BBC vs ITV: The battle of the World Cup theme tunes

James Maw compares the TV theme tunes to the last eight tournaments to determine which network is best (at coming up with World Cup theme tunes). Wistful sighs and shameful cringing aplenty...

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1986: Mexico

The BBC's 1986 effort was a corker which conjured images of some unappreciated-in-its-time '80s cop show starring Dirk Benedict as a straight-laced border patrol officer, and Eddie Murphy as his wise-cracking assistant. No? Just us?

Yet, if there's a sign of quality as far as theme tunes are concerned, it's that tune being adopted by Saint and Greavsie. This was an honour bestowed upon ITV's 1986 theme Aztec Gold, performed by Silsoe. It's certainly a piece that evokes memories of the era, but only because the slightly cheap-sounding electronicness isn't something you'll have heard much of since about 1991.


1990: Italy

So one-sided it hardly seems worth mentioning.

Big Pav's booming Nessun Dorma makes Rod Argent and Peter Van Hooke's Tutti Al Mondo sound as wet as Paul Gascoigne's chubby cheeks.

A good vintage, but only one winner...


1994: USA

The United States don't have quite the same history when it comes to classical music, so the BBC instead went for the appropriately titled and suitably celebratory America, originally composed by Leonard Bernstein for Broadway Romeo and Juliette knock-off West Side Story.

ITV leant towards the cheesier end of the American cultural spectrum, with Daryl Hall (of '& Oates' fame) belting out Glory Land - possibly the most 1994 ditty you'll ever hear. The accompanying video features four shots of an eagle, but just one shot of a football. Come on now...


1998: France

The BBC stuck rigidly to the 'atmospheric local composition' model that brought such praise four years previously, with a suitably gallic (i.e. moody) montage accompanied by French composer Gabriel Faure's Pavane. The Beeb's version was performed by the less exotic-sounding Wimbledon Choral Society, and reached No.20 in the charts. Incidentally, Pavane was later sampled by Xzibit, S Club 7 and Little Mix. So good company.

ITV again went for a more contemporary option, but this time they hit the mark. Merseyside-based alternative dance outfit Apollo 440 re-worked Jean-Michel Jarre's 1986 single Fourth Rendez-Vous, creating an uplifting slice of Europop that matched a thoroughly enjoyable tournament.