Look beyond some of the frankly ghastly official World Cup songs and you'll find that there are a few football tracks that are plenty noteworthy. Here are some of our favourites.
Football songs – that are actually rather good
I’m in total agreement about the generally awful state of official World Cup songs (see Saeed Saeed’s column here), and have to say that this year’s decidedly un-Brazilian effort by the American R&B stars Pitbull and Jennifer Lopez is no exception.
But if you look beyond the official and out to the periphery, you may be surprised to find that some football songs are actually rather good. Here are some favourites.
Black Grape ft Joe Strummer and Keith Allen – England’s Irie (1996)
The Mancunian bad boys, born from the ashes of The Happy Mondays, The Ruthless Rap Assassins and The Paris Angels, enlisted the help of the late, great Joe Strummer and the rent-a-mouth actor/comedian Keith Allen for this effort to cheer England on at the England ’96 European Championships. Of course, the song everyone remembers from that year’s tournament was Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds’ insipid lads’ anthem Three Lions, but this was what was rocking the dance floors where I was. History has at least been kind in completely forgetting that tournament’s official song, We’re in This Together – it was by Simply Red, for goodness’ sake.
Pop Will Eat Itself – Touched by the Hand of Cicciolina (1990)
Stourbridge’s finest, the Grebo legends Pop Will Eat Itself celebrated Italia ’90 with this number dedicated to the Hungarian-born actress Cicciolina, who was elected to the Italian parliament in 1987. Rather optimistically, the band decided it would be much more fun to have her present the trophy in Italy rather than the usual Fifa suits and every copy of the 12” single came with a petition for buyers to send to Fifa. The campaign was, unsurprisingly, unsuccessful, but at least the single peaked at No 28 and stayed in the UK charts for four weeks.
Fat Les – Vindaloo (1998)
Keith Allen’s 1996 outing with Black Grape obviously got him in the mood for more football songs, and to celebrate France ’98, he teamed up with the artist Damien Hirst and the Blur bassist Alex James for this four-minute stompalong that, by all logical criteria, should be dismissed as rubbish, but somehow comes out as raucous-anthem-meets-cheeky-social-commentary on some of Allen’s native England’s obsessions – primarily football, tea and curry.
Collapsed Lung – Eat My Goal (1996/1998)
A catchy little number from the Harlow hip-hop outfit, featuring possibly the simplest, yet most memorable, one-string guitar hook ever. The single was originally co-opted by Coca-Cola for its Eat Football, Sleep Football, Drink Coca-Cola Euro ’96 campaign, but had its greatest chart success when it was re-released to coincide with the 1998 World Cup in France and charted at No 18 in the UK singles charts. It has since been used on numerous football shows and the video game LMA Manager 2001. Although Collapsed Lung split in 1996, the lead rapper Jim Burke is still well known for his work as Mr B The Gentleman Rhymer.
Midfield General – Devil in Sports Casual (1998)
Another France ’98 number. This track from Skint Records’ owner Damian Harris, aka Midfield General, was originally released in 1997, but as the bandwagon got into motion for the World Cup the following year it found its way on to the big-selling Big Beat Elite Repeat album, which came complete with a tenuous football theme to cash in on the year’s events. This tune is actually one of the few on the album that makes any direct reference to any sort of sporting activity, but it’s a good one and you can’t blame the General if the album’s compilers ran out of football-related tunes one track in and left the rest of the linking to the cover artists and the free Extra Time mix CD.