Nov 122012



The television show S.W.A.T. debuted in 1975 and lasted just 2 years. Somewhere near the show’s brief run the school that Townsman andyr and I attended celebrated its 275th anniversary. To commemorate this occasion a reproduction of the school’s original one-room log cabin school was constructed. The windows were either smashed out immediately or the little log cabin never had glass windows installed. I remember the window frames being wide open—and not that high off the ground.

The windows were set low enough so that a group of 6th grade boys were capable of jumping through the windows and rolling into the building (a la Rod Perry at the 48-second mark of the show’s opening) while they hummed the theme from S.W.A.T. For a solid 3 weeks this recess activity took precedence over all other recess activities: football, soccer, kickball, “smear the queer”… Then the adults caught wind of our rough-and-tumble tuck-and-roll play. They thought it was dangerous—and disrespectful to this monument to our school’s humble Quaker roots.

For the next week teachers chased us from the log cabin on a regular basis, but we persisted. Then one night some local high school kids, maybe our own school’s kids, partied in the log cabin and set fire to it. There were empty cases of beer and ashes. There would be no more games of S.W.A.T. for recess. We resumed our slow-motion highlights reel reenactments to the theme of Monday Night Football.

View Director’s Cutafter the jump!


  28 Responses to “The Soundtrack of the Month”

  1. I was only 7 or 8 during “S.W.A.T.” By then my dad had been in the State Police nearly a decade and was firmly entrenched in his place in the department. Unfortunately for him, he answered “Yes” when I asked if they had a S.W.A.T. team and then had to deal with my begging him to join for about three months. Luckily for him our neighbor, also on the force, *was* on that squad, so my attention was diverted.

    By the 2d season I do believe I actually set some lyrics to that tune. Almost four decades down line, (un)fortunately all I can remember is “We are S.W.A.T!” at the end of that descending riff. Not very precocious, I know.


  2. Boy, it’s just like The Wonder Years around here…

  3. alexmagic

    Re: the poll, the Rod Perry window dive tuck ‘n roll into a kill position wins going away. He’s just got perfect form when he comes up from the roll, ready to take care of business, plus, no pause as he’s running up to dive through the window.

    If Coleman managed to do a tumble between the first and second roof jumps, which is the style used by today’s freerunners, he’d have something,

    For Urich, we don’t actually get to see if he clears the fence. I’m looking at that leap he makes and there’s a 50/50 shot he crotches himself on the fence given the height he gets and how far back he starts.

  4. ohmstead

    What a great, funky 70s TV theme…I am still hoping Raoul remembers more of his lyrics to “We are SWAT”.’

    In the meantime, for their personal safety I would urge that all Townspersons commit to memory the meaning of SWAT hand signals so they are prepared in the event a black-painted Herr’s Potato Chip truck comes screaming down their suburban street. Please see below:

  5. misterioso

    I remember the fact of SWAT and remember very well the killer theme but I don’t think I ever actually saw the show. Must’ve been past my bedtime. But what a great theme song. Chalk one up to producers Steve Barri and my man Michael Omartian. Armenia lives!

  6. I had a tough time choosing between Rod Perry and James Coleman but ultimately I went with JC because of the abandon with which he executed his jump, which I chalk up to the exuberance one must feel when chasing down a bad guy.

    One thing that gave me pause though: I’m not sure why he has his gun up over his head. I deduct a few points for that because a) it symbolically looks like he has his hands up in a surrender gesture, and b) if he has his gun down, he probably could have picked off some bad guys mid-flight. In the end though, these are minor quibbles when you consider the fact the he jumped off what appears to be an extremely high building.

    I liked Ulrich’s move but like alexmagic, my concern is that he miscalculated and took one in the nuts. You can’t expect to have the respect of cops and crooks alike if you’ve had the dubious honor of being a finalist on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

  7. ohmstead

    Yup – I had to go with James Coleman as well…looks like he is trying out for a part in Stripes.

