Saturday, December 31, 2016

Week 17

Song - Automotive Industry
Artist(s) - Warren Bennett
Released - 1989
Primetime Usage - 1990
Featured Highlight - Dolphins @ Patriots, 1990

Ah, Week 17… the most awkward time of the NFL season.  It's a week where 2/3 to 3/4 of the teams have nothing concrete to play for, either because they're out of the playoff hunt or because their playoff seeding is already secure, while the rest often have convoluted tiebreaker scenarios to worry about.  The radical difference in motivation makes for some intriguing matchups, like mediocre teams being favored against dominant teams because the better ones might be resting their starters.  There are some interesting contests in this year's edition of Week 17, too, but the recent intradivision-only mandate has honestly taken a lot of the fun out of this annual holiday event.  I mean, who can forget the famous Packers/Panthers "points war" from 1999?  There's almost no chance something like that would happen today.

I figure the best way to commemorate the weirdness of Week 17 would be to post one of the most obscure songs in the NFL Primetime arsenal.  "Automotive Industry" was only used on the show one time that I'm aware of.  That time wasn't Week 17, unfortunately, but it was in 1990—the first year to have a Week 17.  1990 was also the worst year in the history of the New England Patriots, their only season under head coach Rod Rust.  For all of you familiar with classic video games, this season is why the Patriots are the most laughable team in the original NES version of Tecmo Super Bowl.  Also video-game related is that Automotive Industry contains a similar feel & instrumentation to many of the songs from the Growlanser strategy-RPG series.

Automotive Industry's composer, Warren Bennett, is—like many of the artists featured on this blog—a highly prolific production-music writer.  He's also associated with longtime British rock stalwarts Cliff Richard and the Shadows, the band that made his father, Brian Bennett, famous.  Sadly, Automotive Industry is the only known Primetime track composed by either Bennett, and it was only used one time at that.

Friday, December 23, 2016


Song - Leaders
Artist(s) - Christoph Narholz
Released - 1988
Primetime Usage - 1989-90
Contained on - SON 302 (Leaders, Vol. 2), Sonoton SCD 14 (Leaders 1&2)
Featured Highlight - Bengals @ Raiders, 1990

With the John Colby marathon now over, it was only a matter of time before I'd get back to posting Sonoton stuff.  "Leaders," the only known NFL Primetime track composed by Gerhard Narholz's son, Christoph, uses much the same instrumentation as the other Sonoton songs I've identified.  It is a bit repetitive & bland, comparatively, but ESPN nonetheless used it quite frequently throughout Primetime's Sonoton era (1989-90).  In fact, Leaders is the only Sonoton piece to be used in all eight '89/'90 NFL Primetime episodes I've logged.

The accompanying highlight for Leaders serves as eerie foreshadowing.  As the preview thumbnail shows, Bo Jackson ran for 117 yards on just 8 carries in the Raiders' 1990 regular-season contest against the Bengals.  Jackson also had a breakaway run where he was surprisingly tackled from behind by a Cincinnati defender that kinda previewed his career-ending hip injury against the Bengals in the playoffs later that season.  Just like the following postseason meeting, though, the Raiders came away with a double-digit victory.  Also interesting about 1990 is that it is still, to date, the last time the Cincinnati Bengals won a playoff game (they beat the Jets in the Wild Card).

Friday, December 16, 2016


Song - Communique
Artist(s) - Mary Therese Matthews, Sally Anne Griffith (?)
Released - 1985
Primetime Usage - 1987
Contained on - FirstCom UT104 (Powersurge)
Featured Highlight - Eagles @ Redskins, 1987

The John Colby saga may be over, but that doesn't mean I'm done posting NFL Primetime music.  "Communique" is a perfect track for any football game that seems "frozen," either from excessive cold or from exhausting heat.  The song doesn't really go anywhere, per se, but it's a perfect mood setter.  The only Primetime use of Communique that I'm aware of was for a rather warm contest between the Redskins & Eagles at RFK Stadium in the 1987 opener.  That game served as the coming out party for Doug Williams in what would be his best NFL season, though he would give way to incumbent starter Jay Schroeder for much of the regular season after this.

I'm actually not 100% certain if Mary Therese Matthews & Sally Anne Griffith were the composers of Communique.  I haven't been able to check the UT104 album cover for the credits, and this song doesn't seem to exist anywhere else (there's also virtually no info on Griffith or Matthews, either).  There is a song with the name "Communique" attached to them in the ASCAP database, though, and these two were frequently credited on FirstCom stuff around this time.

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Lesser-Known John Colby Trilogy - Part III

Song - Gothic
Artist(s) - John Colby
Released - N.A.
Primetime Usage - 1991-92
Contained on - N.A. (Sound Clip)
Featured Highlight - Broncos @ Oilers, 1991

The final John Colby NFL Primetime contribution is my personal favorite of the six.  "Gothic" is relatively short, much like Drive Away, but it has perfect energy for football and anything else with hard-hitting entertainment.  Also, if you're an RPG fan like myself, you might notice it has a similar sound to some of the stuff from Lufia & the Fortress of Doom.  Anyway… the included highlight features the Houston Oilers dominating at home in the "House of Pain," a perfect venue for Gothic.  This also shows how awesome the early-'90s Oilers could be when they were on their game.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The Lesser-Known John Colby Trilogy - Part II

Song - Gelman
Artist(s) - John Colby
Released - N.A.
Primetime Usage - 1991-95
Contained on - N.A. (Sound Clip)
Featured Highlight - Raiders @ Broncos, 1994

The second entry in the obscure John Colby trilogy, "Gelman," is the most somber & tragic sounding of his NFL Primetime contributions.  I also think it's the weakest of the six, though it still sounds pretty good.  As for the name…  I have absolutely no idea what "Gelman" means.  I mean, I really have no clue.  I don't know of any sports figure or even any famous figure in any vocation with that name.

