Released as a single on Imperial Records in 1966. Performed LIVE in 2018 at the 13th Annual Ventura County Blues Festival. Secret Agent Man - Johnny Rivers
On Stage: Johnny Rivers - guitar/vocals
Skip Edwards - keys
Gerald Davis - bgv
Norm Sancho - bass/bgv
Michael Rivers - drums
Cameras: Richard 'Yogi' Heintz, Kimberly Kagy & Casey Reagan
Edit: CJ Reagan for musicUcansee.com
Live Sound & Post Audio:: Dave Grover for Mystic Mountain Sound
"Secret Agent Man"
Single by Johnny Rivers
from the album ...And I Know You Wanna Dance
B-side "You Dig"
Format 45 rpm
Genre Rock and roll
Label Imperial 66159
Songwriter(s) P. F. Sloan, Steve Barri
Producer(s) Lou Adler
"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. 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". Sloan wrote the guitar lick and the first few lines of the song, with Barri (Sloan's songwriting partner) contributing to the chorus. 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. The original demo of the song used the "Danger Man" title, as shown by the surviving demo of the song, which Sloan sang. 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 (although that lick is clearly heard on Sloan's demo version). 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.