Streets of London (song)

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"Streets of London"
Song by Ralph McTell
from the album Spiral Staircase
Released 1969 Spiral Staircase
1970 Revisited
1971 You Well-Meaning Brought Me Here (US release)
1974 UK single
1975 Streets...
Recorded 1968, 1970, 1971, 1974
Songwriter(s) Ralph McTell

"Streets of London" is a song written by Ralph McTell. It was first recorded for his 1969 album Spiral Staircase but was not released in the United Kingdom as a single until 1974. The song has been covered by over 200 artists.[1] The song was re-released, on 4 December 2017, featuring McTell with Annie Lennox as a charity single for CRISIS the Homelessness Charity.


The song was inspired by McTell's experiences busking and hitchhiking throughout Europe, especially in Paris and the individual stories are taken from Parisians. McTell was originally going to call the song Streets of Paris;[2] eventually London was chosen because he realised he was singing about London.[3] The song contrasts the common problems of everyday people with those of the homeless, lonely, elderly, ignored and forgotten members of society. In an interview on Radio 5 with Danny Baker on 16 July 2016, McTell said that the market he referred to in the song was Surrey Street Market in Croydon.


McTell left the song off his debut album, Eight Frames a Second, since he regarded it as too depressing, and did not record it until persuaded by his producer, Gus Dudgeon, for his second album in 1969. A re-recorded version charted in the Netherlands in April 1972, notching up to #9 the next month.[4] McTell re-recorded it for the UK single release in 1974. McTell played the song in a fingerpicking style with an AABA chord progression.[5]

Commercial performance[edit]

It was his greatest commercial success, reaching number two in the UK Singles Chart, at one point selling 90,000 copies a day[6] and winning him the 1974 Ivor Novello Award for Best Song Musically and Lyrically and a Silver disc for record sales.[7]

2017 Crisis single[edit]

In 2017, Ralph McTell re-recorded the song with Annie Lennox and clients of Crisis, a charity for the homeless in the UK. This was to mark the 50th anniversary both of the song and of the charity Crisis.[8]


  1. ^ "Spiral Staircase". Ralph McTell official website. Retrieved 22 August 2016. 
  2. ^ Ralph McTell: Streets of London. wildfiremedia. 18 June 2009 – via YouTube. 
  3. ^ McCormick, Neil. "The rock star and the prime minister". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 11 October 2012. 
  4. ^ "Streets of London holding on to the #9 slot for the 2nd and last week on Veronica Top 40". 20 May 1972. Archived from the original on 16 June 2011. 
  5. ^ Raven, Michael (1 April 2006). English Folk Guitar. p. 82. ISBN 978-0-906114-74-2. 
  6. ^ "Sold on Song: Streets of London". BBC. Retrieved 16 February 2009. 
  7. ^ "Certified Awards Search: Streets of London". BPI. Retrieved 22 September 2009. 
  8. ^