14th June 2017, Robertsbridge. Not all of Sussex’s most memorable performances of 2017 took place out in the middle. The idea of recording a charity song for our Foundation came about by chance at a Boundary Club lunch towards the end of last year. The seating plan had fortuitously positioned Sussex Cricket Foundation’s Head of Education & Health, Vanessa Potter, next to Jeff Topp, the owner of Appleyard Studios near Hastings.
Jeff was looking for ways to support the Foundation, whilst Vanessa was looking for ways to increase awareness of its work in increasing participation, inspiring education and improving health. After a few less adventurous ideas, the pair arrived at their eureka moment: record a charity single with the Sussex players.
A cover of Kenny Roger’s ‘The Gambler’ was chosen as the song to be recorded. Colin Bowley, Sussex’s Player Services Manager, put his mind to rewriting the lyrics to give them a cricketing flavour. Forget ‘you’ve gotta know when to hold them’ and think ‘you’ve got to know when to bowl them’ instead. The final version was rechristened ‘The Bowler’.
On a warm summer’s eve, the group of Sussex players, coaches and office staff decked out in Sussex Cricket Foundation t-shirts headed east from Hove to Appleyard Studios in Robertsbridge. There were certainly few nerves around as Jeff explained the recording process. Thankfully, Leon Kaye from Appleyard was on hand with some vocal coaching, and it wasn’t long before the group found their inner pop-star.
Headphones donned, microphones on and guitars ready, the backing track kicked in and the singing began. With sunglasses on and special attention paid to haircuts (and perhaps with a little autotune), you might have mistaken some of the players for members of the latest boyband. For the verses, two trios and a quartet were selected. As Jofra Archer, Chris Jordan and Tymal Mills went head-to-head with Ben Brown, Laurie Evans, and Luke Wells and Stiaan van Zyl, Chris Nash and David Wiese you could have been forgiven – just about - for thinking you were in the middle of an X-Factor sing off.
The recording in the can, it was time for Ben Copeland of So Tangy, who had been filming the whole process, to get the remaining shots for the accompanying music video. Cue the players frolicking in the fields surrounding the studio, looking wistfully out to the horizon and even getting a selfie with a new equine friend… they were getting into this pop-star life!
As the sun set and everyone returned to their day jobs, Jeff, Ben and Vanessa set to work on producing a finished product. A few weeks later, Laurie Evans and Chief Executive Rob Andrew were on hand to deliver ‘The Bowler’ to BBC Sussex where the it got its first airing to generous praise from the show’s host.
The video was unveiled on the big screen at Sussex Sharks’ first T20 Blast match of the season at The 1st Central County Ground. With the lyrics included on screen, it wasn’t long before a packed house was singing along, a ritual that became part of each of Sussex’s remaining home matches in the tournament.
Of course, the real stars of ‘The Bowler’ were the participants and volunteers at the Sussex Cricket Foundation activities that also featured in the video, as well as the supporters that downloaded the song or donated having watched the video and seen the fantastic work the Foundation is doing in our community.
If you enjoyed ‘The Bowler’ and would like to make a donation to the Sussex Cricket Foundation, text BOWL17 followed by donation amount e.g. £1/£5/£10 to 70070. Visit the Foundation section of our website to find out more about the work we are doing in the community.