Thursday, 24 May 2018

Our Latest Movie! Hello London - A Film by @newsocracytv Guided by @tourguidesimon

DC Editor Adam writes…

Filmmaker and friend of London Walks Jim Albritton of Newsocracy is safely back home in Mississippi having spent a few weeks here in London - much of that time spent filming our guides. Thanks Jim!

I'm really looking forward to sharing Jim's films with you over the next few weeks, starting with Hello London, guided by Simon… 

It's our latest film!

The Hello London tour meets on Wednesdays and Sundays at Exit 4 of Westminster tube

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

Tuesday, 22 May 2018

More Glamorous Scenes From Royal History… Not

David Tucker writes…

Specially prepared.  

For those who are going on Wednesday’s or Sunday’s Tower of London Tour.

In the blurb for the Tower tour we call William the Conqueror – who gave us the Tower – the bastard. Which he was.

But I think of him as the Squitterer In Chief.  For two reasons. 

1. Because of his brood of male offspring. Four unforgettable – nose clothes-pin at the ready? – results of his squittering. And 

2. Because of his, William’s – THREE-LINE WHIP HERE, APPLY NOSE CLOTHES-PIN AT ONCE – death.

Especially what he did after he entered the long night.

A final forget-me-not.

Still wondering? Haven’t looked it up?

Squitter means – thanks for sharing this with me, OED – “to void thin excrement.”

Ok, let’s get stuck in.

A lot of talk about dysfunctional families the last few days. The Windsors. The Markles. King Lear and his family. (Lear in connection with great director Richard Eyre’s eagerly anticipated, about-to-open production of the play.*)

But the Windsors, the Markles, even Lear’s – they’re just toddlers, rank amateurs in the matter of showing the world what a truly dysfunctional family looks like.

Ok, here we go. Keep some of this in mind when you’re in there looking at the White Tower – William the Conqueror’s mailed fist of a building – on that tour.

William the Conqueror had four sons. His squitterings.

The eldest – of the three who reached adulthood – was Robert Curthose.

While the cat’s away…

Yeah, that’s right. Robert Curthose wanted the house for himself. Wanted dad’s native Normandy. Staged a rebellion.

Dad’s reaction? “I’ll sort that little shit out.” (Aside: little’s another mot juste. It’s in that name Curthose. Robert was fat and had short legs. Didn’t keep him from helping himself to “the beautiful mistress of an old priest.” Or from fathering a few bastards of his own.

Dad didn’t kill sonny. He probably should have done. Or at least locked him up – as Robert’s younger brothers did. For 28 years.

Because the lot of them – this was the dysfunctional family of all time, remember – quarrelled and bickered incessantly. With international consequences.

Out of control, the lot of them. But Robert might well take the cake. Tearaway. Rebellion after rebellion. Forever burning through his funds.

Doing for his father.

Big bad dad (the bastard, William the C) – now grotesquely fat – has to head back over to Normandy to sort out another rebellion. Iron fist brought down on the rebellious town of Mantes. And then – for good measure – he torches it. Having Zippo’d Mantes, William thought he’d take a show-‘em-who’s-boss ride through the town that he’d turned into a pyre. His horse stepped on a red hot ember. Hot footed, the horse reared. William the C, partridge plump, went up off the saddle like Humpty Dumpty on a trampoline. Came down hard. On the iron saddle horn, the pommel. Terrible internal injuries to his beachball stomach. Died in agony a few days later. His peeps stripped the jubbly stiff – yeah, I know – and cleared out.

Funeral time. More fun time. A few monks tried to stuff the bloated corpse into a small sarcophagus, like trying to get a beached whale into a suitcase.

Corpse splits open. Erupts. Talk about squittering. Stench like a convention of country and western festival portaloos fresh from the field of battle.

