10 Bands Known Only for a TV Show Theme Song

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If any of you musicians dream of being a one-hit wonder, consider peddling your wares to a major television network. Scads of decent bands (usually of the alt-rock variety) have topped the charts with their theme songs, never to be heard from again. And with teenage cries of "California, here we cooooooome…" still occasionally wailing across the airwaves, that's not necessarily always a bad thing. Here you'll find 10 bands known only (or, in some cases, primarily) for the TV themes they performed.

  1. Primus: You can say that you were a fan of Primus before they did the South Park theme song, but you'd likely be lying. Even if you were, it's some 15 years later — and it's impossible to separate Les Claypool's voice from the silly saga of everyone's favorite potty-mouthed elementary school kids.
  2. Polaris: Because the band was a one-off, and only created for the show, there's no possible way for Polaris to be known in any other capacity. But everyone has a favorite '90s band, and for only the most serious of The Adventures of Pete and Pete fankids, that band is Polaris. Latchkey junior high schoolers nationwide heard "Hey Sandy" and other tunes by the group at least once a week during the show's three-year run. Luckily, "Hey Sandy" and Pete and Pete gallantly stand the test of time. The full version of the theme song is below.
  3. Alabama 3: Known for the spooky Sopranos theme, the U.K.'s Alabama 3 gained worldwide recognition after the HBO show achieved its massive popularity. What you may not know about Alabama 3 (called A3 in the United States) is that they're also (but not equally) well-known for the band members' silly alter-egos (with "Harpo Strangelove" and "The Very Reverend Dr. D. Wayne Love" topping the list) and funny, often ridiculous stage shows.
  4. Brian Jonestown Massacre: Not to be mistaken for the regular Jonestown Massacre, this indie psych-rock darling has drawn committed crowds at concerts and festivals since the 1990s. When selected to accompany the opening credits of HBO's Prohibition-era Atlantic City hit Boardwalk Empire, the hypercool "Straight Up and Down" firmly cemented Anton Newcombe's mind and string-bending guitar riffs to the forefront of pop culture's collective conscience.
  5. Phantom Planet: There are three types of people in this world: those that love The O.C., those that love Jason Schwartzman, and those that love hearing alternateens screech "Cal-i-forn-iaaaaaa" about 10 cents sharp into a big microphone.
  6. The Rembrandts: In TV theme song one-hit wonderland, The Rembrandts sit on gilded thrones. Dominating '90s charts in the U.S. and the U.K. with the unforgettable Friends theme song, the duo has rarely been heard from under their artsy band name again. Fun fact: they're still making music, and have an unintentionally hilarious website. Would you expect anything less than a garish logo and a site with frames from the Grammy-nominated musical epitome of good-natured '90s coffeeshop culture?
  7. The Abandoned Pools: Here's hoping you know of this TV show and this band — but don't feel bad if you're unfamiliar. The Abandoned Pools lend voice to the brilliantly penned theme song to MTV's early 2000s short-lived cartoon about the drama-filled high school days of the clones of some of history's greatest figures. Confused yet? Just listen to the theme, and you'll know enough to dive into this magnificent show, Clone High.
  8. The High Strung: This small Detroit band was super underground, performing at the Naval base at Guantanamo Bay and a series of libraries stateside before they scored the coveted minute of the beginning of the recent Showtime hit Shameless. "The Luck You Got" has netted tons of positive buzz for the group and cemented The High Strung as a bona fide 2012 "It" band. With a recent feature on NPR's This American Life and a new album, you've likely not heard the last of the luck that they've got.
  9. Inner Circle: In a counterintuitive twist of fate, Cops chose reggae band Inner Circle's "Bad Boys" as their theme song, and prompted generations of petty criminals to wonder (and, perhaps, to find out) exactly what are you gonna do when they come for you?
  10. Rockapella: Sure, they did a Folger's commercial. And they may very well be the most well-known a capella group in recent memory. But you know them from Carmen Sandiego. And you're not alone. This fedora-wearing group of pitch-perfect singers is iconic for their stint as the musical driving force behind the classic PBS hit for kids.
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