What kinds of music does London deserve credit for?
December 2, 2009 5:50 AM   Subscribe

What musicians would you consider to be London musicians? I'm not talking about people who have merely passed through London to do a few gigs or record an album -- otherwise, you'd have to list everybody who ever recorded at Abbey Road! Instead, I'm looking for folks whose work grew out of the city's cultural scene in some real way, whether London natives like Dizzee Rascals or transplants like George Frideric Handel. More broadly, what styles of music originated (entirely or partially) in London? I know about grime and dubstep--what others are there?

(As the Handel example probably suggests, I'm equally interested in historical and contemporary examples.)
posted by yankeefog to Media & Arts (41 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Oops-- obviously, I meant "Dizzee Rascal." I know there's only one of him...
posted by yankeefog at 5:51 AM on December 2, 2009

Eric Clapton?
posted by aqsakal at 6:01 AM on December 2, 2009

posted by fourcheesemac at 6:02 AM on December 2, 2009

Pet Shop Boys?
posted by tss at 6:02 AM on December 2, 2009

Madness--Their most recent album, the Liberty of Norton Folgate, includes an incredible love song to the eponymous neighborhood. It is truly fantastic.

The Jam--Think That's Entertainment, but lots of their stuff has to do with London.


Suede (A/K/A the London Suede)



Surely lots more.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:03 AM on December 2, 2009

Lily Allen screams "London" to me.
posted by oinopaponton at 6:06 AM on December 2, 2009

Saint Etienne have always been the quintessential London band to me: they merged 60s swinging pop with 90s upbeat dance, and Sarah Cracknell's dreamy vocals mention London locales frequently.
posted by hnnrs at 6:08 AM on December 2, 2009

The Sex Pistols
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:11 AM on December 2, 2009

Chas & Dave
posted by fabius at 6:17 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

The Clash was my first answer, nailed by 4cm.

Bowie's from Brixton.
Brian Eno.
Billy Idol.
Jimmy Page.
Adam Ant.
Elvis Costello.
Peter Gabriel.
posted by rokusan at 6:25 AM on December 2, 2009

(I guess Peter Gabriel's from Surrey. Meh.)
posted by rokusan at 6:26 AM on December 2, 2009

ray davies
posted by beige at 6:28 AM on December 2, 2009

The Libertines and much of their now largely forgotten ilk.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:30 AM on December 2, 2009

Seconding the Clash. Less obvious but in many ways the Pogues are a London band, certainly an immigrant's experience but London none the less.

fabius - thanks. I had forgotten Chas and Dave. It will now take me considerable time and effort to forget them again!
posted by Fiery Jack at 6:45 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Talking late 18th c. and early 19th. There's something that, for a lack of better words, has been dubbed "the London pianoforte school". Exponents are Clementi, Dussek, Cramer, Field and a few others, none of them born in London.
posted by Namlit at 6:47 AM on December 2, 2009 [1 favorite]

Billy Bragg -- The Bard of Barking
posted by Otis at 6:56 AM on December 2, 2009

Ian Dury.
posted by ceri richard at 7:13 AM on December 2, 2009 [2 favorites]

My lord, how could I have left off St. Etienne? They're essentially my favorite band these days. Incidentally, their recent 2-disc greatest hits album was called "London Conversations"--and I think it is made of pure gold and unicorns. Their Tales from Turnpike House is a concept album woven around an imaginary London block of flats.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:16 AM on December 2, 2009

Lady Sovereign
posted by Coobeastie at 7:17 AM on December 2, 2009

Amy Winehouse and Kate Nash (who has perhaps the most loathesome London accent ever).
posted by wackybrit at 7:27 AM on December 2, 2009

Pink Floyd
posted by alligatorman at 7:42 AM on December 2, 2009

Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine.
posted by somergames at 7:43 AM on December 2, 2009

The Streets is from Birmingham, but his "songs" (more a kind of loose rap-ish spoken word style rather than sung) are in a very distinctive London twang, and the lyrical content is definitely reflective of London life, living as he has done in Camden and Brixton. Whether you like his stuff or not though I can't say, his lyrical style is somewhat unique to say the least.
posted by iivix at 7:46 AM on December 2, 2009

I'd also argue that the large number of pirate radio stations in London mean that you can ascribe the success of many dance music genres to the city (uncontroversially I'd say speed garage, two step and subsequent forms of UK garage, broken beat and UK funky, perhaps more controversially jungle and drum'n'bass, at least in the early days). Although they might not count as uniquely London if they didn't originate there. I'd say that anything with a skippy beat, a nasty bassline and an MC has something of a London feel to it (seeing as that's basically the pirate formula) for what it's worth.
posted by iivix at 7:57 AM on December 2, 2009

Eddie Grant - Reggae guy who wrote a lot about the south London area of Brixton.

