London Calling - Bedford author guides readers on a walking tour of London

A Bedford man has penned a fascinating book about taking a walking tour of London. Jon Askew says the book has been 'a labour of love' - and is hoping it will inspire you to hop on a train and go walking in the capital.
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Being just an hour's train ride from London is one of the biggest perks of living in Bedford - actually, some might say it's the only perk. But having lived in this town all my life I wouldn't dare say such a thing, especially as being so close to the capital made much easier the task of writing my first book - and that particular journey took a lot longer than it takes the train to clatter down to St Pancras.

About twenty-five years ago I read Bill Bryson's 'Notes from a Small Island' and it gave me a love of his style of travelogue writing and a yearning to try and create something like that myself. Over the years I partially satisfied that desire by writing articles for various magazines, but the urge to write a book never went away. It wasn't until six years ago however, that I finally decided on a suitable subject for that book. I would combine my love of music with my fascination for London.

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And so the research began, with lots of reading, visits to London and listening to loads of music, some of which I'd never heard before. Then, one thrilling day in April, my ideas finally found their way into print.

Jon Askew at Waterloo Bridge.Jon Askew at Waterloo Bridge.
Jon Askew at Waterloo Bridge.

'Rock & Stroll - A Walk Around London's Greatest Hits' is a walking tour that takes in the sights and sounds of rock and pop music as it strides through the beating heart of the city. Part passionate lament and part love song to the capital, it explores London's enduring influence on popular music and

uncovers many of the mysteries surrounding its connections to all music genres.

My journey around London's hit parade began one morning in Camden where I visited Amy Winehouse's incredibly lifelike statue in the vibrant Stables Market, then passed the impressive Roundhouse music venue on my way to Primrose Hill. Having reached its summit and enjoyed fantastic views across the city, I walked on to Abbey Road to witness streams of Beatles fans coming together with the traffic as they followed the footsteps of the Fab Four across the iconic zebra crossing outside the recording studios.

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Then I was off to Warwick Avenue, made famous by Duffy's 2008 mega hit, before heading onto Baker Street. Once there, I uncovered the truth about who played the sizzling sax solo on Gerry Rafferty's 1978 masterpiece that still sounds so fresh you can hear it bouncing off the buildings as you walk along its pavements.

The West End bazaar of Oxford Street was my next port of call, then down Bond Street and across Green Park before lunch among the music souvenirs displayed at the Hard Rock Cafe on Piccadilly, followed by a whistle-stop tour of Burlington Arcade.

Next I wandered off to Regent Street and the spot where Ziggy Stardust first fell to earth, before crossing over to Soho to visit Carnaby Street, The Marquee Club, the charming Bar Italia and a touching memorial to Kirsty MacColl. Then, via Leicester Square and Seven Dials, I called on Donovan's old stomping ground around Goodge Street.

South Kensington gave me the chance to break free from the West End and discover the site of Queen's debut London gig before trekking along King's Road, past Vivienne Westwood's Worlds End boutique, Bob Marley's old house and across the beautiful Albert Bridge to Battersea. Journeying into South London I went up the junction to pay tribute to Squeeze and onto Clapham Common before making my way to Brixton's historic Electric Avenue, celebrated in Eddy Grant's 1983 hit record.

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Crossing back north of the Thames I walked along the Strand to visit the obscure location that hosted one of Bob Dylan's most famous performances, and then down to Victoria Embankment. From there I trudged along to my final destination where I enjoyed a Waterloo sunset on the very bridge that inspired The Kinks to write London's most revered song.

So there you have it. Years of work and thousands of steps, all condensed into 800 words. The book, of course, is much longer than that as it delves far deeper into the stories surrounding these locations and visits many others too.

For a boy from the suburbs of Bedford, committing our capital city's popular music history to paper has been a labour of love. For you, I hope it will provide the inspiration to go rocking & strolling around some of its musical treasures the next time you head down to the streets of London.

Rock & Stroll - A Walk Around London's Greatest Hits by Jon Askew.

Available locally at Slide Records, The Arcade, Bedford and Eagle Bookshop, St Peter's Street, Bedford. Also from Amazon in paperback and on Kindle.