Saturday, August 23, 2003

TO BE FAIR: We'd picked up the piece in Private Eye about Braham Parish Council being given tickets for the Leeds Festival, which they were going to sell on, and wondered how this would square with the rules about re-selling. One of the council has had a letter published in the current edition saying that they were only going to sell to people with proof of residence in the village, and that the money would be ring fenced for 'good causes'. Which is reassuring. Mind you, Pilton people get to go to Glasto free...

SINGING CRISPS... THAT IS NEW: Anyone in the UK visiting websites that carry proper adverts rather than 'You are the 1,000,000th visitor' scam pop-ups will probably have seen (along with the bloody Rolling Stones one) the banner trying to flog cheap DVDs of Lord of the Rings to you. There are similar press adverts running at the moment too: Picture of that pugbox from the three-part Elf flick, a headline with two tick boxes saying '[] I'd give anything to own the Lord of the Rings on DVD [] Actually, I'd like change from a tenner'. While it makes for a change getting a rest from the otherwise wall to wall 118 adverts around at the moment, what's this all about? According to the smaller print, it's all to launch "The new way to buy Music & movies - Channel, from Universal Group." So, mail order is new, is it? The GBP9.99 price for LOTR is, of course, an introductory loss leader - the usual price of DVDs is a less-enticing GBP14.99 plus Postage and Packing; and to get that 'great' price (or nine quid for a CD - Universal promise "thousands" to choose from, which doesn't sound like that wide a range to us) you discover you're pledging to buy "three or more DVDs or CDs a year for the first two years - that's all." Ah, so Universal's 'new' way is, erm, actually Britannia's Old Way to buy movies and music. But at least with, say, those WH Smith book clubs you get some sort of saving - at 14.99 you're paying roughly the same price as at Amazon for your DVDs, but you're locked into a commitment with Channel. Also slightly dubious is that the advert doesn't tell you what version of the Lord of the Rings DVD you're getting - we're guessing you get the slightly less glitzy of the two, but the advert doesn't actually tell you or point out that another, better (if you like Tolkein) version is also available. Not breaking any law, but certainly sharp practice.

More disturbingly is the way this new way to buy music treats your personal information - the small print on the advert says "Universal Group Direct [...] may pass your name and address to other companies who offer products or services we believe you may be interested in. If you would prefer not to receive these, please write to us at..." - in other words, rather than providing a simple tick box to allow you to opt out of them passing on your details to anyone with a few quid to buy their mailing list, they put the onus on you to write a totally separate letter, to a different address. Unlike the 'send me video' coupon, this isn't a freepost address, either. Now, while they might not be breaking the letter of the Data Protection Act, the fact that any proper company can create a system which is apparently designed to make it too much of an effort to get off their Junk Mail List certainly runs against the spirit of the law, don't you think?

SPEEDWAY CRASH: This email bravely made its way through the SoBig virus, spam emails making puns about how the SoBig virus reminded them they wanted big cocks, pancky emails from people who might have passed the SoBig virus on, and so on:

I hear on the grapevine that the reason the Strokes aren't credited is because they were approached for their blessing but told the plucky Scottish foursome to fuck off in no uncertain terms!

Which makes us wonder: do the Noo Yawkers get a writer's credit on the CD? Anyone know?

Friday, August 22, 2003

MAKING FRIENDSTER LOOK EVER SO SLIGHTLY PASSE: This is something to get onto before it appears in the Barometer Column of Sunday newspapers. It's PopMates and it does what Friendster does, but rather than just fling people together on the basis of Who You Know, it attempts to suggest people you might get on with by the sorts of records you like, films you enjoy and books you read. It's still in its early stages but it's already got some interesting people signed up. Maybe a few too many Mariah Carey options, but it's a start...

CALIFORNIA UBER MY DEAD BODY: The Dead Kenendys decided that, what with their silver anniversary coming up, they should bury the hatchet with Jello and invited him to join them for the silver concert. Jello has graciously accepted, chcukling "we've been through too much to let those stupid rows obliterate our achievements and love..." Okay, he hasn't. His response was: "To put it mildly, this reeks of false advertising. They obviously aren't serious or they would have called me on the phone. Instead, their message came through their lawyers and their publicist. What's the matter, not enough Hot Topic bozo teens flocking to stuff cash in their bikinis? Are they having that much trouble selling tickets to a bar that holds less than 600 people? If they really want to, 'bury the hatchet,' why won't they stop suing me? They have been dragging me through court for almost six years now, and have refused attempts to compromise and settle. I feel sorry for anyone duped into paying top dollar for a ticket because they heard, 'I might be there'. But I hardly think I'm 'letting fans down' by refusing to be part of a nostalgia scam." (Erm... except at the moment it's Biafra suing the rump Kennedys, isn't it?)

CONOR OBERST'S ENORMOUS BOX: Now, don't get us wrong, there's nobody round here who could touch us in our admiration for the work of Conor Oberst, but a seven album box set might be pushing it ever so slightly. It's a little bit like when This Is Your Life has someone in their early thirties on; it's not that it's inappropriate, it just seems almost jinxing to offer that sort of accolade when there's supposedly so much more career to come.

WE HATE TO BE PICKY: But why does none of the coverage of Speedway's version of Genie In A Bottle mention that the pairing of Aguilera and The Strokes is just a Sugababes style cover of one those mash-ups (which was doing the rounds Easter 2002), rather than an act of enormous inspiration. We're also not entirely sure it says about The Strokes as a brand that their input into the track warrants no mention at all. Doubtless some stage-school blonde/pug ugly drummer is hoping to sneak out Smells Like Booty and pass it off as their own work even as we speak...

THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: Dave Gahan, in the latest press call on his increasingly not-bitter-about-Martin-Gore-at-all tour, displays his weak grasp of the basics of Christian theology: "if God was handing out hedonism, partying, drugs and alcohol, I've had my quota"

RIGHT UP THERE WITH THE BRAMBER PIPE MUSEUM: Jackson County Visitor Center has been so weighed down with (mysteriously unwanted) John 'Cougar' Mellencamp stuff they've had to open a whole separate 'display' dedicated to him. "When people stop to get information on Jackson County and see the display, hopefully they will also shop at some of our stores" says Staci Akemon, who is helping oversee the building of this shrine, this latter-day Lourdes. We're not quite sure the thought process "Oh, look, there is a bandana worn by the bloke who did Jack and Diane. I shall nip into this store and buy a hammer and some glue" is ever likely to form in anyone's minds, but we wish them luck.

Meanwhile, grumpy letter to last night's Liverpool Echo complains about the presence of a 'Fingerprints of Elvis' attraction on the city's Albert Dock, ruminating that maybe the presence of 'The King' under the very noses of the Beatles industry is part of a plot to try and undermine the "Fabulous Four". Erm... maybe, except Fingerprints is run by the people who also run The Beatles Story Experience Visitor Attraction Museum round the corner.

UH-OH! PEABO'S NO-SHOW AT OWE-OWE SIDESHOW: Peabo Bryson wasn't at home when the tax man came calling, as the latest twist in a fourteen year struggle between Bryson and the IRS saw a van draw up at a house in Buckhead to seize stuff. We're not sure if even their "large moving truck" could have got back the USD1.2 million they reckon he still owes. Maybe he can borrow a few quid off Celine Dion.

QUALITY ANGER MANAGEMENT: so, the chances are that Eminem's Girls Gone Wild side-project might never see the insides of any DVD player. The video series, which combines live footage with desperately sad girls flashing their unattractive tits like they're British Holidaymakers in Faliraki, has already got itself muddled up in a lawsuit with four of the breasts claiming they never gave their consent, or something, to appearing in the Snoop Dogg version. We're guessing the whole thing has just been shelved as being too tacky for Eminem to associate with - appearing in a video of drunk teens whipping off their training bras might distract from his central messages of raping lesbians, shutting your pregnant girlfriend in a car and driving her off a bridge, and so on.

MAYBE WITHOUT HIS VIAGRA, HE JUST COULDN'T GET UP: Irv Gotti didn't show up for his court appearance on charges of possessing [snicker] one E. Nor did his attorney. That can't be good, can it?

THE FEATURES TABLOIDS REJECT: is seeking out people who look like Jack and/or Meg White and are going to Reading, who "would like to see your face in the nme" (If they look that much like one of the Whites, surely their face would be in the paper every week?). Clearly this is for some 'amusing' photo story they've got planned. What larks, eh?

We note that the purse strings at Kings Reach Tower seem to be getting drawn ever tighter, mind: it's no good if your own mother couldn't pick you out a line-up with you and Meg in it unless you've already forked out for your own ticket - the IPC massive isn't going to give up one of its freebie passes, is it?

