Best Fight Songs.

Submitted by J.W. Wells Co. on September 13th, 2016 at 10:39 PM

Well it's football season again, and not only do we get to enjoy all the awesome games but also all the tradition, pageantry, fandom, and music that go into the package as well.  I love fight songs in particular.  Fight songs are a very particular genre of music, even within the larger set of college songs.  Some are plain great, some are plain awful, and most fall in the middle.  So here, for absolutely no reason, is the official unofficial listing of my national top ten (along with some comments on each), followed by my ranking of all of the B1G's fourteen fight songs. Enjoy!

 

NATIONAL TOP TEN:

1.  THE VICTORS (Michigan).  Can’t disagree with John Philip Sousa’s assessment of it as “one of the finest military marches, and the best original college song I ever heard.”  Michigan’s secondary song, “Varsity,” is spectacular for its Tin Pan Alley bent on the college song genre.

2.  VICTORY MARCH (Notre Dame).  Okay, basically call these top two choices numbers 1 and 1A, because they’re clearly the two best fight songs in the country, and it’s not close.  I’m giving the edge to “The Victors” for a few reasons: (1) duh; (2) John Philip Sousa’s assessment; and (3) Notre Dame’s very wind-heavy band makes the “Victory March” sound a bit tinny in live performance, and also as if there’s a rest at the end of each phrase of the chorus which leaves each phrase sounding unfinished.  Notre Dame has two extraordinary secondary songs: “Hike, Notre Dame” would appear on this top ten list all on its own; and “When Irish Backs Go Marching By” is great as well.  Add in the “Victory Clog” and a gorgeous alma mater, and Notre Dame might have the most glorious top-to-bottom array of original football music in the country.

3.  YEA ALABAMA Very original in the meter of setting its lyrics to a rollicking tune.  Up-tempo and fun.  Uses Alabama’s 1926 Rose Bowl victory as a rallying cry, and references rivals Georgia (“Go teach the Bulldogs to behave”) and Georgia Tech (“Send the Yellow Jackets to a watery grave”).  The song begins with a mini-fanfare that’s very effective after touchdowns.

4.  FIGHT ON (Southern California).  A classic.  Though simple and repetitive in its lyrics, the tune is extremely catchy and morphs over two repeats from firstly a standard orchestration, then to a more delicate setting, and finally to a rather grand affair complete with fanfare ornamentations on each phrase.

5.  (FIGHT THE TEAM) ACROSS THE FIELD (Ohio State).  Another classic.  As a fan of Gilbert & Sullivan opera I’m not going to argue with a fight song that includes the music of Arthur Sullivan by way of borrowing from “Hail, Hail, the Gang’s All Here.”  “Set the earth reverberating with our mighty cheer” is a great lyric.  OSU’s secondary fight song, “Buckeye Battle Cry,” is good enough to have made this list on its own.

6.  SONS OF WESTWOOD (UCLA).  UCLA stole this tune from one of Cal-Berkeley’s secondary fight songs, “Big C.”  But UCLA gave it some great lyrics and a wonderful arrangement.  A spectacular tune full of fun and interest in its treatment by UCLA, particularly in the ultra-legato “True to thee our hearts will be…” leading into an almost dissonant set of three connecting chords.

7.  OSKEE WOW-WOW (Illinois).  Maybe the country’s most underrated fight song.  Great lyrics and great melody, and based on the school’s classic college cheer.  Great use especially in conjunction with the clock’s buzzer at basketball games, which usually rings on the same pitch as the held chord at the start of the chorus.  (Despite the common perception due to Illinois’s controversial use of native imagery over the years, the words “oskee wow-wow” are not meant as a faux American Indian exclamation.  “Oskee” or a variation thereof was a not uncommon inclusion in schools’ traditional athletic cheers -- a genre of expressing spirit now almost entirely arcane… think “Rock Chalk Jayhawk” as one of the few that still exist as being somewhat famous other than when the decrepit old cheerleader comes back to lead the student section for homecoming.  Notable among other schools using “oskee” in cheers and still in their athletic traditions are Cal-Berkeley and Tennessee.  Illinois’s cheer went something like this:  Oskee wow wow, Skinny wow wow, Illinois Illinois, Wow!  “Oskee!” is apparently also traditionally used in some parts of the country, particularly at the high school level, as a shout to defenders after a turnover, alerting them that the ball has changed hands and that they need to block.)  Illinois’s secondary song, “Illinois Loyalty,” is pretty good too.

8.  ISU FIGHTS (Iowa State).  The clear dark horse on this list.  But a wonderfully catchy, up-tempo tune, with lots of great ornamentation accompanying the melody.  A very effective meter and rhyme scheme in the last few phrases: “And when we hit that line, we’ll hit it hard, every yard for I-S-U!”

