Like pretending to be hurt (Quins excepted), pony-tails, endemic fan hooliganism and obscene salaries, perhaps the supporters song is just one of those things that will characterise the association rather than the Rugby code of football ad nauseum. Unlike our egg-shaped, ball-carrying cousin, ‘Football’ is prolific when it comes to releasing both club and country records.
Yes, Football is the ‘Prince’ of sporting music, to Rugby’s Gilbert O Sullivan (hasn’t made a record since 1970 something younger readers) Occasionally sublime, (3 Lions), often dire (most Club anthems), most Football songs take a well-worn template – a hyperbolic (“cus Scotland are the greatest football team”), jaunty, cliché, and then caricature it to a point of absurdity. One suspects that the progenitors of these wild-claims-to-music know full well that the fans will still lap it up . Unless they support one of the 4 teams in the English Premiership or 2 in Scotland, capable of actually BEING the best team in the land in a given season, or one of the 5 Nations with a realistic chance of winning a World Cup, the Club or Country song is sensibly consigned by the long-suffering follower born into a mediocre legacy, to their already brimming well of gallows humour.
Occasionally a football Club has been brave enough to be honest. My favourite example being my own mediocre team. Stoke City’s, “We’ll be with you” – no hyperbole in evidence here – wise for a team that was a founder member of the F.A. in 1863 since when it has won one trophy, the League Cup, in 1971. The song is modest in its aims – merely to reassure the boys that in spite of the inevitable and regular disappointments, the lowly status and poverty-line ambitions, the fans will remain loyal, long-suffering and well, in attendance. No more no less. The chorus lyric goes as far as to comfort the perennially under-performing players – “tell the lads in red and white, everything will be alright” – even though ironically it was written to celebrate that one and only trophy win.
And so to Rugby, paradoxically a sport with a grass-roots tradition in which drunken singing of bawdy songs and national anthems is part and parcel. Max Boyce of course made a career out of mixing his awe-struck, 1970s Welsh Rugby observations, with Club-house banter and music. England bizarrely has Swing Low (attributed to supporters who sang it rather politically incorrectly in honour of Chris Oti’s triple try scoring efforts in the 6 Nations. Wales has its tremendous choral tradition and Scotland and Ireland a rich canon of folk and drinking songs.
But when it comes to records, official or unofficial, promoted to reach the charts, professionally produced, conceived to galvanise support around a Club or country campaign, Rugby isn’t really on the park.
And so with it was that this musical inferiority complex weighing heavy, we decided that we would start to change this or at least have a bash. And what better Rugby team to turn our creative attention to than the British and Irish Lions. A legendary and unique amalgam of nations, an unlikely Rugby supergroup if you will, like bringing together 4 rockers who normally compete with, criticise, sledge and fight one another, for a one off tour with the ‘axe’ buried, temporarily, in the interests of the greater collective good.
In truth it was the Lions support, more than the Lions per se, that inspired us. In particular the last Tour to Australia in 2001 when the Red Sea stunned the Wallabies in that first test, to the extent they hurriedly did whatever they could to even up the numbers and wind up the locals. Waltzing Matilda as a second anthem before the second test no less – I ask you!!
And so The Voice of a Thousand Men was born, in a bar in Richmond. A cover of 80s hit – Swords of a Thousand Men by Tenpole Tudor – and designed as a plea to the travelling fans to play their part and carry the voices of those at home with them. Ultimately to sing the boys to victory. We are proud of our song and the video, all produced on a shoe string, and over the course of 3 weeks. In our wildest dreams the song will get some airplay and be appropriated as an (unofficial) Lions anthem. For sure the official channels won’t help – as we are not one of the inner sanctum of official (monied) ‘strategic’ partners, which is a shame. Surely a song conceived in the true spirit of the Lions, intended for the people who love the Lions, follow the Lions and play for the Lions deserves a mention. But we understand how these things work. So we will rely on the fans and followers, the mere spectators, to help. For once it would be nice to have (largely) pony-tail, hooligan-free, cheat-free, respectful Rugby Football in the charts and who knows, it just might start something!!
Lets sing the Lions to victory!!
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