And that wafts us to second grown-up son, William Rufus. Who everybody loathed (and feared). Ticked pretty much all the boxes in the 11th century’s This Was One Nasty Piece of Work Checklist. He was a tyrant; he was an indiscriminate lecher (swung both ways); despite being anything but easy on the eyes he was vain: short (his mother was only just over four feet tall), thickset, blonde, red-faced (ergo that handle Rufus), ponced around in short tunics and shoes with long points which curled like scorpions’ tails; pissed on his aforementioned brother Curthose (visiting Robert C. he went up onto a balcony and urinated down on the heads of Robert and  Robert’s chums); he was bad news for the church; his punitive taxes were right at the top of the “let me show you how its done, son” league; the nobles couldn’t stomach his extravagance, let alone his homosexuality; he put 50 innocent Englishmen to the ordeal of the hot iron; and on it goes.

Was killed – arrow in the heart – in a hunting “accident”. There’s been considerable historical speculation that it wasn’t in the least an accident – that his devoted little brother Henri “arranged it”. Think you that meets the highest standards of dysfunctional familydom? Does by my books.

That said, this mob had form in these matters. Richard, the fourth brother – the one who didn’t make it into adulthood, who’s barely a footnote – was also mistaken for game – a young deer or perhaps a small boar? – and ushered into the long night at the point and shaft of a well aimed arrow.

Two for four. In baseball terms – a batting percentage –that’s world class.

Before we leave Rufus – no doubt rampaging, spoiling it for everybody – in the long night, anything to be said for Rufus? Sure is: Westminster Hall. The greatest mediaeval hall in Europe. Easy to imagine him thinking he’d torch his father’s memory: “White Tower? I’ll show that stinking bastard how you build an impressive building.”

Oh and he was supposed to be witty. The which is an elastic term, of course. Rufus may well have thought that anointing his brother and his brother’s friends with the yellow stuff was witty. Most people probably wouldn’t.

And that leaves Henri. Henry. Henry Beauclerc (because he was the only one of the four of them who could read and write). Henry I in the annals of English kingship. If he did in fact engineer his brother’s death – fratricide and regicide all rolled up into one – well, that’s setting the mark pretty high.

To that you can add his fathering, on a harem of mistresses, more bastard children – 20+ and counting – than any other English king. Eat your heart out Charles II.

And on that note, enjoy your tour. And make of it what you will that – thanks to London Walks – you’ll never be able to watch an old episode of My Three Sons (Fred MacMurray, anybody remember him?) without thinking about the Bastard’s bastards (and their bastards).

*King Lear and his mob have to be the most dysfunctional family in all of dramatic literature. And what – fascinating, this – has bearing on that is Shakespeare’s living with – he was their lodger – a hugely dysfunctional family of Huguenot immigrants when he wrote King Lear.  RSC actor Steve Noonan opens that episode up to view on Sunday afternoon when he’s guiding the Shakespeare (and Dickens) walk and gets his walkers into that neighbourhood.

 Tour The Tower of London with London Walks on Wednesdays and Sundays.

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

Monday, 21 May 2018

In & Around #London #Photoblog… Flowers, Fancy Shops & Flags

The Monday Photoblog!

Flowers, fancy shops & flags - Elizabeth Street, Belgravia on the Monday morning after the wedding of the Duke & Duchess of Sussex 

Any suggestions for the Monday In & Around slot? Do you have five London pictures you'd like to share? Drop me a line at the usual address.

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

Sunday, 20 May 2018

#LondonWalks Walk Of The Week: The Rock'n'Roll Pub Tour With LIVE Music #RollingStones Special!

On Sundays we pluck just one walk from the vast London Walks repertoire and put it centre stage.

You can check out the full schedule at

But if you only take one walking tour this week, why not make it…

The Rock'n'Roll London Pub Tour with LIVE Music
Rolling Stones In The 60s Special!

7pm Wednesday 23rd May 2018
Tottenham Court Road Tube

The Stones are back in town this week and to mark the occasion we're turning the Rock'n'Roll London Pub Tour on Wednesday 23rd May into a Rolling Stones extravaganza.

You can pay on the night or book your place via Pay-A-Tour here…

Join us on Wednesday 23rd May for a special Rolling Stones- themed Rock’n’Roll Pub Walk with LIVE Music!

London is where The Story of The Stones begins and we’ll be bringing it all back home to visit....