Rather hearteningly, the paper makes it clear "this offer is on a first come, first served basis," suggesting they believe Berkshire is going to be knee deep in White Stripe lookalikes with nothing better to do than fill some space in the title. We wonder if the faux Meg will have to take her bra off?

THEY KISSED US AND IT FELT LIKE A SLAP: Sure, the news that Placebo are preparing to release an album of their cover versions is great, and tantalising, and makes us all moist - Molko doing Running Up That Hill? It couldn't be any better if he wore a leotard and did Wuthering Heights. Except... the disc is only being made available as a double pack with a re-released Sleeping With Ghosts. Since the people who'd be most likely crying with joy (and sod the mascara) at the rarity party would be the staunch Placebo fans, and they're the people who most likely would have bought the album on day of release, instead of seeming like a gift from the ladyboy gods, this comes across as little more than a cynical attempt to get them to buy the album all over again to get the "freebie."

Record companies wonder why people don't feel any guilt at downloading songs off the internet, you know.

DARKNESS BRINGS ITS OWN REWARD: The Darkness have won some Kerrang awards, scooping up Best Album and Best Live Act titles. Funeral For A Friend were judged to be the Best New Act. Feeder took Bravest Soldiers, Bless Them ("Best British Act") and Metallica were given some sort of prize for still being around at a time when most people have actually turned from rock to music that someone might want to listen to. Chilli Peppers got classic songwriters and in a desperate bid to try and shore up interest in a declining market, the magazine invented a category so they could give Jackass a prize ("the spirit of rock" award, apparently.)

Thursday, August 21, 2003

YOU WON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR HANDS: NME brings you that Kate Moss poledance in full. That burning smell is frying servers.

WHAT THE NEW YORK MUSIC BLOGS SAY: Catherine's Pita has long been one of our favourite dropping off points on the web, and in common with most of the rest of the city last week's powercut provides the backbone for current entries - luckily, or maybe not, the crumbling of America's infrastructure didn't stop the Polyphonic Spree's gig in Central Park. Hmmm, a slightly odd and ill-defined cult in Central Park, eh? Whatever next?

It was Catherine who brought New York Press' guide to the NY bloggers to our attention, and to fill a dull few minutes and/or to make us feel like Clive James on his old Saturday Night show, we're going to do a quick scamper round the NY Blogs to test out if you really can get the measure of a place from what it (self-)publishes.

The Modern Age was also at that Polyphonic Spree date (so much for the city that never sleeps - if they can pull such a crowd we'd have to assume the competing attractions in New York ain't up to much), but also has an interesting chat with Bruce Brand about the cover he produced for The White Stripe's Elephant, complete with an 'are they related' side-by-side with the 1927 album Jack White asked him to 'borrow' the design from.

It's easy to forget that while Pete Doherty is jemmying open the gas meter here, The Rest of the Libertines are touring round the States. Divestar was there for their Irving Plaza gig, and nearly got thrown out. Jo, frustratingly, withholds the details - although she clearly managed to be allowed to stay, as the photos prove.

More great live photos on New York Doll - is it just that New York indie-giggers have superior technology and better views of the stage than the rest of the world? Guilia also offers up a piece of advice that you should all write in the front of your filofaxes or whatever young people use these days: "If someone tells you there is an open bar from nine to eleven at a show you are going to, don’t arrive at eleven. Everyone around you will be completely drunk already, and you’ll be standing there trying to have a decent conversation with someone, trying to tell him about all the different ways your day kind of sucked, but he will only see your mouth moving, as my very tipsy friend was nice enough to point out to me when I tried to explain why I arrived so late. Then you’ll go up to the bar and order your regular gin and tonic, and when you give the bartender a ten dollar bill for your eight dollar drink (which happens to come in a glass about the size of your grandmother’s pincushion), he’ll take the remaining two dollars and give them to himself as a tip, even when you’re holding your hand out for the change (no, that was not your little gift to yourself, that was my money). And the worst part is, you’ll still be sober enough to realize you were robbed. Eight dollars for a Gin and Tonic?

Back to the blackout for Hard Glitter - yeah, having no power and no microwave is bad, but having to put up with your local drug dealer's taste in music is probably worse. Reading this makes us wonder if dealing/pimping is the new djing - since any record, no matter how awful, that mentioned 'dj' or 'radio' was guaranteed several thousand plays by radio presenters self-obsessed beyond the point of critical judgement (how many times was Rex Bob Lowenstein given a trot out on Simon Mayo's breakfast show?); nowadays, regardless of how poor quality the track is, anything about running hos, shooting cops or selling pills gets seized upon by every single gangster-wannabe across the world. In the same way that adding 'Mr. Radio Man' would give you a cast-iron PPL payment, throwing in a couple of references to 'your bitches' will translate into sales galore.

Bidi (the Jean Genie) brings the news of a Hedwig and the Angry Inch tribute album featuring Bob Mould, Sleater Kinney and, erm, Cyndi Lauper; Hey, Mike from I'm Losing My Edge, if you're prepared to go see Pete's new band, we'll gladly hold your coat or something; and we love the description of Interpol fans as being 'better looking, less nerdy' than you expected. JT of Garage Dream admits he's probably going to be talking about the Strokes every day from now until the new album (and then probably beyond), which does seem to be something of a default setting for New Yorkers of an indie persuasion. Not that there's anything wrong with that - we'd doubtless be getting excited if Liverpool had something as big about to happen, but somehow the Coral's second album didn't quite work us up to fever pitch and we've given up wishing for a new Waste album to give a kickin... erm, critically evaluate. There's also speculation on Garage Dream that the second Stroke's album might be history repeating The Knack, this time with slightly better clothes (in this theory, Last Nite becomes their My Sharona; album number turns the tide of critical goodwill into violent, mocking spleen overnight).

Of course, we've probably managed to miss some great NY Blogs here (feel free to get in touch if you think we've slighted you by oversight) but the impression is of a place where stuff is happening (pace my Polyphonic Spree jibe) and of a scene that actually works like a scene rather than a group of people thrown together by geography hoping their mutual self-loathing and two-faced back-biting won't show itself in public like some places I could mention. Next week: The Dover Blogs.

THE AUTUMN AXE MASSACRE CONTINUES: MediaGuardian describes critical reaction to the freshly dumped Johnny Vaughan Tonight show as 'mixed' - see, Tony Allen, that's how you mark a death, with positive spin. I mean, they're not lying, there was a mix of reactions - from 'Bloody hell, that's rubbish' to 'well, at least it's not the [also axed] Dom Joly thing'. We're kind of sad, though, as it did give a regular slot to Lauren Laverne, who was head of the houseband. Maybe they should get her to host a replacement? Or move the band to a re-activated RDA, which should have been allowed to stay in the slot all along, anyway. To be fair to Vaughan, and to risk sounding like Parkinson, his problem with the chat show was he's a presenter rather than an interviewer, and so putting him in a role where he was expected to play second fiddle to a guest was always a bit of a duff idea. We're not looking forward to his position now, though, where he'll be blowing through the BBC looking for a format to carry his salary. You know what? Maybe Top of the Pops might work.

SM FEELS THE PAIN: The now-rather-unfashionable SM:TV is to be axed although it will limp on showing repeats until Christmas ("classic compilations of the show's greatest moments called SM:TV Gold will be shown throughout the autumn"). CD:UK, once an integrated part of the programme, will be spared; Cat Deeley is booked on to carry on yelling between live performances of Busted and Kelly Rowlands until the end of next year. "After five fantastic years of SM:TV, we all recognised it was time for a change on Saturday mornings. We've gone for a show that is all about fun with a team with bags of fresh ideas" promises Steven Andrew, ITV's controller of the few children's programmes it still makes until Ofcom decides to let them off the hook at some point in the future. "ITV1's new Saturday children's show will feature a broad range of content including games, sketches, music and acquired programmes, as well as interactive elements. So, the bags of 'fresh' ideas sounds oddly like The Saturday Banana and Motormouth. And Get Fresh, Number 73 and The Mersey Pirate. Fun Factory, Ghost Train. The (ITV) Saturday Show, the (BBC) Saturday Show, Saturday Superstore, Saturday Starship, Saturday Morning Picture Show and, erm, SM:TV. Might we suggest puppet sheep and snot-dribbling aliens? And from somewhere in the distance, we can hear a little voice calling ITV Network Centre pitching a revival of Buzzfax...

But, seriously, how desperately poor must ITV think the current incarnation of SM:TV be doing if a bunch of offcuts of Ant & Dec is perceived as being a better risk than letting the current team plough on? We're not suggesting Brian Dowling's fifteen minutes are up, but we'd like a Diet Coke and an extra pillow, please.

