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Marcus Berkmann rss

Director Nora Ephron Photo: Getty

Why everyone wants what Nora Ephron was having

18 October 2014
The Most of Nora Ephron Nora Ephron

Doubleday, pp.392, £20, ISBN: 9780857522696

I have come late to Nora Ephron — a little too late for her, anyway, as she died in 2012. Indeed, it was just after she breathed her last that… Read more

Steve Howe of Yes Photo: Redferns via Getty

Why Yes are still the funniest rock band in the world (although Radiohead are catching up)

11 October 2014

My favourite comment about the Scottish referendum came from the eminent comedian and novelist David Baddiel. ‘What if Yes wins, but due to a typographical error, the prog-rock band gets… Read more

Kate Bush at her family home, 1978 Photo: Getty

The secret to a long and happy pop career? Don’t die

13 September 2014

As everybody in the world except me seems to have seen Kate Bush’s live shows — against all apparent arithmetical sense — these have been gloomy weeks in the primary… Read more

beer

A toast to beer, from Plato to Frank Zappa

16 August 2014

‘He was a wise man who invented beer,’ said Plato, although I imagine he had changed his mind by the following morning. Beer: A Global History (Reaktion, £9.99, Spectator Bookshop,… Read more

Laurie Taylor interviews Sir David Attenborough

Interviews with the great, the good, the less great and the really quite bad

9 August 2014
In Confidence: Talking Frankly About Fame Laurie Taylor

Zero Books, pp.188, £9.99, ISBN: 9781782797678

The TV chat show, if not actually dead, has been in intensive care for a while now, hooked up to machines that go bleep. But the long-form interview, as pioneered… Read more

Latitude Festival 2010: Day 1

My daughter wants to know why you haven't heard of the Jayhawks

9 August 2014

One of the many delightful aspects of having children is that you can get them to do things you are too old, lazy or important to do yourself. My disinclination… Read more

Illustration, from World War I in Cartoons, Mark Bryant, Grub Street.

The completely ludicrous – and sometimes believable – world of the First World War spook

12 July 2014

There can’t have been this many books about the first world war since — just after the first world war. One publishing craze of the 1920s was books about spying,… Read more

Kirk Hammett and James Hetfield of US metal band Metallica perform at Glastonbury Photo: Getty

How do you like your pop: clean, dirty or downright soap-shy?

12 July 2014

I am still listening to the new Coldplay album, and liking it more and more, and not just because everyone keeps telling me how terrible it is. There is perversity… Read more

Coldplay's Chris Martin Photo: Getty

Has any band of the past 20 years been as consistently irritating as Coldplay?

14 June 2014

It’s a long time, a very, very long time, since I bought a Coldplay album. Has any band of the past 20 years been so consistently irritating? Oasis were aggressively… Read more

"The only time anyone ever uses the word, in the phrase ‘legs akimbo’, it’s wrong."

Why is 'loo' slang? Because Simon Heffer says so!

31 May 2014
Simply English Simon Heffer

RH Books, pp.384, £14.99, ISBN: 9781847946768

Did Simon Heffer’s new book come out on St George’s Day? If not, it probably should have done. If we ever needed someone to defend what’s left of our national… Read more

What's your guilty pleasure? Photo: Getty

One man’s guilty pleasure is another’s palpable greatness

10 May 2014

The film critic Anne Billson wrote a typically pugnacious piece recently about the phrase ‘guilty pleasures’, which has spread like Japanese knotweed beyond its origins in pop music and taken… Read more

Marcus Berkmann

Roger Mortimer writes again

19 April 2014
Dearest Jane... Jane Torday and Roger Mortimer

Constable, pp.417, £14.99, ISBN: 9781472105912

After Dear Lupin and Dear Lumpy, here’s a slightly more prosaically titled collection of letters from Roger Mortimer, longtime racing correspondent of the Sunday Times and frequent purchaser of stamps.… Read more

DJ Frankie Knuckles (Photo: Claire Greenway/Getty)

