Thursday, September 24, 2015

Close Games Between Bad Teams

Song - Neck and Neck
Artist(s) - Alan Hawkshaw
Released - 1989
Primetime Usage - 1990-96
Featured Highlight - Saints @ Falcons, 1996

When two awful football teams get together, the result—however lacking in polish—can be quite entertaining.  "Neck and Neck" is a song that symbolizes that ambivalence perfectly.  It's up tempo and electronic, but it also gives off much more anguish and unhappiness than most NFL Primetime tracks.  If your team was struggling, you wouldn't be surprised to hear Neck and Neck playing in the background.  This seemed especially true if your team played on astroturf and/or in a dome such as historically mediocre franchises like the Lions, Saints, or Falcons.  The song provided a kind of therapy for football sadness.

Neck and Neck was composed by production music legend Alan "The Hawk" Hawkshaw, who has been active in composition & pop music for more than 50 years.  I won't go through all his awards, group memberships, & accomplishments here, mainly because it would take forever, but you can check them out on his website (linked above) or on his wikipedia page.  Outside of production music, he might be best known for putting together the disco group Love De-Luxe that produced the #1 disco hit, "Here Comes that Sound Again," in 1979.  Hawkshaw's daughter, Kirsty, is also a prolific electronic composer/artist and was the lead singer for Opus III in the '90s.

Neck and Neck is streamable on EMI's production music site, which is linked above.  Unfortunately, it appears to be the only Primetime song that was composed by Alan Hawkshaw.

A fitting clip for this song (and the post title) is this "epic" 1996 matchup in the Georgia Dome between doomed June Jones's 1-9 Falcons and interim coach Rick Venturi's Saints.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Back to the Starting Line

Song - Fast Drive
Artist(s) - Mary Therese Matthews, Sally Anne Griffith, John Bähler
Released - 1985
Primetime Usage - 1987-88
Contained on - FirstCom UT103 (Lightning), FirstCom A2 (Intense)
Featured Highlight - Raiders @ Packers, 1987

To shift the focus from this blog's first couple posts, here's an NFL Primetime song you may not remember.  "Fast Drive" was only used during the first two years of the show and, as such, has become long forgotten compared with the songs I featured earlier.  That doesn't mean it's bad, though.  Fast Drive's '80s hair-metal sound fits the time well and works adequately for sports highlights, too.  I wouldn't say it's one of the best Primetime tracks, by any stretch (in part because I've only seen it used for dud games), but it's still pretty enjoyable.  It was composed by Mary Therese Matthews, Sally Anne Griffith, and John Bähler.  I couldn't find any bio info on Matthews or Griffith (they did contribute to other Primetime songs that will be featured here later, though), but John Bähler was apparently one of the singing voices for The Partridge Family back in the early '70s.

Fast Drive may be obscure for NFL Primetime fans, but you might recognize it if you're a fan of pro wrestling.  It was the theme song for the tag-team duo Stars and Stripes (The Patriot & Buff Bagwell) that competed for WCW in the mid-'90s.

The difficulty in finding this song is similar to Powersurge.  There isn't anywhere to stream it in full, official legality (that I know of), but there's a good chance you could pick up FC-A2 Intense on eBay if you're willing to go that far.  FC-UT103 is harder to find, though, and I'm pretty sure all the FirstCom Up Tempo albums are LPs.

As I mentioned above, the only games I've seen with Fast Drive were relatively uninteresting ones.  Here's a clip from the very first episode of NFL Primetime where John Saunders highlights the final Tom Flores Raiders team going to Lambeau and giving the Packers their first shutout loss in 9 years.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

International Overuse

Song - International Statement (Main Track & Alternative Version)
Artist(s) - Alan Bell (Alan Blackham), Roger Dexter
Released - 1990
Primetime Usage - Main Track: 1997-05; Alternative Version: 1991-96
Featured Highlight - Main Track: Raiders @ Chiefs, 1999; Alternative Version: Steelers @ Bears, 1995

The song is technically called "International Statement," but it may as well be called "Oh, yeah…  the NFL Primetime song!"  Its mix of early 20th. century orchestral style and '80s instrumentation & edge creates a fitting accent for any "epic" football highlight.  In fact, starting in the late '90s, this track became NFL Primetime's go-to accompaniment for the highest profile games.  That trend continues unabated even to this day, though, because this song seems to always be featured at least once on The Blitz each week and at least once on each postseason day on Primetime.  Unfortunately, it's gotten to the point that this quality composition has become a cliche for over-the-top epicness and I long to actually hear something else with the top-tier highlights.  It's the football music equivalent of "Bohemian Rhapsody" after Wayne's World.

One thing many NFL Primetime viewers may not remember, however, is that they actually used two versions of International Statement during the run of the show.  ESPN started using the "epic" version we all know in 1997, but they had actually been using the "Alternative" track with an added driving rock drum beat over the previous 6 seasons.  I think the added percussion tones down the over-the-top aspects of this song and, as a result, I would love to see ESPN bring this version back.

Unlike FirstCom's own Powersurge from the previous post, International Statement can ironically be found on the FirstCom website using the above link.  Even if you didn't have the link, though, it's easy to find because Classical Excellence is the earliest Chappell AV album currently housed there.

In commemoration of my second song post, you get a twofer!  The first highlight, using the Main Track, is the Raiders/Chiefs game at the end of 1999 where Oakland won at Arrowhead for the first time in the '90s and consequently knocked Kansas City out of the playoffs.  The second video, with the Alternative Version, features the Steelers finally getting over .500 on their way to their first Super Bowl appearance in 16 years.