Friday, 25 March 2011

News, Views and Music Issue 93 (Intro)




Greetings my old friends! I bet some of you thought you’d never hear from us at the AAA again but here we are, back again, after several trials and tribulations over the past month or so. To be honest, we weren’t too sure about carrying on either; our 13 week course has come to an end with lots of hits but not much money to show for our efforts, our first site at t35.com has come under heavy fire (first we get told off for ‘copyright’ issues – on our own work?! – before being told we need more html files or something weird because we’re ‘not allowed to use the site to store files’ (?!?! It’s a website!) and we then had to re-link every single article to our Moonfruit site by hand, a process which took several hours (and isn’t much fun with a dodgy dongle, I swear somebody’s built a mountain in the past month because my signal isn’t as good as it used to be at all). So apologies to any of you who were trying to access our site during that time – fingers crossed the problem is solved now although we might have to move our stack of files to another computer server (any others out there AAA followers?!) By rights, any sensible person should have given up with this trouble-hit energy-draining site years ago. But we’re not sensible – the brilliance of the music we write about overpowers all our other feelings and so we’ll continue. Not least because we have had so many nice messages about our site over the past few weeks – many of them thanks to our new survey which we are very grateful to you for filling in (try clicking on ‘allowing pop-ups’ if you haven’t seen it appear on the site – I promise no other files will open up!) – and pleasingly appear to have kept quite a large part of our following from the days when we were advertising our site, even though our adverts have now, out of necessity, had to stop. In some shape or form I think Alan’s Album Archives will always be out there somewhere, bringing you the latest updates in the world of decent music and will till I drop (which, admittedly, might not be very far away after another bad chronic fatigue month) – there’s simply so much to think about, to write about and to enthuse about that we’ve barely scratched the surface. So with no further ado, it’s on with the news...



You may have read some of these news stories already – they were printed as an ‘extra’ on our forum to let readers know about stories during our month-long sabbatical – but they are re-printed here for readers who didn’t come across them in time and don’t visit our forum. There are some new ones here, though, so skip them at all at your peril!

Beatles News: First up, hands up who thought Paul Mccartney was in with a chance of winning a grammy in 2011 seeing as he only released one live album last year (his sixth on album, would you believe?!) But he did, for a rather histrionic reading of Helter Skelter - which is hardly my choice of best performance from Good Evening New York City, never mind the best vocal performance I heard throughout the whole of last year (who the heck chooses these things when even the fans of said artists dont agree with their decisions?! Add in the fact that Macca has been nominated nearly every year for the past 40 years and that this is only his sixth actual victory, despite a whole range of brilliant performances, and the mind boggles). Latest McCartney news is that hes working on a ballet! More news if and when.

Oh yes and talking of Maccas grand achievements, any fan who missed out on Pauls wonderful radio series McCartney on McCartney in 1990 should listen out to BBC6 next week every night from Sunday, February 27th to March 6th. This was the first time Macca really spoke out about his early years and time with The Beatles at length and paved the way for the Anthology and Wingspan projects over the following decade. I havent played my old copy for quite a time, but I remember it being a very illuminating and revealing listen, even if Macca has done some of his anecdotes to death in the years since. Good on you BBC6, just as I was giving up hope of a decent archive programme after a great run last year...Oh and shock late news Macca on Macca has been replaced by yet another repeat of John Lennon Remembered: In My Life, the documentary from 1990 that was repeated at the end of last year.

More now on that book of Lennon letters we revealed a few issues back. The planned book of unissued letters from Lennon to various people has now been given a release date of October 2012 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of Love Me Do! (Expect an anniversary special sometime that week!) Contrary to what was reported a few months back (and repeated by us) this is actually a Hunter Davies project not a Yoko Ono one, although she has given her blessing to it according to the Beatles biographer and fellow Carlislian.

There was also a rare Beatles reunion when Paul and Ringo were both seen in a sketch for this years comic relief. The pairs appearance in a James Corden sketch is still available from www.bbc.co.uk/rednoseday although sadly it only runs to a few minutes, mainly of Paul trying to wonder what the name of the other ex-Beatle is...Even more shocking to viewers on the night was the sight of Gordon Brown rapping with JLS!

