Music of M*A*S*H – M*A*S*H — The Pilot


The pilot episode of M*A*S*H (titled “M*A*S*H – The Pilot“) was originally broadcast on Sunday, September 17th, 1972. It set the tone for next 250 episodes, both thematically and musically. The theme song to the series, “Suicide is Painless,” is used six times during the episode, including the main titles and end credits.

What follows is a breakdown of all of the music heard in the episode, taken from the official cue sheet prepared by the Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation legal department, dated August 24th, 1972.


The episode opens with a short teaser. Hawkeye and Trapper are playing golf, Hot Lips and Frank are playing footsie, Father Mulcahy is taking a nap, etc. Playing in the background is “My Blue Heaven,” written by Walter Donaldson and George Whiting and published by Leo Feist, Inc.

Listen to a Portion of “My Blue Heaven”

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

The teaser ends when Radar, who is playing football, realizes that choppers are on their way. The main titles begin, with a special long version of “Suicide is Painless,” written by Johnny Mandel (Mike Altman is credited as well in the cue sheet, although his lyrics aren’t used). This, and all other versions of “Suicide is Painless,” was published by 20th-Century Music Corp.

Listen to a Portion of the Main Title (M*A*S*H Theme)

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

After the main title ends, another version of “Suicide is Painless” is played over additional credits (written and developed for television by Larry Gelbart, produced and directed by Gene Reynolds) as a transition into the first scene of the episode, set in the O.R.

Listen to a Portion of “Suicide is Painless”

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

The next piece of music is another version of “Suicide is Painless,” this one slower and with horns, played during the montage when Hawkeye flirts with Lieutenant Dish.

Listen to a Portion of “Suicide is Painless”

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

During the scene in which Hawkeye, Trapper and others bid farewell to Colonel Blake and Leslie Scorch as the two board a chopper, “Happy Days Are Here Again” plays in the background. It was written by Milton Ager and Jack Yellen and published by Robbins Music Corp. This particular piece of music is supposed to be coming from the camp’s loudspeaker.

Listen to a Portion of “Happy Days Are Here Again”

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

The aforementioned scene continues with an announcement being read over the P.A. system, interrupting “Happy Days Are Here Again.” The announcement states that all duty shifts will be confined to duty the following night (when Hawkeye and Trapper’s party and raffle is supposed to take place). When it ends, “Happy Days Are Here Again” begins playing again, at least until Hawkeye throws a rock at the loudspeaker.

Listen to a Portion of “Happy Days Are Here Again”

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

Yet another version of “Suicide is Painless” is played when Hawkeye and others knock out Frank with a sedative. It begins just as Ginger reveals the syringe in her hand. This version is again slower than the main titles.

Listen to a Portion of “Suicide is Painless”

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

At Hawkeye and Trapper’s party a piece called “Darktown Strutter’s Ball” plays while various people chat and dance. It was written by Shelton Brooks with Japanese words by Yoshiaki Murakami and published by Leo Feist, Inc. This is a lengthy scene that includes Hot Lips confronting Hawkeye over Frank’s disappearance.

Listen to a Portion of “Darktown Strutter’s Ball”

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

After Hot Lips places a call to General Hammond and begins looking for Frank with a flashlight, Radar tries to get a look at the winning raffle ticket at the party. “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” with words in Japanese,” is playing in the background. The song was written by Harry Warren and Mack Gordon and published by 20th-Century Music Corp. There is no mention in the cue sheet of who wrote the Japanese lyrics.

Note: I can’t be sure if this scene actually has “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” playing in the background or whether it is a continuation of “Darktown’s Strutter’s Ball.” It sounds sort of like “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” but I’m just don’t know. This is the only part of the episode where “Chattanooga Choo-Choo” could possible be included, as far as I can tell.

Listen to a Portion of “Chattanooga Choo-Choo”

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

The episode ends with Hawkeye and Trapper handcuffed together and walking through the camp. “Japanese Farewell Song (Sayonara)” plays in the background. It was written by Hasegawa Yoshida with English lyrics by Freddie Morgan and published by Mills Music.

Listen to a Portion of “Japanese Farewell Song (Sayonara)”

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

The episode’s tag scene is a recap of M*A*S*H‘s cast of characters. The main title is played during this scene.

Listen to a Portion of the Main Title (M*A*S*H Theme)

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

The tag transitions into the end credits, another version of “Suicide is Painless.”

Listen to a Portion of the End Credits (M*A*S*H Theme)

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M*A*S*H - The Pilot
“M*A*S*H – The Pilot”

Following the end credits is the 20th-Century Fox identification/trademark. It was written by Alfred Newman but I’m not including it here.

Last updated November 10th, 2013

16 Comments

  • Dalton says:

    I don’t know what it is, but I believe the version of the theme playing during the run down of the cast is slightly different that the main title for the pilot. I wish I had instrumentals of those themes…or for any of the opening titles. I’m surprised they haven’t released instrumentals of the opening themes. I believe they still have them stored away because many documentary’s on M*A*S*H use portions of various opening titles without the sound effects.

