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?