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retrotempo | Euro 96 - It's Coming Home - retrotempo

Euro 96 Song. Try and tell me, “This is not a love song”

Euro 96 Song. Try and tell me, “This is not a love song”

They say the mark of a good song is that it will still be played in 100 years time… In the summer of 1996, during the height of Brit Pop, a song caught the imagination of the public and hit Number 1.  It was unusual in so many ways.  First, it was written and fronted by two comedians rather than an established band.  Second, it was a good song about football. Third, it was a song about football that was not a simple chant, but a rather a song about “pain and disappointment – and that tiny glimmer of hope that would keep a fan coming back for more”.  This is actually a love song!  A Euro 96 Song of football love – or more accurately, a “love of football” song that still resonates today.

It’s Coming Home

The song, of course is, “It’s Coming Home” written by Baddiel and Skinner with a good deal of help from The Lightening Seeds.  My memory was that it seemed just like yesterday that the England team had reached the 1990 World Cup Semi Final, only to stumble dramatically and fall to Germany – on penalties.  (Oh Stuart, – if only)!   Surely, that could never happen again?

The song was all over the radio and heard on every street corner as England began their traditionally slow build up in a major tournament.  After a stuttering start against Switzerland, (1-1), England went on to beat the ‘auld enemy, Scotland (2-0), with a magnificent goal by Gascoigne in his pomp and then see England produce arguably their finest performance ever by beating the highly fancied Dutch (4-1).  See the attached clip for rare memories of England’s glory:

I remember the song’s intro included samples of pessimism from football commentators:

  • “I think it’s bad news for the English game.” (Alan Hansen)
  • “We’re not creative enough; we’re not positive enough.” (Trevor Brooking)
  • “We’ll go on getting bad results.” (Jimmy Hill)

Listening to the car radio on the way back from work, windows wound down,  it was impossible not to join in with the chorus with all the other drivers.   Outro samples were often replaced with new commentary by Jonathan Pearce from the recent matches – including the build up to Shearer’s 3rd goal against the Dutch –  which produced an even better version than the original!

As England grew in confidence, so the tune began to take hold and stormed the charts.  In truth, England were fortunate to get past the Spanish in the Quarter Finals.   Such was the national interest that I remember being at a wedding reception and both Bride and Groom halted proceedings so that the guests could watch the penalties!   (Some of us had already snuck off to see the second half anyway).  We won that one, for once. (4-2) on penalties.

Sun Newspaper Headlines from Euro 96

In the Semis, we met the Germans in a repeat of the 1990 World Cup semi final.  During the build up, Wembley was full to breaking point and Baddiel and Skinner themselves led the song.  Everything seemed right; we had El Tel as the Manager, we had the team, we had the home support, we had the form, we had the song, we even had the newspaper headlines from Piers Morgan: “ACHTUNG! SURRENDER.  For You Fritz, ze Euro 96 Championship is over”, “and “There is a strange smell in Berlin and it’s not just their funny sausages, it’s the smell of fear.”   Shearer even scored a header after just 3 minutes.  What could go wrong?

Well the Germans for one.  Stefan Kuntz levelled the score 15 minutes later.  (A name-check fact that our two comedians later milked for all it was worth). Then the game went to Golden Goal.  Anderton hit the post, Gascoigne narrowly missed a cross.  Still the deadlock held.  It went to penalties.  Gareth Southgate missed.  I say missed, I could think of choicer descriptions… The rest as they say is history.  I remember the camera panning to Frank Skinner in the crowd and the look of total shock on his face that was mirrored throughout the country.  Even after defeat, the English crowd sang, “It’s Coming Home” – somehow denying the final result.

I remember the newspaper headlines the next day:  “England stumble dramatically and fall to Germany on penalties”.  (Oh Gareth, – if only)!   Surely, that could never happen again?

The Germans went on to win the tournament.  In a breathtaking display of territorial ambition the Germans even annexed our song.  It reached number 16 in their charts.  Where our song was a metaphor for English Football, theirs was literal.  It was the Germans who took the trophy home and took their football home with them.

“It’s Coming Home” is a classic and still resonates because like all love songs – it has an essential truth.  The truth is “30 years of hurt” and now approaching 50 years.   And for every England Fan, this truth hurts.

While this may not be the greatest song of the 90s or even a tribute as Tenacious D would say, would you bet against it being played at “New Wembley” in the 2096 final between England and Germany?  Needless to say, I think not!

By Paul Bates (thepaulbates)

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  1. cloudrunner1 - February 13, 2013, 10:16 pm Reply

    Great memories. For me music (along with smell funnily enough…) always evokes the strongest memories. Something tapped away in the memory banks comes to life again on hearing a particular tune. From my own childhood, there’s an Abba track called ‘Happy New Year’ (on the Super Trouper album, retro fans) which always takes me back to the end of 1979 when, as a 10 year old lad, I was already aware of that post-Christmas bitter-sweet period. It takes me back to the exact feelings I had then…

  2. The Editor - Retrotempo:: - February 15, 2013, 12:19 pm Reply

    Hi Cloudrunner1, I also remember the Abba track “Happy new Year” and it still features on many Christmas Music Collections. It is indeed a retro Christmas track that has meaning. It was the knowledge that School was once again, just around the corner!

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