Why Can’t We Have The Sea In London?



Fred Godfrey & Billy Williams — London: Francis, Day & Hunter, 1911; Swedish lyrics by Ture Nerman, 1912.

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This Fred Godfrey song has the honour of being mentioned in the very first paragraph of the first chapter of Peter Ackroyd’s acclaimed book, London: The Biography.1 What better accolade could a song have than to be remembered — and in connection with the world’s greatest city? The song has also been used, improbably, in two Swedish films, Åh, i morron kväll (1919, a silent film. but the song presumably was indicated for the accompanying music); and Boman får snurren, starring Åke Söderblom (1949).

Scala 233-ARegal G6010-BJohn Bull B66-A



Billy Williams recorded no fewer than nine versions of this popular hit: ca. August 1911 for Columbia-Rena, ca. August 1911 for Edison Standard Cylinder, ca. August 1911 for Homophon, ca. August 1911 for Jumbo, 9 September 1911 for Zonophone, ca. September 1911 for Edison Amberol, ca. September-October 1911 for Pathé, ca. December 1911 for Beka Grand, and 12 January 1912 for Favorite. Reissues appeared on several other labels.2

J. Thorby (Clarion 554, 1911) [cylinder]

Jumbo Military Band, in “Jumbo Band Medley 2” (Jumbo 617, 1912)

George Belton, in 7-LP set “Palace Of Varieties — Old Time Music Hall” (BBC CN-1426, 1976 reissue of recordings made 1952–58)


Film Interpolations

Åh, i morron kväll (1919); Boman får snurren (1949).



1   Peter Ackroyd, London: The Biography (London: Chatto & Windus, 2000), 6.
2   For comprehensive discographies of recordings by Billy Williams, see Brian Rust, British Music Hall on Record (Harrow, UK:
    Gramophone, 1979); and Frank Andrews and Ernie Bayly, Billy Williams’ Records: A Study in Discography (Bournemouth, UK:
    Talking Machine Review, 1982).