Last month, we went to London for 72 hours and ended up being stuck there for almost three weeks. The reasons aren’t so important, they can be summed up by the question: Who doesn’t love bureaucracy?
This meant that we spent a lot of time in assorted hotel rooms around the city, and when it’s pouring with rain outside, the hotel bar is prohibitively expensive and the television is full of absolute rubbish, what else do you do but go on a bit of a musical meander through Spotify and YouTube.
The result is my Lost in London Mixtape, a collection of songs that are either directly about London or just somehow feel like they should or could be.
The Only Living Boy In New Cross by Carter USM
I really think that Carter USM are a much underrated band and there are a couple of their tracks that might have made it onto this playlist but I chose this one which just seems like the perfect opening, so: “Hello, good evening and welcome”…
Sale Of The Century by Sleeper
How can we take a musical tour of London without a liberal dose of Britpop. 🙂
London Loves by Blur
Everything about Parklife screams mid 90’s London, from the dog racing cover image, through the appearance of Phil Daniels to the lyrics of almost every track, including this one, which is a personal favourite.
It’s Lulu by The Boo Radleys
What better way to round off a little trio of Britpop gems than with a slice of the Boo’s?
Half A Person by The Smiths
Sorry to shatter any illusions but the commonly misheard lyric is not “I went to London and died”, it’s actually “I went to London and I..”.
Down In The Tube Station At Midnight by The Jam
One of The Jam, and of Paul Weller’s actually, finest moments.
Up The Bracket by The Libertines
I don’t like Pete Doherty, admittedly I’ve never met him, but he just comes across as being a complete dick. That doesn’t stop me from appreciating his music though, especially as a member of The Libertines.
Blinded By The Lights by The Streets
The Streets aka. Mike Skinner might not be from London, but if there is a song that describes the reality of a certain kind of nineties-noughties night out in England’s capital then surely this is it.
Bad Place For A Good Time by Kate Tempest
Not the most cheerful shining view of life in contemporary cities, but then Kate Tempest doesn’t really do cheery. She does insightful descriptions of the state of England, Europe and world well though, and her music/poetry is a joy.
Mile End by Pulp
I have a soft spot for both Jarvis Cocker’s lyricism and delivery. Everyone remembers Common People, but Mile End is as good if not better as a slightly sarcastic piece of social commentary.
Mario’s Cafe by Saint Etienne
Like many Saint Etienne songs, and unlike the last few songs in this list, this one is an ode to an enduring love affair with London.
Oh, and just for the record, and although the song isn’t really about it at all, Mario’s Cafe is a real place. You can find it on Kelly Street in Kentish Town, still open for business more than 25 years after the song was written.
Fake Plastic Trees by Radiohead
Of course this song is about consumer culture and capitalism in general, but it’s also specifically written about the Canary Wharf area of London according to Thom Yorke. Canary Wharf has grown slightly more human and livable as it has aged but every line of this song can still be easily applied.
For Tomorrow by Blur
The lead single from Modern Life is Rubbish, this song heralded the start of Blur’s ‘Britpop’ phase.
It’s one of those songs that can mean whatever you need it to. Financial recession, the uncertainty of youth, or the struggle with heroin withdrawal. It’s a masterpiece whichever way you like to look at it.
West End Girls by Pet Shop Boys
There should never be any playlist of songs about London that does not contain West End Girls, it should in fact be illegal, because this really is just that good.
Tied Up Too Tight by Hard-Fi
A little unusual in that the protagonists, both in the lyrics and the band themselves are “straight out of West London”, when we’ve all become used to most London songs about not belonging being all about the East End.
Take The Box by Amy Winehouse
It’s a song about a breakup and it’s beautiful. Nothing really to do with London apart from the fact that all of Amy’s stories are set there, and it just feels like it belongs here.