Sounds of London

A while back I put together a New York songs playlist. Well, if New York, then why not London too? Two of the great cities – very different and very similar. And one of the similarities is that they are hotbeds of music. All sorts of music. Every sort of music. They are cities of music.

This list is just a few of the songs that remind me of London. In some cases they are about London. In others, they somehow encapsulate the sound, the meaning of London. Some are about the inner city, conveying a sense of night time, unease as well as beauty. Others are about life in the suburbs. Songs of yearning, hope and sometimes hopelessness. Some are about attitudes: anger, love, wheeling and dealing, making your way, or just having a good time, dancing.

Mostly I’ve limited each artist to one song, or maybe two. But I had to make an exception for The Jam  and The Clash, both with four. Two of the greatest punk bands, one articulating the frustration of surburban London, the other, the swaggering heart of the inner city. Bands that will always be central to my teenage memories.

So stick on this playlist (60 and growing) and immerse yourself in London. And let me know if you have any favourite London songs which I have missed. Do not suggest Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London”!

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
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18 Responses to Sounds of London

  1. Gerry Rafferty’s “Baker Street” was named after London’s Baker Street where he used to hang out with a friend on his trips to London dealing with litigation. Or so I have read.

  2. Dc says:

    Sitting reading this at Waterloo. people so busy makes me feel dizzy.
    Also would include:
    Cockney Rebel
    Cockney Rejects
    Chas n Dave
    Hoddle n Waddle
    Sham 69
    More Small Faces
    Anthony Newley

    • John S says:

      Cockney Rebel a good call. Has to be something from “Pyschomodo”. “Mr Soft” maybe. Bowie a Beckhenham/Brixton boy, but I’m struggling to think of the song from his best days that reminds me of London. Maybe “Rebel, Rebel”? “All the Young Dudes” perhaps also worth a place. As for the rest: you’re havin’ a larf!

      • Dc says:

        London Boys by the young Bowie.
        Waterloo Sunset is favourite song of Weller and Albarn.
        Arguably it’s the ultimate London song and musically miles ahead of most of the playlist.

      • John S says:

        Yeah, but the young Bowie was a bit rubbish. The very best London song? Phew, hard one. I guess I’d have to say “London Calling” by the Clash.

  3. Dood says:

    Fabulous playlist, John – must have taken quite a while to put it together.

    Delighted to see Burial on the list. The brilliant EP Kindred is to me more evocative of contemporary London (specifically south London, at night, in a car) than just about any other music I know. Great selections from Goldie, Galliano, and Lily A too. Not to mention the army of punks.

    Taking your brief a bit literally, I’d also nominate The Future Sound of London, and the cracking My Kingdom from the album Dead Cities. There’s a slightly goofy video to illustrate, but again, the piece captures something of the city’s atmosphere and energy – both romantic and sinister.

    Hard Fi’s a good call. Loved Cash Machine, but the crowd-pleasing Hard to Beat is probably my favourite. Very, very London. (Whatever happened to them?)

    Finally, how about a bit of Amy? The first two lines of Valerie – “Well sometimes I go out by myself, and I look across the water” – for some reason always evokes the mighty Thames. And she was, after all, the ultimate north London girl.

    • John S says:

      In the Spotify age, didn’t take long at all. Dreamed it up on the train to and from work. I’m with you on FSL – and it would be Papua New Guinea. Surprised I didn’t think of that one. I was never a big fan of Amy W, but Valerie is a good song and relevant, so that will go on the playlist too. Hard Fi are from Staines – just about London. I always liked Cash Machine, because it’s a perfect encapsulation of the frustration of the surburban life. If you don’t have money.

  4. Dood says:

    Oh, me again. Clearly clicked on the wrong link for Future Sound of London. Landed on the more popular, but less relevant, Papua New Guinea!

  5. Think I would have had to include The Pogues’ “Misty Morning Albert Bridge” and possibly their “London You’re A Lady”.

    • John S says:

      i was thinking about the Pogues, but all my favourites seemed to be about Dublin – or New York. I’ll check your suggestions – I’d like to have the Pogues on this playlist.

  6. Resa says:

    Lots of great tunes, John! London Calling is at the top of the list for me, too!

    • John S says:

      Thanks Resa. Toronto could put a good list together too. DC and I are loving Alvvays right now!

      • Resa says:

        I was listening to Molly singing the other night, and was wondering if you had heard her or liked the band. Shania Twain, Alanis Morisette, Alannah Myles, Drake, Amanda Marshall, Niel Young, Molly Johnson, Rush (Geddy Lee), Jeff Healy, Dan Hill are few that pop into the top og my mind!

      • John S says:

        Are they all Toronto? Awesome! I’d add Lindi Ortega, my favourite country music singer. And then we have Metric, whose Monster Hospital is one of my top rocking songs, and the raw grunge of Dilly Dally. You have a good list!

      • John S says:

        Yeah, realised that. By the way, check my recent review of Alvvays at the Roundhouse, to see how much I love Molly’s singing.

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