Thursday, June 26, 2014


I bloody hate football, me. I suppose I ought to be ashamed of myself, as a brit, but, there, I've said it now.
The beautiful game is a waste of energy to me, and all the fuss and hyperbole leaves me cold. Furthermore, like the Charles Addams cartoon above, am I the only person over here enjoying the ignominy of the english early bath after 3 lack-lustre games? (Or so I heard, as I was certainly not going to waste our current glorious weather in front of a TV. And it is wonderful to walk and drive through the deserted streets of this country whilst the games are on.) In truth I was going to give this theme a miss, but I have belatedly been stung into prose by newcomer JJ's reminder of the horror referred to below, when my glorious Lindisfarne sullied their name and reputation with the travesty unwound in his piece. So how can I take away that flavour, yet stick within a theme with no resonance for me? And then it came to me: Roderick David Stewart, football trialist (failed) for Brentford F.C.

Now, in fairness, I am not that keen on Rod Stewart either, at least not these days. But there was a time when he could do no wrong. Ignore his ghastly gargles through the Great American Songbook and, more recently, Motown. Forget even the Britt Ekland  silk and satin years and beyond. (Do you think I'm sexy?No.Not one iota.) I refer to the gravel voiced guttersnipe, busking his way around Europe, before blagging his way into Steampacket, a multi-voiced venture with Long John Baldry, featuring also the then husband and wife, Julie Driscoll and Brian Auger. From CND sympathising folkie, Rod was now morphing into "Rod the Mod". A spell in the Jeff Beck Group led him into contact with longterm partner in mischief, Ron Wood. Upon the dissolution of the Small Faces, Ron Wood stopped their ship from sinking, as replacement for Steve Marriott, drafting in his old mucker on vocals. The rest is, as they say, history, with Stewart having dual success with the (no longer Small)Faces and with his own solo career. I loved those first 4 or 5 Faces LPs and his contemporaneous solo work, feeling his mojo became lost as he left the former to concentrate on the latter. One was tempted to ask him, as he became a megastar, where, Rod, did it all go so wrong? (On a football related note, this was often the question asked of George Best, legendary 60s soccer player, as he cavorted in baths of champagne with various Miss Worlds)

So why is Rod Stewart my theme, even if he once bid to play the game professionally? Why, so I have an excuse to play this wonderful clip from, as ever, my beloved Top of the Pops. Maggie May was arguably his breakthrough moment, and despite being credited to his solo career, it is with the Faces that he appears here, joined by famous underground DJ, John Peel, "busking" on mandolin, before the scene descends into a kickabout. Both Rod Stewart and John Peel were big afficionados of football, Rod, I think, famously being the most conscientious supporter of his Scotland side, themselves absent from many a world cup these last few years. I still hate football but I do love that clip.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Lindisfarne feat. Gazza: Fog on the Tyne (Revisited)

It's like lycanthropy.

Once every four years, I change. I incorporate more red and white into my wardrobe, I become argumentative, I'm prone to fits of pouting and I spent entirely too much of my time enraged and yelling at the television.

However, this change isn't spurred by the full moon. No. It's the World Cup that does funny things to me.

I was born in England and spent my childhood there where amidst reading, writing and maths, I also learned several other life lessons - the importance of properly dunking one's biscuit into one's tea and that in this life, football matters. A lot.

I came of age during the height of Gazzamania - the 1990 World Cup - when the legend of Paul 'Gazza' Gascoigne was elevated to mythic proportions. His grinning visage was emblazoned on everything from candy wrappers to clothing and you couldn't escape headlines screaming out about England's favorite son.

Even pop music wasn't safe as in 1990, he got together with pop-folk act Lindisfarme to re-record Fog on the Tyne.

Gazza's version is a novelty hit in every sense of the word. It was catchy, it featured stilted "rapping" from a man who truly had no business being anywhere near a recording studio and every 30 seconds or so, the song urged the listener to, "Come on!"

In short, it's a perfect, silly World Cup song that sticks in your ear and celebrates that Geordie Boy we as a nation pinned our hopes on - the great Gazza.

Unfortunately, his career and personal life spiraled downwards and in recent years, Gascoigne has battled publicly with alcohol addiction.

