If you threw a house party in London in the late twentieth
century, before the smart phone rendered it redundant, you
could guarantee that the following morning there would be a
dog-eared copy of the A to Z behind the sofa, or under the
coffee table, probably in a Tesco bag. Everybody had at least
one. It was an essential aid in understanding London. It joined
the dots and threw up obscure names printed over hitherto
unexplored grids of streets: Alperton, Shooters Hill, Honor
Oak, Tooting Graveney, Childs Hill, Ladywell. It invited you to
create your own personal map of London, discover your own
secret routes, your own special places.
You could peruse the A to Z with the knowledge of who lived
where - Sandy Denny in Wimbledon, before she moved to
Muswell Hill which was already legendary as the home of the
Kinks. Arterial roads as grisly as Archway Road (Rod Stewart)
or Holloway Road (Joe Meek) or could be made magic through
their pop connections.
Put together by Saint Etienne's Bob Stanley, this is the
soundtrack of London's centre (Bert Jansch and John
Renbourn's 'Soho', Nick Drake's 'Mayfair') and its hinterlands
(Al Stewart's 'Swiss Cottage Manoeuvres', Humble Pie's
'Beckton Dumps', Julie Driscoll's 'Vauxhall To Lambeth
Bridge') with a few transport links (Barbara Ruskin's 'Euston
Station', Norma Tanega's 'Clapham Junction') thrown in to
help you navigate your A to Z. This isn't London swinging
cinematically, but it has the exact feel of the city's streets and
suburbs in the late 60s and early 70s.
What might be lurking in these locations, waiting to be
uncovered on a cold winter Saturday? Corner caffs with Pepsi
signs. Second-hand record shops and rickety street markets.
Many are gone, but not all. This compilation is a musical travel
guide - squint, and sometimes London can still seem magical.
This is its soundtrack.