Saturday, 2 May 2015

The Football Attic's Hit Parade: Glory Glory Leeds United

And before you ask, that apostrophe in the title was put there to prevent all kinds of misinterpretation, for this is a new series looking at the world of football and its variable attempts to create music that sells in vast quantities.

Oh for sure we had 'Three Lions'. We even had 'World In Motion'. But what about those songs that barely grazed the lower echelons of the Top 40, or those stamped 'Rejected' by the producers of Top of the Pops?

Here at The Football Attic, we consider it our duty to remember all football songs, acknowledging their merits and failings with the sort of impartiality that an Eastern European voting in the Eurovision Song Contest can only dream of.

And so we begin with Glory Glory Leeds United, a song that was released in 1968 after Leeds won the 1968 Inter-Cities Fairs Cup and League Cup, although some argue it was unleashed on an unsuspecting public prior to their appearance in the 1970 FA Cup Final.

Either way, it treads the well-trodden path that is 'The Battle Hymn of the Republic', a song that uses the music from 'John Brown's Body' and containing the familiar chorus 'Glory, Glory, Hallelujah'. Inherently catchy, it formed the basis for many other football team songs down the years, not to mention one particularly notorious offering by The Goodies in 1974.

Leeds United's own version was sung by Ronnie Hilton, and here an entirely correct approach to recording football songs was adopted, namely to keep the involvement of any football players strictly minimal.

Hilton, born Adrian Hill in 1926, was a British crooner who reached the peak of his success in the 1950's by singing cover versions of popular American hits of the day. Once considered one of the top singing talents in the UK, his success was eventually tempered by the incoming rock and roll bandwagon led by the incomparable Elvis Presley. Come the 1960's, Hilton was looking for other ways to put his vocal expertise to good use, and towards the end of the decade he was lucky enough to be approached by a football team with a song and no singer.

Glory Glory Leeds United was the song, and it gave a potted profile of the team's recent successes, the captain, the manager and even the fans in all of its two minutes and forty-three seconds. It even dared to mention rival players and teams in the opening verse:
Manchester can rave about the Summerbee and Best
And there's Liverpool and Arsenal and Spurs and all the rest
But let us sing the praises of the lads we love the best
As Leeds go marchin' on 
Glory, glory Leeds United
Glory, glory Leeds United
Glory, glory Leeds United
They're the greatest football team in all the land
And so the relentless march continued with a comic-book description of Billy Bremner:
Now little Billy Bremner is the captain of the crew
For the sake of Leeds United he will break himself in two
His hair is red and fuzzy and his body's black and blue
But Leeds go marchin' on
By now you're probably getting the general gist, but suffice to say the last verse provides a final rousing mention of the boss and even the noisiest parts of the Elland Road ground:
In the Paddock and the Scratching Shed let's hear the voices sing
Let's get behind United and make the rafters ring
We're a team we can be proud of and Don Revie is the king
As Leeds go marchin' on 
 ...all of which tells you everything you need to know about the song, in essence. Yes, the players can be heard singing on the record, but only for the boisterous chorus which is probably very wise, given the tunefulness of most football players' voices.

Yet if you thought the A-side of this record did well with its various football references and rough, chucking-out-time-at-the-pub-like harmonies, you'd be well advised to check out the B-side, We Shall Not Be Moved. Once again written and sung by Hilton and based on an old standard, this one has even greater player participation and mentions half the First Division league table in the process.

But let's not peak too early. This is but one fine example of the football song. More will follow, you can be certain of that...

-- Chris Oakley


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