Monday, 31 August 2009

Chelsea Bridge

"Was it an hour since I ran to the stop to catch my 91? I don't mind the rain in my neck. It's all part of the season's fun ..." Ah. Louis Philippe again. We may need to ration his appearances here. But he does have a way with London songs. Lazy English Sun, for example, deals with the perils of leaving your umbrella on the 91 bus given the unpredictability of the English summer. And then there's Chelsea Bridge, a particular favourite. The bridge? Well, yes, in a way. But I really meant the song. A vocal and piano treat, and hommage to the French vocalese jazz tradition. It would be Louis' sleevenotes to the reissue of his Rainfall set that got me interested in Les Double Six, the Parissienne vocal ensemble that featured Christiane Legrand and Ward Swingle. So Louis has earned his frequent appearances here.

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Brompton Oratory

"Up those stone steps I climb. Hail this joyful day's return. Into its great shadowed vault I go. Hail the Pentecostal morn. The reading is from Luke 24. Where Christ returns to his loved ones. I look at the stone apostles. Think that it's alright for some ..." There is something so perfect about Nick Cave's Brompton Oratory. A beautiful brooding song set in a magnificent Catholic church in the heart of Chelsea & Kensington. Thank god for London's churches ...

Saturday, 29 August 2009

Sunny South Kensington

"Come loon soon down Cromwell Road, man. You've got to spread your wings ..." Now I'm not sure I subscribe to the Saint Etienne Finisterre thing of believing in Donovan over Dylan, love over cynicism ..." but I do like a bit of Donovan. And he wrote some lovely London songs. Some lovely sunny ones. Sunny Goodge Street, of course. And Sunny South Kensington. Of its time, perhaps. But any song that mentions Jean Paul Belmondo, Mary Quant and Ginsberg in the same verse is all right with me. So here's the original 7", giving us another excuse to say: "Blimey squire, that's what I call a record player ..."

Friday, 28 August 2009

Walking down the King's Road

"In the Chelsea drugstore with some friends of mine, saw Mister Jimmy still standing in line ..." A gem from the 1979 mod resurgence Squire's Walking Down The King's Road, adopting a bit of a 'things ain't what they used to be' stance, explicitly refers to one of the ridiculously small number of Rolling Stones songs that openly mentions London life. Now as someone born in the same place as Jagger and Richards (a crossfire hurricane!) this is slightly disappointing. you'd want there to be many more. Or am I missing something? This, of course, is the other big Stones London number ...

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Spot The Lights

"Now the rain is falling down. And I am getting wet. Think I'll take a walk down King's Road. Join the Chelsea Set ..." Spot The Lights by The Barrier is a wonderful dark night of the soul psychedelic punk gem where our desperate hero takes a lonely night time stroll round Sloane Square, hearing the tube trains beneath his feet, steeling himself to make it on his own. This contribution comes courtesy of Back To Zero's Brian Kotz and his encyclopaedic knowledge of British '60s sounds. And speaking of the King's Road, here's Anthony Newley taking Lucille Ball to find the London mods ...

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Parties in Chelsea

"What are you doing next Saturday week? Would you like to come to a party with me?" An offer you can't refuse courtesy of the Television Personalities' Parties In Chelsea. There have been so many and not enough words written about Dan Treacy and the TVPs. Perhaps not enough has been made of Dan's extra-curricular activities. His label Whaam! for example put out some wonderful records. The Marine Girls' Beach Party. Khartomb's Swahili Lullaby. And Small World's rousing Love Is Dead ...

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The Boy From Chelsea

"In Chelsea there's a boy, working in a little coffee shop there. He's got the cutest smile. And every chance I get I stop there ..." Ah when the '60s were swingin' it wasn't just Bacharach & David among the songwriting fraternity that wanted a piece of the action. Goffin & King gave it a go too. Now there was a time when unisex hair salons were the height of sophistication. And it was a neat song tradition too. Thus the Goffin & King number in question could be David Jones singing The Girl From Chelsea, pre-Monkees, and with the sort of mockney accent Damon Allbran made a career out of. Or better still it could be Truly Smith singing about The Boy From Chelsea. Oh I love these YouTube postings, revealing people's private obsessions. Gor, look at the chassis on that ...

