Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

Posts Tagged ‘london

Streets Of London

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If London had the grid system of Manhattan, or had been rebuilt entirely like the Paris of Haussmann, then maybe it would have a readily identifiable sound. After all, you can spot the sound of Manchester – whether it’s the Hollies, Joy Division, the Stone Roses or MC Tunes – at 20 paces. London has always been more fluid, in its architecture and its population. Different eras, and different postcodes, define the sound of the city at any given time… Some districts have a sound that seems to seep, unalterable, from the pavements. A few miles north west of Mile End is a leafy corner of London which drew in pastoral folkies from St Albans, Kingston, Tanworth-in-Arden and Glasgow – Muswell Hill is where you’ll find a gorgeous arts and crafts pile called Fairport, and this is where a budding psychedelic band called Fairport Convention shacked up in 1967. Having settled in the Edwardian suburb, surrounded by woods and parks with jaw-dropping views over the city, their sound quickly mutated into folk rock. Living within cycling distance were the similarly wistful Sandy Denny (soon to become their singer), Nick Drake, and John and Beverly Martyn. Clearly the vistas of Highgate Wood and Alexandra Park affected the music of the locale as deeply as Ridley Road market and the semi-dereliction of Clapton and Dalston have dictated jungle/UK garage/grime narrative of the last 20 years.

This article by St Etienne’s Bob Stanley in last week’s Guardian reminds me that I meant to post something about Bryter Layter by Nick Drake. Having assured me that “London is a miserable shit hole”, Mark Newton promised me I should check out the album “for an accurate, Songs-of-Experience-esque view of the city.”

To be honest, it is not much of a London album. Only one song, At The Chime Of A City Clock, references the city and even that is less about the specific experience of living here than the specific experience of being monumentally depressed. As you might expect, this is a recurring theme. What you probably wouldn’t expect is the deeply incongruous music that accompanies these plaintive lyrics, I have a lot of sympathy for the original Melody Maker assessment that it is “an awkward mix of folk and cocktail jazz”. It is only on the John Cale arrangements – Fly and Northern Sky – that Bryter Layter rises above this.

In the end, I’d rather be listening to Richard Thompson (who plays guitar on Hazy Jane II). A founding member of Fairport, he one of the musicians who always reminds me of London – despite living in LA. He has also recently been announced as the director of this year’s Meltdown Festival. Excellent.

Written by Martin

18 March 2010 at 09:40

You’re All London Dicks

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It’s a huge misfortune, this will-o’-the-wisp attraction exercised by London on young men of brains. They come here to be degraded, or to perish, when their true sphere is a life of peaceful remoteness. The type of man capable of success in London is more or less callous and cynical. If I had the training of boys, I would teach them to think of London as the last place where life can be lived worthily.

George Gissing, New Grub Street, 1891

Somehow, without me really noticing, this month marked the end of a decade spent living in London. God knows how this happened. I promised myself when I moved here that it was only for ten years, tops, but now I imagine I will be here for the Olympics at least.

“London’s kind to the confident. Otherwise, what is there? Get on the tube in the morning and people stare straight into your face from less than one foot distance. That’s no way to live.”

M John Harrison, ‘The Good Detective’, 2007

I’ve had a west, north, south and east postcode. I’ve been bombed on my birthday. I’ve been sad and I’ve been happy and I’ve been in limbo. I guess I’ve changed a lot over this period but the only think that comes to mind when I think about how living in London has changed me is this:

I can now use chopsticks

Written by Martin

30 October 2008 at 16:13