During the last two years I have collected a lot of things about Ralph McTell: from articles of journals to comments written by musical critics, from thoughts spoken by his colleagues, like Al Stewart, to essays of his fans. Beh!! We can say that I have a reasonable culture about him, about his art and about his songs. In two years of work for his Italian website, I have known the career of a man, that it’s started almost together my birth and that just today, after many years, is in full swing.
The song, that has marked the begin of his sparkling career, even if we remember him not only for this song, is the famous Streets of London and with this song, that I, as many people, have known Ralph McTell. In particular I was attracted by the title, so that I started to listen to it over and over again. The words with passionate and melodious voice of Ralph let me dream:
“Let me take you by the hand
And lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind”.
These words let me dream London, English people, his way of life ….. I closed my eyes …… and I was there.
Only after, reading one of his autobiography I have discovered that the song that made me a lot of dreams about London, in reality it was written by Ralph in France and in particular in Paris.
McTell writes (Summer Lighting p. 308): ”…. we were stunned to learn after a few nights elsewhere that one of them had frozen to death on the streets the previous night. It was perhaps a couple of days later, turning left out of the hotel, that I noticed a pile of snow about a metre high begin to move.
Now I knew the real reason of the song.
Then I have listened to the song paying my attention about all words. It tells about alone people, that live on the road, carrying their home in two carrier bags and without time to make a pause for talking with somebody. What upsetting thing!!!
So the words, that make me a lot of dreams, were only an invite to see the problems of unfortunate people, the people that live “differently” by us, of the people that hasn’t nothing outside herself.
Streets of London involves me for the pain, too, that I prove towards all unfortunate people.
I might define this song as one about compassion, giving to this word a large meaning, compassion that Ralph wanted to transmit all us with his piece, compassion that you feel in a different way whenever listening to this piece.
Of course a so beautiful and engaging song cannot fascinate only me, and thanks to a lot of research I have discovered that there are 200 covers and more.
This song has been performed by a lot of big artists like Beatles, Cliff Richard, Cilla Black, Harry Belafonte and by other less famous .
And more I know, that, thanks an interview of Ralph, it is the song chosen in a lot of folk clubs both in this time than in the past and that in some of this clubs there are turns to perform it. I believe that all this is very gratifying for an artist.
For all covers there are a lot of interpretations of it.
Some of they for me are wonderful like that Cilla Black and Dana Winner and accordingly the others are less captivating.
It’s been translated in different language, in fact I have a version in German, nevertheless the language is very hard, the song preserves its glamour without any alteration .
Also there are some versions only instrumental (1 - 2) and of course they are … wonderful.
Maybe Ralph didn’t know to compose a so beautiful song and he didn’t imagine that Streets of London, the masterpiece Streets of London, could change his life rendering him very famous.
On my opinion we must compare STREETS OF LONDON to those films, that are determine film-cult.
I believe that all this isn’t an exaggeration, but it is due towards Ralph.
However thank you Ralph for your masterpiece.
My personal collection of covers (updated on 09/02/2005):
?? - Streets of London
Anti-Nowhere League (live)
Cliff Richard (Live)
David Canteini - Red Rock
De Gyldne Løver - Byens Gader
DJ Didi feat. Dr. Nick & JestersTear
Eddy Belly Sings
Evans and Doherty
Fade 2 Black
Gerard Cox - Donker London
Heart Of England Jazz Band
Jasmine Bonnin - Strassen unserer stadt
John Allan Cameron
No stress III
Norske Viseperler - Finn Kalvik - En Tur Rundt I Byen
Red, White & Blue
Roger Whittaker (live)
The flower of romance
The Ray Hamilton Ballroom Orchestra
The Stars Unlimited Singers
Tommy Makem - Liam Clancy
Stef Meeder - Apres Toi
Tomek Opoka - Streets of London (instrumental)