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Bubbles song was not stolen by West Ham

Research from the late Professor David Farmer that suggested West Ham supporters picked up their most famous song from Swansea during an FA Cup tie in 1922.

A soccer history article debunks the idea, suggesting there is little evidence of a connection.

While it is the case that Swansea fans had been singing ‘Bubbles’ the previous season, the band engaged for the match at the Vetch Field was the Artillery Band, which is reported to have performed “pleasing and military music” (Football Post, 7 January 1922), the same source notes that “there was no singing” before the game. ‘

Bubbles’ was certainly a popular song that appeared on the programme played on many occasions at bands both at the Vetch Field and elsewhere at the time. The song was composed in 1918 and first released and performed in 1919. 

Bubbles were played by the band at Millwall later that season, and almost certainly elsewhere in football. It would seem that this was an era of ‘Bubbles mania,’ the popular song becoming associated with a well-known advertisement for Pears Soap and the image of a young boy with curly hair, but there is no specific evidence to indicate that West Ham supporters drew their inspiration to adopt the song from these cup-ties (the match went to a second replay at Ashton Gate before being resolved).

It was in the 1920s that singing began to take off at football grounds. The stadiums were better developed, crowds were bigger (especially for FA Cup ties) and the presence of covered terracing helped amplify the sound. When big crowds were expected clubs often open the gates at least two hours before kick-off and employed bands to entertain the spectators.

While some bands (especially military bands) stuck to formal tunes, others played the popular music hall hits of the day, and of course ‘Bubbles’ was the biggest hit of the early 1920s. It is therefore not surprising that ‘Bubbles’ was sung at Swansea, West Ham,  Millwall, and probably at other grounds at this time. Fans at the Vetch Field would wave white handkerchiefs in the air when singing the song.

The history article says the Hammers ‘Bubbles’ anthem is almost certainly a song developed by the fans independently and not copied from other clubs.

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About Sean Whetstone

I am Season Ticket Holder in West stand lower at the London Stadium and before that, I used to stand in the Sir Trevor Brooking Lower Row R seat 159 in the Boleyn Ground and in the Eighties I stood on the terraces of the old South Bank. I am a presenter on the West Ham Podcast called MooreThanJustaPodcast.co.uk. A Blogger on WestHamTillIdie.com a member of the West Ham Supporters Advisory Board (SAB), Founder of a Youtube channel called Mr West Ham Football at http://www.youtube.com/MrWestHamFootball, I am also the associate editor here at Claret and Hugh. Life Long singer of bubbles! Come on you Irons! Follow me at @Westhamfootball on twitter

3 comments on “Bubbles song was not stolen by West Ham

  1. Well Sean it’s certainly our song now and a great anthem it is, but I’ve always had an issue with the negative story of it so whenever I sing it I always change the lyrics with – “just like my dreams they fly so high” and “fortunes always smiling” I’m sure there’s far better wordsmiths than me out there. I find it quite amusing that in support of our great club we try to rouse the team with such a negative vibe

    • I totally agree, i’ve always thought it is so negative. Works for a soap commercial, not for a galvanising football song. AND… the modern version that is played at the ground sounds like the tune was recorded using a cheap pre-programmed keyboard track. It needs updating. Problem is, any change and the GSB out brigade would have a meltdown!

      • The version that is still being played, I believe is sung by the 1975 Cup Final squad. Definitely time for an update

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