Thursday, 15 August 2019

The Kensington Playlist

DC Editor Adam writes…

I’m out and about in Kensington today leading the Old Kensington tour for London Walks. You can join me every second Thursday at 2pm meeting at High Street Kensington tube. 

My Kensington tour is not one of my themed music tours - but I always consider the musicians and music of an area when researching any walking tour. I believe it helps me get inside the DNA of an area.

I've been compiling a Kensington playlist – it's a work-in-progress, I'm always on the look-out to update it, but here's what I've got so far. I hope it will help YOU get inside the DNA of this fascinating part of London.

There’s only one possible starting point in Kensington. Hubert Parry and his most famous piece, Jerusalem.


We swing by Hubert Parry’s former residence on the Kensington tour…

The second piece is, perhaps, a little more off-the-beaten track.

I’ve been listening to the music of 20th Century English composer Sir Arthur Bliss (1891 - 1975) lately - inspired by Tom Service’s excellent BBC Radio 3 programme & podcast The Listening Service. Download & listen here:

My Bliss-binge, combined with the changing of the seasons - Kensington always wears her seasonal plumage well – brought me to Bliss’s The Approach of Autumn from his ballet Adam Zero (1946).

Bliss wrote the piece while resident in Kensington, at 15 Cottesmore Gardens where he lived during the post war period.


Adam Zero was premiered at Covent Garden in 1946 with Constant Lambert conducting. Lambert was also a sometime Kensingtonite, residing at 42 Peel Street from 1929-31. The piece is melancholy and intensely dramatic, dominated by pensive woodwind and nagged by chilly strings. I love it…


Bliss was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music in 1953 and in this capacity he composed pieces for the funeral of Winston Churchill and the investiture of the Prince of Wales.

In 1936 he composed the score for the early British sci-fi film Things To Come (based on H.G Well's The Shape of Things To Come). Here's the trailer with Bliss's histrionic score wonderfully at odds with the stiffly posh actors…

Bliss is represented elsewhere on the London landscape with a blue plaque in Hampstead.


Killer Queen by Queen…

Freddie Mercury lived in Kensington (see map below) and worked with Queen drummer Roger Taylor on a stall at the old (long-gone) hippie hangout Kensington Market.

Of all the Queen songs that I could have chosen – surely Bohemian Rhapsody is the most obvious choice – I have gone for Killer Queen. Why? Well it has all the elements of a great Queen song. The words are histrionic and witty. Freddie Mercury's star-studded lyric paints a vivid and outlandish picture of glamorous excess. Syllabically, it is so tightly packed that it almost functions as an additional rhythm instrument.

Musically it's highly contagious, real earworm stuff. It's a great pop song length - i.e. not too long (which is not always the case with Queen). Finally it has great rock elements among all the theatricality - Brian May's solos here are, I think, among his best, so clipped yet passionate – along with those lush vocal harmonies.

Freddie Mercury's former home in Kensington remains a place of pilgrimage for fans from all across the globe…

… although the shrine pictured here was removed in 2017…

Freddie lived in Logan Place, Kensington.

Step forward songwriter and actor Michael Flanders 1922-1975.

In his day, Flanders was regarded by many as the finest English lyricist and librettist since W.S Gilbert. His partnership with Donald Swann created some of the most beloved English comic songs of the 20th Century – The Gnu and The Hippopotamus (commonly known after its refrain of mud, mud glorious mud) among them.

Flanders was educated at Westminster School – at the same time as Peter Ustinov and Peter Brook – and Christ Church, Oxford. He left the latter to join the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve but contracted polio in 1943 and, as a result, used a wheelchair for the rest of his life. One of his less-celebrated achievements was his campaigning to make theatres more accessible.

His debut with Swann under the billing Flanders and Swann, with their revue, At The Drop Of A Hat, took place in 1959 at the now demolished New Lindsey Theatre Club, Kensington Palace Gardens Terrace. It transferred to the Fortune Theatre in the West End for 759 performances before transferring to Broadway.

