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Jan 13

MANCHESTER UNITED FOOTBALL SQUAD – “Come On You Reds”

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#708, 21st May 1994

As a football-shunning nipper in the 80s it seemed to me that an FA Cup Final song barged its way into the charts every year, swayed through the top ten full of song like a beery fan on a train carriage, and was gone. And looking at this Wikipedia page – a memento to the rise and fall of the genre – I was basically right.

By the time I got to University, my terribly narrow social circles were broadening a little, and football was gentrifying a lot, so I had friends who bought FA cup records. The songs themselves were no better than they had ever been, often – to the extent that they sounded ‘up to date’ – quite a bit worse. But why should they improve? Who would it benefit? To criticise a club song for its music would be like criticising a souvenir scarf for its insulating properties. Cup Final songs were souvenirs, and maybe something to fuel your sense of belonging and anticipation in the lead-up – “belonging” being the emotion these bluff, comradely, incompetent things managed best and most often.

The year before, one Arsenal fan had come back from town with a cassingle of the stupefying “Shouting For The Gunners” – an honest title, at least. He put it on repeatedly while we played point-and-click games on his PC, making us hunt through its bellowing wreckage for a forgotten fragment of tune. Next to that, “Come On You Reds” was Bacharach and David – and certainly it’s crafted enough to have all the elements you’d want in a Cup Final song. The dab-your-eyes reminder of past triumphs or tragedies. The noble attempt to make the current team roster scan. Yeomen of light entertainment doing their duty for the lads – a manful job by The Quo here. Only a decision to marinade the song in trebly, plastic keyboards spoils the mood.

It’s still terrible, but it’s the right kind of terrible, just about. Which doesn’t explain why it got to number one when the likes of “Ossie’s Dream” and “Anfield Rap” had fallen short. Its platonic incarnation of Cup Final hit-ness can’t explain that on its own. But consider that the friend who bought it had also bought an “Eric The King” duvet cover, and that he’d shown no interest in football at all the year before, and things become clearer. Man U and the Premiership were rising together, the club winning on the pitch and exploiting the new football audience and its hunger for stars. I’d also guess – though I still wouldn’t have cared enough to know – that England’s failure to qualify for USA 94 was good business for Man U, as a huge potential audience turned more of its eye on the domestic game. They weren’t yet the most popular club in the country, but they were hungry, many were young, and some walked like rock stars already. Pop rewards such things. Even I knew who Eric Cantona was.

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  1. 1
    Tom on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I thought of taking a “Quo vs Radio 1” angle on this one but the band didn’t start their beef with the station until the next year.

  2. 2
    punctum on 11 Jan 2013 #

    There is something very fitting about Sir Alex Ferguson’s 26-plus-year tenure as manager of Manchester United, a tenure which as yet shows no palpable signs of ending in a world where the average manager is lucky to last a season if the results don’t go his directors’ way, since there is a sizeable whiff of the Mark E Smith about his dogged cussedness, his austerely rationalist rage, his ability to build a team from scratch again and again and find by miracle or instinct the right union of lucky adventurers and fortunate stalwarts – a grumpy bastard who somehow keeps on surviving after all of his shinier compatriots have fallen. He has strode through the barriers of repeated calls for his resignation after duff seasons, and invariably proves the callers wrong.

    Since England didn’t qualify for the 1994 World Cup, held in an utterly bemused USA, Manchester United – by then approaching their first crest as football brand transcending tribal boundaries in favour of a global recognition market – were the next best thing in which to believe (though Jack Charlton’s Republic of Ireland side remarkably made it through to the last 16). No strangers to commemorative records – see “Manchester United” (#50, 1977), “Glory Glory Man United” (#13, 1983), “We All Follow Man United” (#10, 1985) and “United (We Love You)” (#37, 1993) – “Come On You Reds” was intended as a souvenir of a season which had already seen them win the Premier League championship with easy artfulness and now saw them in the final of the FA Cup, versus Chelsea, with the chance of becoming only the fourth team in recorded football history to achieve “the Double.”

