Dec 10


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#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. 31
    thefatgit on 30 Dec 2010 #

    I seem to remember Channel 4’s coverage of Tour De France used a New Order track as it’s theme tune. I can’t recall it’s title unfortunately.

  2. 32
    The Lurker on 30 Dec 2010 #

    Like Tom I too associate this with 2002. I went to see New Order play in Finsbury Park during the 2002 tournament (and while England were still in it) and at one point Bernard Sumner gave the audience a choice of the next song – “Rock the Shack” or “World in Motion”. Needless to say WIM got the vote. I think one of their roadies did the rap.

    I don’t have very strong memories of the song first time round, although I do remember the tournament. Fond though my memories of the above gig are, I think a 7 would be about right for this.

  3. 33
    Cumbrian on 30 Dec 2010 #

    31: A quick google reveals two contrasting opinions – it’s either Tour De France by Kraftwerk or a composition by Pete Shelley from the Buzzcocks. I think Pete Shelley is right looking at the google hits on it.

    We are talking about the one that dissolves into a synth rendition of Frere Jacques right? That’s the one I remember anyway.

  4. 34
    DietMondrian on 30 Dec 2010 #

    @32 – I was at that same gig. The rumour around where I was standing was that John Barnes was going to turn up to do the rap. Instead, the roadie made a complete bodge of it.

    @ 33 – Yes, Channel 4’s theme was the one that referenced Frere Jacques – most certainly not Kraftwerk’s track. Listen here:


  5. 35
    Erithian on 30 Dec 2010 #

    Just to note a piece of trivia – Kenneth Wolstenholme was a month short of his 70th birthday when this was number one, making him the oldest person to top the chart. Although Nigel Patrick, who provided the “we want goals” commentary (from the official “Goal!” film of the tournament I think) would have been 77 – he died in 1981.

    Kenneth Wolstenholme is one of the nicest guys I’ve ever been privileged to meet through football – I was lucky enough to chair a London FSA meeting at which he spoke, months before the inauguratio of the Premier League, and his main tenet was “Money talks, but it shouldn’t be allowed to monopolise the conversation”. He was one of us, was Ken.

    There was a discussion in When Saturday Comes about his commentary on the fourth goal, which actually went “And here comes Hurst, he’s got – some people are on the pitch, they think it’s all over – it is now!” The question was, what was he about to say Geoff Hurst had got? Best answer was “he’s got… a really cute arse!” I like to think he’d have had a good chuckle about that.

  6. 36
    MikeMCSG on 30 Dec 2010 #

    # 28 The key is remembering that pre-Premiership, ITV had the rights to most football coverage from the mid-80s onwards and pre-Abramovich and Wenger most of the action was in the North West covered by Granada who employed a certain Anthony H Wilson as both a regional neswreader and cultural commentator, You do the maths ! I remember some clueless bod from the FA , possibly the charismatic Graham Kelly himself saying theyd noticed New Order were used a lot in sports coverage. Well I wonder why that was.

    I feel like the bad fairy here as I quite like the song -it’s a middling NO track – but disagree with a lot of the commentary. So taking it in order :

    Tom- “Technique” isn’t their best album. “Low Life” has better songs and doesn’t have the abysmal “Finetime” on it.

    # 2 Bobby Robson nearly didn’t take Gazza to Italy. Under the malign influence of the ultra-negative Don Howe he thought he was untrustworthy and only two goals in a warm-up game (possibly Czechoslovakia) persuaded him to take the risk. For the second World Cup in a row he took the crocked Bryan Robson along and as in Mexico it was only when he was ruled out that England started to perform.

    # 3 However JD might have developed had Ian Curtis survived you really can’t see him getting involved in this. Even the other guys were so little interested in football they had to bring Keith Allen in to help them with the lyric. This record really marks the death of “indie” in its original sense.

    #4 John Barnes had about 5 good games for England for all his 80-odd caps and he broke no barriers that hadn’t already been smashed by Viv Anderson and the boys at West Brom. Arguably he reinforced the stereotype by being such a constant disappointment in an England shirt. Great manager too !

    # 11 Aaaargh ! That Purvis ad ! Got to be one of the most annoying of all time.

    #25 I remember one unpleasant headline “Win The World Cup ? We Can’t Even Wack Paddies !” The Sun I think.

