The Euros are finally upon us and the air is ripe with expectation. The fluff of frothy pint-heads rests on wooden picnic tables like mildew. Lessons have been cancelled and the projector’s getting rigged up in the main hall. Adidas slides slap the floors of supermarkets, piling trolleys with ribs, Carlsberg, new TVs and grab bags of Kettle Chips. Your dad’s taken a brief respite from extolling the virtues of Brexit in order to pull the tournament schedule out of his newspaper and stuck it up on the wall in the kitchen. He’s even rested a little Ikea pencil next to it so he can fill in the results as they happen. We have it all: Vardy, tie-in Gillette promotions and Alan Shearer hosted retrospectives. Well, we nearly have it all. For England expects, and what England expects is a relatively gimmick-heavy Euro 2016 banger.
That wait is now over. In fact, the wait was over the second the sentence “Shaun Ryder, Paul Oakenfold and Goldie have made an England Euro 2016 song called 'We Are England'” was given flesh and made reality. The track is such a uniquely perfect proposition, I’d actually go so far as to say that just the sentence “Shaun Ryder, Paul Oakenfold and Goldie have made an England Euro 2016 song called 'We Are England'” is in of itself the perfect England Euro 2016 anthem. All it would take, probably, would be for England fans in the sweltering French terraces to shout “SHAUN RYDER, PAUL OAKENFOLD AND GOLDIE HAVE MADE AN ENGLAND EURO 2016 SONG CALLED 'WE ARE ENGLAND'!” for Jamie Vardy to immediately power up like some bony pink sonic and pummel a bicycle kick into the back of the net from the halfway line. Yet it isn’t just a sentence. There’s an actual song. More, it isn’t even just a song, it’s a video. In some ways, it's a way of life.
Less than five seconds in and this is already everything you wanted it to sound like and more. Those piano chords. They are the chords of Madchester, of patio barbecues, of cracked red and white face-paint and James Milner parody accounts. They sing of plastic drawstring JD Sport bags stuffed with pipes of pringles, of Trafalgar Square covered in piss and unspooled toilet rolls. They are what you hear if you hold a stethoscope to the chests of blokes call Gav. There’s more though. Lots more.
If I had to describe the video’s aesthetic. I think I’d go for something like Boohoo advert meets Trainspotting. That’s not a criticism by the way, in fact I feel I should reiterate: none of this is a criticism. It's a masterpiece, which comprises of five key components.
1) The members of Black Grape (the band that came after the Happy Mondays) including Shaun and Kermit singing the song outside an abandoned distribution centre somewhere.
2) Aspirational millennials kicking footballs and dancing and generally having a bloody great time being English until they die.
3) Goldie’s face, phoned in via a knock off webcam, blown up V for Vendetta dystopia-style on the side of buildings.
4) Paul Oakenfold, similarly live streamed on the Old Street roundabout, this time from what appears to be a party he’s having on the top of a multi-storey car park somewhere.
5) Finally, yet most definitely importantly, Bez experiencing a particularly traumatic acid flashback on the set of Coronation Street.
These five components conspire to paint our beautiful England. An island where, at any moment, could you peel back the net curtains of your two-bed terrace only to see Bez pounding the pavement like a man who’s sold both his elbows and his knees at a meat raffle that morning. An island where you’re not sure if that klaxon noise you can hear is an airhorn or Shaun Ryder’s voice. An island where Goldie is watching. Where Goldie is always watching.
Yes the whole thing sounds like it’s been made after three pints and a packet of salt and vinegar McCoys, but it also captures the all-pervasive English spirit. You know, the sort of spirit that says it doesn’t matter what you look like (or in Bez’s case how you walk). If you’re English, then you’re English. It’s the same spirit that says maybe a pensioner might be able to lead a coachload of teenagers to victory in France this summer. It’s also the sort of spirit that makes you want to rush to Asda George to buy a t-shirt with a bulldog on it.
Having watched the video many times, and been left reeling, frenzied, and shouting “WE’RE ENGLAND TIL WE DIE UNTIL WE DIE” at random intervals, I had to know more. So I phoned Shaun Ryder. He was lovely by the way. Here’s what he said about the track:
Noisey: Alright Shaun. Congratulations on the song, it’s a screamer.
Shaun: Have you heard it?
Do you like it?
Yeah. How did it come about?
Well Oakenfold emailed me saying he wanted to do a song for the Euros, but he said he didn’t want to do a typical football song, he wanted to do a song for the working people, for the real heroes of England. But he didn’t want it political and he didn’t want it religious. I am not the biggest fucking know-it-all about football, I’ll hold me hands up about that, so I brought Kermit (Black Grape) in cos he knows a bit than I do. We sent it over to Oakenfold in LA, he sent it to Goldie in Thailand, and then we got another mix back. It was done really quick.
So you’re not that into football?
It’s not that I’m not a football fan – football’s great to watch, great to play – but I’m not someone who will sit and talk about it. I’m a United fan cos of where I was born, and I’m an England fan because I’m English.
That reminds me, one of the most memorable lines in the song is: “We’re English we’re all mixed.”
It’s certainly not politically correct is it? We did it for a bit of fun, to put smiles on people’s faces, to be a bit cheeky. I’m sure at some point someone like the Daily Star is going to print the lyric and say “this lyric is disgusting saying English people are all mixed race!” It’s just a bit of fun.
But you’ve got no problems saying you’re proud to be English. I feel like it can have some complicated connotations these days.
Yeah I’m definitely proud to be English. I’ve got a Roman nose, it’s written all over my face. You know what? England, it’s a great place. The weather’s a bit fucked, but now we’re getting all that global warming even that’s improving. Give it 20 years and it’ll be 70 degrees every day over here.
What are your hopes for “We Are England”?
I reckon I can hear it blasting out of pubs on summer evenings, and in gardens. Play it before the match comes on, play it at England parties. I can see it getting played after a few drinks as well.
And what are your hopes for Roy’s boys?
The naivety of youth is an amazing thing. When you’ve got no bullshit second thoughts getting in the way. You know, they’ve been scoring goals since they were 8 years old these lads so they’ll probably walk out onto the pitch and it won’t even faze them. When you’ve been around the block a couple of times you probably start shitting it, but this lot will just walk out and score goals.
Sounds easy enough. And just before you go, can I ask, Bez’s dancing. Where does he continue to pull the energy and inspiration for those moves from?
He’s 52 years old and he still lives pretty much how he did when he was 18. We’re all old farts, but Bez isn't. He finds that energy from somewhere. You think those moves are good? That’s just him walking to the shops.
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