Take the National Express!

by Al Macmillan

National Express is Britain's largest coach operator and well named having a truly national network of almost 1000 bus stations and stops it operates from. In its' 2010 Annual Report National Express reported "70% unprompted brand recognition". In its 2013 annual report National Express reported that that number had jumped to "90% brand recognition" Which is unbelievable. National Express is truly a household name.

There are probably a lot of reasons for it: it was the first and only National Coach Company, it's been around for 40 years, it has an incredibly recognisable colour scheme (the use of white is a genius branding move), its product is itself a giant moving billboard seen on roads up and down the country.

But I'll be honest and I'm pretty sure it's true for all of my generation. The minute I hear the words 'National Express' I start humming a tune, tapping my feet and singing under my breath "Take the National Express"… You see I think a big reason for 'National Express' brand recognition is that in 1999 the Divine Comedy, Neil Hannon's band from Northern Ireland released the single "National Express" a catchy musing on life in the seat of a coach.

Watching the video, where Hannon is a mental patient I was shocked as I remembered a completely different video? Anyway, the video maybe hasn't stood the test of time (few music videos seem to) but the words and the tune are timeless. So everyone sing-along!

Take the National Express when your life's in a mess
It'll make you smile
All human life is here
From the feeble old dear to the screaming child
From the student who knows that to have one of those
Would be suicide
To the family man
Manhandling the pram with paternal pride
And everybody sings 'ba ba ba da'
We're going where the air is free

On the National Express there's a jolly hostess
Selling crisps and tea
She'll provide you with drinks and theatrical winks
For a sky-high fee
Mini-skirts were in style when she danced down the aisle
Back in '63 (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah)
But it's hard to get by when your arse is the size
Of a small country
And everybody sings 'ba ba ba da'
We're going where the air is free
Tomorrow belongs to me

When you're sad and feeling blue
With nothing better to do
Don't just sit there feeling stressed
Take a trip on the National Express, the National Express, let's go

Songwriter: Neil Hannon National Express lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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