Music and football get on about as well as the couples that appear on Trisha and, as Taylor Parkes found out, this year's World Cup songs show nothing has changed. Worst of all, England's two 1966 final goalscorers put one in their own net this time
Despite FIFA’s worst efforts, the World Cup remains a commercial free-for-all – professional flagmakers, at least, will drink to that. In the case of World Cup records, this has created a (relative) meritocracy, in the sense that which song is “official” and which isn’t matters not a jot. Who remembers Boom, Anastacia’s official “anthem” of the 2002 World Cup? Or Ricky Martin’s France 98 classic The Cup of Life? England fans have often been unimpressed by officially sanctioned musical product, the exceptions being World In Motion and Three Lions, often choosing homespun rubbish such as Vindaloo or Three Lions retreads over branded nightmares from the Spice Girls, Simply Red or Ant & Dec. Perhaps the FA have just given up, since offering the contract for this year’s England song to never-popular misery-guts Embrace looks very much like a joke. Although, after hearing The World at our Feet, no one’s smiling.
No shortage of chancers have moved to fill the vacuum – more than 100, at the last count. No surprise that TalkSport, the radio station of choice for people who paint a St George’s cross on to their pitbull’s face all the year round, are first off the mark with the depressingly-titled We’re England, a horror to rank with their miserably successful Euro 2004 effort (and not hindered by near-hourly radio play). Joe Fagin’s theme from Auf Wiedersehen Pet returns like a rat as That’s England Alright, while Graham Coxon, once the “sensitive” member of Blur, slams into reverse by joining Jimmy Pursey to rewrite Sham 69’s going-down-the-pub tub-thump as Hurry up England. Justin Hawkins’ British Whale keep sucking at The Darkness’s one idea, like an empty Kia-Ora carton: perhaps England is the final slurp. DJ Mick Brown is best known for his Eighties collaboration with his Waddle-haired fellow Capital Radio jock Pat Sharpe, as Pat & Mick – Sing for England will do nothing to change that. And since no bandwagon would be complete without ringtone villain Crazy Frog, the lost third Ferdinand brother chips in with a much-needed cover of We are the Champions. Poor Tony Christie, never allowed to sleep – you don’t even have to hear (Is this the Way to) The World Cup? to feel the desperation. “The group stage is easy,” he sings – “we should win all three.” Anything you say, Tone. You’d know.
Of the also-rans, the boldest and perhaps worst are Branded, flopping forth with Tits Out for the Lads, a female-fronted ode to breast-baring on demand. Lighten up darlin’, it’s only a bit of fun! “No more Brazil nutters!” they whoop. “No more sour krauts!” Just honest, pink English tits. Ing-er-land! The Terraces, the kind of New Wave comedy band we thought had died with The Freshies, answer the world’s prayers with a rewrite of Tenpole Tudor’s Wunderbar, New Cross punks Koopa thrash through the unedifying Stand up 4 England, while The Lions Roar will ensure no one forgets the names of Andy Mudd & Lee Watson. Sing it for England by Young Stanley at least has some melodic content, a swaying, Estuary-accented mixture of The Jam, Madness and a useless load of old crap. No Reason must surely be the only Welsh band to wish England well in song, but then they do sell themselves on the fact they feature one James Rooney, “first cousin” to yer man. They also sing flatter than the top of Michael Owen’s head.
Gaylord Vincent sounds less like a terrace hero than something you would shout at Vinnie Jones if you were suicidal, so it’s probably inevitable that Watching England Win Again has set nothing alight. See also Mikal Blue, would-be indie pin-up, rather fey and breathy for the task at hand – before singing This One’s for England, I suspect Mike had only ever used the phrase “come on lads” while backing away from large men in pubs who had noticed his eye make-up. At the other end of the scale, English Pride don’t mess around: “This time England won’t choke/and we won’t be the joke/victory is near/savva nuvva beer.”
On the Road Again by Peter Loucas updates Sheena Easton’s 9 to 5, rather amusingly (“When Dave and me’s together, then lions fly”), though lines like “He puts it through to Rooney who pushes it past Veron” suggest Peter is anticipating a different World Cup to the rest of us. Billy Bragg soundalikes The Reclaimers promote Onwards the Few with a Celt-infuriating quote from the real Billy Bragg: “Britain is a multicultural society and we should all be proud to be English.” Which would be fine, except that the lyrics are almost entirely composed of references to the Second World War, and are rather specific about “the English race”.
Only a short step from there to the hotly tipped Who do you think you are kidding, Jurgen Klinsmann by The Tone-Def Allstars, favoured by such types as the Sun and Chris Evans. Predictably, it is beyond parody, an unsavoury rewrite of the Dad’s Army theme from a gang of has-been mercenaries such as Frank Bruno, ARP-helmet-wearing survivor Bill Pertwee, and – soul-crushingly – Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters. It’s hard to know what’s more depressing: the idea that ye olde heroes of ’66 are now so aimless and bewildered that they’ll go along with anything they’re asked, or the thought they might honestly believe in this balls. Like many of these gruff anti-classics, this says more about England than they could ever imagine.
Perhaps the Allstars should take a tip from insalubrious but honest Dutch rockers Lopend Vuur, backing Holland with Es Ist Vorbei (Marco Ist Zuruch). “We recorded it in German,” they explain. “So those wankers can understand it.”
From WSC 233 July 2006. What was happening this month