For many Scousers, it combines two of the most beloved passions in a Liverpudlian’s way of life – rock music and Liverpool Football Club, yet the connection behind Pink Floyd’s 1971 track Fearless with the Kop’s famous support has never officially been clarified by the original progressive rockers.
Many interpretations have been offered and, in most cases, dismissed as propaganda. Depending on one’s allegiance with regards to music and sport, this could well be another tossed onto that particular scrapheap.
For those unfamiliar with the song, it’s a slow, mellow, psychedelic number from the band’s sixth studio album Meddle and first features a recording of Liverpool fans chanting ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ after around 30 seconds from its start. The recording proceeds to fade in and out throughout the six-minute duration of the song and is then accountable for the track’s spine-chilling climax.
Yet the usage of Liverpool FC’s signature anthem has baffled Pink Floyd fans for many years, particularly those who follow Arsenal, a football club the band’s co-founder Roger Waters has supported since childhood. Waters also co-wrote Fearless and, as the band’s undisputed leader throughout their 1970s heyday, it is he who is believed to have advocated the idea of sampling the Kop’s voice.
In part due to his father’s death whilst serving in the British Army, Waters has always been a pacifist but, essentially, a socialist. Although born in Surrey, he was raised in Cambridge and at the age of just 15 became chairman of their local division of the anti-nuclear weapons organisation CND – The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (whose symbol would later become universally recognised as a sign for peace).
It was the first major step in a life dedicated to activism before, during and after Pink Floyd. From writing an opera influenced by the early stages of the French Revolution, to playing benefit gigs in aid of poverty, Waters has habitually applied his musical talents to what he believes in.
One muted theory is that it was his admiration for the people of Liverpool city for their notorious left-wing allegiance that inspired him to blend the sound of them singing on the Spion Kop with his band’s experimental music, regardless of his affiliation to Arsenal. Everton fans need not take offence, for they are as much responsible for the city’s socialist reputation, but ‘The People’s Club’ perhaps lacked a trademark terrace chant parallel to the magnitude of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ to be considered by Waters.
In this sense, Fearless has little to do with Liverpool FC as such and the presence of the Rodgers and Hammerstein rendition is, rather, a tribute to the socialist people of the city, whether they follow the team or not.
Even Floyd’s lyrics depict elements of socialism: “You say the hill’s too steep to climb/you say you’d like to see me try climbing/You pick the place and I’ll choose the time/And I’ll climb”.
Here, the opening lines of Fearless reflect the resistance to authority and never-say-die attitude of Liverpudlian activists of past and present.
In the 1930s, the Spanish Civil War contributed to polarising opinion in Liverpool, but the socialist gene remains in a proportion of today’s Liverpool fans, who have been known to flutter a flag in honour of Spaniard goalkeeper Pepe Reina which reads “No Pasarán“, a slogan originally used by Republicans during Spain’s conflict and later assumed by left-wing organisations worldwide.
Of course, not everyone and everything connected to Liverpool FC and the city itself is socialist – it would be stereotyping and ignorant to suggest as much – but it will take a hell of a lot more than the recent negative press surrounding the football club to eradicate the years of graft that formed this general perception.
During Floyd’s best years in the 1970s, a certain Bill Shankly was busy placing another very large brick in the wall of Anfield’s history and, although he’s a Scotsman, it seems fitting to close on a quote of his that no doubt every Liverpool fan will know…
“The socialism I believe in is not really politics. It is a way of living. It is humanity. I believe the only way to live and to be truly successful is by collective effort, with everyone working for each other, everyone helping each other, and everyone having a share of the rewards at the end of the day. That might be asking a lot, but it’s the way I see football and the way I see life.”
I’m sure Roger Waters approved.
By Jamie Casey
This article originally appeared in In Bed with Maradona