The history of English football songs, tune by tune.
I wasn’t sure when starting this article whether to keep it chronological or just start with a good one – writing about New Order’s 1990 effort World In Motion means I still won’t have to decide just yet.
First things first, I bloody love New Order; they are without a doubt one of my favourite bands in the world. It was songs like this which originally didn’t fit in with my teenage attitude of keyboards = crap, but as most kids who go from baggy shorts to skinny jeans will tell you, tastes change.
Of course I loved Joy Division before I loved New Order, even while I was halfway between shorts and jeans I could easily fall for a heartfelt and raw sound; a bit of both if you will. I wrote to the 16-year old me for The Awkward Magazine a while back and remember telling myself that I wouldn’t stay obsessed with Rancid and Bad Religion all my life.
It will have been while studying in Manchester and being subjected to all sounds Factory in dingy nightclubs that I first gained an appreciation for New Order. My best mate lending me all their CDs helped a bit too, but much as I love this band, I’m not really keen on this. As a standalone song it’s a pretty decent effort for the 1990 World Cup, but as a song by one of my favourites I still can’t figure out for the life of me how the band which had just put out Technique had gotten to this:
Well, I can always start by blaming Keith Allen, can’t I; he’ll be back later on as well but I’m not really sure what it is he actually does. One of the things I do know is that he co-wrote this track (and directed one of their later videos) so I assume he was just matey with the group around this time.
I do quite like the video, too; I was five years old in 1990 but my god, this video is so 1990. Those England kits, those haircuts – Chris Waddle’s mullet is iconic, while even Peter Hook ties his hair back in a bid to resemble Rob Van Dam (there’s also a point where he dips a shoulder and looks to the sky…if he pointed the other finger he’d have posed like Sabu)
And the music itself is strange. It’s poppy but also dance-y – a bit of a progression from their Technique album but just a touch more welcoming. New Order were – are, minus Hook – fantastic musicians but being on Factory Records gave them a mystique which was more than just refusing to do interviews, it was an added bit of flair that lifted the group out of the reach of other groups in the late 80s.
So what of the England team? Well, put it this way: getting away from the clean-cut Hit Factory which gave us that 1988 shambles was certainly a good move; at Euro 1988 England crashed out of their group, finishing bottom and losing all three games. While not a completely stripped-out team, there were a good few notable additions for the 1990 World Cup. David Platt and Paul Gascoigne made their first tournament appearances at Italia ’90 – and both were massively on the case with their youthful contribution to the squad. Lineker and Beardsley were still the frontmen, while Stuart Pearce had got into the side and provided some assists – including an assisted penalty kick right at the goalkeeper in their semi-final defeat against West Germany.
Also appearing in the tournament was John Barnes. I never rated him as a footballer but goddamn, can that man rap. I read somewhere that he’d been spotted on holiday recently and asked to ‘do the rap’, which apparently he did without getting a syllable wrong. God bless you, John Barnes.
So there you have it. A Manchester band on the verge of superstardom thanks to Madchester meets an England team who got their shit together to make the nation proud. And John Barnes rapped. Oh boy, did he rap.