DISINGENUOUS, n: "People thought that they [The Beckhams] went to the States to try and launch themselves there, and it wasn't that. We had a ridiculous amount of requests from shows like Jay Leno and Letterman. And they did one interview with Barbara Walters; they did American Vogue, because Anna Wintour is a friend of Victoria's, and they did the MTV movie awards. There was never a big, 'Let's launch ourselves in America'" - Pish and Buck's publicist, Caroline McAteer, in today's G2.

Isn't it a bit Alanis that Victoria's even such a crap self-publicist she needs someone else to do it for her?

Still, lucky that it wasn't about launching themselves in the States, isn't it? What with them apparently being edited out of the US showings of the MTV awards and all.

Talking of Alanis-version irony, despite the success of Bend it Like Beckham there, people in the States still have little idea who he is. Indeed, the film has probably done more to make a star of its cameoed Gary Lineker than it has of Becks.

START ME UP... A FEW YEARS TOO LATE: More on the decision of the Rolling Stones to put their stuff online (or, rather, try and make some cash by putting their own copies online) in the Guardian. First, in the news report Conor McNicholas, editor of the music weekly NME, said: "For the first time, consumers are dictating how they want music. They read one of our articles, or hear a song, then download immediately. People are innovating and using the technology that's out there faster than the record companies are." That would be 'for the first time', then - the success of cassettes and the introduction of cassingles (and the dumping of DCC, MiniDisc as a consumer format and [insert rubbish format here] weren't examples of the same consumer demand leading the labels, then; and since people have been sucking music downloads off the web since - what, '97? - and it's only now that the majors are actually doing something about it makes a bit of a nonesense of Conor's thesis here - what we think he means is "for the twenty-ninth time, record companies are belatedly realising what their customers want and are desperately trying to catch up." We're also a little puzzled by the words of Dr Leonardo Chiariglione, who for sake of argument is described as the father of the format: "Technology advances offer a convergence point between the goals of all multimedia actors: creators, intermediaries and users. It is high time that technology be used to keep the unfulfilled promises." Now, we might not have invented a major file format, but we can't quite work out if creators and users have a convergence point, what the function of an intermediary would be? It's like saying 'Now you can fly direct from Heathrow to Sydney, it's great news for the stopover airports in the Far East."

Then, in this week's Online Supplement Neil McIntosh considers exactly what the Stones move means (the actual conclusion - they've suddenly realised they stood to lose a fuckload of money if they didn't do it - is somehow missed.) There are some interesting words from Peter Jamieson, executive chairman of the BPI. He waves around the latest single sales figures and says "I don't think anybody would turn around and say that music was less popular than it was before" [no, not while album sales are booming] " so the industry has to try and get round to making music legitimately [sic] in ways that the public will put money toward..." 'Put money toward' is a really interesting choice of words, isn't it? Rather than the slightly more mucky sounding 'buy.' We wonder if the BPI is trying to soften us all up - away from consumers towards being patrons?

Meanwhile, Ed Averdieck from OD2 (he's the one who actually runs it, although the usual press coverage might lead you to assume that Peter Gabriel is the only man with a key to the offices) is looking forward to the birth of a download chart: "There definitely was a thing, in the old days, that you wanted your band to get to number one," he says. "We think that as soon as downloads start becoming eligible for the chart, people will think 'if I download this from KaZaA it's not going to push my band to number one. If I download it from MSN or HMV, it is'. That's going to be a big additional push to encourage the kids to start using these services" We're not sure he's right that a download chart is really going to make The Kids change their habits like that - we're guessing but in the early days of the charts, the people thinking 'I want my band to be at number one' will be more likely to be forty-somethings in the higher-floor offices of record labels. Frankly, we suspect the download chart will be about as significant as the 'Amazon Top Sellers' list - something that makes people go "oh, really?" but has no effect on their behaviour. When did you last think "I'm determined to push Pink/Phish/Bryan Ferry to number one at Amazon?"

The 'sometime soon' status of a download chart is less a glowing crown showing how the Majors are embracing the technology, but another example of just how crap they are at adapting to the new environment. It's taking so long to get into place that - compared with the massive speed of take-up of the opportunities afforded by MP3 - it's as if the NME hadn't actually got round to creating the first singles chart until 1978.

Finally, Steve Johnstone, from Musicindie, frets that legitmate downloading just doesn't have the glitter-factor yet to make it a sticky experience in whatever sense of the word you wish to take it: "If you look at things that have done particularly well on the internet as a whole, such as Amazon, very few people have tapped nearly as well the peer recommendation element," says Johnston. "If you could trawl for ages and hear about people's favourite albums of the year, and get a choice of eight different recommendations every time you type in anything [and] then wed those kind of peer recommendation features and chat forums with the ability to acquire music, you'd have the dream service." While we agree with him that you need something more than just a 'click here' to make the paid-for services have an edge over the free ones, we're not sure that the peer recommendation route is the one to go with. When we're shopping amazon for equipment, we do browse through what other people have made of the items. But with music? Never bother with them, simply because while a digital camera has attractions and pitfalls that can be explored dispassionately, a CD either 'works' or doesn't according to a personal sliding scale of prejudices, loves and quirks and so how are we to tell if Bigloob Tampott of Alberta's opinion on the new Britney Spears album is based on his love of Britney, his disappointment that she doesn't wear a school uniform anymore, a deep-seated hatred of women, or membership of the presbyterian church? We have a sneaking suspicion that the reason why there are so many reviews on the Amazon site isn't because people find them usefull, but because it provides an outlet for frustrated wannabe music journalists to vent their spleen to what they imagine is a worldwide audience [ouch, those bloody beams hurt when they get in your eye, don't they?] - that it's the recommending, rather than the recommendations - that pull people in. The thing is, if I want to know if an artist is any good, I'd check with the people online whose opinion I trust - friends, the communities I'm a member of, the reliable blogs - rather than a to-all-effects anonymous poster on the site trying to sell me the bloody thing in the first place.

I'LL BET ITS REALLY HIS TRAINER-LOVE THAT DID IT: According to The Sun, Craig David and his girlfriend Sofia Vergera have split up because she's sick of him mooning about over Beyonce. Now, we know that The Sun has the most impeccable journalistic standards - anything less, and how would they be able to keep up their skriking against the BBC's? - and so when that paper tells us that "Craig has known Beyonce since she started out in Destiny’s Child and they have stayed close friends" that this must be a True Fact that they have checked with more than one source. It's incredible, though, because Beyonce started out in Destiny's Child in 1990, when Craig would have been a nine year old kid living in Southampton. Maybe she bumped into him outside the Joiner's Arms?

POPOBIT: Tony Jackson, the original voice of The Searchers, has died of liver disease in Nottingham. Jackson was the vocalist at the time of the band's first hit, Sweets for my Sweet, which was number one for three weeks back when these things mattered more (in 1963, in other words). He left the band shortly after due to illness (apparently the others were sick of him), and formed his own group, Tony Jackson and the Vibrations who... um... didn't have a number one hit. Years of heavy drinking left him unable to play and in 1996 he was jailed for 18 months after threatening to kill a woman with an airpistol. Before he died, he'd cleared the air with his former Searcher colleagues - who were amongst the first to record their memories of the man - and attended a Searchers fan convention with them last year. He turned down the opportunity to reprise his role as vocalist on 'Sweets...', pleading "the spirit is willing but the body is knackered." A brief stint in a revival Searchers band with other ex-Searchers Mike Pender crumbled when Jackson discovered he was going to be paid on a par with the session drummer.

The band took their name from the John Wayne film, and started out on the then-embryonic Merseybeat scene in a uniform of red shirts, black trousers and white shoes (not unlike the Man United home strip, then) before a fatal shopping trip to C&A saw them transmute for the Hives into the Spinners - all polo necks and slacks. The band came within an ace of being signed by Epstein, except Jackson hit the sauce a little too heavily when he attended a Cavern Club performance and fell off the stage. With his habit of falling over a lot, investing two hundred quid on a nose job must have been a bit of a risk, but one which he nevertheless undertook. He'd previously had to have psychiatric help, such was his hatred of his nose. The band usually chose to play The Iron Door over the Cavern; the Iron Door had the reputation as the rougher of the two clubs (since the Cavern attracted Edwina Currie, Peter Sissons and Cilla Black, we can well believe this). Tony Allen, the man who took over the singing when Jackson quit, writes a few words on the Searcher's official website in which he doesn't quite manage to strike the right note: "His final years could not have been pleasant. I'm sure that, quite naturally, he was envious, and probably even resentful, of the way we had carried our earlier success into the revival years of the '80s and onwards." So, his life was shit, then. Thanks, mate.

THIS MIGHT COME AS A SHOCK: Eminem's uncle announces that Eminem "often got a thrill" when Kim brought home another woman. We know we're supposed to assume from this that Eminem is a virile, two-chicks-at-once type of guy. We're just wondering if the thrill was more along the lines of "good, she's got someone in to do that for her, I can concentrate on my magazines with chessmen in them tonight."

