"The football record has more to offer than just music.” This assertion comes from Pascal Claude in the foreword to his book Football Disco! The Unbelievable World of Football Record Covers. As a man with a staggering collection of such vinyls, he should know. Never mind the book, just a quick glance at the homepage of his website, 45football.com, offers a flavour of a period now vanished, when it seemed no successful season was complete without the release of a record.
You’d do well to settle for a simple glance, mind. The kaleidoscope of sleeves is a glorious feast for the eyes, a nostalgia-rich reminder of clubs’ great eras. It includes songs by sides who reached and won European Cup finals, plus individual efforts by the likes of Franz Beckenbauer, Johan Cruyff and Kevin Keegan. Click on any of the 1,000-plus record covers and you can listen to the song too. You could enjoy Basile Boli and Chris Waddle’s We’ve Got a Feeling, from 1991, the year they appeared together in a European Cup final with Olympique de Marseille. There are also hundreds of other cup final and World Cup songs, the majority from the 1970s and 1980s. “These records tell their own story of football,” says Claude. “The songs and the sleeves are sometimes beautiful, pure art, but most of them are documents of heartwarming amateurism. That’s what I love.”
“German players are in the royal family of football singles. the dutch, belgians italians and french too”
And just how many has he collected? “Around 1,300 maybe. I’ve never counted. But there are close to 1,200 on my website and some more aren’t digitalised yet, so that’s about the number.” For the record, evidence gleaned from Claude’s website suggests that the years when footballers were most commonly seen in recording studios were, in ascending order, 1974 (55), 1982 (56) and 1986 (58 songs). Meanwhile, the countries with the greatest appetite for the football ditty have been Germany (167), England (181) and Italy (194 songs).
In ordinary times, Claude watches his football at FC Winterthur, the second-tier Swiss side based close to Zürich, his home city. His football-viewing is evidently as snobbery-free as his music, given that “apart from that, I love FC Kreuzlingen from the fifth league”. His record collection, spanning songs from 1958 to 2020, is strictly Champions League standard though. “In the 1990s I found out that there was a real genre of football songs on 7” vinyl. I started to look for them at flea markets and in record stores. Friends brought home singles from flea markets in Rome, Buenos Aires, Belgrade. And the more I got, the more interesting I found it.”
Interesting is an understatement; we’re hooked and eager to know more. Let’s drop the needle.
What elements do you need for a classic football song – and cover?
The classic football song is a march or a traditional, and often the squad sings the chorus. The 1970s were the decade of that kind of football music. The classic sleeve contains a team photo, the name of the song and the logo of the record label. It’s simple and very functional sleeve art; you instantly see what you get. The 1960s and 1970s were the golden age, not only for the number of releases but also for their quality, especially the sleeves. There were still plenty of singles in the 1980s but they suffer from the increasing influence of personal computers and experiments in digital graphic design.
Do European Cup finals tend to be a good source of inspiration?
They used to be, yes, particularly for clubs like Ajax, St-Etienne or Benfica that had very successful periods in the 1960s or 1970s, when hundreds of football singles were released in western Europe. Also for smaller clubs like Bastia, whose participation in the 1978 UEFA Cup final inspired a whole region. Sometimes just qualifying for the European Cup, UEFA Cup or Cup Winners’ Cup competition was worthy of a single. Especially if they were in it for the first time, or the first time after many years of hurt.
There is a history of FA Cup final songs in England. Did teams across Europe embrace the European Cup final in the same way?
Not generally, no. The main difference is that the records for European Cup finals mostly weren’t official club songs but a supporter’s homage to their beloved club, and often not released before but after the final to celebrate the title, such as Benfica in 1962 or Inter in 1965. Ajax’s three titles in the early 1970s were accompanied by around 20 singles.