Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Welcome to London! Ten Capital Tunes

Since the London Olympics are on I thought I'd welcome you to the city of my birth and residence with some tunes landmarking various parts of it. There are plenty of songs with "London"or "Cockney" in the title and many others referencing it in the lyrics, but I haven't included them. There's an extensive list of them on Wikipedia if you're interested.

1) The Kinks - "Waterloo Sunset"
The Kinks were THE quintessential London band, beloved of the Mods who when theyw eren't fighting with Rockers at British seaside resorts, made pilgrimages to the boutiques of Soho and Chelsea to buy their sharp Italian clothes. This song is a beautiful love song to London, one of the few as it turns out when you consider the rest of my list...

2) Elvis Costello - "(I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea"
And can you blame this man from Liverpool? Chelsea, home to the London smart set, but also the home where punk rock broke out from (Malcolm McClaren's and Vivienne Westwood's shop "Sex" was on the Kings Road in Chelsea and where the fledgling Sex Pistols hung out). This was from when Elvis Costello's punk phase. Pity it didn't last really.

3) The Clash - "(White Man In) Hammersmith Palais"
The Clash wrote many songs about their West London origins and of course the call to action song that was "Guns Of Brixton". West London was original home of London's Caribbean community and punk and the Clash in particular sought to fuse reggae with punk and this is one of their homages to the symbiosis. "They think it's funny turning rebellion into money". Quite! The Hammersmith Palais was probably the venue where I saw more live gigs than any other in London. I have many happy memories of the place.

4) The Ruts - "West One"
The bright lights of London dissected as no other. Ruts singer Malcolm Owen died young from a heroin overdose, but here Henry Rollins from California pays tribute with the original members of the Ruts. It's a bit of a rough live sound, so track down the original studio version. For a so called punk band, it's really rather beautiful.

5) Carter USM - "Twenty Four Minuted To Tulse Hill"
Post-war, the UK has always looked towards American films and music. Here South Londoners Carter USM nod in the direction of Americana but reclaim it proudly for London with a dose of healthy dark London humour.

6) Eddy Grant - "Electric Avenue"
Electric Avenue is in Brixton. From a time when all things reggae ruled the world, joining hands across the ocean between Jamaica and London. A little wistful thinking? It wasn't back at the time...

7) The Jam - "Carnaby Street"
Ah there's nothing quite like nostalgia and bemoaning the decline of things. Here The Jam, who went on to have about ten number 1 songs in the national pop charts, bemoan the commercialisation of Mod Central's shopping street. I recently, ie in 2012, saw a flotilla of Mods in parkas on their lambretta bikes. Seems its the tribe that just keeps coming back. Like I said, nostalgic... I did actiually like The Jam a lot, "A-Bomb In Wardour Street" is a much better song, but I was feeling fickle today.

8) Stiff Little Fingers - "Piccadilly Circus"
Four boys who grew up with the Troubles in Northern Ireland have the cheek to complain about violence in Piccadilly Circus in London? Actually they were a great band, but this maybe isn't one of their better songs.

9) The Pogues - "Rainy Night In Soho"
If frontman Shane MacGowan didn't have such a gruff delivery and more of a potential pin up, the Pogues would have been the natural successors to The Kinks. That they weren't is why I like them. This is still a beautiful song even without the normal edge in Pogues' songs.

10) Sham 69 - "Hersham Boys"
Um... er...
I never called them "The London Cowboys"...

Bonus Track in run off grooves:
Burial - "South London Boroughs"
There are those that say dubstep IS the sound of London today. Brooding, lurking in the shadows and the spaces. I'll let you make your own mind up, but this is South London the artist is referring to here!

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