Torturing the Saxophone

In 2014, celebrated Swedish free jazz saxophonist Mats Gustafsson sent a copy of his forthcoming album to one of his idols, the legendary comic book artist, record collector and musician Robert Crumb. Gustafsson’s upcoming record was a compilation of his experimental interpretations of some jazz classics by people such as Duke Ellington, Lars Gullin, and

My heart almost stood still

On the evening of February 1st, 1924, the New York Symphony Orchestra played Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony at Carnegie Hall in New York, conducted by Walter Damrosch. Thankfully for those who couldn’t attend, the performance was broadcast live on the radio. A couple of days later, the orchestra received a stunning letter of thanks from the unlikeliest of sources: Helen

Very untruly yours

In March of 1987, having paid a hefty licensing fee of $500’000 to Capital Records and Michael Jackson for the privilege, Nike released the first ever television commercial to feature a song from the Beatles‘ sacred back catalogue—in this case, Revolution. Rather unsurprisingly, the move was seen by many as a controversial one, particularly by

You were my angel

Oprah Winfrey is one of the most successful and influential people in the world, having hosted and produced, for 25 years until 2011, the longest-running and most-watched talk show in the history of television, The Oprah Winfrey Show—a programme which was watched, at its peak, by upwards of 40 million people each week, was broadcast

Who is Karen Carpenter, really?

On February 4th, 1983, Karen Carpenter—one half of The Carpenters alongside her brother, Richard—passed away after suffering heart failure brought on by anorexia nervosa, an illness from which she had suffered for years. She was 32 when she died. One of her millions of fans was Kim Gordon, singer and bassist of Sonic Youth, a

Kids know I am harmless

In 1979, famous advice columnist Ann Landers wrote a widely-read article in which she strongly criticised “Cold Ethyl” (lyrics), a song about necrophilia/alcohol by Alice Cooper which, she claimed, had the power to corrupt his younger fans. A few weeks after the piece was published, Alice Cooper responded with a letter; that letter was published, along with

MTV, you spineless twerps

In July of 1988, almost immediately after their world première of Neil Young‘s “This Note’s for You” — a song and video in which various high profile musicians are mocked for endorsing brands such as Pepsi and Michelob — MTV placed a station-wide ban on the video due to “problems with trademark infringement.” In response, Young offered

Then I recorded Space Oddity…

In November of 1970, a month after signing a five-year publishing deal with Chrys­alis Music, 24-year-old David Bowie wrote the following letter to Bob Grace, the man who signed him, and briefly filled him in on his life so far. Transcript follows. (Source: Any Day Now; Image: David Bowie in 1970, via.) Transcript November 17th,

It’s a virus

In 2002, after reading an article by The Doors’ John Densmore on the subject of musicians allowing their work to be featured in commercials, Tom Waits — a songwriter who, a decade previous, successfully sued Frito Lay for more than $2m after they ripped off one of his songs to sell Doritos, and has sued others

I love June Carter, I do

On March 1st of 1968, 13 years after first meeting and just a week after he proposed to her on stage during a concert, the great Johnny Cash married fellow country singer June Carter. They remained together until her death, 35 years later. Shortly after June passed away, Johnny wrote the following note. He died two months later,

She is my best friend

In November of 2012, in a heartbreaking, handwritten letter addressed to “a few thousand friends I have not met yet,” Fiona Apple announced that she was postponing the South American leg of her tour due to the ill-health of her beloved pit bull, Janet — a 13-year-old rescue dog suffering from Addison’s disease and, more worryingly, a tumor

Please advise

I think it’s safe to assume that the advice reluctantly given in response to this wonderful memo, sent by record producer Teo Macero to executives at Columbia Records, was essentially, “Let Miles Davis call his next album whatever he wants.” And rightly so. As we now know, the title stayed, and Bitches Brew was released to the public four months later. It is now

Regarding your Hampton Wick

Since 1968, at which point she and her best friend famously sought out and made a plaster cast of Jimi Hendrix‘s penis, legendary groupie Cynthia Albritton (a.k.a. Cynthia Plaster Caster) has been immortalising rock stars’ members — and, since 2000, breasts — in plaster for the world to see; and quite successfully too, as evidenced by

