Songwriting Basics Section II – Analysis 33: Streets of London

patreon

Bob Leslie is an Independent Scottish Songwriter, Singer, and Recording Artist

frm.gif

Have you seen the old French man? …

Streets of London was inspired by the young Ralph McTell’s experience of  busking  and  hitch-hiking throughout Europe, especially in Paris, and the individual stories recounted in it were based on the lives of people he had encountered in Paris.

It was originally going to be called Streets of Paris. That was eventually changed to London because McTell realised he was visualising London as he was writing it.

The song contrasts the common problems of everyday people with those of  people living on the margins of society. In an interview, he said that the market he referred to in the lyric was Surrey Street Market in Croydon.
rmt.gif

McTell first recorded it on his 1969 album Spiral Staircase but it wasn’t released in the UK as a single until 1974. The song has been covered by over 200 artists.

It has been his greatest commercial success, reaching No. 2 in the UK Singles Chart, and, at one point, sold 90,000 copies a day. Streets of London also won the 1974 Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically and a Silver disc for record sales.

I have heard it performed onstage by a multitude of artists, and, to this day, it remains a staple of acoustic and folky sessions.

…………………………………………………………

Lend an ear and an eye …

eye.gif Streets of London

© 1969 Ralph McTell

SofL.jpg

…………………………………………………………

Pushing the rhythm …

push.gif

 

The verse has 4 stresses per line, accented on the 1st syllable.  

 

The metric feet used run from the lengthy 1st paeon (DUM-dah-dah-dah) to a single accented syllable.

Where V1L2 displays a 1st paeon, other verses  use other 1st-syllable-accented feet (dactyl – DUM-dah-dah, trocheeDum-dah).

V1 
L1 –  2 x 1st paeon2trochee
“|Have you seen the | old man in the | closed-down | mar-ket”

L2 – 21st paeontrocheesingle syllable
Kick-ing up the | pap-ers with his | worn-out | shoes?”

L3 – 1st paeondactyl1st paeondactyl
In his eyes you | see no pride, | hand held loosely | at his side

L4 – dactyl1st paeondactylsingle syllable
Yes-terday’s | pap-er telling | yes-terday’s | news|”

While there are, as noted above, variations from verse to verse, the pattern of emphasis on the first syllable is maintained.

…………………………………………………………

The chorus also has 4 stresses per line, but establishes a contrast by changing to a final-syllable accent in L2

L1 – 2dactyltrocheesingle syllable
“| How can you | tell me you’re | lo-one-|-ly

L2 – 2iamb (dah-DUM), anapest (dah-dah-DUM), iamb
“| And say | for you | that the sun | don’t shine?”

L3 – 41st paeon
“|Let me take you | by the hand and | lead you through the | streets of London”

L4 – dactyl21st paeonsingle syllable
“| I’ll show you | some-thing that’ll | make you change your | mind

…………………………………………………………

A nice rhyming pattern …ptrn.gif

Both verse and chorus have an end-rhyme pattern  of 

A  B  C  B
“market” “shoes”
“side” “news”
“lonely” “shine”
“London” “mind”

In both cases, L3 has an internal rhyme/half-rhyme
“pride” “side”
“hand and” “London”

…………………………………………………………

The key to the mode …km.gif

McTell, in performance, seems to capo anywhere between the 2nd fret and the 4th fret inclusive – presumably depending on what fettle his voice is in.

So, we’ll disregard the capo position, and treat the song as being basically in C major.

There is a brief change, via a common A minor chord, to A dorian from the end of L1 of the chorus to the end of L2, where it resolves back to C major via the common G major chord.

This is a very common move in folk music, as the key and the mode are closely related – differing in only one note:

C  D  E  F  G  A  B  C
A  B  C  D  E  F#  G  A

…………………………………………………………

The melody makes fair use of the notes available, stretching over a full octave from low G to high G.

The title/hookline occurs in every chorus and is reinforced by its repetition in V2.

…………………………………………………………

How does it hold up? …atl.gif

The stress pattern is regular throughout, and the metres used, while varying slightly from verse to verse, maintain the  pushy 1st-syllable accentuation that characterises the verse structure.

The chorus adds some variety to this by having one line reverse that “polarity”.

End-rhymes and internal rhymes follow the same structure all the way through the song.

So, it’s well-constructed in terms of rhythm, has a fair melodic range, a strong hookline, and a subject that excites the sympathies of the listener – not to mention the 200 covers and the Silver disc!

A hit! A palpable hit!

…………………………………………………………

mins.gif

 

Next week, we’ll look at a song by 
that merry minstrel: ME!

 


……………………………………………………………..

Click here to return to Home page

Bob Leslie – Scottish – Traditional – Songwriter

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s