So what do you put on your turn table on a night where you have to go to a funeral? That’s where I found myself tonight, getting on my pressed shirt and brushing off my wedding coat.. I didn’t want anything filled with a blast of energy, nor something too sad. Just something nice, calm, relaxing, inoffensive. For some reason this 1976 compilation album featuring Barry De Vorzon and Perry Botkin’s theme song to the Young and the Restless, retitled “Nadia’s Theme” to coincide with the popularity of Romanian Olympic gold medalist Nadia Comaneci, came to mind. Took me a while to find where I had it filed but it did the trick. Totally inoffensive instrumentals set a mood as if I was listening to muzak at a 1970’s K-Mart. Was comfortable and pleasent.
This album shows up in the piles of Nana Muskouri and James Last albums at thrift stores now and then, but I’m glad I have it, and honestly, its surprising it lasted in my collection this long because I bought it back in high school, and I probably haven’t listened to it in over 30 years. Its not the kind of album that gets borrowed or stolen, because its not the album anybody wants. Besides multiple compositions by DeVorzan and Botkin, the album has instrumentals by notable 70’s icons as Herb Alpert and Chuck Mangione, along with some others I’ve never heard of.
The title track has an interesting history. It was originally used as part of the soundtrack to the 1971 film “Bless the Beasts and the Children” where it was titled “Cotton’s Dream.” Two years later, when the day time soap opera “The Young and the Restless” premiered on CBS-TV it was used as the theme song, where it gained its widespread fame as one of the most recognizable theme songs in television history, and which the song is still most closely associated with today.
But the musical piece got new life in 1976 when award winning TV producer Robert Riger used it as the score to a montage of Olympic gymnastic sensation Nadia Comaneci’s gold medal winning performances at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal for an episode of “ABC’s Wide World of Sports.” Comaneci became a world wide sensation that year when, at age 14, she was the first gymnast ever to be awarded a perfect 10.0 score at the Olympic Games, and for winning three gold medals for Romania. Noted for her elegant style and perfection, not only did she become an idol to little girls with gold medal dreams worldwide, but became one of the most celebrated athletes of the 1970’s and one of the most recognizable gymnasts in the history of the sport. As American viewers watched her performance in slow motion in Riger’s film to the perfectly chosen musical score, “Cotton’s Dream” became “Nadia’s Theme” and suddenly every young performer, from gymnites to pianist to figure skater, wanted to use it as their theme. With requests pouring in to A&M Records, who owned the song, to be released as a single it was quickly releaed and retitled “Nadia’s Theme”. where it began to rise on the Billboard charts reaching the number eight spot in December 1976. A complication album of similar sounding instrumentals laying around the A&R archives was released alongside the single with a rough sketch of Nadia on the cover. A nice little cultural souvenir celebrating a 70’s sports sensation.
But that wasn’t the only time that “Nadia’s Theme” was released in 1976. A vocal group from Los Angeles called The Sounds of Sunshine released a vocal version with lyrics:
“Gone, dreams of the past, gone with a love that moved too fast So gone bright shiny days, gone in a young and restless haze.
Why did we love, then run away?
So little time so much left to say and now it’s gone
Young and restless friend, you’ll never pass this way again
So drink the summer wine reach for the stars while you have time
Your restless heart will lead the way
So dream your dreams and live for each day while you are young.”
Now I don’t know if Botkin and DeVorzan wrote the lyrics prior to the 1976 release or afterwards, but I give them points for including the phrase “Young and Restless” twice in the song, despite the awkward placement.
I’m going to admit that this is my favorite version of “Nadia’s Theme.” I first heard it when I was about twelve years old in a hotel restaurant in Michigan City, Indiana when my family was driving from Ontario to visit relatives in Southern Illinois. I remember trying to find a quiet place where I could actually hear the lyrics, and even when running to a stall in a washroom I could barely make out more than the melody and sleepy sounds of what sounded like a bored vocal group. I would never hear it out in the wild again in my life, and probably wouldn’t know about its existance if I hadn’t caught it at that exact moment and had the memory burnt into my mind. It took me decades to find out who sang it and to hear it again via the power of the internet, but I still don’t own a copy of this single. It’s one of the few 45 rpm records currently on my want list (if anybody out there has a copy to sell me, drop me an email).
Because I’ll probably never write about The Sounds of Sunshine again, indulge me as I jot down a few notes on them. They were a Los Angeles outfit formed by brothers Walt, Warner and George Wilder at the end of the 1960’s with a sound similar to The Sandpipers, and released one album in 1971, which spawned a single called “Love Means” which did land at the #87 spot on the Billboard charts before dropping off and becoming completely forgotten.
I can’t find any information on their release of “Nadia’s Theme” a few years later, but there is one story about the Sounds of Sunshine which I find hilarious. In 1980, punk bassist Klaus Flouride found a completely goony promo photo of The Sounds of Sunshine at a garage sale and couldn’t resist buying it. He brought the photo to the studio where he and his bandmates in The Daad Kennedy’s were recording their debut album “Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables.” The band thought it was hilarious, and decided to put the photo on the back cover of the album without any indication of who was pictured. A great visual joke, but somebody from the Sounds of Sunshine circle found out and they sued the Kennedys for the gag. However, the band paid them a measly $3000 to shut up and go away. Probably the most money that the Sounds of Sunshine had made from the music industry in a long time.
But even kitschier than that photo was when a pre-Knght Rider David Hasselhoff performed the vocal version of “Nadia’s Theme” in 1977 on an episode of the long running “Merv Griffin Show.” Daytime soap fans can tell you that before he hit fame as one of pop culture’s biggest icons, the Hoff got his start playing Snapper Foster for six year on The Young and the Restless. It’s only fitting that he’d make what Griffin calls “His singing debut” with a totally cheeseball version of this song. Thank God they kept this performance on video tape because, wow, its a pop culture treat!
Despite living many lives and names over fifty years, the song continues to be used today as The Young and the Restless theme, which has outlasted both “Bless the Beasts and the Children,” and Nadia Comaneci in the minds of the mass public, but no matter how you know it or what you call it, it is still one of the most recognizable pieces of instrumental music written in the 20th Century.