The Shamen havin’ it large at Highbury… [October 1992]

We’ve all been at a football game (or any other game for that matter) in which the half-time entertainment seems to be somewhat ‘out of kilter’ with the general ambience of the setting. Case in point: last year’s Euro 2016 opening ceremony in France, which saw David Guetta (Who? Exactly…) pretending to DJ for the assembled throng of Romania supporters…

However the fact that The Shamen, riding high on the back of ecstasy anthem Ebenezer Goode topping the charts, appeared on the pitch at Arsenal FC’s then-home, Highbury, in October 1992, is just legendary.

As this article by David Stubbs from Melody Maker (recorded for posterity in the excellent Rock’s Back Pages) shows, not everybody present on that fateful night knew just what to expect.

“The Shamen! What the f*** are they doing here? Well, they’re going to do a PA at half time, which will involve standing on a raised platform the size of a kitchen table in the middle of the pitch, miming to ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ and ‘Move Any Mountain’, accompanied by a troupe of dancing females known as “The Sky Strikers”, the Pans People de nos jours. It’s part of SkyTV’s efforts to jazz up their football coverage, emphasise the “family entertainment” angle, a razzamatazz alternative to queuing up at the pie stand. Laudable, perhaps, to wrench football out of its primitive, all-male enclave but how will the Gooners on the Clock End take to Mr C and the gang? It should be surreal, to say the least.”

Despite the group’s Colin Angus hopeful for a positive reception – “’Goode’ is intended as a terrace chant so this is the right context”, he muses – the reaction from the 21,000-strong crowd is… well, exactly what you would expect from 21,000 pissed up football fans, as described in irresistible detail…

“A massed murmur of bemusement. The Shamen? Then, the jeer goes up from the Clock End. “‘Oo the fackin’ ‘ell are you? ‘Oo the fackin’ ‘ell are you?” The scent of raspberry is in the air. Undeterred, Colin booms “Music, please!” boisterously into the mic. ‘Ebeneezer Goode’ strikes up. Surely that’ll raise a cheer. But no. As the wavering 40K sound system does its stuff (a local council official was down there with his geiger counter monitoring the sound level) and The Shamen and Sky Strikers do theirs, the rising crescendo of boos and whistles shudders the stadium girders.

“The Clock End try to drown them out with the “Arsenal!” chant. By ‘Move Any Mountain’ it’s sheer bread and circuses. It’s touch and go as to whether the portcullis is going to be raised and the lions let loose on the pitch. If Arsenal were losing they probably would be. Mr C waggles his fingers to the beat but his heart isn’t really in it. As the PA winds down they clamber down dejectedly, without a wave, the bad-tempered jeers of the Gooners pursuing them down the tunnel. Oh, dear.”

Never mind lads, there’s always Old Trafford and Anfield to try. Or not…

[Article by David Stubbs, Melody Maker, 1992, featured on Rock’s Back Pages. Photo by Steve Double, c 1991]

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