Seven in Seven #1: A Gothenburg Great and A Truly Awful but Much-loved Football Song

As I had a birthday this week, and I am a full two and a half years older than I was when I first picked up this blogging mantle, I’m going to set myself the challenge of posting every day for a week. I know there are quite a few daily bloggers in my little circle, and I am full of admiration for what they do, but in my case it’ll just be a little experiment. Not expecting regular visitors to leave comments, and these are going to have to be much shorter posts than usual, but I have a bit of a backlog of ideas building up so here’s a chance to play catch up.

First of all, I am truly amazed that I have not yet written a tribute this year for anyone whom we’ve lost from the world of music. In January 2016, the month I first started blogging, I’d written three in my first 10 days. We’ve lost a few high profile comedians/all-round entertainers in 2018 and a few from the world of music who have meant a lot to others, but not necessarily to me. Last week however we lost someone from the world of sport who will not be known to many of you who visit this place, but who is partly responsible for one of the worst songs ever to find their way into my record collection. If this blog’s tagline is A Nostalgic Journey Through the Tracks of My Years, then this one has to be in there.

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Back in May 1983, Aberdeen FC won the European Cup Winners Cup and so began one of the best weeks of my life. My dad had been a life-long fan of the team, as was the boyfriend-of-the-time (the BOTT), so inevitably I got caught up in all the excitement that befalls your city when the local team is riding high. Sir Alex Ferguson worked his magic at Manchester United, as we all know, but I think some people forget he cut his teeth at Aberdeen.

One of of the Gothenburg Greats, as they came to be known, was a young player called Neale Cooper and being a bit shallow at that age, we girls kind of all fell for his blonde hair and good looks. A couple of years down the line however I got to know his sister and she became part of our social circle – We in turn got to know Neale the man, as opposed to Neale the football player. He was a comedian and entertainer of the highest order and his impressions of Sir Alex were legendary. By a strange coincidence, not long after I left Aberdeen to move to the Highlands, Neale also moved north to take up football management so our paths crossed again. His kids, when they came along, were all around the same age as my daughter so their paths also crossed. It came as a massive shock last week to hear that he had died suddenly at the incredibly young age of 54. I know how close he was to his family, so know they will be bereft, but I really don’t think I’d realised just how well-loved he was by so many. The tributes have been flooding in from the world of football and from his many friends – The youngest of the Gothenburg Greats and sadly the first to leave us.

European_Cup_Winners_Cup_Final_1983But of course this is a music blog and the song that was very hastily put together for release ahead of the big final was this one – Simply called the European Song. Having just looked it up, it seems Neale wasn’t one of the players who turned singer for a day on the record, but the current Scotland manager Alex McLeish was, along with Willie Miller, Gordon Strachan, Eric Black, John Hewitt, Jim Leighton and Mark McGhee – All players who have gone on to great things in the world of football.

It truly is an awful song but as the lyrics said, “We’re gonna do it for you”, and they did, with bells on. There was gridlock on Union Street (the city’s main thoroughfare) that night, as everyone felt the need to come out and celebrate. In those pre-mobile phone days I lost track of the BOTT, but he emerged a day later on the cover of the Aberdeen Press and Journal, having scaled one of the city’s many statues, scarf in hand. When the team arrived back with the cup, we headed down to Pittodrie Stadium to greet them, and of course there was the obligatory tour of the city in an open top bus. A party was held in a local hostelry where we all had to wear red and white, and of course listen to the European Song, on repeat – Argh…, painful on the ears, but happy times indeed.

There was a reunion on the 11th May of all the Gothenburg Greats to celebrate the 35th anniversary of their big win. Neale had apparently been on good form that night but sadly, only two weeks later, there was one less Northern Light in Old Aberdeen.

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RIP Neale Cooper

European Song Lyrics
(Song by Harry Barry)

We are the Dons from Aberdeen
And we’re the finest that’s ever been
And we’re gonna do it for you
And we’re gonna do it for you

McLeish and Miller and Strachan too
They’ll lead us forward and take us through
And we’re gonna do it
We’re gonna do it
We’re gonna do it for you!