Gelman's included highlight involves the long-standing rivalry between the Broncos & Raiders.  The game itself wasn't notable, but it does exemplify something else of interest.  1994 was the NFL's 75th. anniversary year, and most every team in the league wore some sort of (often bastardized) throwback uniform at some point during the season.  This began the throwback-jersey obsession that has exploded over the last decade.  On that note, pay particular attention to the comically childish logo on Denver's helmets.

*EDIT* - It was used at least once in 1995 (Week 2 - NO/STL; first Rams game in St. Louis)

Friday, November 25, 2016

The Lesser-Known John Colby Trilogy - Part I

Song - Terminator
Artist(s) - John Colby
Released - N.A.
Primetime Usage - 1992-93
Contained on - N.A. (Sound Clip)
Featured Highlight - Bills @ 49ers, 1992

As I hinted in the previous post, the first of the forgotten John Colby Primetime songs may have a thematic connection to Arnold.  "Terminator" has the most heavily electronic sound of the set.  This may also explain why it was phased out pretty quickly, an idea I touched on in my Leading from the Front post.  It's also oddly upbeat for it's name, especially when compared to the dark, brooding, and heavy synth associated with the first Terminator movie.  Unlike the better-known Colby songs, these ones are only available in partial form on John Colby's website (AFAIK).  I've never encountered full-length cuts anywhere on the net.

Terminator's featured highlight is the Super Bowl we all thought would happen but never did.  In 1992, Buffalo visited Candlestick Park and knocked off the 49ers in a game that had over 1000 yards and zero punts.  This result also personified the early-'90s Bills' tendency to always beat NFC teams in the regular season, but never beat them in the postseason.

Friday, November 18, 2016

The John Colby Trilogy - Part III

Song - Arnold
Artist(s) - John Colby
Released - N.A.
Primetime Usage - 1992-05
Contained on - N.A. (Sound Clip)
Featured Highlight - *EDIT* - 49ers @ Panthers, 1996

Arguably the most intense selection in the well-known Colby trilogy, "Arnold" works well for tough games, shootouts, big comebacks, and pretty much any other kind of football game you can imagine.  It was one of NFL Primetime's regular stalwarts from 1992 on, and with good reason.  I believe the track's name is a reference to Arnold Schwarzenegger (another of Colby's songs is named "Terminator"), but I can't be certain.  It seems a little easier to decipher than "Eric D.," anyway.  As with Eric D. and Gladiator: you can either get a high-quality short clip of Arnold on John Colby's website (above), or you can find a full-length—but lower quality—version on those aforementioned bootleg NFL Primetime collections that are easily found on the web (or other youtube postings).

After Joe Montana left the San Francisco 49ers in 1993, he faced his old team exactly one time.  It was a tight contest, but Montana's Chiefs ultimately prevailed over the squad that would eventually win that year's Super Bowl.  All the talk before, during, and after the contest revolved around Joe Montana vs. Steve Young, but—as you'll see in the highlight—the real focus should've been on Derrick Thomas.
*EDIT* - This video was copyright blocked, too.  Here's a different 49ers loss, this time to Carolina in 1996.  It was basically the first big win in Carolina Panthers' history, and would springboard them to an NFC Championship appearance in just their second year of existence.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The John Colby Trilogy - Part II

Song - Eric D.
Artist(s) - John Colby
Released - N.A.
Primetime Usage - 1991-05
Contained on - N.A. (Sound Clip)
Featured Highlight - Cowboys @ Eagles, 1999

The second well-known John Colby track has an odd name.  I have no idea who "Eric D." is or what significance that name has to sports or anything else, but the song nonetheless ended up as one of the top-5 most often used pieces on NFL Primetime.  I've also seen the track labeled under the name "Breakdown" on some of those bootleg Primetime music collections floating around the net, and maybe that name would've made more sense.  Speaking of those bootlegs, that's the only known way of acquiring the full-length versions of this particular Colby trilogy's songs.  The media player on John Colby's website (linked above) has higher-quality audio, but the tracks are incomplete and/or fade out prematurely.

As for the highlight:  1999 saw the start of Philadelphia's rise and the beginning of Dallas's fall.  One key moment to this was in Week 5 when Michael Irvin suffered a career-ending neck injury on the turf of always dangerous Veterans Stadium.  To add further insult to the Cowboys, they lost on a late TD pass by—of all people—Doug Pederson.  This was the first of what would a be a whopping 3 career wins as a starting QB for Pederson, a total he's already exceeded halfway through his first year as an NFL head coach.  Enjoy!

Friday, November 4, 2016

The John Colby Trilogy - Part I

Song - Gladiator
Artist(s) - John Colby
Released - N.A.
Primetime Usage - 1991-00
Contained on - N.A. (Sound Clip)
Featured Highlight - Broncos @ Giants, 1998

From 1984-92, John Colby was the music director for ESPN.  He's probably best known for composing the most famous theme song for Sportscenter, but he also wrote some sports-highlight tracks as well.  Six of those (that I know of) were used on NFL Primetime.  These six songs are divided into two "trilogies":  one consists of three pieces only used for a few years, and the other contains three tracks that lasted a long time and that any fan of Primetime will immediately recognize.  Colby is also well known for his Grammy-winning work (both pre & post-ESPN) on the productions of documentary master Ken Burns.  Check out his website (linked above) or this article if you want to learn more.

