Friday, 22 May 2015

Friday is Rock'n'Roll London Day – Pink Floyd, Giles Gilbert Scott, Joseph Bazalgette & The Abbey Road Mystery

It is arguably Pink Floyd's most famous album sleeve…

Released in 1977, Animals features Battersea Power Station (designed by, among others, Sir Giles Gilbert Scott) and a giant pig flying between its famous chimneys. The sleeve design and concept is credited to Floyd's Roger Waters with the shoot executed and shot by the famous Hipgnosis design team.

Shot being the operative word.

The inflatable pic – 30 feet in length – was filled with helium and a marksman was employed to bring the thing down with a bullet if it broke free of its moorings. Unfortunately, inclement weather halted the photoshoot and work was postponed until the next day… the marksman, alas, had only been booked for the first day.

Most have you have seen it coming by now.

The pig – known as Algie – broke free and was out of sight within five minutes (that's literally out of sight, rather than, "Like, outta sight man") eventually landing in a field in Kent, having disrupted flights out of London airports on the way.

It's not the only architectural relic of London's past associated with Pink Floyd. In March 1968 they filmed at Abbey Mills Pumping Station (designed by Sir Joseph Bazalgette) in deepest East London. Producer Tony Palmer (who went on to make the monumental All You Need Is Love documentary series on popular music with contributions from, among others, Charles Chilton) captured a performance of post-Syd Barrett Pink Floyd doing Set The Controls For The Heart Of The Sun.

The old Abbey Mills Pumping Station is but a hop, skip and jump from London's most confusing station: Abbey Road. No not THAT Abbey Road, that's why it's confusing.

So if you DO end up at Abbey Road on the DLR, and not St John's Wood on the Jubilee Line for Abbey Road Studios (where Pink Floyd recorded their albums up to, but not including Animals), then all is not lost! At least there's a flake of Rock'n'Roll London history quite nearby.

Heres our RocknRoll London video

Join the Rock’n'Roll London Walk on Fridays at 2pm, meeting at Tottenham Court Road Station – to book a Private Walk call 020 7642 3978 or email

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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Thursday, 21 May 2015

"What Will I See On The Walk?"

London Walks' pen and Daily Constitutional Special Correspondent David Tucker writes…

You’re looking at it.

Looking at what’s wrong with the “What will I see on the walk?” question.

The inscription on the statue reads George IV.

That answer the question?

Or maybe a bit of elaboration – “You’ll see the equestrian statue of George IV in the north eastern corner of Trafalgar Square.”

That answer the question?

The problem isn’t the answer(s). The problem is the question. The best it’s ever going to get you – in the way of an answer – is a carapace.

In short, what you’ll see with your eyes  – the carapace – doesn’t begin to answer the question.

The only way to properly answer the question is to throw open the vault door and show you what the mind’s eye will “see”. 

And what shines the light in there is the words – the guide’s words.

Look at the image again and “see” it through the lens of the dozen or so words I’ll caption it with this time. I think you’ll, er, see there’s quite a difference.

As the Daily Constitutional Editor (and brilliant guide) Adam puts it, “it’s not just what you see, it’s how you see it.”

The wickedest of all “the wicked uncles” – George IV. “Swollen, gouty, bewigged and bedaubed” – the living embodiment of sin.

Put it that way it gets a whole lot more interesting, doesn’t it? And, hey, it’s Trafalgar Square. Innumerable pairs of eyes “see” that statue every day. But they don’t really “see” it. Not the way you’ve just seen it. Here in this post for the London Walks blog. Or, if you see it in the flesh as it were. See it right there, in Trafalgar Square – see it through the eyes of a London Walks guide.

And that little 18 word “caption” is just the overture. Cracks open the door – which we proceed to properly fling open. Everything from the missing stirrups to the statue’s being a “reverse Dorian Gray”,  

Parting shot. Don’t let that statue fool you.* That’s the seamier side of royalty you’re looking at. Frightful old George IV. Swollen. Gouty. Bewigged. Bedaubed.

