Theme songs that became more popular when repurposed

Let’s define an “original theme song” as a piece of music that was specifically written to accompany and represent a particular work of art, such as a TV or radio program, a stage show, a movie, or a video game. (Or if not specifically written for that purpose, its first published use was for that purpose.) Works of art that consist entirely of music, such as an album of songs, are excluded. It’s not an original theme song if it was released as a single or album track first, and then only later appropriated for use in some other media!

Now, are there any original theme songs that became better known when repurposed as the theme song for an entirely different work of art?

For example, Henri Mancini wrote theme music to accompany the 1950s detective show Peter Gunn. However, to many of a younger generation, the music is much better known as the theme for the 1983 video game Spy Hunter. Now, I admit that this might not be the best example—I never saw the TV show myself, and I don’t really have a good grasp of the relative popularity of the show and the game. It could be that nowadays (or even back in the 1980s) most people who recognize the music still identify it with Peter Gunn rather than Spy Hunter.

Can anyone think of any better examples?

Now there’s a coincidence! Just yesterday, I happened to catch part of a dreadful old western called “Five Bloody Graves” (yes, of course John Carradine’s in it).

You can watch it on dailymotion here, but don’t. Just skip ahead to 32:10, which is about where I came in. I thought I recognised the music, but it took me a few seconds to realise it was the theme for ITN News At Ten — absolutely iconic in the UK.

I have no idea how that obscure bit of soundtack of an obscure film came to be repurposed for a major nightly news programme.

This tune is originally from an Italian erotic film. You may recognise it from a more modernised adaptation.

National Geographic’s Brain Games uses the Sims 3 shopping music as background. It drives me nuts whenever it comes on since I have a Pavlovian need to check my computer whenever I hear it. Probably doesn’t count as ‘more better known’, though.

That particular piece was the theme tune to neither the Italian film you reference nor The Muppet Show. This thread isn’t a catch-all for any piece of incidental film music that happens to get reused in a one-off sketch in another show, but rather for theme songs for one show that got repurposed as theme songs for another show.

And it can happen twice!
(though with a non-obscure film in this case)

There is a scene in the venerable 1967 film Cool Hand Luke where the inmates are tarring a road. During that scene you can hear the ABC News theme playing. Yes, that’s where the news theme music came from.

It’s kind of weird to be watching this film and suddenly hear the theme music you heard for decades on ABC news.

From the IMDB trivia:
“In later years, Composer Lalo Schifrin would often be asked why he used the theme for Eyewitness News (1968) in the film. Schifrin would then rather bemusedly explain that he composed the music for the film, and Eyewitness News (1968) adopted it.”

“We’ve Only Just Begun” was originally written for a commercial for a California bank.

It just so happened I was in the Troubadour in Hollywood with some friends the night Paul Williams came in and told us he had sold his first song for a commercial. Shortly afterward on that same night Ed Begley, Jr was arrested for impersonating a police officer when he went outside while wearing a stage costume.

Ol’ Lalo really blew his shot to reply, *“What we have here, is a failure to communicate.” *


I don’t know if “more popular” works, but the theme song for the BBC radio show “BBC Children’s Favourites” is better known in US as the “Captain Kangaroo theme song.” (The actual name of the tune is “Puffin’ Billy.”) That said, I don’t think the song was written specifically to be the theme song for the radio show, but was just a piece of library music that ended up as its theme song.

I hate, hate, hate that song!

The William Tell Overture. Originally written for the opera “William Tell” and repurposed for the radio/tv show The Lone Ranger. For a long time, it always brought the latter to mind.

Well excuuuuuuuse me.

Here’s the theme to the first couple of seasons of Give Us A Clue, later used as the theme to Grange Hill, which ran for 30 years.

And if you don’t know these shows, look 'em up.

Ooh, this is a great example! I knew about this but it didn’t occur to me when writing my OP. :slight_smile:

Truth be told, I know it from bits on Sesame Street. :wink:

Another one that may or may not make the cut (probably stretch it, I admit) is the so-called “Nadia’s Theme.” It was originally used as part of a movie soundtrack, but then became the theme song to “The Young And the Restless.” In 1976, ABC’s Wide World of Sports used it in a montage about Romanian Gymnast Nadia Comaneci, and it became tightly associated with her, so much so that the song became known as “Nadia’s Theme.” (The actual name is “Cotton’s Dream.”) It even peaked at #8 on the Billboard charts under the name “Nadia’s Theme (The Young and the Restless.)” I was only one at the time , but I remember the song for many years after that as “Nadia’s Theme” only discovering it to be the theme song to a soap opera much later.

It still does. :cool:

A more recent example: the current sitcom Mom uses the overture from Glinka’s Ruslan and Lyudmila as its theme.

I read somewhere (perhaps here on the SDMB) that you can tell how cultured someone is based on whether they think of the opera on hearing that music or the Lone Ranger.

Heh. I’m so uncultured, the first thing I think of is a stupid joke I heard as a kid where the punch line is “titty, rump, titty, rump, titty, rump, rump, rump” :stuck_out_tongue: