Sunday, 31 March 2013

K'naan - Wavin' Flag

Hello and welcome back to Songs Of The Stands!

As mentioned in my previous post, we're now going to be looking at the 2010 World Cup, arguably the most culturally exciting tournament in recent years. Besides the football, the world became fascinated with South African culture, largely thanks to dynamic opening ceremonies and rich matchday atmosphere (although the vuvuzelas soon became annoying!) In this post, we'll be looking at the unofficial anthem of the tournament, "Wavin' Flag" by Somali-Canadian artist K'naan.

K'naan: deceptively moody
(photo from Too Xclusive)  

Unlike "Waka Waka" by Colombian songstress Shakira (which is technically the official anthem), "Wavin' Flag" was not written with the 2010 World Cup in mind. Originally released the year before and produced by the Kerry Brothers and Bruno Mars, the song was released as the third single from K'naan's third studio album, Troubador. It was moderately successful, peaking at number 2 on the Canadian Hot 100, despite not charting anywhere else.

That all changed in 2010 though, after Coca-Cola chose the song as the company's promotional anthem to celebrate the upcoming World Cup. The song was remixed by The Smeezingtons (again featuring Bruno Mars) to give it a more uplifting feel, complete with the company's famous jingle. In turn, the track featured in all of the brand's commercials around that time. This obviously gave it remarkable exposure across the world and, as a result, the remix was much more successful. In fact, the track reached the Top 10 in 19 charts internationally, including much of mainland Europe, a significantly better return than the original. It was dubbed the "Celebration Mix" due to it's cheery instrumentation and much more positive lyrics.

 Another remix was also released, this time featuring DJ David Guetta and rapper/producer Mixed by Dylan Dresdow, it was used as a B-Side to the Celebration Mix released in Europe. On top of this, 20 bilingual versions were also made for different countries, many of them featuring superstars in that area so as to appeal to that specific population.

To promote the track and the brand, K'naan also performed the song live at many dates on the FIFA World Cup Trophy Tour, which gave fans the chance to see the world-famous trophy as it travelled to South Africa. The final leg of this tour was of course the Kick-Off Concert, performed in South Africa, in which K'naan was just 1 of nearly 1500 artists to take part.

Now let's have a listen to the live version of the song (from the Kick-Off Concert), which is almost certain to put a smile on your face.

Straight from the off, it's clear to see why Coca-Cola chose this particular song as it's promotional anthem. Lively percussion starts proceedings, seconds before a "woah-oh" version of Coca-Cola's jingle emerges. The song sets itself up from here as nothing but good vibes, as you immediately begin tapping your feet to the ever-present tribal drums that play such a crucial role. It's a nice touch too, as it most definitely gives it a South African feel.

The lyrics in themselves are something special too. As you may remember in my "World In Motion" post a few weeks back, I took issue with the fact that most football songs are lacking in the lyrics department. This certainly isn't the case here however, as these are some of the happiest and downright joyous I've heard to date. The pre-chorus is particularly uplifting as K'naan implores us to "rejoice in the beautiful game" before telling us that "They'll call me freedom/ Just like a waving flag". Not only is it a lovely message, it's ridiculously catchy as well.

At the end of the day, you have to applaud not only K'naan for making such a great song, but also Coca-Cola. Here is a brilliant example of modern marketing that summed up a fantastic World Cup for culture in general.

If you have an opinion on this track or any of the others featured in this blog, feel free to leave a comment!

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Wolverhampton Wanderers F.C. - "The Liquidator"

Something of a controversial post now. The track I'm going to be looking at today, "The Liquidator", is claimed to have been started by many different clubs. Among these are Chelsea, West Brom, Northampton Town and Yeovil Town. However, in my mind, "The Liquidator" has always been a Wolverhampton Wanderers song and, as a result, the men in gold will be my main focus.

 (Photo from My Football Facts)

Football can be a cruel and unforgiving mistress. After a woeful 2011/2012 Premiership campaign which saw them relegated to the 2nd tier, things soon got worse for Wolves. They currently sit 23rd in the Championship after seeing many of their high-earning players under-perform in a nightmarish season. As a result, they are among the favourites to go down, having won just 2 of their last 12 games.

