As the Olympics are in swing this week, it seemed appropriate to make a mixtape about the United Kingdom from the artists who originated there. The influence that England alone has had on the course of music in the past half century has been astounding, so rather than try to honor all of the amazing British bands of the recent era (special shout out to last minute cuts the Rolling Stones, the Clash, and David Bowie), these songs will (for the most part) focus on their understanding of the current Olympic host country.
1. “God Save the Queen” — The Sex Pistols:
My father made the mistake of telling me that the Sex Pistols would be performing at the Olympic opening ceremony. My immediate thought was how ironic that would be, given they’ve always been particularly critical of the British government. In addition to being one of the bands that created and embodied punk, this song’s final chorus of “no future, no future” has such energy and rawness to it.
2. “Me and the Major” — Belle & Sebastian:
The United Kingdom is more than just England, and Belle & Sebastian unfortunately have to represent the entirety of Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. In particular to having a particularly British personality in most of their music, this song about the older generation’s view of the younger generation, in particular the use of a member of the British armed forces to represent this view, is fantastic.
3. “My Generation” — The Who:
This song is a perfect pair for “Me and the Major,” for on it the Who are giving an example of the younger generation’s view of itself. While they aren’t specifically talking about the British youth, you’d have to imagine they were more familiar with the British youth than the Americans at that moment in their career.
4. “Exit Music (For A Film)” — Radiohead:
Like the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, this playlist will attempt to make a tribute to not only British music, but other elements of the British arts. This song, as many of you probably know, was written for a film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. This combination of one of the world’s greatest writer’s with one of the world’s greatest bands is a real gem.
5. “Cemeteries of London” — Coldplay:
One of the great elements of a European country over America is the rich histories which accompany most locations. Having recently finished the absolute Sandman collection (written by British author Neil Gaiman), this song perfectly blends mystery of both the real and imagined mood of ancient places throughout the United Kingdom, especially the Olympics host city.
6. “The Queen is Dead” — The Smiths:
Song two of three explicitly about the queen, the Smiths represent something marvelous about British music. In England, the majority of what is played on radio is called “indie” because of early indie-pop bands like the Smiths who so defined the sound that people there both loved and created.
7. “Teardrop” — Massive Attack:
Most people know this song for its use as the title song for the American t.v. show House M.D. However, as both the band and the lead actor Hugh Laurie are English, this song’s inclusion seemed reasonable. That, and the great vocals that accompany this haunting track oh so well.
8. “Wish You Were Here” — Pink Floyd:
I had to include just one more giant of British music. I chose Pink Floyd because I have a close friend from Cambridge, England, who went to the secondary school where a member of Pink Floyd also attended. I chose this song because it’s my favorite song by this band (although if someone could tell me which one is Pink, I’d really appreciate it). The emotional strain in the vocals and the deliberate static and distortion make this one of many highlights of British music.
9. “Angels” — The xx:
The xx are one of many British bands that are currently releasing amazing and innovative music and will ensure that Britain are always leaders in music. This track is a teaser from their album that will be released later this year.
10. “Her Majesty” — The Beatles:
When Paul McCartney played “The End,” for the opening ceremonies, I really hoped that he would then perform the almost a mistake hidden track from Abbey Road that follows it on album. Instead he performed his tour staple “Hey Jude,” which, while fun, will forever go down as a great missed opportunity in my mind.