It’s the song of the summer — a soft rock track first released by Neil Diamond in 1969 and which is currently enjoying a new lease of life.
Sweet Caroline has been adopted by fans of the England football team as their unofficial Euro 2020 anthem, much to the chagrin of Northern Ireland supporters who have long claimed it their own.
The feel-good song, which builds up to a catchy, sing-along chorus, climbed to number two in the UK iTunes charts after it echoed around Wembley stadium after the recent wins over Germany and Denmark.
As England manager Gareth Southgate listened to the crowds singing “good times never seemed so good”, he said: “To hear the fans at the end...I mean, you can’t beat a bit of Sweet Caroline, can you? That’s a belter really.”
Ahead of tomorrow’s final with Italy, Diamond released a video message wishing the England team good luck and saying he was ‘thrilled’ to hear about his song’s enduring appeal.
But what raises a song from hit to anthem status and why is Sweet Caroline so iconic?
Jake Burns, front-man with Belfast punk band Stiff Little Fingers, was just 19 when he wrote the band’s anthemic track, Alternative Ulster. He said for a song to become an anthem, it had to resonate emotionally, have a sing-along chorus and be part of a shared experience.
“You really have to be able to sing along to a song for it to be recognised as an anthem. That’s the main thing,” he said.
“The lyrics have to resonate too. Take Three Lions (Football’s Coming Home), for example. Home is such an emotive word and the words are triumphalist. Sweet Caroline is a feel-good song. I think lines like ‘good times never seemed so good’ appeal on a subconscious level.
“There’s no doubt Diamond can write a good tune. He’s written some brilliant ‘punch the air’ songs with a big build up to an emotional release. When I wrote Alternative Ulster, again, a song about home, I was too young to even think about it ever becoming an anthem. I just wanted to write a hopeful song.”
Another Northern Irish hit that took on anthem status is The Undertones’ popular track, Teenage Kicks. It has been played in Northern Ireland by visiting acts including REM and The Killers, as well as local bands Ash and Snow Patrol.
Undertones’ drummer Billy Doherty said: “Teenage Kicks is so well-loved because people pick up on its sincerity, passion and meaning. It captures the imagination and reminds people of a time in their lives.
“It was played at the end of a match between Derry City and Linfield up in Belfast. At the end, the Derry City fans were kept behind. They started to sing Teenage Kicks and the Linfield fans started clapping them.
“It’s stood the test of time. Good songs always do. Sweet Caroline is just one of those songs that appeals to everyone. It’s a feel-good song and everyone can join in.”
Terri Hooley, who signed The Undertones to his record label Good Vibrations and introduced the legendary DJ John Peel to Teenage Kicks, said Sweet Caroline was a surefire dancefloor filler. “I still play it in my DJ sets,” he said. “It’s such a catchy tune. It cheers people up and everyone knows it, no matter what age you are or what style of music you’re into.
“If I’m DJing and things are falling a bit flat, I always stick on Sweet Caroline, especially towards the end of the night. It’s a classic.”