“Pinball Wizard” – The Who

December 7, 2015

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/who/pinballwizard.html

Ever since I was a young boy,
I’ve played the silver ball.
From Soho down to Brighton
I must have played them all.
But I ain’t seen nothing like him
In any amusement hall…

That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!

He stands like a statue,
Becomes part of the machine.
Feeling all the bumpers
Always playing clean.
He plays by intuition,
The digit counters fall.

That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball!

He’s a pinball wizard
There has to be a twist.
A pinball wizard’s got such a supple wrist.

‘How do you think he does it?
I don’t know!
What makes him so good?’

Ain’t got no distractions
Can’t hear no buzzers and bells,
Don’t see no lights a-flashin’
Plays by sense of smell.
Always gets a replay,
Never seen him fall.

That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball.

I thought I was The Bally table king
But I just handed my pinball crown to him.

Even on my favorite table
He can beat my best.
His disciples lead him in
And he just does the rest.
He’s got crazy flipper fingers
Never seen him fall…

That deaf, dumb and blind kid
Sure plays a mean pinball.

London plays a central role in setting up this anecdotal song, even if the representation isn’t about the city itself.”From Soho to Brighton” may just a single lyric in the opening verse, but it clearly sets up London as the home of the song for any listener. This is an example of the power of London’s icon and how it infiltrates the area’s art. Recorded here at what was once IBC Studios, The Who, an English band, further solidifies London’s prominence in pop culture.

Location: IBC Studios

Date: 1969

Citation: http://ultimateclassicrock.com/the-who-pinball-wizard/

 


“Across the River Thames” – Elton John

December 7, 2015

http://www.eltonography.com/songs/across_the_river_thames.html

Good taste at times I’ve sometimes lacked
I won’t deny the truth
I got dressed up as Donald Duck
Making up for my repressed youth
Disco balls and spandex pants
On questionable friends
Disco died but how the fog still rolled across the River Thames
Snarling they just came along
And cut us to the quick
Called us a bunch of dinosaurs
And gave us a load of sticks
Told us that the times was changing
And all good things must end
But I’m still here and the fog still rolls across the River Thames
Nelson’s on his column
Ravens are in the Tower
Big Ben never lost his voice
Chimes on every hour
And the fog still rolls off the River Thames
The forecast calls for rain
London Bridge ain’t falling down
And some things never change
The black-faced boys were holding tight
And Thatcher’s in a noose
Hair got teased beyond belief
In the age of the golden goose
The new romantics claimed the throne
And we were wondering when
But they lost their crown and the fog still rolled across the River Thames
(repeat chorus)
Big bold letters screaming out
A scandal in the house
Dogs without their vocal chords
Careers going south
What the eye can’t see the eye invents
The truth was meant to bend
But nothing changed and the fog still rolled across the River Thames
With its quintessential nostalgia, “Across the River Thames” captures the passage of time in cities. As much as people and places evolve, so much also stays the same. Cities will keep moving and basic structures remain constant, even as people flow in and out every day. Classic landmarks, such as London Bridge here, which John sings about, see generations after generations pass by, yet they will always represent the city as a whole. John sings of the timeless qualities of the city that provide a sense of comfort, as these parts of a Londoner’s home will likely never change.
Location: London Bridge
Released: 2006

“You Can’t Always Get What You Want” – The Rolling Stones

December 6, 2015

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/rollingstones/youcantalwaysgetwhatyouwant.html

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she would meet her connection
At her feet was a footloose man
No, you can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometime you find
You get what you need
I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she was gonna meet her connection
At her feet was a footloose man
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you might find
You get what you need
And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a 50-amp fuse”
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes well you just might find
You get what you need
I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
And man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda
My favorite flavor, cherry red
I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy
Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “dead”
I said to him
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need
You get what you need–yeah, oh baby
I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well I could tell by her blood-stained hands
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

Together, the elements of this song serve as an homage to London. From the backing vocals of the London Bach Choir to the now iconic reference to a “Chelsea drugstore” in the second verse, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want,” evokes an authentic feeling of city life. The Rolling Stones recorded it here with the choir at Olympic Sound Studios, crafting a legendary representation of English music, leaving their mark on London’s cultural history.