Uncle continues: "Why would you not want a wife that has other women waiting for you? It's every man's dream, right?"

Erm... Eminem and Kim divorced in 2001. So there must have been some reason, then. In a week when it turns out he didn't even manage to get beyond the simpering stage with Mariah, he's not looking the stud, is he?

While we're at it: why is it impossible to be in a bed with two other people without 'romping'? It's always a three-in-a-bed romp, isn't it?


Travis - did the NME really report that. Even the most cursory Travis-watcher (raises own hand in air) surely knows that the best track on The Man Who was 'Flashing Blue Light' (or maybe 'Blue Flashing Light'), the hidden track at the end devoted to the subject of.. domestic violence!

It's not like it was hidden under a bushel either - they played it at every sodding gig they did for about two years when pushing that album. NME, first with the news, yet again...

Maybe a less craven NME would have picked the band up on this. On the other hand, it's rather a New Labour sort of move on the part of Travis, isn't it - announcing a major new policy that they've actually launched one before? Every age gets the bands it deserves, I suppose. We await their next new direction - singing songs about how even the weather seems to have it in for them, perhaps as a punishment for teenage transgressions - with interest.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

HE REALLY ISN'T EXPECTING TO SELL MANY, IS HE?: Andrew WK is offering to sign CDs for anyone who pre-orders the new album from his website and - get this - is going to phone up the first 250 people to buy. (Which we imagine will take him round until about next July, if it sells at the same rate as the last one.) It's almost worth it for the joy of speaking to the twoog, isn't it? If only to ask him about the refunds policy... But if ever you wanted an example of what a flare looks like when it's being shot from a sinking career, I think that would be it there, wouldn't it?

Andrew, since the death of Don Estelle, the British Music scene lacks a 'character' to stand outside the Doncaster branch of Woolworths singing and flogging CDs from a dog-eared cardboard box. We may have found a role for you.

AMAZING HOW CHEAP FATAL MUSIC IS: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has fined Great White and the Rhode Island club which burned down almost USD100,000. The club was found to have installed a fire door which swung the wrong way, had insufficient safety plans and used highly flammable foam in the clun, especially around the doorway. The band's touring company are being fined USD7,000 for failing to protect its employees from fire hazards.

100,000 dollars works out at roughly one thousand bucks for each person they killed.

VOICES HAVING FLOWN: In a music-related twist to the 'lottery winner yet to come forward' type story, London Live and Direct are desperately trying to track down Alex Sewyer who recorded a demo tape over two years ago which has recently been 'discovered' and become the subject of one of those bidding frenzies you hear about on the telly. It's one of those stories which really does give hope to everyone; she must have not heard anything in the three years since she did the work on the track, deciding that perhaps fame wasn't to be hers... but she's been fished out of the back of fate's sofa. They know she's about 24, has a kid, and was living in Croydon when she made the tape. We hope that she gets found.

CHAMBER MUSIC OF HORRORS: Madame Tussauds, the clearing house for lost and bemused foreign package tourists, has just unveiled it's newest 'attraction'. Last time, you'll recall, they drifted onto our turf it was to unveil Kylie's arse. Now, they've gone one better and come up with a total arse. It's a model of Simon Cowell and, since even madame tussauds these days accepts that 'looking a bit like the person its meant to be' isn't enough to tempt visitors to come see a model, it's got a unique interactive element: you can sing at it, and it'll tell you if you're in tune. Hmmm, a strange, waxy-skinned figure that shoots out pre-scripted retorts at singers in the belief that the 'insults' are more entertaining than the singers themselves? We have to admit, that is incredibly lifelike.

JAGGER CROAKS: Mick jagger's voice needs a bit of a rest and so the Stone's Amsterdam date has been pulled. What we love about the Ananova report is the mention that he's sung to "more than 180,000 fans" in the Netherlands, as if it's any more strain to sing to thousands through an amplified system than it is to sing to one.

IRV GOTTI'S COLLAR FELT: Do Murder Inc have their own cell down at the 'big house' (as Jim McDonald, and only Jim McDonald, calls the prison)? Irv Gotti the head of the label has been arrested on drugs charges now. This was at an R Kelly gig, although the 'drugs' (some viagra and single E) are pretty luidicrious stuff to arrest a bloke over. But why would you want viagra at an R Kelly gig anyway? It's hardly an erotic experience, is it?

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Feeling queasy for all sorts of reasons edition

Oh, yeah, food poisoning. We've never used that one, Kelly. Writing in her diary in Heat, Kelly Osbourne, who plays the daughter in TV sitcom My Family (may need to fact check this) has claimed that it was eating shellfish at Elton John's that led to the "illness" which made her cancel her UK dates: "I went to stay at Elton John's in the South of France with Mum and Jack. We had dinner and we had shellfish. I spent the next two days with the shits and throwing up everywhere." Unpleasant, perhaps, but that's no reason to describe Elton, Sharon and Jack as "the shits", is it? Kelly confirms that she's going to push on with the whole singing thing, with grim determination (the determination hers; the grimness ours) and is going to try and spark some interest by dueting with Daddy. So, having been given a singing contract because of him, she's now going to try and use him to salvage it. Even a drugged-out shell like Ozzy has his uses.

Is it just us, or is there something a little icky about the Rolling Stone Olsen Twins cover story - "America's favourite fantasy"? We know that they're now, strictly speaking, legal in many US states, but there's just something not quite right about the way they're being sexualised. Yeah, they're legal, barely, but... maybe we could try and not start blurring the boundaries quite so much?

In Monday's Media Guardian, Jane Johnson, editor of Closer (i.e. EMAP's Heat-like product for the Mark One shopper) crows about her title's success and puts a brave face on their low place in the celeb pecking order:

"We wanted to give our readers a real insight into celebrities' lives. To tell it like it is. This doesn't mean that we spit-roast our stars, it just means we are not afraid to admonish Catherine Zeta-Jones for her vain court case or to berate George Best for pushing the self-destruct button." (Translation: Since the snooty Zeta-Jones would no more think of talking to Closer than she would serve Mellow Birds at the end of a dinner party, it doesn't matter if we piss her off or not. And George Best is going to be dead soon anyway)

"But we give praise where it's due - and we will often stick up for the underdog. When Kylie is going through the emotional wringer yet again after another disastrous romance, we want her to come out fighting. (I just hope she appreciates it!)" (Translation: Kylie's people also represent the sort of people we rely on for interviews). If Kylie Minogue is an underdog, what the hell does that make Dannii?

"We have led the way on the break-up of Sadie Frost and Jude law's relationship" (... or at least done our best to bring it about); "We broke the story that Russell Crowe and Danielle Spencer were having a baby" (by reading the Australian papers?); "And it's thanks to Closer that you now know that Posh and Becks have matching jewel-encrusted whips. Yes, celebs have sex lives too - although their agents don't want us to know that." The editor of a tittle-tattle magazine thinks it's going to be a surprise to readers that Famous People Fuck Too? Isn't this like the editor of Good Food whispering with a stage wink "oh, by the way - there are calories in chocolate cake..."; and as for the belief that Posh and Derek's (yawn) jewel encrusted whips were a little secret that their agent would rather we didn't know... yeah, that's right. It's not like they would have been bought by stylists and leaked by publicists in a desperate bid to try and make them seem interesting, is it?

Perhaps the sweetest bit though is this: "In America weekly magazines like the National Enquirer and Star magazine lead the way in breaking celebrity stories..." - Jane, sweetheart: are you really suggesting that you use the Enquirer as a model for your reporting methods and journalistic standards? (Mental note: Don't believe anything Closer says ever again. Especially if it relates to Elvis.) On a crispier note, the reason why the US equivalents of the Sun, Daily Star and Mirror don't "lead the way in breaking celebrity stories" is because, erm, there aren't any. Johnson should really stick to writing for the checkout queue at Aldi.

The Radio Times attempts to answer that age-old question: Beatles or the Stones? It's produced half its print run with a portrait of the Beatles; the other half with Rolling Stones on it. (The RT is getting over-fond of these "collectable covers" - it'll be producing one of each member of the Ground Force team at this rate.) Inside, it tries to chair a debate on which of the two bands is the greatest. Here's a clue, RT: There's a show on BBC1 this weekend about the Rolling Stones. To justify giving them the cover of your magazine, you've turned half the print run over to the Beatles (who aren't on TV at all). As far as I know, no magazine has ever had to shore up sales of a Beatles cover by adding some copies with Mick Jagger on the front.

Jet are on the cover of the nme. At least they're properly interviewed inside the magazine, we suppose. The downside is they are fucking pug-ugly. No, really. It's like a convention of Liam Gallagher's stunt doubles.

