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World in motion


This paper takes a rather indirect route towards looking at one particular rock music text which intrigued me and which seemed important and symptomatic within the context of the culture of England in the summer of 1990. The text, insofar as I can isolate it at all, is a single by the band New Order, "World in Motion," commissioned by the Football Association (the governing body of British soccer) to mark the World Cup soccer finals in Italy. My aim in trying to deal with this text is simply to approach it; that is, to get near it as it appears within and emerges from a complex cultural context. Thus "World in Motion" is my pre text and much of what follows is concerned with what I take to be its context, a context that I shall in a sense be narrativizing in an effort to explicate a certain cultural logic.





Without a doubt, the biggest cultural event of the summer of 1990 in Britain was the one for which about half the population stayed at home every night over a period of about three weeks. That event was, of course, the World Cup soccer finals which were held in Italy and which, according to the British Broadcating Corporation, were also represented on television in some way in every country of the world, producing a total television audience of about twenty six billion people (with over half of that audience in Asia). The prelude to the visit of the England national soccer team to this year's finals was the occasion for a set of quite telling fears and hopes in the culture. The hopes centred around the sense in the media and on the streets that the team had a relatively good chance of getting to the final game, even if no one was foolhardy enough to predict that they would actually win the World Cup. Such hopes were finally not entirely disappointed since the team did reach the semi-final round and performed creditably enough. One reason that the expectations were not stronger was that most British football players had for several years been deprived of the useful experience of playing against European teams; that was because British club teams had been banned from the various European cup competitions in the wake of the 1985 Heysel disaster in Brussels, Belgium, where British (specifcially, Liverpool) football supporters were held to be responsible for thirty nine deaths and hundreds of injuries, mostly to Italian supporters, during a disturbance in the stadium.

The Heysel disaster -- undoubtedly the most lethal of many incidents involving British soccer fans over the last two or three decades -- informed many of the fears that attended the popular media's preparation for the 1990 World Cup finals: that is, it was widely suspected that this tournament would become the site for England's renowned soccer hooligans to exercise their peculiar brand of warfare against the soccer supporters of other European nations and particularly against the host Italians. Elaborate arrangements were thus made to try to head off the possibilities of violence. The England team's first games were subject to a kind of quarantine by dint of their being located on the island of Sardinia. The island itself was turned into a kind of paramilitary fortress by soldiers, uniformed police, undercover agents, and the appearance at least once of a brigade of Italy's special anti-terrorist forces. Back home in England the Conservative Minister of Sport, Colin Moynihan, gave his moral blessing to any steps, however repressive or unfair, that the Italian authorities might wish to take to counter the greatly feared English football supporter. Alcohol was banned on the island for the period; Italian immigration officers regularly refused entry to unsavoury looking characters; police in Sardinia periodically arrested, imprisoned overnight, and then deported individuals and groups of Britons without the intervention of courts, and so on. The British Minister of Sport was subjected to some criticism at home for his condoning of this official activity; often the criticism came from his right wing in the form of a complaint that he was being hypocritical since he had proved himself unwilling to take such draconian measures against the supporters who are popularly presumed to terrorise the high streets of British towns every Saturday afternoon during the football season.

The Thatcher government has, of course, over the last few years made some slow attempts to curb and repress the often dangerous presence and behaviour of the football supporter, particularly in the wake of the Heysel Stadium event and after several other quite serious domestic disturbances around football games. A Home Office report in 1986 had laid a good part of the blame for hooliganism on the state of the football stadiums, most of which were designed and built between the turn of the century and World War II. The report also attempted to grasp the nature of hooliganism by appealing to some categories of sporting violence designed in the crassest and most positivistic American sociological tradition; but those kinds of explanation of football hooliganism were unable to lead the Home Office Committee to any very insightful conclusions. The Commission's final report proposed measures all aimed at the production of an American-style sports stadiums and audiences which, it is to be assumed, would squeeze out the hooligan element. Rather than fully grapple with the vexed question about what cultural meaning football hooliganism has within British society, the British government has suggested the gradual upgrading of football venues so that they become all-seating stadiums to be patronised only by good citizens who can qualify for a special football supporter's ID card. Those citizens would be protected by beefed-up policing: the police would have unlimited rights of search and widened powers of arrest, new criminal offences would be put on the books for sports grounds, and alcohol sales severely restricted. These solutions all suggest, I think, that those who would attempt to regulate hooliganism and the everyday violence of British football grounds have little or no interest in seeing them as symptoms of subcultural resistance, or even of class ressentiment , but are rather more invested in thinking of them simply as criminal or pathological activities to be dealt with by the repressive state apparatuses. [1]