Finally in our Beatles new section, theres yet another Lennon book hitting our shelves next month when Startin Over by Ken Sharp is released. Surprisingly, this is the first book to look in depth at Lennons comeback album Double Fantasy re-released in stripped down form last year and features extracts from interviews with Lennon, Yoko and producer Jack Douglas among others.

CSNY/Rolling Stones News: Another strong music documentary recently repeated on BBC6 was the 13-part series The Atlantic Records Story from 1992 which, aptly enough, looked at the many varied artists whove been on the soul label over the years. The Rolling Stones cropped up in part five talking about the switch from Decca to launching their own Rolling Stones Records label with Atlantics help in 1971 and again on part 12 where they discussed leaving the label for the big bucks of Virgin Records. Atlantic boss Ahmet Erteguns own personal favourite of all his groups, however, was Crosby Stills Nash and Young, a band who are linked with the label like no other, and thankfully a full half hour of episode 12 of the programme was given over to discussing the bands formation, the addition of Neil Young and the sheer faith and love shown to the band by the record label in stark contrast to the usual horror stories about EMI, Pye and Decca, etc. Well worth looking out for by fans of both bands on I-player but be warned, the BBC6 programmes do tend to disappear quickly.

Dire Straits News: Following on from our censorship issue last time around, Canadian Radio have banned one of Dire Straits best known songs, Money For Nothing, from the airwaves for the use of the word faggot. As we saw last week, usually censorship goes the other way over time swear words get tamer, drug references harder and sex references less coy but this fairly innocuous word in the 1980s is one of the few to buck the trend and actually get stronger over the following few years. Its probably only a matter of time before the same hits UK and US radio...

Monkees News:Shock last minute addition to this page is that three of the Monkees are touring in the UK again (although, predictably, Mike Nesmiths missing again). We fans thought the bands name was going to end with the whimper of the badly received 2002 tour what with some pretty unhappy developments over the past few years (Davy Jones famously claimed hes never work with the others again as recently as 2008 and Peter Tork has been very ill with cancer). To plug their shows, the band even made a surprise appearance on regional topic programme The One Show on Monday, February 21st (to those who dont have regional TV programmes like this in their areas a) be very very thankful and b) think of it as a combination of really bad tabloid reporting and all those really excruciating outtakes from Itll Be Alright On The Night). Im pleased to report that Peter looked well in his first public appearance since reports of his battle with cancer, outshining Micky and Davy in the censored song lyrics feature thats running all week (I swear the BBC just keep nicking my ideas see last issues news and views top five), while Davy looked uncomfortable and Micky was uncharacteristically quiet. Alas this kind of show is only shown once and never repeated so its unlikely to have made its way to any I-player type thingies (after all, most people give The One Show a miss the first time around, its that bad), but keep your eyes peeled on YouTube!

Pink Floyd News: At long last the second of three films with Pink Floyd soundtracks is being given a proper European release. La Valee, better known nowadays by its re-named Floyd title of Obscured By Clouds, was the last album the band released before Dark Side Of The Moon and is fondly regarded by fans (its reportedly drummer Nick Masons favourite Floyd album). This Barbet Schroeder film is in French throughout and has only been released in France to date, making its release an exciting one for English-speaking fans who want to know why instrumentals like Mudmen got their name and how on earth Roger Waters first real anti-war epic Free Four could possibly fit in a film about hippies experiencing nirvana. Oh and Id better point out that the film is being released here with a translation of its original title, so its The Valley you want to be looking for in shops. Lets hope releases of other Floyd film soundtrack epics More and Zabriskie Point follow soon!

In other Floyd news, few fans remember that Syd Barrett started off as a painter before becoming a musician. A new exhibition in London has collected together many of his early paintings for the first time in a show entitled Syd Barrett: Art and Letters which, as the title implies, also features several of the young guitarists writings to friends and family. The exhibition takes place at the Idea Generation Gallery (which itself sounds like an early Pink Floyd concept suite) and runs from March 18th to April 10th.

