Despite being responsible for one of football’s most iconic anthems, Alex James has described footy songs as “the naffest genre.”
Along with actor Keith Allen and guitarist Guy Pratt, the Blur musician created the act Fat Les in 1998 to record a song for that year’s World Cup. The result was Vindaloo, which reached number two on the UK singles chart on its release.
Like many football songs, the track resurfaces whenever England is involved in an international tournament. This year a cover version of the song featuring actors Will Mellor and Danny Dyer was released to raise money for charity.
“Part of what appealed to me about it, it was kind of the naffest genre,” James recalled of his involvement in the tongue-in-cheek anthem.
“There’s a football tournament every two years,” the musician said, comparing a football song to a Christmas record in terms of its longevity.
Describing Vindaloo as an “ode to joy,” James said “it’s just stupid and I think it’s great to celebrate stupid things.”
James believes the singing among fans is one of the most appealing aspects of football.
“Once you leave junior school and you stop singing songs in assembly, there are very, very few occasions when people just sing, particularly unaccompanied. It’s really rare that as an adult, unless you go to church, which not many people do anymore, that everybody sings and it’s a really, really wonderful feeling when you are in a big crowd of people all singing,” he enthused, adding “There’s nothing hooliganistic about it.”
Vindaloo may have joined the set list of England fans’ go-to anthems, but upon recording the track James was sceptical that it would be played on the radio.
“I have still never heard it on the radio and I’m not sure that broadcasters like it,” James said. “It’s a little bit lairy for the living room.”
Thanks to a video that parodied The Verve’s promo for Bittersweet Symphony, Vindaloo was heavily played on MTV at the time.
The charity football single has become a staple of English football over the decades.
Footballers themselves have recorded would-be anthems, such as the England team’s This Time (We’ll Get it Right) from the 1982 World Cup and 1986’s We’ve Got the Whole World at Our Feet. In 1990 John Barnes famously rapped on New Order’s World in Motion.
Arguably the most enduring of England’s footy songs is 1996’s Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home), a collaboration between The Lightning Seeds and comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner.
Ahead of England’s appearance in the Euro final this Sunday, Atomic Kitten have reworked their 2001 number one Whole Again. With new lyrics, the song has morphed into Southgate You’re The One – Football’s Coming Home Again.
Whether England fans have anything to sing about on Sunday night remains to be seen.