British culture

James Bond and the Beatles at war for Britain’s soul

‘Better use your sense,’ advised Bob Dylan: ‘take what you have gathered from coincidence.’ John Higgs is a master of taking what he can gather from coincidence – or, as he would insist, synchronicity. From the filigree of connections and echoes in the KLF (Discordianism through the lens of 1990s pop provocateurs) to the psychogeography of Watling Street to more recent deep dives into William Blake, he confronts the modern Matter of Britain: who wields power, and who resists it? Love and Let Die starts with another perfect coincidence, namely that it was 60 years ago – to be precise, 5 October 1962 – that saw the first Beatles single

From cheap sex comedies to gritty brilliance: British culture comes of age

As readers of a certain age will realise, Looking for a New England derives its title from ‘A New England’, a chart hit in early 1985 for the singer Kirsty MacColl. The song was written by Billy Bragg and opened side two of his first LP, 1983’s Life’s a Riot with Spy Vs Spy. Famously, Bragg pinched the opening couplet — ‘I was 21 years when I wrote this song, I’m 22 now but I won’t be for long’ — from Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Leaves that are Green’ (1966), a winsome number that was itself a cover of Paul Simon’s acoustic original, which had first appeared on the folk singer’s