Top Twenty Olympics Songs #5 – #1

I’m really going to miss the Olympics. On Monday we all go back to our normal lives. Nothing will ever be quite the same again.

Time, then, for the final instalment of the Olympics Top Twenty chart.

But first, a rundown of the Story So Far. If you like you can play this while you read the countdown

20. Bring On The Dancing Horses – Echo And The Bunnymen

19. Til The End – JaminRols

18. Swords Of A Thousand Men – Ten Pole Tudor

17. Poison Arrow – ABC

16. Lets Wrestle – Lets Wrestle

15. The Rowing Song – Patti Griffin

14. Sail On Sailor – The Beach Boys

13. Nightswimming – REM

12. Table Tennis Table – Gilberto Gil

11. Weightlifting Lulu – The Residents

10. Ambling Alp – Yeasayer

9. Dal Ni Lawr – Genod Droog

8. All I Want For Xmas Is A Dukla Prague Away Kit – Half Man Half Biscuit

7. Trampoline – Julian Cope

6. The Umpire Strikes Back – The Brat

5. The Canoe Song – Karl Denver Trio

The Canoe Song by the Karl Denver Trio. Best known for their fantastic version of “Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)” this take on the old Paul Robeson classic is in the same vein.

4. Bike – The Pink Floyd

Closing track on “Piper At The Gates Of Dawn” and one of Syd Barrett’s finest lyrics :

“I’ve got a mouse and he doesn’t have a house – I don’t know why, I call him Gerald.

He’s getting rather old, but he’s a good mouse”

3. Shot By Both Sides – Magazine

Plenty to choose from here, but I got a bit fed up with Bob Marley’s courtroom statement a while back. Joan Armatrading’s “Shoot The Pilot” nearly got in but nothing beats Magazine, for me.

2. You Can Do Athletics BTW – We Are The Physics

This song should be so much better known, as should the band. One of the best live bands I’ve ever seen.

And the Number One is …… (roll on the drums) …

1. The Gymnast High Above The Ground – The Decembrists

I’d forgotten how much I love this band – this is from the 2003 elpee “Her Majesty” and is just beautiful.

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!

Top Twenty Olympic Songs #15 – #11

Don’t tell my sport-phobic wife or she will never let me live it down, but after a day of obsessively switching between football, swimming, archery (yes, archery!), rowing and equestrianism (which sounds a Bit Rude frankly) I have room for this thought.

The Olympics may have actually peaked with the admittedly magnificent Opening Ceremony.

Maybe I will rekindle my love for sport on the days to come, who knows?

Numbers 15 down to 11 of the Top Twenty Olympic songs are as follows.

15 – Rowing

I have to admit I enjoyed watching the women’s rowing this morning. Coxless pairs.

There aren’t too many songs about rowing out there and it was either Patty Griffin’s loverly “The Rowing Song” or the only tangentially rowing-related “Misery Is The River Of The World” by Tom Waits.

It took me quite a while to make the final choice but I finally decided that Tom Waits for no man.

14 – Sailing

Continuing on the watery theme, another sport we are quite good at is Sailing. And by “we” I mean the 1%, obviously. Plenty of songs to choose from here. The obvious one is the Rod Stewart number but I won’t go there – may give you the full reasons why I hate that song so much in a future blog entry.

I’m going with an early 70s song by the Beach Boys which doesn’t get played so often. Its not really up to their sixties heyday but it’s still better than bloody “Sailing”.

13 – Swimming

Finally in this evening’s aquatic segment – Swimming.

Glad to see while watching tonight’s pool action that they’ve outlawed those stupid full-length body armour swim-bling costumes, ostensibly because they give an unfair speed advantage but of course we all know that the only reason 95% of us tune in at all is to see some well-toned flesh, only they’re not allowed to admit that is the reason.

I never really appreciated this band when they were ubiquitous and played far too much on the radio, but much like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, when they come on the radio its always a pleasant surprise how good they could be – when you don’t hear them all the bloody time.

12 – Table Tennis

Who doesn’t love a bit of ping-pong? All sports should be named after the noise they make. Archery would be “phht-thud”, swimming would be “splish-splosh” and rugby would be “thwack-ouch”.

Gilberto Gil was the man who introduced reggae to Brazil (a Good Thing) with his version of Bob Marley’s “No Woman No Cry” (a Bad Thing).
But we can forgive him because he also did this charming and catchy song about a table tennis table.

