About Me

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Hammersmith, London, United Kingdom
I'm a director of Maidenhead United Football Club. For ten seasons one of my roles at the club was to produce the match programme. The aim of this blog was to write football related articles for publication in the match programme. In particular I like to write about the representation of football in popular culture, specifically music, film/TV and literature. I also write about matches I attend which generally feature Maidenhead United.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Flair 1989 The Other World Of British Football










1989 was an amazing year for history, the end according to Francis Fukuyama with the fall of the Berlin Wall. It was of course a truly tragic one too due to the Hillsborough disaster an event which kicked off the transition from old to new football as embodied by the Premiership.
One item of ephemera which was lost in the change was the football song which makes this collection of 46, released in 1989, all the more special.
This was no greatest hits though instead its an attempt to capture the spirit of the post war period the records were recorded in. Thus the tracks are all selected for their unique value rather than chart success or the club that recorded them. It's a celebration of the musical maverick and individual which is reflected by the cavalcade of players who graced the cover.
Lovingly packaged in gatefold format with a complimentary fanzine the tracks are spread over two discs.
Disc one side one starts with Fisher Athletic's "Come on The Fish", a cry backed up an insistent chant of "dead right". This is followed by the Nolans urging us to come and watch Blackpool, due to one of the singing sisters being married to striker Dave Bamber at the time. Norwich City unshamedly demonstrate pride in their roots to celebrate promotion saying who'd have thought those country boys would ever have "something to shout about", whilst Plymouth Argyle admit with the backing of the Mount Charles Band that its a long way to Plymouth Argyle, something the clubs they were saying "Farewell 3rd Division" to would surely agree with.
The 1967 League Cup Final gave QPR star Mark Lazurus more than a winners medal as he was given the lead role in singing "QPR The Greatest" to celebrate their win along with a rather posh sounding bloke who obviously didn't hail from White City.
Hartlepool had nothing to sing about but you can't fault their honesty: "11 lads from the far up north, you notice we're still bottom of the fourth, we seldom win... we're not very flash and we haven't the cash".
One Sunderland fan goes all Eurovision to announce "Sunderland are back in the first division" whilst Wealdstone's "defenders" demonstrate a quality of production far better than non league as they revel in their 80s glory days on "We Are The Stones".
Side One closes with some spoken word courtesy of Arfon Griffiths, manager of a Wrexham team that was something of a force in Europe.
Flipping over to side two and we hit a seam of traditional football songs from Portsmouth (Pompey chimes), Charlton (Red, Red Robin), and Rangers (Follow, Follow). Gravesend & Northfleet supporters treat us to a rousing chorus of "Here Comes The Fleet", whilst West Bromwich Albion tell a great tale of their 1968 FA Cup win which really was "Albion's Day".
In similar vein singing about a similar time are Jimmy Hill's Sky Blues, whilst marketing is the aim of Crystal Palace's "Power to the Palace" as they request listeners to "bring a pal to the Palace today".
A folkish tinge is introduced from celtic cousins in Clyde and Newport County, the latter reminding us of County's erstwhile league status. Cover star Stan Bowles leads the Brentford effort with side two ending on a comic note thanks to Ipswich's Edward Ebeneezer and Sheffield United's Bobby Knutt.
Throughout the four sides the songs are bursting with an innocent joy which captures the way hearts and hopes were lifted by the league and Cup successes which led to these recordings. It is an even playing field as although the bigger clubs having slicker production values, the rhymes are always awful and the format of mentioning as many names and facts about the club remaining.
Side three begins with the MUFC Club song, not Manchester or even Maidenhead but Maidstone. They declare that "Maidstone has the cream, they're Kent's best football team", but what's that up next? "Here come the Cherries and they're heading for the top of the tree, Bournemouth are the team that's going to show Division Three".
Peterborough employ an innovative use of their nickname to declare "its Posh we are and Posh we feel, United we all stand". Burton Albion are the only club to have two tracks on this compilation and they begin with the seemingly neverending story of how they "Hit The Road To Wembley" although you have to admire the songwriter for making Northwich Victoria scan.
Stomping is the only way to describe the beat which backs "Scunthorpe United, they are the greatest".
Ron Harris leads his Chelsea team mates in a chorus of C-h-e-l sea which maintains a nice nautical theme throughout, with a clever departure to include a couplet linking Bonetti to McCreadie.
It falls to Orient to provide the highlight of the side with Fantastico, a lilting Mediterranean melody which skilfully avoids any stress in the writing by adding an O to the end of each line as they attempt to sing the team to Wembleyo.
Aston Villa remind us that "we've got Andy Gray he gets better every day" sadly something that cannot be said in his current post, although that's because his current squad isn't ruled by "Ron Saunders with an iron rod". Supermac features heavily in the Newcastle effort before the side ends with two awful efforts from individual Kilmarnock and Northampton supporters.
We quickly get back on track as Side Four begins with a rousing chorus of "We'll be with you" from Stoke City, a song sung for real on the Potteries terraces right up to their demolition.Leicester City tell us that they "are playing great in front of every gate" before Arsenal remind us of the time when the big Willie at the back was Young rather than Gallas.
In an EMI backed production Bradford City "know we're gonna win, we never give in". Rocky Johnny Austin gives us a hymn of praise to "the greatest number five" Roy McFarland whilst "The Old Brighton Rock" takes us back to the day when Albion almost won the FA Cup which proved that "the boys in the old Brighton blue, won't give up until the game is through".
After a pause to hear that in "the town of Kirkcaldy there is a football team, the proud side of Scotland, Raith Rovers is their name", we move to the album's tour de force Mansfield Magic. Employing commentary extracts, keyboards, brass, a guitar solo and a drum break, with a dutiful nod to Status Quo's Rocking All Over The World, this is a musical triumph, a fitting monument to their 1987 Freight Rover Trophy win.
The end is now in sight, and after a quick couple of Here We Gos, and two curios from Notts County and Kingstonian, we end with the Kop Choir.
I would find it impossible to sum up the appeal of football, all I can say is I always feel it when listening to Flair 1989.

