Marcus Berkmann rss

Jazz soloist Charlie Parker with his saxophone c. 1946

From ragtime to the X Factor: the epic story of popular music

22 August 2015
Electric Shock: From the Gramophone to the iPhone— 125 Years of Pop Music Peter Doggett

The Bodley Head, pp.692, £25, ISBN: 9781847922182

As pop music drifts away from many people’s lives, so its literature grows ever more serious and weighty, as though aware that this is an art form approaching the end… Read more

Hans-Joachim Roedelius (Photo: Gary Wolstenholme/Redferns)

Four of the best albums to write books by

8 August 2015

I have been writing a book this summer, in the usual mad tearing hurry. (Much as I admire those who take four or five years to write one, I have… Read more

Looking idiotic: Cathy Fechoz performs ski ballet at the Olympic Games, Albertville, 1992. The sport no longer exists

Anyone for eel-pulling?

18 July 2015
Fox Tossing, Octopus Wrestling and Other Forgotten Sports Edward Brooke-Hitching

Simon & Schuster, pp.258, £12.99, ISBN: 9781471148989

Scholarship for its own sake has rather gone out of fashion, although I’m sure Spectator readers would be the last people to worry about that. But what of scholarship for… Read more


Why do we always beat up on drummers?

11 July 2015

It’s rare that I see a piece about music that makes me want to cheer from the rafters and shake the perpetrator by the hand, but one such appeared in… Read more

Marcus Mumford and Winston Marshall of Mumford & Sons (Photo: Getty)

A reason to (almost) like Mumford & Sons

13 June 2015

Like a lot of essentially cautious people, I like my music to take some risks, play with fire and damn the consequences. In truth, of course, most musicians are every… Read more

And then there were four: One Direction (Photo: Getty)

If One Direction lost one more member, would they be quorate?

9 May 2015

Where were you when you heard that Zayn Malik had left One Direction? No, me neither, but as my teenage daughter reports, an entire generation of female youth appears to… Read more

Chris Rainbow fan: DJ Kenny Everett Photo: Getty

The golden age of pop has been replaced by the golden age of pop obituaries

11 April 2015

The golden age of pop music may be long gone, but the golden age of pop musicians’ obituaries is definitely with us. Soon I shall have to start apologising for… Read more

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


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


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


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