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70. ‘London Loves’

On ‘Parklife’. Produced by Stephen Street.

On tour in America in late 1993, Damon had bought a second-hand portable sequencer – a Yamaha QY 10 – for $100 in San Francisco. That night, at the city’s Phoenix Hotel, he roped a terribly hungover Dave Rowntree to teach him how to program it. The process took some time. “It’s a little machine with a keyboard, a drum machine, a sampler…” Dave remembers. “I think it’s even got a groupie in there.” With Dave gone, Damon tapped in the fidgety rhythm (based on the early ‘80s beats of the Talking Heads offshoot Tom Tom Club) that begin ‘London Loves’.

For the lyrics, Damon was drawn towards the repellent character of Keith Talent in Martin Amis’ 1989 novel London Fields. Although the anti-heroes of ‘London Loves’ and London Fields agree to disagree on affairs of transport (the oafish protagonist of ‘London Loves’ drives a Japanese car; Talent favors a Cavalier), there are, nonetheless, moments of unalloyed symbiosis. One of these is the line “shoots like an arrow”. Keith Talent was a budding darts champion. In darts parlance, the darts are known as “arrows”. For a while, the working title for ‘Parklife’ was ‘Magic Arrows’. Say what you like about Damon Albarn, he knows his darts.

Meanwhile, in Graham-land, things were hotting up. Urged by Street to come up with something nasty for ‘London Loves’, Graham based his starting solo (at 1.44) on the guitar break in Davis Bowie’s 1980 hit single ‘Fashion’ (played by Robert Fripp). Indeed, ‘London Loves’ had a working title of ‘Fripp’. The traffic report (3.16) was taped by Damon off GLR on the morning the song was mixed.

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