HER HARDEST TASK: Becky Bamboo, off to review Rhett Miller's show. Can she do it without being arrested? Let's see:
Let's establish one thing right off the bat - I'm a big chicken. Especially when it comes to famous people. Sit me down next to some random person at dinner and I'll talk their ear off while their eyes glaze over and they quietly pound their head against the table wondering how easy it would be to go for their gun if I mention the Old 97's one more fucking time. But as soon as that same person straps on a guitar and hits the stage... that's it. They become Famous and Important and therefore not interested in anything I would have to say to them.
Got that? Okay.
So wednesday night Jo-Anne and I headed up to the city for an industry promo tour performance by Rhett Miller of the Old 97's (a.k.a. the most beautiful man I have ever seen). I was lucky to get two of a small number of tickets that were released to the public. We were insanely early, but still not the first people there. We quickly grabbed free promo copies of his first single 'Come Around' (a little too cutesy in the verses, but the killer chorus more than makes up for that) and found a table in the corner. Neither of us had ever been to the Cafe du Nord before, so we were trying to figure out where they would set Rhett up to play. I think we settled on the pool table as the most likely spot. It was either that or in front of the bathrooms.
After we'd been there about 20 minutes I saw Rhett (and his wife) walk in. He was quickly surrounded by a few people, who were talking to him and getting stuff signed. Margo and Fluffy Haired Woman (both of whom I have seen at a number of shows before) got their picture taken with him. Jo-Anne offered to take my picture with him (she had borrowed the digital camera from the place she used to work) but seeing as how I am a big chicken, I declined. Yes, I was kicking myself as soon as I woke up the next morning.
At 8 they opened up some doors labelled "Back Bar" and revealed a little stage and concert room. Mystery solved. (Although I would've liked to have seen Rhett up on the pool table.) Jo-Anne and I grabbed our stuff and made a run for the front. We ended up right behind Margo and FHW, with FHW's husband right in front of me. Of course. Because why should I be able to see comfortably?
Rhett came on at about 9:15. He was wearing black dress pants and a white shirt with some funky blue squares pattern on it. His hair was a little shorter than the last time I saw it, but still long enough to do the whole big eyes peering through sweat-soaked hair thing that makes my knees turn to Jello. I didn't write down a setlist (and Margo got the official one), so I'm doing this from memory. He started off with a new song, before doing 'Victoria Lee'. Someone from the audience yelled out "where's Murry?" and he answered that he was in Burbank, but could give him a call. He then said that Murry was probably happier not to be on the promo tour because kissing ass gets really annoying. Then he quickly qualified that statement by saying "unless you're a record or radio person! Then I *love* kissing ass!" before making kissing noises into the microphone. But in a funny way, like he was making fun of the industry people and himself for doing it.
The rest of the show was split about half and half between new songs (standouts being 'The El', 'Pt. Shirley', and 'Four-Eyed Girl', which he called his "love song to myopic girls everywhere") and Old 97's favorites (including 'Designs on You' and 'Wish the Worst'). He told us his favorite joke about a talking cow and little stories about shooting his new video (the British director told him he was a shit actor) and a girl he went out with who gave him a book of suicide notes. I wish all of you could see a Rhett show at the Largo so you would know what I mean when I say he can make the most mundane occurance into a funny story worth hearing over and over again.
He sang the whole show while looking straight at me. Seriously. No.. seriously. Okay, not really. But you know how you're onstage and the lights are blinding you and you just kind of pick a point and sing to it? Yeah, that was RIGHT WHERE I WAS STANDING. Want to know how to make me turn into a big ole puddle of drool and lust? That right there is the easist way. But lights, schmlights. He was singing to me. Especially the lines about being in love with a four-eyed girl. Seriously. No.. seriously. Shut up. He was too!
Saturday, August 24, 2002
HER HARDEST TASK: Becky Bamboo, off to review Rhett Miller's show. Can she do it without being arrested? Let's see:
IT ALWAYS REMINDS ME OF THAT DAIRY: The good people at Lowsley Sounds - home, amongst other things, to Zombina and the Skeletones and the mighty Ricky Spontane, have found the time to overhaul their website. Which is good news, as they've been kind of stuck in a sub-ceefax hell for too long, and their passion driven label has always deserved better. Yippee
Friday, August 23, 2002
MORE REASONS: BBC Online's 100 Reasons tour diary has cranked into action again, as the band travel to the Bizarre Festival in Germany. They claim to be Die Toten Hosen's main influences in the latest instalment, which, frankly, is a lot more enjoyable than their music...
RIGHTO, I SEE: Alex James has started keeping a diary on the blur website, whereupon he seems to fill gaps between stints in the studio blethering - you start to see why he needs bridge to stop his brain from free-associating himself to death. Apparently the new album is going to be a film soundtrack without a film. Or something. Maybe.
I know it's a terrible thing to say, but I think I'd rather Blur didn't make a new album, and they just left it to Graham to do the music. Gorilaz and Fat Les haven't made my mouth water for the main act.
JEREMY VINE: We hope this wasn't directed at us... (from last night's Newsnight mail out)
We'll also be talking about the internet. Who was it who once suggested that an infinite number of monkeys, sitting at typewriters, would eventually type the complete works of Shakespeare? The net seems to disprove the theory, and a man who says we must resist American web domination will tell us what his alternative model would be.
And even so: we might be monkeys, but we're hung like donkeys...
Thursday, August 22, 2002
DON'T CROSS THE SOUL TRAIN'S TRACKS: Of course, by now you'll be sick of the whole tale of the boy who took on Soul Train's admittedly ill-considered plan to give its Aretha Franklin award to the somewhat duff Ashanti, but just in case you've missed the story, here's a nutshell:
A 15 year old kid didn't like the idea (and actually thought India Arie would be more deserving of the accolade - yeah, but they're fifteen, they can be forgiven). They set up a petition online, which somehow wound up with 20,000 signatures. For their pains, the kid got sent a vituperative email, apparently from soultrain.com, calling him a "moron" and a "fucking loser." Nice.
But then, it just gets plain ole weird beacuse then... well, then came this...
we were astonished to learn of the existence of such a large group of individuals, who are under the belief that they, as mere, although, extremely valued, music fans and record buyers, could even, imagine having an honest justification for, aggressively, challenging a, fairly, routine creative decision, made by people who have been, enormously, successful at making sound creative decisions, for more than three decades.
I've read and re-read this, and looked at the webaddresses, and can't quite decide if this paragraph is a spoof - surely no organisation would be quite so far up its own arse to say "We have been doing this for thirty years - you're mere record buyers - what would you know?"
