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When Athletes Attack: Musical Sporting Idols
Wyndham Wallace , July 7th, 2010 06:57

Sport and music: whose bright idea was that? With the World Cup nearly over, Wyndham Wallace looks back at some of the more unusual attempts to bring the two together…

Now that England are out of the World Cup there's little left to laugh at. Fortunately there's a long tradition of sports stars making a fool of themselves by trying their hand at music and (for the most part) missing their target with equal ease. Wyndham Wallace looks back at some of the more memorable examples...

Tony Jacklin – Golf Club Music

The veteran golfer – the most successful European Ryder Cup captain of all time and first man ever to hit a hole-in-one on live TV– was clearly aware of the power of a good pun when he released his 1972 album of swing music, the cunningly titled Tony Jacklin Swings Into. What Mr Jacklin 'swings into' was not clear, however, though the cover suggests disappointingly it was a golf rather than swingers club. One critic claimed that though "the choice of material was Sinatrian ('Come Fly With Me', 'The Nearness Of You'), the voice was still a drive and a three-wood away". "I thought I did well," Jacklin later defended himself to Golf Digest magazine, "yet somehow I never overtook the Beatles in popularity". He should have used a Norwegian Wood.

Hulk Hogan – Not So Incredible

The walrus-moustachioed professional pugilist was actually first discovered wrestling with a bass guitar in a club, so he has more claim than many to be a musician. The Hulk hit the British charts in 1995 with a collaboration with Green Jelly, a cover of Gary Glitter's 'I'm The Leader Of The Gang (I Am)', but closer to his heart was The Wrestling Boot Band, formed with his manager (and former member of The Gentrys) Jimmy Hart alongside wife Linda. Their one album, Hulk Rules, includes the classic 'I Want To Be A Hulkamaniac' ("Can you feel the music, can you feel the beat? You don't need drugs to move your feet") but the real piledriver is 'Hulkster In Heaven', a ballad about a young fan due to attend one of Hulk's 'fights' thanks to the Make A Wish Foundation. Come the fight, the seat was empty: the child had died. Hulk's response was a tearjerker about how "I guess there'll be an empty seat when I wrestle at Wembley". Incidentally, his daughter Brooke Hogan released her own album in 2006. Its title was prophetic: Undiscovered.

Yannick Noah – Dreadlock Halliday

With his dreadlocks and a penchant for the odd toke – in 1981 he admitted to smoking a joint before games, something he got away with since this was not considered 'performance enhancing' (tell that to Amy Winehouse) – Noah always seemed more like a rockstar than a tennis player anyway. In 1990 he signed to Sony and swept from the courts to the charts, drawing musically upon his half French, half Cameroonian roots. Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff appeared on the album Métisse(s) while Pokhara sold over a million copies, and – despite his second album bombing and an ill-advised attempt to rewrite the French National Anthem 'La Marseillaise' as a pacifist anthem entitled 'Oh Rêves' – he remains a potent force on the French music scene with numerous albums (including one due this August), a live collection and a Best Of under his (Sloggi) whites.

Franz Beckenbauer – Kaiser So-So

The only man to have won the World Cup as both player and manager, the man the Germans call The Kaiser takes his music seriously, insisting that his players sing along to the German National Anthem in 2006's World Cup games. But back in the mid sixties he released a series of singles, including 'Gute Freunde Kann Niemand Trennen (No One Can Separate Good Friends)', which made a significant mark on the German charts in 1966. It's more notable, however, for his gentle delivery and an unusual burst of feedback towards the end of an otherwise lullaby-esque tune that one critic claimed sounded like Nana Mouskouri. Although the Germans have a tradition of singing footballers as potent as the British – Kevin Keegan had three hit singles when he was a member of Hamburg SV – the follow up 7", '1-0 Für Deine Liebe (1-0 To Your Love)' failed to score.

Roy Jones Jr. – Fight Club Music

This controversial boxer – his loss to South Korean Park Si-Hun in the final of the 1988 Olympics was upheld despite an investigation by the ICO that concluded three judges had been recipients of considerable hospitality from Korean officials – first stepped into the hip-hop ring in 2001 with his debut album Round One. He returned in 2004 with a new crew, Body Head Bangerz, about which an enthusiastic fan-penned five star review on Amazon reveals, "There isn't just one good song, there's a couple". Jones reveals a taste for the evil weed on 'Can't Be Touched' – "I ain't going back to court / And I'm never gonna stop the puffing / Not for nothing" – and his bad boy image is backed up by the single 'I Smoke, I Drank' which declares "I smoke, I drank / I'm supposed to stop but I can't / I'm a dog'. He's no Snoop Dogg, however.

