantasy, TV Drama, Sitcoms, Action-Adventure, News and Documentaries, Cartoons, and Movies and Miniseries — Burlingame provides the real stories of the composers who worked behind the scenes to create the memorable music we all love.
Among those who have written and performed for television series are many famous musicians — like jazz pianists Dave Brubeck and Duke Ellington, arranger-producer Quincy Jones, film music giant John Williams, Broadway composer Richard Rodgers, and classical composer Morton Gould. Illustrated throughout with rare photos of the composers at work, this is a fascinating story of how a new genre of musical artistry was created.
A few reviews:
“Here’s a book that combines lengthy and impressive research, and tons of interviews, with good old-fashioned, behind-the-scenes stories…. Everyone will find something fun here… sets the record straight while providing a very enjoyable read.” — David Bianculli, New York Daily News
“Impeccably researched… crammed with musical facts, footnotes, biographical data — but also, lucky for us tune-deaf types, tons of juicy anecdotes about the making of our favorite tunes.” — Diane Werts, Newsday
“A far richer, more intelligent book… Burlingame has had one of those so-obvious-it’s-clever ideas and did a ton of research to dig up anecdotes about the theme songs and background music that are the soundtrack to a TV watcher’s life.” — Ken Tucker, Entertainment Weekly
“A serious, professional and comprehensive history of the songs and music that accompanied virtually every major show from Mr. Ed to The X-Files…. a required addition to any serious film or television library.” — Kathleen O’Steen, Emmy magazine
“A landmark historical overview of prime-time TV music from its beginnings to present day… comprehensive, informative and interesting.” — Lukas Kendall, Film Score Monthly
“Thoughtful and well-researched… Burlingame deserves high points for all the work involved; he spent several years tracking down the history of the medium, interviewing producers and composers.” — Billboard