London Calling – A Brief History Of The Capital’s Musical Heritage
Way back at the beginning of this decade we’ve come to know as the ‘noughties’, it was The Libertines that first kick-started the new revolution of bands loudly and proudly proclaiming their London roots; name-checking both Caledonian Road in Islington and Vallance Road in Bethnal Green on their debut album, ‘Up The Bracket’. Later, rapper Dizzee Rascal also paid homage to his hometown through his rhymes – “I socialise in Hackney and Bow / I wear my trousers ridiculously low”.
Likewise, during the 1960s and 1970s bands such as The Kinks, The Clash and The Jam penned numerous odes to their hometown, most notably The Clash’s anti-Racism anthem “(White Man) In Hammersmith Palais”.
So it’s not that this was a new trend; it was just that London bands proclaiming their hometown pride had become scarce in music for over a decade. Previously, for example, in the late 1990s, Manchester had stolen most of the nation’s musical limelight, with the emergence of the massively popular ‘Madchester’ scene, as well as the rise of bands such as The Smiths and The Fall during the 1980s.
Today, London again seems to be experiencing something of a renaissance. A handful of recently founded independent record labels have helped breathe some new air into the somewhat smoggy London scene. Founded in 2004, Transgressive Records released early singles by recent Mercury Music Prize nominees ‘The Young Knives’. Its reputation for being synonymous with new cutting-edge British indie music soon saw it snapped up by Warner Brothers as a subsidiary. Likewise, the Angular Recording Corporation was founded in 2003 and gave the likes of Bloc Party their first exposure.
Meanwhile, London girls Lily Allen and Kate Nash were looking to the internet as their means of gaining mass exposure. Both soon took the mainstream by storm with their informal, colloquial vocal style (sample lyric: “You look well nice”) and both saw their debut albums hit the top of the charts.
London’s live scene is a deep ocean of talent, largely made up of acts massively popular in the capital, but yet to really make a mark elsewhere: acts such as Emmy The Great, who sits at the forefront of the London anti-folk scene, was the latest to perform a Black Cab Session, a gig that takes place inside a genuine, moving London black cab and then gets posted on YouTube.
And how about Wallis Bird, whose powerful voice and noisy guitar is sure to have her hailed as “the new KT Tunstall” in nationwide publications before very long; or George Pringle and her unique brand of spoken word electro. All of these musicians and more have healthy representation on the London circuit, and fans from outside the capital can get in on the act too – there are a selection of hotels in London available to suit all accommodation needs (just make sure your room hasn’t been trashed by an over excited rock star!).
In terms of the future of British music, London certainly seems to be a hotbed of talent to keep an eye (and ear) on.
Elisha Burberry is an online, freelance journalist and keen traveller and watersports enthusiast. Originally from Scotland, she now resides in London.