Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner …
Like Marianne Faithfull, I cannot forget my birthright, or my childhood home.
In spite of its multi-ethnicity, Londoners have a certain je ne sais quoi. The speech patterns, vocabulary and accents can place a Londoner in a particular area or ‘village’. It’s much like Jakarta in that respect; although folk may have had to move from the streets of their birth to outlying ‘townships’, their origins remain within earshot. For example, only those who grew up in the inner city of southeast London and parts of the East End are ‘permitted’ to call me ‘Tel’, rather than my given name of Terry.
Parts of the city I’ve lived in, such as Brixton, are now being gentrified and losing their poorer residents, the artists, artisans and corner shopkeepers, who gave character to the neighbourhoods. In the early to mid eighties I lived at the bottom end of Railton Road, the ‘Front Line’ which was immortalised in song by Eddy Grant and the Clash. They were singing about the series of riots which occurred during a time of racist thuggery from the police, and of reactive and ongoing community activism.
My community activism was primarily in the borough of Lambeth, with smaller involvement in the neighbouring borough of Wandsworth, with Clapham Junction the busiest railway junction in the country. Squeeze sing about life in the artisans’ dwellings and council flats in the surrounding streets, where Chris Barber earlier danced.
George Martin’s track Elephants and Castles either refers to the many pubs with that singular name, or more probably to the major road junction called Elephant and Castle where my paternal grandfather spent his early childhood before he headed off to the trenches of World War 1.
The Old Kent Road feeds into the Elephant and is to me the epitome of Sarf Lunnon.
The other tracks have no specific locale with the sprawling city; for all I know, they might find loveliness in this ugly development. And with Brexit, there has been an even greater ugliness which recalls the fifties and sixties when landlords would have signs saying NO BLACKS prominently displayed, and Ram John Holder sang about it.
01. Marianne Faithfull – Give My Love To London
02. Ram John Holder – Black London Blues
03. Eddy Grant – Living On The Front Line
04. Squeeze – Up the Junction
05. Chris Barber & His Band – Battersea Rain Dance
06. George Martin and His Orchestra – Elephants & Castles
07. The Pogues – Lullaby Of London
08. Roger Hodgson – London
09. Bellowhead – London Town
10. Adam Sandler – Werewolves Of London
11. Kronos Quartet – London Fog