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‘Secret Agent Man’ – Classic Hit or Miss

“Secret Agent Man” is a song written by Steve Barri and P. F. Sloan. The most famous recording of the song was made by Johnny Rivers for the opening titles of the American broadcast of the British spy series Danger Man, which aired in the U.S. as “Secret Agent” from 1964 to 1966. The song itself peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. 

The song evokes secret agents both musically (making use of a memorable guitar riff written by Chuck Day and inspired by Monty Norman’s James Bond theme) and through its lyrics (which describe the dangerous life of a secret agent). In an unusual situation, due to the format of the series, the show’s original British theme song, an instrumental entitled “High Wire”, was actually retained as it was played over the episode credits following the “Secret Agent” titles. The lyric “They’ve given you a number and taken away your name,” referring to the numerical code names given to secret agents, as in 007 for James Bond. When it was originally recorded by Rivers, it merely had one verse and one chorus. Later, after the song began to gain in popularity, Rivers recorded it live, with two more verses, and the chorus repeated twice more. The “live” version was recorded in 1966 at the Whisky A Go Go, but not released until after a few studio production touchups were done shortly after.

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