Perfect backing track as Barnes rap hits target

New Order's superb 'World in Motion' was the first non-naff football song while BBC played a blinder with inspired choice of 'Nessun Dorma'
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If England's Italian odyssey captured the public imagination, it helped that they had the perfect backing track. Football songs had been essentially naff until New Order broke the mould with "World in Motion", a song that became the second England World Cup record after 1970's "Back Home" to reach No 1, and featured a rap from Footballer of the Year John Barnes and the memorable closing refrain "Arrivederci, it's one on one".

Barnes, who has re-recorded his rap in a new advert for Mars, says: "It wasn't a typical 'here we go', arms-around-each-other football song. It was a proper group and that is why the song was good." So it proved, though New Order drummer Stephen Morris recalls a bemused reaction when the idea was put to the band by Factory records supremo Tony Wilson, who had contacts at the Football Association. "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 that we should do a song. He said: 'I've got a great idea, why don't you do a song for the World Cup for England?' When I stopped laughing, I realised he might be serious."

Morris adds: "We didn't want it to be crap, we didn't want it to be a football song as had gone before; we wanted to do something different, which is easier said than done."

After dismissing suggestions that they should aim for a terrace anthem, singer Bernard Sumner decided they had to inject some humour "so if it all went pear-shaped, at least we could say it was a joke", explains Morris.

Enter comedian Keith Allen. "He was propping up the bar at the Hacienda at the time and he got involved – he knew all the footballers' names, which was very handy. He came up with the idea of the rap."

Come the day of recording a song, only a handful of Bobby Robson's team turned up at the studio, the rest preferring an afternoon in the pub. The players did "the chanting bits", as Morris puts it, before embarking on English football's first rap-off.

"Keith got everyone in one at a time. There were gaps where we'd not finished the words and that only happened when the team were there. It was obvious really that John Barnes was the only one who had a bit of a rapping voice. Peter Beardsley's talking voice wasn't much different from his rapping."

"I won it so that's why I did it. As a kid growing up I loved rapping," says Barnes, who had done a previous turn on Liverpool's 1988 Anfield Rap and was hardly going to be outshone by Paul Gascoigne, Steve McMahon or Des Walker.

That the song, which also included Kenneth Wolstenholme's famous commentary of Geoff Hurst's 1966 hat-trick strike, was New Order's only UK No 1 draws a wry response from Morris. "We had to get a comedian and a football team in to do it, so if anybody else wants to know how to get a hit record, there's a tip."

Not that it was all good news. "It launched Paul Gascoigne's pop career," jokes Morris, recalling Gazza's post-World Cup hit, "Fog on the Tyne".

New Order were not the only musicians to play a blinder at Italia 90: Luciano Pavarotti's stirring rendition of "Nessun Dorma" proved an inspired choice for the BBC's World Cup theme, which closed with the iconic image of Marco Tardelli's arm-pumping celebration for Italy in the 1982 final.

Melding a sporting montage with classical music may be old hat today but "it was unusual then", according to Philip Bernie, who was assistant editor of the corporation's World Cup coverage and the man who came up with the idea for "Nessun Dorma". "In 1989 I was cutting various montages for the World Cup draw and around that time I heard 'Nessun Dorma' played on Desert Island Discs," says Bernie, now the BBC's Head of Sport. "It was surprising to hear that kind of theme tune instead of the jingly- jangly tunes they had around Match of the Day and other programmes. It is a very powerful but a quite slow-tempo theme and at that time, themes were generally fast and high-tempo.

"It just took off. It was greatly helped by how England did. The record company were very pleased how it turned out – it gave a boost to Pavarotti in the UK [going to No 2 in the charts]."

Curiously, its impact still resounds today: staff from ISL, the sports marketing company working with Fifa on that World Cup, liked the concept so much that they sought something similar for their next project, rebranding the European Cup, and so the Champions' League anthem was born.

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