Setting the mood (Part 2 of 2)

A few days ago, I started a discussion about the shows and their opening credits, particularly the music themes that we’ve come to associate with them.

This is by no means a new topic, since the great and unfortunately late website World of Soap Themes (WoST) comprehensively collected and featured themes from radio and TV soaps.

But I specifically wanted to think about them in terms of how the shows use the openings to set the mood – and to define the identity of a show. In some cases, as a soap has gone through an identity crisis, so has its opening.

I know I’ve posted a great deal about Guiding Light lately (and I promise the next few posts won’t focus so much on GL). But it’s perhaps the most ideal show to profile here, since it’s changed its theme perhaps more frequently in the last 25 years or so than any other program.

Since 1996 alone, GL has changed opening theme music no fewer than five times. GL has BEEN in an almost-perpetual identity crisis during that time, so it’s not surprising that the theme music would reflect that.

Here was the sophisticated, adult theme in the late 1970s:

There was the FUN! disco theme. An obvious attempt, as all shows made at that time, to capitalize on the action/adventure elements General Hospital injected into daytime: 

There was several more recent nondescript openings. None of these were BAD, per se, but none of them especially seemed to be a reflection of the show or capture its spirit:

There was the 70th anniversary one. I thought the sentiment was lovely, but it was so at odds with what the show is about now it seemed ludicrous. 

And the current theme. Which to me just seems like it’s a jingle for some feminine hygiene product. Or a Up With People song….I’m not sure which. 

It seems so odd to me that GL has gone through so MANY themes, because it actually had a theme that, like the DAYS and Y&R theme, it should have never let go. In fact, it struck gold twice. 

The first time was the theme that was unveiled after the disco theme. It was simply perfect: majestic, hopeful, sad, with happy notes, sad notes, drama, and a beautiful ending. 

Ah, Nola and Vanessa. 

It was fantastic as it was, and ran that way for several years. But then someone got bored with it and started tinkering with it. The theme was synthesized and a new opening with a sky-blue background was unveiled. That version wasn’t as good. (It sounded like music from an aerobics class.)

And THEN, somehow, they found another theme that was just as great. 

Again: majestic, dramatic, hopeful, and a fantastic attention grabbing opening and closing. You KNEW what show you were in for when you heard that. 

Perhaps themes are as anachronistic as many of the other elements I love about soaps and about all shows. After all, many nighttime shows I watch (Brothers & Sisters and Grey’s Anatomy among them) either ditched their themes or never had one.

But I still think music can help shape our reactions to what we see. They pull at our emotions and make us feel so many other levels of what we’ve just seen. I think when shows toss out the baby with the bathwater to get a “sparkling” new theme, they do so at their own peril. 

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10 thoughts on “Setting the mood (Part 2 of 2)

  1. Patrick,

    You are so right about the GL theme. I started watching GL in the 90’s and LOVED the lighthouse theme. Everything they’ve done since is a pale imitation.

    Another show that threw away a fantastic theme is ATWT. Their gold and then blue introductions, to me, were classy and actually did reflect the show (when it was was on fire during the Sheffer years).

  2. Patrick, my all-time fave is the next to last one. I’m glad to see you appreciated it as much as I do. Loved reading this and taking a walking down memory lane.

    Response: Roger, that version is my favorite too, but the early 1990s one is a very, VERY close second.

  3. Patrick,

    I love your website. This post actually made me cry! Those are both my favourite GL themes and it is utterly horrific that the Guiding Light that they represent no longer exists. It is no longer a show I recognize and it breaks my heart.


    Response: Me too, Louisa, me too. And I don’t think it’s ever coming back.

  4. Terrific post and thanks for including the clips. While I fast forward A LOT (shame on me, I know!), I never fast forward through opening credits. A good theme really does invoke the best aspects of a show.

    btw, is it wrong of me to LOVE the disco theme? 🙂

    Response: No. I secretly love it too! I just thought the two I mentioned at the end were the best.

  5. What a nice retrospective on the many GL themes!

    There will always be a fond place in my heart for the disco theme, complete with Nola’s scream and Tony’s karate kick scream, “Yaaaah.” YEs, it was cheesy, but it was the theme being used when I started watching GL. And it was completely different from any soap theme song at the time.

    Never really liked the one that followed since it was so slow and mellow compared to the disco theme. Also never liked the fact they had to have two different versions to accomodate the entire cast in the visuals.

    But I loved the 90s theme song since it brought back the light house imagery complete with it prism-esqe visuals. That one seemed so special. And of course it also aired when GL was experiencing its resurgence in the early 90s, when GL was absolutely can’t miss TV.

