The death of his mother, the advice of a former Sex Pistol and the success of the Northern Ireland women’s team inspired Ian Stewart to release a new single titled Electric Green.
he former international winger shot to fame in November 1982 when he scored against West Germany in Belfast on just his third cap under Billy Bingham to beat the World Cup finalists.
After an illustrious career with Northern Ireland, QPR, Millwall and Newcastle United, Stewart is currently responsible for grassroots development with the Irish FA.
But the man from Belvoir Estate in south Belfast also has a passion for music and enjoys a long-standing friendship with former Sex Pistols drummer Paul Cook.
Stewart has teamed up with Phil McCarroll, guitarist and vocalist of the Belfast band Pay*ola, and Rwanda Shaw, a singer from Lisburn who appeared on The X Factor five years ago.
The single was released on June 24 to celebrate the Northern Ireland women’s team’s appearance in the Euro 2022 final in England, with some guidance from the former punk legend.
“Paul said to me many years ago, ‘Ian, if you ever write songs, always do a catchy intro,’ and I’ve never forgotten that,” Stewart told The Sunday Life.
“I’ve been a friend of Paul since 1984-85, when I was at QPR. Paul is a big football fan – sadly he’s a Chelsea fan – and he’s a bright, brilliant person.
“I use this Paul Cook/Steve Jones sound on Electric Green. Paul is in a band called The Professionals and they use a layered guitar sound, but on this track it’s a layered keyboard, because I used five keyboards on it.
“So I guess I’m using a derivative of that Cook and Jones sound, that’s where the sound comes from. It’s nice to have someone like Paul, who’s been there and done it, to give you tips and advice.
“The idea of making music originated over two years ago when Phil McCarroll and I formed a band called The Back Four after my mother died of motor neuron disease. We released a few songs for raise funds for charity.
“Since then I’ve been writing football songs to free myself after my mum died and that’s how Electric Green was born.
“Last year I was sitting at my desk and Marissa Callaghan walked into her office across the desk.
“I took Marissa, Sarah McFadden, Ashley Hutton and Rachel Furness to U15, U17 and U19 levels years ago at the IFA, and it wasn’t long after the Ukrainian play-off victories.
“I said ‘Mariss, turn me around, qualifying – well, well done’. And Marissa, in her calm, humble voice, said, ‘Yes Ian, we did it’, and that became the chorus. of the song, “Oh yes, we did it”.
“It was originally going to be called Electric Dream, but Phil commented that it was too close to Electric Dreams by Human League’s Phil Oakey and Giorgio Moroder in 1984, so we decided to call Electric Green.
“We needed a singer and Phil sent me four singers on YouTube, and once I saw Rwanda I thought, ‘what an amazing talent!’, she was damn brilliant.
“I always write my songs in the evening with a brandy and a coke, around 11 p.m. and I wrote the whole song a few days after talking to Marissa.
“It’s a tribute from me to the girls, and also a celebration. The Irish FA canceled the women’s national team many years ago, and they left it for a year, then brought me in to ask if I wanted to look after the girls at U15 level , apart from my own work.
“We didn’t have an equipment manager, until I asked my friend Colin McGiffert — who’s now part of the senior men’s team — to come over, so I was organizing the equipment, managing the team and did the administrative work.
“The girls were wearing second-hand U21 kits, so the first line of the song, ‘We’ve been on this journey for so long’, is what it’s all about. The long journey.
“This is my tribute not only to the girls I took, but to all the girls, because of the challenges they faced from day one.”
The Sex Pistols link does not end with the single Electric Green, as a backup track on the single is a reworking of a Phil Specter song from the 60s titled Do I Love You.
Stewart is a YouTube music aficionado and covered obscure cover of Cook, Jones and Chrissy Hynde’s original The Ronettes before hitting the charts with The Pretenders.
The Belfast man brought up the demo track in a chat with Cook last year and was soon asked to cover it himself.
“Do I Love You is a Ronettes song, released in 1964 I believe. I was in London about a year ago having a cup of coffee with Paul in Chiswick during his trial with Johnny Rotten.
“I said, ‘You have a song on YouTube, a demo of you, Steve Jones and Chrissy Hynde called Do I Love You, tell me the context.
“He said ‘we did it in 1978, but because she became such a big deal with The Pretenders, we never pursued it, but we were going to do a proper version of it. Why not do it with The Back Four?
“So I got the band together with Phil and Rwanda to record it. I changed it up a bit, with a different ending, to brighten it up a bit, and it turned out fantastic.
“I’m not a musician, I do it for the challenge and the fun.”
Electric Dream by The Back Four is available on YouTube and streaming services.