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George Best

 

 

Football and music, three words that evoke memories of players singing out of tune and Chas and Dave being dug up ahead of a Spurs appearance in the FA Cup final. Or England Back Home, the dismal Baddiel and Skinner … the list of cultural criminality goes on and on.

Music has often used football for its ill-gotten gains and, on the other side of the coin, the sport has gotten a piggy back from the industry to promote a forthcoming tournament or boost the bank balance of a striker.

Highlights of this meeting of unlikely bedfellows have been few but New Order’s World in Motion is probably the best example of this form of the football song.

However, Porky has been snorting about and discovered the beautiful game and the beautiful sound have often mingled coherently in a lovestruck relationship.

The basis for this discovery was an album by The Barmy Army called the English Disease. Released in 1989, it sounds a little dated now, especially with tracks such as England 2, Yugoslavia 0 and a protest song against a plan in the UK to issue all football hooligans, as the then Conservative Government viewed all fans, with ID cards.

Barmy ArmyThe Barmy Army cut and paste interviews and match commentary, using them ad nauseum; expressing their love of West Ham Utd with snippets of the Hammers theme tune I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles, and songs dedicated to Alan Devonshire and Billy Bonds. On a hit-and-miss (the goalpost) album, the strongest moment is Sharp As a Needle, featuring the Anfield Kop in fine voice, a track beloved by the legendary, yet extraordinarily tedious, DJ, John Peel.

Barmy Army’s experimental dub-football crossover came at a time when indie bands in Britain found inspiration from a game which was, at the time, maligned by hooliganism and stadium disasters.
In 1987, burgeoning Yorkshire indie-wonders, The Wedding Present, looked at the sport’s glorious past, to name their debut album George Best, adorned with a picture of the Northern Irish maestro at his peak.

I, Ludicrous, graduates of The Fall school of witticism, spewed an imponderable number of football-related songs: Quite Extraordinary (piss-take of commentator/ buffoon David Coleman), and We Stand Around (about hardcore fans braving all the elements and bad players).

During this period of rampant hooliganism, one man stood up to fight the good fight, and lead the charge to rid England of the menace of the “English Disease” once and for all. Unfortunately, that man was Colin Moynihan, a short-arsed little bastard who, somehow, was appointed Minister of Sport.

The Conservative regime seemed to regard the role as no greater than the leader of a community council, and so Moynihan became the champion of British sports. I, Ludicrous penned Moynihan Brings Out The Hooligan In Me, on account of his ignorance of the game and the small matter of this bastion of the sporting spirit, running onto (invading?) the pitch when the Great Britain hockey team won gold at the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. Just like a good hooligan would.

Forget that English teams were banned from European club competition on account of their naughty fans, this was when indie music fell in love with football, precisely because of its bad-boy image.

It was a time when The Housemartins named an album, Hull 4, London 0; Tackhead wrote about The Game, sampling commentator Brian Moore; and the Proclaimers reminded the world of Scotland’s love of the game with songs about Hibernian FC (Sunshine on Leith and The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues). Hell, I’ve even got a flexi disk, by an obscure Northern Irish band with a song called The Cross, that came with a Coleraine FC fanzine.

More recently, Britain’s favourite lefty, Billy Bragg, a renowned footy fan, even though he’s from Essex, issued songs such as God’s Footballer and The Few, the latter describing hooligan firms like the Inter City Crew, who were fully aware that any rampage would never be ignored: “These little John Bullshits know that the press will glorify their feats”.

Bragg famously sang, on a song called Sexuality of all things, that he had, ” an Billy Bragguncle who once played, for Red Star Belgrade.”

Ah, yes, Eastern European soccer, the true cult of the sport. And is that a Half Man Half Biscuit song I hear, perhaps I Was A Teenage Armchair Honved Fan, in recognition of Hungarian football, and subbuteo (a game also referenced by The Undertones in My Perfect Cousin: “He flicked to kick, and I didn’t know”), or demanding a Dukla Prague away kit for Christmas.