For the purposes of the World Cup finals the British government's attempts to head off the much expected violence and disruption actually took the form of an attempt to curtail the travel of known (that is, previously convicted) hooligans. The British police shared information with the European Interpol network and also assigned plainclothes policemen to travel with suspect groups of fans. In general, the level of co-operation between the security forces of the European nations was high during this period. The Dutch and German police, especially, worked hand in hand with the British and Italians, since the fans of those four nations have historically had especially troubled relations at footballing events, and each country has its hooligan problem. Yet it was still the British fan who was assumed to be the most potentially dangerous. In some ways this is not surprising, given the history of violence amongst football supporters and given, too, their sometimes very close identification with neo-fascist movements in Britain.

The often noticeably far rightist sentiments of some amongst the British football hooligans have their echoes and manifestations in the soccer cultures of other European nations, especially in Germany. But the British configuration is perhaps the clearest, thrown into sharp relief when the discourse of neo-fascism vies with -- and all too easily resembles -- the discourse of the Conservatives over issues of British nationalism and patriotism. By dint of this resemblance, football hooliganism can be read as a somewhat unwelcome alter ego of the Thatcherite regime. Thus when the Sports Minister mouthed his views about the virtues of repression against these animals who watch football, one could almost get the impression that the plan was to allow and even encourage a kind of displacement of the soccer hooligan problem to another site where official repression could be undertaken under the auspices of the necessity of keeping this world-stage event safe and disturbance free.

There are some grounds for thinking this: particularly, the summer of 1990 was also expected to be the moment of massive popular rebellion against Margaret Thatcher's newly activated poll-tax. The poll tax (a name, incidentally, which Thatcher's government spokespersons were instructed not to use, Thatcher preferring the name "community charge") is a tax to replace the system of property taxes or "rates" that had funded local government programmes throughout most of this century in Britain; whereas the rates had taxed households according to land and property values in a relatively progressive manner, the poll tax is a regressive tax which places a burden on every adult person at the same rate. It's fair to say, I think, that the poll-tax was and still is a deeply unpopular, and at least divisive, tax. The first unmistakeable sign of this was the huge demonstration in Trafalgar Square on March 31st which greeted the changeover from rates to the poll-tax. This demonstration was followed up by multiple events across the country during the summer.

The poll tax was also attacked at the level of the appeals court, where its legality was finally upheld. However, popular refusals to pay the tax led to a number of mass legal summonses in different parts of the country during the summer, in the course of every single one of which the courts found reasons not to convict non-payers of the tax. The first major case of that sort on the Isle of Wight involved nearly four thousand summonses. Most of the delinquent tax payers turned up at the court hearings along with many other opponents of the tax and the normally orderly and placid procedure of local governmental business was massively disrupted. The court in this instance forced the local authority to withdraw the summonses on the grounds that reminders had been sent out by the notoriously inefficient second-class postage rate, leaving insufficient time between the reminders and the subsequent summonses. This case and its somewhat factitious ruling set the tone for many later such cases, such as one in Newcastle where the local council withdrew its summonses because their documentation had not distinguished between monies owed for the tax itself and monies owed by way of penalty. By and large the courts seemed to prefer to leave local government with the problems of collection and enforcement, or simply with the prospect of depleted budgets, rather than to provoke further popular discontent and resistance than was already being manifested. Here, as in the exporting of the soccer hooligan problem to Italy, the government's effective action in relation to potential civic disturbance was to make a certain amount of noise and to rely upon various confirmatory rulings of the higher courts in deciding the general legality of the tax, but at the same time to refuse direct confrontation with the forces of resistance and malaise. The poll tax issue has not yet disappeared, even after the fall of Margaret Thatcher whose hobby-horse the tax was widely assumed to be; but it seems to be the case that the new Prime Minister, John Major, in his first few months of office, has stepped back considerably from the hard Thatcher line on the poll tax and that its nature will be massively revised in the near future. In that sense the popular resistance to this tax might be said to have succeeded in its aim, and even to have helped unseat Thatcher herself.

