Graeme Thomson

Albums should be forced by law to reveal where each song was written

Place is a crucially under-discussed element in the otherwise oversubscribed business of music criticism

Yoko Ono in the lounge of her Manhattan apartment she shared with John Lennon, 8 December 1981 (Getty Images)

Bob Dylan is heading into the new year with a reduced property portfolio, having sold his Scottish bolthole, Aultmore House in Speyside, for a shade over four million quid.

Though the spec looks grand – 16 bedrooms, 11 bathrooms, a folly (to complement his Christmas album, presumably) – only one aspect interests me: did Dylan ever write anything notable there? Is some piece of the Cairngorms National Park forever preserved in a line – perhaps the one he cribbed from Robbie Burns about his heart being in the Highlands – that came to him while gazing out enigmatically over the croquet lawn?

Where musicians wrote their songs remains a crucially under-discussed element of music criticism

The places where musicians conceive their art in its initial, roughest form hold a strange power and fascination. Yoko Ono recently vacated the apartment in the Dakota building overlooking Central Park which she shared with John Lennon from 1973 until December 1980, when he was shot dead on the street outside it. Given that event, you might think she would have cleared out sooner, but you can understand why she hasn’t. The Dakota walls soaked up Lennon’s music (though not his best music, admittedly). Perhaps the coffee table still carries the faintest impression of the first draft of ‘Beautiful Boy’ as it scratched through the paper. Arty locals on the Upper West Side regarded Ono’s residency in the Dakota in much the same way Londoners view the ravens in the Tower of London. With her departure, at the age of 90, New York has lost some vital connection with its own sense of self.

When I was younger, I used to daydream about what [insert name of current favourite musician] was doing right now. I never pictured them in a recording studio; studios are places of work.

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