Fans of the Irons have been singing the song for close to 100 years – here’s how it came about
There are some songs that become so associated with a football club that it is almost forgotten that they had a history before being so closely linked with the game.
Liverpool’s chant of ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’, sung by scarf-bearing supporters at Anfield and all around the world, is the perfect example, having passed on from Merseyside to numerous other clubs around the globe.
Another example is West Ham’s ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, which has become synonymous with the east London club.
But how did the chant come about, who wrote it, and how did it get popular? Goal takes a look.
What is the story behind I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles?
West Ham’s association with the song dates back close to a century. It was adopted by the club shortly after it was published, having been debuted in the 1918 Broadway musical ‘The Passing Show’.
So how did a Broadway hit make its way from New York to the Boleyn Ground, the Upton Park venue that was home to the Hammers for over 110 years?
The waltz, the music for which was written by John Kellette and the lyrics attributed to Jaan Kenbrovin, a collective pseudonym for James Kendis, James Brockman and Nat Vincent, became a major hit in the 1920s and was performed by all the major singers and bands of the era.
As such, it made its way into British music halls in the early 20s, including those in London.
It was several years later that West Ham took a hold of the song and made it their own, albeit by a circuitous route involving Billy J. Murray, a player for the local Park School who was nicknamed ‘Bubbles’. He had taken the name due to his resemblance to a figure in Millais’ painting ‘Bubbles’, which was being used in a soap advert at the time, and headmaster Cornelius Beal would take it upon himself to break into the song ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’ when the team excelled.
The headmaster was a close friend of West Ham manager Charlie Paynter and knew several of the West Ham players through schoolboy football. Simply by the coincidence of this relationship, fans took it upon themselves to begin singing ‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’, and the song has stuck.
Over the years, it has taken different forms. In 1980, during the punk era, the Cockney Rejects reimagined the track in a contemporary manner, for example, while on September 1, 2018, as the song celebrated its 100th birthday, Alex Mendham & His Orchestra performed a special arrangement of the track at the London Stadium, the Hammers’ new home after leaving Upton Park.
The song has made bubbles an unusual part of the matchday experience when watching West Ham, with the tradition taken to unusual extremes on May 16, 1999, when nearly 24,000 fans blew bubbles for a minute to set a new world record.
What are the lyrics to I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles?
Below are the lyrics to the West Ham support’s version of the song.
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air,
They fly so high,
They reach the sky,
And like my dreams they fade and die!
Fortunes always hiding,
I’ve looked every where,
I’m forever blowing bubbles,
Pretty bubbles in the air!