This article is being published simultaneously here and on QPR fan site Loft For Words.
This Saturday I will watch my team QPR play at Wembley for the third time in my life. I was 11 years old in May 1982 when I watched us lose an FA Cup Final replay to a dodgy penalty and I’ve hated Glenn Hoddle ever since, years before I knew his views on disabled people or even heard “Diamond Lights”. I was back at Wembley in 1986 to watch a strong QPR team, who’d already knocked out the mighty Liverpool and the hated Chelsea, storm to certain victory in the Milk Cup Final against lowly Oxford United. The bloody underdogs stuffed us 3-0 and we’ve not played at Wembley since! 28 bloody years! Someone told me last week that every team in the top 2 divisions has played at Wembley more recently than QPR have, a stat made even more disappointing when you remember that we are the closest League club to the national stadium. We’ve only ever won there once and that was 3 years before I was born!
But this tale is about another final we played in and how an instrumental song came to replace the National Anthem and install itself as the official anthem for London W12.
Regular readers of our blog (hello to you both) will know that we have an ongoing campaign to find an official rock song for each county of the UK. We were inspired to start this quest after reading that, as well as having their own anthem, some states in the USA also have an official rock song. For example The Flaming Lips’ “Do You Realise?” is the official rock song for Oklahoma and “Hang On Sloopy” is the official rock song of Ohio. You can see all the official rock songs announced so far on this map.
As all QPR fans know, we were relegated to League 1 in 2001, the lowest League position we’ve been in my lifetime. I remember going to a QPR 1st meeting at Ealing Town Hall where self-confessed “infectious little bugger” Ian Holloway delivered an incredible speech in which he promised us a team we could be proud of. True to his word, he set about gathering together a squad on a miniscule budget, recruiting West London locals like Marc Bircham, Kevin Gallen, Martin Rowlands and Paul Furlong along with other clubs’ rejects like Steve Palmer, Chris Day, Danny Shittu and Andy Thomson. From January 2003 onwards, we went on a great run to get into the top 6 and stay there to get into the playoffs for the first time ever.
|QPR’s record from January 1st 2003 to end of the season.|
Unfortunately, Wembley was closed for refurbishments in 2003 so we had to travel to the Millenium Stadium in Cardiff for the playoff final. That would’ve been fine except that our opponents were going to be Cardiff City. These days Cardiff is a reasonably friendly stadium to visit but back then the club’s fans were notorious.
I’d “enjoyed” the atmosphere at Ninian Park quite a few times, most recently a month earlier to see Richard Langley score a very late winner that sent the Rangers end absolutely barmy! Getting through the car park was even more of an adventure than usual after that!
The Bluebirds’ chairman at this time was the well-known dodgy bastard Sam Hammam. He’d successfully instilled an “us against the world” spirit with the so-called “Crazy Gang” at Wimbledon and was doing his best to engineer the same kind of feelings at Cardiff. But this time, the split was nothing to do with the route one tactics and thinly-disguised thuggery that made the Dons so universally disliked. At Cardiff, Hammam provoked and encouraged the pro-Welsh / anti-English sentiment. Personally, I think there’s nothing wrong with a little bit of national pride so long as it doesn’t then become the massive chip on the shoulder that the whole of Ninian Park seemed to be struggling under the weight of back then.
Apparently before the playoff final (and indeed any major cup final) they always play “God Save The Queen” (not the Pistols one, the other one). The poor sensitive souls at Cardiff City weren’t happy about this and amazingly, the Football League caved in to their demands.
I still find it astounding that nobody at the Football League thought to ask Cardiff how their proud patriotic hearts could stand the shame of making big coin from playing in the English League against English teams and if they were so anti-English why didn’t they fuck off and play against Cefn Druids and Total Network Solutions every week? The ridiculous thing is that “God Save the Queen” is not the English national anthem, it is the anthem for all of the UK, including Wales.
