Musical Mistakes #01 – Football Anthems

As we fast approach the big England v Wales game in the UK, I have a confession to make. I am now the proud owner of a copy of the latest Manic Street Preachers single, “Together Stronger (C’Mon Wales)”, which is the Welsh national team’s anthem for the Euro 2016 football tournament currently making headlines for all the wrong reasons across Europe. For those outside Europe, it might not be obvious how wrong this is for a Englishman, especially when England have been drawn in the same group as Wales. Big rivals, never played each other in a major tournament before, must win match for both.

Hear me out, I have mitigating circumstances. Firstly, there was a signed copy available on the Manics’ website. Secondly, there’s an exclusive remix of “A Design For Life” as the b-side. Thirdly, it’s actually a very good song, especially for a football anthem. That said, there is something distinctly uncool about owning a football anthem, especially one for a rival team, but it’s something I’ll have to learn to live with.

This doesn’t quite compare to something similar that happened to me in 1996. As a newly-discovered supporter of Manchester United, I distinctly remember being stood in the big Woolworths in Burnley, pocket money in hand, staring at two potential musical purchases. It was always a tough decision – I got £2 a week and so I usually only had the ability to buy one single a week at the most. I had to get the decision right to ensure I had something enriching to listen to for the next week or so.

The first option was the official FA Cup Final single released by the Manchester United squad. Its name? “Move Move Move (The Red Tribe)”. It was utter tripe, but had the sole benefit of being the song from the team I supported.

Sat right next to this abomination was the FA Cup Final single released by the Liverpool squad. In hindsight, this was also utter tripe, though marginally less tripy than United’s effort. It was titled “Pass and Move (It’s The Liverpool Groove)”. Bracketed song titles were very popular back in the mid-90s, as were rapping footballers

I faced a tough decision, but it was one I found a way out of. I couldn’t afford both on CD single so I bought Liverpool on CD single and United on cassette. The utter shame. Two terrible songs entering my music collection, plus a betrayal of my team to go with it.

So maybe this Wales incident won’t be looked back on with such embarrassment. I guess much of that will depend on the result on Thursday afternoon.

Film review – Elvis Costello: Mystery Dance (Mark Kidel, 2013)

I’ll throw it out there – I’m a huge, huge Elvis Costello fan. I can’t pinpoint an incident that served as a catalyst to get into him. As a 30-year-old Brit, the only major hit of his I remember is the Charles Aznavour cover “She” from the Notting Hill soundtrack, which, I think it’s fair to say, probably isn’t a great representation of his fantastic and varied body of work. Yet somehow the songs seeped into my psyche and I now rate him as one of my favourite artists.

This documentary serves as a biography of sorts, albeit potted around some key periods of Costello’s life. Aspects covered include his upbringing, his hometown, the politics of his lyrics and a small selection of his songs. Some huge guests are interviewed, including Paul McCartney, Mark Ellen and Nick Lowe.

Each element that is picked out is tended to perfectly. In particular, the collaborations with Paul McCartney really ignited my enthusiasm to seek out more information. Kidel has managed to get all this contributors to talk really enthusiastically about their part in the Elvis Costello journey and I as a viewer found myself swept along with it.

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Unfortunately, the documentary length doesn’t allow too much delving into each topic, whilst the shear bredth of his career means that a lot of his life is skipped over. It’s an impossible balance to achieve because his life and background are both so interesting, and perhaps his story is instead worthy of a series. Or perhaps that’s just the inner fan getting the better of me and I should just make do with what I’ve got.

The one lasting impression you get after watching this film is that Elvis Costello is overly enthusiastic about everything he has done. Be it having a string of top 10 albums, releasing an album of jazz soul music with Allen Toussaint, collaborating with one of the greatest songwriters of all time or creating an ill-received classical string album with The Brodsky Quartet, he has continually done so enthusiastically and been hugely successful in a variety of ways with every genre he has tried his hand at.

If you’re willing to be enthused by one of Britain’s greatest ever songwriters then check this out. Otherwise, the limited storytelling might have you searching for a biography that has a bit more detail.

Elvis Costello: Mystery Dance is available on the BBC iPlayer in the UK until 20th November 2014.