A Summer of Sport, Coin Collections and Songs from Simpler Times

Well, I don’t suppose I can write this week’s blog post without mentioning sport, as there’s an awful lot of it going on right now, and I’ve got caught up in all the excitement. Unlike many Scots I am always happy if any of our home nations does well in a big football tournament, as it extends the excitement that bit longer and you can experience it all vicariously via their fans. Although I am no longer a fan of club football, I do still love the big tournaments and there will be an awful lot of UK citizens tuning in on Sunday night for the final. Sadly DD and her boyfriend had chosen that one weekend to head off to a fancy-pants hotel for a bit of R & R. She is most definitely not a fan of football but her boyfriend certainly is. Their Sunday night “dining experience” will be cut short I fear.

An absolute dream for a fan of spreadsheets, lists and statistics – My ‘beflagged’, almost completed wallchart

But anyway, with tennis back at Wimbledon, the Tour de France in progress, our national football teams giving the country a much needed lift, and the Tokyo Olympics (sans spectators it seems) just round the corner, it feels like summers of old. Odd that everything is now out of sync in terms of the year though, UEFA Euro 2020 and the Tokyo 2020 Olympics both being held in 2021. In the fullness of time, when we look back at those long lists of annual sporting achievements, the year 2020 will be erased from time, something that didn’t even happen during the two world wars. The pesky virus, invisible to the eye, has shut down international gatherings like never before in history.

There have been many football anthems over the years and I shared one from Scotland’s 1982 campaign a couple of weeks ago (link here). Time to focus on the home nation who will appear in Sunday’s final then. Over the years, England have had many songs recorded to accompany their football tournament journey, but only four have made it to the top spot on the UK Singles Chart. The first was this one, Back Home, from 1970, the year I first became invested in football and from the days when the actual team lined up for singing duties. (Bobby Charlton looking a bit sad there in the still, or is he embarrassed?).

I had been just too young to remember the 1966 campaign (down to a very early bedtime in those days I’ve now realised) but by the time I reached the age of 10, I could join my dad in watching the matches, and collecting those coins that were given out at petrol stations. I do still have some of the sticker books petrol stations gave away during the Olympics of that era, but sadly no longer have my coin collection. Fortunately I’ve found some sets online shared by people who have very sensibly held on to theirs. Some very familiar names there from the 1966 World Cup winning team, but sadly not many of them still with us. Bobby’s brother Jack Charlton died just last year, and so did Nobby Stiles. A great shame they didn’t live long enough to see their team reach another final.

So the song Back Home, written by top pop songwriters of the day Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, reached No. 1 on the UK Singles Chart in May 1970. It took another 20 years for an England campaign football song to reach to top spot and this time it was a very different animal. World in Motion was written/performed by New Order and Keith Allen with the football squad joining in for the chorus. Footballer John Barnes took the song to a whole new level by very ably adding a rap section, and unlike Back Home, I think it has stood the test of time.

I had just starting going out with Mr WIAA and I remember watching much of Italia ’90 with him. This time there were no coins to collect, but many of us did find ourselves warming to opera, after being serenaded by Luciano Pavarotti’s Nessun Dorma every evening ahead of watching the television coverage.

Luciano Pavarotti

The third No. 1 football song was of course Three Lions which seems to have become the unofficial anthem for every England campaign since. It was written back in 1996 for the Euros held in England so it made sense for the songwriters to add the line, “It’s coming home”. It didn’t as it turned out, but 25 years on there is the chance for that to happen on Sunday night. This time the song was written by comedians David BaddielFrank Skinner, and the band Lightning Seeds. Don’t know about you but it doesn’t feel like 25 years since that tournament, but then again DD was just a baby back then, and now she’s off to expensive hotels with her boyfriend. How time flies.

Scotland found themselves in the same group as England at Euro 96 and I remember well sitting with a piece of paper on the night of the final group stage matches, working out the changing goal difference between teams each time the ball found itself at the back of the net. For a time it was looking as if Scotland would progress, but a last minute goal by The Netherlands put paid to that dream. As they were playing England many of us thought they possibly let that happen, but that would be casting aspersions wouldn’t it.

For the sake of completeness I feel I should add the fourth and final anthem to have reached the top spot, Shout for England, but I can’t say I even remember it. It was written for the South Africa 2010 World Cup tournament and samples Tears for Fears Shout as well as sections of rap by Dizzee Rascal. James Corden also seems to have played a part on that one. This tournament largely passed me by, because of intense work pressures around that time, but who could forget the dreaded vuvuzela.

And so we come to now, and very oddly a song from 1969 has captured the imagination of the fans on the terraces. It has worked its magic in stadiums throughout the US, but who would have thought Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline would hit that sweet spot just as we reach Sunday’s final. All apparently because of its very particular lyrics:

Good times never seemed so good (especially if you’ve just won a big match)

Hands, touchin’ hands
Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you
(rises to a rousing crescendo, and a fine sentiment for fans who have been kept apart for so long)

I always knew the name Caroline in the song was inspired by JFK’s daughter, but only found out today that it was because his wife’s name, Marcia, just didn’t work phonetically. After reading a magazine article about Caroline, he worked out the syllables in her name fitted better, so changed it.

Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond:

So, “What’s It All About?” – I don’t think many music lovers who follow this blog are fans of football, so excuse me this little indulgence, but it’s been an exciting few weeks with three of our home nations doing really well in the Euros. I was sad when Scotland didn’t progress beyond the group stages, but we were all really proud of our team and can always say we held one of the tournament finalists (we don’t yet know who will win) to a draw. Many think we should have won that match.