  7. 37
    Lena on 30 Dec 2010 #

    When Barney sings “When something’s good it’s never gone” it always gets me that he’s talking about Ian in some way – and I’m adding this Ezra Pound stanza for Tony Wilson…

    “What thou lovest well remains,
    the rest is dross
    What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee
    What thou lov’st well is thy true heritage
    Whose world, or mine or theirs
    or is it of none?
    First came the seen, then thus the palpable
    Elysium, though it were in the halls of hell,
    What thou lovest well is thy true heritage
    What thou lov’st well shall not be reft from thee”

  8. 38
    Tom on 30 Dec 2010 #

    #36 We’ll have to A to D on this Mike – Lowlife is the worst 80s New Order album for me! I hardly ever want to hear it. “Perfect Kiss” is the best song on it by a mile and is twice as good on its “Substance” mix anyway.

  9. 39
    Tom on 30 Dec 2010 #

    #19 Ouch, sorry. I was *in* France when Spain 82 happened, is where that mix-up came in. I remember finding Panini stickers in a French newsagent, it was the moment I realised football was a game which truly knew no boundaries.

  10. 40
    MikeMCSG on 30 Dec 2010 #

    # 38 Worse than “Movement” ? Surely not !

  11. 41
    Tom on 30 Dec 2010 #

    I don’t want to listen to Movement that often but when I do it hits a particular dour spot very successfully!

  12. 42
    lonepilgrim on 30 Dec 2010 #

    The rebranding of the football fan as part of a cultural vanguard had begun in the mid 80s in The Face magazine but it took a while for the reality to begin to match the rhetoric. World in Motion represents the rhetoric before the Eng-er-land chant bubbles up to remind us of the reality. I like the sense of fluidity and the glossy production sheen.

  13. 43
    swanstep on 30 Dec 2010 #

    I find the praise for WiM’s lyrics very odd. The ‘one on one’ stuff always grated with me because that’s a stupid way to think about football, and ‘express yourself’ as well as being a played out idea at the time, a year or more after Madonna’s song, and being vaguely tied into the rising ‘self-esteem’/’admire yourself greatly’/fast oprahfying culture of the period, once again just gets how football works wrong. And these irritating problems with the lyrics point to larger conceptual problems. On the one hand the song’s called ‘*world* in motion'(reminds me a little of the beginning of Run Lola Run, except that that monologue’s better written than anything Sumner can manage and the s/track by Tykwer there is better than most NO including WiM) and includes some blather about love etc., all of which is universalizing and has nothing to do with England or competition for that matter. On the other hand this is a pro-England/patriotic/championing your favorites song. Those two perspectives aren’t the same and can’t be fitted together at the level of how players play. Sorry. Note too that ‘one on one’ is in fact a way to play basketball (e.g., if there are no teams around) so the phrase can make sense and be a fun metaphor in other, paradigmatically US contexts, and oh, oh, I can feel the magic…..

  14. 44
    the pinefox on 30 Dec 2010 #

    I always disliked the use of the crass phrase ‘express yourself’ too – you have made a very good simple critical point here.

  15. 45
    MikeMCSG on 30 Dec 2010 #

    #41 Actually I can sort of see that. Historically it’s interesting – it and The Cure’s equally dismal “Pornography” a few months later mark the point where that whole “raincoat brigade” sound got abandoned by its acolytes (e.g Paul Morley) and its proponents went either New Pop or Goth.

  16. 46
    heather on 30 Dec 2010 #

    About time Neworder got some recognition, after the documentary-led (and creepily gothic) overshadowing by Joy Division in the last couple of years.

    This is a brilliant number 1 and probably the only song that can take a ridiculous rap, Keith Allen and footy chanting in its benevolent stride. All their songs should be number 1 (except ‘Confusion’).

    As I recall, ‘Express Yourself’ in this context wasn’t about vague Madonna-ish areas of self-improvement, but a specific footballing strategy to do with allowing players to develop their personal skills. Rather than just being A Midfielder or A Centre-Back, they were being encouraged to be foot-creative and spot new places to be. It all tied up with the pressure to get Bobby to use a ‘sweeper’ and go all continental in his placements.

    It tied in with the idea of football being non-violent and played by intelligent people around at that time that wasn’t *entirely* about drugs…

  17. 47
    Billy Smart on 30 Dec 2010 #

    Re #28: That’s right. New Order recorded the theme tune to ‘Best & Marsh’, a Granada football clips nostalgia show co-presented by the United and City legends. Its the B-Side of ‘Round & Round’, and is rather spiffing.