I was meant to be a composer

In 1919, at which point he was just 9-years-old, Samuel Barber wrote the following letter to his mother and left it on his desk for her to find. She did, and a year later Barber began to compose his first opera, “The Rose Tree.” He was still only 26 years of age when, in 1936, he

Your road manager needs a POKE

In March of 1966, as their Australian tour came to an end, a few members of The Rolling Stones — Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts — decided to unwind by taking a short break in Fiji. It was during that visit, and due in no small part to a flippant remark made by their

Think of my programmes as your research department

Early-1996, on learning that a forthcoming, weekly drum & bass programme was to eat into his own show’s airtime, shortening it by an hour, pioneering DJ John Peel made his disappointment known by writing the following letter to Matthew Bannister, then-controller of BBC Radio 1. John Peel remained with the station until his death in 2004.

I’m unhappy, hope you’re unhappy too

Here we have the first letter sent by 21-year-old Morrissey to his Scottish pen-pal, Robert Mackie in 1980, in response to a personal ad in Sounds magazine. His note was written on the back of a James Dean photo (James Dean was of course the subject of a book written by Morrissey around that time), and

let me begin by not beginnin

Early-January of 1964, at which point his third studio album was soon-to-be released, 22-year-old Bob Dylan wrote the following letter to Sis Cunningham and Gordon Friesen — both founding editors of Broadside, a highly influential underground magazine of the period — and spoke of, amongst other things, his recent rise to fame, the money and guilt that came with it, and

Oh my ass burns like fire!

When he wasn’t busy composing some of the most beautiful music ever to seduce the human ear, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could often be found writing shockingly crude letters to his family. The fine example below (translated by Robert Spaethling) was penned to Mozart’s 19-year-old cousin and possible love interest,

I AM the boss

In 1970, three years after co-founding Rolling Stone, Jann Wenner hired 21-year-old Annie Liebovitz as a staff photographer; her work impressed, and in 1973 she was named “Chief Photographer” at the title. Nine years later, by which time the magazine had become widely read — thanks in some small part to Leibovitz’s numerous iconic cover shots — the following exchange

The most beautiful work of all

Punk pioneer Patti Smith and influential photographer Robert Mapplethorpe enjoyed a close, often intense relationship that began in 1967 when 20-year-old Patti moved to New York City. The pair hit it off immediately, and for the next seven years they lived together in Manhattan. In 1989, 22 years after first meeting and by which time

The spectacle sickened me

In July of 1905, after attending a performance of Don Giovanni at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, renowned playwright and critic George Bernard Shaw wrote a wonderful letter of complaint to The Times. His grievance didn’t concern the opera itself, but rather an extravagantly dressed lady seated in his line of sight. The letter,

I do not apologize for myself nor my fears

On December 13th of 1963, at a dinner event in New York, the Emergency Civil Liberties Committee awarded its annual Tom Paine Award to Bob Dylan, for his contribution to the fight for civil liberties. Despite not having prepared one, a nervous and slightly drunk Dylan gave a speech that evening — a controversial speech in which

stay away from microwaves

On July 22nd of 1992, during their famous joint tour with Metallica, Guns N’ Roses co-headlined at the Hoosier Dome in Axl Rose‘s home state of Indiana. They appeared on stage last, almost two hours after Metallica had finished their set, and were headed by an angry frontman. Two days later, a less-than-glowing review of

Things will just get better and better

In June of 2010, the lead singer of Eels, Mark ‘E’ Everett, wrote a lovely letter of advice to his 16-year-old self. The missive features in the wonderful book, Dear Me, and can be read below. Transcript follows. (Source: Dear Me: More Letters to My 16-Year-Old Self; Image of “E” via Gonzai.) Transcript Chateau E

Keep Bill Wyman away from Keith

From their 1976 tour of Europe comes a note detailing the accommodation requirements of The Rolling Stones, plus instructions on how best to situate each member — a task no doubt complicated by the various pseudonyms used by the band. Let’s just hope that Roland, the poor chap who inherited the job at hand for the tour’s final show in

