Euro 2016, ahem, kicks off tonight with France v Romania. In celebration, Standard Issue writers chose their favourite football-related tunes, from the one with the coolest credentials to the one for those who don’t give a toss about the ball, ball, ball, footie, footie, footie.
New Order – World in Motion (1990)
New Order’s most successful/famous song is obviously Blue Monday. Or maybe True Faith. Or if you’re expecting a curveball, perhaps Bizarre Love Triangle.
Except it isn’t: their novelty 1990 Fifa football song complete with awkward John Barnes rap and Keith Allen-penned lyrics is not only the band’s only UK number one hit, it’s also their last release for Factory Records and the best football song of all time.
It’s so good in fact, they released an LFO-remixed version again for good measure for Euro 1996. And a new version again for the 2002 Fifa World Cup. And once again for luck in 2010, for a Mars commercial.
Remixed by Andrew Weatherall and Terry Farley, and with a B-side produced by one of Swans, World in Motion has the coolest credentials a football record could ever hope for; but that is to ignore its fun side.
The fact that New Order made the England squad have a rap battle by way of audition and that the finished product features Peter Beardsley shouting “Express yourself!” can only add to the record’s legacy.
With the express intention of making an anti-hooligan anthem for our times, while New Order agreed to change the original title of E For England due to the obvious drug reference, they refused to change the hook on the main version from “Love’s got the world in motion” to the requested ‘We’ve’ as it was too aggressive for their message. E, they’re lovely.
Chris Waddle and Glen Hoddle – Diamond Lights (1987)
I was 11 in 1987, the only child of a very good amateur footballer (fun fact: he actually played pro briefly “when everyone good was doing National Service”). For a good few years I feigned interest in football.
I LOVED the fact that he and I would go every Tuesday night to see his team (Gravesend and Northfleet, now Ebbsfleet) to play but I wouldn’t have been able to explain the off-side rule. I mostly loved the bacon sandwiches and camaraderie. I also loved Chris Waddle and Glen Hoddle. I couldn’t have told you who they played for or what positions they played in but I knew Every Single Word to Diamond Lights.
And do you know what? Sitting here, listening to it with my headphones on – because I am in an office of professional musicians and jazz fans and they don’t know how uncool I am yet – it stands up! In fact, I urge you to pop it on (oddly enough, it’s not on Spotify so I’ve included this for your pleasure.
Close your eyes, ignore the shite-awful production and imagine how good it would have been if Whitesnake had covered it. Works doesn’t it? DOESN’T IT?
Boli & Waddle – We’ve Got a Feeling (1991)
It was the early 90s and hip-hop was breaking into the mainstream charts: we’d tasted the sweet sweet promise of Buffalo Stance and we wanted more, goddamit.
Enter unlikely candidate Chris Waddle (very much the norovirus of football songs for his propensity to really get around musically speaking, while also being largely uninvited) bolstered by the collaborative efforts of then Marseille teammate, Basile Boli. Fact fans: Waddle was the best winger in Europe at the time this was recorded.
It’s a real fusion of sounds here: Geordie – hey, if it worked for Gazza… (it didn’t) – and French-language rapping, alongside a sort of afrobeat-dance fusion. The video representation of our diverse duo has sexy London soldiers for Chris (from Gateshead) and for Basile (a Parisian) some zebras and giraffes. It was a different time.
Surprisingly, the football references are few and far between, aside from when Waddle asks Boli how he got so big and strong, but a lot of it is in French, so I might have missed some of the finer details. I’m certainly still none the wiser as to what they had a feeling about.
Adam and Joe – The Footie Song (1997)
This is the football song for those of you who don’t really give a toss about football but love a good earworm for beer-drinking, watching the game and wondering how long it will take until England get knocked out of the competition.
Let’s face it, it won’t be long. Pardon my cynicism, but the lacklustre performances of our over-paid players are constantly exposed when more dynamic, cohesive teams like Spain and Italy play. If only the England team took notice of this song, and its no nonsense advice (“Foot, Kick, Ball, Goal!”), they might stand a chance.
Comedy duo Adam (Buxton) and Joe (Cornish) came up with this song to prove you don’t need to know anything about football to write a good football song – they weren’t wrong. Here are some of the fine lyrics for your delectation:
When I go and see Arsenal,
I reckon they can pass ‘em all.
When I go see Villa,
My view is blocked by a concrete pillar
If you watch the video they made to go with this song, you can see just how much fun they had and it’s a travesty that it never actually made it into the charts. It goes to show that even the most inane lyrics, repeated over a catchy tune, can create a great football chant.
