The Best Song Lyric About London: Readers’ Favourites

clash

The opening line of  The Clash’s London Calling is a popular choice. Photo by Paul Wright, in the Londonist Flickr pool.

Earlier this month we asked you what the best song lyric about London was. You replied in your droves (whatever a drove is), so here, we’ve compiled a selection of your favourites.

Perhaps predictably, “London calling to the faraway towns / Now war is declared, and battle come down” is the choice of many of you. The Clash song’s title, penned by Joe Strummer, derives from the BBC World Service’s old ident (below), and the opening lyric is suppurating with apocalyptic paranoia, which continues for the rest of the song.

Strummer’s London is a hairy place — as is Warren Zevon’s. Werewolves of London (which Zevon wrote along with LeRoy Marinell and Robert “Waddy” Wachtel) is the pick of Londonist reader Roger, who quotes us this lyric:

“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”

Another horror-inspired lyric — suggested by William — comes from blood, guts n’pastry musical Sweeney Todd:

“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”

They should have that printed above every Tube entrance. And when your cherished lyrics aren’t hinting at horror or imminent demise, many are still pretty bloody lugubrious. Such as Blair’s suggestion of this line from Underworld’s Born Slippy .NUXX:

“Look at me mum / Squatting pissed in the tube hole / At Tottenham Court Road / I just come out of the Ship / Talking to the most blond I ever met”

And here is that record in all its drugged-to-the-eyeballs glory:

Weather crops up in quite a few of your suggested lyrics — and a lot of it is inclement. Take Morrissey’s depiction of Camden, as suggested by Saramago where:

“Taxi drivers never stop talking  / under slate grey Victorian sky”

In fact, rain seeps into many of your chosen lyrics, including the Paul McCartney-penned line “Silver rain was falling down / Upon the dirty ground of London Town” (thanks for that one, Dan), and “Button up your sheepskin Carraway / rainy cafe Kentish Town Tuesday”, from Mario’s Cafe by Saint Etienne (suggested by Joni, and below in full for your delectation).

But bad weather doesn’t necessarily mean bad vibes. Stephanie’s favourite lyric is from the Editors song In This Light and on This Evening, and goes:

“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”

There are mentions of sunshine too — a host of you cite Waterloo Sunset (although everyone neglects to pinpoint which lyric from it you love most — shame on you!). Extra brownie points, though, to XRay, who tells us that his or her favourite lyric is from The Real Tuesday Weld song Last Words, and goes:

“Over Elgin Avenue, a helium balloon / Disappears into the sky / You give some money to a junkie / Watching the sunny day drift by”

Plenty of you choose lyrics that wax, er, lyrically about the city. Heather decides that London is the place for her, citing Lord Kitchener’s rose-tinted ode to the city — memorably performed by the Caribbean crooner fresh off the Empire Windrush (below).

There’s a similar sense of London pride from Hinna, whose most beloved lyric is: “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner / That I love London Town”. Who even sang that? added the Londonist reader. Well, Hinna, is was originally sung by Bud Flanagan, of Who Do You Think You Are Kidding, Mr Hitler fame. Although it was Hubert Gregg who composed it.

Nostalgia for London is another theme in your favourite lyrics. Such is the case with Richard’s choice from the Thea Gilmore /  Sandy Denny track London:

“Well, I’m gonna call that number / So far across the sea / I wish I was in London / That’s where I wanna be”

The Jam and Paul Weller get a host of shout-outs (again, no specific lyric though), while another angsty musician, Elvis Costello, clearly means a lot to some of you. bravenewmalden plumps for this lyric by the bespectacled one:

“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”

And then there are those of you who can’t quite recall the exact lyric: “Gotta be Barry frigging Manilow warbling about taxis, rain and Harrods !!!” says Dreenagh. We have found a Barry frigging Manilow song roughly matching Dreenah’s description, and in order to save your earholes, you won’t find a link to it here.

Sorry we couldn’t include all your suggestions, but thanks to everyone who got involved in the discussion!

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  • pb

    no mention for waterloo sunset?

    • Jason

      “There are mentions of sunshine too — a host of you cite Waterloo Sunset (although everyone neglects to pinpoint which lyric from it you love most — shame on you!)”

      Congratulations on making yourself look a bit silly.

  • Gal

    Great piece lad cheers

  • Jason Shinn

    If you want London AND summer you can’t beat a different Saint Etienne song – London Belongs to Me

    “Took a tube to Camden Town,
    Walked down Parkway, and settled down
    in the shade of a willow tree,
    summer hovering over me

    Close my eyes,
    breathe out slowly.
    Today the sunshine (sunshine) loves me only”

  • Hamish

    “Let me take you by the hand
    And lead you through the streets of London.
    I’ll show you something to make you change your mind.”

    Amazed Ralph McTell didn’t get a look in.

  • Jim Jeram

    What is London without the river?
    ‘I met my love by Woolwich Pier beneath the big crane standing,
    And all the love I had for her it passed all understanding.
    Took her sailing on the river, flow sweet river flow.
    London Town was mine to give her, Sweet Thames Flow Softly’.
    Ewan MacColl.

  • http://harmlessdrudgery.blogspot.com Bob Knowles

    Surprised not to see ‘Walking in the Wild West End’ from Dire Straits 1st album (back when they wer worth listening to :-))

  • IsraelLovesLondon

    http://youtu.be/50hIYQvMSxI

    Israeli song called “London isn’t waiting for me”
    If you want the rest of the lyrics translated, tell me :)