  8. Going the extra mile between projects, briefly, for you James Coleman fans. Here’s James Lawrence (Coleman’s real name) Amazon review of the series on DVD:

  9. No explanation of his reason for holding the rifle over his head, but there’s also this:

  10. I always thought S.W.A.T. was a Mike Post theme. I think they all are Mike Post themes. However I learned that it is “written by Barry De Vorzon and performed by American funk group Rhythm Heritage, released on their debut album Disco-Fied.”. Very nice.

    And I especially like the way that Mark Shera whips that guide rope off his shoulder when he is done rappelling down the wall.

  11. I was thinking Maynard Ferguson. I get a RockyTheme vibe, but it’s all good.

  12. ladymisskirroyale

    Gentlemen, please take a moment and appreciate the dance moves of James Coleman. He demonstrates amazing coolness as he prepares to do the classic jazz dance move, the “c jump.”

    The man has incredible cajones if he attempts this jump while launching himself off a roof, wearing a uniform AND hoisting a gun over his head. I will be sure to add this to future choreography.

  13. Hi foks, I just discovered this thread that was linked by one of your members to my FB page…I’d overlooked it, sorry, as this is a fun discussion!
    I’m Jim Lawrence, AKA James Coleman, the guy leaping off the building in the title shots of SWAT. All our comments are really a kick, and I thought you’d appreciate some reflections and recollections on the actual shooting of those vignettes.
    First, to answer the lead post by Mr. Moderator: Rod’s crash through the window was my favorite too but there’s a detail that you might appreciate: Rod didn’t crash through the window, but was lying out of sight below the hay bales or whatever it was he popped out from. The stunt man dove through the window and a split second later Rod popped up with perfect timing.
    Hollywood tricks and magic, but that’s how it happened. And to be fair, Rod was and I assume still is a very athletic guy, so if they’d asked him to do it all himself (insurance reasons why they probably didn’t), I have no doubt he could have and it would have looked just as good…and if you watch the timing closely, you see the “real” thing might have been even better, because he does pop up, for my eye anyway, just a tad too soon.
    Bob Urich, rest his soul, was also an athlete who played football in college, I think he was an end or linebacker, I don’t remember now, but he was a good footballer. I remember running with Bob when we had a break on the episode that the late, great Sal Mineo played a Charles Manson character. We jogged a couple miles in our SWAT uniforms up into the hills above Chatsworth, where we were on location, talking about how grateful we were for the show, how good we hoped it would be (it hadn’t aired yet, this was our third episode I think, although I could be wrong…that’s 47 years ago after all!) and I remember thinking at the time what a sweet man he was. I cried the day I heard he’d died. That was a big loss to his family and many friends as he was a terrific guy in every way.
    Mark did a nice bit of acting on his rappel shot in the titles, as he was probably the least athletic of the group. They had him rappel just the last couple feet, whip that rope out of the way, and pivot toward camera, he did it very well I thought.
    Now to my bit of derring do.
    All these shots were done on the first day of shooting the series, and all at the back lot at 20th Century Fox in L.A.
    They had me climb up on the roof opposite the studio commissary where we’d often eat lunch when we were shooting on the lot – although SWAT involved a lot of location shooting so we often weren’t there for days at a time – and they had picked a flat roof spot for my “launch” that was about six or seven feet higher than the next flat roof just next to it.
    On the lower roof, they put a big mattress or some kind of thick pad, and a couple of the stunt wizards from Stunts Unlimited, maybe it was Glenn Wilder who was the lead stunt gaffer and Freddie Waugh (who often put on a blond curly wig and doubled me in stunts where they didn’t want to risk my precious hide).
    anyway, those guys stood there below, and the director told me, “hit the edge of the roof, take a quick look right and left, and leap down onto the pad. They guys will catch you, just don’t knock their heads off with your rifle!”
    That is why I had that rifle over my head, because I knew if I carried it in one hand, macho-like as I preferred to do, I wouldn’t have as much control over it and I would indeed cream one or both of my lifesavers on the first day of shooting.
    I remember being a bit nervous. Six or seven feet down, even onto a mattress pad with a couple spotters, is not exactly like hopping off a wooden box a couple feet. Your head is another six feet above where your feet are, so that effectively doubles the height it looks like you’re about to jump into!
