Who wrote the theme tune for Match of the Day ?
It’s the football show that has been on our TV screens for 58 years, but who wrote the legendary theme music for the BBC’s Match of the Day?
If you’ve ever had a kickabout, it’s likely at least someone has hummed the Match of the Day theme tune as they’ve dribbled the ball on their way to (hopefully) scoring a goal.
The BBC’s Match of the Day has been a fixture in TV schedules since it made its debut on BBC Two in August 1964, just months after the channel was first switched on. The original incarnation of the programme featured rather stuffy military music as its theme tune – indeed ‘Drum Majorette’ (the piece’s title) was written by a band leader of the Welsh Guards, writing under the name of Arnold Stock (actually Major Leslie Statham).
Statham’s old-fashioned music was ditched in 1970 when Match of the Day was given an overhaul. The show’s incoming producer, Sam Leitch, wanted a fresh sound for his modern football programme and he turned to 29-year-old Surrey-born musician and composer Barry Stoller (b1945).
Stoller was tasked with simply writing ‘something good’ and he set to work on what is now one of the most familiar pieces of music written for television. The fact it was actually written for the show is rare, given just how much stock/library music the BBC was using at the time (themes like All Creatures Great and Small and Mastermind employed existing tracks for their theme tunes).
Using a multi-track recorder in his North London basement, Stoller set about putting together – with a little help from his friends – the theme, which features trumpet, bass guitar, lead and rhythm guitars, a clavioline keyboard and even banjo. The trumpet was the hook for Stoller, who imagined a gladiatorial fanfare for those doing battle on the pitch. The complete version features a very unfamiliar middle section; the opening and closing being the tune viewers know and love.
The show has featured Stoller’s music ever since, though a new arrangement was brought in a few years in, causing uproad among fans who wrote to the BBC in their droves, pleading for Stoller’s original arrangement to be brought back. They listened. It was, and it remains though it has no doubt had a re-recording since then.
Stoller would continue to work in production music, performing and recording tracks for library use. His work has featured in other shows, including ITV’s The Sweeney, but nothing he has written has come close to the popularity and familiarity of Match of the Day.
Michael is the Reviews Editor of BBC Music Magazine. He was previously a freelance film music journalist and spent 15 years at St George's Bristol. Michael specialises in film and television music and was the Editor of MusicfromtheMovies.com. He has written for the BBC Proms, BBC Concert Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Royal Albert Hall, Hollywood in Vienna and Silva Screen Records.