STREETS OF LONDON

Posted on Posted in Breedloves's Folk Songs
  • STREETS OF LONDON

    “Streets of London” is a song written by Ralph McTell. It was first recorded for McTell’s 1969 album Spiral Staircase but was not released in the United Kingdom as a single until 1974.
    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. In an interview on Radio 5 with Danny Baker on 16 July 2016 Ralph McTell explained that the market he referred to in the song was Surrey Street Market in Croydon. McTell had often observed an old man there picking through the papers looking for a grapefruit or a carrot.

    Have you seen the old man,
    In the closed down market,
    Picking up the papers,
    With his worn out shoes,
    In his eyes you see no pride,
    And hanging loosely at his side,
    Yesterdays paper,
    Telling yesterdays news,
    So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
    And say for you that the sun don’t shine,
    Well 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,

    And have you seen the old dear,
    Who walks the streets of London,
    Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags,
    She’s no time for talking,
    She just keeps right on walking,
    Carrying her home,
    In two carrier bags,
    So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
    And say for you that the sun don’t,
    Well 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,

    And 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 teacup
    And each tea lasts an hour,
    And he wanders home alone,
    So how can you tell me that you’re lonely,
    And say for you that the sun don’t shine,
    Well 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,

    And have you seen the old man,
    Outside the seaman’s mission,
    Memory fading with the medal ribbons that he wears,
    And in the winter city,
    The rain cries a little pity,
    One more forgotten hero,
    And a World that doesn’t care,
    So how can you tell me that you’re lonely,
    And say for you that the sun don’t shine,
    Well 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.