Ian Broudie, Composer for Lightning Seeds
I knew New Order had made a football song [Italia 1990’s World in Motion], but I was hesitant when the FA asked me to do Euro 96. Fantasy Football with Frank Skinner and David Baddiel was big on TV at the time so I thought they should sing it and the band might not be credited. But everyone was like, “No. It also has to be Lightning Seeds. “
It had the melody. It felt like a football song with a chorus that would make a good song. Liverpool were playing Leeds at Anfield in the middle of the week, so I invited Frank and David to the studio. Frank arrived, but David was not prepared to miss his beloved Chelsea, who was playing at home. After the game, I took Frank into the studio, played the idea on the piano, and we agreed we had something in the works.
The FA said: “How many footballers do you want to sing in it?” But we think, “No, we don’t want any of that.” He didn’t want her to be English or a nationalist. In my mind, the phrase: “He’s coming home …” – this was the first time England had hosted an international football competition since 1966 – is more about being a football fan than during 90% of time, is wasting. Most of being a soccer fan is a disappointment.
When they knocked us out [5-6 to Germany on penalties in the semi-finals] I was at Wembley and I totally disconnected emotionally. Back at the hotel, I was lying on the bed and I heard: [sings]: “Three Lions in a T-shirt …” and he remembers thinking: “It’s good that they are singing it even though we lost.” I looked out the window and they were all German fans. I had to resist throwing a television out the window.
I love that it has become a song about so many things. I don’t think it was ever just about England: American baseball teams have embraced it; Bayern Munich rewrote the words a year. The letter seems to have passed into the vernacular. No one said “years of pain” before. When we first recorded it, many people said to me, including journalists: “What are the three lions referring to?” We’d say, “Well, they’re on the shirt.” It’s surprising that when you think of Three Lions, people still think of the song more than the shirt. Ian Broudie was talking to Rich Pelley
David Baddiel, comedian, writer and “singer”
We got a call on the Fantasy football Ian Broudie’s office asking us if we’d like to write the lyrics. He had been chosen to write the England song, but he thought that at the time we were kind of a football fan of the nation, so we should write the lyrics. We were very excited, but blatantly, especially considering my vocal talents, we said we wanted to sing too. Surprisingly, he said yes.
When we sat down to write, the first thing Frank and I talked about was reality: the reality of being a fan of England. The show was about the reality of being a soccer fan and the way we approached the song was the same. Instead of writing an idealized or triumphant song, like most of the others before it, with its visions of winning the cup, this time more than any other, we decided to write a song about assuming that we England were going to lose. Because that is what experience has taught us. Three Lions is actually a song about magical thinking. On assuming that we are going to lose, reasonably, based on experience, but hoping that somehow we won’t. That is why the letters go from: Everybody seems to know the result / They’ve heard it all before / They’re so sure / England is going to blow them away … TO But I remember … – those bits of glory in the history of England football that, beyond your own rationality, give you hope.
That’s why I think when it caught fire, rattling with the experience of other fans, and people sang it at Wembley, it had this strange and brilliant effect, which is a football song, for a country, that does not feel nationalistic, triumphalist or aggressive. He is optimistic but keeps something melancholic and vulnerable at all times. The first time I heard it sung by 78,000 people I could also hear that: the pain and the hope, as well as the joy. David baddiel
Euro 2020 starts on June 11. The seeds of lightning Jollification 25th anniversary tour restarts in September; David Baddiel Tour: Trolls, Not Dolls reboots on September 10.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism