Monday, 21 March 2016

Euro 88 England squad: All The Way

In 1988 you were never more than six minutes away from hearing a Stock, Aitken and Waterman record. So it was no surprise when the trio teamed up with England's European Championship squad to produce All The Way, the title of the song indicating just how confident SAW and the rest of the football following nation were before the tournament. Oh dear.

You would have thought that the combination of the most successful music producing factory and patriotism would have propelled All The Way high up the charts, yet just like England's Euro 88 campaign, it died completely. "If we do it right, we're gonna get there," stated the opening line of the song. Well, England had certainly qualified for the tournament in the right way, dropping a solitary point and conceding just one goal along the way. But from this point on, England's fortunes plummeted.

Obviously the downturn started with the recording of All The Way. Thirteen England players turned up to the PWL Studios in South London - 5-3-2: Seaman; Stevens, Adams, Fenwick, Mabbutt, Sansom; Robson (c), Reid, McMahon; Lineker, Beardsley. Subs (Anderson, Cottee) - with manager Bobby Robson also unlucky enough to make the cut. "'Cos we feel inside, that we can make it." Looking at some of the uncomfortable expressions on the faces of the England players on the All The Way video, the feeling inside for those involved did not look as positive as some of the lyrics produced by SAW.

The video was standard stuff for a football related song of the 1980s. Obligatory action shots - clips from the matches against Paraguay and Argentina at the 1986 World Cup repeated ad nauseam - were interspersed with footballers moving about awkwardly, and huddling together for a group shout for the chorus.

Messrs Lineker, Beardsley and Mabbutt were obviously the most talented men in the group, the trio given headphones, a music stand, and a big microphone and sent off to a separate part of the studio (very much like The Pasadenas in Band Aid II). Occasionally you could also grab a glimpse of some of the tools SAW used on the song, equipment that would make it sound oh so different from their other hits.

"Because it's plain to see, when we're together, it's no fantasy." Spot-on. This musical production was far from dream like, and England could hardly be accused of playing fantasy football during the tournament. "If we believe it's right, we're gonna do it." Are you sure? "We won't be denied." Shame no one told this to Pat Bonner or took the woodwork into account during the Netherlands match.

"We know we've gotta fight, for what we believe in, 'cos we got our pride." It appears as if SAW were soothsayers as well as successful music producers, because come the end of the tournament, skipper Bryan Robson took this a little too literally. Wound-up by Peter Shilton after the final group match - "taunting me about the 'Captain Marvel' stuff," as Robson explains in his autobiography - Robson became incensed when the keeper called him a "bottler". 'Get up and I'll show you who's a bottler,' Robson replied. "He wouldn't get up, but I was so angry I punched him. He just sat there and went quiet." Oh happy days.

"People put us down, but we won't listen." I do hope the England squad stuck by this, as post-Netherlands the abuse was endless. "No pedigree", "Now sack this loser Robson!", "Boss must pay the price for failure", "Robson must go", "England are now a laughing stock", "Humiliated!". Just a small selection of the headlines coming the way of manager and players after Marco van Basten had sent England crashing out. Going all the way we most certainly were not.

But that was for the future. As the video progressed we were able to watch Adams, McMahon and Cottee pretending to drive a vintage motor racing car, before the final chorus kicked off and all the lads started manically pointing at the camera to force home the point that we were going all the way. Rather appropriately the video ends with Cottee's fake journey ending in a car crash. Which leads us neatly into a toe-curlingly embarrassing trip to BBC Television Centre on Wednesday May 18.

I'm not sure if it humanly possible for a set of people to look any more uncomfortable than the England squad did during their performance of All The Way on Wogan. Beamed live to the nation, the manager and players either rocked from side to side awkwardly, passing a ball from hand to hand, or used fitness equipment whilst miming to the glorious anthem.

Fair play to whoever had the balls to go up to hard men such as Robson, McMahon and Mick Harford and tell them that they had to get up on stage and do this. Perhaps that is why Doctor John Crane made a mystery appearance in this performance? To help with any injuries resulting from retaliation after these men were asked to shuffle around on national television. It surely could not have been for any strains picked up during the less than rigorous routine.

The appearance on Wogan did little to shift any units. Even though SAW had 22 top 40 hits during 1988, All The Way was very much the exception to the success of the Hit Factory during this time. Peaking at number 64, it seemed that the public were not that impressed with the new kids off the SAW block. I would like to say that the English public thought that the song was simply not good enough, that they had a sudden attack of taste. But we all know that with a successful tournament the song would probably have surged up the charts. Maybe we should be thankful to Houghton and van Basten after all.

Perhaps I am being a little harsh to the single, though. All The Way was very much of its time, an era where SAW were flooding the charts, and were extremely successful on the whole. It is easy to look back as a music snob and chuckle at just how naff the whole thing was. Yes, it's a bit cringe worthy, but generally that was the way of the charts in 1988. Look back on the majority of the top twenty singles of that year and it is hardly a who's who of music legends, unless you happen to rate Glenn Medeiros, Tiffany and Bros. Apologies if you do.

All The Way has not been helped in comparison with what followed either. World In Motion was a brilliant song full stop, and along with Three Lions, hit the top spot during tournaments that are remembered fondly in England. Listen to those songs and, if you are of a certain age, you will immediately be transported back to glorious sunshine, excitement and belief in the England team, freshly cut grass, wall-to-wall TV coverage, beer, and waking up with a spring in your step, and magically with no hangover (those were the days my friend).

Euro 1988 and All The Way do not bring back the same feelings. A disastrous tournament did little to help the single, and both are now looked back on with wry humour. But just as Rob Smyth argues the case for England at Euro 88, maybe there is justification for arguing that although All The Way was far from a classic, at the time it had all the tools needed to be a hit. A song that might now be looked back on with some nostalgia, had England made it to the knockout stages, and even gone on to win the trophy. England winning a major tournament during my lifetime? I should be so lucky.


  1. nICE bLOG Dude.
    I was wondering if u know whre to find vintage basketball games too? there are some all star games vintage on but i want more older games if its possible.
    Again, good site

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