40. Sporting Triangles
Sporting Triangles was a disappointing quiz show that suffered in comparison to A Question of Sport and its theme tune reflected the underwhelming nature of the programme. A forgettable synthesiser piece.
39. 1982 World Cup, ITV
Matador by Jeff Wayne just squeezes into my top 40. I’m sure he will be OK with this as he features a couple more times in the countdown.
38. Trans World Sport, Channel 4
Trans World Sport was an absolute joy when it arrived on our screens in the late 1980s. 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
I’m a big fan of the Chariots of Fire music but the BBC’s decision to use it for their 1984 Summer Olympics coverage felt like a bit of a shortcut, almost as if the event had taken them by surprise and they had not prepared anything else. Nevertheless, nice song.
36. Darts, BBC
You can debate whether darts is a sport – it is – but the music the BBC chose does not sound like a typical sporting theme. It brings back some new year memories of watching the World Championship, but listening again I half expect to see Brian Walden appear at the end to present one of those tedious Sunday morning politics programmes.
35. Horse of the Year Show, BBC
A theme tune so posh it almost makes me want to dance round the living room like one of those dressage horses. Mozart composed A Musical Joke in 1787 and, two centuries later, 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 lost 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 1980s child on a Saturday lunchtime.
32. 1987 Rugby Union World Cup, BBC
The BBC music for the inaugural Rugby World Cup in 1987 contained sections with Haka-style chanting because the tournament was in New Zealand – ignoring the fact that 11 matches were staged in Australia. The full version is stirring.
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. I always associate it with Barry McGuigan defeating Eusebio Pedroza at Loftus Road in 1985. Sir Percy by The Tony King Orchestra was the perfect start to 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.
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 1970s and 1980s The decision to switch to flashy graphics and this Jeff Wayne theme from 1983 onwards was questionable to say the least.
26. London Marathon, BBC
An uplifting tune for an uplifting event, The Trap by Ron Goodwin was written for the 1966 film of the same name. But, since the launch of the London Marathon in 1981, the song will forever be linked to the gruelling event in the capital.
25. Boxing, ITV
Mike Tyson is the man I think of instantly when I hear the ITV Boxing music. I spent many a Sunday 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
You can smell the mud as the Rugby Special theme tune song plays. Who knew it was called Holy Mackerel?
23. 1982 World Cup, BBC
Whatever you think about him, Andrew Lloyd Webber knows how to compose a belting tune and, with the help of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, his theme for the 1982 World Cup was fantastic. It is marked down slightly as it was taken from Cats, but listening to The Jellicle Ball left me breathless and wanting to run around smashing footballs past helpless goalkeepers.
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.
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 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. What a programme it used to be and what a great theme tune. The early 80s theme wasn’t bad, either.
18. 1986 World Cup, BBC
You never forget your first World Cup: the wall-to-wall football, sticker albums, wall charts and 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
16. Sports Personality of the Year, BBC
I used to love the pomp and ceremony of Sports Personality of the Year. 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 and 1986. I must 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). 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 Sánchez, and John Helm commentating on Denmark once this track has finished. Tune, as the kids probably no longer say.
12. Sport on 2, BBC
Sport used to be covered mainly on Radio 2, meaning the Sport on 2 music was a constant companion 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 or 693 MW. The Number One theme was the starter; commentators Peter Jones and Bryon Butler served up the main course; and a later entry in my chart provided 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. The show covered many memorable football nights, such as the FA Cup semi-final replay between Manchester United and Liverpool in 1985, and the Littlewoods Cup semi-final replay between Tottenham and Arsenal in 1987. I’d often 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 was 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 during 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 5 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 watch Ski Sunday. With Britain’s Martin Bell achieving top 10 finishes, and the appeal of Alberto Tomba, Pirmin Zubriggen, and the Four Hills Ski Jumping, it 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 because seemed a little futuristic at the time, different from many of the other songs in this list. Or perhaps it just reminds me of Europe winning the Ryder Cup in 1985. It’s probably a combination of the two – 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 the song used for the BBC’s F1 coverage was The Chain by Fleetwood Mac. It stands alone as a great song but, when used in conjunction with F1, it ticks all the boxes. Even when I listen to the song now, I half expect to hear Murray Walker fade in at the end.
3. Sportsnight, BBC
One of Tony Hatch’s many television tunes. 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. 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. That is something to sulk about.
2. Cricket, BBC
I’m not sure how many famous songs start with a cowbell but, as soon as you hear that instrument at the beginning of Booker T & the MG’s classic Soul Limbo, you cannot help but 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, 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 very simple opening of my favourite sporting song provides a superb entry into this classic tune. Once the music begins we are led to the “BONG!” which 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. If you don’t like it, you’ll have me and Keith Mansfield to answer to.