When did the nme drop Bring It On, by the way? We're not that bothered, but it seems like two or three months since we've had to discard the 'me too' Fly.

Another full page advert for the Rolling Stones tour. There's also that irritating advert on the nme website - apparently blissfully unaware that the technology exists to ensure that repeated visitors don't have to sit through the same pop-up over and over again, seemingly every second nme page gets served up with the same, hugely self-deluding advert slapped over the top. The Stones - depicted as sexy young men, so the artist was working from something a bit beyond living memory - disappear beneath a pile of bras thrown, we imagine, by nubile young girls. Old men being clobbered by foundation garments being more accurate but less attractive. It's absolutely smashing that so much advertising for the Rolling Stones tour has been purchased by T-Mobile just as the nme runs so much editorial on the band, isn't it? What a charming coincidence.

News: The Strokes Albert Hammond talks about the process of writing the new album: "If we played one song that wasn't as good as the last one, we'd drop it." This, of course, is fine if you start with something great. If your first song is the Frog Chorus, the system doesn't work as well. But he's convinced the new album is great, and they made sacrifices for it: "we worked 15 hours a day." Although since most of those 15 hours would have involved sitting around waiting for the drummer to set up, it's not like it's as onerous as working as a labourer for 15 hours, is it?

They have the smart idea of getting a dream analyst to poke about in Chris Martin's dream (Cameron Diaz and swimming pools). The analyst suggests Martin dreams about the pool because he's feeling out his death, and that he saves tabloid cunt Dominic Mohan means he'll never harm his enemies. He fails to note out that there's a bigger truth, that Martin is so dull he's having to talk about his dreams to pad out press interviews now.

There's a lot of spunking over the latest circulation figures - really, making so much fuss about being the biggest selling music weekly again does just underline that, erm, you've spent the last year as the smallest selling music weekly in the world and that you managed to piss away an advantage that had seen you as the biggest seller - back when there was proper competition - for decades.

Travis are going to sing about domestic violence on their new album. We can only assume it's the result of some sort of bet to make themselves even more depressing than they were. Interesting journey from singing about underage girls to battered wives, though, innit?

Brody Armstrong denies she's on the new Ryan Adams album, denying ever having met him. Meanwhile, back on this side of the Atlantic and our home-grown confused pop stars, Pete Doherty has said he won't be playing Reading with the Libertines "unless he's invited"; likewise, we'd like to make it clear that unless Brian Molko begs, we won't be appearing with Placebo. Doherty's putting his new band Babyshambles together even as we speak, rehearsing, writing, and asking band members about their alarm systems and if they leave their bathroom windows open in this hot weather.

"There's more to Elton John than Candle in the Wind... he's a mentor to Ryan Adams" justifies the paper for giving him two pages - right, so under Elton's steady hand Ryan has gone from a alt country sex god to a unpleasant fantasist in less than two years. Mind you, Sir Elton slipped Kelly Osbourne that dodgy crab, so he's not all bad. Seriously, he's alright, is Elton - he's never lost his passion for music and it's just unfortunate that his innate ability for sucking up to posh types has lumbered him with a knighthood and a real image problem. Hint, Elt: Those Sky adverts? Not helping with the reclaiming your cred.

Hats off to Nat Watson, who carried on playing with Haven despite having Bells Palsy. Oddly, for a man whose face froze right down the right, he seems quite chipper: "I was just putting it all on one side." The left one, presumably. Also sick listed was Funeral For A Friend's Matt Davies, who had to have a throat abcess (technically a "quinsy", medical fans) which had to be, um, de-abcessed before he could be pronounced fit for Reading.

They've axed that Bowie/Bing 'comic' strip. Joy and rejoicing throughout the land.

Biffy Clyro do the CD choosing thing, and despite including Weezer, Ben Folds Five and Tetra Splendour don't select a single act with a more rubbish name than theirs.

Pretty Girls Make Graves are - smashingly - the 'Hot New Band' (although haven't they already been an On band? How many times can you be new to the nme?) PGMG have androgynous fans who look like Robert Smith and grab their asses as they pass by. Which makes Robbie Williams' fans look pretty shit, doesn't it?

The V reviews are in. Alison Goldfrapp wore some splendid dom boots at Chelmsford but the nme believes that The Distillers have the edge over Pj Harvey because they have "the explosive pummelling aggression and sheer unpredictability" Polly supposedly lacks. Hmmm. Historical perspectives count for little when you're in a front row, it's true, but... isn't it slightly easier to predict The Distiller's next move than it is to predict PJ's? One makes records with the Queens of the Stone Age and Courtney Love; the other works with anyone from a former Chesterfields bloke to Nick Cave.

There's a huge Black Rebel Motorcycle Club piece, in which Robert muses on the name they've given themselves - something which announces their presence, something which acts as an easy target; something of a curse, too, which "you think you've got to be more than..." There's also talk of another side to the band; a side not shown in the last stuff, and not in the next set, either. It's a cracking interview, and John Robinson is duly owed a pint.

Talking of beer, we're not sure how happy the executives at Carling will be, having sponsored a four page glossy pull-out in the middle, only to have it run in the middle of a feature headlined with one of their rival's slogans ('Jet don't give a XXXX' - they even use a Castlemaine-style logo for the XXXXs). This could just be something accidental, but we want to believe, and so we're hoping that it's the editorial and design sides of the paper sticking a finger up at the AOL Time Warner machine. We can but hope.

Jet try to address the little bit of fuss that blew up when they rejected political correctness and rap music last time (some readers decided they were racist, rather than just a little bit thick - anyone who complains about "political correctness" who isn't being paid per hundred words by the Daily Mail obviously has very little understanding of the term or the world). They take the opportunity to fight ire with sarcasm, which, as anyone knows, comes across really badly when it's written down. After they've tried sarcasm... well, then they try to get serious:

Nic: For me, nigger is not a term that's derogatory. Like, black people call themselves niggers [...]
Cam: I think even a black person would say [conversationally] 'Hey Nigger' or [Angry voice] 'Hey, you fucking nigger'
Chris: You know what else... stacks of our favourite musicians are black
Nic: I don't need to justify myself to someone who's gonna judge me on one sentence
Chris: [adopts South American accent] Right on, nigger, right on. I hear you, bro'

Sorry, did we say they were just a little bit thick? Incredibly, amazingly thick, as it turns out. They're playing Reading - assuming they can get a ladder to get themselves out of the hole they've just dug themselves - this weekend. I'm not sure I'd want to go and see them.

The Thrills, meanwhile, go and watch a woman shoving bananas up her cunt while the nme's Dan Martin eats it out. It's like the early days of Madchester all over again, isn't it? Amazing what AOL let you get away with on expenses. At least when Richie Manic was going to use hookers, the paper would make its excuses and leave. Again, maybe we're getting old, but we think the reporting of the incident crosses a line which would be fine in Loaded but makes us a bit unsettled in the nme.

Richard x - presents his x-factor volume 1 - "x doesn't always hit the spot", 6
paul weller - fly on the wall - "as dignified as contractual obligations get", 7

sotw - grafiti - what is the problem? - "mike skinner all over it"
brmc - stop - "sleazy, grimy, more rock than a crackhouse"

the raveonettes - charing cross - "dark, dank but danger free cinematic underworld"
ash - London somerset house - "all smiles, splayed legs and flying Vs"

and finally: there's a letter from someone from Rotherham who claims to have "got his hands on the new Andrew WK stuff." He likes it. But then, he's from Rotherham. Says it all.

I'M SURE THAT IT ALL SOUNDS A LOT WORSE THAN IT REALLY IS: Can we give some friendly advice to Phish's Mike Gordon? If you're going to 'borrow' a nine-year-old girl and take 'art pictures' of her in a 'secluded' beach house', first check with the parents that it's okay; secondly - or, perhaps even more firstly - ensure that one of those parents isn't a Hells Angel. In fact, before any of that, maybe think about just quite how seedy the whole thing sounds. I'm sure there's a pefectly reasonable explanation - maybe it was all 'research'? You know, like Pete Townshend?

NINE TO ONE: The Strokes new single is going to be called 12:51, apparently. Out October 6th, with the album scheduled for the 20th of that month, and the firm critical backlash expected early November.

FIDDLESTICKS: The Leeds leg of the Reading Festival nearly came a cropper for the 17th time last night, due to sloppy work on the part of the Mean Fiddler organisation. It turns out they'd forgotten to get planning permission for the roads needed to get stuff to and from the Festival site, and one Leeds City Councillor was pushing to use this as an excuse to get the whole thing called off just a couple of days before the first festival goer turns up to set fire to a chemical toilet. In fairness, the Mean Fiddler's Melvin Benn admitted they should have sorted this out before and an emergency meeting of the City Council decided to turn a blind eye to the error, but really: if you're running a festival which is regarded with something between mistrust and contempt by the local population, you really need to be Ceaser's Wife.

