Rik Mayall called himself the “People’s Poet” on the iconic ’80s comedy series The Young Ones. But the funnyman employed a wordsmith more revered by actual people to pen the lines of “Noble England.”
Just days after Mayall’s fatal heart attack after a morning jog, fans have purchased his four-year-old Shakespeare soccer anthem in massive numbers just in time for the World Cup. The campaign has strangely shot the comedian high into the British song charts. Official Charts Company reports that “thanks to a social media campaign, the previously forgotten track entered Wednesday’s midweeks at Number 38.” The next day, the song “surged a further 27 places to Number 11, and according to latest sales data has broken through the Top 10 barrier to land at Number 8 this morning, based on sales up to midnight last night.” The outfit dubs it “feasible” that “Noble England” could hit number one.
Mayall has used comedy to branch off into other areas in the past. In addition to scoring a number-one single with his fellow “Young Ones” and faux-hero Cliff Richard in 1986 with a redo of “Living Doll,” Mayall more than a decade ago dressed up as Hitler in an effort to persuade his fellow Brits to keep the pound and not adopt “Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein euro.”
Set to the backdrop of a droning drunken football chant, “Noble England” relies on lines from Henry V to inspire the king’s six-centuries-later subjects. The star of The Young Ones, Bottom, The New Statesman, and other iconic British television comedies released the song to public indifference during the lead up to the 2010 World Cup. Mayall, with an assist from Shakespeare, tells the athletes readying for pseudo-battle on the pitch: “Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood/Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage.”
It surely beats that high-strung poseur radical the People’s Poet: “Pollution, all around. Sometimes up, sometimes down. But always around. Pollution are you coming to my town?”