The news that ITV will be losing live coverage of the Champions League from the start of the 2015/16 season is a bitter blow to a company that was once the great innovator in terms of the development of football as a medium of entertainment in this country. Coming, as it does, on top of the end of FA Cup coverage on the channel in the near future, only a handful of England matches per year and the possibility of a Champions League highlights package, perhaps now is approriate time to look back at the frankly odd musical history of one of the former network’s biggest and most powerful regions.
The ITV franchise round of 1968 saw its biggest shake-up since the introduction of a commercial channel thirteen years earlier. Granada Television, who had been the weekday broadcasters to the vast “North of England” region found themselves losing out geographically with the creation of a new region. The consolation was that they would now be broadcasting from their studios Manchester seven days a week, and this meant that sports output – traditionally a preserve of the weekends at that time – would have to be increased. Commentator Barry Davies was brought over from ABC Weekend Television and a new weekly programme called, with a sort of blunt authorativeness that came to be associated with the company, “Football”. The title music, however, was considerably more jaunty. We might have expected thirty seconds of silence as the opening titles played, but instead a tune called “Magic Trumpet”, which had been recorded by Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass in 1966, was selected.
Granada stuck with this name until 1972, when it was decided that their flagship programme could be with a little jazzing up. So they gave it an altogether more exciting name – “Kick Off” – a some new title music. Davies, by this time, had long gone from the company, poached by the BBC for the start of the 1969/70 season, and his replacement was, perhaps, an unusual choice for a company that had come to define itself by being From The North. Gerald Sinstadt had been born in Kent and came to the company from the East of England ITV company, Anglia Television. He would be, for the whole of the 1970s, both the voice and face of football on Granada, both presenting “Kick Off” and commentating on matches.
The following year, however, the title had been changed to something which resembled the opening theme music to a sitcom of the era.
The name “Kick-Off” was expanded to the entirely superfluous name of “The Kick-Off Match” in 1975, and this was accompanied by a piece of music that, well, redfines the boundaries of music written for television in any form. We believe that it was written by Francis Monkman, who had made his name as a session musician in the late 1960s and early 1970, and would go on to be a member of both Curved Air and Sky (ask your parents, but only if they were studying Sociology at the Unversity of East Anglia during the mid-to-late 1970s). Don’t have nightmares, kids.
Within a couple of years, this definitely Monkman-written piece, which is probably the best known of The Kick Off Match themes, had been introduced. It still has a hint of the “Brian Eno stuck in a lift on mescaline with nothing but a keyboard in chipboard casing and copies of “Trout Mask Replica” and “Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas” about it, but in comparison with its predecessor, it’s positively restrained. By the time that regional highlights of matches ended in 1983, “The Kick-Off Match” was called “Match Time”, it was hosted by Elton Welsby and Denis Law (with Gerald Sinstadt having headed back to the south of England to work for the new South of England contractor TVS) and had the same title music as London’s considerably better known “The Big Match.”
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