Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Songs for the world: World Cup anthems through the ages, 1962 - 2018

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is now clearly on the horizon.  Bags are packed. Television schedules memorized. The air is thick with anticipation.  But.....this year the FA has done the unthinkable and packed off the England team WITHOUT AN OFFICIAL SONG!

But do not despair.  At soccermadboffins we have decided to look back at some classics from World Cup history and also bring you news of a brand new unofficial 'anthem' which provides a call-to-arms for the nation at this important time in lieu of any official England World Cup single.

Blasts From the Past (avoiding the usual suspects...)

'El Rock del Mundial' by Los Ramblers (1962)

Not only the first ever world cup song, but also one of the best. This upbeat rockabilly barnstormer got the world cup anthem genre off to a rockin' start despite arguably catching only the tail-end of the original rockabilly movement.  At just two minutes fourty-seven seconds long, and incorprating referees whistles, a singing crowd, and the word 'goooooaaaal' a lot, plus obligatory twangy guitar solo, hand-claps and thumping bass line, this track was custom built for radio airplay.  Whether it achieved that is another matter entirely. An unfortunate fate for many more world cup songs to come.

'World Cup Willie' by Lonnie Donegan (1966)
Our first choice was not so much an England team song, so much as a song for the entire World Cup Finals, albeit hosted (and won) by England.

'World Cup Willie', performed by the by then somewhat over the hill skiffle superstar Lonnie Donegan of 'my old man's a dustman' fame, missed the zeitgeist of the British beat boom like an England semi-penalty.  But it did score in the earworm stakes, Donegan's classic rhyming couplets doing much to raise public awareness as to the tournament and the first ever world cup mascot.

We are not sure if 'World Cup Willie' ever reached the UK charts, although it is remembered fondly as a nostalgia piece.  The track was played before each fixture over the stadium public address systems, although that does not seem to have boosted sales.

Interestingly by 1976 Donegan's hits were drying up and he released the less well known 'I've Lost My Little Willie' although a cursory listen reveals the song is not as good and seems to be an attempt to emulate Chuck Berry's 'My Ding A Ling', a hit for Berry two years earlier.

'Back Home' by The England Squad (1970)

'Back Home' was significant as it was the first in a series of England team songs actually sang by the team themselves.  Released by Pye Records (who were also Lonnie Donegan's record company) in a period when records were usually promoted by getting the whole team on Top of the Pops, the record was a no 1 in the UK. Factoid: The England team also performed a B side, the long forgotten 'Cinnamon Stick' which we've never heard of either.

The tune for 'Back Home' had a legacy in that it was adopted as the theme tune for Fantasy Football League in the 1990s.

'Easy Easy' by the Scotland Squad (1974) and 'Ole Ola' / 'Que Sera Sera' by Rod Stewart + The Scotland Squad (1978)

Released for the 1974 edition of the FIFA World Cup, 'Easy, Easy' was a glam-rock foot stomper notable for its Bay City Rollers influence, clearly a cash-in on the Edinburgh based tartan-clad boy band's appeal at that time.

Denis Law might have looked a bit like Rod Stewart but he certainly didn't have the same singing voice, and it is possible to imagine Rod's reaction to not being asked to perform the song himself, something that the Scottish FA remedied in 1978 when Rod sang with the Scotland World Cup songs 'Ole Ola' and 'Que Sera Sera' for the Argentina 1978 World Cup.

The single qualified for the UK Top 10 before exiting quite quickly - much like the team itself.

'Yer Man' by Dana & The Northern Ireland Squad (1982)

Northern Ireland's campaign in the 1982 World Cup is best known for their 1-0 victory over Spain following Gerry Armstrong's iconic goal to get out of the group stages.  But Eurovision winner Dana (who had actually represented the Republic of Ireland) also got in on the action, teaming up with Northern Ireland's squad to riff on the traditional riff of rain in Spain in this amusing little song characterised by its 'viva Northern Ireland refrain'.

'Put 'em Under Pressure' (We're All Part of Jackie's Army) - Produced by Larry Mullen

Dynamic Celtic Rock in the style of Horslips or Thin Lizzy, interspersed with sampled quotes from manager 'Big Jack' Charlton, himself a former world cup winner from the 1966 England team.  The song seems to be a patchwork quilt of Irish rock music and terrace chant singing with the Jack Charlton quotes laid over the top of the whole glorious racket.

Superior to the England effort from the same year (an overly earnest collaboration between the England squad and synth-poppers New Order with a John Barnes middle-eight rap), but unfortunately not as well remembered.

'If I Can Dream' - Terry Venables

El Tel is almost as famous for his entrepreneurship as for his football career.  In 2010, the former England coach released a single, a cover version of Elvis' 'If I Can Dream' despite having retired from management several years before.

The song is a bit dreary but the audacity of a former England coach, whose relationship with the English FA had reportedly been somewhat strained, releasing a World Cup single when England  were competing in the tournament is quite amusing.

A fast-paced punk rock n’ roll tune released as an ‘unofficial’ England anthem to coincide with the South Africa 2010 World Cup.   Power chords rain down as a London accent barks lyrics about English working life in offices, markets, factories and docks, and England footballers of the day.  It’s slightly reminiscent of the Anti-Nowhere League’s infamous punk classic ‘So What’, however, the main hook and best bit of the songs is a ‘tannoy’ announcement paraphrasing Corporal Jones from Dad’s Army: ‘will the English supporters please note that the Germans do not like it up ‘em!’. Worth a listen for that alone! An instant classic. That should have topped the charts for the entire summer, but of course didn’t get anywhere near the charts because the British public has no taste.