We’ve taken our team into Europe
Yes we have, Ooooh yes we have
All the way every night and day,
Singing a European song
Ooooh all the way every night and day,
Singing a European song

We can sing, and we can play
And Alex Ferguson, he knows the way
And we’re gonna do it
We’re gonna do it
We’re gonna do it for you!

Liverpool, Gerry Marsden and “You’ll Never Walk Alone”

A very big week for news as the inquest into the Hillsborough disaster returned a verdict that the supporters were unlawfully killed due to failures by the authorities in what should have been a duty of care. The inquest also found that the design of the stadium contributed to the crush, and that supporters were not to blame for the dangerous conditions.

I remember watching the events of 15th April 1989 unfold on television. I had returned from shopping, as was usual on a Saturday, and switched on the box. It was obvious that the football match being aired had been suspended but it took me a while to work out what was happening. As it became clear that fans were being crushed to death whilst we watched live, it became a deeply emotional experience. I remember not only shedding tears but also sobbing uncontrollably.

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As a wife and mother, I cannot begin to imagine how those poor women who had waved their husbands and sons goodbye that day, must have felt watching the same footage. 96 fans died as a result of the crush in the penned area from which there was no exit, and hundreds more were injured. At least now, having worked tirelessly for 27 years to get to the truth, these families have got justice for their loved ones. It doesn’t bring them back but they have been vindicated of being the cause of the disaster. Liverpool is a close-knit city with a unique history and I am glad that this tragedy is no longer laid at their door.

As an antidote to my last post, which was yet again about the premature passing of two of my heroes, I was going to write about a happier theme this time – “The Smiliest People in Pop”. That doesn’t seem appropriate now but as one of those people was to be Liverpudlian Gerry Marsden, of Gerry and the Pacemakers, it is perfectly fitting to include You’ll Never Walk Alone as today’s featured song. It was a No. 1 hit for them in 1963 and was subsequently adopted by Liverpool FC fans as their anthem, and has been sung on the terraces of Anfield now for over 50 years.

I have always loved this very stirring song, both Gerry’s version and the original from the musical Carousel. Sadly my husband is not a fan (he finds it over-sentimental and doesn’t “get” football) so I have to listen to it in private – A guilty pleasure. He was once duped however into coming with me to watch Carousel at the theatre. He stupidly got Cabaret and Carousel mixed up so thought he was coming to spend an evening watching the exploits of Sally Bowles at the Kit Kat Club. Anyway my daughter and I had a wonderful evening, the culmination being the reprise of this wonderful song in the final scene. Afterwards my husband did grudgingly admit that he might have been wrong in his judgment.

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Gerry and the Pacemakers have been mentioned before in the blog as they were one of the many acts brought down to London by Brian Epstein in the early sixties to work with the producer George Martin. That fortuitous partnership meant that along with Cilla Black, The Beatles and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas, they created Merseybeat.

gerry

And as for the other smiley people in pop whom I intended to write about today, they were to be Marti Pellow of Wet Wet Wet and Glenn Gregory of Heaven 17. The mean and moody look is one that has been universally adopted by many of our rock and pop heroes but I have a soft spot for those artists who just can’t suppress a massive smile – Yes they look like the cats that got the cream and why not? They were young, selling lots of records and adored by their fans so who wouldn’t want to smile (most of them apparently).

So another post on a somewhat sombre topic but about an outcome that will hopefully help people move on with their lives. As for our smiley friends pictured above, there will be time to return to them in more detail another day. I will leave you with another version of the song, this time from the Liverpool fans themselves. Rousing stuff – RIP the 96.

