• Simon Rushby

London Town by Bellowhead

#musiceveryday 13 Nov 2020

Folk musicians Jon Boden and John Spiers were sitting in a traffic jam in 2004 when they had the idea to form a band to play at festivals, comprising all of the best folk musicians they knew. The result, Bellowhead, was a large, experienced and diverse collection of singer/instrumentalists, meaning that their music was a heady fusion of folk, funk, rock, classical and jazz all rolled into one inimitable and irresistable style. Bellowhead quickly and rightly took its place as the leading British folk band of their time.


The band's energetic live shows became legendary and concerts were selling out before they had even released an album. They were regularly featured on radio and won numerous awards, including best live band at the BBC Radio 2 folks awards a staggering five times. They usually took established folk songs and made them their own, using string and brass instruments alongside drums, percussion, guitar, banjo, bouzouki and concertina to make a colourful, full-textured sound.

You can see all of Bellowhead's energy and colour, fronted by Jon Boden, in this live performance of London Town. Originally called Up To The Rigs Of London Town, the song dates from 1924 when it featured in the collection of a folk singer named Harry Cox. It appeared on Bellowhead's first album, Burlesque.


Bellowhead disbanded in 2016 when Boden and Spiers decided to pursue their own projects, though the two still appear as a duo from time to time.

Something to do

You can have a go at playing and singing London Town - there are many chord charts online. Here's one.

More to listen to

Three more great performances from Bellowhead:


New York Girls - a sea-shanty also known as Can't You Dance The Polka. It tells the story of a sailor tricked into losing all his money in New York.





The band 'reunited' during lockdown to re-record New York Girls- this is a must-see!






Haul Away - a sea shanty first recorded in the 1940s though it could date back as far as the 18th century,







Though some of Bellowhead's albums made the mainstream charts, Mumford and Sons have had more crossover success, perhaps due to their more pop-flavoured take on folk music. Here's their breakthrough hit The Cave



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© 2019 Simon Rushby