THIS HERE IS MUSIC
At the heart of the friendship between Celtic and St Pauli fans lies a shared love of music. In this follow-up piece to St. Paul & Celtic: This Here Is Friendship, Patrick Rodgers goes on a musical journey led by Paul Sheridan of The Wakes.
The connection between Celtic and St Pauli has often been seen through the prism of hard drinking and partying. Yet its origins are far more complex than that. The two groups of fans that met in the early ‘90s found themselves as being politically aligned, in terms of an anti-fascist outlook. As well as this the two groups found they had a shared interest in the field of music. Joe Miller, from the Not the View fanzine, remembers that We were like minded . . . we were still into punk and they were big into punk and SKA. Sven Brux, who has worked with both the St Pauli fan organisation, the Fanladen, and FC St Pauli states that Music was a big part of it all. We knew The Pogues. That was all! When we started to visit Glasgow (and later the Six Counties) we saw The Wolfe Tones in the Barrowlands and saw that a band is playing the songs which we heard in the stadium.
In the early days of St Pauli metamorphosing into the club that we are familiar with today, the punk ethos played a huge part in the development of a new identity. In the 1980s many punks in Hamburg who watched football were HSV fans. At this time HSV’s Volkparkstadion was seeing a resurgence in far-right activity and those punks began to feel marginalised, particularly with the club’s inactivity in dealing with the problem. As well as this, punks were heavily involved in the autonomous movement based around the counter-culture of squats and anti-nuclear protests in Hamburg focused in the St Pauli/Harbour district.
At FC St Pauli’s Millerntor Stadium they found a club that was, largely, removed from the fascist slogans that were heard at HSV. As a result they found a home with St Pauli. These fans often made links with each other, not just on the terrace, but while attending gigs in Hamburg’s burgeoning punk scene.
Over time, as St Pauli’s fame has grown, their ethos of inclusivity has become familiar to many and, as a result, musicians of many styles have recorded their own homages to the club. These range from local bands like Hamburg punk legends Slime’s ‘St Pauli Leuchtet Nur Hierto’ to indie rock outfit Art Brut’s ‘St. Pauli’ and Thess Uhlmann’s beautiful ‘Das Hier ist Fußball’.
For Celtic, music was no less important in forging an identity. The club’s support has, historically, been drawn from the descendants of Irish immigrants. That they faced discrimination, is widely accepted. Celtic Park became a place that fans could express their identity and one of the ways this was done was through song. The now famous Glasgow Observer match report from a derby game played at Ibrox in 1924 noted that the Celtic brake clubs (early supporter clubs) gave us so many rousing choruses. “Hail Glorious St. Patrick”, “God Save Ireland”, “Slievenamon” “The Soldier’s Song…. When Cassidy’s goal made victory sure, it was fine to hear the massed thousands at the western end of the Ibrox oval chanting thunderously “On Erin’s Green Valleys.” The range of songs mentioned showed how fans viewed the club and their Irish identity as being inextricably linked. Since then, the number of songs has grown. Great players immortalised; victories recorded. Celtic’s Irish identity has remained undimmed.
So, it’s no surprise that Celtic’s friendship with St Pauli should attract the attention of balladeers and bands alike. Eire Óg’s The Celtic and St Pauli Song is a tale of Celtic’s pre-season adventures in Germany in 1996. The Blarney Pilgrims’ The Fans of St Pauli is a story of a of a Bhoy going to work in Hamburg and stumbling upon FC St Pauli. St Pauli’s own Millerntor Brigade have their own song about the two clubs, called ‘The fans of Celtic and St Pauli.’ These songs tell how politics, football and beer combined to bring together two sets of fans.
One Glasgow band took this on with vigour. The Wakes formed in 2006, mixing together traditional Irish tunes with punk, SKA, ballads and left-wing anthems. They have penned some classic tunes about the Pirates of the League, as St Pauli are nicknamed. Lead singer Paul Sheridan has been travelling over to Hamburg since 2004 and has also been following Celtic since a child, when Paul McStay battled with Hulk Hogan and Star Wars for his affections. Of course, The Maestro was too much even for these formidable opponents and the Jedi’s loss was music’s gain. Those early days watching Celtic still hold a special place in Paul’s heart, in particular the centenary double. He remembers that It would have been around 1988 that I’d have started getting into Celtic. That season has always been very special to me.
By the mid 1990’s, with the tumultuous events that surrounded the Celts for Change campaign, Celtic had Paul’s undivided attention: Around the age of 12 or 13, Celtic became much bigger. Almost all-consuming. Certainly in the ‘93-94 season, in the midst of Celts for Change and talks of moves to Cambuslang, it became much, much more prevalent in my life. To the extent that my entire week would rest upon the result.
