How we made: All Together Now by the Farm

<span>Photograph: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Martyn Goodacre/Getty Images

Peter Hooton, singer-songwriter

The origins of All Together Now go back to 1981. Michael Foot had been the centre of tabloid outrage after wearing what the papers called a “donkey jacket” at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Sunday. He later revealed that it was an £800 coat from Harrods which the Queen Mother had actually complimented him on, but the outrage made me angry. I thought the soldiers in the trenches would be more annoyed with the top brass that sent them to the front than, decades later, a Labour party leader’s attire. I’d trained as a history teacher and this incident inspired me to read more about the first world war. I chanced upon an article about the unofficial truce in 1914, when British and German troops came out of the trenches to play football with each other for Christmas. I wrote a song called No Man’s Land and we recorded it for a John Peel session. A couple of years later Paul McCartney released Pipes of Peace, with the same theme. I thought: “Bastard!”

The Farm were different then, a Jam-type band with a brass section, but we saw Big Audio Dynamite using samples in 1986 and thought: “That’s the future.” In 1990 someone from the Moores family – who owned Littlewood’s pools – lent us some money to release singles and an album. Steve Grimes (rhythm guitar) always wanted to use Pachelbel’s Canon in a song after hearing it in a wool advert on telly. Once we bought a sampler we could try it.

We doorstepped the DJ and house music producer Terry Farley, and when he heard the results in the rehearsal room he said: “That’s a hit. You’ve got to write some lyrics.” I remembered No Man’s Land and used the verses from that song to make All Together Now. We got in touch with Suggs from Madness, who’d encouraged us for years, and he said: “You’ve got six verses, but it says it all in three.” Originally the lyrics went on and on about Lord Kitchener, but we cut it in half to shorten it. Terry told us to look out for interesting beats to use in our songs and we found a groove we liked on a hip-hop record. We couldn’t recreate it when we were recording in London, so someone had to go back up to my house in Liverpool to get the record. We sampled the drum loop – the beat was slightly out of time with our music, and in those days you couldn’t fix it. We were hoping for an indie hit. I never dreamed that within months we’d be challenging Madonna for the Christmas number one.

Suggs, producer

Someone gave me a copy of Peter’s fanzine, The End. It made me laugh, I went to see the Farm play in London and got to know them. They were scousers into football and fashion, and wore trainers no one else had. They sniggered at my Levi’s 501s, but I liked them. They were a gang of mates who stuck up for each other. They reminded me of Madness.

They all bowled into my little studio and we recorded a song called Hearts and Minds. It didn’t sell, but after Peter got in touch again much later we went into a bigger studio. The Farm had been an indie band but heard Loaded by Primal Scream and had the wherewithal and humility to go: “Let’s do something like that.” More dance-oriented.

I heard them rehearsing the new version of No Man’s Land and suggested that the chorus needed to be “all together now” and the guitar riff needed to be the hook. We rearranged it, holding the chorus back so it built up into a big crescendo, which we also did on Groovy Train.

The pills were just starting to flow about in Britain then, so instead of thinking: “What will this sound like live?” we thought “What will it sound like in a club? With people’s arms in the air, off their heads.” Terry Farley fell in the studio having been up all night and had the band playing guitars over club beats. It’s a cliche now, but in 1990 the mix of rock and dance music was really exciting.

I remember standing on the mixing desk in my socks and chucking a knife at a poster of Steve McQueen

I sampled the eerie descending strings from Sid Vicious’s My Way and stuck them in the middle eight, a momentary comedown. The a cappella bit just seemed to work. Pete Wylie turned up and sang backing like a soul singer – “All togeth-ah!”, like on old Rolling Stones or Pink Floyd records.

I’d had success with Madness so knew a hit, but I wasn’t a professional producer and haven’t produced much since. Some of the band were more professional than I was, but we had such a laugh. I remember standing on the mixing desk in my socks, chucking a knife at a poster of Steve McQueen and hitting him right between the eyes. The engineer went “That’s very expensive equipment you’re standing on.”

• The Farm’s All Together Now: The Mixes is available now on Spotify, iTunes and other platforms. A new HD version of the video is available on YouTube.