Indeed, we at Soultrain.com, are very saddened to learn that, during an age when suicide terrorists have been able to level skyscrapers, in America, more than eighteen-thousand (18,000) mud-slinging, petition signers and a handful of, hateful and negative, e-mail writers, have nothing better to do with the precious time they all have left on Earth.
Signing a petition that suggests that maybe the choice of a artist for an utterly meaningless award is wrong might be a frivilous waste of time, but - in an age when suicide terrorists are levelling skyscrapers, of course - you could say that a pop music television show is equally a squandering of time. And, hey, maybe talking about music might be a way that people try and cope with the attempts of the American, British, Indian and Pakistani governments to wipe us off the planet...
May we take this opportunity to make it very clear, that during an era when a number of Internet Web sites are visited or clicked onto by tens of millions of persons, worldwide, every single month and many, many TV outlets are viewed by tens of millions of viewers each day and each week, eighteen-thousand (18,000) responses to anything, on the worldwide Internet, cannot and must not be construed, in a relative sense, as a large number.
Large enough for you to put lots of angry posts on your website and make you look rather ridiculous, though...
While not, in any way, intending to promote racism, we must concede that we are also, quite, amazed that such a large group of individuals, undoubtedly, mostly African-American, can be provoked toward such vivid expressions of disrespect and hateful speech (against a young, Black recording artist, as well as Soul Train), under the leadership of an individual whose foreign-sounding name (Rommel Zamora), may be an indication that he is not African-American.
Hang about... what the hell has race got to do with this? First up, why should "foreign sounding names" mean you can't express an opinion on who gets the Aretha Franklin award? Can you imagine the hoo-hah if a country music award panel of judges, say, said "well, the complaints of people about our choices seem to come from people with names that don't sound like they're white, so..." - and as for Black people who disagree with your choice - what, they're not meant to say so because it looks like black people disagreeing with each other? Sorry, that's just shameful.
So, in short, then, soultrain's argument is: we know better than people who buy music; white people have no right to question our judgement anyway; black people are tantamount to Uncle Toms for doing so. Not that we care, anyway, because there are only 18,000 of you and in the context of there being millions of people watching TV, you're not worth even thinking about.
Right. And people watch their show? Living in the UK, of course, I only ever saw Soul Train when they attempted to import it here, and so I'm unfamiliar with the presentation style of the programme - do they get the audience to sit and bray for fish like seals? Or do they try and hide the contempt they clearly feel for the elements of their audience who have their own opinions?
It was 12 months ago: Last year, it was a big load of fuss over bookings policies
We actually do have nothing better to do with our time [YahooNews] - don't piss off soul train, they'll dance at you
... TRAIL OF DEAD AT CARPETS: Looking forward to a point in time when Black Rebel Motorcycle Club are on Leno (this won't be as weird as you think, actually, since Belle & Sebby have already been on, and - apart from the phrase "it's NorthWest Tonight... with Jack White, and Julian Casablancas..." - TV has nothing odder to offer), KindaMuzik's Geoff Seaman offers odds on which vaguely underground act will be the first to 'blow up' (nb: this is American speak for selling lots and having fanmail consisting entirely of sweat drenched panties and poisoned coke; it doesn't mean to be confused with a strange package.) Anyway, he's giving 5-1 on Idlewild and 3-1 on Trail of Dead. The kinda depressing thing is no English bands make it to his paddock.
LISTEN4EVER NOT 4EVER: The four ISPs who'd refused to buckle to the RIAA's demands that they block their customers access to the controv China-based Listen4ever.com site aren't to be dragged to court after all, since the music-download site has disappeared. The main point of this, of course, is that the test case to see if ISPs can be forced to police client's use of the web that would have happened is delayed for another time. We can breathe a little easier for a while longer.
Suits you, sir [San Jose Mercury-News] - first, apparently, with the news...
CONVOLUTED AND PROBABLY MADE UP: Not that we'd ever question the mighty Ananova, but the story about thirty-two deaf people turning up for a Queens of the Stone Age gig because they mistook the album title 'songs for the deaf' for a promise and not a promotion. According to The Sun, they turned up and threatened to call trading standards - really? Really? Can you see the credibility twang?
AND SHE WOULDN'T SLEEP WITH HIM, EITHER: Winning the prize this week for sourest grapes, it's Justin Timberlake's gran, who reckons that dating Britney was a "distraction" and that dating the highest profile teenager in the world was, somehow, bad for his career. "Justin's fame should have faded like the light in a pig's eyes when you kill it" she didn't say, but should have; "Dating Britney kept him in the public eye long after his name should have been something only mentioned when girls get drunk after work, and 'first crush' comes up on Spin the Bottle. And then it should have been whispered and said with a sense of shame. His time with Britney stopped him getting a start on his lifelong career, of packing bags at K-Mart." Instead, she said that he's written loads of songs since he broke up with her. Which makes us quake.
DUMBING DOWN: So, Charlotte Church got grade a* in her music GCSE... clearly a sign the exams are getting easier...?
More from No Rock on charlotte church
PUT IT TO USE: We're not sure what the point of an "opportunity to break into the Music Business" advertising on the back of Music Week would be - akin to having a football team as their own shirt sponsor, but that apart, the urban music seminar due at the Festival Hall on the 7th and 8th of September looks like being well worthwhile. Supported by Siemens, London Arts, 1Xtra and New Deal, even if you can't get there (and registration is free), the website for the event is a handy guide to UK resources for urban musicians - labels, publishing and the all-important funding facts. The scope is national, so even if you're making drum and bass in Inverness, it could be worth checking.
NOT ALL MELTDOWNS ARE CURATED AT THE SOUTH BANK: Nice one, RollingStone.com, for its fifty greatest meltdowns in rock - which might sound like it's a premise for one of those VH1 charts that they keep showing over and over and over and... but is actually much better done, as it's written by someone who knows that sometimes, less is more worthy. Highlights include the Punk Rock episode of Quincy, David Bowie on drugs, and Sinead O'Connor ripping up the pope. Excellent.
CALL AND RESPONSE: Writing in the Washington Post, David Segal trots out the standard RIAA line about how all them blank CD-Rs show the whole of the United States is a lawless land crammed full of jewelcases containing stolen booty - complete with a graph designed to look even more scary - see how the sale of CD-Rs have risen so steeply! Eeek! (ignore the fact its from a very small base, and there's no graph showing sales of all recordable media - CD-Rs, cassettes, floppies, zips - which would show a rather different picture); Guttentag on slashdot was first past the post with the rebuttal.
What we did like from the Post piece was the opening paragraph: "The first time Travis Daub got "spoofed," he figured faulty software was to blame. Hoping to sample the new album by Moby, he downloaded one of its songs, "We Are All Made of Stars," from the Web site LimeWire.com. But what wound up on his hard drive wasn't what he expected.
