John lennon

On the road with Danny Lyon

A Google search for ‘Danny Lyon’ produces more than eight million results in 0.30 seconds, yet the celebrated American photojournalist and filmmaker is little known in the UK. This superb, quixotic, bare-all memoir ought to change that. Starting in 1962, Lyon not only photographed the heroes of the US civil rights movement as staff photographer for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC, pronounced ‘snick’), but in a way was one of the heroes himself, risking jail, beatings and abuse. He’s had prizes galore and two solo shows at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2016 he had a major retrospective in San Francisco and at the Whitney; and also a

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

Why the mid-1960s was the golden age of pop music

On a Monday evening in May 1966, Paul McCartney and John Lennon visited a nightclub called Dolly’s in Jermyn Street. The two Beatles were accompanied by two Rolling Stones, Brian Jones and Keith Richards. Already at the club was Bob Dylan, stopping off in London on his European tour. Dylan had first met Lennon and McCartney nearly two years earlier at the Delmonico Hotel in New York. All four Beatles, then in the first flush of American success, had gone to meet him after playing to thousands of screaming teenagers at a tennis stadium in Queen’s. Their fascination with his lyrical and emotional maturity was already showing in their songs.

James Delingpole

More mesmerising than it should be – Disney+’s The Beatles: Get Back reviewed

My late friend Alexander Nekrassov loathed the Beatles, which I used to think was a wantonly contrary position akin to hating kittens or blue skies or Christmas carols. What could there possibly be not to like, love and admire about the band that gave us ‘Eleanor Rigby’, ‘A Day In the Life’ and ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’? Since then I’ve encountered so many Beatles sceptics that it has given me pause for thought. Some think that the Beatles were just mediocre and not nearly as talented as, say, the Kinks; some even claim that they were as manufactured as the Monkees, that like their bad-guy opposites the Stones they were a

It’s amazing how little insight Paul McCartney has into the Beatles’ genius

The Paul people are out in force these days. A New Yorker profile, a book and a new documentary have put the Beatles, and particularly Paul, back in the papers. Not that they, or he, ever left. I should admit a bias. I have the same first name as John, and being a man of straightforward loyalties I took him as my favourite early on. Even now I find him the most interesting of the four: vain, sardonic, nasty, boyish, thoughtful, wounded; bright-eyed and pugilistic and blessed with an undermining cleverness that left him bored by whatever he came across. The even-tempered Paul just doesn’t entrance me in quite the

The nearest thing to Paul McCartney’s autobiography: his guide to the Beatles’ songbook

Whatever your favourite theory of creativity, Paul McCartney has a cheery thumbs-up to offer. You think the secret is putting in the hours? ‘We played nearly 300 times in Hamburg between 1960 and 1962.’ Or could it be a wide range of cultural inputs to assimilate and remix? The Arty Beatle hoovered up Shakespeare, Dryden, not just Desmond but Thomas Dekker, Berio and Cage and rock’n’roll and light jazz, and sublimated them all. In one of the great missed opportunities, when it came to arranging ‘Yesterday’, his first thought was Delia Derbyshire. Some people credit childhood trauma: McCartney recalls how his father Jim would weep alone in a neighbouring room

‘You should see some of the other scripts that come through’: Robert Carlyle interviewed

‘I always feel slightly sick when I hear actors talking politics,’ says Robert Carlyle — that polished Glaswegian burr sounding no less arresting over a slightly patchy Zoom connection. ‘I mean we’re all entitled to an opinion,’ he continues, sounding for a second as though he might be about to opt for a more diplomatic track. ‘I just find that too many actors find it difficult to get theirs across without sounding like a twat.’ It’s a fair point, you might think. But for Carlyle, it’s also been a good professional move. Reflecting on his career, he credits this aversion to mouthing off with inspiring his long-term commitment to keeping

The joy of ironing

On the Saturday morning of the Ascension Day bank holiday, I swung down the stairs and ladder to the little bedroom-cum-book room and did the ironing. For me ironing is therapy. If the internal critic becomes too negative or noisy, I stick a playlist on and steam flatten the commentary line by line. On Saturday morning the internal critic was going full blast. ‘That’s it, mate. You’ll be brown bread by Michaelmas and forgotten by Christmas. What a shame you fizzled out like that. Lazy and unfocused right to the end. All those bright hopes you entertained to change for the better, to make some money to pass on, to

As pretty as anything he’s written in four decades: McCartney III reviewed

Grade: A- The greatest songwriter of the 20th century, or just one of the top two or three? Who else would you have up there? Kern, Gershwin, Ray Charles, maybe. Dylan for the words along with the music. But not, I think, John Lennon. It’s McCartney’s melodic imagination that captivates and sometimes staggers — ‘Here, There and Everywhere’, ‘Maybe I’m Amazed’. The Beatle it was not OK to like, and yet who, today, would prefer to hear the overwrought ‘Strawberry Fields’ to the easy, loping chime of ‘Penny Lane’? Yes, Wings were the naffest band imaginable. But even then I would take their worst album (Red Rose Speedway) over Lennon’s

Beautiful voice, pretentious album: Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters reviewed

Grade: C+ Where did they all come from, the quirky yet meaningful rock chicks who don’t have a decent song between them yet put out albums by the bucketload? Back in the day it was just Joni Mitchell, who had four good songs, Laura Nyro who had two and Dory Previn who had one. Now there are thousands of these creatures, flaunting their intemperance without showing much brilliance. And all slavered over by the (still male) music press. Years of oppression, of being disregarded, they would argue. But disregarded for very good reasons, in almost all cases. Yeah, Carole King is ten times the songwriter James Taylor ever was. I

