THE GREATEST RECORD EVER MADE: The Green Hornet Theme

This short piece was originally written as an entr’acte at the middle of my forthcoming book The Greatest Record Ever Made! (Volume 1). I’ve decided that it doesn’t quite fit, so it’s moved from book to blog in one superheroic leap.

An infinite number of songs can each be THE greatest record ever made, as long as they take turns. Today, this is The Greatest Record Ever Made!

AL HIRT: “The Green Hornet Theme”

My love of superheroes rivals my affection for pop music, and it goes back nearly as far. TV reruns of The Adventures Of SupermanFlash Gordon, and Popeye and Astro Boy cartoons instilled a deep and abiding interest in the larger-than-life adventures of stalwart crusaders who protected the good from the malevolent machinations of evil. When the campy Batman TV series hit the screen in early ’66, that interest in superheroes shifted into supersonic overdrive. I remain a fan to this day. I will not be growing out of it any time soon.

The producers of the Batman show tried to duplicate its success with an adaptation of the old radio hero The Green Hornet; in contrast to the heightened sense of absurdity that made Batman such a hit, The Green Hornet was played as a relatively straight crime drama that happened to feature masked heroes with outlandish weapons. Sounds good to me! Alas, the public did not agree. and The Green Hornet‘s war on crime ceased fire after a single failed season.

I still like it. As The Green Hornet, actor Van Williams was steadfast without seeming corny, and future pop culture legend Bruce Lee was riveting as the Hornet’s high-flying enforcer Kato. Taking a cue from the earlier success of Peter GunnThe Green Hornet‘s jazzy score was as much a star as its heroes, propelling the action and making it all seem so, so cool. Al Hirt’s over-the-top performance of the show’s title theme–a busy, bouncing workout of Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Flight Of The Bumblebee”–rocked as hard as any TV show theme has ever rocked.

As a rabid devotee of both music and comic books, I’ve found a number of superhero-related tunes that thrill my inner six-year-old. Neal Hefti’s “Batman Theme.” John William’s main title them from the 1978 Superman film. “Nobody Loves The Hulk,” an obscure ’60s garage number by a forgotten group called The Traits. None of ’em can surpass the conviction and authority of Al Hirt’s “Green Hornet Theme.” Another challenge for The Green Hornet? Nope. Kato’s gonna kick the bad guys’ asses, like he always does. Just turn the music up. Justice will triumph yet again.


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