When I was eight years old, my two favorite songs in the universe were Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” and Ralph McTell’s “Streets of London.” I learned them both from my fourth grade teacher, Miss Clermont, and I sang them both proudly and passionately with my classmates. I remember singing “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” with a patriotic fervor that seemed appropriate (even though I didn’t quite understand what all the lyrics meant) and singing “Streets of London” with a maudlin sort of melodrama that you’ll sometimes find in eight year olds, and not many places else.
In any case, part of me — the sensible part of me — says that this is a TERRIBLE song; but another — embarrassing — part of me still has a soft spot for it. It needs to be on the list, I think, since it turns up on every other list of “Songs about London” you can find (sometimes even getting the Number One spot). But I should probably also acknowledge that Ralph McTell wrote it while backpacking through Europe, and it was originally called “Streets of Paris.” He only changed it to “London” because he thought it sounded better (or would sell more records in England?)
By the way, if this track doesn’t fully appeal to your inner eight-your-old, you can check out this cover version by the Anti-Nowhere League instead. (It’s 1981; the lead singer is named “Animal”; and the guitarist is named “Magoo” — that’s probably all you need to know.) I’ll leave it to Kevin Dunn to weigh in on whether this band is awesome or terrible or both.