"Harmful elements in the air. Symbols clashing everywhere ..." Or is it cymbals crashing? Never was sure. But if you were to pin me down and force me to pick one London song that summed up this project it would have to be Hong Kong Garden by Siouxsie and the Banshees because when this was a hit back in 1978 it seemed so absurd that here was this achingly hip song in the Top 10 basically about a Chinese takeaway in Chislehurst High Street, out in the south east London suburbs, just a short bus ride away. The beautiful thing was that so many people didn't realise, thinking the song oh so mysterious and enigmatic, and if they did know they probably weren't aware the place was so nondescript. Siouxsie down the years has made no secret of the song's subject matter, often referring to the local thugs that would harrass the restaurant's staff. "I remember wishing that I could be like Emma Peel from The Avengers and kick all the skinheads' heads in," said Siouxsie some time later. Oddly, as far as I know, the restaurant's owners never seemed to cash-in on its 'fame'. It was there for years and years, even though the name changed along the way. I kind of liked that sense of obliviousness. It's one of the attractions of London's outer regions. Being able to hide. Except of course some are desperate to escape. And the whole Siouxsie/suburbia thing, the Bromley Contingent, the dressing up and being outrageous angle - it's all part of punk mythology, of course, with Billy Idol and Generation X which is where this all started and this project ends ...
Thursday, 24 June 2010
A suburban relapse ...
Posted by Yr Heartout at Thursday, June 24, 2010 15 comments:
Labels: London General, London South East
Wednesday, 23 June 2010
London, Queen of My Heart
"London, queen of my heart. Too much laughing and tumbling down upstairs on the night bus from Camden Town. Plague rhymes and Hawksmoor's lost underground and you, London, queen of my heart. London, queen of my heart. In your secret streets I've seen you naked and asleep on late nights lost in the rain and from early morning trains but you won't leave me - leave me - I keep moving but you won't let go. Who'd have thought that I'd miss still those sickly summers and that old, damp chill that loves to creep in beside you while you sleep ..." And then there are those who have fallen in love with London, fallen in love in London, and left but not forgotten, having found that you can leave the Capital but it won't leave you. Cath Carroll's haunting song London, Queen Of My Heart captures this feeling perfectly. It makes me think of places you can't go back to because they are so special. Places that are so special because you can only think of having been there with someone special. So there are places in London that are off-limits. London, Queen Of My Heart comes from Cath's self-titled 2000 set, which would have been released around the time LTM's excellent series of Cath Carroll/Miaow reissues/releases was underway. More recently Cath has returned to the London/exile theme on Moon Over Archway, which is a prequel to London, Queen Of My Heart ...
Posted by Yr Heartout at Wednesday, June 23, 2010 4 comments:
Tuesday, 22 June 2010
Nan I Am London
"Yeah, I know Nan, I know you always told me come out of London, but I can't ... I am London ... ask London ..." There is a certain genius in being able to throw together a track that immediately makes the listener feel that they're eavesdropping on a private conversation. That's what Wiley aka Eskiboy achieves on Nan I Am London, from his mixtape Tunnel Vision Vol. 5. Part of the genius of it is using the word Nan. One of the most widely used words, but how often have you heard it in a song? It takes a Wiley old soul to get away with it. And actually without that one word, Nan, it would all fall flat. I like the split personality of a Wiley/Eskiboy. Most great performers can do pop or underground, but few manage to do the two at once. Is it too pretentious to suggest that duality is a bit like the London Wiley can't leave behind? Like, for instance, Dagenham rapper Devlin will chat about putting on his Lyle & Scott to go up West for a night on the town in London City. But then on the other hand there's his track Community Outcast about the lost of London ...