Monday, 24 August 2009

London Life

"On weekend nights we dance until dawning, then go to hear the speeches at Hyde Park Sunday morning ..." sings Anita Harris in London Life. Judging by recent tabloid reports Anita's London life these days is not that different than that of a lot of us who seem to have been deserted by lady luck. She's certainly had her ups and downs. Oh but in the '60s it was a different story. London was swingin' and Anita got to sing a number specially written by Bacharach & David about the capital. She would memorably appear as Nurse Clarke in Carry On Doctor, but I won't go into that or I might get a clip round the ear. 1966 seems to have been a busy year for Anita too ...

Sunday, 23 August 2009

How's Life in London?

"All the girls in Queens ask me ... seen in the Philippines they ask me .. and all my Spanish brethren ask me ..." And what they all want to ask the London Posse is How's Life In London? And Rodney P and Bionic would be only too keen to tell all and sundry. The London Posse realised early on in the hip hop stakes it wasn't worth taking on the American rappers at their own game so they twisted things, used their native tongue, the city slang, played up the colloquialisms, in the same way that London reggae MCs like Tippa Irie and Smiley Culture had done a few years previously.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Cry from the city

"I have reached the end of my tether. No one getting their act together. It's all trial and error. No one seems to want to cope, in the city of no hope ..." The words may sound desolate but the song itself is incredibly beautiful. This is the dub version of Cry From The City by Fish Out Of Water, with some neat scat vocals in the background by Robert Wyatt. This comes from a 1995 LP, Lucky Scars, which is wonderful. Fish Out Of Water is a group led by Genie Cosmas, with a great reggae, jazz, classical, Raincoatsy vibe. Genie has for the last 20 years been running Stream Records, a label promoting music by disabled musicians. There's some great material available at the label's website (

Friday, 21 August 2009

Tiger Tiger

"As we tiptoe through the traffic, into Soho fancy free. I'm your friend Joe, shuffle over. You've got nothing, only me ..." Another song about being cold in London, down and out in Soho. This wonderful performance of Tiger Tiger by Paul Quinn with the Nectarine No 9 is a cover of a song by Head, one of Gareth Sager's post-Pop Group outfits. The bleak Blake vision, the Songs of Experience reference, is something more closely associated with Gareth's old comrade Mark Stewart. But Gareth's CV is infinitely more interesting. Rip, Rig & Panic, Float Up CP, Head, Nectarine No. 9, Jock Scot, and a couple of cracking solo LPs. Lest we forget, Rip Rig & Panic were headline news at one time ...

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Cold London Blues

"Keep praying everyone can be happy ..." Vic Godard's Cold London Blues from his Long Term Side Effect set has echoes of the swing era work when he would cite the Gershwins as a major passion, and the likes of Tony Bennett as a major influence. I'd still love to hear the likes of Mr Bennett perform this and many of Vic's songs. While we're waiting here's a film of another highlight from that LP, Keep Our Chains. Considering the number of postmen performing, it might have been more appropriate to link it to Gus Elen's Postman's Holiday.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

A foggy day in London Town

"I don't wanna go to London on a foggy day" sings Damita Jo in I Wanna Stay Right Here With You. The song is naggingly familiar. Have a listen and tell me what it reminds you of. The reference in the opening lines is more straight forward. The Gershwins' A Foggy Day in London Town is something of a standard, and there are many wonderful versions of people singing those immortal lines about: "I was a stranger in the city. Out of town were the people I knew. I had that feeling of self-pity. What to do? What to do? The outlook was decidely blue. But as I walked through the foggy streets alone, it turned out to be the luckiest day I've known ..." So here's Judy Garland performing it. Just because ...

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Raining in London

“It’s raining in London. Dark turns the sky. We run for cover. Heaven starts to cry ...” Raining In London by The Peddlers is taken from the group’s early ‘70s ambitious conceptual work, Suite London, recorded with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. I’m a huge fan of The Peddlers, and love the contradictions inherent in their music. On one hand they can be considered a hip-MOR outfit, jazzing up the standards (Time After Time was a recording I’d play a lot while rummaging through my mum’s records as a kid) but then you listen to Roy Phillips’ Hammond workouts and bluesy vocals and you realise something else is going on. The collection of their ‘60s CBS recordings, How Cool Is Cool ..., is particularly recommended. But Suite London is something else. And as it was reissued by the Saint Etienne lads on one of their major label indulgences a little while ago there’s no excuse for being unfamiliar with it. On the subject of Saint Etienne here’s a clip from their Finisterre film where the great London writer Shena Mackay talks about London and the rain ...