Anyway, having granted Cardiff’s silly request, some sort of compromise had to be made. Before the match the Cardiff fans sang “March of the Men of Harlech”, a jolly little number about fighting a battle against the English King’s forces. Harlech is a town in Wales that is nowhere near Cardiff. In fact Cardiff is closer to Shepherds Bush than it is to Harlech.
Having said all that, it is a great tune and a good stirring song to get the team and fans fired up for the battle ahead.
But it’s not just Wales that has a rich musical heritage, some of the greatest bands the UK has ever produced have their roots in West London. So what rousing words could the superhooped masses from W12 offer in response to this Celtic battlecry?
“Der der der der HOOPS! Der der der der!”
That was the sound of 33,000 Rangers fans singing and jumping about to “Reach Up”, the Paul Oakenfold remix of “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pig Bag” by Pig Bag, a number 3 hit from April 1982. It was kept off the top spot, pop pickers, by Macca and Stevie’s much derided “Ebony & Ivory” and “My Camera Never Lies”, a song so forgettable I suspect even Bucks Fizz themselves can’t remember how it goes!
Some time in the 90s, following the invention of football by the Premier League and Sky TV in 1992, football clubs decided it would be a great idea to play music whenever the home team scored. Suddenly whoever wrote “Tom Hark” was getting significantly more substantial PRS cheques. Tinny speakers blared out “I Feel Good” in grim provincial towns beyond James Brown’s wildest PCP nightmares. I’m sure I even heard Ocean Colour Scene’s “Riverboat Song” at some ground or other. Not sure that particular tune really adds much to the home fans’ enjoyment and it really rubs salt in the wounds of the away fans. It’s bad enough that your team have just conceded but then the misery is ratcheted up a notch by hearing a song that reminds you of Chris Evans’ crimes against light entertainment.
I spoke to Pete Nuttall to find out how the playing of Pig Bag at Loftus Road came about. Pete is better known to Rs fans as the matchday DJ and announcer from 1997 – 2013. He’s the “This is Loftus Road, We are QPR” guy and he’s the man responsible for making The Clash’s “London Calling” a key part of our pre-match playlist.
Pete said: “I remember a chat with the then marketing manager, Mark Devlin, where we settled on Pigbag, and thought we’d try it at a game. We all agreed that if it didn’t work, if it got a negative reaction, or if a significant minority didn’t like it, we’d kill the idea stone dead.”
But, as Pete explains “It worked far better than we anticipated. It galvanised our celebration and Loftus Road was bouncing.” By the time it was being played before the match at the Millenium Stadium, it had really become established and it’s still making us bounce this season.
Having set the precedent in 2003, the national anthems are never played these days when a Welsh team are in any kind of final, apart from Portsmouth v Cardiff in the 2008 FA Cup Final at Wembley. On that day, a different kind of compromise was reached and both “God Save The Queen” and “Land of My Fathers” were played and both were predictably drowned out by mass booing.
The London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham is apparently very proud to be the only borough with 3 League clubs in it so I suppose we can’t really make Pig Bag the anthem for the whole borough. Fulham fans have got enough to be miserable about right now whilst I don’t think any Chelsea fans will have been able to have read this far by themselves.
As Pete Nuttall says: “I know many football fans rally against the idea of goal music, artificially pumping the atmosphere and drowning out the actual cheers and in general I agree. Your striker has just hit a 30-yeard pearler that has sent you up, why not soundtrack that epic moment with DJ Otzi? But at Loftus Road, Pigbag just works. It’s us.”
So, as witnessed by 66,000 fans in Cardiff in 2003 and as will be sung loud and proud this coming Saturday, we are proud to declare “Papa’s Got a Brand New Pig Bag” by Pig Bag as the official rock song for Shepherds Bush.
Come On You Rs!
More QPR / Pig Bag videos
The “Supahoopz” version including commentary clips from promotion season in 2004
About 45 seconds into this one…