crossover Blog Entries

When Sports Goes POP!

They say that every actor secretly wants to be a rock star, and every rock star believes they can be an actor. The same can't be said for rock stars wanting to be sports stars. Sports stars wanting to be rock stars on the other hand, well...

With June shaping up to be a big month for major sporting events such as the NBA Finals, the State Of Origin and the FIFA World Cup, it's the perfect time to explore this cross cultural phenomenom in closer detail.

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My first encounter with an "athlete" (with that term being a long stretch at the time) trading a golden boot for a golden mic was the 1981 LP record put out by The Tooth's Hotel entitled "Footy Favourites". You haven't lived until you've heard a front row forward murdering such classics as Blue Bayou, So You Win Again and (shudder) Danny Boy. When wild man Eric Grothe sang of "not having time to take a fast train, cos his baby just wrote him a letter", you'd best believe that time stood still, much like you wish your ears could for the following 3 minutes and 12 seconds

Australia has a long standing tradition of the sports/popstar crossover. In the early 70's, boxing champion Lionel Rose had a top 5 hit with "I Thank You", co-written by Johnny Young. 15 years later, who could forget the rally cry of AFL hard nut Mark "Jacko" Jackson on his hit single "I'm An Individual" which contained such poetic prose as "I've a basic sense of rhythm and a chronic sense of rhyme / I make my own tomato juice and drink it all the time". The fact that somebody bothered to annotate the chords to this song and post them online is even more disturbing than the song itself.

Over to the UK now, and those who lived through the 90's might remember the most infamous bit of rapping ever committed to wax, courtesy of John Barnes for the shouty electropop 1990 World Cup anthem "World In Motion" - a collaborative effort between Manchester dance legends New Order, anarcho comedian and all round geezer Keith Allen and the England Cup Squad.

The infamous "rap" was improvised on the day, in fact it was Aussie player Craig Johnston who came up with it - scribbling it down on a scrap of paper for Barnes. Johnston was not actually in the squad, but was hanging around the recording studio with the 10 England players who bothered to show up. Noted absentee was Gary Lineker, who had his own World Cup single on the backburner.

Cheekily, the song was originally titled by Keith Allen as "An E For England" but this was quickly nixed due to it's blatant ecstacy reference, the popular drug of choice on the terraces at the time. It's said to be the song on New Order's Greatest Hits that regularly has fans reaching for the skip button, but ironically, it gave New Order their first and only number one chart record to date.

When it comes to the high profile world of basketball, you surely can't go past the recording career of Shaquille O'Neal aka Shaq. In the early 90's Shaq signed to the Jive label and his first album was produced by hip hop heavyweights Eric Sermon, Def Jef and A Tribe Called Quest. Album number two, Shaq-Fu:The Return saw him collaborate with members of The Wu Tang Clan, as well as RnB hip hop kings Keith Murray and Warren G.

This isn't to suggest that Shaq was a great rapper. He was savvy enough to surround himself with the right people, but his lyrics were far from exemplary - "I'm super fly, TNT, Shaquille O'Neal // Watch out for me. I'll be there, you know the deal". Despite this, more than one of his albums went gold and bothered the charts for longer than perhaps they should have.

Other basket ballers who stepped into the booth include Kobe Bryant, whose K.O.B.E. album from 2000 regrettably saw him duet with none other than Tyra Banks on a track once heard, best forgotten.

The world of international boxing laying it down on wax is notable for Muhammad Ali's 1976 educational kids record Ali & His Gang VS Mr. Tooth Decay - surely one of his most challenging bouts ever. Amazingly, he is joined on this record by the Chairman Of The Board himself, Frank Sinatra. One can only wonder the thoughts that went through Frankie's mind as he was handed the lyrics to songs such as Fluoride or Ice Cream.

Roy Jones Jr fancied himself as a rapper for a hot minute, despite the fact that his song "Who Wanna Get Knocked Out" just seemed like a blatant ripoff of the LL Cool J classic, "Mama Said Knock You Out".

Now, if you heard the names Cat Power and Manny Pacquiao mentioned in the same sentence, youd be forgiven for thinking the person talking needed a good lie down and some cold water splashed on their face, but the two did indeed team up for the 2011 colaboration King Rides By, a Cat Power song re-recorded in aid of a Pacquiao helmed charity. Manny has released 3 of his own albums, a notable single of his goes by the name of Pac-Man Punch!

Quick fisted Mexican American Oscar De La Hoya actually rose above the mediocrity of the sports/pop hybrid horrors to receive a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Latin pop Album for his successful 2001 self titled album.

Rapping wrestlers, golden throated golfers (hello, John Daly), singing sprinters (Carl Lewis), and tremelo-happy tennis terrors (John McEnroe learned to play guitar from Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton), there's simply not enough time to explore every example of these incredible vanity projects, but I hope you enjoyed sharing with us in those we mentioned.


- Lyndon Pike

Friday, April 10th, 2015 at 2:06 pm
blog entry, blog article, sports, crossover, musicland, musicland sydney,

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