Oct 06


FT + Popular83 comments • 18,017 views

#286, 16th May 1970


It wasn’t the first football record by a long way, but “Back Home” ticks all the genre’s traditional boxes. Rousing tune graspable by fans between 8 and 80 – yes. Heavy involvement by actual players – yes. Doughty message of hope – oh yes.

This last was a slight twist on the football songs of the 60s, generally knocked out around Cup Final time (though the Cup Final song’s 70s and 80s heyday postdates “Back Home”). In a Cup Final the odds of victory are greater so the tone of the song can be more triumphant, presenting the team as an unstoppable machine destined to win. At the start of a World Cup campaign – even this World Cup campaign, which England began as defending champions and with a squad apparently thought superior to the ’66 team – hubris is to be avoided, so the team songs tend to be a little more humble, stressing effort not achievement. “Back Home”, with its emphasis on heroic and selfless scrapping, certainly fits this bill.

The song’s particular pivot though is the gap, and the link, between the team and the fans watching in England. This neatly touches on something exciting about the 1970 world cup. The England team had travelled to South America before, but only in the pre-Telstar days of radio broadcast. Now the “folks back home” would watch colour pictures, beamed live from the other side of the world (well, Mexico), at a time when the booming travel industry was bringing exotic locations tantalisingly closer. For good measure, the 1970 squad’s Mexican adventure fell foul of some familiar foes of Brits abroad – dodgy tummies and run-ins with local law enforcement – but some of what makes “Back Home” charming is the vicarious thrill of travel.



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  1. 1
    rosie on 2 Oct 2006 #

    I told you there was worse than Dana to come! Like this embarrassing charabanc singalong!

    Next business please…

  2. 2
    Tom on 2 Oct 2006 #

    Haha, sorry, it’s one per day at most now – we will all have to find things to say about “Back Home”!

  3. 3
    Pete Baran on 2 Oct 2006 #

    But the tune to Back Home is really rather good. And whilst the singing is woeful, there is a real comunal insecurity about it. “And we’ll give all we’ve got to give, for the folks back home” is a peculiarly British way of saying that we may be the best in the world, but that doesn’t mean we’ll win even if we run every bodily fluid out of our body.(Runs every bodily fluid as it ended up being).

    Not great, but oddly important I think.

  4. 4
    Tom on 2 Oct 2006 #

    Also – crucially – it doesn’t outstay its welcome – 2 minutes and thats your lot.

    I don’t think the singing’s bad – it’s a bunch of blokes chanting stuff, which can be unpleasant certainly but not usually on technical grounds: near the note is generally good enough in these circs.

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    Marcello Carlin on 2 Oct 2006 #

    Until recently this was the only number one single which I didn’t own (why? Glasgow, 1970, *insert year of your choice*, need I say more?) but I found it on one of those Best Footie Anthems Ever-type compilations and got it for the sake of completeness.

    Amazing how Martin and Coulter – a Scotsman and an Irishman, respectively – could write anthems for both England and Scotland (“Easy Easy,” 1974 and INFINITELY SUPERIOR) without getting lynched.

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    jeff w on 2 Oct 2006 #

    I was a bit too young (5) for this song to have permeated my consciousness at the time. And now virtually all post-1970 hearings of “Back Home” have been obliterated by Skineer & Baddiel’s appropriation of the tune as a motif (meme?) in their so-so World Cup TV programmes of the 1990s.

    For that matter, I don’t recall seeing any of the actual 1970 World Cup at the time. (I mentioned on the “Sugar Sugar” thread that, if we had a TV at all, it would have been a B&W one. Also, I assume most of the matches would have been on past my bedtime.)

    But what I DO recall – with much fondness – is my Esso England World Cup 1970 Coin Collection. One “silver” “coin” for each member of the squad, their heads and signature engraved onto the “heads” side of the coin. Between them my dad and my uncle successfully acquired (blagged?) all 22 coins that made up the set, and I remember mounting them in the special board that held the collection with some pride.

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    rosie on 2 Oct 2006 #

    To be fair I don’t really think this one is worse than Dana. I might give it 3 rather than 4, but that’s splitting hairs. It certainly doesn’t make me wince the way Dana does. But I do have an aversion to blokish singalongs, especially of the sporty kind.

    On the other had I have a feeling that I was a good deal more swept up in that World Cup than in more recent ones. It was a more innocent time for football and the players were, on the whole, decent chaps rather than overpaid brats such as we see today, and there was an outside possibility of bumping into one of the in the pub. If Wayne Rooney had been taken into custody this year in Frankfurt or wherever charged with shoplifting, the cynic in me might well have believed it. The charge against Bobby Moore was an outrage.

    Oh, and I do remember the family sitting round the telly – I think we had colour by this time mainly because the old black & white set had blown up earlier in the year – and being heartbroken at the manner of defeat.

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    Erithian on 2 Oct 2006 #

    Compared to the World Cup Final in ’66, England’s team for the iconic group game v Brazil replaced Cohen, Wilson, Jack Charlton, Stiles and Hunt with Wright, Labone, Cooper, Lee and Mullery, and as you rightly say, many a good judge thought it a better team.

