Eclectic Music’s Colin Smith on working with Chesney Hawkes and Peter Shilton, the best football songs of all time, and who’s going to win the Euros…
Euro 2016 is well under way and many brands, not to mention the media, are talking up England’s chances of bringing home the trophy – even though they’ve only ever managed nine wins in the tournament’s history, never making it past the semi-finals.
So, Rustlers and Droga5 teamed up with Biscuit and Eclectic, brought on board Chesney Hawkes and Peter Shilton, and set about coming up with a more realistic outlook for this year’s tournament (and after England’s result on Saturday, it looks like they might be right).
LBB's Paul Monan caught up with Eclectic Music’s Colin Smith to discuss working with Hawkes and Shilton, the best football songs of all time, and who’s going to win the Euros…
LBB> How did the project come about and what was the brief?
CS> It was literally only about two weeks to go when Droga5 approached us, as I’d worked with the two creatives on a song before for another campaign. They came in and said “we’re going to try and write a song that isn’t totally negative England but, you know, tells the truth a bit - we wanna say ‘well there’s no chance really’”. We talked about the big football tunes that there’ve been over the years – Three Lions, Vindaloo, World in Motion. We had a listen to them all and wanted to make it a big, singalong, chanty track.
LBB> Three Lions and Vindaloo have that real football chant vibe, how did you figure out where you wanted to go musically?
CS> The big thing was having the chorus so you could imagine a football crowd singing it, basically quite a simple uplifting tune. I think it probably ended up somewhere in the middle of Three Lions and Vindaloo, as the verses are quite poppy but it has quite a nice upbeat military march going on in the background. We also had to come up with something that gave Peter Shilton’s section in the middle a bit of gravitas even though he is talking about the most oddly random things relating to England’s successes.
LBB> Who wrote the lyrics and how did you collaborate musically?
CS> Mainly, I think Droga5’s Dan Morris was the wordsmith. Our first demo didn’t quite hit the nail on the head but gave us a good starting point. The agency changed some of the lyrics which really helped the next round to go well. After that it was mainly trying some other lyric options and making the track sound good and well produced. We built up the big football fan chorus, which was all the lads in the office going round and round and round, chanting a thousand times!
LBB> How involved were you with the agency on this?
CS> It was very collaborative and there was a lot of dialogue involved in getting the song right. It came about in such a short space of time that we recorded Chesney whilst they were shooting him. We had to record Peter Shilton that day too. There was a lot to get done in the day.
The coup is they got Peter, who is an absolute legend. They got him involved without much time to complete the project and Pier and Johnny from Big Red Button put a lot of effort into getting it all done in no time at all, along with Nick the editor of course. We needed it for 8AM on Friday morning and we were here until 4AM on Friday finishing it – then it went to The Mill for the grade, but somehow they had it ready in time! Everyone worked incredibly hard on it.
LBB> At what point did Chesney get involved, and what was it like working with him?
CS> He only said yes a couple of days before shooting, and he said yes because he found out Peter was going to do it. Chesney was really pleased because Peter was on board. Peter, of course, wasn’t sure what he was doing, he saw the lyrics and was like “oh god” because, originally, they had it in there that we were going to be knocked out on penalties by Germany – he said “I’m not gonna say that, I can’t”. He was good about that. Chesney’s a really nice guy who was nothing but charming and professional, and he just happens to be a really good singer which brought the track to life, luckily!
LBB> Over the years we’ve had the John Barnes rap, Gazza’s Fog on the Tyne and now we’ve got Peter Shilton’s speech – what was he like to work with musically?
CS> They actually called it ‘the rant’, that’s how the agency described it. At first, it was mainly Dan who explain to Peter how it should be done, but initially it was a bit flat. Dan said “no, this is how it should be”, mainly pointing out the need for the big climb into the climactic ending. In the end, they went out on location for all of the shooting and by then he’d got it. He came back to the studio and we recorded him there and then. He was prepared to have a bit of fun and by then understood how it should be delivered. At first, it was like “oh god what I am doing” because he isn’t a professional VO - but even for a VO artist it would take a while to get the perfect thing, so he worked very hard.
I loved working with him. He’s a proper hero, isn’t he? He’s full of great stories. We sat around with him and Chesney while we waited for people to come back off location, and he was just telling us about how he started, his bits with Leicester youth and Gordon Banks. They were fab stories and he’s a wonderful man. Being a football fan, that was a real pleasure.
LBB> Not only did you get to work with Chesney and Peter, you make a cracking little cameo role in the video – what was that like?
CS> A total embarrassment! On the day, they asked me if I could be in it and I said of course. Everyone made the effort on the day to try and make it fun. They wanted us all to really ham it up, and we all just had a go. Although, I have to close my eyes for the bits I’m in!
LBB> With Cannes just around the corner, it’s an interesting time to look at branded entertainment. This isn’t really a commercial, is basically a promo and could quite easily be a single. Is this a space that you’ve been working in a lot, and is there a lot of potential there for brands?
CS> It’s an interesting area. Musically it’s good because you get a chance to do songs and longer form stuff rather than just 30”. You often get full length projects which I think always work well. There’s certainly a lot of potential there for brands if they have the right people involved. Rustlers were obviously very good about that, they didn’t say “stick a big Rustlers sign at the beginning and end!”
It doesn’t mention the word Rustlers. It started out with one of the lines originally being ‘just have a burger and don’t worry’ instead of ‘blame it on the ref and injury’. But the agency got rid of that, which made it more like a proper song getting rid of all the explicit branding. They let the team get on with it and they understood that it was going to be about the PR surrounding the project. It’ll keep getting mentioned, whether it’s good or bad; some people will love it, some people will hate it.
LBB> For you, what’s the best football song of all time?
CS> I’ve listened to so many of them through the years and there’s only a few that stand out. There are so many appalling things out there. Loads of people slagged off Three Lions when it came out but it’s turned out to be a really popular tune, people like it. It’s still “oh yes, we’re going to win” of course.
I love new Order’s World in Motion despite the fact that John Barnes is doing a rap in it! New Order write great tunes and produce great records.
LBB> Who’s gonna win the Euros?
CS> Ooooh. Well, I watched Germany on Sunday, they can keep a hold of the ball. Although they didn’t score that many goals, even though they’re passing it round like Barcelona. They looked really good. The worst Italian team ever (apparently!) have just beaten that amazing Belgian squad as well, great defence.