I BELIEVE IN A THING CALLED STRICT FINANCIAL PROBITY AND A BALANCED BUDGET: As Eleanor O asks when she brings the Darkness' fashion shoot for the Telegraph to our attention, "It's not very rock & roll, is it?" More to the point, you'd have to wonder if its very telegraph - we can't see, and hope we never shall - Lord Black of Crossharbour poncing up the street in skintight silver trousers and shirt slashed to the waist. And, really, if the readers need to have it spelled out to them exactly what at Fender Stratocaster is (a type of guitar, your honour) are they really like to be glamming up?

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

MAYBE IT'S BECAUSE OF THE HEAT: No Rock loves Tim Burgess more than you can imagine. No, don't even try imagining a lot, you won't make it. So we've been kind of curious what the solo material is going to pan out like.

He's just been on Liz Kershaw's show. And she played a track.

It sounds like former kid's TV fave Derek Griffith's Heads and Tails theme tune. We're not sure this is a bad thing. But we need to be convinced it's a good one.

THERE'S SHAME AND THERE'S A SHAME: Perhaps the whole saddest aspect about the guy who ineptly stalked Tina Barrett from S Club was that at forty-one years of age, the press reports still describe him as "a doctor's son", which sort of suggests he hadn't made very much impact on the world in his own right. Apart, of course, from the whole stalking S Club's tiny Jenny Powell clone thing, which has caused a few ripples.

I HAVE BOOBIES, TOO: Charlotte Church trying to set herself up with 'sexy new image' - like the concept of Aled Jones in a posing pouch, isn't it? Trouble is, of course, the only thing she really had going for her was that air of the illicit, wasn't it? Since she came of age, she's just become another round-faced girl with an not-awkward past (singing for the Pope, indeed) - Bonnie Langford without the air of mystery; the Lena Zavaroni with a well-stamped Starbucks card, and so we're set for further car-crashes as she flails about trying to find some new schtick. Her record company says "she's moving in a more hiphop direction" which is so far, so Posh/Mariah/Christina; although in Church's case, it's even more meanignless - more hip hop than church choral music? Even Steleye Span were more hip hop than her old output. Chronology has robbed her of that barely-legal nudge-nudge aspect; she's clearly sick of knocking out religious stuff. So, what will you do, Charlotte? Besides putting on a wonderbra and adding "guest vocals" to some garage track here and there?

You're a woman, not a girl. You're not forced to sing the songs your mother made you trill. So... erm, what exactly do you do? Hurry up with an answer, we've got Mylenne Klass on the other line.

HEY, DID I MENTION I HAVE BOOBIES?: Pity poor Mariah. No, really. After her break up with Tommy Mottola, she re-invented herself as a breasty, sexy nymph. Okay, she tried to; she ended up looking like your mum in a bikini but that isn't the point. The trouble is, having pulled 'em out once, she's got nothing to 'surprise' us with, putting her in a tricky position now her career really is starting to implode. In the next Maxim, she's trying to give us last Christmas' gift all over again: "I know I have this image that's sexy. But I'm basically like Mary Poppins. That's my nickname! I'm prudish. It's like playing dress up. When you go through difficult stuff as a kid sometimes your childhood stays with you. I've hung onto that. There was a period when I was in a relationship that was confining, where I had to wear turtlenecks and long pants and that wasn't me. I broke out of that - around the same time of the "Honey" video, where I jump out of the water like a secret agent - everybody was shocked. But that was the real me coming out." (You'll also note that in that one paragraph she manages to confusingly state that she's prudish and it's 'dressing up' when she strips off, but also that it's, erm, the real her.)

But the real proof that the game is up is her choosing to yak away about Eminem - albeit not fucking him. It's an immutable law of celebrity that to discuss a relationship with another celebrity is on a par with a dog in a fight showing its jugular. You only go into details when you are lower in the global pecking order than the person who you may or mayn't have shagged. Thus, Robbie made his remarks about Kylie; Geri blabs about George. And, Mariah signals her awareness of how she's no longer top table by trying to retail 'my night with Eminem.' It's the act of a former star who knows they're running low on cultural capital; like the poker player on a losing streak trying to use their car to meet the bet, it's almost tragic to watch the debasement.

So, yes: Pity Mariah.

Having said which, if she tries to release another record, we're going to release the hounds.

Not that she's not still without her supporters - Jason MacNeil of the Tornoto Sun tries to talk her up, suggesting that in the venue "the upper tier [was] fashionably curtained off to give a more intimate feel" - I believe that's what's actually known as closing off half the house. By the end of the review, even MacNeil runs out of ways to cover the poor sales: The crowd and Carey would have been better served in a theatre setting. Although the floor and some side sections were nearly full, the back of the arena, sprinkled with people, told another story.

IT'S LIKE INDIE FANBOY HEAVEN: Six Music has had Lauren Laverne (ex-Kenickie) sitting in at Breakfast for a couple of weeks already; now Justine Frischmann has appeared at the other end of the day sitting in for Tom Robinson.

Added to recent sightings of Manda Rin on Beat 106, and the news that Tim from the Boo Radleys is starting as a teacher, has anyone else followed Mikki Lush out of music performance (she's sub-editing the TV Times these days)? Do you know of any former indie geniuses who probably aren't doing their first choice of career any more? email us with sightings.

WITH ROS, YOU'RE THE BOSS:The "official Sigur Ros news source" eighteen seconds before sunrise is currently carrying teaser downloads of things from the new album as well as promising that it's going to be more accessable than the last one. At least, it'll have an easier name to pronounce. We suppose.

EXPRESS OLETA ADAMS IN TERMS OF TEXTBOOKS: You're a cash strapped school district. How would you spend USD15,000?
(a) Ensuring as many kids as possible have access to the internet though their school
(b) Replacing any out of date textbooks to allow your district to have the most comprehensive library it can afford
(c) Paying the cash straight to faded diva Oleta Adams to play some songs to your teachers

If you answered (c) Oleta Adams, you are Kansas City.

ANOTHER LAST CHANCE: Amazingly, Scott Weiland has managed to avoid being sent to jail for the latest in a long line of drug-related screw ups. This time, he was in a car that was oozing heroin and coke from its every gasket but Scott has been given probation on the understanding that he goes to Alcoholics Anonymous - which some might think an oddly lenient punishment considering that he's been in this position before, was given a similar sentence; he failed to go to counselling and wound up inside. Still, everyone (famous) deserves another chance, don't they?

Meanwhile, Scott will continue to work on Velvet Revolver, his new project which we pray is better than the 'do you see? we have taken something harsh like a gun, and something soft like velvet, and put them together in an apparently contradiction' excuse for a name. It's that 'supergroup' with the ones from Guns N Roses who aren't in Guns N Roses anymore and one of Suicidal Tendencies. They're not playing live because, according to a spokesperson, if they did, the shows would be recorded and on the internet within hours. Which sounds like "we're not playing live because we sound a bit crappy at the moment and we don't want people to know that" to us.

READY THE RIMSHOT, MOTHER: Bearing in mind those rumours about Shania Twain's pins, when Billboard report on her new tour thus: "The initial list consists of 18 shows, with the tour's first leg expected to play about 40 dates", you just know they're silently mouthing "... before she fetches the other one from home for the next dozen..."

Apparently, and genuinely, this Shania Twain tour is going to be done in the round, with her on stage in the middle of the audience. The official line is that this allows her to perform to people all over the venue; we suspect it's because she can no longer decide if her face is cuter than her butt so wants to cover the odds. The serious problem with playing in the round is that while with a stage performance it can be a better experience for all the people in the theatre, with a live band it just means a lot of the times the person you've paid to see is the wrong side of the drummer.

Monday, August 18, 2003

THERE ARE STRANGE PEOPLE: Who would join an email community dedicated to producing photoshopped pictures of Britney bald? Forty people, so far.

IT'S GOOD, BUT IT'S NOT RIGHT: Belle & Sebastian have announced the tracklisting for Dear Catatrosphe Waitress and it runs as follows:

01 Step Into My Office, Baby
02 Dear Catastrophe Waitress
03 If She Wants Me
04 Roy Walker
05 (I Believe In) Travellin' Light
06 Asleep On The Sunbeam
07 Piazza, New York Catcher
08 You Don't Send Me
09 Wrapped Up In Books
10 Lord Anthony
11 If I Find Yourself Caught In Light
12 I'm A Cuckoo
13 Stay Loose

It's about time someone immortalised Roy Walker in song ("the never popular Roy Walker, host of TV's Catchphrase", as Fry and Laurie would have had it) and this, together with new gently punning song titles makes us wonder if the band are planning a twilight career as the twenty-first century's own Grumbleweeds. We bet Murdoch does a mean Jimmy Saville impersonation. (Everybody does a mean Saville impersonation).

