Mar 172010

Townsman cherguevara seems to have misplaced his keys to The Back Office, so he sent in this post for us to launch on his behalf. Thanks for your tenacity!

Recently, I was sent a link to an article that claimed to list the 50 best songs about London. I was somewhat unimpressed by this list. I mean, “Baker Street?” “West End Girls?” While both songs have their appeal, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was possible to do better. My first thought, as I sat in my office in Greenwich Village, was, “I bet my list of list of New York City songs could kick the proverbial ass of the songs on this London list.” But then, that’s apples and oranges. Or bagels and scones.

Of course, listing 50 songs is a very tall order. But if we start with the songs already on the list that are worthy, such as “Waterloo Sunset,” we’ll be off to a good head start.

Have a gander at what Time Out London says are the “50 Best London Songs.”

So, what do you think?


  15 Responses to “London Calling”

  1. Mr. Moderator

    XTC’s “Towers of London” jumps out at me as an oversight.

    Is “God Save the Queen” a song specific to London? I get so caught up on the Power and Glory of Rock of that song that I lose track of the lyrics after the opening couplets.

  2. Is “Downtown” by Petula Clark about London?

  3. 52 Vincent Black Lightning mentions Box Hill. I looked at a map but can’t tell if it’s in London proper but it appears to be within 10 miles of the center.

  4. mockcarr

    Are they limiting this to one song per artist? In The City by the Jam has to be about London, doesn’t it?

  5. I don’t think it has to be limited to one song per artist.

    London Calling is not on the list, how is that possible?

  6. Mr. Moderator

    I was shocked that the list was missing “London Calling,” but to be honest, as big a Clash song as I am I never think much of that as a song. It’s a great rallying cry to kick off an album and use for promotion on tv shows, but I never pull out that album and say to myself, “I really feel like hearing ‘London Calling,’ the song.”

  7. I never thought “London Calling” was specifically about London. I always thought it to be about dread of nuclear annihilation, more than anything else.

    How do they figure “I Can See For Miles” is a “London” song?

    I’m surprised there isn’t a Madness song somewhere on the list. They must have written at least one.

  8. misterioso

    What I think is that I don’t know most of these songs! Totally at a loss about “I Can See for Miles”–is it written in code?

    I have always loved, and in spite of myself I always will love, Baker Street. But apart from knowing that there is a Baker Street in London, does it have anything “London” about it? At all?

    London Calling probably should be on there but I suppose that almost all of the early Clash and Jam and others are about London one way or another, are they not?

  9. Mr. Moderator

    What’s that kook Kinks song from Lola vs the Powerman, or whatever that album’s called – the one about the street where a lot of song publishers reside, “Denmark Street”? That’s got to be in London, right? I’ll take that over some of the 50 songs on that list that seem to have little to do with London.

  10. Mr. Moderator

    “Werewolves of London” needs to be on this list!

  11. sammymaudlin

    What about The Clash’s London Burning?

  12. bostonhistorian

    Madness just released an album “The Liberty of Norton Folgate” which is almost all about London, and certainly songs like “Our House” or “Baggy Trousers” are inspired by growing up in London. The Pogues should be represented by “Dark Streets of London” or “Transmetropolitan”. Billy Bragg’s “A13 Trunk Road to the Sea” is a rewrite of “Route 66”, but I guess it counts as a London song because it starts in Wapping. I could go on, but I’ll spare the world my rants about how awful “Best” lists are.

  13. Having put more thought into this, maybe there just aren’t that many good London songs, hence that list.

    I would guess that NYC would top the list of great songs about, or largely-related-to, a city. This might be followed by Mempis or L.A., speaking off the top of my head.

  14. @Sammy:”London’s Burning” IS on the list (#19).

    I’d add “Muswell Hillbilly” by The Kinks, as it’s (roughly) about their old North London neighborhood. And I’m sure there must be others by this band.

    To The Pogues’ list, there’s “London, You’re A Lady” & “Misty Morning, Albert Bridge”.

    From our side of the pond, I guess you could add the less than flattering Heartbreakers’ number, “London Boys”.

  15. The Time Out editors could have used a healthy dose of RTH’s slavish devotion to rules! What the hell is the criteria for the list? So many of the other songs we came up with seem more worthy. Their list is too arbitrary. A LMS post of songs with London in the title would have been more fun than their boring list.

    I noticed none of the Beatles nerds dared to offer Mac’s “London Town”! There’s still time.

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