The Best Busking Songs!
Updated: Oct 16, 2019
When I go deep into the London Underground to do some busking, I like to play my original material as much as I can - It's practise I get paid for, I get to try out new material to see how it works on the public and these are songs that I (generally) remember the words and the chords to, being that I am the songwriter!
However, sometimes a passer by will ask you to sing a song that they love or you notice that the great British public are maybe having a bit of a collective gloomy day so you try to gee them up by singing a song that you think will make them smile a bit. So, here is a selection of The Best Busking Songs that any busker should have in their arsenal:
Ok, I am starting with the "worst" first to get it out the way. Wonderwall is a great divider amongst Buskers and Musicians alike. The main misgivings for it are that it is seen as a cliché to be playing it, it is a bit of a dirge and it has been played to death by countless people over the past twenty years. I for one do not argue with any of these points....HOWEVER, it is a cliché and been 'played to death' for a reason - People love it! Don;t get me wrong, everytime I am requested (or decide) to play it, I do feel slightly awkward, right up until the point that I see countless people smiling, singing and dropping cash into my pot. People love to hear it because it makes them happy and as a Busker, making them happy is part of the job description.
The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony
Another nineties classic that a little like Wonderwall, is well known from kids to grannies. Bitter Sweet Symphony doesn't come with the same unease that Wonderwall might have when playing it and a low-fi acoustic version of a classic song is always a winner. Keep this at the ready for moments where you feel you're losing the punters and it will save the day!
George Ezra: Blame it on me
The key to busking is to shine a bit of light on the passers by and put them in a mood where they feel good. If they feel good, you feel good and when you feel good you play well and when you play well you get coin. Simples! George Ezra's song, Blame it on me, is an exceptional song to busk as people know it, it's upbeat, it's fun and jolly and you can do some interesting things vocally when it is just you and a guitar! I love playing this track, and watch how everyone joins in with the lyrics "What you waiting for...". Lovely stuff!
Madness: It must be love
It must be love is another classic song that really gets to the heart of the crowds that pass you by. It's a lovely song that can be adapted in some many ways when singing solo and acoustically (as us Buskers so often do), whilst simultaneously staying true to the pop sensibilities and catchy sing-a-long lyrics of the song. I real pleaser for the masses out there.
Kings of Leon: Use Somebody
Adapting popular songs is one of the key ingredients to successful busking and so it is highly advised to use songs that in their original format are large enough to strip down to something interesting and different. Use Somebody by Kings of Leon is perfect for this, toning down the large production values of the song to a simple, slow and melancholic version. Here's a version I did many moons ago:
The Beatles - I've Just Seen A Face
Now I couldn't do a list of busking songs and leave out the Fab Four could I?! There are obviously tons of songs of theirs to pick from with your normal go to's being Hey Jude or Can't Buy Me Love - all excellent busking choices for sure and ones that I also use. However, I like to play a (slightly) lesser known track, that is upbeat and happy for those that maybe don't know it, but attention grabbing and refreshing for those that do! I've Just Seen A Face is a choice that I have found works wonders in keeping everybody happy!
What tracks do you think make great busking songs? Let me know in the comments below!
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