But regardless of what the future holds for Paul Gascoigne, the fog on the Tyne will always be all his. 

Monday, June 23, 2014

Football/Soccer: Kasey Keller

Barcelona: Kasey Keller

Like any good American, I have been glued to the television over the past week, watching the World Cup. It has been amazing to see everything, all over the country, come to a complete halt during the matches, and I’ve enjoyed getting into impassioned arguments with strangers over the relative merits of Croatia and Costa Rica. Or the tactical arguments over whether it is better to play a 4-3-3, or a 4-3-2-1. And whether using a false 9 really ever works.

When you come from a country with as proud and successful a soccer tradition as the United States, it is hard to decide what our greatest World Cup moment was. (Note—I’m focusing here on our men’s team. The women’s tradition, is, if anything, even better.) Was it our third place finish back in 1930? Or the victory over England in 1950, which made Joe Gaetjens a household name? Or was it something more recent, like our victory in 1994 (despite some of the ugliest uniforms ever) over Columbia (thanks, in part, to the tragic own goal from poor Andres Escobar)?

I mean, who could forget our incredible 2002 tournament, where we beat both Portugal and Mexico (of course, by the score of dos a cero, which has become a national chant) and only lost to Germany because of Torsten Frings’ dastardly cheating?

Or maybe it was our magnificent draw with the Italian thugs in 2006, despite ending the game with only 9 players? You could argue that our best moment was topping the group in South Africa in 2010, what with the stirring draw with England, the amazing comeback against Slovenia (and getting cheated by the referee’s awful offside call), and Landon Donovan’s incredible game winner against Algeria, which shook the world?

We’ve also had some big moments away from the World Cup, like beating Mexico at Azteca, or Paul Caligiuri’s game winner over powerful Trinidad and Tobago to clinch a berth in the 1990 World Cup? Or the Snow Game?

And, with all of that incredible history, there may be only one American soccer victory that has become so embedded in the national psyche that it inspired a song. Of course, I don’t have to tell you that I am talking about the 1-0 victory against Brazil at the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Who can forget the legendary Kasey Keller, whose exploits that day in Los Angeles allowed the great Preki’s 65th minute goal to hold up? To this day, Americans remember where they were watching the match, and who they were with. We tell the story of Keller’s 10 saves to our kids, and sing this tribute to Keller, by the Washington D.C. area band Barcelona, whenever American soccer fans gather. (Although as a passionate Gooner, I do have to overlook Keller's tenure with Sp*rs, but country before club, right?)

Hey, look, an American soccer fan can dream, right? (And I'm not discussing last night's draw with Portugal.  Because I. Believe. That. We. Will. Win.)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Football/Soccer: Another Star

Stevie Wonder: Another Star

There are songs specifically written with the World Cup in mind and there are others that get co-opted to the purpose. Ricky Martin's La Copa de la Vida comes to mind as one of the more successful: you didnt have to be a football fan to notice the commercial success of the song.

Curiously, it took the US women's team - and Mia Hamm - back in 1996, to light the fire for soccer in the US. Sure ... there were other sparks: Pele and his backers tried hard. Beckham, too. But even today, soccer/football in the US of A - in terms that really matter (salaries, revenue, viewers...)  falls pitifully below other more American sports.

There are "official" songs for each World Cup, and then there are other songs that are "un-official".. Whereas Pitbull/Jenifer Lopez's "Ole Ola" and Shakira's "La La La" are considered to be official this year, the BBC has chosen this year to go with Stevie Wonder's "Another Star". Why so?

Folks who edit video are well aware of the effect that a sound track has over the video: even a sloppy visual sequence can turn into decent "film" through the judicious use of appropriate audio, and that appears to have been the Beeb's  ... er ... goal. There isn't much in the lyrics to suggest its application to a World Cup theme song (unless you accept the starting "la la la ..." as a tribute to the official Shakira song? Or perhaps the notion that "no other love" is a football fanatic's state of mind? Again, the audio overlaid to the video and the simple fact that this clip provides a history of sorts of the "Cup" are reason enough for me to start us off with this clip on the next 2-week theme in honor of the 2014 World Cup.