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Blue Suede Studies

Hugh Barnes, 19 December 1985

Elvis and Me 
by Priscilla Beaulieu Presley and Sandra Harman.
Century, 320 pp., £9.95, October 1985, 0 7126 1131 2
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Are you lonesome tonight? 
by Alan Bleasdale.
Faber, 95 pp., £3.95, September 1985, 0 571 13732 6
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Elvis and Gladys 
by Elaine Dundy.
Weidenfeld, 353 pp., £12.95, April 1985, 9780297782100
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The Johnny Cash Discography 
by John Smith.
Greenwood, 203 pp., £29.95, May 1985, 0 313 24654 8
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Horse’s Neck 
by Pete Townshend.
Faber, 95 pp., £6.95, May 1985, 9780571138739
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Like Punk Never Happened 
by Dave Rimmer.
Faber, 191 pp., £4.95, October 1985, 0 571 13739 3
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Starlust: The Secret Fantasies of Fans 
by Fred Vermorel and Judy Vermorel.
Comet, 253 pp., £4.95, August 1985, 0 86379 004 6
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The Beatles 
by Hunter Davies.
Cape, 498 pp., £12.95, December 1985, 0 224 02837 5
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... the spirit of the new music in the same way that the voice of Mahalia Jackson identified Gospel. John Smith’s discography of Johnny Cash, who was resident in Memphis at the time and also benefited from Phillips’s expertise, contributes to the idea of a movement. Presley’s intelligence, however, has always been in doubt. Joe Esposito, his infamous ...

Little England

Patrick Wright: The view through a bus window, 7 September 2006

Great British Bus Journeys: Travels through Unfamous Places 
by David McKie.
Atlantic, 359 pp., £16.99, March 2006, 1 84354 132 7
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... to marry them. In Lichfield, the geographical centre of Middle England, a statue of Captain Edward John Smith of the Titanic stands in a park bestowing dangerous blessings on newly-wed couples emerging from the nearby register office. In McKie’s version of England the past is generally not allowed to assert itself as a moral yardstick, a measure of ...

Carnivals of Progress

John Ziman, 17 February 1983

Sir William Rowan Hamilton 
by Thomas Hankins.
Johns Hopkins, 474 pp., £19.50, July 1981, 0 8018 2203 3
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Gentlemen of Science: Early Years of the British Association for the Advancement of Science 
by Jack Morrell and Arnold Thackray.
Oxford, 592 pp., £30, August 1981, 0 19 858163 7
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The Parliament of Science: The British Association for the Advancement of Science 1831-1981 
edited by Roy MacLeod and Peter Collins.
Science Reviews, 308 pp., £12.25, September 1982, 0 905927 66 4
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... In the London Review of Books, John Maynard Smith said about scientists: ‘however interested they may be in politics or history or philosophy, their first love is science itself.’ If only I could follow this bent, and tell something of Hamilton as a mathematician. As it happens, he also wrote a good deal of poetry, but his poems lack the magic of his equations, which seem more beautiful and moving now than when they were imagined 150 years ago ...

What was it that drove him?

David Runciman: Gordon Brown, 4 January 2018

My Life, Our Times 
by Gordon Brown.
Bodley Head, 512 pp., £25, November 2017, 978 1 84792 497 1
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... of his expenses claims. Now he discovers that there is an article by one of his predecessors, John Major, which attacks him in highly personal terms. He decides he must ring the Telegraph’s editor to put the record straight. He has to do this on a train to Bradford, where he is due to unveil a memorial in honour of a local police officer, Sharon ...

Prince of Darkness

Ian Aitken, 28 January 1993

Rupert Murdoch 
by William Shawcross.
Chatto, 616 pp., £18.99, September 1992, 0 7011 8451 5
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... in the mid-Sixties. If Mr Major doesn’t watch out, their successors could easily do the same for John Smith in the mid Nineties. Why, the proprietor of the Sun and the News of the World may already be rummaging through his attic even as I write, in the hope of finding that long-discarded bust of ...

Blair Must Go

Peter Clarke: Why Tony Blair should go, 11 September 2003

... is up to his successor to keep on with the tablets.’ That successor, in October 1993, was still John Smith; so it was a pre-Blair perspective that led me to conclude: ‘If a “labour party” did not exist, it would not be necessary to invent it. But a social democratic party known as the Labour Party, with an unstitched leadership, is more necessary ...

Popper’s World

John Maynard Smith, 18 August 1983

The Open Universe: An Argument for Indeterminism 
by Karl Popper, edited by W.W. Bartley.
Hutchinson, 185 pp., £15, July 1982, 0 09 146180 4
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... Karl Popper is perhaps the only living philosopher of science who has had a substantial influence on the way scientists do what they do. I say ‘perhaps’ because the same claim might be made for Thomas Kuhn. However, Kuhn seems to me a perceptive sociologist of science, but a poor philosopher. Also, in so far as he has had an effect on the way scientists behave, it has been pernicious: to be a great scientist, according to Kuhn, you must do revolutionary science, and the best evidence that you are doing it is that you are so obscure and inconsistent in your statements as to be wholly incomprehensible to others ...

