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Music for Prime Time


A plug today for my longtime pal, contributor and CD producer Jon Burlingame, whose book, Music for Prime Time, is now available from Oxford Press.

I don’t have this one yet, though of course I devoured its 1996 predecessor, TV’s Biggest Hits. Jon finally got to use his preferred title!


Jon wrote liner notes for several FSM editions, and produced a bunch of key titles: four volumes from The Man From U.N.C.L.E., a 3CD set from Dr. Kildare, and then, for La-La Land Records, The Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible and several volumes from Quinn-Martin Productions.


These are pivotal scores in the history of television music, and they’re all publicly available in lovingly comprehensive packages—success!


I can’t tell you what a delight it was to have Jon produce an album for us.


First of all, I knew he would make the right creative choices. He would choose the right cues and represent the music faithfully—both with an eye to what was the best quality, what worked best as an album, what was most representative of the show, and what the fans would want (not always the same things).


Second of all, everything would come in on time and on budget...and it was just so easy.


He wouldn’t just take care of the album programs, and write the liner notes, but select the artwork—providing many unique items from his personal collection.


Maybe I would have a question about one thing in the liner notes, and he’d have an answer, and we’d tweak it or leave it alone.


When we faced production problems, we’d discuss them together and come up solutions. Even now I can hear his voice on the phone, “Okay, got it, anything else?” And then, click, and he was back to work.


It was just such a great feeling to know that whatever we had discussed would be properly and thoughtfully implemented.


And if we needed to call each other back to tweak it—we would! Nothing was ever personal, it was business—but joyful, because we loved the material.


It was the highest quality work with a complete absence of hassle to get it.


You’d think it would always be this way...but it’s not.


Without naming names, we had collaborators from time to time who did good work, and I know they really cared—but things would be late, they’d be messy, there would be misunderstandings, hurt feelings, etc.


Sometimes liner notes would be so sloppy that we’d start to notice mistakes—which meant we had to stop and check each and every thing. It took forever and was demoralizing.


There’s really something to be said for treating your work like a business.


We’re fans, we love this stuff—but it’s a business!


Jon did charge more than the typical collaborator—but I never once felt annoyed about that, because the work was so good. And he was always flexible and reasonable.


I always enjoyed every chance I got to be in the Jon Burlingame business.


And if you get the chance, for whatever reason—take it!


I hope you can check out his book!

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Let me just second everything that you said here, Lukas, as someone who also collaborated with Jon on many of the same albums. It's a rare thing in the mass media/entertainment business for someone to be able to mix passion for the material with seasoned professionalism. Often it's one or the other, but Jon has both, and that inspired me to do some of my best work out of many CD design assignments. I was both honored and privileged to design the cover for “Music For Prime Time”—another in a long line of JB’s esteemed contributions to the art form we love.

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