"It was just 20 seconds of the song, repeated over and over," says Daub, a 26-year-old design director who lives in Arlington. "At first I thought it was a glitch. Then I realized someone had posted this on purpose." - a repetitive Moby track? However did he notice anything was wrong?
POPBITCH TWANG: We were mildly amused to see this on the bottom of today's mail-out: Please send stories, gossip, news.
Particularly on the world of celeb fashion:
*Which celeb uses which stylist?
*Stories about celeb stylists?
*Who wears what labels?
What is this? Is Popbitch so hard up for decent material now that they're resorting to a Now 'celeb fashion' style makeover? It'll be pictures of Jade with amusing captions next, you know...
GREAT BALLS OF BRITON: So, the BBC is launching some sort of trawl to find the Greatest Briton who ever lived, and they let The Public draw up a shortlist of 100 to choose from. From this, we've selected the music-related nominees, which I think shows pretty clearly the main problem with lists like this:
Tony Blair (it's got to be for his Ugly Rumours bass playing, surely?)
William Blake (top lyrics, man)
Aleister Crowley (well, he made records - see?
So, while agreeing that there's nobody there who hasn't added to the gaiety of the home nations in some way or other, you've got to ask "what sort of criteria for 'great' is being used here?" - bristle I might, but I can understand McCartney and Lennon's appearance; naturally, Bob Geldof did a lot of good work for...; John Peel has done more to shape the sound of the nation for the last thirty years than anyone else. I can even stretch the point for Paul 'Bono' Hewson, as people who don't pay enough attention might mistake his grandstanding for genuinely trying to help the crisis of third world debt. But Freddie Mercury? Why Lydon rather than McClaren: if you really want to mark '77, go for the organ grinder, not the monkey. And, of course: Robbie Williams. In what way is Williams 'Great'? Popular, yes, but it's hard to imagine anyone being able to put up an argument that would allow him to best, say, Eric Morecambe - much less to take on one of the real heavyweight nominees like, say Churchill. How is that going be? "Winston twice changed his party on principle; introduced National Insurance, fought in the front line, and led the country to victory against the evils of the Nazi regime." "Ah, but Robbie made a video in his pants, played five a side football with Damon from Blur, and recorded with Kylie." His very presence makes a mockery of the whole process - jesus, even if they'd had Geri; at least she had that UN job briefly.
The 100 Names in full [BBC] - we're shouting for Nye Bevan, natch
More from No Rock on kylie
BANDS WE'D FORGOTTEN HAD EVEN EXISTED: Fluffy - aka We've Got A Fuzzbox We Bought on Our Daddy's Expense Account. According to one of the few Fluffy sites left hanging grimly to the side of the internet, their label went bust and that sort of might have done for the band. We always had a soft spot for their slightly silly lezpretend antics, their tough-as-Doonican punk and their general habit of leaving the door open, but we had totally forgotten they existed.
Amazon still has: the husband single and 1996's Black Eye album available.
TRIBAL GATHERING RETURNS: For the first time in five years, the acme of acid, the ruler of rave, the Tribal Gathering returns. Only this time, out go the drugs and fields, and in its place - well, they've basically pinched the format of All Tomorrow's Parties, down to the Pontins holidaycamp. Acid house like it used to be, only with chalets, chips and - ahem - amusement arcades.
Read all about it - official site - can I be a glow-stick painted yellowcoat?
THE BAMBOO REVIEW: BETH ORTON: Becky goes to see Beth, because we probably couldn't have coped:
this was my second time to try and see beth orton. despite having a houseguest and a headache, I actually managed to make it this time.
every usher I encountered on the way to my seat commented that it is a great one. and indeed it was. center, right behind the soundboard. I could see, the sound was perfect, and best of all.. I could sit down. as I settled in, I noticed the house music and started laughing because it was - get this, si - STING. hah!
I missed the first band (I had to finish watching jet li kick some butt), but I'm glad I made it for the second, which was hem. I was reminded of kelly hogan and concrete sky-ish beth orton. acoustic guitars, some mandolin, and lots of harmonies. they had some beautiful songs and I'm definitely buying their cd.
and then beth came out in knee high black spike heeled boots and a short pink a-line dress. ooh! there was an upright bass. I find those deeply sexy. she also had a violin and a cello onstage, which was very cool. the high points started early with 'paris train'. she played a fast version of 'someone's daughter' that didn't really work for me. she told us dirty jokes (one about a chemist and a teddy bear and one I'd actually heard before about the chicken and the egg - complete with hip thrusts for illustration) and talked about the people line dancing during her recent show in reno. I think the encore was my favorite part of the show. beth came out and did 2 songs by herself before being joined by the band for 'concrete sky' and 'this one's gonna bruise', two of my favorite songs off 'daybreaker'. she didn't do 'I wish I never saw the sunshine', my favorite song of hers, but that's okay because the rest of it was gorgeous enough to make up for it.
Wednesday, August 21, 2002
WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: The 'doesn't that fan go up to four?' edition
Boy George is cross with Eminem. He told the Observer magazine that he reckons its the popularity of Em that has seen "Fag" yelled at him more often this year than for, ooh, ages. Hmmm. Well, while we don't deny that Eminem has probably helped the word along a little, hasn't it occured to George that, what with the campaign to reclaim 'queer' as a term of pride going so well, the queerbashers are going to have to turn to some other term to yank the gay chain? And that, maybe the reason he's getting more abuse these days than he was a couple of years ago is that he's developed a higher profile than he had during the 90's? And that virtually every US TV show is happy to have 'fag' used by its bad guys as a gay-bashing term? Blaming Eminem is lazy, knee-jerk, and - coming from a man whose early career was a target for the 'ban him! quick! before he turns our children!' brigade - disappointing...
the guardian friday review identified a new genre - or thought it did - and called its work 'Nu Drivetime', but anything which attempts to tell you that Pink and Nickelback are the same thing is asking for trouble. And not for the first time, a journalist failed to understand the "get compared to damn Britney Spears/She's so pretty/That's just not me" line - 'she's so pretty' is reported speech, do you see?...
still, if nudrivetime doesn't float it for you, give it twenty four hours and the Guardian Guide suggests that the actual new big thing is the resurrection of Poodle Rock. In a more considered piece, the launch of 1xtra was compared with the pulsing pirate scene in London - perhaps the most surprising part of which was that people working in dance take Westwood seriously and treat him with respect, even after stories like that in Private Eye which takes glee in relating how the bishop's son took part in a mass-mix-in, and could neither work the turntables, nor the faders...
suede talk to Music Week about the trials of returning to a much changed industry: "It feels very different. The media is very different. For a start, most of the magazines we used to be in don't exist any more" observes slinky Brett Anderson. Luckily, the band quickly abandoned its early plans for the new album to be "very strange, electronic folk music" because "it didn't work sonically", according to Matt Osman. In its place came "real soul", and we'll get a chance to find out exactly what that means in September.
