Secret Agent Man (song)
|"Secret Agent Man"|
|Single by Johnny Rivers|
|from the album ...And I Know You Wanna Dance|
|Genre||Rock and roll|
P. F. Sloan
"Secret Agent Man" is a song written by Steve Barri and P. F. Sloan. The most famous recording of the song was made by Johnny Rivers for the opening titles of the American broadcast of the British spy series Danger Man, which aired in the U.S. as "Secret Agent" from 1964 to 1966. The song itself peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The song evokes secret agents both musically (making use of a memorable guitar riff written by Chuck Day and inspired by Monty Norman's James Bond theme) and through its lyrics (which describe the dangerous life of a secret agent). In an unusual situation, due to the format of the series, the show's original British theme song, an instrumental entitled "High Wire", was actually retained as it was played over the episode credits following the "Secret Agent" titles. The lyric "They've given you a number and taken away your name," referring to the numerical code names given to secret agents, as in 007 for James Bond. When it was originally recorded by Rivers, it merely had one verse and one chorus. Later, after the song began to gain in popularity, Rivers recorded it live, with two more verses, and the chorus repeated twice more. The "live" version was recorded in 1966 at the Whisky A Go Go, but not released until after a few studio production touchups were done shortly after.
||This article may contain excessive, poor, or irrelevant examples.|
Mel Tormé had a minor contemporary hit with a cover in 1966, the same year Rivers released the song.
In 1974, the song was recorded by Devo and again in 1979 on the Duty Now for the Future album with a jerky, heavily modified arrangement and significantly altered lyrics (sung by guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh). The 1974 recording was featured as a music video in Devo's independent short film, In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evolution. The song was a favorite of Devo fans, entering the setlist in 1977 and remaining until 1980 (and returned to the band's setlist in 2006). This Devo cover was in turn covered by the Japanese band Polysics in the 2000s.
A Spanish version, "Hombre Secreto", recorded by The Plugz, features on the soundtrack to the film Repo Man. "Secret Agent Man" was also covered by Bruce Willis on his album The Return of Bruno. The song opened with the sounds of a car door being opened and closed, footsteps, and a single gunshot. The original Johnny Rivers version of the song was used in the film Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery as a nod to Danger Man. In 1978, Detroit MI-area punk-styled band Cinecyde recorded an aggressive but authentic cover version for their Black Vinyl Threat EP on Tremor Records, a recording later collected on their CD You Live A Lie You're Gonna Die.
The band Blotto recorded a live version of the song in the mid-1980s, which was eventually released on their Then More Than Ever album in 1999.
The song was illegally used as the ending credits song on a NES pirate game in 1991.
In 1995, this song was played by Blues Traveler in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, in a version which was faster than the original. In 2000, an updated version, recorded by Supreme Beings of Leisure, was used for the opening credits of the UPN series Secret Agent Man. This led to some media coverage erroneously calling the series a remake of Danger Man/Secret Agent. This is one of the few songs that has been used for the opening credits of more than one unrelated series.
Performance artist Laurie Anderson quoted the opening lines of the song in the title track of her 1982 album Big Science. In fact, she misquoted them, altering 'There's a man...' to 'Here's a man...' and 'To everyone he meets he stays a stranger' to 'Everywhere he goes he stays a stranger'.
The 1987 Exidy game "CrackShot" features the original version's opening riff (actual digitized sound) as background music for the "Police Alley" minigames.
The song was played at the end of Bowfinger, in the film-within-a-film where Bobby Bowfinger (Steve Martin) plays a secret agent/action hero much like John Drake or James Bond, with Jiff Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) playing his partner. When they are attacked by a group of ninjas, the songs segues into a cover version of "Kung Fu Fighting".
In 2000, the song was featured on the soundtrack to the film The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle. A new edition of the sheet music for the song featured a cover showing the characters from the film. The soundtrack for the film was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh of Devo, which famously covered the song.
In a U.S. commercial for the video game Kirby: Nightmare in Dreamland, this song is featured, with lyrics changed to fit with Kirby.
It has also been covered by surf punk pioneers, Agent Orange in 1984 on the When You Least Expect It EP. Heavy metal band Cirith Ungol covered the song on their Servants of Chaos compilation. The Pagans, a punk band from Cleveland, covered the song live and it appears as the B-side of the "Dead End America" 7" as well as on the "Live Road Kill" compilation.
The song has been adapted by Walmart for use in a previous TV commercial with the lyrics changed to "He's the rollback man."
Mexican band Psychotic Aztecs recorded a Spanish cover as "Agente Secreto" on their album Santa Sangre.
The song has been covered by Rachael MacFarlane on her 2012 debut album Hayley Sings. The album's title refers to MacFarlane's character Hayley Smith on her brother Seth's show American Dad!, the daughter of the shows titular character Stan Smith, a secret agent for the CIA.