Friday, 17 February 2012

Rating the themes

Many years ago BD (Before Demonblog) I posted a list ranking my favourite club songs. Didn't that go down a treat. You think it's bad when you troll Black Caviar fans, just watch how people spaz out when you suggest their club song is naff. Let's be entirely honest, even the good ones are rubbish by any decent musical standard, unless you're a fan of oompah music hall tunes.

So, in the spirit of causing people to have a breakdown again - and in honour of the two heartless and soul-free franchises which the AFL have forced upon us - it's time for an honest, frank and Anthrax in the mail provoking reassessment. Once again I've left our song out because then the integrity of the whole list would be under a cloud. Rank it wherever you like. First? Fair enough. Last? Fair enough too, it's your list pal.

1. Sydney
To be entirely fair to the Swans I never gave their ditty much thought until the mid 90's, but really until they won the flag who gave them any thought at all? Until they made that Grand Final in '96 I still thought they used the bastardised version of Up There Cazaly designed to make Sydneysiders think they were the next big thing even though no body living there had ever heard of Cazaly.

But what a mistake that alternative was considering the cracking tune they were replacing. Even the banjo solo that should derail the entire enterprise somehow only adds to it. It's racked almost lock, stock and barrel from the Notre Dame song but that's ok, this list is not about originality - god knows some of the original songs are the worst.

The best bit is how they actually improve on the original lyrics. It's one thing to take somebody else's poetic shaking of the thunder down from the sky but imagine if instead of lifting "that" noble banner high they'd opted for the original "send the volley cheer on high". Hideous. What does that even mean? Take note St Kilda, it's ok to change some of the words.

Here's to sense prevailing and somebody ensuring that the Swans didn't end up with new jumpers, totally new songs (a pox on the fake Cazaly tune) and a nickname designed solely to appeal to half-interested wankers to the North. They managed to hold their nerve for 30 years and now that's what GWS are for.

2. Geelong
Come on, it's an opera song. What more could you want? Is it too much to ask for a bit of culture They did their best to stuff it up a few years ago by adding a thoroughly unrequired second verse but that, much like their financial situation at the time, proved to be a disaster and was soon forgotten.

I also enjoy their suggestion that they play the game the "way it should be played". There's a touch of arrogance in that which appeals to me. Also appreciate the fact that despite flogging their stadium's name off to the highest bidder every two years they've retained "down at Kardinia Park" instead of doing a North and rewriting the song to suit themselves.

So, it's a rare 1-2 for songs that mention a banner. Obviously when the songs were written banners were the sort of things troops carried into battle, not crepe paper monstrosities advertising the Cheer Squad Disco.

3. Richmond
Well overrated considering the fans only sing three words of it but I've got a sick fascination with the fact that at heart it's actually a knees-up vaudeville song about some bloke cracking on in a rowboat.

The line between a good song and a not as good song should be the ability to yell it out in a drunken stupour. For Richmond fans this is even more crucial considering most of them are either drunks, balding middle aged women or both. I can well imagine being off chops and yelling this out, possibly while running around in circles imitating a trombone with my arms.

4. Hawthorn
Here's a textbook case of the tune rising above the extremely mediocre lyrics to create something good.

It's fair to say the over and above everything else the suggestion that "teamwork" being "the thing that talks" is the elephant in the room. It's a clunky line and it means nothing but it's not the only problem I've got with it. Declaring yourself a "happy" team is well poxy and if you're going to ride bumps then do it with a snarl or similar, not a 'grin'. So it shouldn't work, yet somehow it does.

So effectively what's happened here is that I've ranked the songs from 1-17 based purely on gut feeling then sat down and thought about it. What this made me realise is that while this song should, by all objective measures rank near the bottom of this list something inexplicable draws me to it. Like West Coast coming from nowhere to unexpectedly steal a top four position last year I'm on-board with the Hawks even though they're sporting lyrics that would make The Vengaboys blush.

5. Brisbane
While we're all still pining for the classic Dare To Beat The Bear (in which they helpfully reminded us that "we're a team"), and there's no doubt that the Fitzroy song was better on its own sadly theme songs don't pay the bills and when the AFL organised the shotgun marriage between its two most disappointing teams they had to compromise on the tune too.

There's no doubt it's stirring, but then again what would you expect from a song that is practically all about publicly killing rich people with a sizeable blade. "All for one, and one for all" is certainly a noble concept but it almost loses the plot when they run out of inspirational lyrics and instead of claiming that they're going to win the flag/are the best team they just pledge to "kick the winning score". That'll strike fear into the hearts of men.

