This one started germinating from the idea of two things – the response to the “Antipodean Greats” playlist and that love of music from the UK that I always had too. “The Mother Country”, old “Blighty”. As the Australian nation post WWII looked to align itself firstly with America and then in more recent years as part of southeast Asia, my personal allegiance was still with the UK – particularly musically and culturally.
The other was Jim’s choice of Life In A Northern Town for his June playlist. As much of an affiliation I had for the UK musically and culturally, it wasn’t necessarily somewhere I desired to live when I was growing up. It always looked so bleak and dreary. Despite the bleak appearance though, it still managed to appeal. “Life In A Northern Town” may not have seemed very aesthetically appealing, but in other ways there was a draw.
Cars – Gary Numan
It’s synch pop bliss. And I was always conscious of it coming out of the UK. The synth based New Wave sound was very obviously very UK centric to me. Cars is probably the epitome of that sound for me. That final minute is just heaven. It gives me goosebumps every time. Always just does something to the senses. Never fails.
Dreadlock Holiday – 10CC
Brits abroad. That’s Dreadlock Holiday. It always used to be on the radio this one. Feels kind of odd to go for this track but it just came to me as I was thinking about what songs seemed typically “Brit” to me. I was so very tempted to add Godley and Creme’s An Englishman In New York as well – if for nothing else than the splendiferous video that accompanies it.
Ghost Town – The Specials
Seemed to sum up how Britain looked from the outer. Bleak, drab, rundown…deserted. Not exactly a song that English Tourism would be clamouring to use for an advertising campaign. Lol. And now the song has resonance again in a whole new light. Life is constantly cyclical. Only certain aspects change.
Relax – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
1984 Probably the height of my love for 80s music and the vast majority of it is coming from the UK. I guess there are some exceptions. Australia was a real melting pot of influences – taking in music equally from the USA and Britain. The preference for me was always the British stuff. FGTH was HUUUUUUGE in 1984 and into ‘85. And the first thing that made its way to us was Relax. It took quite a number of years before I saw the “other” video (the one I chose here – seems rather sedate now). The one I remember when first recalling hearing the song is the one done with the laser lights. I loved Frankie and Holly’s voice just absolutely knocked me for six.
I could have chosen Ferry Cross The Mersey but…nah.
Eurythmics – Here Comes The Rain Again
Rain. It always seemed to be raining in the UK. If it wasn’t raining, then it had just rained or was about to. The skies seemed permanently grey in any footage I ever saw coming out of the UK. Very rarely did it ever look sunny.
God, how I wanted to be Annie Lennox as a 13 year old! She was tall, androgynous, and she looked beautiful. Nothing I was ever going to be. The one thing I always wanted to change about myself (apart from weight – but that I could alter and do something about) was my height – or lack thereof. I ALWAYS wanted to be tall. If I had been at least 5’8” tall, I’d have been happy. Wasn’t to be…
Big Country – In A Big Country/Wonderland
I couldn’t decide which Big Country track I wanted. I love In A Big Country. As opposed to England and its urban drab dreariness – Scotland seemed beautiful and mystical. You don’t really get sold Glasgow. Alasdair Gray was spot on in Lanark. No one ever “sold” Glasgow to you. They sold the Highlands, the munros, the heather, the kilts, the lochs – Brigadoon. Big Country were rock music Brigadoon. They fed you it, still. Stuart Adamson with guitar effects like bagpipes. So…I think I was initially sold it with Wonderland. I bought it as a 12” single and then bought The Crossing after that. So, I’m not purely an “Anglophile”. But…try and find an equivalent phrase for Scotland and you see how Anglo-centric the UK is! Scotophile? Hiberophile? Caledonophile? Albaphile? Which would you choose? Answers on a postcard.
The Clash – London Calling
Political punk that always rang a chime with me.I can’t say I am the BIGGEST Clash fan. Never sought out their music too much. Had a 12” copy of Should I Stay Or Should I Go back in the day. Always loved Rock The Casbah too. They just had that very London centric kind of sound – even though there are ska, reggae and rockabilly leanings in the fusion of musical genres.
Adam And the Ants – Stand And Deliver
Although Adam had that kind of meld of the Native American meets pirate look thing going on – it was so very obvious he was from London and so Stand And Deliver plays up to that kind of thing. “The dandy highwayman” – Dick Turpin et al. Prince Charming played up to it to a degree also. It just has that skewed “cheeky chappy” Londoner thing about it. Playing up to aged stereotypes.
