If the WordPress YouTube Block works there should be several videos embedded in this post. I am not sure if they will show in the emailed version of this post. If not, go to the home page by clicking here to view the post.
One of the problems with using the Internet whilst working on the computer is the risk of being distracted. Often whilst researching and writing a post, if I am looking at online resources such as old newspapers or library materials, I will find a new subject completely different to what I should be concentrating on.
YouTube is another terrible distraction. I often have a music playlist running in the background, but then start looking at the videos, and London spotting has been a way of trying to justify this distraction.
I know it is an age thing, but the period from around 1976 to the late 1980s were definitely one of the most creative periods. I started to see bands whilst still at school, with the first being the Canterbury band Caravan back in May 1974. Incredibly they are still going and we saw them last year at the Union Chapel in Islington.
My first big concert was seeing Yes at Queens Park Rangers Loftus Road stadium back in 1975. Since then, it has been so many bands at so many venues, and many are still touring today, and so far next year, Squeeze and Human League are booked.
Whilst music films / videos had been around for many years, from the late 1970s they became almost an essential media format to go with any band or song aiming to make an impression.
Many of these had an element filmed in London, and they show not just a band, but also a city as they both were around 40 years ago.
So for today’s Christmas Eve post, a brief selection of videos with views of London, in no particular order, starting with one which by chance I saw being filmed.
Altered Images – Happy Birthday (1981)
I was in Blackfriars when this was filmed, and saw the external sequence of the video which had a table set up for a birthday party between the road and rail bridges at Blackfriars. The video was made 42 years ago, and the tree at the opposite side of the river is in the video and can still be seen today.
The Clash – London Calling (1979)
The video to go with London Calling was recorded on a dark and wet night on a boat or pier on the south bank of the river next to the Albert Bridge:
The Specials – Ghost Town (1981)
A brilliant song which is really evocative of the early 1980s. There are shots of the City, around the Bank of England, the towers in the Barbican, and along London Wall, with much of the video being shot in east London around the docks, and through the Rotherhithe Tunnel. The video features Terry Hall who sadly died a year ago in December 2022.
Ultravox – Vienna (1980 / 1981)
Whilst much of the video was shot in Vienna, early parts of the video were shot in Covent Garden, for example starting at 52 seconds you can see St. Paul’s, Covent Garden in the background:
Dexys Midnight Runners – Come On Eileen (1982)
The video was filmed around Kennington. The shop at the beginning of the video is number 151 on the corner of Brook Drive and Hayles Street. The pub in the background starting at 1 minute 32 seconds is the old Two Eagles on the corner of Austral Street and Brook Drive. The pub is now flats.
Katrina & The Waves – Walking On Sunshine (1985)
Much of the video for this song was filmed in east London, in the old warehouses in and along Wapping High Street and Wapping Wall. There is a segment in the video which starts at 39 seconds, which features in my Wapping walk, where the band are in St. John’s Churchyard by Wapping High Street.
The Human League – Love Action (1981)
The church used in this video was St Saviour’s in Warwick Avenue, and the main entrance to the church on Warrington Crescent can be seen starting at 1 minute, 4 seconds. The entrance looks almost exactly the same today.
I cannot work out where the flats were. Apparently in south London and almost certainly long demolished.
Human League – (Keep Feeling) Fascination (1983)
The house that has been painted orange in this video was part of an estate that would soon be demolished. The house was at the corner of First Avenue and Third Avenue in Plaistow, east London. The scenes of the band playing were recorded in a studio.
Whilst the houses in the video have long been demolished, the street layout is today the same, and for nerdy location spotting, the large BT manhole cover in the pavement at the corner can just be seen in the video and is still on the pavement today.
Pet Shop Boys – West End Girls (1984)
This video starts off in Wentworth Street in east London and ends in Leicester Square with a number of locations used throughout the video including Waterloo Station, with the old W.H. Smith shop featuring.
Depeche Mode – Just Can’t Get Enough (1981)
The external scenes in this video almost look like an after thought. Whilst nearly all the video is filmed in a studio, there are a couple of “blink and you miss it” moments when there are shots on the South Bank. The first at 1 minute 42 seconds, in the Undercroft with Hungerford Bridge just visible in the background, and at 2 minutes 58 seconds, the stairs that were at the Belvedere Road side of the Royal Festival Hall, with the windows of the old Down Stream building of Shell Centre in the back ground.
The Communards – Don’t Leave Me This Way (1986)
At the very start of this video there are shots around Battersea Power Station, an area that looks very different today:
ABC – When Smokey Sings (1987)
As with many other videos, this one solved the problem of what do you do with a long instrumental section at the start of the track, by driving around London, before the video heads to the studio for the rest of the track.
The Stranglers – Strange Little Girl (1982)
Strange Little Girl by the Stranglers by contrast was all filmed on the streets of London, starting at Liverpool Street Station before the rest of the video being mainly around Cambridge Circus and Leicester Square.
