Marcus Berkmann rss

Singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran poses with his Brits Awards for album of the year and male solo artist Photo: Getty

Why you should never trust songwriting credits

7 March 2015

Songwriting credits are, as we know, not always to be trusted. Since the dawn of music publishing, there has always been a manager or an agent or a well-connected representative… Read more

Elvis

Music’s unsung heroes: we owe a debt of gratitude to the passionate talent-spotters who actually discover the stars

21 February 2015
Cowboys and Indies: The Epic History of the Record Industry Gareth Murphy

Serpent’s Tail, pp.382, £14.99, ISBN: 9781781254523

The crucial thing to remember about the music business is that it’s a business. If you happen to be creating great art as well, that’s a bonus, but it has… Read more

James Blunt Photo: Getty

James Blunt's sense of entitlement is so palpable you could wear it as a hat

7 February 2015

Only a fool would mess with James Blunt. As his Twitter followers know, he has a sharp wit, and, as befits a former officer in the Life Guards, he is… Read more

2014 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival - Weekend 2 - Day 1

His lyrics are hopeless, his covers are catastrophic, yet I still love Bryan Ferry

10 January 2015

There were two new albums I wanted for Christmas — the Bryan Ferry and the Pink Floyd — and to my delight I got both. Others may prefer the unknown… Read more

"Andrew Mueller hates The Doors more than any band in the world" Photo: Getty

Why we love hating the music we hate as much as we love loving the music we love

13 December 2014

With seconds to spare, I think I have chanced upon my music book of the year. Such choices are always frighteningly subjective, relying as they do on the narrow musical… Read more

From Stephen Collins’s Some Comics

The 10 best loo books of 2014: why we sing so much better in the shower and what became of Queen Victoria’s children’s milk teeth

22 November 2014

Nancy Mitford would not call them ‘toilet books’, that’s for certain. Loo books? Lavatory books? One or two people I know favour ‘bog books’. And having written one or two… Read more

Tim Burgess of the Charlatans Photo: Getty

Is there anything a gospel choir can't cheer up?

8 November 2014

‘I’m starting to think that all of the world’s major problems can be solved with either oyster sauce or backing vocals.’ That was Brian Eno writing in his diary one… Read more

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Michael Frayn’s new book is the most highbrow TV sketch show ever

1 November 2014
Matchbox Theatre: Thirty Short Entertainments Michael Frayn

Faber, pp.292, £12.99, ISBN: 9781783063468

Enough of big ideas and grand designs. Instead, here are 30 unusually small ideas from the giant pulsating brain of Michael Frayn. Matchbox Theatre is a collection of tiny playlets,… Read more

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