They might have been snooker loopy, but as Greg Theoharis argues, Chas 'n' Dave were also part of a wider football culture that deserves recognition.
It’s five to three on a Saturday afternoon (or in the Sky-driven scheduling of the modern age, insert a time that suits the global significance of your team). The anticipation is growing. Who’s in? Who’s out? Will the pressured manager of your team of underperformers persist in his experimental four, six, zero formation? Will the blood circulation to your legs be cut off from the minimal leg space at your disposal over the course of the next ninety-odd minutes? The stands are now filling and you can hear the fizz of expectation as you spy the mascots beginning to emerge from the recesses of the players’ tunnel.
And then the blast of the familiar opening strains of the club theme emanate from the PA system and suddenly you’re transported to somewhere that was very real but now receding slowly with the onset of cynical experience. For a few short minutes, those strains fill you with optimism and a common purpose. It’s magical.
Up in Liverpool, the red half has the melancholic but rousing terrace chant of Gerry Marsden reassuring the masses that they’ll never walk alone whilst the blue half the surrealistic juxtapositioning of the Theme from Z-Cars tweedily calls the faithful to worship. Manchester United have bombastically swaggered out to The Stone Roses’ ‘This is the One’ for years now and across the city, City fans dreamily implore their team of megastars to rise above the years of underachievement to the esoteric heart-tugs of ‘Blue Moon’.
For Spurs fans, it of course is all about the punchy knees-up of ‘Glory, Glory, Tottenham Hotspur’ by the legendary Chas ‘n’ Dave. Despite Manchester United’s attempts to appropriate the song for themselves in the mid-nineties, it remains steadfastly a glorious salute to White Hart Lane. I seem to recall a typically pompous and school-mastery admonishment by Barry Davis when United fans hollered this out in a televised match way back when. The commentator wished to make it abundantly clear to the watching audience that this was very much a Tottenham song and I have felt suitably smug ever since, whenever I hear them warbling this up at Old Trafford.
This year sees the thirtieth anniversary of Chas ‘n’ Dave’s most famous or infamous (delete as appropriate to you) hit. The year ended in a one and typically Spurs found themselves at Wembley to contest yet another cup final. A side graced by homegrown talent in the form of Steve Archibald, Garth Crooks and Steve Perryman was also decorated by the presence of two World Cup winners. Whilst Ricky Villa would have his own moment in the sun later on, it was Ossie Ardiles who served as the musicians’ muse for the traditional cup final song ‘Ossie’s Dream’.
Peaking at number five, the single spent eight weeks in the charts in 1981. This was a time when it was a matter of routine expectancy to see the finalists assault fans’ eardrums with badly sung declarations of how ‘the kings are claiming the throne’. We weren’t really after Mozart or Morrissey, the cup final song was there to stir emotion and as a young fan, I remember playing those songs over and over on the family turntable, fully swept up in the unapologetic optimism of songs like ‘Hot Shot Tottenham’ and ‘When the Year Ends in One’.
But above all those, there’s nothing that quite matches Ardiles’ statement that he would play a blinder ‘in the cup for Tottingham’. I have it on good authority that he has the song as his ringtone. And who’d begrudge him that? For Spurs fans and former players of a certain age, those Chas ‘n’ Dave songs continue to resonate.
It’s quite easy to dismiss the ‘rockney’ duo as a pastiche, a novelty act. Forget the throwaway singalongs of ‘Snooker Loopy’ and ‘Rabbit’. If you take the time to listen to songs from their early years such as ‘Edmonton Green’ and ‘Punchy and the Willer Warbler’, you’ll come across a documenting of a London that was fast disappearing with the onset of Thatcherite social re-structuring and I contend that these songs should be placed alongside anything that Paul Weller, Ray Davies or Damon Albarn ever produced in their story-telling prime. ‘Gertcha’ for all its comic flourishes is a parody of a certain type of Cockney Englishman. I know him. He’s my Uncle Ray. Propping up a bar somewhere in Muswell Hill in his Chelsea boots and Pringle jumper, clutching his pint with gnarled fingers. Worn out from a lifetime of hard graft and thwarted dreams.
‘It may be Cockney rhyming slang, it ain’t in no schoolbook’ but for many Londoners, the term ‘gertcha’ could be easily replaced with other phrases so often heard emanating from the mouths of men who would not be out of place in a Martin Amis vignette.
It’s heartening to see Chas ‘n’ Dave’s reputation as songsmiths being rehabilitated in recent years with bands such as The Libertines name-checking them as influences. As I write, they are on their final farewell tour of which you can be sure I have tickets for.
The year once again ends in one. And as much as we might not like to admit it, Spurs fans are secretly hoping that the famous tradition will once again see the club carry off some silverware in May. And as it happens, there’s one particular final taking place at Wembley at the end of the season. The greatest of them all, in fact. What price in this anniversary year, a re-issue of that famous old song is on the cards? And a last hurrah from Charles Hodges and David Peacock would more than likely go down a storm in N17. I can’t say it’d be the case for the rest of you but as the song goes, ‘I don’t care’.
My name is Greg Theoharis and I’m a Chas ‘n’ Dave fan.
To read more from Greg, visit his fine blog Dispatches from a Football Sofa, and follow him on Twitter @gregtheoharis.