The important point, for me, about the stories of the poll tax and the apprehension about soccer violence in Italy is that they were both direct challenges to the ideologies and indeed the policies of law and order which the Thatcher government had highlighted during its time in office. By the summer of 1990 the somewhat facile options that the Conservatives had for ten or more years exercised or proposed in relation to questions of crime and civil disturbance had led to widespread media and public discussion of a possible, or indeed probable, summer of trouble. Prognoses of this sort turned out to be somewhat off the mark in the sense that neither soccer hooliganism nor poll tax resistance led to the kind of widespread or profound civic disturbance that might have been expected. Indeed, the fears of the law and order party were perhaps most vindicated in altogether different arenas. First of all, the summer of 1990 saw the IRA step up its bombing campaign in Britain and Europe; notably they scored a success with the bombing of the elite Conservative party club, The Carleton, in June, and suffered the embarrassment of killing some Australian tourists, having mistaken them for British servicemen in Europe. Secondly, there was the announcement in late June of a quite remarkable rise in crime statistics. Notifiable offences reported to the police during the first quarter of 1990 showed an increase of fifteen percent, the most precipitous such rise in over thirteen decades and one which provoked the Guardian newspaper to talk about a veritable "tide of of fear" crossing the country. [2] The party of law and order was reduced to pointing out that in Thatcher's words, "We have to remember that violent crime in this country is on a very much lesser scale than in some other countries." [3]

It is in the context of this widespread apprehension about violence, civic disturbance, and popular ressentiment , and indeed in the context of the ultimate failure of those issues to actually confirm the worst fears of the media and the establishment, that I want to turn a bit more squarely towards the pretext of this paper: the New Order single and its place in the rock music scene during the summer of 1990.

A large sector of Britain's rock culture has, it seems to me, historically been more attuned than the American or European rock cultures, to the political conditions in which it operates -- at least, I'd say that's been more consistently true in Britain than elsewhere, and thus there has been constructed a wide range of cultural practices and institutions by means of which rock music and its performance intervene in overtly politicised contexts. In relation to the poll-tax opposition this summer, rock appeared to be playing a familiar kind of role with many bands playing benefits for the numerous anti poll-tax organisations that were quickly set up in the early part of the year. Those interventions are not unexpected, of course; indeed they are almost de rigueur in a rock industry whose rhetoric of subcultural opposition and whose resistant display remain crucial affectations, and indeed crucial marketing components. Furthermore, it is especially not surprising to see such interventions in this instance since the poll-tax represents a new and increased taxation on the young, the working class, and the poor. Many young people, for instance, who as renters had been exempt from the old form of rates, or who were subsumed under household taxation and thus were paid for by parents, suddenly found themselves subject to an annual poll-tax imposition. Thus a tax such as this one is in a sense the natural enemy of a large sector of rock music's constituency. To a certain extent the rock music culture did respond to the challenge of the poll-tax, which had also given a considerable filip to a number of leftists political groups and organisations which, like several anarchist groups and the SWP, attached to the popular dismay.

