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11 Football songs

June 5th, 2008 7 comments

To mark the start of Euro 2008 on Saturday, here are a few random football-related songs; all unrelated to Euro 2008. A couple are brilliant, some are rather interesting, and a couple are so horrible that any collector of bad music should experience ecstasy at the prospect of adding to their miscellany of horrors.

Luciano Pavarotti – Nessun Dorma.mp3
It is a cruel irony that football suddenly became hugely popular after the worst World Cup since 1962. Italia ’90 was mostly dire, a few bright exceptions such as the performances by Cameroon and West Germany apart. And in many ways the marketing explosion that followed Italia ’90 has corrupted football. I don’t know how much we can blame old Pavarotten for it, but the decision to adopt a rousing bit of opera (from Puccini’s unfinished opera Turandot) as the World Cup’s theme song surely helped persuade the snobs who previously regarded football as a sport for yobs and the working classes that it could be socially acceptable, even desirable.

Pel̩ & Gracinha РMeu Mundo ̩ Uma Bola.mp3
From the most famous tenor to the most famous football player. Normally when one thinks of football players recording music, one recoils in horror (remember Kevin Keegan’s Smokie-esque 1979 hit Head Over Heels, or Diamond Lights by Glenn & Chris, who should have insisted on being credited as Hoddle & Waddle). Not so with the greatest footballer of all time, who actually had musical talent. Old pictures from Santos or Brazil tours often show him with guitar in hand, practising some bossa nova number or other. So in 1977 he finally released a single, a duet with somebody called Gracinha. His collaborators are redoubtable: Sergio Mendes and Gerry Mulligan. It’s a fine song which in 1998 merited inclusion among the greats of the genre in a quite comprehensive compilation titled 40 Years Of Bossa Nova.

New Order – World In Motion.mp3
One would not have immediately connected the residents of the Hacienda with football culture, yet here they were, recording a theme song for England’s 1990 World Cup campaign, doubtless inspiring the team to give their best World Cup performance outside their sceptre’d isle. Since losing that 1990 semi-final on penalties, England have had a hilarious run of misadventures, usually involving penalty shoot-outs (so what were Chelsea thinking when they picked an English player to take the potentially match-winning penalty in the “Champions” “League” final?). That run of failure has reached an amusing climax with England’s failure to qualify for Euro ’08. I may be gloating, but on a personal level I feel a tinge of regret because the absence of John Terry and his pals in Switzerland and Austria also means a deprivation in the supply of the genius match reports by the great David Stubbs, writing in the character of a superannuated upperclass imperialist with a non-too-subtle bigoted bent. Read some of them here.

Die Toten Hosen – Bayern.mp3
Many followers of the English Pemier League complain about only the big four clubs having a chance of winning the league (well, three really). Spare a thought then for the German Bundesliga, where only one club dominates, the satanic incarnation that is FC Bayern München. Occasionally Bayern will have a poor season, and Werder Bremen or VfB Stuttgart get a turn to become Meister (and Schalke 04 to finish second), but you can be assured that next season Bayern will be back on top. For the past 30 years or so, Bayern have successfully followed a strategy of buying the best players from other clubs ““ not to strengthen their squad, but to weaken that of their competitors. Bayern are rightly hated by anyone who does not support them. Die Toten Hosen, Germany’s equivalent of Green Day, wrote a catchy song about that hatred. In it, the singer imagines himself as a prodigious football talent who would reject Bayern”s approaches on principle. He observes that playing for Bayern is a certain way to spoil one”s good character, and asks: “What kind of parents must one have to be so stupid as to sign a contract with that shit club”. The song fades out with an energetic chant pledging: “We would never go to FC Bayern”. It is a pity that Lukas Podolski and Miroslav Klose weren’t fans of Die Toten Hosen (literally, The Dead Trousers).

Sportfreunde Stiller – 54-74-90-2006.mp3
And from Munich, Sportfreunde Stiller recorded the unofficial German World Cup anthem for 2006. Catchy though it is, it”s not threatening to break into the pantheon of rock classics. But it captures the German mood during the World Cup (I was lucky to spend two weeks in Munich during that time). The numbers 54, 74, 90 refer to the years in which (West) Germany won the World Cup; 2006 expresses the hope for “a sensation” (and unfancied Germany came pretty close to cause one). The Sportfreunde ““ an old-fashioned term for the gymnastic clubs which were very much part of the German culture in the 19th century ““ rightly point out that the win in 1954 was “a miracle”, in 1974 “luck” and in ’90 “the deserved reward”. After Germany finished 3rd in 2006, the band re-recorded the song to reflect the same optimism for Germany”s success in 2010 in South Africa.

