Sunday, March 25, 2007

You Don't Have To Go To Mother's To Hear Peter Gunn

Peter Gunn Theme

Peter Gunn

The title character (played by Craig Stevens) is a private investigator in the classic film noir tradition, which was a popular genre on American TV in the late 1950s. However, a few traits differentiate him from the standard hard-boiled detectives, such as Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe. Gunn was a sophisticated "hipster", a dapper dresser who loved cool jazz; where other gumshoes were often coarse, Peter Gunn was portrayed as the epitome of "cool". He operated in a nameless waterfront city, and was a regular patron of Mother's, a wharfside club; his girlfriend, Edie Hart (Lola Albright), was a sultry singer employed there. Herschel Bernardi played Lieutenant Jacoby, a police detective.

The show's use of modern jazz music, at a time when most television shows used a generic, uninspired orchestra for the background, was another distinctive touch that set the standard for many years to come. Innovative jazz themes seemed to accompany every move Gunn made, ably rendered by Henry Mancini and his orchestra (which at that time included John Williams), lending the character even more of an air of suave sophistication. Most memorable of all was the show's opening (and closing) theme, composed and performed by Mancini. A hip, bluesy, brassy number with an insistent piano-and-bass line, the song became an instant hit for Mancini, earning him an Emmy Award and two Grammys, and became as associated with crime fiction as Monty Norman's theme to the James Bond films is associated with espionage. The harmonies fit the mood of the show, which was a key to success. The Peter Gunn Theme has been covered by numerous jazz, blues, and rock artists since, including Ray Anthony, the Blues Brothers, Brian Setzer, The Cramps, Jimi Hendrix, Aerosmith, ELP, Pulp and many, many others. A version by Art of Noise, with guest artist Duane Eddy on twang guitar (taking the piano riff) earned a Grammy Award in 1987. Furthermore, the riff has been incorporated into many blues and jazz songs. The theme is also used as the background music for the 1983 arcade game Spy Hunter. Today, many people with no knowledge of the original show still can identify the theme.


Anonymous said...

I love Peter Gunn, picked it up on Netflix. It is fun to look or early stars. The lighting is great. Lola is very cool. Why can't we buy Dreamsville anywhere?