As we prepare for the kickoff of England v. Paraguay by feeding the dog, getting the newspapers off the lawn and uh, checking last night’s baseball box scores, here’s a slight digression. The matter of World Cup songs, both official and otherwise, has been noted in this space previously. But the Independent’s Stan Hey submits another contender, a slightly different take on Sham 69’s “Hurry Up, Harry”.
Put together by the band’s lead singer Jimmy Pursey and musician friends, including Graham Coxon, “Hurry Up England” recently won a vote on Virgin Radio to be the unofficial England anthem, and is being released as a CD, with downloads available. The original song made the pop charts in 1978, reaching No 10, so its revival, 28 years later, is one of the more arcane pieces of marketing associated with the World Cup, and raises the simple question “why?”.
A brisk and breezy tune, a mix of punk, Chas and Dave, with a dash of Ian Dury, “Hurry Up Harry” had the chorus “we’re going down the pub…” which has been replaced by “we’re going to win the cup”, so no problems there for the lyrically challenged. Pursey has hailed it as “the greatest punk football record ever made and that’s the end of it. The unofficial songs are always better than the official ones, and this year is no exception”.
Meanwhile, over on the Sham 69 website there’s an announcement of regret for “the tempory (sic) cancellation of the three Sham 69 gigs set to take place between 16th-22nd June in Brazil and Argentina”. And the reason? “In the UK ‘Hurry Up Harry’ has been remixed and used for the People’s Anthem … and has become a phenomenon, and the press and recording commitments have become a priority at present.”
Apart from the obvious implication that there’s a lot of cashing-in going on, the tactful withdrawal of the band with an England song from two rival football countries seems to be a diplomatic nicety. But is the success of the song anything other than an act of cheerful opportunism? Will England fans in their forties be jumping up and down like they did in their teens, bouncing off each other, having a bit of a rumble and then getting back on their feet for some more? Or is there something slightly more sinister going on?
What’s more likely is that the song has touched a chord with those middle-aged football fans who lived through depression and embarrassment in the 1970s, when England failed to qualify for anything and music was crap until the punks came along.
Nobody in their right mind could be nostalgic for those years or what happened on and off the football pitch. But the song could well be a point of reference between that artless, shifting decade and the one they are living in now – nice car, routine job but well paid, low-rate mortgage, couple of kids, supermarket around the corner, cheap travel, and the chance to follow a potentially successful England team. All of which is better than they probably imagined back in the late 1970s.