Music Week also reports on Clear Channel's plans to extend their stranglehold of European festival events into the UK - moves probably aided rather than hindered by the pisspoor efforts of smaller scale groups like Essential. Casting a nervous glance at Clear, and saying "hey, that's our stranglehold", is Mean Fiddler's Melvin Benn who tells MW "We're not corporatism coming into music in my view, although the argument around Clear Chanlle is exactly that. However, it's a fact that Clear Channel aren't succeeding to impress themselves on the UK festival market" - words that President Bush himself could have speaked out...
More on festivals: In the Music on the Move special that came with the Guardian at the weekend, in which John Robinson talked amiably about how festivalgoers now expect to get their moneysworth, rather than in the muddy past when people got what they paid for, and they hadn't paid for anything. Sadly, this misses the point that the result of putting up prices hasn't only brought about a clientele who are less prepared to treat a weekend camping in the country like a weekend camping in the country, while Robinson's tone suggested that anyone who objects to the new corporatism in brit-fests is a freeloader who is stuck in the past, rather than (as is the case more frequently) someone who felt that festivals were getting a bit pricey when they hit seventy quid a throw, but that it was worth it for a unique experience. It also neatly sidesteps the fact that many of the Squeaky Clean New Festivals are sponsored by Orange, who also underwrote this unremarkable booklet - although it did draw out the astonishing detail that there was only a six year gap between Dylan going electic, and Kraftwerk recording Autobahn...
But Glasto this year was great, right? We've been told how wonderful the crowd were, now that johnny poor person has been kept out by a mix of high fences and higher ticket prices. But who did that leave filling the hundred thousand tents? Shirley Manson's Glasto diary in Q gives a hint: "At 4pm, there were already hundreds of lager lads so utterly wasted that they were barely able to move out the way of the bus" she reports, while observing that even those able to stand by the time the band comes on don't get much in the way of a live experience: "a huge TV camera obliterated our view of the crowd [on one side]... we were a million miles from the audience, which was a real downer" - but she admits that just being at Glastonbury gave her goosebumps, which seems to be what the festival has finally become - a major brand name with wonderful values attached...
elsewhere in Q, they're trying to scare us: both a new David Gray album and a John Lydon biopic are in the pipeline; while the new Toploader opus contains the lyric "It's a shame/there is no gain/ we all feel the pain/of stupid games" - yes, we see...
Bobby Gillespie, you might recall, said that if anyone has a problem with him, they should bring it to him face-to-face. In Q's cash for questions slot, someone tries. Again. Here we go: "The song wasn't about bombing the Pentagon" -[But then why was it called Bomb the Pentagon?- " it was anti-militarisitic and it was about a variety of different subjects. But when 11 September happened, everyone went fucking crazy, trying to get us to explain ourselves. You know what? I don't have to explain myself to anybody" - but what happened to 'if you have a problem, ask me to my face?' - "I'm a rock and roll singer" - yes, but you're meant to be one of the smarter, sharper ones; when it comes to political tunes, you can't expect the songs to carry the full weight of what you want to say. And if you're not going to explain yourself, what's all the spluttering attempts to explain yourself here meant to be? - "I just thought it wasn't that good a line" - really? Obviously you must have thought it was good when you chose that out of the others in the song as the title of the track - "And I just didn't feel like standing up and singing the Bomb the pentagon - it's dumb and boring" - dumb, perhaps, but boring? - "And it would seem like I was trying to push some violent point; I hate violence." Mmm, but this isn't good enough Bobby - see, suggesting you bomb a building is violent imagery; the fact that someone has bombed the Pentagon since you wrote the line doesn't make the call to destruction any more or any less violent. Why can't you just admit you wrote something that seemed like a cool meaningless slogan, which suddenly was given a very bloody demonstration of just how far from meaningless it was, and you now really wish you hadn't? We wouldn't think any less of you; certainly, this pointless beligerant ranting is just making you look more and more stupid with each new magazine that comes out. Oh, and "I hate violence"? - Asked "One bullet: Bush or Blair?", Bobby responds by sighing, and mimes firing a gun: "Where do you stop? Every fucking politician." (NB: In the event of a top level political assassination, please be aware this remark probably doesn't mean what it means.) Still, at least he didn't go to the toilet halfway through...
Nicholas from The Hives reckons "Culturally, you have to feel pain and suffering in order to enjoy something" - which is bollocks, but at least it's credible bollocks...
The twenty-fifth death of Elvis looks set to dwarf the silver anniversary of Bolan's death, just as surely as his actual death bumped Marc down the illustrous obit lists in '77. But at least Mojo gives the man the space he deserves, and trots John Peel out to do some reminiscing: "He used to write me these fey letters, although they were not disagreeably so. Given the level of pretension and bullshit that was around at the time, they seemed relatively modest."
Mojo also majors out on the last led zep gig in the UK, and the time the MC5 took on the implausibly named mafia lite Up Against The Wall Motherfuckers and, virtually, lost, but the cover stars are (in a rare someone you like who isn't actually dead shocker) are White Stripes. Meg used to be obsessed with the Fortress of Solitude from Superman movies, building her own in the back yard, while Jack explains that White Blood Cells is dedicated to the death of the sweetheart. "The entire world is wrapped around sexual ideas" he fills in, lamenting the loss of chivalry - "I think people mistake certain things as being sexit when really its our own defined nature." The married incest people list their top ten influences, including the Sonics, Captain Beefheart and the Gories...
"Bad gig in half-full stadium [versus] over-subscribed showbiz extravaganza beamed to zillions - Johnny, the Queen beat you hands down" - Mojo berates the Sex Pistols
so, onto the nme, which has those nice Strokes on the front; news leads off with the Manics reunion, and Nicky signing a big silver globe; Staffordshire police pulled the lazy option and cautioned every bloody one for drugs at V2002 - thereby ensuring their clean-up rate will look significantly better at the end of the year; they're doing another War Child LP - NME want to create something "both useful and historic" - pegged to the 50th anniversary of the pop charts and nme, everyone will record their favourite number one single (so, not entirely unlike Ruby Trax, which was an nme charity album which marked the 40th birthday of the paper and the charts by getting artists to record cover versions of... ); the new Oasis single will have two a-sides, both of which will sound like b-sides; damon albarn has linked up with 3d's campaign to get artists to sign anti-war petitions - but don't worry, kids, it's still a good cause - although neither Albarn nor 3D seem to object the war, rather than the lack of consultation beforehand; the NME headlines its 2.5% increase in sales as "NME sales boom", which stretches the truth like hot mozzarella (the actual size of the increase is not mentioned); Chris Martin has been playing songs for Noel Gallagher, which we reckon means that its two months, three days before Noel describes him as some sort of shrivelled cock; Axl tells us to not hold our breath for the new Guns & Roses LP - Axl, sweetheart, we're not even keeping a slot free in our spare bedroom CD box; Mick Jones is going to produce The Libertines new album; Cam'ron stares down Bobby Gillespie by rapping his admiration for Mohammed Atta. There's a news story about Andrew WK - apparently, um, he's... yeah. Great!; Morrissey - who has a higher profile than WK these days - is playing 'there is a light that never goes out' as an encore...
