Sunday 10 May 2015

The Football Attic's Hit Parade: We're Gonna Do It Again

It's a warm welcome back now to Dave Burin who continues our series on the great and not-so-great musical exploits of football teams down the years...

Who, or what, is Stryker?  He remains the Ali Dia of the mid-'90s rap scene, having somehow bumbled his way into the studio for Manchester United's 1995 FA Cup Final song, despite by all appearances, having no musical career before or afterwards. Much like the Stig, Stryker's identity is uncertain and possibly secretive. One Channel 4 documentary which focused on football songs claimed that he was an Arsenal fan from North London, though this has never been formally verified. And so, after 20 years of silence from this most enigmatic of one-time shouty football-themed novelty rap creators, We're Gonna Do It Again is the total sum of everything the world knows about Stryker. And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

If Stryker did indeed write the lyrics to this bizarre musical hotchpotch, it might be fair to infer that he's gone into hiding. Like the music world's Salman Rushdie, Stryker probably has a bounty on his head from several United fans with long memories, still outraged by their club's name being associated with lines like
"Because we're up there - cream of the crop
You gotta get up early to keep us from the top."
Despite the Reds' dismal display in the ensuing final (they were beaten 1-0 by Everton), what this United squad put their name to on record was undoubtedly more shameful than anything they produced on the Wembley turf.

So, besides the lyrics sounding like a public schoolboy's painfully polite attempt at trash talking, what does Stryker and Man United's cliché-ridden hit (it reached #6 in the UK Singles Chart) actually sound like? Well... there's an aggressive, tuneless drum machine which doesn't fit the melody, and has very likely been left switched on in the background entirely by accident. There's a wall of inoffensive though slightly off-putting guitar wailing in the background. At some point a keyboard seems to drift into the forefront briefly, before fading away - in what is an entirely apt metaphor for Brian McClair's on-field performances.

Around the 2:37 mark, our host clearly decides that things are getting a bit too authentic, that somehow it might be nice to alienate those hardcore Reds who, unaware of what awaits, are queuing up to buy this on cassette (or, for the really trendy individuals, CD). So, he tells us "we'll leave you with a message, Man U for the cup". It's an abbreviation used only as a derogatory term by opposition fans, and lazily by clueless pundits. However, I'd be here for rather too long if I tried to quibble over terminology with a man who spells the word 'Stryker' as if he's only ever heard the word when said aloud by Andrei Kanchelskis.

And yet, for all that, I kind of like it. It's unpolished, it's rather naff, it's full of lines which seem like they might have been scribbled on the back of a shopping list or scrawled down as Stryker woke up at 3am, his head buzzing with puns that don't quite rhyme.  In an era of overly-slick, characterless club songs, or annoyingly ironic efforts (I'm looking at you, I'm From Wigan Me!), there's something decidedly fun and unashamed and cheerful about Stryker's effort.  Now, enough faint praise...onto the B-side.

The best way I can describe the B-Side as is 'listenable'. It is, more importantly than that, incredibly lazy. In 1994, United had reached Wembley with the sounds of Come on You Reds, a catchy collaboration with Status Quo, ringing in their ears. It was the first football club single to reach #1 in the UK Singles Chart. In 1995, they chose as their B-side... Come On You Reds (1995 Squad). That's right. This vastly different version was recorded by the same club just a year later, meaning that at least two different players were involved in recording this completely necessary re-recording of the previous year's cup final song. No version exists online of the '95 track, though if you listen the '94 version and just imagine something exactly the same, you'll know what it sounds like.

Objectively, United may have done better to simply re-release the '94 cup song, and not rope (supposedly) Arsenal mad Stryker out of his (alleged) North London home to rap about "scoring our way to victory". Still, We're Gonna Do It Again is a relic of its time, and for better or worse, it sounds exactly like a mid-'90s attempt at coolness from a football club desperate to repeat its chart success. The tinned drums are dreadful. The vocals are dire. The lyrics are ridiculous. And yet, it's destined to bring a smile to my face every time I hear its refrain:
"Here we go,
Here we go,
Here we go."
I can indeed say that this largely-forgotten hit holds far happier memories than the cup final itself. Just don't expect me to be so kindly nostalgic the next time an anonymous rapper tries to rhyme 'victory' with 'tree'.

-- Dave Burin

Our grateful thanks, as ever, to Dave Burin for a fine guest post. Want to write about football nostalgia for The Football Attic? Get in touch - we'd love to hear from you!

1 comment:

  1. Ooff that's rotten. Of course, the catchy chorus is an adaptation of the mighty Quo's 'Again & Again', only sung in the style of Milli Vanilli. I remember it being quite a nice tune at the time. How wrong can you be. And what's this, a Manchester United song with the line "Man U for the Cup"? Yes, I think he was an Arsenal fan. Or Peter Kenyon.