Dec 10


FT + Popular149 comments • 6,889 views

#646, 9th June 1990

“World In Motion” is the ultimate 1990 record, but oddly the specific World Cup it reminds me of is 2002: living in London, broadly optimistic about England’s prospects, watching football in the morning then going out in the afternoon sunshine and having a beer, maybe dancing later. That timelag made it a topsy-turvy experience, gave the sensation of the usual order of a World Cup summer being turned enjoyably upside down. The same kind of pleasant dislocation, in fact, that struck me when I heard, 12 years earlier, that New Order were going to make the England team record, and it was going to be called “E For England”.

Well, it wasn’t, but given the chain of marvelous unlikeliness this did set off – New Order doing a football song, New Order at number one, John Barnes rapping on a chart-topping hit – I can’t begrudge one missing bit of cheekiness. The mooted title also points at what makes the track work – this really, genuinely “ain’t a football song”, the sport takes its place in a more universal celebration of summer, freedom, optimism, and most of all dance music.

It’s a rightful place, too. I’d learned the fat kid’s defensive disdain for football, but even I’d become aware of a counter-melody to the constant establishment song of thuggery, tragedy and mistrust. The idea of E’d-up hooligans hugging on the terraces is one of the great fond legends of the late 80s, potent whatever its literal truth. But presenting football and dance music as incongruous, ironic partners obscured deeper connections. The lifestyle of the casual, grafting to get money for a European jaunt and returning with clothes and style ideas, has pretty obvious parallels with acid house culture in the UK (and involved lots of the same people). It’s not a huge jump from imported trainers to imported 12″s. Italy being a prime source of both, of course. So when the Italo house piano – a feature of almost every good #1 this year – drops in mid-song for the “We. Want. Goals.” sample – this record stops seeming unlikely and instead becomes something gloriously, inevitably, right.

After that pivot point you get the England half of the record. Before, you get a New Order single – and a very good one. Not perhaps their greatest – not “Bizarre Love Triangle” or “Regret” or “Run”. But their virtues – Barney’s unaffected earnestness, the efficient snap of the drum programming, and especially the beautiful overlapping runs of bass, guitar and keyboard – are all here. I sometimes get the feeling New Order fans – Americans in particular – see “World In Motion” as a novelty or an aberration, when really it’s a validation: this is a band at their peak, following their best album. They’ve gone through grim times, found a kind of salvation on the dancefloor and played their part in taking a whole culture with them. This single is as necessary to their wider story as “Love Will Tear Us Apart”. And to be honest I listen to it a great deal more often.

As for the football section – well, there are a lot of Englishmen who know few raps from memory but could recite John Barnes’ at a moment’s prompting. It has heart and gusto and – a genuine rarity this in a World Cup song – it actually talks tactics. And yes, you can’t have a football song without some degree of chanting, but “World In Motion” earns it – the “Arrivederci!” bit appears as a natural, joyful, end to the song instead of its main motive force.

In the end, though, a culture gets the football songs it deserves. And it’s easy to forget how good England sometimes felt in 1990. The optimism in “World In Motion”, the sense of possibility, was very real and hard to put into words now without sounding pie-eyed or rote – pop was revitalised, the world was changing, youth culture was transformed, Thatcher was weakening (and would finally fall that winter). Football had played a hidden role in setting up some of these cultural shifts and here it was, accepting its invitation to the party.

For Mexico 86 I’d hardly paid attention, for France 82 I’d only cared about the Panini stickers. Italia 90 was the first World Cup I followed: as it turned out I was hardly alone, and the tournament’s gone down as one beginning for the great gentrifying and commercialising changes in football in the 20 years since. At the time of “World In Motion” this future went mostly unpredicted – instead there was a Utopian streak in pop thought, a sense of the coming together of genres, classes, eras that this record with its mix of ’66 and ’88 caught exactly. Maybe it was just that I was 17. Looking back it seems a little more bittersweet, a high tide of confidence – the Utopia never arrived, and this is the last time we’ll meet 1966 on a hit record (football song or no) as an equal, not as a chastising ghost. But for now Summer is beginning, the team is ready, and the future is an open goal.



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  1. 126
    Cumbrian on 6 Jan 2011 #

    @123 and thefatgit: looked like we were on to something here, so I did some more googling.


    I can’t say for certain that New Order were not on the soundtrack for The High Life – the Granada connection with Tony Wilson means that it is certainly a possibility but the above link suggests that the soundtrack for this doc was by Stevie Winwood. You can also see part 2 of the doc on Youtube (the 1st part was apparently disabled for copyright violation according to the comments thread – presumably on the music – first time I have read a Youtube comments page not filled with racist vitriol).

