What should London’s anthem be?

If it goes independent, obviously. And who knows post-Brexit?!?

London Calling?

West End Girls?

Dizzee Rascal’s Fix Up, Look Sharp?

“Er… What?” I hear you say. Yes, Dizzee would be a strange choice. But he’s mine, and for a good reason, which you can learn by listening to Adrian Lacey’s great London Podcast at his site, via iTunes or here if you’re using Android.

I’ve never been asked the question before, which is surprising given so many cities, at least in the US, have anthems.

Adrian gave me one of the best podcast experiences I’ve had, taking me back to my childhood school in the London suburbs to stand in pouring rain (that wasn’t his fault) and explain where my love of music came from, doing a full, fascinating interview about the book, and even getting me to do a reading.

In the episode, he also goes out on London’s streets to ask people what their anthem would be. And he tells a brilliant story about his (white, lower-middle class, British) parents trying to write Nigeria’s anthem when it became independent.

It’s a real fun and interesting listen. And few podcast presenters go to such efforts, so, seriously, head here to hear it.

Adrian’s done some amazing other podcasts on everything from the Fire of London to Bob Marley’s London home, so check out other episodes if you can. Huge thanks to him if he’s reading.

Listen to me on Little Atoms!

This isn't actually the podcast, but click it and you'll be right there!

This isn’t actually the podcast, but click it to be flown right there. The wonder of the internet!

Any of you listen to Little Atoms? What do you mean, “No”?!? You should. It’s, like, the best books podcast in the UK and I’m not just saying that because they’ve got me on it this week.

If you want to hear me talk about my book and national anthems – covering everything from the Olympics to ISIS’s music – head here or subscribe via a site like iTunes. Although you should also just trawl their website, as on it you can listen to everyone from Jon Ronson to Jonathan Meades talk about their amazing books.

Neil Denny, the presenter, interviewed me about 10 minutes after talking to Marcus du Sautoy about his latest book, What We Cannot Know (listen here). He couldn’t find a spare mug for me to drink from, so I used Marcus’. I had a cold for the next week. Make of that what you will.

Oh, look out for Little Atoms’ magazine too since it contains original journalism as well as long extracts from their best interviews. And go and see Neil interview Hadley Freeman in London this September as Hadley is hilarious and you are 110% guaranteed to fall in love with her, even though you know she’s happily married with multiple children.

“One of the most musically brave – or stupid – things I’ve ever heard in my life”

Before I had the meltdown

Mid-way through the meltdown

That quote’s from Tom Service, one of the UK’s best music journalists, and is worryingly about me.

Tom’s, right now, behind a great BBC radio show and podcast called The Listening Service where he explores how music works.

Here’s an amazing episode on repetition; here’s another on musical beginnings; and here’s one on noise. You should listen to them all.

But this week’s is all about national anthems – pieces, as he says, that have “been made to carry more bloodshed, hope, victory, despair, arrogance, humility and even cynicism than any other melodies before or since.” See, it’s not just me who’s obsessed with these songs.

I’m on the episode quite a bit and you can listen to the whole thing here, but I thought I’d put up a couple of excerpts up in case you haven’t got half-an-hour to waste.

Firstly, here’s Tom on Stockhausen’s Hymnen – the great German composer’s attempt at a world anthem – since I don’t actually mention it in the book.

But secondly, here’s that brave/stupid thing.

When we were recording the show, Tom asked me to tell a story about the time I sung the Star-Spangled Banner at a song contest in Nashville. And he found it so funny, he then begged me for the recording.

The story’s in my book, but if you want to hear the sound of a man basically having a nervous breakdown in a baseball stadium, listen below. Dear God!

Any Listening Service fans who stumble across this, read this from BBC Music Magazine for a lot of information on famous composers and anthems. It has everyone from Verdi to Haydn – your every classical need met!

True soul music

Soul Music

The BBC’s brilliant Soul Music programme recently profiled Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika – the great anti-apartheid hymn that’s now part of South Africa’s national anthem; undeniably one of the most important songs ever written.

I, er, very stupidly managed to talk myself out of being part of the programme when they were researching it this summer, so it’s nice to hear they still made a fantastic programme without me – although I do disagree with the view that Enoch Sontonga stole the tune from a Welsh hymn!

I really recommend you head here now to listen, then pick up my book to learn even more about it, especially its somewhat contentious meaning today.

Things you shouldn’t do while giving a talk on BBC radio

  1. Start by basically saying, “Hello ladeez!”
  2. Make a joke about the IRA
  3. Sing
  4. Simplify the Ukraine-Russia conflict to such a point it makes it seem like you’re taking Russia’s side
  5. Sing some more
  6. Offend everyone in Cornwall
  7. Announce you have a pasty chest

With all that in mind, here’s a talk I did about nationalism that’s just been broadcast as part of Radio 4’s excellent Four Thought programme.

It’s a bit different from my usual book chat, but if you’d like some of that instead I was also on Monocle magazine’s Weekly show this week and you can listen here.

It features lots of really great questions about foreign policy, which is nice and they also say some lovely things about my book, which is even nicer!

I’m on from 13 minutes and straight afterwards is an amazing interview with the founder of Mubi, and there’s also a brilliant one about hip-hop and fashion to round things off. Basically, listen to it all, and then subscribe as, like Four Thought, it’s always an amazing listen.

Finally, yesterday, I did my first ever book talk! A proper one. Like for an hour and everything. It was a lot of fun, even the bits when I seemed to end up DJing national anthems, and seemed to go down really well so drop me a line if you’d like me to do one for you too. Call the Newham Bookshop (who booked it) or the Wanstead Tap (who hosted it) if you want an objective review!

I’m next at Birmingham Waterstones on 26 November, 7pm, in case any of you are nearby. Come! Singing not obligatory!

O say can you shut the hell up: Sir Twittwaddle on The Gist!

A few weeks ago, a friend recommended I listen to Slate’s daily podcast, The Gist – one of the most American podcasts you could come across, but funny and opinionated and topical in a similar way to The Daily Show.

I did as told, but about two episodes in had the shock of hearing myself being introduced as Sir Twittwaddle, and then being torn apart for some comments I made about the Star-Spangled Banner to the BBC.

All credit to Mike Pesca, the man in charge, though. I tweeted him and he decided to get me on to explain myself and talk about the US anthem. You can listen below (or here) from the incredibly specific time of 6:47! It’s a fun interview and somehow I come out in one piece!

Listen before for some bizarre talk about Starbucks sandwiches, and afterwards for some very interesting chat about US gun laws!

Today and Tonight!

This morning I appeared on the BBC’s Today programme to talk about my book. If you don’t know what a big deal Today is, this is the sort of text that arrives from family members when you appear on it:

photo

It’s normally home to prime ministers being made to squirm so getting on it is pretty amazing.

I have no idea if the segment is any good as I was in the shower when it was broadcast, but you can listen again here.

And if you’d prefer to see me talk about national anthems, I’ll be on the BBC’s Meet the Author programme tonight – 7:45pm on the News Channel – which will be available here online soon afterwards.

Update: Having listened to it, a big thanks to the BBC’s Nick Higham for having me on, liking the book and making it sound really interesting. I hope it makes thousands of people want to buy it!