Deutsche Fußball Nationalmanschaft – Fussball ist unser Leben.mp3
I posted this opus last year, as part of the Time Travel series. At the time I wrote about it: “The 442 – Come On England.mp3
The attentive reader of this blog might have noticed that I not only exhibit excellent musical taste most of the time, but am also a casual collector of shockingly bad songs. By that I don’t mean that I have a folder reserved for the likes of My Humps or My Heart Will Go On. Such songs are awful, of course, but not in a way that invites an ironic appreciation or makes your jaw drop at the audacity of somebody actually having thought it a good idea to record it (such as Crispin Glover”s breathtaking version of These Boots Are Made Fir Walking on the first mix of Singing Actors). Come On England, recorded for Englands Euro “04 campaign, falls somewhere between jawdropper and My Humps. It is a cover, of sorts, of Dexys Midnight Runners” Come On Eileen ““ a song whose reputation has suffered unduly as a result of being played “ironically” at weddings and being ripped off by purveyors of fuckbucketry such as 442. If this is the quality of music written in support of England these days, then the team”s hilarious failure to qualify for Euro “08 is not surprising and indeed welcome.

TKZee & Benni McCarthy – Shibobo.mp3
Benni McCarthy currently plays for Blackburn Rovers. His two most famous moments were the goals he scored for FC Porto in the Champions League against Manchester United, thanks to which Porto went on to knock out United and eventually win the competition. Born in Cape Town, Benni would not have listened to much township music as a kid; his social milieu would have been infused with soul/R&B, rap, jazz fusion and the sounds of the Kaapse Klopse in the city”s coloured community (it”s the designation the “mixed-race” members of that former apartheid classification tend to use; though there is still debate about its legitimacy). Somewhere along the line, McCarthy (who had just joined Ajax Amsterdam) picked up a taste for kwaito, the dance music of the townships, and teamed up in a rapping capacity with one of the biggest names in the genre, TKZee. Recorded for the World Cup ’98, Shibobo (a South African term for the football trickery known as the nutmeg) became the fastest selling South African single of all time. In downloads terms, it”s also one of the most popular songs I”ve posted.

Manchester United – Move Move Move (The Red Tribe).mp3
Manchester United – Come On You Reds.mp3
I have exercised a preferential option for Manchester United ever since I first became interested in English football, as a nine-year-old in Germany. The impulse was not gloryhunting though; I was watching highlights from a game, and the team in red was playing good football. The commentator identified the team in red as having just been promoted, so I thought they were plucky underdogs. Ah well. Oddly, it was greater fun to be a United fan before the long era of success began in the “90s; when crunching out a lucky win at Birmingham was a source of joy, not of relief. Often I wish I was a Tottenham supporter instead. I might have been one, had I not followed English football before I lived in London in the mid-80s. Living initially in Finsbury Park, Tottenham were a local team, and the first game I went to see in England was at White Heart Lane (2-2 against West Ham, Boxing Day “84). Anyway, Manchester United might be winning all manner of trophies, but they probably are never going to be in the running for a Mercury Prize. Come On You Reds, from 1994, was a collaboration with Status Quo (how uncool is that?) with all the horribleness a mix of two-chord rock and football chanting implies. Two years later, United went for a dance track which might well be the nadir of the genre with Move Move Move.

West Ham Utd – I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles.mp3
Not the Michael Jackson song. West Ham might have been impressive in that game against Tottenham on Boxing Day “84, coming from 2-0 down, but soon after I heard that the slippery runway in Munich song was very popular down Boleyn Ground. So I never liked them much. But you have to admire a club that has sung the same anthem for 80 years, as West Ham have with I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles. Originally a Broadway show tune from 1918, the song was introduced to West Ham in the late 1920s in homage of a player nicknamed Bubbles, one Billy Murray. West Ham also reminds me of the times I met the Man Utd legend George Best, who used to patronise the restaurant where I was working as as waiter. One conversation I remember vividly, involving that Sunday”s game between West Ham and Man Utd. Best, who was at that game, gave me a match summary, and we both bemoaned how crap Man Utd were playing and commiserated with each other about Bryan Robson”s latest injury.