Despite this, it is a fair statement to say that Wolves have one of the best traditional club songs in English football (silver linings and all that!). That song is, of course, "The Liquidator" an adrenaline-pumping instrumental that is renowned for sending the crowds crazy (more on that later).

But first, let's look at the history behind the song. Unusually for football songs, "The Liquidator" is a classic reggae-ska track, performed and recorded by Harry J & The All-Stars in 1969. It was originally written, however, by the band The Hippy Boys, who later went on to split and become The Upsetters and The Wailers. The song was intended to be for jazz musician Tony Scott but, instead, was sold to Harry Johnson, who transformed it into a chart success.

 "The Liquidator"
(photo from Last FM)

It's introduction to the terraces is widely believed to be thanks to Chelsea F.C., who used to play the song as part of the chart countdown before matches. It grew in popularity amongst the fans, largely thanks to the clapping and chanting that often accompanied it. Whilst it's origins are disputed, this theory is backed up by the liner notes of the Harry J & The All-Star's Greatest Hits. In it, it says,

"Way back in 1969, supporters of the Chelsea football team revered players such as Bonetti, Osgood and Hollins. The boys performed under the watchful eye of manager Dave Sexton to the tune of Harry J & All Stars chartbuster, "The Liquidator"."

However, it has since been adopted by a large number of English clubs, listed at the start of this article. Most recently, it was re-introduced by Gillingham F.C. in the Npower League 2 for the 2012/13 season, to much praise.

The song's association with Wolverhampton Wanderers, on the other hand, is much more chequered. Due to their unabashed hatred towards bitter rivals West Bromwich album, the song is often accompanied by chants of "F**k off West Brom!" The hatred was so palpable that West Midlands Police soon asked the club to stop playing the track over the PA system as it incited hatred and wound the crowd up too much. It did make a brief comeback in the 2005/06 season, encouraging the fans to clap instead of swearing. However, this was a complete failure. It again reappeared in the 06/07 play-off final (appropriately enough against West Brom). Unfortunately, the Baggies ran out winners and the song was dropped soon after.

Now to listen to the song (minus the swearing, of course!)

As usual in SOTS, I wanted to get the fans' opinions on what makes it a good (or indeed, a bad) football song. Fortunately, I knew several Wolves fans personally who were more than happy to give their thoughts and stories.

James (18), from Swansea, said, "I remember that it used to create a great buzz before games. I'd say my most vivid memory of it would be after we'd won the play-off final vs. Sheffield United. A good song for a very good day!"

Frank (57), from Hinckley, said "I was really disappointed when it got banned. I think a lot of fans would like it back. It's never going to happen though unfortunately".

Samantha (21), from Birmingham, was also disappointed to hear it was banned. "I remember the first time I went to see a game and they played it. It's a really good song to pump the crowd up. It's a shame they banned it."

Jack (23), from Aston, wasn't so keen, however. "I'm not really a fan to be honest. I like the tune but the chanting's a bit unnecessary and it doesn't even fit that well. I'd prefer it more if it were like the "Z Cars Theme" for Everton, where they don't add anything to it."

That's all for this installment folks!

Join me soon, when I'll be looking at the musical jackpot that was the 2010 World Cup!

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Chelsea F.C. - "Blue Is The Colour"

Next up on our tour of the terraces is Stamford Bridge, home to one of the Premier League's big boys, Chelsea F.C. And whilst the club may be going through a rough patch at the minute, one thing has remained the same. The fans still sing "Blue Is The Colour", the unofficial anthem for the mighty Blues.

 (Photo from Wallsave)

Written by a trio of writers for Penny Farthing Records, the song was written to coincide with the upcoming League Cup final against Stoke City (who we've covered already in SOTS). The song was performed by many members of the squad at the time, including such greats as Tommy Baldwin, John Dempsey and Eddie McCreadie, among several others. It was released officially on the 26th February 1972, peaking at number 5 in the UK singles chart a month later.

