FanDuel - WFBC

September 07, 2007

The ultimate sports theme tune: In the wake of the death of the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti the English media discuss the impact of the decision to use Puccini's Nessun Dorma as the theme tune to the BBC's coverage of Italia '90 on both English football and the world of opera.

posted by squealy to culture at 03:35 AM - 22 comments

The rest of us English just remember a fabulous world cup (overlooking the final) and the heartbreak that accompanied our semi-final defeat on penalties to Germany. To this day I still can't hear Nessun Dorma without being on the brink of tears. Is it only Nessun Dorma that have acheived this sort of iconic status with regard to sport or are there other examples from other sports and cultures? What's your ultimate sports theme tune?

posted by squealy at 03:40 AM on September 07

I've always loved RWC's World in Union. Of course, it probably stands out more at the moment as almost every second ad on the telly at the moment features a clip :)

posted by Fence at 04:36 AM on September 07

Is it only Nessun Dorma that have acheived this sort of iconic status with regard to sport or are there other examples from other sports and cultures? What's your ultimate sports theme tune? Well, of course, Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" has to be one of the best known. For baseball, "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" will trump "God Bless America", every time in my book.

posted by lil_brown_bat at 07:24 AM on September 07

There's always Jerusalem in connection with English cricket.

posted by afx237vi at 08:14 AM on September 07

A couple unforgettable uses of music in sport: Virginia Tech coming onto the field to "Enter Sandman" while the fans jump up and down in unison Closer Trevor Hoffman's "Hells Bells" The All Blacks performing the Haka

posted by rcade at 09:06 AM on September 07

Pittsburg State's (Kansas) Welcome to the Jungle is my personal favorite.

posted by hawkguy at 09:53 AM on September 07

Dah dah dah. Dah dah dah.

posted by The Crafty Sousepaw at 10:15 AM on September 07

Booker T and the MGs' Soul Limbo that they (used to?) use for cricket on the Beeb was always a fave for me.

posted by Abiezer at 11:29 AM on September 07

I remember Pavarotti's amazing rendition of the same aria at the opening ceremonies of the Torino Olympics bringing down the house, as well as nearly reducing me to tears. And that while he was, I believe, already suffering from his terminal illness. If he could only have done an a capella version of "Brass Bonanza" the Whale might still thrive in Hartford!

posted by tahoemoj at 12:01 PM on September 07

Monday night football's theme (not the Hank williams Jr. intro) will always be the best IMHO.

posted by tnip23 at 03:30 PM on September 07

You know, it could easily be just me, but I always thought of Nessun Dorma as one of the saddest pieces of music ever composed. It's an amazing piece of work, and it was right in Pavarotti's strike zone, but like tahoemoj, I cry every time I hear it. (I can be a total blubbering wuss.) I don't know if I'd have gone with that one. Why not "Guantanamera?" Judging from sheer grandstand use, that's the most popular song in the sport. (I kid, but not completely.)

posted by chicobangs at 04:01 PM on September 07

Back to Pavarotti for a second. I've seen links to various Youtube videos of "Nessun Dorma" over the past couple of days, and you know the comments in Youtube, right? Any popular video on that site usually descends into a complete shitfest of personal abuse and utter idiocy. But all of the Pavarotti ones are unequivocally gushing in their praise of the big fella. It's pretty rare these days that a celebrity is universally loved by just about everyone. Literally no-one has a bad word to say about him. And he was once on the books of AC Milan as a goalkeeper. What a guy.

posted by afx237vi at 04:24 PM on September 07

Why not "Guantanamera?" Judging from sheer grandstand use, that's the most popular song in the sport. (I kid, but not completely.) good one. it was even used for Bernie Williams a couple years ago.

posted by goddam at 06:00 PM on September 07

Monday night football's theme (not the Hank williams Jr. intro) will always be the best IMHO. That would be 'Heavy Action (Theme from Superstars)', written for a BBC 1970s classic that pitted stars from various sports competing against one another, in which Olympic judo medallist Brian Jacks demonstrated his astounding squat-thrust ability. And Kevin Keegan fell off his bike. (They've revived it once or twice, but these days the top footballers would never be allowed to compete.) There are plenty of British themes that make the spine tingle. Getting the MotD theme back every week was a relief. The opening and closing Wimbledon themes are something I miss in the US: they're terr'bly, terr'bly English, redolent of warm Pimms, cold strawberries and gentlemen's cologne, especially the tootly-marchy closing theme. Oh, the golf music as well. 'Soul-Limbo' for the cricket. 'Pop Looks Bach' for Ski Sunday, the nasal wow-wow synth for Rugby Special, the almost sleazy lounge sensibility of The Big Match. And so on. I hate 'World In Union'. Not just because it was a rip-off of the 'Nessun dorma' approach, but because of the pseudo-uplifting lyrics; I hate the Champions League theme (a bastardisation of 'Zadoc the Priest') for the same reasons. It's really not the same for American sport. The one iconic TV theme is nicked from the British, and the iconic club song is rare indeed. College fight songs come close, but they're cued up by the band. Compared to the spontaneous swell of 'You'll Never Walk Alone' at Anfield -- or, slightly less lofty, 'All The Geordies Went To Rome' for my own lot -- the 'whoa-oh-ohhhh' of Turner Field is just a bit sad. Italia 90, though: watch the linked BBC introduction, and you'll get the spine-tingles: the climax of the aria accompanied, in perfect sync, with Pele borne aloft and Cruyff working his magic. The BBC knows how to do opening sequences for the big, once-in-four-years events; interesting that RAI's opening was very different. And as Des Lynam suggests in his intro there, and then before the final, it transformed 'Nessun dorma' from one of the many unknown arias to one of the few well-known ones. You often read opera critics saying that Pavarotti had a habit of phoning it in during the last 20 years of his life. Well, if that's phoning it in, I wish I'd been there for when he showed up. And chicobangs: the life of most football fans is basically sadness punctuated with moments of joy.