Recently, football, despite it’s invasive worldwide profile, hasn’t crossed over into music to the same extent, outwith the flurry of piss-poor singles issued in time for the start of a major tournament, using Sham 69 hits and odious comedians.

My own favourite football-related song, even if the core subject is writer Christy Brown, is the Pogues’ Down All the Days, for the line, “And I’ve never been asked, and I’ve never replied, have I supported the Glasgow Rangers,” which can mean many things to many people.

Or there’s the Suppery Furry Animals’ The Man Don’t Give A Fuck, an expletive-ridden tale of eccentric Cardiff City player Robin Friday; the Sultans of Pings’ Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass (“If God meant the game to be played up there, He would’ve put goalposts in the air.”; an unofficial Scottish 1998 World Cup team-up featuring the divine talents of Primal Scream and Irvine Welsh; tracks entitled Stan Bowles (The Others) and Tony Adams (Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros), although the references to those legends are fairly humdrum while Morrissey put Terry Venables on the cover of 1995’s Dagenham Dave.

And just to prove referencing football in song is not a new fad, Gracie Fields recorded Pass, Shoot, Goal in 1931. Fields was apparently a big Rochdale FC fan and even helped them out financially in rough times. Way before Elton John passed upon Watford FC.

I haven’t covered everything, how can I, and there are club/band team-ups that are actually quite good, notably Shane MacGowan and Simple Minds appearing on a charity EP, in tribute to Celtic legend Jimmy Johnstone, plenty of songs by Serious Drinking, or more from I, Ludicrous and Half Man Half Biscuit, and an obscure indie trio from Norwich who issued one single in 1991 and who’s name I haven’t made up yet, blah blah blah, but you get the bloody point.

There’s an old Scottish football song, the original dating from 1885, of which I will reprint the opening verse and chorus:

“You all know my big brither Jock

Miss-hit: Hoddle and Waddle

Miss-hit: Hoddle and Waddle

His right name’s Johnny Shaw.

Last week he jined a fitba’ club
For he’s mad about fitba’.
He’s got two black eyes already,
An’ teeth oot by the root,
Since Jock’s face came in contact
Wi another fella’s boot.

‘Cause he’s fitba’ crazy,
He’s fitba’ mad.
The fitba it has ta’en away
The wee bit sense he had.
And it wid take a dozen servants
His claes tae wash and scrub,
Since Jock became a member o’
That terrible fitba’ club”

Now, please add your own memories …

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steve-earle2

 

Who? Steve Earle and the Del McCoury Band

Title: The Mountain

Label: New West

Tell me more: His name is Earle and he’s an American legend, who once wanted to get it on with Condi Rice, but put the revolution first. The McCoury Band ….. man, you need to look up Wikipedia for that.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Earle takes a punt on bluegrass, and surprisingly comes up smelling up of dew instead of a dead croc. The man is a genius, end of story.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Bluegrass is still bluegrass. Dolly Parton once did it and ended up with the worst review in the Nairnshire Telegraph in the history of that weekly’s music column.

 

oumou1

Who? Oumou Sangare

Title: Seya

Label: World Circuit

Tell me more: Mali’s most female singer, from a country whose obscurity is due to a lack of its football team having never made the World Cup finals. It’s also produced Salif Keita, Ali Farka Toure and Toumani Diabete. Sangare is a UN ambassador, campaigning against world hunger.

Why the fek should I listen to this? I’m gonna give my stereo a break from all that indie, punk and reggae I constantly subject it to for the day. It’s telling me it loves Wassoulou music, the music of an area of Mali.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? You can take a horse to water ….

You may not know: Wassoulou music, traditionally played on a six-strong harp, is believed to possess magical powers that can protect hunters and tame the most dangerous of animals.

 

lay-low1

 

Who? Lay Low

Title: Farewell Good Night’s Sleep

Label: Nettwerk

Tell me more: London-born country music-influenced singer with an Icelandic mother and Sri Lankan father who grew up in Reykjavik. Real name Lovisa Elisabet Sigrunardottir. Best she be called Lay Low.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Doesn’t sound a bit like Bjork nor for that matter outlandishly country. I can imagine this on the soundtrack to a Jim Jarmusch movie.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? You really need to be in the mood for 11 tracks of beautifully engaging, yet morose tracks.

