Some songs are so inextricably entwined to the TV show they’re synced to that chances are you’ll look around for a TV every single time they come on the stezza! Pondering this phenomenon, we started thinking about the best tunes on TV.
Press play on these intro songs and await a rush of nostalgia – warm feels like randomly running into an old friend you haven’t seen in ages, and dissolving into a lengthy embrace (man, how we miss hugs!). With our decreasing attention spans these days, it takes an exceptional opening sequence for us not to reach out and hit ‘skip’. But with the below 10 songs, your 30-second investment (the average length of a TV show intro) is nowhere near enough.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Red Right Hand – Peaky Blinders
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ song about divine vengeance is also bizarrely used in an ad spruiking South Australia’s Barossa Valley. Versions by artists including Arctic Monkeys, FIDLAR, Laura Marling and PJ Harvey – plus an Iggy Pop and Jarvis Cocker duet – also featured throughout Peaky Blinders’ various seasons. Red Right Hand is also the main theme song for Jack Irish.
The Beach Boys, God Only Knows – Big Love
This intoxicating, woozy song by The Beach Boys – written in 45 minutes, according to Brian Wilson – accompanied the stunning, iceskating-themed opening credits for the first three seasons of Big Love, and boy did we miss it when they replaced it with Home by Engineers in a new opening sequence for the final two seasons!
Massive Attack, Paradise Circus – Luther
We reckon viewers who were unable to identify this haunting, atmospheric tune – with its brisk, schoolmarmy clapping pattern – would definitely have Shazamed it during Luther’s opening credits. Cue many hours lost mining Massive Attack’s massive back catalogue, and discovering so many extra gold nuggets (other than Unfinished Sympathy) to add to your playlists.
The Rembrandts, I’ll Be There For You – Friends
Whenever we hear this song, visuals of a fountain with a couch and lamp in front of it, multi-coloured umbrellas and the show’s main characters (Rachel, Ross, Monica, Chandler, Phoebe and Joey) enter the brainbox – à la this hit show’s opening sequence. Hell, this smash sitcom even inspired a haircut (The Rachel)! Bonus points if you nail this song’s super-fast clapping pattern, without missing a beat, as well.
Malvina Reynolds, Little Boxes – Weeds
Activist-songwriter Malvina Reynolds’ satire on conformity played out during the opening credits of seasons 1, 2, 3 and 8 of dark comedy-drama Weeds. When Nancy Botwin, the lead drug-dealer Mum character, moved outta Agrestic come season 4, Little Boxes was no longer used since the action took place in locations far removed from the fictional hillside suburb. Reynolds’ OG record was used as the theme song in Season 1, with a different cover version – by artists such as Elvis Costello, Angelique Kidjo, Joan Baez and Linkin Park – commissioned for each ep of seasons 2, 3 and 8.
Cynthia Fee, Thank You For Being A Friend – The Golden Girls
Aaaaaaaah, bliss. As if you can listen to this tune without being immediately transported into the Miami home shared by main characters Rose, Blanche, Dorothy and Sophia!? And who wouldn’t love an IRL visit from “a pal and a confidante” right now? Originally a hit for Andrew Gold, it was Cynthia Fee’s version of this song that was used in the popular TV show, filmed in front of a live studio audience.
Warning: Thank You For Being A Friend usually prompts a hearty singalong. Further evidence here:
Tom Waits, Way Down In The Hole – The Wire
Tom Waits’ original recording was used for Season 2 of The Wire, with renditions of this song by other artists used to capture the vibe of other seasons (e.g., Season 4 focuses on Baltimore’s educational system, so recruiting DoMaJe – a group composed of five B-more teens – makes total sense). Other Way Down In The Hole covers that were featured: The Blind Boys Of Alabama (Season 1), The Neville Brothers (Season 3) and Steve Earle, who also had a small role on the show as Bubbles’ Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, Walon (Season 5).
Motor Ace, Death Defy – The Secret Life Of Us
If you’re yet to binge/rewatch this much-loved classic Aussie drama series – starring Claudia Karvan, Samuel Johnson, Deborah Mailman and Sybilla Budd – get cracking! Aside from the excellent performances and warts-and-all depiction of life as a twenty-something, The Secret Life Of Us makes us wanna relocate to St Kilda (back when it was cool, pre-gentrification) and have rooftop parties. And the show’s title theme by Motor Ace is pretty bloody great as well.
DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Yo Home to Bel-Air – The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
“Now this is the story all about how/ My life got flipped, turned upside down…” – we’re pretty sure you can take it from there. Would Will Smith be where he is today without his starring role in this hit ‘90s show in which he pretty much played himself? Probs not.
Phantom Planet, California – The OC
“Californ-yaaaaaaaaa” – chances are this show’s main characters (Marissa Cooper, Seth Cohen, Summer Roberts, Ryan Atwood) have already popped up in your mind’s eye. If you can name another Phantom Planet song, we’ll give you a prize. Fun fact: The OC’s title song was switched out for a cover version by husband-and-wife outfit Mates Of State for one special episode (during which everything in the show takes place in an alternate universe).
Stay tuned for Ace Uses Of Song On TV (Part 2)!