SKY NEWS - FIRST WITH THE NEWS: Sky News praise Sneddon's 'most rocking single to date', blissfully unaware (we guess) that the single's been out a week and flopped.

MANCHESTER UNI TO THE ACADEMY? IT'S NOT THAT FAR: Rubbing their hands a la Sgt Bilko, the mighty The Thrills outfit seize the cash-generating qualities of success, re-releasing Santa Cruz and moving the tour to the next size of venues up.

I WANT EYE CANDY: Thanks to metafilter, we've come across this pretty damn brilliant new wave photos site with thousands of, well, new wave photos - for example, there's a great load of Bow Wow Wow pictures, garden expert Kim Wilde and the glorious x-mal deutschland.

ACTUALLY, WE THINK DUSTY WOULD APPROVE: New White Stripes video to feature Kate Moss poledancing in a skimpy bikini. We're not sure how she'll manage, being unused to working so overdressed. I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself, indeed.

AIN'T NOTHING KNOWN AT THIS ADDRESS: Universal Records can't think why anyone would be sending them a massive bag of dope, no sir, not at all - although it's not the first time the label has taken delivery of a million dollars worth of shit; there was that last S Club album for a start.

To be fair, the only things that link the mysterious big bag of ganja to Universal is (i) the simple truth that the only person working in the music industry who isn't totally whacking out, jacking up or doodling off is Ashley Olsen, who sticks to the natural highs of colonic irrigation and having her blood replaced by stuff drained from thirteen year-old English virgins every breakfast time; and (ii) the package had the address of the other main Universal Office written on and crossed out.

Now, we're not trying to do the FBI's job for them, but when we need to send stuff out of our office, we tend to pick up a Jiffy bag that has come here, cross out our address and write the new one on it. We don't know if that could be significant.

OH, WE CAN BUT HOPE: It's probably just a variant of his usual 'pity poor me' schtick, but Robbie Williams has said he's tempted to throw it all in. He's sick of people coming up to him all the time and there being people camped outside his house and so on, and that he'd rather (rather?) be a Mr. Nobody. Robbie, if you're serious, this is the first thing we've ever agreed on - we'd much rather you had no profile or singing career, too. Can we help? Perhaps if we lived outside your house for a week - would that do it? Or got a troop of people to traipse up to you?

Who knew that Robbie Williams could do something that would make us tingle with excitement?

The other thing we love about the report on Ananova is this bit:

Robbie is reported to have spent £200,000 on a Ferrari and friend Jonathan Wilkes has been teaching Robbie to drive in the grounds of the star's home.

I mean, there's not even any pretence any more, is there - short of putting quotes round 'friend' could they be any less subtle?

CRASHING INTO A BUZZING ROOM AND YELLING 'NOW THE PARTY IS HERE: Rolling Stones belatedly realise how much their snooty attitude to downloads is costing them and scramble to catch up ("Rolling Stones finally make back catalogue available online"). What we love is this quote from RealNetworks:
RealNetworks says putting the Stones' music online has Shattered the traditional notion that the most popular music isn't available online through legal sites -- only through file-sharing services like KaZaA and Morpheus that, increasingly, are like playing Tumbling Dice with the recording industry and law enforcers. Though why anyone who hadn't been convinced by iTunes or MSN Music Club's 200,000 legal downloads would be any further convinced now that Jumping Jack Flash has finally joined them isn't clear to us in any way.

HOW TO BE A BILLIONAIRE: It had to happen, unfortunately... EMI has launched a GBP1bn bid for Warner's recorded music companies in a bid to try and stymie the plans for Warner Music to merge with BMG. Failing that, it's offering to hoover up any bits that regulators make a united BMG-Warner get rid of to allow them to come together.

A few years back, everyone wanted to own record labels. Now, it's only other record companies who want to own record companies. What does that tell you about their attractiveness?

THE CURSE OF DOWNLOADING: What with downloading and piracy, it's a miracle anyone can sell any records at all, you know. The music industry as we know it is doomed and all those... hang about, we've just been handed a piece of paper... ah... somehow, despite all the gloom and misery that the BPI has been quick to push about how the kids with their MP3 tracks and blokes with car boot sales will crush the music industry to death, record levels of CDs were sold in the UK in the last three months - 228 million of the shiny little bastards. Happily, this seems to have made the BPI shut up about how evil computers are for a little while, and they';re focusing on the more positive aspects of the future, flagging the ways they're belatedly trying to create some sort of legal network for click-and-store music sales.

Meanwhile, they're also accepting that the slump in singles sales isn't down to illegal downloading alone; they give some credence to the 'rival entertainment' argument. What they don't seem capable of doing is extrapolating that, with record album sales and - as they put it - CD albums "never having been cheaper in the UK" (an average of GBP9.97 per title sold) - the four quid standard list price of a three-track single is a deal that looks even worse than it ever did. Albums are now starting to fall to a price that doesn't reek of Supernormal Profit (the stench has gone from 'hospital cleaning' strength to 'brie, just past sell-by date'); in comparison, singles look like they've been priced by the Worst Contestant On Bargain Hunt Ever. Plus, they're releasing singles by David Sneddon which just makes the whole rack of new releases feel like a dead man's garden.

THEY'RE ON TOP OF THINGS: There's a little ticker on the BPI website calling on members to not forget that AGM is on July 2nd, and promising that voting papers will be sent out this week. Maybe they should make a little ticker to ensure they don't forget to delete that at some point in the last three months.

DO WE NEED TO ACTIVELY NOT DO SOMETHING?: We're keen to join the worldwide boycott of Gene Simmons, although frankly we're thinking it might be time for sanctions, instead.

CHARTYWATCH: It seems that making teenage girls (and a fair portion of teenage boys, albeit more secretly) moist is no longer enough to guarantee you a waft-in to number one. Busted, who we have a sneaking regard for, can only clatter in at number three with Sleeping With The Light On which, while a creditable performance, is probably enough these days to prompt emergency meetings at the record label. We're guessing the nuclear option will be deployed, and expect One of Busted to have a high-profile short-lived romance before October. Please, just not an Olsen twin. What will smart even more is that Blu Cantrell's Breathe has been number one for (in 2003 terms) eons and eons, and the band couldn't even shift Ultrabeat from number two, either. Jamieson is a new entry at four (Complete) with some of that UK garage stuff which is meant to be so over now (although so is buying singles, so I guess you can't expect people who still purchase them to pay any concern to the diktats of fashion). Richard X and Kelis are in at nine with Finest Dreams, the reconstruction of the Human League and the SOS Band. We're wondering if it isn't time Mr. X moved on to doing something else, lest he gets himself pegged as the Starsound/Jive Bunny of our day - there's clearly more mileage to be had in the - ahem - mash-up cover genre, but MTV electing to give a whole show over to it suggests that the smarter move would be to move on.

R Kelly and 'Big Trigger' (is that what he's calling it these days?) hit ten with Snake (oh, maybe that's it); Stacie Orrico is the latest in the long line of too-young girls having hits - we don't know if her mother is also her manager, and we certainly don't know if she's siphoning off the earnings from this hit, but if she's not, then there's going to be no trace left when this career sinks deeply into Guiness Book footnotes. [Note to self: delete if she has two top-selling albums]. Korn's Did My Time (from the new Tomb Rader movie - we'd have got Billy Bob Thornton to do it ourselves) is in at fifteen, and like a voice from the past David Sneddon charts at 19. You might recall Sneddon was the soulless winner of last year's Fame Academy, and so it's perhaps appropriate that this flops just as the next soulless winner is gearing up to take over his title. Kings of Leon enter Molly's Chambers at 23, while the second sighting of a Kellis new entry - this time with P Diddy on Let's Get Ill makes a sickly 25, something Puff will be pissed off about.

When she had that number one a couple of years ago, Leann Rimes was being spoken of as the chosen one, the person who would bring country to a whole new generation. Since then, her profile has been high only amongst those of us who go diving in the bargain bins, and she's been reduced to grubbing a living doing the theme for Legally Blonde II (aka Why We Can No Longer Picture Reese Witherspoon Naked). A grudging nation has granted this the 27 slot, but we guess if you'd make that, you'll take anything you can. Kelly Rowland's Train on a Track has barely stuck round long enough to make an impression (down 14 to 34) while Eminem's Business at least makes up in longevity what it lacked in original whoompf, trickling enough sales for a sixth week in the Top 40. QFX and The Bluetones complete the debutantes in the 40 - the former with Freedom (36) and the latter with Never Going Nowhere (40).

