Noel Coward: London Pride (1941)

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Noel Coward: London Pride (1941)

A glance at the year puts this classic Noel Coward song into the context of its era. It was the height of the Second World War and London was being battered by the Blitz.

Coward was real Londoner who, when playing truant from school, would roam the streets and watch the trains at Clapham Junction and Victoria Station.

It's no coincidence then at he was at Paddington Station when the idea of London Pride came to him as he observed hardy locals stepping around the destruction and going about their daily lives, despite it all.

"In 1941, the real sharp lights of London shone through the blackout with a steady brilliance that I shall never forget," he said later.

At the same time he wrote Could You Please Oblige Us With A Bren Gun? but it is London Pride which is the more enduring.

He admitted he took the tune from an old street song of London flower sellers. He said it was Won't You Buy My Sweet Blooming Lavender? but others have said it sounds similar to Who'll Buy My Violets?

There is also, ironically, a similarity to Deutschland Uber Alles.

It is a romantic song in many ways, but also taps into the resilience of Londoners and, as Paul Du Noyer notes in his excellent book In The City; A Celebration of London Music, "[it] begins amid the 'coster barrows' and expands into a meditation on the city's collective memory, preserved by tradition, imprinted in the very streets".

And it also -- in its final verse -- refers directly to the Blitz and how the city's resolve just toughens with each assault. 

For other one-off songs with a bit of history or an interesting back-story see From the Vaults.

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