The Wakes have followed in the musical tradition of anti-fascism and working-class solidarity. As such it was always likely that the St Pauli connection would be reflected in the band’s music. The Wakes’ fame in Hamburg became such that they were invited to play at FC St Pauli’s 100th anniversary concert at the Milllerntor – and to perform You’ll Never Walk Alone at St Pauli stalwart Fabian Boll’s testimonial game. Paul took time out to tell me about how St Pauli came to mean so much to him and how his love for Celtic played a part in this.
PR: The common bond between the two clubs was formed at a time when the internet was not widely available. How did you discover St Pauli?
PS: I’m sure I had the Celtic View from the time where they played them in the early ‘90s, but my real awareness of their significance came a bit later on in 1996 when we played Hamburg in the UEFA Cup. I’d have probably seen things about them in the Not The View as well prior to that. A boy I knew went to the away match and told me how he and his mate were followed by HSV fans looking for trouble but were seen off by some St Pauli fans from a nearby bar. About a year later I ended up at an anti-racism march in Glasgow. Marching behind us were the Celts Against Fascism boys, there were some home-made St. Pauli banners on display too. I suppose it is a number of these things that made me aware of them. But it would have been Joe Tinney, the boy I knew who went to the game and was a bit older than me, that explained the links and the principles of the club. When you are a 16-year-old you sometimes need that bit of positive guidance.
PR: The politics of St Pauli are well known, setting them apart from many other clubs. Did this play a part in your reasons for starting the follow the club?
PS: It was their politics that resonated. I think at that point in my life, I was becoming more political in my social consciousness. Reading, attending demos, much more left-leaning in my outlook. St Pauli became an extension of that.
PM: A trip to St Pauli for the first Celtic/St Pauli party proved pivotal, in terms of developing your love of St Pauli?
PS: I went over in 2004 for the first St Pauli Party. I didn’t realise how cold it was over there in January! A lot of Astra was consumed. I loved the people, loved the place. It was during Die Winterpause and they would have been in the Regionaliga at the time, and there was no football on, sadly. Friday morning flight from Prestwick to Stanstead, Stanstead to Hamburg. On the way over we met Celtic fans coming from Birmingham. One had a sombrero on and a pair of shorts. His pals had told him it was just like Seville, weather-wise. We were all staying at Sven Brux’s flat, don’t know how he didn’t chuck us all out. He took us to the old Fanladen and to the different places in the district, telling us of the activism that had gone on but also keeping an eye out for us. We had some trouble with Hamburg Ultras near their pub at the other side of the Reeperbahn. Actually, when I think about it, it was mental. During the gig we were all a bit worse for wear with the Mexicaners. Aye, messy! I was a bit more of a daft boy then. But I loved the whole scene going on there. It was different to anything I had experienced before in Scotland or Ireland. The Punks, Skins, people doing their own thing. The bright lights of the Reeperbahn, 24-hour bars . . . Something not quite tangible, that just made me fall in love with every aspect of the fan culture surrounding the club and the sub-cultures going on.
PR: Music has always played a part in the story of the two clubs. It is a way for the fans to relay their identity and a way to record their stories. When did The Wakes began thinking of ways that they could record their experiences?
PS: Long before The Wakes, there were other bands from Glasgow writing songs about St Pauli. The Blarney Pilgrims’ The Fans of St Pauli is just a great piece about the club and I think helped the unity form between the clubs further through music. Eire Og’s The Celtic and St Pauli Song is another one that does that. We were going over to play there with the Bible Code Sundays in 2008 and wanted to add to that lineage of songs to come from Glasgow. I wanted to write a song that was punky, more rocky, closer to the St Pauli aesthetic than we had maybe done before at that point. That’s where Pirates of the League came from. I had been over a couple times by that point. I was much more entrenched in the ethos of the club and what they stood for. This was also my first match, a home game against Greuther Furth, I didn’t do this in a throwaway sense but wanted to try and sum up the whole experience as well as pay homage to the songs of the past. They were looking to fund the Fanraume project at that point, so we gave them the track to do what they wanted with it. In the end it went on a fundraising album. It helped introduce us to a German audience through that as well.
Our more recent song My Heart is in St Pauli is more of a love letter to the place and the club that comes from so many nights there, the game, the Jolly Roger (perhaps the most famous St. Pauli pub) and the Eck, the last beers in the Reeperbahn, the docks with the sun coming up, looking at your watch and wondering how much sleep before the flight home. A good tip for going to St Pauli is always book a night flight, by the way!
We played a ten-year anniversary gig at Knust and I don’t think I can put into words the emotions of that night and our journey as a band to that point. St Pauli has been intertwined throughout. We worked together in the release of No Human is Illegal with album and t-shirt sales raising over 9000 euros for refugee charities in Hamburg and Sea Watch.
