F365's Top Ten Terrace Pop Anthems

One of the stranger aspects of football fandom is when 'pop' songs are appropriated by a group of fans for the terraces. Nick Miller picks ten of the best...

Last Updated: 23/04/14 at 10:53 Post Comment

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The criteria: these songs are not just terrace chants, but pop songs that have been adopted by different sets of fans and are generally associated with individual clubs. Songs written specifically for or about football don't count, so no 'Anfield Rap' or 'Blue Is The Colour' etc, neither do songs that have become 'generic' chants, so 'Sloop John B' is out too. All good? Grand. Then we'll begin...

10) Blue Moon by various - Manchester City
One of the key criteria for a great terrace anthem is that it has to 'fit' with the fans that sing it. Originally sung by Crewe Alexandra fans in the mid/late-eighties, 'Blue Moon' started to become popular at Maine Road around 1990, and was quickly adopted as a crushingly appropriate anthem for a team that always seemed to find new and interesting ways to make a mess of things. The song has been recorded by so many disparate artists, from Bob Dylan, to Dean Martin, to a particularly good doo-wop take by the Marcels, that there isn't really a definitive version of the song, unless you count this astonishingly terrible interpretation by Beady Eye, as part of City's kit launch a couple of years ago. Oh, and Jason Manford had a crack this season as well. Eesh. Still, despite the attempts of Gallagher and Manford to destroy it, Blue Moon is quite a thing when City fans get going.


9) Love Is In The Air by John Paul Young - Dundee United
Most songs adopted by fans have a story behind them. Sometimes they're quite tenuous, sometimes they're related to a specific event, sometimes they're just plain weird. Sometimes the reasons are lost long in the past, and like traditional folk songs, nobody can really remember how and why they came about. Sometimes though it doesn't matter, because the sight and sound of thousands of men and women ostensibly gathered to watch some sport but singing something utterly incongruous is simply too joyous to ignore. Who knows why Dundee United fans adopted 'Love Is In The Air'? Who cares? I don't - I haven't even bothered to look it up. Just listen to them singing it and enjoy.


8) Can't Help Falling In Love by Elvis Presley - Sunderland
The Elvis version of the great drunk uncle karaoke classic (definitely not the butchered UB40 take) is a favourite of several clubs, notably Swansea, but Sunderland are probably the most closely associated with it, if only because in 'Wise Men Say' they have a fans' podcast (nearly) named after it. This is another song that probably shouldn't work as a terrace chant, but when it's done properly it fits perfectly with the notion of an overly-emotional and perhaps even overly-sauced collection of men tipping their heads back and letting rip. Somehow the terrace version is leant something by it usually being sung in slightly the wrong key, given that your average football fan doesn't quite have the vocal range of Elvis Presley.


7) The Liquidator by Harry J Allstars - Wolves
Another song that is associated with a few clubs, and one that is still played at Stamford Bridge before games, but most generally think of 'The Liquidator' as a Wolves song. An unusual one, given that it's a reggae instrumental, and thus one might think tricky to get going as a terrace sing-along, but Wolves fans manage it with the help of some judiciously-used swearing, throwing in the pithy refrain 'F*CK OFF WEST BROM' to really give it that extra something. Indeed, so aggressive did the song get that it was actually banned from being played at Molineux by West Midlands Police back in 2002, as they thought it incited a little more violence than was necessary. The fans still crack it out though, complete with the potty-mouthed addition.


6) I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles by various - West Ham
A song that was written in the early part of the 20th century and recorded by various artists (including by Vera Lynn, which frankly sounds a bit weird) before it was adopted by West Ham fans either just before or just after the Second World War, depending on which version of history you believe. One theory that has been debunked claims the song was sung at a Hammers player called Will Murray who was nicknamed 'Bubbles', an idea that lends it some rather rum connotations that probably weren't intentional back then. More plausible is the idea that it was simply something sung in East End air raid shelters during the war, and this communal singing obviously fairly naturally transferred itself to football grounds. This is also one of the fairly rare examples of a club trying to generate 'atmosphere' and actually succeeding, as before games at Upton Park the song is played over the PA system, but cuts out just before the 'Fortune's always hiding...' line, allowing the assembled throng to finish it on their own. A spine-tingler, for sure.


5) Delilah by Tom Jones - Stoke
Stoke fans, it's fair to say, perhaps don't have the best reputation in the rest of the game. The ready acceptance and even seemingly fervent backing of their old aggressive playing style doesn't help, neither does the whole Aaron Ramsey thing, but you can almost forget all of that once they start belting out 'Delilah.' Again, there are a few theories about how it came to be a club anthem, but the most popular seems to be that a rather notorious fan named TJ (not, we assume, Tom Jones) simply started singing it at some point in the mid-eighties in a sort of 'call and response' style - he would sing a line, the rest of the crowd would join in with a 'Woaaaaah', then everyone would let loose for 'She stood there laughing...' While they might want to consider why they've adopted a song about a chap stabbing his wife to death as their anthem, those Stokies sure can kick up a racket when they want to.


