A rundown of my top 20 England songs over the years. To qualify, each song must have made the UK Charts top 75. From the sublime to the ridiculous, here we go…
20. Come On England – 4-4-2 (2004)
Chart Position: 2
A reworking of Dexys Midnight Runners hit Come On Eileen, this song which was brought out for Euro 2004, truly is a cringe fest. The band 4-4-2 was made up of several unsigned artists and it shows. The music video stars ‘glamour models’ Lucy Pinder and Michelle Marsh and shows backing vocals from former Coventry striker and current talkSPORT presenter Micky Quinn. The ridiculously high chart position probably reflects more the popularity of the original 1982 classic, than this attempt.
19. We’ve Got The Whole World At Our Feet – England World Cup Squad (1986)
Chart Position: 66
Very loosely based on the popular children’s song ‘We’ve Got The Whole World In Our Hands’, this is the first of many England squad songs to feature. Recorded for Mexico 86′, this is probably the worst song done by the team itself. As an adult, it’s hard to sing along to a song with lyrics that my 5 year old godson could’ve written. The link above only has an audio, as there’s no actual footage around of the players singing this one. Lucky for us.
18. Born In England – Twisted X (2004)
Chart Position: 9
Released by XFM (now Radio X) and Christian O’Connell, this charity track was recorded for Euro 2004. It features vocals from The Libertines & Supergrass among others. It calls itself a ‘Proper RockNRoll Football Anthem’, but really it’s one of the most plain songs on this list. Even tho it’s for a great cause, the very self absorbed O’Connell being involved puts me off from the start I’m afraid.
17. England Crazy – Rider feat. Terry Venables (2002)
Chart Position: 46
Written by Rider, the largely unknown boy band of the 90’s, ‘England Crazy’ lets Terry Venables explore his crooner side. It’s a bit of a fall from grace for the former England manager, to say only 6 years before he was on the verge of immortality at Euro 96. I can only think he got paid a packet to do this, as the video shows him singing in public in front of various London landmarks. You can almost see his managerial career dwindle by the second.
16. All The Way – England Squad feat. Stock, Aitken and Waterman (1988)
Chart Position: 64
No stranger to a hit in the late 1980’s, Pete Waterman and his producers wrote what they thought would be another number 1 for the England team. However unlike Kylie Minogue, they were not so lucky. Charting poorly, the English public confirmed they did not want S,A & W’s usual dose of cheese mixed with our national side. A personal highlight of the music video is Gary Mabbutt and Peter Beardsley on lead vocals. Ironically England couldn’t have been further from going ‘All The Way’, disastrously losing all three group games in Euro 88′.
15. Sven, Sven, Sven – Bell & Spurling (2001)
Chart Position: 7
Comedy music duo Martin Bell and Johnny Spurling recorded this novelty record in tribute to the then England manager Sven Goran Eriksson, shortly after England’s incredible 5-1 victory over Germany. Light-hearted throughout, the lyrics mainly describe the events in Munich that night. On a personal note, this song always reminds me of seeing the duo bizarrely perform this at Karisma nightclub, Doncaster. It charted surprisingly high at 7, which isn’t far off the number of Eriksson’s affairs that were revealed in the national press.
14. (How Does It Feel To Be) On Top Of The World – England United (1998)
Chart Position: 9
Endorsed by the FA as England’s official song for France 98′, England United were a supergroup made up of Echo & The Bunnymen, Ocean Colour Scene, Space & The Spice Girls. Deemed very unpopular by fans at the time, after going against the rebooted Three Lions 98′ and Vindaloo, it was even booed when played in football grounds around the country. In my opinion it’s not all bad, but in terms of an England song, it’s far too mellow and pretty unforgettable for the patriotic football fan. Sorry Ian McCulloch. Fair play managing to persuade David Batty to be in a music video though.
13. Hurry Up England – Sham 69 (2006)
Chart Position: 10
A re-working of their 1978 song ‘Hurry Up Harry’, this charity single from punk rock band Sham 69 also featured Blur’s Graham Coxon on guitar. The song is definitely an alternative England anthem, and at least it has that football terrace feel about it, so it doesn’t offend my ears as much as some on this list. The music video features Brian Blessed refereeing a kid’s match, with Keith Chegwin managing one of the sides. Not quite Baddiel & Skinner.
12. This Time (We’ll Get It Right) – England World Cup Squad (1982)
Chart Position: 2
When I think of traditional FA Cup Final Songs, automatically I think of 20 odd grown men in a music studio with headphones on, looking very uncomfortable, singing and swaying from side to side. This song is exactly that. Lead by Kevin Keegan (who already had a no. 31 hit behind him with ‘Head Over Heels’), the squad descend on Abbey Road studios for the recording. They just don’t make them like this anymore.
