Barry Gordon: Music's often in the mix when it comes to sport

COMBINE sport and music together and chances are you'll conjure up images of Scotland's 1982 World Cup song We Have A Dream – or perhaps England's Three Lions if you're that way inclined.

Think about TV sporting shows, on the other hand, and it's virtually impossible to stop their respective theme tunes from sticking in your head.

From cricket (Booker T and The MGs' Soul Limbo) and Formula 1 (Fleetwood Mac's The Chain), to Champions' League football (The Academy of St. Martin singing Handel's Zadok The Priest) and snooker (The Doug Wood Band's Drag Racer). But while such novelty tunes may prove easy-on-the-ear, how many of us would actually sit down and listen to them on our iPods or CD players? Exactly. Not many.

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However, that's not to say good music and sport aren't irreconcilable. Take Neil Hannon, of The Divine Comedy, for instance. Alongside Pugwash lead singer Thomas Walsh, the Londonderry singer-songwriter was recently nominated for the Ivor Novello Album Award for his concept album on cricket, The Duckworth Lewis Method.

Described as "a kaleidoscopic musical adventure through the beautiful and rather silly world of cricket" the album started out, Hannon reveals, as "just a drunken gag". Then, he said, "strange things started to happen and it actually materialised. We thought about football but it's too tribal and narky – there's so much argument provoked by football. Cricket seems to be a game where you can truly admire and applaud the team that you're trying to beat. Our hippopotomously-titled debut album really was as fun to make as it sounds."

Fun, perhaps; nevertheless, Hannon isn't exactly unique in his attempts to pen a credible tune with a sporting theme.

Case in point: Glasgow's Stuart Murdoch. De facto leader of fey tunesmiths Belle & Sebastian, the one-time boxer conveyed his teenage desires of becoming a professional runner via The Stars Of Track And Field, a nifty wee number poised between admiration and contempt for his gym class's beautiful people.

Further afield, Billy Bragg has made many a reference to football in his songs, and while comedy group Half Man Half Biscuit sang about their desire to get a hold of a Dukla Prague away kit, those German electronic pioneers, Kraftwerk, cemented a long-standing association with professional cycling courtesy of 1983's Tour de France.

Consider, then, Marillion's 1995 release, Out Of This World. Inspired by motorboat racer Donald Campbell's final journey – roaring down Coniston Water at 300mph before his Bluebird craft broke up and sank to the bottom along with Campbell – few sporting-theme songs have as much substance.

Initially written as a love song about women who love men driven to putting their lives in danger, little would Marillion singer, Steve Hogarth, realise that his song would spark a hunt to recover Campbell and his Bluebird.

"I remember seeing Bluebird do its famous back flip on the news," says Hogarth. "It was 1967 and I was seven years old. Years later, I just happened to write some words about it. It began as a poem: 'Three hundred miles an hour on water, in your purpose-built machine'. The fact that I was brought up near Coniston resonated and brought Donald closer to me emotionally. But I never imagined that writing those words would be the catalyst for bringing the craft, and Donald, out of the lake."

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If there's one thing music and sport share in common, it's their ability to invoke feelings of euphoria. Scottish comedian Hector Nicol wrote songs for both Hearts and Hibs which are regularly sung on the terraces by the support to rev up the players.

Practically every football team has a pop tune booming out over the PA when its team scores a goal, and pop bands themselves are no strangers to playing football stadiums.

So all begs the question: does music belong in sport? Personally speaking, yes, absolutely.

I remember the first time I attended an ice-hockey game whilst visiting relatives in Indianapolis in the States.

A hip-hop rapper came out onto the ice prior to the match in order to pump up the crowd, heavy metal music welcomed the players on to the ice, and whenever the puck hit the back of the net the pop-chart sonic celebration was never less than bombastic.

What really surprised and impressed me, though, was the in-game dance music: tempo changes made depending on whether the home team were on the attack or defence.

I personally didn't care for any of the music on offer – I certainly wouldn't listen to it at home, let alone spend money on it. However, in context, the collective atmosphere generated by the music and the anticipation of the match and its outcome, was an intoxicating mix.

The addition of some all-singing, all-dancing cheerleaders might have added to the euphoria but it's a moot point.

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The fact is, we all associate most sports with music whether we consciously acknowledge it or not. Any doubters should consider how many non-tennis players think about picking up a racket every time the Wimbledon theme tune rears its head in June.