Now you know.  Now you’re seeing.

Post Postscript. We get that question all the time. We dread getting it. Dread getting it because it’s impossible to answer. Answer properly that is. We field it as best we can. Field it gingerly. But the right answer is the one we can’t put into an email or talk down a phone line. The right answer is the walk. And the walk is where you go and what the guide shows you and how the guide illuminates what she (or he) shows you.

It’s what you see. And see.

*The horse knows. He’s trying to tell you. That plaintive look on his intelligent, sensitive face.

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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Wednesday, 20 May 2015

It's Wordy Wednesday – The Literary #London Pub Walk is Tonight

Wordy Wednesday: Brian Leads the Literary London Pub Walk Tonight

A Literary London line to tide you over until you join me on my walk this evening at 7pm…

Gertrude Stein lived in Bloomsbury Square. She came to London for the good weather… she left.

Meet Brian at 7pm, Holborn Tube station. There's no need to book. A London Walk costs £10 (£8 concession)

Brian, a professionally qualified Blue Badge Guide, won the London Tourist Board's Guide of the Year Award in 1994. His career has embraced the law, surveying, catering, dispatch riding and art - and the stage may be beckoning. Now, anyone for a soundbite? And if you'd like a completely independent take on Brian's guiding, well, read this Marylebone Journal review of his Old Marylebone walk. 

A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

A Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of #London No.21: The Vinyl Underground

Earlier this year Daily Constitutional editor Adam took us on a Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London – 20 stops on a metropolis-wide search for all things illustrated. 

You can catch up with that tour on the dedicated Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London blog at

From time-to-time he'll be adding stops to the tour here on The Daily Constitutional. Stops such as this one…

Panel No.21: The Vinyl Underground

Words by Si Spencer, Art Simon Gane

"Suggested For Mature Readers". They're not kidding with this one. The Vinyl Underground ran for an all-too brief 12 book run in 2007-08 and combines the tarnished glamour of Britpop with the violence of the brutal Michael Caine movie Get Carter.

Written by Si Spencer (whose writing credits also include TV soap EastEnders) it is a bleak mix of damaged antiheroes, occult crimes and weird sexual ritual. Had it been set anywhere else I fear I may have put it aside long before the end – it's wildly gory and gruesome. But what kept me going was the writer's palpable love-hate relationship with this city of ours and his knowledge of its history.

London is woven into the DNA of this comic. Not only is it shot-through with William Blake references, it also teems with Big Smoke lore. From the death of "God's Banker" Roberto Calvi, found swinging from Blackfrairs Bridge wearing "the Devil's Neckinger" back in '82, to Roman roads to World War II, those in thrall to the psychogeography of London will not be disappointed.

The locations really get down to the London nitty gritty, too. Artists Simon Gane, Ryan Kelly and Cameron Stewart take Spencer's story well off the beaten track – I blogged earlier about The Wicked + The Divine which goes into similarly obscure corners of London.

In The Vinyl Underground we stop by Bunhill Fields, Canonbury, the New River, Islington and Paddington Green, among others. When we do swing by the big ticket items – "main site London" as the P.R types call it – we are treated to an imaginative use of the familiar sights. Take the cover above, for example: Britpop-meets-Traitors' Gate.

My favourite location is another bridge (again we blogged about London bridges earlier in this series with the pop music fantasy Metroland & the thriller Velvet ). This one is the Hornsey Lane Bridge…

…often referred to by its chilling nickname Suicide Bridge. The frame above really captures both the precipitous bridge and the thundering river of traffic in the man-made chasm beneath. Designed by Sir Alexander Binnie, and also referred to as Archway Bridge (it spans the Archway Road) it is a cast-iron replacement for an earlier brick bridge designed by John Nash.


The Vinyl Underground is published by Vertigo, an imprint of DC. You can buy it direct from the Vertigo website

The Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London will return soon.

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A London Walk costs £10 – £8 concession. To join a London Walk, simply meet your guide at the designated tube station at the appointed time. Details of all London Walks can be found at

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