Robert Colbert featuring Johnathan Frid and David Selby – Dark Shadows Original Television Soundtrack (1969), The Charles Randolph Green Sound – Quintin’s Theme (1969) and Andy Williams – Get Together with Andy Williams (1969)

The cast of television soap opera and late 1960’s phenomena “Dark Shadows” in 1966.

While songs from film soundtracks have had a long history of becoming huge hit records, despite the popularity of television theme songs, very few of them have gone on to have the same success. Only a handful of themes, including Hawaii 5-0, My Three Songs, Secret Agent Man, S.W.A.T., The Rockford Files, Welcome Back, Kotter, The Greatest American Hero, Miami Vice and Friends, have spent time on the Billboard charts. However, only once in the history of the Billboard charts did a piece of incidental music – as in a piece of music used within the show to emphasize a mood or scene change – from a television show go to the top twenty. In June 1969 “Quintin’s Theme,” by The Charles Randolph Green Sound, peaked at #13 as one of the most unlikely songs of the era to make the hot 100. An old timey waltz that would be more at home on an antique gramophone than on a hi-fi stereo system, it was a far cry from the hitmakers of the era. It didn’t have a good beat, you couldn’t really dance to it, and The Charles Green Sound would not appearing at Woodstock. In fact, it sounded like it’d be more at home on a Lawrence Welk album than side by side on the charts with The Beatles and Led Zepplin. But the popularity of “Quintin’s Theme” was a testament to the fan power of 1960’s cultural phenomenon “Dark Shadows,” and the popularity of the series co-star, David Selby.

Premiering in 1966. “Dark Shadows” was television’s strangest daily soap opera. Created by rogue television producer Dan Curtis, the show was originally sold as a modern gothic romance series in the style of a Bronte Sisters novel for the modern bored housewife. However, both the focus of the series and the audience shifted gears towards the end of its first year when, in an attempt to give the breath of life to a failing ratings, Curtis did the unthinkable by introducing a vampire character into the show. Barnabas Collins, played by Canadian thespian Johnathan Frid, became television’s first vampire anti-hero and turned a show on the brink of cancellation to must see TV and a massive phenomenon. Airing at 4 pm on ABC-TV, the addition of a blood sucking fiend attracted a new younger audience, and an entire generation of kids rushed home after school to breath in the gothic horror goodness from Collinsport, Maine for a half hour every day. Soon, Frid and his co-stars were appearing in the pages of “16 Magazine” (editor in chief Gloria Stavers was a fan), and merchandise – from bubblegum cards to model kits – began to hit store shelves. As ratings soared due to the shift from gothic romance to horror, more supernatural elements began to be added to the series, including ghosts, witches, werewolves and any other spooky concept Curtis and his writers could unleash on daytime television. It was an absolutely delicious series, and a fan base ranging from school aged kids to stay at home Moms were transfixed to the screen. In total 1225 episodes, as well as two cinematic film adaptations featuring the show’s cast, were made when “Dark Shadows” wrapped up in 1971.

Composer Robert “Bob” Cobert, who wrote all the music for “Dark Shadows,” with the shows leading men David Selby and Johnathan Frid, who provided spoken word vocals for the soundtrack album released in 1969.

Like most well produced television series, the music on “Dark Shadows” played an important part in the storytelling of the show, and the incidental music, used over and over again from episode to episode, became as recognizable to viewers as the characters themselves. Written and produced by musician Robert “Bob” Cobert, the show’s score helped create the mood and atmosphere of the show, from the gloomy halls of Collinswood Manor to the blasting jukebox of The Blue Whale. But early on in the series, Curtis began connecting the various music ques to the show’s supernatural characters. A delicate melody played on a music box became interchangeable with the show’s first supernatural character, the ghost of Josette du Pres, the former lady of the house who died when she threw herself off of nearby Widow’s Hill. An eerie instrumental of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” would bring forth the ghost of Sarah Collins, Barnabas’ little sister who still roamed Collinswood and its grounds. But while both were recognizable and loved by “Dark Shadows” fans, no piece of music from the series became more successful than when “Quintin’s Theme” accompanied the introduction of new anti-hero Quintin Collins in 1968.

Joining the cast of “Dark Shadows” in 1967, actor David Selby became a TV star, teen heart throb, and fan favorite as the anti-heroic Quintom Collins. The popularity of his character made the incidental music featured upon his arrival on the series, titled “Quinton’s Theme” to be one of the most unlikeliest Billboard hits of all times, and was nominated for an Emmy award.

