Sunday, October 31, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: The Peel Acres
This time last week Peel Acres merely referred to the place where John lived and usually broadcast from. Now, of course, it's an apt description of the amount of newsprint that has been produced in his honour - mostly - and remembering a man who we suspect would be genuinely surprised and probably totalled embarrassed by the depths of feeling pouring out. A lot of it is covered in the Peel uber-post on No Rock, but there's a few things worth singling out. Not least the Independent, which carried Andy Kershaw's not entirely shaded suggestion that the moving of the show to straddle midnight was killing him - "You're bigger than the BBC" replied Kershaw, encouraging him to resist being shunted off. Although, of course, for a man repeatedly described as self-effacing throughout his many obituaries this week, bursting into Andy Parfitt's office insisting on being given the breakfast show would be exactly what he wasn't about. We're not sure if it was appropriate for Kershaw to mention the timeslot and its apparent toll so soon after the death of his friend - although we understand his anger, the effort of being over a thousand feet above sea level for a man reportedly very badly out of condition, with a severe type of diabetes may have been more than enough to steal him, without any effect of some late nights. Of course, Andy Parfitt had given a couple of press interviews in the first couple of days after Peel's death was announced saying how hard it had been to persuade him to take the holiday in Peru in the first place. So maybe, inadvertently, management had killed him after all - but with kindness.

Trevor Dann offered some memories for the Independent Arts & Books Review - and it turns out Peel had something in common with his fellow East Anglian based dj: "I [Dann] was an advocate of the A10; [Peel] preferred the A505 right round Royston to the A1. For weeks, he'd keep me informed of various time trials that he'd done using different routes, all proving that he was right in the first place."

Perhaps the oddest claim in all the coverage was the Daily Mail's, that he was a "stalwart of middle England" - although he probably was, the middle England he represented wasn't the one imagined by the Daily Mail, a Tory voting yeoman paradise which exists in solely in the mind of toffs who live in London townhouses; it was a much more settled, co-operative place, and - crucially - one which values institutions like the BBC and the opportunities they offer everybody to get on air.

Disagreeing with the Mail, Ian Pring sent a snotty letter to the Guardian complaining that Peel wasn't Middle England enough: "If a piece of rock or pop lasted longer than three minutes, he had no time for it. And in the late 1970s he introduced an inverted snobbery into rock music criticism by using his position to present any band that ever tried to do something more ambitiuous than the working class rants of the Sex Pistols as middle class and pretentious. Class shouldn't have aplace in music, but John peel helped keep it there for over 30 years." We have no idea who Pring is, but we're guessing he's a public school boy who had his prog rock demo cruelly ignored in 1979. There's so just many flaws in his argument - how many fifteen minute chunks of hardcore dance has he played? If he was so busy making a fetish of the working class, how did Chapterhouse ever get a session?

Other matters: The Economist featured a Music Industry Special Report, which is one of those things that the music industry hates: an impartial, cool eye being run over their businesses. The Economist chided the industry as it "rarely develops new artists into long-lasting acts, relying instead on short-term hist promoted in mainstream media" - so much for the RIAA's boasts about how they develop the next generation of artists off the profits from today's giants. Instead, as the paper makes clear, the labels are basically just driving today's new acts into a short-lived cycle, like a farming raping his fields for a couple of years of massive yields and not worrying about how the ground will be left barren. And the metaphor carries through, too: the Economist points out that, for an industry which relies for much of its sales on back catalogue, it's coming dangerously close to not replenishing that catalogue at all with its current crop. Mind you, the industry has never been as good as it likes to think at developing talent anyway: An impala survey suggests that 65% of the Major's back catalogue comes from bands that were developed by the indie sector.

There's also another kicking for the RIAA's fascination on the internet as being the cause of all evil: The Economist has seen a survey which suggests that the drop in American sales had little to do with the web - At least two-thirds to three-quarters of the drop was down to other factors. That report was produced by, um, one of the major labels. So even they know they're fighting a paper tiger. But, hey, it's easier to throw a few lawsuits at teenagers than to have to explain to shareholders why their business is fucked. It's just a pity the BPI are adopting the same angle.

Even more interesting is the claim by Sam Yagan that his company, eDonkey, has had meeting with of "three of the four majors" about how they can work together. Now, that's confusing, isn't it? The RIAA trying to tell you that illegal filesharing is wrong and bad while simultaneously trying to do a deal with the bloke who makes it possible - why, it almost would unpick any of the "educative" effect of those legal actions were people to think about it.

Even had the NME turned up on time, it would have seemed a bit like a missive from another a time, crashing out on the day after our Princess Diana moment. With the Scissor Sisters on the cover, with a really beautiful set of blue-themed pictures, oddly, the NME felt a bit like the future rather than being out-of-date.

Having said which, their news kicks off with a Stone Roses reunion (or rather Mani popping up onstage at manchester during the Ian Brown set), which is more like suggesting Brett Anderson and Neil Codling shopping together would be a Suede reunion. And Noel Gallagher was there, too. We imagine someone from security will be in trouble for letting him through.

