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Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds regroup for festive ‘Three Lions’

Exclusive: Frank Skinner and David Baddiel tell Rolling Stone UK why they've given Three Lions a festive revamp

By Nick Reilly

Ian Broudie, Frank Skinner, 66 hero Geoff Hurst and David Baddiel (Picture: Joe Magowan)

As England prepare to carry a country’s hopes on their shoulders in Qatar, comedians Frank Skinner and David Baddiel have unveiled their new version of Three Lions – complete with a festive twist for the most unusual of World Cups.

The duo have teamed up with The Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie once more for the track, which contains some reworked lyrics to reflect this time of year.

“Three Lions on a sleigh, with She-Lions inspiration. Santa says let’s play, the Christmas tree formation,” comes their first Christmassy chorus.

And while the original track’s 30 years of hurt has now been upgraded to a rather painful 56 years, there is praise for the achievements of the Euro 2022 winning Lionesses – with Beth England and Jess Carter appearing in the track’s video alongside Sir Geoff Hurst.

You can read our whole Q&A with Baddiel & Skinner and watch the new, suitably festive version of Three Lions, below.

So, it is it coming home for England in Qatar?

Frank Skinner: One could argue that it already has come home. That Lionesses win made it all seem believable, but I do feel like it’s a jinx broken. I think it could be!

David Baddiel: We get asked a lot if it’s coming home, but that’s a thing about the song. It’s not a piece of predictive punditry, it’s a song of hope and yearning. I don’t set myself up as Gary Neville, or a pundit with some knowledge. Whenever I’m asked that I have no idea, I just have a wish.

But that wish has been misinterpreted in recent years. Luka Modric famously said he thought the phrase ‘It’s Coming Home’ was arrogant.

David: Frank made a good point. It’s really just a song about being a fan, where you have to put up with a lot of losses and just hope that this time it’ll be OK. That’s what the song is really about. But the notion of football coming home means that we don’t own it!

Frank: We don’t think that Greece owns the Olympics, but we acknowledge that’s where it began. Historically we’re the home of football, but it’s never meant ownership of it.

David: It’s a song about loss too, in terms of football. That’s not arrogant. We wanted to write a song about the experience of being an England fan, which is often quite shit.

How’s your relationship with the song changed in the 26 years since it was released? Has it ever felt like a burden in public?

Frank: No I’ve never felt that. Weirdly, apart from that initial success of the song, I think the thing I got most excited about was in 2018 when we hadn’t touched it for the last World Cup. All these memes, things that didn’t exist when the original came out, they were reinventing the song. It ended up with Prince William on the telly saying ‘Football’s coming home’. There’s something great about the song going out there and it becoming whatever people want to do with it.

David: A lot of things in football culture can feel a bit forced and manufactured. The beauty of Three Lions is that it is not that. We were sat at Wembley when it was first played and suddenly we realised that all these people had taken it to their heart. People are still channelling that joy, the Lionesses stormed into that press conference because it’s a spontaneous thing.

What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever heard it?

Frank: I once stayed in a hotel in Warwickshire and some blokes staying there saw me arrive and we had a chat and a bit of banter. That night, they were outside my room singing ‘he’s having sex!’ to the tune of Three Lions.

Whose idea was it to create a Christmas version of Three Lions?

Frank: I think it was Ian [Broudie, Lightning Seeds frontman]. I was quite excited about a Christmas version because the closest thing to the phenomenon of Three Lions coming back is stuff like Slade and Wizzard and all those Christmas songs every year. That said, the greatest myth of my career is that I’ve made money from this song. If I put together a league table of the things I’ve done, it wouldn’t be in the top 10 I don’t think!

David: I was the one who had to be dragged in the most, I think. It is the only opportunity we’ll probably have to do it at Christmas, but I’m a huge fan of Christmas. I think that comes from being Jewish and not celebrating it when I was a kid. I always felt like there was a huge party I wasn’t invited to, but now as an adult I dive into Christmas in a big way. It’s just sad we don’t have those big Christmas anthems any more. The X Factor and the sausage roll bloke [LadBaby] killed them off. It’s musically in that tradition, which I loved.

The video is oddly touching, that moment where we’ve got the footage of you at the song’s invent in 1996, compared to 2022 and this version.

David: I found it very moving. I wasn’t expecting that and when I saw the video, which is a funny Christmassy knees-up version of the original, it’s got an element of being about time and survival. The survival of the relationship between me, Frank and Ian Broudie. I like that, it makes me feel tingly. There’s an element of us being the grandparents, coming to visit the youngsters too, which I quite like. We’ve got the original director on board, Pedro Romhanyi, too. It was a big old, moving nostalgia fest.

Frank: One thing that rescues the video from tragedy is that we didn’t look that good in 1996! If Bros did this video now, that would be tragic because they looked amazing and now they look ridiculous. We’ve just plateaued on, looking very very low rent for our entire career.

You briefly tackle the issues of Qatar in the song and say ‘When they decided on Qatar, should have checked VAR. It’s too hot, and too far’. What do you make of the famous faces who are still going out there?

David: I respect what Joe Lycett has done with threatening to shred £10,000 unless David Beckham pulls out. He’s LGBTQ+ and has made a powerful statement about the World Cup in Qatar. As someone who feels like his life would be under threat, I respect him for doing that. Whether Gary Neville shouldn’t be commentating is another issue.

Frank: I sympathise with Joe Lycett too, when it’s your own beliefs being persecuted, that kind of balanced view goes out the window. He feels strongly about this and happily we live in a country where you can say what you want. I really like him, I’ve seen him down the Albion a few times. I did a charity gig with him last year too and he was fucking hilarious.

Baddiel, Skinner and The Lightning Seeds’ Ian Broudie

Have you given any thought about the prospect of being locked in an unlikely chart battle with Mariah Carey this Christmas?

Frank: I married Mariah Carey! Well, as a clergymen in a sketch with Dec of Ant & Dec. I was the vicar. That day we did a rehearsal and Mariah didn’t come, but she just did it perfectly and just went away. So we owe her one for her aloofness.

David: I don’t quite think it’s going to be a battle between Mariah and us for the voice of Christmas, somehow.

Frank, a tough question for you. Would you prefer an England World Cup victory or the unlikely prospect of West Brom getting promoted and winning the Premier League?

Frank: Look, I don’t think Albion will get promoted. They’ve won three games on the trot at the time of this interview and that is enough for me. Like most football fans, yes of course, club football means more because I grew up walking to the ground. England felt like a London team when I was growing up. The national stadium probably should be in Birmingham, in the middle of the country. I really want England to win and I was absolutely ecstatic when the Lionesses won. That’s the best I’ve ever seen an England team play. But if it came down to it, I’d have to go with West Brom.

If England progress to the final, will you perform it live?

David: We’d definitely consider performing it here, not in Qatar. What will be interesting is what we’ll sing. It sounds silly to say considering I’m plugging a Christmas song, but the original 1996 version is always the archetypal one. If we were to perform, we’d have to work out if we do the original or this one.

Frank: This one does stand in its own right and the video is an individual statement. This song talks about the history of English football, but also about the history of our song. It’s very meta!