Tobias Sammet, the lead singer of hard rockers Edguy and conceptual space metallers Avantasia, has risked inciting the possible wrath of his German countrymen with an astonishing love letter to England.
Sammet is among the world’s biggest Iron Maiden fans, and he uses the ballad England (lyrics below) to pay affectionate and humorous tribute to a nation that gave us Maiden’s Steve Harris and Bruce Dickinson, The Beatles, Bob Catley of Magnum (a collaborator in Avantasia), Def Leppard, Shakespeare, Gary Linker and Mr Bean, with tongue firmly in cheek declaring: “Penalty shootouts… are highly overrated.”
On St George’s Day it seemed only fair to allow Sammet, whose groups after all remain relative unknowns on these shores, to explain such a teary-eyed tribute.
“I feel like an Englishman trapped in the body of a German,” he smiles, seated outside a central London pub a few weeks before the album’s release. “I’ve even considered having surgery to correct that.”
As he spoke to Classic Rock, rumours of the song’s existence were reaching Edguy’s fans. Some from across the Channel felt betrayed. “It got a very bad reaction,” nods the singer. “Some said: ‘Why don’t you just fuck off to England and live there?’. My wife and I have considered it, and one day we might do that.”
Sammet, who once recorded a song called Lavatory Love Machine to celebrate the joys of the Mile High Club, has a thoroughly British sense of humour that isn’t always understood. “Some people think that we [Edguy] are just too goofy, but we take our music very seriously,” he comments. “We do enjoy a laugh, though. Fawlty Towers, Monty Python… “don’t mention the war”… all of that stuff is great.”
OK then, so here’s the million dollar question: We can go back in time and fix it for Sammet to be born in Leytonstone, East London, and grow up two doors down the street from his hero Steve Harris, or allow destiny to repeat itself and arrive in more familiar surroundings in Fulda, Germany. Which would he choose?
“Oh… probably in Leytonstone,” Tobi replies after a moment’s contemplation. “But had things worked out that way, Bruce Dickinson might be a plumber today,” he adds, emitting yet another huge belly laugh.
Happy St George’s Day everyone.
England appears in song form on a special edition of Edguy’s current and tenth studio album, Space Police: Defenders Of The Crown, available now via Nuclear Blast Records. Edguy play: Manchester Sound Control September 12, Nuneaton Queens Hall 13, London Islington Academy 14.
Bonus footage: Not convinced by the sincerity of Tobi’s desire for Englishness, the nice folk at Nuclear Blast put the singer through an unofficial citizenship test. This was captured on camera.(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWa7e7820w8)
ENGLAND (music & lyrics: Sammet)
It’s been a long time since I’ve been with you / You may be grey-green / But matchless and wide / I wanted to sniff at every inch of you
Went to Birmingham New Street / To take a ride / Over aqueducts on a suspiciously panting train / High on Diesel fumes / I pondered on my way
I may like New York, Bavaria or Paris / But nothing compares to you, England / Cause England’s got Steve Harris
England, I know / I may have explained it somewhere before / But I swear it wasn’t my idea / To contrive that silly way
Okay, I’ve got to admit / This was, uhm, an improper try of a joke / But it rhymed and talking humour: / You’ve got to know I’m just another / German bloke
Who loves afternoon tea / And Bob Catley and Mr. Bean / Who loves to buy miniature phone booths / And cute little snow globes raining snow / On a cute little queen
Mostly you’re jolly / At times you’re frustrated, England / Then rest assured: / I also think penalty shootouts… / …are highly overrated
Vienna has got Mozart / Chopin they had in Paris (kind of) / The Catholics got the Pope / England’s got the Beatles / And even more so: / England’s got Steve Harris
England’s got Steve Harris / And as if that was not enough for you: / England’s got Bruce Dickinson / And on top of it the other ones… / …in Iron Maiden too, yes it’s true
Vienna’s got the Mozart ball / The Frenchies they got Paris / In Rome they got the Pope / Who in turn they don’t have in England / But England’s got Steve Harris
I may like New York, Bavaria or Paris / But nothing compares to you, England / Cause you got the magic bullet / England’s got Steve Harris
England: inventors of Def Leppard… Shakespeare… / Indian food… Gary Lineker… / That bloke who did away with Braveheart… / Et cetera… and so forth… good night