One of the effects of Britain's preparing itself for a summer of thunder, for a massive outbreak of football violence and for the expression of popular dissent in terms of the poll-tax, was the distraction of attention from some of the chronic problems that have been brought to a head in the last dozen years under Thatcher, particularly from problems of racial tension which have been of late the most likely site of civic disturbance in British life, and from the problems in the economy that were exacerbated by Thatcher's twin headed policy of both making Britain an American-style laissez-faire capitalist power and at the same time flirting with but never completely accepting the federalisation of the European countries into the European Community. Arguably the latter problems in the economy have, since the summer of 1990, brought the downfall of Thatcher, while the problems of race and ethnicity were and continue to be elided under the Conservatives. But during the months of June and July, 1990, the threat of violence and civic disturbance was a consistent strand of discussion in most of the popular newspapers, magazines and on the television. As it happens, the promised thunder was not to come -- at least not in the extreme forms that were promised. The football supporters were relatively untroublesome, despite a couple of ugly incidents in Sardinia and despite many of them being arrested and deported by over zealous Italian police. And the poll tax agitations were somewhat declawed by the courts' stepping back from judgement, as it were. Instead of the summer of our discontent that various media were promising, the summer became what the youth culture magazine, The Face, was pleased to call "The Third Summer of Love." [4]

The first "summer of love" had been in 1988 with the burgeoning in the largely white youth culture in the English Midland cities (Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool in particular) of a revamped 1960s or hippy style and ideology in music, drugs and dress. The hallucinogen Extasy became the drug of choice, more or less replacing LSD after that drug's revival in the early 1980s. At the same time, Acid House music, began its reign in the clubs, bearing a lot of similarity in ethos to the hippy revival. Acid House, despite generally being taken as an evolution from Chicago house music, owes a great deal to the British reggae tradition, particularly to dub reggae, even while it has transformed that tradition to become, in Simon Reynolds' words, "close to the frigid, mechanical, supremely white perversion of funk perpetrated by early eighties pioneers like D.A.F. and Cabaret Voltaire." [5] Acid is in that sense, according to Reynolds, a supremely alienated form of black music, loosed from the various strands of black musical traditions. Acid is similar to neo-psychedelia not so much in rhythmic quality (it is almost frighteningly metronomic, set strictly at somewhere between 125 and 135 beats per minute), but in what Reynolds calls the encouragement of "perceptual drift," and what both he and Helena Blakemore see as the production of transitory, epehemeral, and trance-like experience. [6]

The melding of these two kinds of music became increasingly apparent in 1989, the second "summer of love." The club scene was largely transported as a matter of course to illegal venues like warehouses and temporary, unlicensed clubs. Outside London, in Manchester for instance, these illegal parties, or raves, became a point of attention for the police as the audiences became increasingly ethnically mixed and as blissing out on Extasy became epidemic. These first two "summers of love" had been in many ways the manifestation of a kind of passive resistance to the conditions of Thatcherite Britain, and an expression of alienation from that context; thus their manifestations had attracted the requisite amount of police and media disapproval. The "summer of love" in 1990, however, turned out somewhat differently. With the government and the police focussing on other potential problems, the drug scene and the illegal raves were more or less left alone. Although in the early spring the police had threatened various harrassment tactics, the restrictions on 1990 raves turned out to be mostly just a few bureaucratic ones.

This left the raves and festivals to develop according to their own logic. At the level of the music itself, Acid House consolidated its joining with the neo-psychedelic music of the Manchester and Liverpool bands. As Reynolds noted in 1988, " House has been bordering on the psychedelic for some time....with the spaciness of its dub effects, its despotic treatment of the voice and its interference with the normal ranking of instruments in the mix (encouraging 'perceptual drift')." [8] The marriage of the two modes readily gave pre-eminence to the more familiar and commercial melodiousness of neo-psychedelia, over the alienated trance qualities of Acid House. Thus the bands centered on Manchester and Liverpool, the so-called scallydelics like Stone Roses, Inspiral Carpets, or The Farm, settled into recording contracts and big sales. The independent music scene participated in a massive revival of sixties hippy music and mixed it with the futurism of Acid House. Helena Blakemore has described Acid House itself as exactly this mixture of revival and futurism, productive of an air of "instant culture."8 One could say that the marriage of Acid and scallydelia marks the appropriation of that instant culture by the music industry for the purpose of prolonging it enough for commodification.At any rate, it was not a big step from what we might call this non-nostalgic revivalism in the music itself to the revival during the summer of sixties-style outdoor rock festivals. Between May and September there were about a dozen outdoor rock festivals lasting a day or more, located at outdoor sites and arenas all across the country, all of them more or less unmolested by the police. One of the least invigorating of these was held in June at Knebworth. Co-sponsored by BBC's Radio One and America's MTV, it top-billed a handful of old rock stars like Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Cliff Richard as part of a media industry attempt to appropriate the festival fad. But even the independent festivals turned out to be by and large somewhat innocuous and blissed out affairs. The only one that involved any real antagonism between festival goers and the authorities was an abortive one which had been planned for the summer solstice at Stonehenge and which finally consisted of about three hundred ravers attended by seven hundred police whose aim was to keep the ancient stone monument safe from hooliganism and vandalism.