Some history: Debut album Please Hate Me, released in Iceland in 2006. Recorded music for an Icelandic play, that included eight Dolly Parton covers.

 

angie-palmer2

 

Who? Angie Palmer

Title: Meanwhile, as night falls …

Label: Akrasia records

Tell me more: As close as to an English take on Americana that could be possible.

Why the fek should I listen to this? Rough, but beautifully sounding voice.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Erm, there’s not a thing I haven’t heard before in a million and twelve female troubadours before.

Best line: Too bland for anything out of the ordinary.

 

Attic dweller

excuse1

Who? Only An Excuse?

Title: The Real History of Scottish Football

Label: BBC (1988)

Tell me more: I found this cassette in a box and it’s about the most obscure thing I could find to review. I wouldn’t even try looking at eBay for this one.

Are you on drugs Craig? Only the contraceptive pill. I’m putting this in because it made me laugh so hard I brought up a hairball when I listened to it for the first time since Aberdeen FC won a trophy. On-the-button piss-takes of everyone involved in Scottish football … two decades ago.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? No-one’s ever gonna buy it anyway so there’s no point being negative. Or postive for that matter. But, hell, I’ll do that anyway.

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Tonight  


Who? Franz Ferdinand

Title: Tonight

Label: Domino records

Tell Me More: First album from Scotland’s finest exponents of everything that is 1981, since You Could Have it So Much Better from the end of 2005.

Artwork: The constructivist artwork has gone, replaced by a staged image of the band. Really, they oughta should bring back those sharp shapes and bright colours. The cover you see is from the special edition that includes a disk of dub tracks.

Why the fek should I listen to this? They are the most exciting new band of this decade, and though it can’t beat the epochal debut, it marks a return to form, especially in Ulysses, after the hurriedness of You Can … The double cd is a must-have if you can get it.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? More funk, not enough Fire Engines.

Best line: “I typed your number into my calculator/ Where it spelt a dirty word, when you turned it upside down…”

the-whispertown-2000

Who? The Whispertown 2000

Title: Swim

Label: Acony

Tell me more: The sound of college kids on a trip out of town and singing around a campfire, thinking of sex and drinking moonshine cider.

Artwork: Maybe they could have obscured the two guys, one of whom is wearing a hat in the wrong manner and the other has a decidely amateur moustache. Beautiful wee booklet inside with close-up shots of the girls, and thankfully, an abscured shot of the guys, with all the lyrics.

Why should I listen to this? Gillian Welch likes them. Jenny Lewis also appears. A kooky album, with many twists and turns. In many ways a traditional American album.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? See above

Best line: “Ahh ooo, when you got the blues/ Doo wah na na na/ Don’t get caught with your hands in the pot.”

judith-owen

Who? Judith Owen

Title: Mopping Up Karma

Label: Courgette records

Tell me more: Like Alanis Morrisette has gotten older and wiser. Folk music played on piano.

Artwork: Owen’s in a Joan of Arc-style pose, holding a mop in a bucket. Why the fek should I listen to this? Beautiful melodies sung with passion and consideration.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Even such a lame comparison to Alanis Morrisette would have put most people off.

Lest we forget

easterhouse

Who? Easterhouse

Title: Waiting for the Redbird (1989)

Label: Rough Trade

Tell me more: The world’s shit and we need a communist revolution to sort it out white boy’s soul.

Artwork: Andy Perry’s sepia-tinted face

Why the fek should I listen to this? Largely ignored on its release, Redbird is erratic but does contain angst-cum-action’s-needed-now anthems like Come Out Fighting, You’re Gonna Miss it (When It’s Gone) and the title track. Andy Perry was a flag-bearer for the now defunct Revolutionary Communist Party.

Or should I take it a stick to it and beat the shit out of it? Perry had lost the band that had recorded the brilliant Contenders in 1986 and it may be argued that raw anger was missing. America is a predictable and cliche-ridden track.

Best line: “There never was anything in my life/ that I got just for asking.”

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