Listen Up: Flair 1989 is no longer available but I will happily mail you MP3s of individual tracks.

7 comments:

DT said...

Sounds a remnarkable collection, I have quite a few of the songs you mention, such as the uplifting "Come On The Fish".

Sadly the only Norwich City track I have is "Yellow Submarine" - any chance you could email me that one? Thanks - great stuff

Anonymous said...

Re: Timothy Alfred, please could you tell me the address of his blog.


Many thanks

Steve said...

Sorry I don't know the address of Tim's blog

Anonymous said...

Hi Steve,

I've got this beauty on LP (but alas no longer a record player to play it on)... any chance of sending me an MP3 copy of the whole thing?? would happily exchange for something else in return!!!
please e-mail me at:

derekraith@hotmail.com

kind regards,
Derek

Fishmonger said...

Great post - and interesting blog. I have a copy of this album on a long-term loan from a friend (he has no desire to get it back). I have MP3-ed the Fisher track, which you can download from my embryonic Fisher blog here:

http://fisherathletic.wordpress.com/2008/09/17/come-on-the-fish-fish-fish-fish-fisher/

Steve said...

Fishmonger,
Thanks for the link to my blog, and your kind comments, but please note that I am the editor of the MAIDENHEAD UNITED programme not Maidstone as you say above (an all too common mistake).
As a Maidenhead fan I always hope that a visit to Fisher will start with the teams walking out to “Come on the Fish”. Hopefully you will stay up this season and play it when we come over next season.
By the way the credit on the sleeve of Flair 89 is for David Slater. Don’t know if that helps?

Rob said...

Hi,

I found this album when clearing out my old room at home. I would love the tracks as MP3 files if you still have them and are willing to email them. I'm happy to pay something for your time!

mykayakforsale@gmail.com

Cheers,