Being dead really is a great career move, isn't it? There have now been so many posthumous releases from Eva Cassidy we're starting to wonder if there isn't a little Virgina Andrews style behind the scenes eking of material going on. Whatever, we would kiss her firmly on the lips for kicking Robbie off the album chart slot (American Tunes, New entry at one). Meanwhile, the Barry White best of that returned when Bazza departed is still selling well (down one at 15), while Luther Vandross chose just the wrong moment to come out the coma, accounting for his relatively low 18 starting point for the 'Essential...'

Sean Paul's involvement in the long-reigning number one single helps his Dutty Rock climb again to a career-best number four, battering his head against the arse-ceiling of Williams and Beddingfield at two and three. Kosheen's Kokopelli enters at number seven and Partytime, from the Cheeky Girls, debuts at 14. Since it seems that the 'girls' 'cheery' persona and use of the word 'party' makes it likely this album will be one of those staples in every mobile DJ's arsenal (along with Russ Abbot and the Vengaboys), we would like to take this opportunity to announce our cancellation of attendance at any social function in the coming months.

Lisa Maffia's First Lady can only claim the 44 slot, which will be something of a disappointment following the heavy press and publicity slog she's undertaken in support (now would probably be a really good time for FHM to call suggesting a photoshoot). Shack, on the other hand, will see 55 as a good result for Here's Tom With The Weather, and will decide to leave it another fifteen years before making a record.

[made with blogcritics in mind]

IT WAS THE NEXT BEST THING TO BEING THERE, AND LEAVING REALLY EARLY: We've suggested before that ITV2 really is the natural home for the 'coverage' of the V Festival, the annual event that exists solely to provide consolation prizes to people unable to get tickets to Reading or Glastonbury; the Nationwide League festival finding a home on a largely unloved channel. But even the low expectations the phrase "ITV2 at the V2003 Festival" conjures up weren't quite met by what went out on screen last night. If we didn't know better, we'd think ITV was only really interested in some cheap music footage to fill up the night-time hours in the coming year, and the live elements were chucked in to seal the deal and make the festival feel they were important.

Lisa Snowdon and Zoe Ball were hired to present. Yeah, Lisa Snowdon is so much more than lingerie model; she's flogged breakfast cereal in her pants as well. Fair enough, she did a short spell on Top of the Pops, but the key word here is "short", and being asked to provide intelligent links on a semi-live music show was like asking a porpoise to lend a hand with plumbing on the grounds that it knows a bit about water. Zoe - who, on form, can handle a live show with wit and aplomb - clearly decided that if Lisa S was the level of performance ITV2 wanted, then she'd be able to be just as useless as her. The producer wants shooting for allowing the pair to perform to camera with Posh Spice (circa 2001) mirrored sunglasses, too - without wanting to sound like a Daily Mail editorial, telly presenters where you can't see their eyes (and, indeed, get a reflection of the bored-looking crew instead) are just being rude. Having said which, it sums up the whole couldn't-give-a-fuck attitude - the by-now-cliched "we gave four festival virgins a video camera, this is their diary..." feature shouldn't have been broadcast - I could live with it being a tired idea that ran through every single commonplace (look, there are queues; look, the toilets are really bad - erm, except this was early on the first day, so in what way were they bad?), but the girls hadn't even managed to work the camera properly, and so every shot was totally overexposed and the whole thing was unwatchable.

Meanwhile, they kind-of missed the point of the V festival, which is, supposedly, the music. With a mixture of artists who are actually at the top of their fighting powers (the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, the bemusingly respected Queens of the Stone Age) and acts who some people might want to see (Coldplay, David Gray, and the other mainstays of Groups Who Sell Well At Asda), you'd have thought that there would at least have been some plum musical gems to make up for the dross. So why, then, was the programme mainly comprised of the sort of filler muck that the BBC's Glastonbury coverage relies on when there's nothing going on on stage? To make matters worse, they'd actually cut short the music they did get round to playing to bring us Zoe Ball being shown a drummer's dressing room backstage (it's a Portakabin with a drumkit inside it) or Lisa interviewing someone she clearly has never heard of.

One of the interviewees was Skin who claimed that she'd gone down great on the previous day's leg of the festival - it was rammed with people, jumping up and down, singing along even although the album hasn't been out that long (and hasn't been selling). Curiously, the footage of her performance on that day showed this audience not quite as keen - indeed, they stood stock-still and looked bemused. Not surprising since the first thirty-dozen rows seemed to consist of fourteen year old kids from Toffland, who wouldn't recognise a genius if they had been set it as a GCSE subject. She thrashed and clambered and flung herself about, and the audience stared.

The best thing ITV2 did was to bring us Polly Harvey - knee high boots, too-short cowgirl style outfit - doing 'Dress'. For a moment, it was almost as if the producers had been hit by a falling crate of good taste. Unfortunately, at this point the picture went blank. After a couple of minutes, a hastily-banged together slide promised 'Programming Will Continue In A Few Minutes' (just like it was the early days of television) but when, eventually, ITV2 roared back into life they'd decided to stick on a Blur video instead. Dismal coverage that wasn't even considered worth stuggling to get back onto the screen. An uncared for festival given a half-hearted show. You sometimes get what you deserve. More SOS than V.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

LET'S HOPE THIS DOESN'T SPREAD WORLDWIDE: The bodyguards of Mexican singer Lucero drew guns on journalists - although having said that, maybe we should encourage a return to the days when nme hacks would rountinely find themselves being punched by the people they were interviewing. It would at least show that the paper was returning to the days of being a gleeful irritant at the edge of the music industry, instead of just re-running press releases without apparently asking them anything.

IGGY UNPLUGGED: So, the blackout led to Iggy & The Stooges pulling their first hometown show in thirty years. Course, back in the old days Iggy would never have been hobbled by a little thing like no electricity; he'd have set his pants on fire and shouted louder. Age has clearly withered him.

GOOGLENEWSTREAT: Gotta love that Google News Machine, which sometimes serves up the most gorgeously wrong pictures for the headline stories:


Hitting puberty has really had a detrimental effect on the Olsen Twins, hasn't it?

CIRCULATORY FURTHERMENT: We were looking at the circulation figures for the nme earlier this week before the whole story had emerged, so it's only fair to point out that while their figures weren't exactly stellar, a massive slump in Kerrang sales has seen the NME regain its position as the biggest selling rock weekly in the world. Kerrang is down now to 70,361, discarding over 15% of its readership in the last year (most of whom grew up and realised Fred Durst and Korn are laughable in the last six months.) Rock Sound has also dumped fourteen percent of its readers, providing the sweet possibility that Nu-Rock really is, like, so, over. Q is doing better than this time last year, but not as well as six months ago and, unsurprisingly, the 'dump 'em in pubs' approach of The Fly means the giveaway title is pretty steady in the number of copies being used to mop up spilled beer, provide somewhere to write addresses on and just generally provide splifftastic material. Media Guardian has the, erm, Top Nine titles listed. Oddly absent from the website is the comments of the Kerrang spokesperson that appeared in Thursday's paper, where he suggested something to the effect that the drop in sales at Kerrang were just floating metal fans ebbing away, as if that made it alright and not disturbing. We don't remember Kerrang standing up when they overtook the NME saying "Please don't be fooled by our high sales, a lot of these are merely being bought by people who are following metal because it's trendy at the moment..."

V... FOR VICTORY... YOU UNDERSTAND? GO... TELL YOUR FRIENDS: The website - credit where it's due - has done a cracking job covering the V Festival as it happens, which is quite touching for The Festival Nobody Really Cares About (aka "No, really, I prefer V to Glastonbury, honestly, I love Chelmsford in the summertime..."). You can tell V is the slightly wheezy brother to Reading and Glasto by the live coverage on ITV2, that repository of programming which is so poor it doesn't even displace ITV Nightscreen on the senior service. The downside of having a crack team of journos at the two sites is that they've not got very much to report on - faced with stories like one of the appletons says one of the Liams might come tomorrow, David Gray quite dull and Dave Grohl not playing drums with Killing Joke, you just hope that today they get something meaty to report on.

But if nothing else, kudos to the nme for naming PJ Harvey star of the show. Once again, she makes us wish we'd been there:


Although we're a little curious as to why she was wearing exactly the same outfit that she had for the Big Day Out...

R&OBIT: Last Wednesday, Ed Townsend, who wrote Lets Get It On for Marvin Gaye. died of heart failure in Sab Bernardino. Townsend wrote numerous other hits, including What Does A Girl Do for the Shirelles, which contained the following, slightly over-optimistic, couplet:

When a boy meets a girl
That he wants for the rest of his life
He just walks right up to her
Says, "Darling please be my wife"