"Blue Is The Colour": The official single
(photo from Chelsea Brasil)

Unfortunately, Chelsea went on to lose that cup final 2-1 thanks to goals from Terry Conroy and George Eastham. However, "Blue Is The Colour" has since gone from strength to strength, being sung before every home game and even at cup ties.

It has also been adopted by other sporting and non-sporting organisations. The Danish national team, the Vancouver Whitecaps and Molde FK have all been known to use the song at times. More interestingly, it was also used on one occasion by the 1979 Conservative Party. In what was eventually a successful campaign, a parody of the song was used with the words bizarrely changed to "Blue is the colour/ Maggie is her name".

Back on track, without further ado, here it is.

More recently, the song made somewhat of a comeback thanks to comedian Russell Howard. After Chelsea's glorious 2012 Champion's League victory, the stand-up comic featured them in a section of his BBC3 show Russell Howard's Good News (see below for video). Towards the end, a clip of  possibly-tipsy defender David Luiz singing the song was shown, with Howard adding in his own hilarious lyrics. The section was hugely popular on social networking sites and received many views on Youtube.

(Warning - the following video contains adult themes and some strong language)

Now, it's that time again to gauge the fans' opinions. This week, I visited The Shed End forum to gather your thoughts, along with the help of Facebook and Twitter.

Jon (39), from London, echoed the sentiment of it being a constant among the turmoil. "It makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. And no matter how many managers we have, this song, our ground and our supporters make us proud to be Chelsea".

Graham (25), from Waterford, agreed. "I think it's a great song, properly original unlike most club songs. It will and should always be played at The Bridge".

Alex (20), from Pembrokeshire, however, wasn't so convinced. "I think the song is a bit cheesy, but I'll still sing along. I've got some good memories of singing it after cup games though".

Ben (27), from East Sussex, offered up an alternative to the song. "I prefer "The Liquidator" if I'm honest. That's the song that makes me feel the anticipation that's part of the live experience. I don't get that with "Blue Is The Colour".

A somewhat mixed bag then when it comes to "Blue Is The Colour". One thing's for sure though. Even if the manager's job at Stamford Bridge isn't secure, the song's position in the club's history and in it's terraces will aways remain.

Thanks again for reading! Stop by again soon for the next installment!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

New Order - "World In Motion"

Welcome back loyal readers!

A bit of a change of pace today. Instead of looking at traditional club songs as I have over the past few weeks, I'm instead going to be looking at another instance in which music and football have met. This will be the first of several posts of this kind, probably done every fortnight or so.

To kick things off, here's New Order with their standalone UK number 1 single, "World In Motion".

Written for the England national team's 1990 World Cup campaign, the track also features several members of the squad, including an unforgettable rapped verse from striker John Barnes. 

Comedian Keith Allen co-wrote the song, tentatively titled "E For England" before it was released. This was soon altered however, after concerns were raised by the Football Association (FA) that it could be interpreted as promoting the drug ecstasy.

It was also re-released for the 2002 World Cup campaign, with David Beckham planned to perform the rap section. Unfortunately, the FA again refused. The song did nowhere near as well upon it's second release, this time unable to even break into the Top 40. A remix was also planned for release to coincide with the 2006 campaign but the track never surfaced.

The track also samples the legendary "They Think It's All Over" quote courtesy of commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, during the England/Germany final in 1966. Other quotes are also used from that successful campaign, taken from the documentary 'Goal!'.

 "They Think It's All Over":
Geoff Hurst's winning goal in the 1966 World Cup Final
(photo from The Daily Mail) 

Undoubtedly, this is one of the finest and most famous football-related songs to date, largely thanks to the fact that, musically, it doesn't sound like a football song at all. It's classic New Order, from the electronic drum loops down to the trademark synth leads that give it that distinct 80's feel. Frontman Bernard Summer also manages to make some pretty awful lyrics (see "You know you can win/ Don't give up the chase") seem vaguely respectable, his liquid vocals oozing ease and effortlessness.

