With Manchester and Liverpool representing English pop music for decades, it is easy to forget that the Capital City has produced some fantastic artists and provided the inspiration for many incredible songs. Here is just a selection:
‘A Foggy Day (In London Town)’ – Ella Fitzgerald
‘London: the best place on Earth to be miserable’ surely resonates with the majority of commuters stuck on a crowded and delay train/tube/bus. Ms. Fitzgerald beautifully croons on this number which has been covered by many artists, about the infamous fog that would haunt the capital, but the sun is always shining.
‘American Boy’ – Estelle feat. Kanye West
London born Estelle uses a combination of R&B and funk-ish beats to describe her meeting an American guy, and she wants to show round the West End, but Kanye wants to ‘Dress Smart Like a London Bloke’ in a nod to the infamous bespoke tailoring and London fashion houses.
‘Back to Black’ – Amy Winehouse
The unofficial Queen of Camden, Amy Winehouse’s story of acclaim, substance abuse, legal issues and her untimely death is as iconic as it is tragic. A beloved icon, her trademark eyeliner as iconic as her talented songwriting and beautiful voice.
‘Bow E3’ – Wiley
The unofficial Godfather of Grime, Wiley pays tribute to his roots in this dedicated track to his postcode of Bow. Grime emerged in London during the 2000’s in a gritty description of life as the subject matter, with an almost bold and dynamic electronic sound, and although it has become more mainstream, there is still a significant underground following.
‘Electric Avenue’ – Eddy Grant
Electric Avenue in Brixton, South London has a large Caribbean community, and in the 1980s (when this song was released), it was the home of much violence and rioting, due to the poverty, unemployment, and racism in the area. American Eddy Grant provided such a catchy chorus, and you almost don’t hear the lyrics about the ‘violence in the street.’
‘Fix Up, Look Sharp’ – Dizzee Rascal
One of the Grime trailblazers making the genre more mainstream is Bow boy Dizzee Rascal. Fix Up, Look Sharp is a stark reminder to be street aware growing up in the East End, with heavy beats and a catchy chorus.
‘God Save the Queen’ – Sex Pistols
Local lads, the Sex Pistols were London’s iconic punks, launching their revolution from Camden. In their anarchic, anti-establishment anthem, the Pistols tell us there is ‘no future in England’s dreaming.’
‘Has It Come to This?’ – The Streets
Although from Birmingham, Mike Skinner from the Streets lyrically paves a new way for the British Garage scene, with its rap and catchy choruses. In ‘Has It Come To This’ Skinner explains his underground journey ‘runs from Mile End to Ealing From Brixton to Boundsgreen’
‘Hometown Glory’ – Adele
Hometown Glory is a tribute to London’s cultural wonders by Tottenham girl Adele. Only a teenager when this was released, Adele has blossomed into a pop Queen of London, with the voice of an angel, who swears like a sailor.
‘LDN’ – Lily Allen
‘Riding through the city on my bike all day, ‘Cos the filth took away my license, It doesn’t get me down, and I feel okay,’Cos the sights that I’m seeing are priceless.’ Lily Allen isn’t quite talking about Big Ben and the London Eye, but rather some unsavory types of sentiment to London’s people watchers.
‘London Calling’ – The Clash
The Clash’s tribute to late-’70s punk London is ‘London Calling.’ Not quite as anarchic as the Sex Pistols, but still a railing cry, with an album based on social displacement, unemployment, racial conflict, drug use, and the responsibilities of adulthood
‘Sheila’ – Jamie T
Jamie T delightfully tells of a poor pissed girl in the grips of an alcohol-induced emotional crisis, familiar to anyone who’s ever been out in London on a Saturday night (or ever been out in London).
‘The City’ – Ed Sheeran
In 2011 Ed didn’t look old enough to have left the Scouts, let alone the bosom of his family. But in this song, he’s a streetwise character with a cynic’s eye for the pleasures and pitfalls of the big city, which he credits with informing, inspiring and ultimately improving his music. Nice work, London.
‘Waterloo Sunset’ – The Kinks
The song was supposed to be about the end of Merseybeat, called “Liverpool Sunset,” but when The Kinks lead singer was writing the lyrics, and that he used to walk past Waterloo on the way to art college and created one of the most iconic London songs.