Sunday afternoon, with a lunch roasting away in the adjacent kitchen and the windows steaming up from the warm, succulent evaporation of the steam rising off your dinner. A television aurally eases it’s way into your mind with the sound of a weatherman advising on the next day of climate worries, the short inset weather program goes off to be followed by an announcer, thrusting out the lines ‘And coming up next on BBC1… it’s Formula 1.’ Then you hear it. The bassline of a thousand races, of race cars screaming past your eyes at 200 miles an hour, of Murray Walker shouting down the race and screaming out many a classic line, the bassline of that haze that shudders above the tar that holds down the sport we love, the bassline of that champagne that flows freely around the souls and personalities of everything we love about Formula 1… the bassline of The Chain. The shudder that it brings down the spine of lifelong Formula 1 fans as it opens up an afternoon of drama, excitement, sheer intensity, everything that Formula 1 should mean to it’s fans, and yet everything I feel can be placed into the sheer intensity of this incredible song that provides an entrance, for a few brief hours, into the opening arms of a sport ready to excite.
To me a great sport deserves a great introduction. It all comes down to personal taste but with a sport such as Formula 1, you just don’t want a drab little montage bringing you into someone like Steve Ryder, who I will remind who was recently described as ‘beige’ by myself, just keeping the excitement down. Take a look at Match of the Day in the world of football – how much outcry would the BBC get if they decided to get rid of that legendary intro theme with a modern song that would just have absolutely no effect like the Match of the Day theme has! Away from Formula 1 you can see how painfully obvious how every big show has it’s own personality tagged by that introduction theme – Coronation Street’s trumpets slowly falling into Manchester, the thumping piano introduction of Eastenders, even the association of smaller things like the News at Ten and Blue Peter!
I do question though, how can such a song BE an entire sport though? What is it about The Chain that saw thousands upon thousands of people demand the BBC to hunt down the rights to have this when we tune into our televisions ready for Qualifying or a Race? We hear it for about a minute, in a show that least for 3 hours… and yet, to a lot of people, F1 on the BBC just would not be without this incredible opener. When ITV acquired the rights in 1996 to Formula 1, and when the coverage started the following year, we had no Chain. We had nothing even similar, but instead a dark and intense view of a Formula 1 car being unveiled alongside mechanics and the clinks of screws, spanners and generic metal objects inside a wind tunnel, nothing spectacular or traditional, just a dramatic but dark opener. I personally feel that, with ITV, their few years at the start of their license with the Formula 1 theme, they did a fair job with it. Yes, it wasn’t the Chain, but they had a solid introduction that provided fans both casual and hardcore to be interested and enjoy a brief introduction into the sport they love.
For a few years we were introduced with a far more gracious and exciting introduction to a sport that demands excitement from all factors of its production. Accompanying a generally heavy guitar riffs and a beating synth in the background, it was shown off with overtaking manouvres, crashes, famous moments from f1’s history, everything that made F1 exciting – it was a brilliant intro! It didn’t have The Chain beating it’s way into the sport but it had everything that you needed to get you pumped up and ready for an exciting few hours of F1! All of this was topped off with the adrenaline pumping scream of a F1 car as it rushes through your head and a simple subtitle that said where the Grand prix was. Simply, effective, exciting, brilliant! This was the pinnacle of ITV’s work with the intro to Formula 1, as along with their productions, it became a disappointment from herein. The greater detail on this can be found on my previous blog so I shalln’t go into greater detail here, but we instead got very generic introductions you’d imagine an American news network would use to transcend from the news into a sports section with no real meaning. The final theme used by ITV turned out to be the song ‘Lift Me Up’ by Moby. See… I have nothing against Moby, or the song; it’s on my iPod as are a few others within his library. This said, I have no clue what made the production team at ITV who were so well praised and awarded for constantly choose to have this as a theme for Formula 1. It seemed so lifeless alongside images of Lewis, Jenson, DC and even Anthony Davidson for a millisecond one season, and for me it never worked. Plus, I didn’t understand what the song actually said - ‘Lift me up, lift me up, UGGAUAUHGU’ – totally agree. I do like the song, but a F1 theme? Sorry Moby, better luck next time buddy.
So now of course we have the Chain and that accompanying video of a racing driver walking through that deep haze previously mentioned, the car forming in front of him as and it develops into the the Red Bull-esque cars racing through CG animated roads alongside those electrifying beats caused from the bass of John McVie with Mick Fleetwood tapping away softly, growing louder and louder, as the electric guitar grows from Lindsey Buckingham’s guitar then BAM! It all comes together, onscreen a sight of F1 cars racing each other with the shouts of the cars screaming through Fleetwood Mac and The Chain. The intro is a brilliant, brilliant intro and one I feel just would not have been as strong if it weren’t for the presence of Fleetwood Mac’s legendary tune. It’s delightful for myself to see something that is a part of Formula 1 heritage within the UK back where it deserves to be in so many ways, just the final minute or so of that fantastic song itself has such a Formula 1 feel to it as I’ve described already, and thank goodness it’s the song that brings us back into the world we love to be part of.
It does seem a strange subject to blog about, I’m sure it may seem that way to some but again, I brought up the fact earlier in the blog that so many programmes have that intro that is just associated with them through thick and thin, and if things changes, then people want the old back and want rid of the new. I don’t really have much else to say at the moment about things, but I am hoping that more people now get to experience this incredible song for a younger generation as for me it does personifies everything about Formula 1 – a bassline with tension, fear, and a building excitement, a guitar riff that slowly builds up, prepares for that big start then rushes into action and sends the song into a spiral of activity alongside the bass and a massive sense of excitement and racing poured into an incredible piece of music.
I can still hear you saying
We must never break the chain.