4) Annie's Song by John Denver - Sheffield United
Or to be more accurate, 'The Greasy Chip Butty Song', a re-working of John Denver's 1975 hit 'Annie's Song', which has been a staple at Bramhall Lane since the mid-eighties. Whether the Annie in question - Denver's ex-wife - knows of the 'alternative' lyrics is unclear, although her memories of the very touching song he wrote for her will probably already be tainted by their rather spicy-sounding divorce, which culminated in Denver cutting the marital bed in half with a chainsaw. Of course there are conflicting theories about where the Blades fans' lyrics, ostensibly describing the joys of Yorkshire life, came from; some say it was fairly spontaneously sung and organically adapted on the terraces, some think it was taken from a local radio jingle, and some think they pinched it from Rotherham. Whatever the truth, one of the more unlikely fans of the song is Flea from the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, who for reasons passing understanding is a Blades supporter, and performed a burst when the band played in Sheffield a few years ago. As you can hear, the reaction from a crowd that presumably contained a few Wednesday fans, was mixed.


3) You'll Never Walk Alone by Gerry & the Pacemakers - Liverpool
The trouble with 'You'll Never Walk Alone' is that, partly because of Twitter and so forth, it's become a symbol of basically everything bad about the minority of insane, excessively sensitive and sentimental caricatures of Liverpool fans that give the sensible majority a bad name. No incident can go unmarked by someone expressing some form of solidarity with 'YNWA' tacked onto the end, simultaneously attempting to make every bloody thing about themselves and rendering a previously decent sentiment (and it would have been particularly noble, helpful and comforting last week) utterly meaningless and infuriating. Pick someone who has died, or has been in the news for some sort of negative reason in the past couple of years, go to Twitter and search their name along with #YNWA, and the chances are some berk has tweeted a message confusing actual feeling with mawkish and self-regarding bullshit.

Which is a real shame, because if you've ever stood in the middle of a crowd belting out this soaring, wonderful song til their larynx stings, then you'll know what an incredible atmosphere it can create. The Gerry and the Pacemakers cover (the original came from the Rogers and Hammerstein musical 'Carousel') became popular at Anfield in 1963, when the top ten hits of the day were played in the ground before kick-off with the crowd singing along, but 'You'll Never Walk Alone' was still sung well after falling out of the charts, partly because of Bill Shankly's endorsement, and it became Liverpool's anthem. Obviously it has been adopted by an assortment of other clubs as well, with Celtic and Borussia Dortmund fans in particular taking to it, but you'll never beat the Kop in full voice. Unless you're a Manchester United fan or numbed to the world (or, given the events of this season, both), it should give you the shivers.


2) Sunshine On Leith by the Proclaimers - Hibs
Frankly it's not important where the connection came from - although as it's a song called 'Sunshine On Leith' by a band from Leith, adopted by a football club from Leith, it doesn't take a brain scientist to work it through - because this song is just a perfect football anthem. In many ways it shouldn't work - it's too slow, it's by a band frequently mocked and part of the beauty of the original relies on the delicate harmony between Charlie and Craig Reid's voices, something lost rather in a crowd - but by God it does. It's about heartbreak, which is basically what 90% of supporting a football team is, and it's got a magnificent sing-along chorus that's perfect for either celebration or commiseration, one arm around the person next to you, who of course you've never met before. Watch this and pretend there's something in your eye.


1) Glad All Over by the Dave Clark Five - Crystal Palace
Most of the big grounds these days have pretty dire atmospheres for all but the biggest games, for which there are a number of reasons, ranging from the prevalence of 'tourist' fans who are just there to witness the experience rather than actually participate in it, to high ticket prices meaning 'hardcore' fans can't attend every game, to simple plain apathy. One place where that isn't true is Selhurst Park, perhaps the only ground in England where a set of fans can call themselves 'ultras' and not get laughed at. Part of the reason for that is the playing and enthusiastic adoption of 'Glad All Over' by the Dave Clark Five, which started simply enough, as a song relayed over the PA system when it was in the 'hit parade' in the 1960s. The quick but steady drum beat obviously lends itself to crowd participation, as does the double handclap just before the chorus, but what probably makes it such a great terrace song is that it's really only possible to sing at the very top of your lungs. You can't gently croon 'Glad All Over', as the crack and gravel in Mike Smith's voice will tell you - basically, you can shout this song and get away with it.

The classic original version of the song knocked the Beatles off the top of the charts (here it is being played on the Ed Sullivan show), but there have been a couple of other Palace-related, shall we say 'not quite as classic' versions committed to record. Most recently a version was committed to tape by the Crystals, the lady dancers/cheerleaders that 'entertain' fans before games at Selhurst (you can search that one out if you like, but Football365 will not facilitate self-abuse of any sort - Jesus is watching you), but surely the classic Palace version was the one recorded by the 1990 FA Cup final squad and performed here in phenomenally awkward fashion on 'Jameson Tonight'. A few things to note here: John Salako's enthusiasm for the whole thing is rather adorable; Nigel Martyn's moustache is a horror; Geoff Thomas keeps his arms crossed a little too much for a man ostensibly performing a pop song; and then there's Alan Pardew, demonstrating that smug look on his face we all know and love has been years in the making, but also steadfastly adopting the 'legs cross, toe tapping' stance, like he's a smarmy businessman enjoying some sub-par entertainment from a hotel lounge singer who he will unsuccessfully chat up later. In summary, 'Glad All Over' is a joy, whoever sings it. Well, apart from maybe Suzi Quatro.

Want more? Here's a Spotify playlist featuring the songs in this top ten, plus a few others that didn't quite make the cut.

Nick Miller - follow him on Twitter

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