PR: What is it about music that resonates so well with St Pauli?
PS: St Pauli were always forward-thinking, involving political groups to perform at events. The music of protest and politics is often celebrated at the club rather than shied away from as it can be in Glasgow. On the football front, both teams have a huge litany of songs written about them. You have the triumphs and the tragedies. St Pauli has a huge number of genres when it comes to songs written about it. An incredible amount when I think about it. Lots of well-known musicians with a genuine support for the team. Richard Jobson of the Skids is a huge fan. The phoneys are spotted though. It’s easy to stick on a Skull and Crossbones t-shirt for a bit of street cred, but the imposters are seen through.
Das Hier ist Fussball by Thees Uhlman is a song that has an almost supernatural hold when I hear it. Melancholy and self-depreciating. About the near-misses and the what-could-have-beens of football. We don’t follow St Pauli for the cup finals. As a baby, my father sang to me Johnny Thompson as a lullaby, so I’m well entrenched in the melancholy.
The bands In Search of a Rose and Millerntor Brigade have taken their influences from Irish music, with ISOAR having more of a Pogues sound, while Millerntor play Irish rebel music, from the heart of St Pauli. Sonke Goldbek who plays bass with them, and is involved with the club and the museum, is a great friend and I thank him for taking us over on so many occasions in recent years.
PR: In 2010 the club achieved promotion to the Bundesliga, in its centenary season. This was the first time since 2002 that St Pauli would play at the top level. To mark the centenary the club held a concert in the ground in front of 20,000 people. Such was the impression that The Wakes had made in Hamburg that they were one of the bands invited to play. How did that come about and what was it like to play at the event?
PS: The club invited us to come over for the concert. Now, Celtic were over to play for their anniversary match a week or so before. They created a big event for that with Shebeen from Glasgow and Bible Code Sundays from London and the fans came over for the party and the game. We went the following week. I never realised the scale of what was going to be taking place. We were beginning to tour Germany regularly at this point and had made tour dates in Hamburg so we were always in contact with Sven and Sonke at this point but still never expected the set up. Still though we had no idea of the way the event was going. We played a smaller gig in the Knust venue the night before with Talco and The Real McKenzies and had a few drinks after. Seeing the set up, doing a soundcheck and being told, this is where the pyro will explode on the stage when you close the event with YNWA: I don’t think there’s ever been a more vivid day, gig-wise for me since. Ten years later I have wee thoughts back to it. We were used to doing sweaty smaller venues, but to be greeted by 20,000 when we went out was brilliant. I went out with Sven and Olaf from The Stagebottles to sing a song they had written called St Pauli Boozer. I often sing that in Hamburg. I’ve had tears in my eyes performing it since. Any possibility of an ego developing was kiboshed the following week in the Brazen Head when an old boy told us we were shite after our first song. Back to earth with a bump!
Sven brought us over because, for years there has been the Celtic link and when a big St Pauli event has happened, Sven has always ensured to put the Celtic link in somewhere. In doing that he keeps the link going. The link that he and Joe Miller and Dirk (from the Knust bar in Hamburg) and all the others established in the 90s. He did it with the Jack Daniels party in the early 2000s with Eire Og and he kept it going with us, on this, the biggest party. I have a huge debt of gratitude to Sven for the opportunities he has given the band over the years and continues to do.
I will never be able to repay him for these things but I give him my eternal gratitude and deepest thanks from the bottom of my heart.
PR: And the band still had one more date at the Millerntor. Club legend Fabian Boll joined FC St Pauli in 2002, he had been a fan on the terraces prior to this. He remained with the first team for a further 12 years, before stepping down to the play for the second team. Boll had his final game in front of packed and emotional Millerntor and a familiar anthem rang out around the ground. How did this come about?
PS: When Fabien Boll had his testimonial in 2014, he requested the “guy who sang You’ll Never Walk Alone at the 100 year concert” to sing on the pitch, as he did his lap of honour. It was one of the most surreal moments in my time as a musician. My wife came over for the trip that day. I was glad to be able to share that moment with her.
Thanks to Paul for taking the time to talk to us about his experiences with St Pauli.
The Wakes have recorded six studio albums: These Hands, No Irish Need Apply, Stripped Back Sessions Vol. 1, The Red and the Green, Paradise to Millerntor, and Venceremos. Their music can be purchased here: https://thewakes.bandcamp.com/music
Paul can also be found reminiscing and interviewing about great football kits and much more on the A State of Mind Podcast ‘Sell the Jersey’ – watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IuSswnxrNuI
Read Patrick’s first article on how the friendship developed between St Pauli and Celtic fans here: https://the-shamrock.net/2021/09/14/celtic-st-pauli/