Tuesday, 9 November 2021

Top 40 Sporting Theme Tunes: No 40-21

I always thought I would avoid a blog on sporting theme tunes. But sometimes you have to dismiss the nagging doubts and just go for it. You may love or hate this list, yet rest assured that I have spent quite a lot of time deliberating over this whole thing.

So get ready to play Yellow Pearl by Phil Lynott in the background, and do your best Ooh Gary Davies/Bruno Brookes impression, as we begin the top 40 countdown of 1980s sporting themes. 

This week we're going from 40 to 21, taking in some forgotten gems and a few classics. Next week will see the publication of the much awaited top 20. I just hope you can cope with the suspense.

40. Sporting Triangles

A disappointing quiz show and forever suffering in comparison to A Question of Sport, the theme tune for Sporting Triangles reflected the underwhelming nature of the programme. An instantly forgettable synthesizer piece that I've forgotten already, it screams meh.

39. 1982 World Cup (ITV)

Matador by Jeff Wayne may have charted higher in my list had I been fully absorbed in the 1982 World Cup, but as it was just before my time then I'm afraid that it just squeezes into my top 40. I'm sure multi-millionaire Wayne will be ok with this, though, and he does feature a couple more times in my countdown.

38. Trans World Sport (Channel 4)

For a sports addict needing another hit, Trans World Sport on Channel 4 was an absolute joy when it arrived on our screens in the late 80s. The jolly character of the opening music matches the programme neatly, with its wide range of sports a treat early on a weekend morning.

37. 1984 Summer Olympics (BBC)

Don't get me wrong (© Chrissie Hynde), I am a big fan of the Chariots of Fire music. Yet when the BBC used it for their 1984 Summer Olympics coverage it felt like a bit of a shortcut to me, almost as if the event had taken them by surprise and they had not prepared anything else. Nevertheless, nice song (© Alan Partridge).

36. Darts (BBC)

You can debate whether darts is a sport - it is - but for me the BBC music to introduce the likes of Bristow, Lowe, and Wilson doesn't sound like a typical sporting theme. It does bring back some new year memories of watching the World Championship, although listening again I half expect to see Brian Walden appear at the end to present one of those tedious Sunday morning political programmes.

35. Horse of the Year Show (BBC)

A theme tune posher than Posh Spice, it almost makes me want to dance round the living room like one of those dressage horses. I'm not sure Mozart had the urge to do so during his composition of A Musical Joke in 1787, but roughly 200 years later, listening to his music, I can feel myself bouncing up and down in my seat. Where are my jodhpurs?

34. 1986 Commonwealth Games (BBC)

Bagpipes kick off the BBC theme tune for the 1986 Commonwealth Games, hosted in, you've guessed it, Edinburgh. Written by BA Robertson, Ceud Mìle Fàilte translates from Scottish Gaelic to A Hundred Thousand Welcomes. Sadly, 32 countries declined to accept this welcome, and the games were a financial mess. Despite the boycott, money loss and the involvement of Robert Maxwell, I have fond memories stirred by the theme tune. As a young English boy, I wasn't used to seeing us win so many medals.

33. Saint and Greavsie (ITV)

The original Saint and Greavsie music was a lively number. Used by Baddiel and Skinner during Fantasy Football during Euro 2004, this was the soundtrack for many an 80s child on a Saturday lunchtime, before it was replaced after Mexico 86 with a top 20 hit on my list.

32. 1987 Rugby Union World Cup (BBC)

Probably forgotten by many, the BBC music for the inaugural Rugby Union World Cup in 1987 contained sections with Haka style chanting, due to the fact that the tournament was in New Zealand; ignoring the fact that 11 matches were also staged in Australia. The full version is stirring, so do yourselves a favour and soak it in on YouTube.

