Thursday, 4 March 2010

Old Smokey

"I was born east of Old Smokey by that same old river that brought my Granddaddy's smile ..." I love that line in Linda Lewis' Old Smokey. Linda was an east end girl herself and this song partly tells her grandparents' story and partly is a plea for some space and trees and breeze in the city. The track first appeared on Linda's 1974 LP Lark, but it's had a new lease of life having been used by Kanye West on Common's Go. Now I'm rubbish at spotting samples, but I do recognise this one and hope it's made Linda some money. It's what I call the Oranges and Lemons motif ... you know the old nursery rhyme: "Oranges and lemons say the bells of St Clements. You owe me five farthings say the bells of St Martins. When will you pay me? say the bells of Old Bailey. When I grow rich say the bells of Shoreditch. When will that be? say the bells of Stepney. I'm sure I don't know says the great bell at Bow." A few years earlier Common was citing Stereolab as kindred spirits, and recording with Laetitia Sadier on the track New Wave. Stereolab's roots via Tim Gane are east of Old Smokey too, when he was in Barking's McCarthy. Those seeking sightings of another east London legend Callahan (Wolfhounds/Moonshake) might have to make do with this TV appearance by Stereolab, which has a poignancy of its own as Mary Hansen was killed in a cycling accident in London back in 2002. For those that love to trace connections, Mary sang with The Wolfhounds and Moonshake ...


  1. another for the list. the long long list. i only know reach for the truth which has brilliant bits then bits that ruin it but this is beautiful. how's the rest of the lp?

  2. It's a right old mix but definitely gets the thumbs up. The best bits are on the Reach For The Truth comp.

  3. Very much enjoying your massive labour of love here (which I was directed to in 2017 by a search for Sudden Sway) --- really great idea and execution. Just want to point out that it was Katherine Gifford of Stereolab (on keys in 'French Disko' vid above) who was in the Wolfhounds and Moonshake (and later Snowpony.) And RIP Mary Hansen, a wonderful person whose death shocked us all (I couldn't listen to anything Stereolab did after that.)