Sound Tour of London

May 25, 2011

Years ago, I picked up this single in a charity shop  – but sadly just the sleeve. With no record inside, the actual recording of Sound Town: London – The West End remains a tantalising mystery. It’s undated, but the inclusion of the BT Tower (which was completed in 1964) on the sleeve means it was released in the mid-1960s at the earliest.

Produced by Travelsound of 1-14 Canfield Gardens, NW6 (a couple of roads away from Finchley Road tube station), the record celebrates “the sounds that are London. A small treasure of knowledge this – it will enrich you in many ways, help you to understand the people of this Island. You will then be able to say, “nice to know you.””

I’d always presumed it would consist of field recordings of noises, ambient sound or conversations – a prototype art project – but looking at the back, one T.Z. Kurkowski is credited with the script, which was read by Ian Clark, a registered British Travel Association guide. In some ways, it’s an early prototype of many of the modern London walking tours you can currently download through iTunes, where someone takes you on a walk in real time, their commentary running over the sounds of the roads they’re walking down and the sights they stop outside.

The track ‘Speaker’s Corner at Marble Arch’ is the one I’m keenest to hear – for something which has been running for so many years, it’s shocking how meagre a selection of recordings seem to have been made at Speaker’s Corner. In recent years, it seems to have fallen off the list of  tourist destinations, but having wandered over a few months back, it’s as full of racists, cranks and End-Is-Nigh-ers as ever.

A second record – Sound Tour of London – The City – was also released at the same time, but neither return any results on the internet whatsoever. It seems I’m never going to get to hear this thing…