Jacques Villeneuve – Speed Garage

The 1997 Formula 1 World Champion established his rock 'n' roll credentials by getting engaged to Dannii Minogue in the 1990s, but it wasn't until 2007 that the Canadian released his first album, Private Paradise. Despite its romantic tendencies – lead single 'Accepterais-tu' is a musical marriage proposal, though it is perhaps undermined by album track 'Women Come, Women Go' – Radio-Canada announced at the end of the year that its worldwide sales amounted to less than 1000. Until recently his official website offered 'no news at present' with regards to his future recording intentions, but at the time of writing offered a countdown to its relaunch. He concedes on his MySpace page, however, that "I don't plan on music being a career". Danni Minogue is a judge on The X-Factor.

John Daly – 19th (Hole) Nervous Breakdown

The winner of the 1991 PGA Golf Championship is well known for his wild behaviour, making him the perfect candidate for a musical career. He claims to have drunk a fifth of a gallon of Jack Daniels every day when he was 23 and has undertaken treatment for alcoholism. His coach Butch Harmon quit in 2008, claiming "the most important thing in [Daly's] life is getting drunk". All this clearly inspired him, however: he released his debut album, My Life, in 2002, with tracks including 'I'm Drunk, Damn Broke' and 'All My Ex-es Wear Rolexes'. "I'm thinking of writing a new song," he once said. "I'll call it, 'I Guess It's My Fault, Even When It's Not My Fault'." Despite featuring Hootie & The Blowfish, and with backing vocals from Willie Nelson on 'You Don't Know Me', he currently has only 1005 friends on Myspace. No wonder the album's title track ends with the words "this is my life. I give up." He didn't, though: a new album, I Only Know One Way is now available

Oscar De La Hoya – Love TKO

Floyd Mayweather's WBC Welterweight rival appeared considerably more gentle outside the ring than in with his 2000 self-titled debut. The Mexican-American proved himself so adept that he was nominated for a Grammy and topped the Billboard Latin Dance charts for a number of weeks. Backed by Christina Aguilera producer Rudy Perez and songwriter Diane Warren, who has provided songs for Michael Bolton, Joss Stone and Cher, the soul boy even tackles the Bee Gees' 'Run To Me' with considerable panache. He's a lover AND a fighter.

Chris Waddle & Basile Boli – From Mullet To Afro

'Diamond Lights', Waddle's genuinely underrated 1987 industrial rock collaboration with Glenn Hoddle, may take the medals, but it wasn't the mullet muppet's only attempt to conquer the charts. The duo subsequently recorded another song, 'Goodbye' – "a far better song with a video and everything", he told The Guardian in 2003 – but it was shelved following Hoddle's departure from Spurs for Monaco. In 1991, however, he teamed up with Olympique de Marseille colleague Basile Boli to record 'We've Got A Feeling', possibly an attempt to distract from his notorious World Cup semi-final penalty miss the year before. The song, an extraordinary Afro-beat number in which Boli sings French and Waddle Geordie, is especially memorable for a video that features what looks like dancing asparagus, Metal Mickey and Waddle in a city gent's suit and bowler hat. Boli, sadly, remains distinguished mainly for headbutting Stuart Pearce at Euro '92 the following year, though it is unknown whether this was a musical gesture, given the fact that Pearce is a fan of punk rock and can be seen on the cover of a Lurkers live album.

Cassius Clay – Keep The Hits Coming

As Muhammad Ali he made quite a mark in 1976 with the magical Ali And His Gang vs Mr Tooth Decay, but it's the 1962 album I Am The Greatest that packs the biggest punch. Swiftly pulled from the shelves by Columbia Records following his conversion to the Nation Of Islam and his subsequent change of name, the album is largely a live spoken word comedy recording that captures the charismatic Mr Clay at his quick-witted finest. Reciting deliriously funny poems and performing short sketches, he forecasts his unlikely victory over Sonny Liston with enviable confidence: "I hereby predict Mr Liston's dismemberment / I'll hit him so hard he won't know where October and November went". He also recorded a single, a suitably straight-faced version of 'Stand By Me' mentored by Sam Cooke, which is included on a recent reissue as a bonus track. As sporting records go, this one is hard to beat: though he floated like a butterfly, he didn't sing like a bee.