Understanding Science

John Maynard Smith, 3 June 1982

The Laws of the Game: How the principles of nature govern science 
by Manfred Eigen and Ruthild Winkler, translated by Robert Kimber and Rita Kimber.
Allen Lane, 347 pp., £14.95, March 1982, 9780713914849
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... This is a translation of a book first published under the title Das Spiel in 1975. It is an ambitious book whose aim is to convey to the reader what it is to have a well-furnished scientific mind. Some years back, C.P. Snow persuaded us that the diagnostic characteristic of such a mind is familiarity with the second law of thermodynamics. His particular choice of a scientific law was unfortunate, because it is easier to talk nonsense about the second law than almost anything else, but in principle he was on the right track ...

Rottenness is all

John Maynard Smith, 3 May 1984

Order out of Chaos: The Evolutionary Paradigm and the Physical Sciences 
by Ilya Prigogine and Isabelle Stengers.
Bantam, 290 pp., $8.95, April 1984, 0 553 34082 4
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... This is an ambitious book which suggests that a new picture of the nature of the universe is emerging from the study of thermodynamics, and that this picture will heal the breach between the scientific and the poetic view of man. Prigogine’s distinction as a scientist – the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1977 – requires that we take his views seriously, at least on the first of these claims ...

What is Labour for?

John Lanchester: Five More Years of This?, 31 March 2005

David Blunkett 
by Stephen Pollard.
Hodder, 359 pp., £20, December 2004, 0 340 82534 0
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... year’s general election, it was obvious they were overwhelmingly likely to lose the next one. John Smith, who took over the leadership of the Labour Party, was an advocate of what was called ‘one more heave’: that Labour should carry on more or less as it had been doing since Kinnock took over in 1983, present itself as the responsible face of ...
The Economic Legacy 1979-1992 
edited by Jonathan Michie.
Academic Press, 384 pp., £25, March 1992, 0 12 494060 9
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The Godley Papers: Economic Problems and Policies in the 1980s and 90s 
by Wynne Godley.
New Statesman and Society, £2
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Full Employment in the 1990s 
by John Grieve Smith.
Institute for Public Policy Research, 68 pp., £7.50, March 1992, 1 872452 48 5
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... Mrs Thatcher herself was dumped in 1990 and the personal style of government transformed by John Major, there has yet – apart from a very different attitude towards Europe – been any significant change in the conduct of economic and social policy or in the intention behind it. The collection of books and papers under review, most of which ...

Famous Four

R.W. Johnson, 30 November 1995

SDP: The Birth, Life and Death of the Social Democratic Party 
by Ivor Crewe and Anthony King.
Oxford, 611 pp., £25, November 1995, 0 19 828050 5
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... Sue Slipman, Polly Toynbee and Rosie Barnes among them – but even such a seasoned campaigner as John Cartwright. One reads their names and wonders how true believers in Elmer Gantry felt when the charisma wore off.Crewe and King talk of the Gang of Four in almost hushed tones as if they were giants still stalking the land. Yet the fact is that their ...

Descending Sloth

John Maynard Smith, 1 April 1982

The Mammalian Radiations: An Analysis of Trends in Evolution, Adaptation and Behaviour 
by John Eisenberg.
Athlone, 610 pp., £32, December 1981, 0 485 30008 7
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... book which would summarise the recent work on mammals and help us to think realistically about it. John Eisenberg has now written that book; it is hard to imagine anyone else who could have done so. He has studied a range of mammalian species in the wild. As assistant director of the Washington zoo, he has a wide familiarity with mammals in captivity. He has ...

Great Palladium

James Epstein: Treason, 7 September 2000

Imagining the King’s Death: Figurative Treason, Fantasies of Regicide, 1793-96 
by John Barrell.
Oxford, 7377 pp., £70, March 2000, 0 19 811292 0
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... an elaborate theatrical spectacle, appealing to the emotions instead of reason. At the centre of John Barrell’s exhaustive study of treason in the mid-1790s is a brilliantly sustained argument about the struggle to fix the character of the word ‘imagination’. Unlike the battle then being fought over such important political terms as ...

Family History

Miles Taylor: Tony Benn, 25 September 2003

Free at Last: Diaries 1991-2001 
by Tony Benn.
Hutchinson, 738 pp., £25, October 2002, 0 09 179352 1
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Free Radical: New Century Essays 
by Tony Benn.
Continuum, 246 pp., £9.95, May 2003, 9780826465962
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... Benn is fashionably unfashionable. The smoking classes have had no better champion since John Wayne. The nation’s youth have another icon on which to click. What makes his resuscitation the more beguiling is that New Labour’s project has been built on an emphatic rejection of Bennism. In 1981, backed by the hard Left in the unions and the ...

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