Posted by Yr Heartout at Tuesday, June 22, 2010 No comments:
Monday, 21 June 2010
"I look out the window and see the streets below. Cars and the people. Lonely church steeples surrounded by grey. We need to move away ..." Ah the eternal debate couples seem to have. It's the gist of the dialogue Sarah Cracknall and David Essex have during Saint Etienne's Relocate. Do we move out of London to the countryside for a better way of life? Or should we accept the city for all its faults because at least we've roots here and it's got a bit of life after all. From what is surely the group's finest work, Tales From Turnpike House, this wasn't the only time they worked with David Essex. David (along with Linda Robson) provided the narration for their film What Have You Done Today Mervyn Day? Set on 7th July 2005, a unique day of national celebration and horror in London's history, it captures something of an east London about to disappear for better or worse just before the preparations for the 2012 Olympics begin. David Essex, of course, is one of the great London pop figures, but did he record any London songs at the height of his fame? Similarly, the Saint Etienne lads, for all their London related works, did they really write about the Croydon suburbs that wrought them? Well, if they didn't at least Danish progressives Burnin' Red Ivanhoe did at the start of the '70s with their unexpected track, the wonderful 2nd Floor Croydon from an LP that even saw a UK release via John Peel's Dandelion label. "And when she moved her head in a certain way outside her window she could see Big Ben ..."
Posted by Yr Heartout at Monday, June 21, 2010 No comments:
Labels: London General, London South West
Sunday, 20 June 2010
We're Going To The Country
"It's called evacuation. They take you to the station. They put you on the train ..." sing the evacuees and mums in We're Going To The Country from Lionel Bart's musical Blitz! The evacuation of many thousands of children from London (and indeed other large cities and towns) during World War Two is something that makes the head spin. For many children this remained the biggest thing in their lives. Being uprooted from their homes, often split up from brothers, sisters and parents, deposited with strangers in far away places with very different ways of life. My own mum was evacuated to south Wales at the start of 1941, after the heaviest part of the Blitz when the family's flat was destroyed and they were pretty much left with nothing at all. She has never forgotten leaving London by train, with a luggage label tied to her like Paddington Bear, arriving in Cardiff the night it was bombed (and a lot of Londoners thought sod this we might as well go 'ome and be killed there), going on to their new locality, being petrified at seeing the miners with their coal blackened faces, and let's not forget the kindness of strangers who took all these cockney urchins into their homes. Some kids were lucky, some were not. But honestly the immensity of the operation, and the way it changed people's lives. And yet how many songs are there about it all? Well,there was the Harry Phillips/Gaby Rogers number, Goodnight Children Everywhere, which was written "with a tender thought to all evacuated children ...", and performed by Vera Lynn, Gracie Fields, and even dear Gert and Daisy ...
Posted by Yr Heartout at Sunday, June 20, 2010 1 comment:
Labels: London General, London History
Saturday, 19 June 2010
Leave The Capitol
"Showbiz whines, minute detail. It's a hand on the shoulder in Leicester Square. It's vaudeville pub back room. Dusty pictures of white frocked girls and music teachers ..." sings Mark E Smith at the start of The Fall's Leave The Capitol from the 1981 10" Slates. While the sleeve may claim it's any capital this still seems a very London song. It's a very London record actually for some illogical reasons, not least for the fact Adrian Sherwood produced one track and I spent a large part of my youth in London pub function rooms watching young hopefuls play their hearts out. I can remember buying it in the Virgin Megastore on Oxford Street on its release where it was prominently displayed. There was a piece in Smash Hits too. It may have been around the time Julian Cope was a pin-up and namechecking Pere Ubu in that mag, and there was always that link between the Liverpool groups and The Fall despite the lyrics to Slate, Slags, Etc. which echo Dexys' There There My Dear. And actually Slates is the pivotal record of the 20th century, not just my favourite record by The Fall. As a 10" EP it turned out to be too long for the singles charts, which seemed like a typical Rough Trade own goal because if it had been a hit the world may have turned out a different place and we may have seen Josef K, Fire Engines et set go on to have the impact the Soft Cells, Adam Ants and ABCs did. Instead the world shrugged its shoulders, the great pop moment passed, and The Fall understandably went all perverse with Hex Enduction Hour. There's some great lines on Slates, such as passing references to Arthur Machen and Albert Finney, and the one about plagiarism infesting the land. Then there's the one about feeling like Alan Minter. There was a piece of graffiti by the side of the railway between Blackheath and Lewisham stations in south east London which simply said "I FEEL LIKE ALAN MINTER" in four feet high letters. It must have been there for well over 20 years, and may be still there now for all I know buried by the buddleia, the rail network's national flower. Just think of the number of people passing through south east London who saw it during that time who would never have heard The Fall perform Fit And Working Again or indeed any of the tracks on Slates ...
