Believe It or Not, George Isn’t at Home

Over the years, we saw Jerry Seinfeld, George Costanza, Elaine Benes, and Cosmo Kramer going to lots of movies, attending baseball and football games, and watching a lot of TV, but we rarely saw them attend a concert (other than the opera) or listen to music. In the many scenes set in cars, the radio was almost never on. Nevertheless, there were a few intersections between Seinfeld and popular music.

The first recognizable hit song used on Seinfeld, as far as I know, was “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” by the Beach Boys, in the Season 5 episode “The Hamptons.” But that was a rarity. It wasn’t until the eighth and ninth seasons that the show began to use popular songs frequently. In the Season 8 episode “The Checks,” Elaine’s boyfriend is obsessed with “Desperado” by the Eagles. She decides to find another song that can belong to both of them. Her suggestion, “Witchy Woman,” is rejected. One of Elaine’s most famous moments on the show also occurs in Season 8—her itchy dance to Earth Wind & Fire’s “Shining Star” in “The Little Kicks.” In “The Bizarro Jerry,” Kramer finds himself accidentally working in an office, and he’s seen going to work in a montage set to Sheena Easton’s “Morning Train (9 to 5).” A great George moment from Season 8 involves his use of the theme from the TV show The Greatest American Hero (which was a #2 single for Joey Scarbury in 1981) as his answering machine message, in “The Susie.”

In the ninth and final season, “Morning Train” appears again in “The Butter Shave,” when George goes to work. Also in Season 9, Foghat’s “Slow Ride” is heard as Elaine folds laundry in the episode “The Slicer,” and “Mexican Radio” by Wall of Voodoo is briefly, oddly used in “The Reverse Peephole.” In the same episode, Jerry describes his performance handling music at a friend’s party by saying, “I got jiggy with it”—a reference to a Will Smith song.

Fifteen years ago tonight, on May 14, 1998, the last episode of Seinfeld aired on NBC. On the night of the finale, in the clip show that aired before the last episode, Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” was used for a montage. At the very end of the clip show, another montage, of backstage moments this time, was set to Green Day’s “The Time of Your Life.” It seemed back then like a surprisingly sentimental choice for a notoriously unsentimental show. Or maybe not. The full title of the Green Day song is “Good Riddance (The Time of Your Life).” Maybe Seinfeld was getting one last laugh—at the expense of viewers such as I.

(From my WNEW.com archives, slightly edited.)

4 responses

  1. Oh, you mean wich-ay woman….

    Also in the first season, George & Jerry are trying to come up with a code word in case George gets caught switching answering machine tapes. They settle on Lemon Tree which Jerry immediately questions. And then they begin to sing a few bars of the Trini Lopez hit, completely and gloriously out of date. A joke lost in 1990, let alone any year following it.

  2. saw that “Lemon Tree” show just last night, didn’t ring true, thought it to be writers trying to be a little too clever.

    That Green Day song now shows up at every graduation and it’s completely misunderstood, like Christians embracing “Spirit in the Sky,” in actuality a song by a Jew mocking Christianity.

    And didn’t Joey Scarbury sound a lot like Glen Campbell?

    1. …like hearing Every Breath You Take as a bride & groom dance at their wedding

  3. What about when George gets his used lebaron, “everybody’s talkin’ at me. I can’t hear a word they’re sayin’, drivin’ around in Jon Voight’s car…”

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