Turn On! The Television – The Twilight Zone

In the 1960’s, when we weren’t listening to the greatest music of all time, we watched T.V ! No Hi-def flat screens with international satellite up links, just three networks and the most innovative and entertaining programming in history. Nearly all of the worlds most popular programs included opening and closing musical themes. Many of them established their own identity and remain with us, holding a place in our life and culture as powerful and memorable as much as the music we “tuned” into on the radio in The 60’s. Who hasn’t invoked “The Twilight Zone” theme anytime something weird happens? or tried to plunk out “Peter Gunn” on the piano? And who hasn’t spent to long in their car, lost, going in circles when someone spontaneously breaks into “A three hour tour, a three hour tour” from Gillian’s Island?

Right here, each week, we’ll focus on one of your favorite T.V. Shows from The 60’s and the GREAT MUSIC  that accompanied them.

This week, SMS is going a bit “Out on a limb” sighting what we believe is thee quintessential T.V. THEME from the 1960’s ! It’s as much a part of our life experience and musical fabric as The Beatles,  Stones,  Beach Boys or Motown

Yes, Rod Serlings masterpiece of Science Fiction and The Bizarre, “The Twilight Zone” that ran on the CBS network from Oct. 1959 till Nov. 1964. There is no debate as to the originality and quality of this pioneering program, but it’s the program’s opening theme that has stayed with, and “haunted” us through the years and decades.

To this day, quietly whistle the simple eight note,  ( de dee de de, de dee, de  dee ) melody into any “Baby Boomers” ear and you’ll instantly invoke an uneasy feeling of anticipation, excitement and foreboding, as vision’s of floating eyeballs, breaking windows, and a spinning vortex with”E = MC 2″  drifting by…Remember?   Of course you do! The theme is generally credited to composer Bernard Herrmann but, the truth is that spooky opening guitar riff was actually written by a French composer named Marius Constant and he did it as a “Work for hire” for a music library service, commissioned by CBS!  Which quite simply means “Messrs. C and H” didn’t get rich from writing arguably, the coolest and most recognizable T.V. theme in history. In fact The Twilight  Zone basic theme is 2 – 3 of these Library clips edited together…cut, arranged, embellished  orchestrated and perfected by Mr. Herrmann! Got it?  Either way, IT REALLY WORKED!

There are several unique elements to this show, not the least of which is, unlike any other show on T.V.the program’s creator and “Head Writer” Rod Serling is as well-known and celebrated as his dream child! To this day Impressionists and comedians still do their take on the clipped  speaking, intellectual, chain  smoking persona of Rod Serling, “You are  about to enter The Twilight  Zone”.

Through the years their have been countless cover recordings of the theme. Dozens of Jazz bands, and instrumental ensembles as well as every compilation album featuring music and themes from Television. In 1980,  the pop quartet Manhattan Transfer Authority had a Top 20 hit with a song they wrote called “Twilight  Zone / Twilight Tone” The song held little resemblance to the shows theme, but the record opened with a re – mix and “80’s  enhanced audio clip of the actual original opening from T.Z. Featuring Serling’s clipped introduction.

BUT ! The version you probably remember best and likely loved was a confused and controversial hit that went to Number One in October of 1962 by “The Markettes!  A Rocking Surf Instrumental with French horns and a  brief-drum solo.  It was called “Outer Limits” but things got messy.

Here’s the deal, In 1962 “The Twilight Zone ” T.V. Show finally had a rival and competitor program getting traction, that show was called “The Outer Limits” And it too was an Anthology series of Science Fiction and The Bizarre.

And, here’s the rub, The Markettes record sounded nothing like “The Outer Limits theme, however, it borrowed generously from “?The Twilight Zone ” theme basing its entire arrangement on the now famous “de de de dee, de de de dee”! The Markettes had a number one record but they were now facing legal action from not just Rod Serling, but, the producers of “The Outer Limits” T.V. Show as well, claiming copyright infringement of their title “Outer Limits” Soooo, The Markettes quickly settled with Serling and then changed the title to their huge hit to “Out Of Limits”, playing havoc with radio programmers, juke boxes and most importantly the ASCAP royalty system, if you happen to own a rare copy of “Outer Limits” check E-Bay, it’s worth a few bucks! As the man said “You’ve now entered The Twilight Zone”.

So now let’s take a listen to the incredible full length arrangement of the Theme from “The Twilight Zone”.

AND OF COURSE WE HAVE TO HEAR..” The Outer Limits” ( or, “Out of Limits”) from The Markettes.

How about you? Didn’t YOU love “The Twighlight Zone? Do you remember or own “Out Of Limits” by The Markettes? WE DID!


  1. The T.Z. WAS my Friday night ritual! We went out to McDanalds (12 cent) burgers and I just stared at our B&W and allowed myself to become memorized by these GTEAT STORIES! I got a box DVD set a while back and I was reminded about ALL the soon to be GREAT ACTORS which appeared in the episodes! Layer on another show that REALLY CHILLED me to the bone was “ONE STEP BEYOND”. WHOA WOW!!..These stories would CREEP ME OUT!! JUST HEARING JOHN NEWLANDS VOICE was scary? And their theme was the maker of HEAVY GOOSE BUMPS. I recently found a DVD box set of this series at a garage sale.
    thanx for the 60’s T.V. music appreciation blogs!! wood

    • Hey Wood,
      What really jumps out of your comment is, of course “12 cent hamburgers! Yeah Baby! But we digress, we like your comment about all the great actors who had feature roles’ On TZ….In fact if you spend some time with the fitst couple seasons, you’ll see nearly every actor who later landing feature roles’ on Star Trek and many more popular shows from the mid Sixties!
      Furthermore “Onr Step Beyond” was indeed another scary 39 minutes, And your right that opening sent chills thru me as well
      Thanx Woody, glad you enjoyed that short walk down T.V.s Golden Path!.
      By the way, did you love that Markettes record “Out Of Limits”?

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