Sunday, August 12, 2012

As long as I gaze on Waterloo sunset I am in paradise

London 2012 has, apparently, succeeded in changing international perceptions about many things British, including its food (a little worrying considering the only relatively British food sponsor of the Games is Cadbury's...).

Such perceptive changes haven't been without the projection of other examples of British iconography. Like public transport.

It is one of our national obsessions: when not complaining about the weather, Brits are having a go at overcrowded trains, buses turning up in threes or not at all, and taxis becoming invisible at the slightest drop of rain.

Appropriately, Britain's handover during the Beijing closing ceremony four years ago combined public transport with music - arguably our strongest cultural asset - with Jimmy Page on the top deck of a double-decker London bus riffing out Whole Lotta Love.

Having picked up the music mantle again during the London 2012 opening ceremony, the theme comes full circle tonight for the finale, which will include the Spice Girls performing from the roofs of a quintet of black taxis. Once again, the stops have been well and truly pulled out: this might be the first time five cabs are seen together in London after 9pm on a Sunday night.

The appearance of Mouthy, Ballsy, Cutesy, Mumsy and Pouty will be part of a suite organisers are calling A Symphony of British Music. It will be a megamix of 30 songs spanning 50 years, seemlessly bridged by original links created by musical director and James Bond composer David Arnold. Certainly we can expect another musical evening of the truly 'best of British'.

"It’s going to be beautiful, cheeky, cheesy, camp, silly and thrilling," Arnold has promised, covering as many bases of the British musical oeuvre as it's possible to cover, and pledging to ensure something for everyone. That means we could have a show that ranges from Adele and Tinie Tempah, to Liam Gallagher's Beady Eye (reportedly) and Eric Idle performing the oh-so-ironic (and possibly tiresomely-so) Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life. Yes. Very funny. Yay for British self-deprecation.

There will also be something of a late-80s Brit Awards line-up as well, with George Michael marking his remarkable recovery from near-fatal pneumonia, along with Annie Lennox and, it is rumoured, Kate Bush (though seeing as she hasn't toured since 1979 and last played live at a David Gilmour show in 2002, it will be interesting to see how she does in front of 80,000 people).

Speaking of Gilmour, Yorkshire's very own guitar-strumming hobbit Ed Sheeran let slip this week that he will be performing Wish You Were Here with one or several of the surviving members of Pink Floyd, though we don't yet know whom. Rooftop-bothering Queen guitarist Brian May will, though, be involved (Hammer To Fall anyone?), as well as the greatest band to come out of Shepherd's Bush, The Who. Not sure what they'll perform, but I'd imagine Baba O'Reilly, with its "teenage wasteland" line, would be well out of place. That said, I'm not sure either Who Are You? or Won't Get Fooled Again would be any more appropriate....

There are more unlikely rumours about Sir Elton John (presumably not joined by "fairground stripper" Madonna...) and the Rolling Stones taking part, and yet another outing for Sir Paul McCartney trawling The Beatles back catalogue.

The evening's guaranteed raised neck hair moment will come from Ray Davies performing The Kinks' Waterloo Sunset, perhaps the greatest song written about London (even if it was originally going to be about Liverpool).

As gloriously ironic as it is iconic, Waterloo Sunset was Davies' melancholic take on hope in post-war Britain, its protagonists Terry and Julie representing the dreams of a generation embarking on a new adventure.

45 years after it was recorded, it will play its part in concluding London's staging of what have been an incredible Olympic Games. From beginning to end, music has been an integral element.

Team GB has made Bowie's Heroes its own, while Queen's We Will Rock You has been keeping the beach volleyball going long into the night in Horse Guards Parade, much to the apparent annoyance of Prime Minister David Cameron around the corner in Downing Street.

Not a bad idea: the US Army made Manuel Noriega surrender by playing The Clash's I Fought The Law around the clock at deafening levels. Maybe Freddie & Co might have the same effect?

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