Top Twenty Olympics Songs #10 – #6

Day Twelve of the Lympics and inappropriate verbing is rife.

An unprecedented number of Team Great British athletes have medalled, or podiumed if you’d rather. In fact, twenty-one of them at the last count have golded.

The urge to verb unacceptably cannot be resisted.

As mentioned previously, there are 34 Olympic sports, too many to fit into a Top Twenty.

Some of the sports that didn’t “chart” included Handball. I have nothing at all against Handball. Indeed, the likes of Thierry Henry and Diego Maradona managed to bring it to a much wider audience, so fair play to them. But it is a difficult topic to “song” about.

And then there’s Water Polo. What to make of a sport where the referee can penalise fouls he hasn’t actually seen? (thanks trivia quiz machines of the 80s for that factoid).

Apply that logic to rugby union and you would have a match consisting of no tries and twenty or more penaltied to each side. Not much to be celebrated in song there.

Hockey, too, has not given us much in the way of music. Ice Hockey, yes, but that will have to wait for the next Winter Olympics.

So, to the rundown of positions #10 to #6.

10. Boxing

“Ambling Alp” was the nickname of Italian heavyweight boxer Primo Carnera. I don’t think he ever medalled at the Olympics but his career was widely assumed to have been controlled by the Mob.

He was immortalised in song by the mighty Yeasayer on their second album – a fine band who I saw a couple of times on their first low-key tour of those London venue too small to be designated “toilet”. The gig at the Windmill in Brixton, with about thirty people in the tiny room and the band absolutely playing their hearts out, was a cracker.

Sadly, there isn’t anything else on the follow-up “Odd Blood” that I like half as much as “Ambling Alp”. Enjoy.

9. Badminton

There aren’t many songs about badminton either. This one has a video featuring badminton, but hand on heart, I have no idea what it’s about as it’s in Welsh.

The song is called “Dal Ni Lawr” by Genod Droog. Good groove, good record, one of those that I suspect were I to be told what the lyrics mean, it would lose its charm and become somewhat mundane.

8. Football

Half Man Half Biscuit chronicle life’s little idiosyncrasies through the medium of humorous song. This is the second best song ever written about Subbuteo.

“All I Want For Xmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit” – Half Man Half Biscuit

7. Trampolining

A belting record from the hugely underrated Julian Cope. Mad as a box of frogs, and brilliant also.

6. Tennis

Tennis – The Umpire Strikes Back by The Brat

This is that rare thing, a genuinely funny novelty record.

When you’re watching the BBC’s tennis coverage and John McEnroe complains about bad behaviour on the court its always worth reminding yourself of this :

After seeing that, the record seems like an understatement if anything.

Next, the Top Five plus a full countdown!

Waving Flags

I do love the old Queen. Still just as classy as ever as you can see from this video clip here

If you caught any of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee concert last week, you will have seen an array of popular British music acts from down the years. It all seemed very pleasant in the middle of an extended Bank Holiday weekend, with everyone in such a good mood.

There was Cliff Richard, Paul McCartney and Tom Jones (and of course Elton John!)  representing the old guard, Madness on top of Buck House and Jessie J and JLS among the current acts. Grace Jones and her amazing hula-hoop stole the show for me but that could be because deep down I suspect I am a gay man trapped in a straight man’s body.

And all I’ve heard since then is either “That was fantastic, what a great selection of bands” or “What a load of rubbish, we’ve got way better bands than that they could have had”. Polar opposite views, but they share a common assumption – we do pop music better than the rest of the world combined. You’ve only got to look at their charts – they’re all full of British music.

Erm – newsflash. The reason we, as English speaking people, think our music is better than the rest of the world’s is that we can’t speak French, Russian, Swahili, Punjabi, Dutch, Chinese or Swedish.

And the reason the charts in so many other countries have so many English speaking records is that a large percentage of the world’s population learns English from the cradle.

And you know why they speak English? That’s right. Its because the most powerful nation of the past 100 years is English speaking. And it ain’t England, or Britain, its the USA.

I listen to a lot of music. A lot. Because I’ve lived my whole life in England most of it is British or American. Its easy to get parochial on this point, but its also incorrect.

You only have to spend a short time abroad (and by that I mean mixing with the locals, not just staying in the Brit bars) to realise that there is a hell of a lot of music out there – some good, some bad, some great, but all of it worthy of a listen, and worthy of consideration in exactly the same way “our own” music is. And in the cases where different countries’ music has fused, its interesting to see the different takes on a familiar beat.

There’s a huge project to be done by somebody  on the music of the world (NOT “World Music” which in this country simply means another bunch of obsessives with another exclusive musical club – the arrogance of lumping the entire non-English speaking world into one category is so damn English)

Unfortunately, this is not that project. I don’t have the time as I have a day job and a relationship to hold down.

But over the next few weeks, to coincide with the 2012 European Football Championships, I will be featuring a random sample of music from each of the sixteen countries taking part. There is absolutely no plan or rhyme or reason for the selections, other than I love them all, and they won’t be bands everyone knows (so if you guessed Abba for Sweden, Demis Roussos for Greece and James Last for Germany, then guess again)

All are well worthy of your attention although it has to be said it isn’t always for purely musical reasons (you’re gonna LOVE Russia!)

To kick off, then, here are a couple of vids from great European bands whose countries unfortunately didn’t make it to Euro 2012 :

Its a mystery to me how Belgium, with Vincent Kompany and Eden Hazard, managed to avoid qualifying. They would have graced the tournament. It is also a mystery to me why this band are not huge. They even sing in English fer Chrissakes.

This lot are brilliant – saw them at the Thekla in Bristol a few weeks ago. They will go further than the Norn Iron football team ever will, with or without Neil Lennon.

And finally, ending on an “up”, Norway didn’t quite sneak in but Katzenjammer are the best band I’ve seen in a very long time. Dig this cheesy madcap trumpet ride!


Okay, back tomorrow with the first of the sixteen countries, ahead of the first day’s matches.

One last thing about Elton. I was so relieved when he didn’t do Candle In The Wind with the Diana words. That would have been awkward turtle and no mistake.