OBITUARY: Jeremy J. Beadle

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The Independent Online
Jeremy J. Beadle was an outstanding example of a breed of cultural critic which has become more common over the last decade, able to cross the barrier between serious and popular culture. A polymath, he wrote on literature, classical music and popular culture, and his expertise extended from intricacies of the novels of Henry James to sport and television soaps.

Beadle could recall vast amounts of detail on almost any subject that took his interest. This is most evident in his third book, Will Pop Eat Itself? (1993), a compendium of fact so detailed and various one might assume that thousands of card indices and preliminary sifting went into its preparation. This was not the case: Beadle's memory was so capacious and his powers of mental organisation so direct, he could draft the entire book with only a few sparse pages of notes in front of him.

Beadle published a book on each of his interests. There are two novels, both thrillers set in the seedy London underworld. His knowledge of popular music was encyclopaedic (he could tell you every no 1 hit for the last 35 years) and it enabled him to confront a subject like postmodernism in popular music in what has become the standard work on the subject, Will Pop Eat Itself?

His knowledge of classical music was equally great; as well as writing for Classic CD since its inception, he wrote The Virgin Guide to Classical Music (1993), which covers the entire gamut of music history. His greatest love, however, was the music of the German symphonic tradition, and Wagner in particular, and this he wrote on in his book The Age of Romanticism (1995), and talked about frequently on Radio 3. His radio play The Gates of the Underworld (1990), also broadcast on Radio 3, was about the German writer and music critic E.T.A. Hoffmann, whose themes of music, love and death fascinated Beadle.

Jeremy John Beadle was born in York in 1956, and educated first at the cathedral choir school, and then at St Peter's, York. By the age of 18 he had written seven novels and a good deal of poetry, but he nevertheless went to Oriel College, Oxford, to study Classics. This interest was to bear fruit later in a series of talks for Radio 3 on mythological subjects, but at the time he found it frustrating, as his real love was English literature. Having changed to this subject he took a First Class degree, and followed it with an MPhil specialising in the novels of Anthony Powell. One of his last appearances on Radio 3 was to talk about the musical references in Powell's work.

After teaching at Oxford, Beadle moved to London to work first for the GLC and then for the Home Office, before setting out alone as a freelance writer and broadcaster. He published six books and many hundreds of articles and was a frequent voice on Radio 3. He was also a wonderful conversationalist. He had been planning a new work, which would draw together the threads of all his interests, before his untimely death.

Anthony Sellors

Jeremy John Beadle, writer and broadcaster: born 28 April 1956; died 27 December 1995.

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