heard on the wire

No more ground boutique at match in Chelsea


It happens occasionally, that a song is so good I simply have to play it twice. Often, as was the recent case with Cinerama’s King’s Cross, because the song perfectly fits the day’s theme, and sometimes because the random shuffling of an iPod gives me no choice.

The Fall have released at least four versions of the tune many know better as the music that accompanies (or accompanied—it’s been a while) Saturday’s football results on the BBC. The first version appeared on the band’s twenty-fourth studio LP, The Real New Fall LP Formerly ‘Country On The Click”, released in 2003. The band later reprised it for a John Peel session, before releasing a third recording that was one of my two 2004 choices for “a song from each year of my life”. A fourth turned up Interim, on a compilation of previously unreleased Fall material.

It remains, with its obvious melody and sing/shout-along chorus, one of the more accessible Fall tunes. While it was the third version that my ’Pod picked not so long ago, this is the original.

We have to pay for everything,
But some things are for free;
We live on blood,
We are Sparta FC.
English Chelsea fan this is your last game;
We’re not Galatasary,
We’re Sparta FC.

The Fall :: Theme From Sparta F.C.

Audio MP3


You can’t fail to like a song that has a dig at Chelsea supporters, especially if, like me, you favour near neighbours Fulham. Erstwhile Cottagers George Best and Rodney Marsh once presented a football-themed chat show with a theme song by New Order. TV can’t get much better than that.

New Order :: Best & Marsh

Audio MP3


Football-wise, New Order are of course more famous for England’s 1990 World Cup song, World in Motion, which gave the band their only number one and gave the world John Barnes’s rapping. The song’s lyric was written by Fulham supporter Keith Allen, father of Fulham supporter turncoat Lily. Allen also contributed to this Black Grape tune, sung by the Grape’s Sean Ryder and heaven’s Joe Strummer.

Raise a glass, a perfect pass,
and dribble around my socks.
Check my shirt and drink my shots
And squeeze me in the box.
It’s a digital football thing,
It’s a football thing.
I live in a land of class hypocrisy,
We’re going to win the National Lottery,
Ee aye addio, I don’t think so

Black Grape :: England’s Irie

Audio MP3


Sadly, the success of the likes of World in Motion, England’s Irie and 1996 smash Three Lions meant that we are no longer serenaded by players themselves. Once the dinner-suited England squad of 1970 took Back Home to the top of the charts, the footballer singalong became commonplace. Then, in 1988, Liverpool took the Anfield Rap to number three ahead of a cup final they lost to Wimbledon; the nadir had been reached. A year earlier the Barmy Army had showed how it could be done, with a record featuring the dulcet tones of BBC radio commentator Peter Jones, the voice of live football in those halcyon pre-Sky days. Football songs were never the same again.

Barmy Army :: Sharp as a Needle

Audio MP3


Things were often far from halcyon in 1931, the year that Arsenal won the league for the first time and Fulham finished ninth in the Third Division South, unless you were rich, a Spanish republican or a popular entertainer. Albert Whelan had migrated from Australia to the UK at the beginning of the century and, “Immaculately dressed in bow-tie and tails, he sang, danced and played the piano. He was an excellent mimic, and adapted easily to changing vocal styles,” [according to a Wikipedia contributor](https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Albert Whelan).

I first heard this record on John Peel’s radio show, during the Pig’s Big 78 segment. Named after and presented by his wife Sheila, affectionately known as the “Pig”, it featured a 78rpm record, generally full of the surface noise that Peel loved and the timeless joy of a good song well sung.

Some of the recordings were later gathered onto a marvellous CD and Whelan’s football ditty was among them, here preceded by Sheila’s introduction to the compilation.

Albert Whelan :: Pass! Shoot! Goal!

Audio MP3


Very few decent football songs are dedicated to players, only Serious Drinking’s Bobby Moore Was Innocent springs to mind. Grimsby Town fan Pete Green bucked the trend with this “tribute” to an overpaid underachiever. Jevons later managed a decent scoring return for a dozen or so lower league clubs.

Pete Green :: The Ballad of Phil Jevons

Mentioning that Serious Drinking song, I thought the Norwich band had recorded several soccer-saturated numbers, but it seems that they decided that they could never top their towering ode to terrace romance, Love on the Terraces. The songs of Half Man Half Biscuit’s Nigel Blackwell, on the other hand, are lavishly illustrated with cameos of terrace culture, whether it’s references to dogs running onto the pitch or, in one case, a song that provides me with an oft-exclaimed riposte to the nonsense that commentators, pundits and supporters spout about handball, “which has to be intentional, and very rarely is. If only people would study the rules more.”

Many of Nigel’s football cameos are based on well-known chants, but this song involves a young woman’s impressions upon meeting Brad Friedel and ends with a chant of Nigel’s own making, whose first line I may also have offered to the TV on occasion.

Half Man Half Biscuit :: I Went to a Wedding

Audio MP3


They may indeed take a dim view of a slightly raised shoe, but I have no idea what they’d make of Mark E Smith. If only the football results sounded like this every week.

Photo: Cottage; some rights reserved.

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