Britain has played an outsize role in pop music history, so it was only fitting that pop music would feature prominently in the 2012 London Summer Olympics. For those who missed all or part of the Games’ four-hour opening ceremony on Friday night, though, what might be remarkable is just how music-soaked the proceedings really were. Yes, James Bond and Queen Elizabeth II — or facsimiles thereof — parachuted out of a helicopter or something. Well done, Danny Boyle, director of Trainspotting and Slumdog Millionaire. But the music, overseen by ’90s rave overlords Underworld, was worth noting in its own right.
Paul McCartney, Arctic Monkeys, and Dizzee Rascal were among the live performers. Underworld performed, too, joined by Two Door Cinema Club singer/guitarist Alex Trimble. The recorded soundtrack of the event, the contents of which leaked to the Telegraph last month, also included songs by the Who, the Kinks, the Rolling Stones, Prodigy, Blur, Oasis, the Chemical Brothers, the Jam, the Specials, David Bowie, the Happy Mondays, Led Zeppelin, Queen, New Order, Sugababes, OMD, Vangelis, Radiohead, and the Verve. The Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen” aired in the Queen’s royal presence (plus NBC went to commercial for “Pretty Vacant”); Pink Floyd’s “Eclipse” accompanied the torch-lighting.
Arctic Monkeys performed their 2005 breakout hit “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor” along with a well-chosen Beatles cover, Abbey Road‘s heavily Chuck Berry-influenced “Come Together,” and you can watch both of their performance at the Domino label’s site. Paul McCartney capped the event with a singalong of the Beatles’ “Hey Jude.” In between, London grime veteran Dizzee Rascal performed his 2009 single “Bonkers,” new age godfather Mike Oldfield performed his mid-’70s works “Tubular Bells” And “In Dulci Jubilo,” and Zambian-Scottish singer-songwriter Emeli Sandé sang the hymn “Abide With Me.”
But! In a wonderful twist, the opening ceremony also included the noisy electronic duo Fuck Buttons’ gorgeously swelling “Surf Solar” (originally from 2009’s Tarot Sport). That track is included on the soundtrack album Isles of Wonder, too, alongside the Arctic Monkeys’ tracks and other music from the ceremony. As Billboard reports, the soundtrack debuted at No. 5 on the U.K. album charts despite only being on sale for one day. Fuck Buttons bring people together.
Away from the cameras and spectacle, another Olympic concert was simultaneously taking place in London’s Hyde Park. Snow, Patrol, Duran Duran, and Stereophonics were among the performers, as Billboard reports. More performances are scheduled to take place throughout the Games, with Roots Manuva and Soul II Soul among the scheduled acts, and on August 12, Blur will headline a Hyde Park concert timed for the closing ceremonies, joined by New Order and the Specials. Other Olympic music so far has come from Hot Chip, Chemical Brothers, Muse, and more. It’s like the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, if Atlanta had better capitalized on the South’s rich musical history (at least we had Gloria Estefan).