“Football is coming home” was a ubiquitous chant in English stadiums
The final song of the football platform, Three Lions and the infectious chorus “Football is coming home” has been a ubiquitous chant in stadiums across the country since its release for the Euro 96 tournament in England.
Produced by The Lightning Seeds with comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel, English fans helped give it a unique place in chart history – the only single to reach No. and 2018.
Last year, manager Sarina Wiegman’s press conference after their historic European Championship triumph was overshadowed by England’s triumphant Lionesses by belting out the Three Lions as they danced around the trophy.
No song has more perfectly encapsulated the feelings of hope and disappointment felt by football fans than Three Lions, written by Lightning Seeds frontman Ian Broudie 27 years ago after being approached to create the official England competition anthem. write.
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However Broudie did such a good job the song was almost never released – because the FA wanted something more permanent, in the vein of previous over-optimistic English official songs like Back Home and This Time .
It was the determination of Broudie, Skinner and Baddiel that led to the release of Three Lions, as Broudie reveals in his hilarious and moving memoir, Tomorrow’s Here Today. “It was the fans behind the Three Lions, not the FA,” Broudie tells the Daily Express. “I was very reluctant to do England’s official song, because I didn’t want to do a triumphant song usually about how we are the best team in the world.
“It was only when I thought about making a football song that was realistic about the chances we had that I said yes to the song. The FA were horrified when we gave them the Three Lions. They wanted to rewrite it to say how great England was, and they wanted England players to sing about that.”
Instead, the trio stuck to their guns and the FA, in Broudie’s words, “reluctantly” released the single. He took off immediately. The singer approached Skinner and Baddiel to write his lyrics as he was a fan of their cult BBC2 show Fantasy Football.
The song was almost never released because the FA wanted something more “trivial”
“Frank and David are real football fans,” explains Liverpool supporter Broudie, 65. “They understood what the Three Lions should be. Football fans suffer more than we celebrate, and that’s what Three Lions embraces. I wanted it to be like You’ll Never Walk Alone for Liverpool fans, about a shared sentiment that isn’t just ‘We’re the greatest.’”
The comedians’ singing has been mocked over the years, but Broudie insists: “Their voices are perfect for the song. They sound like fans. As much as I love Whitney Houston, I would never want to hear her sing a football song. A perfect voice that doesn’t fit.”
When Three Lions echoed around the grounds, the FA wanted in. Broudie laughs: “I saw the guy from the FA who tried to get us to change it saying, ‘Oh yeah, Three Lions was my idea.’ That just makes me laugh.” Despite being proud of the song’s resonance with fans, for years Broudie refused to perform it at Lightning Seeds shows. It was only recently, when it was revived again for the Euro 2020 tournament held in England, that the singer understood what it meant.
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Broudie explains: “Three Lions is everyone else’s song, not mine. And that’s great. I have always been very grateful to Three Lions. I’m glad I did, but it comes with a lot of baggage. For a long time, it overshadowed The Lightning Seeds. It doesn’t really fit with the rest of my songs. I don’t play it at every gig and, when we do, it’s at the end – it’s a bit separate. But don’t get me wrong, I’m very happy with Three Lions.”
Broudie’s complex relationship with his greatest song reflects his complex perspective on his career in general. The Lighting Seeds is essentially a solo project for the songwriter. During the 1980s, he was a successful producer for post-punk bands including Echo And The Bunnymen and The Fall. He started recording as The Lightning Seeds rather than under his own name because he dreamed of finding the right singer.
“I wanted to be a guitarist, part of a Lennon and McCartney kind of partnership, but I didn’t find my Lennon,” says Broudie, whose hits include Pure, The Life Of Riley and Marvelous. “The Lightning Seeds team has been a constant for some time, and they are great musicians. It is because they are so good that my fear of being a singer has disappeared. I hardly have Freddie Mercury, but I have now learned to enjoy the experience of being the front man at our gigs.”
The ideal singer Broudie found was Terry Hall, frontman of ska legends The Specials. The two wrote songs together regularly before Hall’s death from cancer last year and Broudie reveals: “Not long before Terry’s death, we talked about doing an album together, it was the last time we did a project. We were close and always worked well together. I would love to do that.”
The two friends shared an uncompromising attitude. Although Broudie is affable and exudes a gentle, self-deprecating sense of humor during our interview, he was seen as a troublemaker in the music industry – a point brought home when Hall told a hard-pressed Broudie, “She’s the your problem is that you are awkward.” Broudie gushes: “When Terry Hall calls you cheerfully, you’re sure to be happy. Terry said that, it was like I was on top of the league.”
That horror was driven home when Broudie took the opportunity to write songs with George Michael. A mutual friend, music business executive Dick Leahy, brought them together to discuss a collaboration over lunch. It didn’t go well. Broudie recalls: “As a producer, I had a hard time with a band where there were a lot of drugs in the studio. I said to George, ‘I don’t think I want to work with someone who is beaten all the time’.”
Michael was known for smoking cannabis and naturally it had affected him. Broudie continues: “I lack a filter sometimes, and I was so wrapped up in what was going on at this other band’s performance, I didn’t think about anything I said to George. It was only when I was thinking of stories for my book that I realized how stupid I was.
“I’m sure I could have said to Dick a week later, ‘I’m sorry, I didn’t mean anything bad against George’ and arranged another meeting. But it took the 20 years since then to realize that lunch, ‘What a stupid thing to say.'”
The song reached No.1 four separate times: twice in 1996, and in 1998 and 2018
The lunch happened when Broudie was going through a hard time.
In a few years, his parents and two brothers died. It also ended his long marriage to Becky – the inspiration for songs including Pure. Broudie’s songs dried up as a result, with a 13-year wait between albums until last year’s comeback with the typically infectious See You In The Stars.
“Everyone has these hard times in their lives,” he says today. “I know what I went through was no different than most people. It was a strange influence on me as a singer, though.
“When you write songs, you look into yourself all the time. But every time I tried to do that, what I came up with was nothing like The Lightning Seeds. I couldn’t go back to that place.”
His son Riley helps manage the creative rebirth of Broudie – the boy celebrated in The Life Of Riley. Riley also plays guitar in The Lightning Seeds.
Broudie, my proud dad, says: “Throughout my career, I’ve bounced from one thing to another and never had a plan. Riley is brighter than me and sees things more clearly. He has given me clarity and direction.
“But because he’s my son, I can’t get away with anything. He tells me exactly what he thinks, and I know he always has our best interests at heart. It means that right now is the best time I’ve ever had.”
It took a long time and a lot of hardship to achieve it but, finally, The Lightning Seeds are coming home.
- Tomorrow’s Here Today: Lightning Seeds, Football and Cosmic Post-Punk by Ian Broudie (Nine Eight Books, £22) is out now. A visit express.com bookstore or call 020 3176 3832. Free UK P&P on orders over £25
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