JOHNNY B BAD

The words might change, but the chant stays the same. JAMES DUT­TON be­moans the ter­race chant that just won’t go away

Late Tackle Football Magazine - - Opinion -

PET SOUNDS is one of the most in­flu­en­tial and recog­nis­able al­bums of all time. Ut­terly time­less, charm­ing and ground­break­ing it features reg­u­larly on count­downs of the great­est al­bums in his­tory.

Open­ing track Wouldn’t it Be Nice has stood the test of time, while God Only Knows re­mains ar­guably the great­est love song ever writ­ten.

So what an ut­ter shame then that an­other of Brian Wil­son’s great­est works, Sloop John B, has been re­duced to a de­vice for mud-sling­ing on the ter­races.

A cover of a West Indies folk-song about an old sponger boat whose crew got no­to­ri­ously drunk when­ever they made port, it is a de­light­ful ditty so far re­moved from its bas­tardised rein­car­na­tion, warped as it is now through the voices of thou­sands. Ever y. Bloody. Week.

It’s got to the stage where you’d ac­tu­ally con­sider delet­ing the en­tirety of The Beach Boys’ back-cat­a­logue just to rid foot­ball of that in­fer­nal racket.

So who do we blame for this bor­der­ing-on­trea­sonous thought?

Liver­pool fans were the first to pop­u­larise the Sloop John B chant in the af­ter­math of their Cham­pi­ons League tri­umph in 2005: ‘We won it five times, we won it five times. In Is­tan­bul, we won it five times.’

Then Phil Brown hap­pened; in what was only his sec­ond most in­fa­mous pitch in­va­sion of the 2008-9 sea­son. Not con­tent with his ridicu­lous perma-tan, lu­di­crous head-set or var­i­ous wardrobe mal­func­tions, the then Hull City man­ager strode out on to the KC Sta­dium turf, grabbed the near­est mi­cro­phone and belted out a mod­i­fied ver­sion of the Beach Boys clas­sic.

Brown, drunk on hubris, bel­lowed that his first sea­son of man­age­ment in the Pre­mier League had been ‘the best trip he’d ever been on’. A run of 15 de­feats in their fi­nal 21 games, in­clud­ing just a soli­tary vic­tory which saw the club sur­vive by one point, would say oth­er­wise.

Brown’s ut­terly self-de­feat­ing karaoke turn was far­ci­cal, yet gen­uinely hi­lar­i­ous. More be­cause we were laugh­ing at the Ge­ordie, than cel­e­brat­ing Hull’s mirac­u­lous sur­vival af­ter one of the most dis­mal self-im­plo­sions the Pre­mier League had ever wit­nessed.

Af­ter Phil’s brief spout of nar­cis­sism Sloop John B re­treated back to the record stores… un­til Robin van Per­sie be­gan scor­ing goals when he wanted to.

Even that was funny, and mainly be­cause it pos­sessed an el­e­ment of truth - it was sung in cel­e­bra­tion of the Dutch in­ter­na­tional’s ex­tra­or­di­nary feats on a foot­ball pitch, dur­ing a sea­son that saw him score 38 goals.

Yet in that same sea­son foot­ball was un­der­go­ing a pe­riod of soul-search­ing. Vit­riol in the stands mir­rored that which was splashed across the back pages. Foot­ball fans up and down the coun­try grew tired of Robin van Per­sie scor­ing when he wanted, and Sloop John B took a more vin­dic­tive tone. It has been doomed ever since.

Al­most overnight, the chant mu­tated into a hy­brid ver­sion of it­self. It’s now gone too far; it has both out­stayed its wel­come and be­come a par­ody of it­self.

Now it is an en­demic. It breeds across the land­scape of English foot­ball sta­dia and leaves none alive.

It’s the per­fect chant for the unimag­i­na­tive fan; a tune that only needs to awaken one sec­tion of the crowd be­fore the rest are, to use com­men­tary jar­gon, singing from the same hymn sheet, war­bling in mo­not­o­nous uni­son.

Given its uni­ver­sal us­age can it even be re­garded as sim­ply a ‘chant’ any­more? Surely it’s only a mat­ter of time be­fore Sky Sports adopt Sloop John B as the theme to its Pre­mier League cov­er­age, just to give the ‘ban­ter’ of it all even more am­mu­ni­tion.

Orig­i­nal and hu­mor­ous chant­ing was the badge of hon­our for clubs in foot­ball’s hey­day. But just as the na­tional sport has be­come in­creas­ingly sani­tised in the 21st cen­tury, so has the orig­i­nal­ity of its chants.

God only Knows, wouldn’t it be nice if they just gave it a f***ing break.

@The_False_Nine

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