Jools Holland embarks on a personal journey through the streets, historical landmarks, pubs, music halls and rock ‘n’ roll venues of London to uncover a history of the city through its songs, the people who wrote them and the Londoners who joined in the chorus.
Unlike Chicago blues or Memphis soul, London has no one definitive sound. Its noisy history is full of grime, clamour, industry and countless different voices demanding to be heard. But there is a strain of street-wise realism that is forever present, from its world-famous nursery rhymes to its music hall traditions, and from the Broadside Ballad through to punk and beyond.
Jools’s investigation – at once probing and humorous – identifies the many ingredients of a salty tone that could be called ‘the London sound’ as he tracks through the centuries from the ballads of Tyburn Gallows to Broadside publishing in Seven Dials in the 18th century, to Wilton’s Music Hall in the late 19th century, to the Caribbean sounds and styles that first docked at Tilbury with the Windrush in 1948, to his own conception to the strains of Humphrey Lyttelton at the 100 Club in 1957.
Along the way, he meets musicians such as Ray Davies, Damon Albarn, Suggs, Roy Hudd, Lisa Hannigan, Joe Brown and Eliza Carthy who perform and talk about such classic songs as London Bridge is Falling Down, While London Sleeps, Knocked ‘Em in the Old Kent Road, St James Infirmary Blues and Oranges and Lemons.