He is called Mick Jagger

In April of 1962, 18-year-old Keith Richards wrote the following enthusiastic letter to his aunt, “Patty,” and described, amongst other things, an encounter some months previous that would ultimately change his life — the moment he met Mick Jagger for the first time since being childhood friends. Three months after the letter was written, “The

Love is love, and there will never be too much

Back in 2000, a teenage Fiona Apple fan named Bill Magee decided to approach the singer after a gig and hand her a letter. In it, the 16-year-old spoke of his school’s gay-straight alliance — of which he was a member — and asked if she could possibly reply with a sentence or two in its support. The next week,

My muse is not a horse

In 1996, following the success of his band‘s ninth studio album, Murder Ballads, word reached Nick Cave that he had been nominated for an MTV Award, as Best Male Artist. That nomination was soon withdrawn, however, as a result of the following rejection letter from Mr. Cave to the event’s organisers. Nick very kindly agreed to

Aida will gather dust in the archives

In May of 1872, having recently travelled twice to watch Aida, a disappointed Italian gentleman named Prospero Bertani decided to write a letter of complaint to the opera’s composer, Verdi, and ask for his money back; not just for the show, but for his expenses too. Amused, Verdi responded by forwarding the letter to his

Herbs is his Majesty’s

On January 16th of 1980, Japanese customs officials found 7.7 ounces of cannabis in Paul McCartney‘s luggage as he entered the country, resulting in a 10-day stay in a Tokyo prison and the cancellation of the Wings tour of Japan. After being released, he was told never to return.  The highlight of the whole ordeal came five days

Thanks for being my Dad

Today marks a decade since the death of George Harrison; with that in mind, here are two endearing handwritten letters from the late-Beatle. The first was written in 1968 to a fan who, having previously been advised by Harrison to learn the sitar, had then cheekily asked him for the money needed to purchase one.

HAVE SECURED CONTRACT FOR BEATLES

On May 9th of 1962, after many weeks of trying, Brian Epstein met with the A & R man at Parlophone — George Martin — for a second time, and played him some more material by The Beatles. Martin wasn’t overly impressed with the songs, but provisionally signed the act on the strength of their manager’s enthusiasm, and on

A letter of thanks from Gil Scott-Heron

Back in 1997, TVT Records decided to reissue a handful of Gil Scott-Heron‘s albums — namely, Winter In America; The First Minute of a New Day; From South Africa to South Carolina; It’s Your World, and The Mind of Gil Scott-Heron. On March 27th, prior to signing the contract and receiving his advance, a clearly enthused Scott-Heron took some time to

Here are the pictures

Jimi Hendrix sent the following letter to Reprise Records in September of 1968. It was essentially a set of fairly strict instructions with regard to the sleeve design of his forthcoming record, Electric Ladyland: a photo of the band surrounded by kids in Central Park, taken by Linda McCartney, was to feature on the front

Dear Bob

Dear Bob (mp3) Late-1993, some months prior to the release of Grace, Jeff Buckley took to the stage and impersonated Bob Dylan. He later explained: “I was at A Hole In The Wall in New York, and I’d seen Dylan the night before. So I did an impression of him singing I Want You. I

I was 2 busy listening 2 the grass grow

Here’s a sweet little handwritten letter from Prince in June of 1984, to a young fan named Annalisa Masters. Prince was 26-years-old at the time and had just released his incredible sixth album, Purple Rain; a month later, the movie to which it was the soundtrack was also unveiled. Until recently this letter was on

Your loving son, Jimi

October, 1966: Very soon after forming The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jimi Hendrix writes a postcard to his father back home in the U.S. and fills him in on recent developments. Two months later — as mentioned by Jimi — the band’s first single, “Hey Joe,” was released. Their debut album, “Are You Experienced,” soon followed; it is

