Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Batter Up

So I spent most of my working day with thoughts wandering off to what this first post might be about. Where to begin? In the end, I figured, what with this being an introduction and all, I'd go with my other great love - and, incidentally, my day job - and make it about sport. So here is a sports journalist's guide to some of the best songs about sport.

You'll notice right off the bat (see, you get sports analogies too), that this list is dominated by Americans and American sports. There is a reason for this. The Brits, it seems, are just plain rubbish at singing about sport. If we don't get boozed up and turn it into some manner of terrace anthem, it's not happening. The Americans, on the other hand, have written 101 great baseball songs, and plenty about football - their football, that is - too.

Neil Hannon, he of the Divine Comedy, is out to change this with his new band, the Duckworth Lewis Method, who will sing exclusively about cricket. We'll wait to see how that works out. In the meantime, away we go... Boxing has produced plenty of great records, and we don't mean Eye of the Tiger. We could have gone with Dylan's epic Hurricane here (or even a British effort, The Hours' Ali In The Jungle) but it had to be this from the Felice Brothers, who might just turn into prolific sport songters, given their ode to baseball, Cooperstown, on the new album.

The Felice Brothers - Ballad of Lou The Welterweight (Tonight At The Arizona, 2007)

When it comes to American football, the college game has always stirred deeper passions than the NFL, so I guess it's only natural you'd want to propose marriage at a Tennessee-Florida game. Todd Steed explains how. 

Todd Steed & The Suns of Phere - Peyton Manning Shirt (Knoxville Tells, 2002)

The Drive-By Truckers might have got the football nod - legendary Alabama coach Bear Bryant is a lead character in their Southern Rock Opera double album - but instead we'll leave it to them to explain NASCAR culture. 

The Drive-By Truckers - Daddy's Cup (The Dirty South, 2004) 

Choosing a baseball song was hard, so I chose three. As if to show the sheer number of baseball songs out there, Peter Buck's 'supergroup' The Baseball Project churned out an entire album last year. Rather than going with my favourite of this dirge-filled effort (that would be Harvey Haddix), I went with the most topical. You get to thank Manny Ramirez and his failed drugs test for Broken Man.

The Baseball Project - Broken Man (Vol. 1: Frozen Ropes and Dying Quails, 2008)

I suspect there are a lot of Pearl Jam fans that don't know this exists, but Eddie Vedder is a huge Chicago Cubs fan, and wrote this last year to mark the team's 100th year of ineptitude in the field of winning the World Series. I don't know to what extent non-Cubs fans appreciate it, but you tell me...

Eddie Vedder - All The Way (Live in Chicago, 2008)

We'll close with this, which isn't quite in line with theme, not strictly being about sport, at least not entirely. But I doubt I'm going to have many posts without a Neil Young song, and I'm not about to start now.

Neil Young - For The Turnstiles (On The Beach, 1974)

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