I learned it off by heart, and can even now spell out GLEN HODDLE IS HAVING A GOAL at speed. Not a wasted childhood at all. Altogether now: Ball Ball Ball, Footie Footie Footie, Ball Ball Ball, FOOTBALL!
Luciano Pavarotti – Nessun Dorma
I worked in Our Price during 1990, well before digital music. Indeed, we sold music on vinyl, cassette tape and CD. The lack of digital music also meant no one could Shazam anything, or search for lyrics online, so it wasn’t unusual for customers to ask record shop staff about songs they’d heard.
Sometimes people would know the words and sometimes they wouldn’t, and we were trained in the ‘singing customer’ situation, i.e. what to do when a customer said, “Do you know this song? It goes like this…”.
Training included waiting politely until they got to the end of their singing, and not screaming with laughter directly into their face.
My Our Price experience coincided with Euro 90, when Nessun Dorma was used by the BBC for their coverage.
This led to the most extraordinary outbreak of singing customers that anyone could recall.
A typical scene: “Do you know this song? It goes La la la la la la lalaaaaaaa, La la la la la la lalaaaaaaa, do do oh oh ooooooooooooha, oh oh oooooha, il travoreeeee il travoooooooooooooore il travoooooooooore il travoooooooooooooooore!”
NB: Within seven short years, I was myself a singing customer, or – even worse – a rapping customer, as I tried to find out more about Luchini (This is It) by Camp Lo in HMV in 1997. It wasn’t pretty.
Gerry and the Pacemakers – You’ll Never Walk Alone (1963)
The original was written in 1945 by Rodgers and Hammerstein for their musical Carousel. LFC fans adopted it after Gerry and the Pacemakers released a slower, differently phrased version in 1963 that seemed to fit with the spirit of the club. By 1965, the start of Liverpool’s glory years, it was a Kop tradition to sing it before a game, like a call to arms.
I have versions by Judy Garland, Elvis, Gerry and the Pacemakers and the Kop Choir. It is Merseyside’s most popular funeral song. And today it is more than a football anthem: it is solidarity, it is justice, it is hope.
The Proclaimers – Sunshine On Leith (1988)
“My heart was broken / My heart was broken / Sorrow / Sorrow / Sorrow / Sorrow” croon Charlie and Craig Reid in the opening bars of this truly beautiful, blushingly romantic love song to their hometown of Leith.
Fair play to Hibernian fans for choosing such a woozy tear-tugging doozy for their club anthem. It’s the perfect fit: The Proclaimers don’t always get the credit their understated poetic pop deserves thanks to a nerdy image that’s left them somewhat the underdogs of popular music. Hibs too are underdogs, but man are they scrappy, playing with their hearts firmly on sleeves, making the team’s too few and far between victories all the sweeter.
Whether you give a monkey’s about football or not, if you’ve got eyes, ears and a soul, this clip from when Hibs won the Scottish League Cup in 2007 will bring a lump to your throat. They only bloody bagged the actual Scottish Cup for the first time in about a billion (114) years this May. Pass the tissues. And plasters – Hibs fans celebrated with one almighty fight.
And for extra time…
Liverpool FC – Anfield Rap (1988)
I’m sadly not old enough to remember a time when my beloved Liverpool FC were actually good. Two recent European Championship wins remain a highlight of my footballing romance, but I shall never forget that slip against Chelsea, or that loss to Crystal Palace during the season that almost was.
Luckily though, ‘almost the FA Cup’ is enough to churn out some classic awkward footballing pop. 1996’s Pass And Move (It’s The Liverpool Groove) means that I spent much of the recent Soccer Aid charity football match chanting, ‘Go Robbie, Go Robbie, GO!’ every time I saw Robbie Fowler.
It’s not my favourite footballing song, mind, but it did lead me to the one piece of musical art that must beat all other footie songs hands down: 1988’s Anfield Rap. “‘Cause they don’t just play, but they can rap as well,” John Barnes claims (and I truly feel he succeeds in this mission in World In Motion).
I’m not of the age where I can reliably say whether the Anfield Rap truly captures the spirit of the 80s, but if it does I can see why we may want to forget that decade. And yet, it is so bad it’s good. It includes a jaunty rendition of epic Kop anthem You’ll Never Walk Alone and players ‘rapping’ in a Scouse accent.
The video needs to be seen to be believed, but much like a very fugly pug, you can’t help but love this bold move from the classic Liverpool team of the era. We may not have won the match, but this song wins a place in my heart as the best footie song ever.
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