I wanted to be a nun or a movie star

Madonna was a 20-year-old drummer and virtually unknown in the world of showbiz when she hand-wrote this typically unabashed cover letter to Stephen Lewicki, a first-time filmmaker on the lookout for a woman to play the lead in his erotic thriller, A Certain Sacrifice. It’s a great read and essentially a brief but entertaining look back

Sadness is a strange companion

Full marks go to Paul Banks, lead singer of Interpol, for the lovely, compassionate note seen below; written last year after a gig in Boston to a downbeat young lady. Letters of advice like this — particularly when written by ‘celebrities’ to their fans — can actually be life-changing for the recipient, and should be commended. Another

Please ask Ike to bring Elvis back

The following pleading letter is just one of thousands sent by desperate fans of Elvis Presley to the White House in the late-1950s, in an effort to have the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll returned to the United States from Germany, where he was posted with the U.S. Army. This particular missive was sent by

The Nevermind Happy Meal

Nirvana‘s second album — the immeasurably influential and multi-million selling Nevermind — somehow turns 20 tomorrow. The band sent out the following handwritten letter to a number of fans during the run-up to its release on September 24th of 1991, and jokingly referred to, amongst other things, a tie-in with McDonald’s whereby copies of the forthcoming album would

Love music

Steve Vai is considered by many to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time, so it’s safe to assume he receives a fair amount of fan mail. Presumably he’s also a busy man, so it’s heartening to see that he responds to at least some of it with letters like the handwritten one

You are the hippest of cats

The following note was written by Audrey Hepburn in 1961, shortly after hearing the musical score for her latest movie, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, for the first time. Such was her delight, she wrote a charming letter of praise to its composer, Henry Mancini; a man who would later be awarded an Academy Award for his efforts. Short, but

The ring of fire still burns around you and I

Today we have two endearing pieces from the hand of Johnny Cash, a musical legend who needs no introduction. The first is a poetic, undated love note to his wife, June; the second, an utterly charming to-do list. Transcripts follow. First image taken from the forthcoming book, “House of Cash“; second image courtesy of Julien’s

COME AT ONCE HANK IS DEAD

Millions of hearts broke in 1953 when, on January 1st, the news of the death of 29-year-old Hiram Williams began to circulate. Hiram was better known to most by his stage name, Hank Williams; a talented young man who recorded hit after hit during his short but illustrious country music career. Sadly, addictions to alcohol and

Dear Loser

Here, in all its glory, is the form rejection letter sent to unsuccessful acts in the 1990s by legendary record label Sub Pop. Just to clarify: “Dear Loser” appeared at the top of all Sub Pop rejection letters. What’s not to love? Transcript follows. Image courtesy of MoLo_trash at Flickr. Image: MoLo_trash Transcript From… Sub

The Beatles was too much

On February 28th of 1977, the manager of the Sex Pistols, Malcolm McLaren, sent the following telegram to the NME. In it, he confirmed the sacking of Glen Matlock from the band as a result of his constant talk of Paul McCartney and The Beatles, and then officially announced the introduction of Sid Vicious to the

The Factory

The Factory, c.1966 | Image: Tuscene One can only imagine the parties that occurred on the fifth floor at 231 East 47th Street during the 60s, for this was Andy Warhol‘s Factory, the very studio in which his famous silkscreens were created on a daily basis; a veritable hot-spot that welcomed a steady stream of visitors that

I pity you

A highly unflattering Rolling Stone article about Queen‘s South American tour in 1981 — excerpt here — prompted the following scathing letter; originally written in a fit of rage by the band’s drummer, Roger Taylor, on an airline sickness bag. Unfortunately I’m unable to locate a picture of said sick-bag, so this image of the

EGO-EGO-EGO!!!!

