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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.

Saturday 24 December 2011

The English Disease

Receiving an early Christnas present in the form of an Amazon voucher I was running through my wishlist when I noticed that a copy of the long deleted album "The English Disease" was available. Pouncing on this gem straightaway, it soon arrived and I was transported back to a time when those at the cutting edge of music saw no contradiction in applying their talents to what was regarded in polite society as the most anti-social of pursuits - watching football.
Arriving from the East London base of the On U Sound record label, "The English Disease" took its title from the tag liberally applied to the behaviour of English football supporters and cast its net over English football in the late 80s. Naturally the location of the record label led to the album having a heavy West Ham accent, with tracks dedicated to Leroy Rosenior (Leroy's Boots), Alan Devonshire (Devo backed by Italian House) and Billy Bonds (featuring I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles of course), but in keeping with a more collectivist era there were many others featured.
I had first heard the tracks played on the John Peel show at the time of release. At the time my budget didn't quite stretch to a release which I classed as fitting under the novelty banner although I made an exception for the peerless Flair. Listening again after more than 20 years I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the music and the high level politicisation in the lyrics. The music is emblematic of a time when to record something about football was to be on the cutting edge, a creative peak reached when New Order made it to the top of the charts with "World in Motion". 
Echoing the likes of I Ludicrous the tracks mount a determined stand in defence of terrace culture, which has now been all but lost.Produced by Adrian Sherwood and aided by Doug Wimbish, Skip McDonald and Keith Levene the music generally takes a turn towards dub/reggae most obviously in a reworking of The Liquidator and most fittingly in the protest anthem "Civil Liberty" which features Neil Kinnock arguing the case against ID cards, hardly a comfortable stance for a Labour leader these days.
A dub version of Land of Hope and Glory backs a lament from the England manager Robson on "England Just Can't Win", whilst its Alan Ball's turn to give excuses on "Mind the Gap". Brian Clough has now regained his national treasure status but "Brian Clout" reminds us of one of his more controversial episodes, with Vinnie Jones' instant impact on the game being reflected by "Psycho and the Wombles of Division 1".
The stand out track for me though is "Sharp as a Needle", the one I could clearly remember from the 80s. The words "Glory, Glory" repeated over a Cup Final day recording of "Abide With Me" interspersed with commentary from the late great Peter Jones paying homage to the Liverpool team of that era (no wonder Peel played it so often!).
The album finishes on an optimistic note with a rendition of "Que Sera Sera" so its sad to think that what this recording does is to provide a coda to what is fast becoming seen as a different time, from Post war to Premiership. However before the rose tinted spectacles descend the liner notes end with: "No thank you to those who put profit before safety and comfort, and are disinterested in the voice of those who pay the wages". Strange to say that might be more true then than now.

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