Streets of London (song)
" is a
song written by Ralph McTell. It was first recorded for McTell's 1969 album
Spiral Staircase but was not released in the London as a single until 1974. It was his greatest commercial success,
reaching number two in the United Kingdom
singles chart, at one point selling 90,000 copies a day and winning him the
Ivor Novello Award and a Silver disc for record sales. UK
The song was inspired by McTell's experiences busking and hitchhiking throughout Europe, especially in Paris and the individual stories are taken from Parisians – McTell was originally going to call the song Streets of Paris; eventually London was chosen because he realised he was singing about London. The song contrasts the common problems of everyday people with those of the homeless, lonely, elderly, ignored and forgotten members of society.
McTell left the song off his debut album, Eight Frames a Second, since he regarded it as too depressing, and did not record it until persuaded by his producer, Gus Dudgeon, for his second album in 1969. A re-recorded version charted in the
in April 1972, notching up to #9 the next month. McTell re-recorded
it for the UK single release in 1974. Netherlands
McTell played the song in a fingerpicking style with an AABA chord progression. Over two hundred artists have made covers of this song including Glen Campbell, Harry Belafonte, Cliff Richard, Blackmore's Night, Mary Hopkin, Raffi, Sam Hui, Sinéad O'Connor, Schooner Fare, Anti-Nowhere League, Roger Whittaker, Cleo Laine and Liam Clancy. Its popularity was also the subject of a comedy sketch on BBC show Big Train.
Ralph McTell (born Ralph May, 3 December 1944 is an English singer-songwriter and acoustic guitar player who has been an influential figure on the UK folk music scene since the 1960s.
McTell is best known for his song "Streets of London", which has been covered by over two hundred artists around the world, and for his tale of Irish emigration, "From Clare to Here".
In the 1980s he wrote and played songs for two TV children's programmes, Alphabet Zoo, which also featured Nerys Hughes, followed by Tickle on the Tum, featuring Jacqueline Reddin. Albums were also released from both series. He also recorded Keith Hopwood's and Malcolm Rowe's theme song to Cosgrove Hall's adaptation of The Wind in the Willows, and this was released as a single in 1984 after the series was aired on ITV.
McTell's guitar playing has been modelled on the style of the US's country blues guitar players of the early 20th century, including Blind Blake, Robert Johnson and Blind Willie McTell. These influences led a friend to suggest that he change his professional name to McTell as his career was beginning to take shape.
McTell is also an accomplished performer on piano and harmonica, which he uses on a harness.
Streets Of London Lyrics
Have you seen the old man
In the closed down market
Kicking up the papers,
with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
AND held loosely AT his side
Yesterday's paper telling yesterday's news
Chorus: So how can you tell me you're lonely,
and say for you that the sun don't shine,
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I'll show you something to make you change your mind.
Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags
she just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.
In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven,
Same old man sitting there on his own
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his tea-cup,
each tea lasts an hour,
And he wanders home alone
Have you seen the old man
Outside the Seamen's Mission
Memory fading with the medal ribbons that he wears
In our winter city
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn't care