7 London Underground Songs

Warwick Avenue tube station

Warwick Avenue tube station – credit London Travel Tips

Plenty of London-based music has infiltrated the world’s charts over the years. Below, I’ve listed some of the songs that have a specific connection to the London underground.

“Warwick Avenue”

Formerly popular Welsh warbler Duffy first came across Warwick Avenue tube station near posh Little Venice as a nineteen year old, not long after she moved to London. She got off there by mistake “and the name just took me by surprise,” she said in this Independent article http://ind.pn/uHOdz1. I’m not sure why that would be the case, but then it’s been a while since I was 19 and I was never Welsh.

“Waterloo Sunset”

By the Kinks, this is probably one of the most famous, and certainly one of the most gorgeous songs about London. It  was an imagined story about lead singer Ray Davies’ sister and her boyfriend sat on a hill overlooking the station, watching “Millions of people swarming like flies round Waterloo Underground“, on their way to emigrating to their new life abroad. Interestingly,  Davies had originally written it as “Liverpool Sunset” as he had a bit of thing about that city, but thank goodness it was changed, because, as a biased adopted Londoner it just wouldn’t have been the same.

“Down In The Tube Station At Midnight”

I’m not a fan of Paul Weller myself – his hair dos annoy me. But I heard this Jam song for the first time in a long time recently and I was much impressed. It’s quite atmospheric, and a great if slightly disturbing story – a man on his way home to his wife and his dinner is attacked and robbed and left injured or dying: the visuals and smells of the said tube station are there in the room with you. I don’t think their hit Going Underground actually meant the tube Underground.

Lord Kitchener

Lord Kitchener – Credit The Home Spun Show

“The Underground Train – Calypso”

This 1950 songby Lord Kitchener talks of the difficulties involved in finding your way around the confusing London tube system. There are often ladies involved in these difficulties. Lord Kitchener was born Adwyn Roberts in Trinidad and had a severe speech defect which could not be heard at all in his singing voice at all. He’s credited, along with Lord Beginner, in recording the first professional calypso tapes in history including “The Underground Train” at the EMI Abbey Lane studio in London in 1950. The original master tapes have since been lost. And he’s also a major influence on steel drum players. Read more about him in this Answers article: http://www.answers.com/topic/lord-kitchener And listen to a recording of the tune http://bit.ly/tGjggs.

“Londinium”

This isn’t a cheerful tune about the UK’s capital city. “London never sleeps, it just sucks the life out of me.” But, in keeping with the subject matter of this post, Paddington and Euston stations are mentioned, although I’ve just realised that she’s probably talking about taking mainline trains from there as she “comes alive outside the M25.” Never mind. Interestingly it appeared on Catatonia’s 1999 album “Equally Cursed and Blessed” only two years before the band went their separate ways. The split was blamed on Cerys Matthew’s “anxiety and exhaustion” brought on by smoking and drinking according to this BBC report. http://bbc.in/tCsXjx Cerys now hosts an excellent radio show on Radio 6 of a Sunday morning.

Finchley Central - Credit Vinyl Music

Finchley Central album cover

“Finchley Central”

By The New Vaudeville Band – this is so catchy! I’ve never heard it before: it came up on my research for this particular subject. (You think I just magic this stuff out of the air, don’t you?) Similar to the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah band, this 1966 track is a sad but strangely upbeat little tune from the album “Winchester Cathedral” about a lad being stood up by his girl at Finchley Central. Golders Green, Camden Town and the Northern Line also get a mention. Listen to it here http://bit.ly/uIbquj

Piccadilly Line

Piccadilly Line – Credit 45rpm.org.uk

“Piccadilly Line”

This is great. Jim Dale appeared in numerous Carry On films, but I didn’t know that he was also a songwriter – he penned the excellent theme to “Georgy Girl” which was nominated for an Academy Award in 1966, for instance. The “Piccadilly Line” was written by him in 1957 and is basically his version of the “Rock Island Line”, first recorded in 1934 by John Lomax and covered by Lonnie Donegan and then Johnny Cash. In the “Rock Island Line”  a train driver tricks a toll gate operator into letting him through with pig iron, pretending it’s livestock. In Jim Dale’s version, he pretends that he has a season ticket, whereas it’s really only a “four ‘penny. Here’s the Carry On actor’s take on the song: http://bit.ly/ucCsUw and Lonnie Donegan’s http://bit.ly/vstat2

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