Lightning Seeds' Ian Broudie on Three Lions' enduring appeal

Lightning Seeds' Ian Broudie on Three Lions' enduring appeal

Ian Broudie has opened up on his relationship with his biggest hit, Three Lions, as the timeless England football anthem begins its biennial climb back up the charts. 

The Lightning Seeds frontman penned the beloved track with comedians David Baddiel and Frank Skinner for Euro 96, reaching No.1 twice, and released a reworked version for the France 98 World Cup two years later, which also hit the top spot.

The track, which has total sales of 952,674 according to the Official Charts Company, enjoyed a resurgence during England's unexpected journey to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018, when it became the first song in history to have four separate stints at the summit. It has since charted twice more, peaking at No.4 in 2021 (for the Covid-delayed Euro 2020) and No.20 at Qatar 2022.

And after England started their Euro 2024 campaign with a narrow win over Serbia on Sunday night, the song reappeared in the Midweek chart. Ahead of the second group game against Denmark (5pm on June 20), Three Lions is at No.57 in the latest sales flash with consumption up 344.8% week-on-week. But for ACR (Accelerated Chart Ratio) rules on catalogue tracks that require double the consumption compared to current releases, Three Lions would be much higher – on the combined tracks sales flash (which does not impose ACR) it's currently at No.34.

The song is about the feeling of losing together and disappointment, which is a lot of what being a football fan is about

Ian Broudie

Speaking to Music Week, Broudie discussed Three Lions' enduring appeal.

"I tried to write it like I would write any song," he said. "I'm a Liverpool fan and when I think of a football song I think of You'll Never Walk Alone, which is not really a football song and isn't about football. It's about community and being together and a shared experience, which was my experience of going to games when I was kid and how I feel about it."

The 65-year-old songwriter added: "I put as much effort into Three Lions musically as any song I've ever done and melodically - you take away the words and all that - and I think it really works. The song is about the feeling of losing together and disappointment, which is a lot of what being a football fan is about, so maybe it just taps into those emotions.

"It's not really trying to be a football song at all. If you had a list of the things that football songs do, they generally say, 'We're going to win the competition,' they generally have the team [singing] on it and they're not melancholic. They can be a bit funny and laddy and I don't think 3 Lions is any of those things."

Three Lions serves as the closing track on the Lightning Seeds' forthcoming greatest hits album, Tomorrow’s Here Today: 35 Years of Lightning Seeds, which is out on October 4 ahead of a UK tour with the band for November/December. 

I don't think the FA were keen on Three Lions. I still don't think they're very keen on it

Ian Broudie

"If we play it at gigs, we always play it last," noted Broudie. "Sometimes it's been hard to come to terms with that song because [Skinner and Baddiel] sing on the record and it's got a life of its own, so it was like, 'Should I play it live?' But when it came back in 2018, with all the memes and everything, I think it became everybody's record.

"It changed my relationship with it and now, I'm much more at ease with it and feel lucky, it's been a great thing for me. It's almost like we could be playing [The Pogues'] Dirty Old Town at the end of the gig for a big singalong. But we play Three Lions and it feels a bit separate [from the Lightning Seeds], but part of it at the same time." 

And despite Three Lions' generation-spanning appeal, Broudie revealed the Football Association have never approached him about writing a follow-up.

"I don't think the FA were keen on Three Lions," he admitted. "They didn't really like it when I delivered it and I still don't think they're very keen on it to this day. I don't think they can get around the idea that it's not about the team and it's not [saying], 'We're going to win.'" 

Revisit Music Week's Hitmakers interview with Three Lions exec producer Rick Blaskey here.

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