'Red, White & Blue' by Alexi Lalas (2014)

After rising to fame at the 1994 FIFA World Cup, the 'grunge footballer' from the USA, Alexi Lalas then cashed in - firstly with a transfer to Italian giants AC Milan, then more recently with a tongue-in-cheek country song 'red, white and blue' with all-American lyrics such as "in ‘98 we lost to Iran, I nearly drove my truck off the Hoo-ver dam".

An anthem for 2018?

There might not be an official England squad single for the 2018 World Cup, but in this day and age of social media there is no end of unofficial attempts at creating a new football national anthem.  One of the most memorable videos we’ve seen from the current crop is for ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ by The Tallywags, a sort of punk rock supergroup comprising Paul Cook (the drummer from the Sex Pistols and The Professionals), Tom Spencer (The YoYos, The Professionals, The Men They Couldn’t Hang, The Loyalties) Chris McCormack (The Professionals, Three Colours Red), his brother Danny McCormack (The Wildhearts, The YoYos) and Olga (Toy Dolls).

The video begins with an old man in red and white football scarf sat in his garden shed, opening a box containing a newspaper from 1966 reporting the theft of the Jules Rimet Trophy.

Without giving away the entire plot, we can tell you that he’s transported to a ‘local’ football facility where The Tallywags are performing.

A book of world cup memories is opened and flicks through headlines of England’s ‘near misses’ in the competition over the decades.

Then the fun really begins: An actor made-up to look like a comedic Diego Maradona re-enacts the infamous ‘hand of God’ incident, followed by more actors in a variety of low budget disguises re-enacting other incidents, only with the outcome changed: So Gazza crying at Italia 90 has his yellow card torn up, David Seaman doesn’t get lobbed from the halfway line in 2002, Chris Waddle (resplendent with brilliant nylon mullet wig) puts his penalty in the back of the net, and history is re-written each time, with newspaper headlines declaring ‘England wins its 14th consecutive World Cup’.

Its self-depricating English humour and terrace-chant choruses in the tradition of previous unofficial England World Cup singles ‘Three Lions’ and ‘Vindaloo’.  Given their use of all things historic/nostalgic in the video, we decided to contact the Tallywags Tom Spencer to find out more.

Interview with World Cup Songwriter Tom Spencer

Alex: Hello Tom, how’s things? Tell us about how this new project The Tallywags came into being. It seems to be a bit of an amalgamation of several bands you’ve been involved with.  You even have a Sex Pistol in the band?

Tom: I’m playing in ‘The Professionals’ now with Paul Cook (ex-Sex Pistols drummer), there’s the first obvious connection. The others may be from my past musically, but I still see them regularly out and about – for example Chis McCormack is now in the Professionals too.

Alex: I’m familiar with some of your back catalogue and listening to the melody and the lyrics of this World Cup song I’m guessing you were one of the songwriters? How did the song come about?

Tom: Yes, I came up with the original draft of the song.  I read a lot of historical fiction. I love the Flashman books. The obvious parody of the charge of the light brigade hit me - England charging towards inevitable doom. But also that there’s always hope. I mean there are people out there from Panama and Iran that are dreaming of winning. It’s only 7 games to win it. Outsiders do come in - occasionally.

Alex: I used to go and watch your old band The YoYos play almost every week in and around London.  I even got to play a gig with you guys once when my own band was invited by a local promoter to be the support act.   Those were great days, but the YoYos didn’t quite get the success that you should have had, and the band seemed to split in negative circumstances. However, I hear that this new Tallywags project sees you reunited with your old YoYos pal Danny McCormack (brother of the aforementioned Chris)?

Tom: We needed a bass player. As I said we’re in regular contact, especially since his recent leg related troubles. He jumped (well hopped) at the chance to be on it. I believe it’s also the first time him and his brother Chris have been on the same recording - an exclusive!!

Alex: Back to football –  which teams do you support?

Tom: I support QPR. They last won something in 1967, England obviously in 1966. It’s about time I tasted football glory. I’ve learnt to party when we avoid relegation.

Alex: For this new Tallywags single ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ were you influenced by any previous World Cup singles from previous tournaments?

Tom: There’s been so many crap football songs.  I’m more influenced by Chas n’ Dave’s Tottenham songs - even though I’m a QPR fan - or ‘Swords of A Thousand Men’  by Ten Pole Tudor.

Alex: Who do you think will win the World Cup this time around? Does England have much chance to progress beyond the Group Stage?

Tom: I think England will progress. Then it’s 4 games to win the World Cup - anything can happen. Maybe this time we’ll get lucky. Bad luck has been at the heart of our previous failures. As well as overconfidence - this time we’re going in with less expectation - Charge of the Light Brigade, into the breach!
Then again Brazil are still smarting and have a point to prove. I can see them winning.

Alex: Will the Tallywags be touring at all so we can hear the song played live?

Tom: No the Tallywags won’t ever tour.  I guess if England do well the whole line up are playing rebellion festival this August. We could take to the stage for a one song performance. Or maybe the Profs will play it? Just once....and only if we win the World Cup!!

Charge of the Light Brigade by The Tallywags is available now via Spotify, iTunes, or buy it here as a limited edition CD single. The video is available on Youtube.

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