When Bobby Hart and his songwriting partner, Tommy Boyce, were commissioned to write the theme song for a brand new soap opera over 50 years ago, they had no idea whatsoever that it would still be running on air, five days a week, twice a day for 50 years.
"I am blessed," Hart revealed to Soapdom, being grateful for its longevity and Days' Executive Producer, Ken Corday, keeping the Boyce & Hart theme song airing all these years.
You may not recognize the name of the songwriting team of Boyce & Hart, but odds are, if you or your parents were around in the mid to late 1960s, you are more than familiar with their music.
Along with writing the theme to Days of our Lives, Boyce & Hart wrote the theme song to the Monkees television show, "Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees," along with Monkees hits "Last Train to Clarksville," "Valerie," "I Wanna Be Free," and "I'm Not Your Stepping Stone," which was first recorded by Paul Revere and the Raiders — among many others.
Boyce & Hart also toured with former Monkees Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones in the mid 70s, doing all the Monkees' hits.
So how did pop songwriters and performers Bobby Hart and Tommy Boyce get involved with writing the theme to Days of our Lives in the first place?
Let's start at the beginning.
Hart hails from Phoenix, Arizona. At age 18, after high school and a six-month stint in the army, fulfilling his selective service requirements, he headed to Hollywood on a New Year's Day. A friend dropped him off on the corner of Hollywood and Vine with $50 in his pocket and dreams of making it in the music business. The year was 1958. He was somewhat prepared as he had taken some music lessons as a young boy.
"Violin lessons for several years from a factory concept of music teaching. Didn't learn much. Same with piano lessons. It was hard to sight read all those notes," Hart quipped. Luckily, his piano teacher took pity on him and gave him a chord book. "I learned three chords and could play just about any song on the radio!"
Later, in his high school years, he took lessons he paid for himself and learned more from that experience than from all the lessons he had earlier. But it was at age 15 that he had a revelation.
"I went on a trip with my family to Lubbock, Tx and we went to a church and I saw this organ player and was infatuated with it." Hart's romance with the Hammond B3 organ came in handy when they got to the Days of our Lives gig. More on that in a moment.
When he landed in Hollywood a few years later, Hart went to DJ school. "I hadn't thought of myself as rock star till I got here. I got a job printing record labels. On my way to work, I would pass this little recording studio that had a marque that said: 'Come in and see what your voice sounds like. $10.' One Saturday, I went in and I was hooked."
Hart quit DJ school. He soon met a record producer who liked his voice but wanted original material. "He said go home and write something. So I did. I wrote three or four songs and demoed them. One was called "Becky Baby" cos that was my high school sweet heart's name." Within four months of hitting town, Hart was signed as an artist.
Meanwhile, Tommy Boyce was going through a similar situation. "He was living at home with his family in Highland Park," an LA neighborhood. "The record producer introduced us. Eventually we became friends. We'd be hanging out on the weekend and play each others' songs and critique each other," said Hart. Boyce got a break to go to NY and signed with a music publisher there and saw some success, while Hart was still in LA, printing the labels for Boyce's hits. "I was finally able to join him in NY, and that's where we had our first hits together."
The first hit was a Chubby Checker tune, "Lazy Elsie Molly." But the big one was Jay and the Americans, "Come a Little Bit Closer." They were working out of the famed Brill Building, "and the building across the street, 1650 Broadway," Hart shared.
Hart was also getting some performance experience. "I was splitting my time in NY writing with Tommy and then I got a job as a singer with Teddy Randozzo in Vegas. Twelve weeks on. Twelve weeks off. One of those off times, Tommy got an offer to come back to LA, and I turned in my notice." Teddy Randazzo was also a producer and produced for Little Anthony and the Imperials, and ended up co-writing with Little Anthony, "It Hurts So Bad."
Back in LA, Boyce & Hart signed with Screen Gems in March 1965. "There was a great advantage to signing with a music publisher that also owned a movie studio and TV shows," said Hart. "We got sent out on these meetings." Which is how they got a meeting with Ted and Betty Corday, creators of Days of our Lives.
"We sat down with the Cordays and they told us what kind of music they wanted for their new soap, Days of our Lives. They said they'd just seen Fiddler on the Roof and they liked a song from that show, "Sunrise, Sunset," and wanted something like that. We were the kings of giving people what they asked for, and doing it within days."
