If you’ve ever had a kick, chances are at least someone hummed the Game of the day themed tune as they dribbled the ball en route to (hopefully) score a goal.
The BBC Game of the day has been part of television programming since its debut on BBC Two in August 1964, just months after the channel first went live. The original incarnation of the program featured rather sultry military music as its theme – indeed ‘Drum Majorette’ (the title of the piece) was written by a bandleader of the Welsh Guards, writing under the name Arnold Stock (in does Major Leslie Statham).
Statham’s old-school music was dropped in 1970 when Game of the day has been overhauled. The show’s new producer, Sam Leitch, wanted a new sound for his modern football program and he turned to 29-year-old Surrey-born musician and songwriter Barry Stoller (b. 1945).
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. That it was written for the show is rare, given the amount of stock/library music the BBC was using at the time (themes like All creatures big and small and Brain used existing tracks for their themes).
Using a multitrack recorder in his north London basement, Stoller set about putting together – with a little help from his friends – the theme, which includes trumpet, bass guitar, lead guitars and rhythm, a clavioline keyboard and even banjo. The trumpet was the hook of Stoller, who imagined a gladiator fanfare for those fighting in the field. The full version features a very unfamiliar middle section; the opening and closing being the melody viewers know and love.
The show has featured Stoller’s music ever since, although a new arrangement was introduced a few years later, causing a surge among fans who wrote to the BBC in droves, pleading for the original arrangement of Stoller be brought back. They listened. It was, and it still is, though it’s no doubt had a re-recording since then.
Stoller would continue to work in music production, performing and recording tracks for library use. His work has featured in other shows, including those on ITV The Sweeneybut nothing he wrote came close to the popularity and familiarity of Game of the day.