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Top Of The (Cup Final) Pops - Judging FA Cup Songs

Top Of The Pops logo from 1986 (via Wikipedia)

Once as common as obscenely long build-ups to the showpiece match itself, the FA Cup final single now seems to have died a death not dissimilar to that of the physical single in the standard charts! But, what if we were to compile one for this most niche corner of the musical landscape? Cue the Top of the Pops theme...

 

Though the history of footballers, and indeed their teams, on record stretches back far longer than even appearances on the BBC's former new music flagship- Arsenal issuing a gramophone disc as far back as the Thirties! Perhaps greedy for a moment under lights of a very different nature from those they might have played under at Highbury, the Gunners can also lay claim to having in a sense started the tradition of issuing a good old sing-song on the eve of a trip to Wembley, their Good Old Arsenal from 1971 widely credited as the first such effort.

 

If you recognise the tune you've probably heard it at grounds up and down the country via various different adaptations, Rule Britannia repurposed. While they couldn't come up with an original tune, at least the lyrics were simple enough for crowds to remember. Taking a pen to the hymn to our fair island nation, adding “Arsenal” and sticking “we're gonna win the game” in there, and in so doing probably setting the template for much of what would come after as other clubs cottoned on.

 

The creator may come as something of a surprise, in that it was football pioneer Jimmy Hill, somehow resisting the urge to try and be trendy by adding an I to the end of his first name and possibly having to rein in the urge to add in a screaming guitar solo or two! This after having approached then- Gunners manager Bertie Mee for permission to at least pen the lyrics when an ITV competition inviting entries produced no winners- those deemed good enough as songs eventually dismissed as “too wordy” for the majority of Saturday afternoon match going crowds!

 

And so it came to pass that the single, sadly not credited to the Jimi Hill Experience was released in May of 1971, staying in the charts for seven weeks and hitting a high of number 16. The distinctively chinned friend of Match Of The Day, and possible sometime bedroom thrasher, enjoying probably the most unlikely success of any kind in his long career in the game.

 

Could anyone ever top that, you might well ponder. Cynics may suggest possibly, but where's the fun in that?

 

Staying in the, by then, not so swinging London of the early 1980s, we can flit across to Tottenham and the vaguely psychedelic sounding Ossie's Dream, as penned by Dave Peacock aka Dave from Chas and Dave. Asked to pen the ditty by their manager Bob England, they produced it and went uncredited for their instrumental efforts, the Spurs team drafted in to provide vocals soon after beating Wolves in the semi-final of the 1980-81 competition and Ossie Ardiles proving himself something of a reluctant lead singer!

 

Nevertheless, go solo for at least part of it he did, initially going along with the idea that he should mispronounce ‘Tottingham’ even if by then he'd been in England long enough to know how it should be said properly. Ossie then embraced it and carried on doing so, going so far as to name his autobiography after the song. A record he could've got a copy of a mere 48 hours after the original recording session, in something of a rush-release before cup final day- hitting number five a week after Spurs lifted the trophy.

 

Back of the net!

 

If you thought World In Motion was John Barnes' only attempt at a spot of hip-hop, think again. He's featured on the Anfield Rap from 1988, almost as shocking in execution as their eventual loss to Wimbledon in the final. Even a nifty sample of the riff from the Beatles cover of Twist and Shout can't save it, a reminder to Craig Johnston, a co-writer, that his feet should have done the talking...

 

Man United would call in Status Quo for their Come On You Reds ahead of the 1994 final, the song built around the Quo's own Burning Bridges and given a Jimmy Hill-ish brush-up to suit United's needs. Albeit with not a shred of denim and no power-sliding on the Old Trafford pitch by Alex Ferguson or indeed any of his players!

 

It did, though, eventually become the first such single to reach the lofty heights of number one, a portent for the dynasty Fergie would establish, maybe? But, like United themselves after he retired and took his hairdryer with him, it would seem the good old knockabout romp as recorded for posterity has dwindled somewhat. The last such effort to get within sniffing distance of a chart position arrived in 2008, James Fox lending his talents to Cardiff's Bluebirds Flying High before their meeting with Portsmouth.

 

And as a fan of the club he should probably be given the last word on any last shred of appeal of what is undoubtedly a dying, if not completely dead, art.

 

“[The song] didn't take long to write. Being a Cardiff fan, it kind of wrote itself. I’ve always wanted to play for Cardiff but that was never going to happen so every year I just thought if they get to have a Cup song, if they get that far, I’ve got to be prepared." He later commented "As a record, it doesn’t break any new ground. It’s just a catchy tune that hopefully the supporters will latch on to."

 

 

Whether it matters if that tune is original may be subjective! It does, though, seem unlikely at best that the first all- Manchester final will be marked with another assault on the charts by United or a début by City. What price on Oasis putting aside their differences for the good of their club?

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