• The studio where they made their first album
• The clubs & pubs where they rehearsed
• The venues they played
• The 60s playgrounds of the band and their inner circle

In addition we’ll trace the roots of the band through the stories of those who helped shape and influence them: Alexis Korner, Cyril Davies & Andrew Loog Oldham.

There will be cameo roles from Pete Townshend, The Beatles and the drug squad along the way.

Music, legend, social history and scandal. A most memorable Wednesday night with an expert guide who is “Friendly… passionate… brilliant…

“Like being on a tour with your own personal rock star”
(Morgan Pattee, Facebook)

“You cannot hope to get a better guide”
(rh24 TripAdvisor)

Wednesday 23rd May 2018 7pm Tottenham Court Road Tube (exit 1)

You can pay on the night or book your place via Pay-A-Tour here…

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

Friday, 18 May 2018

Friday Is Rock'n'Roll London Day: It's #RollingStones Week!

Adam writes…

Friday is Rock'n'Roll London Day. DC Editor Adam writes…

I'm going Stones-mad here in the run-up to the Rolling Stones arriving in London next week. 

I'm turning the Rock'n'Roll London Pub Tour on Wednesday 23rd May into a Rolling Stones extravaganza.

Book via Pay-A-Tour or pay on the night (£10/£8).

The Rock'n'Roll Pub walk on Wednesday 23rd May will be a Rolling Stones In The 60s special. In honour of the occasion, here's a fan letter to their often maligned first single,  a cover of Chuck Berry's Come On from 1963…

Come On

Words & Music: Chuck Berry
Recorded: June 1963
Released: July 1963
UK Chart Debut: 1 August 1963 (charted at no.32)
UK Chart: No. 21
US Chart: Did not chart
Producer: Andrew Loog OIdham
UK Label: Decca
UK Cat No: F11675

The case is often made for Come On being both the least of all the Chuck Berry numbers covered by the British bands of the beat boom, and the slightest number in the early Rolling Stones canon.

Berry’s original lacks his usual pace and drive, opting for a con brio approach ill-at-odds with the pissed-off lyric – the last verse of which gives up in a welter of inelegant moon-in-June rhymes so atypical of the man dubbed the first poet of rock.

Here's Berry's original…

The 21st Century Stones chose to omit their version of the song from their 40th Anniversary collection 40 Licks, quite a snub considering this was the record that set the Stones rolling. But within its brief one minute and 48 seconds we can find all the seeds of the Stones' greatness.

I am here to plead its case.

Here's the Stones version…

As a debut single, it is pure Rolling Stones – the antithesis of the soppy sentiments that filled the upper reaches of the charts on the week in which it tiptoed in at number 32. Consider Tony Hatch’s Sweets For My Sweet in the hands of The Searchers on its way to number one while Mitch Murray’s I Like It by Gerry and the Pacemakers was just beginning its descent from the top spot.
By contrast, Come On is a grumpy record, full of broken down cars, wrong numbers and lost jobs. The narrative tells of the hoops through which our protagonist must jump to keep his relationship going. 

In this, it is a blues, albeit a modern, urban, upwardly mobile blues. The consumer durables such as cars and telephones that serve as the song’s plot devices, and the total absence of redemption in the number distance it from the sentiments of a more traditional blues. But on the UK chart of the 1st August 1963, it was as close to the genuine article as was available to the British record buying public.

Jagger, for the most part, inhabits the vocal vividly – no mean feat for a 20-year-old LSE student from Kent, given that the sentiments expressed are rooted in the Black American experience. 

In the number at hand, Berry’s jalopy has broken down, and, being broke himself, he can’t pay to have it fixed. His wish, that someone would just come along and smash the old banger up, is practically un-AmericanYou wouldn’t, for example, catch middle class white boys such as Brian Wilson and Mike Love of The Beach Boys cussin’ that symbol of American affluence, the car.

(When, in 1964, after being released from a five year stretch in prison, Berry turned to the automobile once more in No Particular Place to Go, he still can’t keep a straight face: in verse one the car is a status symbol; by the fade out, it is a farce on wheels when his girl gets trapped by her safety belt.)