on bands: vendetta red (more emo? have we even opened the last lot they delivered?) and dillinger escape plane (oh, look, they're all naked... that must be a statement, then?)...
corey taylor does the ten tracks for a cd thing - anthrax, johnny cash and public enemy. Oh, and David Bowie: "I don't give a fuck what anyone says, David Bowie is fuckin awesome" - so, bravely, corey is setting his ridiculous facemask against opinions held by absolutely nobody at all in the world...
reading -leeds festival buffery covers what andrew wk wants to eat backstage (fruit, low fat milk and yoghurt - party hard, but make sure its bio-actively hard)...
then there's nine straight pages of posters and pictures of the vines and the strokes - hmmm, whatever did happen to the relauched version of RAW magazine, anybody? But eventually we get to a Strokes inteview - if Albert was a woman, he'd masturbate all day; none of them wear undies apart from Julian; he'd consider a small facelift; and Fabrizio is hit by the realisation that he's Charlie Brown. It's all good spirited pop nonesense, and while we may get no nearer them, it's an article thats going to make a lot of train journeys to Leeds-Reading a little more fun this weekend...
album reviews: coldplay - a rush of blood to the head ("outstanding natural beauty", 9); eve - eve-olution ("not startling... but a success", 7); avril lavigne - let go ("the sentiments of 'anything but ordinary' may not be true for a while yet", 4); death cab for cutie - we have the facts and we're voting yes ("reeks of universal appeal", 7)
sotw is envy by ash ("brilliant, bouncy, beautiful bollocks"), rather than princess superstar - keith n me ("should earn her more than six bucks an hour") or pink - just like a pill ("If she was a penised Manc smackie she'd be an indie idol, but she's not" - yes, this is Swells)...
live: coldplay in new york ("nothing can stop them now" - the pictures of Chris 'apparently son of Ian Brown' Martin's dancing might, actually); chicks on speed in highbury ("steps ahead of everyone else"); miss kittin and the hacker in spain ("if they can make Dave Stewart sexy, imagine what they can do for you"); white stripes ("incredible musical togetherness") and the strokes ("strangely elegaic") in detroit...
and, in an... sorry, nmemail, Imran Abmed defends the nme against charges of being obsessed with only anglo-american rock by proudly pointing to having covered stars from no less than five of the seven continents in just the last, erm, six weeks. And then goes on to suggest that the reason there's nothing about the other two is that there's nothing to write about. Erm, probably true of Antartica (although, erm, that's not where Eskimos live) but Africa a musical deadzone? Someone show that man how to log on to Andy Kershaw on demand...
PLEASE GOD NO: Ally McCoist makes record
DEVELOPMENTS: While we're in Liverpool, lets pop into Quiggins, shall we? Boasting record stores, clothes shops, flea markets and everything for a vaguely countercultural afternoon of shop-monging, Quiggins is dear to our hearts; it's also a major tourist attraction, singled out for praise by sources as different as easyjet and ItchyGuides, and, through the Brook Cafe, ocassional gigs and providing a focus for fliers and posters, a vital cog in the local music scene. So, when the council announced plans to redevelop the city centre round exisitng buildings, Quiggins were keen to offer their support. They were as surprised as any of us to discover, then, that the plan was to keep the gorgeous Quiggins Building, but to put a new big tenant (we've heard the name Debenhams mentioned) in place of the forty quirky, unique small businesses currently in there. Now, there's actually a number of places where Debenhams could go to in and around the city centre - we can't help wondering why the obliteration of one of the few things that makes Liverpool different from any other city centre is being deemed neccesary.
For your consideration, though: one of the developers working with the council is Urban Splash. Urban Splash also operate Liverpool Palace, a similar type of multi-store location to Quiggins. Probably just a coincidence, though.
WE KNOW WHAT THE PEOPLE WANT: And, we know from our search engine returns that, betting without sickfucks who are after S Club Junior porn, and people looking for details of Jeremy Vine, the most popular search term right now is 'the moonies'. Well, the have a band site and a label site and a fan site, which should be more than enough to keep you going for now, shouldn't it?
We'll observe in passing though that BBC Northwest Tonight popped in to the city to do one of those occasional 'Beatles A Thing of the Past/New Merseybeat' pieces they do when they run out of Manchester to ooze over, and it was so wonderful to see Tony at the Zanzibar being invited to talk about the local music scene rather than representatives of the usual Venue Duopoly. We've been watching the work Tony's done to support a wide range of musical genres over the past few years; including his attempts to try and spark life into moribund official festivals, and it's great to see his dedication starting to pay off at a higher level.
THAT'S ME MARK PAGE, SIR: You have to pity the poor squaddie - not only are they sent to fight in tanks that can't cross a patch of sand (which makes "we will fight them on the beaches" a no-go), with rifles that don't work, against dubious targets, being fired on by troops supposedly on "our" side, but when they're back at home, they're now being entertained by the all-new Garrison Radio. The man in charge is "Me" Mark Page, who older people might remember used to do the euphemistically titled "early breakfast" show on Radio 1 in the 1980's. (Yeah, because breakfast is a meal traditionally enjoyed at four am, isn't it? Try "middle of the fucking night show") And, yes, he still does the "Me Mark Page" gag, which suggests that Colchester isn't banishment enough.
But its even worse for our brave boys. At weekends, breaks from squarebashing and committing suicide in strange circumstances are accompanied by Dave Lee Travis. Wack, wack, and, of course, opps.
For some reason, we're putting the Alan Partidge returns story here
EVERYTHING'S GOING GREEN?: In a year where festivals have been collapsing all over the place - Manchester Pride looks set to go the way of London Pride at the moment, for example - reports that Glasgow's Gig on the Green have asked to reduce their capacity from 35,000 to 25,000 have, naturally, led to eyebrow raising and suggestions that the whole thing must be looking dodgy. Organisers are still talking up the event, saying that the reduction is in order to loosen up the restrictions that would be needed if more people came - which, while true, would still have been true at the start of planning the event, wouldn't it? What appears to have happened is ticket sales have been lower than expected, and only by easing the straitjacket imposed for a now not coming crowd of 35,000 can the event hope to make a profit. While disappointing, it seems far from disastorous.