Pop has become a conservative art form and an old man’s game

12 April 2014

It is coming to something when relatively young pop stars die not of drugs or misadventure but, essentially, of old age and decay. Frankie Knuckles, the house DJ and producer,… Read more

Poster

When posters told us our place

29 March 2014
Keep Britain Tidy and Other Posters From the Nanny State Hester Vaizey (ed)

Thames and Hudson, pp.94, £14.95, ISBN: 9780500291405

As a sign of the way things have changed, nothing could better this. Hester Vaizey, Cambridge history don and ‘publishing co-ordinator’ at the National Archives, has collated this splendid collection… Read more

Pharrell Williams performs 'Happy' at the Oscars Photo: Getty

Addicted to Vole

8 March 2014

Earworm: what a wonderful word. It describes, as nothing else quite can, the effect a really invasive melody can have on your consciousness. Hear the song once and you will… Read more

Paddy McAloon of Prefab Sprout Photo: Redferns

Prefab Sprout's comeback gives hope to the over-50s

8 February 2014

Every musical career has its own narrative, and most of them include at least one comeback. To come back, you first have to go away; then you have to stay… Read more

Mariah Carey (Photo: Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty)

All I want next Christmas is new Christmas songs 

11 January 2014

Three months until spring. Four months until the start of the cricket season. And only nine months until the radio starts playing ‘Merry Xmas Everybody’ again. Or have you heard… Read more

'Christy Moore's (above)  Motherland is a full three-course meal of melody, folk-rock with a soulful edge' Photo: Redferns via Getty

Albums of the year? Some years we can answer it, some years we can't 

14 December 2013

Albums of the year? What a good question. Some years we can answer it, some years we can’t. The essence of pop music is its newness, its absolute determination to… Read more

Movie moment: in the classic American noir Laura (1944), Dana Andrews, as Detective Lieutenant Mark McPherson, gazes at the portrait of Laura Hunt, played by Gene Tierney

'Here's looking at you, kid' —  the best lines from the movies

7 December 2013
All the Best Lines George Tiffin

Head of Zeus, pp.416, £20, ISBN: 9781781852019

Moments that Made the Movies David Thomson

Thames & Hudson, pp.304, £24.95, ISBN: 9780500516416

Many of us, I get the feeling, don’t go and see as many films as we used to, or want to. Instead we spend all our time complaining that we… Read more

Left to right: Eleanor Roosevelt, King George VI, Sara Roosevelt (the President’s mother), Queen Elizabeth and FDR at Hyde Park on Hudson

A book that's inspired by a movie (for a change)

30 November 2013
Hot Dogs and Cocktails: When FDR Met George VI at Hyde Park on Hudson Peter Conradi

Alma, pp.300, £20, ISBN: 9781846882944

Books become films every day of the week; more rarely does someone feel inspired to write a book after seeing a film. Peter Conradi’s Hot Dogs And Cocktails tells the… Read more

From Private Eye: A Cartoon History edited by Nick Newman

The best funny books for Christmas

9 November 2013

Books do furnish a room, and quirky books for Christmas do furnish an enormous warehouse somewhere within easy reach of the M25. There are more of them than ever this… Read more

(Picture: Karl Walter/Getty)

Morrissey can't even moan properly — here's a frontman who can

9 November 2013

There is much to be said for Schadenfreude. (If it was edible, it would be a meal in a very expensive restaurant, for which someone else was paying.) So it’s… Read more

Bookends

#Onyourmarks! What is the formal name for the hashtag? 

26 October 2013

One day there simply won’t be any strange byways of the English language left to write quirky little books about. Happily that day hasn’t arrived yet. Keith Houston’s Shady Characters… Read more

An Endangered Species, by David Gower - review

Gower vs Boycott

19 October 2013

Ask any England cricket fan in his fifties to name his favourite batsman and chances are he will say David Gower. (Unless he says Geoffrey Boycott: the cavaliers and roundheads… Read more

Screen Shot 2013-10-10 at 08.20.45

Talk Talk bears repetition

12 October 2013

First impressions always count, and they are almost always wrong. This is particularly pertinent if you review albums for a living, as I used to years ago. You would listen… Read more