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The Unlikely Soundtrack Of Spider-Man (And My Childhood)

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Looking back, I guess you could say I was obsessed with it.

The first incarnation of Spider-Man on screen was an animated television series that lasted three seasons, from 1967-69.

I was too young to have caught its original run. But the reruns were on TV every day in the mid-70s, and I watched them religiously. The show is probably least regarded amongst all versions of the beloved web-spinning hero.

And most people would know it for one thing only: its snazzy theme song. 

Recently, I wrote a piece for tnocs.com that sang the praises of the soundtracks from the spy and crime dramas of the late 50s to the mid-70s:

I have a great love for the special blend of swanky jazz, surf-rock guitars and other trademark sounds of the day that can be heard on these themes and soundtracks.

Being that I have never watched a Bond film in its entirety, and have seen little of the genre in general: from where does my love of this music originate? 

Look no further than your friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.

That riveting theme song was the first thing to grab me. But I became equally captivated by the music playing in the background as Spidey would spin his webs and fight baddies, and J. Jonah Jameson would rant about how he was a menace to society.

After I wrote my last article, in a seemingly unrelated development, I started thinking about the music from that old, beloved cartoon. I found a YouTube post that featured a huge amount of it, all spliced together. Whoever did that is a hero:

It made sense now. 

It all started with Spider-Man.

This got me thinking about just how deep it went. I was in the habit of recording all sorts of things with a portable cassette recorder in my youth.

And one day I recorded my little sister Elise and I singing the theme song, with one of us on the melody and the other singing an improvised chromatic descending line as an “ooh” backing vocal. 

I also began recording the audio from episodes of the show. When I would listen back, I started keying in on the music playing in the background and learned how to play some of it on the piano. 

My father remarried when I was in junior high, and his wife, whom everyone called Muzzy, had a small house organ at their condo.

I played it pretty much every time I was there. I eventually started working out the soundtrack music on that as well, using all the various sounds and percussion to replicate what I was hearing as close as possible. 

They both liked what I was playing and when they asked me what it was, they were a little befuddled to hear it was incidental music from a Spider-Man cartoon.

One would assume I would have outgrown this childhood love of mine at some point.

But being the wonderful nerd I was, I never did. 

I remember singing the entire theme song by memory in my freshman year of high school, while crammed into a hallway waiting for the bus with some fellow students. 

This revealed that I had always misheard the line “Can he swing, on a thread” as “Can he swing, drama thread.”

Someone in that group corrected me and said: “It’s not drama thread.  What kid would even know what that means?” 

I could have told them exactly what kid. The same one that was laughed at for climbing the chain link fence around the school’s tennis courts saying, “uh oh, spider-sense is tingling.”. The guys that saw me do it started calling me “Spidey” in the hallways, one of about a dozen nicknames I was to acquire in high school, and by far not the most problematic.

Flash forward back to the present day: 

In my sudden nostalgia for all things Spider-Man, I decided I needed to find that recording of my sister and I singing the song.

I borrowed an old tape recorder/player from a guy at church who I knew would still have such a thing, and pulled some boxes filled with audio cassettes off the shelf. 

I found a cassette labeled “Magneto,” which was a Spider-Man episode I had recorded. But it wouldn’t play. 

I found another tape with no specific description that I was able to listen to just once before it stopped working. 

For a brief moment, I had the surreal experience of having a slice of my childhood come alive right before me.

Including such things as-

  • My sister Elise and I being unintelligibly goofy.
  • My mother randomly blurting out “Cuz I’m a wild and crazy guy!”, in an attempt to mimic Steve Martin.
  • My brother Greg as an on-air deejay, announcing songs and giving a news report. I made many recordings of him. Hearing him on the radio was magical.
  • Me in turn, pretending to be a deejay both covering and performing a “live piano concert” on the “radio.”
  • At one point, my pre-pubescent Mickey Mouse voice says, “we’ll be back after these messages” and I begin playing a Bubblicious commercial (the one that’s ripped off of Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”), singing along in a shockingly high-pitched, squeaky vocal. 
  • I then launch into a heartfelt version of Barry Manilow’s “Mandy”, singing an octave higher than Barry. It gets ugly after the key change.
  • Me calling in to a sports talk show on the radio as a 12 year old, asking the host why the Bulls weren’t playing their rookies more (Steve Sheppard, Mark Landsberger, and Tate Armstrong) and saying how much I missed back-up forward Jack Marin.

