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Google Doodle celebrates the Year of the Horse

Letter: Aretha's no softie

Aretha's no softie

Drivers at ease with middle-of-the-road melodies

When it comes to drive-time music, Britain's motorists are relentlessly middle-aged and middle-of-the-road in their tastes, it seems. A survey of the songs listened to behind the wheel shows most drivers reject life in the musical fast lane, and prefer safe - some might say bland - easy- listening music of the Seventies over more cutting-edge melodies.

RECORDS ROCK

ROCK

Pop Albums: Curtis Mayfield - New World Order

Warner Bros 9362-46348-2

Got to find a way

Revered soul daddy Curtis Mayfield was left a quadriplegic when a freak storm hit in 1990. He can no longer play guitar, but he's back with a new album.

Party rancour mars Clinton's big day

Reprimand for Gingrich and differences over budget sour atmosphere, writes Rupert Cornwell

A parallel world: same problems

PARALYMPICS: British squad of 244 look to record haul of gold medals in Atlanta, reports Chris Maume

Lives of the great songs / Bridge over troubled water

ART GARFUNKEL sang this song, but Paul Simon wrote it and he thought it could have turned out differently. 'The demo of 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' will show you that it was a much less grandiose thing than the record. It was a humble little gospel hymn song with two verses and a simple guitar behind it . . .'

He'll never let you down: The Seventies may have been a terrible decade for pop music, but in retrospect, one man, Rod Stewart, stands out as a mentor for the young: a man of questionable taste in almost everything, except good pop music

YOU WANT classic early Seventies albums, I got 'em. The entire Al Green back catalogue, Let's Get It On, There's No Place Like America Today, Grievous Angel, After the Goldrush, Blood on the Tracks . . . Unimpeachable classics, every one, and while others may have to bury their Cat Stevens and James Taylor albums away when fashionable friends come round to borrow a cup of balsamic vinegar, I have nothing to hide. Those pre-Ramones years were difficult to pick your way through, but I seem to have managed it quite brilliantly. If there was a smarter, more forward-thinking, more retrospectively modish young teenager around than me between 1971 and 1975, I have yet to meet him.

Centrefold: Alice in suburbia: Wonderland gets a Nineties revamp

It survived a plot to blow it up, it was a Mecca for intellectuals, and it's the place where time stands still. No, it's not the new British Library, but the Royal Observatory at Greenwich. If you want to catch Patrick Moore mooching around, you'll be disappointed - the working observatory is now in Cambridge. But the idyllic Old Observatory garden is now to host Hot Air's new musical version of Alice in Wonderland.

CINEMA / Loathed, loved, and laughing: His movies have grossed a billion dollars. So why isn't John Landis more feted? Maybe because he's too entertaining. Anthony Quinn listens to him

FROM THE lounge of John Landis's hotel suite come these . . . noises, a little like someone doing an impersonation of Jerry Lewis doing an impersonation of Tarzan, followed by howling gales of laughter. Apparently he's always this way, even when jet-lagged and cooped up on a sweltering June day giving interviews. Suddenly Landis explodes into the room, followed by two GLR radio reporters looking pretty shell-shocked after their allotted hour with him. Bearded and bespectacled, kitted out in regulation preppy jacket and tie, he has the look of a maths professor and the mile-a-minute chatter of a used-car salesman. 'You're from the Independent? One of your photographers was here yesterday; she's the one who photographs these men dressed up as babies] No kidding] Just take a look . . .' He leaps to the other side of the room to pluck a magazine from his bag and show the photos to the PR team. 'They wanted to take my picture with me wearing a wolf mask] I don't know why - but I didn't mind.'

BOOK REVIEW / Jerry, Jerry, quite contrary: 'Rhythm and the Blues: A Life in American Music' - Jerry Wexler and David Ritz: Cape, 14.99

IN HIS introduction to this book, David Ritz tells us how, when he questioned Jerry Wexler's use of a word like 'ratiocination' even for educated readers, Wexler would reply 'Send the f***ers to the dictionary.' This is told admiringly, but it introduces to us a contradictory man, at once contemptuous and insecure, and a man of whom his mother might have said 'You would think a boy who knew all those big long words could find a more apt one for his readers.'

ROCK / Wonders of Creation: The record label that gave us the Jesus and Mary Chain is 10 years old. Ben Thompson meets the proud father

ALAN McGEE - jet-setting Glasgow exile, British Rail clerk turned indie-music mogul - sits in the corner of a London brasserie, sipping a cappuccino in the refined manner of his hero, Paul Weller. His much-celebrated ginger hair is short, but his sentences are long. He talks very quickly, in rolling, fervent cadences in which the phrases 'Do you know what I mean?' and 'and all that bollocks' act as commas and colons. For a man renowned for his abrasive qualities, who has just flown back, via lunch with executives in Tokyo, from the LA earthquake zone ('It was as if someone was kicking the room'), McGee is affable in the extreme.

Lives of the great songs / Cheatin' meeting of minds: The Dark End of the Street

'THIS IS probably one of the greatest songs that's ever come out of black American music,' announces Ricky Ross over the piano intro to Deacon Blue's live version of 'The Dark End of the Street' (1991). 'I first heard it done by Gram Parsons, and then by a guy called Ry Cooder . . .'

ARTS / Lives of the Great Songs: But it's lasted so very long: You Send Me: Some songs are born great. And some have greatness thrust upon them. Nick Hornby continues our series

SAM COOKE may or may not have been the first soul singer, just as Iggy Pop may or may not have been the first punk, and Joe Turner the first rock'n'roll singer, and 'Mouldy Old Dough' by Lieutenant Pigeon the first ambient house record. It doesn't really matter much either way. But Cooke is certainly the first and most uncomplicated example of a gospel singer who went secular to make hits.
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