  • Chris says:

    So where can one FIND these Japanese versions of old popular American songs heard in so many episodes of M*A*S*H (and the movie too, for that matter?) Do you know the albums or artists? Some of them are really pretty good and I’d love to hear them isolated from all the dialog and other sound.

  • Campbell says:

    I totally agree. I’d love to find, and buy, the Korean or Japanese versions of American standards used in M*A*S*H. They really bring back memories and set the stage for the show and would be nice to hear in their entirity.

  • pethead97 says:

    Well, some of the Japaneese songs first appeared in the 1970 feature “MASH”, directed by Robert Altman

  • Chris says:

    The songs seem to mainly be once-popular American songs (mostly already showing their age by the Korean War) translated into Japanese.

    I assume the idea was that these were records purchased while on leave in Tokyo — Or perhaps that the 4077 was actually picking up broadcasts from Japan. Not sure which.

    For a good approximation of the song Sayonara,” as heard in the movie and the TV show, try Tokie Tamaki’s version at http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001153LIG/

  • Bradley T Guthrie says:

    M*A*S*H* is and will be the best followed by law & order. I love the show can’t find it on TV anymore. Maybe I can find the complete series for just an arm. I don’t want to pay an arm & leg.

  • Hawkeye says:

    You can pick up mash by the season cheap at SAMs club and wal-mart but they are getting harder to find. Also can find mash at Target by the season as well as FYE stores.

  • jacob.john says:

    I was watching it on Netflix, and swear I heard Dick Dale’s Misrilou whistled in one of the episodes. Anyone have an idea which episode? Cheers…

  • mard abo says:

    Google up and Youtube search: Hawaiian Nisei songs of the 50’s for popular Japanese-American hits.

  • Leone says:

    Did any of the episodes have the lyrics included in the opening theme song. The words suicide is painless seem to stick in my mind. Or was the opening theme song always just music. Thank you

  • C.K. Dexter Haven says:

    I can’t help but notice the seemingly limitless number of times the “M*A*S*H House Band” plays the song Again (1948)–I’m pretty sure it’s always heard as an instrumental on the show–throughout the series’ eleven seasons. It is often heard over the radio at Rosie’s or in the officers club.

    For instance, “Again” is heard at around the 45 minute mark in “Welcome to Korea” (S4). M*A*S*H geek that I am, I am tempted to keep track of every time the song is heard though I’ll bet someone’s done that already.

    I’m particularly fond of the Mel Tormé rendition…

    Again

    From the film “Road House” (1948)
    (Dorcas Cochran / Lionel Newman)

    Recorded versions:

    Ida Lupino – 1948
    Doris Day – 1949
    Gordon Jenkins & His Orch. (vocal: Joe Graydon) – 1949
    Mel Tormé – 1949
    Vic Damone – 1949
    Tommy Dorsey & His Orch. – 1949
    Art Mooney & His Orch. (vocals: Johnny Martin, Madely Russell)- 1949
    Vera Lynn – 1949
    —————-

    Again, this couldn’t happen again
    This is that once in a lifetime
    This is the thrill divine

    What’s more, this never happened before
    Though I have prayed for a lifetime
    That such as you would suddenly be mine

    Mine to hold as I’m holding you now and yet never so near
    Mine to have when the now and the here disappear
    What matters, dear, for

    When this doesn’t happen again
    We’ll have this moment forever
    But never, never again (never, never)
    We’ll have this moment for ev er
    But never, never again (never, never)

    Composer Lionel Newman, who worked for 20th Century Fox for 46 years, composed the music for the song “Again.” Perhaps the publishing or whatever other ownership rights regarding the song were owned by Fox in perpetuity, making it a “cost effective” choice in the Fox stock music library.

  • Patrick says:

    Blue Heaven was played a lot throughout the series too. Did they negotiate rights good for the whole series? Or did they just like it a lot? It is a good song, popular at the time.

  • Brian Heller says:

    I’ve been searching for a clip of a MASH character saying (in a mock disgusted, “Peter Lorre” tone of voice) “The mummy speaks!” A couple MASH websites credit the line to B.J. Hunnicut. But my memory insists it was Hawkeye, as he would be the only one (I think) able to deliver it in the distinctive “Peter Lorre” manner.

    • BDOR says:

      Hawkeye delivered the line, “The mummy strikes!” in a Peter Lorre manner in the pilot when Margaret drags a drugged-up Frank (his head partially wrapped in bandage) into the Mess Tent. B.J. jokingly says, “The rummy speaks,” (in his normal voice) in “The Young and the Restless” when a drunken Charles greets them as “Price” and “Honeycomb” when he stumbled into the Swamp.

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