ROCK PHILOSOPHY 101:Action Attack Helicopter Magazine ponders the question: Just what is a one-hit wonder?
(From our point of view, we use only the GRRR Guiness Book definition: first hit at number one, then no further charting records, ever. It narrows the field down, but it makes more sense than "They had a number six, and never did quite as well again", which seems to be the formula used these days. I mean - Radiohead?
NET CLOSES ON NETHEADS?: Deputy Assistant (US) Attorney General John Malcolm has said that, were it not for Sep'ven, prosecutions of individual peer to peer music file swappers would have started already, and that the Department of Justice is preparing to send out a message that "Stealing is Stealing is Stealing." Congress has been pushing for the DOJ to use powers under the Clinton-era No Electronic Theft act (NET, see - geddit?) to bring individual users into court. This act is quite nasty, as it catches people who has infringed copyright for a financial advantage of $1000 in any 180 day period. Oh, and then redifines financial gain to include receiving items, including copyrighted works. So, basically, this is being set up so that you can be prosecuted for making your files available on the basis of the files you received through the system.
Obviously, this could get tortuous - firstly, there should be an onus of proof on the prosecutors to demonstrate the files that have come through a network were in direct payment for the files that the accused made available - this could be a stumbling block - will the prosecutors be able to show that Mr X's collection of MP3s were available on a filesharing system in order to reward people whose ripped tracks he was downloading?
Second, there's that the whole $1,000 value. The act defines this as "total retail value", but makes no attempt to clarify this further. So, will this be the total retail value of the tracks had they been purchased on CD? Or will it be a supposed cost had they been legal downloads? (In which case, the strangely high charges on Pressplay take on a somewhat sinister light - maybe the service isn't so much about testing markets as establishing a legal value for downloads?) See, if this was a simple case of flogging copies of Fleetwood Mac cds for cash out a suitcase, then the cash value would be simple. But it's easy to forsee any legal proceedings being caught in a long and winding argument over what the exact retail value of a single song is - and you hope that the RIAA's lawyers have clearly explained to the heads of the labels that the result might be awkward for them if it comes to be proven in court that the song part of a CD isn't very much of the total retail price. And does a deleted song from, say, Sleeper, have any retail value at all, if you couldn't buy it if you wanted?
Another nasty little pill in the NET act is that a convicted person will have the equipment used in the manufacture of the "stolen" items seized. Now, while you can see this being fair enough if we're talking about someone making dozens and dozens of CDs at a time for actual financial gain (as opposed to the act's definition of it) - sure, take their industrial sized equipment away. But if we're considering peer to peer users, what this means is removing their computers, modems and wherewithall. In the 21st century, this is the equivalent of forbidding people from communicating with others - a really dangerous act to embark upon.
As more than one person has pointed out, if file swapping is as widespread as the RIAA would have us believe, it's a brave government who sets out to prosecute millions and millions of its own citizens.
We'll smash your bottles and trash your stills [CNET] - "If we add in that tape of Frasier he borrowed off his mate, we're up to $997 - let's search again and see if we can find any tapes of the Top 40..."
MEN TO GO: Women.com have just produced their 12 sexiest men in rock results, and amongst the obvious-but-perplexing likes of Jon Bon Jovi and Lenny Kravitz, there's a few surprisingly good choices: Cornelius ("technically the name of Keigo's band"); "never Peter, always" Pete Yorn and Julian 'don't worry, he looks scruffy but he's actually posh' Casablancas.
Of course, this sort of thing trivialises the important business of music and treats artists as nothing more than eyecandy, firm thighs and a pulse. Yeah, right we believe that.
SIMON PICKS UP LONG SPOON: Following McCartney's vague decision to not turn up to receive a Kennedy Center award this year, Paul Simon has stepped into the breach. Macca's reasons for not attending haven't been made public, but we can't help wondering if turning up and sharing a stage with George and Laura Bush, at an event being hosted by Colin Powell, at a time when they're just itching to launch missiles against Iraq, may have seemed a little much for the Beatle man to swallow.
The Kennedy Center people are claiming that Paul Simon was in line for the honor anyway, and that he wasn't just the first person who hadn't already got something to do that night who answered the phone. Of course, it's lucky Condaleeza Rice isn't hosting; that whole 'how much did the White House know' press conference showed she isn't very good at lying with a straight face.
Bridge over troubled waters to be praised by trouble waters [Rolling Stone] - Next year, it'll have to be Art's turn now...
SECONDS OUT...: The reports that the BBC are going to make a full series of Celebrity Boxing (tschaw, and David Liddiment accuses them of being ratings-obsessed whores) raises the delicious possibility that, instead of constant moaning and sniping, we could just settle the great Pop Issues of the day with televised fisticuffs. After all, listening to reports of Liam and Coldplay bloke wittering on about cocks would be nowhere near as much fun as seeing them batter each other. And at least boxing, unlike name-calling, has a definite winner. Then everyone can beat-up Toploader, too. Hurrah.
Tuesday, August 20, 2002
(c) FOREVER: So, Sonny Bono produced legislation in the states which extended copyrights - all copyrights - for an extra twenty years. Something similar happened in Europe, when Phil Collins, of all people, got the EU to standarise copyright laws, resulting in titles which had been in the public domain went back into copyright. Of course, nobody would deny the creator of a work their right to exploit it; nor their estate's ability to earn a living, but the Bono act is a step towards perpetual copyright, which is a bit of a scary concept. Because, seriously, do you think an songwriter, given the choice between their music being played two hundred years hence, or descendents having a copyright so scattered as to be worthless stopping that happen, are going to want a perpetual copyright? The only people who would be able to cash in on a copyright forever would be corporations... hey, that could be related, do you think? (Oh yes, it was the fear of Mickey Mouse coming into public domain that caused this scampering and tampering in the first place). But a legal fightback is on, and probably deserves the support of anyone who believes what culture creates has a value beyond its price tab.
Useful resources on the fight back here - may be slightly legal in nature
Salon com report
COMPETITION: Look at this picture of Gareth Gates and new Pepsi Twist. Which do you think will still be around this time next summer?
NUCLEAR STRIKE: We know why people do it, but we're suprised they still bother. Now Ryan Adams is to pull the 'deleted on day of release' stunt with his next single, Nuclear. Which doesn't mean, let us remind you, that it'll be a rare and collectable gem; just that the shops will over-order in a panic and be left flogging them off for 45p a throw months, maybe years, after.