  18. 48
    MikeMCSG on 30 Dec 2010 #

    # 47 Billy, are you deliberately not mentioning that Mr Wilson was the host of that show ? :-)

  19. 49
    Steve Mannion on 30 Dec 2010 #

    My interest in football as the 1990 World Cup began was at an all time low due to a combination of factors (being rubbish at it, becoming increasingly occupied with computer games and dance music, being old enough to temporarily shake off what felt like quite a hegemonic oppressive and, yes, rockist football culture at that point and concentrate on things I was actually good at such as drawing and writing…) and the tournament passed me by somewhat.

    Complicating matters, the 1988 remix of ‘Blue Monday’ was my favourite musical thing at that point and I loved NO’s dalliances with House. It would take a few more years for me to really love WIM but its supremacy over pretty much every other (official) football record has been undeniable to me ever since, particularly since a lumpen successor (commercially) that refuses to go away stole its thunder a few years later.

    The remixes of World In Motion (handled by the Boys Own playmakers, inevitably – plus Mike Pickering, and with excellent appropriate titles like the ‘Carabinieri Mix’ and ‘Subbuteo Dub’) from the time are worth a listen if you always fancied an extended version of the marvellous piano break and those choral synth voices which for me are as trademarked New Order as Hooky’s bass.

    The B-Side remix also features Keith Allen’s highly comical impression of Chris Waddle and a few other members of the England squad. The only thing missing is the “J-j-j-j-john Barnes” sample that can be heard on Saint Etienne’s own “Official World Cup theme” (a more specific reference to Colourbox’s own WC theme four years prior, but an altogether different, more chilled out affair). On the same trail but in a weirder self-built bandwagon were the irrepressible PWEI with ‘Touched By The Hand Of Cicciolina’ (the title obviously connecting to New Order’s ‘…Hand Of God’), wilfully blurring Italian politics with football. J Saul Kane aka Depth Charge joined the loved up football feast with the brill Brazil-inspired ‘Goal!’.

    Countless tracks from the time work as the soundtrack for the year in English hedonism and optimism (and this Summer was personally my last one as a carefree child) and WIM could’ve encapsulated all of this better than anything. But in particular I associate it closely with Paris Angels ‘All On You (Perfume)’ and 808 State’s ‘Olympic’ (tho this didn’t chart until December) – dazzling four to the floor wunderkids all. Perhaps the latter lads could’ve given WIM a darker but dreamier remix given the chance – maybe even a mic battle between Barnes and MC Tunes? Oh the goals that got away, Saint, glug glug…

    9 out of 10 (1 off for those missed penalties).

  20. 50
    Steve Mannion on 30 Dec 2010 #

    An addendum seeing as a few people have talked about how the song regained significance to them in the 00s. The night England beat Germany 5-1 in Munich I went to Uncle Bob’s Wedding Reception at the Water Rats – a proto-Poptimism of sorts. ‘World In Motion’ was played at the end of the night and it never sounded better (with sufficient time passed since the original release, enough time to want to hear it again). To me it probably never will again as ten days after that night the world (for most of us I imagine) got a lot darker (and no I don’t mean because of DJ Otzi…).

  21. 51
    Steve Mannion on 31 Dec 2010 #

    Swanstep at 43 you seem to be forgetting that in football players are regularly required to tackle and win the ball from each other in which the ‘one on one’ concept makes perfect sense.

    The “express yourself” phrase retained popularity into 1990 beyond WIM with NWA’s ‘Express Yourself’ becoming the band’s first top 40 hit (OK so their second and final one came this same year) that May. A month before that Salt n’ Pepa’s ‘Expression’ echoed the sentiment, so there was a lot of it about.

    In any case I think the song is better for not trying to focus on the specific hopes and dreams of the England team and proffering a universal message was the right call (especially after the abject SAW-assisted rubbishness of the Euro 88 song ‘All The Way’).

  22. 52
    heather on 31 Dec 2010 #

    There were lots of parodies of Barnes’ rap around at the time…

    “You’ve got to hang on the wing and not do a thing.
    When you’ve got the ball, you’ve got to do bugger all”

  23. 53
    Mark M on 31 Dec 2010 #

    Re 36: that’s a bit (lot) harsh to John Barnes. In any case, regardless of who had come before him, he still had to endure an awful lot of ignorance through the 1980s. Quite apart from ethnicity, though, he was that rare thing: an England player from an (upper) middle class background. According to Why England Lose, his only equivalent in the current bunch is Peter Crouch.

