Kiara Bowers might already be one of the best players Fremantle have ever produced.
Being the most universally loathed or mocked of the AFL club songs, rightly or wrongly, today’s rant should touch not only on how I feel about the song, but how it made it as high as 11th.
The truth is, as hard as it is to admit, this song has…something.
Thankfully for you doubters, it’s only a small something, so it’s not going to progress any higher.
But there is something there, some tiny glimmer of hope. It’s hard to touch on exactly what that is, but I’ll try.
For better or worse, I’ve been singing ‘Freo Way to Go’ on my way to work every day now. The chorus is toe-tappin’, it’s catchy and it has a kind of bawdy joy that’s hard to resist.
And after so much bad press for not including Freo at #18 on this list, I re-listened to it and tried to offer resistance.
After all, it’s not a masterpiece. But it’s almost so bad that its goofiness – and that’s probably the best word for it – has some innocent charm.
It’s almost the perfect representation of the club’s first 10 years, or the nauseating Christmas-inspired (or Christmas-insipid) jumpers.
The song says: “Here we are. We are the Dockers; we’re honest, we’re trying, we’re the loveable underdog that has never beaten your own team in a grand final.”
You get the picture.
After putting all 18 songs in a rough order, I found myself listening to two or three bottom-ranked ones each night.
This was a double-check, to make sure the song I’m writing about is really my least favourite of those remaining.
I’d compare them back-to-back to find the one with the least positives to write about – and Freo was always one of those three.
But there was something perversely fun about it.
Take the chorus, for example. You could say that F is the fifth note for pieces composed in the key of C-major, and a descending pattern from the root note to the fifth via Bb and returning to the root elicits a generally positive response when playing in a major key.
Or you could just say that the intervals are the same as in the intro to ‘Welcome to Paradise’ by Green Day (and a million others), which sounds fun. You can’t quantify an emotional reaction to music.
One argument that’s always come up in debates between myself and friends has been about artistic merit versus popular enjoyment.
What makes a song good? Is it just whether it is fun to listen to or not? Or does it need to prove it has worth in a more intellectual sense?
Really, we could just ask ourselves, do I want to hear it again? Most would say no. I’ve found myself going “Okay, yeah, why not one more.”
Talk to those folks who dig ‘Toxic’ by Britney Spears, but happily write off the entirety of the rest of her body of ‘work’. They’ll attest that popcorn good can still be good – it can still have its place.
I would add that sometimes there is no better meal on this earth than a Maccas cheeseburger, despite the fact you couldn’t sustain yourself on them alone.
This must apply to the club song of the Fremantle football club. It’d be a dull world if popular consensus escalated to the point where we were all into the same thing – we’d all be Collingwood supporters, for a start.
The chorus of “Freo, way to go, hit ‘em real hard send ‘em down below” is enjoyable.
I don’t ultimately respect it, musically, and the lyrics are almost unintentionally funny instead of inspiring, the melody is almost banal… but I will sing it and stomp around the apartment when it’s on whether I like it or not.
The verse? Well, it’s a bit more of the same, really – although the lyrics descend from so bad they’re good, to so bad it hurts, in a way.
Okay, so you guys are the “rollers and the rockers”? That’s good. What are you going to do about that? Oh, you’ll roll ‘em and then rock ‘em? Really? And if they get up you’ll roll them and rock them…
Does any other club in the league have a song where they say the one line three different ways in a row?
The biggest telling point is that the actual players don’t even bother singing the verse post-game. They just belt out the chorus twice, then go and have some more Powerade.
So I’m not saying the song is a masterpiece. But there’s something entertaining about it, and naysayers should challenge themselves to admit it’s at least entertainingly bad.
And the entertainment factor is something that some of the other club shockers (such as West Coast) don’t have.
Somehow they’ve managed to put in heavy modern drumming alongside the trumpeting dorkiness of the VFL clubs.
There’s even pinch harmonics in background – how do they get away with that? It’s goofy, but it’s catchy.
I would even rate this song two or three spots higher on this list if it wasn’t for the fact that it sounds a bit stunted, cut short and not entirely like a whole song. More on that below…
I would honestly rather listen to this than some of the VFL-era songs that all sound too similar. At least it’s an attempt at something other than conformity. Do something with the forumla, or leave it alone.
There are 11 songs in the AFL that sound pretty similar. They’re from roughly the same era. They all take an old-timey song and change the lyrics.
Their recorded versions were all released in 1972 by the Fable Singers, using similar arrangements. So when you take 18 songs and more than half of them are the same, it’s the other ones that are going to stand out more.
Some of them stand out due to their incompetent horror, but one or two are great.
Freo’s doesn’t quite make it, but tries.
Is it juvenile? Yes. Would I like it for my club song by choice? No.
Is it a guilty pleasure? Probably. But do I enjoy hearing it? Yes, I do.
And that’s why their song is the #11th best in the league.
As a post-script, it’s interesting to note the recent change in club song. I can’t think of an occasion before where clubs have offered supporters the chance to vote on song selection. (If anyone knows of one, please post a comment.)
The original ’95 version definitely needed replacing –it was a right mess. It had the verse and chorus from their current tune, but opened with an almost mocking imitation of Stravinsky’s take on the ‘Song of the Volga Boatmen’ (even typing that out looks ridiculous).
Freo had turned to Advertising agency 303 to organise the fledgling club’s tune, and they in turn called up a chap named Ken Walther to put this together. I’m not sure if they wanted him to get something that took up more space on the CD single, but at three minutes it was way too long.
And the worst part came as an absurd bridge which had them chant “Dock-Dock-Dockers, show ‘em how we rock”, followed by “Dock-Dock-Dockers, show ‘em how we roll, go Dockers, go go go”.
I would put money down on the fact that most of the people that hate the song now have heard this original version, and this bridge alone is enough to justify your rage at the current song. It’s amazing it took them 15 years to go back to the drawing board.
So an augmented version of that original (which was obviously the eventual winner) was put up as one of four voting options after the 2010 season, along with the original itself.
The two other contenders were ‘The Mighty Roar of Freo’ by Rosco Elliot (who was soon to pen the Gold Coast number), and ‘Freo Freo’ by Eskimo Joe – the Dockers’ #1 ticket holder at the time.
‘Freo Freo’ is almost more song than anthem, has an unnecessary bridge and an instrumental section with flourishes that only disguise the genuinely effective emotional power of the verse melody.
‘The Mighty Roar of Freo’ is comprised of a decent first section that keeps the same vibe of the verse of the original Freo tune, while added more musicality. But this is then undone by the second section – an ascending vocal chant matched by drumming on each syllable that makes it a complete dog’s breakfast.
It’s clear the members, in choosing a version of the original with the fat trimmed, made the right choice. I hope they stick by it.
Who knows – you might be hearing it blasting out of TV speakers across Australia on grand final day.