Sadly, the recording of Elise and I singing the Spider-Man theme was nowhere to be found. I will keep looking.

But even if I never find it, that song will always be with me. It was routinely part of my live set in the 00s, albeit a swing/bossa nova version, and I could still sing it from memory today, word for word, at the drop of a hat. 

“…life’s just a great big bang up. Wherever there’s a hang up, you’ll find the Spider-Man”

So true. So true.

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rollerboogie

Music is what brought me here, but I do have other interests. I like ill-advised, low budget movies that shouldn't even be close to good, but are great, and cats too.

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Virgindog
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Virgindog
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March 11, 2024 10:00 am

That compilation of incidental music is a gem. I have a feeling Link is going to love it.

LinkCrawford
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March 11, 2024 12:30 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

I am ok with being predictable! And yes, I love incidental music. That is so good. 🙂

Low4
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March 12, 2024 12:59 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

I remember that ad. Maybe somebody at the agency was on acid.

Pauly Steyreen
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March 11, 2024 10:52 am

This is awesome, rollerboogie!!! The search for a little bit of your childhood frozen in amber (or, magnetic tape).

One day in middle school, my friend and I were playing games on his mid-80’s Mac and I was recording Guns N Roses Appetite for Destruction. And since it was a tape to tape recording, you could hear snippets of our conversation or the video game between songs. Then when the album stopped (early on side 2), it was just like 10 minutes of random conversation between us before we realized it was still taping and stopped it. (For the uber-nerdy among you, the game was Breach.)

Who knew that would be the gold mine? I can find Appetite for Destruction in 10 different formats with better audio quality than a tape of a tape, but that random goofy banter between nerdy friends only exists in one place on Earth.

Last edited 1 month ago by Pauly Steyreen
LinkCrawford
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March 11, 2024 12:39 pm

I also was too young for this series, but I don’t even remember ever seeing it in re-runs. (I actually despised super heroes as a kid…I now think they’re kinda cool).

But I can totally relate to taping music off the TV, trying to play it on a keyboard, nerding out over all the details. Also, the retroactive investigation to determine what drove your like of certain types of music. I’ve figured out over the years that so much of my love of easy listening, light music comes from a love of AM radio jingles, Joe Raposo’s Sesame Street tunes, and being obsessed with Charlie Brown soundtracks when I was little.

Good stuff…I can totally relate! Also, I love that Bubblicious commercial.

Last edited 1 month ago by LinkCrawford
Phylum of Alexandria
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March 11, 2024 1:00 pm

Stinks that you never got ahold of the Spiderman tape, but very neat that you still got a chance to hear some of your old creations. I did a little of that amateur DJing myself, but not to the extent that you did. And I have no surviving records, sadly. I remember doing a Vincent Price type intro to one tape (but more in the voice of Jeremy Irons) reciting “The Emperor of Ice Cream” by Wallace Stevens. Maybe it’s for the best that that one didn’t survive…

I really don’t have any audio documents of my youth, unfortunately. The best I have is a goth song that my brother and I recorded shortly after I graduated high school. Otherwise, my documents are photos and mixtape playlists (minus the actual mixtapes).

The superhero shows of my childhood were X-Men and Batman: The Animated Series. Not quite the same thing as Spidey, musically. Though I did watch the show with Adam West sometimes. And while I don’t think I ever watched the Pink Panther, I loved the intro theme song and animation. That’s about as close to the cool jazz vibe as I could get.

Phylum of Alexandria
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March 11, 2024 3:25 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie
lovethisconcept
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March 11, 2024 1:24 pm

I remember the series being on, although I don’t remember anything about it…except the song. That I know by heart.

Pauly Steyreen
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March 11, 2024 2:21 pm

That Spider Man incidental music RULES!!!!!

JJ Live At Leeds
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March 11, 2024 3:04 pm

That was a lot of fun. Shame you couldn’t locate the spiderman tape but the one you did find sounds great. Brought back a vague recollection of me, my sister and cousins doing something similar. Recording ourselves thinking we were being hilarious and cool but in reality probably just coming off as unintelligibly goofy. We probably listened back to it straight after we did it and never again. 99.99% sure the tape will have made its way into a bin a long time ago.

Also brought back a memory of a paint by numbers Spiderman picture that after painting went in the oven and Spiderman was meant to rise up to provide a thrilling 3D action pose that leapt out at you. In reality it rose by a barely perceptible number of millimetres.

cstolliver
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March 11, 2024 3:28 pm

Loved this, rb! Thanks so much for sharing it.

