What’s The Best Song Lyric About London?

coward

We reckon Noël Coward wrote one of the best London lyrics. Photo by tezzer57, in the Londonist Flickr pool.

London has inspired the lyrics to many a beautiful song — lyrics that express frustration, bitterness, bliss and hope.

We’ve selected a few of our favourite London lyrics (below). Now we’d like to hear about the ones you love, and the reasons why you love them.

For now, we’re just after lyrics that feature in songs, not stand-alone poetry. Oh, and the lyric doesn’t necessarily have to include the word ‘London’.

If enough of you get back to us, we’ll compile your comments in a follow-up article.

“This is London, not Antarctica, so why don’t the Tubes run all night?”

John Peel-beloved indie outfit Hefner were themselves in love with London. This is none more evident than in their 2000 album We Love the City. It’s liberally sprinkled with lovelorn, Londoncentric fables (In Painting and Kissing, singer Darren Hayman tumbles into a doomed relationship with an artsy type living on Holloway Road; the beginning of She Can’t Sleep No More features the ambient sounds of a greasy spoon). The above lyric from the opening, eponymous song is especially poignant, because it’s a question we find ourselves asking TfL staff more or less every weekend. Of course, that’s set to change soon. And by then, there won’t be any staff left to grumble at anyway.

“London Pride has been handed down to us / London Pride is a flower that’s free / London Pride means our own dear town to us / And our pride it forever will be”

When Noël Coward crooned about ‘London Pride’ in his 1941 ditty, he wasn’t singing about LGBT festivals or lacklustre ale. The London Pride in question here is a hardy perennial that sprung up amongst the rubble of the Blitz. Coward noted that the flower had much in common with the stiff upper lip of Londoners, and wrote London Pride song to cheer their hearts. Who says propaganda can’t be inspired?

“There’s a picture by his first wife on the wall / Stripped floor-boards in the kitchen and the hall / A stain from last week’s party on the stairs / No one knows who made it or how it ever got there”

Ever shrugged off the pub in favour of a house party, then regretted it soon after? In the early 1990s, Jarvis Cocker had one such experience at 59 Lyndhurst Grove in Peckham. Being Jarvis Cocker though, he went and wrote a song about it. Our cherry-picked lyric perfectly encapsulates a middle-class London household and its restrained party atmosphere. Cocker was less restrained, and got himself booted out of the party.

“Liquid pictures of the town / How I fancy misty hours / On a rainy thoroughfare / I like London with umbrellas everywhere”

Not sure if you’ve noticed this, but in London it rains quite a bit. Certainly, this didn’t escape the attention of Blossom Dearie. But unlike the droves of commuters who make a beeline for the nearest Pret awning as soon as it starts spitting, I Like London in the Rain embraces the inclement weather. Dearie’s childlike lyrics reflect the sentiment of dashing out into the streets and splashing around.

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  • bravenewmalden

    ‘I’m having the time of my life,
    Or something quite like it
    When I’m walking out and about
    In London’s brilliant parade’

    Elvis Costello

  • William Morland

    “There’s a hole in the world like a great black pit
    and the vermin of the world inhabit it
    and its morals aren’t worth what a pig could spit
    and it goes by the name of London.”

    - Stephen Sondheim, ‘Sweeney Todd’

  • Dr Strangepants

    “Drifting with her incense in the labyrinth of London

    Playing games with faces in the neon wonderland”

    Marillion – Chelsea Monday

  • Ruth Hargreaves

    “And the driftwood it collides with blind boats on the water,
    Oh sad I watched the moon fall down but the river safely caught her”

    Ralph McTell – Lunar Lullaby (a song inspired by twilight walks along the River Thames)

  • Don Share

    “Waterloo Sunset” by The Kinks!

  • MT

    uhhh…seems so obvious it’s “Panic,” and then “Glamorous Glue” for #2 choice

  • Conah Amiss
  • Saramago

    Come back to Camden – Morrissey

    There is something I wanted to tell you, it’s so funny you’ll kill
    yourself laughing
    But then I, I look around, and I remember that I am alone
    Alone. For evermore.
    The tile yard all along the railings, up a discoloured dark brown staircase
    Here you’ll find, despair and I, calling to you with what’s left of my heart, my heart. For evermore.

    Drinking tea with
    the taste of the Thames, sullenly on a chair on the pavement; here you’ll find
    my thoughts and I, and here is the very last plea from my heart. My heart. For evermore.

    Where taxi drivers never stop talking, under slate grey Victorian sky,
    Here you’ll find despair and I, and here I am every last inch of me is
    yours…YOURS…For evermore.

    Your leg came to rest against mine, then you lounged with knees up
    and apart, and me and my heart – we knew… We just knew…

    For evermore.
    Where taxi drivers never stop talking, under slate grey Victorian sky
    Here you’ll find, my heart and I, and still we say come back,
    Come back to Camden

    • HHGeek

      Can’t stick Morrissey as an individual, but equally I can’t deny he’s one hell of a lyricist.

  • Tony

    “Sunny Goodge Street” by Donavan

  • Liz

    London Kisses by Rory McLeod…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUBsB2T2SSM

  • Stephanie M

    “I swear to god, I heard the earth inhale,
    Moments before it spat its rain down on me.
    I swear to god, in this light and on this evening,
    London’s become, the most beautiful thing I’ve seen.”

    In this light and on this evening, Editors

  • Roger Wood

    “I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
    Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain
    He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook’s
    Going to get a big dish of beef chow mein”
    Warren Zevon: Werewolves of London
    (It’s gone now, but there actually was a restaurant there called Lee Ho Fook)

  • XRay

    “Over Elgin Avenue, a helium ballon
    Disappears into the sky
    You give some money to a junkie
    Watching the sunny day drift by.
    You said you loved me, I kind of believe that
    But these days who knows what it means?
    So we sat by the launderette
    With magazines and cigarettes
    Talked about a million other things”

    “Last Words”
    The Real Tuesday Weld
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bNugLUNEyak&list=PLA9ECBC89D3354D73

  • David M

    Anyone of the Jam multi references to the City- Even tho Weller hates his past… lol

  • Guest

    And what about Last train to London by ELO.

  • Andrew MacKinnon

    Well this has to be in there Saint Etienne – London Belongs To Me

    Took a tube to Camden Town, Walked down Park Way and settled down
    In the shade of a willow tree, Someone hovering over me

    Close my eyes
    Breathe out slowly
    Today the sunshine loves me only

    To the sound of the, World of Twist, You leant over and gave me a kiss
    It’s too warm to even hold hands, But that won’t stop us from making plans

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ANvJ-F6ELkU&feature=kp

  • Paulie

    I saw Lon Chaney Jr walking with the queen
    Doin’ the werewolves of London
    I saw a werewolf drinkin’ a piña colada at Trader Vics
    His hair was perfect
    Ah- hoooo

  • eastacton

    Green for go, green for action
    from Park Royal to North Acton

    - Elvis Costello (ex of North Acton) in his hymn to West London “Hoover Factory”