If you were watching Late Night With Jimmy Fallon the other night, you might have been rather taken aback and amused by special musical guest Alicia Keys’ choice of song. Instead of performing one of her hits, she broke out a cover of the theme song to 1980s Disney TV series Adventures of the Gummi Bears. The bizarre spectacle got us thinking about some of the other covers of TV themes that have surfaced over the years — surprisingly enough, there aren’t that many to choose from, especially once you set aside the inexplicable ’90s/’00s trend of dire punk bands doing self-consciously goofy TV covers for reasons only they can explain. Still, there have been some to buck the trend, so here’s a New Found Glory-less roundup of famous bands doing TV theme songs for your listening pleasure. Did we miss any?
Alicia Keys — “Theme from Adventures of the Gummi Bears“
Proof that pretty much anything can be transformed into an overwrought ballad if you emote sufficiently and sing plenty of notes per syllable. But seriously, this has its charms — we particularly like the bit where she gets to “Gummi bears” and the crowd start clapping as if they’ve only just realized what they’re hearing (which may well be the case.)
Manic Street Preachers — “Suicide is Painless (Theme from M*A*S*H)“
It’s all true: we will jump on any excuse to post a Manics track. But shameless fanboyism aside, there’s an argument to be made that this stands as the single finest example of a band taking on a TV theme, both because the subject matter could have walked straight out of one of the band’s own songs and because they do such a damn good job of making it their own. (It helps that the song was pretty great to begin with, of course.) The rock-out at the end sounds a bit dated now, and we’re not sure this qualifies as “amusing”, but shit, you can’t have everything.
Hüsker Dü — “Love Is All Around“
In which Hüsker Dü take the oh-so-twee theme to the Mary Tyler Moore Show, invest it with a healthy helping of angst, and reinvent it as a rather excellent piece of ’80s-inflected indie balladry. And good lord, Greg Norton’s moustache!
Sonic Youth — “Theme from The Simpsons“
We’ll be honest — we had no idea this existed before we started writing this feature. We’re pretty happy that we found it, though. It’s just a shame it isn’t longer.
The Ramones — “Spiderman“
It makes sense that the most cartoonish of bands (that’s a compliment, by the way) should cover a cartoon theme song at some point, and they do a predictably excellent job with this version of the theme to Spiderman. They sound like they’re having a ball, too.
The B-52’s — “(Meet) the Flintstones“
Similarly, who better to take on the theme to The Flintstones than the B-52’s? The band were rebranded as the BC-52’s and recruited for the live-action Flintstones movie that came out in the mid-1990s, apparently enjoying every minute (the same can’t be said of those who sat through said film, sadly.) And oh, the relish with which Fred Schneider sings, “We’ll have a gay old time!” Bless.
The Timelords — “Doctorin’ the Tardis“
One day someone will write a huge treatise about the enduring situationist genius of The KLF’s career, and this may well stand as their finest moment (which is no faint praise considering we’re talking about a band that convinced Tammy Wynette to sing about the Justified Ancients of Mu-Mu and once burned a million pounds as part of an art project.) This song — a marriage of the Doctor Who theme and Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll,” recorded under The Timelords moniker — existed as a proof-of-concept of the ideas in the duo’s The Manual, in which they discuss their theories as to how to get a song to #1 in the charts. Yes, that’s right — the KLF wrote a book about how to make a #1 song, and then wrote a novelty hit to prove they were right. If that’s not genius, we don’t know what is.
The Flaming Lips — “Theme from Batman“
Long before Spongebob, the Flaming Lips were romping through an exuberant version of the Batman theme in their rehearsal room. According to the description on YouTube, this dates from the mid-’80s and was “one of the only things [the band] could actually play at the time!” It sounds like it, to be honest, but still, it’s great fun, and a slightly bittersweet reminder of the days before Wayne Coyne started out on a one-man mission to troll the entire world.
Pantera — “Theme from Mission Impossible“
The best part of this is the earnest argument on YouTube as to whether it is indeed Pantera or Dream Theater: “This is Dream Theater,” argues one MrSephihroth. “Really easy to hear in the solo, the bends and shredding.” Not so, says Staminist2010: “Just listen closely to the drumming and the ‘squeals’ of the guitar. Unmistakably [Pantera]!” Anyway, whoever it is, it’s rather fun in a devil-horn-waving kind of way, no?
DeStorm Power — “Soul Toons Vol. 1“
And finally, no roundup of TV theme covers would be complete without this. We have no idea who DeStorm Power is — he describes himself as a “YouTube busker” — but his a cappella doo wop versions of ’80s cartoon themes are pretty great. At last count, he’d made seven of these medleys, which only goes to show that there were a whole lot of cartoon shows made during the ’80s. And… God bless the Internet.