11. Shout – Dizzee Rascal & James Cordon (2010)
Chart Position: 1
The first of only 5 number ones on this list, Shout was released by Simon Cowell’s label Syco with all proceeds going to Great Ormond Street Hospital. It takes the chorus from Tears For Fears’ 1982 hit ‘Shout’ and extracts from Blackstreet’s ‘No Diggity’. I quite liked it at the time and still do now. A catchy chorus and it uses Dizzee Rascal at the peak of his powers. This song would be further up the list had it not featured the quite frankly overrated James Cordon. Shame.
10. All Together Now – The Farm feat. St Francis Xavier Boys Choir (2004)
Chart Position: 5
Originally released in 1990, this song was edited former Radio 1 DJ Spoony with the added vocals from the famous Liverpool choir. It already had an association with football as the lyrics are about the Christmas Day truce between British and German forces in 1914. Both sides put down their weapons and met in no-mans-land to exchange gifts and play football. Commentary of England’s qualification for Euro 2004 is added in the instrumentals. I’ve always liked the song, cos it portrays hope and friendship. And let’s face it, we all need that before a major tournament.
9. World At Your Feet – Embrace (2006)
Chart Position: 3
Released as England’s official song for World Cup 2006, the song got mixed reviews at the time. Especially when the band performed it at the PFA awards that year. Embrace we’re one of my favourite indie bands of the 90’s and as much as this isn’t ‘All You Good Good People’, it’s still a really good song. If this was an album track, it wouldn’t have faced as much criticism. But I can see why it did. It simply doesn’t feel like a football song. Apart from the first couple of lines of the chorus, you wouldn’t know that this was an for an England World Cup finals. And that’s what has worked against it in this list.
8. Jerusalem – Fat Les (2000)
Chart Position 10:
From a poem written by William Blake in the 19th century, to being converted into a popular hymn/song by Sir Hubert Parry to boost morale in the First World War, ‘Jerusalem’ is about as patriotic as an anthem can get. Some feel so strongly about this, they believe it should be the England football team’s national anthem instead of ‘God Save The Queen’, like the english cricket and rugby league teams have used in the past. Like the actor Keith Allen and most english men , I love it, and this version does it justice as a huge orchestra and choirs of all ages are involved. Cameo’s in the video include a very young Danny Dyer and pool party specialist Michael Barrymore.
7. We’re On The Ball – Ant & Dec (2002)
Chart Position: 3
Fresh from SM:TV and Pop Idol, back in 2002 Ant & Dec we’re quickly becoming the hottest property on British TV. The FA soon jumped on the bandwagon and gave them England’s Official World Cup song that year. The Geordie duo had small to moderate chart success in their younger years, but as fanatical fans of Newcastle and England this must’ve have been their dream gig. And to be fair they didn’t disappoint. Honestly I’ve always thought this song has been quite underrated for an England football song. It’s fun, it’s upbeat, and it’s catchy. Mentioning current players always goes down well with me too, and the ‘Neville to Campbell, Campbell to Rio…’ few lines at the end always got me and my mates singing along. Also the video is highly amusing, especially Ant McPartlin dressed as Sven Goran Eriksson. I doubt Ant will be up for any of that tomfoolery this year…
6. Three Lions 98′ – Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds (1998)
Chart Position: 1
”ONLY NUMBER 6?!!” I hear you cry. Yes, well hear me out. Three Lions is obviously a fantastic Football song, but remember this is a re-work for the 1998 World Cup that for me just doesn’t come near to the original. It’s good don’t get me wrong, but it all seemed a bit forced at the time after the success of first version. However it does bring back all the feelings of Euro 96, mentioning the tournament in the first verse. That, plus the original chorus (slightly changed from ’30 years of hurt’, to ‘no more years of hurt’) is why it’s still quite high up on this list. It’s a bit awkward though that they mention Pearce and Gascoigne when neither made the squad, especially when the latter was so abruptly dropped before the tournament.
5. England’s Irie – Black Grape feat. Joe Strummer & Keith Allen (1996)
Chart Position: 6
Written specifically for Euro 96, Black Grape are never better with the help of the legendary Clash lead singer/guitarist Joe Strummer. If you didn’t know, Irie is a Jamaican word for feeling good and it certainly has that effect. I have a fondness for this song going all the way back to 1996/97 season, when Sky used the track to front their Football League coverage for 4 years. And the lyrics ‘My wife’s lactating, I’m spectating, it’s a football thing’, are quite utterly brilliant. Incidentally this performance was Joe Stummer’s only ever appearance on Top Of The Pops as The Clash always refused to go on the show.
