How a song became England’s greatest football anthem

How a song became England's greatest football anthem

Hanover. “It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming home of football” – these lines are not only known on the island. Frequently in major football tournaments, but certainly with the participation of the English national team, one hears a song in stadiums, in beer gardens and on the streets that everyone simply refers to as “the football is coming home”. knows.

It was the same on Tuesday – the country was in dire straits after England’s 2-0 victory over the German national team. The same lines of text played over and over in the streets, even as Ed Sheeran sang for the team.

In fact, the song is not officially called “Football’s Coming Home”, but rather “Three Lions”, which in turn is also the nickname of the English national football team, which has three lions on its coat of arms. This year the song is celebrating its 25th anniversary. “Three Lions” has hit the charts in several countries over the past few decades; The original version of the song has garnered 25 million views on Spotify and 29 million on YouTube.

But what is the story behind the song? And how did the song become such a huge football anthem?

When Rock Stars and Comedians Meet

The original interpreter of “Three Lions” is the British rock band The Lightning Seeds in collaboration with comedians David Baddell and Frank Skinner. The latter had its own broadcast on the BBC in the 1990s, called the “Fantasy Football League”. It is based on the game of the same name, which became popular in the mid-1990s, especially in English-speaking countries.

Frank Skinner was a popular stand-up comedian at the time, and David Baddell succeeded with his sketch comedy show “The Mary Whitehouse Experience” in the early 1990s. Both are considered to be huge fans of football.

Lightning Seeds songwriter Ian Brody is the musical brain behind the song “Three Lions”. Brody was already a significant name on the Liverpool music scene in the 1980s, and in 1989 he founded his own rock band. Even before “Three Lions”, the Lightning Seeds had some hits, such as “Pure”, which made the top 20 in Great Britain.

nation football fans

In 1996, the year Three Lions was released, Brody was on the charts with his third studio album when he received a call from the Football Association. Brody is to write a song for the 1996 European Football Championship. The idea to include comedians Baddiel and Skinner didn’t come from the association, but from Brody himself. Reason: Both were quite popular on television at the time and audiences inevitably associated them with football.

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As of this time, there are two versions of the story. Brody says he didn’t want to appear in a song with his band Lightning Seeds at first. He just wanted to write songs and let two comedians sing. “But everyone said: no, there must be seeds of electricity too”, Brody said in an interview with the Guardian.

davy bdel They say, he and his colleague Frank Skinner were like the “football fans of the nation” at the time and were probably chosen by Brody for that reason. “We were very excited, but quipped that we wanted to sing as well – despite our lack of vocal talent.” Amazingly, Brody said yes.

Football Association does not like the song

Brody then arranged for the two of them to meet in the studio and develop ideas. At this point the songwriter already has a melody in his ear. One that “sounds like a football song” and one that “is easy to sing along”. Brody played an early idea to the comedian on the piano. Lyrically, however, they wanted to try to do something special, it is said by all the interpreters.

At first, it was decided against working with football players to sing. The FA asked how many players should sing the song. None as per the decision of the three artists. “I didn’t want it to be Englandist or nationalist,” Brody said in a Guardian interview.

In FA which was not well received at all at the time. “What it’s all about, we’re giving it away,” Brody quoted the man in charge of the association in an earlier interview. Baddil says that FA has made the song too slow and quiet.

a completely different football song

The song was released on CD anyway on 20 May 1996. Paul Gascoigne is considered one of the first players to be enthusiastic about the piece. At Wembley Stadium, a DJ is said to have played the song against the FA’s wishes, but with a surprising twist: English fans sang aloud – not just in this game, but in every game.

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Second feature: “Three Lions” is not a classic football song. In the studio, people talked for a long time about what it really meant to be an English football fan, says Baddil. This was a theme repeatedly in joint TV shows. And finally a decision was taken.

“Instead of writing a perfect or winning song, like most people before, with our vision of winning the trophy, we decided to write a song about the notion that we, England, would lose,” the comedian explained to the Guardian. “.

Weak and sad instead of aggressive

The song is about giving up and hoping that it might work out somehow. For example, in the song, it is freely translated: “Everyone has seen it / You know it / You are so convinced that England will be bad again, that all dreams will disappear into thin air / But I know you can play / Because I remember.”

The line “It’s coming home” actually refers to England hosting the 1996 tournament. “In my opinion, the line is also about being a football fan who loses 90 percent of the time,” Brody said. Today the line has a much wider meaning and is sung at the top of the line after a team victory.

For Baddil, all of this is also the reason for the song’s success: “It’s a football song that doesn’t feel nationalistic or triumphant or aggressive. It’s optimistic, but there’s always something gloomy and vulnerable about it. Sung by 78,000 people for the first time, I heard pain and hope as well as joy.”

“made something special”

One of those moments that Baddil described can still be seen on Youtube. At the 1996 European Championships, thousands of English fans sing “Footballs Coming Home” for the first time at Wembley Stadium.

The clash between England and Scotland at Wembley is now considered the moment when the song finally captured the hearts of fans. “We had just won 2-0. When he finished exchanging jerseys, he played it over the loudspeaker and I thought it was great”, Skinner once told the BBC. “And then the audience really sang along. That’s when I knew we had made something special.”

And the 1996 European Championship also reflects the song’s atmosphere well. For England, the tournament will end this year with a penalty shootout and a 1-1 draw against Germany. Four days later, Germany became the European champion.

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Other teams recast the song

Songwriter Ian Brody remembers that moment very well. He lay down in the hotel room in the evening and heard people singing his song outside. Then he looked out the window and saw that they were German fans. “I love that it became a song about so many things. I don’t think it was ever just about England.”

Over time, “Three Lions” became a worldwide hit. The Fuji’s “Killing Me Softly” fought for number one in the British charts in 1996. For the 1998 World Cup, the team re-recorded the song as “3 Lions ’98” – the single again climbed to number one on the charts. The single was also re-released in 2002 and 2006.

For the 2010 World Cup, Badial, Skinner and Brody teamed up with Russell Brand and Robbie Williams to form “The Squad” and re-record the song. In July 2018, when England reached the semi-finals of the World Cup, the original version of “Three Lions” again reached number one in Great Britain.

“We Killed the Football Anthem”

American baseball teams and German soccer clubs also rewrite the song and transfer the song to their team. Now few people know that the “Three Lions” are three lions on the English jersey.

Dutch Hermes house band gave a cover version of the hit in 2002. Instead of “Three Lions on the Shirt”, the lyrics now read “Heroes in the Shirt” – Heroes in Jersey. For Werder Bremen, “Die Original Deutschmacher” is providing a cover version titled “The W on the Tricot”. And the comedy duo Mundstuhl rewrote the song for Eintracht Frankfurt – here it is now called “Eagle on the Chest”.

The success story of the song is not over yet. For the song’s 25th anniversary, a limited vinyl edition was released in May entirely in red. The huge success of the hit has only one disadvantage: after “Three Lions”, no artist in England was able to build on such hype. a football song.

“‘Three Lions’ kills the football anthem for good,” Baddil told the BBC a few years ago. “After 1996 there were some attempts, but none. And that’s because it’s the best football anthem ever.”

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