Location: Olympic Sound Stuidos

Released: 1969

Citation: http://www.timeisonourside.com/SOYouCantAlways.html


“Come Together” – The Beatles

December 6, 2015

http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/beatles/cometogether.html

Here come old flattop, he come grooving up slowly
He got joo-joo eyeball, he one holy roller
He got hair down to his knee
Got to be a joker he just do what he please

He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football
He got monkey finger, he shoot Coca-Cola
He say, “I know you, you know me.”
One thing I can tell you is you got to be free

Come together right now over me

He bag production, he got walrus gumboot
He got Ono sideboard, he one spinal cracker
He got feet down below his knee
Hold you in his armchair you can feel his disease

Come together right now over me

(Right!
Come, oh, come, come, come.)

He roller-coaster, he got early warning
He got muddy water, he one mojo filter
He say, “One and one, and one is three.”
Got to be good-looking ’cause he’s so hard to see

Come together right now over me

Oh
Come together
Yeah, come together
Yeah, come together
Yeah, come together
Yeah, come together
Yeah, come together
Yeah, come together
Yeah, oh
Come together
Yeah, come together

While this song is not particularly about London, it is the first single from one of London’s most iconic masterpieces. Any representation of London and music would be incomplete without some inclusion of The Beatles album “Abbey Road.” Named for the studios, located here, were the songs were written and recorded, the album has become a mainstay of the city’s pop culture history. “Come Together,” the first single off the album, represents the album and subsequent impact on London’s global image. The cover art, seen in the video link below, of the four members walking across Abbey Road is a even a phenomenon by itself. Cities and the general perspective of them are often shaped by artistic expressions, and what The Beatles did for London with this album is an ideal reflection of that.

Location: Abbey Road Studios

Released: 1969


“Denmark Street” – The Kinks

December 6, 2015

http://www.metrolyrics.com/denmark-street-lyrics-kinks.html

“Down the way from the Tottenham Court Road
Just ’round the corner from old Soho
There’s a place where the publishers go
If you don’t know which way to go

Just open your ears and follow your nose
‘Cos the street is shakin’ from the tapping of toes
You can hear that music play anytime on any day
Every rhythm, every way

You got to a publisher and play him your song
He says, “I hate your music and your hair is too long
But I’ll sign you up because I’d hate to be wrong”
You’ve got a tune, it’s in your head you want to get it placed

So you take it up to a music man just to see what he will say
He says, “I hate the tune, I hate the words but I’ll tell you what I’ll do
I’ll sign you up and take it round the street and see if it makes the grade”
And you might even hear it played on the rock ‘n’ roll hit parade.”

Beyond just its implications for London’s cultural landscape, this song also provides potential explanation for the clusters on this map. Soho holds special significance for a considerable amount of London’s most famed music. “Denmark Street” concisely explores this aspect of the neighborhood, suggesting a heightened sense of creativity in this specific area, adding dimension to our ideas of London overall. It touches on not only the struggles of breaking into the London music scene, but also the satisfaction of succeeding in such an environment. It is a simple representation yet memorable in its vivid description of Soho’s culture, where “the street is shakin’ from the tapping of toes.”

Location: Denmark Street

Released: 1970


“I’m Trying to Make London My Home” – Sonny Boy Williamson II

November 29, 2015

Full lyrics not available online, but here are notable lines:

“So much different between our state and back home.”

“Put in my application for citizenship.”

“If the good Lord let me live, I ain’t going back to the States.”

This representation from an American singer, also in the classic American blues style, shows how London is also a city of transplants. The song speaks to the allure of an international center like London and how people are drawn to this lifestyle. Again, it adds to the idea of London as an iconic city – one that seems full of opportunity and optimism to travelers.

