How did Seven Nation Army become a terrace anthem – and what links it to Blur and Bernie Sanders?

From arty indie bands to US election knockouts, we join the dots around one of the most enduring stadium singalongs

Every single one’s got a story to tell

Meg and Jack White of the White Stripes
The White Stripes’ song has become a mainstay of football tournaments … Photograph: MAI/Redferns/Getty

Duh duh duh dah duh duh … The men’s football World Cup is under way and you’ll likely have heard fans chanting the riff from the White Stripes’ Seven Nation Army, which has somehow become a mainstay of football tournaments. An intrepid reporter traced its crossover to Club Brugge fans at a 2003 Champions League game against AC Milan. “I especially love that most people have no idea what song the melody they are chanting came from,” Jack White told the Detroit Free Press in 2016.

When I feel heavy metal

Damon Albarn of Blur
… following in the footsteps of Blur’s Song 2, which channelled Pavement … Photograph: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

The sports arena finally helped Blur to crack America, or at least make a dent, with Song 2. Fans couldn’t get enough of its “Whoo-hoo” chorus blast. “It’s completely unsophisticated and thuggish, and that’s what people like,” Graham Coxon later explained on the South Bank Show. It came from the band’s fifth album in 1997 as they bounced from arch English indie pop to a more scratchy American indie sound, channelling the now-returned Pavement, who themselves had long channelled the scratchy English indie sound of the Fall.

Steve’s Keene

Artwork for Pavement’s 1995 album Wowee Zowee by Steve Keene
… whose Wowee Zowee artwork was by Steve Keene, who was granted his own day … Photograph: Steve Keene, OPA Images/Shutterstock

The artwork for Pavement’s 1995 album Wowee Zowee came from “wildly prolific” artist Steve Keene. The “Gen X shibboleth” estimates he has made 300,000 paintings, most sold very cheaply and recently collected in the Steve Keene art book. Some years ago, during a residency at the Brooklyn Public Library, 14 June 2014 was declared Steve Keene Day.

Bring on the major leagues

New York City Mayor Eric Adams
… by Eric Adams, now New York City mayor … Photograph: Shutterstock

The politician bestowing the honour was then Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, now mayor of New York City. Perhaps Adams shouldn’t take inspiration from his predecessors: the last three mayors ran for US president with disastrous results. Rudy Guiliani crashed out quickly in the 2008 Republican primaries, while on the Democratic side in 2020, Bill De Blasio flopped in the group stages, with Michael Bloomberg hanging in until a knock-out phase humiliation.

Sing when you’re winning

Bernie Sanders at a rally on Staten Island, New York in April 2022
… whose predecessor Michael Bloomberg ran for president with Bernie Sanders, making the final rounds and being endorsed by Jack White. Photograph: Shutterstock

Bernie Sanders made it to the final rounds of that contest and picked up an endorsement from Jack White at a Detroit rally … “And the feeling coming from my bones says: ‘Find a home’” brings us back to Seven Nation Army, one of the football chants de nos jours. But is it time for a new anthem? Sweet Caroline and Gala’s Freed from Desire have been thereabouts lately. Can this World Cup produce a new fan chant favourite? It’s up for grabs now!

Pairing notes

Read Surely this is the final World Cup for Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo:? Messi vs Ronaldo traces the impact of two greats.

Drink England fans like to celebrate goals by throwing pints in the air – a Grolsch or a San Miguel will do the job nicely, but it’s perhaps too chilly to repeat the great flare-up-the-bum trick of 2021.


Larry Ryan

The GuardianTramp

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