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President Barack Obama leads nation in moment of silence, as commemoration ceremonies take place in New York, the Pentagon and the Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania

Minor British Institutions: Half Man Half Biscuit

Half Man Half Biscuit, or HMHB, are a band from Birkenhead that constituted a sort of dessert for the strong meat served-up during the punk era. Formed in around 1984, they seem to be still going, and there has never been a finer group of musical, social and political satirists (unless you count the Barron Knights).

Album: Don McLean, Addicted to Black (Proper)

Don McLean's reputation has rested largely on a few early songs – the endlessly recycled "American Pie", "Vincent", and the much-covered crooner's favourite "And I Love Her So" – which, a glance at his back catalogue confirms, is more than enough to support a long and prolific career.

Guitar heroes can
really learn to rock

All those hours spent perfecting your technique in ‘Rock Band’ and ‘Guitar Hero’ don’t, I’m afraid, add up to any real finger-picking skills.

Album: Various Artists, Glee: The Music, Volume 1 (Columbia)

As apparently the only person in the western hemisphere not to have seen an episode of Glee, it's hardly surprising I found myself neither angered nor elated by the karaoke-pop repossessions of rock history that comprise this soundtrack album.

Dale Hawkins: Singer, songwriter and guitarist best known for his seminal Fifties hit 'Susie-Q'

As with "Bo Diddley", "What'd I Say" and "Johnny B. Goode", Dale Hawkins' 1957 record, "Susie-Q" contained an explosive riff which became one of the cornerstones of the new rock'n'roll music. It is still familiar, and it could be argued that John Fogerty wrote several variations for Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Album: Thao, Know Better, Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars)

We Brave Bee Stings and All, Thao Nguyen's 2008 album with her band the Get Down Stay Down, was that year's best-selling record on the Kill Rock Stars label and something of a breakthrough.

Album: Thao with The Get Down Stay Down, Know Better Learn Faster (Kill Rock Stars)

Thao Nguyen acquired many approving notices and fans with 2008's We Brave Bee Stings And All, and, while this follow-up has its moments of undeniable charm, there comes a point when her plaintive anti-folk deadpan slips over from appealingly quirky into irritatingly affected.

Album: Neil Diamond, A Cherry Cherry Christmas (Sony)

In the sleeve notes, Neil Diamond pre-empts any feelings of incongruity at the prospect of a Jewish guy singing Christmas songs by stating that this is a magical time of year regardless of one's religion.

Album: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers, Live Anthology (Universal)

Four discs, 48 songs, 27 years… If ever a rock band deserved the heritage treatment then this one does.

Album: Neil Diamond, A Cherry Cherry Christmas (Columbia)

The bulk of these 14 tracks were originally released on previous Neil Diamond Christmas albums from 1992 and 1994 – neither of which, one imagines, bore such a cringingly terrible titular pun.

Stephen Foley: The real work there is still to do on US jobs

When the US last emerged from recession, after the dot.com bust, the Bush administration presided over what became known as the "jobless recovery". If they get it right, a new generation of leaders might just spark a jobs-led recovery.

Leading article: A golden bridge

The good folk of Cumbria may be mourning the loss of their bridges as they take hour-long detours to cross the rivers, but down in Oxfordshire they know how to make money out of need. The Swinford toll bridge, which crosses the Thames near Eynsham, has just fetched a total of more than £1m at auction.

Album: Paul Curreri, California (Hi-Ya / Tin Angel)

Curreri accounts for a lot of the musical weight behind Devon Sproule.

The best gift bar none? Beer vouchers

People unsure about what gifts to buy for friends and relatives have long relied on woefully unoriginal presents such as book tokens and high street store vouchers. Now, they will be able to provide their loved ones with something they might really want – Pub Vouchers.

Larry Knechtel: Pianist who played with two Elvises, Simon and Garfunkel, Phil Spector and the Doors

In 1969, Paul Simon wanted to give his new composition, "Bridge Over Troubled Water", some of the feel of a gospel song. He asked the Los Angeles pianist Larry Knechtel to work on the first verse with the vocalist Art Garfunkel. After four days, he was impressed with the result and the way Knechtel had interpreted his composition. It prompted him to write a third verse, although he subsequently felt that the lyrics were not as strong as the first two. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" became an international best-seller, topping the charts in both Britain and America. Knechtel was invited on tour, and Simon has described how he sat at the side while Garfunkel and Knechtel performed his song. It irked Simon, who admitted, "It's not a very generous thing to think, but I resented it." Knechtel shared a Grammy with Simon and Garfunkel, and the musicians Jimmie Haskell and Ernie Freeman, for the Best Arrangement of the Year.

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