For more football-related music and Euro “08 blogging, visit the excellent 200percent blog.

1985

July 23rd, 2007 3 comments

A great year in which I got to see loads of concerts. In 1985 I was a huge U2 fan, and saw them in successive weeks at Milton Keynes, at Phoenix Park in Dublin, and at Torhout in Belgium, and in between saw Bruce Springsteen twice at Wembley Stadium. I rounded off the summer by being at Live Aid, which despite its largely crap music was a fantastic event. I had another unrequited crush on a McGirl (the lovely Lucy McGrath) and got to meet a lot of famous people while working in a restaurant in Chelsea. A great year indeed.

Big Sound Authority – This House (Is Where Our Love Stands).mp3
I saw the Big Sound Authority live at Camden Town in January 1985, a really good gig, and thought they’d make it big. This fine soul-pop song (released in late 1984 but a top 20 UK hit in ’85) apart, they never did. Puzzling and, indeed, it’s almost perverse. The brass was rather brilliant, the sound was rich and energetic, and singer Julie Hadwen had a mighty voice for a petite woman. She is still recording, it seems. Video of “This House” here.

The Colourfield – Thinking Of You.mp3
Another one hit top 20 wonder. The Colourfield was the new group of Terry Hall, formerly of the Specials and Fun Boy Three. This is a cute song, with its vaguely Bossa Nova guitar and Hall’s slightly flat singing complemented by Katrina Phillips vocals. Video here.

Strawberry Switchblade – Since Yesterday.mp3
I saw Strawberry Switchblade, who looked like the cutest Goth girls, supporting Howard Jones (yeah, I know, I know) in 1984, and was quite smitten. When the enchanting “Since Yesterday” (video) rose up the charts, I was very excited: the first act I had seen play live before they hit the big time. Alas, this remained the only big time they hit, even though their cover of “Jolene” was excellent. Idiot record buying public. For more Strawberry Switchblade music, right click and open into a new window/tab out this treasure trove of rare tracks. (previously uploaded)

Killing Joke – Love Like Blood.mp3
Killing Joke were the original grunge band, except on “Love Like Blood” they sounded like a U2 and Soundgarden hybrid (we didn’t know that yet, of course, because Soundgarden didn’t exist). Truth be told, I have little time for much else by Killing Joke but the Night Time album which yielded this track.

Duran Duran – A View To A Kill.mp3
Well, Duran Duran had to be accommodated at some point in an ’80s review. The theme song to Roger Moore’s funniest Bond movie, “A View To A Kill” had a great video. Simon Le Bon and his wife Yasmin used to frequent the restaurant where I worked (I once gave his serviette to a Duran fan I knew; it was the only time I know of that I brought a girl to an orgasm without touching her). In 1986, the British tabloids played up Yasmin’s pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage. At one point, when the whole press hype had died down, the Le Bons patronised the restaurant. As usual, we waiters were discreet and pretended not to recognise the celebs. Except Juan, a huge, extravagantly camp winewaiter from Spain, who moseyed over to Simon and Yasmin, and gormlessly asked: “And how is the baby”? Ouch. To Simon’s credit, he responded simply: “I think you have the wrong couple”.

Godley & Creme – Cry.mp3
The 10cc veteran’s surprise hit reminds me of the Heysel Stadium disaster, its chart run broadly coinciding with that traumatic event. It’s a good song, but it scraped into the top 20 on strength of a great, groundbreaking video, with faces morphing into one another (an overdone device since, but very remarkable in 1985). I love the chipmunk “cry” at the end of the song.

Marillion – Kayleigh.mp3
I got into Marillion the previous year, with tracks like “Punch And Judy” and “She Chameleon” (which I nearly uploaded for the ’84 trip). Those tracks sound terrible now, horrendous prog rock. I don’t remember much about Misplaced Childhood, from which this song came. I don’t think I liked it very much. But “Kayleigh” I loved so much, I even bought the 12″ picture disc. I left it behind when I departed from London in 1987; my records were supposed to be sent on to me in South Africa, but never were. I hope the picture disc is worthless now. It probably isn’t.

Bruce Springsteen – Trapped (live).mp3
Long a Springsteen concert staple, Broooce played this Jimmy Cliff cover on his 1985 tour, a highlight in the 3-hour show as the band builds up to a crescendo and then dramatically drops in unison to let Roy Bittan’s keyboard hum on quietly. This recording appeared on the We Are The World compilation, but we shouldn’t hold that against it.

