Round 19 – Carlton v Adelaide: It’s nice to win, but…

Carlton, we have a problem. Three wins in a row has brought to a head my doubt about whether I can ever be a true Blues fan. Don’t get me wrong – I’m loving that winning feeling. I just don’t dig what comes with it: the club song.


Where previously I only had to cope with it once per match as the team ran out, now I’m subjected to it up to 4 times every match day. To be fair, the players usually do a semi-decent and mercifully fast version of it down in the rooms; so that final listen (if I tune in) is thankfully the least annoying one. But having to endure the “professional” version pumped through the stadium, so loud that I can’t think, twice after every win…that’s a bit much to take.


I do get a smidgeon of joy watching fellow Blues fans belt it out with glee – it clearly means something to them. And after all, there’s a win to celebrate. But for me, that initial roar from the crowd on the final siren, that release at the joy of the win, is filled with the dread of anticipation. And once the Dah da dah da dah! kicks in, I just want the song to be over.


Why? I don’t know exactly. It’s something to do with its energy – or lack thereof. It’s not exactly uplifting, is it? Adam Manovic’s description of it as lazy is spot on, though I can’t agree with his ranking of it as second best in the league! It’s actually just a bit of a dirge. Not as dirge-like as the Freo Dockers song to be fair, but that’s hardly a comparison to be proud of.


The lyrics aren’t earth shattering either. There’s a couple of lines I could never quite make out, even after three years as a member. Now that I’ve looked them up, I’m none the wiser: With all the champions, they like to send us. Is that praising the opposition players? Or is ‘they’ a mysterious force sending alien champions to play for Carlton? That’s hardly self-determination, is it? The Blueseum tells us history is divided about whether ‘us’ should in fact be ‘up’; but I can’t make sense of either version.


Perhaps the most disturbing thing my research has uncovered is the origins of the tune. From the Blueseum again, we learn that ‘Lily of Laguna’ was a song written in 1898 by English composer Leslie Stuart, performed by Eugene Stratton, and that it was a popular tune in the early part of the twentieth century. It’s thought the tune was adopted sometime between 1929 and 1931 to create the club song we know today. What it fails to mention is that ‘Lily of Laguna’ was a ‘coon song’ – a comic song “with words in a dialect purporting to be typical of black American speech” (Grove Music Online). Think blackface performances and minstrel shows. Yep.


A song by white people appropriating and stereotyping African Americans? Sure, let’s use that tune for a footy club song in Australia. Yes, I get that it was a product of its time, and we can’t go back and change that. And apparently the lyrics of the original song were changed around 1942 to be less racist and it continued to be popular into the 50s as a simple love song – Bing Crosby even recorded it with the new lyrics. But do the origins forever stain the foundation of Carlton’s club song?


The club song in general is a funny thing. Most of them, you’d have to agree, are pretty odd if not downright ugly things. The lyrics become devoid of meaning, especially the way they’re usually shouted post-match by the winning team. The songs are, I suspect, a vessel for us to channel our love for our club and to feel a sense of belonging. Perhaps it’s that latter purpose that results in the sense of attachment to them, however misplaced.


I still remember Greg Champion’s campaign five years back to move the Dockers on from their woeful club song. He wrote them a new one. He flogged it through the Coodabeen Champions on ABC Melbourne radio. He headed west to talk it up and seek support to push for a new one. The purple army’s response, if I remember right? We like our song. Leave it bloody well alone! Freo’s history, the age of their song, is nothing compared to a club like Carlton; but even they were attached and steadfast.


So, the question remains then: to become a true-blue, dinky-di, rusted-on Blues fan, am I just going to have to accept the club song is part of the package? Perhaps I need to focus on what the song signifies, rather than what it is and where it came from. Maybe it will grow on me if I hear it more often. It’s also possible it will always be that grain of sand in my enjoyment of the club, annoying the hell out of me without ever producing a pearl. I don’t know.


But with three wins on the trot, five from the past seven, six for the season and a solid chance for at least one more, there’s every sign that I’ll be hearing the song a hell of a lot more often in the future. I’m loving the way this team is going about it and the reward it brings. I guess I’ll just have to learn to deal with the consequences.



CARLTON      4.4    7.8    10.9    13.9 (87)
ADELAIDE     4.0    5.4     7.5       9.6 (60) 


Carlton: Casboult 3, Phillips, McKay, Simpson, Silvagni, Kennedy, Cripps, Lang, Deluca, Setterfield, Gibbons
Walker 3, Stengle 2, Seedsman, Murphy, B.Crouch, Jenkins 


Carlton: Cripps, Simpson, Murphy, Setterfield, E.Curnow, Petrevski-Seton, Thomas
Sloane, O’Brien, M.Crouch, B.Crouch, Smith 



Carlton: Nil


Reports: Nil


Umpires: Rosebury, Harris, Glouftsis


Official crowd: 38,369 at the MCG



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Writer, cricket tragic, occasional musician.




  2. If you think Carlton’s song is bad should should consider that bloody awful Crows’ song, namely the UNITED STATES MARINE tune Also, well as Carlton played yesterday, everyone beats Adelaide these days. Who was the Rhodes scholar that decided to drop Betts and Greenwood for the game – absurd

    Unless there is a radical change in Crowland they;re doomed to lose all their remaining matches. NOT HAPPY PYKEY!

  3. Cathi Johnston says

    Yvette, love your perspective on the club song. For mine, the club anthem is a bonding experience when you get to belt it out with like-minded friends and strangers in the grandstands after the final siren goes, and in that respect the Tiges have the best one……if i was ever to change teams i would pick them because of the song (but hell will have frozen over if I’ve deserted the Eagles!!!).

    So next Sunday, I’m very happy to only hear your club song before the game starts, and mine on repeat at the end!!!

  4. John Butler says

    Yvette, as you admit, you’re new to this Carlton supporting caper. So I’ll forgive this sacrilege. Just this once.

    As Tom Waits would say, you’re looking at this all wrong.

    That fat, flaccid horn intro to our song has great cultural and historical resonance. Even today, you only need to play it in the presence of Collingwood supporters of a certain generation to watch them start twitching (cf. Lord Bogan). It’s not the song in itself that really matters, but the generations of connection, the times and places where the song has rung out, that really matter.

    That is the reason most new footy club songs sound like discarded jingles.

    I would also submit that the sociology of the coon song is considerably more complicated than you indicate here. Yes, there was intent to ridicule and stereotype for sure. But blacks also participated in minstrel shows, often with a knowing humour. The joke clearly wasn’t always on them. And many coon songs became the basis for a lot of early blues songs.

    Collingwood’s song uses the word ‘cakewalk’. That term derives from a popular black activity of the early 20th century. The idea of a Cakewalk in this context was to sashay and promenade, to flaunt a public persona. These were sometimes done at the same venues and on the same program lists as minstrel shows.

    It was only with the subsequent changes in black attitudes to consciousness and identity (and white responses to those changes) that these earlier cultural practices acquired such a (ahem) black and white reputation.

    There endeth my cultural dissertation for the week.

    Go Blues!

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