London Walks connecting.
London Walks here with today’s London fix.
Story time. History time.
Top of the morning to you. It’s July 12th. We’re going to July 12th, 1962 in just a minute. But while we do the countdown to lift-off here’s what’s exercising the London mind today. According to the BBC at any rate.
So if you’re in Ding Dong, Texas or Monkey’s Eyebrow, Kentucky or Bat Cave, North Carolina – and no, I’m not making those American place names up – if you’re in Ding Dong, Texas and wondering, ‘I wonder what they’re thinking about in London this morning’, well, here you go. You can have a quick listen to the news on KDDD – your local station there in Ding Dong – KDDD, best call sign ever – translates to I’m a Ding Dong Daddy – you can have a listen to this morning’s news as KDDD sees it and run a comparison check with the news here in London.
Which is: well, as you know, Wimbledon’s in full stride. And of course for the last year or so one of the rough beasts slouching our way has been getting a fair old amount of attention – namely AI – Artificial Intelligence. Anyway, lots of talk on the Beeb this morning about a robot – a robot that can talk – being one of the presenters in the booth at Wimbledon. A robot announcing a match.
News-wise, well, the BBC led with the egg-on-its-own-face story about the famous presenter – so far unnamed – who’s accused of paying a teenager for sexually explicit photos.
Second item was the price of mortgages. They’ve just hit their highest level in 15 years.
Third item: the G2 meeting and Ukraine Security.
Last item – we’re back home – there’s a flap about the focus on skin colour as part of the checks on how a newborn baby is doing.
And that’s what the dumpster has deposited in the London mind this morning, July 12th, 2023.
Five, four, three, two, one, we have lift off – here we come July 12th, 1962.
Take a walk along Oxford Street and you just might find that you get what you need. Where on Oxford Street? Well, I’d say 165 Oxford Street. The Marquee Club.
Playing there tonight a group of London youngsters – well, one of them was from Cheltenham.
It’s the debut performance of the longest-performing rock band of all time. Say hello to “the bad boy band” – the Rolling Stones. In marked contrast to the good boy band, the mop-tops from Liverpool, the Beatles.
The Beatles will get out front, they’ll hit international stardom in just a few months. In 1963. But the Stones are right on their heels.
I suppose you could say the Stones are the Steve Ovett to the Beatles’ Seb Coe. That’s if you want to put it in great British middle-distance runner terms. Which you probably don’t want to but it tickled a synapse in my grey matter, so here it is.
The band was new – it had only been formed a couple of months previously. And the name was also straight out of the oven. Famously Brian Jones was on the phone trying to book a gig. Down the line the guy asked him, “what’s the name of the band?” Jones glanced down at a Muddy Waters LP, saw one of the tracks named ‘Rollin Stone Blues’ and said ‘Rollin Stones.’ I suppose that was the conception moment – after the foreplay of the band forming – and the birth moment was that night, 61 years ago exactly, at the Marquee Club there on Oxford Street.
The Marquee Club was small. The handful of youngsters at that first gig found what they wanted, got what they needed.
At no little risk of belabouring the obvious, it’s incredible isn’t it to think that was 61 years ago.
Our rock star guide, Adam, did a Diamond Jubilee, a 60th-anniversary birth of the Stones walk a year ago. But that was then. This is now. The Stones are now at the outset of their second sexagenarian period. Sex, eternal youth, rhythm and blues mixed with rock and roll. It doesn’t get old. It was something new in ’62. A renaissance of blues performed by young British musicians. It had kids standing on the tables rocking, dancing, and shouting to the song of electric guitars with a provocative singer.
Sixty years on it still does the business. Though I’m not sure all that many of the sexagenarians and septuagenarians in the audience are up on the tables rocking away. More power to them if they are.
Anyway, here’s to that great moment in Rock ’n’ Roll history, In London rock ’n’ roll history.
And it goes without saying that you can get back with London Walks. Our great rock ’n’ roll guide Adam, remember that young lady from Texas – not from Ding Dong but we’ll forgive her – that young lady from Texas said ‘going on one of Adam’s walks is like being guided by your own personal rock star.’
Anyway, several Adam gigs coming into view. Every Friday afternoon at 2 pm from Tottenham Court Road Tube Station Adam does his Rock ’n’ Roll London Walk. And you can be sure the Marquee Club figures in that walk. Adam takes you there.
And a couple of specials coming up. Adam’s all-day Rock ’n’ roll Explorer Day will take place on July 21st. That one’s like a private performance. Exclusive’s the word. It’s a limited numbers, small group outing. Twelve people maximum. Adam tells me there are still a couple of places so if you want to go grab those places while the grabbings good. Adam describes it as a full-day tour with stops at some of the most iconic locations in Great Britain. It’s suitable for savvy travellers who want to visit hidden gems of the capital city and learn about its history of music. The perfect tour for all those who have a passion for rock’n’roll, a love of history and a curiosity about the hidden neighbourhoods of London away from the tourist traps. In one day we will visit some of the key locations where the music was made and where the biggest stars of all time developed their craft.
And one more for the diary, Adam’s Rolling Stones walk will take place on September 17th at 2 pm from Leicester Square Tube, exit 1. www.walks.com – that’s your ticket to rock.
You’ve been listening to the Today in London History podcast. Emanating from www.walks.com – home of London Walks, London’s signature walking tour company. London’s local, time-honoured, fiercely independent, family-owned, just-the-right-size walking tour company. And as long as we’re at it, London’s multi-award-winning walking tour company. Indeed, London’s only award-winning walking tour company.
And here’s the secret: London Walks is essentially run as a guides’ cooperative.
That’s the key to everything. It’s the reason we’re able to attract and keep the best guides in London. You can get schlubbers to do this for £20 a walk. But you cannot get world-class guides – let alone accomplished professionals.
It’s not rocket science: you get what you pay for. And just as surely, you also get what you don’t pay for.
Back in 1968 when we got started we quickly came to a fork in the road. We had to answer a searching question: Do we want to make the most money? Or do we want to be the best walking tour company in the world? You want to make the most money you go the schlubbers route. You want to be the best walking tour company in the world you do whatever you have to do to attract and keep the best guides in London – you want them guiding for you, not for somebody else. Bears repeating: the way we’re structured – a guides’ cooperative – is the key to the whole thing. It’s the reason for all those awards, it’s the reason people who know go with London Walks, it’s the reason we’ve got a big following, a lively, loyal, discerning following – quality attracts quality.
It’s the reason we’re able – uniquely – to front our walks with accomplished, in many cases distinguished professionals: barristers, doctors, geologists, museum curators, archaeologists, historians, criminal defence lawyers, Royal Shakespeare Company actors, a bevy of MVPs, Oscar winners (people who’ve won the Guide of the Year Award)… well, you get the idea. As that travel writer famously put it, “if this were a golf tournament, every name on the Leader Board would be a London Walks guide.”
And as we put it: London Walks Guides make the new familiar and the familiar new.
And on that agreeable note…come then, let us go forward together on some great London Walks. And that’s by way of saying, Good Londoning one and all. See ya next time.