In a world where sports stars are right up there with Hollywood A-listers when it comes to celebrity status, it is uncommon to hear of any embarrassing activities. Employing professionals to curate their social media accounts, we are presented with a sanitized view of their lives. But that wasn’t always the case.
Back in the 1970s and 1980s, sports stars seemed a little bit more in touch with the general public and got up to all kinds of things that would definitely not be regarded as good for the marketability of their brand. These sports athletes were still heroes in our eyes – but they still did stupid stuff.
These days the closest we get to sports stars is watching them on TV or reading an Everygame sportsbook review to find out about betting on their games. But a few decades ago we were able to watch them be a little bit more relaxed – and that includes being involved in recording cringe-worthy songs. Many of these were for championship games and, no matter how bad they were, the general public couldn’t get enough of them! Here are some of the standout tracks from an era when sports stars didn’t seem to care about being fashionable and cool like they do today.
F.A. Cup Final Songs
As you will see from some of the other examples we mention, these songs are not confined to one country or sport. But there is a particular competition that seemed to bring out the best (or worst) in singing athletes. The F.A. Cup is one of English soccer’s most prestigious events and, for some reason, the two teams who made it to the final would record a song before the big game.
A perfect example of what we are talking about is the 1981 song by Tottenham Hotspur called Ossie’s Dream. As with many of these kinds of tracks, music stars were brought in to add a little glamor to the proceedings. Although the word “glamor” is doing a lot of heavy lifting here. Famous Spurs fans Chas and Dave, a duo known for old-style cockney sing-a-longs, were chosen to bring their musical expertise.
For those of you who don’t know, Tottenham had a player called Osvaldo “Ossie” Ardiles at the time and the song was all about his dream of playing in a cup final. The song even included the unforgettable line, “Ossie’s going to Wembley, his knees have gone all trembly”. Quite. The song seemed to work though – Spurs won the cup after a replay that year.
By the end of the 1980s, new kinds of music had appeared and begun to make an impact on the charts. Maybe that’s why Liverpool thought that they could have a go at rapping for their 1988 cup final song, Anfield Rap (Red Machine in Full Effect). As any rapper will tell you, it is harder than it looks. But, somehow, this track has gone down as a classic of the genre.
The rap was actually written by one of the players (who, incidentally went on to invent the Predator boot) so that will probably tell you all you need to know about the quality of the verses. The producers of the track also threw in a section of You’ll Never Walk Alone, a famous Liverpool song, just to make sure that the fans would go for it – and they did in their droves.
World Cup Tracks
Modern soccer stars would be far too busy planning their fitness regimes and nutritional menus these days to have the time to record a song before jetting off to the World Cup. But back in the 70s and 80s, there was always an opportunity to get into the studio and sheepishly lay down a sing-a-long classic for the fans to buy before an inevitable early exit from the competition.
Many of the embarrassing efforts are better left forgotten to the mists of time. But the 1990 track by the England team – with a lot of help from New Order – is possibly one of the greatest sports songs of all time. Using their newfound love of dance music, New Order were able to create a track that was perfect for the Acid House-loving English public. Add a few shouts of “Eng-er-land” and it was destined for success. There’s even a not-too-terrible rap from England player John Barnes to round things off.
US Sports Teams
Although English soccer teams seem to have been the absolute masters of the so-bad-it’s-good novelty song, we should mention a few notable efforts from US teams over the years. Again, the heyday of these tracks seems to be in the 1980s, but we are not entirely sure what was going on at that time for everyone to be quite fine with dispensing with musical taste.
Although US sports teams didn’t tend to record their songs for championship games in the same way as their British counterparts, there is a theme that quickly emerges when you do a little digging into this subject. Many of our examples come from the late 1980s when rap was just becoming the hot new music style selling crates of records. It seems as though the marketing people at these sports teams saw the opportunity to make some money by getting the players to rap (mostly badly) as well as play.
Silver and Black Attack by the Los Angeles Raiders and Buddy’s Watchin’ You by the Philadelphia Eagles are two of the best examples of this curious micro-genre, although the Chicago Bears did at least record their Super Bowl Shuffle for the same reason as all those English soccer teams. The level of musical brilliance achieved is about the same as with the athletes across the pond though.
By the early to mid-1990s, US sports stars had decided that these novelty songs were not what they wanted to be associated with. But many still thought that they had the rapping skills to forge their own side careers. Spoiler alert – they didn’t. Even you, Shaquille O’Neal.
The End of an Era
The strange practice of sports stars recording songs now seems to be a half-forgotten memory from a different time. No athlete would be caught dead donning the headphones in the studio for a generic video promo these days. But there was a time when these songs were common and regularly topped the charts. There’s something to be grateful about in these tough times!