It’s only on the final verse of Come On, where Berry’s uncharacteristically weak lyric offers no support, that Jagger begins to flail a little, resorting to a slightly swung pop approach to replace Berry’s more successful, pedantic, one-note delivery. The other factor working against Jagger has been a key change to cover the lack of guitar break. This only succeeds in brightening the mood, the last thing the song needs. (It also puts Keith’s unlikely Graham Nash act on falsetto BV’s a little out of his range.) All is redeemed, however, by the pleading, bluesy coda, in which Jagger returns to his best Dartford, Mississippi tones and a fourth, minor chord is added to the sequence, the whole underpinned by Brian Jones’s disillusioned harmonica.

It is Jones – an effortless multi-instrumentalist – who provides the record with its signature instrument in his harmonica. In this cover, the harp is doing the work that a brass section undertook in the original – trying to inject energy into the proceedings. Here, it also lets off the tension on the bad tempered fourth line of every chorus with a wailing phrase akin to a train whistle. This evocation of wide-open space implies the protagonist will not be putting up with the current situation for very much longer.

That Come On had not yet had a UK release would have added to its muso kudos for the Stones, as well as having the benefit of being a “new” song to British record buyers. 

Keith Richards (who, in a very 50s touch, had been persuaded by manager Andrew Loog Oldham to drop the “s” from the end of his name to have a showbiz resonance with Cliff) later described the number as “middle ground” in terms of being both bluesy and having pop chart potential.

Berry himself, a top ten act in the US, had only charted significantly on two occasions in the UK at this point, with the rock‘n’roll classics School Day in 1957 and Sweet Little Sixteen in 1958. But his other numbers were out of bounds thanks to their familiarity from the movies Rock! Rock! Rock! (1956) in which he performed You Can’t Catch Me and 1959’s Go, Johnny, Go! which featured Johnny B. GoodeMemphis Tennessee and Little Queenie.

Perhaps most crucially representative of all for early period Stones, the number was not written by the band. They were slavish in their adherence to blues material. Come On’s B-side is not a cynical rehash with the band’s name stuck-on to mop up writing royalties, but rather a sincere rendition of Willie Dixon’s I Want to be Loved… 

When they finally did turn to their own composition, it was Jagger and Richards and not founder member and self-styled leader Brian Jones who emerged as the hitsmiths. This power shift that saw the gradual alienation of Jones began in 1964 with the composition of the distinctly un-Stonesy As Tears Go By (a number 9 hit for Marianne Faithfull almost a year after Come On’s chart debut)…

Of the Stones debut disc, only its chart position was inauspicious. In the current climate, the band may well have been dropped. Andrew Loog Oldham later claimed to have bought the single on to the charts himself. Within three singles, however, the Stones joined The Beatles in almost having the top spot as a guarantee with each release. But it wasn’t until 1966, with the release of the first all self-penned album Aftermath that the Rolling Stones abandoned Chuck Berry. The band went on to cut a Berry number on each of their first three albums, as well as Bye Bye Johnny (the “sequel” to Johnny B. Goode) on the Rolling Stones E.P of 1964. And on each occasion they serve him very well. In turn, they, along with The Beatles and others in what the Americans called the British Invasion revived interest in Berry’s career – a much needed fillip following Berry’s five year stretch in prison for transporting a minor across a state line. The girl in question had been brought from Mexico to work as a hat check girl in Berry’s St Louis club. Soon after she was fired and was then arrested on a prostitution charge. All roads led back to Berry and he was convicted (his second spell in jail) and fined $5,000.

Berry’s response to the Stones and The Beatles? Well the great man was never going to wring his cap and give a bunch of white Englishmen the credit for inventing the blues.

“Not to my knowledge,” Berry replied to one reporter who asked him of the Rolling Stones, coming over as coy and spiky as a Tennessee Williams diva, “have I talked with this person of whom you spoke – Dick Jagger?”

Richard's Rock'n'Roll London tour today will have a strong Stones flavour. 

The Rock'n'Roll London Walk meets at 2pm Tottenham Court Road station (exit 1) every Friday all year round and every Wednesday night at 7pm. You can follow the Rock'n'Roll London Walk on Facebook –

Here's the trailer…

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