Secret Agent Man (Johnny Rivers song)

"Secret Agent Man" is a song written by P. F. Sloan and Steve Barri. 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 No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

"Secret Agent Man"
Single by Johnny Rivers
from the album ...And I Know You Wanna Dance
B-side"You Dig"
ReleasedFebruary 1966
Format45 rpm
GenreRock and roll
LabelImperial 66159
Songwriter(s)P. F. Sloan, Steve Barri
Producer(s)Lou Adler
Johnny Rivers singles chronology
"Under Your Spell Again"
"Secret Agent Man"
"(I Washed My Hands in) Muddy Water"


According to composer P.F. Sloan, the American television network that licensed Danger Man, CBS, solicited publishers to contribute a 15-second piece of music for the opening of the U.S. show to replace the British theme, an instrumental titled "High Wire".[1] Sloan wrote the guitar lick and the first few lines of the song, with Barri (Sloan's songwriting partner) contributing to the chorus.[1] This fragment was recorded as a demo by Sloan and Barri, submitted to CBS, and, to Sloan's surprise, picked as the show theme, which led to Sloan and Barri writing a full-length version of the song.[1] The original demo of the song used the "Danger Man" title, as shown by the surviving demo of the song, which Sloan sang.[2] When the show's title was changed, the lyrics were also changed. Ultimately, "High Wire" was also retained by CBS, as it played over the episode credits following the "Secret Agent" titles.

Sloan and Barri's publisher/producer, Lou Adler, also produced and managed Johnny Rivers, so Rivers was chosen to add the vocals for the TV show. Rivers claimed he came up with the opening guitar riff that was inspired by the "James Bond Theme"[3] (although that lick is clearly heard on Sloan's demo version[4]). Rivers' original recording was merely the show theme, with one verse and one chorus. Later, after the song gained 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 by Adler shortly after. The song evokes secret agents both musically (making use of a memorable guitar riff) and through its lyrics (which describe the dangerous life of a secret agent). The lyric; "they've given you a number and taken away your name" referred to the numerical code names given to secret agents, as in "007" for James Bond, although it also acts as the (unintentional) setup to the "continuation" of Danger Man, the cult classic The Prisoner.[5]


Chart (1966) Peak
Canada[6] 4
US Billboard Hot 100[7] 3

Later versions


"Secret Agent Man"
Single by Devo
from the album Duty Now for the Future
B-side"Soo Bawlz", "Red Eye"
LabelWarner Bros.
Producer(s)Ken Scott
Devo singles chronology
"The Day My Baby Gave Me a Surprize"
"Secret Agent Man"
"Girl U Want"

In 1974, the song was recorded by Devo and again in 1979 on the Duty Now for the Future album with a jerky, heavily modified arrangement and significantly altered lyrics (sung by guitarist Bob Mothersbaugh). The 1974 recording was featured as a music video in Devo's independent short film, In The Beginning Was The End: The Truth About De-Evolution.

Covers and other versions

  • Mel Tormé had a minor contemporary hit with a cover in 1966, the same year Rivers released the song.
  • Also in 1966, the Ventures had a hit (#54) with an instrumental version taken from their 1966 album, Go with the Ventures.
  • In 1978, Detroit-area punk-styled band Cinecyde recorded an aggressive but authentic version for their Black Vinyl Threat EP on Tremor Records, a recording later collected on their CD You Live a Lie You're Gonna Die.
  • A Spanish version, "Hombre Secreto", recorded by The Plugz, is on the soundtrack to the film Repo Man (1984).
  • It has also been recorded by surf punk pioneers, Agent Orange in 1984 on the When You Least Expect It EP.
  • The band Blotto recorded a live version of the song in the mid-1980s, which was eventually released on their Then More Than Ever album in 1999.
  • "Secret Agent Man" was also recorded by Bruce Willis on his album The Return of Bruno (1987). The song opened with the sounds of a car door being opened and closed, footsteps, and a single gunshot.
  • New York heavy metal band Hittman recorded the song on their self-titled album released on the German Steamhammer label, 1988.
  • This song was also recorded by The Toasters and included on the 1996 album Hard Band for Dead.
  • Japanese version by Secret Agent (including members such as Noriyuki Higashiyama, Ryo Nishikido, and other Johnny's Juniors), released 2000.
  • Heavy metal band Cirith Ungol included the song on their rare tracks compilation Servants of Chaos (2001) .
  • The song has been recorded by Rachael MacFarlane on Hayley Sings, her 2012 debut album.
  • The Pagans, a punk band from Cleveland, played the song live and it appears as the B-side of the "Dead End America" 7" as well as on the Live Road Kill compilation.
  • The theme songs for the American CGI-animated series Special Agent Oso (2009–11) and the American animated television series T.U.F.F. Puppy (2010–15) are parodies version of this song.
  • Mexican band Psychotic Aztecs recorded a Spanish version as "Agente Secreto" on their album Santa Sangre.
  • Hank Williams Jr. included the song on his 1992 compilation The Bocephus Box released by Capricorn.
  • Pop/Punk band The Dickies included the song on the 1997 Album "Show and Tell - A Story Remembrance of TV Theme Songs".

Use in media

See also


  1. P.F. Sloan. "P.F. Sloan: In His Own Words -- The Stories Behind the Songs". Archived from the original on 2013-05-02. Retrieved 2013-10-07.
  2. Matthew Greenwald. "Danger Man (Secret Agent Man)". Archived from the original on 2017-01-16. Retrieved 2013-10-07.
  3. Clash, Jim. "Johnny Rivers Chats About His Big Hit, Secret Agent Man". Archived from the original on 2017-08-08.
  4. haulofrecords (2016-07-17), P F Sloan - Danger Man - Secret Agent Man, archived from the original on 2018-02-21, retrieved 2017-10-18
  5. Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (July 30, 2015). The Classic British Telefantasy Guide. Orion Publishing Group. p. 14. ISBN 9780575133525. Archived from the original on February 21, 2018. Retrieved November 21, 2016 via Google Books.
  6. "Johnny Rivers Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.