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Four Moptop Yobbos

Ian Penman, 17 June 2021

One Two Three Four: The Beatles in Time 
by Craig Brown.
Fourth Estate, 642 pp., £9.99, March, 978 0 00 834003 2
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The Beatles and Sixties Britain 
by Marcus Collins.
Cambridge, 382 pp., £90, March 2020, 978 1 108 47724 6
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The Beatles in Context 
edited by Kenneth Womack.
Cambridge, 372 pp., £74.99, January 2020, 978 1 108 41911 6
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... Spark, A Far Cry from KensingtonOn​ the opening page of Craig Brown’s One Two Three Four, Brian Epstein and his personal assistant, Alistair Taylor, behold the Beatles for the very first time. It is November 1961, in a ‘dank and damp and smelly’ Liverpool basement, and the young band are loud, foul-mouthed, almost purposefully unprofessional.After ...

Bernard Levin: Book Two

Clive James, 6 December 1979

Taking Sides 
by Bernard Levin.
Cape, 281 pp., £6.50, September 1979, 0 330 26203 3
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... it speak for itself to a wider world. For a find like the marvellous senior librarian Keith Harrison; we can only be grateful. Keith, it transpires, is a leading light in an outfit called Librarians for Social Change. ‘It’s books that I’m into,’ says Keith. Keith is so deeply into books that he would like to see all racist, sexist and élitist ...

The Slightest Sardine

James Wood: A literary dragnet, 20 May 2004

The Oxford English Literary History. Vol. XII: 1960-2000: The Last of England? 
by Randall Stevenson.
Oxford, 624 pp., £30, February 2004, 0 19 818423 9
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... in the world. His head must be dizzy with the minor works of Julian Mitchell and Francis King and Brian Patten and Maureen Duffy. His sleep must have been poisoned for years by worries about properly dating Piers Paul Read’s A Married Man. It is, in fact, a disaster to fill a book like this with storms of names and endless lists; narrative gets shouted down ...

All together

Humphrey Carpenter, 7 December 1989

The Safest Place in the World: A Personal History of British Rhythm and Blues 
by Dick Heckstall-Smith.
Quartet, 178 pp., £14.95, September 1989, 0 7043 2696 5
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Mama said there’d be days like these: My Life in the Jazz World 
by Val Wilmer.
Women’s Press, 336 pp., £16.95, September 1989, 0 7043 5040 8
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Lenya: A Life 
by Donald Spoto.
Viking, 371 pp., £15.95, September 1989, 0 670 81211 0
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... Beatles’ most fertile period was when they were under the dual (and somewhat divided) control of Brian Epstein and George Martin, both of whom had set out to manufacture a marketable product rather than inspire great musical achievements. A recent biography of Epstein emphasised the four musicians’ profound relief when at last they allowed themselves to ...

How long before Ofop steps in?

Patrick Carnegy, 16 March 2000

In House: Covent Garden, 50 Years of Opera and Ballet 
by John Tooley.
Faber, 318 pp., £25, November 1999, 9780571194155
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Never Mind the Moon: My Time at the Royal Opera House 
by Jeremy Isaacs.
Bantam, 356 pp., £20, November 1999, 0 593 04355 3
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... view, passing over the claims of music and theatre men like Humphrey Burton, John Drummond and Brian McMaster, and instead gambling that Isaacs would find a proper place for Covent Garden in a televisual age. Isaacs knew that the House was adrift. He looked forward to bringing a sense of purpose and adventure to the programming, as I did when I agreed to ...

Sticky Wicket

Charles Nicholl: Colonel Fawcett’s Signet Ring, 28 May 2009

The Lost City of Z 
by David Grann.
Simon and Schuster, 339 pp., £16.99, February 2009, 978 1 84737 436 3
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... the jungle merge with the yet more dangerous chimera of the imagination. Lieutenant-Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett – he is always styled ‘Colonel’: a piece of discreet self-promotion – was born in Torquay in 1867. His father was a blue-blooded spendthrift and crony of the Prince of Wales, who died young of alcohol and consumption when Fawcett was ...

I have nothing to say and I am saying it

Philip Clark: John Cage’s Diary, 15 December 2016

The Selected Letters of John Cage 
edited by Laura Kuhn.
Wesleyan, 618 pp., £30, January 2016, 978 0 8195 7591 3
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Diary: How to Improve the World (You Will Only Make Matters Worse) 
by John Cage, edited by Richard Kraft and Joe Biel.
Siglio, 176 pp., £26, October 2015, 978 1 938221 10 1
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... already performs works by key experimental composers such as Henry Cowell, Johanna Beyer and Lou Harrison. In addition to the usual orchestral percussion instruments, Cage tells Thomson, ‘we can improvise instruments from junkyards or construct things, given specifications.’ Stravinsky and Bartók’s orchestral music had already given percussion players ...

All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... Sir Francis Chichester, visits by Samuel Pepys, location work for the latest Jane Austen or for Harrison Ford (more bombs) in Patriot Games – are trumpeted, while the dark history of the Greenwich marshes, a decayed industrial wilderness, is brutally elided. The tongue of poisoned land, a couple of miles to the east of the Royal Naval College (film ...
Who Framed Colin Wallace? 
by Paul Foot.
Macmillan, 306 pp., £12.95, May 1989, 0 333 47008 7
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... of Hugh Gaitskell; lists were drawn up of such notorious Communists or Communist sympathisers as Brian Walden, David Owen, Robert Mellish, John Stonehouse, Roy Hattersley and Reg Prentice; and even a bogus pamphlet on ‘revolutionary strategy’ for the installation of socialism in Britain was contrived for off-the-record briefing of American ...

The Shoreham Gang

Seamus Perry: Samuel Palmer, 5 April 2012

Mysterious Wisdom: The Life and Work of Samuel Palmer 
by Rachel Campbell-Johnston.
Bloomsbury, 382 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7475 9587 8
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... resemble an etching, which is true enough, though it resembles something else even more, as Colin Harrison says in his excellent handbook to Palmer: a carved ivory. The Valley Thick with Corn is one of the most beautiful expressions of what Palmer’s son once astutely noted in his father, ‘a certain sentiment of surpassing fruitfulness’, and its ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: What I did in 2012, 3 January 2013

... schools as, for instance, Leeds Grammar School did. Another absentee from the programme is Tony Harrison, an old boy of Leeds Grammar School, the snobbery of which is pilloried in some of his poems. By rights all such schools should be free schools, as indeed in the light of their origins, should many public schools. The nearest public school to us in ...

Diary

Alan Bennett: Notes on 1997, 1 January 1998

... Jocelyn has known or worked with. There is music that has been specially composed, a poem by Tony Harrison, the theme of which is all the toasts he and Jocelyn have drunk together in all the various places where they have worked around the world. They’re due to set off on Monday on another epic journey, the script, based on the Prometheus legend, is about a ...

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