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32  | Top 100
'Streets Of London'
Ralph McTell
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The tag ‘one-hit-wonder’ can be a heavy burden to carry – but not for Ralph McTell. His song “Streets Of London” rocketed to number two in 1974, selling 90,000 copies a day at one point, and is generally regarded as a classic. McTell wrote the song after
Ralph McTell
Song facts
Composer Ralph McTell
Genre Folk
Album Spiral Staircase
Year of release 1969
UK Chart Position 2
busking around Europe in his early twenties and witnessing extreme poverty in Paris. Not wishing to offend Parisians, he changed the setting to London, but felt the song was too depressing and left it off his debut album.  However, when a fellow folk star began playing it live with great success, McTell included the song on his second album, 1969’s Spiral Staircase. “Streets Of London” soon became a firm favourite in UK folk circles and when McTell signed to a major label in 1974, they convinced him to re-record it with a backing band. McTell produced the re-recording himself then watched in amazement as it soared up the charts, peaking at number two that Christmas. Since then it’s never really gone away. At one point there were four versions of it in the German charts and it earned him an Ivor Novello Award for songwriting. But although McTell never again tasted that level of success, he refuses to consider it an albatross and instead says he’s just happy to have recorded such a perennial favourite.

Ralph McTell on how he wrote Streets Of London
Ralph McTell
I could have so easily been the Streets Of Paris! Ralph McTell reveals to Brian Matthew his observations on the homeless situation while living in Paris - "I couldn't help but notice the many destitute people on the streets there".

 

Other versions
Sinead O'Connor
 Sinead O'Connor recorded Ralph McTell's big song as an additional track on her Thank You For Hearing Me single in 1994.

The words are so meaningful for any generation as the same problems of loneliness seem to occur again and again.


Marianne

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