All together now “Table tennis table, ping pong, I and I”

11 – Weightlifting

Weightlifters are hard. They train until their hands and arms bleed, literally (or it isn’t counted as a good session).

I am particularly looking forward to seeing Khadija Mohammed competing for the UAE – a country which is a bit less hardline in its attitudes to women than, say the Saudis. Good luck to her – she won’t win, but her presence is symbolically more important than any medal.

And I’m going with a slightly less mainstream song to end with today from experimental collective The Residents. Not as weird-sounding as it was in 1971, but still pretty odd. “Weighlifting Khadija” would havebeen perfect, but its called “Weightlifting Lulu”.

That’s it for now. Numbers 10 down to 6 next time, as well as a few of the sports that didn’t make it, and why. Handball, my arse.

Top Twenty Olympics Songs #20 – #16

Why are people proud of something that is an accident of birth? I’ve never really “got” patriotism. Sure, I get as worked up about the England football team as the next overgrown schoolboy, but that’s about as far as it goes.

Don’t get me wrong, I love living in Britain, and London in particular, and there are a lot of great things about the country.

But it’s only twice in my life that I have I felt truly proud to be British, and both times involved “Chariots Of Fire”. The music is just so damn evocative … (written by Vangelis, a Greek!)

The first time was when I saw the film at the old Elephant And Castle Odeon in 1981 (on a double bill with “Gregory’s Girl”).

The second time was during last night’s incredible Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Fourteen hours after it finished and I’m still a little too overwhelmed to properly digest it all, so I will leave that to a future blog. But I will say that Danny Boyle included all the things that make me .. gulp .. proud to be British!

For now, with the Lympics in full flow on Day 1, here is the first part of my Olympic Top Twenty countdown.

Now I could have gone all obvious but I chose not to. At least, not here.

Check out Tony’s Really Obvious Jam For Olympics Week if its obvious you want!

No, I’ve gone for one song relating to each of the participating sports.

Now there are technically more than twenty sports in the Olympics. But I’ve limited it on the following grounds.

1. Nobody has ever written a song about handball, neither are they likely to.

2. Including Judo would involve excrutiating puns that are below even me, such as Smokey Robinson’s “You Really Got A Hold On Me”, and I’m after something different.

3. Beach volleyball is not a sport and you should all be ashamed of yourselves for watching it. If its scantily clad people with beautiful bodies you want, then try the Athletics, the Swimming or indeed, the Rest Of The Internet.

And so to part one, numbers 20 to 16.

20 – Equestrianism

Specifically Dressage, which has fascinated me today (albeit only for a few minutes).

It basically is exactly what the song says. Horses. Dancing. How cool is that?

Not a huge fan of the Bunnymen tbh although I did see them supporting the Teardrop Explodes at Sheffield University around 1979 or so.

Unfortunately I was too drunk to fully appreciated two of the most influential bands of the next few years. Just say no, kids.

19 – Taekwondo

I know nothing about Taekwondo other than there is quite a lot of kick-boxing in it.

I also know nothing about this band, but this song is a brilliant piece of nu-prog.

18 – Fencing

Derived from the highly dangerous activity of French noblemen settling disagreements by duelling. Pistols or swords? Well, if my opponent chose swords, I’d definitely go for pistols.

One of my least favourite of all the Olympic sports, but this gets in because this song by Tenpole Tudor is fantastic – years before singer Ed Tudor-Pole achieved greater fame as Richard O’Brien’s successor on “The Crystal Maze”.

17 – Archery

I was at Sheffield University around the time ABC first charted, and Martin Fry was a regular figure around the campus. He once tried to push in front of me in a newsagent’s, but I stood my ground.

True story.

This is from “The Lexicon Of Love”, what a great first album that was.

I’m loving Jonathan Agnew’s commentary on the Archery from Lord’s. The man can make anything sound momentous and interesting, in a very silly British way. Only thing missing is summaries from Vaughnie and Tuffers.

16. Wrestling

This is a song called “Let’s Wrestle” by a band called Let’s Wrestle. It concerns wrestling.

Superb, funny, ballsy band with great tunes and the odd excellent turn of phrase. Their first album was called “In The Court Of The Wrestle Let’s”, to which all old King Crimson fans will nod knowingly.

One of the top wrestling nations is Kazakhstan. When you’re watching the wrestling, something to think about is that all the competitors in the ancient Greek Olympics were naked. Go on, imagine that.

Next up, the countdown from 15 down to 11. Some absolute classics in there. See you then. Comments welcome, it’d make a change from the spammers.