Queen were west London boys through and through.
posted by Nick Verstayne at 8:19 AM on December 2, 2009

The Real Tuesday Weld
posted by EvaDestruction at 8:20 AM on December 2, 2009

Squeeze (the sound of SE14!).

The Who.

The Small Faces.

Haircut 100 were from Beckenham ...

From upthread: Elvis Costello is from Liverpool, but I can see the connection -- songs about small lives, quietly lived in big cities.
posted by vickyverky at 8:27 AM on December 2, 2009

60's: The Dave Clark Five from Tottenham and their stomping sound.

70's and 80's: Cockney Rebel; The original punks the Sex Pistols; and then the post punks, Cockney Rejects and Sham 69.
posted by 543DoublePlay at 8:44 AM on December 2, 2009

One I forgot - and so did everybody else apparently - David Bowie who hails from Brixton.

and another: Siouxie and the Banshees
posted by 543DoublePlay at 8:50 AM on December 2, 2009

Dire Straits
The Notting Hillbillies
posted by kirkaracha at 8:56 AM on December 2, 2009

Solo works by Pete Townshend (of The Who) from the '70s-'80s:

- "Street in the City" (as the name suggests)

- "Stardom in Acton" (often misheard as "Action" but instead about growing up in the neighborhood of that name)
posted by 5Q7 at 9:34 AM on December 2, 2009

First one who came to mind is the aforementioned Ian Dury. Fo' sho'.
posted by Dr. Wu at 9:47 AM on December 2, 2009

posted by goodnight moon at 10:06 AM on December 2, 2009

Paul Weller. He actually grew up in Woking, outside London, but his musical coming of age was absolutely in London, as detailed on the first Jam album In the City (The lyrics to the title track even go: "I know I come from Woking / And you say I'm a fraud / But my heart is in the city, where it belongs") and throughout the Jam's subsequent albums. London as an overt presence is a little less obvious on his Style Council and solo recordings, but he's always had that London feel about him, I think.

Nthing the Clash, the Pogues, the Who, the Small Faces, the Kinks, David Bowie, and Billy Bragg.
posted by scody at 12:22 PM on December 2, 2009

Seconding Lily Allen, who was first to come to mind, followed by The Clash.
posted by cmgonzalez at 2:41 PM on December 2, 2009

The 1960's mod scene which produced the Who
posted by canoehead at 3:38 PM on December 2, 2009

Blur are often called mockney rather than cockney but Modern Life is Rubbish and Parklife evoke London in the 90s very precisely for me.

Wire sound like London - their singer doesn't soften his accent and sounds like London to me.

Ian Drury and the Blockheads are London. Squeeze. Suede.

You say you're as interested in historical examples so also Marie Lloyd
posted by calico at 3:46 PM on December 2, 2009

I just downloaded this program on the subject, at least partially. If it sounds interesting and you can't find it, let me know and I'll figure out a way to get it to you.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 4:24 PM on December 2, 2009

Nth-ing Ray Davies/the Kinks. Some more candidates:

- Jeremiah Clarke (of "Trumpet Voluntary" fame)
- Henry Purcell
- maybe Ralph Vaughan Williams
- Gustav Holst
- William Walton
- Ivor Novello
- Noël Coward
- Christopher Gunning (I can't not think of him when I think of music from London. He's done many things but his music for the original "Poirot" series is an especially great theme for the (transplanted) detective and Art Deco London.)

Wikipedia also has a "Music from London" category you might find helpful.
posted by rangefinder 1.4 at 9:41 PM on December 2, 2009

Though Thomas Tallis' Greenwich wasn't part of London at the time, it is now so he might fall within your criteria?
posted by calico at 11:27 PM on December 2, 2009

Thanks, everybody. That's a fantastic assortment of performers, and I'm looking forward to listening to them all.

I'm marking this thread as "resolved" because I now have enough great music to keep me listening for a long, long time. But that's not meant to cut off the conversation-- I still welcome more suggestions, if anybody has any to add!
posted by yankeefog at 5:53 AM on December 3, 2009

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