According to the esteemed Dr Johnson, if you’re tired of London then you’re tired of life.
I used to travel into London every day for work, an experience that was frankly rather grim. But nowadays I love nothing better than to spend a weekend in the capital, wandering along the South Bank, catching a West End show, finding off-beat attractions to visit.
This mix tape includes 12 of my favourite songs about dear old London Town.
Track 1 – London Calling (The Clash). A thumping vision of punk-era gloom that found new life as London’s universally recognised anthem. On our last visit, we heard a foreign tourist singing the hook line as he walked by the Thames. “The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in. Engines stop running, the wheat is growing thin. A nuclear error but I have no fear ’cause London is drowning and I, I live by the river.”
Track 2 – Up the Junction (Squeeze). The Deptford boys’ original kitchen-sink drama starts on Clapham Common and ends in self-pity. “Alone here in the kitchen I feel there’s something missing. I’d beg for some forgiveness but begging’s not my business. And she won’t write a letter although I always tell her. And so it’s my assumption, I’m really up the junction.”
Track 3 – West End Girls (Pet Shop Boys). This slice of electronic pop always puts me in mind of going ‘up West’ for a night of drinking and dancing. “Running down underground to a dive bar in a West End town.”
Track 4 – Warwick Avenue (Duffy). London’s network of tube stations is often used as a point of reference when meeting up with lovers or friends. “When I get to Warwick Avenue meet me by the entrance of the tube.”
Track 5 – The Only Living Boy in New Cross (Carter USM). Regeneration of Docklands in the 1980s opened up great swathes of southeast London. “The comfort and joy of feeling lost with the only living boy in New Cross.”
Track 6 – Strange Town (The Jam). The big city has a reputation for swallowing up people from the provinces. “Found myself in a strange town, though I’ve only been here for three weeks now. I got blisters on my feet, trying to find a friend in Oxford Street.”
Track 7 – Euston Road (Eliza Doolittle). Over the years, I’ve worn a groove walking up and down this particular stretch of tarmac, which is peppered by tube and railway stations to points north, south, east and west. “I don’t wanna look ahead to the future but I can see King’s Cross getting closer.”
Track 8 – Hometown Glory (Adele). Heartfelt ode to her place of birth by the incomparable Skyfall songstress. “Round my hometown, memories are fresh. Round my hometown, oh the people I’ve met are the wonders of my world.”
Track 9 – Electric Avenue (Eddy Grant). Reggae grooves lull you into a false sense of security while referencing the 1981 Brixton riot. “We gonna rock down to Electric Avenue and then we’ll take it higher.”
Track 10 – Our House (Madness). No one will forget seeing Madness perform this song from the roof of Buckingham Palace, which had been transformed by the magic of lighting into a row of terraced houses, as part of the Jubilee concert in 2012. “Our house, was our castle and our keep. Our house, in the middle of our street. Our house, that was where we used to sleep. Our house, in the middle of our street.”
Track 11 – London Girls (Chas and Dave). Once considered deeply unfashionable, the Cockney duo are now in danger of gaining national treasure status with their pub rock take on London life. “I’ve been to the east and I’ve been out west and I been all the world around but I ain’t seen none come anywhere near the girls from London town.”
Track 12 – Waterloo Sunset (The Kinks). No ifs, no buts – this haunting melody coupled with bittersweet lyrics is the definitive love song to London. “And I don’t need no friends. As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset, I am in paradise.”