PetrolBlog’s Sports Unsung Hero: Bob Abrahams

PetrolBlog’s Sports Unsung Hero: Bob Abrahams

It won’t have escaped your notice that last night saw the crowning of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year 2012. But just in case you’ve been hiding in a cave all day, allow me to tell you that it was won by a cyclist, with a heptathlete coming second and a British tennis player coming third. Although if he has a bad 2013, I’m sure he’ll be known as ‘Scotland’s Andy Murray’ once again.

You may have also seen on the regional news that the BBC has also been looking for Sport’s Unsung Hero of 2012. The award seeks to find those who work tirelessly without thanks or reward to provide sport for all. Congratulations to Sue and Jim from Leicestershire.

Well PetrolBlog believes that there’s someone who deserves a posthumous Unsung Hero award. A chap who sadly died over three years ago and yet, thanks to his efforts in the late 1970s, still plays a part in Britain’s love affair with Formula 1. His name was Bob Abrahams and he was the man responsible for the BBC using Fleetwood Mac’s The Chain as the theme tune for its F1 coverage. Mr Abrahams, PetrolBlog salutes you.

Bob Abrahams played a pivotal role in the BBC’s sporting coverage during the second half of the last century. He oversaw the contract negotiations for the first live television football for BBC One and was the longest-serving producer of Match of the Day. He introduced the likes of John Motson and Des Lynam to television and also created Football Focus, a show which still airs every Saturday lunchtime.

But this isn’t a footballist blog, so we will always best remember Bob Abrahams for taking an already brilliant track from Fleetwood Mac’s multi-million selling album Rumours and making it forever synonymous with F1 the world over.

It was in the 1970s, when the BBC had just landed the rights to Formula 1 when Abrahams was called by the head of BBC Sport, Jonathan Martin. He was tasked with creating the music and opening titles for the F1 coverage.

Within 30 minutes, Abraham had phoned Martin and told him to use The Chain. Martin hadn’t heard it before, so Abrahams proceeded to play it down the phone. The next day two 38-second credits and a 70-second segment were produced. And the rest, as they say, is history.

With the possible exception of Match of the Day, I can’t think of a single piece of music that is more engrained with television coverage of a particular sport. But it goes much deeper than that. The Chain is synonymous with F1 full stop. Not just its TV coverage. The moment you hear it, you’re transported to the grid. Genius.

I distinctly remember the time I discovered The Chain was an actual song and not just a theme tune. I was travelling with my Dad and not really paying too much attention to the sounds on the radio. But precisely three minutes and four seconds into the song, there was the unmistakable sound of F1. After listening to ‘the sound of F1’ for a further minute and a half, I asked Dad to play the song again. Brilliant!

In 1997 the BBC lost the F1 rights to ITV and for 12 years we had to endure weekends without the unmistakable sound of Fleetwood Mac. There are many reasons why ITV shouldn’t have been allowed to screen F1, but not being able to use The Chain was high up on my list. Fortunately in 2009, F1 returned home and The Chain was once again pulled into its rightful place.

The BBC has always had a knack of fusing sport and music together. The accompanying music to snooker, Ski Sunday, tennis and golf are unmistakable and perfect. I also remember The Lightning Seeds’ Life of Riley being used as the background music for Match of the Day’s Goal of the Month competition in the 1990s. They have yet to find a better accompaniment. It’s like cranberry sauce and roast turkey.

But The Chain and F1 is a standout partnership. A match made in heaven and for bringing the pair together we should stand up and posthumously salute Bob Abrahams. In his own words, “the man who pulled The Chain”.

Bob Abrahams – PetrolBlog’s Sports Unsung Hero of 2012.

Source: The Telegraph, 11th June 2009. Featured image courtesy of Newspress.


Written by Gavin Braithwaite-Smith

The chief waffler and person responsible for getting PetrolBlog off the ground in February 2010. Has a deep fascination of cars from the '80s and '90s, especially if they originate from France. Also likes tea and Hobnobs.

3 Comments

  1. Antony Ingram (@antonyingram)

    I heartily concur.

    The only other music as synonymous to a motorsport as The Chain is to F1, is actually much of the Foo Fighters’ back catalogue. Whoever was hosting the WRC coverage in the late nineties/early noughties used several different Foos songs throughout the year, and now they’ve lodged in my mind alongside images of McRae going wildly sideways in different cars.

    Particularly, Stacked Actors, Breakout and Monkey Wrench I remember being used – whoever was music producer for the rally shows obviously loved them.

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