Saturday, February 28, 2004

'JACKSON INNOCENT' SAYS JACKSON FRIEND: Videographer Christian Robinson claims that he shot a film where the boy at the centre of the Michael Jackson kiddie-fiddie claims denied anything had ever happened. Robinson says he interviewed the boy and his family on-camera shortly after the Bashir/Tonight documentary, asking them numerous times if Michael had sexually abused the boy. Everyone was very firm in saying no, he reports - although, of course, at this point it's not impossible the boy hadn't told anyone else; in which case he'd hardly be likely to announce it on camera straight away.

What's curious, though, is that Jacko's then-official cameraman put so much effort in to filming a video to deny something that Bashir had never actually accused Jackson of; almost as if they were preparing a denial of a totally different allegation they were expecting.

Asked if the film just showed a family sticking to a script, Robinson is vehement:

"I will tell you this, the family was not coached. The family was incredibly passionate, not just the accuser and his family, but the other two siblings. There were tears, they were holding hands, they were talking about Jesus and God and Michael as the ultimate father figure."

Which is frightening on quite a lot of levels - there's a family putting a lot of trust in a pop star.

A further oddity is that while Robinson is very clear about the 'jacko never put his peepee near me' material, asked about the sleepovers, he starts to sound very vague indeed. Curious, that.

In other deposed King of Pop news, Michael has been pulled over outside a wal-Mart in Colorado because he was wearing a mask. Police presumably thought he might have been Osama Bin Laden; he removed the mask, and was allowed to continue on his way. Although, with the speed his face is collapsing, we'd have thought people would have had more luck identifying Jacko with a face mask than without.

RETRIEVER BRINGS BACK THE PRIZE: Earlier in the week, the great and the good of the Welsh music scene came together for their national music awards, the winners of which actually included some innovative and spunky bands. Which leads us to wonder how a National regional Awards ceremony can find stuff worth praising, why is the National, Kingdom wide awards ceremony still giving prizes to Dido?

Those winners in full, then:

Best female solo artist - Amy Wadge
Best male solo artist - Martyn Joseph
Best newcomer - Funeral For A Friend
Best single - Super Furry Animals - Golden Retriever
Best album - Funeral For A Friend - Casually Dressed And Deep In Conversation
Best rock act - Lostprophets
Best pop act - Lisa Scott-Lee
Best dance night - Escape, Swansea
Best up-and-coming DJ - Mat Joy
Best DJ - Danny Slade
Best dance act - Goldie Lookin' Chain
Best Welsh language newcomer - Kentucky AFC
Best Welsh language act - Texas Radio Band
Best Welsh language dance act - Pep Le Pew
Best Welsh language release - Kentucky AFC - Bodlon
Best label - Boobytrap
Best producer - High Contrast
Best rock and pop venue - Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
Best dance venue - Escape, Swansea
Best music TV programme - Pop Factory - ITV1
Best radio show - Bethan And Huw - BBC Radio One
Outstanding contribution to Welsh music - Mike Peters

So, it's been a good couple of weeks for Mike Peters, whose stunt that didn't really prove anything has seen him popping up all over the place (although it seems to have taken the national media about a week and a half to cotton on that the Poppyfields were really the Alarm) - he was on BBC One's Breakfast this week, with a clearly excited Bill Turnbill doing the honours ("So, why were there sixty-eight guns?"); Lisa Scott-Lee perhaps would have swapped her prize from the principality for keeping her recording deal, but maybe she should explore becoming a proper welsh artist; the runrig of Wales? The other interesting thing is that, despite the fact they wipe the floor musically with most of the English language acts, the Welsh-language bands only triumphed in their own sector of the contest, none breaking through to be judged the very best out of all Welsh music.

MADONNA LOSES MUSE: The shrinking influence of Madonna in the music industry has been shown again, with her vanity sub-label Maverick losing the US deal with Muse to Warners. Maverick is looking pretty much a dead duck these days.

BUY ALL THREE FOR THE COMPLETE SET: Ryan Adams is set to dip into his fan's pockets by re-releasing Love Is Hell, this time with the former twin eps as a single album.

BUY IT ALL OVER AGAIN: Ryan Adams to try the patience of fans further by re-releasing Love Is Hell all over again, this time as a single album.

Friday, February 27, 2004

MUST BE OVER 16. OVER SIXTEEN. DID WE MENTION IT?: We know there's reasons why kids wandering round TV studios have to be grown up enough to be able to gamble on the National Lottery, but could there be any other reason this mail out we've just received is making it clear the invite is going to older teenagers and upwards only?

Janet Jackson is back with her new album Damita Jo which will be released on March 29th ...and the best news of all is that she’s coming to the UK!!  If you are aged 16 or over and would like to enter the draw to see Janet perform at CD:UK, along with 3 of your friends (must also be aged 16 or over) then...

