Original Sounds: London Edition Vol. 1. takes you on a nostalgia-inducing, sonic tour of the cobbled, secret-strewn streets of the Big Smoke, and in doing so pays recognition to the places and faces that cemented it as the world’s music, style and cultural hub that we so much love.
A transportive mix mash of sounds that throw you into the sweaty, tobacco-hazed midst of London’s bygone late-night establishments, you’ll drop in on the likes of The 2i’s, The Flamingo, Ronnie Scott’s, The Palais, The 100, Mud Club, The Blue Note and Dingwalls. It’s within the four walls of these notorious haunts where certain faces shaped the world and also where ones that only burned bright for a brief moment. All of their stories, though, are entwined with a visceral energy that’s simply London through and through.
While our heroes audible outputs varied, there was always one common denominator between them. This was, of course, style. During these periods in London, wearing the look was as important as the music – it was a habitual part of life then. Elements as nondescript as having the right break on your trousers mattered, but not more than having the impactful haircut or a statement pair of shoes and sunglasses. From Tommy Nutter suits with dangerous lapels, Brutus Trimfit checkered shirts and Lewis Leathers biker jackets, the list goes on.
We start our audible mission with Matt Monro, who went from being a bus driver in Shoreditch to becoming London’s very own Sinatra. He was a legend and that was cemented by Sinatra himself. Following Munro’s death, Sinatra said: “If I had to choose three of the finest male vocalists in the singing business, Matt would be one of them. His pitch was right on the nose; his word enunciations letter perfect; his understanding of a song thorough.” Some serious high praise, and so Monro’s smooth voice kicks off proceedings before the amplifier is ramped up and your toes start tapping.
The Kirk Originals of today might not exist if it weren’t for the jazz Modernists of Soho in the late ‘50s, including the young, clean-cut and charmingly dapper pre-Stones Charlie Watts who drew influences from the great American jazzman Charlie Parker, while anchoring that well known R&B Beat Group. That London jazz vibe has been re-imagined and re-kindled over in East London today for which we pay our grateful dues.
The following decade, The Kinks and The Who lead the way in 60s beat music. Ray Davies, of the former, had a wistful take on everyday life in the capital, characterised in his track Muswell Hillbilly. Meanwhile, The High Numbers, who were about to reclaim their original name The Who, continued the journey that started on the Goldhawk Road in west London as destined trailblazers channelling American R&B with a punk-like urgency and image.
Another notable character in the playlist is Mark Feld, who went from being the sweet little rock ’n’ roller to full-on Mod to a starry-eyed hippie. He then culminated as the ultimate Glam Man as Marc Bolan, who’d go on to front T-Rex. Bolan died in 1977, and his fellow cosmic peer David Bowie attended his funeral wearing a pair of frames that inspired the creation of our Anthony model. Bowie was also known for going Glam and then shone brightly as Ziggy on Heddon Street. There, he paid his dues to the great pre-Beatles rocker Vince Taylor, who was discovered in The 2i’s on Old Compton Street; British rock ’n’ roll’s birthplace.
Vince Taylor’s track Brand New Cadillac then drove the scene forward with next level aggression via a smashing cover from The Clash, who came charging out of Ladbroke Grove. Lead by the irrepressible Joe Strummer, The Clash embraced Don Let’s reggae sound system for a unique, London sound.
With their wedge haircuts, jelly shoes, Lois jeans and a hedonistic lust for life, The Southern Soul boys in the late 70s and early 80s filled the basements of Soho and especially The Royalty in Southgate, moving and grooving all night to sounds and a scene that was a precursor to Acid House.
At the same time, the Blitz Kids were moving about and hanging in the basement of the Blitz in Covent Garden. A small-capacity club with a strict you-must-impress-the-bouncer dress code, it’s also where Spandau Ballet started to make a name for themselves. Soul Boys fused with Roxy Music and Bowie became the glamorous face of the New Romantic scene in London
All in all, Original Sounds: London Editions Vol. 1. harnesses the energy of London’s most fearless tribes, those who dared to be different and made an indelible impression on society and mark on culture.