I will make this prediction though, just as they axed the good Lion and replaced it with an Adelaide style non-threatening, child friendly cartoon version they'll eventually write out the verse that says "Like Fitzroy and Bears of old". Some of us would like to remember the Bears of old - and especially their scoreboard which used to flash up messages like GO HOME MEXICANS whenever Victorian teams kicked a goal. And Fitzroy.

6. Fremantle
It's very fashionable in the eastern states to throw the Freo song into Port and West Coast mix when discussing the worst songs but I never knew it was so unpopular in the west as well. So much so that they had a competition to decide what to do with it at the end of 2011.

As an unashamed supporter of the original theme, and the creator of the predictably unpopular #saveheaveho Twitter campaign I made a visit to a Freo forum to see what the people were thinking and was surprised to see how many people were dying to get rid of it.

It looked for a while like some alternative monstrosities were going to get up, but a voting system more confusing than Modified D'Hondt somehow delivered victory to the original song. Or what they referred to as an 'altered version' of the original song.

I can't even tell the difference. What I do know is that it's still not as good as my edit which emphasises the heave ho over the shit verses. Happily as this video was labelled 'new version' before the vote people now go onto it and think it is the real new version. Which either proves that even Freo fans can't tell the difference or the people who comment on YouTube videos are morons.

7. Adelaide
After opening their league career with an abysmal singalong wankfest of a song the Crows, in the words of famous drownee Whitney Houston, "nearly had it all" when a worldwide search for a song led to the CEO sitting down and pinching the US Marine Corp song.

And it was a belter. Real kick doors down, invade small countries, shoot unarmed civilians stuff. If this list were being compiled a few years ago it would have been top four with a bullet. Then, as football clubs always do, they had to go and mess around with it. At about the same time they replaced their good logo with a low-fi startled chicken-esque rip-off of the Baltimore Ravens they decided to tart their tune up and made it worse in the process.

Out went the old man singers so beloved of footy fans and in came what sounds very much like a group of young men attempting to sound like they're a barbershop quartet. So far so shithouse. Then they changed the lyrics so instead of "we're the mighty Adelaide Crows" it's now "and we're known as the Adelaide Crows". We already knew who you were you dickheads, now all you've done is taken some of the fight out of your own song.

Like the real top 8 they fall in by virtue of 75% of the competition being mediocre hacks. First round exit. Bring back the old version of the song even if the intro did sound as if it was being played on a Hammond organ as part of a Grade 6 concert. We don't song intros.

8. Collingwood
Put your traditional hatred of the Pies to one side, try not to think about mutant supporters belting this out and admit that it only qualifies for the top eight because what's below it is either unproven or terrible.

Much like Hawthorn's chatty teamwork the Pies achilles heel is the cakewalk. Research has shown that this song is the only recorded use of the term since at least 1932 and it's all well and good now that they're winning but to actually alude to a premiership as an acheiveable (nay 'cakewalkable') goal when you're winning you're first game nine weeks into the season is an absolute farce. Good on you for having high aspirations, and congratulations on them finally coming true after fifty years of near misses but it doesn't mean it's any less awkward.

Otherwise it's hard to fault. "Good old" is a subtle enough reference to supposed superiority, and until they add the COR BLIMEY bit into the official lyrics I'll blame the players for introducing that themselves. I also like the bit where they lay down to the law to their 'barrackers' about what they should be doing. Maybe our fans would fire up more if they were ordered to by the song? Or maybe Pies fans [insert cliche about having been in prison].

9. Greater Western Sydney
It might just be because it's new, and maybe I want to find something about them that I don't hate with all my being but even when I heard the nine second preview I was in for this. The only thing that could ruin the cossack explosion would be the addition of lyrics.

Sadly they opted out of totally confusing the Sydneysiders with an instrumental theme a'la the old Channel 7 Plays of the Month music yet somehow it still didn't make me want to boot my screen in. Which would have been difficult considering I was watching it on a mobile phone.

Sure the odds are that once I hear this more than ten times AND see Scumbag Scully belting it out live that it will tumble down the list to the point where it invokes a Pavlovian response causing me to swear loudly in front of children but for now I'm in. Much like Hawthorn surviving to make the top four even with wonky lyrics nobody's suggesting that this sets the world on fire but the Soviet power of the music appeals to me greatly.

I've seen people suggesting that it's got a touch of the Moscow Moscow about it but it's more like this to me. The animal suit shenanigans are complimentary.