    I haven’t watched the stuff that’s up yet to see whether YSF is used incidentally or not. If not though, we might have reached a dead end (unless it was used on World Of Sport).

  2. 127
    thefatgit on 6 Jan 2011 #

    I don’t think we’ll know for sure, Cumbrian. You’ve put in a helluva lot of work to find an answer, where I’ve barely scratched the surface. I’m not sure I remember The High Life. Was it Granada region only?

  3. 128
    Cumbrian on 6 Jan 2011 #

    Looks like it was broadcast originally in the Granada region but then got shown across the country. It is possible, apparently, to get copies on DVD and there’s even a link to a VHS copy on Amazon if you look hard enough.

  4. 129
    DanielW on 3 Feb 2011 #

    #125 Totally agree with you re: “Birdhouse In Your Soul”, a great fun record amidst what was the worst period of my life (January – Easter 1990)…

    “World In Motion” was a cracking single, which even survived John Barnes’ ham-fisted attempt at rapping (having said that, it was better than his attempt at football management – just ask a Tranmere fan!)

  5. 130
    Cumbrian on 8 Mar 2011 #

    This seems like the right place to say: True Faith by George Michael. Discuss.

    I reckon it has to be a pisstake right? It is the Comic Relief charity single – and the use of auto-tune sounds like satire to my ears…

  6. 131
    punctum on 8 Mar 2011 #

    I think it’s absolutely brilliant and very moving.

  7. 132
    Cumbrian on 8 Mar 2011 #

    131. You know what? I’ve listened to it two or three times now and I can hear some of what I think you’re hearing/referring to but I still think that there is an element of subtle humour about this from George. I think he could well be saying “you want me to be a tortured soul – well have some of this”. It’s not as overt as the video to Outside but I still think this is intended as joke of sorts, or at least a joke on the people who will immediately dismiss this as “omg, blasphemy” or “well George has lost it right?”

    I frequently think the same thing about Radiohead too actually – I strongly suspect that some of what they are doing (especially lyrically) is actually intended to be funny.

  8. 133
    punctum on 8 Mar 2011 #

    It’s the ambiguity which is responsible for much of the record’s effect, or, more (im)properly, the pull-and-push struggle between I’m having a laugh and what if it’s all for nothing?

    Or, get past New Order’s self-defending/defining japes and say: this is what THEY were/are trying to hide from.

    But we pass The Bishop’s Avenue quite regularly on our travels around London and think: how could anyone “live” there. Is death really not an option? Curtains routinely drawn, X-Factor on the TV, GM ringing in 29 times because there’s nothing else to do, or there’s plenty else to do but he can’t do it in front of other people unless they’re so plentiful and far away from him that he can’t make them out?

    “When I was a very small boy/Very small boys wouldn’t talk to me.”

    …and so the living, dying robot, the machine he always wanted that gobbled him up because he can’t drag himself to the window, scream through the porthole and JOIN IN with the rest of humanity and what else can a depressed Dalek do except cry the lament that’s older than planets but younger than the sun which the curtains do their best to hide.

  9. 134
    flahr on 8 Mar 2011 #

    I would pedantically note that the official Comic Relief charity single this year is “Gold Forever” by The Wanted but I’m not sure how much my protestations that “True Faith” is just a single being released for Comic Relief and not the Comic Relief single would stand up in Pop Court.

  10. 135
    Erithian on 21 Mar 2011 #

    Ironic that George was part of the most widely acclaimed bit of Comic Relief this year, but it decidedly *wasn’t* the New Order cover. Instead it was him and Smithy in the van having fun singing Wham! oldies.

  11. 136
    Mark G on 21 Mar 2011 #

    “Official” stands for nothing when Subo/PKay have a single out and so does GMichael, both with the rednose sticker on.

  12. 137
    Erithian on 21 Mar 2011 #

    Apparently issues with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ “people” prevent this getting a proper release, which is a pity as it’s one of the best Red Nose products ever:

  13. 138
    punctum on 21 Mar 2011 #

    Hurrah for the fine judgment of Hova and ‘Licia!

  14. 139
    Erithian on 21 Mar 2011 #

    And boo to whichever of them is the humourless git. We’ll have to agree to differ on that one!

  15. 140
    Mark G on 21 Mar 2011 #

    It was “funny” “the first” “time”.

