I Can’t Help Myself

A few weeks ago, somebody on Twitter asked for suggestions for songs which you instinctively sing when you hear someone’s name.

Annoyingly, I can’t remember who it was, or what, if any, hashtag they used, for there were some great examples I could point you in the direction of. Or just shamelessly pass off as my own.

So I’ll try to explain.

We’re not interested in songs by the person (if they happen to be a singer), nor songs which mention the person (so, for example, were you to burst into the lyrics of Madness’ “Michael Caine” when you hear Michael Caine’s name, that would not count. No, in those circumstances, every one knows that you are obliged to say “You’re only supposed to blow the bloody doors off!”)

Perhaps the best example at the moment is the tendency for people who voted for Jeremy Corbyn to sing his name to the tune of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army”. But even that’s not quite right; his name just happens to scan, as would anyone whose name happens to have five syllables. Try singing “The Chuckle Brothers” instead of Jeremy Corbyn, and you’ll see what I mean.

No, the song in question needs to have a phrase within it, preferably at the chorus, which sounds like or rhymes with the person in question’s name. And whenever you get to that part of the song, you find yourself, like Pavlov’s dog salivating, unable to stop yourself from singing, but with the lyrics changed to feature that person’s name.

When I saw the aforementioned Tweet, I thought “I do that a lot”, went to reply, and then realised I couldn’t think of a single one.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I went – and I may have mentioned this in passing – to the Spurs v Real Madrid game. At half time, former Spurs and Real player Rafael Van der Vaart was interviewed on the pitch, and suddenly I remembered one.

Anybody I lived with or watched football with during the years he played for Spurs (2010 – 2012) will confirm that whenever his name was mentioned, I would not be able to resist singing his surname to the chorus of this song:


Tenpole Tudor – Wünderbar

Does this make a bit more sense now?

Okay, good.

Because watching the Champions League match between Borussia Dortmund and Spurs on Tuesday, I remembered another one, and found a new one too.

Football players names, it seems, are ripe for this, which leads me to a further distinction: we’re not talking about established, recognised football songs or chants.

So, when I saw the Dortmund team sheet on Tuesday (I wasn’t there), two names jumped out at me. Firstly, they have a young centre-back called Dan-Axel Zagadou.

Don’t worry, we’re not heading into Black Lace territory.

Instead, to here, and to a song which came into my head whenever he got the ball:


Olivia Newton-John & Electric Light Orchestra – Xanadu

Except, of course, when their striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang had the ball, when it was over-taken by this:


Ram Jam – Black Betty

There’ll be more of these as and when they occur to me. Suggestions welcome.

(More soon).

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10 thoughts on “I Can’t Help Myself”

  1. Oh I know what you mean as this happens a lot in our house and not just with people’s names but with all sorts like towns and cities. I’m sure Mr SDS and I talk in musical riddles half the time.
    Problem with names for me, though, is that I have one which is very, very similar to the name of a well-known song and which for too many years to mention I have had strangers sing to me on first hearing my name. Put it this way – I’ve broken a lot hearts and shaken a lot of confidence daily!
    Look forward to more here though…!

    1. PS – breaking hearts, etc not for real of course, only in lyrics – I suddenly thought that sounds really awful otherwise!

      1. No worries, I knew what you meant (although I have had a record Dinner Warwick in my brain ever since your first comment!)

  2. My surname is Boyd and my brother and I have been known to sing “The Boyds are back in town” on occasions (usually when alcohol has been consumed)

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