Saturday, March 27, 2010

Nine Top Football Theme Tunes

We here at Some People Are On The Pitch love an arbitrary list. In fact we have made Friday a special day for such lists of little or no consequence.

In that spirit we've put together a line up of that most esoteric of topics, the football theme tune. Below is a selection of cracking choons that we've been able to find on YouTube that were used to herald some of the best football TV and radio shows.

(Please note that we intend to explore World Cup themes at a later date.)

The Daddy


Match Of The Day, BBC Television. 'Offside' - Barry Stoller

Synonymous with Saturday nights (or Sunday mornings if your partner doesn't like football), this rousing anthem is an example of classic BBC post-war consensus building. Shorn of military overtures so familiar with older sports themes, the Match Of The Day theme is a celebration of peace and civilisation through the medium of blaring horns. It's happy, it's rousing and endures to this day.



The Grandaddy

Sports Report, BBC Radio 2 and Radio Five Live, 'Out Of The Blue' - Hubert Bath

An example of the militaristic. Hubert Bath's piece evokes images of marching bands performing in rusty grandstands in front of a barely attentive audience of three. This tune is played every Saturday at around 5pm on Radio Five Live to herald the scores round-up. It's a particular familiar sound if you're walking back from a match while cars pass you by. Perhaps not as immediately familiar as MOTD but by gad you'd know about it if it were to be replaced by Kasabian.




The Kitchen Sink

Champions League, 'UEFA Champions League Anthem', Tony Britten.

An adaptation of Handel's "Zadok the Priest", this theme exemplifies corporate excess and self- importance. Taking a theme composed for a coronation and using it for football. This is your ruler now... this and its many generous sponsors. The tune itself is suitably rousing but the arrangement lacks depth and it sounds like it was recorded in a basement in Thames Ditton. Cheap, ostentatious and overbearing. Just like the Champions League itself.




The Not Technically Football But Still Gets A Mention (I)

Sportsnight, BBC Television. 'Sportsnight' -Tony Hatch

The long-since defunct Sportsnight was always blessed by having one of the masters of the genre compose its theme. The fact that this high energy tour de force is not in use on another programme is a scandal of 6Music proportions if you ask me. Tony Hatch also composed the music for "Crossroads", "Emmerdale" and the sublime "Man Alive". His delicate counterpoints and sensitive melodies have added weight and substance to some of the worst TV shows ever made. Sportsnight is among one of his best.




The 25-35 ABC1s

Gillette Soccer Saturday and Sky Sports News. 'Requiem For A Tower Movement II-IV' - Clint Mansell

Sky are too busy chasing demographs to commission any seriously good football music. This thundering piece is one of the less nauseating examples of evidence that Sky lacks any sort of soul. It's a fine piece of music but wholly inappropriate for a sports infotainment channel that only really comes to life on Saturday afternoon when Jeff and the boys turn up for Soccer Saturday. Something far more whimsical and light-hearted would work so much better. Mind you, football's a serious business these days. This particular theme has been dropped recently in favour of an original piece, no doubt thrown together in a basement in Isleworth.




The Eighties Anthem

The Big Match, London Weekend Television, 'Jubilation' - Jeff Wayne

OK, you could argue that there are better Big Match themes. But those always get trotted out on nostalgia compilations. Jubilation was doing the rounds in the years when ITV were swapping Saturday nights and Sunday afternoons with MOTD. This comtemporary tune was the perfect antidote to the traditional BBC. The middle eight is a gorgeous floaty melody that transported the Den to the clouds for before bringing you back with a determined electronica. Fun yet purposeful. ITV have never commissioned anything as good since. Although they have come close.




The Modern

Gazzetta Football Italia, Channel 4. 'I'm Stronger Now' - Definitive Two

The tune that launched a thousand Saturday morning hangovers. To hear this tune is to recall James Richardson when he had hair, Kenneth Wolstenholme and last night's Guinness repeating on you. Channel 4 were never going to follow the same path as the Beeb and ITV when they first took up football in the wake of Italia 90. And this tune from definitive two set a new precedent in football presentation. Check out the full version here.




The Post-Modern

Football Italiano, Channel Five, 'Phantom Part II' - Justice

This shit-kicking dance classic was just about the only thing Five got right in its season-long dalliance with Serie A in 2007. An uber-modern theme but very much a proper football theme. It's jolly, dynamic and energising.





The Not Technically Football But Still Gets A Mention (II)


The Danny Baker Show, Radio Five Live, 'Hoedown' - Emerson Lake And Palmer



Between, Posh the Skelington, demolishing football grounds, reading the class register and horses in houses, Radio 5 Live's Danny Baker Show is holding onto its sport remit by its fingernails. However, Baker's legendary ear for the right tune at the right time has uncovered a gem, albeit one hiding in plain sight. This track by Seventies rock gods ELP is the perfect sports theme and contains all the ingredients that I've referred to above. Moreover, it's proto-modern dance beats and use of electronic keyboards make it sound, in places, like a 90's techno anthem. It could be the Chemical Brothers. Or it could be what Kraftwerk may have sounded like if they'd come from Todmorden.

Over to you!

No doubt you're seething at the glaring omissions from this list. Let us know your favorite football themes. There must be some classic regional sports themes that we Londoners have never heard of. Overseas readers - tell us about some classic football themes from your country. Chuck some links our way if you can.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

How can you leave out "Soccer Fan" by The Real Sounds of Africa from the World Football Phone In on BBC Up All Night.

Graham said...

How about this one for a reminder of staying up late on a school night...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWyA2koq3h8

Terry said...

I can't believe I left out Football Fan, Anonymous. A shocking omission on my part.

Chris O said...

Dotun...? Is that you, Dotun?!! :)

Thanks Graham. I'm now singing the theme tune to Midweek Sports Special endlessly like a cracked record...

Anonymous said...

I prefer the more bombastic football themes that were the norm in the 70s. Who can forget the celestial trumpets and horns of "La Soiree" by David Ordini (the "Big Match" theme), or "Lap of Honour" - ITV's theme for the 1974 World Cup? Such great memories...they don't write theme tunes like that any more!

Chris O said...

I'm with you up to a point, Anonymous. I like *some* of those bold and brassy themes of the early 70's - 'La Soiree' being among the finest in my opinion. Some of them, however, seem to be trying too hard, thereby showing that it's a fine line between perfection and mediocrity. Some good shouts there, though...

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