Rolling Stones News: Bill Wyman joined his former bandmates for the first time in 20 years during a special one-off show to mark the passing of the bands founder member and sixth Stone Ian Stewart. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts also took part in the show, which marked the 25th anniversary of the pianists passing. Stu, who formed the band but was left off Stones photographs and publicity by Decca when they signed the band because six names were too much for fans to take in was the unsung hero of the group in its early years and its notable that Keith Richards makes far more fuss about Stus passing in his new book Life than he does about Brian Jones. Stu died suddenly in his early 40s from a heart attack in the mid-1980s and, in a nice move from the band, benefits from the gig (to be filmed for a possible release) are due to go to the British Heart Foundation.

In other news, the Martin Scorcese-directed Stones concert film Shine A Light premiered on Channel 4 at the end of February a surprise appearance after its straight-to-DVD release in 2007, around the same time we launched our website (and after writing 200 articles between then and now I can tell you what a fair time ago that was!) If you own other modern performances by The Stones then you dont really need this film, but there are some illuminating back-stage shots (including Scorcese wondering whether its worth setting Mick Jagger on fire to achieve an effect he wants!), plus snippets of some vintage interviews from the 60s and 70s that are good to see (theyre not the usual clips either, with many of them taken from European not UK or USA telly). The song selection is better than normal for the modern-day Stones, too, with one new song (a cover of the old blues nugget Champagne and Reefers) plus lots of lesser known tracks such as Loving Cup and She Was Hot that deserve to be better known than some of the bands bigger hits (thankfully the awful Honky Tonk Women and worse Its Only Rock and Roll are missing this time around, although most of the other hits are here). Interestingly, the most modern song the band perform comes from 1984, in sharp contrast to the last half a dozen concert DVDs!




There are way too many birthdays for the time we’ve been away so, instead of re-writing them all, here is a reprint of last year’s column from the same time period, starting off where we left off on February 16th : Yoko Ono turned 78 on February 18th and Alan Hull (guitarist and songwriter with Lindisfarne 1970-95) would have been 66 on February 20th, Brian Jones (multi-instrumentalist with The Rolling Stones 1962-68) would have been 69 on February 28th, Roger Daltrey (singer with The Who 1964-82 and various re-unions) turned 67 on March 1st, David Gilmour (guitarist with Pink Floyd 1968-94) turned 64 on March 6th, Micky Dolenz (drummer and actor with The Monkees 1966-70) turned 66 on March 8th, Phil Lesh bassist with The Grateful Dead 1965-95) turned 71 on March 15th; Mike Love (singer with The Beach Boys 1961-present) turned 70 on the same day, Paul Kantner (guitarist with Jefferson Airplane 1965-circa 73 and Jefferson Starship 1974-83) turned 67 on March 17th, Susanne Sulley (vocalist with The Human League 1981-present) who turns 48 on March 26th, Graeme Edge (drummer with The Moody Blues 1965-present) turns 69 on March 30th; Ronnie Lane (bassist with The Small Faces 1965-68) would have been 65 on April 1st and Simon Cowe (guitarist with Lindisfarne 1970-94) turns 63 on April 1st.

