Why did New Order record World In Motion for the 1990 World Cup?
11 July 2021, 16:00
Is this the best ever football song? But how did the band that once was Joy Division come up with writing a Number 1 World Cup hit?
“Love’s got the world in motion / And I can't believe it's true…”
With the Euros almost upon us, let’s turn our minds back to what must surely be the greatest football song of all time - World In Motion by New Order, or EnglandNewOrder as they were billed.
That’s New Order. The band that used to be Joy Division. The band that created some of the darkest music ever. The band whose singer took his own life, forcing them to start all over again under a new name.
So how did the former members of this supremely bleak group end up rallying together a bunch of footballers, an anarchic comedian and producing this rabble-rousing tribute to the Beautiful Game?
New Order had developed their sound from the Joy Division days, moving into electronica and dancefloor beats after heading to New York in the early 1980s. Their 1983 single Blue Monday was an instant club classic and the biggest selling 12” of all time. In 1989 they were riding high with their fifth album Technique, a record that melded acid house with indie rock and their label Factory’s Manchester club The Hacienda was the coolest place in the world.
The idea for World In Motion came from the press officer for the Football Association, David Bloomfield, who had been watching a TV show called Best And Marsh in 1989. The programme, made by Granada TV in Manchester, featured reminiscences from the football greats George Best and Rodney Marsh. Bloomfield had noticed that the title music had been recorded by none other than New Order - in fact, the soundtrack had appeared as the B-side of the single Round & Round in February 1989.
Bloomfield realised that New Order would be the ideal band to helm a song for England that would promote their campaign in the World Cup in Italy in 1990. He contacted Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, who persuaded the group and their manager Rob Gretton that this would be a good idea.
New Order based their song on another piece of Steve Morris and Gillian Gilbert’s soundtrack music, in this case the theme music to the BBC2 series Reportage, which aired in 1989. However, they struggled with the lyrics and had to employ the services of comedian Keith Allen to help them out. Allen had appeared as the factory boss in the TV comedy drama Making Out which used New Order’s Vanishing Point as theme music and was best known for his work with The Comic Strip.
Drummer Steve Morris told the Independent about Allen’s involvement in 2010: “If it all went pear-shaped, at least we could say it was a joke.” Allen pitched an idea called “E For England”, but the FA didn’t like the idea of potentially being associated with the drug ecstasy..
A lot of the England players weren’t that keen on taking part as they’d never heard and the history of World Cup songs was littered with embarrassing failures. The last official England World Cup Song was the diabolical We've Got The Whole World At Our Feet. England got to the quarter finals but were knocked out by Maradona’s infamous “Hand Of God” goal for Argentina.
Liverpool’s John Barnes told the NME at the time: “If I thought it was going to be the same as the usual crap, why bother? But this is alright.” Barnes was joined by Peter Beardsley, Chris Waddle, Des Walker, Steve McMahon and Paul “Gazza” Gascoigne in providing vocals on the record.
Barnes was one of the footballers who tried out the rap in the middle of the song and was deemed to be the best. Barnes told the Independent: “It wasn't a typical 'here we go', arms-around-each-other football song. It was a proper group and that is why the song was good." His rap has now gone down in history and he sometimes performs it at times of great national celebration.
The song also featured football commentator Kenneth Wolstenholme, who specially re-recorded his classic line from the 1966 World Cup final: “Well some of the crowd are on the pitch… They think it’s all over… It is now!”
Talking to the NME at the time of the single’s release - almost ten years to the day since Joy Division singer Ian Curtis had tragically fied - New Order frontman Bernard Sumner said: “This should be the last straw for Joy Division fans.”
The single shot straight in at Number 2 in the UK singles charts, just behind Adamski’s Killer, on 27 May. The next week it crept to Number 1 and remained there for two weeks, before being bumped off the top by Elton John’s Sacrifice.
It was to be New Order’s only Number 1 hit and - ironically - their last single to be released on the indie label Factory, who they had been with since 1978 as Joy Division. Two years later, the company went into liquidation. It was the end of an era.
As for the England team? They got the furthest they'd been since winning in 1966, by reaching the semi-finals, where they lost to West Germany 2-1. EN-GER-LAND!