"Look at the picture. A lot of guys make the mistake of going, 'This is what I feel.' Look at the picture. Your art on somebody else's art. They already did their art. Look at the picture. By the way, did I say look at the picture?"
About This Interview
In his nearly three-hour Archive interview, Mike Post talks about his early interest in music and his formative years as a studio musician. He recalls his early successes as a music producer, including producing the first album for First Edition, the band that made Kenny Rogers famous and producing the number one hit "Classical Gas". He discusses his first big break in television as the musical director of the newly revamped The Andy Williams Show (1969-71), making him the youngest person to hold that title at the time. He recounts his longtime partnership with Pete Carpenter and their collaborative efforts on many of the major dramatic shows of the 1970s and '80s. He speaks about his chance meeting with Stephen J. Cannell that led to his extensive work with Cannell, Dick Wolf and Steven Bochco. Post describes the work of a television composer as someone who layers their art on another's in a true spirit of collaboration. He outlines his compositions and memorable theme songs for such series as The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, The Greatest American Hero, L.A. Law, Cop Rock (theme by Randy Newman) and Law & Order. Stephen J. Abramson conducted the interview on May 25, 2005 in Burbank, California.
Mike Post, one of the most successful composers in television history, has written music for television since the 1970s. He has won five Grammy awards for his theme songs and, by his own count, has scored over 2,000 hours of film. Post has produced the signature melodies for programs such as Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law and NYPD Blue. His distinct themes often have intense, industrial rock music cross-cut with smooth jazz sounds. These compositions are noted for their unique blending of styles as well as for the dramatic manner in which they complement a show's narrative.
Post is regarded as the youngest musician ever to be appointed as musical director for a television program, assuming that role in 1969, at age 24, on The Andy Williams Show. Prior to that appointment, Post worked primarily as a session musician for a number of major artists including Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Sonny and Cher--he played guitar on "I Got You Babe" in 1965. He was also a successful producer and arranger, winning a Grammy at age 22 for Best Instrumental Arrangement on Mason Williams' "Classical Gas."
Post began his career in Los Angeles with the country-rock band First Edition, featuring Kenny Rogers. In the late 1960s he joined forces with Pete Carpenter, trombonist, arranger, and a veteran of television theme scoring, and began to write music for television. Post and Carpenter began working for producer Stephen J. Cannell and first wrote the theme for Cannell's cop show Toma in 1973. The Rockford Files theme, however, was their breakthrough assignment. The whimsical synthesizer melodies seemed perfectly suited to the ironic character of James Garner's Rockford. The score sealed their reputations and won Post his first Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Arrangement in 1975.
Hill Street Blues brought more accolades and continued success. The theme song, an elegant composition of simple, poignant piano music, struck a chord with audiences and soared onto the pop charts. It also impressed his peers and the critics and brought Post two more Grammys in 1981--one for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and one for Best Instrumental Composition.
Hill Street Blues also marked the beginning of a long-running, creative collaboration with Steven Bochco. One of the most prolific producers of successful dramatic series in the 1980s and 1990s, Bochco hired Post to write the Hill Street Blues theme and has worked closely with him ever since. The composer's career was largely established by the music he composed for Bochco's police or law-oriented dramas.
Post's work is wholly devoted to compelling a program's storyline and contributing to its overall tone. The slick, polished opening sounds of L.A. Law and the aggressive, chaotic drumbeats punctuating the segments of NYPD Blue episodes are examples of talent for melding images, emotions and sounds. He is also exceptionally resourceful in orchestrating his award-winning melodies. To achieve the unique sound of the NYPD Blue theme, for example, he used, among other effects, 1,000 Japanese men jumping up and down on a wooden floor, a cheese grater, and a subway horn. All these ideas are largely inspired by the program's script, and Post's ability to encompass a show's character in his music is what has landed him atop the elite class of Hollywood composers. Only Pat Williams, Henry Mancini and Dave Grusin have attained comparable levels of success and respect in this field.
Ironically, his music has become so popular that the themes play on pop radio, a medium wholly disconnected from the visual drama he is committed to enhancing. One of his songs, "The Greatest American Hero," is among the few TV themes ever to reach the number one spot on the Pop Singles charts. Others, such as the themes for Hill Street Blues and The Rockford Files, have reached the Top 10. His popular and unique compositions are not Mike Post's only enduring legacy to television, however. He can also be credited with elevating television scoring to a fine art, and creating a new dimension of drama with his "ear for the visual."
Borzillo, Carrie. "TV Composer Mike Post Takes BMI Award (Lifetime Achievement)." Billboard (New York), 28 May 1994.
Harris, Steve. Film and Television Composers: An International Discography, 1920-1989. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland, 1992.
Olsen, David C., editor. Best of the 80's: TV Songbook: A Prime Time Anthology. Miami, Florida: CPP/Belwin, 1988.
Wescott, Steven D. A Comprehensive Bibliography of Music for Film and Television. Detroit, Michigan: Information Coordinators, 1985.
MIKE POST. Born in San Fernando, California, U.S.A., 1945. Married; children: Jennifer and Aaron. Began career as member of Kenny Roger's country-rock band First Edition; went on to play for Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin; musical director, The Andy Williams Show, 1969; produced numerous television scores, including The Rockford Files, Hill Street Blues, L.A. Law, Doogie Howser, and NYPD Blue; arranged various Ray Charles LPs; record producer, Dolly Parton's 9 to 5, among others. Recipient: five Grammy Awards.
Two on a Beach, 1971; Gidget Gets Married, 1972; Griff, 1973; Needles and Pins, 1973; Toma, 1973; Locusts, 1974; The Morning After, 1974; The Rockford Files, 1974, The Texas Wheelers, 1974; The Bob Crane Show, 1975; The Invasion of Johnson County, 1976; Richie Brockelman: Missing 24 Hours, 1976; Scott Free, 1976; The Black Sheep Squadron, 1977; Charlie Cobb: Nice Night for a Hanging, 1977; Off the Wall, 1977; Doctor Scorpion, 1978; Richie Brockelman: Private Eye, 1978; The White Shadow, 1978; Big Shamus, Little Shamus, 1979; Captain America, 1979; Captain America II, 1979; The Duke, 1979; The 416th, 1979; The Night Rider, 1979; Operating Room, 1979; 240-Robert, 1979; Tennspeed and Brownshoe, 1980; Scout's Honor, 1980; Hill Street Blues, 1980; Coach of the Year, 1980; The Greatest American Hero, 1980; Palms Precinct, 1982; The Quest, 1982; Tales of the Gold Monkey, 1982; Will, G. Gordon Liddy, 1982; The A-Team, 1983; Bay City Blues, 1983; Big John, 1983; Hardcastle and McCormick, 1983; Riptide, 1983; The Rousters, 1983; Running Brave, 1983; Four Eyes, 1984; Hadley's Rebellion, 1984; Hard Knox, 1984; No Man's Land, 1984; The Return of Luter Gillie, 1984; The River Rat, 1984; Welcome to Paradise, 1984; Heart of a Champion, 1985; Stingray, 1985; Adam: His Song Continues, 1986; L.A. Law, 1986; The Last Precinct, 1986; Destination America, 1987; Hooperman, 1987; Sirens, 1987; Wiseguy, 1987; Murphy's Law, 1988; Sonny Spoon, 1988; The Ryan White Story, 1989; B.L. Stryker: The Dancer's Touch, 1989; Unspeakable Acts, 1990; Without Her Consent, 1990; NYPD Blue, 1993.