Sunday 28 December 2014

Singing off-pitch: hits and misses

Ex-Shelbourne midfielder John Burns has just launched a music career with his band The Establishment – and they're not bad

Sporting establishment: John Burns (second from right) and his band The Establishment. Inset: Burns playing for Shelbourne

You have to tip your hat to professional soccer player John Burns, who has just launched a music career. This is a gutsy move by the former Shelbourne midfielder, as it risks stirring memories of several of the worst atrocities ever committed against the recorded arts.

From John McEnroe trying his luck as a hard rock guitarist to the players of Liverpool FC attempting to get their Beastie Boys on, when sports stars step into the recording studio, the results are rarely edifying.

What a racket:John McEnroe and Pat Cash made a laughable foray into rock music when they formed the Full Metal Rackets

Often they make you want to stick forks in your ears and scream until your tonsils explode.

Evidently this has not dissuaded 35-year-old Burns, now resident in the UK, where he has lined out for Bristol City and Nottingham Forest.

In fact, rather than play down his sports background he has sought to make a virtue of it. Recorded with his band, The Establishment, debut single, 'Jennifer Jones', features cameos from several well known British pros, including Stuart Pearce, Teddy Sheringham and Les Ferdinand in its video.

With ex-striker Dion Dublin on board as band manager, Burns may as well have slapped a sticker saying 'Look at me –I'm a professional footballer!' on the record sleeve. Who knows? Maybe he has.

Burns playing for Shelbourne

The kindest thing you can say about 'Jennifer Jones' is that it will not induce recurring nightmares, even among sensitive listeners.

Burns is a decent singer and a useful guitar player. The indie rock gods will in all likelihood be unmoved by his offering but it's hard to imagine them being actively offended.

Still, even if it was an iconic rock moment on a par with Nirvana's 'Smells Like Teen Spirit', 'Jennifer Jones' comes nowhere close to exorcising the ghost of novelty soccer-records past. It is a task beyond any one piece of music.

Through the seventies and eighties, English soccer, especially, was cranking out horror-show seven-inches faster than it took Millwall fans to rush a baton charge.

Many have a strong claim to the title of worst single of all time (bear in mind this was the pre-Jedward era).

Confirming professional sports people should on no account be allowed within miles of a live microphone, surely the most heinous artifact of the era was Paul Gascoigne's 'Fog On The Tyne'.

A 1990 hook-up with Newcastle group Lindesfarne, to the enduring shame of UK record buyers, it reached number two in the UK singles chart.

Also deserving a place in the dock for crimes against music are England players Glen Hoddle and Chris Waddle's 'Diamond Lights', a number 12 bullet from 1987 and Liverpool FC's 'The Anfield Rap', three-and-a-half minutes of faux-hip hop so unspeakable it is tempting to think that the dreadfulness was deliberate.

We in this country are in no position to scoff. Twenty three years on, Ireland is still struggling to escape the terrifying legacy of 'Put Em Under Pressure', the Italia '90 single. Produced by U2's Larry Mullen, the track has elevated the chilling words 'Olé, Olé, Olé' into an alternative national anthem.

Strangely and disturbingly, the chant is especially popular among those far too young to have first-hand memories of the song itself. Kids – just say no! (Or, failing that, stop saying 'olé, olé olé').

Let's not be too harsh on soccer. It is far from the only offender. As already mentioned, in 1991 John McEnroe teamed up with frizzy haired rival Pat Cash and, christening themselves, the Full Metal Rackets, put out the single 'Rock and Roll' (with The Who's Roger Daltrey roped in on lead vocals).

Irish Independent

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