31. Bullseye (ITV)

Possibly not a true sporting theme, but these are my rules, so back off. The sound of this music immediately rewinds the clock back to a time of Bowen, Bully, "let's look what you could have won", "stay out of the black and into the red, nothing in this game for two in a bed", "bus far home", speedboats, and 101 or more in six darts. Super, smashing, great!

30. Boxing (BBC)

The anticipation felt when this music started was part of the success of this tune. Personally, I was always associate it with Barry McGuigan defeating Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road in 1985. It's Saturday June 8th, 1985, it's a WBA featherweight world title fight, and IT'S LIVE! Fortunately, Harry Carpenter didn't feel the need to say this once Sir Percy by The Tony King Orchestra finished on that memorable evening of boxing on BBC One.

29. Athletics (BBC)

I have a misty vision in my head of Friday nights watching high quality athletics, mainly involving Britain's superb middle-distance runners, and this tune kicked off the whole experience. From the fanfare to the bit that wouldn't sound out of place in a US detective programme, World Series by Keith Mansfield is a classic, although not good enough to make my top 20. I'm starting to doubt myself now.

28. Jossy's Giants (BBC)

Now we're talking. The programme following the fortunes of the Glipton Grasshoppers and their boss Jossy Blair was essential viewing for any young football fan in the 1980s, and the theme tune sung by Sid Waddell was a key part of this. Football's just a branch of science; that's an argument for another day. But what a cracking theme tune.

27. World of Sport (ITV)

Another tune used by Baddiel and Skinner in their Fantasy Football days, the original World of Sport theme is a thing of beauty. The accompanying planes and banners on the opening credits are another image burnt on to the collective retinas of many a sports geek of the 70s and 80s. Bonus track (it really isn't): The decision to switch to flashy graphics and this Jeff Wayne theme from 1983 onwards was questionable. Or stupid.

26. London Marathon (BBC)

An uplifting tune for an uplifting event, The Trap by Ron Goodwin was actually written for the 1966 film of the same name (yes sir, I can Google). But since the start of the London Marathon in 1981 the song will forever be linked to the gruelling race/charity event in the capital. Normally when I hear it, I breathe a sigh of relief that I'm safely tucked up indoors and not on the starting line.

25. Boxing (ITV)

Mike Tyson. That is the man I think of instantly when I hear the ITV Boxing music, his reign of terror beginning in the latter half of the decade. Many a Sunday would be spent watching Iron Mike's latest destruction of an opponent, the music a precursor to the carnage that would follow. Even now I feel a bit scared hearing this.

24. Rugby Special (BBC)

Holy Mackerel! I never knew the Rugby Special theme tune was called Holy Mackerel, but I guess that kind of question doesn't come up in many pub quizzes. You can smell the mud as this song plays, during the amateur era of the sport that seems like 40 years ago. That's because it was, grandad.

23. 1982 World Cup (BBC)

Say what you like about him, but Andrew Lloyd Webber knows how to compose belting tunes, and with the help of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra the BBC 1982 World Cup theme was fantastic. Marked down slightly as it was taken from Cats, listening to The Jellicle Ball left me breathless and wanting to run around smashing footballs past helpless goalkeepers. But then I remembered that I'm not very good at football, and I'd be feel breathless again.

22. The Match (ITV)

The build-up, the drums, and then hand me my air guitar. Live Sunday matches were an exciting prospect during the 1980s, and when ITV claimed exclusive rights to league football from 1988, they hit us with their Goal Crazy theme. Partnered with some impressive computer graphics of colourful kits and crazy spinning turnstiles, the music reaches a crescendo before the cherry on top of the cake: Cue Elton Welsby.

21. Wimbledon Closing (BBC)

Sporting Occasion would often be played over a slow-motion clip come the end of a dramatic day at SW19; Think Peter Doohan beating Boris Becker, Jimmy Connors stunning comeback against Mikael Pernfors, or a British player winning a set. A calming song to sign off with - as opposed to its more frantic opening music sibling - it's now time to go and put the cocoa on.


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