I MISS Gordon Burn, miss his books. Among others, he wrote the best one about journalism (Fullalove) and the best about football (Best and Edwards).
And I miss meeting him in the lovely garden of Chelsea Arts Club to talk about them. The last time he signed me into the club and bought me a warm beer, Neil Innes was there. I didn’t recognise him with his baldy heid until Gordon pointed him out. It’s a source of regret I didn’t speak to the bonkers creative force of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band because this is what I would have said:
“Thanks for writing I’m the Urban Spaceman, Mr Innes. It isn’t the best song with which you’ve been associated – that’s My Pink Half of the Drainpipe – but it’s a pop choon which became a terrace chant and that’s an all too rare thing these days.”
“We’re the mental Hibees, baby, we’ve got class …. ” went the Easter Road version and, aged 11, I thought that was pretty clever (still do, to be honest). I also firmly believed aged 11 that every club had fans with good ears and quick minds who could respray something from the Hit Parade, file down its serial number and present it as their own before the warm-ups had finished out on the pitch. But I thought this customising of ditties had all but stopped until last weekend at Swansea’s Liberty Stadium when I heard this:
“Come on David Moyes, play like Fergie’s boys, we’ll go wild wild wild … ”
The original of course is Cum On Feel the Noize by Slade. Isn’t that a brilliant steal? It’s easy to say that the prawn sandwich brigade rools OK at big grounds now – not least at Man U where Roy Keane uttered his famous jibe all of 13 years ago – and that the wild yobbo wits have been priced out of football by the corporate culture. But this chant encourages in me the fond hope there are still some fans out there who adopt the classic uniform – Ben Sherman shirts, College V jumpers, scarves tied round wrists.
This was the attire in grainy footage of the Stretford Enders that is always shown whenever 1970s football is recalled – and it was also the attire when I saw Slade play Edinburgh shortly after Cum On Feel the Noize shot straight to No.1. They were one of my favourite bands, so much so I copied guitarist Dave Hill’s haircut with the fringe trimmed high up the forehead (“In preparation for frontal lobotomy,” my father used to say). I found the song on YouTube for my son and he was amazed at Noddy Holder’s singing, how loud it was. This seemed like a special moment. From here on in when we listen to music together he’ll be the one cranking up the volume and I’ll be covering my ears.
Anyway, why don’t they write ’em like that anymore? Celtic and Hearts fans made a chant out of the Beatles’ Hey Jude, also Pilot’s Magic (or was that Rangers fans? “Ho ho ho it’s magic, you know/Gonna be x number of league titles in a row”). Rangers fans definitely sang a rude one inspired by George Harrison’s Hare Krishna Mantra which referenced Harry Hood, Lou Macari and Irish Republican Kevin Barry. And then? Top of the Pops was killed off by combos made up of two fat blokes in hoodies hammering keyboards while a woman gyrated and music almost died too. Yes, Liverpool fans sang “Agger Dan Dan Dan/He’s a big red Danish man”. Spurs fans sang, in praise of Benoit Assou-Ekotto: “Doncha wish your left-back was BAE?” And, using the riff of White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, Hearts fans sang: Oh the Hibees are great” (or something like that). But these were isolated moments of rip-off ingenuity and the glam-rock standard which has revived the art is 40 years old.
Not that David Moyes will be worried about that. He must have been delighted to hear his name being chanted, and with the 4-1 win. It surprised some, not least Jose Mourinho, who’d been sniffy about Man U’s title triumph last season while casting covetous eyes at Wayne Rooney. Maybe Mourinho’s not feeling quite so cocky about Old Trafford tomorrow, and maybe he’s now the one who’d prefer this clash to come later. What he needs, I reckon, via some lovely old ditty, is a great chant.