4. Back Home – England World Cup Squad (1970)
Chart Position: 1
The original England World Cup song and the first to top the charts, Back Home was the first time football and music really mixed in the UK. It stayed number 1 for a whopping 3 weeks, which was unheard of at the time. As mentioned before I love it when the whole squad gets together and belts out a track, and that’s what the boys of 1970 did here. Unfortunately I can’t get a link to the official music video of them recording this, but I saw it many years ago and you can just tell Sir Alf Ramsey is in charge. The players are dressed up in immaculate suits and slicked haircuts, totally in tune with the professionalism Ramsey had going at the time. It’s by far the shortest song on this list too, only lasting 2 mins which makes you want to stick it on again to fully enjoy it. It is a timeless football classic. Bravo gentlemen.
3. Vindaloo – Fat Les (1998)
Chart Position: 2
I’m not going to beat around the bush here, I bloody love Vindaloo! It’s the only song on this list that sounds like an anthem from the start, as it was put together as a parody of original football chants, but has become one in its own right with the ‘Nah, Nah, Nah..’ lyrics looping throughout the song. Whenever I’m in a pub watching England and I hear that snare drum opening, it automatically gets people jumping around. The music written by Alex James from Blur and lyrics by Keith Allen, it was the alternative England song for the 1998 World Cup, just missing out on the top spot to Three Lions 98′. The music video is fairly amusing too, a piss take of The Verve’s ‘Bittersweet Symphony’ video with comedian Paul Kaye taking the lead, bumping into everybody down the street. I’ll leave you with the ultimate football lyrics of, ”We’re Gonna Score One More Than You! England!” Quality.
2. Three Lions – Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds (1996)
Chart Position: 1
Three Lions is the soundtrack to Euro 96′, no doubt about it. The FA were wise approaching Baddiel & Skinner, who were very popular at the time with their football themed comedy show ‘Fantasy Football League. And The Lightning Seeds who were one of the leading bands during the Britpop era of the mid-90’s. I can still remember hassling my poor mother to buy me the single on the first day of release. She did, thanks Mum. The song went straight in at number one, but only really captured the imagination of the public after England’s 2-0 victory over Scotland. After that result the crowds started chanting the song’s tag line ‘Football’s Coming Home’ up and down the country, and the song went from strength to strength as England progressed the tournament. In the end selling a massive £1.53 million copies. Never before has a Football song so quickly been adopted by the terraces. The video includes footage of the current England players recreating famous moments from the past, including Steve Stone dancing around with the World Cup like Nobby Stiles. It remains one of only 3 songs to have top the charts twice with different lyrics after the 98′ version. The others are ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ (Band Aid & Band Aid 20) and ‘Mambo No. 5 (Lou Bega & Bob The Builder). It is without doubt one of the best football songs of all time. But for me it’s narrowly beaten by…
1. World In Motion – Englandneworder (1990)
Chart Position: 1
‘Well some of the crowd are on the pitch. They think it’s all over. It is now’. The immortal words of Kenneth Wolstenholme as Geoff Hurst scores the winning goal in the 1966 World Cup Final. As soon as I hear these words backed with that house piano, I know what I’m listening to. World In Motion. The fact is, even without the football element, this is a great song. It shows exactly why New Order were one of the biggest bands of the 1980’s, with their post punk/electronic/dance music, coming a long way from the doomy indie sound they started with after Joy Division. It’s hard to believe this was their only number 1 single. The lyrics were co-wrote by Keith Allen (Here he is again) and explain throughout the song how England can beat their opponents during the World Cup. Giving encouragement to the players to ‘Express Yourself’ throughout, until we reach the peak of the song, the John Barnes rap. The fact that they had a current England player involved on the track in that detail is genius. It just wouldn’t happen these days. Barnes beat several of his teammates to the part, including Gascoigne, Waddle and Beardsley (Can you imagine?). The rap was improvised on the spot and jotted on a small scrap of paper by his Liverpool colleague Craig Johnston. It really is an iconic sight seeing John Barnes rapping on the music video. For all these reasons and many more, for me this will always be the greatest England football song of all time.
One last thing. It’s no coincidence for me that England’s two best performances in tournaments since 1966 were Italia 90′ and Euro 96′, when the two best England songs also came out. The songs grabbed the imagination of the country and no doubt in my mind galvanised players into action too.
We need another great England song!