Secret Agent Man (song)

"Secret Agent Man"
Single by Johnny Rivers
from the album ...And I Know You Wanna Dance
B-side "You Dig"
Released 1966
Format 45 rpm
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:58
Label Imperial 66159
Writer(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 entitled "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' 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 setup to the "continuation" of Danger Man, the cult classic The Prisoner.[3]

Cover versions


"Secret Agent Man"
Single by Devo
from the album Duty Now for the Future
B-side "Soo Bawlz", "Red Eye"
Released 1979
Format 7"
Length 3:37
Label Warner 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.

Other covers

Use in media

See also


  1. 1 2 3 P.F. Sloan. "P.F. Sloan: In His Own Words -- The Stories Behind the Songs". Retrieved 2013-10-07.
  2. Matthew Greenwald. "Danger Man (Secret Agent Man)". Retrieved 2013-10-07.
  3. Cornell, Paul; Day, Martin; Topping, Keith (July 30, 2015). The Classic British Telefantasy Guide. Orion Publishing Group. p. 14. ISBN 9780575133525. Retrieved November 21, 2016 via Google Books.
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