Gathering moss

Many moons ago, I worked at the New Musical Express magazine, which transformed me from virgin schoolgirl to the fabulous creature I’ve been for the past four decades. It’s hard to describe how influential the NME was at its 1970s peak. I’ve met people who waited in exquisite teenage agonies for two-week-old copies to arrive in the Antipodes, while my colleagues were regularly flown to the USA and supplied with groupies and cocaine as if they themselves were rock stars. And then punk came along and rocked the gravy boat — and the internet finished the job. Last time I saw a copy, it was lying wanly in a bin

The great rock’n’roll swindles

Birds have been giving me a lot of grief of late. There’s Tappy — the blue tit who has built his nest just underneath my bedroom window and makes rat-like scuffling noises that bother me at night and wake me early in the morning. And Hoppy, a mistle thrush fledgling who can’t quite fly yet, which means we have to keep the cat indoors, which means I have to deal with its horrible shit in the litter tray every day before breakfast. And the rookery in the big ash, whose inhabitants are very vocal, especially when one of their babies falls out of the nest and gets devoured by the

Ringo’s no joke. He was a genius and the Beatles were lucky to have him

We’re closing 2016 by republishing our ten most-read articles of the year. Here’s No. 9: James Woodall on celebrating the musical contribution made by the forgotten Beatle: Ringo Starr ‘He was the most influential Beatle,’ Yoko Ono recently claimed. When Paul and John first spotted him out in Hamburg, in his suit and beard, sitting ‘drinking bourbon and seven’, they were amazed. ‘This was, like, a grown-up musician,’ thought Paul. One night Ringo sat in for their drummer Pete Best. ‘I remember the moment,’ said Paul, ‘standing there and looking at John and then looking at George, and the look on our faces was like …what is this? And that

Paul McCartney

It’s slightly galling, after years of sticking up for Paul McCartney, to read a new biography of the bloke and realise that you don’t, in the end, really like him that much. But that’s how good Philip Norman’s book is — Macca has no agenda, it simply lets you make up your mind. And for me, it was the leg-combing wot won it. You can’t argue with McCartney’s work. In fact, what you have to argue against is the ridiculous notion that he was the poppy, pappy one while John Lennon was the radical. It was Macca who funded the underground newspaper International Times; who was into Stockhausen, Cage and

Bowie once praised Adolf Hitler… but he was always changing his tune

[audioplayer src=”″ title=”Rod Liddle and Kaite Welsh discuss David Bowie’s legacy” startat=678] Listen [/audioplayer]I was desperately worried that you hadn’t read or heard enough platitudinous drivel about David Bowie — and therefore felt compelled to weigh in with my own observations. In all honesty I haven’t heard so much repetitive, imbecilic guff since Mandela shuffled off this mortal coil. It was even worse than the confected sobfest that greeted the passing of the charming and likeable Lou Reed. The eulogies for Lou were simply a case of the BBC telling everybody that they are dead hip and edgy, really enjoyed ‘Perfect Day’ and once knew someone, back in uni, who

John Lennon’s desert island luxury

Beatlebone is an account of a journey, a psychedelic odyssey, its protagonist — at times its narrator — John Lennon, seen through the prism of Kevin Barry’s imagining. Barry’s first novel, The City of Bohane, was a dystopian nightmare of comic vernacular and violence, showered with praise and prizes. Think James Joyce and Flann O’Brien collaborating on a script for Tarantino. Beatlebone, his second novel (on the shortlist for the Goldsmiths prize for fiction) has Lennon fleeing New York in 1978 for a secret visit to Dorinish, the uninhabited island he bought 11 years earlier. Burned-out, creatively blocked, he craves a few days of solitude, to sit and stare at

So what if Lou Reed was a monster?

Another week, another famous dead person having his grave danced on with gay abandon. This time it’s the late, great Lou Reed’s turn to have his reputation trashed by scandal-sniffing vultures. Less than two years after he died — at least they waited for him to rot, which is something I guess — a new book has been published claiming he was a ‘monster’. It is testament to the 21st century’s feverish obsession with hounding dead heroes and exposing their wicked streak that my first response upon hearing this was: ‘Of course he was a monster. Everyone is, right?’ According to the book — Notes from the Velvet Undergound, by

I’ve never thought much of John Lennon’s music – until now

It’s probably blasphemous to admit that I’ve never thought very much of John Lennon’s music. Common sense tells me it must be good but it’s never made much of an impact on me no matter how hard I’ve tried to appreciate it. If I like a Beatles song, I usually discover it’s by George. But the discovery from a radio trailer (reluctantly, I’ll have to admit they do sometimes work) that Lennon would have been 75 this week was shocking enough (how could he ever be that old?) to make me tune in on Thursday night to John Lennon’s Last Day. Stephen Kennedy’s docudrama for Radio 2 (produced by James

Starr quality

‘He was the most influential Beatle,’ Yoko Ono recently claimed. When Paul and John first spotted him out in Hamburg, in his suit and beard, sitting ‘drinking bourbon and seven’, they were amazed. ‘This was, like, a grown-up musician,’ thought Paul. One night Ringo sat in for their drummer Pete Best. ‘I remember the moment,’ said Paul, ‘standing there and looking at John and then looking at George, and the look on our faces was like …what is this? And that was the moment, that was the beginning, really, of the Beatles.’ I think Ringo Starr was a genius. The world seems to be coming around to the idea. Two

Life is full of little endings. We should pay them more attention

The end of the year seems a good time to think about lasts. Not many of us ever do. Firsts are always landmarks: the first time you taste alcohol, drive a car, have sex. Then the first time your child talks, walks, goes to school. All are noted at the time, stored away in the mental file marked ‘life events’. But when do we ever notice, much less remember, a last? We’re doing them a disservice — in many cases they’re even more poignant than the firsts. One problem, of course, is that we often don’t know it’s a last at the time. You’ll register your last day in a