The first of these well-known John Colby highlight tracks, "Gladiator," is one that even people who didn't really watch NFL Primetime may recognize.  In addition to its frequent use on the show for a decade, it was also the background song for Chris Berman's "Fastest 3 Minutes" halftime segments on Monday Night Football.  Gladiator kept being used for that purpose well after it was phased out on Primetime, in fact.  My featured highlight choice for Gladiator is a long one.  In 1998, the Denver Broncos started 13-0 and everyone was focusing on their Week-16 matchup with the last franchise to run the table:  the Miami Dolphins.  Their Week-15 contest with the Giants in The Meadowlands then became the ultimate example of a "trap game."  A 3-7 start meant New York had no hope of defending their 1997 division-title run, but they were playing well down the stretch and this upset punctuated a 5-1 finish to the season.  Have fun watching!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Future Champs

Song - Future Champs
Artist(s) - Orange Power
Released - 1987
Primetime Usage - 1990
Contained on - SON 273 (Sound Giants - Industrial Prestige & Scenic Magnificence, Vol. 2), Sonoton SCD 6 (Sound Giants 1&2)
Featured Highlight - Seahawks @ Dolphins, 1990

If you liked the ridiculously bright synth from last week's post, Overall Winner, then you'll love this one.  "Future Champs," by longtime library synth group Orange Power, sounds like the kinda song you'd expect to accompany a team's coronation—perhaps an easy win that clinches a division title or something.  That's not what you're going to see with this highlight, unfortunately, but it still has some entertainment value.  The Seahawks, who had managed to reach a winning record despite an 0-3 start, went down to what was then known as Joe Robbie Stadium to face a 10-3 Dolphins squad.  Miami, though they didn't play real well, took advantage of constant errors by Seattle to register a close victory.

Oh, and stay tuned…  Starting next week, I'm going to post a series of songs composed by then-ESPN-music-director John Colby.  At least a few should be quite familiar to fans of NFL Primetime.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Overall Winner

Song - Overall Winner
Artist(s) - "John Epping" (Gerhard Narholz)
Released - 1988
Primetime Usage - 1989
Contained on - SON 290 (Leaders Vol. 1), Sonoton SCD 14 (Leaders 1&2)
Featured Highlight - *EDIT* - Bills @ Dolphins, 1989

The 1989 San Francisco 49ers were arguably the greatest NFL team of the modern era.  They went 14-2, 10 of their 14 wins were by double digits, and they won their three playoff games by an average score of 42-9.  For a team that dominant, a song with the title "Overall Winner" is appropriate.  Gerhard Narholz's synth-filled fanfare is bright & loud and perfectly fits a champion from the 1980s.  It's also easily accessible to those that want to listen thanks to Sonoton's online service (linked above).  Overall Winner wasn't played that much on NFL Primetime—2 highlights that I know of early in the '89 season—but the games that used it were pretty big ones.  One was a Bills/Dolphins showdown from Week 1, while the other—shown below—featured the aforementioned 49ers travelling to Veterans Stadium to take on an Eagles team that was considered one of their chief NFC-title threats.  What followed was perhaps the finest game of Joe Montana's (or anyone else's) career:  428 yards and 5 TD passes on just 34 attempts despite being sacked 8 times and being hit several more.  Grab a snack or something, because this entertaining highlight is lengthy even for the 28-team era.

*EDIT* - The NFL copyright blocked the 49ers/Eagles video because of a 13-second play match (Rice's last touchdown, specifically).  This is the first time this sort of thing has happened to one of my videos in ≈40 posts, so hopefully it won't happen again.  Here's the aforementioned Buffalo/Miami matchup from Week 1 as a replacement.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Epic, Part Zero

Song - Performance
Artist(s) - John Devereaux
Released - 1987
Primetime Usage - 1990
Featured Highlight - Saints @ Rams, 1990

"The 'epic track that wasn't," is probably what you could call "Performance."  It definitely does have the feel of the other epic-type songs on NFL Primetime (International Statement, Olympic Action, Crush), but it was only used briefly (perhaps just once) and not for a game that anyone would've considered crucial or memorable.  It is a little more boring & repetitive than those other tracks, so maybe that was a factor.  Or it could just be that Performance got lost in the shuffle.  Whatever the reason, I don't think it's a big deal that the song didn't last.  It was written by prolific KPM composer John Devereaux.  There's surprisingly little info about Devereaux online, but he has a lot of good stuff on KPM.  He also composed the song, "The Nightmare Begins," which was apparently used multiple times on Spongebob Squarepants.

