Streets Of London

Album: Spiral Staircase (1969)
Charted: 2
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  • This song was originally about some individual people Ralph McTell met in the French capital while busking and hitchhiking throughout Europe, but when he realized there was already a song called "Poor People Of Paris," he changed the title to "Streets Of London."
  • This was not released as a single until 1974, five years after it first appeared on Spiral Staircase.
  • McTell had originally written this song when he recorded his debut album Eight Frames a Second, which was released in early 1968. However he left it off, as he regarded it as too depressing.Ralph McTell: "In one day, Streets sold 90,000 copies and it was #2 by Christmas. There were 3 versions in the German charts - all by me! Streets also sold more sheet music than any song since the war. I formed a Rock band just before the record was a hit, but of course we never played Streets. Audiences didn't like the band, so I announced my retirement and went off to America in a fit of pique. Streets opened more doors than it closed. The song is still played all over the world and even schoolchildren in the Himalayas have been heard singing it." (from One Hit Wonders, by Chris Welch and Duncan Soar) >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England, for all above
  • Bert Jansch played on this as an afterthought after McTell had recorded the Scottish folk singer performing the carol 'In The Bleak Midwinter' earlier in the day. McTell recalled to Uncut magazine January 2013: "It's funny how things work out. The plan was to make a Christmas single for Bert, but I ended up having the festive hit. Bert was very humble, though, he always told me he made more money from '...London' than almost any of his own records."

    Interestingly, during an interview with NME October 18, 1975 Bert Jansch praised McTell's Streets… album but was scathing about this song saying it was "so obvious" adding it had "no mystery about" it.
  • Over two hundred artists have recorded covers of this song including Sinead O'Connor who did a cover as an additional track on her "Thank You For Hearing Me" single in 1994. Other artists include Cliff Richard, Mary Hopkin, Anti-Nowhere League and Roger Whittaker.
  • Ralph McTell: "In one day, Streets sold 90,000 copies and it was #2 by Christmas. There were three versions in the German charts - all by me! Streets also sold more sheet music than any song since the war. I formed a rock band just before the record was a hit, but of course we never played Streets. Audiences didn't like the band, so I announced my retirement and went off to America in a fit of pique. Streets opened more doors than it closed. The song is still played all over the world and even schoolchildren in the Himalayas have been heard singing it." (From One Hit Wonders by Chris Welch and Duncan Soar).
  • McTell won the Ivor Novello Award for Songwriting for this song in 1974.
  • Ralph was presented with a Gold disc of Spiral Staircase at his 60th birthday concert in 2004.
  • UK Punk group Anti-Nowhere League released a thrash version in 1982 peaking at #48 on the UK singles chart. The single was originally banned and copies seized by the police after the profanity-laden B-Side "So What" was considered to be obscene.
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Comments: 2

  • Thyrocyte from Bangkok, ThailandThis song reminds all of us that there always be some other people who are suffering more than we are. Somehow, these people can go on their lives. So, there is no use to let ourselves down. No use to waste our time moaning. We have to get up and fight for our goals to achieve whatsoever we want.

    Its music seems to be sorrowful but the lyric is encouraging anyway.
  • Kerry G. from Detroit Rock City, MiWOW, thats beautiful. One of the best songs ever made.
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