For my Kensington Playlist I've chosen A Transport of Delight from the Fortune Theatre recording of At The Drop Of A Hat - mainly because of its very London-y subject matter (a London bus) but also because of a reference in the intro by Flanders to Tony Armstrong-Jones, the soon-to-be husband of Princess Margaret. Keeping up my Kensington theme, the couple would reside at Kensington Palace.

Flanders lived at 1a Scarsdale Villas, Kensington from 1953 to 1962 - briefly sharing the house with Swann. A Blue Plaque marks the spot…

A little bit of pop to close this first instalment… Singer Alma Cogan joins Hubert Parry, Arthur Bliss, Queen and Flanders & Swann on the Kensington Playlist. 

Her plaque can be found on High Street, Kensington…

The brightest British star of the pre-Beatles era, Alma Cogan enjoyed chart success with her breezy, traditional pop tunes from 1954 to 1960.

Her cheerful style (she was billed as “The Girl with the Laugh in her Voice”) took her to Number 1 with Dreamboat in 1955 and an appearance on the fabled Ed Sullivan Show in 1957.

Her Blue Plaque is on the apartment block where she lived and staged her legendary showbiz parties. On any given night at 44 Stafford Court, High Street Kensington one could run into Lionel Bart, Cary Grant, Michael Caine or Noel Coward.

Lennon and McCartney were no strangers to Alma's famous parties – Alma and The Beatles first met at rehearsals for TV's Sunday Night At the London Palladium in January 1964. Lennon nicknamed her Sarah Sequin. Rumours persist that the two had an affair.

Alma was one of the first ports of call for McCartney when he composed what would become Yesterday. Beatle legend tells us that the song arrived to McCartney in a dream, and he wasn't completely sure if the song was perhaps a "borrowed" melody from another, older tune. In checking it with Cogan – an expert in the field of showtunes and American Songbook – the singing star seems to have assumed that the Beatle was offering her exclusive recording rights to the song. While she did go on to record the number (along with Ticket to Ride and Eight Days A Week) she was just one of many. It's often said that Yesterday is the most recorded pop song of all time.

The number I've added to the Kensington Playlist is Alma's only UK No.1 from 1955 Dreamboat – being representative of her breezy style.

 A Londoner through-and-through, she was born in Whitechapel as Alma Angela Cohen to Russian Jewish immigrant parents and lived in Kensington for fifteen years until her death, at the age of 36 from ovarian cancer, in 1966.

Here's the playlist so far…

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Wednesday, 14 August 2019

My London Walks Tours In August

All of my scheduled London Walks tours for the rest of August 2019…

All the scheduled public tours led by Adam Scott-Goulding for the famous London Walks company in the coming weeks.

Tours last 2 hours and cost £10 for adults, £8 for students & seniors. 

Click the Book Your Tour buttons to pay & reserve your place. 

Bookings are handled via our online shop Pay A Tour. There are NO booking fees.

Old Kensington

Thursdays 15th & 29th August 2019
Meet at High Street Kensington tube

A walking tour of London's royal village…

Jack the Ripper

Thursdays 15th & 29th August 2019

Meet at Tower Hill Tube by the tram 7.30pm

The word's most enduring crime story – social history, conspiracy and gruesome murder make for an intense night.

Tour ends at Spitalfields Market near Liverpool Street station.

Hidden London

Friday 16th August 2019

Meet at Monument tube (Fish Street Hill exit) 11a.m

Old City churches, the livery companies, folklore, legend and history - a celebratory exploration of 2,000 years of London history.

Tour ends at Blackfriars tube.

The London Music Tour – Rock'n'Roll London

Friday 16th August 2019

2pm Tottenham Court Road tube (exit 1) 

The history of pop and rock music in London…

£10/£8 Pay on the day or book now…

London Horror Story

Saturdays 17th & 31st August 2019  

Meet at St Paul's tube 7.30pm

Ghosts, murder and mayhem - 2,000 years of dark history

£10/£8 Pay on the day or book now…

The Unknown East End

Sunday 18th August 2019

Meet at Whitechapel tube 2:00pm

Rich in history and stories, this walk was taught to me by my late friend and colleague Harry Jackson. Multiculturalism, immigration, gangsters, literary history, architecture, legends and politics, this walk has the lot.

