Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers song)

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"Secret Agent Man"
Johnny-rivers-secret-agent-man-1966.jpg
Single by Johnny Rivers
from the album ...And I Know You Wanna Dance
B-side"You Dig"
ReleasedFebruary 1966
Venue Whisky a Go Go,
Los Angeles, California
Genre
Length2:58
Label Imperial 66159
Songwriter(s) P. F. Sloan, Steve Barri
Producer(s) Lou Adler
Johnny Rivers singles chronology
"Under Your Spell Again"
(1965)
"Secret Agent Man"
(1966)
" (I Washed My Hands in) Muddy Water"
(1966)

"Secret Agent Man" is a song written by P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri. [1] The most famous recording of the song was made by Johnny Rivers for the opening titles of the American broadcast of the British spy series Danger Man, which aired in the U.S. as Secret Agent from 1964 to 1966. [1] Rivers's version peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #4 on the Canadian RPM chart, one of the biggest hits of his career. Numerous covers and adaptations have been recorded since then with the song becoming both a rock standard and one of Johnny Rivers's signature songs.

History

According to composer P.F. Sloan, the American television network that licensed Danger Man, CBS, solicited publishers to contribute a 15-second piece of music for the opening of the U.S. show to replace the British theme, an instrumental titled "High Wire". [2] CBS executives were worried the show might not be successful without a "hummable" theme song. [1] Sloan wrote the guitar lick and the first few lines of the song, with Barri (Sloan's songwriting partner) contributing to the chorus. [2] This fragment was recorded as a demo by Sloan and Barri, submitted to CBS, and, to Sloan's surprise, picked as the show theme, which led to Sloan and Barri writing a full-length version of the song. [2] The original demo of the song used the "Danger Man" title, as shown by the surviving demo of the song, which Sloan sang. [3] When the show's title was changed, the lyrics were also changed. Ultimately, "High Wire" was also retained by CBS, as it played over the episode credits following the "Secret Agent" titles.

In 1965, surf rock band The Challengers recorded a version for their album The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that features vocal harmonies, horns, and vibraphone. [4] This would be the first commercial release of the song, though it was never released as a single and consequently didn't garner much attention. [5]

Sloan and Barri's publisher/producer, Lou Adler, also produced and managed Johnny Rivers, so Rivers was chosen to add the vocals for the TV show. Rivers claimed he came up with the opening guitar riff that was inspired by the " James Bond Theme", [6] although the lick is clearly heard on Sloan's demo version. [7] Chuck Day, the father of Mama Cass' daughter, also claims to have come up with the opening of Secret Agent Man.

Rivers's original recording was merely the show theme, with one verse and one chorus. Later, after the song gained in popularity, Rivers recorded it live, with two more verses, and the chorus repeated twice more. The live version was recorded in 1966 at the Whisky a Go Go, but not released until after a few studio production touch-ups were done by Adler shortly after. The song evokes secret agents both musically (making use of a memorable guitar riff) and through its lyrics (which describe the dangerous life of a secret agent). The lyric; "they've given you a number and taken away your name" referred to the numerical code names given to secret agents, as in "007" for James Bond, although it also acts as the (unintentional) setup to the "continuation" of Danger Man, the cult classic The Prisoner. [8]

Chart

Chart (1966) Peak
position
Australia ( Kent Music Report) [9] 78
Canada ( RPM) [10] 4
Sweden ( Kvällstoppen) [11] 19
Sweden ( Tio i Topp) [12] 15
US Billboard Hot 100 [13] 3
US Cash Box Top 100 [14] 4
US Record World 100 Top Pops [15] 3

Personnel

Musicians

Technical

Other versions

The Ventures

"Secret Agent Man"
Single by The Ventures
from the album ' Play the Batman Theme'
B-side"007-11"
Released1966
Genre
Label Dolton Records
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Joe Saraceno
The Ventures singles chronology
" Sleigh Ride"
(1965)
"Secret Agent Man"
(1966)
"Blue Star"
(1966)

Surf rock band the Ventures did an instrumental version for their 1966 album, Play the Batman Theme, which featured a few instrumental covers of themes from spy series. Released as the band's first single of 1966, it went to #54 in the US [16] and #82 in Canada, [17] and was on the charts concurrently with the Rivers version.

Devo

"Secret Agent Man"
Single by Devo
from the album ' Duty Now for the Future'
B-side"Soo Bawlz", "Red Eye"
Released1979
Genre
Length3:37
Label Warner Bros.
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Ken Scott
Devo singles chronology
"The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize"
(1979)
"Secret Agent Man"
(1979)
" Girl U Want"
(1980)

In 1974, the song was recorded by Devo and again in 1979 on the Duty Now for the Future album with a jerky, heavily modified arrangement and significantly altered lyrics (sung by guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh). [18] [19] The 1974 recording was featured as a music video in Devo's independent short film, In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evolution. [20]

Bruce Willis

"Secret Agent Man / James Bond is Back"
Single by Bruce Willis
from the album ' The Return of Bruno'
B-side"Lose Myself", "Under The Boardwalk"
ReleasedSeptember 1987
Genre
Length4:48
Label Motown
Songwriter(s)
Producer(s) Robert Kraft [21]

Bruce Willis recorded a version for his 1987 album The Return of Bruno which rose to #43 on the UK charts. [22] [23] Willis' version features introductory stock sounds and a new subtitle, "James Bond is Back".

Covers and adaptations

See also

References

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