9.  RAMBLIN’ WRECK FROM GEORGIA TECH.  Classic!  “Like all good jolly fellows, I drink my whiskey clear.”  Can you argue with that lyric?  This song has its origins in an old drinking song, and it mostly still is one.  Melodically it’s a coincidental cousin of West Point’s “On, Brave Old Army Team,” another classic fight song (but which I find a bit too boring in its melody and saccharine in its lyrics to make a modern top ten list).

10.  FIGHT ON, STATE (Penn State).  I had a tough time deciding which song to include in the ten spot.  There are several honorable mentions listed below, but each of those I think has one glaring flaw or other reason not to include it on the list.  “Fight On, State” is simply a really good tune, with an excellent orchestration in its usual presentation.  “Strike your gait and win” is a great lyric.

HONORABLE MENTIONS (in no particular order):

I’m a Tar Heel Born” (North Carolina)

Tiger Rag” (Clemson)

Texas Fight

Boomer Sooner” (Oklahoma)

Bow Down to Washington

War Eagle” (Auburn)

I’m a Jayhawk” (Kansas)

 

ALL B1G RANKED (see above for comments on 1-4):

1.  THE VICTORS (Michigan).

2.  (FIGHT THE TEAM) ACROSS THE FIELD (Ohio State).

3.  OSKEE WOW-WOW (Illinois).

4.  FIGHT ON, STATE (Penn State).

5.  DEAR OLD NEBRASKA U (THERE IS NO PLACE LIKE NEBRASKA).  Really solid melody, and there’s something charming about starting off with the whimsical lyric, “There is no place like Nebraska…”

6.  IOWA FIGHT SONGA generally solid, middling fight song.  Nothing extraordinary to recommend it especially.  (Iowa’s other song, “On, Iowa,” is probably better, if a bit less rousing of a crowd.)

7.  MSU FIGHT SONG (Michigan State).  Ditto.  Pretty good tune, but loses out to Iowa’s for the weak lyrics; more rhyme in the chorus would go a long way here, and the natural spoken stresses of the lyrics don’t very well match the meter of the tune.

8.  THE BELLS MUST RING (Rutgers).  Again, ditto.

9.  GO U NORTHWESTERN.  Here we get to the subpar songs of the conference.  This is a generally annoying melody, but it redeems itself at the very end with some interesting meter.

10.  INDIANA, OUR INDIANA Unexciting melody, blah lyrics.

11.  HAIL PURDUE!  The chorus is annoying, and boring in the extreme.  The melody and lyrics of the verses are actually quite good.  Of course, it’s the chorus that gets played.  Purdue gonna Purdue.

12.  MINNESOTA ROUSER.  The opposite of “Hail Purdue!”  This one is boring, and annoying in the extreme.  Without the word “rah,” half of this song couldn’t exist.  It only beats “On, Wisconsin!” for its reference to the school’s classic “Ski-u-mah!” cheer.  And for not sucking so hard. 

13.  ON, WISCONSIN!  Boring, boring, boring, boring.  Both music and lyrics.  And to think this song competed with the “Minnesota Rouser” in the big 1909 fight song contest in Minneapolis to find a fight song for the Gophers before the writer pulled it out of the running to sell it to Wisconsin.  Apparently, fight song writing talent was severely lacking in the Upper Midwest in the early days of the last century.  Often this fight song is rated pretty highly, but I just don’t understand it.  Wisconsin still uses “There’ll Be a Hot Time In the Old Town Tonight” as its secondary song (many schools, including Michigan, used it for their fight song in the 1890s); there’s no way it’s worse than “On, Wisconsin!”

14.  MARYLAND FIGHT SONG.  An abominable cacophony bordering on discord.  Possibly the worst fight song in the country.  Maryland’s secondary song, “Maryland Victory,” is shockingly nearly as bad.

Comments

Other Andrew

September 15th, 2016 at 6:31 AM ^

But Rocky Top should still rate. It's an infectuous thing. I never liked it, but after spending one football weekend in Knoxville, my feeling and opinion did a 180.

 

Supposedly even Steve Spurrier once said that he finds himself humming it when they play it on repeat. Not sure if that's just a myth put out ther by Vol vans, though.

jmblue

September 16th, 2016 at 11:50 AM ^

The lyrics of Rocky Top are amazing:

Wish that I was on ol' Rocky Top
Down in the Tennessee hills
Ain't no smoggy smoke on Rocky Top
Ain't no telephone bills
Once I had a girl on Rocky Top
Half bear, other half cat
Wild as a mink, but sweet as soda pop
I still dream about that
Rocky Top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ol' Rocky Top
Rocky Top, Tennessee
Rocky Top, Tennessee
Once two strangers climbed ol' Rocky Top
Lookin' for a moonshine still
Strangers ain't come down from Rocky Top
Reckon they never will
Corn won't grow at all on Rocky Top
Dirt's too rocky by far
That's why all the folks on Rocky Top
Get their corn from a jar
Rocky Top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me
Good ol' Rocky Top
Rocky Top, Tennessee
Rocky Top, Tennessee

Zarniwoop

September 13th, 2016 at 11:02 PM ^

I'm sorry, but there is no 1 and 1a. The Michigan fight song is a work of art. It has a much greater richness of sound.  Notre Dame has a great, catchy fight song.