    I think I did it a couple times, maybe more. Each time I got more confidence. But the rifle above the head was not the way I would have preferred to do it.
    I admired Steve McQueen a great deal in those days and emulated the way he handled weapons – as if they were an extension of his body, something that he was perfectly comfortable with.
    In a lot of the SWAT episodes, if you’ll notice when I jump out of the truck, awaiting the orders from good old Hondo, I’d have that gun in one hand usually, pointing skyward (no point in shooting your fellow Swatties after all), because, well, I just thought it would make me look more cool.
    So that’s my story on how we did those “stunts”.
    One more thing: I just flashed on another aspect of that jump. Because I was completely vulnerable with my arms up in the air, I had to completely trust my stunt brothers to essentially catch me without breaking any of my ribs, just as they had to trust me not to bring those 9 lbs. or so of rifle crashing down on their heads.
    Fortunately for all of us, they were more than equal to the task. I did my part by keeping the rifle in the air, they did theirs by not letting me crash into the pads.
    It was fun but I still remember being a bit anxious. After all, you’re not only thinking about doing the stunt right, but also realizing it will be in every show for the entire run of the series. And it’s the first day, you don’t know anybody yet, and you want as an actor to look good for the camera of course, but mostly you want to look like you know what you’re doing as a SWAT cop. That was much more important to me, so I leaped as high as I could and figured the guys would take care of the rest once gravity got into the act, and they did, with supreme skill. Those Stunts Unlimited guys, all of them, were great guys.
    One thing that helped probably was that I’d been a hang glider pilot for a couple years by then, so I wasn’t afraid to run off high places. Although strapped to a wing, it’s a lot less terrifying, in truth, then doing it without a wing to catch the air and glide you away from the hill!
    Another time I wasn’t so lucky, near the end of the first season I think, the crew, in a hurry to get a shot before we lost the light, had all of us do a shot from a long distance from the cameras, running down a steep hill into a river bed at Fox Ranch in Santa Monica Canyon, where we filmed all our episodes whenever a “countrified” look was required.
    The stunt guys weren’t in their SWAT uniforms but we were, so they asked us if we’d mind so they could get that shot in, and being the good guys we were, we said “sure!”
    Off we went, took our positions about 50 yards apart, they called action, we dutifully ran down the steep slope…but when I got a bunch of big boulders, with about a 7 foot drop off the end, I misjudged my ability to make a safe landing, leaped into space just like I had done in the title shot…and landed on another boulder, broke my ankle and two toes, tore a bunch of ligaments, and went to the hospital in a lot of pain, where I spent the night. The next six weeks, I filmed in an ankle-to-groin cast, and there were some clever angles used so I could still be in the action without looking like I was injured. Running was obviously out for me, but the stunt boys did an admiralbe job.
    One scene, due to shoot a couple days later, had me and Mark in a good dialog scene at a bar. I got some pages from the Producer, Bob Hamner, and discovered (in the haze of the pain pills I was still taking) that I’d been cut entirely out of the scene, though all I had to do was stand at a bar and talk with Mark.
    I called the studio and got Bob on the line. Asked him why I was cut from the scene.
    “You broke your leg!” he screamed.
    “I can still stand up!” I yelled back, hurt and angry that he would be abusive like that…nobody from the studio had called by the way to even see how I was doing.
    They didn’t restore the scene. And nobody from the production company ever called to ask after me. In fact they called me to work the day after the accident, back out to Fox Ranch. We sat in the trailer all day and never worked a second in front of the cameras. I was in a lot of pain all day. They released us at sunset and we went home.
    Hollywood can be a cruel place.
    But most of my SWAT experiences were really great. I loved the crew and my cast mates and am grateful for the experience and the adventures we had on the set.
    And maybe best of all, I met my wife Ronne Troup on the show, and we had two wonderful redhead daughters. That to me is the biggest takeaway of all: those two sweet girls Bridget and Jamie.
    Good luck to all of you!

