This wasn’t the first track of the comeback trail. Blur had sneak peeked us with Fools Day on Record Store Day in 2010. It had looked a little like one of those ‘Previously Unreleased’ bolt-ons that comes about just to service a compilation album and get the completists except it wasn’t.
It was a limited edition single sided seven-inch and the next day it was a free download on the band’s website. It meant Blur were back from a seven-year hiatus. It also meant all 4 members were on the disc this time. But it was hardly a new dawn. More a registering of interest.
Then they went on their little tour which grew and grew until it became a monumental Hyde Park extravaganza in 2009. Just three years later all we’d heard from them was that one track and the idea that they were ‘somehow still about’.
In 2012 the UK experienced a summer of optimism and buoyant mood the likes of which it hadn’t seen or felt since the Year of Britpop. The Olympics had everyone sunbathing under Union Jack Swimwear and throwing parties every weekend.
To commemorate their return to Hyde Park two summers later but with nary a new tune to justify the event Blur decided London 2012 needed a new anthem.
“There were blue skies in my city today, everything was sinking, said snow would come on Sunday, the old school was due and the traffic grew upon the Westway”
For those of you not from deez ends, The Westway is an elevated road running from Paddington to North Kensington (that’s right over Shepherd’s Bush). It’s the bit of the A40 The Clash sang about on London’s Burning. It was photographed as the backdrop for the sleeve of The Jam’s This Is The Modern World and on the front of Bloc Party’s A Weekend In The City. 80’s indie poppets Scritti Politti, Libertine side projects Dirty Pretty Things & Pete Doherty in his solo era and ponderous 70’s proggers Sky have all mentioned it in their lyrics.
When Don (The Rebel Dread) Letts made his movie about The Clash he titled it Westway To The World because of the prominence of that concrete monstrosity of modernization (it went up in the mid to late 60’s when the face of London was being changed forever) is the fastest way out of the city.
“Fallen under the spell of the distance between us when we communicate, still picking up shortwave, somewhere they’re out in space, it depends how you’re wired when the night’s on fire, Under the Westway”
As Welsh Britpop sensations Catatonia made their entry into the chapters of The Big Book Of London Songs singing ‘I Come alive outside the M25’ on Londinium it becomes clear. The importance of the capital is not just where it sits but how the rest of the world gets into or out of the damned place.
Be it on Lord Kitchener’s invitation to the Windrush, up the river like Albarn’s Northern Whale or “taking off from Heathrow” like Hard-Fi sang on Move On Now The City of Sir John Betjeman’s Cockney Amorist is the place to be even if it’s just to leave it behind, to travel far and wide and tell everyone you meet that…
“Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner, that I love London so.”