For some reason, however, Boyce and Hart struck out a few times with the Cordays. "They turned down a couple of our tries, so when we were at the recording studio and got the call about the most recent rejection from our boss at Screen Gems, Tommy said, 'Forget this. Let's get to writing hits.' I said, before we give up, I'll go up to the Hammond B3 and play something similar to the kinds of things I remember from my mom's soaps," revealed Hart.
As a kid, Hart heard his mom's soaps growing up. "I had never watched them, but I was definitely influenced by my mom," he said. "In the radio days, they were mostly 15-minutes shows, and she would block out three hours while she was ironing and would listen to them. She listened daily. It got her through her day. The Guiding Light, Lorenzo Jones, Pepper Young's Family, Stella Dallas. She loved them all. They just took you away. They would capture you and because they were on the radio, you could make up your own imagery. The radio actors were like movie stars. This was as big a medium as motion pictures at that time. And almost all the background music was done on an organ. The organ was the way to go for daytime on the radio."
So before Boyce threw in the towel on composing a theme for Days that would be accepted, Hart went up to the Hammond B3 room in the studio and began composing something. "It ended up that we composed it on the fly. I tried to channel the kind of sound they were looking for in the kinds of things I heard on my mother's soap operas growing up." Hart played straight to tape. "Tommy contributed to the editing but mainly I was just doing it free form. The tape was rolling as I was playing. He made come critiques and had some other contributions."
Thankfully, Hart convinced Boyce to not abandon the project, because the melody he composed on the Hammond B3 became the theme song for Days of our Lives.
"That's the one they accepted," Hart said beaming. "The melody stands up for me even to this day. I did a book signing earlier this year at Steinway Hall and I played the melody on one of the pianos. And it has some heart to it still. It shines through. I love the various versions. It's gone through a few. It seems to be getting better every time. We submitted it just on the organ, and once they accepted it, Screen Gems sent an arranger named Don McGuinness over to London, and he hired members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra to record it. It was cheaper in those days to hire the musicians in London," revealed Hart.
And today, fifty years on, the theme for Days of our Lives is as iconic to the show as the trademark hour glass and the opening words first spoken in 1965. "Like sands through the hour glass, so are the Days of our Lives."
Interestingly, Boyce & Hart also composed themes for the families or main characters. Before MacDonald Carey would enter stage right, his particular theme would begin playing. These themes were used up until Ken Corday, son of Betty and Ed Corday, took over the show. He re-wrote the character themes with another songwriter, but kept the Boyce & Hart opening and closing theme song in tact. Hart is very thankful for that.
Hart recently published his memoir, Psychedelic Bubble Gum, with co-author, Glenn Balantyne, which has been quite well received, and has even been optioned for a feature film. "I wrote it just because I wanted to," shared Hart. "It's been on Amazon top 100 chart since it's publication, May 2015. It was #1 for some weeks. It's my life."
The memoir reveals more details about Days of our Lives. "My life has some parallels with Days," admitted Hart. "The ups and downs and a multilayered storyline. There's romance, comedy, adventure, drama. I see the soap as a parallel to my own life, as well as my spiritual journey. I had all this success and everything was the way it should be and I still felt there was something missing. I was always looking for something extra."
For the aspiring songwriter, Hart shares a few tricks of the trade in the book. "Creativity, will power, the power of thought visualization. It's not a self help book, it's a memoir with some of that thrown in." Psychedelic Bubble Gum is available on Amazon and any bookstore.
With all of Hart's successes in the music business, he feels for today's artists. Remember, he got a signed record deal at age 18 within four months of his hitting LA. "That would never happen today," he said. "The music biz has changed. There is nothing. In those days, there were music publishers who got your music recorded. So you could hone your craft and not have to have a day job. They would give you money to live on. That doesn't exist anymore, except maybe in Nashville. If one of the music composers I know calls and asks me to compose lyrics for a song, I'll do that kind of thing. I don't have a record deal now, and I don't write on spec." The only solo album Hart ever released was in 1979. A company in London will be releasing that and putting it out on CD so there will be some of his material back out in the market.
From Hart's early influences in Country music, R&B, Elvis and Rockabilly, to memories of his mom's soaps, the iconic theme for Days of our Lives was born, and composed on the fly in a little Hollywood studio on a Hammond B3. Congratulations to celebrating its 50th anniversary. Long may it play on.
For more on Bobby Hart visit http://www.bobbyhart.com
(Special thanks to my friend and drummer, Jerry Sommers, who toured with Dolenz, Jones, Boyce and Hart in the mid-1970s and who introduced me to Hart for the purposes of this interview. Jerry, you rock!)
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