Friday, February 15, 2008

The quintessence of Englishness

The Guardian had an interesting piece today in which it asked a series of musicians to name the songs that, for them, define Englishness. It struck a chord with me as a lot of my own favourite songs and bands are what I would describe as quintessentially English - indeed it is one of the main reasons I like them.

There are some bands - The Smiths, Everything but the Girl, Gabriel-era Genesis - whose entire output to me evokes these shores. Going further back, you could say the same about much of what the Beatles did during their mid-60s psychedelic phase, as well as almost everything that the Kinks or The Who ever released.

Then there are some bands who are distinctively regional English. New Order, Joy Division and Pulp are clearly the sound of the industrial north, St Etienne will always remind me of Brighton, for some reason, and The Jam will forever be the sound of suburban London.

Here, then, are my Top 30 English Tunes that really couldn't have come from anywhere else. The list contains album tracks as well as singles and I've deliberately restricted myself to one per artist as Morrissey and Marr and Hook and Sumner would rather dominate the list otherwise. I'd be particularly interested to hear in the comments from anyone who also loves numbers 14 and 17, forgotten classics both.

1 Waterloo Sunset Kinks
2 Who Do You Think You Are St Etienne
3 Can't Be Sure The Sundays
4 English Rose The Jam
5 Solsbury Hill Peter Gabriel
6 William It Was Really Nothing The Smiths
7 Blood on the Rooftops Genesis
8 Subculture New Order
9 Oxford Street Everything But The Girl
10 Strawberry Fields Forever Beatles

11 A New England Kirsty McColl
12 The Day I See You Again Dubstar
13 Slimcea Girl Mono
14 Number Four St James' Square Mr Martini
15 When the Cows Come Home Prefab Sprout
16 My Name is Jack Manfred Mann
17 Bloomsbury Blue Ruby Blue
18 Staying Out for the Summer Dodgy
19 See Emily Play Pink Floyd
20 The Mayor of Simpleton XTC

21 Louise Human League
22 Razzmatazz Pulp
23 West End Girls Pet Shop Boys
24 I Can See for Miles The Who
25 Wuthering Heights Kate Bush
26 Have Fun The Beautiful South
27 Crazy Man Michael Fairport Convention
28 Don't Look Back in Anger Oasis
29 Castles in the Air Colourfield
30 Fool's Overture Supertramp

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Anonymous said...

No Bowie ?

Paul Linford said...

I love Bowie as a matter of fact, but I think his music transcends national boundaries in a way that a lot of the stuff listed above doesn't really. What his music evokes for me is a sense of time rather than a sense of place. Long before Sam Tyler was ever thought of, you could listen to Life on Mars and Starman and imagining yourself back in 1973.

David Gladwin said...

Well, anything from Bowie's Decca years (1966-68) would fit the bill, but The London Boys from 1966 is my nomination.

I share Paul's regard for Ruby Blue's Bloomsbury Blue and anyone fortunate enough to happen across the original single on Red Flame should snap it up.

But Monty...what a lost talent! Many of his songs would serve us here (Mr Inconsistent, Kensington Girl, The Lion in Windsor...) but Paul has picked the winner in Number Four St James's Square - the irresistible tale of a dandy living out of time.

The original version of this song can be found on the Él records compilation Abracadabra - Él Rarities and the re-titled 89 St James's Square (Monty decided it was best to use an address that didn't really exist) appears on Monty's second album The Napoleon Complex.

Both the above Monty records should be available from Cherry Red Records.

Monty's music can be experienced at his MySpace page or at his official website

elias said...

The Clash

Andy W said...

Paul, surely given your connections you should choose Fog on the Tyne by Lindisfarne

dynamite said...

Some great choices - XTC certainly.

Anonymous said...

Not much I can disagree with here. Early Bowie deffo - mod anthems like "She's Got Medals" fit the bill. "Life on Mars" mentions the "norfolk Broads" which no yank could've done. XTC are my faves. Any of theirs would have sufficed including "Respectable Street", "Love on a Farmboy's Wages". What about som edgy punky stuff like say "Bordedom" by the Buzzcocks? Also I agree that the Clash should be in there. What about "I'm So Bored With the USA"? Finally I would have gone for Blur "For Tommorow" a paen to the A40/M40 elevated section or the "westway" which also features in the Clash's "London Calling". Phew!

The Daily Pundit said...

I think you were probably wise to leave out Floral Dance by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band.

Matt Buck said...

Sheep by the Housemartins - and quite a lot of almost anything written by Paul Heaton

Toque said...

Agree with many of the above (especially the Kinks).

Let me introduce some techno: Orbital, Underworld and The Aloof are quintessentially English.

Quentin S. Crisp said...

I don't think Billericay Dicky by Ian Dury could have come from anywhere but England.

Ivanhoe + said...

Small faces LAZY SUNDAY..Kinks AUTUMN ALMANAC.. Paul Weller/the Jam..Ian Drury CLEVER TREVOUR..the House martins/beautifull south HAPPY HOUR FROM THE BOTTOM OF MY HEART

Alfie said...

What about anything by Led Zeppelin - the best English band, ever...

Sting and 'Fields of Gold'?

Fairport Convention and 'A Sailor's Life'?

and the best - Richard Thompson and '1952 Vincent Black Lightning'
You can view it here - teddy boys, grease, Great North Road, and an icon of English engineering... bloody brilliant!