Posted by Yr Heartout at Saturday, June 19, 2010 2 comments:
Friday, 18 June 2010
"Last night the Troubadour was so full they barred the door. And I sang a song she knows quite well. But it wouldn't take too long to make up another song for a lonesome and a last farewell ..." With a nice reference to the folk club/coffee bar on the Old Brompton Road Tom Paxton's Leaving London is a beautifully bittersweet number in which he endures our "cold, hard town" while hoping to get enough money to travel home to his love assuming she remembers who he is. Tom may never have been as photogenic as Bob Dylan or Phil Ochs but many of his songs are right up there with the very best in the folk or any other world. He could write the most tender of love songs and the most scathing of political songs, and better still sometimes those lines got blurred ...
Posted by Yr Heartout at Friday, June 18, 2010 No comments:
Thursday, 17 June 2010
"Soon the wind will be blowing. And the snowflakes will come drifting down. It's been a long hot summer. But your cold love has chilled me to the bone ..." Now before you say it I am aware that there is rather a strong possibility that London Leaves by Boxcar Willie may not be about England's capital. There are, after all, several Londons in the US for starters, and seeing as ole Boxcar is from Texas, well ... Does it matter? The lyrics fit our London rather neatly. And even if it is about London, Ontario or wherever have we ever said we're exclusively about the UK? It's just London ain't it? Anyway, Boxcar Willie the hobo troubadour is an adopted persona like many Londoners reinvent themselves. And our London has always had a thing for country music, from Joe Brown in the '60s to '70s country rockers Brinsley Schwartz singing about their Country Girl or London legend Wendy May with the Boothill Foot Tappers letting their roots show ...
Posted by Yr Heartout at Thursday, June 17, 2010 No comments:
Wednesday, 16 June 2010
London Homesick Blues
"Well, when you're down on your luck,and you ain't got a buck, in London you're a goner. Even London Bridge has fallen down, and moved to Arizona. Now I know why. And I'll substantiate the rumor that the English sense of humor is drier than the Texas sand. You can put up your dukes, and you can bet your boots, that I'm leavin' just as fast as I can ... " I first heard the song London Homesick Blues via David Pajo's Papa M project at the end of the '90s. Pajo's progress through that decade is quite fascinating, playing with Slint then Tortoise (and it's easy to forget now just how remarkable those groups sonded at that time, with that Ry Cooder/Paris Texas thing going on etc.) then doing his own electronica/folk/country thing with his Aerial M/Papa M personas. I have to confess I've not kept up with his work since. The song itself was written by Texas troubadour Gary P Nunn, who was working with Jerry Jeff Walker's band. I was just thinking how an interest in Texas troubadours was stimulated by The Clash and their support for Joe Ely. The astute among you will at this point mention that, of course, Joe Ely and London Bridge get a mention in The Clash's lovely If Music Could Talk, but then what doesn't ...
Posted by Yr Heartout at Wednesday, June 16, 2010 No comments:
Tuesday, 15 June 2010
London Blues - Pt. 2
"When I asked you here for dinner. And you brought all your friends. I said here I am feeding half of London. And all I should be feeding here is you ..." sings Alan 'Blind Owl' Wilson in Canned Heat's London Blues. A true story apparently. And one of the last songs he recorded before his tragic death. What I love when you read about the Canned Heat guys, apart from making some great music, Al Wilson and Bob Hite were real blues obsessives, and not just a couple of schoolkids who wanted to be the Rolling Stones. The Stones themselves were blues fans, but Blind Owl and The Bear were true blues scholars and collectors. There's that lovely story about how when Son House was 'rediscovered' Al Wilson sat down and lovingly taught him all his own songs. Am I the only person in the world who has occasionally been reminded of Canned Heat when listening to Stereolab? Mind you Tim Gane was a bit of a musicologist too ...
Posted by Yr Heartout at Tuesday, June 15, 2010 3 comments:
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