Tuesday, 12 June 2018

1986: England World Cup Party album

Sometimes I stumble across something on sport in the 1980s that I have no recollection about. Last week I tentatively started researching a piece about England's far from successful World Cup song in 1986; and then I uncovered a gem. Why had I never heard about this before? How did this masterpiece bypass me? How on earth did this whole collaboration come about? There really were more questions than answers.

England's World Cup Party of 1986 is possibly the best thing that I have EVER found on YouTube. Writers Tony Hiller, Stan James, and Bobby James had joined forces to write We've Got The Whole World At Our Feet and the B-side (Google it, kids) When We Are Far From Home, but little did I know that the England squad had hung about to perform a number of medleys.

If you do one thing in the rare gaps that the forthcoming four week footballing feast provides, then please click on the links below (or visit YouTube) and join in England's World Cup Party. Everyone is invited.

We've Got the Whole World at Our Feet

The album starts with England's 1986 World Cup song, or that one between This Time and World In Motion as it's often called. Pulling off an unwanted achievement of only reaching number 66 in the UK charts, the song involved the England squad “barking over a cheesy Casio keyboard factory preset” as the NME described it.

Some of the lyrics left a lot to be desired, including the “there’s not a single team that we can’t beat” line; Portugal, Morocco and Argentina might question this. The song actually resides in Room 101, writer and actor Chris England nominating it because he thought it was bad, and that the line above sounded like “there’s not a single team that we CAN beat.”

Happy Wanderer medley

This is where the fun truly begins. A medley of songs starting with Happy Wanderer and ending at Y Viva Espana, gently warms you up for some of the classics that follow on this album. No sooner have the “Val-deris” and “Val-deras” finished then the lads are hoping to “fly way up to the clouds, away from the maddening crowds” as they belt out Volare with feeling.

I’m not sure that meeting “senoritas by the score” as mentioned in Y Viva Espana was a wise boast, though. But what goes on tour stays on tour, I guess.  

South Of The Border medley

I promise I’m not making this up. Can you imagine the current England team performing a number of medleys for our enjoyment? No. Can we blame Raheem Sterling for this?

Singing about going “South of the border, down Mexico way” the lads then move on to inform us that their hearts are on the island of Capri. Or maybe they had their eyes on a Ford Capri like the one Terry McCann drove in Minder? In truth, did the players really know where Capri was? I do, but I used Google, and I’m not sure there were copies of the Encyclopedia Britannica in the recording studios at the time.

On A Slow Boat To China medley

Advancements in travel technology are ignored as the squad express an interest in boarding a boat to take an unnecessarily long trip to China. After this the journey continues to Rome (Arrivederci Roma), France (C’est Si Bon), Virginia (The Trail Of The Lonesome Pine), and New York (New York, New York).  

Rule Britannia medley

Some may listen to this medley and think we have arrived at Brexit Central; others may want to puff out their chests, and talk of patriotism. In between times we take in a war classic from Vera Lynn, and enjoy songs related to Cornwall, Tyneside, Yorkshire, London, and Lancashire.

There are a couple of snippets I enjoyed here. The boys singing about a “Bassoon, flute and euphonium” is a particular favourite, and the mention of a lady wearing clogs and a shawl is interesting. WAGs were a lot different during the 80s.

When We Are Far From Home

The second half of the album kicks off with the B-side (honestly, Google it) to the World Cup song. When We Are Far From Home is a slow-moving effort, involving the players shooting a heartfelt video and talking about being one big family and thinking of the ones they’ve left behind.

We’ll miss our country, they continue to tell us, as if a month in Mexico is the hardest thing they will ever have to go through. They want to try and take a slow boat to China.

Whatever Will Be Will Be medley

Thankfully, we get back to the medley section soon enough. Quite how the players manage not to sing “We’re going to Wemberley” during the Que Sera opener is beyond me. I’ve listened to it at least five times and can’t stop myself.

Yellow Rose Of Texas medley

This is a medley I really can’t get out of my head. Listening to the England squad singing “A-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh, a-weema-weh” during The Lion Sleeps Tonight brings a smile to my face immediately. I’m easily pleased, but try and listen to it without singing it repeatedly afterwards. It might annoy your family and friends, but it’s a small price to pay.

“We’ve got the blues on the run,” the lads proclaim during Roll Out The Barrel. Alas, it would be the other way round during the quarter final defeat against Maradona’s Argentina. Still, at least the players could get back to the country that they had missed for all that time.

Barbados medley

“I don't want to be a bus driver all my life, I've seen too much of Brixton town in the night.” Not my words, but the thoughts of the 1986 England World Cup squad. I knew players weren’t paid the megabucks back in the 80s that the current lot are. But I never knew things were this bad.

After a seamless move into Rivers Of Babylon, the lads get to perform a modern Billy Ocean number, before declaring that “music and passion were always the fashion” during Copacabana.

Chicago medley

We’ve reached the end of the road now.  But before we board the plane to Mexico, there is still time for a few more hits. The players do seem a little surprised that they “saw a man he danced with his wife in Chicago,” and I have to admit to genuine annoyance that Figaro didn’t get a longer rendition.

The joy has to finish, though, and the album is bookended by the We've Got The Whole World At Our Feet song that failed to woo the English public. I have to agree that the main World Cup song doesn’t impress me much – like Shania Twain, I’m quite fussy – but I think I might spend the rest of my summer listening to the medley parts of, what I am now calling, the greatest album ever.


  1. I bought this very album last Saturday at the Leeds Record and Book Fair. I don't think the startled stallholder who sold me it could believe his luck. It truly transcends mere surrealism. Perhaps the most bizarre album I have ever heard. And I like Throbbing Gristle