Location: Crawdaddy Club – venue where Williamson often performed

Released: 1964


“The London Boys” – David Bowie

November 28, 2015

http://www.metrolyrics.com/the-london-boys-lyrics-david-bowie.html

Cow bell strikes another night
Your eyes are heavy and your limbs all ache
You’ve bought some coffee, butter and bread
You can’t make a thing cause the meter’s dead
You moved away
Hold your folks you’re gonna stay away

Bright lights, soho, wardour street
You hope you make friends with the guys that you meet
Somebody shows you round
Now you’ve met the london boys
Things seem good again, someone cares about you

Oh, the first time that you tried a pill
You feel a little queasy, decidedly ill
You’re gonna be sick, but you mustn’t lose faith
To let yourself down would be a big disgrace
With the london boys, with the london boys

You’re only seventeen, but you think you’ve grown
In the month you’ve been away from your parents’ home
You take the pills too much
You don’t give a damn about that jobs you’ve got
So long as you’re with the london boys

A london boy, oh a london boy
Your flashy clothes are your pride and joy
A london boy, a london boy
You think you’ve had a lot of fun
But you ain’t got nothing, you’re on the run
It’s too late now, cause you’re out there boy
You’ve got it made with the rest of the toys
Now you wish you’d never left your home
You’ve got what you wanted but you’re on your own
With the london boys

Now you’ve met the london boys
Now you’ve met the london boys
Now you’ve met the london boys

Another song from a London native, this representation should offer an authentic idea of the city. This song touches on both the loneliness of London life, but also the opportunity offered by an urban setting. The song is literally about poor young men trying to start a life in London, yet even among the melancholy tone, there is a sense of hope that these “London boys” will be able to find success. It combines the uneasiness about starting over with the sense of camaraderie from knowing so many people in the city are in that same place.

Location: Wardour Street, Soho (named in the song)

Released: 1966


“Werewolves of London” – Warren Zevon

November 28, 2015

I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walkin’ through the streets of Soho in the rain
He was lookin’ for the place called Lee Ho Fooks
Gonna get a big dish of beef chow mein

Aaahoo! Werewolves of London
Aaahoo!
Aaahoo! Werewolves of London
Aaahoo!

Ya hear him howlin’ around your kitchen door
Ya better not let him in
Little old lady got mutilated late last night
Werewolves of London again

Aaahoo! Werewolves of London
Aaahoo!
Aaahoo! Werewolves of London
Aaahoo!

He’s the hairy handed gent, who ran amok in Kent
Lately he’s been overheard in Mayfair
You better stay away from him
He’ll rip your lungs out Jim
Huh, I’d like to meet his tailor

Aaahoo! Werewolves of London
Aaahoo!
Aaahoo! Werewolves of London
Aaahoo!

Well, I saw Lon Chaney walkin’ with the queen
Doin’ the werewolves of London
I saw Lon Chaney Jr. walkin’ with the queen
Doin’ the werewolves of London
I saw a werewolf drinkin’ a pina colada at Trader Vic’s
And his hair was perfect

Aaahoo! Werewolves of London
Draw blood
Aaahoo! Werewolves of London

http://www.metrolyrics.com/werewolves-of-london-lyrics-warren-zevon.html

It isn’t clear what Zevon is trying to say about London, or if he set out to represent the city at all, yet the song has become legendary. It’s an easily recognizable tune and a mainstay of pop culture. This song perfectly captures the idea of the city, and London, as an icon. Just as London serves as the inspiration for artists, the art itself similarly leaves an impact on the city. “Werewolves of London” contributes to London’s iconic image and its frequent association with the city builds on its global image and cultural significance.

Location: Lee Hoo Fooks – it’s a real restaurant in Soho.

