I’m an avowed Anglophile, in love with just about everything that’s ever come out of the British Isles, so it wasn’t terribly hard for me to put together a collection of tracks which reference England in their titles in some fashion. They aren’t all by British artists, but of the two who aren’t, one was certainly pale enough to pass for a citizen of the UK, and the other takes to task those women who are smitten by a dude with a British accent. I can’t really blame them, though; I’ve had a crush on many a female singer from across the pond just because they sounded cute.
"Born in the UK," Badly Drawn Boy (Born in the UK)
I dug the first album well enough, but I must admit that I didn’t love it enough to put the Boy onto my "Must Buy" list, and as a result, I hadn’t really followed his career very closely. Fortunately, however, David Medsker had, and he regularly informed me that I really should check out this record. I did, and – hey, what do you know? – David was right.
"A New England," Billy Bragg (Back to Basics)
They call him the Big-Nosed Bard of Barking (though probably not to his face), and I can still remember my first encounter with him music. I picked up this very cassette – that’s right, I bought lots and lots of albums on tape, and I’m not ashamed to admit it – on a whim, and I was absolutely blown away by the combination of his politically-charged lyrics and unabashedly British accent.
"England 2 Colombia 0," Kirsty MacColl
It’s only appropriate to feature the late Ms. MacColl immediately after Mr. Bragg, given that she, too, once recorded "A New England." That was in the early years of her career, however, while this particular track comes from her Latin-inspired swan song.
"Made in England," Elton John (Made in England)
There are those who absolutely cannot stomach anything released by Elton John outside of his ‘70s heyday, but I’m not one of them. Yes, there’s plenty of schmaltz to be found within his ‘80s output, but this jolly little number never fails to put a grin on my face.
"Irish Blood, English Heart," Morrissey (You Are the Quarry)
Even as a longtime Mozzer fan, I never would’ve expected him to have come back from his self-imposed recording hiatus with a single this strong. It was a spectacular return to form, and if it didn’t necessarily last beyond this album (sorry, I still don’t love Ringleader of the Tormentors), it was still a roaring success for that one shining moment.
"English Country Garden," The Darkness (One Way Ticket to Hell…and Back)
Either you liked the Darkness or you hated them, and I was definitely in the former camp, which meant that I was one of the few Americans who cared about their second album. I knew from the get-go that their influences were way too heavy on British rock from the ‘70s to make a significant impact in the States, but it’s still a shame they imploded immediately after this record hit stores.
"English Tea," Paul McCartney
(Chaos and Creation in the Backyard)
Thank you, Nigel Godrich, for kicking Sir Paul in the keister and inspiring him to make one of the best albums of his career. This is such a delightfully twee little number, and although it’s relatively insubstantial in the grand scheme of things, it still has a hook that sticks with you long after its run time is complete.
"English Garden," Ringo Starr (Ringo Rama)
On a related note, here’s the other remaining ex-Beatle, who desperately needs a good shaking, along with an assurance that everyone knows what band he used to be in…or, in other words, stop with all the unabashed lyrical references to your former gig! That said, however, Mr. Starkey is more than welcome to continue with his faux Fab Four sonic homages, as they tend to be the highlights of his albums. Case and point: this lovely number.
"English Boy," Pete Townshend (Psychoderelict)
I’m not going to tell you this is either the best album or even the best song of Pete’s solo career, but I’ll at least say that if you feel like you need to own Psychoderelict, do yourself a favor and pick up the version that’s sans all the dialogue. It doesn’t make the songs any better, but it sure makes the overall experience a little easier to endure.
"Baby Britain," Elliot Smith (XO)
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: if I can just write a couplet as brilliant as "For someone half as smart / You’d be a work of art," I will die a happy man. Unfortunately, it’s clear that Elliot Smith didn’t feel the same way, but just composing that one rhyme meant that he still left this planet with my eternal respect.
"Good Morning Britain," Aztec Camera (Stray)
I say again, people, that just because an artist’s later albums don’t necessarily reach the heights of their earlier work doesn’t mean that they should be dismissed out of hand. Stray is a fine album, dammit, and when Roddy Frame duets on this track with Mick Jones (The Clash, B.A.D.), it’s British bliss, plain and simple.
"Anarchy in the UK," Sex Pistols (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols)
We couldn’t very well have a mix disc of songs about the UK without the song that lambasted the whole damned country, could we? I still remember listening to this song for the first time in Tom Nuckols’ car on the way to see "Sid and Nancy" at the Naro Cinema, in Norfolk, VA; the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and like a man possessed, I bought my own copy of the record the very next day. God save the Queen, indeed.
"The Rose of England," Nick Lowe and his Cowboy Outfit (The Rose of England)
I loved "Cruel to be Kind" the first time I ever heard it, but it wasn’t until Nick’s 1990 album, Party of One, that I actually owned any of his records. Eventually, I picked up his best-of collection and fell in love with just about everything ol’ Basher ever released (and, most likely, ever will release), but I have to admit that this is one of the few Lowe albums I’ve never owned on any medium, so I’ll be glad when it finally gets reissued.
"Long Haired Guys from England," Too Much Joy (Cereal Killers)
Man, I sure did love Too Much Joy. It’d suit me fine if I just quoted you the complete lyrics to this song, and you wouldn’t care, because you’d laugh all the way through them, anyway, but in the interest of time, I’ll just offer my favorite verse: "All the girls in this here bar / Will treat you like you're a star / Don't get excited, it's just luck / They'll ignore you if the guy from The Cult shows up."
"The British Disease," Gene (Revelations)
You know how you fall in love with a British band, but right about when you start to get excited for their next album, you find out that their American label has dropped them? Yeah, that’s pretty much happened to me throughout my life of music-listening, but rarely has it seemed so unjust as it did for this record, which took me forever to finally hunt down. It’s a great disc by a great group who never escaped the press’s fascination with lead singer Martin Rossiter’s obsession with Morrissey. Where are you now, Martin?