10. Gold Coast
Proving that they'd both learnt lessons from but also made the same mistakes as Port's '97 entry into the AFLvision song contest the marketing gurus behind the Suns opted for a song that wasn't utter horseshit but failed to base it any sort of catchy tune.

Stuffing the thing full of trumpet and including a world class sun/son double entendre in the opening line keeps their head above water at least. At least when these new teams opt for something 'traditional' (i.e not the West Coast song) they go for upbeat and jaunty instead of wrist slashing dirges like Carlton or Footscray-esque sea shanties.

Still, if you've told me the two newest teams in the competition would both run top ten two years ago I'd have spat at you.

11. North Melbourne
At the risk of having my email assaulted by a parade of North fans with their Excel spreadsheets trying to convince me that their song really is the next big thing I'm here to say that it's not. "But Victoria used to sing it!" they cry. Obviously because they thought picking the song of a team nobody followed would alienate as few proper Victorians as possible.

In fact the best bit of the song is the bit they don't even sing. Even if it makes absolutely no sense to anybody born after the First World War.

The crushing disinterest of the world to the rest was clearly shown before our clash with them at Docklands last year when pre-match the North fans were encouraged to sing along lustily with a ball bouncing across the words on the screen a'la Shut Uppa Your Face by Joe Dolce Music Theatre. As the karaoke version belted out a tumbleweed nearly rolled across the field. The only thing more embarassing on the day when Juice pretended to be Jonathan Brown was our performance for the last three quarters.

What I will give them is that they did the right thing in changing their song back when they gave up the sad Kangaroos gimmick and returned to being North Melbourne. Unfortunately they'd never actually bothered to rerecord it in the first place and the 'change' was effectively just taking off the badly applied "THE KANGAS!" which somebody had patched over the top of "North Melbourne" when they were trying to shift the whole enterprise to Sydney/Canberra/anywhere else in the late 90's.

Somewhere along the line the last line was changed for the worse too. "North Melbourne is the team that plays to win for you and me" was probably the most democratic and utopian sentiment in any theme song ever (including the theme to Perfect Strangers) but thanks to the players ruining it by singing "North Melbourne will be premiers in [YEAR THAT DOES NOT RHYME WITH ME]" the club followed suit and changed it to "will be premiers, just you wait and see". We're still waiting, and presumably will be for a long time. We might not, and probably won't, win anything either but at least we're not getting ahead of ourself.

Please North fans, do not send me spreadsheets and powerpoint presentations. I will not rate you any higher no matter what homemade stat you come up with.

12. Essendon
There's nothing particularly offensive about it as a jolly singsong, possibly at a medieval fair, but as a theme? Pass. As something to belt out in celebration in ranks somewhere between Advance Australia Fair and I'm An Individual.

Even allowing for the fact that it's derived from Keep The Sunnyside Up which sounds like a jingle for eggs is there anything worse than grown individuals yelling "up! up!" en masse? Except when they're doing it after tonking you in a Grand Final. Don't remember that bit, had gone off to sulk by then and have never watched it again.

But what's even worse than up! up! is the delusion of convincing themselves that 'premiership' is pronounced preeeeemeeerership just so it fits the song better. I'd like to believe there's at least one Bombers fan who refuses to join in and sings the word properly.

As with other clubs they lose points for their indiscreet claims about being certs for the flag but I will pay credit to their promotional work for the game by declaring it "grand" (hands off our word) and for being early adopters to the idea that 'fame' was worth seeking well before anybody invented reality television.

13. St Kilda
It's been well established that ripping off other people's songs is the safest method of adopting a theme. Even if nobody's ever heard of the song it's at least proof that the tune is catchy no matter what the source material is. You'd never get away with it now mind, imagine the en masse self-harm these days if a club came out with a tune derived and re-written from the Zigfield Follies?

If Richmond were formed tomorrow they'd be sporting something a lot different courtesy of 'consultants'. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't at least have some sort of a go at coming up with your own words.

This was not a concern for the Saints who, in an era when twirly moustaches were very much in favour, ditched the nickname 'Seasiders' and opted for their new name. Surprisingly it took until they ditched the Junction Oval to give up on singing "I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside". Presumably about ten minutes after they moved to Moorabbin somebody went, "hey, there's a song that would really suit this name" and five minutes later it was official. Repeat at every other sporting club in the world with the same name.

While it should be noted that during their dark 80's period as they flirted with changing name to the Moorabbin Saints (and wouldn't that have been a waste a few years later?) somebody did have a go at coming up with a sparkly new theme song. Unfortunately for all involved this Daryl Cotton-esque none-more-80's pop classic had a shelf life of about ten minutes. Not that you'd know that from their official history which now claims that it's the "most popular" theme song. With St Kilda fans perhaps.

