Thursday, May 15, 2008

Sweeping The Nation Covermount 12: This Sporting Life

There's a big summer of sport coming up, what with the Olympics and European Championships alongside all the usual summer sport hoopla, as well as in two days' time the most unlikely of FA Cup finals and in thirteen days' time the most inevitable of Champions League finals. Time, then to dust off a long pencilled in Covermount on songs to do with the many and varied methods and angles of sport. We gave ourselves a strict rule - the songs have to be about or reference sport, but they can't be by sportspeople, which we have to point out because we fear hundreds of people posting "ahhhh! Snooker Loopy!" in the comment box or suggesting Dreadlock Holiday. Yes. It mentions cricket. Well spotted. We think we've done well enough in avoiding a lot of the obvious and hackneyed, although ultimately you'll be the judges of that.

This Sporting Life


The Hold Steady - Take Me Out To The Ball Game
A Tin Pan Alley staple written a full hundred years ago and commonly held to be the third most often played song in the US after The Star Spangled Banner and Happy Birthday. Craig Finn adapted a second verse for play at his local team the Minnesota Twins from last year onwards.

Warren Zevon - Hit Somebody (The Hockey Song)
Americana songwriter's Americanasongwriter Zevon had a habit of morbidity well before being diagnosed with terminal cancer; from 2000's Life'll Kill Ya, a darkly ending song about an ice hockey enforcer. Longtime Zevon fan David Letterman does the chorus spoken bit.

Therapy? - Joey
Five time world motorcycling champion Joey Dunlop, once voted the fifth greatest motorcycling icon in history, was killed in a race crash in 2000. A year later Andy Cairns penned this tribute to him on the album Shameless.

The Hitchers - Strachan
Fellow Irishmen the Hitchers' singer was called Niall Quinn, which is a good start. Their 1997 football-as-art squally tribute, from It's All Fun And Games 'Til Someone Loses An Eye, apparently led Gordon to see them live at Reading Festival and send an appreciatory note.

Half Man Half Biscuit - Friday Night And The Gates Are Low
Were we just going on references we could have had our choice from about a hundred HMHB songs, but as far as we can think only this, from Some Call It Godcore, is the only song directly about football in their mighty canon. Bob Wilson Anchorman is about the person Bob Wilson, see.

I, Ludicrous - The Highland League
Similarly the Crystal Palace-associated long serving duo have their fair share of football references. This is from February's Dirty Washing EP and, as they so rarely say on Wikipedia, features original research.

Oh, yeah, The Referee's Alphabet. As you were.

The Long Blondes - Darts
Some will hear this B-side to the original Giddy Stratospheres release and admire its quasi-shambling charm, others will suggest this is why Kate leaves most of the lyrics to Dorian. Still others will note that the LBs do tend to appear on Covermounts more than most bands.

The Pogues - Bottle Of Smoke
Found on nearly high water mark If I Should Fall From Grace With God. Shane MacGowan puts a shitload (unspecified) of money on the titular horse which comes in at "twenty-fucking-five to one". Outcome is pleasing for all.

Jackie Leven - Museum Of Childhood
In a more general treatise on reminiscence on 2005's Elegy For Johnny Cash album Scottish folk singer and former Doll By Doll singer Leven alights on the events of November 25th 1980 in the Louisiana Superdome, Sugar Ray Leonard v Roberto Duran II, the "no mas" fight, a phrase nobody has decisively said they heard Duran say but which has passed into pop culture regardless.

Loudon Wainwright III - Tonya's Twirls
Around the turn of the decade Loudon, taking time out from writing about his family, was employed by NPR to pen the occasional topically slanted song, in much the same way he did for Carrott Confidential, all later collected on Social Studies. Here he tackles the Tonya Harding supported attack on Nancy Kerrigan.

The Mountain Goats - Fall Of The Star High School Running Back
From the last great Mountain Goats lo-fi record, 2002's All Hail West Texas (track 2, in fact, track 1 having been on the last Covermount - limited scope, us?), John Darnielle's college gridiron peer blows out his knee and heads downwards from there.

Billy Bragg - God's Footballer
Subject Peter Knowles was a free scoring striker for Wolves who was heavily touted as a future England regular before suddenly retiring in 1969 ages 23 after experiencing religious revelations and becoming a Jehovah's Witness. Bragg tells his story on Don't Try This At Home.

The Pioneers - Long Shot Kick De Bucket
In 1967 the rocksteady vocal trio had a Jamaican number one with Long Shot, a tribute to their favourite racehorse and an underperforming race. Two years later the horse was killed in an accident at Caymanas Park racetrack, leading to a necessary follow-up and an unlikely for the subject big international hit. Let Your Yeah Be Yeah: Anthology 1966-1986 has both on, as well as pretty much everything else.

Lord Beginner - Victory Test Match
More reportage. Egbert Moore, along with his more famous calypso mate Lord Kitchener, was in the stands at Lords when the West Indies beat England for the first time in 1950. Having led musical celebrations from the ground to Piccadilly that night, he went home and wrote it up.

Johnny Wakelin - Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)
And now, white reggae. Wakelin was a Brighton cabaret artist drawn to record about Ali in 1974. The follow-up In Zaire was about the Rumble In The Jungle. When he started recording about other people and things, his career faltered. A salutory lesson.

Erlend Oye - The Athlete
Between Kings Of Convenience and The Whitest Boy Alive Oye made an eclectic retro-electro solo album, Unrest, here teaming up and partly adopting the language of French electro duo Minizza.

Barcelona - Kasey Keller
In 1998 the US beat Brazil 1-0 largely thanks to the former Millwall, Leicester and Spurs keeper making a series of great saves. Now defunct Washington new wave pop outfit Barcelona document events, adding "we don't blame you for that fiasco in France in '98". That's a relief.

Kraftwerk - Tour de France
Ralf Hutter and Florian Schneider are famously cycling obsessives, Karl Bartos once claiming their constant talk about their bikes rather than their music was the reason he left. Utilising the synthesised sounds of chains, gear changes and breaths, it's been remixed and re-recorded several times, but we'd be here all day if we got into that.

Saint Etienne - Conchita Martinez
Spain's most successful female tennis player ever, Wimbledon title winner in 1994 and once number two in the world. The song doesn't really have any further connection with the person, but never mind. Found on So Tough.

Von Sudenfed - Slow Down Ronnie
As with HMHB the Fall's back catalogue has touched upon football (Kicker Conspiracy, Final Score's Theme From Sparta FC, Ray Stubbs banter) but as we're being mildly perverse we've gone for Mark E and Mouse On Mars' collaborative effort (not actually on Tromatic Reflexxions, by the by) on the subject of Ronnie O'Sullivan. You'd fancy yourself against Smith at pool for a tenner, wouldn't you?

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