Queen – A Kind of Magic (1986)
Queen were one of the more innovative bands at using video, and it probably helped that they had sufficient budget to create these, although the video for Bohemian Rhapsody was probably a gamble at the time, but turned out to be one of the more remarkable of this new type of media.
Queen’s A Kind of Magic was filmed in the Playhouse Theatre, which is tucked in between Charing Cross Station and Craven Street / Northumberland Avenue.
The theatre was derelict at the time, having closed as a BBC studio in 1976. I was working across the river on the South Bank in the 1980s and saw a fire at the theatre at one point, although I do not think it caused too much damage.
The theatre was also at risked of demolition, however a year after Queen filmed in the theatre, it was restored and reopened, and is still a working theatre today.
The Verve – Bitter Sweet Symphony (1997)
Whilst my preferred period is from 1976 to the late 1980s, there is obviously much brilliant music both before and after. One example that makes use of London’s streets is Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve.
Almost the whole of the video is Richard Ashcroft walking along Hoxton Street, bumping into people as he goes. The video starts off on the corner of Hoxton Street and Falkirk Street, and he walks north along the eastern side of the street. The Golden Fried Chicken in 1997 is now Hoxton Chicken and Pizza.
At 58 seconds into the video you can see Shenfield Street, which I wrote about in this post (got to get at least one link in to one of my posts).
Fat Les – Vindaloo (1998)
Fat Les was a band put together by Keith Allen, Alex James of Blur and artist Damien Hirst. Vindaloo was created as the unofficial song for the 1998 World Cup.
The video was a brilliant parody of Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony, also filmed along Hoxton Street, and starting at the same junction with Falkirk Street.
Unlike the Verve’s video, where Ashcroft walks alone for the majority of the video, in Vindaloo, a large group quickly forms, with Keith Allen playing a prominent role. The group is good for a bit of people spotting.
Wilko Johnson and Roger Daltry – Going Back Home (2014)
Wilko Johnson (of the brilliant Dr. Feelgood) and Roger Daltry of the Who released an album with the same name in 2014.
The video that went with the title track is a really clever combination of old and new film of both Johnson and Daltry, but also from the 1970s with some scenes which I find very familiar.
The video includes scenes of the elevated section of the M4 in west London, the old Shell Haven refinery at Canvey Island (where Dr. Feelgood originally formed), along with Southend including the Kursaal.
There is a brilliant 1975 film of a Dr. Feelgood concert at the Kursaal at this link, which starts of with some aerial film from the end of Southend pier down to the Kursaal.
Wilko Johnson sadly died in November 2022.
The Divine Comedy – National Express (1999)
The Human League video used a street before demolition. The Divine Comedy used a hospital shortly before demolition for the video to go with National Express.
The video was filmed in the old Joyce Green Hospital in Dartford, Kent (which hopefully is close enough to greater London to be included in this post):
The Kinks – Come Dancing (1982)
Come Dancing by the Kinks was also filmed at site which has since been demolished, with the Ilford Palais being used for the dance hall shots.
Many of the external shots were filmed around Hornsey, where Ray Davies had a studio. Starting at 53 seconds is the shop Keevans, which was on the corner of Hillfield Avenue and the High Street. The shop is now a hair and beauty salon, but the building to the left in Hillfield Avenue is recognisable due to the distinct decoration around the windows and doors.
Cathy Dennis – Waterloo Sunset (1997)
Cathy Dennis did a rather good version of the Kinks song Waterloo Sunset, and in the video to go with the song, she is being driven around London in a black cab, with old and current scenes of London in the background. The video has a twist at the end when the cab driver is revealed.
Blur – Parklife (1994)
The video for this song was mainly filmed on the Greenwich Peninsula.
The terrace of houses that feature in the video are next to the Pilot pub (see my post here about the pub and the terrace). The video was made before the Millennium / O2 Dome was built and in the background we can see some of the area, including one of the old gas holders.
Amy Winehouse – Back to Black (2007)
Many of the street scenes in this video with Amy Winehouse are in Stoke Newington, with the cemetery shots being set in Abney Park Cemetery. A brilliant song by an artist who died far too young.
Lily Allen – LDN (2006)
This is a brilliant song and video. The video follows Lily Allen walking through the streets of London as the words and song contrast both positive and negative views of the city.
The following words from the song “When you look with your eyes everything seems nice, But if you look twice you can see it’s all lies.” are a lesson for how to walk around the streets of London. Not necessarily in a negative way, but to see what is really happening, what is driving change, and the problems that London has, as does any large, complex city (the song starts at 42 seconds).
Ray Davies and Chrissie Hynde – Postcard from London
To end on a suitable video, this is Postcard from London by Ray Davies of the Kinks and includes Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders. The track was a Christmas charity single by Davies and has scenes of Christmas in London.
That is just a brief sample of the many music videos that have featured London in one way or another. Just another way in which the city has featured in popular culture.
And with that selection of some of the songs that distract me when I am trying to work at the computer, it just leaves me to wish you a very happy Christmas, however you celebrate (or not), and a peaceful few days between Christmas and the New Year.