It’s a World Cup year (at the time of posting) and every post (until June) will be something WC related.

We begin with MJ Hibbett and his lo-fi World Cup-related repeatedly re-done, song. What I mean by that I’ll get to in a moment, but a quick intro about MJ Hibbett, a name you might have seen in passing on t’internet.

According to his Wikipedia entry, which might have been written by the man himself, he is:

  “Mark John (“MJ”) Hibbett (born 19 June 1970) is an English guitarist singer-songwriter, often compared to Billy Bragg and Richard Digance.

With his band The Validators, Hibbett came to widespread online notice in 2000 with “Hey Hey 16K”, an ode to the ZX Spectrum and other home microcomputers of the 1980s. The song gained larger acclaim when an animated music video for the track, created by Rob Manuel, was released in 2004. Hibbett later collaborated with Manuel, who directed the music video for his song “The Gay Train”.

 In 2004, Hibbett gained national exposure in the United Kingdom, on the Steve Lamacq show on BBC 6 Music, by regularly performing “The Fair Play Trophy (Again)”, a song whose lyrics were updated for each rendition to reflect the then-ongoing events of the UEFA European Football Championship. 

That last part highlighted because that’s what interests us and I think now he’s not the author of the Wiki entry because although he might have gained attention in 2004 with his appearance on Lammo’s show, he’s actually been doing that song ever since 1998.

The above might have been too much detail not needed, but I want to give full credit to one of the contributers responsible for a track on the Coupe Du Monde ’98 – The Official Fortuna Pop! World Cup EP.

I noticed the single in passing in Rough Trade, Covent Garden in 1998. I made a mental note that I’d look up more info and then come back to it. But sadly I never did. The memory was forgotten until this (Football and Music) came along, as well as a stumble across the EP again when browsing around Discogs. It was via there that I finally managed to get my hands on a copy.

Another reason for my interest is because this is on the Fortuna Pop! record label. Home to a number of acts such as Tender Trap, Lucksmiths, Bearsuit, etc. Ah the Nineteen Nighties and indie pop…

There is always a labour of love with these indie labels. Especially with this EP because of the cover, insert and single:

There cover isn’t your standard 7″ single sleeve, if you can see there it is the front and back pic folded over. The insert (with Pele and Bobby Moore) has mentions of other Fortuna Pop singles available. The record itself has a “Scottish Side” (girl wearing a Bay City Rollers tshirt) and the “Sassenach Side” (pic of Geoff Hurst scoring in the 1966 WC final).

Sorry, this is turning into an obsessive analysis of a 7 inch single and less about the actual songs. It’s time then to get to the music.

And for that we will go back to the aforementioned MJ Hibbert:

“The Fortuna Pop! World Cup ’98 EP, this also featured a track from Mark 700 and one by Thee George Squares, who were Scottish Mick (Prolapse), Joni (Discordia) and James The Kung-Fu Cookery Teacher (Fabians). So many stories – this somehow came out on the same day as Clubbing In The Week, which was bizarre, and is so far the only record I’ve ever had played on John Peel. Afterwards I went to the Pub with Turk, Pat from Prolapse and Tim the Celebrity Drummer, who had a very long conversation about The Most Boring Seaside ANYWHERE. The song itself was recorded on my 4-track, which I took round to Rob’s for trumpet, and then down the PUB for some backing vocals. Searching for a name for the group of people who turned up that Sunday afternoon, we came up with The Durham Ox Singers, and a LEGEND was born. “

As he says the front cover and A side is from “Thee George Squares” – and the track is on a compilation album of singles that Mick Derrick (the lead singer of Prolapse) which is available to purchase via Bandcamp:

Now to Mr Hibbett’s part and his track: “The Fair Play Trophy (Again)” This is the 1998 version:

The song sings about England always playing fair, the football players being gentlemen and they’ll never win the World Cup because of their fair play behaviour. But they will win the Fair Play trophy (which they did in previous tournaments)

England are a team of virtuous Saints
They exercise super-human restraint
Their gentlemanly conduct leaves the opposition feeling moved
They’ll never swear and they’ll never frown
They’ll never ever claim that they were wrongly taken down
And maybe you might say that that’s the reason they always lose.

But we’ll win the Fair Play Trophy once again.
Because it’s the team that’s the nicest that’s the one that actually wins
We’ll get the Fair Play Trophy once again, and face the final in the pub with a pint and a cheesy grin.

I really hope that we get through the groups
If they manage that i don’t care what they do
If we get beat by Mozambique then you won’t see me cry
We could get thrashed by Holland or Spain
Or get knocked out on penalties by Germany again
But as long as we keep that stiff upper lip flying high

We’ll get the Fair Play Trophy once again.
Because it’s the team that’s the nicest that’s the one that actually wins
We’ll get the Fair Play Trophy once again, and face the final in the pub with a pint and a cheesy grin.

And if we get to the final and win
No matter what terrible drunken state we’re in
We will take back the Jules Rimet
And as a Nation we will say:

We want the Fair Play Trophy once again.
Because it’s the team that’s the nicest that’s the one that actually wins
Give us the Fair Play Trophy once again, and we’ll face the final in the pub with a pint and a cheesy grin

MJ Hibbett goes onto to say that in 1998, there was talk of them appearing on Channel 4’s Under The Moon programme to perform this song. This was before the England v Argentina match was played. Then the match takes place and this happened:

Suffice to say, no fair play for England that year and no TV appearance for Hibbett and his mates.

He has rolled out the song (again) in subsequent years:
[Side note: You can download all these MJ Hibbett tracks for free on Bandcamp page]

Never give up eh ? Fair play to him.

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