646. ‘World in Motion’, by ENGLANDneworder

Ah yes. It’s that time again in which I, a Scot, have to write about the English National Football Team, and attempt impartiality…

World in Motion, by ENGLANDneworder (New Order’s 1st and only #1)

2 weeks, from 3rd – 17th June 1990

OK, there’s only been one ‘England’ #1 before: the 1970 World Cup squad’s jaunty ‘Back Home’. (Scotland, meanwhile, have cracked the Top 10 several times – they just haven’t quite made it to the top. Which is quite fitting, really, given our footballing history…) But this record is a different beast to ‘Back Home’. This is no cheesy squad singalong, about trophies and triumph. This is actually quite cool.

It helps that New Order were a very good band, the band of ‘True Faith’ and ‘Blue Monday’, and of Joy Division before that, and that they created a credible piece of dance-pop. And it helps that they tried to write a song that could stand alone if separated from its footballing context: Express yourself, Create the space… Beat the man, Take him on… And of course the chorus: Love’s got the world in motion, And I know what we can do…

Sensibly, the actual players are limited to backing vocals. Until, of course, the rap. Liverpool winger John Barnes takes over for perhaps British hip-hop’s most iconic moment, written by comedian Keith Allen (who prances around in the video): Catch me if you can, Cos I’m the England man… Three lions on our chest, I know we can’t go wrong… And then boom! Suddenly, it’s a full on football song, with Eng-er-land chanting, and canned commentary from the 1966 final. But by that point, even Scots will have given in and started tapping their feet to the best, yes I’m committing right here and now, football single ever.

The back stories to this song are quite fun. New Order initially suggested a song called ‘E for England’, which was quickly rejected by the FA for its fairly blatant drug references. Star striker Gary Lineker didn’t want to feature as he was releasing his own World Cup single, the completely forgotten ‘If We Win It All’. Meanwhile, seventy-year-old Kenneth Wolstenholme re-recorded his ’66 commentary specially for the song (making him the oldest person so far to feature on a #1…?)

‘World in Motion’ came at an interesting time for football. The Hillsborough disaster had happened the year before, and the changes to stadiums and crowd management that would come out of that tragedy were about to be implemented. Meanwhile, at the World Cup in Italy, England put in their best performance since you-know-when and lost on penalties to West Germany in the semis: Gazza’s tears, Chris Waddle, Pavarotti and all that. (Scotland, naturally, went out in the group stages.) The video is charmingly low-budget, and the players a world away from the well-groomed, tattoo-ed, sculpted lads of today. It’s an interesting glimpse of a sport that I cannot quite remember, just two years before the Premier League/Champions League explosion.

But, that’s a story for a different blog. Musically, this was New Order’s only #1, though they scored eight Top 10s between 1983 and 2005 (including the best-selling 12” of all time). They were, still are, hugely influential and as fun as this record is, it’s somewhat bittersweet that it’s their biggest chart hit. And sadly, ‘World in Motion’ has since been relegated to the second division of football songs, behind a far more obnoxious, entitled, and frankly (without giving too much away) insufferable single from six years later…


3 thoughts on “646. ‘World in Motion’, by ENGLANDneworder

  1. You’re so right. As a Welshman I’m not particularly bothered about English football songs but this is head and shoulders above the more famous but musically inferior future No 1 you’ve alluded to

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