286. England World Cup Squad ’70 – Back Home (1970)

Seems rather fitting that on the day Brexit finally happens, that this blog covers an event from 50 years ago in which this country was embarrassed on the world stage, doesn’t it?

Three weeks before the England football team began their defense of the FIFA World Cup in Mexico, they had their first number 1 single. The jolly, charming anthem Back Home marked the start of a not-often-grand tradition, in which the squad recorded an official, FA-approved song to mark that year’s failed attempt at the World Cup or UEFA European Championship.

Football songs were not a new idea – UK clubs had been recording them for years, and in 1966 skiffle king Lonnie Donegan released World Cup Willie before England’s legendary win. But this was the first (and only time) we were the world champions, and they were going into the tournament with a supposedly superior line-up to 1966 and so it must have been felt we had momentum, and that this should be commemorated.

I’m assuming it was the FA who asked Bill Martin and Phil Coulter to write and produce Back Home. After all, with their two previous number 1s and Eurovision big-hitters, Puppet on a String and Congratulations (plus Coulter was involved in All Kinds of Everything), the duo were more than capable of getting the nation to sing along in a big competition.

And so Alf Ramsey’s boys were assembled to record their vocals. It’s unclear who out of the 22 men picked to represent the country made it on to the recording, but the biggest names in the squad included captain Bobby Moore, goalkeeper Gordon Banks, Bobby Charlton, Geoff Hurst, Nobby Stiles and Emlyn Hughes. Also recorded was the bizarre B-side Cinnamon Stick. It’s not a weird song, it’s a typical mid-60s lightweight pop song about a pretty girl, but lots of footballers singing it together is weird.

I’ve never been a fan of footballers such. I tried, but I was terrible at school, and so I took no interest in clubs. However, I do get swept up in the World Cup and Euros, going right back to Mexico 86, where I can still remember being an upset seven-year-old, as angry as my dad at Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’. I have felt the dizzying highs and terrible lows intensely. I don’t think I have the nervous disposition to cope with the tension more than once every two years. So I do take notice of the official England songs, or at least I used to before they ceased to be. Obviously the best are World in Motion and Three Lions, but I have a soft spot for Back Home.

Opening with the familiar stadium clap-a-long bit (forgive the terrible terminology), Back Home is a lovely, charming postcard from more innocent times, set to a brass band backing, in which our proud, brave boys sing about how the fans will be watching their every move. Here are the world champions, at the top of their game, but rather than boast, they just hope they won’t let their country down. There’s no mention of them winning again (just as well), they just say they’ll give all they’ve got to give. Nice, isn’t it? I’m probably also fond of it because it became the theme tune to BBC2’s mid-90s comedy competition Fantasy Football League, presented by Three Lions singers Frank Skinner and David Baddiel.

The 1970 World Cup began on 31 May, while Back Home was still at number 1. Before England had even played a game they faced a setback when Moore was arrested and released on bail three days previous in Colombia on suspicion of stealing a bracelet.

England were in Group 3, along with Brazil, Romania and Czechoslovakia. They came second in their group, beating the latter two but losing to the mighty (and eventual winners) Brazil, one of the greatest teams of all time, featuring legends including Pelé.

The quarter-finals saw a repeat of the 1966 final, with England facing West Germany on 14 June. It looked like Moore and co would win once more, as they were up 2-0. But Banks was ill and out of the match, and substitute goalie Peter Bonetti let a goal by Frank Beckenbauer through in the 70th minute. And then Charlton was substituted, and Uwe Seeler made it 2-2 in the 81st minute. In extra time, Gerd Müller made it 3-2. It was all over for England.

There would be no more England World Cup songs for 12 years – we didn’t qualify in 1974 or 1978. And it would be 20 years before the England team would make it to number 1 again.

How many years before we’re back in the EU? Less than that, let’s hope.

Written & produced by: Bill Martin & Phil Coulter

Weeks at number 1: 3 (16 May-5 June)

Births:

Journalist Louis Theroux – 20 May
Field hockey player Jason Lee – 21 May
Model Naomi Campbell – 22 May

Meanwhile…

19 May: The government made a £20,000,000 loan available to help save the financially troubled car maker Rolls-Royce.

2 June: Cleddau Bridge, in Pembrokeshire, collapsed during erection. Four people died.

4 June: Tonga became independent from the UK.

285. Norman Greenbaum – Spirit in the Sky (1970)

The devil doesn’t always have the best tunes. Dana’s old-fashioned All Kinds of Everything was booted from the top by one of the most memorable one-hit wonders of all time. Norman Greenbaum’s Spirit in the Sky heralded a new decade with its fuzz-guitar sound and could be considered a forerunner to the glam rock that was to come. This one-hit wonder, combining a riff you’d sell your soul for with holier-than-thou lyrics, was so good, two different versions have been number 1 since. Not bad going for an unassuming, enigmatic Jewish dairy farmer.