Tour ends at Brick Lane.

The Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk with LIVE Music

A rock & pop history tour with LIVE music from your guide

Every Wednesday in August 2019  

Meet at Tottenham Court Road Tube (exit 1) 7pm

£10/£8 Pay on the day or book now…

The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour

Wednesday 28th August 2019 11am
Thursday 29th August 2pm

Meet at Tottenham Court Road Tube (exit 1) 7pm

Want to book a private tour? Get in touch!

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Tuesday, 13 August 2019

The Daily Constitutional London Library No.10: Bespoke – Savile Row Ripped & Smoothed

Welcome to The Daily Constitutional London Library

In this ten-week series of posts I've been drawing in literary fiction, popular fiction, graphic novels and non-fiction to create a reading list as disparate and inspiring as London itself. 

The 10 titles are linked in so much as each one features at least one London location – each post will also featured a map to one of the locations.

Last instalment (for the time being) brings us to Savile Row…

No.10. Bespoke – Savile Row Ripped & Smoothed

By Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson walked into Huntsman of Savile Row as a callow teenager looking for a job. He left nearly 20 years later as one of the bespoke world’s most respected tailors having learned the trade from suit makers of the old school.

Where he learned to write so well is not a matter of record, but the proof of his ability can be found on every page of his autobiographical account of a working life on one of London’s most famous streets.

His insider’s tale opens up Savile Row tailoring to the layman with wit, affection and not a little drama.

His pen portraits of the irascible old tailors who toughened him up as a young apprentice are vivid and memorable. His discreetly gossipy revelations of the foibles of arguably the most demanding clientele in London make the reader feel that the cost of a bespoke suit would be cheap at twice the price.

Three tales are woven into the narrative. There’s Anderson’s own coming-of-age story, that of a boy from St Albans who dreamt of being a footballer and who almost blundered into his calling on The Row. It is the work of a seemingly very down-to-earth man whose easy charm and self-effacing wit wins the reader from the off.

The history of Savile Row is the next strand, and Anderson’s delight in the famous old street is infectious. The art of the tailor is the third and potentially most difficult strand. But such is Anderson’s love of his craft, combined with his gift to relate a tale, that the technical details of cutting, measuring and making a suit become more fascinating with every page.

In 2001 he set up his own business on The Row. Richard Anderson Ltd was the first new house to be set up on Savile Row in 50 years.

Each Savile Row tailoring house has its own distinctive style. But I doubt if any of them will ever write a book about The Row that is half as good as this one. No London bookshelf is complete without it.

Richard Anderson, Savile Row…

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Wednesday, 7 August 2019

Ashes To Ashes at Abbey Road

DC Editor Adam writes…

From time-to-time, I spot a famous musician along the route of my London Music Tours. This is London and, as I state in the voice over for the Rock'n'Roll London video, all roads lead here as the capital of the music biz in this country.

But the most memorable sighting along the route of any of my tours involved not a star, but an ordinary person.

On any other day, she would have been as anonymous on any London street as you or me. And on any other day I wouldn't have given her a second glance.

I was leading a private musical London tour for a family from New York. It was an all-morning tour and we had taken a taxi to finish at the famous Abbey Road crossing.

We were waiting for the traffic and the crowds to calm down a little so that I could snap the obligatory photo of the family on the world's most famous cross walk.

As we waited our turn, I noticed that one woman was crossing back and forth. Not in a conspicuous way. She would walk, at a regular pace from one side of the road to the other, pause for a few moments, and then cross back.

It's not uncommon for fans to pose for two-or-three "takes" - if you've come a long way to get this shot then it would be a shame if it wasn't right.

But as we waited for our turn - it was a particularly busy morning at Abbey Road – something caught my eye as the woman, in her 50s, maybe her 60s, crossed again.

It first glance I thought she was smoking - a cigarette or vape contraption was creating wispy clouds from her hand (Paul, after all, has a fag on the go in the famous sleeve picture).

