British football crowds sing songs at matches – known as chants. Often they are rude and generally mock the opposition, either en masse or individual players. At their best they are warm, self-deprecating and funny; at their worst they are crude, sexist or racist. Some manage to be all three in one verse.
But every chant needs a tune, and football supporters generally don’t bother composing their own. They just pinch a ready-made one. The provenance of those tunes is known at the time the chant is first created but often get lost in the mist of time. Sometimes supporters know the name of the tune they are singing, but not why they are singing it, other times they have forgotten the history of the tune altogether; and they don’t care.
Here is an example. In 1972 the Kent-based band Chicory Tip had a one hit wonder with the song Son of my Father. It was notable for being written and produced by electro-pop pioneer Giorgio Moroder, and featured a very early synthesiser.
The chorus was:
‘So-oooon of my Father,
molded, I was folded I was
That’s long been forgotten, but it appealed to the ear of football supporters of the early 1970s and crudely adapted to a chant in praise of which ever hero has attracted their admiration. The opening word ‘Son’ runs for several beats, and has been replaced by ‘Oh’ in the football chant. So it now goes:
“Ohhhhh – Jimmy Jimmy
Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy, Jimmy Mull-I-gan.”
Another football tune lost in the mists comes from the Village People’s classic Go West from 1979, and then later adapted and given a Soviet feel in the early 1990s by The Pet Shop Boys. It was quickly adopted by Arsenal fans who changed:
– where the air is free.”
“One – Nil,
– to the Ars-en-al.”
Soon after the UK’s non-Manchester United supporting brethren changed it to…
“Stand – up
– if you hate Man U.”
So popular and successful is the tune and so resourceful the average fans ability to scan their words into it that it has even been exported abroad. German fans of the team Schalke sing.
-wenn ihr Schalker seid” (Stand up if you are Schalke – scans better in German than English).
It’s such a catchy and easy tune that they are likely to carry on singing it for many years to come, long after Village People and The Pet Shop Boys join Chicory Tip in the category ‘long-forgotten’.
And then of course there are the songs adopted formally by football teams – but that’s another story for another day.