Norman Joel Greenbaum was born in Malden, Massachusetts on 20 November 1942. He was raised in an Orthodox Jewish household, and as a teenager in the late 50s and early 60s he fell in love with southern blues and folk music. In high school he began performing in bands and went on to study music at Boston University, but dropped out and moved to Los Angeles in 1965.

In 1966 he formed the psychedelic jug band (think a less intense and more wacky The 13th Floor Elevators) Dr West’s Medicine Show and Junk Band and he penned their novelty single The Eggplant That Ate Chicago. They split in 1968. Clearly, Greenbaum was a unique talent.

Going it alone after signing with Reprise Records, Greenbaum set about writing a religious rock song, getting inspiration from country singer Porter Wagoner and enjoying westerns as a child. There was something in the air in the late 60s, with lots of songs moving away from references to drugs and turning to religion instead. Despite being Jewish, Greenbaum opted to sing about Jesus, because he knew it’d be more marketable then Jehovah. In an interview years later, he said it was ‘the spirit in the sky’ people should be taking notice of in his song, not ‘Jesus’. He took the phrase from a greetings card.

The music took a lot longer than the lyrics (which he claimed were done in 15 minutes), but it was worth the wait, with Greenbaum coming up with a laid-back yet fiery boogie groove in a San Francisco studio. The music provides a stark contrast to the holy lyrics and is so strong, it’s seen the song used in countless films and on TV. When Spirit in the Sky was mixed, he says it was optimised to sound good on car stereos without dynamic range, giving it an earthy, primitive quality.

Joining Greenbaum on the sessions were lead guitarist Russell DaShiell, bassist Doug Killmer from Crowfoot and drummer Norman Mayell, formerly of Sopwith Camel. The backing singers adding the gospel touch were The Stovall Sisters trio from Indiana. Before joining Earth, Wind & Fire, Philip Bailey was their percussionist.

The song became the title track of Greenbaum’s album, but Reprise were unsure this strange, lengthy track would make it as a 7”. Two other singles came out first, and they got nowhere, so they took a punt on Spirit in the Sky, released in the UK in December 1969.

And what a punt. I must have heard Greenbaum’s original a million times and yet I love it as much as ever. It’s a hell (pun intended) of a groove and I love the juxtaposition between the raw production and guitar effects and happy-clappy lyrics. It’s easy to get enveloped in it, and I could happily listen to a 10-minute version, and always feel it’s a shame it fades abruptly as the guitar stretches out. Future glam stars were certainly paying attention, for example Alvin Stardust’s My Coo Ca Choo is pretty similar.

Greenbaum may have never had another hit but some acts could take years to come up with one this good. He didn’t disappear straight away though – this was followed up by the bizarre Canned Ham, and he recorded two further albums – Back Home Again later this year, and the all-acoustic Petaluma in 1972.

Eventually Greenbaum’s music fizzled out, and he went to work in a friend’s café around the start of the 80s. Then in 1986 Doctor and the Medics released their cover, which took everyone by surprise when it reached number 1. The renewed interest sparked its use in films, and Greenbaum never needed to work again.

The one-hit wonder made headlines in 2015 when he was the passenger in a car accident that killed a motorcyclist and left him in a coma for three weeks. With perhaps a new-found appreciation of life, Greenbaum, now 77, returned to performing.

And yes, Spirit in the Sky went to number 1 yet again in 2003, with a version for Comic Relief by Gareth Gates with The Kumars, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. I’m in no rush.

Written by: Norman Greenbaum

Producer: Erik Jacobsen

Weeks at number 1: 2 (2-15 May)

Births:

Cricketer Chris Adams – 6 May

Deaths:

Novelist Jack Jones – 7 May

284. Dana (Music Director: Phil Coulter) – All Kinds of Everything (1970)

Somehow, Bridge over Troubled Water was replaced at number 1 after three weeks, by… this. The Eurovision Song Contest winner of 1970, Irish 19-year-old warbler Dana’s ultra-twee All Kinds of Everything is an early contender for worst number 1 of the 70s.

Rosemary Brown, born 30 August 1951, was born in Islington, North London. Her working-class parents had relocated from Derry, Northern Ireland after World War Two due to high unemployment, but when she was five the Browns were advised to return to Derry due to the effects of smog in the city on some of her siblings (she was one of seven).

Both young Brown’s parents were musical, and she proved it ran in the family when she won an all-ages talent contest aged only six. She learned to play the piano, violin, guitar sang and became a ballet dancer too.

As a young teen in 1965 she won another talent contest, and this time the prize was to record a demo. When Brown finished her O-levels, Rex Records got to hear it and signed Brown up. Debut single Sixteen, released in November 1967, failed to ignite interest. Around this time, and now undertaking her A-levels, she took the stage name ‘Dana’ – her school nickname.

In 1969 her label suggested she take part in the Irish National Song Contest, as the winner would represent Ireland in the Eurovision Song Contest. She came second with Look Around (her fourth single).