FOREVER LIVE AND DIE: Depressing news from David Demko, who's calculated the ages of when pop stars will die: Sting will live to the age of 83.

Mind you, Demko's accuracy (Whitney Houston's only got thirteen years to go) is questionable - he predicts that Keith Richards should have died six years ago; although , to be fair, nobody can be quite sure that he didn't.

I'M MISSIN A LIFE/ IF I AINT GIVIN UP AN ASS KISSIN/ NO TELEVISION OR MOVIE STYLE: Here comes Chuck D TV, as the PE peep prepares to help launch an all hip-hop network in the states. MTV is expected to respond by showing double the number of Beyonce videos.

WELL, IT'S LESS CRAZY THAN VOTING FOR NADER: Who will win the next US Presidential elections, the question on everyone's lips. (Except for in the White House, where they already know what the result is going to be - Bush 67%; Kerry 23%, assuming Jeb doesn't fuck up the delivery of Florida this time.) There's one more hat been thrown into the ring, though - Ronnie James Dio. He's got positions on the issues - gay marriage? "Rob Halford wants it, so it's alright by me" - and he has the support. The only question is, does the constitutional separation of church and state mean he won't be able to do the devil metal sign at his inauguration? [Playing Andrew Marr: rocktober]

YOU LIKE JULIAN COPE? NO SOUP FOR YOU: Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha... Bill Drumond's drawing a line down the UK and marching up and down it handing out soup. Just Krazy, with a kapital K, don't you think? You can even get him to come and make soup for you, if you live near the line and don't think you'd be better off with a mug, a kettle and a cup-a-soup.

We also hear that several shops all over the country will be selling soup in the coming weeks, proving that once again Bill Drumond is ahead of the pack.

(Interestingly, seems to be the last person in the world to believe that the KLF did really burn a million quid on a Scottish island. They're wacky, but they're not mad).

SNOOP DOGGY NO DOPE NO MORE: So, Snoop says he's given up the weed. In an interview with Radio One he said: "Yeaaaah... I've given... up on the weed. The dope. The grass. [Wild giggling]. The 24 hour garage was out of Toblerones... it just wasn't... what's the word? hungry? Doesn't that sound odd? Huh-un-gree..." ("I was really starting to feel like a drug addict, because you associate Snoop Dogg with weed. It wasn't good movies or great music, it was Snoop Dogg... weed... I just said: "I don't want it no more." I just left it alone, and once I started leaving it alone... I'm so controlled now, you know what I'm saying, I'm a better person, I'm a better father - it helped me to coach football. When I stopped smoking, I put signs up at my studio: "No smoking, no alcohol, no nothing" and the homies were coming over and they were like: "Damn, he really ain't smoking, he's really serious!")

THERE'S A SIMPSONS MOMENT FOR EVERY HAPPENING: In the episode where the Simpsons house is given a mobile phone mast, Lisa and Homer visit a museum. Lisa is delighted to see Abe Lincoln's hat, while Homer is more taken with Fonzie's leather jacket. Lisa's reaction is that the idea of putting an item of clothing from a TV character into a museum is ridiculous, and clearly, we're meant to agree with her.

Now, join us back in real life, where Clay Aiken's shirt and pants are being displayed in the North Carolina Museum of History - that's right, of History. It's not even the pants he was wearing when he won the American Idol final; it's just a costume from earlier in the series - presumably the Smithsonian had already nabbed his victory trousers.

But if we put pop stars trousers into museums, what will be left for the Hard Rock Cafe?

WOOAH, NELLY: "I'm not a one-trick pony" protests Nelly Furtado, clearly mishearing 'trick' for 'hit'.

BREASTS NOW EVIL - OFFICIAL: The latest victim of the post-Jackson fallout: UPN have cropped the images of the America's Next Top Model contestants on their website because they were bodypainted, and thus naked, and thus wrong and thus evil.

Meanwhile, the NFL seems to be pulling itself together after it literally burned the retinas from millions with its seedy superbowl show; Pepsi had threatened to pull its sponsorship of the American Football organisation, but has thought better of it.

We can't think of any reason why...


... Pepsi might have decided...


... they could be on shaky ground playing with moral outrage...

HALLIWELL GOES TO HARVARD: Apparently, our Geri has been talking to a whole bunch of doctors about eating disorders claiming it was living with the Spice Girls which turned her into a bingey-puker, despite, erm, saying she "first became bulimic after sharing a flat with a "very thin" woman in Spain as she was trying for a break into showbiz." So... you already had a disease when you moved in with the others, but it was their fault. I see.