1997: Madonna writes to record producer and longtime collaborator Pat Leonard, and regretfully informs him of her desire to enlist the services of William Orbit to produce the remainder of her latest album, Ray of Light. Her decision to change direction would ultimately prove fruitful, with many critics heralding the finished record as one of

You’re a schmuck

In October of 1974, to celebrate his post-retirement comeback, 59-year-old Frank Sinatra appeared in a televised concert at Madison Square Garden, New York. Reviews were mixed, but one person who was particularly unkind to Ol’ Blue Eyes was critic Rex Reed, who immediately savaged Sinatra’s voice, supposed arrogance, and appearance in his syndicated column. He even called Sinatra “Porky

Immortal Beloved

After his death in 1827, the following love letter was found amongst the personal papers of Ludwig van Beethoven, penned by the composer over the course of two days in July of 1812 while staying in Teplice. The letter’s unnamed recipient — Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved” — remains a mystery, and continues to generate debate. Below are images of the

Your ever gracious tenant, Bruce Springsteen

Early-1975, just months before the release of Born to Run — the breakthrough album that would see him almost immediately catapulted to mega-stardom — Bruce Springsteen was hand-writing apologetic notes to his “landlordess,” Marilyn Rocky, due to late rent payments. The autograph practice was soon put to good use as, according to Marilyn, by August of that year

You are an “eight ulcer man on four ulcer pay.”

On the evening of December 5th, 1950, a carefully selected 3500-strong audience filled Washington’s Constitution Hall to witness a singing performance by Margaret Truman, the only child of then-U.S. President Harry Truman (also in attendance), and, despite the generally held consensus that her singing talents were lacking, a wave of positive reaction greeted her after the

Thank you for not hitting me

Rolling Stone, April 25th, 1974 (Click for full article) John Lennon was already drunk when he arrived at L.A.’s Troubador nightclub on March 11th, 1974. A few Brandy Alexanders later and he was even heckling the main act, the Smothers Brothers, whilst being egged on by his friend, Harry Nilsson. A subsequent call for quiet by

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Me

If you had the opportunity to write to your 16-year-old self, what would you say? That was the question put to a number of celebrities in 2009 when, in an effort to raise money for the Elton John AIDS Foundation, a book filled with such letters was planned. The end product, Dear Me: A Letter

People are more interested in Apocalypse Now than the Holy Ghost

Bob Dylan — Slow Train (Live at Massey Hall, April 20th 1980) The following letter of support was handwritten by Bob Dylan in April of 1980 to a friend who had just joined the U.S. Military, and highlights a period in his life when he attracted much derision as a result of his religious leanings. A few

John Denver’s Nightmare

According to this illustrated letter to Seattle-based band Aerobic Death in 1984, Dave Grohl was compiling and selling mixtapes with his friends at the age of 15 — this particular compilation bearing the name “John Denver’s Nightmare.” Two years later, 17-year-old Grohl dropped out of school to become the drummer for punk band Scream. A few years after

Take the world by the tail

In June of 2006, the legend that is Tom Waits wrote the following endearing letter to a 15-year-old named Colin, in response to a piece of fan mail written by the teenager a few months previous. It was accompanied by a signed photo, also seen below. The opening joke of Waits’ charming letter can be explained by Colin’s hometown

It wasn’t a rip off; it was a love in

An inflammatory article in The New York Times provoked the following letter from John Lennon in 1971, defensively penned on a couple of sheets of in-flight stationery as the Beatle crossed the Atlantic. Journalist Craig McGregor’s piece, entitled ‘The Beatles Betrayal,’ was clear in its accusation: that a number of white bands — The Beatles in particular

It’s better to burn out than to fade away

On April 8th of 1994, an electrician discovered the body of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain at the musician’s home in Lake Washington with a shotgun resting on his chest, a bullet wound to his head, and the following handwritten letter on a nearby table. Addressed to “Boddah”—apparently the name of Cobain’s imaginary childhood friend—the letter is

I write for myself and I’ll say anything I damn well please

Back in December of 1996, worried about the influence of Green Day‘s “explicit” fourth album, Insomniac, on her 8-year-old son, an angry mother decided to write a slightly aggressive letter of complaint to the band. It clearly hit a nerve, and she soon received a handwritten response from then-24-year-old frontman Billie Joe Armstrong. Both letters

Jim is fundamentally a respectable citizen

Two letters today, both of which concern Jim Morrison, frontman of The Doors, but each at different stages of his tragically short life. The first was lovingly penned by Morrison in 1954, then just 10 years of age, and is an incredibly sweet letter of thanks to his mother for having helped him “face all the

