Anyone who’s grooved to “Theme from Sparta FC” from the Fall’s 2003 The Real New Fall LP (Formerly Country on the Click) has probably figured out that postpunk legend Mark E. Smith is a serious fan of football, or as we say in the United States, “soccer.”
“Theme from Sparta FC” is a fanciful meditation on the existence of a soccer team in ancient Greece, quite possibly one of the Fall’s more immediately comprehensible compositions. Since 2005, much to the BBC’s credit, the song has been used as the theme music to the “Final Score” section of BBC television’s Saturday afternoon sports coverage.
On November 19, 2005, the producers of the show invited Smith into the studio to read the day’s results. For anyone who has indulged in the Fall’s indelible catalogue, Smith’s scarcely modulated rendition of the scores (“Reading 3, Hull City 1 ... Sheffield United 2, Millwall 2 ... Southhampton Town 3, Leeds United 4” ...) needs little more than a typically hypnotic Fall bassline to become an accepted part of the Fall canon.
The Mancunian Smith, not very surprisingly, is a Manchester City fan, and it is to be presumed that he despises his club’s crosstown rivals, the far wealthier and more successful Manchester United. On that particular day Manchester United bested Charlton Athletic 3-0, whereas Manchester City had to settle for a 0-0 draw against the Blackburn Rovers. Later in the clip, Smith calls Manchester City’s performance “hopeless, as usual.” Smith also makes fun of the haircut of host Ray Stubbs and disparages England’s national team as a collection of eleven millionaires rather than a cohesive unit of cooperating players.
In 2010, Smith recorded an earnest (for him) World Cup ditty titled “England’s Heartbeat” for reasons unknown, that includes a sing-along chorus and the inspirational phrase “Like a rainbow through a storm.”
Previously on Dangerous Minds:
The Pint-sized Mark E. Smith: Coming to a bar near you
Mark E. Smith fabric doll
Mark E. Smith As A Mancunian Jesus