Released: 1978


“Homeward Bound” – Simon & Garfunkel

November 28, 2015

I’m sittin’ in the railway station
Got a ticket for my destination
On a tour of one-night stands my suitcase and guitar in hand
And every stop is neatly planned for a poet and one-man band

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound

Home, where my thought’s escaping
Home, where my music’s playing
Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me

Ev’ry day’s an endless stream
Of cigarettes and magazines
And each town looks the same to me, the movies and the factories
And ev’ry stranger’s face I see reminds me that I long to be

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound

Home, where my thought’s escaping
Home, where my music’s playing
Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me

Tonight I’ll sing my songs again
I’ll play the game and pretend
But all my words come back to me in shades of mediocrity
Like emptiness in harmony, I need someone to comfort me

Homeward bound
I wish I was
Homeward bound

Home, where my thought’s escaping
Home, where my music’s playing
Home, where my love lies waiting silently for me
Silently for me

http://www.metrolyrics.com/homeward-bound-lyrics-simon-and-garfunkel.html

This representation brings to light the often impersonal aspects of city life. Even when surrounded by people, the city doesn’t provide you with a home. It’s up to the individual to create that sense of belonging. Cities themselves don’t include a welcoming atmosphere and they can be extremely lonely. Paul Simon wrote this song while touring London in 1964 and away from his love, Kathy Chitty. The song reinforces the ideas that London keeps moving, no matter how one individual is feeling. However harsh it sounds, the city owes the individual nothing. The irony of this is that cities are often so densely populated, yet they don’t foster human interaction. For outsiders, London is a lonely place.

Location: Les Cousins club in Soho. According to his biography, Simon played this folk club often, and it represents this lonelier time in his life.

Released: 1966

Biographical citation:


“Chelsea Girl” – Simple Minds

November 28, 2015

And now the sound of time is passing fast, it’s getting late
Don’t know if I can take much more
The way you talk I often wondered
If I heard the words somewhere, someplace before

I got so nervous when I called and found that lately
You had gone and changed your name
But I’ve got something on my mind
I want you here, I want you now, you’d better explain

Is this true, you’re running around
Now is this true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?
Oh, is this true you’re running around
Now is it true they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?

Your best friend never calls you up, but you don’t mind
‘Cause lately things are all the same
Ain’t it strange how people always seem to know your face
But just don’t know your name?

Well, I don’t care, there’s no one there
That even turn around and say, get out of this place
Last night I saw a shooting star
When morning comes, she hides away, a real disgrace

Is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?
Oh, is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?

Is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?
Oh, is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?

Is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?
Oh, is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?

Is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?
(Oh, Chelsea girl, you got me caught up in a whirl)
I want you here now, Chelsea girl)

Is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?
(You got me caught up in a whirl)
I want you here now, Chelsea girl)

Is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?
(You got me caught up in a whirl)
I want you here now, Chelsea girl)

Is it true, you’re running around
Now is it true, they’re calling you the Chelsea girl?
(You got me caught up in a whirl)
I want you here now, Chelsea girl)

http://www.metrolyrics.com/chelsea-girl-lyrics-simple-minds.htm

This song reminds of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” and how a love song takes shape around a city, and furthermore, how the song reinforces demographic stereotypes. In my mind, Chelsea is analogous to uptown NYC. Whenever I’ve visited London, Chelsea is the trendy shopping area, full of wealth and shops you’d find on Madison and 76th in New York. This particular song shows how neighborhoods have distinct images, and the elusive, snobby girl implied in “Chelsea Girl” is the one for this region. This is an example of how artists see places shaping the person. The song’s subject takes on whatever the “Chelsea” persona and blends into her surroundings. The girl isn’t described beyond this, reiterating the neighborhood stereotypes. In theory, the song could be interpreted in reference to countless girls from Chelsea.

Location: King’s Road, the most notable road in Chelsea that I can think of. It’s a hub of the region, so I imagine this “Chelsea Girl” window shopping on King’s Road when I listen to the song.

Released: 1979