    It says much for Manchester United’s global ambition that they engaged the services of lifelong Tottenham Hotspur supporters Status Quo to write, produce and play on “Come On You Reds,” a task which the veterans carried out without due fuss. Essentially a lyrical rewrite of their 1988 top five hit “Burning Bridges (On And Off And On Again),” a typical Quo boogie made even more popular by its bizarre lapse into an Irish jig after each chorus, the squad, including amongst its number Eric Cantona, Roy Keane, Bryan Robson, Paul Ince and Ryan Giggs, sing sturdily, though most of the players seem content to stick to the lower range of their vocal spectrum as the higher voices are palpably those of Messrs Rossi and Parfitt. Although it gets off to a slightly icky start with the line “Busby Babes they always make me cry” – an alliterative echo and negation of the original’s “Burning bridges never made me cry” – they soon get into the cheerleading spirit, with fifty thousand voices singing their song, being on the road to glory, and we are the devils in red you know, etc., even throwing in the obligatory product placement: “We’ll maintain the Status Quo with Man United, here we go!”

    They won the FA Cup by a margin of 4-0 (two Cantona penalties and a goal apiece from Mark Hughes and Brian McClair); the single went to number one the following day and was kept there by a sneaky re-recording which changed the “devils in red” line to “We won the Double, we’ll let you know.” In truth a single which is pretty much ungradeable, since its purpose was, as with most football records, that of an aural mascot for loyal fans, there is such uncomplicated good humour in “Come On You Reds,” not to mention the fact that it gave the Quo, by the back door, their second number one nearly twenty years after their first, that, as with most of the Chelsea defence that Saturday, I’m happy to let it pass.

  3. 3
    fivelongdays on 11 Jan 2013 #

    It was roughly around now that I – a 12 year old with a love of football but a strong dislike of Man Utd – started listening to the charts. Suffice to say, I’ll be posting a lot more on here for the next few years.

    Where to go with this one? It’s annoying, and it makes me hate Man Utd just that little bit more.

    Always loved Cantona, though.

  4. 4
    Matt DC on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I still have somewhat fond memories of this one, because the summer of 1994 at the time felt like this extraordinarily exciting time for football. For me, not much of that was to do with Man Utd admittedly, it was more the imminent arrival of the first World Cup where I really did try and watch every game.

    To me this record feels like the curtain going up on all of that, rather than coming down on a season, as it should be. Obviously I only have the version in my head, I’ve not heard it since 1994. It’s probably rubbish.

  5. 5
    Cumbrian on 11 Jan 2013 #

    This is a reversioning of the Quo’s “Burning Bridges” – where the only real hook is the instrumental sea shanty bit in the middle, here repurposed to be the chorus.

    After “World In Motion”, this is a real throwback to the old school – atonal footballers crowding around the mic and bellowing the words like a terrace chant. Telling, a lot of football related songs a) take this tack but b) generally fail to catch on as tunes on the terraces themselves.

    “Burning Bridges” wasn’t much cop and this is worse. 2 seems fair, as it’s not quite as bad as The Stonk/Bombalurina/Jive Bunny, etc, to my ears.

    My antipathy to Manchester United does not play into this (I’ve never liked them ever since all the kids at school started supporting them when they started winning stuff – for someone who eschewed the glory path and supported his local team, wearing the jeers of your peers because they’re front running arseholes who couldn’t place Old Trafford on a map, never mind having been there, wore a not a little bit thin – apologies to those brought up ManU through and through).

  6. 6
    sonnypike on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I wondered at the time how many people hearing this knew the tune (and entire backing track, I think) was Quo’s 1988 no. 5 Burning Bridges. It was familiar to me, but possibly only because my Dad liked Quo. Tom’s omission of the fact suggests there are plenty of people who would hear the original – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZpu0STR6es and wonder who had covered “that Man Utd song”.

