Crapola Volume 1: Favourite Sports Themes
(Hallmark Music, 1999, 311132)
Crapola is a series designed to pour scorn, vitriol and just basically take the proverbial out of CDs which should never have even been pressed, never mind purchased, and this first one really sets the standard of utter bobbins-ness that the others will have to match, and believe me, it's a tough job.
So how did I come to possess the CD anyway? Well, I'm quite a fan of TV themes in general and own some of TVT's excellent compilation CDs "Television's Greatest Hits" which is well worth checking out, as is "The Great Sporting Experience" which has the proper theme tunes to lots of TV and radio shows, including all-time classics like Superstars, Match of the Day, Ski Sunday, World of Sport et al. As I was browsing around HMV in the Trafford Centre one day during Summer 2002 in one of their sales, I came across the soundtrack sections and there was the CD "Favourite Sport Themes" reduced to a mere £1-99. Looking at the track listing, the potential was there to fill a gap in my collection of themes, as it supposedly had the themes to the BBC's show jumping and the Pot Black snooker competition show, as well as some others of more recent note. Here's the front of the CD:
Now, I looked around the CD inlay as much as I could, but did I see anywhere that said "these are not the original recordings?" No. Now for TV theme fans, actually getting their hands on the original recordings are what matters, the themes that they enjoyed in their youth or even now. But what worried me a little as I handed over the cash was I'd never heard of the Hallmark label. When I got home and started to play the CD, I soon realised just why. Turns out they're a label of Pickwick Home Entertainment. Ask anyone from the 1970s onwards what Pickwick meant t them and it was cheap tat. Nice to see that the traditions of Pickwick remained intact on this CD, as playing the thing soon made me realise that even at £1-99, it was going to prove a bloody expensive coaster. Let's dissect this a bit more shall we? The eighteen tracks of cheesy crapola are like this, and yes they're not the originals:
1 - ABC Wide World of Sports
Now admittedly I don't remember the original theme that well, but just imagine if you will someone playing a Casio synth that has a pre-programmed trumpety instrument, and then add the most naff voice over ever "Spanning the globe to bring you the constant variety of sports... the thrill of victory". More like "Hey, you spent wisely on this CD didn't you sucker? We did this in a little studio in Maida Vale on a tight budget and we could only afford an eight track programmed MIDI synth for the whole thing". It's really bad, the whole thing is pretty much cheesy and the lead trumpets just don't work. Laughably bad to say the least.
2 - Match of the Day
Gadzooks! What have they done? For a start, since when did the original theme have a really awfully played trumpet lead that sounds like it was a bad A-Level music student with a French horn instead? Seriously, my description doesn't do it justice as to how bad it is. Half way through they try to have some crowd cheering in the background with some samba drums, ooh let's make it sound like the 1986 Mexico World Cup. Only a mere thirteen years too late for that along with plinky plonky xylophone and more cheesy trumpets. Oh dear me. This is bad. Whatever next?
3 - Gary Lineker's Golden Boys
Or, for those in the know, the official World Cup 98 single, "How Does It Feel To Be On Top of the World" written by the godlike Ian McCulloch and Johnny Marr. Except this rendition (and I use the term loosely) isn't anything like the original. About the only good thing is that the original had the Spice Girls on it, where this one doesn't. Instead it has some really awfully played rock solo bit that literally was a cut and paste job throughout the tune, with bits repeated ad infinitum. Oh joy. Not.
4 - Horse of the Year Show
Well, it's actually the theme to the show jumping, and the original's by Mozart, but the Beeb had Waldo de los Rios do a really good arrangement for their shows. Which is what this isn't. Cue terrible drums about a mere five seconds in and then the so-called classical instruments sounding like presets on a Casiotone keyboard (maybe that's doing the old Casiotune an injustice actually) and worst of all, it only hits the right key about a minute in. And they couldn't even be arsed to learn the hard bits, with instead some really duff choices of instrument trying their hardest to sound above each other, as it's mixed really badly for my ears at least. And then about two minutes in, let's do it all again. Erm, yeah. Great.
