It is usually around this time that the football World Cup begins, only this year it’ll be held in November and December. It has reminded me though that there has been a long history of football-related singles entering the chart, as a wide variety of unlikely people not usually known for their singing talents wish to declare their support for England (or whatever country) to record.
Almost none of them beyond 1990’s “World In Motion” and 1996’s “Three Lions” are worth remembering in much detail really. But to pick another as an example, once some various hosts from radio station TalkSport decided to release a song, and Mike “Porky” Parry said “you are here for the launch of the next Number One single!”, and I thought “oh really?”, but it almost happened when their racket somehow managed to reach no. 2.
But this one has a rather interesting story. The actor Keith Allen (who was actually born in Swansea, which isn’t really in England), had contributed to “World In Motion”, and also 1996’s “England’s Irie”. By the time of the 1998 World Cup, he decided to form the group Fat Les, also featuring artist Damien Hirst, Alex James from Blur, and I think Joe Strummer from The Clash was involved too.
In June 1998, “Vindaloo” was released, and this was a rather rowdy song that celebrated English culture, along with a chant-along chorus that it was almost impossible not to join in with. Indeed, a university professor’s performance of this during his YouTube video explaining the etymology of the word “vindaloo” was very popular for a few minutes a long time ago.
And also among the vocalists was Keith’s daughter Lily, who would soon know a thing or two about chart-topping singles herself. The video is also notable, as it is a parody of “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve. The original was made at Hoxton High Street, which is not too far from where I live, and this version was made there too, with the Richard Ashcroft role being played by comedian Paul Kaye.
Soon he is joined by a huge amount of people, who also include David Walliams and Matt Lucas (during their “Mash And Peas” years). “Vindaloo” reached no. 2, staying there for three weeks, and there was also a memorably shambolic performance of this on Top Of The Pops. Well at least it’s not “Sweet Caroline”! This was something of a success, and later in 1998, Fat Les appeared on the cover of NME.
In December 1998, they decided to aim at the Christmas market, when “Naughty Christmas (Goblin In The Office)” was released, although this reached only no. 21, and lacked rather a lot of the spark and humour of the previous single. They returned in June 2000 (this time credited as “Fat Les 2000”), with a straight cover of “Jerusalem”, which is considered to be the unofficial national anthem of England.
This reached no. 10 (and Michael Barrymore was roped in as one of the vocalists too). Then in June 2002 they released “Who Invented Fish And Chips”, clearly another attempt at a lingering anthem, but this got nowhere near the chart surprisingly. Since then, “Vindaloo” has returned to chart in 2010, 2014, 2018, and last year, and probably will this year too when the World Cup finally comes around again.