Steve Gribbin and John Ryan on their World Cup anthem

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This time, more than any other time, England needs a realistic World Cup anthem. Enter comedians Steve Gribbin and John Ryan

  • As the Greatest Football Show on Earth swings into action, the country that created the beautiful game has roused itself, like an ageing lion ready to do battle with younger rivals for the crown it won 40 years ago. The flag of St George flies from every other Ford Mondeo.

    Huddersfield-based band Embrace have released ‘World At Your Feet’, England’s official World Cup anthem. The sentiments are upbeat, the lyrics are appalling: ‘With the world at your feet/ There’s no one you can’t beat/ Yes it can be done.’A couple of months ago, comedians Steve Gribbin and John Ryan brought out a different kind of song. It mixes qualified optimism about England’s chances in Germany with a healthy dose of reality. They called it ‘We’re Gonna Do Quite Well (Injury Permitting)’. Make no mistake, they’re patriotic, singing: ‘From Wallsend to Gravesend we wish them success/But don’t send Prince Harry in fancy dress.’ But their hopes carry the scars of past disasters: ‘Bitte is the German word for please/And bitter is the taste if we lose on penalties.

    ’Why should we take them seriously? Because a companion lyric goes: ‘Schloss is the German word for castle/Please don’t break your metatarsal.’ Obvious enough, you might say. But Gribbin and Ryan wrote that in February. And Wayne Rooney broke the fourth metatarsal of his right foot at Stamford Bridge on April 29.

    ‘Nostradamus or what?’ Gribbin asks with a touch of ‘I told you so!’. ‘We’re not clairvoyants. We simply wanted to write a World Cup song that eschewed the usual gung-ho bollocks. ’

    What does it take to write a good England song? ‘One part blind optimism, two parts over-confidence. And, finally, ten parts lacerating self-castigation and self-pity,’ Gribbin answers. ‘You have to touch people. Repeatedly. But not in a pervy way. In their hearts. In their minds. Their eyes and ears – they’re good places, too.’ What’s touched the spot for him in the past? ‘It’s hard to choose. Baddiel and Skinner’s “Three Lions” was brilliant.’ So too, he says, was Fat Les’s ‘Vindaloo’. ‘But my all-time favourite has got to be New Order and their 1990 classic “World in Motion”. If only for the sound of John Barnes rapping!’

    Gribbin has a soft spot for ‘England’s Irie’, the unofficial song by Keith Allen and Joe Strummer that went up against ‘Three Lions’ in the 1996 European Championship campaign. Do you remember it at all? ‘Raise a glass, a perfect pass/And dribble around my socks/Check my shirt and drink my shots/And squeeze me in the box.’ Unsettling ideas. So how does an no-frills England football fan relate to this?

    ‘Hey-diddle-diddle, there’s a fella in the middle and I think he’s pulling my string/ My wife’s lactating and I’m spectating/ It’s a football thing.’World Cup songs, Gribbin wants to emphasise, are miles apart from their normal club-based cousins. ‘It’s a much larger scale. It’s like moving from Subbuteo to table football. There’s a lot more at stake. Ordinary football songs can be sarcastic, cynical, even cruel. A World Cup song has to say: “You can be bigger than that!” Their major limitations, he adds, often come down to a lack of irony. ‘Think of West Ham and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”. It has that recognition that life brings disappointment. False positivity is a dangerous idol. Ask any “Big Brother” contestant. “We’re Gonna Do Quite Well (Injury Permitting)” has a rousing quality but in a typically English, self-deprecating kind of way.’

    So there you have it. The red-top tabloids will whip their readers into a state of wholly unrealistic expectation and football-fed frenzy and anyone who adopts a more cautious attitude will be treated by the boozed-up lads as a scumbag and a traitor. Who knows, England’s boys could get lucky. Far more likely it’ll end in tears. Gribbin himself thinks the team might go out in the semi-finals. That sounds like wishful thinking.

    Bur Gribbin and Ryan aren’t reliant on England’s success. They’ve created the song without any record company involvement and they’re donating half of any profits to the Orchid Cancer Appeal. Gribbin has his own definition of the likely audience for their song: ‘Anyone who likes a top tune that tells it like it is.’ But that could change dramatically. Imagine what would happen if Rooney made it to the later stages, galloping into action, carrying the hopes of his nation, like the lifeless El Cid strapped to his horse and riding along the beach.

    ‘We’re Gonna Do Quite Well’ is available for only 79p at www.karmadownload.com

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