You’ll Never Walk Alone Lyrics
(Song by Richard Rodgers/Oscar Hammerstein II)

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
There’s a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of a lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk alone

When you walk through a storm
Hold your head up high
And don’t be afraid of the dark
At the end of the storm
Is a golden sky
And the sweet silver song of the lark

Walk on through the wind
Walk on through the rain
Though your dreams be tossed and blown

Walk on walk on with hope in your heart
And you’ll never walk alone
You’ll never walk

You’ll never walk
You’ll never walk alone

Postscript:

The last time I wrote about a song adopted by football fans it was “Sunshine On Leith” by The Proclaimers. I ended up including their version, the fans’ version and the version from the musical of the same name. In the interests of parity, I feel I ought to include a third version of You’ll Never Walk Alone, this time from the 1956 film. It features none other than Shirley Jones who to me, will always be David Cassidy’s mum in The Partridge Family, but that was to be about 15 years in the future. In Carousel she played Julie Jordan, a young millworker from Maine. This was Rodgers and Hammerstein’s second musical and many more were to come – I very much doubt however, when writing the song, that they could have imagined it would end up being sung in so many football grounds around the world, and all down to Gerry Marsden from Liverpool, and his Pacemakers.

The Proclaimers, Hibs and “Sunshine On Leith”

Last time I wrote about Elvis Presley, a performer who could only have come from the southern states of America. His accent, his good manners, his songs, all reflected his roots and his “place” in the world, right from the very beginning and throughout his career. In Scotland, we didn’t produce an Elvis Presley but we did produce The Proclaimers. Like Elvis, their accents, their good manners and songs were very much of their “place” and like most Scots I am really proud of what they have achieved.

I will admit that unlike Elvis they were never destined to become teen idols, but ever since twins Charlie and Craig Reid appeared on the music scene in the mid ’80s they have produced an impressive body of work and kept entertaining audiences around the world with their very distinctive brand of anthemic music.

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I first saw them in concert in the autumn of 1986 when they supported The Housemartins who were touring the UK at the time. I can still remember my quite “posh” friend’s surprised reaction to the twins, as she had never heard anyone sing with such strong Scottish accents before. Also they sang about places and happenings that we all could relate to. It didn’t take them long to cross the Atlantic and appear on US television chat shows, their songs becoming big hits over there too. They have even appeared on Family Guy!

procs

My favourite Proclaimers’ song is Sunshine On Leith which came from their second album and was a minor hit in 1988. It is a song that is just so connected to their birthplace, Leith, a district in the north of Edinburgh. A stage musical called Sunshine On Leith was written in 2007 featuring the songs of The Proclaimers, and an excellent film of the same name was made in 2013. It is one of the rare times I have enjoyed a film so much that I went back to watch it for a second time the next night.

Sunshine On Leith by The Proclaimers:

Like last time with the Elvis song, I have decided to include more than one version and these next two bring a lump to my throat every time. The first shows just what can happen when football fans adopt a song and in the case of Sunshine On Leith, that could only have happened with Hibernian FC, the club based right there in Leith. Fortunately Charlie and Craig are fans of the club and they must have been really moved by what happened after Hibs’ amazing Scottish League Cup Final win in 2007 – You can tell that the club’s manager, John Collins, definitely was.

Sunshine On Leith Cup Final version (best bit kicks in at 1:14 – no pun intended):

The second version of this song is from the film and is performed by Jane Horrocks. A completely different version from the one sung with such passion on the football terraces but sung with a different kind of passion, that of a wife for her poorly husband. If you haven’t seen either the stage show or the film, I would thoroughly recommend both although I would also thoroughly recommend bringing a large supply of tissues as I ran out last time – Not a pretty sight leaving the cinema.

Sunshine On Leith from the film soundtrack:

Sunshine On Leith Lyrics
(Song by Charlie Reid/Craig Reid)

My heart was broken, my heart was broken 
Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow Sorrow
My heart was broken, my heart was broken
You saw it, You claimed it
You touched it, You saved it

My tears are drying, my tears are drying 
Thank you Thank you Thank you Thank you
My tears are drying, my tears are drying
Your beauty and kindness
Made tears clear my blindness

While I’m worth my room on this earth
I will be with you
While the Chief, puts sunshine on Leith
I’ll thank Him for His work
And your birth and my birth