Now and Then

The Beatles have set a record 54-year gap between UK number one singles with “Now and Then”, the third and final John Lennon demo they’ve completed as a band.

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20 November 2023

The Last Day of Our Acquaintance

The news about Sinead O’Connor in recent years hasn’t been good, so sadly her death last month wasn’t as much of a shock as, say, Dolores O’Riordan’s, but it’s still awful. She would have made a brilliant elderly firebrand. An interview with Shirley Manson of Garbage on how the world destroyed her idol rings so true.

The video of her cover with the late Terry Hall of 1970 Eurovision winner Dana’s “All Kinds of Everything” is lovely, especially the moments where her face lights up. It’s available on her Collaborations album of 2005, if you’re wanting to track down a clean recording.

I hope we’ll get to hear her delayed—and now final—album, No Veteran Dies Alone.

20 August 2023

Fanfare for Cardinal Fang

Last week we once again caught the train to London to see our son perform with the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain for the 28th concert of this year’s Proms at the Royal Albert Hall. It was another great concert, with engrossing performances of works by Paul Hindemith, Richard Strauss and Aaron Copland, most of which I hadn’t heard before (apart from “Fanfare for the Common Man” incorporated into Copland’s third symphony); and rousing encores at the end of each half. We were sat above the orchestra, looking down on them and the rest of the audience—an excellent view, although it meant the sound was sometimes heading away from us. If you’re curious, the BBC Radio 3 broadcast is available online for the next two months, and the concert will be on BBC television and iPlayer in a week or so.

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9 August 2023

Popularity Contest

“Here Comes the Sun” is the first song by the Beatles to hit a billion streams on Spotify (via Mefi). Fascinating that a Harrisong got there first: almost twice as many as Lennon’s contender “Come Together” in second place and McCartney’s “Let It Be” in third. Further evidence, as if any were needed, that the Beatles had three incredible songwriters, not two. (And a fourth who did write at least one great Beatles song in “Octopus’s Garden”, although as Peter Jackson’s Get Back revealed, he had a little help from his friend.) The Beatles’ most popular streaming songs, album by album. How “Come Together” became one of their most streamed tracks (archived).

21 June 2023

London Sounds

London 2023

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30 April 2023

Poison Paradise

After a year off, Popular has returned, and has reached one of my favourite number ones of the 2000s—it’s a few years until my next 10 out of 10, and I missed commenting on the last one, so it’s worth marking the moment.

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27 January 2023

Floating in Mid-Air

Since my first Eurovision party in 2004, with its memorable Ukrainian winner, I’ve only watched the final every few years. There have been some good songs and performances along the way, but not many from the UK. So when I caught the tail-end of the first semifinal on Tuesday and the rest of it the next day, I was left wondering if this year’s entry was any good. When I heard it, I was stunned to realise that the UK actually had a shot at winning for the first time in twenty years.

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15 May 2022


At the end of August I managed a post on my favourite music of the year to date, intending to round it out in December. Before Christmas I was scouring the usual lists of the best albums of 2021 to see what I’d missed, which led me to at least three that would make my own: Arlo Parks’s summery Collapsed in Sunbeams, Halsey’s Reznor-produced If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, and the Glaswegian techno of Chvrches, who had never quite clicked for me before, with Screen Violence.

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1 April 2022

Get Back

I watched the last part of Get Back on Sunday, after working through the others during the week an hour or two at a time. By then I’d already reached the point where I didn’t want it to end, and an eight-hour cut felt too short. The first instalment at Twickenham was sometimes uncomfortable (seeing Paul belittle George without realising he had, and what followed), but the second restored the balance, with moments of pure joy in its final hour: the sense of what good friends they really were, and what good people they all, at the bottom of it, even on the cusp of the band’s dissolution, were, was profoundly moving. The full rooftop performance in Part Three only cemented that impression.

I spent the summer that I turned twenty-one obsessed with Mark Lewisohn’s newly released The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions, and this has taken me right back to it: somehow all of their genius and personalities have been captured in these few weeks of fly-on-the-wall recordings and what Peter Jackson has been able to do with them. A wonderful artifact.

Get Back reviewed. On the trail of Get Back. Paul McCartney on the Beatles’ farewell. Why we’ll keep watching it forever.

7 December 2021

Quiet is the New Loud

Now that I’ve got 2020’s sounds out of the way, time for a post about 2021’s (so far).

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26 August 2021