    I agree with Pete about the tune – I’m no musicologist, but the way the refrain emphasises words which might otherwise be lost to the off-beat – WE’LL give ALL we’ve GOT to GIVE – adds an extra swing that makes the whole more memorable than a mere footy song. Up there with the best of the genre.

    For the benefit of our transatlantic readers who might not know the story, England went out 3-2 in the quarter-final to West Germany, following two unwise substitutions while leading, and with world No 1 goalkeeper Gordon Banks missing due to illness. It’s popularly supposed that the feel-bad factor induced by this defeat was influential in the General Election defeat suffered by Harold Wilson a few days later: if anyone reading this is interested in “alternative history”, read “What If Gordon Banks Had Played?”, a history which starts from a scenario where Banks plays, England win and so does Wilson. As a consequence, Edward Heath loses the Tory leadership not to Thatcher but to Enoch Powell, which sets off a train of events including all-out war with Ireland, the bombing of the House of Commons, the assassination of the Queen and the imprisonment of Thatcher. And we were saved all of this by Banksie’s tummy bug.

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    GeorgeB on 2 Oct 2006 #

    It’s a good song, excellent in the football context. And I like the fact that this was around at the same time as Don Fardon’s Belfast Boy, which is quite the best and grooviest song about football or a football player in the English language. As usual, the Brazilians are in a different class with any number of stone classics – particularly those by Jorge Ben.

  10. 10
    Brian on 2 Oct 2006 #

    My vote for best World Cup Song has to be ” Don;t COme Home Too Soon ” by Del Amitri . Sung for Scotland in the ’94 World Cup in France it has those greats lines

    “So long, go on and do your best,
    Let all France have whiskey on it’s breath,


    But if I have a dream at all ,
    it’s for once you won’t be on that stupid plane .
    Even Long shots make it”

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    wwolfe on 2 Oct 2006 #

    It’s always risky to speak in absolutes, but I have a hunch this record has no analogue in the American charts. I wonder if there’s an American counterpart: a song whose subject and performer has no analogy on the British charts.

  12. 12
    blount on 2 Oct 2006 #

    “jock jams” obv a huge (and treasured) part of american music but this does strike me as something with no analogue on the american charts. obv songs tied into sports teams (‘we are family’ + ‘ain’t no stopping us now’ maybe most prominent i can really recall) and teams by sports teams (the immortal ‘super bowl shuffle’, the awesome take on ‘another one bites the dust’ by jimmy ‘spiderman’ allen) but nothing on a national level and nowhere near the sense of tradition that english world cup anthems have.

  13. 13
    blount on 2 Oct 2006 #

    songs by sports teams rather

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    Tom on 2 Oct 2006 #

    Well this started the tradition really – the 1966 ‘tie-in’ (when England actually won it!) was “World Cup Willie” by a forlorn Lonnie Donegan and nobody bought it. Quite what alchemy “Back Home” worked to hit so big I’m not sure, but it opened the floodgates.

    (I know Tottenham among others were making team records in the 60s – were they hits?)

    As far as I know, no other country embraces its footie records quite like England. I guess it’s a unique combination of collective ownership (we invented the game) and underdog status (but we’re not that good at it) that allows stuff like “This Time (We’ll Get It Right)” and 30/40/50/x years of ‘hurt’ to flourish.

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    blount on 3 Oct 2006 #

    yeah i was sorta stunned glancing at a brief world cup history earlier this summer to see that apparently england has only won the thing once? i really don’t even know how that’s possible – soccer’s really really popular there right? recent (u.s.) sports team anthems – the chisox and fans rallied around journey’s “don’t stop believin” to their first title in nearly 90 years last october (song adoption prompted by either some chisox hanging out in a bar and either podsednik or piersynski i forget shouting to either the bartender or someone programming a jukebox to “play some fucking journey”), and the squawks got some usage out of a version of “sweet home alabama” refitted to “sweet shaun alexander” after their star rb (and crimson tide alum). how many of these england wc anthems have been any sort of hit in the us? i know i heard “world in motion” at least a little bit on college and modern rock radio at the time (“dry yr eyes” – the biggest “hit” the streets have had stateside – doesn’t count right?).

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    blount on 3 Oct 2006 #

    also another uk charts phenom w/o analogue in the us (in this case probably just due to the lack of focus on the singles chart, the lack of that trainspotting chartwatcher element in the us (in comparison to the uk at least)(compare ilx uk chart thread action to us chart thread action), and the much much lower profile pop music has in comparison to tv or movies over here) that you may want to touch on tom is the xmas #1 single hysteria (i can remember watching the incredibly awful love, actually w/ some friends who were confused as hell at the focus on having a number one single at xmas)(that movie was confusing in it’s portrait of the uk in general – is xmas really established as the time people confess their secrets? is ‘watching titanic’ a normal male bonding experience? and would that one hottie really be considered fat?)

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    Marcello Carlin on 3 Oct 2006 #

    Quick answer to why the Xmas #1 phenomenon in the UK is a phenomenon:
    (a) smaller market;
    (b) the Xmas season apparently counts for some 70% of all annual record sales.