5 - Pot Black
Or for the ragtime fans amongst us, the Black and White Rag, which the Beeb used to so good effect on the show. Well, at least they used the proper original. Cue arranger with piano trying to create the same feel, and to a degree, shock horror, actually succeeding. There's a nice little background cymbal like noise that sounds like oldtime skiffle, and it seems to work pretty well. At five minutes maybe a bit too long but it's about the only decent track on the whole CD. Which doesn't say much.
6 - 5 Live Sports Report
Back to normal then, for this one. It's back to the cheesy choice of instruments as the theme we all know from the Radio 5 show is butchered beyond belief, it really is. Cue more choice of naff trumpety instruments and bright and harsh drums that just cut in to the lead really badly. It's like they tried to emulate the Grimethorpe Colliery Band but stopped half way down the M1 to Grimethorpe and busked the rest of the way with limited talent and instruments. And it shows. A lot. It's terrible.
7 - Grandstand
Now the classic sports show is forty-odd years old but this doesn't deserve a version that would be played down the local Lidl, yes not even Netto would probably accept it over their supermarket tannoy. For a start, some of the notes played are wrong, which is a cardinal sin, and they miss out the classic guitar rock instrumental bit in the middle of the original (which is thankfully on "The Great Sporting Experience" in its original glory) and not just that either, it doesn't have the real impetus that the original has which gets you pumped up. This leaves you feeling bloody depressed. And if that wasn't bad enough..
8 - World of Sport
So what did I say about not learning the original's notes? This is a classic example in someone clearly tone deaf being given a project on "how to ruin a tune". Again comparisions with the original are worthless, as the notes are so wrong at the start, the lead instrument doesn't work, the bright and breezy xylophone and triangle are just an insult, and it even plays the wrong parts of the tune at the wrong time. It's like they managed to take a World of Sport tank top and like those who wore the top, could urinate where they liked. For heavens' sake, not over the original musical score! Aaaargh. Too late. Bah.
9 - BBC Snooker
Doug Wood's superb Drag Racer is something the Beeb should stop remixing each snooker season and bring the original back, or it'll end up as bobbins as this is. A bit of improvisation was clearly the key here as they've decided do to bits of the tune that aren't even in the original and add absolutely sod all to the feel of the thing at all. You can so tell they weren't trying either as they couldn't be meithered to learn the difficult guitar bits and just improvised with what would sound a little bit like it. And who gave them the permission to steal The Charlatans' Hammond organ and make such an awful racket with it? Just the pits. It really is.
10 - Wimbledon
Keith Mansfield's "Light and Tuneful" is a great tune for the tennis. And the original is not what's here. Instead, hey, here's an original idea, let's get some more trumpety leads from our Yamaha MIDI synth and then try and add some rock guitar to make it sound rousing. Oh, here's a solo, woooh, let's all get excited, except then come in some tabla drums, like what the hell is that about? It's almost like they tried to do a prog rock version of the tune and eventually come back to the original at some point later on when they could actually be bothered. Spot the really duff bass note about the 1:35 mark which really takes the biscuit, you'll hear it a mile off without question. Can I throw up now?
11 - Sportsnight
Ah, the halcyon days of midweek sports programming. And the days when the theme tune made you know it was 9-30pm Wednesday night. Well this one makes me wish it was five minutes earlier so I hadn't have heard this total cacophany. It's a mess of instruments trying to get together and make it sound believable, but trust me, it isn't. It's a total and utter shambles, making One True Voice seem the pinnacle of perfect pop (might even be doing someone as rubbish as them a disservice, actually). The worst track on the CD.
12 - Sports Arena March
Let's try to make things better with this one. Except it sounds like someone actually buying a Yamaha XG sound card for the PC and trying a few experiments with MIDI synths and being musically incompetent. The middle bit is okayish, but then it goes back to the main part of the tune, and it really does sound like it was made in five minutes just as a test for fun. It's a bit on the wishy-washy side and is instantly forgettable. And it doesn't work.