Speaking of being lost in the shuffle, there were the 1990s Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams.  We all recall the cinderella Kurt Warner 1999 season, but what many don't remember is that the Rams had the worst record of any NFL franchise over the first 9 years of the decade (the Bengals ended up winning that honor).  They also tried to fix languish fan interest by moving the team to Missouri, a move that fits the definition of "mixed results" given that the Rams are now back in L.A. just 21 years later.  Anyway…  this decline started in 1990, when a team that had gone to the NFC Championship the year before went an unceremonious 5-11.  The only clip I have with "Performance" features them blowing a lead at home against a middling Saints team.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Intra Conference

Song - Inter Conference
Artist(s) - David Reilly
Released - 1988
Primetime Usage - 1989
Featured Highlight - Cardinals @ Lions, 1989

My third post from David Reilly's Success album is the one that was used least on NFL Primetime.  That's a shame, though, because "Inter Conference" is a punchy & fun track that effectively fits highlight videos.  At the beginning of 1989, both the Phoenix Cardinals & Detroit Lions were beginning major transitions.  The Cards were adjusting to life without longtime QB Neil Lomax (Lomax was still on the roster, but would never again suit up in a game that counted), while the Lions were beginning Wayne Fontes's & Mouse Davis's NFL experiment with the run & shoot offense.  The run & shoot wouldn't last more than a few years in Pontiac, but another major addition would pay long-term dividends.  This opening-week contest against Phoenix, the only highlight I've seen with Inter Conference, was also the first time Barry Sanders ever played in an NFL uniform (he sat out the preseason).  Sanders played pretty well, too, averaging nearly 8 yards-per-carry and scoring Detroit's only touchdown.  It wasn't quite enough for the Lions to win, but it was a great sign of things to come for Sanders and the franchise.  Enjoy the clip.

Friday, September 30, 2016

What Used to Be

Song - Spearhead
Artist(s) - "Zoë de Souza" (Zoë Kronberger)
Released - 1984
Primetime Usage - 1988
Featured Highlight - Cowboys @ Steelers, 1988

The second NFL Primetime track from Good Morning America! (that I know of) is also one that I have just one clip of.  "Spearhead," by Zoë Kronberger under the alias Zoë de Souza, provides a well-balanced mix of synth, trumpet, and electric guitar.  It actually sounds like it could be the battle music for some sort of sci-fi RPG, and that genre's standard of energetic determination also fits well for sports highlights.  Kronberger's career has been a bit back & forth.  According to her website (linked above): she trained as a graphic artist, then switched to music during the '70s & '80s, then gradually focused more on visual art from the '90s on.  Good Morning America! also contains several more solid tracks by de Souza/Kronberger, including the rather trippy "Steel Breeze."  Unfortunately, as I mentioned on my previous post, finding anything beyond a bootleg vinyl rip of this album is a difficult proposition.

The aforementioned clip with Spearhead features the Cowboys & Steelers long past their 1970s prime.  In fact, 1988 was the last ever meeting between hall-of-fame coaches Tom Landry & Chuck Noll.  From watching Primetime episodes from the late '80s, I gather the football media was often asking whether the game of football had passed both Landry & Noll by.  Noll would prove that false just one year later when he won his only NFL Coach of the Year award by taking a bunch of raw rookies & unheralded veterans to the Divisional Round.  Unfortunately for Landry, he never got the same chance as he was unceremoniously & infamously fired by new Cowboys owner Jerry Jones following the 1988 season.  He never coached again.  Anyway, here's the last go 'round between these Super Bowl arch-nemeses.

Friday, September 23, 2016

What Coulda Been

Song - N.Y. Giants
Artist(s) - Ray Russell
Released - 1984
Primetime Usage - 1988
Featured Highlight - Cardinals @ Bengals, 1988

The next couple weeks will feature two songs from the same album that may have been used as little as one time on NFL Primetime.  The only highlight I have of "N.Y. Giants," by Grid Lock guitarist/composer Ray Russell, was for a game that ironically had nothing to do with the New York Giants.  In 1988, the Cardinals had just uprooted themselves from tepid fan support in St. Louis and had to get ready for nearly 20 years of similarly apathetic support in Phoenix.  Despite this, and the franchise's historically underwhelming win/loss record, expectations were high for the 1988 Phoenix Cardinals.  The still had Neil "The Grand Cannon" Lomax who, though not on the level of a Joe Montana, was still one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.  They also had star WR Roy Green and a decent chunk of other talented players.  An 0-2 start that included a loss to an ultimately terrible Cowboys squad in the Cardinals' first ever game at Sun Devil Stadium probably dinged their egos a bit, but they won 7 of their next 9 games (including a 23-point comeback over eventual Super Bowl champ San Francisco) and were actually leading the NFC East after Week 11.  Unfortunately, 1988 then became the ultimate "what coulda been" season for the Cardinals franchise.  Lomax suffered a leg injury in that last win over the Giants and, though he would eventually return, the team wasn't the same and they lost 5 straight to end the year.  Even worse, Lomax never played a regular-season down again following 1988 due to a chronic hip condition and the Cardinals wouldn't see anything resembling consistent QB play again until 2007.  The franchise's near misses in the late '80s (they also choked away a postseason spot in their final year in St. Louis) combined with the sudden post-Lomax loss of offense led to just one playoff appearance for the franchise from 1983-2007 and largely terrible home attendance over that span.  It's easy to speculate how things could've been different if only Lomax hadn't been hurt or if he hadn't had to retire or even if the team had been able to rally once he returned with 3 weeks to go in the '88 season.  Things are finally going well for the Cardinals now, but it really seems like it shouldn't have taken anywhere near that long.