I'll grant you they are second, but its not close.

I have a long musical history in marching bands, and the truth is the truth.

Other points:

1. Alabama's fight song is a muddled mess.

2. As much as I hate OSU, they are 3rd or 4th.

3. Georgia Tech? Really? Awful.

4. Move Penn State up about 4 slots.

I have to stop.

I guess musical taste is just an extremely personal thing. My list is no more right than anyone else's. Ignore everything I've written.

MGoRedemption

September 13th, 2016 at 11:11 PM ^

alabama's fight song is just too long. They have to play an abbreviated version after touchdowns which doesn't capture the greatness of the song. 

To have a good fight song it needs to sound great after a touchdown. USC's does that very well with its powerful intro leading into the first "fight on." Wisconsin's rendition of "Hot time" is another dandy. 

obviously it doesn't get much better than the victors although one thing has started to bother me over the past few years. Am i the only one who thinks the tempo has increased way too much over the years?

Watching games from the 70s and 80s the tempo was a lot slower. Now it seems like the bands is trying to play as fast as they possibly can and to me that waters the song down a bit. 

Milty

September 14th, 2016 at 12:00 PM ^

Besides Illinois and Kansas, Virginia Tech also still routinely uses its old chant, Old Hokie (Hokie Hy) at every game. Freshman are taught the chant during orientation, then again during their first week on campus.

J.W. Wells Co.

September 14th, 2016 at 10:01 PM ^

See my comment above for "Ramblin' Wreck from Georgia Tech" re. Army's fight song.

Navy's official fight song, "Anchors Aweigh," is great, but I really consider it more of a military march than a fight song.  Although it was written partly to be an athletics song, it has no lyrics regarding athletics, winning the game, etc.; it's just a naval song.  A great one, but not really a fight song.  To me it's just a tad slow to really be a crowd rouser.

Air Force uses "The U.S. Air Force" (Off we go into the wild blue yonder...) as a fight song, but it's not the academy's official fight song.  The official song, "Falcon Fight Song," is not bad at all.  Not top-ten worthy, though.

Other Andrew

September 15th, 2016 at 6:40 AM ^

One of my personal favotes, and used by many teams aside from Clemson (LSU, plus "secondary" use by Princeton, Auburn, and Missouri). Though I would agree that the Clemson version is the best. Would surely be in my top ten.

J.W. Wells Co.

September 15th, 2016 at 3:56 PM ^

Clemson's version of "Tiger Rag" is far and away the best; I don't think it's close.  It didn't really qualify as one of the top ten in my book because the song was initially a popular song... not written as a fight song.  And so many schools use it in some way.

MaizeJacket

September 15th, 2016 at 8:56 AM ^

Glad to see people outside the program feel that it's classic and unique. I've always thought that it had a different feel and sound compared to other mostly generic fight songs.

I also thought a mention of Eyes of Texas would be worth it, even though it is set to the tune of I've Been Working on the Railroad.

Glennsta

September 15th, 2016 at 11:35 PM ^

I'm surprised at how many of the other fight songs have lyrics that bother to dog their opponents right in the song. (MSU "See, their team is weakening", Illinois calling out Princeton and Wisconsin, Alabama trashing Georgia and GA Tech).

Give me a good old fight song where we don't care who the opponent is.  

We're  the leaders,  We're the best. Go sing your little songs, we don't care.

South Bend Wolverine

September 15th, 2016 at 1:45 PM ^

Fight songs are one of the great areas for utter mediocrity in America.  Virtually none of them actually get you fired up or make you want to run through a wall.  They tend to be a bunch of generic pep, which misses the mark.  A fight song should make you want to fight.

And, having spent two years at Notre Dame and hearing the Victory March plenty of times, that song sucks.  Totally over-rated garbage.  Sounds like a jig gone wrong.

WolverineHistorian

September 15th, 2016 at 1:48 PM ^

How about a list of the WORST college fight songs?  There are so many more to work with. 

You ever watch a Florida State/Miami game?  Their fight songs sound like the intros to a children's cartoon show.   Although FSU plays that insufferable Braves chant after every single down, they might as well use THAT as their fight song. 

Eskimoan

September 16th, 2016 at 3:54 AM ^

After listening to most of those, I have a few opinions.

 Alabama's song is not that good,

USC's is in my top 5 for sure, thats a really great fight song

Georgia Tech's song is amazing, do not believe I have ever heard it before, its all about getting drunk and talking smack lol

Texas' song > Alabama's

My top 5 for sure

1 Michigan

2 Notre Dame

3 USC

4 OSU

5 Georgia Tech