Do yourself a favor. Go to YouTube and enter “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” from the Liverpool FC soccer matches in England. Then sit back and enjoy one of the most beautiful moments ever at a sporting event: 45,000 people standing, waving flags and singing in unison. Some fans are woefully out of tune, but everyone in the stadium is howling with the same intensity that the players display on the field, cementing the bond that’s supposed to exist between fan and team. Now this is stadium music. Oh sure, the prerecorded stuff is occasionally piped in at European soccer matches, but deejays don’t press play that often. And they’re certainly not about to replace a tradition that dates back to the 1960s.
It’s different in the States. Deejays here press play all the time, not just to energize crowds (Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”) but also sometimes to quiet them (anything by Susan Boyle). We manufacture tradition, as the Red Sox did in 2002 by playing “Sweet Caroline” during the eighth inning, for no reason except it was popular at other ballparks. Or we scrap tradition altogether, as many NHL teams have done in dumping the organ, once as essential to hockey as skates themselves.
“We Will Rock You” begins with, “Buddy you’re a boy make a big noise,” a kid with mud on his face, “a big disgrace,” dreaming of a better life but too timid to take action, “kicking your can all over the place.” In the second stanza, the boy is now a young man, bloodied and battling to reach those lofty goals. The song ends with an old man, a poor man, dreams unfulfilled. “Somebody better put you back into your place.”
The chorus, in context, is not a rally call, as millions of sports fans later would interpret it, but instead a gentle reassurance. May was inspired by a popular Czech lullaby in which parents promise a child, “We will rock you, rock you” to sleep. May flipped the phrase to “We will, we will rock you,” and he was finished. One of the most famous songs ever, the sports anthem of our generation, took all of 10 minutes to compose
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