Well that’s London done for a week or so.
As ever – it was great. Busy, infuriating, crowded and cluttered. Full of idiots and wannabes yet still as vibrant and invigorating as it has always been. For some bizarre reason we ended up in a ‘Rock and Roll’ pub in Camden. The music wasn’t even good rock and roll so to compensate here are dozen ‘London songs’…
There are hundreds and hundreds of songs about London. In fact there are hundreds of songs by The Clash about London but here is just one of those Clash songs along with eleven other songs that are about the capital city or have the city at the heart of the song.
Nothing rare, just a dozen decent songs with London at the core of its subject.
1. ‘Stay Free’ by The Clash
This is Mick Jones’ song for his schoolmate and Clash associate Robin (Banks) Crocker. A great quiet (even) tune. Influenced by his love of Mott the Hoople and containing the ace couplet: “At weekends we’d go dancing…
Down Streatham on the bus”
Doesn’t get more rock and roll than that!
2. ‘Debris’ by The Faces
In this modern-fangled world I have a playlist on my MP3 player entitled ‘Rod Stewart’.
It’s basically the great stuff from the early pre-‘Atlantic Crossing’ Rod and all The Faces albums. Oh and the recent song ‘Brighton Beach’.
Also on there is a lot of Ronnie Lane and Slim Chance stuff and you know what when you listen to these Lane songs it all makes sense. It all fits in. You begin to really hear Ronnie’s influence in The Faces and his influence on Rod. ‘Kuschty Rye’ by Ronnie is just utterly, utterly beautiful. It’s his ‘Mandolin Wind’.
‘Debris’ is Ronnie’s best Faces song. As melancholic and beautiful as Mick’s ‘Stay Free’.
3. ‘London Town’ by Light of the World
Nice Saturdays and Sundays in London town when the sun shines. Looking at the cool pretty girls eating ice-creams. As Light of the World sing in their anthemic London Town, “when summertime is in the air those pretty girls are everywhere”.
Proper summer song.
4. ‘Werewolves of London’ by Warren Zevon
“He’s the hairy, hairy gent, who ran amok in Kent
Lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair
You better stay away from him
He’ll rip your lungs out Jim
Huh, I’d like to meet his tailor”
Brilliant, clever and funny song!
5. ‘The Liberty of Norton Folgate’ by Madness
Like The Clash pretty much all of Madness’s songs are about London. This is the 10-minute long title track from their 2009 release – their best album in their 30+year career – and it is ace.
6. ‘Judy Teen’ by Cockney Rebel
When I first heard this in 1974 it sounded nothing like I’d ever heard before. Now I realise it’s pretty much the same tune as ‘Catch a Falling Star’ by Perry Como, but hey who cares. Forty years later it still sounds fresh.
7. ‘Five Nights of Bleeding’ by Poet & the Roots
If you haven’t got the album ‘Dread, Beat an’ Blood’ by dub poet Linton Kwesi Johnson then go out and buy it. British reggae at its utter best.
8. ‘Rainy Night in Soho’ by The Pogues
When Shane MacGowan had his muse there were few better poets in music than him and this song was him at his very, very best.
This is where the wind whistles all its charms and Shane’s friends fall into heaven and hell. With its lush orchestration and lovely tune this is quite simply exquisite.
9. ‘London is the Place for Me’ by Lord Kitchener
On the 22 June 1948 the Empire Windrush docked at Tilbury. On board were Lord Kitchener and Lord Beginner, Trinidad’s top calypsonians and when Kitchener
disembarked, Pathe News filmed the ‘King of calypso’ and asked him to sing. Without missing a beat Kitchener sang ‘London is the
place for me’, and with that Britain and London’s music changed forever.
10. ‘Primrose Hill’ by John & Beverley Martyn
As a young man – on a Sunday – I’d often go on long walks around north London. From Hampstead to Belsize Hill to Primrose Hill to Camden. Stop for a while on top of Primrose Hill and look back over and down on London. Take the Post Office Tower as my marker and plot the area. Work out where the pubs and shops are. Sit down and start gently singing the beautiful song, ‘Primrose Hill’, by John and Beverley Martyn. And I like that kind of life too.
11. ‘Pop a Cap in Yo’ Ass’ by Ben Watt feat. Estelle
Ben Watt’s spoken-word house classic from 2005.
The story of a young woman remembering a past boyfriend and their criminal escapades. Moody, malevolent and magnificent.
12. ‘Waterloo Sunset’ by The Kinks
The other songs on this list are songs about London or with a link to London – however tenuous – at its core.
‘Waterloo Sunset’ is London’s song!