Now, destroying leftover copies at the end of the day... [NME} - that would be something
"IT WAS LIKE A DREAM COME TRUE" As far as we can tell, this heartwarming tale from rec.arts.disney is the very first online mention of Britney Spears. She was the first mouseketeer from Louisiana, you know...
We don't think anyone posted that they hated her until 1999.
TEN: Top ten artists with most tribute acts to them, according to the PRS
1 Elvis Presley
2 The Beatles
4 Queen/Freddie Mercury
5 George Michael/Wham
5 The Blues Brothers
7 Robbie Williams
8 The Bee Gees
9 Tina Turner
Some surprises there - the biggest being that George and Wham are at number five; I'm trying to imagine which songs that would be, and picturing a rather grim evening once the Andrew Ridgeley impersonator has stepped down (or, more likely, been folded up). And The Blues Brothers - a tribute to a band that didn't really exist? People do do some strange things with their spare time, don't they?
THE MTV ALTERNATIVE: Pausing only to roll our eyes at a group of Christian extremists who make time in their busy schedule during The Last Days to protest against MTV , we're wondering how long it'll be before The Osbournes are reclaimed for the Side of Goodness in the same way The Simpsons have been. We give it a couple of months before some well-meaning Person of God starts a preamble with "Yes, there is swearing and there are rows, but The Osbournes are that most wonderful of things, a loving, solid family..."
CONGRATULATIONS TO BBC & BSKYB: They've come up with the name Freeview for their re-re-hash of ITV Digital's service. Hmmm - who's going to tell Greg Dye that he's chosen a name already well-used in digital television for the teasing tasters used by the porn channels?
"We thought either 'Freeview' or 'Red Hot Amateurs' [MediaGuardian] - the team here working up joke based around spanking ITV Digital monkey
BAA!: While the BUAV rightly raises the plight of mice forced to listen to the Prodigy, who is speaking up for the sheep of Bridlington? They're being played goth music twice a week - sure, the farmer says it's helping their yields, but what's it doing to their minds? Do we really want a load of disaffected sheep hanging about?
Life-imitates-the-Archers [Ananova] - sheep complain nobody understands them
Sheep gig strangely absent from Torsohorse official site
Torsohorse tell BBC 'nobody should be a puppet of society' - presumably being a sheep is OK for their fans, though?
HOT SHIT: You could worry about the Stereophonics versus Radiohead 'spat' in Hot Press (even the HP website can't be arsed to report on the 'story' - nme.com does; apparently the 'phonics think the problem is that that Radiohead haven't done proper jobs; or maybe a spell in the forces would sort them out), but if you really want some Hot Press fun, we'd recommend the Tim Burgess interview. Pigs heads, lying about dead grannies, and Arthur Brown. The man gives great interview.
LEEDS NEAT: We tend to take a pretty sharp view of things done by Mean Fiddler here, so it's only fair to give 'em kudos when they do something that sounds like a move in the right direction, as with their plans to try and control litter at the Leeds Festival by running a 'swap litter for raffle tickets' scheme. Not sure if they're also planning a 'tickets for not burning down the chemical toilet block' draw as well, but it's a start.
Pre-raffle-ite- win a guitar [NME] - that'll keep the rock boys happy, but what about the Ladytron fans?
SO, IT'S COME TO THIS: Max Headroom advertising baldness products. Even virtual celebs fade.
Mind you, at least he's doing better than his protege Belouis Some...
Monday, August 19, 2002
INTERESTING PERSPECTIVE: This piece by Kevin Wilson on Alter.net suggests that the return to hip hop's roots (and the connected improvement in quality) might be a sign of times getting harder in a place I, as a white englishman, really can't call the 'hood'. Now, if I really wanted to cook up a conspiracy, I'd suggest that the RIAA is deliberately sucking investment out of the lower class neighbourhoods in order to -ahem - 'inspire' residents into providing stuff for them to sell...
GOOD WORK SPIZZAZZ FELLA: In an idea which we'll certainly be leaving for a week or two, and then reworking it to make it seem like it was ours, Spizzazz brings you thirty nine postings live from the Only Chart That Counts. genius.
CREAMSHAKES: With news of the police investigations into Cream making the national press now - the Guardian for example picking up on the alleged money-for-licence story, industry watchers will be interested to see that the nightclub operators have scampered to the High Court. the aim is to stop the Liverpool Echo from running any more stories about Cream - on the grounds that they might be about Cream as a whole rather than merely the guy involved in the convoluted Creamfields licence allegation. Curious. The Liverpool paper always had quite a close relationship with the superclub, but of late it's taken to running a lot of articles having a pop at them, such as a sudden discovery that the Millennium eve clean up bill was apparently dumped on the Council by Cream - could this really have taken 18 months to come to light? Curiouser and, of course, curiouser...
BOY AND BIRD WELL ACCEPTED EVERYWHERE: We seem to be having trouble getting to see if any of our stuff is actually reachable at the moment, but since we plug on regardless anyway, we'll, um, plug on regardless anyway. Badly Drawn Boy tour dates?
November 24 - Northumbria University;
25 - Leeds University;
27 - Sheffield Octagon;
28 - Birmingham Academy;
29 - Manchester Apollo;
2 - Cardiff University;
3 - Bristol Academy;
4 - Nottingham Rock City;
December 6 - Norwich UEA;
7 - Cambridge Corn Exchange;
9 - Portsmouth Guildhall;
10 - London Brixton Academy
and, similar but not identical Doves tour dates:
November 18 - Newcastle, Northumbria University;
19 - Glasgow, Barrowlands;
21 - Sheffield, University;
23 - Liverpool, University;
24 - Leeds, University;
25 - Birmingham, Academy;
27 - Bristol, Academy;
28 - Southampton, Guildhall;
29 - Exeter, University;
December 1 - Norwich, UEA;
2 - London, Brixton Academy;
5 - Cambridge, Corn Exchange;
6 - Cardiff, University;
7 - Manchester, Apollo
BUT HE DOESN'T LIKE TO TALK ABOUT IT...: Good work, Ian Brown, for raising cash for sightsavers by auctioning off his handprint or something. The winner paid £641, which we can imagine would have David Dickinson sucking his teeth, but will give a few people their sight back. It's hard to calculate, of course, but we reckon Brown's probably had more direct effect on the quality of people's lives than all Bono's posturing...
More from No Rock on ian brown
NEW RELEASES TODAY: Some returns can be wonderful - such as making us fall with joy upon the reactivated Mudhoney and since we've become translucent, cool though the critical reception has been. Other returns make us shudder - what were UB40 thinking of when they produced the fathers of reggae - getting the greats to cover their Brum-dump-dub tunes? It's like offering William Shakespeare a part in the Kiss Me Kate chorus, isn't it? The Get Up Kids drop copies of on a wire off at the shops, while death has not stopped a new Eva Cassidy album - though its debatable if imagine is anything more than some funeral cold cuts. People who polish their cars will be delighted at the opportunity to turtle wax away to Toploader's magic hotel; if the thought of drinking wax seems more attractive, there's always the Liars' they threw us in a trench...
