Sunday, 23 November 2014

Gertcha! A dozen of this Londoner's favourite London songs

Not normally my kind of music, but it's a lovely performance of the most romantic song I know about my home town.

Slight change of tone for my next pick, which was made in 1998, but which, for obvious reasons, is redolent of the '70s:

And this is about as 1960s London as it gets. (especially the couplet, "Now she gets her kicks in Stepney/Not in Knightsbrige any more"):

Warren Zevon - crazy name, crazy guy! This might just be the coolest record ever made:

The next was the poignant, minimalist B-side of Nick Lowe's "Cracking Up" single in 1978. Despite being sung in a pseudo-American accent, it feels very London to me. Basing Street is near Ladbroke Grove:

Back in Sweeney territory here, with 1979's "Cool for Cats":

I should really have chosen Dire Straits' "Sultans of Swing" - but there's already a lot of other stuff from the late '70s here, so I've picked Mark Knopfler's seedy "Junkie Doll" from 2000, on the basis that it's the only song I know which mentions my local tube station, Turnham Green:

Shortly after my next choice came out, I started a long-term relationship with a girl who lived in an enormous mansion flat just round the corner from Baker Street, so this is loaded with associations:

Incontrovertibly, the best TV advert of all time was the one for Courage Best featuring Chas & Dave's "Gertcha!". Here it is:

You can hear the full version of the song (worth it for the lyrics alone) here

I could have chosen "Waterloo Sunset", of course, but I've always had a soft spot for "Dead End Street". The video was shot in Kentish Town:

Dickensian London now, with a rendition of the folk son, "Ratcliffe Highway":

1978, and a reminder of just how delightful public transport used to be back then - and  of our weird culinary habits (wine with curry???), and of the fact that there used to be such a things as white youth gangs:

I've had to leave out so many favourites that  I'll produce a Part 2 at some stage - and a classical version, of course. Meanwhile, I'll leave you with Noel Coward's wartime celebration of our city. Gets me every time:


  1. Enjoyed this selection, Scott. The welcome absence of Ralph McTell's maudlin dirge is unsurprising,

    I chuckled when I heard the urban legend that Billy Connolly claimed he was in a car with Ralph McTell, who got lost driving from Putney to Knightsbridge.

    "Didn't you write ' Let Me Take You By The Hand And Lead You Through The Streets Of London'?" rasped the irreverent Glaswegian.

    "Christ, we'd have got to the hotel quicker with Blind Willie McTell."

  2. Thank you - I've squirrelled that excellent anecdote away for future deployment.

    I don't wish to sound callous (well, to be honest, I couldn't care less whether I do or not) but whenever the subject of homelessness in London rears its head, I always wonder how, given our generous welfare system, people manage to become homeless here in the first place unless they've opted for it as a lifestyle choice. "Care in the community" has a lot to answer for, of course, and there's no excuse for allowing tyhe mentally ill to suffer in this way. But most of the Big Issue sellers I pass these days appear to be foreign, and I assume they're illegal immigrants, which would suggest there's a fairly obvious remedy for their accommodation problems. Ditto the kids with regional accents. I was interested to read a few years ago that ex-servicemen are no more likely to end up living rough on the streets than those who haven't served their country - no idea if that's true or not. Anyway, I don't mind "Streets of London" as a song, but the sentimentality of the lyrics - the "world that doesn't care" nonsense - makes me feel queasy.