Wednesday, September 26, 2007

An Uneasy Relationship

Two of the great loves of my life, with the exception of my weekly pay packet and Felicity Kendal in “The Good Life”, are football and music. Both have been with me since I can remember, yet, to a large extent, they remain very much exclusive of one another. When music and football meet, the results can be terrifying…

Football songs are, with a few notable exceptions, pure crap. I suppose the first one that many people of my generation remember is “Back Home” by the England World Squad in 1970. Got to number one too. “Back home, they’ll be singing and waving and cheering every move.” Like when Jeff Astle ballooned the ball over the bar from six yards, I suppose. Why do songwriters always assume that their team is going to win the bloody World Cup? Why can’t they be more realistic?
“And we’ll really shake them up when we draw against Iran
For Scotland are an average football team,”
is far more realistic and less likely to leave the writer with egg on his proverbial.

Over here, we are not above making outrageous claims regarding the prowess of our national side. “You’ll never beat the Irish,” is not only palpable nonsense, but it doesn’t even have the redeeming feature of being musically competent. In this, however, it is an exception. Ireland has produced some footballing songs over the years, which are not only lyrically well constructed, but also stand up musically too. “Give it a lash, Jack” was very wittily created, “We’re gonna start a fire” was a great tribute to how we got where we were in 1990, “Put ‘em under pressure” many people consider to be the finest footballing song ever written [despite the naff chorus] and “Here comes the good times” was a very honest song with a lot of musical merit.

Shamrock Rovers’ Billy Sullivan produced a CD last season featuring a Shamrock Rovers song, which was both catchy and musically excellent, but unfortunately its release coincided with Rovers horrific slump towards the end of the season, which doubtless affected sales. By and large, though, Irish club sides generally eschew bringing out football songs. I would like to think that this is because they recognise musical integrity, but it probably has more to do with the absence of a market!

In case people argue that I’m being biased, I also have to admit that I secretly liked “Three Lions”, English football’s new anthem. Notwithstanding the jingoistic undertones, I can relate to the hurt and disappointment of those fans who haven’t enjoyed success for years. Long may it continue for them.

Do you remember some of the awful offerings that came out of England in the eighties? Chas and Dave, Hoddle and Waddle, Kevin Keegan –my God, the songs were nearly as bad as the haircuts - all were fortunate not to have been hauled up on crimes against humanity. What possessed people to come up with such muck?

Apart from songs about or by footballers, there are also those pop songs that have been adopted by the footballing fraternity. “You’ll never walk alone”, “Leader of the Gang”, “Daydream Believer” “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles” [no, not the Michael Jackson version], the list goes on and on. But they all have to have one thing in common. They all must have an easy hook line that the great mass of the unwashed can easily get their vocal chords around. Nessun Dorna might forever be associated with football, but it will never get sung on the terraces.

Then, there is a third occasion when football and music interact – the music played on the P.A. before, during and, occasionally, after a game. Mostly this consists of bland, unoriginal pop music that the P.A. announcer has borrowed from his teenage sister. Why do commentators assume that, just because we like football, we have no musical taste at all? I was at a friendly in Dalymount last year and the pre-match and half time entertainment was by some tuneless wimp who didn’t quite manage to make it into Six. I mean, can you imagine somebody not talented enough to get into Six? And we paid in, for God’s sake!

A notable exception to this was the P.A. announcer at Richmond Park in the eighties. Where other DJs would be blaring out Donna Summer or Earth, Wind and Fire, the Pats collection was more intellectually stimulating. I remember “Free Nelson Mandela” by The Special AKA, for example, and offerings from Iggy Pop and Talking Heads. I don’t know who he was, but I salute him.

Shels use “Let me Entertain You” when the teams come out onto the pitch on Friday nights and “Another One Bites the Dust” at the end of the match, if we have won. The temptation to use “We are the Champions” has thankfully largely been ignored, although occasionally we succumb. I don’t really like that song – I think Freddie wrote it with the terraces in mind, which is never a good idea.

It has remained a source of complete puzzlement to me that, whereas football is a game of passion and excitement, of despair and elation, the music that accompanies it is, by and large, mindless and insipid. I urge any budding songwriters and musicians to try and come up with a great football song, one that transcends the terraces and would appeal to the wider market, while retaining some semblance of musical integrity. And I’ll see about getting Felicity Kendal to don a pair of rubber boots for the video.

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