"After my first 200 songs, I finally decided I was the worst lyricist, and just didn't have it," says composer Mike Post. "But I liked my melodies, and that's how I became a composer for film and TV."
The urgent, intense urban musical sounds of Mr. Post are among the most familiar on TV, especially in the hard-boiled atmosphere of cop or lawyer shows. His signature themes can be heard on "L.A. Law," "NYPD Blue," "Law & Order," "Silk Stalkings" and "Renegade." These and other Post creations are among those re-created by Mr. Post in a new release from American Gramaphone, "Inventions from the Blue Line."
To term Mr. Post a veteran of TV scoring at age 49 does not completely spell it out, for he is regarded as the youngest musician in TV history to be appointed a musical director. He served that function starting in 1969, at age 24, for "The Andy Williams Show."
Before that, the native Californian had been a session guitarist for such acts as Dick and Dee, Sammy Davis Jr., Dean Martin and Sonny and Cher (including playing on "I Got You Babe" in 1965), and a successful producer and arranger, winning a Grammy for best instrumental arrangement for Mason Williams' "Classical Gas."
His TV scoring assignments read like a syndication directory: "The Rockford Files," "Hill Street Blues," "The Greatest American Hero," "Magnum P.I.," "Quantum Leap" and "Wiseguy," among others. Mr. Post is corporately involved in other TV scoring through Mike Post Productions, where a staff turns out music.
Mr. Post hopes to return to songwriting (as a melodist, not lyricist) someday, probably for Broadway, where he is likely to work something out with his close friend, theater scion James Nederlander. He says he has already learned some lessons in this regard.
A few seasons ago, Mr. Post was involved in a failed, pioneering project that taught him the difficulty of making songs work in a dramatic context. It was "Cop Rock," a show that used song to advance the plot. "If the music doesn't happen naturally, there is a cessation of reality," he says. "That [seems to be acceptable] in the theater. Even there, you've got to be really careful. I'd probably do a show about music where music becomes reality."
Although Mr. Post admits there is something of a jazz feel in his work, he says jazz is not part of his true lexicon. "I sort of skipped jazz," he adds. "The truth is, I never played a lot of it; I've still got a rock and roll heart. I'd quit the business if I could be Keith Richards."
Mr. Post recalls when he was once asked to do the impossible: to outdo a George Gershwin classic. "I was asked to do a more traditional-type score that required a New York [touch] that included the sounds of the subway. 'All you gotta do,' I was told, 'is do [something like] "Rhapsody In Blue," only better.' "