Tuesday, 16 November 2021

Top 40 Sporting Theme Tunes: No 20-1

Following on from songs 40-21 in my top 40 sporting theme tunes, we are now into the top 20 countdown. From this stage on we are pretty much dealing with iconic tunes, and we even enter the world of radio.

It's fairly likely that I have forgotten an obvious theme tune, so please inform me (politely) of my glaring omission(s) in the comments. I'll have to add them into my Top 40 Breakers, in true 1980s Top of the Pops style.

20. Sport on Friday (BBC)

A sports programme on a Friday? What is this madness? Admittedly the sport covered was not always top drawer - although I did enjoy the indoor hockey - but the chance to watch more sport before the weekend was an opportunity not to be missed. The excitement of hearing this theme tune if I was off school, and the fact that sport on a Friday was so unusual, sees this edge into the top 20.

19. Question of Sport (BBC)

I really don't want to bang on about how good Question of Sport used to be, as I've done that before, but I'm going to list a few things: Coleman, Beaumont, Hughes, Botham, Picture Board, Home or Away, What Happened Next?, One Minute Round. Do that in a Ron Manager style voice and it sounds like you're an old dinosaur. But don't apologise for it. What a programme it used to be, and what a great theme tune. Bonus track: the early 80s theme wasn't bad, either.

18. 1986 World Cup (BBC)

I'm not sure if school days are the happiest of your life, yet as Mexico 86 progressed I think I knew that life would never be quite so carefree again. You never forget your first World Cup; the wall-to-wall football, sticker albums, wall charts, naff team songs. The BBC Aztec Lightning theme tune was all part of my first experience and a key part of what made that tournament so special for me.

17. Kick Start (BBC)

I know this programme is stretching the sport theme slightly. But the motorcycle trial show had a memorable theme tune - one that got stuck in my head on loop one day during an invigorating work meeting - and for that reason alone I have to include Kick Start in my list. The fact that the original song is called Be My Boogie Woogie Baby makes it even better.

16. Sports Personality of the Year (BBC)

I used to love the pomp and ceremony of Sports Personality of the Year, or the Sports Review of the Year as it was once called. The programme was a real highlight of the year and as soon as The Challenge music started and the great and good of world sport were shown arriving at the BBC studios, I would sit back and enjoy a fantastic review of the sporting year. Happy days.

15. The Big Match (ITV)

Another Jeff Wayne classic, Jubilation was used as the Big Match theme between 1980-86. I must put my hands up and admit that there was the odd occasion when the programme started and I would run around the living room, smashing a sponge ball into the settee (the goal), celebrating my winning goal. I'd grown out of this by the time this theme was replaced. Honestly.

14. Cycling (Channel 4)

Cycling only really entered my consciousness once Stephen Roche won the 1987 Tour de France, yet the Pete Shelley music used for the Channel Four highlights programme of the race remains an iconic theme. With Phil Liggett providing commentary, the whole package was a joy for the ears and eyes.

13. 1986 World Cup (ITV)

Aztec Gold would later be used as the theme tune for both the Big Match and Saint and Greavsie. But it is so high on my list for all the Mexico 86 vibes it gives me. Strange how your mind works, but straight away I have thoughts of Pique, Hugo Sanchez, and John Helm commentating on Denmark once this track has finished. Tune, as the kids probably no longer say.

12. Sport on 2 (BBC)

Kids, back in the day, sport used to be covered mainly on Radio 2, meaning the Sport on 2 music was a constant companion of mine during the 1980s, especially on midweek evenings when the only real way to follow the football (bar going to the match) was to tune into 909/693 MW. If the Number One theme was the starter, commentators Peter Jones and Bryon Butler served up the main course, with a later entry in my chart providing the dessert.

11. Midweek Sports Special (ITV)

Sport was indeed special during a midweek, and the music for ITV's Midweek Sport Special was equally as impressive. Covering memorable football nights such as the 1985 FA Cup semi-final replay between Manchester United and Liverpool, and the Tottenham-Arsenal 1987 Littlewoods Cup semi-final replay, often I'd have to set the VHS timer if I wasn't allowed to stay up or it clashed with a rival programme (more of which later).

10. Wimbledon Opening (BBC)

Another theme tune that used to get me out of my seat and bounce around, the opening credits for Wimbledon on the BBC acted like a gym session as I dived across the carpet in true Boris Becker style. The tournament would be a highlight of the summer, and although my interest in Wimbledon has declined over the years, hearing both the opening and closing music still brings it all back to me.