posted by etagloh at 11:19 PM on September 07

NBA on CBS Theme (1970's) "Give it all you got, take your your very best shot and may the best team win. The time is now, the name of the game is action. They're on the floor, and they're ready to score, so let the game begin, and let's see how the ball rolls around today..." (Or something like that)

posted by Newbie Walker at 12:35 AM on September 08

Why not "Guantanamera?" Judging from sheer grandstand use, that's the most popular song in the sport. (I kid, but not completely.) Well, if we're gonna go with grandstand use, we've got all kinds of splendid examples of musical excellence like that (can it even be called a song?) "Ole, ole ole ole....oooooole...oo-oo-layyyyy!" business. So perhaps that should be, at best, a minor consideration. I just remembered, BTW, that "Nessun Dorma" was also used in "Bend it Like Beckham", in a scene that simultaneously managed to poke some fun at the way in which such anthems are (over)used to try to elevate a Great Sporting Moment, with the result of making it merely mawkish...and yet showing that, yeah, it's overdone, but there's something there. A really well-done moment in a really well-done movie. (and BILB also featured great use of music in sports, sort of, in the closing credits -- specifically, the Bollywood version of "Hot, Hot, Hot". It's indescribable)

posted by lil_brown_bat at 06:52 AM on September 08

Most Canadians would agree that our second national anthem is pretty popular up here. And, for a reason that I can only assume touches some primal part of my psyche, when they play the Nickelback/Kid Rock cover-version of "Saturday Night (Alright For Fighting)" over clips of Leafs/Habs or Leafs/Senators before that matchup, it just seems to work.

posted by grum@work at 10:08 AM on September 08

grum, take a step back. Nickelback? Kid Rock? Think about this. Just because I was considering grandstand use in no way meant I thought it should be the only criterion. Guantanamera is also a lovely song as a song, all the more so because of how easily it's been customized for each team it's sung for. That Olay song has neither of those upsides. In fact, anything pushed on the fans from the Great Corporate Above should not count in this discussion. (Given all this, You'll Never Walk Alone is wonderful for so many reasons.)

posted by chicobangs at 03:44 PM on September 08

grum, take a step back. Nickelback? Kid Rock? Think about this. Oh, I know. It's bad. But that's the version they use in the promos before the game starts, and they sync it well with the hits/fights/checks. I prefer the Elton John version, but they don't play it. Like I said, it goes past my conscious thought and touches something primal in me. I admit to it, but I'm not proud of it.

posted by grum@work at 07:08 PM on September 08

Actually, I'm with grum. Whenever I hear any Nickelback or Kid Rock, it goes right to my primal urge to savagely beat Nickelback and Kid Rock with a hockey stick.

posted by The_Black_Hand at 04:32 AM on September 10

Are we limited to the whole sport, or internationals, or what? Because while I'm not much interested in football, I'd love to have heard "You'll never walk alone" before they shut Anfield down. Andthe Marseille at the Stade de France was... wow. Mere words cannot describe. (And while I'm at it, why don't Scotland use Scotland the Brave instead of Flower of Scotland?)

posted by rodgerd at 04:36 AM on September 10

"Andthe Marseille at the Stade de France was... wow. Mere words cannot describe." Well, not that word anyway: La Marseillaise The haka, if you'd dare to call it a song, is something special, as is Flower of Scotland at Murifield (which pisses all over Scotland the Brave which is far too chirpy and twee to precede a game of rugby). For TV theme tunes, it was hard to beat the old cricket music, and the old music for the golf and the snooker on BBC (before they unnecessarily revamped them with added swooshes and explosions to make them sound like adverts for Dolby Surround). Shouldn't forget also Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe's duet that was later adopted by the 1992 Olympics in... Barcelooooooooooooonnnaaaaaaaaaaa!

posted by JJ at 08:25 AM on September 10

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