The Sound of Football: Brighton (Andrew)

Every fortnight we cover the best and worst football songs from every club in the UK from our book ‘The Sound Of Football: Every Club, Every Song’. You can buy it here

Brighton & Hove Albion

Nickname: The Seagulls

Ground: American Express Community Stadium

Stadium Capacity: 27,500

Song: Where Seagulls Fly

In 1983, Brighton met Manchester United in the final of the FA Cup. Both United and Brighton played in the First Division. However, while United finished third, Brighton had already been relegated when the teams met in the final.

With only a couple of minutes left to play, the score was 2 – 2. Brighton attacked. Its Scottish striker, Gordon Smith, found himself one on one with United’s keeper. Gordon took a touch to steady himself – and it seemed inevitable that he’d smash it home – but he scuffed his shot, and the keeper saved it.

Before Smith shot, the BBC commentator Peter Jones said the now immortal line: “…and Smith must score!”.

Which was unfair. It was late in the game, Gordon Smith was tired, and it wasn’t the easiest opportunity. Yet it proved to be Brighton’s final chance, and the game finished 2 – 2. The match was replayed, and United won 4 – 0.

The FA Cup final inspired local Brighton songwriter Johnny Wakelin to write ‘Where Seagulls Fly’.

Brighton got its nickname ‘The Seagulls’ after a match against its rivals Crystal Palace. The Crystal Palace supporters started chanting, ‘Eagles, Eagles’ (Crystal Palace’s nickname). A group of Brighton & Hove Albion fans responded with a chant of ‘Seagulls, Seagulls’. The name stuck, and, in 1977, the club crest was changed to a white seagull.

‘Where Seagulls Fly’ was not Wakelin’s first sporting song. He’d had a minor hit in the ’70s with a homage to boxer Muhammad Ali. His song ‘Black Superman (Muhammad Ali)’ reached number seven in the UK Singles Chart and spent six months in the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Muhammed Ali, however, disapproved of the song and shunned it completely.

The B-Side to ‘Where Eagles Fly’ has an unusual honour: it was, we believe, the first football rap, five years before Liverpool, John Barnes and ‘The Anfield Rap’. It was ‘The Goldstone Rap’, and we recommend checking it out on YouTube. While it can’t in any way be called a good song, it can at least be described as a non-racist song, unlike the Anfield Rap.

If you go on a bus tour of Liverpool, you will visit the city’s modernist Catholic Cathedral. A tee-pee-shaped building also makes an excellent impression of Dumbledore’s hat. And if you listen to the recorded bus tour, just after you are informed that the four bells on the Cathedral are named John, Paul, George and Ringo, the tour guide will tell you that the Cathedral is known locally as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’. But if you think that reference is racist, you can rest assured, it is not. If it were racist, would Liverpool FC use it in the lyrics of the Anfield Rap when they sing?

Don’t forget us Paddies

And me the Great Dane

And I’m from London mate so watch your game

(Source: Gainford, Johnston, Derek B and Byker)

But that’s not their only crime against race. Quite clearly, the songwriter had never met an Irishman. As the squad later sing:

We’re Ireland lads

Och-aye the noo

(Source: Gainford, Johnston, Derek B and Byker)

Och-aye the noo?! The only ‘Irishman’ to ever say “och-aye the noo” was former James Bond and Edinburgh born milkman Sean ‘I don’t do accents’ Connery in mawkish leprechaun fantasy Darby O’Gill & The Little People. Awful – except for John Barnes.

But if lyrics in football songs can be challenging, Brighton has a supporter who can help them. If Brighton ever reach the FA Cup final again, it could ask local supporter and superstar DJ Norman’ Fatboy Slim’ Cook to record a new song. Although Norman Cook has said he hates football records, he does mix football and music. In October 2004, the FA permitted him to change Brighton’s stadium’s name to Palookaville Stadium for one match only to publicise the release of his album Palookaville. 

Buy the Sound of Football from Amazon.

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