I Believe In Miracles Has The Best Soundtrack To A Football Film You'll Ever Hear

The man behind the forthcoming Nottingham Forest film tells us why he chose a selection of rare groove and soul tunes to soundtrack the picture.
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The man behind the forthcoming Nottingham Forest film tells us why he chose a selection of rare groove and soul tunes to soundtrack the picture.

I was in a tiny, windowless edit suite in Nottingham, with Owen Davies - the editor of our film I Believe in Miracles. We were talking about how most footballers have this reputation for appalling taste in music whereas, ironically, the sport itself lends itself so beautifully to what we call in the film world 'montages', which in layman's terms is images cut to music.

So, what could we do with this film about the great European Cup winning Nottingham Forest team of the late 70's, managed by one of the most charismatic managers that ever lived - music wise? I suggested that we needed something with strut and groove. Funk, maybe, or soul?

Probably ridiculous, when you think of football at that time. A time of rosettes and Bovril soup - but also the first murmurings of the modern game, sleek Adidas kits, lighter balls and flash boots - but Owen immediately smiled and agreed. Let's give it a go! So we had some film footage - and I mean literal film footage from a tin with all the glorious colour that entails - and we played it on the screen alongside, straight off the net, a classic soul/funk classic called 'I Believe in Miracles' by the Jackson Sisters. I swear if there was ever a moment when a beam of light with angels singing should have shone upon us, it was that one. It looked and sounded breathtaking. We both actually giggled at the absurdity of how good it sounded. Straight up. Two grown men laughing as we dug more and more classic soul, funk and disco out and put them to the images of this fantastic Forest team that are so alive in our popular consciousness as football fans.

1) I Believe in Miracles - Jackson Sisters

It's strange but myself and the editor Owen started calling what that team did ‘a miracle’ and then the players just became the miracle men. That's how we referred to them. I was always a huge fan of this song. They used to play it in the Hacienda, you know. Mike Pickering. Apparently it's also Jeff Barrett and Lauren Laverne's favourite song. You can see why too. People argue it's the first ever disco track. I like the way disco has been revised historically - how important people now say it is. It’s a bit like the Forest team in the film; how they were never quite given the credit they should have been given. I Believe in Miracles became the theme tune and indeed title of the film when we found we could get it. We never thought we would be able too. We were always going to call the film I Believe in Miracles because it's such a famous saying, but to get the legendary song too was the icing on the cake.

2) Do It Again - Baby Huey and The Babysitters

I love rare old soul records. Bob Stanley has a fantastic theory on all this: Apparently the standard was so high at the time (songwriting-wise) that loads of great songs and bands simply slipped through the net because there was so much great stuff. It was a golden period. I do feel that someone like Baby Huey should have been a multi-million seller. Why aren't they? When you hear the stuff you just can't answer it. Maybe in a more just parallel universe they are. They should be anyway. Just listen to his voice and band and the way it fits with the great John Robertson, twisting and turning every European defender who got within five yards of him inside out.

3) Groovin’ - The Young Rascals

One of my favourite bits of the film is the team talking about training. How it was much more about a spirit among them than data analysis or reports on the opposition. When you hear stories of them jogging through the nettles at the side of the Trent and playing hide and seek you can't help but laugh. You can totally see how Brian Clough kept them so relaxed. It was genius - and as Martin O'Neil points out, it worked too. They won two European Cups, didn't they?

4) Ain't No Use - The Meters

Clough and Taylor were never frightened of a player’s reputation. Archie Gemmill, Kenny Burns, Larry Lloyd – all fiery men who were seen as too difficult to handle. But not to Clough and co. They were the pieces in the jigsaw they needed to make a great side and they were confident in their man-management skills in getting them to play how they want. This song kicks in just as Archie scores one of the great World Cup goals and you think: ‘of course you'd sign him. He's a genius’.

5) Bongo Rock - The Incredible Bongo Band

I used this for Forest vs Liverpool. When Forest drew the double European cup champions in the first round, a lot of people thought that was it! Game over. As John Robertson says, however, come the night and Forest were awesome. A perfect pitch, a packed house and two great sides. A young Garry Birtles scoring his first ever forest goal and then a full back called Colin Barrett scoring what Forest fans called the goal of the century, with an almighty volley in the dying minutes. It was enough to see off Europe's greatest team and give Barrett immortality with Forest fans - all accompanied by the best 70's style football music you can imagine!

6) Can You Feel the Force - The Real Thing

The thing about this Forest side was they had everything. Yes, they were swashbuckling and could score, but they had a mean, mean defence too. They became almost impossible to score against. And that was the thing people forget about Clough, was that his sides had a rod of iron running right through them too. In the away game at Anfield, this song is perfect because you can see how well Ian Bowyer and John McGovern worked in a destructive midfield when needed. They were compact in a way that we think is only true of modern teams. The truth is that Clough was doing it then.

7) Fly Me to the Moon – Lyn Collins

I found a funk version of this song, which was Clough's favourite ever song (when sung by Sinatra of course), but I got it in there. I used it over them thrashing AEK Athens at the City Ground. I think it's possibly the moment when that team, one of the greatest domestic football teams ever, were at their absolute peak. They were untouchable that night. They would have played anyone off the park.

8) Summer Madness - Kool and the Gang

There's so many times in this film when people have gone, ‘I know this song!’ And I reply, ‘no, you know the sample. This is the original’. I always try to use originals when I can. People think of the Will Smith song, but this really captures a warm lazy summer night in Munich in the days when you didn't see much Football live on TV. I can remember being a kid and the pitch looking so green. Thousands of Forest fans had travelled. It all seemed so far from the world of my teams Merthyr and Cardiff. A different universe, really. Those shimmering red adidas kits. I think a few teams stay in the popular consciousness: Real Madrid in the white kit of the 50's, Celtic in the mid 60's and probably Barcelona in recent times. I think Forest of the late 70's were one of those sides. Fans of all clubs really appreciate what they were and where they came from and this song takes you back to a cooler more laid back time when money wasn't everything.

9) Rock and Roll - Velvet Underground

I love this song. It's all about nothing happening in a teenager’s world and then in five years rock and roll coming and turning that world upside down. That’s a bit like the film in three minutes. How in 1975 this man came to Nottingham and a run down City and club and by 1980 had made them famous across the world. He also turned the world upside down in that five years. He was rock and roll. Brian Clough had that effect. He changes the whole outlook of a City and its people. They travelled Europe. They literally went from Grimsby to Madrid in a few years. It really did change that much. It's a remarkable story and as earth shattering as the arrival of rock and roll on popular culture as Lou is telling us. A football team can also have that effect. It was beautiful to marry the two together in film.

10) The Love I lost - Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes

It's quite interesting, as the debate by many is that this was the first disco song, not ‘I Believe in Miracles’. I started the film with that and ended it with this. I chose 1975-1980. The five years. You see, Matt Busby said great football teams have five-year cycles and he's right I think. That's why I picked those dates. It's why I loved When We Were Kings, the Muhammad Ali documentary. They chose the few years where he was at the top of his game. I did the same with Clough because you'd need a whole series to document his whole life and I wanted to focus (like the Ali film) on him at his best. All the players say the same at this time. They never ever saw him drunk, ever. And he was never a tyrant. How can you play afraid? You can't! He actually took away that fear. He allowed you to express and enjoy yourself.

I'm well aware of what happened after 1980, that's another story but the seeds are there. It's why I ended with this song. This is the team at their pinnacle, but as with everything in life there is only so high you can climb, but my oh my, what a journey he took you on.