Anyway…  the aforementioned highlight showcasing N.Y. Giants was the first-ever regular-season game for the Phoenix Cardinals.  Against the Cincinnati Bengals, who would surprise everyone by dominating the AFC that year, Phoenix would kinda foreshadow the tail end of their season by blowing a perfect chance to win the game late.  Oh, as for the song itself:  nothing from the Good Morning America! album was ever released beyond vinyl, as far as I know, so trying to find a bootleg rip online is probably your only option.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Power Cutter

Song - Power Cutter
Artist(s) - Robin Gurin (composer credit only), Georgia Shapiro, Alec Williams (performer credit only)
Released - 1994
Primetime Usage - 1994-96
Contained on - FirstCom A29 (Power Net)
Featured Highlight - Ravens @ Jaguars, 1996

Another track that has made its rounds on various NFL Primetime download collections, "Power Cutter" is one that makes no attempt to stand out.  It's more generic, repetitive, and background-ish than perhaps any other Primetime song, and it was clearly intended to be nothing more.  It works surprisingly well, however, because it at least provides a nice beat & some steady energy for your football-viewing enjoyment.  Power Cutter was created by the same trio that gave us The Event, and is also contained on the same, impossible-to-find FirstCom album.  You shouldn't have much trouble obtaining a legally dubious, lower-bitrate version on the web, but good luck finding an official, high-quality cut.

Power Cutter's featured highlight has two, then-new teams squaring off in an entertaining game in Jacksonville.  Fun fact!:  despite playing only two years in Baltimore, Vinny Testaverde was the Ravens' all-time leader in passing yards until Joe Flacco passed him in 2010.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Song - Leading from the Front
Artist(s) - John Fiddy & "Sammy Burdson" (Gerhard Narholz)
Released - 1985
Primetime Usage - 1989-90
Contained on - SON 234 (Success Story Vol. 2), Sonoton SCD 34 (Success Story Vol. 5&2)
Featured Highlight - Saints @ Buccaneers, 1989

In retrospect, it makes sense that NFL Primetime stopped using a lot of the tracks from the Sonoton music library after a couple years.  It was the '90s, most of the Sonoton stuff was super synth heavy, and '80s synth was soon to be rendered passé with the rise of the grunge movement.  There's one Sonoton track, however, that stands out among the rest in begging the question:  "why in the hell would they stop using that?"  "Leading from the Front," by the familiar pair of Fiddy & Burdson/Narholz, screams "FOOTBALL!!!!!!" more than perhaps any other song used in the entire history of NFL Primetime.  It has a decidedly more American—even "southern-fried"—sound than the Euro-themed tracks that dominate the Sonoton pantheon and, as a result, it works well for just about any NFL game ESPN would wish to highlight.  It's just a shame they ditched Leading from the Front after just two years on Primetime because I'm sure it would've been regarded on the level of International Statement & Powersurge if it had lasted to the more popular era of the show.

Fitting the style of Leading from the Front, here's a tough, hard-hittin', quarterback-injurin' highlight featuring two southern teams.  Enjoy this, and enjoy the 2016 NFL season!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Unimpressive Dominance

Song - Dominant Factor
Artist(s) - "Sammy Burdson" (Gerhard Narholz)
Released - 1988
Primetime Usage - 1989
Contained on - SON 299 (Ideas from the Creative Factory, Vol. 1), Sonoton SCD 15 (Ideas-Decision Makers/Sales Force)
Featured Highlight - Rams @ Falcons, 1989

For my final entry before it's time to start the 2016 NFL season (I'm hoping to post one song per week then), here's the other NFL Primetime track from Sonoton SCD 15.  "Dominant Factor" is a song that probably would've worked better for something like "Inside the Numbers" or "Game Balls" than actual highlights—it's just too neutral and lacking in edge & emotion.  Still, it does have some synthy charm & ESPN saw fit to use it at least a few times during the 1989 season.  Unfortunately, none of the games I have with Dominant Factor are real interesting.  In fact, the most interesting one I've got is another Rams/Falcons game from the period where Deion Sanders was literally the only worthwhile thing to watch in Fulton County Stadium.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Top Decision Maker

Song - Top Decision Maker
Artist(s) - "Sammy Burdson" (Gerhard Narholz)
Released - 1988
Primetime Usage - 1989-90
Contained on - SON 299 (Ideas from the Creative Factory, Vol. 1), Sonoton SCD 15 (Ideas-Decision Makers/Sales Force)
Featured Highlight - Jets @ Dolphins, 1989

By request, I'm identifying this moody gem from NFL Primetime's Sonoton era.  "Top Decision Maker," by Gerhard Narholz under an oft-used pseudonym, is a perfect example of the style & instrumentation used by NFL Primetime from 1989-90.  The heavy synth, though not football-like on the surface, works well with games with less-than-sunny skies…  or less-than-sunny play on the field.  I guess it's kinda like Neck & Neck in that regard, though Neck & Neck hits that tone a bit harder than Top Decision Maker.

In light of recent tragic events at ESPN, I thought it appropriate to post a highlight that featured John Saunders doing the commentary.  Here's him presenting the Jets and their shootout victory over an uncharacteristically mediocre edition of Shula's Dolphins.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Theme #17

Song - Leading Edge
Artist(s) - Tom Blades
Released - 1989
Primetime Usage - 1991-97, 2001-05
Contained on - ATMOS 11 (Sporting Edge)
Featured Highlight - Seahawks @ Cardinals, 2004

If you've encountered any of the downloadable NFL Primetime mp3 sets or youtube postings of said sets that have been floating around the net at least a decade, you've noticed that they sometimes have names attached (some are even accurate!) and that they sometimes are denoted simply by "NFL Primetime Theme #XX."  "Leading Edge," by Tom Blades, is the track from those collections usually referred to as "NFL Primetime Theme #17."  It's just as synth heavy as most of the Primetime songs that debuted around 1990, and the best way to describe the feel of it is probably "laid-back electricity."  It's also surprising, given the style & instrumentation similarities to the briefly used Sonoton stuff, that Leading Edge would end up having one of the longest tenures of any music track on NFL Primetime.

