The Michael Jackson statue outside the Fulham football ground is a nice reminder to me of the gear-grinding awkwardness of trying to mix music and sport.
Usually, sticking on some pounding rock or techno as the theme music for a sports programme or when a team comes out onto the pitch seems to be about the extent of the interface. Tacky, predictable and … fairly harmless. I seem to recall (in the dim distant days when I still had a flicker of interest in sport) a football programme using Blur’s Song 2 to jolly things along.
It doesn’t really work though. If the music’s halfway decent it’s soon going to suffer from this kind of exposure. Even the clever and much-applauded trick of the BBC using Nessun Dorma during its 1990 World Cup coverage began to grate over time.
As a callow teenager I noticed the oil and water nature of music and sport. Once, watching a Coventry City football match at Highfield Road in the late 70s, the public address played Generation X’s King Rocker at half-time. It was just an innocent three-minute time-filler song from the charts, or so the person doing the music at the ground must have thought. But to me it sort of “exceeded” the moment, calling me (as it were) away from the terraces and the “Who aaaaare you?” herd behaviour of the football crowds. The same dissonance occurred with cricket. On one occasion, when I was about 14, I was with some cricket fan mates hustling for autographs from a group of Dennis Amiss-era Warwickshire cricket players at my local Midlands cricket ground. The players were just getting into their flash Ford Granadas and MGs in the car park. And what do you think we heard coming from their car radio cassettes when the players leaned out to sign our little signature books? Could these cool cricketers have been listening to the Buzzcocks, the Stranglers, or maybe just Squeeze or Joe Jackson? Nope. It was stuff like Supertramp and Genesis. Oh dear. Even as a 14-year-old I knew something was wrong.
Never the twain. John Peel tried hard (too hard) to bridge the gap sometimes, banging on about Liverpool FC, bringing on Pat Nevin to talk about music. It didn’t work. Occasionally – very occasionally – it did. So Colourbox’s Official Colourbox World Cup Theme in 1986 just about passed muster and we could all sleep easily again for a while. And, as we did so, the yawning gulf opened up once more … Just the other day the Guardian’s April Fool’s piece about Derek Dougan and psychedelic 60s music exploited the divide quite cleverly (though April Fool’s media jokes are a big bore themselves).