50 Years Of Keep Right On

Posted on November 30, 2006 
Filed Under Articles By Kym

An article by Kym.

When I started writing this article on Wednesday night, I was frantically trying to get my head around us conceding three goals on five minutes, but I suppose that’s all part and parcel of being a Bluenose.

At least we managed to pull our socks up enough to turn our encounter with Southampton to a cliché-ridden one of two halves, sadly only one of which we won. I’m relieved that we managed to rescue our goal difference and did try to remedy some of the first half direness, but I think it gave me and a lot of other people a sharp reminder of the way that our beloved team can raise us up and bring us crashing down again.

I’m often accused (by other teams’ supporters and by fellow Bluenoses) of being pessimistic about my team, but maybe it’s just that I’ve been on the planet long enough to realise that supporting the boys in Blue is indeed a “long, long road” that can be pretty painful at times.

When Sir Harry Lauder wrote the original version of Keep Right On, little did he know how prophetic his words would be for us when he mentioned “joys and sorrows”, as we seem to lurch from one extreme to the other rather than settling for the middle of the road.

Which leads me on nicely to the real subject of this week’s offering, as in the end the Southampton game was a bit of a distraction and not what I intended to write about at all.

I couldn’t let 2006 draw to a close without mentioning a significant anniversary for Blues fans. Although the 100th anniversary of St Andrew’s has been well-publicised, (particularly by those of us who have wandered around with “1906-2006” written across our backsides every week this season), this year also marks the 50th anniversary of Keeping Right On.

The tale of how KRO arrived at St Andrew’s is pretty legendary and really doesn’t need telling again, but 1956 was a special year in that it included one of our fairly rare visits to an FA Cup Final (which in true Blues fashion we didn’t win).

Keep Right On was written by Sir Harry Lauder as a response to his only son’s death in the First World War. It sounds like a Scottish folksong, but isn’t. By the 1970s when I started going to Blues games, it was famous enough as a club song for even my mother (who knew absolutely nothing about football) to know it, and even know all the words. It was obviously well-rooted in the Brummie psyche by then.

Talking to other supporters who are of the right vintage to remember the game in the 1950s, they all tell me that they can’t remember many other teams having their “own” song at that time. The songs that became massive football anthems, like You’ll Never Walk Alone didn’t turn up on the terraces until the 1960s, so for once it looks as though we were leading rather than following.

Over the last 50 years, football chants have come and gone and some favourites have stuck around for quite a long time, but nothing is so especially, exclusively ours as KRO.

It’s true that one or two other teams have had a brief flirtation with it, but it never seemed to find a place in the hearts of Ipswich or Preston supporters in the same way as it has for us.

West Ham United may have I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles (which has always struck me as a rather daft song to be associated with the beautiful game) and Southampton may have When the Saints Come Marching In, but for the life of me I can’t understand why Notts County sing the Wheelbarrow Song!

Most football chants and songs are transient things; they are often made up on the spur of the moment or worked out in the pub before the game. They relate to specific people, moments in the match play or are aimed directly at the other team’s supporters.

They’re often made up of only one or two lines of music, rather than an entire song and they quickly go out of fashion. Some other tunes are used in entirety, but in many cases the words have been completely rewritten so that the Battle Hymn of the Republic lives again as Glory, Glory Tottenham Hotspur (or Man United… or even Leeds United!). The Fields of Athenry has become a more modern anthem, and like KRO has accomplished the trick of sounding older than it actually is. It is catching on though, and over the last few seasons is popping up at places other than Anfield.

A few songs find their way right into the hearts of football supporters; You’ll Never Walk Alone is so popular that it is used by a dozen clubs around the world, including such unlikely places as AEK Athens (where, unsurprisingly, it has been translated into Greek) and FC Tokyo.

So what makes songs like this and KRO so great amongst football supporters? Why have people latched on to a song from a 50s musical and one that was written in response to a death during the First World War?

The answer is that they stand out. They are real songs, not snatches of songs; they have good tunes, and good words.

