Monday, October 29, 2012

I doubt I'll ever forget the precise moment I stepped onto the Westbound Platform at Earls Court tube station. It was seven years ago and I had just arrived in London, via Tokyo. The first thing I saw was an indie kid sitting cross-legged on the platform, with guitar case and sandy coloured rucksack featuring an intricate Queen crest, evidently drawn with black ball-point pen. Even though I was completely shattered, I couldn't help but smile to myself, London is just as I imagined it.

I had arrived with this heavy expectation that Londoners would get it. At that point, I had been so intent upon finding these musical connections, finding friends who shared a voracious passion for English pop. I never consciously realised that even then, the promise of that bond had become so essential to the mythology of a musical London. On some level, the musical pilgrimage celebrates that accidental occurrence of meeting someone and creating something great.

I've been rather fortunate in finding those connections, even momentarily. I grin when I recall discussions of Erasure in the muddy fields of Hyde Park or Johnny Thunders in an underground vault in Mayfair and Mr Flagio in a closing pub in Dalston. The thrill of the connection has never diminished, although I now find myself spoiled by local friends who share that voracious passion, who speak endlessly of an imagined London that we seem to have missed.

Joy Division by Anton Corbijn, at Lancaster Gate

I wouldn't say I've necessarily abandoned my search for the musically requited. Indeed, I think I've found a new way of loving that city, clinging to its meanings and associations in solidarity. There's something really potent about being alone on the London Underground, running down curved corridors, listening to songs which make everything seem so cinematic. The Piccadilly Trail on the Central Line, Automatic Lover on the Jubilee Line.

London promises more than I could ever articulate, but it's one of the reasons I find myself so desperately in love with the place. It's bound to be fraught with the threat of disappointment, what with its intense level of expectation. But even without the punks on the King's Road, without the pigeons at Trafalgar Square, without the fumes of Paddington station, it's a place that manages to fill me completely, in a way that far exceeds any passing discussion about music.

Cassettes & Chocolate Milk: London Podcast #49
The Smiths - London (Peel Session)
Elvis Costello - (I Don't Want To Go To) Chelsea
The Libertines - Boys in the Band
The Clash - Rudie Can't Fail
The Exits - Cheam
The Jam - Down at the Tube Station At Midnight (Live)
Eugene McGuinness - A Child Lost in Tesco
Pet Shop Boys - West End Girls

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