6. The Rolling Stones – Play With Fire (1965)

I feel like I’ve been droning on and on a little bit over the past few posts, and so today, instead of launching into a lengthy discussion about class consciousness in the UK vs class consciousness in the US, I think I’ll save the blahblahblah for another day. But it’s still coming, don’t you fear… For the time being, however: less talk, more rock.

And so let’s just check out a song from the Rolling Stones instead and enjoy our Sunday.

The one thing that I would like to draw attention to here is how effectively the Stones use the names of London neighborhoods to convey what’s really going on in the story. The girl in the song has a mother who owns a block in St. John’s Wood, but now that she has fallen from her lofty perch, she is forced to get her kicks in Stepney, not in Knightsbridge any more. The poor darling. Even if you don’t know where these places are (and why should you?), you can probably guess what they “mean.”

London is a city of neighborhoods, and these neighborhoods all mean very specific things to Londoners. (This is where the lengthy discussion of class consciousness in the UK would go…)  You’ll probably notice in the 94 songs still to come that there will be a LOT of references to London neighborhoods, since they serve as such convenient shorthand for situating a character or an experience in terms of social class.

To start to get you oriented, here’s a pretty decent map of the neighborhoods in central London. (I hesitate to endorse this map fully, however, because of the egregious apostrophe in St. Jame’s. Come on, now…)

London Neighborhoods

London Neighborhoods

You’ve probably seen a lot of these names before (in novels; in films; on television; in songs), and may even have some sense of what some of them “mean” already. A lot of our time in London is going to be spent exploring these neighborhoods, delving into their history and engaging with their present, and so it would probably be a worthwhile thing over the coming months for you to spend some time playing around with maps of London and getting familiar with the names of key neighborhoods.

Mick Jagger

Mick Jagger


One thought on “6. The Rolling Stones – Play With Fire (1965)

  1. Allison Outhit says:

    Never mind the apostrophe – that map is just plan crappy. Where are Brixton and Clapham and Mile End and Bethnal Green, and why is Notting Hill given as Nottinghill? Well anyway. Oh, and what about Nigel Tufnel’s home turf of Squatney? Where’s that?

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