Wisden: Divine Inspiration

An interview with Wisden from 2009.


Divine Inspiration

Singer-songwriter Neil Hannon found time to fall in love with cricket inbetween hit singles.

I am not a sportsman at all. I hid in the music hut most of my school days.
I didn’t watch a lot of sport until I left school. And then I was trying to get my music to the right people, I needed to keep myself occupied. I’d read long, complicated novels and watch Tests.

Cricket is the king of sports. It can be as simple or as complicated as you want.
It can be exciting and yet very subtle. And they wear nice clothes.

I liked little Jack Russell, I don’t know why. Maybe it’s because I look like him now. Mike Gatting, Robin Smith and people like that. That is my era.

I’ve never played really, just batted once. The speed of the deliveries was slow to snail-like. But once I made a connection, it went for four and I felt brilliant. I’m just too scared to take the field with proper cricketers.

We got an email from both Frank Duckworth and Tony Lewis saying that they were honoured we had taken the name and that they love the record, which was wonderful. And a relief.

Trying to explain to people the difference between Twenty20 and Tests:
Twenty20 is ‘Video Killed The Radio Star’ and a Test match is Dark Side Of The Moon. So it’s long, involved music with subtlety compared to just a bish, bash, bosh pop classic. I had been comparing Twenty20 with ‘Barbie Girl’ but I thought that was harsh.

If Ireland are in a competition then that’s my team. We do it with one arm behind our back because England keep nicking our best players. We need to play the larger teams more often because that’s how we’re going to get better. Sometimes one wonders whether the Test sides actually want the other sides to get together.

We’re at least as good as Bangladesh.

Tom Chaplin from Keane told me be played under-15 for Sussex. Every musician I meet seems to play and is better than me - and here I am writing a record about it. Ed O’Brien from Radiohead is totally into it and has a team of his own devising in Oxford.

There is downtime as a musician but I don’t know if that makes them play cricket. Maybe some people take heroin, some people play cricket. It’s all ways of relaxing.

The amount of interest in the record has been staggering. It sounds incredibly clever; if you connect a sport with music, you get in the sports pages as well as music. It wasn’t on purpose.

There haven’t been many songs about cricket. There’s Roy Harper’s ‘When An Old Cricketer Leaves The Crease’ which is beautiful, if incredibly melancholy and extremely long. Then there’s ‘Dreadlock Holiday’ by 10cc, which mentions cricket in the chorus but really is about mugging.

Cricket lends itself to pop. It’s strange that nobody’s tried it before. I’m not sure The Prodigy could do a good cricket album but I’d love to hear it.

I’ve never hidden my cricket love. There’s an Irish core that actively despise it because of historical rubbish but that’s changing. People just like sport.

Interview by Edward Craig
Illustration by Andy Ward

Also with article:

Neil Hannon

Born November 7, 1970, Londonderry, N Ireland.

1990 As lead singer and song writer for The Divine Comedy, releases first album Fanfare For The Comic Muse

1995 Writes the theme for Father Ted

1996 Breakthrough single ‘Something For The Weekend’

1999 Releases hit single ‘National Express’

2006 Last Divine Comedy album ‘Victory For The Comic Muse’. Wins James Joyce Award from University College Dublin for his outstanding contribution to modern music.

2009 Creates The Duckworth Lewis Method with fellow Irish singer Thomas Walsh.

Wisden - Edward Craig