And then we come to the players' involvement. Paul Gascoigne and co. all join in for the chorus and backing chants, surprisingly not half bad. It gives the track an uplifting feel, embodying the spirit of togetherness. "Yes, we can win it!" it makes you think, despite being very cheesy indeed.

Speaking of cheesy, enter John Barnes. The former Watford and Liverpool striker has a decent flow to his style, although he certainly doesn't help himself with the lyrics. "There's only one way to beat them/ Get round the back/ Catch me if you can/ 'Cos I'm the England man" easily the standout.

 MC Barnes
(photo from Marketing Magazine)

The track rounds itself off with the classic "EN-GER-LAND!" chant that has reverberated around football stadiums for decades. It's a rousing and befitting end to, quite simply, a fantastic showcase of footballers turning to music. Stick to your day jobs boys.

Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

West Ham United F.C. - "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"

Besides Liverpool, there is perhaps only one other club that can even claim to have the greatest traditional club song. That is, of course, West Ham United with "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", quite simply a national anthem for East London.

(Photo from Wallcoo)

Created in 1918, the song has a fascinating musical history, irrespective of the football connection. Written by John Kellette and 'Jaan Kenbrovin' (a collective pseudonym for a trio of writers), the track made it's first public appearance in the Broadway musical The Passing Show Of 1918. Copyright for the song was finally registered in 1919 and, since then, it has been performed and recorded by a huge number of artists, including many influential musicians. The first to have success with it was Ben Selvin's Novelty Orchestra late in the year, followed closely by The Original Dixieland Jass Band, the latter performing it in a style that can only be described as an early form of jazz. It soon became extremely popular in Britain's music halls and theatres in the early 1920's, Dorothy Ward arguably the most influential in this movement.

It's transition into sport, however, is still a bit of a mystery. There are 3 main theories that club historians argue over, all of which I will explain below.

The first involves a famous painting, an advert for soap and a young West Ham player called Will Murray. In 1886, artist Sir John Everett Millais painted a portrait of his five year old grandson watching a soap bubble he had just blown. The painting was hugely successful and it soon found it's way into the hands of Thomas J. Barratt, managing director of A&F Pears. He later used it to advertise a product called Pears Soap, the advert became known simply as 'Bubbles'. 

 'Bubbles': The advert in question
(photo from City Room)

The next step of the story is where the controversy lies. Many believe the West Ham squad saw the poster and nicknamed youth player Will Murray 'Bubbles', mainly because he resembled the child featured on it. The fans got wind of this and, every time Murray played, they sang "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles", in the charts at the time. Another version of the story claims Murray got the nickname 'Bubbles' from his headmaster Cornelius Beal, who knew the West Ham manager Charlie Paynter.
Unfortunately, this story was later proved to be false. Photos of Murray taken at the time show he looks absolutely nothing like the child in the advert. Secondly, club records show he never actually played in the senior squad, only the youth squad. While these facts don't make the myth impossible, it does raise the question, "would fans sing a song about a youth player they've probably never seen?" The answer is probably not.

The second theory stems from an FA Cup tie against Swansea City in 1922. Unlike West Ham, Swansea City have records to show that they definitely did sing "I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles" around this time during the majority of their home games. It has been speculated that West Ham effectively "borrowed" this tradition after the game against them and later made it their own.

 Vetch Field: Swansea City's home ground at the time
(photo from World Stadia)

The third and final theory is arguably the most plausible, although it does claim that the singing of the song did not start until 20 years later, during the time of the Second World War. At the time, it has been well documented that the song was sung in East End air raid shelters to raise spirits. This led to a rise in public communal singing, including at football matches. The tradition has carried on since then and has become one of the most loved songs in modern football.

It's now time to listen to the song to see what makes it a classic football anthem.

As with every song I cover, I headed on over to a fans' forum to get their opinion. This time, I went to the WestHamFans forum, where I got an overwhelming response.

Claire (44), from the Republic Of Ireland, said, "It never fails to bring a tear to my eye or a lump to my throat. On the rare occasion I'm in the ground and I hear it, it feels like I'm back home."

