I’ve teamed up with the lovely Steve from Steve Says to compile a comparison set of lists about why we love our country. He’s Scottish, I’m English, and even though we are currently both part of the United Kingdom we thought it might be fun to see the differences between the two…
Our first topic in the series is Music.
I’m proud to be English, and I’m proud that England has produced some of the greatest musicians and songwriters of all time. Steve’s list was very patriotic, but I couldn’t stomach listing things like ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ and ‘Jerusalem’ – they’re brilliant pieces of music and I’m always uplifted when I hear them, but I wanted to branch out a little. My list (that isn’t in any particular order) represents songs that I feel are quintessentially part of English culture and performed by English artists.
1. Bohemian Rhapsody: Queen
This frequently tops music polls as being one of the greatest songs ever written, performed by one of England’s greatest bands, selling 7.5 millions copies worldwide. (Yes, I know that Freddie Mercury was born in Tanzania before anyone points this out…).
2. London Calling: The Clash
Written by Joe Strummer and Mick Jones, this song alludes to the the BBC World Service’s station identification: “This is London calling …”, which was used during World War II, often in broadcasts to occupied countries. The song, written during a time of upheaval and unrest throughout English society is a classic.
3. Life On Mars: David Bowie
Ah, Bowie. I love this song. My friends love this song. My family loves this song. Everybody loves this song. Why? Because it’s a great song. I went to the Bowie exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum last year and saw the suit that he wears in the video, which was surpisingly tiny.
4. Paranoid: Black Sabbath
I love the fact that I live in the city where Black Sabbath were formed. Ozzy Osbourne’s house is a tourist attraction, to the point where the front door of the house keeps being stolen by fans. I’ve no idea how it’s possible to steal a door, but the story always makes me smile.
5. Hey Jude: The Beatles
It wouldn’t be a list without The Beatles. No English music list should ever be without The Beatles. My problem was with which song, and for this I had to ask those around me. Hey Jude topped the list of nearly 100 songs that were suggested, possibly because this is the song that Paul McCartney performs during every major event that they drag him out for.
6. You’ll Never Walk Alone: Rodgers and Hammerstein (Gerry and the Pacemakers version)
I’m taking liberties with this one. Yes, it was written by two Americans for the musical ‘Carousel,’ but this song is so intrinsically linked with English culture that I couldn’t leave it out, so I’ve taken the Gerry and the Pacemakers version. It is the main football (yes, football, not all this ‘soccer’ rubbish I’ve had to read about over the last few months) anthem for Liverpool Football Club and is consequently sang in every match by the fans and has been done so since the 1960’s. The song’s title adorns the top of the Shankly Gates, which were unveiled on 2 August 1982 in memory of former manager Bill Shankly.
7. Never Gonna Give You Up: Rick Astley
Lots of you may associate this with the popular internet meme ‘Rik Rolling.’ However, for me, Rick Astley was one of my favourite pop stars in my childhood and early teens. To this day, I can guarantee that during any party and in an English nightclub the DJ will play this song at some point throughout the night. For me, it represents the ‘Stock, Aitkin and Waterman’ era of English pop ie. the time just before shell suits. I had a shell suit.
8. White Cliffs of Dover: Dame Vera Lynn (Robson and Jerome version)
This is a popular Second World War song made famous by Vera Lynn with her 1942 version – one of her best-known recordings. Written in 1941 by Walter Kent with words by Nat Burton and was designed to lift the spirits of the Allies at a time when the Germans had conquered much of Europe and were bombing Britain. It was created about a year after British and German aircraft had been fighting over the cliffs of Dover in the Battle of Britain. And for you non-Brits out there, here’s a bit of trivia. You may recognise the blonde singer, Jerome Flynn, in Game of Thrones. He plays the character Bronn. Yes, my friends, Bronn was a pop star. A pop star.
9. Wannabe: The Spice Girls
I met The Spice Girls, just before they released ‘Wannabe.’ They were performing at ‘Party in the Park’ in Preston, and I went over afterwards to say hello as they were signing autographs. I didn’t have a pen or anything for them to sign, so I didn’t bother staying around for long and walked away, remarking to my friend that they would be ‘one hit wonders.’ I walked away from The Spice Girls without getting their autographs. When there were five of them. Before they became the biggest girl band of all time. Sh*t.
10. Back For Good: Take That
Before One Direction, there was (and still is) Take That. These down-to-earth English working-class men swept the UK charts in the 1990’s and late 2000’s, turning myself and millions of teenagers into screaming mush. They’re still the biggest selling boy band of all time, they’re still touring to sold out stadiums and they are the perfect representation of how a boy band SHOULD be done. I still can’t get over the fact that there are people out there who haven’t heard of them – they’re as famous as Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Jonny Depp, Robert Downey Jr and George Clooney over here (ooh, now there’s a boy band I’d like to see)…
11: Baggy Trousers: Madness
Like Paul McCartney, Madness are dragged out and shoved on stage during every major event. It’s a great song, and is guaranteed make grown English men start dancing like the chimney sweeps from Mary Poppins every time it is played.
12. Back To Black: Amy Winehouse
I was obsessed with the Black To Black album. What a talent, what a voice, what a loss.
13. Anarchy in the UK: The Sex Pistols
I couldn’t leave out the Sex Pistols. They were crude, rude and basic musicians, but they were brilliant performers and continue to be hugely influential on modern day musicians thirty years later.
14. The National Anthem (performed by Brian May on the top of Buckingham Palace).
During the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002 one of England’s greatest guitarists of all time stood on the roof of it’s most famous palace to play the National Anthem. I still get goosebumps even now. The only thing that would have made it more English would be if Brian was wearing the flag, eating fish and chips and drinking a pint of beer…
I’ve made some almost musically blastphemous emissions from the list – The Who, Def Leppard, Iron Maiden, Led Zepplin, Oasis, Blur, Radiohead, UB40, Muse, Adele… so please avoid shouting at me… I’d love to hear your thoughts – what songs should be included?
Do you want to join in? Simply link to mine and Steve’s posts and tell us what songs represent your country and nationality!
Stay tuned for the next installment!
You can also find me on Twitter and Tumblr @suzie81blog