9. Match of the Day (BBC)

It's hard to know where to begin with the Match of the Day theme. The classic song used since 1970 is instantly recognisable, growing up it was the soundtrack for the sport during a time when football really wasn't sexy. A warm comfort blanket on Saturday evenings, the music provided an extra buzz when live football appeared on our screens on Friday nights and Sunday afternoons. Barry Stoller, take a bow.

8. Snooker (BBC)

Doug Wood probably didn't know just how popular his Drag Racer song would become when he composed it in 1976. But when the BBC picked it up to use for the snooker, it would provide a healthy royalty cheque for the American and bring his music to millions throughout the UK. I don't like change, so why Wood's timeless tune was updated for the current coverage is beyond me. If it ain't broke....

7. Sports Report (BBC)

Sat in my bedroom; in the car after a boring shopping trip; hearing it at my grandparents; getting safely back on to the coach on an away trip; me and my son rushing back to the car so we can listen to that familiar tune after going to a Boreham Wood match. The Sports Report music at 5pm on a Saturday never gets old, even if the song dates back to 1948. When the theme was accidentally not played on Saturday January 5, 2013 Mark Pougatch had to issue an apology. "It was like the ravens had left the Tower of London, it was like the worst thing you could have ever done," Pougatch admitted. Quite.

6. Ski Sunday (BBC)

There was very little to entertain us on a Sunday, so I needed no excuse to put Ski Sunday on. With Britain's Martin Bell achieving top ten finishes, and the appeal of Alberto Tomba, Pirmin Zubriggen, and the Four Hills Ski Jumping, it really was a good time to get into the sport. The theme was part of the appeal, Pop Looks Bach the perfect tune to accompany someone flying downhill or through the air.

5. Golf (BBC)

I'm not quite sure why I love this theme tune so much. Maybe it's because it seemed a little futuristic at the time, slightly different from many of the other songs in this list. Or perhaps it's a simple fact that it reminds me of Europe winning the Ryder Cup in 1985. It's probably a combination of those factors; the perfect storm of a memorable theme and a period of success in European golf that brought about a very happy marriage.

4. Formula One (BBC)

For most of my childhood I was unaware that Fleetwood Mac's The Chain was the song used for the BBC's F1 coverage. It is a track that stands alone as a great song, but when used in conjunction with the F1 it ticks all the boxes. Even when I listen to the song now I am waiting for the singing to stop and that famous riff to start. I half expect to hear Murray Walker fade in at the end of it all.

3. Sportsnight (BBC)

For a while I struggled listen to this song without my bottom lip going. Many a night I would hear the Sportsnight theme and lay awake in my bed sulking because my parents did not let me stay up to watch the European club competition highlights. One of Tony Hatch's many television tunes, once my bedtime hour was put back a bit, many an evening would be spent watching England internationals, FA Cup replays and boxing. Sadly the programme is no more. Now that is something to sulk about.

2. Cricket (BBC)

I'm not sure how many famous songs start with a cowbell being played, but as soon as you hear that instrument at the beginning of Booker T. & the M.G.'s classic Soul Limbo you cannot help wallow in a sea of nostalgia. Once the music finished, Peter West, Richie Benaud, or Tony Lewis would often appear in front of covers on the square at one of the six Test grounds in England. If play was going to start on time, then you would have to get yourself ready for the inevitable English disappointment. But that theme made everything seem ok; it still does.

1. Grandstand (BBC)

Dum dum. The start of my number one sporting theme, the very simple opening provides a superb entry into this classic tune. Once the music begins we are led to the "BONG!" which I seem to recall was timed perfectly to fit in with a boxer's punch or a stray football shot. And what an ending. Typing "der der der der der der der der der" does it no justification whatsoever. Just go and listen to it and decide for yourselves. But if you don't like it then you'll have me and Keith Mansfield to answer to.

View songs 40-21: https://that1980ssportsblog.blogspot.com/2021/11/top-40-sporting-theme-tunes-no-40-21.html

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  1. Brilliant. The tunes then were superb. I was a big fan of the Sport on Friday one.

  2. Shift Sport on Friday up, drop Sportsnight below Ski Sunday - and well done for remembering one of my favourites, from Midweek Sports Special! Always liked 'The Match' on ITV from the 90s, as well. Loved revisiting them all. Thanks.

  3. Just to say as well, if anyone loves No.1 but hasn't found this version, check out 'Forget About You' by The Motors (Youtube it) and you'll get to hear Grandstand with words (more or less!)

  4. For the Breakers list: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJPEl0hnGO4