The ‘Frasier’ Theme Song Is, and Has Always Been, Trash
Because residual checks from Cheers and Money Plane only go so far, Kelsey Grammer recently reprised the role of beloved psychiatrist/functional sherry addict Dr. Frasier Crane. At least the controversial reboot of Frasier featured the return of… pretty much no main characters from the original show other than Frasier himself (plus Roz and Lilith, briefly). But while Niles and Daphne were absent, the show did bring back the familiar end credits theme song, in which Grammer croons about tossed salad and scrambled eggs.
Last week, Grammer popped by The Kelly Clarkson Show, and they performed a duet version of the Frasier song (but only because there was no theme song for Money Plane).
But here’s the thing about the Frasier song: It sucks.
As someone who has seen every episode of Frasier multiple times, and even occasionally falls asleep listening to the show as if it were a soothing white noise machine consisting of farcical misunderstandings and witty retorts, it brings me no pleasure to criticize any aspect of the show. But seeing as Frasier has already been stripped of its dignity and resuscitated as a sweatily nostalgic husk of its former self, perhaps now is the time to admit that this song makes no goddamn sense.
Why are the lyrics to the theme song for a show concerning a lovably pompous radio psychiatrist all about a guy who is seemingly sad (“Hey baby, I hear the blues a-callin’”) but just loves food products that typically don’t go together (“tossed salad and scrambled eggs”)? Then this guy has someone “pegged” despite seeming “confused” and ultimately gets scrambled eggs all over his face. What? Was this all in anticipation of the Season Five episode in which Niles gets egg all over his face? But even then, the eggs are Florentine, not scrambled.
The melody was composed by Bruce Miller, and the lyrics were written by Darryl Phinnessee, who later revealed that he was given strict rules around what the song could be about. According to Phinnessee, Frasier’s creators didn’t want any of the lyrics to directly reference any of the actual elements of the show. “They didn’t want you to talk about psychiatry or mention Kelsey’s character,” Phinnessee said. “They didn’t want you to mention Seattle or his patients.”
He tried writing a song that included the phrase “mixed nuts,” but even that was deemed to be too on-the-nose. So he mainly focused on the idea of “tossed salads and scrambled eggs,” which he thought sounded like something an Ivy League-educated psychiatrist might call “his patients or just people in general.” But of course, psychiatrists probably shouldn’t be ridiculing their patients at all, let alone using confusing food-based metaphors that make no sense to do so.
Per Miller even he, the composer, was “a bit baffled” by the lyrics at first. And some of the show’s higher-ups were similarly confused. But for some reason, everyone at the network eventually signed off on the song, and seemingly saw no other possible connotations that one might derive from a song all about tossing salads (according to Miller, nobody brought up the “vulgar interpretation” of these lyrics).
And while Miller originally wrote the song for a legit jazz singer like Mel Tormé to perform, the producers instead insisted that Grammer sing it (very possibly because Grammer insisted) and he “really made it his own with his interpretation.” (Just imagine for a moment how terrible television would be if every single lead actor demanded the right to sing their own theme song.)
All of this begs the question: Why did the show even need a theme song? The instrumental music that plays at the beginning of each episode is obviously great, did we really need anything more than that?
And since it’s Grammer singing, are we supposed to understand that this is Frasier Crane himself singing, using an impenetrable upper-class parlance to gleefully mock the mentally ill, via a musical genre that he probably hates? It makes even less sense than Grammer’s real life beef with Eddie the dog.
You (yes, you) should follow JM on Twitter (if it still exists by the time you’re reading this).