Anniversaries of events for this humungous time period include: John and George and families fly out to join the Maharishi for the start of a multi-month stay in India – Paul and Ringo and families join in a couple of days later (February 16th 1968); The Beatles release ‘Strawberry Fields Forever’ and ‘Penny Lane’ as a single, two songs recorded the previous December and intended for the ‘Sgt Peppers’ album (February 17th 1967); Pink Floyd premiere ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ in a concert at London’s Rainbow Theatre after a failed attempt the week before (ruined by a sticking backing tape containing sound effects) – several songs will be altered before they appear on record but already the new songs are judged to be a success (February 17th 1972); John Lennon releases his last pre-retirement LP: ‘Rock and Roll’ a half baked collection of half baked 50s standards (February 17th 1975); The Who’s first ‘proper’ single (ie one recorded under The Who name) I Can’t Explain makes the charts (February 18th 1965); David Gilmour officially joins Pink Floyd, covering for an ailing Syd Barrett who is gradually phased out of the band over the next few shows (February 18th 1968); Lulu marries Bee Gee Maurice Gibb in Buckinghamshire (February 18th 1969); Wings’ first single to be banned from radio airplay – the under-rated Give Ireland Back To The Irish – is released just weeks before the second (the drug-fuelled ‘Hi Hi Hi’) (February 19th 1972); A busy day in 1964 sees ‘breakthrough’ discs by two AAA bands – The Stones’ first top five hit ‘Not Fade Away’ and the Hollies’ first top five hit ‘Just One Look’ (February 21st); The Beatles start filming for their second film ‘Help!’ following a busy month at Abbey Road recording the first side of the soundtrack album (February 22nd 1965); Lennon’s last pre-retirement hit ‘#9 Dream’ charts – at no 9 very neatly – in America (February 22nd 1974); 10cc sign with Mercury Records after two years with Jonathon King’s UK label (February 22nd 1975); Cat Stevens’ first LP is released: named ‘Matthew and Son’ if you live in Britain and ‘Cats and Dogs’ in most of the rest of the world (February 24th 1967); The Byrds fly away for good after a farewell show at New Jersey’s Capital Theatre on February 24th 1973; The Beatles’ first American single is released – no, not Capitol’s record breaking ‘I want To Hold Your Hand’ but the smaller Vee Jay label with an un-charting ‘Please Please Me’ (February 25th 1963 – the band are infamously mis-spelled as ‘The Beattles’ on the label!); A bill proposing to ban all sale of r and b and rock music is rejected in the American House of Representatives. Thank goodness for that – or this website would be talking about the 101 greatest Garden Gnomes or something equally unlikely (February 26th 1954); Pink Floyd’s first ever recording session takes place at Abbey Road – it results in debut single ‘Arnold Layne’ (February 27th 1967); Paul McCartney releases his first solo single ‘Another Day’ February 27th 1971); the watershed moment in Rolling Stones history – Keith Richards’ drugs bust in Toronto which came close to seeing him spend the rest of the 70s behind bards – takes place on February 27th 1977; John and Paul write ‘From Me To You’ in the back of a tour bus after reading the quote in that week’s letter column of the NME (February 28th 1963); The Cavern Club closes its doors for the final time after raking up debts of £70,000 (February 28th 1966); The Beatles start filming for their first film ‘A Hard Day’s Night’ – amazingly the film will premiere in the summer of the same year (March 2nd 1964); Stephen Stills takes part in the fondly if hazily remembered ‘Havana Jam’ festival, an event held to strengthen American-Cuban relations (March 2nd 1979); John Lennon’s quote about The Beatles being bigger than Jesus first appears in print in the Evening Standard where it doesn’t even make a headline – it won’t be till American journalists get hold of the story a few months later that it becomes front page news (March 4th 1966); The Rolling Stones record their ‘Love You Live’ album at Toronto’s low capacity and intimate El Macombo Club – with Keith Richards’ latest drug bust hanging over the band (see last week’s column) there are fears that this will be the last record the bad will ever do (March 4th 1977); The Rolling Stones and The Hollies begin a tour together, creating a friendship that lasts throughout most of the 1960s (March 5th 1965 – and contrary to most books on the subject they are joint headliners, generally switching billing depending on the venue); The Rolling Stones also record their first live album – Got Live If You Want It – during a gig in Liverpool on March 6th 1965; The Beatles release their last ever single in the UK with ‘Let It Be’ on March 6th 1970, over a year after it’s recording; the first time British stars fill