    This came out at about the time that United became truly objectionable to 10 y.o me, and the vast majority of football fans i.e. those that don’t support one of the handful of gigantic teams. They won everything and were smug and brash with it. Nasty business.

    The song’s still got a fond place in my heart though, as it’s from that uneasy time when football was beginning to realise its commercial potential but only in the most nervous, rubbish ways. Look at the video! Look at the head-bowed mortified singing! Look at Peter Schmeichel’s awful baseball cap! All redeemed by Lee Sharpe’s air guitar at 2.02: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tZpu0STR6es

  7. 7
    Chelovek na lune on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Living in rural North-East Fife at the time, this completely – and I really do mean completely – passed me by at the time.

    My angle on this is that by going back to “Burning Bridges” (the review of the parent album of which, “Ain’t Complaining” on allmusic, claims is based in part on a folk song), the Quo had recognized – even more than in their “Anniversary Waltz”es of 1990 – that popular music had moved on: they knew, perhaps even accepted (future beef notwithstanding) that they were now regarded as relevant and interesting as Shakin’ Stevens (whose fall from the airwaves, and from general public conversation beyond the ironic pinching of “Viz”). or indeed (despite a late SAW revival) Bananarama, whose fall from commercial success was just as abrupt and nearly complete. The long 1980s were over, baby, in short. And the 70s even more long gone.

    That “Ain’t Complaining” album had been slated, and, “Burning Bridges” apart, hadn’t yielded any sizable hits (despite one single, “Who Gets The Love” being far from devoid of charm or melody); and the follow up album (whose name I had to look up: “Perfect Remedy”) and been almost entirely ignored, like its two singles (one of which didn’t even make the top 75), which lay unloved in Woolies’ bargain bins all over the land, at ever lower prices, for months stretching into years. And never again would they come up with anything truly – inspiring is perhaps the wrong word, – but well, eye-or-ear-or-walletcatching again.

    The two things that are truly bizarre apropos of this: are (a) that the Quo should have their 2nd no 1 at this stage in their career
    and (b) (down, bunny) Who’d have imagined that an act that had started out with a rather little lovely – – – and ***fey*** – – – number praising things “pure and simple every time” would be the future of this sort of thing?

    Perhaps the subtext to point (b) – at which 1994 really was a turning point (Loaded magazine, the height of popularity of Viz, various TV references I’m a bit vague about – but comedians etc)- is the “new laddishness”; both more middle-class and metropolitan and self-consciously “sensitive” and “metrosexual” than the old laddishness; but also decidedly representing a backlash against feminism of the 80s too.

    This was still old school, just, though.

  8. 8
    katstevens on 11 Jan 2013 #

    At school, you had to pick a team to support even if you didn’t like football, and following the 1990 FA Cup final Man U seemed like a safe bet. I liked the classified results WAY more than the actual game though, and some years later switched allegiance to Rushden & Diamonds because they had a better name (and I felt sorry for them, way down there in the Vauxhall Conference). However I still liked Man U … because of Ryan Giggs.

    Anyway my point is that I still have the cassingle of this somewhere.

  9. 9
    lonepilgrim on 11 Jan 2013 #

    this recent run of number 1s seems like the pop equivalent of fridge food – hits made of leftovers, exotic and familiar ingredients that will make do until something more substantial comes along.

    it seems redundant to criticise a record like this – but I do lament the decline of Quo from their ‘less is more’ peak during the 70s to cheery chappy pub sing-a-longs like this

  10. 10
    Tom on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #6 – I didn’t mention “Burning Bridges” because I didn’t have anything to say about it :) Everyone else has talked about it though so I probably should have.

    (I try to err on the side of omission when it comes to facts about songs.)