But the cloud wasn't drifting up. It was falling down.

It was then I realised… she was scattering ashes. Solemn and discreet, she was carrying out the last request of a loved one.

A most moving scene. Elegiac and strangely joyful.   

With my colleagues Richard P & Andy I'll be leading the special Abbey Road 50th Anniversary Walk on Thursday 8th August 2019. Meet us at Tottenham Court Road tube 9:30a.m.

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Tuesday, 6 August 2019

The Daily Constitutional London Library No.9. 2 Stoned

Welcome to The Daily Constitutional London Library

In this twelve-week series of posts I'll be drawing in literary fiction, popular fiction, graphic novels and non-fiction to create a reading list as disparate and inspiring as London itself. 

The twelve titles are linked in so much as each one features at least one London location – each post will also feature a map to one of the locations

No.9. Too Stoned
By Andrew Loog Oldham

2 Stoned is the second volume of autobiography from the Rolling Stones manager and rock svengali Andrew Loog Oldham.

Loog Oldham was the young turk who shaped the Stones as the anti-Beatles. His first volume of autobiography – Stoned (1998) tells the tale of his youth and his meeting the self-styled World’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band. It is a great read.

The second volume – appropriately entitled 2Stoned – gets down to the nitty gritty.

OIdham’s tale is unique indeed. Few had such a close view of the so-called Swinging Sixties in London. And few have allowed other voices into their story. Oldham, always the radical, has no fear in this quarter.

His narrative bowls along with stylishly-honed tales of drunkenness and cruelty, yet… every so often he steps aside to allow someone else to chip in. Townshend, Marianne Faithfull, Al Kooper, Nick Cohn, John Paul Jones and many more – provide a Greek chorus of asides and contradictions that helps to make this one of the best of all rock’n’roll reads.

You probably didn't buy your white-haired ol’ mum a copy for Mothers’ Day. Unless, of course, her hair’s white from peroxide and she thinks sweet sherry is a breakfast wine. In which case… bring her along on the Rock’n’Roll London Walk!

Location? Regent Sounds in Denmark Street. Now a guitar shop, it was once a recording studio and it features prominently in the book…

A tour to accompany the book? The Rock'n'Roll London Pub Walk with LIVE Music, Wednesday nights…

A rock & pop history tour with LIVE music from your guide

Meet at Tottenham Court Road Tube (exit 1) 7pm

£10/£8 Pay on the day or book now…

Next week… the last book in the series

Bespoke – Savile Row Ripped & Smoothed

By Richard Anderson

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Thursday, 1 August 2019

The Ashes 2019

DC Editor Adam Scott-Goulding writes…

The Ashes 1st Test begins at Lord's today.

Test? Ashes? Baffled? Confused?

Here are five handy facts to keep you afloat this summer when the conversation turns to all things cricket.

1. The earliest recorded reference to the game dates from the reign of King Edward I (1239 – 1307) when it is believed the game was known as ‘creag’.

2. The first County cricket match (Kent v. London) took place in 1719 – in London, at Lamb’s Conduit Fields in what is now Bloomsbury.

3. Cricket legend has it that the game killed an heir to the British throne. Frederick Louis, Prince of Wales (above), a cricket nut, died prematurely in 1751 – some say as the result of an injury sustained on the cricket field. (His son became King George III in 1760.)

4. England v. Australia is the third oldest international sporting fixture in the world (next to the England v. Scotland (1872) and Scotland v. Wales (1876) football fixtures). The first test series took place in season 1876-77 in Melbourne, Australia, and ended in a 1-1 draw.

5. The Ashes is so called because of the urn that acts as the “trophy” for the series. In 1880 Australia emerged from the Oval victorious. The Sporting Times published an obituary for English cricket stating that “the body [of English cricket] will be cremated and the ashes taken to Australia.” The urn is rumoured to contain the ashes of a burnt bail (the small piece of wood that must be knocked from the top of the stumps by the bowler to get the batsman “out”). The great anomaly is that even when Australia wins The Ashes, the trophy remains (no pun intended) at Lord’s Cricket Ground.

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