up the whole of the UK top 10 (including AAA members The Searchers at no 5 with ‘Needles and Pins’ and The Rolling Stones at no 6 with ‘Not Fade Away’) (March 7th 1964); The Beatles appear on the radio for the first time singing ‘Dream Baby’ on ‘Teenagers Turn’ a full seven months before their first single release (March 8th 1962); The legendary Fillmore East venue - or ‘Fillmore Esat’ as they famously mis-spelled it on their advertising banner – opens in San Francisco and will become home to the Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane among others (March 8th 1968); Pigpen aka Ron McKernan, organist and founder of The Grateful Dead, dies of liver failure on March 8th 1973; The Beatles release their last ever EP after breaking every EP record in the book over the past four years (‘Yesterday’, which never was a single in the UK, is released on March 10th 1966); The Blue Jays – Moody Blues members Justin Hayward and John Lodge – perform their first gig at the Albert Hall (March 10th 1975); Paul Simon gets a gold record for his best-selling solo single ’50 Ways To Leave Your Lover’ (March 11th 1976); Paul and Linda McCartney tie the knot at Marleybone Registry Office (March 12th 1969); John Lennon gets evicted from Los Angeles’ Troubadour Club after heckling the Smothers Brothers, an act that makes him question the wisdom of continuing his ‘lost weekend’ (March 12th 1974); Stephen Stills’ biggest solo hit ‘Love The One You’re With’ reaches its peak in the UK charts (March 13th 1971); A feat never likely to be surpassed – despite the millions of classy groups around in 1964, The Beatles still account for a record 60% of record sales in America for the week starting March 14th 1964; The Rolling Stones bid a temporary farewell to Britain with a gig at London’s Roundhouse Theatre before becoming French tax exiles for the next two years (March 14th 1971); Otis Redding comes to Britain as part of a ‘Stax Package’ (March 17th 1967); Ringo Starr films his bizarre T Rex concert film ‘Born To Boogie’ (March 18th 1972); The Beatles release the only single not to be recorded in part at least at Abbey Road Studios ‘Can’t Buy Me Love’ (March 20th 1964), Janis Joplin scores her only #1 posthumously with a cover of Kris Kristofferson’s ‘Me And Bobby McGee’ (March 20th 1971); John and Yoko become johnandyoko after tying the knot in Gibraltar on March 20th 1969, hot on the heels of paulandlinda; Pete Best’s mum phones up Cavern Club DJ Bob Wooler and manages to get a slot for The Beatles to play at the venue that will forever be linked with their name (March 21st 1961); John and Yoko celebrate their honeymoon in true johnandyoko style, with a bed-in at the Amsterdam Hilton hotel promoting world peace (March 21st 1969); final Beatles single ‘Let It Be’ is released, a full year after it’s recording (March 21st 1970); the first batch of Beatles CDs are released and – unlike last year – hold down the first four spots on the US top 100 (‘A Hard Day’s Night’ is #1 by the way, March 21st 1987); The Rutles’ documentary ‘All You Need Is Cash’ is shown on television for the first time (March 22nd 1978); The Beatles are persuaded by Brian Epstein to drop their leather outfits for a gig at the Barnston’s Women’s Institute on March 23rd 1962 – they rarely use their old suits again; John Lennon’s first book ‘In His Own Write’ is published at the height of Beatlemania – Bless you, Lennon, you’ve got a lucky face (March 23rd 1964); Simon and Garfunkel release their latest single ‘Homeward Bound’, some three years after Paul Simon first composed it (March 24th 1966); The Who’s film version of ‘Tommy’ premieres 35 years ago (March 26th 1975); Ronnie Lane releases to the press the sad news that he is suffering with multiple sclerosis after checking into a Florida hospital for treatment (March 27th 1982); Pink Floyd’s debut single ‘Arnold Layne’ charts (March 30th 1967); the same band’s ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ also starts its ridiculous two decade run on the charts (March 31st 1973); Brian Wilson won’t want to be reminded now he’s back with them, but April 1st 1969 was the date The Beach Boys sued Capitol Records for $2 million in unpaid royalties, putting an end to one of the most prolific runs of the 1960s; The Who set a record by selling out all 80,000 seats at Madison Square Gardens (April 1st 1974); There’s so much demand for tickets to the 1976 Rolling Stones tour that, for the first time, attendance is decided by ballot (April 1st 1976) and finally, things get even more complicated for The Beach Boys and record company after signing for Caribou Records on April 1st 1977 despite still owing second company Reprise another album. Oh and congratulations to AAA reader Lizzie Carnogan who turned 29 on March 15th – we look forward to reading your ‘top five’ list of recent birthday money purchases’ soon! uman HH

