The Paul McCartney Project

London Town

Album This song officially appears on the London Town Official album.
Timeline This song has been officially released in 1978
Sessions This song has been recorded during the following sessions

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Song facts

From Wikipedia:

London Town” is the title and opener track from Wings’ 1978 album London Town.

Writing, recording and release

The song was written by Paul McCartney and Denny Laine in Perth, Australia during the Wings Over the World tour and features a lead vocal by Paul McCartney and backing vocals by Linda McCartney and Laine. A top 40 hit in the United States (number 39 on the Billboard Hot 100), the single topped out at number 43 in Canada and number 60 in the UK. Author Chris Ingham praised the song as one of the best on the album, stating it was “full of the most sensitive pop synthesizer touches.” McCartney biographer Peter A. Carlin called the song “a pleasantly spaced-out perspective on city life.” Tom Waseleski of the Beaver County Times regarded “London Town” as having “more substance” than other of McCartney’s soft rock tracks. Author Tim Riley calls it “willfully sulky.” Beatles’ biographers Roy Carr and Tony Tyler regard “London Town” as an “anachronism,” with several Beatle-esque touches, including opening chords that sound like “Blackbird” and a chord progression similar to that in “The Fool on the Hill.”

From Lost Love In Country Music:

[…] In “London Town” McCartney uses imagery a lot to help the people actually see what he is singing. Paul sings about “silver rain” and a “purple afternoon” so we can visualize what he is saying. When rain falls, it is slick, wet, cold, and clear, this is why McCartney refers to it as silver because when we think of the color silver slick and cold are naturally some words that come to mind. When he speaks of a “purple afternoon” we visualize a deep purple sunset over the horizon bursting with color. McCartney uses few words to describe, but we easily envision so much more due to the strength of his word choice. Paul uses humor in the song by poking fun of the “ordinary people” and their lives. He talks about the actor trying to entertain his wife about his boring life. This line is an example of irony because actors are supposed to be exciting and interesting, but this actor is boring and has to try to exaggerate his struggles (why would you want struggles?). He also says that he was “arrested by a rozzer wearing a pink balloon about his foot”; how does that make any sense? It doesn’t, it’s supposed to be comedic. Not only does he poke fun at specific people, byt he also calls everyone ordinary and implies that no one can hold a complete conversation. McCartney also uses alliteration is his song. He says “Someone Somewhere has to know” and “With the same old storiesof his ordinary life”. Paul even throws a sophisticated rhyme scheme into the song. The last word in every line in each verse rhymes. For example “afternoon” and “tune”, “down” and “town”, “street”, “meet” and “incomplete”, “wife”, “life” and “strife”. Basically the whole song is a motif of all the “ordinary” people of London (local color).

In conclusion, this whole song is pretty much loaded with poetic devices. McCartney uses sophiscated rhyme scheme and satire to overexaggerate the predictible lives of people and their ordinary lives. I think when he is saying “Well, I don’t know oh, where are there places to go someone somewhere has to know” he means that he doesn’t know much out of London and how different people in different places act. Even though there is obviously a lot of meaning behind the song, McCartney lightens it through imagery some humor.

Last updated on October 1, 2016

Lyrics

Walking down the sidewalk on a purple afternoon
I was accosted by a barker playing a simple tune
Upon his flute - toot toot toot toot

Silver rain was falling down
Upon the dirty ground of London Town

People pass me by on my imaginary street
Ordinary people it's impossible to meet
Holding conversations that are always incomplete
Well, I don't know

Oh where are there places to go
Someone somewhere has to know
I don't know

Out of work again the actor entertains his wife
With the same old stories of his ordinary life
Maybe he exaggerates the trouble and the strife
Well, I don't know

Oh, where are there places to go
Someone somewhere has to know

Crawling down the pavement on a Sunday afternoon
I was arrested by a rozzer wearing a pink balloon
About his foot - toot toot toot toot

Silver rain was falling down
Upon the dirty ground of London Town

Someone somewhere has to know
Silver rain was falling down
Upon the dirty ground of London Town

Officially appears on


London Town

Official album • Released in 1978

4:10 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar (?), Bass, Electric guitar (?), Piano, Producer, Synthesizer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Keyboards
Denny Laine:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Electric piano
Jimmy McCulloch:
Electric guitar, Slide guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Joe English:
Drums
Mark Vigars:
Assistant engineer
Pete Henderson:
Assistant engineer
Steve Churchyard:
Assistant engineer

Session Recording:
February 7 to March 31, 1977
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
August 1977
Studio:
Spirit Of Ranachan Studio, Campbeltown, Scotland

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


London Town (1993)

Official album • Released in 1993

4:10 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar (?), Bass, Electric guitar (?), Piano, Producer, Synthesizer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Keyboards
Denny Laine:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Electric piano
Jimmy McCulloch:
Electric guitar, Slide guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Joe English:
Drums
Mark Vigars:
Assistant engineer
Pete Henderson:
Assistant engineer
Steve Churchyard:
Assistant engineer

Session Recording:
February 7 to March 31, 1977
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
August 1977
Studio:
Spirit Of Ranachan Studio, Campbeltown, Scotland

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon

Bootlegs


MoMac's Hidden Tracks Vol.9

Unofficial album

0:54 • Studio rehearsal

Session Recording:
February 7 to March 31, 1977
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road


Water Wings

Unofficial album • Released in 1999

0:59 • Studio version • Studio Run Through in Abbey Road Studio - London.

Recording:
February 1977


Water Wings

Unofficial album • Released in 1999

4:17 • Rough mix • From Stereo 1978 Test Pressing Acetate - With Rough Different Mix


UK Singles Collection - Volume 02

Unofficial album • Released in 2007

4:10 • Studio versionA

Paul McCartney:
Acoustic guitar (?), Bass, Electric guitar (?), Piano, Producer, Synthesizer, Vocals
Linda McCartney:
Backing vocals, Keyboards
Denny Laine:
Acoustic guitar, Backing vocals, Electric guitar, Electric piano
Jimmy McCulloch:
Electric guitar, Slide guitar
Geoff Emerick:
Engineer
Joe English:
Drums
Mark Vigars:
Assistant engineer
Pete Henderson:
Assistant engineer
Steve Churchyard:
Assistant engineer

Session Recording:
February 7 to March 31, 1977
Studio:
EMI Studios, Abbey Road

Session Overdubs:
August 1977
Studio:
Spirit Of Ranachan Studio, Campbeltown, Scotland

Credits & recording details courtesy of Luca Perasi • Buy Paul McCartney: Recording Sessions (1969-2013) on Amazon


Wings Promo Edit Collection

Unofficial album • Released in 2013

3:52 • Studio version • promo edit mono


Videos

Album • London Town

Live performances

Paul McCartney has never played this song in concert.


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Lhap 3 years ago

Hi, anyone knows what "wearing a pink baloon about his foot " means? Tks


The PaulMcCartney Project 3 years ago

Hi Lhap, very relevant question, but no real clue - have forwarded the question on our Facebook page - to see if the wisdom of crowd can help !


Lhap 3 years ago

Thank you for The feedback!


The PaulMcCartney Project 3 years ago

Hi Lhap, Have a look at http://ashleygpos.blogspot.fr/2009/09/london-town-analysis.html , an analysis of the lyrics of London Town (courtesy of a fellow follower of our Facebook page)


Lhap 3 years ago

Thank you again!