Like the displays loaded with black 'n' gold novelties cropping up in the Strip District, the Steelers going to the Super Bowl also means local musicians popping up with would-be fight songs, vying for air-time and fans' pocketbooks. Even the youngsters are getting into it this year, with kiddie band The Pop Rocks covering Pat Benatar's "Heartbreaker" with football lyrics. ("We're the Raven-haters / Ring-takers / Shame-makers," etc.)
With their often iffy musicianship and parody lyrics, football fight songs are something only sports fans, Chuck Klosterman and Weird Al could love. And you kinda have to embrace that fact to craft one that will last through the years. Thus the omnipresent "Here We Go," with its lurching bassline, drunken hollering and shouted refrain, "Pittsburgh's going to the Super Bowl."
In 1994, Pittsburgh musician Roger Wood sat at a piano and penned the first of several versions of the song, in about 20 minutes. For kicks, he recorded it at a studio with his wife Wendy and a friend, and mailed it to all the local radio stations. You've probably heard it at least 20 times this week.
Wood says he and his wife "thought we'd send it in and hear it once or twice on the radio, and that would be it." But when stations like WDVE reported lots of calls for the song, "somebody said, 'You should make copies and sell it.'"
Wood scraped together all the money he had at the time to make 2,000 cassette copies, hustling them to Kmart, Thrift Drug and other stores. He got all the cassettes out on a Friday before the game; to his surprise, by noon on Saturday, they were gone. Wood gradually learned how to distribute and promote his creation, and the rest is history.
To hear it, you might think that "Here We Go" was about equal parts Gary Glitter and Queen's "We Will Rock You," but the actual influences behind it are a bit different, according to Wood.
"It's kind of a combination of a Penn State fight song," he says, "and I was listening to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 'Give It Away.' I was thinking of 'Here we go, here we go, here we go, now.'"
Nowadays, Wood's a real-estate investor, based in Richland Township, and doesn't do much with music aside from making new versions of "Here We Go" and helping out with his teen-age sons' pop-punk band, Call to Attraction. But this year, Wood put out an updated version of the song. (The old version, for example, made the now-dated claim "With Cowher power, we'll get the job done / This is the year we'll get that one for the thumb." The new one replaces it with: "Steeler Nation's got the best fans / We're from Pittsburgh, the five-time Super Bowl champs!") Now, Wood says, he's "getting a lot of calls" for appearances at rallies everywhere from Diesel to Heinz Field.
"I just use a CD that has the background, and I sing the lead," Wood says; he's often joined onstage by his family members. "It's been non-stop since [the AFC Championship]."
The secret to the song's longevity, Wood suspects, is that "it's more of a cheer than a song -- it's catchy much like the cheers you used to hear in high school." He chants a bit of "Be Aggressive" by way of illustration. "You don't have to be able to sing."