Apart from their extasied innocence, one of the most consistent features of these festivals was the way they demonstrated the full integration of a footballing motif into the styles, performances and musics of the subculture. In particular, much of the clothing of the people there drew upon what had been a steady rise in the fashionablity of various kinds of designer sports clothing: amongst the multifarious track suits and football shirts adorned with club logos the distinctive yellow and green strip of the Brazilian national team seemed particularly prominent. These, appended to ubiquitous wide flared jeans, epitomised the juxtaposition of acid culture with the sports ethos. Inevitably the game itself was played during interludes, and at the Glastonbury CND festival one band even kicked footballs around on stage (I had last seen that done by Rod Stewart and the Faces in the late sixties); the crowd duly broke out into a chant of "In-ger-lund."

There is, of course, something uncanny about a cross-fertilization of acid culture and football, particularly given the relation to violence that they might respectively be assumed to hold. Earlier in the year, the February issue of i-D magazi

magazine (their "Good Health" issue) had pointed out the contradiction in an article on Manchester youth culture. One young Mancunian is quoted thus: "We're not into wearing fucking daisies in our hair and all that walking around shouting 'karma fucking peace man.' Fuck that. We like the violence, we like getting off our heads, we like the dancing, the sweat." i-D's comment on this is to suggest simply that "the drippy peace and love optimism of the 60s has been replaced by a harder, more cynical sense of community and local pride based around your band, your area and your football team." One might also add, around your favourite drug: the commitment to hallucinogens amongst the bands and their followers has had, as i-d points out, "a massive catalytic effect on a whole generation of Thatcher-alienated youth." [9]

But the infatuation with football finally has had, I want to claim, a consolatory or pacificatory effect -- it marked a particular way of mainstreaming the House and hippy subcultures, and at the same time constituted an argument of a sort against -- and an assimilation of -- the resistant energies of football subcultures. The alienation that appears to be at the root of all three of those subcultural styles is cancelled out by their confluence during this summer in the celebration of the World Cup finals.

Many rock bands capitalized on the World Cup mania during the summer. Perhaps the most amusing of such instances was the single, "Touched by the Hand of La Cicciolina," by Pop Will Eat Itself, which urged that the trophy be presented after the final game by La Cicciolina, Italy's best known porno star and member of parliament; the most irrelevant and irreverent was Saint Etienne's single, "The Official Saint Etienne World Cup Theme" -- not official at all and a minimalist dub drone ornamented only by the repeated words, "Cool and deadly;" while perhaps the most banal was the band James announcing its "World Cup Tour," carefully arranged so as not to clash with any soccer dates. For me the most interesting symptom of this infatuation (and perhaps even an effective cause in the infatuation) was the recording of the ritual "official theme song" for the England team by New Order. There has been a tradition, dating back to at least 1966, of marking any major football events involving the England team by the recording by the national squad of some dreadful pop ditty: titles like "Back Home" (1970) or "This Time We'll Get It Right" (1982) featured the whole squad cheerleading in unison. This time, in 1990, the officiating body of English soccer, the Football Association, decided to get it right by having the theoreticians of subcultural dance modes, the band New Order, produce the official England theme song.