Monday, 17 August 2009

I like London in the rain

"Feel the couples arm in arm. London drizzle has its charm. Winds are blowing. Lights are glowing. Falling rain ..." It was actually Tracey Thorn who was responsible for getting me interested in the work of Blossom Dearie, and I couldn't believe how perfect her 1970 That's Just The Way I Want To Be was. Recorded with some of London's top jazz players, it's wonderful. The standout track is I Like London In The Rain is astonishing, funky as whatnot, with a beat that sounds 25 years ahead of its time. There don't seem to be too many clips of Blossom in performance, but this one is lovely and has a tenuous London link.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

I Like To Be With You In The Sun ...

"Down to the river. Over the bridge we go. Feeding a seagull. Watching him waddle around, begging politely, with pigeons of LondonTown berating the pavement, picking up crumbs they've found. Ride on the bus, take a short cut through the square. Looking at trees, feeling that spring is near ..." Bridget St John's I Like To Be With You In The Sun is a strong contender for best London song ever by a candidate for best singer ever. Released on John Peel's Dandelion Records at the end of the '60s as part of Bridget's wonderful Ask Me No Questions set. John started the label out of frustration when coming across artists with special talents who did not have record deals. Someone told me when I was 17 that if I liked Tracey Thorn then I'd love Bridget St John. He was right!

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Angel Square

“If you’re feeling hungry and you want something to eat. Or when you’ve had enough of walking down some dead-end street. Turn the next corner and find it there – it’s Angel Square.” Along the Pentonville Road, towards Islington High Street and the Angel. The Would-Be-Goods’ Angel Square has sparrows turning into parrots and lamp posts turning into trees that start to sway gently in a Caribbean breeze ... Ah daydreaming. S'what squares are for.

Friday, 14 August 2009

April in King's Cross

"Don't matter where you came from. Only mattered that you were lost. The day you came to lean on me. In April in King's Cross ..." Past the British Library, St Pancras Chambers, as far as King's Cross. From the Jasmine Minks' sunset over King's Cross to the Tyrrel Corporation's April in King's Cross, from their 1994 LP, Play For Today. In an ideal world the Tyrrels would have been as successful as the Pet Shop Boys. And while the Pet Shop Boys and Derek Jarman are among my pet hates, it has to be said this video for the pair's King's Cross track does have a certain charm, though you're better off reading Nik Cohn's Yes We Have No ...

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Somers Town

"You ask what's going down in Somers Town. I'm wearing my joker's crown in Somers Town ... " Out of one of the secret exits from Euston Station. Cross Eversholt St. Down Doric Way. Over Chalton Street. Enter the area known as Somers Town. The Jasmine Minks' Somers Town, along with Ghost Of A Young Man and Cold Heart, three Adam Sanderson songs recorded at the same time, oh god if only I had a pound for the number of times I played those songs. What was going down in Somers Town? Adam: "In the 80's Somers Town was a very run down area with high unemployment. The population was very mixed, with a large number of Irish, West Indian, Pakistani and Bangladeshi families living in the council housing. It bordered the very affluent Camden Town to the north. Much of the council properties were squatted by New Zealand skinheads, students from the nearby Slade Art School, strippers who worked in Soho, members of bands, dope heads, thieves, rent boys, dealers, would be actors and toffs slumming it, including a Viscount. The local pub was frequented by a mix of well knowns, including local members of Madness, Culture Club, Tim Roth, Tenpole Tudor and sometimes Vic Godard, who I think was living up by the Roundhouse at the time. Prostitutes from nearby Kings Cross used to come in for a drink while they were resting. There was always either a party or a fight going on somewhere. I lived there for a year and a half. One day someone poured a flammable liquid into the roof space of my block and lit it. The whole block burned down. I was able to enter my flat while embers dripped from the ceiling and grab one thing, which was my black Rickenbacker guitar. I lost my 1963 Vox AC30, all my physical possesions and my interest in living there."

