The Small Screen In Music

Often successful television shows spawn successful hit singles from their theme songs. This post is not about any of them. This is about television programs mentioned in the lyrics of songs. It was most popular during the eighties decade but began much earlier.

One of the earliest examples is of course The Beatles. They released the track “Good Morning Good Morning” on their revered 1967 album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. In the lyrics it mentions the program Meet The Wife as suitable tea time fare. The program was a BBC sitcom that ran from 1963-1966.


The Beatles enjoyed British sitcoms at tea time

In 1970, a mere three days before her death, Janis Joplin recorded her a capella track “Mercedes Benz”. In it she asks for a colour TV, as she thinks Dialing For Dollars is trying to find her. Dialing For Dollars was a syndicated Milwaukee television game show that ran from 1967-1980. Hosts Howard and Rosemary Gernette, would announce a password to the audience at the beginning of the show and then randomly pick a phone number from those sent in by viewers, and call it. If the person answering the call knew the password, they would win the cash prize.


Janis Joplin tried to win cash by watching TV

In 1978 Kate Bush released “Wow” on her album Lionheart. It was released as the second single from the album in early 1979. Kate lamented one of the song’s protagonists acting skills by stating “he’ll never make The Sweeney“. The Sweeney was a very popular fictional police show in Britain made by Thames Television which ran from 1975-1978.

kate bush

Fan of The Sweeney, Kate Bush

Ramones decided to go the whole hog and namedropped several music television shows during the song, “Do You Remember Rock ‘N’ Roll Radio?” in 1980 from their album End Of The Century. These included Shindig!, Upbeat, Hullabaloo and the Ed Sullivan Show, all of which were successful music programs from the 1960s.


60s pop lovers, Ramones

Billy Joel released “Pressure” as a single from his 1982 album, The Nylon Curtain. In it he asks the question, “Sesame Street, what does it mean?”. According to Billy, as with everything else in the song, it means pressure! Long-running children’s show Sesame Street has been airing since 1969.


Billy on the Sesame Street set with Marlee Matlin

In 1986 the late Prince Rogers Nelson sang “You don’t have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude” in his song “Kiss”. Dynasty ran for 9 seasons from 1981-1989 and starred Joan Collins, John Forsythe and Linda Evans.


The late Prince, Joan Collins fan?

Was (Not Was) released “Walk The Dinosaur” as a single from their album What Up, Dog? in 1988. Miami Vice was watched by the singer as “I felt a little tired”. Maybe Miami Vice wakes you up with its exciting story lines or Don Johnson’s acting chops? It screened from 1984-1990 which was way longer than I remembered.

Don Johnson fan club members, Was (Not Was)

Barenaked Ladies revealed their love of “The Smoking Man” character from The X-Files during their song, “One Week”, released in 1998. Most fans liked either Mulder or Scully, so its an unusual choice.

barenaked ladies

Barenaked Ladies, looking out for the Smoking Man

Another act not content with only referring to one television program is Gym Class Heroes. During their song “Guilty As Charged”, from 2008, they refer to both Judge Judy and a character from the police drama, The Wire. The Wire, which examined the Baltimore drug scene, ran for 5 seasons between 2002 and 2008 and Judge Judy is still on air after first commencing broadcast in 1996.

gym class heroes

Gym Class Heroes, fearing Judy’s judgement






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