  14. I should have edited this a little more carefully, in the beginning I said “all of our comments” but meant of course “all of YOUR comments”

  15. swatboy, I’ve had many memorable and highly satisfying experiences here in the Halls of Rock. Your reply and the tales you tell have moved right up there among the most thrilling ever. Seriously, the simple thrills that show provided will likely be among the weird highlight reel that will pass before my eyes in my dying moments. It’s really cool getting a high five from you. Thanks for your time!

  16. Thanks, M.M., it was fun. And I imagine I’ll have the same highlight reel you do at that transition time.


  17. Bob did clear the fence, for sure. He ran track too in school, I remember him saying. I was a gymnast and sprinter myself at the Air Force Academy, Class of ’67.

  18. hrrundivbakshi

    Holy crap! Is that cool or WHAT? Thanks for sharing, swatboy! Followers of my intermittent “Thrifty Music” series will remember I showcased the excellent “Theme From SWAT” on a recent episode. As a composer of music for TV, I can tell you that theme ranks WAY up there in basic all-around musical excellence.

  19. sammymaudlin

    This is swatboy’s world, we’re only living in it.

    Thanks Jim for your recollections and just mentioning Steve McQueen is cool by me. That you had to hold that rifle over your head though, made that shot work in my humble opinion. It looks fierce and determined that way.

    I also enjoyed the confirmation that some of this was shot on the 20th lot. I worked for FOX for way too long and always thought that the clip at about the 37 second mark leading to Steve Forest’s appearance looked like the area of the lot that I worked behind.

    And yes, Hollywood can indeed be a cruel place. Which is why I’m a web designer now and spend my free time in weird corners of the world like this blog.

    Regarding the bitchin’ opening tune: I wonder whatever happened to the era-specific whacka-whacka guitar. I miss that. Any musicians here know how that sound is played?

    Thanks again Jim Lawrence. This brought a smile to my face today.

  20. Man, I even more glad I voted for JC instead of RP now. Thanks for weighing in Jim!

  21. Slim Jade

    In my neighborhood, when we played S.W.A.T., we fought over who got to play Dominic Luca.
    I got some serious rope burns “rappelling” down the side of the garage.

  22. ohmstead

    Swatboy(Jim) – thanks for sharing your memories…this is great stuff. Hope you didn’t mind the “Stripes” reference…just kidding! (but thanks for the detailed explanation on the overhead weapon hold). But I DID vote for you as the best part of the title sequence!

    Watching programs like SWAT, the Rookies, Adam-12, and Emergency with my parents and siblings gathered around the TV were a big part of my childhood. I shared the clip with my 11-year old daughter and explained to her that yes – there was a time when there were prime-time dramas that the whole family could watch together.