    While the current one with its Up with People song has gotten old fast, I do like the fact they change the cast visuals every day.

  6. Ah, Patrick, now I’m getting teary… I love the old school GL theme because that was when my grandmother was watching it… then of course remember when Douglas Marland won the Emmy and the end credits had the Emmy? Those were the days.

  7. I’m glad I’m not the only one getting all weepy over those last two! Like everybody says, it’s not just the loss of the perfect themes I’m mourning but the loss of the perfect soap. Thank you, Patrick, for reminding me of a what glorious gem GL was in its heyday! Unfortunately it also reminded me of what a disaster it is right now 😦

  8. Reliving Guiding Light’s many openings through out the years brings a smile to my face and tears to my eyes.

    I first watched GL when the opening was the beautiful light through the trees. I adored the disco music with Kelly and Morgan spinning into the gold background as the announcer said “..and now Guiding Light”. I still hum the beautiful slow version and remember the outdoor scenes intermixed with the character shots. I liked the blue opening, as I refer to it, because even when GL wasn’t great during those years it was still entertaining. My favorite of course is the 1990’s version with the lighthouse and the stunning music that still gives me shivers today. The openings since then haven’t been great. I liked the very brief one that Paul Rauch did, if only for the fact that he realized that placing Josh and Reva first only means that he must place the other root couple Ross and Blake at the close of the opening. Today’s version is at times cute, then sometimes it is horrendous, just like the show of present.

    I tear up because I know GL isn’t going to be around much longer and I will never see a great ending that this show deserves. With Ellen Wheeler at the helm, the ending will be cheap, full of awful music and the last scene will be placed outside by a grabage dump. Thanks Patrick for caring so much about a show that I have cared for for so long. I just wish someone with GL could care as much.

    Kenneth, thanks for your great comment. I had to emphasize your last sentence because I couldn’t agree more!

  9. Patrick that was cool. Even though I wasn’t watching GL back then, I think the disco opening was great. What is funny is Jack Urbont the composer of that piece also wrote the famous long time General Hospital theme.

    I started watching GL during the “Hold on to Love” theme. It is a beautiful reminder of what once was. When they started tinkering with it in 96 though, that was frustrating. Thanks for the memories.

    BL – I had NO idea that those themes shared the same composer! That’s very cool to know. Thanks!

  10. I too remember when soap themes set the stage for the show you were about to watch. The music was inextricably woven into the tenor of the show and its characters- it branded the show, really.

    Does anyone recall especially liking when the full credits would run at the close of a show- often on a Friday- with technical and acting cast? The theme was elongated on those days. Two of the best was the 1970’s World Turns- the music rose to a crescendo at its end- and the first GL theme posted here. The sun glinting through tree branches, the music managed to be wistful and mournful. Very evocative. And GL was one of the few shows that carried a female characters full name- ie: “Rita Stapleton Bauer” & “Eve Stapleton McFarren”. Loved that. When credits did not show the characters, you somehow thought of them anyway.

    Agree that Pamela Long’s tenure on GL had a fantastic theme- really one of the best. Who can forget Rick and Beth dancing at their prom, looking deeply into each other’s eyes? That theme caught the spirit of the show perfectly.

    Other memorable themes- AW with its spiraling circles, running end credits over a closing character scene, bringing a “finish” to the episode. OLTL ‘s “Here’s what to do when it looks like the rain won’t end..” was actually pretty good. AMC had a great theme in 1990- the pictures scattered on tables; the music was excellent. Some shows had notoriously weak themes- many of them on ABC in the 70’s, that network was terribly deficient with technical stuff like sound effects and music in the 1970’s.: GH’s generic music in its screaming ambulance days was dreadful- and lasted an eternity.It looked cheap and shrill. Their 90’s incarnation was terrific, totally catching the show as its characters faces faded in and out. GL rebounded in the 90’s or later as mentioned here, but was followed by woefully inferior themes.

    Don’t forget that certain shows had individual themes for certain characters, too. AW was sophisticated with music choice in the 70’s; the most dramatic scenes played a driving, portentous theme to great effect.A moment of revelation was often followed by a musical snippet that sounded like chimes falling. Now, the absence of themes, the rush of credits is yet another step away from the goodness that was soaps.

    Thanks, Scott! I do remember that the shows would have themes for characters or couples. For this piece, I wanted to find one particular haunting piece of music from Y&R. It would build up slowly, then hit a crescendo….and build up again. It was usually played during dramatic moments – darker moments.

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