The Pogues – Sally Maclennane (live).mp3
I bought the single for the b-side, a particularly version rousing of “The Wild Rover”, the greatest drinking song of them all. That is no reflection on “Sally Maclennane”, which was on the album anyway (this file is a live recording). Few acts can make you feel so happy one minute, and then make you weep as the Pogues do (you try to laugh when you hear “Thousands Are Sailing” or “Streets of Sorrow/Brimingham Six”).

China Crisis – Black Man Ray.mp3
It was never really cool to like China Crisis, at a time when uncool was not yet the new cool. 1982’s “Christian” and 1984’s “Wishful Thinking” were fine songs, but “Black Man Ray” (from Flaunt The Imperfection, produced by Steely Dan’s Walter Becker) is the classic in the China Crisis canon.

Maze feat. Frankie Beverley – Too Many Games.mp3
One of my all-time favourite soul groups. In 1985 Maze announced a five-nighter at the Hammersmith Odeon. I hurried from Archway, where I lived, to Hammersmith to buy my ticket (as I often did) before having to go to Chelsea for work. When I arrived, people were queuing around the block. I couldn’t join the long line of Wide Boys, and even the ticket agencies were sold out. It still hurts to have missed the gigs; Maze were an incredible band in concert, as their two live albums prove (and DVDs thereof). “Too Many Games” is a great song, a real ’80s soul favourite of mine; but it scraped into the Top 40 on the back of its flipside, the funk instrumental “Twilight”, a club
fave at the time.

New Order – Sub Culture.mp3
Like the “1-2-3-4-5” of XTC’s “Senses Working Overtime”, so is the chorus of this piece of electro bombast burnt into my subconscious. I tend to spontaneously break out into singing the line, “What do I get out of this, I always try, I always miss”. I think it might be the anthem of my life.

Feargal Sharkey – A Good Heart.mp3
I forgive Feargal Sharkey a lot for having been an Undertone, even this unworthy #1 hit. Actually, it’s quite a sweet song, but not as nearly good as the soulful “Loving You” from earlier that year (reaching only #26). Around the time “A Good Heart” was a hit, one of my three flatmates, David, took me out clubbing. We went to Golders Green where his friend Camilla lived, so that we could drive to Charing Cross in her car. As we were ready to leave, the backdoors opened, and on both sides two black chicks got in, one pretty, the other quite ugly. They said “hello”. Their voices were deep. So the nickname Camp David was not a reference to the US president’s holiday home. The plan obviously was to take straight dude to a gay club, flanked by crossdressers. And so we ended up at Heaven. Initially I was nervous, but once inside I relaxed. It was a liberating experience to be clubbing without invoking the “How Soon Is Now” scenario of not having scored. I was very flattered when I was approached by guys wanting to buy me a drink. I declined but rather enjoyed the notion that here was a club where I could pull, if only I was gay….

The Waterboys – The Whole Of The Moon.mp3
More evidence that the British record-buying public have always been idiots. This work of utter genius (about an utter genius) reached only #26 in the charts. At the same time, Paul McCartney’s Frog Chorus was making a run on the top 10, and the same sort of imbeciles who propelled the unspeakable Jennifer Rush to the top of the charts in June were now buying Elton John’s revolting “Nikita” instead of “The Whole Of The Moon”. Grrrr…

U2 – Bad (live).mp3
My all-time favourite U2 song, which provided one of the few musical and dramatic highlights at Live Aid (remember a mulletted Bono dragging the girl from the crowd for a dance. I bet she was terrified that she’d have to screw the chief roadie later for the privilege. She certainly did look petrified). At the concerts in June, Bono would ad lib some lines from “Do They Know It’s Christmas” during the performance of “Bad”. Except he’d sing “do they know that springtime is coming”. There is no springtime anywhere in June, Bono. Even metaphorically, Band Aid was hardly going to create a symbolic springtime for the starving Ethiopians, just a bit of relief. This proves that Bono was a self-important idiot even in his pre-shades years. Nonetheless, “Bad” is a great song, and he doesn’t do that Band Aid shit on this fine performance from the Wide Awake In America EP, which was released in the US for no good reason whatsoever in 1985. (Below, my pic of Bono at Torhout. Even from far away, you can make out his horrid mullet).