North London Food & Culture

Cheer up! 8 classic songs about Kentish Town

Escape the current doom with a new hip hop tribute to NW5 - and our countdown of the best ever local anthems

Over the years – as the more music-savvy of you will testify – there’s been all manner of ditties about the area. With Covid raging and the winter of discontent looming, let’s put the kettle on, for a moment, and remember a few of the best.

Where better to start than the most cheerily disposable? A very catchy little postcode-referencing number by lovable rogues Madness was released back in 2009. Yes, lads, we love NW5 too! Until we can’t get it out of our heads, of course.

Swiftly onto the most famous paean to the postcode, Imelda May’s viscerally beautiful Kentish Town Waltz (read about it in one of our earliest posts from 2010, here). A nostalgic and emotive portrait of a place ingrained in her memory, May reflects on her pre-fame times making ends meet around the Fiddler’s Elbow and Malden Road.

Imelda May
The Evening Standard devoted a whole page to the track when it was released in 2010.

Another major work – we kid you not – is the orchestral 2016 version by Will Hunt of his own Alma Festival classic Kentish Town Song. “Best line: Driving with the top down/ on your way back to Kentish Town.” This one gets us every time.


And a decade or so ago, Everything But The Girl vocalist Tracey Thorn released a track simply titled Kentish Town, although the area itself doesn’t actually get a direct mention in the lyrics (“it sounds like the country, if you didn’t know”, she sings).

But, if you think NW5 only started getting name-checked this century – well, you’re out of your mind, as Posh Spice would have squawked in 1999.

Will Hunt. Photo: WH

So now let’s head back in a DeLorean to the 1980s and one of Spandau Ballet’s lesser known hits: the saxophone-heavy ballad Empty Spaces, which contains the line: “I walk through Kentish Town and all the rain, rain pouring down.”

And incessant bad weather apparently underlines songs about the postcode during this time. Whereas those about Camden – say by Pulp – were often about partying and nights out, Kentish Town seems to be a place to bathe in a kind of morning-after urban melancholy.

Mario’s Cafe, Kelly Street. Photo: Dan Hall

In 1992, Saint Etienne, those great chroniclers of the area, released a happy-sad anthem about escaping from the rain in the eponymous Mario’s Cafe for a gossip “Tuesday morning, 10am”. A highlight of their awesome So Tough album, its vintage hopefulness is something of a tonic in Covid-ravaged 2020: read founding member Bob Stanley’s own account of its genesis here.

And no local list is complete without Sinead O’Connor’s paean to the railway bridges at Gospel Oak, which lent its name to her EP in 1997 (but none of the actual tracks).

So can this roll call of musical excellence be topped? Well, judge for yourself by jumping back into the present day – and watching the video above.

This latest contender entitled Kentish Town is by hip hop artist Skandouz, featuring Dozer Carter and Trigz – and yep, it’s another love letter to NW5, complete with a vid (by filmmaker Oliver Whitehouse) that’s packed with recognisable locations, from Highgate Road to Queen’s Crescent. Great drone footage, too.

And like all the others, it’s pretty addictive: the quietly anthemic, rather lilting piano-driven hook will soon lodge itself in your brain. Listen carefully to the rap: Kentishtowner gets a nod too, and so – don’t call us shallow – we’re already sold.

Know any more Kentish Town-referencing classics? Get involved on our social media pages @kentishtowner. Kentish Town by Skandouz ft Dozer Carter & Trigz is out now on all streaming and digital platforms now. You can easily find the other tracks online or on streaming services.

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About Kentishtowner

The award-winning print and online title Kentishtowner was founded in 2010 and is part of London Belongs To Me, a citywide network of travel guides for locals. For more info on what we write about and why, see our About section.