A first team squad of 11 shocking (read: ruddy fantastic) football singles that should never have been committed to record.
Words: Chris May
The mantra “don’t give up your day job” has rarely been more appropriate than when applied to footballers in the recording studio. As the World Cup approaches, here are 11 of the worst records by footballers or about football. Most are so bad they are good; some are so extraordinarily bad they are brilliant. We kick off in the run-up to the 1966 championship, when England won the cup, in the hope that history will repeat itself.
World Cup Willie / Where In This World Are We Going
In the mid-1950s, Lonnie Donegan laid the foundations of British rock’n’roll with gritty covers of Americana such as ‘Rock Island Line’. But by autumn 1965, when ‘World Cup Willie’ was released, he had been eclipsed by the very bands, led by the Beatles, whose formation he had helped inspire. Donegan now had to take what the A&R department offered, including this trad jazz-lite, sing-along number arranged by Tony Hatch, the go-to music director for BBC light entertainment producers. Possibly Donegan’s worst record – although, perhaps, his residual talent removes it from football’s absolute-worst list.
Oei Oei Oei (Dat Was Me Weer Een Loeig) / Alle Stoppen Ineens Noor De Knoppen
Donegan would not have been able to mitigate this one, and neither would have Sinatra. Netherlands star Johan Cruyff’s ‘Oei Oei Oei’- another singalong, a staple of the genre – is arranged in a style akin to German oompah music, replete with that leaden emphasis on the downbeat that accompanies the bladdered swing of a beer stein and, in defter hands, is a signature of African-American funk. Like many football records over the last 50 years, ‘Oei Oei Oei’ sounds like a bottom-feeder from the Eurovision Song Contest.
It Ain’t Easy / Do I Know You
It’s a tie between this and Kevin Keegan’s other singles – “Head Over Heels In Love”, a sentimental romantic ballad released during his time with Hamburg, and ‘England’, a sentimental patriotic ballad made to mark his return to English football. 1972 was the year Gary Glitter spawned glitter-rock with ‘Rock And Roll’, and ‘It Ain’t Easy’ employs a similarly mindless four-on-the-floor beat. The lyric warns any admirer who fancies taking up with Keegan that he will be a difficult man to tame. His wife, Jean, was up to the task, however; the couple married in 1974 and are still together.
*It’s not the cover of ‘It Ain’t Easy’, but the sleeve for ‘Head Over Heels In Love’ was too good not to feature.
Dynamo / He, Kleines Fräulein
‘Dynamo’ was recorded in honour of Dynamo Dresden, in 1977 a dominant team in East Germany – or as it preferred to be called, the German Democratic Republic. As a general rule, any country with Democratic in its name is authoritarian and the GDR was no exception. Winni 2 was one of the state’s officially-approved beat combos. The Amiga label was a wing of the state-monopoly record company and specialised in heavily-censored homegrown pop. Presumably intended to be celebratory, ‘Dynamo’ was taken at a perversely funereal pace.
The Manchester United First Team Squad
Onward Sexton’s Soldiers / Come On You Reds
‘Onward Sexton’s Soldiers’ is sung over a martial rhythm played on a snare drum to the tune of the imperialistic, mid-nineteenth century hymn ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’ (co-written by Arthur Sullivan, one half of Gilbert & Sullivan). The lyrics needed minimal tweaking to accomodate the team pledging loyalty to manager Dave Sexton instead of you know who, and this time the enemies were not treacherous heathens in foreign lands, as perceived in Sullivan’s era, but rival British football teams. A persuasive argument for disestablishmentarianism.
*Thankfully this one’s not on Youtube, but you can listen to it HERE if you really must.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen
Just Like Kenny / Dalglish We Are Right Behind You
‘Just Like Kenny’ plays fast and witlessly with ‘Just Like Eddie’, the Joe Meeks-produced 1963 hit for the ex-Tornados bassist and singer, Heinz, which itself was a medley of familiar moments from Eddie Cochran’s discography. In the lyrics, members of the 1984 Liverpool squad salute their Scottish-born star, Kenny Dalglish. A less inclusive, Little Englander mentality kicked in on the team’s 1988 offering, ‘Anfield Rap’ (see below).
Coventry City F.A. Cup Squad
Go For It! / Go For It, Cupid
(Sky Blue, 1987)
So bad it is brilliant, ‘Go For It!’ is a mid-tempo, sing-along boogie with backing from a band which sounds like entry-level Status Quo crossed with a West Midlands version of Chas & Dave. Utterly bereft of originality, it nonetheless delivers a shedload of genuine and infectious enthusiasm and, in truth, would sit just as well in a best-of list. The 1980s usually sounded more grim…..
Much of what was naff about the 1980s on one 7” single. Glenn & Chris were Tottenham and England team-mates Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle, and ‘Diamond Lights’ was a formulaic synth-rocker written by Bob Puzey, better known for the Nolan Sisters’ “I’m In The Mood For Dancing.” Like the song, the picture sleeve has it all, right down to Hoddle’s mullet and the rolled-up sleeve of Waddle’s faux-leather blouson jacket. How gruesome were the 1980s? Well, this record reached number 12 on the charts.
*Please, please also check out the accompanying picture disc.
Anfield Rap (Red Machine In Full Effect) / Anfield Rap (Red Machine Dub)
Released in the run-up to Liverpool’s F.A. Cup Final match against Wimbledon, ‘Anfield Rap’ features John Aldridge and Steve McMahon – the only native Liverpudlians in the squad – mocking their team mates’ various “funny” accents. Samples (still cutting edge in Liverpool in 1988) include sound bites from legendary former manager Bill Shankly, the guitar riff from the Beatles’ ‘Twist And Shout’ and snatches of terrace favourite ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’.
Boli & Waddle
We’ve Got A Feeling (Mixte) / We’ve Got A Feeling (Anglais Courte)
Chris Waddle’s famously uncomfortable appearance on Top of the Pops performing ‘Diamond Lights’ was widely mocked at the time, and Waddle later recalled it as the most embarrassing event of his life. But he returned to the recording studio with Hoddle to make ‘It’s Goodbye’, and in 1991 recorded the part-rapped, part-sung ‘We’ve Got A Feeling’ with Marseille team-mate Basile Boli. Waddle was no more convincing as a rapper than as a singer and, despite spirited accompaniment from a group of Paris-based soukous musicians, ‘We’ve Got A Feeling’ is another chien.
Vinnie Jones & The Soul Survivors
Wooly Bully / Crazy Games
(Cherry Red, 1993)
Vinnie Jones’ lovable-thug schtick kicked-in during the early 1990s, as exemplified by this assault and battery on Sam the Sham & The Pharoahs’ 1965 hit “Wooly Bully.” Jones sounds less like he is singing, more like he is being garrotted. The Soul Survivors are competent enough, but should not be confused with the great 1960s Philadelphia group of the same name.
Postscript: Football has also produced some musically literate singles, a disproportionate number of them from South America. For starters, if you can find it, try Pelé’s gentle samba ‘Perdao, Nao Tem’ (1969), sung as a duet with Brazilian bossa nova queen Elis Regina.
Post, postscript: Honorary mention also goes to Bolton legend Ricardo Gardner’s “Move To Your Goal” featuring a nod to Jamaica’s 1998 World Cup adventure. Sadly this one never made to onto vinyl.