29.07.2012, Words by Charlie Jones

Story of the Week: The sound of the London 2012 Olympics

Danny Boyle’s £27 million opening ceremony for the London 2012 Olympics was spectacular in a lot of ways, but the musical choices made for the event formed a colossal talking point. With a thousand live drummers present at the ceremony, UK dance duo Underworld (Karl Hyde and Rick Smith) acting as musical directors and an album containing the event’s soundtrack – Isles of Wonder: Music for the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics – on sale immediately afterwards, the presence of music was overwhelmingly definitive in Boyle’s celebration of what it means to be British.

Whether revelling in patriotism or giving a tongue-in-cheek nod to subcultural movements in the not-so-distant past, the ceremony took a glide through British musical history that was swerving, and at times confusing, but never dull. The section entitled Frankie and June say…Thanks Tim alone boasted, according to Trevor Nelson, “a soundtrack that spans four decades” in a segment designed to celebrate Britain’s “digital age”. In a far from chronological order, the playlist was a sugar-rush of influential, interesting sounds that have emerged from Britain in the last forty years, encompassing the toothy-grinned hooks of cheesy pop, the anti-establishment snarl of punk, the sting of techno and the occasional, glorious moment of a piece of wonderful songwriting.

As Trevor Nelson superfluously commented, this playlist had been lovingly put together to celebrate “British music – one of our greatest exports.” See the full list of tracks included below.

*‘Push The Button’ – Sugababes
‘Enola Gay’ – Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark (OMD)
‘Food, Glorious Food’ – Oliver! soundtrack
‘When I Was A Youngster’ – Rizzle Kicks
‘Going Underground’ – The Jam
‘Wonderful Tonight’ – Eric Clapton
‘My Generation’ – The Who
‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction’ – The Rolling Stones
‘My Boy Lollipop’ – Millie Small
‘All Day And All Of The Night’ – The Kinks
‘She Loves You’ – The Beatles
‘Tiger Feet’ – Mud
‘A Message To You Rudy’ – The Specials
‘Starman’ – David Bowie
‘Bohemian Rhapsody’ – Queen
‘Pretty Vacant’ – Sex Pistols
‘Blue Monday’ – New Order
‘Relax’ – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
‘Back To Life (However Do You Want Me)’ – Soul II Soul
‘Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)’ – Eurythmics
‘Firestarter’ – The Prodigy
‘Born Slippy’ – Underworld
‘I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles’
‘Song 2’ – Blur
‘Bonkers’ (Live) – Dizzee Rascal
‘Valerie’ – Mark Ronson and Amy Winehouse
‘Uprising’ – Muse
‘Pass Out’ – Tinie Tempah
‘Heaven’ – Emeli Sande*

Unforgettably, another shiver-inducing audio moment of the ceremony came when Scottish pop star Emeli Sande sang an a capella rendition of the miners’ hymn ‘Abide With Me’ during Akram Khan’s tribute to the victims of the 7/7 bombings. Underworld and Dame Evelyn Glennie also astounded with their collaboration during the industrialisation segment, producing the thumping, triumphant ‘And I Will Kiss’. You can stream that full seventeen minute score here.

Beyond the usual half-heartedly anthemic tracks that get churned out for large sporting events, the 2012 Olympics look set to channel the influence of music in every way possible. Surprise concerts are reported to spring up in various venues around London as the games go on (a lot of which will be unofficial and illegal); two thousand songs have been officially added to the playlists in the stadiums; Elbow have recorded a theme song with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and Katy B has recorded one with Mark Ronson; the Spice Girls are even rumoured to be performing at the closing ceremony, and it’s difficult to imagine that there is anyone in the world that wouldn’t enjoy that.

Officially and unofficially, pop music has made its way into a definitive position in the characterisation of this year’s Games, unifying audiences of every shade of cynicism in something we can all get behind. Athletics is all very well and good, but British music – that’s something worth showing off.

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