Most important of all, they are both about hope. Hope is what keeps football supporters interested; it’s what keeps the love affair alive. Hope is what makes us sing when we are 3-0 down, and it is hope that we need when we are staring defeat or relegation in the face. We also need hope when we are looking at the struggle to get back to where we feel we belong.

Keep Right On captured hearts fifty years ago and it has been passed on from fan to fan in the terraces. Sometimes, like Chinese Whispers, the words get a little confused (it’s “often partisan”, chaps, not “off to partisan” or even, the mind boggles, “off to Pakistan”!), but it’s still the battle cry, the song that stirs the heart and makes hairs on the back of the neck stand up when it is being sung by thousands.

Best of all though, Keep Right On is OURS. We don’t have to share it with anyone else. Other may have toyed with it, but they didn’t love it as much as we do.

Here’s to the next fifty years.


11 Responses to “50 Years Of Keep Right On”

  1. murph on November 30th, 2006 1:23 pm

    Ipswich fans also tried,for a while under Bobby Robson,to pinch KRO and sang it at some of their euro games in the ’70s.

    The cheek!

  2. Devonblue on November 30th, 2006 2:27 pm

    I think it’s the best football song there is. The only thing connected to our club that is the best.

  3. Presalesblue on November 30th, 2006 2:34 pm

    My friend’s yound son thought the line was ‘We’re off to park a van’…..

    There’s probably an intersting article about football anthems and why they started with the clubs who’ve adopted them. The victims would obviously get 3 paras on You’ll never walk alone and fields of Athenry because they’re the victims. We’ll probably get a footnote.

    I’ve always felt ’special’ that we do have a club anthem.

    And there have been many special moments when it’s been sung.

    Probably the Blaydon Races, When the saints, and Bubbles pre date our anthem (or maybe not) – but we probably have the only anthem that was given to us by the players….

  4. Bloo on November 30th, 2006 5:47 pm

    I’ve bought a cassette tape today on e-bay of the ‘91 squad singing our beloved KRO. I had the original stolen when parked off Green Lane near St Andrews during a night game against Notts County, along with my radio !!!!
    I can’t wait to hear it again.

    I have also bought recently the Sheet Music of KRO by Sir Harry Lauder. From memory I think it is dated as 1927.
    All sad I know but when you love the Blues you love the Blues !


  5. G CARTER on November 30th, 2006 7:10 pm

    Love that song , when sung at full pelt it terrifies the opposition , and makes you proud to be a brummie , what have the inbreds from aston got , oh yeh “VEEELA VEEELA ” .

  6. Dudleydog on November 30th, 2006 7:31 pm

    I believe Preston North End fans also sang it at some point

  7. cliff morris on November 30th, 2006 8:11 pm

    it is the greatest football song of them all,and one day soon,we will reach it,and on that day we will sing it and from “ST ANDREWS” we will blow the roof off villa park.so keep on singing, KEEP RIGHT ON TO THE END OF THE ROAD,

  8. mark watkins on December 1st, 2006 2:39 pm

    Good article Kym, my most memorable KRO must be the FA cup Semi against Fulham at Hillsborough, when 38,000 blue noses made the trip, most of us standing on the open kop end, what a site that was, not forgeting the awful game.

  9. kevb8ll on December 5th, 2006 8:41 pm

    Brilliant article mate. On the history video Tom Ross interviews the player who introduced the song to the club.

    I can remember 2 occasions particularly. My first game in the mid ’70s when we beat Man City 4-0. I was blown away by it.

    The other was the Leyland Daf final. That was amazing hearing Wembly resound with KRO. Awesome!!

  10. 50 Years Of Keep Right On :: Newstack on December 7th, 2006 6:30 pm

    [...] Read more: here [...]

  11. phillip.mcdowell on April 21st, 2007 9:22 pm

    Vague Memoriesof the players coming out at Sheffield in 1956 as Blaydon Races Echoed around ground and nothing to be heard for BLUES, you could see players thought not enough blues fans to drown that lot. then all four sides of ground K.R.O AND sUNDERLAND SHUT UP . PS NO SEGREGATION IN THOSE DAYS

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