The Ballad of Ian Bowyer

by Adrian Walters

Songwriter & NFFC Chicago member, Adrian Walters, has just digitally released a single called ‘The Ballad of Ian Bowyer’.

Yes, that Ian Bowyer. We asked Adrian to explain further.

“I’ve just finished recording an album called Starting Somewhere that is scheduled for release later in 2020. Produced, arranged, and recorded by Midwest music legend Steve Dawson (Dolly Varden, Funeral Bonsai Wedding) at the Kernel Sound Emporium in Chicago, the album as a whole represents my attempt to capture something of the England that I left behind when I moved to the United States in 2011.  It’s a kind of meditation, I guess, on people, places, situations, relationships, and memories of what now feels like a former life.

Playing the local music scene in Chicago, IL

I suspect that most of my folky musings will be of little interest to denizens of the City Ground –or, for that matter, to fellow members of the NFFC diaspora here in the US and elsewhere. But there’s one track on Starting Somewhere, the title of which –‘The Ballad of Ian Bowyer’ – betrays an obvious Forest connection. In the context of the album as a whole ‘Bowyer’ is a bit of an outlier – both musically and in terms of its subject matter – so I decided to package it separately and push it out as a single ahead of the full album release.

I honestly didn’t set out to write a song about Forest. I had an archetype in mind that I did want to write about: the sturdy, dependable member of any organization or team who makes things tick but who never quite gets the recognition they deserve. In his two spells at Forest (1973-81 and 1982-87) Ian Bowyer, for me, was the epitome of all of that. Hardworking, versatile, not flash, not especially eye-catching. But rock solid, with a heart of oak – a player who knew exactly what his job was, who kept to the script, and could always be relied upon. And so I talked myself into the idea of putting ‘Bomber’ into a song.

The song’s narrative is built around the two legs of the European Cup semi-final against Cologne in April 1979. People tend to forget that Bowyer started the first leg of the Cologne tie at left back. Viv Anderson was suspended, Forza Garibaldi favourite, Colin Barrett was switched to right back in place of Anderson, and Bowyer was selected to play on the left side of a rather makeshift defence. It was only when Archie Gemmill got injured during the first half of the first leg that he moved into central midfield, where he was to remain for the rest of the tournament.

Immortality beckons…..

The song’s lyrics pull on threads of the television coverage – Hugh Johns’ commentary on Bowyer’s first leg equalizer (‘this man of all parts, man of all seasons’), Clough’s famous post-match ‘I hope no-one is stupid enough to write us off’ which I admittedly bastardize somewhat – and the whole thing culminates, of course, in the winning goal in the Müngersdorfer Stadion.

The theme, I suppose, is that dependability is underrated, underappreciated. Every João Carvalho needs a Ben Watson or a Samba Sow. Every John Robertson needs a John McGovern, a Frank Clark, a Colin Barrett, an Ian Bowyer. 

You can guess which side of the Ben Osborn argument I was on.

To be honest, I’ve been quite reluctant to promote the song and push it out into the NFFC ecosystem.  Martin O’Neill’s brief and unhappy return last season brought the generational divide among Forest supporters bubbling right up to the surface. I understand the uneasy relationship that younger fans, in particular, have with the club’s history and the frustration that some feel when old timers bang on about the ‘glory days’ and the ‘miracle men’ (and when one or two of those ‘miracle men’ make unhelpful observations about today’s team in the media).

All I can say is that I’m very lucky to have lived through and experienced first hand the most successful period of the club’s history. And, as the writer’s cliché goes, you write what you know.”

You can purchase a download of ‘The Ballad of Ian Bowyer’ for a buck on Bandcamp:

Adrian Walters is on Twitter @walters_adrian and Instagram @adrianjwaltersmusic


One thought on “The Ballad of Ian Bowyer”

  1. A great song that couldn’t have been written by anyone else. Captures the value of all unsung heros who get the job done. Thanks Adrian and “Go You Super Reds!”

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