Camden is known for being a bit rock and roll, a bit edgy in terms of music. So, what should you be listening to when in town? We’ve compiled a handy list for you, so you can just rock out.
Suggs (of Madness fame) wrote this song in 1995 for his album Lone Ranger. Having been a key player in the London music scene for many years, Suggs (AKA Graham McPherson) made Camden’s Dublin Castle (the slightly weathered and now well-known pub in the heart of Camden) his spiritual and musical home alongside his Madness buddies. The raucous times Suggs enjoyed with his friends, and his love for Camden inspired him to pen the lyrics to the song’.
“In Camden town I’ll meet you,
By the underground,
In Camden town, we’ll walk there,
As the sun goes down…”
The song reached #14 in the UK singles charts.
This song was released on the band’s third album in September 2015 and songwriting duties were split between Doherty and Barat. The song traces the band’s story, from their early days to their tabloid fame and infamy. Carl Barat insisted the song needed the sound of an engine revving so he brought a scooter into the studio to record the sound. In the chorus, Pete and Carl compare themselves to “Tin soldiers responding to a call / To Camden we will crawl / One and all”.
The Clash are symbolic of everything that makes Camden great. The rebel punk rockers made Camden their home and reportedly had their first rehearsal there. In late 1976, The Clash shot the front cover of their debut album in Camden in an alleyway by their recording studio, Rehearsals Rehearsals, which was in an abandoned British Rail yard that now forms part of Camden Market. The majority of the album released in 1977 was recorded in the venue. The Prisoner which was released the following year contains the lyrics: “The Prisoner lives in Camden Town/ selling revolution/the prisoner loads his tracking arm up/ with self-disillusion”
This one is more about partying yourself silly in some festival field out in Hampshire, but in the story of the song, Jarvis and his chums wouldn’t have even made it to the festival without the services of a friendly ticket salesman in Camden: “Oh yeah, the pirate radio told us what was going down/ Got the tickets from some f*cked up bloke in Camden Town/ Oh, and no-one seems to know exactly where it is/ But that’s okay ’cause we’re all sorted out for E’s and whizz”.
Amy Winehouse is the unofficial queen of Camden, so much so that they built a statue of her there. Her nights out playing pool in The Good Mixer and indulging in all the excesses that sadly led to her demise, among a cast of rag tag celebrity pals, made her a Camden legend. Her beautiful voice and song writing ability only make her story more tragic, and are immortalised in her famous song Back to Black.
This mournful lament is typical Morrissey fair and name checks the great Camden Town in its title. In an interview with i-D magazine in 2004, he said: “The song is about a particular person. I have a history, yes. And that whole time in my life is a very emotive period for me.” This person is assumed to be friend and photographer Jake Walters with whom Morrissey lived in Camden in the mid-90s.
For punks, it all started in 1976 and Camden was ground zero. This is also the same year that Camden Market opened. In their anarchic, anti-establishment anthem, the Pistols tell us there is ‘no future’. For them, barring a few shaky reunion gigs over the years, this has turned out to be largely true.
In a weekend that will go down in punk history, on July 4th 1976 American punk band, The Ramones took to the Roundhouse stage, supported by The Stranglers. The next night, both bands played at Dingwalls. The legendary two day punk fest is remembered as a rallying cry for the burgeoning punk scene in the UK. “Hey Ho! Let’s Go!” They shouted. And the punks followed.
Before punk, before Johnny Rotten and before anyone had decided to stick a safety pin anywhere on their clothing for anything other than practical reasons, Camden was already hosting legendary gigs. In 1966, Pink Floyd played their debut gig at the Roundhouse. It was an all night party, where the consumption of psychedelic drugs is likely to have reached astronomical levels. Arnold Layne is the Floyd’s debut single, penned by troubled genius Syd Barrett.