After carrying the bulk of “Dark Shadows’” popularity on his shoulders for over a year, Johnthan Frid began to feel the strain and was looking for some relief as the show’s primary character. So, in 1968 Dan Curtis sought to bring in another leading man who would be equally as popular, and whose plots could also be revolved around, allowing Frid to have downtime from the heavy production schedule. In a plot inspired by Henry James’ “Turn of the Screw,” a malicious ghost named Quintin Collins, who inhabited Collinswood in 1890, began haunting and manipulating the actions of the manor’s youngest residents, David and Amy. An evil spirit, his presence was revealed by the sound of a haunting melody from an invisible phonograph. After weeks of Quintin’s existence only being mentioned by characters, and the music becoming a familiar sound to strike suspense into the episode, actor David Selby made his first appearance in the series on December 16, 1968, at the episode’s cliffhanger.

But the music used to conjure up Quentin Collins did not make its first appearance on “Dark Shadows” but was borrowed from another Dan Curtis production. Earlier that year Curtis produced a made for TV adaptation of “Dr, Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” featuring Hollywood tough guy Jack Palance in the unlikely role of the brilliant scientist and his evil alter ego. The film was a huge success and was nominated for four Emmy awards. Curtis had Bob Cobert do the music for the movie, and after the film was produced, he reused all of the music in “Dark Shadows,” including the old timey waltz which would become most famous as “Quintin’s Theme.”

The Charles Randolph Green Sound – Quintin’s Theme (1969)

With his dark piercing eyes, chiseled chin and trademark sideburns, the dark and brooding David Selby made Quintin Collins one of the most popular characters on not only “Dark Shadows,” but on daytime television. Younger and more handsome than Johnthan Frid, Selby was an intensely talented actor, and was given a complex multi-faceted character to play. In time, the character went from being a villain to a romantic hero as he went from spirit to Dorian Grey type figure, to even a werewolf. Soon David Selby found himself to be the idol of young female fans across America, who swooned over him in teen mags, and hung his posters on the wall. And while he wisely didn’t record a pop record, the fans had that special song to remind them of him. The show even made reference to the song when, in one episode, Quintin explained as the music played “I read somewhere where every person has a theme of music. Well this is mine. When I’m alone, depressed, I can play this and suddenly I’m not in this room or this house. I’m free somewhere – somewhere exciting.“ Soon requests for recordings of “Quintin’s Theme” began to flood into the “Dark Shadows” production offices. It was obvious that it was time for a soundtrack album of the Bob Cobert’s music would be released.

But while the release of the “Dark Shadows” soundtrack would be weeks away, In June 1969 “Quintin’s Theme” hit the record stores on an album credited to The Charles Randolph Green Sound. A noted Hollywood based orchestra leader, its anybody’s guess why Green decided to record “Quintin’s Theme” and rush it to the record shops. Did he have an inside scoop? Were his kid’s fans? Well, whatever made Green take the chance to record “Quintin’s Theme, ” it was a golden idea cause the massive “Dark Shadows” fan base bought the record. Now I don’t know if this thing was getting any radio airplay (I really have no idea how it would fit on any radio station playlist, then or now) but somehow the record sold enough to get to the top of the charts.

Andy Williams – Get Together with Andy Williams (1969)

A few weeks later, In July 1969, Robert Cobert’s original “Dark Shadows” soundtrack hit record stores in an impressive package that not only contained all the familiar incidental music from the show, but instrumental tracks featuring Jonathan Frid reading creepy yet romantic monologues, and also a nifty poster of Frid and Selby to hang on the purchaser’s wall. But instead of releasing another instrumental version of Quintin’s Theme, lyrics to the song were revealed for the first time, and were read by David Selby, Rex Harrison style, over the original melody. While this version was not the one that became the hit, it is a far more interesting recording, and David Selby’s voice over the music adds to a more satisfying fan experience. Despite it not being the version on the Billboard charts, Corbet would get the nod from the Grammy’s when his version was nominated for “Best instrumental; Theme.” It lost to John Barry’s theme to “Midnight Cowboy,” which was the biggest film of the year, but considering that “Quintin’s Theme” was little more than an incidental piece of music from a daytime soap opera, the Grammy nomination was a huge achievement for Cobert, and a testament to the power of that particular piece of music on the TV audience.

Oddly enough a third version of “Quinton’s Theme” would be released by the end of the year. In October 1969, just in time for Halloween, crooner Andy Williams was the first to actually sing the lyrics alongside the melody in a track called “Shadows of the Night (Quintin’s Theme)” on his album “Get Together with Andy Williams.” A lp designed to try to make Williams look “hip,” by singing songs for a younger generation, it was an odd choice, but fit Andy’s style of singing far better than pretty much everything else on the album. But, although it was from a gothic television show, the track wasn’t the scariest thing on that particular lp. That’d have to go Williams and a pre “One Bad Apple” Osmond Brothers singing “Age of Aquarius” from the musical “Hair.” Now that track has to be heard to be believed. Yikes. Truly scary stuff.

For more on his career, including recording “Shadows of the Night,” read my 2022 interview with David Selby – Shadows of the Night: A Conversation with David Seklby.

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