England Football Songs – 1998: And we all like vindaloo…

Fat Les used ‘Humour’ in Vindaloo! It wasn’t very effective…

When I finally got a copy of this CD a couple of years after release (thanks to some shrewd bargaining at a car boot sale) I remember being quite pleased with myself.

That was before I’d remembered how much I disliked the video.


So the video for Vindaloo by Fat Less opens on Paul Kaye, who cuts a lonely pace down the street in homage to a video by The Verve, which was itself a tribute to an earlier Massive Attack video. Kaye’s loner character bumps shoulder-to-shoulder with all the uncaring people he passes, before Keith Allen starts to gather a crowd behind him to the marching beat that is the song.

French maids, mimes, people swinging takeaway food bags and doing the na na naaaah bit of the chorus – I don’t know if smug Keith Allen really loves this lad culture thing or is just trying to lampoon it, but either way it’s bloody annoying. I’m also saddened to note the presence of singer and former Crystal Maze host Ed Tudor-Pole in this video.

I think it’s because I actually like that Verve song and video – even now – so got a bit annoyed to see such a bad stab at ‘spoofing’ it, the same way I feel now whenever Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse appear together onscreen to ‘riff’ on something that they can’t do justice to.

Considering the role Allen played in co-writing and making sense of World In Motion, the lyrics for this are entirely nonsensical. I don’t know if it’s actually true but apparently he just needed a rhyme for ‘Waterloo’, which was obviously the pinnacle of English imperialism and really needed to go into a song about football. And while we’re at it, ‘we’re gonna score one more than you’ isn’t the all-conquering boast you may think it is.

This song was one of the very first instances I can remember that I had an interest in following chart music, and began to feel a bit annoyed that certain songs got overplayed wherever you went. As the old favourites got played again in successive tournaments I definitely had a feeling of “alright, just sod off now”. But it stayed.

I suppose at the time the country was in need of laughing at itself after the whole Cool Britannia thing had sunk under its own weight, and it’s a catchy enough song – I’m sure there were more football fans humming this than that England United effort – but I didn’t think this was the game-changer like Three Lions was.

Vindaloo football songs

It did, however, just miss out on top spot in 1998 to a slight reworking of Three Lions, with lyrics changed to include the best bits of Euro 96; great songwriting feats such as “and Psycho screaming” – a reference to Stuart Pearce’s elation at not missing another penalty in the quarters against Spain, and “Gazza good as before” – a damning prophecy for the actual tournament in question, confirmed when Paul Gascoigne didn’t even make the 1998 squad.

Fat Les would go on to record a Christmas song, rework Jerusalem for a future tournament, and change their name to Fit Les to get the nation active before the 2012 London Olympics. However, 1998’s Vindaloo was almost certainly the group’s creative and popular peak. And it’s actually annoyed me a little bit to realise that not only does it not hold up now, but it was always a bit naff anyway.

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