Friday, October 13, 2006

The Sound Of Music

It's been a filthy week, hasn't it? Well, I mean for most of us. It hasn't if you're Croatian, Northern Irish, or some other nationalities, but if you're English, Scottish, Welsh, Irish, Spanish or French, it has (there are probably others too on either side, but I can't really be bothered to look that closely - this is what happens if you bolt down a pint of Stella in 7 minutes in the pub after work), so I figured that we all needed cheering up. Yes? No? Shut up and get on with it? Okay. Following on the from the relative success of this sort of nonsense during the summer, I promised some more general football music, and here it is. And (AND!), not just football music! General sports things that are sitting around on my hard drive! So, plug in your earphones, pretend to other people that you're doing something very important, and, well, enjoy.

"Grandstand" (The Original): Nowadays, all the talk is of axing "Grandstand". In fact, the decision has probably already been taken to axe it in place of a five-hour long version of "Final Score", but, back in the day, this jaunty little number was Britain's proper introduction to televised sport. Although this will probably surprise some of you, I will am too young to remember this. It sounds like hot chocolate to me. The drink, not the band. For those of you that are concerned with such things, this tune's actual title is "News Scoop".

The 1968 Olympic Games (BBC): Well. Here's something a bit special. This is the BBC's music for the 1968 Olympics - those of you that are paying attention will have already noted that the BBC's music for the 1986 World Cup, "Aztec Lightning", borrows quite heavily from it.

"Grandstand" (The Replacement): I'm doing this from memory, and I've had some booze, so bear with me. As I recall, the BBC commissioned this, the "Grandstand" theme that knows, for the show's 25th anniversary, and it has stuck. If you ask most people what they'll miss about "Grandstand" when they replace it with a "family film" repeats of some sitcom from the 1980s (which they inevitably will), it'll be this piece of music. It was a piece of my childhood, a piece of my adolescence, and it is a piece of my adulthood. Even now, in my 30s, if I'm not up by the time the "Grandstand" theme chimes up, I feel as if I've lost a part of my weekend.

"The Big Match" (LWT -1970): "Match Of The Day", of course, had been introduced to the nation on BBC2 in 1964, but it took ITV's London Weekend Television to accurately reflect the influence of the 1960s on the game, with this "groovy" number, debuted in 1970. "The Big Match" was bigger, bolder and brassier that MOTD. It had guest presenters at Christmas (Elton John did it one year), and it was shown in ITV regions that didn't have the resources to produce their own football show, even though it was largely London-orientated. This version is the full version, and it was written by Graham Walker, who also wrote the enormously famous (and not included here) theme tune to MOTD. Caution: funky middle-eight alert.

Star Soccer (ATV - 1970s?): The bigger ITV regions did produce their own programmes, and "Star Soccer" was ATV's version, produced for the Midlands. It was presented first by the former England captain Billy Wright, and then by Gary Newbon, but was probably best known for the authorative tones of commentator Huw Johns. The 1970s were a big time for football commentator in the Midlands. Derby and Forest won the League. Birmingham City momentarily bloomed. Wolves made the UEFA Cup final. Even Aston Villa eventually won the League (although it was 1981 by then). It all seems like a very long time ago, doesn't it?

"World Of Sport" (ITV): Where ITV excelled in sports broadcasting in the 1970s was in copying the BBC's ideas and doing them better. Whilst the BBC were plodding along with that cuddly old deviant Frank Bough and the Videprinter, ITV had the Humperdinkalike Dickie Davies, the ITV 7 (a special bet devised to tie in with their horse-racing coverage) and the wrestling. It was the groovier, funkier alternative. They even had that "S" in a circle logo. So very 1970s. There was, I think, more outrage when "World Of Sport" was taken off the air in the mid-1980s than there will be when "Grandstand" goes.

"The Big Match" (ITV 1980):
There was another "Big Match" theme tune in the mid-1970s, but I can't find an MP3 of it, so we'll have to skip forward to 1980, and this, possibly the most famous "Big Match" theme of all. Curiously, it was composed by Jeff Wayne, who wrote the musical version of "War Of The Worlds". This was also used as the music for the first networked live ITV football (altogether now: Tottenham Hotspur 2 Nottingham Forest 1). It's called "Jubilation", by the way.

"Rugby Special" (BBC2 1970s-1980s): This will, I guarantee, be the first and last time that egg-chasing is mentioned on here, but I was strangely drawn to "Rugby Special" in the early 1980s. I think it was the grounds they played at, which had much more in common with Enfield's Southbury Road than White Hart Lane than Anfield. Unsurprising, really, considering that they were still amateurs at the time. Listening back to it, it's a pretty horrid piece of music. But well, you know, warts and all, and all that.

"Sport On 2" (BBC Radio 2/5):
Of course, it's not all TV. The last time I listened to Radio 5 at lunch-time, they were still playing this at a couple of minutes past twelve/one/two. I can't be the only person that used to get vaguely irritated by the fact that they used to talk over it, can I?