  16. 141
    Tom on 22 Mar 2011 #

    The George Michael is good.

  17. 142
    Mark M on 22 Mar 2011 #

    Re 137/140: yeah, something really funny on YouTube (or in old money, a TV sketch) = good. The same thing as an official single release usually = really sodding annoying after a week and a half. At most.

  18. 143
    punctum on 22 Mar 2011 #

    Susan Boyle & Geraldine McQueen: yes, we got the “joke” several years ago, no need to keep retelling us.

  19. 144
    Mark G on 22 Mar 2011 #

    #142, oh I remember when “Ernie (the fastest milkman in the west)” was a TV sketch, and a year or so later was a ‘normous hit and number one and so on. But, I was young enough to enjoy it on Topofthepops every damn week it was on. So…

    Of the current crop of Rednose recs, the GMichael one is the ‘best’ (haven’t actually heard the Wanted one, so I may be doing it a dis-service but if it was that good I’d have heard it right? Oh actually it doesn’t have to be ‘that good’ to be better than GMick’s one OK close brackets carry on), but that’s not saying much.

    The Susan Boyle & Geraldine McQueen one has no ‘funny’ content, so basically it’s a cover version, that’s it. Peter Kay’s character is a transsexual, and Susan Boyle is a singer, so basically it’s played straight, and what’s left is a facsimile cover version.

  20. 145

    I feel there is a case for throwing the so-called “bunny” injunction wider than usual on this topic, given what looms!

  21. 146
    seekenee on 21 Mar 2013 #

    Blue Monday = ubiquitous local disco monster 83-88
    Thieves Like Us = sublime peak of New Pop along with The Caterpillar and Swimming Horses in spring 84
    The Perfect Kiss 12″ = greatest sound ever created
    In early 88 I hadn’t heard any other New Order records besides these and then through a friend’s girlfriend’s brother we digested the 4 studio albums plus Substance (with the cassette of B sides).
    This exquisite gorge was given the dessert of Blue Monday 88 that summer and it culminated in the tremendous Technique in early 89.

    World in Motion, though I was glad to see them at the top, never did anything for me, couldn’t relate its sonic identity to previous form for me signalled the end of a golden run, (Regret notwithstanding).
    I didn’t even consider buying it whereas i had rushed out to get Run 2.
    Apart from the fact that it was all about the boys in green for us and my non interest in football/sport per se, watery as its description sounds right, it takes Round and Round too far and Vanishing Point not far enough.
    Ian Curtis could never have been involved in any New Order record because absence of Ian Curtis = New Order records.
    re: True Faith “my life would depend on the morning sun” (and other NO couplets) must surely be a reference (unconsiously probably) to his death.
    I followed them from a distance walking down our high street in Kilkenny in 1983 when i was 12, they seemed bemused that the town ended so soon.
    my sister went to the gig.
    I didn’t see them myself until 1989 Reading (magnificent), 1993 Dublin (dismal), 2005 Punchestown (magnificent).
    btw Get Ready is thumbs up from me.

  22. 147
    swanstep on 23 May 2013 #

    Peter Hook guests on the Sound Opinions podcast this week. Audio downloadable here: https://soundcloud.com/soundopinions/390-sound-opinions-with-peter.

  23. 148
    Mark M on 27 Nov 2014 #

    Just in case anyone wanted an update on the evolution of football player MCing since the days of John Barnes, here are Yannick Bolasie – lightning quick Crystal Palace winger – and Bradley Wright-Phillips, currently of the New York Red Bulls, having a go each other on a grime tip. Both are in the decent amateur category, I reckon – Bolasie rather endearingly goes from a bit shy to slightly over-excited in his bit. BWP is maybe a bit more plausible (Bolasie is by a huge distance the better football player, though).

  24. 149
    Mostro on 19 Apr 2017 #

    #29 The Pinefox ; I remember finding it strange at the time that no-one else seemed to notice- or at least acknowledge- the fact that “World in Motion” *was* so obviously based on the bloody Reportage theme tune!


    I don’t even recall watching Reportage much personally (#), and I still recognised it! (‘Course, back then I didn’t realise New Order had written that theme in the first place).

    (#) Ironically, I think my Dad probably watched the Def II programmes (##)- or at least Rough Guide to the World- more than I did; maybe that’s where I’d remembered it from.

    (##) And other early-evening yoof TV stuff like No Limits. Apparently he and my Mum spotted them filming No Limits in St Andrews (IIRC) one time. Which was nice.

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