I can't find really any biographical information regarding Tom Blades, so there's not much to say here about him.  This is the first Primetime track I've found from the Atmosphere (ATMOS) library, however, and I'm motivated to check out some of the other early CDs from that service in the future.  Also…  special thanks to Will Pitts on youtube, whose posting of this song randomly showed up on my "Recommended Videos" section so I could identify it.

To profile Leading Edge, here's a game with Emmitt Smith & Jerry Rice suiting up for teams we all forgot they played for.  It was also Smith's final 100-yard game…

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Duran Duran Meets Phantasy Star

Song - Roadhog
Artist(s) - Trevor Bastow
Released - 1987
Primetime Usage - 1991-92
Featured Highlight - Rams @ Giants, 1991

Just because the '80s were over doesn't mean their sound was dead.  In 1991, NFL Primetime began using perhaps the most heavily "eighties" sounding piece ever made.  This song, called "Roadhog," took punchy synth to a new level and often accompanied longer highlights on the show thanks to its full three-minute duration.  For those that are fans of either Duran Duran (especially their earlier, "Fab Five" era stuff) or Sega's Phantasy Star sci-fi RPG series, the style of Roadhog should be quite refreshing for you.

Roadhog was written by the late Trevor Bastow.  Trevor, along with his late brother Geoff, were two of the top stalwarts for both Bruton & MusicHouse from the 1970s-1990s.  Geoff, a disciple of the great Giorgio Moroder, was also known for being the producer behind the briefly popular synth-disco act known as K.I.D. in the early '80s.  Trevor was never a major figure in popular music, as far as I know, but I personally find his large library of production music to be even better than his brother's.  Unfortunately, Roadhog seems to be the only Primetime track composed by either of the two Bastow brothers.

The featured game highlight for Roadhog isn't the greatest, but it's still fairly entertaining.  The Rams, in John Robinson's final season, went up to the Meadowlands and handed defending Super Bowl champion Jeff Hostetler his first-ever loss as a starting QB.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Race to Midnight

Song - Race to Midnight (underscore)
Artist(s) - Chris Gibbons, Pete Q. Harris
Released - 1988
Primetime Usage - 1990
Featured Highlight - Rams @ Falcons, 1990

I don't have much to say about this one, so I'll make it quick.  The underscore of "Race to Midnight" is dark, bass-heavy, and moody, but it's a little too repetitive and lacking in direction to work for anything beyond accompaniment.  It does have one unique quality, however, in that it's (AFAIK) the only NFL Primetime song to only use the underscore and not the base track (there were at least 3 pieces that had both the base & underscore used in 1987).  John Colby made the right choice with that, too, since the base track just has a tinny, low-quality synth trumpet added over the top.  I don't know much about the artists, but at least Pete Harris has a website (linked above).

For some reason, all three highlights I have with Race to Midnight are late-season games involving the Atlanta Falcons.  The Falcons weren't very good in Jerry Glanville's first year, so that makes the featured video options rather meager.  At least you get to see Deion Sanders…

Monday, May 16, 2016

Superdome Soccer

Song - Q X
Artist(s) - Mel Dean, "Jean-Claude Madonne" (John Fiddy), & "Sammy Burdson" (Gerhard Narholz)
Released - 1990
Primetime Usage - 1990
Featured Highlight - Steelers @ Saints, 1990

"Q X" is an NFL Primetime track that is as obscure in its usage as it is short in its name.  Only used in 1990, and not very often even within that season, Q X is a difficult song to pin down in terms of mood.  It's kinda standoffish, kinda dramatic, kinda neutral, and kinda tense.  As a result, it's quite ambivalent and doesn't naturally fit a whole lot of football games.  One oddball game it does fit, however, is the one included below.  The Steelers & Saints played an offensively challenged bout in the Superdome in 1990 that ultimately came down to a kicking contest between the eventual top-two scorers in NFL history:  Morten Andersen & Gary Anderson.  Gary did miss one of his field-goal attempts, but he got twice as many tries so his Steelers prevailed.  Have fun!

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Original Buffalo Bills Song

Song - Nucleonics
Artist(s) - "Jean-Claude Madonne" (John Fiddy) & "Sammy Burdson" (Gerhard Narholz)
Released - 1989
Primetime Usage - 1990
Contained on - SON 314 (Frameworks, Vol. 1), Sonoton SCD 26 (Frameworks 1 & 2)
Featured Highlight - Cardinals @ Bills, 1990

Nucleonics, by aliased Sonoton regulars John Fiddy & Gerhard Narholz, is one of the more unusual music offerings from NFL Primetime.  It doesn't sound anything like a football song at first, but it grows on the listener and makes itself fit in subtle ways.  The track slowly rises in tension and works best for games where two teams spend much of the contest feeling each other out.  Nucleonics was also used a disproportionate amount of time for the Buffalo Bills during their initial Super Bowl run in 1990 (a minimum of 6 games, perhaps more).  It didn't get a long-term exclusive "contract" with the Bills like Powersurge, though, as Nucleonics was never used again after the 1990 season.

