1. ♫ Baker Street ♫
Gerry Rafferty was staying on Baker Street when he wrote his 1978 smash hit. But did you know its saxophone hook was played by the late, great ‘Blockbusters’ host Bob Holness? Yes? Well, I’m afraid you’ve been had, my friend. Former NME scribbler Stuart Maconie usually claims the credit for this urban myth, which, let’s face it, we really wish was true. To make up for the disappointment, allow me to blow your minds with the fact that Holness was actually the second actor ever to portray James Bond.
2. ♫ Electric Avenue ♫
Eddy Grant’s 1982 reggae infused paean to the Brixton thoroughfare – the first in the area to be lit by electricity, hence the name – was a slow burner in the charts, eventually peaking at number two on both sides of the Atlantic. The song’s lyric is often interpreted as railing against injustice: appropriate, then, that it was kept off the UK top spot by Phil Collins.
3. ♫ Junction of the M25 and M4
Strange that a stretch of motorway should prompt such a magisterial tune as Chris Rea’s ‘The Road to Hell’, but the muse has been known to strike in some unlikely places. Certain panels of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, for instance, are said to have been inspired by a cheeky sojourn down the local brothel. Even so, a traffic jam at this most horrid of intersections, where the gravel-throated Middlesbrough country singer claims to have penned the lyrics to his 1989 hit, really pushes that idea to its absolute limit.
4. ♫ Norton Folgate ♫
Now an unremarkable strip of Boris Bikes and posh cafés just south of Shoreditch High Street, this area was once essentially a village in its own right. On ‘The Liberty of Norton Folgate’, Madness’s 2009 concept album, the Camden skameisters take us on an evocative trip through nine centuries of the area’s history with a supporting cast of pickpockets, dandies and lamp-lighters.
5. ♫ Carnaby Street ♫
Hipster-bashing is nothing new, it seems. On their 1966 top five hit ‘Dedicated Follower of Fashion’, The Kinks take great delight in mocking the protagonist of the song, who ‘thinks he is a flower to be looked at’, while ‘everywhere the Carnabetian army marches on’. Zing!
6. ♫ Abbey Road ♫
This leafy street in St John’s Wood helped inspire the defining valedictory triumph of the longest winning streak in pop history. No biggie. Fun fact: The Beatles’ album was originally going to be called ‘Everest’, after engineer Geoff Emerick’s favoured brand of cigarette. The band even went so far as chartering a plane to fly over mount Everest for the photoshoot. In the end they ran out of time and were like, ‘Why don’t we do it in the road?’
7. ♫ Soho Square ♫
Most famous for her wonderfully louche cameo on the Pogues’ official Christmas pisshead anthem, ‘Fairytale of New York’, Croydon-born Kirsty MacColl was also moved by a London cold snap. Just a short stroll off Oxford Street you’ll find a simple bench erected in memory of the tragic chanteuse, who died in 2000. In her 1993 ballad dedicated to the square she invites us to watch as ‘pigeons shiver in naked trees’, and implores somebody to ‘kiss me quick before I die’. Chilling, yet lovely.
8. ♫ The Westway ♫
Brutalist strips of sun-blotting concrete have rarely proved as stimulating as the jolly old A40 out of Paddington. Blur reference it in two songs, and it’s on the cover of Bloc Party’s ‘A Weekend in the City’, and The Jam’s ‘This Is the Modern World’. The Clash namecheck it on ‘London’s Burning’ and, through their Strummerville charity initiative, keep a rehearsal studio complex there to this day. Consider your next journey westward a pilgrimage.
9. ♫ Warwick Avenue ♫
Duffy’s tube-inspired tune is as formulaic, yet somehow palatable, as a pint of Carling. The Welsh star took an inauspicious west London Underground stop – it doesn’t even exist as a building above ground, just some railings and a sign – and turned it into a top-three hit. That, ladies and gentleman, is all you need to know about the inherent pop majesty of the Bakerloo line.
10. ♫ Berkeley Square ♫
Vera Lynn was the British Army’s sweetheart of choice throughout the Second World War. In fact, a fiver says your greatgranddad had a soft-focus headshot of her stashed in his kitbag. Her gorgeous 1939 hit, ‘A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square’, sounds like a musical postcard from another world, before nukes and consumerism and rock ’n’ roll and television ruined everything. The only creatures you’ll find singing in Mayfair these days are champagnefuelled hedgies on bonus day.
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