New Order have been perhaps one of the most important bands in British rock over the last decade or so. Beginning life as the legendary Joy Division and never entirely eradicating their origins in the minor key drone music of a certain moment in post-punk sensibility, New Order have become the best and the best known purveyors of a highly polished but minimalist technobeat. Demonstrable forerunners of House, they have both led the way in and absorbed the influences of the major trends in both dancemusic and rock in the last decade. Their significance is broader than the extent of their music alone, however. They have been the leading band for Britain's most fiercely independent and influential record labels, Factory, for a decade and have used profits from sales to reinvest in their local Manchester community, including the establishment of Britain's most notorious club, La Hacienda. In these and other respects they have been an exemplary independent band.

New Order's single for the Football Association is called "World in Motion," and the CD version is accompanied by three mixes, the "b-side," the "subbuteo mix" (named after the popular proprietary indoor game of table football), and the "no alla violenza" mix which very rapidly became the club favourite. In the lyrics of the single itself New Order's refusal to make a football song alone is quite apparent, and the remarks of Barney Sumner, the lead singer, on this point signal the band's attitude:

At one stage, the Football Association came to us and made it clear that the song really had to distance itself from hooliganism. Hence our line, 'Love's got the world in motion.' It's an anti-hooligan song. There's a deliberate ambiguity about the words which don't have to refer to football. I think you're right when you say that pop and football culture are nearer than they've been in years. And from our point of view, there's been a football element in our fans for about the last six years. Even so, there was no way I could have written the lyrics. I really couldn't write a football lyric. [10]

As it turns out, the credited lyricist for the song is Keith Allen, a Manchester comedian. His words constitute a deliberate admixture of two lyrical strands: of what is almost a mimicry of New Order's familiar love songs, and what would perhaps be more predictable in a football song. The footballing strand is marked at the very beginning by the voice of Kenneth Wolstenholme, a BBC sports commentator, long since retired, whose name is almost a byword in the culture for the somewhat fatuous and yet strangely endearing mode of football commentating that the British media consistently produce. His opening words recall the England team's one and only outright victory in the World Cup final in 1966, and they are overlaid with a typical New Order drum and synthesizer introduction announcing the song's melody.

Sumner's voice enters for two verses with lyrics of which the following will give a taste: "Express yourself, create the space. You know you can win, don't give up the chase. Beat the man, take him on. You never give up. It's one on one." While these lyrics perhaps adequately address elements of the sport, the choruses are a little less obviously to do with football:

It's one on one, you can't be wrong.
When something's good, it's never gone.
Love's got the world in motion
and I know what we can do;
love's got the world in motion
and I can't believe it's true.

New Order apparently insisted on the phrase "love's got the world in motion," rejecting the Football Association's preferred chorus, "We've got the world in motion." And the fact that the song became a sort of anthem in gay clubs by virtue of its exhortations to "express yourself... beat your man...take him on...it's a one on one," and so on, probably made it even less approvable to that body. What the Football Association undoubtedly did approve of, however, was the introduction of the voice of England's premier black player, John Barnes, in a sort of rap sequence, and his mouthing of the phrases "we ain't no hooligans," and "with three lions on my chest we can't go wrong." But even between those lines Barnes clearly states that "this ain't no football song." [11]

All in all this is probably the least likely official football theme song ever recorded: denying its own status as a football song, introducing elements of subcultural love lyrics, and becoming a gay club hit, but also assuming the burden of combatting football's major peripheral problem, hooliganism, the song is ultimately unheimlich , even despite its closing chorus that speaks of "playing for england; playing this song." It does not quite work as a pseudo-national anthem, and yet it effectively draws together several strands of British subcultural life and merges them into a peculiar cultural product where their elements of resistance leave few traces. The song's gesture of cancelling the resistant elements of its own context -- the football and rock subcultures -- was not sufficient to make it acceptable to the mainstream media. That is, although the single did well in the clubs and in the charts, it was not much heard in the mainstream media slots to which a different kind of song might have had access. Both the BBC and the independent television companies forewent the pleasure of having "Love's got the world in motion" going across the airwaves every night, and the BBC used as their World Cup theme another piece of music that quickly became a number one hit: Luciano Pavarotti singing his version of the "Nessun Dorma..." aria from Turandot .