  18. 18
    Marcello Carlin on 3 Oct 2006 #

    The phenomenon of television comedy actors and talent show winners regularly having number ones in Britain during the ’70s (and beyond) I suspect likewise has no analogy in the US market (at least not until American Idol) – or is there a comparison (one-offs like the Partridge Family notwithstanding)?

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    alext on 3 Oct 2006 #

    [OT: Love Actually bears no resemblance IN THE SLIGHTEST to what the UK is actually like. It’s not even how anyone here imagines it, or would like it to be: it’s one guy’s vision of what he imagines Americans would like to believe the UK is like! (and he may very well be wrong!)]

  20. 20

    world cup willie was goleo‘s dad — proving that some evolutions are best left uncarmodised

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    GeorgeB on 3 Oct 2006 #

    The Partridge Family as an American exception is a funny one too, because they were based on the Cowsills, a real pop group that wasn’t a pop group (in that it was a family affair) and because Shirley Jones and David Cassidy had an impressive showbiz/singing heritage. Anyway, the England squad also released an LP – which had covers of Sugar Sugar and Lily the Pink among other delights. It was round vinyl with facsimile autographs on the front. They went for it in a big way. As for earlier football songs, for some reason the Manchester United Calyspo (50s) and recordings by the Spurs double team stick in the mind.

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    Marcello Carlin on 3 Oct 2006 #

    On one of the el records Bend It compilations there’s a terrible effort from about ’61 entitled “Tip Top Tottenham Hotspur” allegedly co-written by Bruce Forsyth.

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    Tim Hopkins on 3 Oct 2006 #

    “TTTH” is by no means the worst even on that LP! Madness and wrongness lies down the primrose path of an interest in football records.

    (Blount, England’s relative lack of success in the World Cup is less surprising when you consider that there have only been 18 World Cups, and England didn’t enter the first 3 or 4. Also, you should bear in mind the fact that England aren’t really very good.)

  24. 24

    also, in a sense, everything england does is a kind of win

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    Mark M on 3 Oct 2006 #

    “soccer’s really really popular there right?” – Soccer is really, really popular in most countries, with India probably being the most significant exception. Even in Australia and the US, the two sport-obsessed country where association football is somewhat down the list of biggest games, an awful lot of people still play it. FIFA has 207 member countries, but only seven of those have ever won the World Cup. England’s record, therefore, is not bad at all. Quite apart from the fact that they are often rubbish…

  26. 26
    Erithian on 3 Oct 2006 #

    Blount (re post 16) – an odd time to be discussing the Christmas Number 1 phenomenon, apropos of a springtime World Cup record, but just a few thoughts: seasonal-themed No 1s go back as far as Let’s Have Another Party or Christmas Alphabet in the 50s, and certain Beatle songs bring Crimble to mind for many (as the Beatles had three consecutive Xmas No 1s, only matched by the Spice Girls). But I guess it really became important when the Christmas Top of the Pops became an established BBC fixture just ahead of the Queen’s Christmas broadcast. The ultimate Christmassy chart was probably ’73 (Slade, Wizzard, Elton) just as the TV ratings peaked. More on that when Tom gets there.

    When marketing strategies changed in the 90s so that records usually entered at their highest position, the Christmas No 1 became a one-week race so the record companies splurged all their marketing on those seven days of maximum sales – which is why there’s such an obsession over it now. The tendency to gift the Xmas No 1 to whoever’s won Popstars or X Factor is marketing laid bare. Nowadays every chancer you can imagine tries their luck with a Christmas single – the same, especially post-“Three Lions”, goes for football tournaments. I’m still hoping the sight of Neil and Christine Hamilton’s World Cup record was just a bad dream.

  27. 27
    Tom on 3 Oct 2006 #

    The tendency to gift the Xmas No 1 to whoever’s won Popstars or X Factor is marketing laid bare.

    This is *slightly* unfair – reality TV singles tend to sell well whenever they’re released, as byproducts of popcult phenomena far more popular than ‘pop music’ as a whole is. So aligning the release of the Shayne Ward single with Christmas may be ‘marketing laid bare’ but he’d have got to #1 anyway.

    A more interesting example of Xmas single marketing was the Darkness/Gary Jules race in 2003 (which pushed the Pop Idol single out of the running). The Darkness spin was “At last a proper Christmas single like Slade used to make!”. The Gary Jules spin was “Wouldnt it be amazing if this moody single beat the tinselly tat?”. Both good solid marketing propositions and a very close (and lucrative) race.

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    markgamon on 3 Oct 2006 #

    Rousing tune?

    Funny. I can’t remember how it goes.

    I can remember the Dana one. And even Zager and Evans. But not this drivel.

  29. 29
    Tom on 3 Oct 2006 #

    “Rousing” needn’t mean “Memorable 35 years later”, obviously.

  30. 30

    the entire concept of “rousing music” falls well outside almost ALL present-day habits of cultural approval, doesn’t it? drinking songs? seachanties? hymns? songs before you go into battle? viz songs which “get your blood up” for important upcoming physical (or spiritual) effort

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