'The Simpsons' Theme Song Originally Used a Wrong Title for the Show

'The Simpsons' Theme Song Originally Used a Wrong Title for the Show

04/07/2021

The Simpsons theme song has probably been played more than any other piece of television music. The show has lasted 32 seasons with at least two more on the way, so the theme song has played for more than three decades. Plus, the show has been in syndication most of that time, and streaming for the last several years so the theme song has been in constant rotation. However, The Simpsons creator Matt Groening just revealed the original artists almost got the name of the show wrong.

Groening spoke with USA about The Simpsons’ milestone 700th episode which aired March 21. Looking back on the show, Groening told the story about how recording that classic theme song almost went very wrong. 

‘The Simpsons’ on ‘The Tracey Ullman Show’

Before The Simpsons became a television institution, they appeared on Tracey Ullman’s sketch comedy series on Fox. The Tracey Ullman Show ran for four seasons from 1987 to 1990. The Simpsons appeared in shorts before commercial breaks. 

Tracey Ullman cast members Dan Castellaneta and Julie Kavner voiced Homer and Marge. Nancy Cartwright and Yeardley Smith voiced Bart and Lisa respectively but did not appear in live-action sketches. The Simpsons got their own half-hour show in Dec. 1989 as a Christmas special, followed by their new series in 1990. Hank Azaria and Harry Shearer joined the cast as the voices of additional characters. 

Who writes the music for ‘The Simpsons’?

For 30 seasons, Alf Clausen wrote the instrumental music for The Simpsons, and songs for the show’s musical episodes, except when Michael Jackson wrote one. Clauson remains composer emeritus and Bleeding Fingers Music handles day to day. For the theme song, The Simpsons hired Danny Elfman lead singer of Oingo Boingo who had already developed a career scoring movies like Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure and Batman. His theme song only had two words, “The Simpsons,” so it’s easy to remember.

“I have a special place in my heart for the original Simpsons theme,” Groening told USA Today.  “On the day of the recording session with the orchestra and Danny Elfman, there was a trio of singers just to sing, ‘The Simpsons.’”

Unfortunately, the trio sang what sounded like the wrong name.

“We played it back and it sounded like they were saying ‘The Simpson,’” Groening said. “The plural in ‘Simpsons’ didn’t come through.”

Fixing the classic theme song

The singular The Simpson would have been an entirely different show. There are far more than one Simpson. Elfman and Groening came up with a quick DIY fix so they wouldn’t have to call back the singers just to sing, “The Simpsons” again.

“Danny and I went into the recording booth and made a ‘Z’ sound and edited onto the end of ‘The Simpson,’” Groening said. “So it’s now ‘The Simpsons.’ I don’t think they re-recorded that part. So I think it’s us.”

That means you’ve been hearing Groening and Elfman sing the second S of “Simpsons” for over 30 years! Other musical moments from 32 years stand out to Groening.

“Of course, I like ‘The Monorail Song,’” Groening said. “That’s a big one. There’s ‘The Planet of the Apes’ song – ‘from Chimpan-A to Chimpan-Z.’ Some of those things are earworms that will never go away.”

Source: USA Today

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