Like many of Buffalo's 1990 games, this track's featured highlight wasn't real down to the wire.  A weak Cardinals team in Joe Bugel's first season came to Rich Stadium and got whipped.  Still, there were some interesting plays and even more interesting punts.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Lots of Prospects

Song - New Prospect
Artist(s) - Zack Laurence
Released - 1984
Primetime Usage - 1987-88
Contained on - Bruton BRN 13 (New Prospects), Bruton BVA005 (The Zack Laurence Anthology)
Featured Highlight - Chiefs @ Oilers, 1988

If you like heavy brass with a driving bass line, then this track is for you.  Zack Laurence's "New Prospect" is straightforward, loud, in your face, and it gets the job done.  As a result, it's not surprising ESPN featured it prominently during the first two years of NFL Primetime.  New Prospect is one of many songs with the word "Prospect" in the title from Laurence's appropriately titled, variations-on-a-theme album New Prospects.  This LP was never officially converted to digital as far as I know (though amateur uploads are easy to find through the magic of Google & YouTube), but about half of it is contained on Bruton's The Zack Laurence Anthology linked above.  I haven't discovered a whole lot of info about Laurence, but I've found him to be one of the more prolific & talented production music composers of the 1970s & '80s.

Week 6 of 1988 was not kind to quarterbacks.  A disproportionate number of signal callers suffered injuries during that week, and the Houston Oilers were not immune.  With Warren Moon not even dressed, backup "Commander" Cody Carlson dislocated his thumb early in their game against Kansas City.  Former replacement QB (and ex-Montana QB) Brent Pease then came in and "led" his team to a 7-6 victory despite terrible numbers.  Here's the highlight:

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Reverse Serendipity

Song - Drive Away
Artist(s) - Hal Brown, Donald Bradley Kelley (Brad Kelley)
Released - 1985
Primetime Usage - 1987-88
Contained on - FirstCom UT102 (Wheels of Commerce)
Featured Highlight - Jets @ Bengals, 1988

Most of the songs I've identified from NFL Primetime were discovered the expected way:  I was already aware of the song from Primetime episodes, then I stumbled upon the track while scouring production music sites or whatever.  There are few I've found the other way around, though, like "Drive Away."  Drive Away is a song that I was already aware of because it was contained on FirstCom UT102 (another Primetime track I ID'd earlier but haven't yet posted is also on there), but I didn't know until recently that it was used on the show.  Special thanks to Andy Provin for posting Week 11 of 1987 and Week 6 of 1988 with the last several months, both of which used Drive Away as a highlight track.

Drive Away is an unusually short song for NFL Primetime.  It's only about a minute, which actually makes me wonder if FC-UT102 only included a :60 commercial cut of it rather than the whole thing.  I haven't found any evidence of this song's existence elsewhere, however, so probably not.  Drive away was composed by Hal Brown & Donald Bradley Kelley, also known as Brad Kelley.  Kelley's website, which has some nice info, is linked above.  I couldn't find anything on Brown, but a lot of his stuff still exists on the FirstCom website (same for Kelley).

This post's highlight features the then-undefeated 1988 Bengals, arguably the best team in franchise history, facing off against the 3-1-1 Jets.  Cincinnati would pull away late for a comfortable win and then eventually end up in the Super Bowl while the Jets would mark the beginning of the end of the Joe Walton era with a disappointing non-playoff finish.  I also included the postgame analysis from Berman, Jackson, and Pete Axthelm as a bonus.  Have fun!

Friday, February 5, 2016

Epic, Part III

Song - Olympic Action
Artist(s) - David Reilly
Released - 1988
Primetime Usage - 1989-90
Featured Highlight - Bills @ Oilers, 1989

My final post of the 2015 NFL Season features the earliest of NFL Primetime's "epic" themes.  "Olympic Action," much like its successors Crush & International Statement, typically accompanied the best and/or most important games during its two-year run on the show.  It's also my personal favorite of the three since it has higher quality instrumentation than the former and is a little more subtle than the latter (it would be hard to be less subtle than International Statement).  Olympic Action is the second of four Primetime tracks from David Reilly's Success album (in an earlier post, I erroneously indicated there were three) that contains most of the new 1989-90 additions that were not attached to the Sonoton label.  The same two links for the album are listed above.

Featuring Olympic Action is an unusually long & entertaining NFL Primetime clip.  The 1988 Buffalo Bills that began Marv Levy's run of success were a defense-first team, but the following year they gained the K-Gun-offense identity that best defines their subsequent Super Bowl years.  Their biggest shootout of 1989 came in the Astrodome against an Oilers squad that oddly hadn't played in their own building for 9 consecutive games including the preseason (I guess their home preseason game against the Dolphins wasn't in the Astrodome).  Lots of big, crazy plays in this one…

Friday, January 29, 2016

Getting Nowhere Fast

Song - Grid Lock
Artist(s) - Ray Russell
Released - 1994
Primetime Usage - 1996-05
Featured Highlight - Jets @ 49ers, 1998

One of the staples of late '90s/early '00s NFL Primetimes, "Grid Lock" most often associated itself with the less prominent games on the schedule.  It makes sense on two levels.  The name of the song implies stagnancy & frustration, something that fits well with teams that aren't doing too well.  Also, the music—though good—sounds rather neutral emotionally and therefore works best for highlights that are more about the individual plays & accomplishments than about who wins.  Grid Lock was written by prominent guitarist, session musician, and production music composer Ray Russell.  Fortunately, this isn't Russell's only Primetime track, as he has one other (much more obscure) song that I have yet to cover on this site.

