Friday, 30 March 2018

Friday is Rock'n'Roll London Day: A Vince Taylor Playlist - @rexosborn Is Leading The Tour Today

Friday is Rock'n'Roll London Day on The Daily Constitutional!

The Rock'n'Roll London Walk meets at Tottenham Court Road Station every Friday at 2pm.

DC Editor Adam writes…

Rex is leading the Rock'n'Roll London Walk today.

Like all the London Walks guides who take charge of the Rock'n'Roll London Walk, Rex has a broad taste in music. You can be sure he will be roping all sorts of artists, gigs, records and events into his tour this afternoon.

I do know that he is particularly drawn to the story of Vince Taylor, the wayward, Isleworth-born rocker who has become something of a cult figure. His enigmatic story, shot through with drugs and brushes with the law, is the stuff of rock'n'roll legend. 

Morrissey is said to be a particular devotee of Taylor who was always very big in France. Adam Ant wrote a cracking tribute to him on his 2013 album Adam Ant Is the Blueblack Hussar in Marrying the Gunner's Daughter. In 1999, ol' grumpy chops Van Morrison doffed his cap to Taylor in his song Going Down Geneva with the lyric…

Vince Taylor used to live here
No one's even heard of him
Just who he was
Just where he fits in

If those lines apply to you, then I'm sure Rex will put you right this afternoon.

To get you in the mood, here's a short playlist of Vince Taylor-related tunes, including The Clash's cover of his most famous song Brand New Cadillac. The playlist closes with the man himself performing what, for many of us, is one of the first sure blows delivered by the mainly timid and jelly-kneed British challengers to Elvis's belt back in the 50s. 

Rock'n'Roll London Walk meets at 2pm Tottenham Court Road station (exit 1) every Friday all year round – and every Wednesday at 7pm from 7th March 2017. 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

Thursday, 29 March 2018

A NEW Home For the Wonderful Cartoon Museum @Cartoonmuseumuk #LoveLondon

DC Editor Adam writes…

The wonderful Cartoon Museum is to get a new home!

My favourite little museum in the world has been existing of late under a cripplingly high rent for its site in Bloomsbury.

The good news is that it will soon move to a new site in Fitzrovia – and a fundraising drive is underway to help the transition which will safeguard this brilliant and resourceful little museum for the next 25 years.  As soon as I have more details of any fundraising events, I'll post them here on The Daily Constitutional.

Here's how the news was announced last night…

Good luck (and thanks!) to everyone at The Cartoon Museum!

Here's a post from The DC archive on The Cartoon Museum. It's Panel 11 in my Cartoon & Comic Book Tour of London blog, a love letter to the best little corner of Bloomsbury…

(You can catch up with the with all the posts in my cartoon & Comic Book Tour Of London blog here:

Panel 11: The Cartoon Museum

There it is, tucked away in plain view, struggling to be noticed in the presence of that upstaging old ham The British Museum.

Just to clarify: the good people at the Cartoon Museum are not describing the BM as an "upstaging old ham". That's all my own work, folks.

Indeed when Anita O'Brien, the curator at the Cartoon Museum got in touch with The Daily Constitutional recently, one of the first things she did was direct us to the British Museum as a great resource for London-themed cartoons. 

Anita was writing in response to my request for a London-themed cartoon recommendation and she sent us not one, but two, in the shape of this pair of marvellous Heath Robinsons…

The Cartoon Museum receives very little funding, yet manages to sustain a vivid, rolling programme of exhibitions covering everything from The Beano to William Hogarth.

The collection – rotated regularly – also features originals from Charles M Schultz and Doonesbury creator G.B Trudeau. I'm told that Trudeau dropped off the originals in person one day, travelling incognito - he enjoyed a mooch around the collection first - as a paying customer! Artists from George du Maurier to Gillray are also represented in the permanent collection alongside such diverse contemporary figures as Posy Simmonds (Tamara DreweGemma Bovary) and Alan Moore (V For VendettaFrom Hell).

There are workshops for kids and courses for adults, too. There's a great bookshop, events and talks from the likes of Martin Rowson and no corporate coffee concession stinking the place up. 

And I hear that there may even be a ghost on the premises, too.


The Cartoon Museum

35 Little Russell Street

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

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Lionel Bart – My Musical Hero #WorldTheatreDay #LoveLondon #WorldTheatreDay2018

DC Editor Adam writes…

One from the archive. I first posted this one back in February 2014 and I'm reblogging today for World Theatre Day, a fan letter to my favourite musical theatre composer of 'em all, Lionel Bart…

10 Reasons Why Songwriter Lionel Bart Is My Hero…

Lionel Bart pictured in 1962 on the sleeve of Blitz!

• East Ender, True Londoner

Lionel Bart’s trajectory seems nigh-on a fairy tale today. He was born Lionel Begleiter in Stepney in 1930. His Galacian Jewish parents had fled the pogroms. His talents in art (he was a scholarship boy at St Martin’s School of Art) and then music saw him rise to the very top of England’s post-war creative establishment.

• Oliver!

Oliver! opened at the New Theatre in the West End (now named the Noel Coward Theatre) in 1960. Oliver! remains his most famous show and it ran for 2618 performances and has enjoyed three successful, star-studded revivals since then. But regardless of who plays the show-stealing role of Fagin, the songs and the lyrics remain the stars of any production.

