World In Motion: New Order and the perfect football song

BY Paul Brech

31st Oct 2023 Sport

4 min read

World In Motion: New Order and the perfect football song
At the 1990 World Cup, the football song was a tired concept that few artists would touch—until synth-driven rockers New Order dusted it off and made it anew
England had taken to this tradition early, and by 1966 had their own official song for the home World Cup.
In reality, "official" is perhaps stretching it: the FA had merely approved the release of a World Cup song called "World Cup Willie" by skiffle icon Lonnie Donegan, and it was a hit.
From then on it became something of a tradition for there to be an official song whenever the English team made it to a major tournament. Some—"Back Home" and "This Time"—became cult classics; others were instantly forgotten.

A failed attempt that nearly downed a tradition

"All the Way" was decidedly among the latter. The official song for Euro 88 was produced by Stock, Aitken and Waterman—who at the time dominated the English music charts – and featured the usual host of England players in the official video. Much like England that summer, "All the Way" proved to be a disaster and didn’t sell well.
"'All the Way' proved to be a disaster and didn’t sell well"
The stink that "All the Way" raised lasted for a long time. "When the World Cup 1990 came around there was a distinct lack of enthusiasm on behalf of everybody. I mean players and artists, nobody really wanted to touch it," David Bloomfield, the FA’s press officer in 1990, confirms.

Chance encounter saves the day

Bloomfield would change all that. A big music fan, he chanced upon a regional TV programme called Best and Marsh, which featured George Best and Rodney Marsh talking about great matches.
What caught Bloomfield’s attention, however, was the show’s signature tune, which the end credits revealed was by New Order. This gave Bloomfield an idea and the following day he called his friend Tony Wilson to see whether New Order would be interested in writing the England song for Italia 90.
Wilson not only owned the legendary Manchester music label Factory Records but was also New Order’s manager. He was immediately enthusiastic about the idea and accepted, despite the fact that at the time the band was on hiatus.

New Order figure it out

New Order promotional photographs in black and white
Fortunately, the band members agreed.
As bass player Peter Hook told the Manchester Evening News, "The great thing about New Order is we always used to do things for devilment. If there was something we shouldn’t do, we would do it. We flew in the face of doing anything normal and it was a great trait. So we said, 'Yes.' And of course we were then absolutely terrified as we didn’t know what to do."
"The great thing about New Order is we always used to do things for devilment"
They figured it out, however. Expanding on music that band members Stephen Morris and Gillian Gilbert had recorded for a current affairs show, they eventually had the core of the song ready.
At that point they turned to Keith Allen, an actor as well as a massive football fan, to help with writing a rap part aimed at giving it a more contemporary feel.

The one England player who could rap rises to the occasion

Football player John Barnes
The finishing touches were applied by the players themselves, or at least the handful who actually turned up at the recording studio. The dismal failure of "All the Way" had convinced many of them to stay away, and those who did go couldn’t stay long as they were needed at the opening of a new clothes shop in Middlesbrough.
Even so, that brief interaction was enough for the producers to capture John Barnes’s iconic rap. While Barnes’s musical ambitions at the time were widely derided, he certainly impressed Hook.
"My ambition from the very first was to turn out a decent song that could stand or fall on its own merits"
"John Barnes really rose to the occasion," he said. "He took it over. He helped Keith Allen write much of the rap section and he nailed the performance within seconds."
The end result fitted nicely with Bloomfield’s original vision:
"My ambition from the very first was to turn out a decent song that could stand or fall on its own merits. If you link it with the football, fine, but it didn’t necessarily have to do that.
"There are all the other examples that, if you didn’t listen to them in a football context, it would be totally unbearable, it’s torture, but if you link them to football then maybe you can get through the three minutes of it. But with this one I wanted it to be able to stand alone and I think it does."

World in Motion: Not a great football song but simply a great song

It certainly does. While it might not have had the chest-thumping quality that made "Three Lions" so popular, "World in Motion" is the better song.
There’s a mellow quality to it that was a shift away from the usual us-against-the-world rhetoric of football songs, something best exemplified by the chorus of:
"Love’s got the world in motion
And I know what we can do
Love’s got the world in motion
And I can’t believe it’s true"
It was the perfect song for a sport looking to break away from the violence and darkness of its recent past. In a way it foreshadowed what was to come, with football becoming part of pop culture as much as music or films.
Echoes of an Italian Summer by Paul Brech is published by Pitch Publishing (16.99)
Banner credit: New Order, "World in Motion" video
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