South London band breaks onto the music scene with a song about……a footballer? Until this year songs about footballers have largely been confined to the terraces, but in 2014 the musical goalposts moved when elephants and castles’ debut single ‘Fashanu’ became ‘One of alternative-pop’s underground hits of 2014’ – The Zine. The new boys on the music scene are getting plenty of attention for their bruising, infectious tunes and finger pointing subject matter.
elephants and castles debut single ‘Fashanu’ is a thumping tribute to the late Justin Fashanu, one of football’s forgotten men.
‘None of my mates knew he was the first black one million pound footballer, they remembered the tabloid headlines and piss taking’ Robin – (e&c).
As a very young footballer, Robin from the elephants met Justin at a soccer school and made a big impression on him. He remembers a softly spoken mountain of a man happy to chat, sign autographs and have a game of Wembley doubles. As a Forest fan, Robin followed Justin’s career beyond the City Ground until his tragic death in 1998 and like many football fans, he wasn’t aware of Justin’s turbulent life story; his mother putting him in a children’s home as a toddler and how he grew up to be a pioneer in the modern game whilst being ostracised by members of his family and many communities in which he wanted to belong.
On leaving school Robin went on to taste the harsh reality of professional football in the lower leagues and it gave him an insight into the world Justin inhabited in the late 70’s early 80’s when being a black and gay footballer would have been extremely tough. Is it any easier decades later?
“As a white heterosexual player, lower league football is tough. If you listened to the wrong music, wore the wrong jeans or had an ‘A’ level you would be villified. Saying that I had a great manager – Keith Alexander, the first full time black manager in the football league and he looked after all of us. They didn’t make many like Keith, football needs more” – Robin (e&c)
The fact that Justin remains the only high profile professional footballer in Britain to have been openly gay suggests that not much has changed in the seventeen years since his death. In other sports many other gay professionals have felt supported in their openness about their sexuality. How long will it be before we have British football’s equivalent of Tom Daley, Gareth Thomas or Michael Sam? What is stopping this? Fear? Archaic attitudes? Money? This is another article in itself.
elephants and castles met whilst teaching in an estate next to the Elephant and Castle. They write about subjects that mean something to them. That is why their debut single is ‘Fashanu’.
The music is upbeat but the lyrics paint a tragic tale, we want you to dance and enjoy it but also get his story across’ – Chris (e&c).
Since its release the song has taken on a life of its own and Justin’s memory is being kept alive through its regular radio airplay, band interviews, TV appearance and press coverage.
elephants and castles release their second single in February 2015, for more info go to http://elephantsandcastles.co.uk