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Monday, 11 June 2012

England: World in Motion or Three Lions - What has been the greatest song?


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England take on France this afternoon in their first game of Euro2012 but expectations of Roy Hodgson guiding the country to glory are as low as those racist yobs in Poland and Ukraine who are grabbing all the headlines. 

Music could hold the key. England have had some notable tournament songs in the past which have inspired the fans, players and country alike. Who can ever forget Back Home in 1970, World in Motion in Italia 90 or Three Lions in 1996 and every other year that it was re-recorded?

Squarefootball's Steve Coulter has gone through his record collection and looks back at those classic England songs, but which one is the best? We'd love to hear from you.

BACK HOME - 1970

Recorded in the build up to the 1970 World Cup in Brazil, this song is widely considered the original footy anthem. The tune was written by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter (no relation I might add). The songwriting duo found fame when they penned Sandie Shaw's 'Puppet On a String'. The ditty went on to win the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest. In later years the pair wrote many of the Bay City Rollers hits. For those under 40, the Rollers were a Scottish version of JLS.
 
Back home proved popular with the English public, spending three weeks at Number One. Bobby Moore and the boys even sang the number on Top Of The Pops. Sadly England were back home within weeks of the single's release. West Germany beat the regaining World Champions in the quarter-final.
 
 
 
THIS TIME WE'LL GET IT RIGHT - 1982
 
I have a confession to make, I brought this long lost musical treasure. In my defence I was only eleven at the time. My musical taste had yet to develop. A year later I accompanied my sister to a Shakin Stevens concert. Mike Barrett, to his friends, was a Welsh Elvis soundalike who was often donned denim.
 
Anyway I digress, This Time We'll Get It Right was written by Chris Norman and Pete Spencer. The song featured Kevin Keegan and the rest of  England's 1982 World Cup squad. Norman and Keegan had previous, the former had written Keegan's minor hit 'Head Over Heels'. They enjoyed greater success when this collaboration peaked at Number Two in the British charts. Unfortunately the uplifting title aroused false hope, Keegan and company failed to progress beyond the second round.
 
 
 
WORLD IN MOTION - 1990

Now we're talking. Cool Manchester indie pop band meets England's best side since 1966, a match made in heaven. Some clever thing at the FA decided to approach New Order as Italia 90 approached. The Order were rather popular in the eighties. In 1983 Blue Monday became the biggest selling 12-inch single of all time.
 
Written by group members Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert, World In Motion took football songs to a new level. Gone were the days of terrace chants being transferred to the recording studio, this single could hold its own at any nightspot. 
A fantastic backing track was interspersed by football references. Motion was capped off by its crowning glory, the John Barnes rap. Peter Beardsley was the original choice, but JB was a master of the art as anyone who brought the Anfield Rap will testify.

Some cruel comics joked that this was Barnes best performance in a England shirt. Look out for Keith Allen, aka Fat Les, in the video.
 
The song inspired Bobby Robson's boys. England reached the 1990 World Cup semi-final, their best performance since the days of Moore, Banks and Charlton.

 
 
THREE LIONS - 1996
 
For a brief time in 1996 you half expected Adams, Shearer and Gascoigne to be humming Three Lions as they lined up for the national anthem. This song was recorded as England prepared to host that summer's European Championship. 
 
Three Lions was the brainchild of Frank Skinner, David Baddiel and Lightening Seeds' frontman Ian Brodie. The lyrics spoke of the home nation's dreams of glory as it attempted to erase the memory of past failures. Anyone who supports an unsuccessful football team would emphasise with Skinner & Baddiel's vocals. The song became an anthem and spent two weeks at Number One.

The excellent video featured parodies of classic England moment. Teddy Sheringham mimicked Bobby Charlton's screamer against Mexico while Steve Stone recreated Nobby Stiles victory jig. World Cup hat-trick hero Sir Geoff Hurst also makes a cameo appearance as Skinner & Baddiel enjoy a quick pint.
 
This catchy tune was revived two years later after England qualified for France 1998. The updated version reflected England's narrow defeat in the Euro 96 semi-final. Footage of Gareth Southgate's penalty miss is shown as the boys sing about 'heroes dressed in grey'. Robbie Williams and Chris Evans feature in the 1998 video.
Three Lions 98 topped the charts for three weeks. When it came to business on the pitch England failed to end 32 years of hurt. Having successfully negotiated the group stage Glenn Hoddle's side face Argentina in the last 16. Yet again the England succumbed to the Achilles heel as Argentina prevailed in a penalty shoot out.

 

IF I CAN DREAM (TERRY VENABLES) - 2010

El Tel's always fancied himself as a crooner. Even in his playing days the former England manager exercised his vocal chords. In the early seventies he belted out 'What do you want to make those eyes at me' on the Russell Harty chat show. In 2010 Venables was persuaded to cover the Elvis classic 'If I Can Dream'.
 
The King recorded the version in tribute to Martin Lurther King, the American civil rights leader who was assassinated three months before the song's release. If I Can Dream reached Number 12 on the American billboard in 1968. Forty-two years later Venables version reached Number 22 in the British charts.
The Dagenham voice was backed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Harry Redknapp and Ian Wright. All the proceeds of the 2010 cover went to the Help For Heroes and Malaria No More charities.

 

So there you have it. Five of the most memorable England songs, but what is the best? We'd love to hear from you.

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Colin Illingworth

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