Lalo Schifrin – Mission: Impossible TV Theme

17th April 2024 · 1960s, 1967, Music

I hope I’m not tempting fate by posting this on the day my team head out to Bavaria in search of victory against freshly deposed 11-time German champions Bayern Munich.

Lalo Schifrin’s theme music for the Mission: Impossible TV series is just fantastic; but the best bit is the bongos. The theme’s got everything including the kitchen sink in it – bongos, horns, flutes – but the bongos are best.

It’s also got is tension: you know as soon as you hear it that what you’re going to watch will be something thrillingly glamorous, with spies and dolly birds and fast cars and guns.

Schifrin, who is still with us at the time of writing, is an Argentinian pianist, composer, arranger and conductor, and you can hear elements of Latin American music in his jazz-inflected orchestrations for films and TV shows since the 1950s.

The TV show ran from 1966-73 and I remember it vaguely (“Good morning, Mr. Phelps…”) but I seem somehow to have merged it with The Man From UNCLE, which I suppose was its British counterpart.

The ones I really remember are Lew Grade’s ITC shows, usually directed by Brian Clemens – The Persuaders and The Protectors, The Saint and The Prisoner, Department S and Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased).

Is it the same music in the modern-day film franchise? I vaguely remember seeing Tom Cruise running around in the first one, with lots of running and shooting, but I don’t remember the theme music. Or, to be fair, anything else.

Anyway, here it is. It’s great. Iconic, even – and I don’t use that word lightly.