Saturday, 12 February 2011

Capital City Carousing

I'm a Londoner by birth and berth. As proud as I am of my City, I have to acknowledge that while most UK rock and roll ends up residing here, very little of it actually derives from the Capital. Paul Du Noyer has written an excellent book In The City detailing the London music scene from the time of music broadsheet sellers attending public executions, through Tin Pan Alley to the Libertines, but most are migrants from the provinces and the Home Counties.

Here is a chart of ten songs referencing the Capital, but from bands actually hailing from London.

1) "London's Burning" - The Clash
The obvious choice would be their single "London Calling", but this song defined the punk rock emerging from West London. "London's burning with boredom now". Indeed we were and turned it on its head in a fantastic flourishing of creative energy.

2) "LDN" - Lily Allen
Filmed at my alma mater Rough Trade Record Shop with a couple of my former work colleagues having non-speaking, non-paying roles, Lily's sweet tones overlay a song extolling the capital and dominated the City for the Summer that it was released, but made us all feel good about ourselves for all its double-edged mood.

3) "THe Greatest Cockney Rip Off" - Cockney Rejects
East Enders Cockney Rejects display good old class chips on the shoulder. There were plenty of candidates for this slot, check out Sham 69's "Hersham Boys" for more of the same, but with maybe a tad less paranoia.

4) "GLC" - Menace
Punk rockers Menace pen a criticial ode to the Greater London Council, London's local government body which Mrs Thatcher disbanded as soon as she could. Could be said to be one hit wonders, though maybe this wasn't even what one could call a hit.

5) "Cockney Translation" - Smiley Culture

6) "Galang" - MIA
If Smiley Culture merged Jamaican patois with Cockney, MIA took it on to a whole new mash up level of slang with this song.

7) "Hold Tight London" - Chemical Brothers
Manchester may have had the Roses & The Mondays, but one thing London does usually lead on is dance music. Kids from the provinces may return home from Ibiza and other resorts with the club music played there, but London is more cosmopolitan in its crossover influences.

8) "Rainy Night In Soho" - The Pogues
Amongst all the drinking songs and paeans to Irish culture, Shane MacGowan was also a really rather wonderful poet of London life.

9) "Down In The Tubestation At Midnight" - The Jam
There is some debate as to where London's boundaries actually begin and end. I would argue that it extends to Brighton in the South, Tilbury in the East, Oxford in the West and Luton in the North. That would make Woking part of the metropolis and that's where the Mod obsessed Jam hailed from, so it counts in my book.

10) "London City" - Devlin
Grime, jungle and dub step are definitive London sounds unique to our culture, building on reggae, rave and hip hop. Much of the output namechecks the city, as location is crucial to the scene.

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