Match Of The Day At 50: My iconic theme even has a banjo

Friday 22 August 2014, 09:16

Barry Stoller Barry Stoller Composer

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Match Of The Day celebrates its 50th anniversary on Friday, 22 August 2014. A special documentary, Match Of The Day At 50, looks back on the last five decades, and includes the first ever TV interview with the man who composed the iconic theme tune.

I am a composer and musician and I composed the music for the BBC’s football programme, Match Of The Day.

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Barry's tune is synonymous with Match Of The Day - but it wasn't the programme's first theme

It all began because of my cousin Shirley in the summer of 1970.

I was 29 years old when she introduced me to Sam Leitch, the new editor on Match Of The Day.

Sam told me that the programme was going to get a facelift and needed new music too.

He suggested I ‘do’ something for submission. I eagerly jumped at the opportunity and asked if there was a brief.

Sam looked at me with that Sam Leitch twinkle in his eye and replied simply, “Something good, Barry.”

I felt like I had just been asked to find the Holy Grail.

It had to be a melodic tune, something very simple and easy to remember.

It had to be lively with a good rhythm and make one want to tap one’s foot to it.

It had to be able to stir one’s feelings, make one feel happy, and most importantly it had to sound fresh every time one heard it played, so that one would know instantly, that’s Match Of The Day.

It was a formidable task. I started working on the demo.

Sometimes a musical idea would pop into my head and at other times I got inspiration by playing my guitar.

Strangely enough, the first thing that popped into my head was the short fanfare at the end of the piece.

Those fanfare harmonies give the music a gladiator feel, akin to entering the ancient games arena in Rome with all its expectations.

I scored the arrangement to include trumpets and used an electronic keyboard called a clavioline for the string sounds.

Then I prepared to record the demo.

I called in my friend, Stuart Vincent, who was a drummer and he played the drums and tambourine.

I played the bass, rhythm and lead guitar, banjo and clavioline.

Finally, I brought in a trumpeter and he played all the trumpet parts I needed.

It was all recorded on my multi-track recorder and then mixed down to a mono master demo.

Of course, I didn’t have all the sophisticated equipment of today, but it achieved the result I was looking for.

Over the years, the tune has been played at weddings, funerals, school assemblies, sung as a hymn, and used in TV comedy shows.

But for me, the memory of the original theme produced in my basement recording studio all those years ago will remain with me forever.

Barry Stoller composed the theme tune to Match Of The Day.
Match Of The Day At 50 is on Friday, 22 August at 10.35pm on BBC One and BBC One HD. For further programmes times please see the upcoming broadcasts page.

More on Match Of The Day At 50
BBC Sport: Match Of The Day At 50: Presenters through the years

BBC Sport: Match Of The Day: 50 years of broadcasting celebration
BBC Sport: Match Of The Day At 50: The commentators
BBC Sport: Barry Davies returns to Match Of The Day commentary box
BBC News: Match Of The Day tops TV theme music league
BBC Ariel: Editor on working for Match Of The Day
Daily Mail: Golden Years: Match Of The Day at 50 in pictures
The Telegraph: John Motson on 50 years of Match Of The Day
The Guardian: Match Of The Day's funniest moments
About the BBC blog: Match Of The Day at 50: A reflection by Barry Davies

Comments made by writers on the BBC TV blog are their own opinions and not necessarily those of the BBC.

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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    It is one of the greatest themes in TV, not just sport. Hope it never changes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    I would love this to `reach Mr Stoller.

    Basically, for as long as I can remember, and I was about eight in 1970, I was told by family members that my Uncle Sid`s nephew wrote the MOTD theme tune. It became a family `badge of honour`. I did not know his name. I watched the programme to see who `he was` last night. It was not the same guy.

    I asked my mother today if this had been another family myth...a la Elvis Costello (long story), who they thought was a distant cousin 30 years ago! Why I don`t know! She said it was not Barry Stoller who was her brother in law`s nephew. It was Stuart Vincent. On checking Google, I saw that while he did not compose the tune, he was a friend of Mr Stoller and played some instruments, like the drums, on the recording. So it just shows any historians out there, do not always believe everything you read and are told! Humans have a knack for embellishing the truth, or changing it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    Great though it is, It wouldn't be in my top 5....
    Mission Impossible
    The Persuaders
    The Man from Uncle

    There are a number of others that slip my mind at the moment. I'm sure John Barry wrote a couple of TV classics that I've forgotten.


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