Find a Site of Musical Relevance Near You
By Kath Butler (follow Kath on Twitter: @k_butler92)
Seeing as London is arguably the cultural epicenter of the world, even more so with regards to music, its hallowed and gritty streets have seen their fair share of musician punters transform their auditory creations into visual treats. Whilst I know the content of this post won’t offer typical BIL advice, there’s plenty of that going around due to Blue (read broke) Monday having just passed and could rather serve as a bit of light lunch time reading.
There are however a number of free events taking place across the city, so not to worry online content hasn’t completely lost its purpose. Additionally, what you will henceforth learn from reading this article will make for some fine fodder for those pub conversations, destined to land you that coveted position as undisputed London culture expert amongst your peers, something I’m sure we can all agree you can’t put a price on.
The Who – The Kids Are Alright @ Hyde Park
Quintessential British mod rockers The Who utilized that little green space in central London also known as Hyde Park for their “The Kid’s are Alright” video. The video features the quartet in unusually calm formation; foregrounding park goers curiously doing park activities in the park – think feeding the swans and rowing the boats. Keith Moon does sport a shirt made of the British flag, thus not completely deviating from Who-like behavior.
Where: Hyde Park, W2 2UH
Bob Dylan – Subterranean Homesick Blues @ The Strand
Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” is set in an alley in front of the Savoy Hotel’s steps. The video was originally intended for D.A Pennebaker’s documentary of Dylan’s 1965 UK tour, but has become a cultural artifact in its own right. It features Dylan, holding placards with the song’s lyrics seemingly written on them but with number of hidden but intended puns and misspellings
Where: The Strand, WC2R 0EU
Blur – For Tomorrow @ Trafalgar Square
What would even be the true meaning of Britpop if not for a Blur Music video shot in London? “For Tomorrow” fulfills this prophetic purpose, which features Damon Albarn being very Damon Albarn riding vintage London busses and the full quartet terrorizing pigeons in Trafalgar Square.
Where: Trafalgar Square, WC2N 5DN
Suede – Saturday Night & The Prodigy – Firestarter @ The Tube
A list of music videos set in London would not be complete if it didn’t feature the tube and commute culture in general. Original 90’s sad boys Suede and ravers The Prodigy reference as such, albeit in very different ways. In “Saturday Night”, the former chronicles late night punters at Holborn station, featuring the usual characters like turnstile jumpers and escalator embracers. The latter set the vid for “Firestarter” in the now closed Aldwych station which sees the not at all mentally disturbed band members running amok through the disused tunnels.
Locations: Holborn & Aldwych Tube Stations
Madness – Our House @ Willesden Junction
Ska-popsters Madness filmed the video for “Our House” in, yes you’ve got it you genius, a house. The video cleverly depicts the band members acting out a typical working class lifestyle behind a red door in near Willesden Junction mirroring the tracks subject whilst giving a keen depiction of London’s gloomy streets and cheerful populace. Buckingham Palace makes a cheeky cameo as the ultimate place of residence but more probably a dig at the upper class elite.
Where: Willesden Junction, NW10 4UP
Pulp – Disco 2000 @ Smashing Night Club
Britpop makes another appearance with Pulp’s “Disco 2000” which follows a man and women’s thoughts as they gear up for a night of debauchery at a club night aptly named Disco 2000. Parts of it were filmed at Smashing night club on Regent’s Street, which has been described as a “breeding ground and blueprint for Britpop”, making it unabashedly 90’s Meta, referencing both itself and the scene.
Where: Smashing Night Club (Closed), W1B 4LY
The Libertines – Don’t Look Back Into The Sun @ The West End
Indie rock pioneers The Libertines, leave their Camden haunt to gallivant around the West End in “Don’t Look Back into the Sun”. Doherty and co. visit notable London landmarks like Trafalgar square and er, HMV Oxford Street, clothed in their signature imperial jackets, which have thankfully now found a home in tourist shops and out of our collective cultural consciousness.
Where: The West End, W1J 9HP
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black @ Stoke Newington
Amy Winehouse shot the video for “Back to Black” in a monochromatic Stoke Newington, echoing both the name and lyrical content of the track. The video ultimately culminates at a funeral, a poignant metaphor for the doomed love affair that forms the subject of the song.
Where: Stoke Newington, N16 0JS
The Maccabees – Toothpaste Kisses @ The Water Rats, Kings Cross
Another unmistakable resolute icon of London’s locational culture is its pubs. The Maccabee’s set “Toothpaste Kisses” in the Water Rats Pub in King’s Cross, which features a number of the patrons exchanging kisses, whether of the toothpaste variety or not is not clarified, but judging from the pints being poured throughout one can make an educated guess that they are not. It’s an undeniably heartwarming video nonetheless.
Where: The Water Rats, Kings Cross, WC1X 8BZ
Courtney Barnett – Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party @ Camden Town
Last year Australian songstress, Courtney Barnett, hinted to fans that she’d be performing a secret gig in London. Ultimately, she ended up outside Camden Town station filming her impromptu performance for the “Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t go to the Party” vid, in front of a billboard emblazoned with the song name. The crowd mostly consisted of deer in the headlights tourists but was indeed a cheery affair, with her playing a couple more tracks after filming and in true busking fashion laying down a collection hat.
Where: Camden Town Station, NW1 8QL
The Verve – Bittersweet Symphony @ Hoxton
Probably the most obvious video to appear on this list, but necessary in its significance is The Verve’s “Bittersweet Symphony”. Lead singer Richard Ashcroft strides down Hoxton’s busy streets, noticeably pre the artisanal coffee shop influx, without stopping or altering his path and is eventually joined by the rest of his bandmates on this urban crusade.
Where: C/O Hoxton & Falkirk St, N1 6LP
Dizzee Rascal & Robbie Williams – Goin’ Crazy @ Dalston
Two different but essentially British artists Dizzee Rascal and Robbie Williams shot the video for “Goin’ Crazy” in a similar fashion, except motorized and less stubborn. The pair rides down a street in Dalston on mod scooters, with a number of cultural icons and numerous incarnations of the British flag in the background.
Clearly something about East London’s streets incites a kind of continuous walking and or driving in musicians.
Where: Dalston, E8 2PB
Geographically below the Thames and at the bottom of this list, is South London, whose visual patrons provide the most acute social commentary on the nature of the world class city.
M.I.A – Double Bubble Trouble @ Peckham
M.I.A, never one to check her political commentary at the door, shot her video for “Double Bubble Trouble” in Peckham. The vid features references to Orwell’s 1984, Google storing personal information and Obama’s 2008 election campaign, all set amongst a dystopian council housing estate. So relatively light-hearted then.
Where: Peckham, SE17
The Maccabees – Spit It Out @ Elephant & Castle Roundabout
More recently The Maccabees, video for “Spit it Out” is set in the footpaths under the Elephant & Castle roundabout. The video offers commentary on the ongoing gentrification of the city, by depicting the artwork that used to adorn the walls disappearing.
Hopefully, the video isn’t predictive and we continue to see London remain unfalteringly creative and home to more seminal music videos.
Where: Elephant & Castle Roundabout, SE1 6JZ
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