“When did Everton first run out to Z-Cars at Goodison?”
We’re closer than we’ve ever been to a definitive answer
It’s a question which has been asked almost as many times as it has been played: When did Everton first run out to Z-Cars at Goodison?
And today, thanks to some splendid research from the Everton Heritage Society, we’re closer than we’ve ever been to a definitive answer. That’s closer. But still not spot on.
Because a mystery which has lasted half-a-century deserves to retain some allure. And a theme as evocative, as stirring and as downright different as Everton’s matchday anthem is also still enigmatic.
The folklore of its Goodison origins, plucked from the pages of the popular Everton website Toffeeweb, was that: “one of the fans, who played PC Sweet on the front desk, was an Evertonian; one day he brought a few of the cast to watch the team. In recognition of that, the team came out on the field to the Z-Cars theme, it has stuck ever since.”
No-one has ever challenged that assertion, and general consensus was that it was some time during the 1963/64 season, backed up by an article printed in the Daily Mail after the Charity Shield of August 17, 1963.
Published on Monday, 19 August 1963, under the headline The Last Word by J L Manning – A Z-Car Named Desire – it read:
“Televiewers must have crashed from their armchairs during the ill-tempered charity match amid the rowdies of Liverpool when the commentator suddenly announced Everton’s new victory march.
“It is the musical theme from Z-Cars.”
Listen to Z-Cars in the video below:
J L Manning clearly only watched Everton when they were on the box.
Because Heritage Society researcher Billy Smith, a man who spends more time scouring newspaper archives than he would care to admit for his comprehensive Blue Correspondent website, unearthed an article from the Liverpool Echo which puts back the playing of Z-Cars at Goodison by 12 months.
Published on December 4, 1962, it was written by Leslie Edwards, then a veteran journalist who wrote a nightly column in the Liverpool Echo and Evening Express.
“Two followers of Everton from Childwall add their wonderment to mine that Everton’s Z-Cars theme has not sounded before the last two two home games. Ironically, after it had been played for the first seven or eight home matches, it was left out on the very day the late Mr. Leonard Williams of Twentyman fame was a guest of the club, only three or four days before he died.
The club say there was no official adoption of the tune and that it has not been stopped for any special reason. As one who counted Twentyman and his Liverpudian cracks as the most authoritative mirror of football fans in this city, it mightn’t be bad idea to adopt the Z-Cars drums and fifes and commemorate one of the city’s notable sons. What do you think?”
So Z-Cars clearly started at Goodison early in the title winning 1962-63 season. And it would be kind of appropriate to think that Everton later adopted Leslie’s suggestion and reinstated Z-Cars permanently. After all, it was Leslie’s father, Ernest Edwards, who originally suggested that a sheer bank of terrace at Anfield should be called the Spion Kop.
The Twentyman he refers to was Sergeant Percy Twentyman, a character played by Liverpool actor Leonard Williams who passed away on November 15, 1962. That would suggest the match he attended – and at which Z-Cars was strangely silenced – was the 5-0 rout of Blackpool on November 10. Everton then entertained Sheffield United on November 24, before Leslie Edwards put his suggestion into print.
There is no further record of whether Z-Cars returned again that season – or whether it was the following season’s Charity Shield when it was next played, prompting J L Manning to believe it was a new anthem.
What is indisputable, is that the Blues beloved anthem is now as much an Everton staple as the Toffee Lady, Prince Rupert’s Tower and Dixie Dean’s centre-part.
But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been tinkered with down the years. Originally a traditional Liverpool folk song called Johnny Todd, which tells the story of a sailor betrayed by his lover while away at sea, the tune was re-arranged by Fritz Spiegl, performed by John Keating and his Orchestra, released as a single and reached number 5 on the UK singles chart in April 1962.
That is the version which was used as a theme tune for the TV programme which debuted in January 1962 – Z Cars, an edgy police drama set in a fictional Newtown (but which resembled the town where much of the action was filmed, Kirkby).
But there are others. People who spend too much time on YouTube watching 1970s football (guilty as charged) will have spotted a bizarre version played at Goodison ahead of an FA Cup tie against Walsall in 1972 – watch it below:
Almost as bizarre as Harry Catterick’s decision to buy Bernie Wright on the back of his performance that day, is the peculiar version played pre-match – clearly and sadly – audible over Gerald Sinstadt’s commentary.
At least that version was still, just about, recognisable as Z-Cars. Twenty two years later – in an ill-conceived and ill-advised experiment by new chairman Peter Johnson – the players ran out for the opening day of a new season to the strains of 2001 A Space Odyssey.
I can still see the looks of bewilderment and bafflement from supporters around the ground. The new regime realised the experiment had failed, so replaced it at the next match . . . with a version of Bad Moon Rising, penned by Swedish supporters.
Even more unpopular than Richard Strauss’s classical composition, the hardy perennial Z-Cars was reinstated, where it has stayed ever since.
Goodison isn’t the only stadium which has reverberated to that classic drum beat and soaring organs.
It was introduced at Watford in 1963 by then manager Bill McGarry, because “he liked it!” The tune worked wonders for Watford’s home form, who went undefeated for a club record 29 home games after it was introduced. It is still played at Vicarage Road now. Sunderland also used it for many years until they introduced the stunningly dramatic Dance of the Knights.
In an April Fool’s Day gag in 2005 Everton actually joked that Z-Cars would be replaced. They quickly back-tracked: “The tradition of Z-Cars was in danger of being lost 10 years ago when former manager Mike Walker replaced it with 2001 – A Space Odyssey,” a statement read.“However such was the backlash from fans that Z-Cars was reinstated at Goodison Park just two games later – and that’s where it’s going to stay!”