It comes to something when the NME US election feature is a more weighty piece than the one in the Radio Times (they, by the way, have an article on the Simpsons and an article on Dead Ringers, and not a word about, you know, the chances of the Supreme Court being turned into a far-right playground or a pre-emptive war on a nuclear power or anything. Because that's not what it's about... it's about Bush saying "misunderstimating.") NME grill various Americas on how they intend to vote - generally, they plump for Kerry, although without very much enthusiasm. It's all useful information for the Republicans, who have, we're sure, taken names and are making arrangements for voting slips to go "missing" even as we speak.

Peter Robinson takes on Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol. He chooses Dannii Minogue to put up his shelves, rather than Kylie, because she's dirtier. Ah, but can she handle a plumb line?

The new think-pieces are split between Dan Martin calling for young bands to get smart, and, um, Maggot from GLC calling for the BPI to get off the kid's backs. Tv On The Radio are interviewed, though, and seem to be offering exactly what Martin wants - David Sitek almost spits with contempt at the idea that pop can be anything more than a platform, that it can be the message itself: "How deep can you get in three minutes anyway?" (Shipbuilding? White Riot?)

The Scissers piece is happy, fluffy stuff: Jake Shears realised he was gay when he heard the B52s' Cosmic Thing and Deee-Lite's World Clique; we guess the boys who'll be feeling everything snap into place this coming year will be what's known as a "knock-on effect."

Dominic Masters of The Others then turns up a few pages later - he's fairly relaxed talking sexuality at first - "if you're a 12-year-old bisexual and you don't see any difference between a boy and girl, it's pretty fucking difficult explaining that to everyday people in Somerset" and happily brings up mention of his partner, Johan in the context of proving "you can be normal, everyday indie kids and shag boys"; when Tim Jonze asks him a further question, he snaps "I thought you'd be better than to sensationalize something like this but if you find my partner's sexuality central to your feature, read that article [in AXM]." Which is a little unfair, as Jonze didn't really appear to be pushing for a shock horror angle, and Masters had just been talking about the joys of going out for a meal with your transexual partner in Newquay. It's especially odd coming so soon after complaining that Morrissey and Franz Ferdinand avoid the subject: can you really want to take a stand on your sexuality and then get pissy when people ask you about it? Can you have a pop at Mozzer for keeping his private life private when you want to do the same?

But before we can arrive at answers to these questions, we're swooshed off to the next issue, which is crack in the community. Jonze, of course, wrote a piece for dazed and confused questioning the level of crack use amongst London's Burning bands - although in this weeks Letters Page he clarifies that "to suggest that every band within the M25 is made-up of evil drug-trafficking scum-sacks is the kind of scaremongering that will only result in ridicule or a staff job at the Daily Mail" - so it's interesting for him to put his theory to one of the bands involved. How can a scene based around community espouse a drug that's ripping communities apart. Masters' response is curious - it's almost an inversion of Chris Morris' gag about how it's okay to use heroin if you're middle class: apparently, yes, in Birkenhead and Burnage and Moss Side, yes, crack has done bad things but "It all goes back to this idea of personal choice... we haven't had a death on our hands, and it's because we preach this idea of regulation." Eh? It's free choice, but regulated free choice? Then Masters goes a step further: it's only a problem if you're weak. "if you're a weak person, then don't have a drug habit. You'll be on it forever." But, Dominic, how do you know if you've got an addicitive personality unless you become an addict? Isn't it like offering someone a bag of peanuts and, when they're on the floor clutching their throats, suggesting "you shouldn't eat them if you've got a nut allergy"? It's all a very confused picture, and the sort of stance which might work within a warm commune, but sounds dangerously like a woolly endorsement once you've got a nationwide platform.

At long last, someone's had the guts to compare Britney Spears and Selfish Cunt (the band, not her husband). Britney manages to win on the basis of having sold lots, lots more records.

Tim Jonze is off asking about sex again on page 41 - the Hidden Cameras ask him to perv the interview down. This comes after he suggests Golden Streams is actually called Golden Showers.

reviews
live
hope of the states - belfast mandela hall - "a hurricane of a show"
biffy clyro - glasgow barrowlands - "moments of abject loveliness"
the boxer rebellion - sheffield zero - "devastatingly tuneful"

albums
kings of leon - aha shake heartbreak - "I fell in love with it immedeatly", 8
the 5678s - teenage mojo workout - "the numbers don't add up", 5
leonard cohen - dear heather - "the best of Leonard Cohen was released in 1975", 7

tracks
totw - the dears - lost in the plot - "next stop, Fearne Cotton's place"
britney spears - my perogative - "In summary: fuck you, world"
black wire - the face - "quality"

Anthony Thornton is had up on the defend your iPod feature to argue his way out of having Mr Blue Sky there. Anthony, you really should meet my wife.

And, finally, to the Wall Street Journal, which noted a trend which we had missed: for some reason, muses the WSJ, British advertisers seem obsessed with Elvis Presley. It's true, you know - probably stretching back to that One2One Kate Moss one.


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