Roll over Beethoven by Chuck Berry and his Combo, showing Chuck Berry and Ludwig van Beethoven


My old amplifier blew up, and as a result I’ve been making some surprising discoveries.

I turned it on one Sunday morning to use my record deck and smelled burning. Closer inspection discovered smoke drifting plaintively up from its ventilation slots.

It was like losing an old friend. Self-cremated. Things aren’t made to last any more. I’d only had it for just under fifty years. I’m surprised I didn’t have to shovel coal in the back.

But all things must pass. (I seem to have heard that lyric somewhere before).

First, I now have a super new amp, that’s so clever I don’t understand half of what it does.

And second… but hang on, you ask. Didn’t you say “record deck”, grandpa? Does anyone still use those things any more?

Roll over Beethoven

Well, I do have a large collection of vinyl, and I keep getting told that vinyl is coming back, has come back, has come back so far it’s going out again…

So, I decided to celebrate my super new technology by diving into old technology and playing my entire collection of LPs (remember them?) Starting with the classical discs and working from A to Z.

So far, I’ve reached the Bs. And there’s the thing. I reached the Bs some discs ago, and I’m still there.

I’ve worked my way through Bach, Bartok, Beethoven… I’m currently on Brahms and wondering when these Bs will ever end.

Surely I can’t be the first person to suspect that there are an awful lot of great composers whose names begin with B. Possibly more than any other letter, except S.

Scroll test

I thought, this must be rubbish, so I pulled up’s Master Composer Index and, yes, if you scroll down you can immediately see that the Bs and Ss stretch longer than any other.

I looked at other lists of top composers. Same again. To Bach, Bartok, Beethoven and Brahms, you can add Buxtehude, Berlioz, Bruckner, Britten, Bax, Berio and Bernstein (who straddles both classical and popular).

Plus (for gender balance) Hildegard von Bingen (1098-1179) and Amy Beach who are highly regarded by Classic FM at respectively 4th and 22nd in their Top Thirty.

And we haven’t even started with the Ss – Schubert, two Schumanns (Robert and Clara), Shostakovich, Stravinsky, Saint-Saëns, at least three Strausses… you wonder why a composer with a different first letter ever bothers to write.

Rock and Pop?

It got me wondering if the same applies to rock and pop? I’ve not begun on rock, pop and jazz albums yet, but a quick glance suggests that the Bs have a pretty good shot, with the Beatles, Blondie, Bee Gees, Byrds, Bowie, Beyoncé and Berry.

While the Ss explode with the Stones, Santana, Sinatra, Streisand, Donna Summer, Dusty Springfield, Simon and Garfunkel, Sparks, Steppenwolf, the Sex Pistols… Then of course Black Sabbath and Britney Spears manage to hit both jackpots at once. (And I never thought I’d write those two names in the same sentence).

It’s a thought. What about your favourites? Do you have a favourite letter for composers, singers or bands? Share it with us all.