News Christmas Day 2013 was all about the battle for the other most worthy yuletide delivery: the alternative Christmas message.

While Channel 4 located the alabaster NSA whistleblower, several other household names came out of the tinsel

Roundhouse: the cover version

Long filled with volumes of noise, Chalk Farm's monument to rock and rolling stock will soon house rare books and drawings. Jonathan Glancey reports

Soul meets the abstract space

Annie Lennox's new album is a set of covers. Here she introduces them; below, Tim de Lisle reviews them

Preacher's prophesies become all too real

Ian MacKinnon explores a rock star's controversial career in search of a reason for his mystery disappearance

ROCK / Burning and barking in Berks

ANY BAND that risks third-degree burns in the name of entertainment is all right by me. At the Reading Festival, the Red Hot Chili Peppers were all right by everyone. Their Sunday night performance packed the field fuller than it had been for the entire weekend, so you could be sardined in the first 500-odd rows, or stand so far from the stage you might as well have been watching the show on TV through someone else's sitting-room window.

Tired of London? Far from it: Taylor Parkes wonders what's got into a lot of young boys' heads

Right now, nothing is more fashionable in pop than the cockney accent, the dandy flourish; the whole devalued currency of London pop. Perhaps as a reaction to all-American grunge more and more young groups are adopting a nostalgic vision recycling the precious sepia-tinted imagery of The Kinks and Madness.

In an English city garden ..

A small war is rumbling around the sedate garden squares of Notting Hill. On my morning walk in the breathtakingly beautiful, but totally empty, Ladbroke Square, more of a park at seven acres, a notice barks:

COMEDY / Fat and other feminist issues

THE ECSTATIC reception that greets Jo Brand at the Bound and Gagged Comedy Feast confirms that television has sent her star into orbit. Her series, Through the Cakehole, may have had the occasional jotted-down-on-the-back-of-a-fag-packet element, but that did not stop it riding high in the Channel 4 ratings, or being all the talk on Saturday morning trains into town. And her domesticated cockney cop-show spoof, 'Drudge Squad', was the stuff of which legends are made. Striding into the Bloomsbury Theatre spotlight with her electric-shock hair and sweet-wrapper trousers, she has certainly come a long way from the sad figure who used to creep on stage as the Sea Monster on Friday Night Live.

Eat your heart out, Schwarzenegger: It started as trashy television sport, now it's an extravaganza. Lyndsay Russell muscles in on the hunt for the world's strongest man

The giant staggered forward, carrying a 2CV car. 'Why ride, when you can walk?' he grunted. His head and shoulders were stuck through the roof, his feet through the floor. Seventy stone - 445kg - was suspended from his torso via straining shoulder-straps.

RIFFS / Miles Hunt of the Wonder Stuff clears a hangover with the Clash's 'Complete Control'

I JUST played this track again and even at this time of the morning with a hangover it still makes me dive round the room. CBS had put out the second Clash single, 'Remote Control', without asking them while they were on holiday. The Clash were so cross they wrote 'Complete Control', which starts: 'They said release 'Remote Control', / But we didn't want it on the label'. The bass gives the track a good rumble and it's got this great guitar intro which stays there all through - typical punk, messing around with the different notes of one chord. I always found the Clash quite tuneful, and it's perfect pop in the spirit of delivery - the forcefulness and the energy. The subject is nailed in three minutes. It ends with the classic chanting - that Pistols thing of making a new chorus up by the end of the song. Mick Jones is going 'C-O-N trol', and over the top Joe Strummer's ad libbing 'You're my guitar hero' to Jonesy, which is a laugh. I always put this on, or 'Beat Surrender' by the Jam, whenever I feel I'm doubting music.'

ROCK / It's no longer so cool for cats: Stray Cats - Town & Country

IN 1981, the Stray Cats were a lively antidote to the over-produced new romantic pop of Spandau Ballet, Ultravox and the like. Relying on the bare bones of the semi-acoustic guitar, snare drum and stand-up double bass, the US trio of Brian Setzer, Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker came on with a sound and a look Gene Vincent would have been proud of.

ROCK / A tough act to follow: After 15 years, The Stranglers have a new line-up. Mark Wareham met the men who replaced Hugh Cornwell

Hugh Cornwell first left The Stranglers in 1980 when he visited Her Majesty for a few months in Pentonville. For a couple of nights at the Rainbow the band replaced him with some seven lead singers, including Toyah Wilcox, Ian Dury, Wilko Johnson, Billy Idol and Jake Burns. Ten years later, Cornwell left for good and the band settled on a mere two replacements, the lesser-known guitarist John Ellis (The Vibrators) and the completely unknown vocalist Paul Roberts (Big Wheel, as distinct from Jake Burns' Big Wheel).
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