The series' opening theme song "Those Were the Days", written by Lee Adams (lyrics) and Charles Strouse (music), was presented in a unique way for a 1970s series: Carroll O'Connor and Jean Stapleton seated at a console or spinet piano (played by Stapleton) and singing the tune on-camera at the start of every episode, concluding with live-audience applause. (The song dates back to the very first Justice for All pilot, although on that occasion O'Connor and Stapleton performed the song off-camera and at a faster tempo than the series version.) Several different performances were recorded over the run of the series, including one version that includes additional lyrics. The song is a simple, pentatonic melody (that can be played exclusively with black keys on a piano) in which Archie and Edith wax nostalgic for the simpler days of yesteryear. A longer version of the song was released as a single on Atlantic Records, reaching No. 30 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart early in 1972; the additional lyrics in this longer version lend the song a greater sense of sadness, and make poignant reference to social changes taking place in the 1960s and early 1970s A few perceptible drifts can be observed when listening to each version chronologically: In the original version Jean Stapleton was wearing glasses and after the first time the lyric "Those Were The Days" was sung over the tonic (root chord of the song's key) the piano strikes a Dominant 7th chord in transition to the next part which is absent from subsequent versions. Jean Stapleton's screeching high note on the line "And you knew who you WEEERRE then" became louder, longer, and more comical, although it was only in the original version that audience laughter was heard in response to her rendition of the note; Carroll O'Connor's pronunciation of "welfare state" gained more of Archie's trademark enunciation and the closing lyrics (especially "Gee, our old LaSalle ran great.") were sung with increasingly deliberate articulation, as viewers had initially complained that they could not understand the words. Also in the original version the camera angle was shot slightly from the right side of the talent as opposed to the straight on angle of the next version.
In addition to O'Connor and Stapleton singing, footage is also shown beginning with aerial shots of Manhattan, and continuing to Queens, progressively zooming in more closely, culminating with a still shot of a lower middle-class semi-detached home, presumably representing the Bunkers' house in Astoria. The house shown in the opening credits, however, is actually located at 89–70 Cooper Avenue in the Glendale neighborhood of Queens, New York. There is a notable difference, however, between the Cooper Avenue house and the All in the Family set: there is no porch on the Cooper Avenue house, while the Bunkers' home featured a front porch. The footage for the opening had been shot back in 1968 for the series first pilot, thus the establishing shot of the Manhattan skyline was completely devoid of the World Trade Center towers which had not yet been built. When the series aired two years later, the Trade Center towers, although under construction, had still not yet risen high enough to become a prominent feature on the Manhattan skyline (this would not happen until the end of 1971). Despite this change in the Manhattan skyline the original 1968 footage would continue to be used for the series opening until the series transitioned into Archie Bunker's Place in 1979. At that point a new opening with current shots of the Manhattan skyline were used with the Trade Center towers being seen in the closing credits. This opening format – showing actual footage of the cities and neighborhoods in which the show was set – would become the standard for most of Norman Lear's sitcoms including Maude, Good Times, and The Jeffersons.
At the end of the opening the camera then returns to a few final seconds of O'Connor and Stapleton, as they finish the song. In one version of the opening, at the conclusion Archie hugs Edith at the end, while another version sees Edith smiling blissfully at Archie, while Archie puts a cigar in his mouth and returns a rather cynical look to Edith. Additionally in the first three versions of the opening Archie is seen wearing his classic trademark white shirt. In the last version of the opening done for the series ninth season Archie is seen wearing a grey sweater jacket over his white shirt.
In interviews, Norman Lear stated that the idea for the piano song introduction was a cost-cutting measure. After completion of the pilot episode, the budget would not allow an elaborate scene to serve as the sequence played during the show's opening credits. Lear decided to have a simple scene of Archie and Edith singing at the piano.
The closing theme (an instrumental) was "Remembering You" played by Roger Kellaway with lyrics co-written by Carroll O'Connor. It was played over footage of the same row of houses in Queens as in the opening (but moving in the opposite direction down the street), and eventually moving back to aerial shots of Manhattan, suggesting the visit to the Bunkers' home has concluded. O'Connor recorded a vocal version of "Remembering You" for a record album but, though he performed it several times on TV appearances, the lyrics (about the end of a romance) were never heard in the series.
Except for some brief instances in the first season, there was no background or transitional music.
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Famous quotes containing the words song and/or theme:
“Some of us prefer Austrian voices risen in song to ugly German threats.”
—Ernest Lehman (b. 1920)
“The saying, The Magyar is much too lazy to be bored, is worth thinking about. Only the most subtle and active animals are capable of boredom.A theme for a great poet would be Gods boredom on the seventh day of creation.”
—Friedrich Nietzsche (18441900)