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"Theme from 'S.W.A.T.'"
Rhythm Heritage
ABC 12135
Feb. 1976
Billboard: #1    Videos Icon

S.W.A.T. elevision has not been as active a source for hit records as motion pictures, but during the rock era a number of songs introduced in television programs have made the Billboard Hot 100. No theme from a TV series had ever gone to number one until producer Steve Barri came up with the idea of recording the title theme from the ABC program S.W.A.T.

'Disco-fied' - Rhythm Heritage
"Theme from 'S.W.A.T.'" was a number one record in February 1976 for the Los Angeles studio group Rhythm Heritage, assembled by Steve Barri and Michael Omartian. The single, composed by Barry DeVorzon, was taken from Rhythm Heritage's Disco-fied album, which first charted on March 6, 1976. The LP peaked at number 40 on the Billboard Hot 200 album chart, and remained on the chart for 17 weeks.
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The series made its debut on February 24, 1975, exactly one year before the theme song went to number one. Steve Forrest starred as the commanding officer of a Special Weapons and Tactics squad, which was assigned to handle violent situations, usually with innocent hostages involved. Rod Perry, Robert Urich, Mark Shera and James Coleman starred as the Vietnam veterans who were assigned the key jobs on the S.W.A.T. team.

One of the series' most avid viewers was the six-year-old son of record producer Steve Barri, who with his partner P.F. Sloan had written and produced a number one single for Barry McGuire, "Eve of Destruction," in 1965. "My son was always asking me if there was a record of the theme song. I couldn't find one," Barri explains. "I wanted to get him a record of it. One night I watched the show and liked the theme song. I thought if we could do a dance version, it might be a real solid instrumental. I got Michael Omartian to do an arrangement on it, and we cut it as the Rhythm Heritage."

Barri used studio musicians on the track, including two who later had number one songs: Jeff Porcaro of Toto ("Africa," 1983) and Ray Parker, Jr. ("Ghostbusters," 1984). Also playing on the track were lead guitarist Jay Graydon and bassist Scott Edwards.

The "Theme from 'S.W.A.T.'" was the second successful television theme Barri was involved with. He and Sloan had written "Secret Agent Man," which Johnny Rivers sang over the opening titles of Patrick McGoohan's 1965 CBS series, Secret Agent. Rivers' theme song, which peaked at number three in the spring of 1966, was only heard in the American import version of the program, which had been titled Danger Man in its British run.

Prior to the success of the "Theme from 'S.W.A.T.'," the highest-charting television theme had been "Hawaii 5-0" by the Ventures, which peaked at number four in the spring of 1969. Other TV theme songs which made the top 20 during the rock era include:

"Different Worlds" from Angie by Maureen McGovern (number 18)
"Batman" by the Marketts (number 17)
"Three Stars Will Shine Tonight" from Dr. Kildare by Richard Chamberlain (number 10)
"Theme from 'Greatest American Hero' (Believe It or Not)" by Joey Scarbury (number 2)
"Happy Days" by Pratt and McClain (number 5)
"The Theme from 'Hill Street Blues'" by Mike Post (number 10)
"Makin' It" by David Naughton (number 5)
"Miami Vice Theme" by Jan Hammer (number 1)
"Peter Gunn" by the Ray Anthony Orchestra (number 8)
"The Rockford Files" by Mike Post (number 10)
"Zorro" by the Chordettes (number 17)

Two other television themes made the top 20, both were produced by Barri. The session musicians known as Rhythm Heritage recorded "Baretta's Theme (Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow)" from Robert Blake's series, a number 20 hit in the spring of 1976 (with vocals by Oren and Luther Waters). The other was a number one single, John Sebastian's recording of "Welcome Back," the theme from from Gabe Kaplan's Welcome Back, Kotter series.

- Fred Bronson, The Billboard Book of Number One Hits, Billboard, 1988.

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