Sex Pistols – Anarchy In The UK
Well if you properly research your music history, then you know that punk – purely as a musical genre – started out in America. But punk as a concept, as an ethos, as a culture as a way of life DEFINITELY took hold in Britain. And the one band most lauded as taking the ethos and running with it are The Sex Pistols. I guess you could choose anything from Never Mind The Bollocks – but the obvious choice due to the playlist subject is Anarchy In The UK.
Bronski Beat – Smalltown Boy
The first thing that knocked me for six was the sound of Jimmy Somerville’s voice. And then it was the video. As a 14 year old girl who probably wasn’t even aware if she knew any gay boys at the time or not, I was just floored by that video. I mean, even still for that time, it was brave to highlight such a thing. I mean in the same year Queen release I Want To Break Free and do their video and the U.S. fans just DUMP them. And although gay rights was a worldwide thing, it was obvious the video was UK based. So the song has a UK centric sensitivity to it for me.
The Police – Synchronicity II
The picture of domesticity. A highly “dysfunctional” family – as they would be called. “Another suburban family morning / grandmother screaming at the wall / we have to shout above the din of our rice crispies / we can’t hear anything at all” Sting writes. It’s a bleak picture. It could be anywhere in the modern western world, really only for the chorus that pertains to a Scottish loch “many miles away”. I guess it could be Europe somewhere – but more likely England, and more likely northern England, perhaps near Sting’s childhood home in Northumbria. It conjures up that bleak, dreich imagery in its wording for me and the drama of the music. And…just, a moment to say that – as a drummer, I worship the ground Stewart Copeland walks on! In my dreams I would be even ONE TENTH the drummer he is! OMG!
Tubthumping – Chumbawumba
I’m not usually much of a victim of misheard lyrics as I will study songs and I am usually pretty good and taking lyrics in properly. But in this case, the northern accents got the better of me and I did mishear the chorus as – and it makes absolutely NO grammatical sense! Lol “I get knocked down but I get up again and I’m hanging on a cheap guitar”. Lol. I KNOW! As a joke I still end up singing it like that. So, yeah…it’s just an anthem, really, innit? A celebration of pub culture, essentially. Something oddly uplifting about it too in that – correctly worded here – chorus “I get knocked down but I get up again and you’re never gonna keep me down”.
Blur – Parklife
It’s just…London, innit? All the “cool Britannia” stuff of the mid to late 90s. The bands of the time and the whole Oasis v Blur thing. In that contest it was Blur for me. Oasis didn’t do as much for me – though I liked Don’t Look Back In Anger, Wonderwall and Champagne Supernova. I suppose I just preferred Essex boys to northern lads – musically then, perhaps. The other groups I liked at the time were Supergrass, Pulp and into the early noughties, Elbow – though after getting a copy of Newborn, I didn’t really stick with them much. Guy Garvey certainly has a way with words though. I also loved the more dance and trip hop stuff – Massive Attack, Faithless, Chemical Brothers and Fatboy Slim.
But, back to Parklife…it just kind of sold a stereotype then – pallid Brits in the sun. And, well, due to Cool Britannia and the closing down of the more industrial aspects of Britain, it started to look cleaner and began to seem more aesthetically pleasing. It wasn’t just the music now that was appealing, it was how life was looking here. We had just ended 13 years of Labor government in Australia in 1996 and the UK finally had a Labour government come in in 1997. The future looked bright. It looked better.
The Kinks – Waterloo Sunset
A homage to London and the Thames. London was not a part of the whole “Anglophile” thing that particularly appealed. It seemed a big scary, dirty place. And even after my first visit there shortly after I moved over, I felt very “meh” about it. The place I fell in love with first in the first few weeks I was here was Bath. My partner has relatives in Bristol and a cousin was getting married 4 weeks after I moved over. A bit of a baptism of fire, that. Going to a big family wedding when we’d barely been married a year ourselves. We stayed a weekend in a B&B on the outskirts of the city and had a day in Bath. The weather was glorious and warm and the architecture of Bath floored me.
It took a while…but slowly there were aspects of London I grew to like. The convenience of getting there from Luton was a HUGE plus. Erm….the West End. Theatreland. The museums and art galleries. The fact it is a cultural hub. From being absolutely indifferent to London, over the years I found the little hubs and things I liked about it. And certainly being by the Thames (particularly along the Southbank) was one. I never wanted to live in London though. NEVER. Luton was more than close enough.
London is definitely no Glasgow! Thank fuck for that!
You can also listen to the tracks as a Spotify playlist here…