Is ‘World In Motion’ the greatest ever football song? ‘Three Lions’ might have something to say about that. But there’s no debating how brilliant an anthem New Order’s song is – even 26 years on. On June 9 1990 that the song begun a two week stint at Number One in the UK Singles Chart as England landed in Italy for one of the most memorable World Cups in the tournament’s history and a nation held their breath in expectation. To celebrate, here’s 10 things you might not know about the track, including how the band penned it as an anti-hooligan track.
1. New Order drummer Steve Morris claims the band’s manager, Tony Wilson, tricked the FA and the band into working with each other. “Knowing Tony, he probably sold them the idea of us doing a song and then told us the FA had come up with the brilliant idea.”
2. In fact, he and instrumentalist Gillian Gilbert initially thought the offer of making the song was a joke. They had another offer of work on the table – with director Michael Powell – but eventually chose to delay that until the following year. Later, on the day they started recording ‘World in Motion’, they received a phone call saying Powell had died. “We made the right decision,” they said. “We’d have looked like proper charlies working with a dead director.”
3. Gilbert and Morris were actually pretty crucial to the song – the track was adapted from one of their compositions as The Other Two, which was originally written for BBC’s ‘Reportage’.
4. At the time, when NME asked footballer John Barnes how excited he was to be collaborating on a football song, he responded: “If I thought it was going to be the same as the usual crap, why bother? But this is alright.” Barnes’ rap was written by the man himself and performed – legend has it – in one take.
5. When the FA heard “love’s got the world in motion”, they asked the band to replace “love’s” with “we’ve”. The band refused. “It’s an anti-hooligan song”, they said. Too right.
6. Morris, in a crisis of ambiguity, called coming up with the lyrics a “nightmare”, because he wanted to avoid any association with football violence while being cheeky enough that “if it all went pear-shaped, at least we could say it was a joke.” He later said, “I couldn’t imagine it being anything other than ‘World Cup Willy’, but Keith Allen got involved and made it funny.”
7. Keith Allen, who co-wrote ‘World In Motion’, wanted it to be called ‘E for England’, with lyrics that ran: “E is for England, England starts with E / We’ll all be smiling when we’re in Italy.” The FA vetoed the decision. Looking back at it in 1993, he was diplomatic: “I think at the time there were certain drug-related overtones that didn’t appeal to either Top of the Pops or the record company.” Allen was later involved in 1998 unofficial England song ‘Vindaloo’.
8. At the time the song was released, lead singer Bernard Sumner told NME, “This should be the last straw for
Joy Division fans.” Make of that what you will.
9. Reflecting on the song years later, Morris said that it may have changed football. “It did come at a bit of a turning point for football. Until that point it was all very laddish. After ‘World in Motion’ everybody got a bit loved-up with it.”
10. Barnes recently revealed that he had to do a rap-off with Paul Gascoigne, Steve McMahon, Peter Beardsley and Des Walker before he was picked to perform the rap. The question is – did Gazza cry when he lost out that time too?