It shouldn't discourage them from trying again. Sure they've not got a great record for change, ditching the now familiar colour scheme during WWI out of fear that people would think they were keen on the Kaiser and adopting the colours of popular wartime cannon fodder nation Belgium instead, but don't be concerned with the mistakes of the past.

The fans will hate it, and the chances are it will turn out to be worse anyway, but there's a lot of good that can be done for the world by using old man singers and a horn section.

14. Western Bulldogs
It's a sea shanty. That's not a bad thing if you're on-board the good ship Venus but it's substantially less attractive when it's being belted out on dry land. So much the worse when it's introduced by a jaunty horn solo, the likes of which would never have been seen on the high seas other than on an episode of The Love Boat. There are good horn solos in footy themes, then there's the Bulldogs.

The Footscray version was better, but then against Footscray was a better name. The only thing of any value that they've done since then is draft Allen Jakovich and film him looking totally disinterested in Year Of The Dogs while Steven Wallis tearfully retired in front of his mates. And Jako.

15. Carlton
No doubt this suggestion will lead to an even more rabid response than one provided by North fans and will almost certainly lead to cyber bricks flying through my online windows but let's be entirely serious here - it's not a theme song, it's the soundtrack to a silent movie where a fat man ambles down the road and either slips on a banana skin or is decked by a workmen turning around unexpectedly while carrying a ladder.

Fair enough if you're Charlie Chaplin or Fatty Arbuckle but how does anybody else get themselves excited for this tune? I'd get excited by Two Become One by the Spice Girls if it was played after a win but that's because it means you've had a win, but Blues fans will defend this tuneless wank to their graves.

16. Port Adelaide
Once upon a time I'd have ranked this dead last but that was before developing my hatred of the Eagles song to its full potential. It's not that this has grown on me in any way mind you, but compared to what they're up to in the west it's practically a Lennon-McCartney production.

Apparently they followed South Melbourne's lead (or inspired South, who knows) in ripping off the Notre Dame song blind but just as they had to abandon their colours upon joining the AFL they were also forced to opt for a new song. Not sure why because it's not like there's ever two songs played at once but you can picture the Port marketing department having a nervous breakdown if anybody had suggested it pre-1997 season. Not to mention the AFL who were still swinging bottles of champers around their heads at having gotten rid of the Roys.

Apparently it was co-written by the guy who was the original bass player in Cold Chisel. You can see why he was asked to leave if this is the quality of what he was contributing. To be fair being given the task of writing a club song would be the most poisoned chalice since the one that turned the guy inside out in the Indiana Jones movie but if as this page claims it was the winner of a competition involving 70 tunes you shudder to think what else must have been submitted.

And the late 90's was the era when you had to have studios and the like to make half professional sounding music. These days people can knock up a theme song on their home computer and have it on YouTube within 20 minutes. Apparently it topped the South Australian singles chart - which is fine but somebody show me a list of other songs to have topped that particular chart and I'll decide whether or not that's an achievement.

The two most offensive elements of the song are the utterly poncy "come on! Port Adelaide aggression", a line which indicates no actual aggression whatsoever, and the cry/wail of "Powahhhhh" at the end which sounds like they've got some kids in from Alberton Primary School and bribed them with red cordial.

I think it's time we held another competition to find them a new song. They're a bit skint at the moment so there won't be a prize, but if you can contribute in any way to giving them some semblance of pride as a football club by introducing a song which isn't a complete embarassment please contact their club offices directly c/o Motel Formule One, Adelaide.

17. West Coast
The shortest, the shittest and the only one that if you listen really closely has a female backing singer who sounds as if she's on the job during the recording.

Granted the whole thing took a sharp downward turn in about 1988 when they ditched the verse which practically abused the entire eastern seaboard but did they have to ditch verses altogether? There's nothing more painful than hearing their players trying to put some oomph into this when they're belting it out after a win. There's

You've got to hand it to them for sticking with it for so long when even Freo got nervous and tried to railroad their fans into changing to something written by Eskimo Joe BUT that shouldn't excuse how terrible it is. What in god's name is "the big game"? That's far worse than talking teamwork and cakewalks in my book.

There's a very good reason why Subiaco play Eagle Rock as quick as they can after this monstrosity ends. Just pay up for the licence fee and buy the rights to that already, you're not North Melbourne get your wallet out.

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