Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Songs in the Key of London

My friend Paolo is in London and keeps raving about it on Facebook, posting more frequently and effusively over just two days than he did during 8 days in Italy, a country he loves dearly. And in an email communique, he stated, "When it is all said and done, this is my favorite city in the world."

Not only is this high praise from someone who had just been in Rome, Florence and Venice, but Paolo has visited more places than anyone I know--including virtually every major global city--and has even lived in a whole bunch. Like me, he loves Chicago, where he now resides, and is never quiet about his passion for Boston, where he went to high school and college.

So really, the city of London should put Paolo's proclamation on banners in Hyde Park. And though I haven't traveled quite as widely, I've been to my fair share of world-class cities and I agree with him.

London topped the international portion when I ranked My Favorite Cities Visited in the '00s--its National Gallery did likewise for my list of Favorite Art Museums--and would probably tie with New York overall. Like the Big Apple, London is always teeming with people from everywhere, offers the apex of virtually every art form and provides me with a tangibly electric buzz, even when I'm just wandering around or riding the Tube (their subway). Plus it's got amazing history and beautiful buildings, bridges, parks and squares.

I've been to London six times, including five in the last 10 years, when I repeatedly added it as a 2-3 day stopover following other European travels. I can't wait to go again, especially as I always tell myself that one day it might be nice to be there and not do overtly touristy things, but there are still a good number of museums, attractions and sites I have yet to see and would want to. 

One of my favorite things about London is all the great music that came from there, as I'm a BritPop fanatic. The videos below comprise ten of my favorite songs about London, either referencing the city by name or being about it.

A bit of an anomaly among a bunch of rock tunes, but No Place Like London from the Sondheim musical Sweeney Todd seemed like a good place to start.


London Calling is more famous and included below, but London's Burning is another great Clash classic.


"Lights Out, Lights Out London" a great refrain from a UFO song I've long enjoyed. 


The Wildhearts are one of my favorite bands that not everyone knows. This one doesn't exactly sing London's praises, but is fun nonetheless.


Other than the opening line, "Panic in the streets of London," I don't know that this song is really about the city, but any excuse to find and share a classic old live Smiths clip is fully justified.


Another one that more just mentions London than is really about it. But a great one nonetheless.


London's Brilliant Parade, a lesser known song by one of Paolo's favorites .


Often cited as one the most beautiful pop songs ever written, Waterloo Sunset is a Kinks klassic done here by head Kink Ray Davies, with a chorus, at this year's Glastonbury festival.


Despite the scenario sung about by The Jam in Down in the Tube Station at Midnight, I've never felt the slightest bit threatened riding The Underground alone at any hour.


I was initially hoping to find a clip closer to the original studio version of Werewolves of London, but Warren Zevon's understated, latter day live rendition is pretty cool. Sadly, not only did Warren die in 2003, but Paolo found that "Lee Ho Fook's" no longer exists. Glad I had a big dish of beef chow mein there in 2004 or 5.


For those keeping count, my list of ten goes to eleven. But I can't think of a better way to close than with London Calling. Cheers!

1 comment:

G1000 said...

"London Calling": one of the single greatest records ever made. I alternate between that, "Achtung Baby", and "OK Computer" as my favorites. Great song, too.