SAX AND SEXABILITY: There's much more granularity (as people seem obsessed with saying in meetings we go to these days) about the Prince musicology tour now avaialble, with details of who the new New Power Generation will be - John Blackwell (drums), Greg Boyer (trombone),
Candy Dulfer (saxophone), Chance Howard (trumpet), Renato Neto (piano and
synthesizers), Maceo Parker (saxophone), RAD. (vocals and keyboards), and
Rhonda Smith (bass) - and those US dates in almost full:
March 29 Los Angeles Staples Center
March 31 Phoenix Glendale Arena
April 2 Dallas American Airlines Center
April 6 Oklahoma City Ford Center
April 7 Omaha Qwest Center
April 8 Ames Hilton Coliseum
April 10 Champaign Assembly Hall
April 12 Indianapolis Conseco Fieldhouse
April 13 Cincinnati U.S Bank Arena
April 14 Pittsburgh Mellon Arena
April 16 Columbus Value City Arena,Schottenstein Center
April 17 Cleveland Gund Arena
April 18 State College Bryce Jordan Center
April 21 Columbia Colonial Center
April 22 Knoxville Thompson-Boling Arena
April 23 Raleigh RBC Center
April 25 Ft. Lauderdale Office Depot Center
April 26 Tampa St. Pete Times Forum
April 27 Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena
April 29 Birmingham BJCC Coliseum
April 30 Atlanta Philips Arena
May 1 Biloxi Mississippi Coast Coliseum
May 4 Kansas City Kemper Arena
May 5 St. Louis Savvis Center
May 6 Nashville Gaylord Entertainment Center
June 12 Bossier City CenturyTel Center
with a vague additional promise of
Boston Chicago Detroit Houston Las Vegas Milwaukee Minneapolis New York City Philadelphia Portland San Francisco Seattle
to come

FREE THE MUSIC: It's still in its early stages, and it's somewhat dance-biased at the moment, but the Netlabel Catalogue looks set to be a handy guide to labels offering free music online. And it has RDF and RSS feedage as well.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

3AM ETERNAL: Stretching a rubbish idea past it's breaking point, the Daily Mirror is asking its 3am girls to fill a whole magazine to compete with Now and Closer and all that lot.Sceptics aren't sure that there's enough stuff on the internet for them copy out to fill the whole proposed title, although pictures of Jennifer Lopez's arse and Geri Halliwell might help a bit.

FLOREAT HOVA: It's not often you can say a top band has added a date in Hove, but the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have. Yeah! And, of course, yeah, yeah. (The Old Market, Hove, April 18th)

SAUSAGES: Some bloke is suing Sum41 because they threw a hotdog at him at a baseball game. Michael Sudore says that his image has been tarnished - to the tune of GBP3.3 million - by the band filming the incident and putting it on a DVD, and that it's caused "psychological trauma." And humiliation, even. Now, again, throwing food at someone and using them in a pop video without asking isn't a nice thing to do, but we'd never heard of Michael Sudore before he brought the case, and now, we don't think "there's the man who was hit by a flying sausage" but "that's the bloke who tried to gorge himself on damages by launching a grossly inflated lawsuit against Sum 41."

SAUSAGES: Some bloke is suing Sum41 because they threw a hotdog at him at a baseball game. Michael Sudore says that his image has been tarnished - to the tune of GBP3.3 million - by the band filming the incident and putting it on a DVD, and that it's caused "psychological trauma." And humiliation, even. Now, again, throwing food at someone and using them in a pop video without asking isn't a nice thing to do, but we'd never heard of Michael Sudore before he brought the case, and now, we don't think "there's the man who was hit by a flying sausage" but "that's the bloke who tried to gorge himself on damages by launching a grossly inflated lawsuit against Sum 41."

MAKES YOU THINK: Showing his knack for picking some three-legged dogs of projects hasn't deserted him, Lou Reed is readying an album of meditation music. It's good for doing various chis and might even include some instructions about how to meditate (presumably 'one. think. Er, that's it') from "doctor S Peng."

I'LL STUMBLE FOR YOU: It seems Ray Davies was more seriously injured when he got shot than we were lead to believe; medical advice has lead to him pulling out of this week's Tibert House benefit at Carnegie Hall. He's hoping to be allowed to fly back to the UK "soon."

STAXOBIT: Estelle Axton, co-founder of Stax Records, has died at the age of 85. Known to artists on the label as Lady A, Estelle founded the label with her brother Jimmy Stewart, taking out a second mortgage to help fund the creation of what was originally called Satellite Records in 1957. A name change was forced by the existence of a California label of the same name, so STewart and AXton combined their names to create the brand that would launch Booker T and The MGs, Otis Reading, Sam and Dave and many others. The label was royally shafted by Atlantic who claimed ownership of all Stax's masters prior to the label's 1968 sale to Gulf and Western. Stax eventually closed in 1976, following a buy back lead by Stewart and a further piece of Major Label chicanery. Columbia Records reneged on a verbal agreement with the then head of Stax, Al Bell, regarding payment for distribution rights, which drove the label into bankruptcy.

