London’s Theme Perfectly Represents City of Old and White

By Jason Menard

Old. White.

For some reason, London’s movers and shakers continue to sidestep the fact that London has a reputation issue – beyond one caused by banana throwers and wannabe thugs. Both within the city and without, it’s known as two things: old and white.

That reputation makes it hard to entice or retain young talent into the city. And despite best intentions, yesterday’s release of the new “official” theme song for the City ofLondon only served to solidify that old and white image.

Now, let’s just start by saying there’s nothing wrong with being old and white if that’s what you’re comfortable with your city being. However, if you’re going to try to market the city as progressive, diverse, and the potential hub for future industry growth in Southwestern Ontario, then you’ve got to move away from old and white.

I have nothing against Jim Chapman, personally. I don’t always agree with his positions and politics, but I respect his willingness to express his opinions and his ability to back them up. But it would seem that pegging Chapman, a part-time singer in a 50s and 60s pop-rock group, to sing the city’s anthem just reinforces the stereotypes.

And the song, City of Opportunity? It’s not as atrocious as everyone says. It’s a kindly, gentle sort of ditty. But that’s the problem – it’s a song for which the word ‘ditty’ perfectly applies.

It sticks in your head, true. But only in the way that a poorly produced television jingle or the soundtrack for one of those early 1980s educational videos used in public schools does.

I’m going to give Chapman and the rest of the song’s creators a pass. I’m going to hope they weren’t trying to be cool. They did what they were asked to do – create a song about the city that’s catchy, easy-to-learn, and non-offensive. Job done. But what was the point?

It’s not a song that’s going to resonate with the city’s youth or people outside of London. Well, that’s not true – it will resonate, but for all the wrong reasons. Expect the inevitable mash-ups, mockery, and parodies to come out. It’s not a song that has even a hint of modern in it. If you told the average Jill or Joe that City of Opportunitywas released as a backing track to a Tourism London video in 1968, 1978, or 1988 no one would bat an eye.

I strongly believe in London’s potential. I know there’s a growing group of talented, dynamic people in all walks of life who want to see the city grow and prosper. And I know that many of these people are frustrated with the “status quo” attitude for which this city is renowned.

For years I’ve described London as a medium-sized city, with big-city delusions and aspirations, held back by a small-town mentality. There are people who don’t understand why the City of London doesn’t have the respect they feel it deserves throughout the country. But these are also the same people who fought tooth and nail against things like strip club zoning rights. I’m not saying London needs a red-light district; but it’s hard to shake the old, white, backwards label when you’re only remembered for actions like banana throwing, picketing sex shows, and kicking out transgendered employees.

Image means more than it should. The great strides this city makes in terms of our educational and research programs (such as the AIDS vaccine trial at Western) get overshadowed by things that shouldn’t matter. But if you want to attract the future to London, you have to project an image that’s appealing.

That doesn’t mean City of Opportunity should have been performed by London’s version of Jay Z or LMFAO. But just as the song doesn’t need to be sung by someone who screams into the microphone, neither does it need to scream old and white.

But in the end, maybe the song – for all its faults – did exactly what it was supposed to. It’s safe, it’s standard, it’s boring — and maybe we have to admit that it perfectly represents what London is.

9 thoughts on “London’s Theme Perfectly Represents City of Old and White

  1. Jeff

    My biggest question is do we really NEED a song? Isn’t having a town “song” completely representative of the “old and white” stereotype you mention? I feel like a local government starts making jingles and ambassador programs when they’re out of ideas on how to fix the REAL problems that face their city.

  2. Butch McLarty

    Actually, Jim Chapman was a full-time musician in the mid-to-late 1960s and 1970s, never the 1950s. He was a professional jingle writer as well in the 1980s, creating the advertising ditty for That Paper Place and the London Tigers baseball team’s theme song “Tear ‘Em Up Tigers.”

    Not my cuppa tea either.

    Regarding the song, I don’t like it because it’s paid-for, advertising-style pap, which is exactly what Tourism London and the City of London wanted and Jim Chapman delivered the goods.

    Old, white? Perhaps

    I think the City of London/ Tourism London should have went the contest route, inviting local bands of any age and stripe to put something together, with a variety of cash prizes as the incentive.

    But true to London form, it appears to have been another backroom deal based on personal connections. The question is how much it cost the public purse, if any, for such syrupy sweet drivel.

    1. Jay Menard Post author

      Just to clarify, Butch, I wasn’t saying he was active in the 50s/60s… I said he is in a 50s/60s band. As per his site: “Jim maintains his life-long interest in performing through The Incontinentals, a 50’s-60’s pop-rock vocal group that appears at select functions across southern Ontario.”

      Sorry for the confusion. And it would be nice to see if this cost anything. I’m hoping Jim did it out the goodness of his heart. After all, what better way to stoke interest in London by some of its youth than by giving local bands a chance to come up with a theme?

  3. theviennacafe

    Of course, a bigger issue highlighted by all of this but that clearly underlines the author’s point is the selection of Jim Chapman in the first place. Once more the city turns to the tired and worn out usual suspects rather than seeking to engage the new, the young, or the unfamiliar. When someone said “hip”, London lined up for surgery.

    1. Jay Menard Post author

      Yes, there was an opportunity lost here. There would have been a great opportunity to engage London’s arts community in developing a song. It would have been a good opportunity to engage a younger community in a way that would have been effective. Instead, we have somewhat of a “patronage” appointment. Nothing against Chapman, as a singer, but I’m not sure he’s the best to represent London as a haven for the future…

  4. Butch McLarty

    I’m guessing that everyone was paid for their efforts and I have no problem with that. That’s the way things work for musicians and everyone else in life.

    After all, they would have had to pay for the recording time in a studio.

    Jim would have been paid for writing the song, the rights for the song and each band member paid for their performance on the recording. Probably in the neighbourhood of several thousand dollars. I’m just curious how much in total.

    It should be public information.

  5. Pingback: Critically Speaking | The M-Dash by Jason Menard

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s