5 Best Football Songs You (Probably) Haven’t Heard
Monday morning, 6am, 25th June 2012. As per usual my alarm goes off at an annoyingly early time (the perils of living in a small flat with your teacher girlfriend…) and as per usual it is tuned in to the heady sound of BBC Radio 5 Live.
Except, it isn’t really BBC Radio 5 Live. The build up to the news bulletin is not there, and in its place we get…
Of course…England are out of Euro 2012. And as has become the vogue in recent times we used pop music to highlight the fact. Tracks like “Dry Your Eyes” by The Streets, “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” by Oasis and “Walkaway” by Cast have become synonymous with England failure at major tournaments, no doubt to the great pleasure of Mike Skinner, Noel Gallagher and John Power (and their bank managers).
But football music isn’t all about sadness and misery, blokes blubbing into their Stella and effigies being hung from lamp posts. We also get the pre-tournament, joyous, blokes-holding-their-arms-aloft-and-spilling-their-Stella, effigies-of-the-rest-of-Europe’s-stars songs. The songs are rolled out every two years and played on pub jukeboxes up and down the country. Three Lions, World In Motion, Vindaloo and to a lesser extent On The Ball, Back Home and Diamond Lights (ok, maybe not the latter).
But while Ian Broudie, Barney Sumner, Keith Allen and the rest count their royalties pre-tournament (I can’t confirm whether Waddle and Hoddle actually wrote “Diamond Lights”, hence their exclusion), does anybody ever stop and think…are these songs ACTUALLY any good? Three Lions has a nice mix of chest thumping patriotism and realistic ambition (until they start saying “no more years of hurt”…), but Frank Skinner and David Baddiel aren’t the first people that spring to mind when you try to think of “good singers” (or “singers” for that matter). World In Motion was unquestionably cool…for a football song. If New Order had released it as an ordinary single, sans the John Barnes rap, would you rank it in their top five? Or even top ten? No.
But there are SOME good songs about football (or at least influenced by football) out there. Songs that you might not have heard, or might have chosen not to hear, but if you dig around then you might just be surprised.
Morrisey – Roy’s Keen
Morrisey has a peculiar relationship with football. In 2003 he claimed to have stopped following the game, claiming he’d still watch it only if they “used politicians instead of balls”. His Hollywood home famously had a picture of Bobby Moore hung in the front room (although this was apparently due to the row of terraced houses in the background) and throughout the 90s he had “Cantona 7″ emblazoned on his tambourine.
But Morrissey’s back catalogue is surprisingly sprinkled with songs about the “beautiful game”. His 2004 single “Irish Blood, English Heart” featured the b-side “Munich Air Disaster 1958″ but it is a 1997 single taken from his poorly-received album “Maladjusted” that stands out.
A song about a window-cleaner. Called Roy. Who’s apparently very “keen”. A very thinly veiled tribute to the then United captain, “Roy’s Keen” failed to crack the top 40 but was voted the best “lost” Top of the Pops performance by TOTP2 viewers.
The Fall – Theme from Sparta FC
If you don’t include Garth Crooks then Mark E Smith is undoubtedly the strangest man to feature on BBC Final Score. Not only did he famously read the classified results in his thick Mancunian brogue but those very results are now introduced with a burst from his fantastic 2005 song “Theme From Sparta FC”.
The song revolves around a bunch of savages and warns “English Chelsea fans/this is your last game/we’re not Galatasaray/we are Sparta FC!”. It’s menacing, frenetic and absolutely brilliant.
Half Man Half Biscuit – All I Want For Christmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit
The go to band for football fans who find their songs funny because they mention “Bob Wilson” and “Borussia Moenchengladbach”. But HMHB are a fantastic band and one of their most incisive pop culture references happens to be a song about Subbuteo.
The song evokes memories of playing round at a friend’s house as a child, a friend with better toys who bends the rules to beat you and is the apple of his mother’s eye. Plus it had the fantastic phrase “your travelling army of synthetic supporters”, a phrase that sums up the fanbase of certain Premier League teams perfectly…
The Proclaimers – The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues
And I would walk 500 miles! And I would walk 500 more!
That’s what you think of when you think of The Proclaimers, isn’t it? It is, don’t lie. Surprisingly it wasn’t their biggest hit until the Comic Relief re-release a few years ago (Letter From America reached #3 in the charts) but apart from being Frankie Boyle doppelgängers and purveyors of Caledonian folk pop the Reid twins are also big Hibernian fans.
While there are numerous mentions of Hibs throughout their back catalogue the best comes in “The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues”, a song about hitchhiking to Ayrshire to see Hibernian play Kilmarnock and not really enjoying it enough to stay permanently (i.e. an ode to the magic of Edinburgh…I don’t get it either). A strange premise for a song but it makes for a nice wee toe tapper.
The Streets – Not Addicted
Now this is the Mike Skinner song that people should think of when they think of football, not “Dry Your Eyes”.
A song full of dread and tension and based around a luckily aborted trip to the bookies to bet on the “blues to beat the reds” (always a mistake in my opinion). Skinner admits in the song that he doesn’t know the first thing about football, but judging by some of the dross that gets pumped into the charts at every major tournament I don’t think it really matters.