Through the professional looking glass...

The career path from practitioner to critic is a well-trodden one. Novelists review books, politicians opine in newspaper columns, retired sports stars slip easily in to the commentators' seats - success, it seems, qualifies you to hold forth at will. Not many make the leap the other way, from commentator to player, from critic to performer. Few noisy hacks in the press box would dare jump down on to the stage and assume the lead role, even if the chance arose. But a select few have made the unlikely move, with varying degrees of success ...

Clive James made his living - and his name - penning acerbic TV criticism in the Observer. In spite of doubtful telegenic qualities, the portly Australian then saw fit to rearrange himself in front of the camera, and has presented chat shows ever since.

Winston Churchill A humble reporter before entering the House and the history books. Others to enter the Chamber via the newsroom have found less success therein - ex-Chancellor Nigel Lawson and ill-fated Stephen Milligan, to name but two.

Nicholas Kenyon A well-respected classical music critic on the Times, the New Yorker, the Observer and the Listener, in 1992 he was the surprise appointment as controller of Radio 3. He is, some might suggest, rather less respected in his new role.

Chrissie Hynde A brief and, by her own admission, disastrous career on the New Musical Express preceded her successful singing career with The Pretenders. She recently admitted to loathing every moment of her rock critic days.

Bob Geldof Bob Geldof graced the NME's pages equally fleetingly, before leaving for a colourful career with the Boomtown Rats, Africa and Paula Yates. The old man of rock is now back in the media in The Big Breakfast.

Neil Tennant The switch from Smash Hits music journalist to one half of pop sensation The Pet Shop Boys was coolly calculated. Tennant was convinced he could sell as many records as the bands about which he had to write - and was right.

John Landau One of the founding fathers of rock criticism, in 1974 Landau was writing for Rolling Stone when he covered a concert in Harvard. "I have seen the future of rock and roll," he wrote, "and its name is Bruce Springsteen." Shortly after, The Boss became his boss and he has been Springsteen's producer and manager ever since.

DECCA AITKENHEAD

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