The following year the Irish National Song Contest producer Tom McGrath suggested Dana try again. This time the winner would represent just the Republic of Ireland at that year’s Eurovision. He thought the young singer would be a great match for All Kinds of Everything, a ballad by Derry Lindsay and Jackie Smith, two 28-year-old amateur songwriters working as printmakers for a Dublin newspaper.

Dana won the contest and on 21 March she became the last performer at Eurovision, held in Amsterdam. She beat Mary Hopkin representing the UK by seven votes. This was the first of a record seven wins by the Republic of Ireland, and was only the second English language song to win the competition (Sandie Shaw’s Puppet on a String was the first in 1967, and Lulu’s Boom Bang-a-Bang had shared first place in 1969). It’s worth noting the political significance of this win, having a girl from Northern Ireland representing the republic and not the UK, just as The Troubles were rumbling.

The single version of All Kinds of Everything had been released the week before the show, arranged by Phil Coulter, who had co-written Puppet on a String and Congratulations. It began to climb the charts.

If this kind of dreck can win Eurovision, there’s no wonder it has such a reputation for the naff. The best thing I can say about it is that it didn’t make me want to hurt myself the way Puppet on a String did. All Kinds of Everything is all kinds of terrible. The production (Ray Horricks also produced both Anthony Newley’s chart-toppers) is lightweight and makes an already sickly song even worse, and the lyrics are something else. Dana’s got someone constantly on her mind and the song is simply a list of things that remind her of him. So let’s take a look at those things, shall we?

In the first verse she sings (in a serviceable but sickly manner) of ‘Snowdrops and daffodils, butterflies and bees’. Predictable, but sweet I suppose. But then she moves on to ‘Sailboats and fishermen, things of the sea’. Fishermen? Ok, that’s unusual. And how vague is ‘things of the sea’? Either she can’t be arsed to go into detail, or hasn’t got the imagination to do so. In the second verse we get ‘things of the sky’, including seagulls and wind… I daresay my eight-year-old could be more imaginative than this. Lindsay and Smith clearly should have stuck to their day jobs. Tacky, dated and dull, All Kinds of Everything is one of the worst songs I’ve reviewed yet.

Dana’s debut album was released in June, named after her number 1, and featuring a new version of that track. I’m not going to find it and compare, I’m not putting myself through that. Her fortunes soon became mixed, with her follow-up single I Will Follow You ironically not following her previous one to anywhere near the same success. Who Put the Lights Out reached the top 20 in 1971, though.

Despite still doing well in Ireland, it was 1975 before Dana was back on Top of the Pops with Please Tell Him That I Said Hello. Her second biggest UK success happened that December with the seasonal It’s Gonna Be a Cold Cold Christmas reaching number four in Christmas week. In 1976 she scored a top 20 hit with the disco-influenced Fairytale, but after that her fame dwindled until she took a new direction as the 80s began.

In 1979 Pope John Paul II visited Ireland, which inspired Dana to sing about her faith. She topped the Irish charts with Totus Tuus, and it opened the door to a career recording Catholic music and prayer albums, and spent most of the 80s doing this, appearing in Pantones or appearing on light entertainment shows.

Dana’s religious dedication made her popular in the US, and she presented a TV show there in 1991, called Say Yes. In 1997 the Christian Community Centre in Ireland suggested she ran for Irish presidency, and after scoffing at the idea initially, she ran as an independent under the name Dana Rosemary Scallon, and came third.

Scallon won a seat in the European Parliament in 1999, and proved herself to have values as outdated as her music – vehemently pro-life, anti-divorce, anti-same-sex marriages, and anti-EU. So actually, in a way she was ahead of her time, and could probably become supreme leader of the universe with the way the world is in 2020. All kinds of prejudice reminds me of Dana, you could say.

Scanlon lost her seat in 2004 and returned to light entertainment, launched a religious music label, released her second autobiography and became a TV talent show judge. In 2011 she ran for presidency again and came sixth. 2019 saw Dana, now 68, release her first album in years, My Time.

Sadly, All Kinds of Everything sets the scene in a way, as there was lots more dreary MOR to come in the 70s.

Written by: Derry Lindsay & Jackie Smith

Producer: Ray Horricks

Weeks at number 1: 2 (18 April-1 May)

Births:

Actress Kylie Travis – 27 April

Deaths:

Academic Thomas Iorwerth Ellis – 20 April

Meanwhile

18 April: British Leyland announced its longest-running model, the Morris Minor, which had been in production since 1948, would be discontinued at the start of 1971.

29 April: Chelsea defeated Leeds United 2-1 in the FA Cup final replay at Old Trafford, gaining them the trophy for the first time.
On the same day, last year’s winners Manchester City won the European Cup Winners’ Cup by defeating Polish team Górnik Zabrze 2-1 in Vienna, Austria.