  23. Thanks for all your recent comments folks. Glad you enjoyed my rambling reminiscences. And thanks for voting for my bit, those who did.
    You may be interested to know my ex-wife Ronne Troup, who guested on the 3rd episode of SWAT, was the daughter of that wonderful songwriter Bobby Troup, who was married to famous torch crooner Julie London. They were both super people, alas among the dearly departed. Both Bobby and Julie were on Emergency for years, as Dr. Early and Dixie.
    And Adam 12 star Martin Milner was a close friend of Ronne’s sister Cynnie Troup, who was a top-notch, always-in-demand script supervisor for tv and films for years.
    And one more tidbit: some of you may remember the first SWAT episode was actually a two-hour special Rookies episode. Steve Forrest and I were in it, along with Leslie Nielsen, a super guy, and I think (not sure), the guy who does that great bit as The Most Interesting Man in the World in those Dos Equis commercials. He was one of the bad guys in Leslie’s gang who rob a high rise…but the SWAT dudes foil his plans.
    A pretty good episode all in all, and they spun the series out of that, after looking at 20 minutes or so of daily rushes, as Aaron Spelling used to tell the story.
    sammymaudlin, right you are, that shot of Steve was, I think, on the Hello Dolly set though don’t hold me too it…I’ll have to go up page and check it out again, hang on…yep! That was the Dolly set alright.
    We did a lot of filming on those streets, it was a great eastern-look backdrop (although we were supposed to be a west coast dept! but hey…!) One episode had a guy trying to kill all of us who was an ex Viet Nam sniper or something. We did that entire episode on the lot outside, George McGowan, “The Engineer” as we called him and a super guy, cranked that puppy out in six days. One day I think we had some crazy number of setups, i.e. moves to a different location…something like 57 in an 18 hour period. We worked until midnight that night, started the next day again at 6 am. What a crunch that was, pretty good episode though.
    ohmstead, thanks for your thoughts too:although one thing I heard years later about Aaron Spelling and how quickly he allowed the show to be killed off was that it was too violent for his tastes. One of our early episodes showed someone getting shot point blank, without a cutaway. In 1975, that was pretty shocking for tv. Apparently, although I never heard this from Aaron personally, he never liked how violent the show had become and didn’t like producing it.
    Pretty funny when you look at what we see on the tube these days!
    Thanks again to all of you, lots of fun to “live in the past”, haha!
    Back to writing for Plane & Pilot mag, one of my steady editor/writer/photographer gigs for the last 30 years. Although…I’m taking an acting class in nearby Great Barrington, MA, I now live on the east coast with my wife of 11 years.
    Gotta keep the old chops alive, you know.
    Take care everybody

  24. ohmstead

    Well Swatboy…I’d pick SWAT over 90125 any day! I was wondering if you’re former wife had a connection to Bobby Troup (the name is kind of unique). Folks might also remember Bobby’s famous cameo on M*A*S*H (the movie)…”Goddamned Army jeep!” Thanks again Jim!

  25. Right you are, forgot about that! I think that was his only line in the whole movie, though he said it a number of times. I may be wrong, ohmstead, but I thought the line was just “Goddamned Army!” I’ll see if I can verify that.
    Thanks for that memory!

  26. Looks like we’re both right: here’s what Wikipedia has to say:
    While he relied on songwriting royalties, Troup also worked as an actor, playing musician Tommy Dorsey in the film The Gene Krupa Story (1959). He played himself in the short-lived NBC television series Acapulco. Troup made several guest appearances on Perry Mason, and on two appearances, including “The Case of the Missing Melody,” showed his musical talents. Later he had a memorable cameo as a disgruntled staff sergeant assigned to driving Hawkeye and Trapper John around in Japan in Robert Altman’s 1970 masterpiece M*A*S*H. (His only line of dialogue is a repeated exasperation, “Goddamn army!”, later modified to “Goddamn army jeep!”) In 1972, Jack Webb, who had previously used Troup in a 1967 episode of the television series Dragnet, cast him opposite Julie London in the US TV series Emergency!.

  27. Great stuff — thanks for the memories — and I really dig Julie London. Excellent “after hours” listening!

  28. Swatboy (James Lawrence), thanks so much for sharing you SWAT experiences with us! I bought the 1st Season of SWAT DVD on Amazon, enjoying the episodes. I saw the episode “Death Carrier”, with guest star Ronne Troup – that’s cool that you met on set of SWAT!
    You wrote you were a hang glider pilot…did you know that Ronne was first cast as the Flying Nun, and was shooting the pilot when Sally Field replaced her. Did Ronne ever give you any ‘flying tips” 🙂

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