Darren (20), from London, said, "The best memories are of away matches. Once we start singing the first chorus, it's like "That's right. West Ham have arrived!""

John (34), from Lincoln, explains what it reminds him of. "My grandparents' house used to be a stone's throw away from the ground and whenever I hear the song, it takes me back to happier times when me and my brother used to play footie in their garden."

Ray (49), from East London, recalls one of his memories of the song, slightly reminiscent of the film Green Street, it must be said. "It reminds me of my first away trip to Old Trafford. In the back streets of Manchester, we were confronted by a gang of Mancs ready to kick the s**t out of us and then we hear the song. Our boys had arrived and the Mancs scarpered. It's a battle cry to me for that reason."

Thanks to all the participants for their opinions and interesting stories! I'll be back soon with another classic football song!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Liverpool F.C. - "You'll Never Walk Alone"

Liverpool F.C. is easily one of the most famous clubs in world football. With a history that encapsulates both glory and tragedy, it's only fitting for them to have one of the greatest and most recognisable club songs in modern times. That song is of course "You'll Never Walk Alone", an uplifting anthem that has become synonymous with the Merseyside club and their fiercely loyal fanbase.

(Photo from Premier League Critic)

As with many traditional football songs, it had a very different beginning. Oddly enough, the song was originally written as a show tune. Featuring in the 1945 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Carousel, the song is sung by a character called Nettie Fowler to comfort her recently widowed cousin. It is again performed in the final scene to celebrate a class graduation, just going to show the range of emotions that the track can cover.

It began it's transition towards the terraces following a cover of the song by Merseybeat band Gerry & The Pacemakers. Released in October 1963, it peaked at number 1 in the UK singles chart, eventually staying there for four consecutive weeks.

 Gerry & The Pacemakers
(photo from Hump Day Rock Music)

 At the time, the resident DJ at Anfield stadium (the team's ground) would play the radio's Top 10 chart before games to warm up the crowd. However, when "You'll Never Walk Alone" was played at number 1, something bizarre began to happen soon after. Fans began to sing the song themselves, which wasn't unusual in itself, apart from the fact that they did this long after it left the charts.

Since then, it has been sung before every home game and on several other occasions, whether the team are winning or losing. It has also become somewhat of a slogan for the club, featuring on their crest and also adorning the famous Shankly gates.

 The Shankly gates
(photo from LIverweb)

Despite being timeless in the football world, it has also recently made a re-entry into the Singles Charts. Following an online campaign by Liverpool fans in September 2012 to raise awareness of the tragic Hillsborough accident, the track entered the charts at number 12, selling 28,000 copies in just 24 hours.

Now let's have a listen to the song, complete with the original video.

Now it's time to get the fans' opinions once more, which I collected from the LFCReds fan forum. Due to the fanbase questioned and also the nature of the song, I was almost certain there would be no negativity whatsoever.

Neil (40), from Plymouth, said, "It always brings a lump to my throat and gives me goosepimples. In a kind of perverse way, I especially love it when we're losing and the fans still sing it."

Jackson (20), from Warrington, explained the effect it had on fans. "When I've seen games, both on TV and at Anfield, I've seen it reduce grown men to tears. It always brings a tear to my eye too. It's that emotional."

Gary (25), from Kent, spoke about what the song means to him. "When I hear it, it's split into both happy and sad thoughts. It reminds me of the joys of Istanbul (Champions League victory) and the '01 treble season, but also brings to mind the tragedies of Hillsborough, the Heysel stadium disaster and even the Munich air disaster."

Clint (52), from Manchester, went one step further. "To me, it's like The Bible for Christians, The Qur'an for Muslims and science for atheists. It's our religion and we go to it when we feel low. It gives us pride and joy."

From this, it's clear to see exactly what "You'll Never Walk Alone" means to the club and their fans. It's not just a song. It's a religion and a way of life.

Thanks for reading and to all those who gave their opinions! I'll be back soon to explore some more of football's greatest songs!