Tchaikovsky was an awesome composer

In January of 2011, chief music critic at the The New York Times, Anthony Tommasini, concluded a two week project in which he discussed the world’s finest composers by unveiling a list he had personally compiled: Top 10 classical music composers in history. (For reference, his top 10 went like this: 1. Bach; 2. Beethoven; 3. Mozart;

My husband John Lennon was a very special man

In October of 2000, 20 years after shooting and killing John Lennon, Mark Chapman became eligible for parole whilst imprisoned at Attica Correctional Facility. Below is the poignant 3-page letter sent to the parole board by Lennon’s widow, Yoko Ono, in which she eloquently opposed his release. Of course, Chapman was denied, and has since been refused

GOD HELP YOU OUT, PAUL

In 1971, John Lennon wrote the following scathing missive to Paul and Linda McCartney in response to a letter from Linda in which she had chastised him for, amongst other things, not publicly announcing his departure from The Beatles. There was no love lost between the two couples at this point and this angry note was just

love, thom

Below are two letters, both sent by Thom Yorke to fans of Radiohead — the first handwritten in 1994, pre-Bends, and the second typewritten in 1996. At this point in their career, Radiohead were still on the lower rungs of the ladder in terms of success, as evidenced by the earlier letter — written in the studio

The tracks sound terrific so far, especially King Bee

December, 1964. An 18-year-old aspiring musician called Roger writes an endearing illustrated letter to his girlfriend, Jenny Spires, in which he describes his band’s first recording session. It was, in fact, the first of many, and before long both Roger and his band, The Tea Set, would become known by different names: he, as Syd Barrett; his band, Pink

Sorry about your tape

Circa 1974: Revered music journalist, musician, and then-editor of Creem, Lester Bangs, writes an endearing letter of apology to an unsigned musician named Steve after misplacing a cassette sent to the magazine for review. After light-heartedly blaming his chaotic work environment, Bangs compares the disorganisation of his office to that of writer Brendan Gill; author of the

We are the suicide beat of the NON-GENERATION

In 1988, having just self-financed and produced their debut single, Suicide Alley, the Manic Street Preachers began to send copies to numerous music publications in an effort to spread the word. The following impassioned letter — in which James Dean Bradfield sells the band’s vision and disassociates them from those other acts who had “become a stagnant, caricatured

The Grateful Dead has many problems

December 27th, 1967: After many weeks of fruitless and often shambolic recording sessions in studios on both the west and east coasts of the U.S., Warner Bros. Records executive Joe Smith writes a very stern letter to co-manager of the Grateful Dead, Danny Rifkin. In it, he informs Rifkin of the band’s frustrating lack of

What Makes Nancy So Great, by Sidney

[Do not read the following if easily offended] 1978. Hugely troubled punk rocker Sid Vicious was 20 years of age when he penned the following affectionate note – a love letter of sorts that simply listed his girlfriend’s best qualities – and gave it to Nancy Spungen. Just months later Spungen was stabbed to death, and Vicious

Love, Buddy

From November of 1956 we have an endearing letter from then-20-year-old Charles Holley; the highly influential performer – better known to most as Buddy Holly – who tragically died in a plane crash exactly 52 years ago, on February 3rd, 1959. The letter was written in Nashville where Buddy and band were recording after recently being signed by

I do not feel that Madonna is ready yet

1981: Not believing her to be “ready yet”, then-President of Millenium Records Jimmy Ienner politely turns down an aspiring singer by the name of Madonna after listening to four or her songs; his least favourite of which – Love On The Run – can be heard above. Her debut album was released by Sire Records just two years

However, since you are twelve…

These days Bill Dobrow is a successful drummer, having recorded and toured with a whole host of successful acts that include The Black Crowes, Sean Lennon, and Martha Wainwright; however a career in music wasn’t always his dream, as evidenced by the following rejection letter he once received after applying to become a Marine. Hats off to

