IF the year was 1986 then perhaps the synth rock of The Final Countdown by Europe, the Swedes with big hair, would be the record of the year. When trying to decide the record that captures what 2016 was all about it is those songs inspired by big European dreams that make the final countdown.
2016 has been a year of political shocks and upheavals and it also took one of the greatest artists of all time when Prince died in April. Other icons, from music, sport and politics, have all passed away throughout the past 12 months, seemingly abnormally so, leading to some to claim the past year has been one of the worst ever.
But for three million people in one small country on Europe’s western fringe 2016 will always be about a month in France as Wales shined bright on a first return to football’s major championship finals in 58 years. In glorious style Wales came agonisingly close to overall glory.
If the fulfilment of the long-held wish, a lifetime’s dream for most, to see Wales reach a major tournament finals for the first time since the 1958 World Cup was bound to inspire the land of poets and singers then Wales’ march to the semi-finals of the European Championships could only produce more music as sublime as a Robson-Kanu turn. But which of the many tracks celebrating the success of the Welsh football team is the record of the year?
Manic Street Preachers – Together Stronger (C’mon Wales)
Perhaps the hardest task of all, writing the official team song under commission from the Football Association of Wales. Apparently Blackwood’s favourite sons – and longstanding Welsh football fans – James Dean Bradfield and Nicky Wire already had much of the lyrics penned before the FAW had even picked up the phone. The Manics adopted the traditional football anthem approach with the Welsh squad jumping up and down in the video. The lyrics celebrate the players but also touch on the tragedies associated with the national team and footballing pain. There are also nods to the supporters’ anthem, Can’t Take My Eyes Off You by Andy Williams, which the Manics apparently wished to cover but couldn’t due to red tape. It would have probably avoided the pitfalls of trying to combine poignancy and cheerleading.
Super Furry Animals – BingBong
Apparently just the like the Manics – who’ve complemented BingBong as Welsh krautrock – SFA had their Welsh football song already prepared, only the heartbreaking loss to Russia in the 2004 European Championship play-off had kept this in the vault. What the song has to do with football is unclear.
Candelas – Rhedeg i Paris
If you haven’t already written your potential Wales Euro 2016 anthem then just cover an established classic that’s a perfect fit. Welsh language punk group Yr Anhrefn had originally recorded this song, which translates as running to Paris, in 1990. The lyrics reflect on appreciating Wales, and being inspired to fight for your homeland, by travelling abroad. Even the Mona Lisa and the sights of Paris feel insignificant when memories of drowned Welsh villages are stirred: “Does dim portraed a all gymharu/A’r siawns i weithio dros fy nghatref (There is no portrait that can compare/To the chance to work for my home)”. Covering Rhedeg i Paris may have seemed the obvious choice in the weeks leading up the Euros but the way the Welsh team inspired a nation over four weeks matched Yr Anhrefn’s sentiments – even if this polished version lacks the ferocious energy of the original (which you can hear by clicking here)
The Barry Horns – This is Wales
If the on field revival of the Welsh team starts with John Toshack the rebirth on the terraces owes much to the supporters’ band, The Barry Horns. Wales’ number one brass driven pressure group have always had much more to their repertoire than puffing out a film theme tune. Possibly inspired by Zombie Nation’s Kernkraft 400, This is Wales, is a rousing marriage between the power of horns and electro and features a computer generated voice giving a shout out for almost every city, town and village in Wales. A club banger that sounds almost as good if being belted out by excited football fans.
Goldie Lookin Chain – Wales Now It’s Time To Dream
One way of avoiding the difficulties experienced by the Manics of trying to write a meaningful football song is to make a joke of it. Writing comedy is no easy feat but since their initial brush with fame some 12 years ago Newport’s finest have found a talent for parody songs. Released on the day of the semi-final defeat to Portugal the GLC’s effort, rather than anticipate what is to come, records the experience of living through Wales’ remarkable run. To the tune of Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself Rhys raps: “My missus don’t like football but she watched every game/And now she knows every Wales players’ name”. This seems to be a combination of a number of ideas as rather than re-working one popular song GLC’s contribution to the Euro 2016 songbook also plays on the Artful Dodger’s Rewind and LL Cool J’s Mama Said Knock You Out. In three songs rolled into one the GLC speak – and crack jokes – for all Wales fans.
Astroid Boys ft Sonny Double 1 – Wales Euro Riddim
The art of rap is to quickly absorb current events and tell them to a beat. Fortunately Welsh hip hop runs deeper than comedy acts. Like the GLC the Astroid Boys were struck by inspiration in the days before the semi-final. The Cardiff crew, whose mixture of hip hop, dubstep and punk, has taken them to rock festivals across Europe teamed up with local MC, and regular collaborator, Sonny Double 1 to declare: “I’m Welsh and I’m wavey when I was nothin’ you didn’t rate me”. Using the Don’t Take Me Home chant that became a supporters’ favourite over the tournament, even for those who’d stayed at home, the dreamy, optimism of many of the other Euro songs is cast aside for a no-nonsense statement of pride in the Welsh side’s achievements, its on-field threat and affinity with the team and especially its star man. “Gareth Bale is not from CF11 but see that 11 is on his back/Gareth Bale is not from CF11 but CF11 has got his back,” rap the inner-city Cardiffians of their support for the boy from the city suburbs. Wales Euro Riddim celebrates the joy and pride felt across Wales from June 11 to July 6 this year and for capturing that special feeling it is the record of the year.