"The Big Match" (ITV 1980s): Apologies for the sound quality, but it's the only version I could find. Maybe this is the start of the blandishment of TV sports music. It sounds like it's loosely based on the 1980 vintage, but there's no great excitement here. Just Liverpool, Spurs, Arsenal, Manchester United or Everton LIVE AND EXCLUSIVE on the television on Sunday afternoon yet again.

"Sportsnight": Poignant, really. I was thinking about this the other day. Way back when, England matches were always on Wednesday nights, and never shown live. The evening would be spent in a desperate attempt to avoid the score, so as not to ruin "Sportsnight" at 10.00. This very unique crisis was, of course, captured perfectly in an episode of "Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads", in which Bob & Terry ended up in the last bastion of sanctuary, a church. The football was always on first. I have occasionally wondered how much the viewing figures dropped off when Harry Carpenter uttered the words "...and now, featherweight boxing from Wakefield". Now: can anybody remember what the theme to ITV's equivalent, "Midweek Sports Special" was?

"Superstars": Not really proper sport, of course, but famous now for two things: Kevin Keegan falling off his bike, and Brian Jacks, who became considerably more famous for his appearances on this than he ever did for being the British Judo champion. Included here because, well, it's a fantastic piece of music, isn't it?

And there we are. Now: you've almost forgotten about the fact that none of the home countries are going to qualify for Euro 2008 already, haven't you?


Dan said...

I love these posts! For those like me that love the kind of library music typified by those sports themes, I recommend you check out the Blow Up Exlcusive Blend series of CDs. Genius.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

What a fantastic Blog and one thats gone into my favourites! Man, brought back so many memories. Hearing Grandstand and especially Sportsnight...ahh, although there was less footie on then it seems 'special;.
However, thats not to say Sky's early output is forgotten. Id love to hear their theme tunes for Super Sunday and Monday Night Football!
Howabout as well as mp3's, we have .avi's! so we can see the intros to remind us of the past!

Anonymous said...

Many thanks for this great service to humanity. What happened to the Bum titty Bum titty Bum Bum Bum version of the Big Match c.1974?

Anonymous said...

I wonder if you remember the instrumental anthem from the 70s/80s tv programme "Road To Wembley"?

Anonymous said...

Would be good if you could get a version of Midweek Sports Special as that was probably the best theme of the lot.
There is a version knocking about on the net somewhere but it has talking over it.

Would also be good if you could get the ITV World Cup theme of 1982 'Matador' also by Jeff Wayne.

Great blog btw :o)


stoner said...

I've been trying to find the 1980's version of The Match for aaaaaaaaaaaaaaages!!! This is when I first got in to football. Elton Welsby - LEGEND!!!! :o)

IverPotter said...

Totally agree that Midweek Sports Special is an absolute gem - I have it on an old VHS tape at home.

The Star Soccer theme tune was later used for "Cloughie's Golden Oldies," where Brian and Gary Newbon raided the archives "for great matches of yesteryear."

The Long Lost Cousins said...

Fantastic. I've been searching everywhere for the Grandstand theme Mp3. Our band, The Long Lost Cousins will be using it as our on stage entrance music from now on. Thanks so much for that. Any chance of getting the mp3s of Question of Sport & Radio 5's Sports Report on here too?

Anonymous said...

Thanks very much for this. Its very evocative of my childhood (i'm 48) spent watching the footy on tv with my dad. Also, you have settled endless hours of argument in the pub with my mates as to what the theme to "Star soccer" was. I've loaded it as the ringtone on my phone and am looking forward to their faces when they hear it!

Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

I'm looking for a music theme (an electronic new age, without vocal) which was palyed before and after matches in Worldcup 1990 Italy. I would really appreciate if you can help me on this. I don't know the title or the composer, but I really love it! You know, It reminds me my great period of football fan (I was 10!)
Thanks in advance.

Ellu said...

Notti Magiche by Gianna Nannini

Will said...

On ITV? I think I have it...

Marcus said...

I'd love to hear the Midweek Sport Special theme again if anyone has it!

Anonymous said...

Can't seem to download the Star Socer theme tune.

Any tips?


Ponce DeLyon said...

That Rugby Special muzak is obviously Royalty Light Library music as it can also be heard in at lest 2 episodes of The Sweeney ( The Naff Patrick Mower ones)..Yes ok I blame my parents too

Ponce De-lyon 2 said...

Forgive the last mis spell Im tired...P.S Wish the Actual,proper,actual Sportsnight theme was here,Alas the one available has an irritating bass-y thing going on over it which was rightly mixed 'out' at the time...or is this one of those awful Geoff Love covers? Grrr

smiggers said...

Fabulous tunes -brings back many a happy memory.

Anonymous said...

Wicked post - not a sports fan but my mate is - he'll LOVE to hear these songs - fantastic - many thanks - BTW the MP3's are great quality as well

Anonymous said...

One quick comment

The Last Big Match theme you have on here is labelled incorrectly. It wasnt the Big Match by then and was plain and simply 'The Match' which is what ITV called their exclusive coverage of First Division games that Greg Dyke at LWT won for the network - I think they paid the heady sum of £44m !!

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