13 - Rugby Special
Brian Bennet's bouncy Holy Mackerel, ruined. I mean, where's the bounce gone. And what the hell? It's not even in bloody tune just to add insult to injury, there's a definite progression downward as the tune develops. The musicians couldn't be bothered doing an echo so they just did the same notes again just to make it sound like that's what they heard. And they probably had the original sheet music as well, which is an insult. More trumpety leads and a naff piano do not a rendition make. More like another attempt to compete for the worst track. Marvellous, I don't think, especially the trumpet at the end that sounds like someone has broken wind.
14 - Rugby World Cup
Technically, this was 1995 and Kiri Te Kanawa making World in Union her own from the Gustav Holst piece. Clearly here they were trying to sound a bit ethnic with the instruments, but the cymbal clap effect just doesn't cut it one bit. Shame, as it could have passed for backround elevator music quite nicely otherwise. Then in comes the dramatic bit half way through the verse, just at the wrong time in the tune. I guess it was trying something different, but it really suffers a lot without an originally strong voice Te Kanawa had.
15 - BBC Cricket
Now everyone knows it's Soul Limbo by Booker T and the MG's (unless you've only watched cricket on Channel 4, in which case you've so missed out!) and so you'd expect some nice Caribbean inspired flavour. So what the bloody hell is a saxophone doing in the middle doing the solo part? I didn't realise we were supposed to have jazz musicians down Lords on a Saturday or something that hold notes too long that almost go into the chorus. The keyboard bits that do the main verses are okay, but it doesn't really have that same feel. And here's that saxophone player again - obviously the one that taught Lisa from The Simpsons because he sounds so sad and rubbish in what's supposed to be a happy carnival atmosphere. Bah.
16 - BBC Grand Prix
Or "The Chain" by Fleetwood Mac - the last ninety seconds of it. Ooh, I know! says Hallmark. Let's have a sample of some cars driving around Silverstone that sound remotely Formula One-ish, and then get someone to try a guitar solo that bears absolutely no resemblance to the great solo the original had. And then substitute the single line vocal with a really cheesy and duff organ that sounds like it's grinding its way through the piece. Improvisation it is. That of a talentless bunch to say the least. I guess it was too much to pay Fleetwood Mac just for the musician royalties, although if I was Mick Fleetwood, I'd sue the bastards.
17 - A Question of Sport
The days of David Coleman as presenter before the modern-day sprucing up with Sue "I fancy David Ginola, I do" Barker doing the job. At least the theme tune is catchy, which this isn't. It goes on far too long, doesn't give you any of the original's feel and has a really bad chice of instruments, especially the one that has the effects that play with the drums in some points of the tune. They also tried to make parts of it sound like New Order's "Run 2" with some synths blending into each other, but then completely trashing it with a piano that's far too bright. And that's even before it comes back to the bit we all know from the telly programme and tries to do New Order again, very badly. My ears are starting to hurt..
18 - Euro 96 Theme (Three Lions)
Wonder how I can contact David Baddiel, Frank Skinner and Ian Broudie's lawyers? They would have a field day claiming compensation from this one. Yet another trumpety lead and then a really naff build up with a totally cheesy supermarket feel to the bit that the fans even sing with alternate lyrics at grounds. And when the first verse kicks in, you have to laugh at how bad this tune is getting. It's really really bad. At least in verse two change the lead so it sounds like the different voices of Skinner and Baddiel, but no, it's like "hey! What a concept! We can use the same MIDI sequences here and save time and money". And the middle eight is completely lost without the commentary to arouse you before the chorus comes back in. WhenI hear the orignal, it makes me think of Stuart Pearce and that penalty against Spain, he reflected how proud every England fan was at the time. When I hear this, I think of the Gareth Southgate penalty miss against Germany and then watching the penalty miss was still much less painful than this utter piece of bile. No, forget what I said earlier, this is the worst track on the CD!
I think you get the idea. This is possibly the worst CD that I've ever had the misfortune to listen to. I would have given it a zero percentage, but for the Pot Black theme which although not the original is actually listenable. But that's the only track. So therefore I'll give it 4% instead.
Whatever you do, if you see the cover and think it's going to be an hour of musical TV theme tune pleasure, go to the counter with it, and smash the CD in front of the HMV store assistant proclaiming the Zaw Towers crapola motto etched thus:
"It's a crime against music to sell crapola like this!"
And then run away. Very quickly. Indeed.