Time for a new national anthem
Beverley Minster virger Neil Pickford stands up to be counted
I heard the British national anthem at an unearthly hour t’other Sunday and I was very, very annoyed. Oh, not with the tune (although it’s just a bit of badly structured singalong Edwardian tat); nor with the lyrics (which don’t really register any more), but with the length of it.
On Sunday I would have to say that it was much too short.
In fairness this was an unusual setting and I suppose I’d better put it into context before we go on, or my argument will seem fatuous (an ever-present danger, I must admit). I was watching the formal celebrations at the end of the Japanese Formula One Grand Prix which was won by Britain’s own golden boy Jenson Button in a proudly British McLaren car.
And that was the problem – the driver and the registered home country of the team were one and the same – British, so we only got one national anthem instead of one for the driver and another for the team, which is more normal. And it was over in a flash.
Still, it could be worse.
Over the past two years the dominant team has been Red Bull, which is owned by an Austrian (although the cars are actually designed, built, tested and shipped out from Britain’s own Milton Keynes). The team’s two drivers are German and Australian and when either of them has won we’ve been treated to their own national tunes (each of them quite bouncy, as it happens). We’re then tortured by about sixteen hours of unmemorable, unstructured cobblers that is supposed to be the Austrian one. Various brass instruments witter away at random until the whole thing mercifully falls quiet and you regain the will to live.
During this time the waiting champagne has grown warm, the drivers have drooped and all the flowers on the podium have dropped dead.
In a previous decade the racing world was dominated by a German driving for an Italian team and the triumphant Das Lied der Deutschen (“Unity and law and freedom. Are the foundation for happiness”) was followed by a zippy something that sounded as if it had been written for dancing cartoon horses. But at least it went on for a few minutes and got you ready for the big presentation when it was over.
But not on Sunday – in a flash God had saved our Gracious Queen and her reign was over. Jenson was still standing there, possibly wondering if it had even started yet. They should have played it twice to give us parity with the other winners although, even then, Our Tune will still feel only one tenth of the length of the Austrian one.
I suppose we can be pleased that ours at least has a tune but the only way to get a decent sense of ‘moment’ is to play it really, really slowly – and that just makes it boring.
Now I see this being a big problem next year when the Olympics kick off. Assuming our athletes cop some golds then our chaps (and chappesses) will only have a few seconds of glory on the podium. Austrian medallists, on the other hand, will be able to sign merchandising deals before theirs finishes. It’s not fair on us – but I have the solution.
After all, what is the purpose of a national anthem? It is to make us feel good about being who we are. What’s the easiest way to achieve this? It’s obvious – by having a fun tune. If it is one that recalls the unique greatness of your own country then it’s even better.
And with this in mind I nominate, for our replacement national anthem, the marvellous and uniquely British song: “Hey Jude.”
Think about it – it’s brilliant. Written by one of the finest popular tunesmiths in the Western world at the peak of his powers when Britain was absolutely Top of the Pops, this song is huge fun, easy to singalong to and has a wonderful final section that can be adapted to a suitably loyal refrain: “La, la, la, lalalalaaaaa. Lalalalaaaa, Hey (insert name of current monarch)”.
It’s so simple that it can be sung and understood by people all around the world. It’s so catchy that it can continue into the small hours of next morning if you’re feeling really triumphant. The gold medal can go back in the safe until we’re all good and ready for it.
I don’t believe there’s a single sensible human being on this planet who could hear that refrain over several minutes and not join in, then feel absolutely wonderful afterwards. And then, by having the world’s happiest national anthem, we could generate a warm glow among billions of people. Just think what wonders that could do for British prestige around the world.
Ok, McCartney’s lyrics aren’t particularly appropriate but a professional wordsmith should have no problem knocking up a few that fit the bill. Below is my own humble effort:
Hey (insert name of current monarch here)
You can feel glad.
Cuz we have won you,
Remember to ask us round for tea,
And give us a gong.
Or an O. B. E.
What do you think?
You can send your comments here. A CD with a selection of 13 of the best Views from the Vestry, read by Neil Pickford himself, is available at the Minster shop, price £5 –or email firstname.lastname@example.org for details. Luckily, none of them require him to sing.