George Cheyne: Glasgow March 2021
Right, class…we’re going to play a wee game of word association here.
If I say “World Cup qualification”, what’s the first thing that springs into those brilliant young minds?
Anyone? I know it’s been a long, long time, but may I remind you this is a history lesson and the subject is the 1970s.
What’s that, David? England, you say? Well, you can take that smug look off your face right now because that is wrong, wrong, wrong. Sure, England were at the 1970 World Cup – but they got a free pass, there was no qualification required.
Really, Torquil? The Scotland rugby team? Firstly, the Rugby World Cup didn’t start until 1987 and, secondly, if rugby is the first thing that springs into your mind, you should probably be in the advanced Higher class instead of being stuck in here with this lot.
Anyone else? What’s that, Johnny…Scotland? You’re on the right track but it’s only partially correct.
Okay, lesson over, the phrase I was looking for was novelty football songs.
The 70s charts were awash with teams belting out their tunes. You know the ones…terracing-style chanting backed up with some cheesy lyrics and fronted by a bunch of giggling players looking like they’d rather be anywhere else than in front of a mic.
It was big business. There were World Cup songs hogging the airwaves at the drop of a Mexican sombrero in 1970, a German tirolerhut in 1974 and an Argentinian gaucho hat in 1978.
Credit where credit’s due, the whole concept was kicked off by England’s 1970 squad singing Back Home.
It was just the nudge football needed to move into the marketing-savvy decade. Every player in Alf Ramsey’s squad was handed a Ford Cortina 1600E – quite the machine back then – and, of course, there was the Esso coin collection and other branded merchandise flying off the shelves everywhere.
That was the marker laid down for Scotland’s World Cup efforts in ’74 and ’78. There were Vauxhall Victors for Germany and Chryslers for Argentina.
From flashy suits to trashy tack, the merch and the money piled up. But it’s those anthems which stick in the mind from all those years ago.
Not that you’ll need any reminding, but here’s a guide to those novelty World Cup tunes of yesteryear.
Back Home – England’s 1970 squad.
Put together by Scot, Bill Martin and Irishman, Phil Coulter, the song somehow managed to avoid a jingoistic theme and settled for a more humble message and a strong connection with the fans who’d be watching the actions from their armchairs.
Cheesy lyric: “They’ll see as they’re watching and praying, that we put our hearts in our playing.”
Best lyric: “Back home, they’ll be thinking about us when we are far away.”
Easy Easy – Scotland’s 1974 squad
Also penned by Bill Martin and Phil Coulter, the single abandoned any pretence of humility and instead dived head-first into the possibility that it was going to be easy for Scotland in Germany. Left some of the tub-thumping behind long enough in the middle of the song to personalise things by name-checking Willie Morgan and Denis Law.
Cheesy lyric: “Eanie meanie moe, get the ball and have a go and it’s easy..easy.”
Best lyric: “Ring a ding a ding, there goes Willie on the wing…ring a ding a ding, knock it over for the king.”
Ole Ola – Rod Stewart and Scotland’s 1978 squad
Not sure if Rod was influenced by samba or sambuca when this official single was put together, but it never really caught on. Lots of name-dropping within the tremendously-upbeat lyrics, the song also used Archie MacPherson’s TV commentary from the game Scotland qualified for the tournament.
Cheesy lyric: “Ole ola, ole ola…we’re gonna bring that World Cup back from over there.”
Best lyric: “There’s an overlap, good running by Buchan. Kenny Dalglish is in there. Oh what a goal! Oh, yes…that does it!”
Ally’s Tartan Army – Andy Cameron, 1978
This may not have been the official World Cup song, but it was the one that caught the imagination of the fans. All the talk of really shaking them up when we win the World Cup makes it a proper in-your-face tune and Andy Cameron even got to perform it on Top of the Pops.
Cheesy lyric: “We had to get a man who could make all Scotland proud, he’s our Muhammad Ali, he’s Alistair MacLeod.”
Best lyric: “We’re representing Britain, we’ve got to do our die – England cannae dae it ’cause they didnae qualify.”
It wasn’t only the World Cup which attracted this genre in the 1970s – booking a place in a cup final was closely followed by booking a place in a recording studio.
It meant all sorts of ditties were around in the decade and the novelty never seemed to wear off.
We had Good Old Arsenal (1971 double team), Blue Is The Colour (Chelsea’s 1972 League Cup final team), I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (West Ham’s 1975 FA Cup final team) and We Can Do It (Liverpool’s 1977 side).
Scotland’s sporting heroes of the 1970s seem to have missed a trick here by not releasing novelty songs of their own when they were at their peak.
But it’s never too late to pay tribute to them, so – with a bit of a tweak here and there for the lyrics – here are the tunes which befit these stars.
Ian Stewart and Lachie Stewart
Gold medalists at the 1970 Commonwealth Games – Keep On Trackin’ (Eddie Kendricks)
European Cup finalists 1970 – Hoops Upside Your Head (The Gap Band)
World lightweight boxing champion 1970 – Ken You Feel The Force (Real Thing)
World Formula 1 champ 1971 and 1973 – Life In The Fast Lane (Eagles)
European Cup Winners’ Cup winners 1972 – Barcelona (Freddie Mercury and Montserrat Caballe)
Two swimming gold medals at 1976 Montreal Olympics – Pool Up To The Bumper (Grace Jones)
League Cup winners in 1971 – Handbags and GladJags (Rod Stewart)