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Get Your Kicks in Stepney

Big Ben. Any lyrics pop into you head? And no, I'm not going to bore you with vacation photos. OK, I shot this photo. I'm a tourist. Get over it.

Going to the UK is like taking a trip through the lyrics of the 50 or so years since the “British Invasion”. There are dozens of references that once meant nothing to a Yank like me. The Stones mention Knightsbridge, St. Johns Wood and Stepney in “Play with Fire”, The Beatles mention Bishopsgate, the Kinks, Soho and Willisden Green (where my son lived during his term abroad). On the Underground,  every time I saw a stop with a neighborhood that had been mentioned in a song, the song got stuck in my head and drove me a little nuts. And it wasn’t just British invasion stuff either. There was a Donovan song called “Sunny South Kensington” which somehow I knew and, as I left the tube to visit the Victoria and Albert Museum (at South Kensington station), I was doomed to have the only line I remembered from the song go ’round and ’round in my head (Come take a walk in sunny South Kensington any day of the week. Something something something something. You know she ain’t no freak…). The missing lyrics will drive you batty. I visited a client on the Isle of Wight while I was there (“every Summer we can rent a cottage in The Isle of Wight…) and learned that the “ride” in “Ticket to Ride” probably refers to the village of “Ryde” on the Isle of Wight.  Always room for Beatles in my head but it wouldn’t last. After we left Wight, we took the train from Southampton to Waterloo station and up popped Abba (and it isn’t even the same Waterloo). Worse, a really old country song, also called “Waterloo” by an artist dubiously named Stonewall Jackson came out of nowhere to bounce Abba out. Not sure which was worse. Since this was my first trip to London (surprised?), I did the usual tourist stuff like The Tower of London, Parliament, Westminster Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Oh, no not “England Swings” (like a pendulum do) by Roger Miller. Didja ever notice how many brain cells you’ve wasted with the lyrics of songs you could never really stand? “…Bobbies on bicycles two by two. Westminster Abbey, the tower of Big Ben…” Or, on a happier note: I saw a werewolf with a chinese menu in his hands, walkin’ through the streets of Soho in the rain…thanks Warren. I needed that. Then there’s Jethro Tull who was a favorite of mine in the 70’s. Plenty of London locations sprang to mind. On the Picadilly Line, you go through a few. They mention Picadilly Circus (and Hampstead) in “Mother Goose” and Leicester Square in, uh, “Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square”.  These are all the ones I can remember off the top of my head but there were probably others. Oddly enough, some of the songs start making a little more sense now that I’ve seen the neighborhoods. In Play with Fire”, I figured that St. John’s Wood and Knightsbridge were kind of upscale and that Stepney wasn’t. I figured right. I also learned that Abbey Road Studios are in St. Johns Wood and that Harrods is in Knightsbridge. I’m pretty sure Mick and Keith (or Nanker Phelge, if you prefer) weren’t referring to either of them.

8 Responses to “Get Your Kicks in Stepney”

  1. Robert Bogdan says:

    Did you get to the Isle of Lucy?

    (obscure Spinal Tap joke)

  2. RAB says:

    Charlie, yes, London is paradise if you are a history buff as probably many vintage guitar fans are! Practically every corner has some historical significance. Many buildings bear blue ceramic plaques denoting historical references, E.G. “Jimi Hendrix lived here in 1967”, etc…fun stuff…

  3. Rob says:

    Well “Play with Fire” sure popped into my head about 2.5 seconds after I saw the post headline. Thanks.

  4. OK Guitars says:

    No, but we visited the Mertz’s.

  5. Peter says:

    charlie. Sorry to sound like a pedantic englishman, but the most famous reference to Waterloo Station is the Kinks..Waterloo Sunset. Teryy met Julie.Abba song is a reference to the Battleof Waterloo when we beat the French!

  6. OK Guitars says:

    Hi Peter. I’m sure that’s true but that isn’t what popped into my head. You can’t control runaway brain cells. I would much rather have had The Kinks in there than Abba. I think I mentioned that the Abba song was the wrong Waterloo.

  7. max says:

    Glad you enjoyed your trip (apart from ear worms). When I visited New York some time ago I had the same experience. Central Park West – John Coltrane etc. etc.

    We brits have been imagining US places since Bill Hayley!

  8. OK Guitars says:

    I’m glad it’s not just me. There are probably more New York City songs than London songs but I don’t think the neighborhoods get the same treatment. OK, Greenwich Village, Times Square and Fifth Avenue but how about Manhattan Valley, Carnegie Hill or Turtle Bay? Not so much.

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