As for the songs, just wanted to cover the ones that made it to the top spot in the singles chart but of course there are many, many more. If the England team do the business on Sunday night, and win their match against Italy, I’m sure 60,000 football fans will find their voices, and the sounds of Sweet Caroline will fill Wembley stadium.

Until next time…

Sweet Caroline Lyrics
(Song by Neil Diamond)

Where it began
I can’t begin to knowin’
But then I know it’s growin’ strong

Was in the spring
And spring became the summer
Who’d have believed you’d come along

Hands, touchin’ hands
Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined
To believe they never would

But now I…

…look at the night
And it don’t seem so lonely
We fill it up with only two

And when I hurt
Hurtin’ runs off my shoulders
How can I hurt when holdin’ you?

Warm, touchin’ warm
Reachin’ out, touchin’ me, touchin’ you

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I’ve been inclined

To believe they never would
Oh, no, no

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
Sweet Caroline
I believed they never could

Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good

Author: Alyson

Whenever I hear an old song on the radio, I am immediately transported back to those days - I know I'm not alone here and want to record those memories for myself and for the people in them. 50 years ago the song "Alfie" was written by my favourite songwriting team Bacharach and David - The opening line to that song was "What's it all about?" and I'm hoping that by writing this blog, I might find the answer to that question.

11 thoughts on “A Summer of Sport, Coin Collections and Songs from Simpler Times”

  1. Alyson,
    I thought you, and the WIAA gang, would like to see the American rendition of “Sweet Caroline.”
    As many of you outside the US may know, we don’t call “Soccer” “Football,” that name is reserved for the gladiator games normally played in the Autumn and winter. And it is debatable as to which is more popular in the US, “Football” or Baseball.

    When I was younger, baseball was a summertime staple, playing it with the neighborhood gang, watching it on the TV, or, a few times a season, going to watch the Detroit Tigers playing a home game.

    Much has changed since the late 50’s and early 60’s, and baseball isn’t as interesting to me any more, but I enjoy watching highlight clips of good plays on YouTube. Not long ago, I came across this clip of Neil diamond leading the Boston Red Sox in the song at Fenway Park. Your fans (which is a shortened version of “fanatics”) have nothing on us here.

    Passing the clip along to you, and the WIAA folks. I hope you, “across the pond” enjoy it. And maybe one day soon, you can invite Mr. Diamond to sing it at Wembley Stadium. Hurry up though, as like us, he is getting old, darn it!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks for this bit of background to your seasonal sports in the US Guy. Yes, our kind of football/soccer is a very different sport to your football, but I did enjoy watching the World Cup in 1994 when it was hosted by yourselves. Unlike with Italia ’90 when we had opera to accompany the coverage title sequence, for USA ’94 we had West Side Story (I Like To Be In America).

        As for Neil’s song, thanks for sharing that clip – I had seen that it usually accompanies Boston Red Sox games but I think he must be bemused by the fact it has really taken off over here now too. It was written as a love song, but translates well to a song for football fans who also love their team.

        Like

    1. I have only seen Light Opera performances, by the likes of Gilbert and Sullivan, but always enjoyable.

      During the Italia 90 tournament, Pavarotti serenaded us with Nessun Dorma every night ahead of the viewing schedules and a whole generation of lads who had never heard opera suddenly became fans. Around that time he teamed up with Placido Domingo and Jose Carreras to form The Three Tenors and they were incredibly popular with people from all walks of life. Definitely brought opera to the people and a lot of it down to football!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. From simpler, less divisive times, when Scottish kids were more than happy to collect the English Team coins.

      Don’t know what happened to mine but I don’t think we ever got the full set.

      Like

  2. Well, being a Boston Red Sox baseball fan, as well as being keen on UK football (soccer) I would warn against the importation of the “Sweet Caroline” song. Most real fans are sick of it, but it’s still played for the “baseball tourists” who show up at our historic Fenway Park, built in 1912. Anyway, was very disappointed at the Euro final, I thought England would at last win the big game.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I imagine it would become quite wearing after a time but as it turns out it wasn’t needed, as England lost out in the dreaded penalty shoot-out.

      Ironically the only people who have left comments on this post are American – Football has become complicated in this country with an awful lot of bad behaviour amongst a small minority of fans. The last couple of days have been awful for the players who didn’t score in the penalty shoot-out but good to see that the majority of fans are being positive and supporting them. I just wanted to write about it, as a massive sporting event, and my footballing memories are happy ones of watching tournaments with my dad and completing the wall-charts. Also wanted to show that it is possible for Scots to support other home nations – Many of us do, but again the ugly side of nationalism rears its head at such times. Shame such a national institution has become so tainted of late.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Isn’t it interesting how a song, presumably composed for a particular reason, is adaptable for other purposes? “Sweet Caroline” with the repetition of “so good, so good,” just makes sense as an anthem, years after its creation for a totally different purpose.
    What a week for sports! The Euro, Wimbledon, The Stanley Cup, MLB All Star game and upcoming,The Open. All of these events are ‘packaged’ with musical intros and exits and often musical interludes. The drama of sport is enhanced by music. Long may they coexist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed, that song seems to have found its way into stadia in the US for some time but then crossed the pond to Northern Ireland first and now heavily used in the Euros by England fans. I can see how the lyrics totally translate to sport but sadly our remaining home nation didn’t win the tournament on Sunday night so the song wasn’t needed.

      Lots of sport around at the moment which for me makes it feel more like summer after nothing at all last year. Always a particular title sequence to the coverage or a song that marries up with the event, so a bit more sympatico than you would think. Opera definitely got a massive boost when it was used for the Italia 90 World Cup. Looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics now so will be interesting to find out what they use for that coverage – Will feel all wrong without spectators but sadly can’t be helped.

      Like

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