News, Views and Music Issue 93 (Top Ten): Random Recent Purchases




So how to round off our first article in four weeks? How about a random rummage through our latest purchases in no particular order, with a look at whether they were worth buying or not (remember, we buy the dross so you dont have to!)

1) Stephen Stills “Live At Shepherd’s Bush” (CD, 2009): It’s been out a while, this set, but so hard was it to find – and so expensive as it when I first found it – that I’ve only got round to buying it now. This live set finally redresses the balance of the weird track listing for the only other official Stills live album to date (the logically named ‘Stephen Stills Live’ from 1975) and adds no less than three exclusive covers to the Stills canon (the moody ‘blind fiddler’, the over-familiar ‘Girl From The North Country’ and the surprising choice of the Tom Petty song about bad-parenting ‘The Wrong Thing To Do’). This album also keeps the former’s strong one-side acoustic, one-side electric set and Stills’ guitar-work has never been better, especially on a riveting six minute version of ‘Rock and Roll Women’ and the under-rated and now topical again song about recession ‘Isn’t It About Time?’ A warning though – this live recording reveals the cracks in Stills’ now sadly wrecked voice like never before and there are far better live versions of many of the more famous songs on live CSN records. Still, good on Stills for stretching himself with many of the choices here and – if you can find it cheaply enough – there’s enough good moments here for most CSN/Buffalo Springfield fans.


2) The Who “Live At Leeds” (Deluxe four-disc version, recorded 1970 and released 2010): This live set, however, is disappointing. As anyone whose read our newsletter issue no 76 (our ‘live albums’ special) or our AAA review no 33 will know, ‘Live At Leeds’ is my nomination for the best live record made by anybody, with the best rock and roll band in the world at the peak of their powers. The original half hour cut down set was amazing enough but the release of two further sets (chronicling first an 80 minute highlights set and then the full two-hour show with a performance of ‘Tommy’ included intact) made perfection sound more and more perfect still. The news that Polydor had discovered the following night’s show in Hull led us to think that this four disc set might be better still (it was only left unreleased because the tapes were thought to be missing John Entwistle’s bass parts on a few songs and the original ideas was to mix the two shows together for a final record). Alas, it’s not. The Who aren’t playing badly and a couple of spots are actually better than ‘Leeds’ (namely a funky ‘I’m A Boy’ and a slightly calmer ‘I’m Free’), but for the most part the band sound tired and play more as individuals than as a telepathic single unit. One other point is that this second show in Hull is just so similar – not just the identical track listing (minus an encore of ‘Magic Bus’ I notice) which is fair enough for gigs played just one day apart but the seemingly improvised passages – the scream of guitars in ‘Amazing Journey’, the quick-changing chords of ‘A Quick One While He’s Away’ and the breath-taking improvisations in the 12-minute ‘My Generation’ (which runs a little shorter than the version on ‘Leeds’ but is otherwise identical). It’s as if The Who are trying to remember what made the previous night’s show in Leeds so special and they can’t quite relax enough to re-create it no matter how hard they try. Considering the hefty price of this set (£60 when it came out, although some shops have it cheaper at the moment), personally I’d steer clear and go back to the two-disc version, one of the greatest and most musical noises it will ever be your privilege to hear.


3) The Rolling Stones “Off The Record” (book compiled by Mark Paytress, 2004): My latest charity shop find is this excellent book made up of Rolling Stones press pieces down the years, from the famous ‘Who Kills A Butterfly With A Wheel?’ article that helped two of the Stones escape imprisonment to lesser known moments about aborted film projects and Mick Jagger’s trousers. My shelf is currently full to bursting with Stones books – there’s the official and deeply boring ‘According To The Stones’, Bill Wyman and Keith Richards’ excellent (in completely different ways!) autobiographies, a brather odd book about the relationship between Mick and Keef, the fascinating ‘Stories Behind Every Song’ book, the much-thumbed ‘Complete Guide To The Music Of’, last year’s impressive Uncut guide to the band and the downright superlative ‘Rough Guide To The Music Of...’, but this book is one of the best I’ve yet come across, with lots of forgotten pieces as well as pieces that I’ve heard about for years and never read in full. You really do need to be an obsessive anorakky fan like me to make the most of it (all the casual mentions of forgotten projects could get very confusing for those who don’t know the full story) and big events like Brian Jones’ death or the Stones’ exile in France are covered almost as an after-thought. But if you are a big Stones nut then this book is for you and more than worth the £2.50 I paid for it in hardback!


