Return to Mornington Crescent

There’s a wonderfully poignant track called Mornington Crescent on the new Belle and Sebastian album, but, surprisingly, it’s not the first time that particular London Underground station has been immortalised by the indie fraternity.
Back in the early 90s, London orch-pop act My Life Story named a whole album after the tube stop. Their glorious debut is full of tawdry tales of Camden nightlife and the highs and lows of living in the capital city, all set to big brass arrangements and James Bond strings.

The main concept behind the album was a catalogue of singer Jake Shillingford’s initial experiences on arriving in London from Southend. As it says in the sleeve-notes of the CD re-release: ‘The conflicting feelings of wonder, loneliness, excitement and fear that the newcomer is subject to – from high to low, from gutter to glamour’.
With his Anthony Newley vocals, blond kiss curl and cheeky, gap-toothed smile, born performer Shillingford was a breath of fresh air.

While his contemporaries were hiding behind their guitars, wearing their anoraks onstage and slouching in baggy-arsed jeans, the My Life Story main man was partial to glittery suits and high kicks.
Influenced by Pop Junkie faves Bacharach, John Barry, Marc Almond and Scott Walker, My Life Story were an orchestral tour de force and in Shillingford they had one of the era’s most charismatic and talented front men. With Mornington Crescent, My Life Story created a theatrical, grandiose masterpiece that should stand alongside Definitely Maybe, Parklife and Different Class as one of the greatest British pop albums of the ’90s. No, really. (We can’t believe it didn’t make it into the NME’s recent list of the 100 greatest British albums ever. Mind you, they did put The Arctic Monkeys debut ahead of Revolver, so what the hell do they know, anyway.)

Mornington Crescent is never short of thrilling, whether it’s the wonderfully sleazy prowl of Girl A, Girl B, Boy C, the dramatic Motorcade or the melancholy overture of Angel ("she travels education class, reading poems on the tube.")
Like Ray Davies and Damon Albarn, Shillingford pens clever observational London pop songs that are populated by doomed characters going about their day-to-day lives in the capital. On Up The Down Escalator, we hear about a chap who’s so scared of being killed in the road that he ends up dying from a stress-induced heart attack. Ah, the sweet irony.
Mornington Crescent almost didn’t see the light of day. Originally intended for release by indie label Mother Tongue in May 1994, it was indefinitely delayed due to financial problems. Thankfully, eight months later, Mother Tongue signed a deal with a French distribution company and 3,000 copies found their way into the UK market. The original indie release is now worth a few bob, but you’re better off buying the mid-price Parlophone re-release from 1998, which adds bonus b-sides.
Next time you find us in the gutter (which is usually at least once a week), we’ll be staring at the stars and listening to Mornington Crescent.

One Response to “Return to Mornington Crescent”

  1. Sasha Says:

    Very good site, greate content !!

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