Just this week, Seinfeld’s 32nd anniversary was celebrated with a mash-up that used its instantly recognizable theme song as its foundation. The project worked because just hearing a few seconds of slap bass samples and popping mouth sounds immediately calls the show to mind. And yet, as composer Jonathan Wolff told Yahoo! Entertainment and Sirius XM’s Volume podcast, NBC execs almost squashed the theme before it could take its rightful place in pop culture history.
Wolff says the theme came from him knowing that a typical late-’80s sitcom theme song (“melodic, with a lot of silly lyrics and sassy saxophones”) wouldn’t be right for Seinfeld. He wanted a customizable set of samples that would allow him to change the theme to work around a given stand-up clip. He ended up with what he calls a versatile, “basic and sophomoric” bass line and “the human nature of my finger-snaps and lips and tongues doing stuff” as samples that fit the show’s stand-up comedy intros, outros, and interludes while still centering Jerry Seinfeld’s words.
Though he had found a good approach, NBC executives heard the theme song and thought it “sounded odd and weird.” Wolff says part of the issue was that “slap bass had not yet enjoyed ‘celebrity status’ as a solo instrument,” which seems true in one sense but also a bit weird considering this period of time follows Larry Graham’s solo success and the pop ascendancy of Bakithi Kumalo slapping and popping through a 1986 hit. Still, former NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield told Wolff that the theme was “weird,” “distracting,” and “annoying” in a meeting. After hearing that last term, co-creator Larry David decided to fight for the theme song because, as Wolff says, “Larry, he loves annoying! He lives for annoying! That’s his primary goal in life.”
Ultimately, driven by Larry David’s dedication to being annoying, the executives were convinced to keep the theme.
If you want to celebrate Wolff, David, and Seinfeld’s victory, the show’s soundtrack is now available to listen to as an album on Spotify. Or, read the rest of the Yahoo! Entertainment article on Wolff’s Seinfeld work here.
[via Entertainment Weekly]
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