Weekend Intermission is our regular feature where we look at an artist or band not from the Nordic countries, just to mix things up a bit. Except that in this case two-thirds of the songs are Nordic!
TV cop (police/crime) dramas have traditionally attracted top songwriters to write the theme music for them.
Irya Gmeyner (Sweden): ‘Urban City’ – theme to Den Tunna blå linjen (Thin Blue Line)
I was only thinking the other day about the Swedish series Thin Blue Line (Swedish: Den Tunna blå linjen) – not to be confused with the embarrassing British 1990’s ‘comedy’, The Thin Blue Line, featuring ‘Mr Bean’ Rowan Atkinson – which is a Swedish police procedural drama television and which premiered in Sweden in January 2021.
Despite my best efforts it has never been shown on British TV as far as I know, which is, well, criminal.
The series follows the private and professional struggles of six police officers working in the multicultural southern Swedish city of Malmö, with more emphasis on their personal dramas than on any crime-driven plot. From what I heard from some people there it had half the nation glued to the TV screen every time it was on despite – or perhaps because of – a lack of ‘recognised’ actors.
We rarely feature any TV theme tunes but this one is very atmospheric and got me straight away, and there’s an interesting story behind it to boot.
The musician is Irya Gmeyner, an artist, composer and producer known for her expressive, suggestive music and colourful voice, with over 20 years of music experience as a touring and recording artist with several indie bands.
She is also known for her collaboration with the contemporary circus company Cirkus Cirkör as singer and composer for several of their international shows. She also performs under the name April Snow and has collaborated with Ane Brun.
Her music has been used in numerous US film and TV series like 90210 Beverly Hills, The Neighbours (not the one set on Ramsay Street, sport), Wet behind the Ears, Vendetta and Wynonna Earp. She’s also written for film and TV series in Scandinavia, such as Anna Odell’s (Swedish award-winning director) film X&Y and the theme song for Swedish TV series Labyrin.
Then she produced the series score for ‘Den tunna blå linjen’ (Thin Blue Line) in conjunction with Martin Hederos, with ‘Urban City’ as the introductory theme, one that catches the essence of what urban living, especially in city centres, is about.
TV series trailer:
For some strange reason it never really took off, despite the earlier success, say, of Choir of Young Believers’ ‘Hollow Talk’.
Choir of Young Believers (Denmark): Hollow Talk – theme to The Bridge
It was the theme to the legendary Danish/Swedish drama The Bridge (Bron/Broen in Swedish/Danish), which ran through four seasons from 2011 to 2018, ending with one of its two main detective characters, the Danish Martin Rohde languishing in jail for the murder of the person who had murdered his own son, and the other one, the Malmö (again) – based Swedish detective Saga Nóren, who had turned Martin in at the end of the second series, throwing her Länskrim Malmö (County Police) badge into the broiling Øresund strait between Denmark and Sweden from the bridge after which the series is named.
Different parts of ‘Hollow Talk’ accompanied the beginning and ending of each episode. The most poignant moments were at the end of Series 2 when Saga shopped Martin (which unfortunately there no longer seems to be a video for, I’ll post it if I find one, the acting and direction is fabulous), and the throwing her badge into the Øresund scene, the very final one when Saga bid goodbye to her police career forever, declining to add “Länskrim Malmö” to her name for the first time ever when her phone rings, as everything “goes back to the beginning”.
Choir of Young Believers was the musical project of singer, writer and guitarist Jannis Noya Makrigiannis from Copenhagen. The band, which consisted of Makrigiannis along with a rotating cast of supporting players, has had multiple No 1 hits in their home country and was named the “Best New Act” at the 2009 Danish Music Awards. COYB’s music combines folk melodies, orchestral instrumentation, and dark lyrics.
The band continues despite the untimely death of Jannis Makrigiannis on 30th December 2022.
Hill Street Blues theme (USA) – Mike Post
Which brings up to the Daddy of them all. Hill Street Blues took to the airwaves a long time ago (1981) and ran until 1987 with 146 episodes of earthy, gritty, real life stories which hinged on the individual characters and their private lives as much as it did criminal activity just as Thin Blue Line does.
Despite critical acclaim it scored lowly in the ratings initially and was frequently threatened with the axe by NBC.
Ultimately it won 26 Emmy Awards (out of 98 nominations) during its run, including four consecutive wins for Outstanding Drama Series.
For all its awards and its numerous memorable characters it is probably the theme music that sets it apart from all its competitors. It was written by Mike Post, featuring Larry Carlton on guitar. Released as a single it became a major US hit, reaching #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in November 1981, being the joint highest placing of his singles.
Mike Post (actually Leland Michael Postil) wrote television theme music for various other shows, including Law & Order; Law & Order: Special Victims Unit; The A-Team; The Byrds of Paradise; NYPD Blue; Renegade; The Rockford Files; L.A. Law; Quantum Leap; and Magnum, P.I.. He was also the producer of the ‘Van Halen III’ album by the band Van Halen.
He won his first Grammy Award at the age of 23 for Best Instrumental Arrangement on Mason Williams’ ‘Classical Gas’, a number 2 hit in 1968 (and one that we will cover in this section one day).
Incidentally, while we are talking about thin blue lines, in 1994 Post released a CD, called ‘Inventions from the Blue Line’. The CD contained several of his well-known themes, and in the liner notes he discussed his late father, Sam Postil, and the admiration for law enforcement officers that Sam instilled in Mike. He also referred to police in the traditional nickname of “blues”, as in The Thin Blue Line (referring to the police in general and to police camaraderie). One of the tracks is called ‘The Blue Line’.
The theme tune is sublime and ridiculously evocative and best listened to on another video in which three police cars slide out of the precinct station into the early morning ice, their occupants having just gone through the rigmarole of the 7 am morning roll call, a classic feature of the show.
Based around three notes and with such a laborious introduction it sounds like it’s going to die on its feet before it gets going, it explodes into the most memorable melody of any TV cop drama, ever, perhaps of any TV show, period, strangely melancholy yet somehow euphoric.
It is amazing how many people get quite emotional about it but then it isn’t just a tune or a reminder of a classic TV series. It stands for the 1980s, in many ways the greatest decade to have lived in.