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Euston Station

"People rushing, getting more in a rut each day, so afraid of what big boss man may say ... ticket collectors, detective inspectors, Euston Station, always the same, such a shame ..." Across the lights at the Hampstead Road, past Euston Square. Ah this is a bittersweet one. A location that holds so many painful and precious memories. Barbara Ruskin's Euston Station is a beautiful song captures something perfectly and deserves to be as well known and as widely loved as the Waterloo Sunset it pipped to the post. But Barbara's luck seems to have been as good as mine. She was a great singer and songwriter, had numbers covered by the Equals, Foundations, but is still criminally neglected. The compilation A Little Of This is unreservedly recommended. It also includes another gem of a London, On South Street, which would have fitted neatly into our Mayfair-ish sequence.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Capital Radio

“There's a tower in the heart of London. With a radio station right at the top. They don't make the city beat. They're making all the action stop ...” Along the Marylebone Road, opposite Warren Street tube, is the Euston Tower, home for many years to Capital Radio. While The Clash’s song about the independent London station may be too obvious for here, it’s mentioned because much as I loved the group the song seemed wrong. At the time Capital was our family’s station of choice. Coming home from school Roger Scott’s show would always be on, and on Fridays he would have his Cruising slot where he played old rock ‘n’ roll tracks which was great to listen to while you were having your tea. There would be other specialist shows too like Greg Edwards’ Soul Spectrum and later David Rodigan’s reggae show. Famously (now) in the summer of ’77 Capital broadcast A Punk And His Music where Johnny Rotten played a number of his favourite songs. The post-punk history books choose to forget these included The Creation’s Through My Eyes and Bobby Byrd’s Back From The Dead. “’Cos music’s for listening to. Not to store away in a bloody cupboard. Yeah, I love my music ...” Years later the Bluebells would sing the chorus of The Clash's Capital Radio as a jingle for the station.

Monday, 10 August 2009

The Sights of London

“There is wealth in mighty London. There is poverty as well. They go hand in hand together ...” Down into the Marylebone Road. ‘Round the corner to Madame Tussauds. Mentioned as one of the places to go in Arthur Lennard’s The Sights of London, which starts off like the TVPs’ Smashing Time describing what to do if you come down to the capital for the day. But the old music hall number, pre-WW1, takes a couple of crafty diversions en route, heading off into a nice bit of social commentary about some of the less appealing sights you might see. It’s a bit of a Kinks cliché to cite the music hall influence on Ray Davies’ writing but in numbers like this you can see the connection.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Rossmore Road NW1

"The 159 runs along it. Around the corner from Baker Street. There's a dolls house shop on the corner of Lissom Grove and Rossmore Road ..." If you do walk through Regent's Park, through the rose gardens, round the lake, out one of the side gates, you will be in the vicinity-ish of Rossmore Road NW1, the unexpected subject matter of a start of the '80s single by Barry Andrews, roughly midst XTC and Shriekback. For me, Barry is something of a London figure, as the first gig I ever went to was an under 16s show by XTC at the Marquee in Wardour Street in 1978, which looking back I guess is pretty cool. That would have been around the same time as this appearance on TV show wonderfully compered by Peter Cook. Altogether now: "In Rossmore Road white and yellow lines and street signs. And public phones and traffic cones, and belisha beacons on the central reservation. All humming now ..."

Saturday, 8 August 2009

The Park: London Town

"Walking 'round, walk everywhere. Through Regent's Park, down through Trafalgar Square ..." A proper day out continues. Crossing back over into the Park. Taking the advice of the Light Of The World boys, weather permitting, and walking it. London Town by Light Of The World. Oh, this is such a great feelgood song. Here representing the London/south east jazz funk phenomenon. School days and soul boys with their wedge haircuts, or wet perms, their Farah slacks, white socks, loafers, waffle cardigans, sheepskin coats, gold chains, 12" imports, and Maze car stickers in their Ford Capris. Ah. And then there was the splinter group Beggar and Co. who made one of the most exuberant Top Of The Pops appearances with their classic (Somebody) Help Me Out ...

Friday, 7 August 2009

The Canal: Roofing Tiles

“A boy was pushed in this afternoon. Though he’s claiming now that he fell ... an old friend’s mum goes on walking by. Says she’s kinda tired but she’s well ...” The proper day out continues. Out of the zoo, over the road, and a walk along the Regent’s Canal. You might even see Rob Galliano sitting there wondering. But then the canal is nine miles long, stretching from Limehouse Reach to the Grand Union, and as such it could tell a tale or two. Galliano can tell a tale or two, and Roofing Tiles is so beautifully melancholic that we are particularly grateful to la belle dame Dusty Sevens for the splendid suggestion. More audience participation is actively encouraged. And if our luck holds we might find the video here for Roofing Tiles ... Worth being patient as we're not allowed to watch it on YouTube in the UK. Grrr ... because it's quite lovely.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

