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Historical references to London's sounds

A database of several hundred historical descriptions and references to London's sounds. They're drawn mainly from primary sources such as autobiographies, diaries and statutes, as well as novels written around the times they depict.

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 Pub life, music and song   1 3     1 5 3
 City-wide celebrations     3 2   3 3  
 Toasts, dinners and feasts     2 1       1
 Theatre and cinema audiences     2 1 1 1    
 Music and song in theatres     2 2   2    
 Public music and song outdoors     3   1 4    
 Education: Oratory and debate   1            
 Gambling and fairs     1 1 1 2 1  
 Sporting events   1 1 1 1      
 Families at leisure             1  
 Dancing             1  
 Local celebrations           1   1

Period referred to: 1974

Sound category: Social > Pub life, music and song

Title of work: Soft City

Type of publication: Popular sociology

Author: Jonathan Raban

Year of publication: 1974

Page/volume number: Chapter 8

Jonathan Raban describes a gay pub in 1970s Earls Court

Just as the leather men determine the character of one pub, so a few men in full drag dominate the other, whose upper room exudes a frumpish air of naughtiness. Besides the transvestites, it is full of boys with dyed blonde bouffant hair, sleeveless knitted pullovers and adenoidal camp voices.

'Ooh! Never been felt up that way before. Ooh, both sides!'

Men dance with each other cheek to cheek, between groups of trim, over-youthful looking pickups, fresh from the gymnasium, who bay and squeal like goats [. . .] Here are the same cruising grey bachelors, shyly affable, reaching deep for drinks all round. They have cars and flats – 'my place, just round the corner' – and are solicitously interested in everybody.

'Been to see again, Terry?'
'How's your mother, my dear?'
'How nasty for you . . .'
'Oh, dear.'

The bespectacled student who sells Gay News gets rapturously booed.

Period referred to: 1974

Sound category: Social > Pub music and song

Title of work: Soft City

Type of publication: Popular sociology

Author: Jonathan Raban

Year of publication: 1974

Page/volume number: Chapter 8

Jonathan Raban describes a late-night bar in 1970s Earls Court

And for the very temporary, the commercial travellers and small businessmen here for one night, there are correspondingly bizarre entertainments. In the Austrian Bier-Keller, bored English girls in fishnet tights and peasant tops serve drinks at 75 pence a time with stale frankfurters (to beat the licensing regulations), while an elderly accordionist squeezes out old Beatles tunes. 'No touching, no dancing, no nothing,' says the girl, automatic as a speak-your-weight machine. By 2 a.m. the place has sucked in the overflow of drunks and scrubbers . . . 'On your own, dear? Mine's a scotch and soda –' Men with paunches slouch about on the dance floor holding fluffy tarts in a bear-hug, and someone is noisily sick in the hallway. They have a brutish doorman to take care of that. A party of people who look suspiciously like schoolteachers sing 'Auf Wiedersehen' in Birmingham accents, and the accordionist puts on a face of ghastly jollity, exposing a jaw full of gold-capped teeth. Outside, there is a policeman, taking notes.

Period referred to: 1974

Sound category: Social > Pub music and song

Title of work: Soft City

Type of publication: Popular sociology

Author: Jonathan Raban

Year of publication: 1974

Page/volume number: Chapter 8

Sounds of an Irish-Caribbean pub in 1970s Islington

The local pub was carefully demarcated into symbolic territories. The public bar was the West Indian province, with a smattering of white girls of catholic tastes and inclinations. The saloon was for the Irish. There was one black, in a shiny felt hat, who ambled leggily round the saloon bar picking up empty glasses; and in the spade bar of the pub there was a single, very sodden Irishman. These two hostages strengthened the division. In the public bar, the juke box hammered out Reggae records; in the saloon on Friday nights Bridie the Singing Saxophonist carolled about the Mountains of Mourne and the Rose of Tralee through an amplifying system which made her sound like Frankenstein's monster.