England Football Songs – 1994: ‘Goal Goal Goal’ by James

The timeline of English football anthems continues despite the lack of a team to sing one at.

Just to prove how seriously I’m taking this English Football Songs project, I’m sticking to chronological order and moving to 1994…when England didn’t actually qualify for the World Cup. Damn.

England Football songs 1994

When I was nine years old and didn’t grasp the concept of qualification groups, I was a bit baffled by the fact that England were not appearing at the World Cup. I remember thinking, well it’s the World Cup, England are part of The World, why aren’t they here? Such logic would doubtless also have occurred to children in countries like Japan, France and Uruguay, who also didn’t make it to what turned out to be the best-ever attended World Cup, held in stadiums all over the USA.

English finished third in qualifying behind the Netherlands and Norway; both strong teams at the time, but for whatever reason things never came together for England. The final insult came in the final match against San Marino – a team who has won precisely one professional game in their two decades of existence. With less than ten seconds on the clock, San Marino scored against England. England would win 7-1 in the end, but it was also to be the end of manager Graham Taylor, whose memorable catchphrase “Do I not like that” was also uttered for the first time during the campaign.

Graham Taylor England football music

A trip to the States was always going to be something of a culture shock for the staunchest upholders of the beautiful game in its purest form; especially when viewers were treated to an opening ceremony which featured Diana Ross taking a run-up from the centre circle to hit a penalty kick which, despite slicing wide, would still cause the goals to break in half and collapse dramatically. The home nations’ hopes rested on the Republic of Ireland, who almost melted in the searing heat but still managed an appearance in the second round before also succumbing to the Netherlands.

But meanwhile, in Peter Gabriel’s studio:

 

Recorded sometime in 1993 during sessions with Brian Eno that would form the albums Laid and Wah Wah, Goal Goal Goal is a re-recorded version of the song Low Low Low which appeared on the former album, with different lyrics which are a little less pessimistic about the ‘ape-like race’ we’re a part of, and a bit more passionate about ‘breaking the laws of gravity’ with a free kick. It’s pretty decent but I can’t say it would’ve got the blood going like previous and future entries would. Then again, with the England team of that time playing how they did, nothing short of a miracle would’ve got fans’ blood going.

Laid is, of course, a brilliant album, with some absolutely stunning songs like One of the Three, Out To Get You, Lullaby and Sometimes. It’s a bit of a step down in groove for James at this point; the ‘mellow’ album, with a surprising lack of sonic experimentation considering it was produced by Brian Eno. It being made in 1993, the acoustic, ambient feel also gives you the impression that Madchester had given everyone a rather bad hangover which this album was made to cure.

If you’d not heard the original version of Low Low Low (which I hadn’t until at least ten years later) you’d think it a fairly standard rocking tune but nothing special. According to James fansite One Of The Three, the band had fully intended to put this song forward for official release for the World Cup until England failed to qualify. It’s actually a bit of a rarity; appearing only on Gloryland, the official World Cup 94 album, and as a B-side on 1999 single Just Like Fred Astaire, which was where I heard it for the first time. The A-side is better though – just give it a listen:

 

They may not be the first band you think of when looking back at football songs, but I would certainly consider them an authority; singer Tim Booth is a Leeds United fan. That’s all the proof I need!

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