4) Astrid Kirchherr “A Retrospective” (2010, a book edited by Matthew H Clough and Colin Fallows): One other excellent purchase is the first book by one of the Beatles’ earliest supporters. For those who don’t know, Astrid is the German photographer who became engaged to ‘fifth Beatle’ Stuart Sutcliffe, helped develop the Beatles’ early image of leathers and haircuts (as far as I’m concerned the Beatle moptop look is all down to Astrid, whatever Lennon may have claimed later) and took their earliest professional photographs. Many of them are here in this book including the famous shot of the five Beatles (without Ringo but with Stuart and Pete Best) at the fairground, seen in full shot without the close crop around the band for the first time as well as some early Brian Epstein-influenced shots of the band in suits from 1963 that aren’t often seen. Most moving of all, however, are the photos of Stuart – easily the most photogenic of the group in the days before Lennon grew into his leadership role – at work and at play and the eerie, much-discussed photo of a fragile looking Lennon taken in Stuart’s art studio the day he heard that his best friend had died, with a 17-year-old George looking concerned over his shoulder. That single rarely-seen shot is worth the price of the book alone, although do be warned that the translated interviews with Astrid, Klaus Voormann and Astrid’s one-time husband Gibson Kemp aren’t anything like as illuminating as the photographs and nor is this book exclusively a Beatles one (there’s lots of shots of Astrid and her family as well as other musicians of interest to Beatle fans such as Ringo’s first employer Rory Storm and Apple artist Jackie Lomax). Still, these are important pictures by one of the leading lights of her day (like Linda McCartney after her, Astrid had already made quite an impact by the time she met the Beatles and if anything the association hurt her own career) and the book is a well-produced labour of love that deserves better acknowledgement from fans who realise it’s worth.


5) Gustav Holst: “The Evening Watch and Other Choral Music” (2004): Amazingly, I think I’ve gone through 200 articles without revealing to you my love for the only classical music composer on a level with giants from the rock and pop world. Most of you will only know Holst from the ‘Planets’ score, which is an often misunderstood piece of work (it’s written about astrology, not astronomy!) that has overshadowed equally fine moments in the composer’s career. ‘The Evening Watch’ isn’t one of them, mind, being one of Holst’s occasional religious works that never really suit his style (his often heavenly music is enthused by a similar kind of non-religious spirituality common to most of the artists on this list), although there are other rare pieces here that are worthy additions to the Holst canon, especially the six Choruses and seven part-songs which show much more of the Holst ‘spirit’ and less of impressive chameleonic abilities. To be honest, though, if you want to know this fascinatingly complex and rule-breaking man’s work better you want to buy The Hymn Of Jesus his own superior version of Ave Maria, (OK, so forget what I said about his religious works...), A Winter Idyll, Ode To Death, Invocation, the Brook Green Suite, the piano pieces Nocturne and Piece For Yvonne, the sadly unfinished The Morning Of The Year and especially the exquisite Perfect Fool (the opera may have been booed off the stage but the opening ballet is amongst the most moving music ever made by anybody). Most fans and fellow collectors scratch their heads when I mention Holst’s name but Justin Hayward, for one, is a fan and considers ‘The Planets’ a big influence on his work (or he did once, anyway, I haven’t seen his name mentioned in interviews for a while!) and certainly Holst is the only classical composer I can stomach, the only one remotely close to writing music as powerful and meaningful as the artists on this list (and even then he has patchier moments than any of the groups on our list, I have to say...) Still, if you get bored of the music on this list (as if!) then check out one of the above recordings – and better still join me in lobbying for a performance of one of Holst’s six operas (none of which have ever been staged since his death in 1934!)


Right, that’s enough nattering for one week. We hope to be with you again soon all being well – but please bear with us if we’re not. We really are facing some problems at the moment and I’m not sure if we’ll ever fully solve them, but as long as there are those of you who visit the site I’ll do my best to keep going. Oh and I ran out of space to moan about it earlier but – what does David Cameron think he’s doing, sending missiles to shoot down leaders who until a few months ago Britain’s Government was supporting? Whilst I agree with the cause, switching sides in such a callous manner – using our weapons to fight weapons we’ve been selling for the past few decades – seems downright hypocritical to me! Just because Cameron wants his own Falklands! Oh and full marks for Obama for hanging back – America may be involved too but it’s us that’s doing all the shouting about it. Huh, up with music and down with the Coalition!