The art studio of the latest rock star to trade in the plectrum for the paintbrush is not in the most starry of locations. It’s in her flat above a row of shops opposite a council estate in an ungentrified corner of north-west London. Her artist’s view is usually a gaggle of buses dawdling at their stops; on the afternoon I visit, a homeless man is necking a bottle of sweet wine. Chrissie Hynde, for it is she, the shaggy-fringed, no-nonsense Pretenders frontwoman of 40 years standing, has lived here for a few years, which coincides with a time “when her life changed”, according to Royal Academy director Tim Marlow in his introduction to a new book of her paintings, Adding the Blue. A collection of still lifes, portraits, and colourful abstracts, they have been created in a “calm frenzy”, he writes, since 2015. Rock stars becoming painters remains one the most cliched career transitions in showbiz, however. You may have seen Ronnie Wood’s … [Read more...] about Chrissie Hynde: ‘It’s hard work being alone. Paintings are an outlet’
Kate McGarrigle, who has died aged 63, was a luminous singer and songwriter whose partnership with her sister Anna produced some of the most attractive and memorable music to come out of the North American folk scene in the past 35 years. Their first album, unobtrusively presented with a grainy black-and-white close-up photograph and simply titled Kate & Anna McGarrigle (1976), captivated listeners with its heart-rending harmonies and anthemic songs such as Kate's Talk to Me of Mendocino and Anna's Heart Like a Wheel. In small print on the sleeve was a thank you to friends and family for looking after "Little Rufus", Kate's son with the singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. Both Rufus Wainwright and his younger sister Martha have carried on the family tradition of innovative music-making. The McGarrigle sisters, Kate, Anna and Jane, grew up in Saint Sauveur des Monts, Québec, where they learned songs from their French-Canadian mother Gaby, and piano from their father Frank … [Read more...] about Kate McGarrigle obituary
The voice is quavery and hesitant, the sound of a frightened, exhausted young man. The trebly nature of the recording - on a cassette, over the telephone - makes him sound old, paper-thin, and accentuates the slight hitch in his voice. For he is talking, quietly and surely, about his own self-destruction: "I can't drink, I can't, like the doctor said if I drank anything even remotely like the way I've been drinking for the past however long, I've got six months at the absolute outside to live." It's 20 January 1978. There is a snowstorm in New York. The previous day, Sid Vicious slipped into a valium and methadone coma during a flight from the west coast and was rushed off the plane into a hospital in Jamaica, Queens, hard by JFK airport. A few days ago, he was the bass player in the Sex Pistols, playing to more than 5,000 people in San Francisco's Winterland. Now that the group has split up he is all alone, very lonely, and fearful of the future. The only person to contact him is … [Read more...] about Sid Vicious: Little boy lost
Every year we hear the same horror story; that cinema is overrun by formulaic franchise fodder, with nothing but superheroes and sequels on display. Yet turn your attention away from the monotony of the multiplexes, where the dreary Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and the disappointing Suicide Squad may rule the roost, and the picture is quite different. At independent cinemas around the UK, we are constantly reminded of the stunning breadth and scope of modern movies, thanks to films such as Peter Middleton and James Spinney’s electrifying Notes on Blindness, an exceptional sensory experience, based on the audiotape memoirs of theologian John M Hull. Notes on Blindness was just one of several superb homemade indie pics released in the UK this year. Other admirable oddities included Stephen Fingleton’s stripped-down Northern Ireland thriller The Survivalist; Joe Stephenson’s Kes-like Chicken; and Jane Gull’s My Feral Heart, with its brilliant central … [Read more...] about Mark Kermode: best films of 2016
We live in a time when science and technology are having an impact on our society in more and more ways. And the decisions that shape how these new fields of knowledge develop ultimately affect all of us. When I studied biology in high school, I didn’t learn about DNA for a very simple reason. The work of Francis Crick, James Watson, Rosalind Franklin and others who unlocked the structure of the basic code of life was still years away. The idea of engineering human beings? Well, that was firmly the stuff of science fiction, like Aldous Huxley’s dystopian novel Brave New World (published a year after my birth). It seemed as likely as, say, going to the moon. There are a few inferences you can make from this framing of my life. One is that I have been on the planet for a while. The other is the speed of change in what we know about what life is, and how we can control it, has accelerated at a rapid rate. Now we as a species are on the precipice of being able to manipulate the … [Read more...] about Gene editing will let us control our very evolution. Will we use it wisely?