You’ve Got To Pick A Pocket Or TwoI’d Do AnythingWhere Is Love?It’s a Fine LifeConsider Yourself… a banquet of memorable tunes as rich as the repast envisioned in the opening number, Food Glorious Food. Witty words, too:

Peas pudding and saveloys  – what next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it boys in-di-gestion!

But it's not all about the clever-clever rhymes. On As Long As He Needs Me, Dickens’s simple London girl Nancy is unencumbered by fancy rhymes. Bart’s plain speaking love song is totally in service to the character. Even the great Sondheim, as a young lyricist on West Side Story, made this mistake – his equally simple Maria is almost buried in flashy lyrics. And Sondheim was trained and influenced by the best. Bart knows instinctively when it is right to show off with language and when to rein it in. The gift of a true Cockney.

And let’s not forget the sleeping partner, here: C. Dickens. Surely a composer can’t go wrong when borrowing from such a book? Think again. Back in the 60s, a musical of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s failed to survive previews on Broadway; closer to home, the musical of Tess of the D’urbervilles flopped spectacularly.

Bart and Dickens collaborate seamlessly. Bart comes neither to bury Dickens with his music nor praise him with reverence. Bart’s chutzpah in approaching the project as Dickens’s equal is VERY East London: we're the equal of anyone. And this delicious brashness flavours the entire work. But more important than that is empathy. Empathy is the key to the success of Oliver!: both Dickens and Bart loved London. Both men experienced tremendous poverty here. It is the perfect collaboration.

Oliver! took 23 curtain calls on its opening night.

• The Sheer Energy & Drive of The Man

Music, book and lyrics ALL. An egomaniac? I would jolly well think he was. A force of nature? Well that comes over clearly in the work. Only a boy running from the very real spectre of poverty could travel at such a lick and achieve so much along the way. Where are the 21st Century Lionel Barts in a show business establishment that seems, like our political stage, to be peopled with the privileged?

• He Started The OTHER British Invasion

Oliver! was the first modern British musical to be a hit on Broadway. It was already a hit when The Beatles arrived to play Ed Sullivan. The Beatles' impact on American popular music was, of course, instant. Bart’s was more of a slow-burning revolution. In Bart’s wake it was the pop-influenced composers such as Lloyd-Webber and Rice who grew to dominate the world of the musical by the 1980s. Bart was the pioneer. And he had to surmount greater obstacles than his Liverpudlian counterparts. The Fabs, let’s be honest, met with very little resistance on the bland American pop charts of 1963. Bart, however, had to hold his own in a golden age with the likes of Rodgers and Hammerstein.

• Self Taught Pop Music Genius

I never think of Lennon and McCartney as composers without thinking of Lionel Bart. Together they are the giants of mid-20th Century British popular song. We still exist in their shadows today. That all three were autodidacts only adds to their legend.

• Fing’s Ain’t Wot They Used T’be

Harder to love than Oliver! but a classic in its own right, Fings Ain’t Wot They Used T’be (1959) was staged at the Theatre Royal Stratford under the auspices of the great Joan Littlewood. More a play with music than a traditional book musical, Fings… transferred to the Garrick and ran for 886 performances. The piece brought the Cockney accent to the West End in all its profane glory in a way that was neither patronizing nor stagey. This is Brecht & Weill and John Gay through the picaresque prism of a blitzed and battle-calloused East End. Please sir, can we have a National Theatre revival?

• The Rise and Fall

Hollywood wouldn’t dare make it up. From somewhere beneath rags to beyond riches, from Stepney to Kensington. The rise is exhilarating. There’s also the crucial fall from grace that allows the Greek chorus of middle England to chime, “I told you so” at the Icarus fate of ambition on such a visible scale. “He didn’t,” they tut, “fulfill his potential.”

Fulfill his potential! He wrote Oliver!! In this alone he fulfilled the potential of 10 composers. What a show.

In his ravenous approach to life, again: what a show.

If he’d been born in Hell’s Kitchen there would be a theatre named for him on Broadway.

Why no such commemoration in the West End? Does his multiple-outsider status make him unfit for such an honour? Or is it the perceived vulgarity of his fabled rise that makes the theatre establishment turn up its nose. Here’s the story of the famous golden bathroom fixtures by way of illustration…

• Best Line

Bill Sykes to Nancy when she asks whether the rogue loves her or not. The black-hearted Bill’s reply? Salty, veiled but not coy: “I live with ya, don’t I?”

• Best Song

As Long As He Needs Me. And here’s Georgia Brown (another Londoner) giving it LARGE on Ed Sullivan…

• The Exclamation Mark!

Oliver! So much more thrilling than plain-old Oliver. Every! Musical! Should! Have! One!

And that’s why Lionel Bart is my hero.

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, 26 March 2018

In & Around #London #Photoblog… Here's What We've Got To Look Forward To #Spring

The Monday Photoblog!

DC Editor Adam writes…

It's been a LONG winter, but the clocks went forward this weekend and here's what we've got to look forward to in London over the coming weeks…

The V&A

Westminster Cathedral

Embankment Gardens

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