  24. 54
    swanstep on 31 Dec 2010 #

    @51, God knows the ‘express yourself’ train kept rolling for ages after this with Madonna still banging on about it on Human Nature in 1995,… I just think it’s a very poor fit for anything very competitive, esp. where a large part of the game is preventing the other team/person from doing what they want to do, making them fail. Of course, there are always one-on-one aspects of football and I agree that probably anything that gets english football thinking about quirky players and flare and not always about picking the biggest/fastest/strongest players at every level is good (and was good in 1990). Still, the individual focus overall seems wrong to me… Also, to be clear, despite my carping, I agree that WiM is hands down the best WC football song.

  25. 55
    the pinefox on 31 Dec 2010 #

    I don’t believe that Peter Crouch is upper-middle-class.

    Nor that he is any good.

  26. 56
    the pinefox on 31 Dec 2010 #

    In a football context, or as Motson would say *in a footballing sense*, what does ‘when something’s good it’s never gone’ mean? (I don’t find references to Joy Division especially intuitive, perhaps just because at the time I didn’t know who they were; anyway someone said that New Order didn’t write the words?)

    I think it may mean ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’, actually! It makes me think now of quality English players who had been discouraged (eg by the debacle of Euro 1988, and by English football culture etc) but could still be recovered by this sentiment – 1990 too late for Hoddle, but not for Waddle who hit the bar from 50-odd yards, and perhaps Beardsley and Barnes also. I do think that the line has long suggested something like this to me.

    Or it might be intended just to mean ‘the spirit / winning ability of 1966 must still exist in England’.

  27. 57
    Erithian on 31 Dec 2010 #

    Joining the general acclaim for this, although many of the points I’d have made have been covered. You’re right to point out that it talks tactics, Tom – phrases like “express yourself, create the space” by contrast with most football tunes address the player directly, as Heather puts perfectly at #46, while acting as a metaphor for the wider message of the song.

    Likewise the John Barnes rap, attributed to major fan Keith Allen (whose younger brother Kevin showed the world the normal England fans’ eye view that summer with “On the March with Bobby’s Army”). Of course that’s a rare case of a father and daughter both being involved with number ones – and a very young Lily contributed backing vocals to “Vindaloo” eight years later.

    The gentrification of football was very much a double-edged sword, as Punctum observes. Simon Kuper, who co-wrote “Why England Lose” among many others, rubbed an FSA meeting the wrong way when he commented that circa 1986 you could have rounded up the football public of the time on a terrace, fired custard at them from a cannon on the halfway line and they’d still have come back for more. We thought, hang on, that’s US you’re talking about! – the people who stood by the game during the lean years and started to do something about it with the fanzine movement and supporters’ organisations. (Wichita #18, with you 100% on that 2nd para.) In 1990 we were two years away from the power-grab that was the FA Premier League, which was supposed to put the England team at the forefront. Hmm, that worked out didn’t it?

    Billy #6 – I understand your viewpoint, but one of the points the song makes is that chanting “Eng-er-land” and following the team abroad doesn’t necessarily make you a hooligan. England fans’ reputation has largely been rehabilitated, but yes there’s a distance to go.

    vinylscot #23 – again, take your point, but Platt was described as “a revelation” in the continental press, and got a pretty distinguished spell in Italian football out of it as well as a prolonged England career – that’s plenty of recognition. (My top memory of Italia 90 – being in a pub when Platty’s 119th-minute goal went in against Belgium. The place exploded, beer flying everywhere, and as the noise died down my mate said “A good psychological time to score”.)

  28. 58
    Billy Smart on 31 Dec 2010 #

    Chanting “Eng-er-land!” might not necessarily make someone a hooligan, but it does automatically make them an oaf.

  29. 59
    thefatgit on 31 Dec 2010 #

    @33…after much searching, I stumbled across the intro to “Your Silent Face” from Power Corruption And Lies. It’s similarities to Kraftwerk’s “Europe Endless” might be leading me astray, but I’m certain YSF was used during Tour De France coverage, possibly predating Pete Shelley’s composition. If anyone can verify, I’m going bananas over this one!

  30. 60
    Jimmy the Swede on 31 Dec 2010 #

    Erithian – Geoff Hurst tells the story of when he was racing through to net the 4th goal. He was not at all worried about Wolfgang Overath breathing down his neck. His main memory was hearing a more distant team mate calling continually for an unlikely pass: “HURSTY! HURSTY! HURSTY!…” This cry was delivered in a voice which made Sweep sound like Paul Robeson. The identity of the player concerns remains a mystery.

    Tom – As we continue to celebrate sporting events down under, it bears mentioning that a popular song from the Barmy Army these days is: “Swann. Swann will tear you apart again…” And so he does.

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