Where “Spider-man” was your cartoon theme, mine was “Speed Racer.” “He’s a demon on wheels …” Man, I loved that show when I was 8 and 9.

The tape recording, too, reminds me of similar adventures our family had on cassette. (When you were a latchkey kid in the ’70s, and you were trying to stay out of trouble, there were only so many ways to be entertained…) My sister and her friends did a faux newscast called “Nutsy News” that to this day cracks us all up just listening to it. It’s all inside jokes — I played it once for my husband and he sat there, bemused, while I giggled trying to explain what was so funny.

When I got rid of most of my audiotapes, “Nutsy News” found MP3 life. I’d share it, but my sister would probably kill me.

blu_cheez
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March 11, 2024 4:12 pm

Great article!

Did you know that Ralph Bakshi was the producer of seasons 2 & 3 of that show? Wild!

I also love that, for cost-saving reasons, Spidey only has webbing on his mask and hands – animating that all over his body would take another 20 years to get around to (in “Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends”, which is the show I watched compulsively when it first aired in ’81)

cappiethedog
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March 11, 2024 11:11 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Do you remember the Spider-Man segment on The Electric Company?

LinkCrawford
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March 12, 2024 6:55 am
Reply to  cappiethedog

This was the only Spider-Man that I knew as a little kid.

blu_cheez
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March 12, 2024 4:38 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

Heck, yeah – and the TV show from the 70s.

cappiethedog
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March 11, 2024 11:09 pm
Reply to  blu_cheez

Do you remember when Mighty Mouse was accused of sniffing cocaine? The controversy was warranted, admittedly. Something did go into the mouse’s nose, though. The substance could be whatever you wanted it to be, I guess. I’m going with pollen.

thegue
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March 12, 2024 11:03 am
Reply to  cappiethedog

Man, I loved that theme song (and Speed Racer’s, Chuck)! But as the contrarian among our group, I have to chip in a word on behalf of Mighty Mouse’s label mates, The Mighty Heroes.

Does anyone remember them? Mighty Mouse came on around 3:30 (Channel 17 in Philly, in reruns), and my brothers and I would watch hoping they’d show one of the few episodes they had that included Diaper Man, Rope Man, Cuckoo Man et al.

Anyone? Anyone???

blu_cheez
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March 12, 2024 4:39 pm
Reply to  thegue

Yep – another Bakshi show.

cappiethedog
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March 12, 2024 8:02 pm
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Oh, god. I feel like William Hurt in Altered States. Yes. I remember. I want to transform into Rope Man.

Zeusaphone
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March 11, 2024 8:00 pm

That theme song is way too good for that show

thegue
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March 12, 2024 11:10 am

Roller, another great article…and it sent me thinking…

I used to keep a LOT of artifacts from my youth. Specifically, I kept in two boxes all the letters I’d ever received.

Occasionally, I’d take an afternoon going thru them, and inevitably find myself in a state of comfortable depression. Does that make sense to anyone?

I read the letters from Christina, my prom date, after we’d gone off to separate colleges. We’d never dated, officially, but as I reread those letters again, I realized that she really DID like me, and I’d never known it.

Or Amy, to whom I professed my affections for when I signed her yearbook sophomore year…and I’ll never forget what I wrote:

“Have a great summer to a girl whom I greatly respect and would love to take to the prom!”

I can not tell you how many drops of sweat fell on Amy’s yearbook as I wrote that, shaking.

She brought it up to me senior year…but I didn’t ask her to prom. She was out of my league. She wrote to me in college as well, congratulating me on my victory as class president. I thought she was making fun of me at the time.

I threw out all of those letters in 2006 after I asked my English fiancée to marry me. Sometimes I regret it, but I still have all of my mixed tapes, and memorabilia from my travels across the world. My yearbooks, from sixth grade on.

No time to wallow, these days, but they’re there, in the basement, as sort of a security blanket.

Low4
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March 12, 2024 12:58 pm

I think (hope, anyway) that I speak for all of us when I DEMAND that you and your sis get together and recreate that epochal musical moment. And then post it.

Please.

Aaron3000
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March 13, 2024 6:35 pm
Reply to  rollerboogie

Two words: Zoom call. 🙂

Low4
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March 12, 2024 1:02 pm

BTW, it is possible to physically transfer the reels of a cassette to a new case, which may (may, mind you) rescue those tapes that wouldn’t play. You should digitize as many of those tapes as you can as soon as you can so that future human beings will have the advantage of your work as an aural historian.

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