I was in the pub watching the England game last Saturday and I started to wonder what might kill me first, the beer or the football.
It seems every two years we allow ourselves to dream despite all the evidence telling us otherwise. Then we are brought back down to Earth in typically cruel fashion. It got me thinking of ‘3 Lions’ by Skinner and Baddiel.
In 1996 England was getting ready to host the European Championships. Lad culture was in full swing and Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, aside from Liam Gallagher’s haircut, were the comedic arm of the movement.
It was tradition that in every tournament the England team had a terrible team song and, this year, it fell to Baddiel, Skinner and the Liverpudlian band The Lightning Seeds.
They decided to look at all the past England songs. Songs of triumph and optimism. They found that the songs all had the same common thread; they were all bollocks.
Supporting England wasn’t about glory, but about hope and humiliation.
Skinner and Baddiel didn’t know how to write a good pop song, but they knew what it meant to be a fan. So they used their song to tell a truth. That every tournament since 1966 had ended in failure, and this one probably will too. But there’s a chance, a very small chance, that this year might be different.
‘3 Lions’ was the result. Frank Skinner called it a ‘bitter-sweet love song’ that remained stubbornly hopeful despite all the evidence. Their naivety to song-writing freed them from writing a song that so many ‘experts’ had in the past.
It stuck with the fans who had a song they could relate to. After the second game that England managed to beat Scotland, a rogue DJ put the track on the sound system. And Wembley stadium sang in loudly and proudly.
It’s easy to dismiss it as another shit football song. And it is in a way. It’s also an example of challenger branding. After all we’re just talking to people.
Their naivety in songwriting led them to spot something experienced musicians such as the Chumbawamba and Ant and Dec missed.
Of course it was predictably prophetic. We lost in the semi-finals on penalties to the Germans.
We were let down… again.
But as the games, the haircuts and even lad culture fades away the song is still sung passionately by England.
The FA hasn’t bothered with an official song since 2006 when Embrace sang ‘World at Our Feet’. Nobody could top the 1996 song. Even this year ‘3 Lions’ will be sung; the only difference is, this year instead of singing the lyrics ’30 years of heart never stopped us dreaming’, it’ll be ’50 years of hurt’.