I’m sending you a poem

In 1970, eager to spread the word about a low-key magazine he had just launched, the editor of the very short-lived Vishtaroone sent a copy of its first and possibly only issue to the frontman of T. Rex, Marc Bolan. Ever-gracious, Bolan responded to the fan with three things: a handwritten letter; an as-yet-unpublished poem to be

Do not hand over any tapes to Paul McCartney

Below we have two letters that perfectly illustrate the rift that ultimately tore The Beatles apart following the death of manager Brian Epstein and Apple Corps‘ subsequent failings. First, the draft of an undated letter in Lennon‘s hand that essentially bars Paul McCartney and his new manager, Lee Eastman, from accessing The Beatles’ recordings without authorisation; followed by a

The rap singers is taken the advantage of me

Courtesy of James Brown fanatic Brian Gorse, below are two intriguing handwritten letters from the late-Godfather of Soul. The first is a brief break-up letter written to a ‘beautiful girl’ named ‘Princess D’, in which Brown softens the blow of impending separation by offering her what I can only presume to be six thousand dollars. Rather

Bob Dylan: “Let John and Yoko stay!”

Having greatly agitated the powers-that-be as vocal and influential critics of the Vietnam War, in 1972 the Nixon administration, citing a 1968 conviction of cannabis possession as a previously-overlooked violation of immigration law, began deportation proceedings against John Lennon and his partner-in-peace, Yoko Ono. Naturally, an organised campaign to quash the attempt soon gathered speed, and before long a

i’m still listening, it’s fun

Below, from the pen of Iggy Pop, is a charming handwritten knock-back to a young Austrian fan named Heinz Riegler. Many years ago Riegler had, on the off-chance, sent Iggy a cassette tape containing his band’s latest album, along with a letter in which he asked the Stooges frontman to feature on one of their

I hope you will be a great and successful actress some day

Mid-1916, in response to a piece of fan mail from an aspiring young actress from London, England, Charlie Chaplin somehow found the time to write her the following letter of thanks. At this point in his career, although still aged just 27, Chaplin was already directing and producing the majority of his many films; the letterhead

Dear Princely person

In a bid to drum up support for the soon-to-open Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts in 1996, its lead patron, Paul McCartney, wrote to a variety of high profile ‘friends and good people’. Below is his letter to fellow musician, Prince. The Fame-inspired institute was successfully opened by McCartney and friend of George Martin, Mark Featherstone-Witty,

MRS YOKO ONO LENNON DOES NOT SWEAT

An irritated John Lennon wrote the following note – currently on display at the Mansion on O – in the 1970s, after discovering that one of his white shirts had somehow turned yellow in colour whilst at the hands of some laundry workers. Clearly, Yoko Ono had nothing to to do with it. Transcript follows.

Remembering John Peel

When he wasn’t on-air, championing the music of previously unheard bands to an adoring audience, the late, great John Peel could often be found responding personally to the warm mountain of feedback his pioneering broadcasts generated. Below is one such reply: a brief and typically charming letter, typed in 1985 below a picture of a tractor cab

Madonna: “I hate actresses”

Judging by the following letter, Madonna wasn’t exactly thrilled when filming A League of Their Own back in 1991. Writing to friend and photographer Steven Meisel – the man with whom Madonna later worked on Sex, the highly controversial book also mentioned in closing – the frustrated entertainer bemoans the lack of “beautiful men” in

You have lit the flame of aspiration within so many of us

At New York’s The Village Gate in October of 1962, legendary jazz tenor saxophonist Coleman Hawkins played a rousing set to an audience that included another notable jazz musician: Sonny Rollins. So impressed was Rollins with his idol’s live performance that he later sent the following eloquently worded letter of admiration to Hawkins. A year later,

SAY THAT TO MY FACE

In the summer of 1995, a scheduled appearance by the Rollins Band at a gig in Brandywine, Maryland was thwarted at the very last minute due to torrential rain. A few weeks later, still feeling cheated having stood sodden in the audience through many hours of support acts, local Rollins fans Chris Farley and Ken