  11. 11
    thefatgit on 11 Jan 2013 #

    It pissed down. The blue end of Wembley was overcrowded with some sections having 2 to a seat. The stewards turned a blind eye. There was always a shortage of tickets and our allocation had been just 18,000 or something silly like that. We could have sold our allocation 3 times over. We had the edge in the 1st half with Gavin Peacock hitting the woodwork, and keeping Cantona & Co bogged down in midfield. We’d beaten Man Utd home and away in the league and after the first 45 minutes there were reasons at least to still feel confident. The 2nd half favoured Utd. David Elleray awarded 2 penalties in quick succession to Utd. Cantona took both with ease. We’d felt hard done by, but Hughes made it 3-0 in the space of 9 minutes. McClair claimed a 4th in time added on. We had been properly spanked. The blue side of Wembley trudged off under leaden skies to the pubs to drown their sorrows, or simply went straight to the Tube. The first Double for Man Utd, and in many respects the birth of the Blue Renaissance could be traced back to Glenn Hoddle’s team of youngsters and journeymen, captained by the incomparable Dennis Wise. The song? I remember some cockney reds singing “Glory, Glory Man Utd” at the top of their voice down the pub. The Status Quo offering doesn’t lend itself to massed terrace chanting or boozy pub bravado. In fact, it’s barely memorable. Without the “Burning Bridges” prompt, I doubt if I could recall how it went at all. Bloody cockney reds!

  12. 12
    Matt DC on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Is this the last big football record of its type? A couple of years down the line and we’re into completely new celebrity territory that’s never really been rowed back from.

  13. 13
    sonnypike on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #10 Ah, sorry, didn’t mean it to sound pedantic. Was going to include a qualifier saying as much but I felt like I was already going on a bit…

  14. 14
    hardtogethits on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I’m not saying it’s the worst chart-topper of all time, but it’s in the bottom 1.

    For me (as hinted by many above) the only way to evaluate this track – and appear fair – is to compare it with other celebratory songs involving footballers. And so I do, and I find it utterly devoid of any merit. Unlistenable. Please recalibrate the scoring mechanism so I can give this a zero.

  15. 15
    Chelovek na lune on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #14. Nah, there is definitely one, and quite probably two, excruiatingly, embarrassingly, butt-clenchingly awful, number ones to “look forward to” in the calendar year after this one, and that don’t even have the excuse of football to fall back on. I still can’t explain their success to this day, other than to conclude that Britain had fallen into a state of advanced civilisational decay and depravity.

    This, while pretty dire, is the right sort of pretty dire – and to my mind compares at least not outrageously disfavourably with pretty much any of the pre-Englandneworder records of this type…

  16. 16
    Cumbrian on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #15: “to my mind compares at least not outrageously disfavourably with pretty much any of the pre-Englandneworder records of this type”

    I’d agree with this. The trouble is that the vast majority of those records are also bilge. If we’d had the opportunity to opine on “Ossie’s Dream” or “This Time We’ll Get It Right” or similar stuff, I think I’d be about as uncharitable as I would be to this.

    Of the list that Tom links to on his tumblr, the only ones of this ilk that I would be inclined to look on even slightly favourably are “Back Home”, “Blue Is The Colour” and “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”, I reckon.

  17. 17
    Chelovek na lune on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #16 “England, We’ll Fly The Flag”?

  18. 18
    Steve Mannion on 11 Jan 2013 #

    The Cup final scoreline matched the chart performances of the two teams songs for it. Chelsea’s ‘No One Can Stop Us Now’ peaked at #23 – no memory of it personally but I do not expect it was fit to lace the boots of ‘Blue Is The Colour’.

    At the time Hod’s Chelsea were vaguely likeable – once you got past Ken Bates, David Mellor, hunters of heads…hmmm. I visited the ground that year for their FA Cup match with Sheffield Wednesday, paying under £20 to sit on a wooden bench. Smashing. I like to think that in exchange for reaching the final the Blues squad all received an Amiga 1200 and a copy of Sensible Soccer each.

  19. 19
    hardtogethits on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #15, #16

    Yes but 1. Those records were, as you point out, pre-EnglandNewOrder. No daft analogies, they existed in a world which didn’t know better.