In its way the well-known Puccini aria is, of course, just as unheimlich as the New order song: one can only imagine that it was meant to be allegorized as the utterance of the footballing prince detemined to name himself to the trophy/princess in the morning of his triumph. But the use of this operatic aria, in all its overdetermined Italianicity -- which of course, could be fully exploited in the running patter of the television anchormen -- was in many ways appropriate in that it effected a kind of Europeanisation of the cultural appurtenances of the World Cup. The World Cup finals were an event which, for all its audience in the South, and for all the playing success of the underdog team from the Cameroons, was ultimately dominated in competition by the countries of the North, and represented in economic terms a massive draining

All in all this is probably the least likely official football theme song ever recorded: denying its own status as a football song, introducing elements of subcultural love lyrics, and becoming a gay club hit, but also assuming the burden of combatting football's major peripheral problem, hooliganism, the song is ultimately unheimlich , even despite its closing chorus that speaks of "playing for england; playing this song." It does not quite work as a pseudo-national anthem, and yet it effectively draws together several strands of British subcultural life and merges them into a peculiar cultural product where their elements of resistance leave few traces. The song's gesture of cancelling the resistant elements of its own context -- the football and rock subcultures -- was not sufficient to make it acceptable to the mainstream media. That is, although the single did well in the clubs and in the charts, it was not much heard in the mainstream media slots to which a different kind of song might have had access. Both the BBC and the independent television companies forewent the pleasure of having "Love's got the world in motion" going across the airwaves every night, and the BBC used as their World Cup theme another piece of music that quickly became a number one hit: Luciano Pavarotti singing his version of the "Nessun Dorma..." aria from Turandot .

In its way the well-known Puccini aria is, of course, just as unheimlich as the New order song: one can only imagine that it was meant to be allegorized as the utterance of the footballing prince detemined to name himself to the trophy/princess in the morning of his triumph. But the use of this operatic aria, in all its overdetermined Italianicity -- which of course, could be fully exploited in the running patter of the television anchormen -- was in many ways appropriate in that it effected a kind of Europeanisation of the cultural appurtenances of the World Cup. The World Cup finals were an event which, for all its audience in the South, and for all the playing success of the underdog team from the Cameroons, was ultimately dominated in competition by the countries of the North, and represented in economic terms a massive draining of capital and resources from South America, Africa, and Asia, into the coffers of the sponsoring corporations, towns and cities, media networks, and advertising industries of Western Europe and the United States (the probable host nation in 1994 and whose team appeared in the finals for the first time in Italy). The world in motion, to be sure: a motion whose nature is underlined by the fact that "World in Motion" represents the first time that New Order's label, Factory Records, has been distributed by the American corporation MCA (itself now taken over by the Japanese mega-corporation, Matsushita).

New Order cannot, of course, be held responsible for the workings of this kind of world in motion, anymore than Pavarotti can. And yet the band's song, in its abortive attempt to represent a certain kind of populist nationalism, and in its annulment of the resistant energies of its own cultural context (football culture's violent antagonism, and neo-psychedelic subculture's alienation), can be understood as a symptom, or even as a symbol, of the ease with which subcultural forms and energies can be made to contribute to and participate in what we used to call the military-industrial complex, but which I think we really need to call the military-industrial-sports complex.





As I finish writing this article, in the United States in January 1991, the world has set itself in motion by way of a vicious military adventure which, we are told, is designed to help establish a "new world order." British and American aeroplanes, ships, and soldiers are in the process of demonstrating who truly owns the means of violence and to what ends. Their activities underscore the global nature of the context intowhich New Order, in their small way, intervened in the summer of 1990.


Last updated on 07/03/2005 9:10:07 PM - 9:10:07 PM
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