I’ve written about books that will make you fall in love with London. I’ve written about films that will do the same. Today I want to continue the trend with London songs.
There’s no shortage of songs about London, from vintage classics to contemporary hits. Some are about the city in general, others about one particular part of it. Some focus on a story, others on a theme. But what all the London songs on my list have in common is that they represent the city and the way it impacts the people who experience it.
It amazes me how many different ways artists have come up with to portray London in song, but it reflects the city in a way that shows how multifaceted it is.
1. London Calling
“London Calling” by The Clash is one of the most iconic songs about the city. I can’t remember when I first heard it, but I feel like I’ve known it my whole life.
While the lyrics are rather apocalyptic, I love the melody and sound. And given it’s one of the most famous songs about London, it’s only fitting I start my list with it.
2. Warwick Avenue
On a different end of the musical spectrum, “Warwick Avenue” by Duffy is softer and tells the story of a breakup. This song was released not long after I moved to London and it’s always reminded me of my early years of life in the UK capital.
I remember the first time I got off the tube at Warwick Avenue and connected the dots with the opening lines of the song: “When I get to Warwick Avenue / Meet me by the entrance of the tube”. I suddenly felt like a Londoner.
3. Werewolves of London
Back to the zombie apocalypse, “Werewolves of London” by Warren Zevon is another classic London song.
Maybe I love it because it gets stuck in my head so easily (there it goes…I’ll be humming it ’till next Tuesday). Or maybe it’s because it’s a fun one to sing (who doesn’t like channeling their inner werewolf?). Regardless of the reason, it always puts a smile on my face.
I’d never heard of Lily Allen before I moved to London, but her controversial lyrics and irreverent style put her on my radar screen as soon as I moved here.
Her song “LDN” is no exception to her usual style, with lots of things-aren’t-always-as-they-seem lyrics and the juxtaposition of the cheerful and the sinister. It’s a song that shows a dark side of London, but with an irresistibly upbeat melody.
5. Waterloo Sunset
“Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks is another London classic. Set around Waterloo Station and sporting an unmistakably 1960’s sound, this song sings the praises of the Waterloo Sunset while following a couple through the area.
It’s a nice throwback to a previous era and a fun one to listen to while walking around the South Bank.
6. West End Girls
Another London song with a sound from its time is “West End Girls” by the Pet Shop Boys. Its 1980s vibe is unmistakable, and listening to it always makes me imagine the city in the era of spiked hair and metal-studded accessories.
But it’s the chorus that I really love, not least because even though the song is from the ’80s it’s not hard to go out in London and find east end boys and west end girls meeting in dive bars today.
7. Primrose Hill
Going back a decade, “Primrose Hill” by John and Beverly Martyn is a folksy 1970s number. I’ve watched the sunset from Primrose Hill a number of times, and the beginning of this song sums up how it feels to sit at the top and soak up the view.
I like how chilled out it is, not to mention how it represents one of my favorite London neighborhoods.
8. Hometown Glory
And speaking of representing neighborhoods, apparently Adele wrote the song “Hometown Glory” in 10 minutes after her mother tried to get her to leave West Norwood to go to university.
Whether that’s true or not, it’s a great testament to her attachment to the city and a good song to listen to for a bit of London pride.
9. Up The Junction
Squeeze has held a special place in my heart since my cousin introduced me to their music when I was a child. “Up The Junction” features Clapham Common in the first few lines and tells a love story about a couple who meet there. While it has a sad ending, the melody features the band’s signature sound and is a good London song in spite of its melancholy.
On a brighter note, I hope this list has reminded you of some London favorites and introduced you to some new tracks to listen to. London has so much variety and influence that there’s a genre and an era for anyone who wants to listen.
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