You likely won't be able to find the original CD cut of this track.  FC-A33 is one of many early albums in the FirstCom Action series that are no longer available on the FirstCom website.  I've never seen it show up on eBay or anything like that, either.  On the plus side, however, Grid Lock is easy to find online if you don't care about obtaining it or listening to it in a fully 100% legal way.  A google search for "Grid Lock" with either "Ray Russell" or "NFL Primetime" should suffice.

This post's highlight choice is ironic given Grid Lock's tendency to accompany undercard games.  The Jets & 49ers, who both were coming off winning seasons & would both win double-digit games in 1998, played each other in a high-octane season opener in what was then known as 3Com Park.  Glenn Foley, who would soon be replaced by Vinny Testaverde, threw for a career-high 415 yards for New York.  This game is mostly remembered for one other reason, though:  Garrison Hearst's 96-yard touchdown run on San Francisco's first offensive play of overtime.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Unknown Song #1 - Powergate

Song - Powergate
Artist(s) - Steve Martin
Released - 1988
Primetime Usage - 1991-95
Featured Highlight - Chiefs @ Chargers, 1995


I was originally going to wait & do all the NFL Primetime songs I haven't identified after I'd posted everything I do know, but I'm going to make an exception here because somebody on my youtube page specifically requested this game highlight.  I'm still not planning on making this a regular thing right now, though, so don't expect any more unknown tracks for a while.  This composition was used pretty frequently for most of the early-to-mid-'90s.  It's kind of dour & depressing on the surface, but the synth bass line gives it enough energy to make it serviceable.  I don't think it's a Sonoton track, but it does sound somewhat similar to some of the Sonoton stuff used on Primetime from 1989-90 (especially the songs added in 1990).

The aforementioned highlight shows the post-Montana Chiefs smothering the Chargers in San Diego and, thanks to the 49ers upset of the Cowboys the same day, gaining sole possession of the best record in the NFL.  If any of you readers know what this song is, don't hesitate to comment either here or on youtube.  Thanks!

Friday, January 15, 2016

"Young" Triumphs & Mistakes

Song - Race to the Death
Released - 2000
Primetime Usage - 2000
Featured Highlight - Steelers @ Jaguars, 2000

One of the most obscure songs from the later heyday of NFL Primetime, "Race to the Death" seemed to be an attempt to replace the melancholy struggle motif previously occupied by Neck and Neck.  It's an OK song in small doses, though, and "small doses" were definitely what we got—it was just used a handful of times during only the 2000 NFL season.  The artists behind Race to the Death were, ironically, not so obscure…  well one of them at least.  I don't know a whole lot about Bryan "Chuck" New, but he does have a massive number of credits listed on Discogs.  George Young is a bit more famous, though.  In addition to being the older brother of Malcolm & Angus Young of AC/DC (and an AC/DC producer), he was also the co-writer & co-producer of top-10 disco hit "Love is in the Air" by John Paul Young (no relation).  Additionally, George Young was one of the inaugural inductees in the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA) Hall of Fame in 1988.

I apologize for the quality of the included highlight video, but this was the only Primetime clip I've been able to find with Race to the Death.  This game was a fitting example of the decline of the Tom Coughlin Jaguars, but it's mostly memorable for one reason.  Steelers rookie Plaxico Burress, after getting a long reception over the middle, decided to do a celebratory spike even though he hadn't actually been touched.  It didn't ultimately affect the contest's outcome, but this play often shows up on "top sports blunders" lists.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Empire Building

Song - Empire Building
Artist(s) - Mary Therese Matthews, Sally Anne Griffith, John Bähler, Matthew Muhoberac
Released - 1985
Primetime Usage - 1987-96 (infrequent)
Contained on - FirstCom UT104 (Powersurge)
Featured Highlight - Bengals @ Colts, 1987

The next two weeks will feature a couple songs that were requested on my youtube discussion page.  The first, "Empire Building," has a relatively strange usage history.  The song played on NFL Primetime highlights during the first 10 years of the show's run, but it was quite rare to hear it.  I've viewed quite a few episodes from that decade-long run, but Empire Building only shows up on three of them:  one highlight in 1987 (the one below), one in 1992, and one in 1996 (EDIT - I've found it was used during at least a few episodes in 1991, too).  Unlike sports cards, however, rarity doesn't make this track a gem.  It's far too neutral and sleepy to be good football accompaniment.  Empire Building is also the third and final (that I know of) track composed by the Matthews/Griffith/Bähler/Muhoberac quartet.

ESPN edited this song a little in the '90s by removing the bridge section and adding in some "creative" looping.  I'm not gonna post a second video for the edit because the edit isn't that meaningful & the song isn't that great, but it's a worthwhile footnote at least.  If you really want to hear it, try to find the Bills/Rams game from week 1 of 1992 or the Vikings/Lions game from week 1 of 1996 (special thanks to Kyle Caughlin on youtube for catching this difference).

The featured game highlight isn't real memorable, but it has a few nice plays.  The Bengals went into the Hoosier Dome and topped the Colts in the 1987 season opener.  It was an ironic result in retrospect since Indianapolis actually ended up winning the AFC East (their only playoff appearance in a 17-year span) while Cincy went 4-11.