    Yes but 2. Most of the pre-EnglandNewOrder records of this ilk were either a) faithful renditions of fans’ favourites, or b) an attempt – however misguided – at a new tune. Many attempted humour. This didn’t make them admirable or likeable, but just about tolerable.

  20. 20
    Tom on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Oh knackers there’s meant to be a link to that Wikipedia page in the first paragraph. I’m on a team building exercise all day (I escaped a singalong unlike some colleagues earlier in the week) – perhaps Steve or Alan could do it? Ta!

  21. 21
    Cumbrian on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #19

    1) Is the fact that they didn’t know better an excuse for producing something that isn’t much good? They could have tried something different instead of trotting out the same old stuff. It’s difficult to state this point with certainty, as we live in a world where “World In Motion” exists, but I feel comfortable in saying that even if that record had never been produced, I still think that this sort of record is bad.

    2) I think I accept this more than the first point, up to a point. Nothing is going to redeem “The Anfield Rap” for instance, attempt at humour or not.

    #17

    I’d not heard this before. It’s also not very good – but has something more going for it musically than some other football records. Take the vocals off and it might be the theme tune to an early 80s sci-fi cartoon, which makes me more naturally disposed to it in a nostalgic – that was my childhood – sense. (Separate point: there’s evidently some market for this, given how CITV’s retro weekend performed in the ratings last week.)

  22. 22
    Basil Brush on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #19 yes but 2. and c) “We’re a bit rubbish but we try” e.g. “This time we’ll get it right” and “Don’t come home too soon”

  23. 23
    Mark G on 11 Jan 2013 #

    I knew that would happen…

  24. 24
    Chelovek na lune on 11 Jan 2013 #

    #21 It was used (in modified form I guess? My memory is a bit vague, but I suspect no footballers featured) as a TV advert for (still nationalised) British Airways..I think BEFORE the football version was released.

  25. 25
    James BC on 11 Jan 2013 #

    EnglandNewOrder worked for the national team, but I don’t see how it could have worked for a club. Imagine if Utd had attempted something more sophisticated, or started singing about love or expressing themselves – it would have been a disaster. Matey singalong has to be the way to go, and this doesn’t do a bad job. (Plus, World in Motion had a fair bit of matey singalong in it anyway.)

    For a number one song, this obviously isn’t very good. It shouldn’t have been number 1 at all: how can a song aimed only at the supporters of one team become the most popular song in the country? Man U were getting far too big, and this was one of the dire consequences.

  26. 26
    Ricardo on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Hey Tom, are you thinking about doing something similar to what you did with “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You” for the next entry? ;)

  27. 27
    Steve Mannion on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Considering some songs in the 90s only needed to sell 20-30,000 in a week to top the chart, it was surprising it didn’t happen more James. At this point Utd’s home crowd must’ve been 40,000 at least and this was the time of the ground’s lowest ever capacity (the old North Stand was demolished the following year). They could’ve had been top of the charts at Xmas (“You Don’t Win Anything With Elves”?) as well as top of the league if they’d mobilised accordingly. Think ourselves lucky.

  28. 28
    23 Daves on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Another number one I’d completely forgotten actually existed, although unlike Tony Di Bart it only took a few seconds before the melody line came back into my head again. The specialist nature of this single meant that it really wasn’t played on the radio all that much (that I’m aware of) and whilst I was certainly aware of its existence at the time, it was avoidable and there was obviously no reason at all why I should bother to seek it out.

    I know so little about football that there’s not much I can sensibly contribute to this debate, beyond agreeing with the people who have commented that this was a step backwards for football records, a return to the old team sing-a-long, knees-up values of the seventies and eighties. I find it hard to mark something like this, it neither irritates nor pleases me – it’s just something I can easily ignore in the very unlikely event that I’m ever confronted with it. For reasons I’ve never really been able to work out, I also find bad sing-a-long football records somehow less aggravating than bad charity ensemble records, perhaps because the latter are often ubiquitous, whatever their shortcomings, whereas the former are only really heard during the chart run-down and very occasionally on the local pub jukebox. They’re cheap pieces of fun rather than being held up as pieces of worthiness.