Dear Empty TV

For many, the release of Smells Like Teen Spirit in 1991 marked the beginning of a love affair with Nirvana; however, for an instantaneous idol as reluctant as Kurt Cobain, it marked the beginning of the end as, almost immediately, the song, its accompanying video, and the album from which it came were the focus of an

Am Ricely and Chickenly Yours

Here’s a heartwarming, poem-topped letter from the late jazz legend Louis Armstrong — sent to a poorly friend of the family, named Gina Nirova — that serves to illustrate Satchmo’s charming habit of signing off informal letters in an offbeat manner. Other notable examples of Armstrong’s colourful valediction include: “Am Trumpetly Yours”; “Am Ulceratedly Yours”; “Yours Soul Foodly”, and, most

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a piss stain

Early-1996, it was announced that the Sex Pistols were to be inducted into the U.S. Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; a museum based in Cleveland, Ohio, which introduces several new acts to its ranks on an annual basis. Unfortunately for the Hall of Fame, the Sex Pistols responded to the news by way of the following

Accept me for what I am – completely unacceptable

Late-1980, in an effort to strike up conversation with fellow music lovers, Glasgow-based Robert Mackie placed a personal ad in Sounds magazine and, before long, had a new pen-pal in the form of 21-year-old Steven — a highly opinionated, often sarcastic writer from Manchester who was undeniably passionate about music. They exchanged letters for 18 months. Shortly afterwards, in 1983,

I hope you like “Queen II.”

In 1973, just as Queen finished recording their second album, 27-year-old Freddie Mercury, ever the gentleman, politely wrote the following letter of thanks to Jac Holzman, founder of their U.S. label, Elektra Records; Holzman had fought hard to bring the band to his label in 1971, and his faith in them hadn’t gone unnoticed by Mercury. With their debut

Wind up the world the other way…

From the pen of the late-Charlie ‘Bird’ Parker – a veritable musical genius and one of the world’s greatest, most innovative saxophonists – comes an apologetic but undeniably poetic handwritten love letter, penned to long-term lover Chan Woods. Parker’s adult life was a turbulent one, his musical brilliance often affected by his addiction to both

Remembering Tony Wilson

Exactly three years ago, on August 10th of 2007, a city began to mourn as the inimitable Tony Wilson lost his battle with cancer and passed away. As music journalist and co-founder of both Factory Records and The Haçienda, Wilson’s enormous influence on the Manchester music scene – and in turn the city in general – was,

An A&R man must be “human”

Following his departure from Sun Records in 1958, Johnny Cash joined forces with Columbia Records to release all future material; however it wasn’t until 1964, six years later, that Cash – a recording artist renowned within the industry for his inability to adhere to schedules – officially signed with the label. The following letter of commendation was

Our gods are assholes

Iggy Pop had more to say following his interview with Plazm magazine in 1995; so much so in fact, that he sent the following fax to journalist Joshua Berger in order to further their recent chat. Currently holed up in Warsaw on a tour of Europe, Iggy’s thoughts were focused entirely on his home country

Try not to make an ass of yourself

On the evening of July 6th, 1984, The Jacksons reunited and embarked on a 55-date tour of the U.S. and Canada. Prior to the Victory Tour‘s first show, the following “Good Luck” telegram was sent to Michael Jackson by his friend, Marlon Brando. Transcript follows. (Source: Heritage Auctions; Image of Brando & Jackson, via.) Transcript

Lennon: ‘Society only likes dead artists’

On September 27th, 1971, a fortnight prior to the opening of an exhibit by Yoko Ono at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, New York, the area’s local newspaper – The Post-Standard – ran an article entitled ‘Art or Hokum?‘, in which an anonymous journalist questioned the museum’s motives when agreeing to the show.

It is my dream and goal to capture TRUTH

In 1988 as his record-breaking Bad World Tour rolled on, Michael Jackson penned a rare note to Bill Pecchi, a camera operator who, due to his recent work on the movie Moonwalker, had been asked to film crowd reactions prior to and during each of the 123 concerts. The letter followed a clearly emotional conversation between the