In a quiet week for back catalogue, another Fall gets a chance at the afterlife, with dragnet, Imperial Teen give you a chance to play on and ponder exactly whatever did happen to them, and a slew of Replacements (... take the trash out) and pretty things (parachute) pad out the list.
Don't buy the tide is high by Atomic Kitten, for so many reasons. Celine Dion rubs it in that I'm alive, offering no apology or explanation. For singles you can cheerfully purchase, try Guided By Voices' back to the lake or Cornershop's staging.
More from No Rock on celine dion
FACTORY CLOSING SALE: One of the worst things about the closure of any label is not so much the way hubris can be so fattening, but the way that the collapse of even the most bloated, self-important label can take decent stuff into the netherworld of deleted back catalogue. For example, when Factory closed, the world lost the imprint that was keeping Cath Carrol's work to date on the order books. The good news is that England Made Me has received a re-release on the Les Temps Modernes label. BossaNova and Salsa refracted through the Mancunian rain, England Made Me was first released in '91 and sounded deliciously unexpected then; that it still manages to shake you and seem fresh is as much a condemnation of the last ten years of pop as it is a tribute to Cath's undoubted talents. The re-release comes just before a step even further back, with the release of Peel Sessions from Cath's old band Miaow, and a jump forward, with fresh new material.
Prior to checking some details for this piece, I had no idea Unrest had recorded a tribute song to Cath called Cath Carrol. Which is a good name for it, when you think of it.
I KNOW SHE WANTS ME: Daniel Bedingfield seems pretty convinced that Mariah Carey is going to want to record with him, judging by what he's told worldpop, but is it just us or does this sound a little like closing time talk to us? "Sure... Mariah, Daniel. Yeah... my son is writing for Madonna you know... and her behind the bar? She used to be Cyndi Lauper..."
FIVE JULIANA HATFIELDS=ONE WEIRD AL YANKOVIC: The making public of the Clear Channel artist rates gives you the chance to play Popex for real. Even before pulling the data into an Excel spreadsheet there's some curiosities - Natalie Merchant seven times the value of 10,000 Maniacs; David Gray 25% extra than Dido; B52s generally available...
BEATEN: You might recall a while ago, there was a report about how scientists had played The Prodigy to mice who had, subsequently, died. It now turns out that there was more to this story than was originally reported. First, the mice weren't merely played Firestarter, but were given speed as well (a fact left out of most of the reports). More interestingly, the original coverage spoke of "Scientists from Cambridge University", but it was actually research done by Huntingdon Life Sciences, the company who have constantly been at the centre of allegations of dubious activities (this weekend it was buying up an MP to ask questions in Parliament). Finally, it turns out the research wasn't actually licensed, and so they've been bollocked by the Home Office.
"I want the Prodigy really loud" [Telegraph] - they were lucky it wasn't Achy Breaky Heart
DON'T LISTEN: Quick question about the closure of Listen4ever.com: What's happened is that The Big Record Companies filed a copyright infringement suit against ISPs in Manhattan, claiming the site had allowed people to download Bruce, and Mariah and all sorts of stuff that they hadn't paid for. Now, the ISPs went meekly "okay, we'll block that site, then." Whatever happened to their demands to be treated as a dumb pipe, then? Are ISPs actually now admitting responsibility for the sites that their users access (this isn't even a site they host, remember)? Because that could be seen as a bit of a dangerous precedent they've set there...
The RIAA! They'll tell us what to do [BBC] - whether we want to or not
ANDY'S IN A HOLE AGAIN: Atomic Kitten have apparently kicked Andy McCluskey into touch - well, what's the point of having a songwriter when you can just buy an old copy of Smash Hits on ebay and sing a couple of songs out of that instead?
"Come back... you can do Talking Loud and Clear" [Ananova] - of course they don't need him, dammit. They have their own breasts, erm, talent, to fall back on...
Sunday, August 18, 2002
TONIGHT, I'M GOING TO BE: The NME used to do a pretty good job of getting popstars to dress up as other popstars for its Christmas issues - Damon Albarn as Debbie Harry, Miles Hunt as Lady Miss Kier; you might spot a trend. Last night's Stars in Their Eyes Special (ITV1) had a similar premise, but without the cross-dressy fun.
Overall winner was Jarvis Cocker, of course - he'd chosen Rolf Harris for his little bit of Pulp fiction, and it's hard to imagine anyone else doing either Rolf or the show with as much grace or love. Matthew Kelly seemed to be genuinely delighted at El Jarvo's presence on the show - suggesting that the former star of Relative Strangers may go home and kick back to This Is Hardcore of an evening; certainly, he relished the phrase "Jarvis Cocker... as Rolf Harris" so much that he begged the indulgence of being allowed to repeat it. And as for Cocker's involvement, it demonstrated again why the people who love him have taken him to their true pop hearts. Could you imagine Bobby Gillespie pitching up for a Saturday night light ent slot, winning over the studio audience, and still leaving with his cool rating enhanced, rather than destroyed? But Jarvis, clearly, was there because he knows; Not to partake in a post-modern sneer; not swallowing something hard and jagged in the interest of a few more sales. Jarvis' love of pop is something genuine and affectionate, and as such he recognises Stars In Their Eyes for what it is - the air guitar/banana-as-microphone bedroom moment writ large. Unlike it's brash Saturday night neighbour Pop Idol, the Stars format is set up to pay a quiet, personal tribute to the music that soundtracks our lives. It reflects back the way that music used to give us a chance to slip out our skins and be someone else, rather than offers singing any old thing as a stepping stone to OK covers and the chance to present an award at next year's BAFTAs. The people I want to hear singing are the people who feel about music in that way, the way that I do.
And while Jarvis did it best, most of those selected last night brought that sense of genuine attachment to the songs they performed - the Honeyz as Supremes; Kim Wilde did Doris Day (beautifully turning up the volume on the Hint of Rude under Doris' apple pie image) - even him out of East 17 doing Ali Campbell worked well (if you could leave aside the fact it was him doing him). In fact, the only duff contribution was Allstars as Steps, which not only made no sense (one bland manufactured band attempting to sound like another bland band - one who they'd toured with a couple of months before) but chose a Steps song that was lifeless anyway. Clearly tacked on to justify a 'something for everyone' billing, it was a segment that was so pointless, you wondered if it was some sort of joke on the part of the production team.
The night belonged to Jarvis, and Rolf. But I think we all grew a little.