    But, if I had to pick an interesting football record, it would be this non-league effort from Fisher Athletic entitled “Come On The Fish”. You’ll seldom hear something so modest. http://youtu.be/j4FMREsTqAM

  29. 29
    Erithian on 11 Jan 2013 #

    Well, with my pedigree – living in Stretford when I was first old enough to know what football was, therefore Red from a young age (much to my late dad’s disgust) – you’re not going to expect too much in the way of objectivity from me on this one. Obviously it’s nobody’s idea of a classic, but being based on one of Quo’s more listenable late-period songs it did have something going for it (the Irish jig element no doubt appealing to our nearest overseas fanbase), and it was good to have a reference to Duncan Edwards in a number one song. So for that brief wonderful fortnight United were League champions, FA Cup holders AND number one in the chart. Beat that, Wenger!

    And of course it was the first and only club-based football record to make number one, topping the previous No 3 peak of the execrable (and I’m not just saying that because of the club involved) “Anfield Rap”. Having the biggest fanbase in the country wasn’t enough in itself to get to the summit (as was shown with the two shocking Cup Final records in 1996, almost as shocking as the United-Liverpool final that year). It had to be a half-decent record, which even Punctum admits it was.

    A couple of corrections I can’t resist making. Tom, it’s not just one-eyedness on my part, but United had been for a long time the most popular club in the country in terms of attendances, if not the most successful. 1993 had seen our first title in 26 years, but Leeds, who had won their first title in 18 years the previous season, had plummeted to 17th. United never looked likely to be a one-season wonder – leading from the fourth match onwards, the previous season’s success turned into what looked like a dynasty with Cantona pulling the strings and at the same time showing the dark side of his character, usually in the suitably black away strip we sported that season.

    Punctum, not sure what you mean by “recorded” football history but United were the 6th team to do the double after Preston (1889), Aston Villa (1897), Spurs (1961), Arsenal (1971) and Liverpool (1986) – two years later they became the first club to do the double twice. Fatgit and the Swede wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t acknowledge that at least one of the Cup Final penalties was highly dubious, which I’ve always put down to the teeming rain on the day which made the pitch markings all but invisible – at least on the telly, I don’t know how well David Elleray could see them!

    Steve M, another obstacle to Hod’s Chelsea being likeable would be Dennis Wise. As a Liverpool fan put it on 6-0-6, “a face you would never tire of punching”.

    And as for the team roster as part of the lyric (which isn’t that much of a staple, Tom – can’t think of many besides Forest who’ve done that, although no doubt others will correct me) – not many of those names have resonance in the music world. Keane, obviously, and more recently Giggs… any others?

    23 Daves – I look forward to hearing the Fisher Athletic record (although “Come On The Fish” sounds a bit icky in itself!). As it happens Erith & Belvedere visit Fisher for a Cup-tie tomorrow, though I’ve never heard it played when I’ve been to their ground.

  30. 30
    will on 11 Jan 2013 #

    This was perhaps the only time a club-based record could get to Number One. This was Ferguson’s first great team and crucially a few years before it began to be cool to hate Man U. In 1994 there was a universal, if grudging admission of their brilliance. Plus football, and the Premiership, was still basking in its post-1990 glow. I know of a few people who ‘got into’ football around this time and because of Cantona, Giggs and co automatically gravitated towards United. It was these sort of people who made this Number One.

    Didn’t United release a number of singles in the years that followed? I distinctly remember a track called ‘The Man United Calypso’ going Top 20 at Christmas one year in the mid 90s..

    Re 29: Chas and Dave listed the entire Spurs team in their ’87 Cup Final song Hot Shot Tottenham.

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