London's never been so good, argues Dylan Jones, who's just written a polemic about the city, called London Rules.
I am sick of being told that London was more interesting in 1966, when Swinging London was supposedly at its peak, and when Time magazine ran their famous cover celebrating the city.
But then I am also sick of being told that London was most exciting in 1977, when the Sex Pistols ruled the wild West End. Let me tell you, I used to stalk the King's Road in 1977, and I spent most of my time trying not to get beaten up.
People with even shorter memories will tell you that in fact London was at its most intoxicating during the mid-90s, when Blur and Oasis were fighting it out in the charts, and Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst were fighting it out in the galleries.
Sure, London has had many periods of creative indulgence, many periods when it has been seen by the world media as the centre of excellence in fashion, film, music and art. But at no time in the past has London been as exciting as it is right now.
London is the most dynamic city in the world today. Sure, it has always been an international hub, always been at the centre of things, but it has never sizzled like it sizzles today. In the 21st century, London has become the most powerful, the most dynamic, the most culturally focused city-state on earth. No other city comes close. Not New York. Not Paris. Not Shanghai. Not Hong Kong.
It is all about London.
Other cities in the UK make grand claims and have their devotees and their champions, but Manchester, Edinburgh, Leeds and the like pale before the might, sight, sounds, churn and fire of London. Those who disagree are just expressing the politics of envy. Our grand city is the heart, soul, muscle and brain of Britain, the principal reason for its greatness.
And it’s never been as great as it is today.
Nowadays London might not be the biggest in the world (Tokyo/Yokohama can claim that crown), yet this powerful and distinctive city is as full of architectural riches as it’s ever been. Slip on your Oculus Rift and take a virtual sweep around London, shooting up into the summer sky from the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square (the site of a succession of specially commissioned art installations), and then zooming past — deep breath — the Serpentine pavilion, Sir John Soane's Museum, Tower Bridge, White Cube Bermondsey, Shoreditch House, Fortnum & Mason, Terminal 5, the BT (Post Office) Tower, the Shard, the Cheese Grater, 122 Leadenhall, the Gherkin, the Barbican, the Roundhouse, the Royal Albert Hall, Abbey Road Studios, Shoreditch House, Battersea Power Station, Richard Serra’s "Fulcrum". (60ft of monolithic steel), Canary Wharf, Lord’s cricket ground, Tate Modern, City Hall, the London Aquatics Centre and West London’s Trelick Tower.
The decor and architecture of important London buildings once seemed to represent a conscious desire to be part of an imaginary immemorial London, whereas these days every new building wants to look like the future, encouraging a nostalgia for an age yet to come. As the city gets bigger, so it seems to be raising the bar. Anthony Sampson said in The Anatomy Of Britain, back in pre-Swinging 1962: "Bigness has strengthened the lure of London."
Yes, I wish I could have wandered down Carnaby Street in 1966, listening to the Who, the Kinks and the Beatles blasting out of shop windows and boutiques, and yes I wish I could have slipped into the Ad-Lib club to hobnob with the likes of Terence Stamp and Twiggy. But you know what, I'm happier living and working in London right now, because London rules.
London Rules by Dylan Jones is available now.