In a recent issue of one of Germany’s best football magazines, 11 Freunde, an article focussed on the topic and the close relationship between football and pop. On the cover Noel Gallagher poses in a ManCity replica shirt, something bands such as Element of Crime would certainly not do. I’m not aiming at reciting this article or add something to it. Rather, i will look at football songs recorded by England or German teams recorded ahead of World Cup campaigns and will put my own thoughts forward.
There is no doubt among German music afficionados that England is by at least a mile superior when it comes to music. The quality of the football remains debatable. It is music where Germans look enviously across the North Sea and wish they had what the English have. Admittedly there is some good German music but the in-depth quality is lacking and it just doesn’t sound right sometimes. Take one example: New Order’s World in Motion for the 1990 World Cup in Italy and compare this with the Nationalmannschaft’s inglorious song for US’94 titled Far Away in America. I don’t think i need to continue. This is no contest, England are far better than we will ever be with regards to singing footballers.
The all time classic however are the Three Lions (Fooball’s Coming Home) by The Lightning Seeds featuring Frank Skinner and Dave Baddiel recorded for the EURO ’96 in England: it is played across the country in clubs although the Germans don’t look too good in the video version of it. Yet, it is still loved and admired.
There is a few songs which need a particular mention. Beckenbauer’s Gute Freunde und Radi Radenkovics Bin I Radi, Bin I König and Gerd Müller’s Dann macht es Bumm. First, these are songs recorded by players who either played for Bayen München or their local rivals 1860 München, i.e. they are Bavarians. These people tend to think of themselves as either not German and something better and wish they were anindenpendent country. Secondly, they were recorded in the sixties and seventies, decades of which music is still loved in Germany for its entertainment character and the love for the goode olde tymes. However, those songs aforementioned will hardly ever be played in a night club or feature on a sampler of 60s and 70s music. Rightly so, i think. These days, any CD compilation published in Germany ahead of any major tournament contains music that doesn’t deserve to be called music but should be classified as trash.
The difference between England and Germany is or was, is that football in England has always been rooted in popular culture to a greater extent than in Germany. Even T.S. Eliot remarked that England in the late nineteenth century was all about Gothic Churches and Cup Final Day. At that time Germany had a discussion as to whether or not football should be allowed to be played in Germany or not. The game was regarded as ungerman and thus was banned. Turnen was the sport, the German should engage in. Turnen was orderly and structured and followed strict lines whereas football was considered as being without any structure or order and thus negligible. As a result of this, football had difficult position in Germany when compared to England. Football in England was considered being big business and thus attracted personalities from across society whereas in Germany sport in general and football in particular was considered a niche that stayed where it was, in its niche. It thus did not entice the big guns from the musical scene as it did in England to be attached to football. Only recently has football become a part of what is generally called popular culture and as such attracts interest from literary people and the music industry. Unfortunately the latter mostly in the form of publishing those CD compilation mentioned earlier. People like Christoph Biermann, Ben Redelings and magazines like 11Freunde or Rund certainly helped putting football on the map for a wider audience. Bands such as Sportfreunde Stiller are certainly only the beginning in musical terms but it seems unlikely that a musical revolution is going to happen. England in that respect seem just invincible.