The Zoo: Hip City Hip

“There are a lot of things to do. Like visiting the zoo. And its hip city hip.” Of course a proper London day out would once have involved a trip to the zoo. Or more specifically London Zoo in Regent’s Park. As Poly Styrene points out in Hip City Hip. I have fond memories of going to the zoo at a very early age when there was a real buzz about a polar bear cub being born there. The cub’s name was Pipaluk, and for years my mum wore a metal brooch depicting the little fella. Guy The Gorilla was the other celebrity from that era, though I was always more fascinated with the penguins and the chimps. And of course there was Julie Felix singing Tom Paxton's song about going to the zoo ...

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Carrie from Camden Town

“She goes to all the theatres. And of course secures a box. The ladies say how vulgar. But they copy all her frocks. Which by the way come rather high. Although they’re rather low. In fact she’s just the kind of girl you want to know ...” Part of the appeal of visiting the Camden area, it seems, is to hang out in ‘orrible public houses just because that’s the thing to do. To see and be seen. Celebs slumming and all that. But there’s nothing new under the sun. In 1906 music hall star Florrie Forde was singing about Carrie From Camden Town, a young lady who when it comes to ligging could test the young wannabes a trick or two. Florrie herself, while a London favourite, was born in Australia, and can be heard here singing the WW1 number Take Me Back To Dear Old Blighty, a song that may have a certain resonance for fans of The Smiths. This clip falls into the category of “Gor blimey, now that’s what I call a record player ...”

Monday, 3 August 2009

Sunday Night at the Roundhouse

“They listen to the DJ. They pogo with their best friend. And the young girls start to cry when they see Billy ...” Sunday night. Off to a gig up Chalk Farm. Posing At The Roundhouse as the Television Personalities put it. Generation X headlining. Punk’s prettiest star. Reggae Regular supporting. Years later after the Roundhouse had closed down Dan Dan the TVPs Man would put on shows of his own at The Room At The Top, upstairs at The Enterprise opposite Chalk Farm tube station. Up the road from where Bernard Rhodes/The Clash had their Rehearsal Rehearsals base, where in 1977 Subway Sect would be filmed for Punk In London. Among the Sect’s appearances at the Roundhouse in ’77 would be a Buzzcocks show, with Penetration and the Banshees also on the bill. A review would state: “The evening builds from the flat, drab monotones of The Subway Sect to the sparkling crescendo of The Buzzcocks at a new creative peak. Subway Sect are colourless, humourless, relentless. Pounding monotony for its own sake, each song a plodding excursion into mediocrity. A fair reflection of the world, maybe, and probably intended as such: it frightens some people, fascinates some. It bores me ...” Tsk ... heathens.

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Sunday Evening Primrose Hill

"Went to see the sun go down on Primrose Hill. Sunday evening sun go down on Primrose Hill. Never could be anything else. Never should be anything else ..." The day out continues. Walk up to Primrose Hill to watch the sun go down. You've got to hear this tune in your head. Beverley Martyn's Primrose Hill, the highlight of The Road To Ruin, the record she made with John Martyn in 1970. Primrose Hill is a location heard often quite often in song, but Beverley's is a voice we have not heard enough of. I know from my all British girls issue of That Will Never Happen Again (bought appropriately in Camden bookshop Compendium many years ago) that Beverley had (before working with John) worked on the London folk circuit and released a couple of singles on Deram. One side was Where The Good Times Are and is something of a total mod/freakbeat classic, with Beverley telling the story of leaving home and heading to the big bad city.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Sunday Afternoon Dingwalls

"Dingwalls. Yes. Kicking, back and forth, shuffles, turns, lurches, rhythm, rhythms, swing, swung ..." The day out continues. Up the road to Camden Lock. At the suggestion of Mark Murphy and his Dingwalls track, where he takes the listener on a whirlwind tour of the London jazz dance scene. Sunday afternoon at Dingwalls. Talkin' loud and saying something. Gilles Peterson and Patrick Forge. Two gentlemen who have done so much to awaken a passion for jazz. Jazz in the broadest sense. And the jazz dance thing could be a serious business. Some of those jazz dancers were very serious about what they were doing. IDJ. Jazz Defektors. And this fantastic, surreal clip of Brothers In Jazz in an Archie Bell style showdown with commentary from Gilles. Jazz dancing as spectator sport. Will it be in the Olympics