Friday, September 07, 2007

"They'll be singing in the streets of Auchtermuchty tonight"

The Rugby World Cup starts this weekend. I love international rugby. It's the greatest of spectator sports because it's war conducted by other means, characterised by fearless competition and remarkable good humour. Time to ponder the question which national anthem we would trade for the tiresome "God Save The Queen".
It's obviously not a boil-in-a-bag jingle like "Ireland's Call" or "Flower Of Scotland". It can't be an uneasy shotgun marriage like South Africa's "Die Stem/Nkosi Sikelele Africa". Italy's and Argentina's don't stir much either.
Here's my top three in reverse order:
3. The Star-Spangled Banner

It's the tune. Its great quality is there's no slack in it.It comes from an old English drinking song. We get pissed to it. They put their hands over their breasts to it and stare into the middle distance. And the words are magnificently overblown. "In the rockets red glare" could apply to anything from the War Of Independence to Afghanistan.
2. La Marseillaise

I love the idea of a load of American actors dressed as French colonials outsinging another load of American actors dressed up as Nazis in a bar presided over by an American in North Africa. I love the pace of this tune. Its central message, whether in the film or the rugby field, is "you and whose army?"
1. Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau

Whenever the camera travels down the line of the Welsh team as they sing this song (usually helped out by a bunch of white haired retired headmasters in blazers) there's always one who is too overcome by emotion to sing. I'm with him - and I don't have a drop of Welsh blood in me.
If Planet Earth was going to have one national anthem to play before its first game against Mars, this is it.


  1. I vote Jerusalem for England's national anthem. Or The Ace of Spades.

  2. It's shite being English. Dominant colonialists, everybody wants to beat us above everybody else and we have to sing God save the Fucking Queen.

    I'm with Bright Amabassador. I want Jerusalem as our song. God even Land of Hope and Glory would be better than the funerial dirge of God Save the Queen.

  3. Anonymous9:15 am

    Actually, I quite like Deutschland Ueber Alles - there's something defiantly belligerent about it and it's very rousing!

  4. Anonymous10:41 am

    Anarchy in the UK

  5. Anonymous10:09 pm

    But Ian, that would give Scots like me the same copmpaint that we do about GSTQ - England isn't Britain or the UK. You see why everyone else in the UK hopes England will lose whenever they play any sport? (We do so love to have a chip on our shoulder!)

  6. I agree that our (English) anthem is terrible, although I disagree that the replacement should be Jerusalem (swapping devotion to the monarchy for devotion to God? No thanks. That's not progress in my books).

    Having watched 80,000 French people bellowing it out at the stade de france on Friday night (on the telly, anyway), I can also safely say that I think the French anthem is the best ever. Stirring and with a fantastic tune and lyrics that can be bellowed out. Perfect. I have a French wife too, although to her annoyance I was cheering the "sous-chien" on all night.


  7. As an Irishman who cringes for the entire length of "Ireland's call" and would prefer "The sickbed of Cu Chullain" instead of "Amhrán na bhFiann", I reckon "God save the queen" should be replaced forthwith by "England's glory" by Sir Ian Dury

    "Oliver Twist and Long John Silver
    Captain Cook and Nelly Dean
    Enid Blyton, Gilbert Harding
    Malcolm Sargeant, Graham Greene (Graham Greene)"


  8. I'd go for "Between the Wars" by Billy Bragg as its about the only song that makes me even vaguely bothered about being English.

    South Africa's "Nkosi Sikelel' iAfrika" should be in number three spot, the whole thing not the weird hybrid they have now.

  9. Games characterized by "remarkable good humour"? You didn't see the Samoa vs South Africa game then...

  10. Anonymous1:00 am

    It's not all Yanks in the Casablanca sequence. According to what I was told years ago the woman who you see with tears in her eyes and shouting "Vive La France" was a genuine French exile in Hollywood and that's real emotion. As is the woman with the guitar. There's also the double irony that there Germans are singing a song about the Rhineland or keeping watching onthe Rhine while the Marseillaise was originally written for the French Rhine Army (if I've remembered that right).

    The most moving rendition I've heard of it was when pretty much the entire French nation sang it as one before the World Cup Final in 1998. you could hear it echoing everywhere in the streets.

  11. Dave, you are so right I have just exploded with emotion.

    *weeps huge Welsh tears*

  12. Anonymous9:12 am

    Italy's anthem not stirring? You've obviously never watched a Six Nations game in Rome.