THE PENNY'S DROPPED: Sit yourself down, and have a good strong drink to hand: Sixpence None The Richer have split. Don't be too quick to call for today to be marked as a public holiday for all eternity - there's still a very real risk of a b-sides compilation thing this August - but there will be no more pointless, so-lite-it-makes-Dido-seem-like-Lemmy, winsome tunery created. Matt Slocum - which always struck us as more a boast than a surname - intends to go back to school, where he might learn all sorts of things. Like some people do turn their volume knob up beyond two, for instance.

GAGS NOT GAGS: That freedom of speech that Americans are currently being blown to pieces in Iraq to protect is getting a bit of a kicking back at home, as America's biggest radio company Clear Channel introduces a 'zero tolerance' policy. Now, of course, it's not totally down to Clear Channel that they want to tighten up on what their on-air talent does - they're being threatened with a USD755,000 fine from the FCC as a result of Bubba The Love Sponge's doings on his show from Florida (although not, apparently, the incident where he slaughtered a pig live on air - who wants to hear a blubbery creature squealing in dumb terror over the airwaves at breakfast, especially because this one didn't have the luxury of a Comedy Dave sidekick?). And with the FCC in prime, puritanical, Roundhead mode, it's even possible to understand Clear Channel's reluctance to question the overwrought and heavy-handed application of the code that is being imposed on America's media. What does suck, however, is the apparent rushing to do the government's reactionary job for them. CC will suspend - without further ado - anybody who gets a proposed fine levied against them (that is, as soon as the FCC announce they're considering a complaint); if the FCC do find against the presenter, they'll be sacked on the spot - and in the unlikely event that the FCC do decide to not issue a fine or a slap on the wrist, Clear Channel will still hold its own investigation and might sack the poor sod anyway. (It's interesting that, in announcing its new policy, Clear stated "Clear Channel is serious about helping address the rising tide of indecency on the airwaves" - thereby just accepting the highly dubious claim that there is a rising tide of indecency rather than suggesting that there might not be).

Now, nobody wants to have a world where kiddies are forced to watch Barney the Dinosaur talking about fisting and you can't switch on a radio without hearing the sound of three people shagging their arses off, but Clear Channel's bowdlerization of the airwaves is a jump way too far in the opposite direction: one allegation and you're off the air, and possibly fired even if the FCC do clear you? That's the way to encourage inventive, risk-taking radio. What if such rules applied in the UK? For a start, Simon Mayo's career would have been in tatters the moment he played the wrong version of whatever single it was he kept playing the non-safe radio edit. Mark Radcliffe wouldn't be going to Radio 2, he'd be off down the dole office following his accidental 'fuck' a couple of months ago. Sara Cox would never have survived the Ali G interview; John Peel would have been taken out and shot sometime around 1977. Chris Moyles has had so many Radio Authority findings against him he'd be lucky to get a gig on Oxford Street inviting passers-by in to look at the sale of old blouses and slacks. And that's just off the top of our heads. Clear is basically saying that not only must its staff be clean, there's no excuses, no apologies, no second chance for even a simple mistake - so, having successfully bred out any excitement in the music, it's now creating a second level of blandishment, by creating a climate of fear so strong at its stations that any presenter who wants to be able to guarantee his ability to provide his kids with spaghetti-os and twinkies will do little more than stick to a very tight script.

As an example of how stupid the new rules are: Clear has pulled Howard Stern from its network until it can be guaranteed it conforms to the diktat. Now, Stern has made some pretty dreadful radio, but is there anyone in the world who would tune in to his show unaware of what they might hear? To ban Stern until he can pledge to be safe for minors and nuns is akin to closing down a Ruebens exhibition until the organisers can promise there won't be any nudity.

NOW, THIS TIME, GEORGE, DON'T GO ROUND SAYING HE ASKED FOR IT: 'Boy' George settles a libel action for having told Boyz Magazine that the person who he'd paid damages to because he'd punched him had, nevertheless, deserved to be hit.

Hmmm. Announcing that the damages paid for committing a crime weren't the same thing as accepting liability for the crime... maybe George should take Taboo to Tripoli, where they seem to share a mindset...

SCOTT-LEE TOO FAR GONE: The former member of Steps are finding life as solo artists much harder going than back in the day when all they had to do was smile a bit and keep in time with each other on the dance moves - now Lisa Scott-Lee has been dumped by Mecury because of record sales. There weren't any, in other words.

Lisa is putting a brave face on it, expecting her album to come out on an independent label:

"There are times in life when you have to move on, I have got some great new tracks and it's probably best all round if I find a new home for my music. I am getting married in August and will probably bring my album out around the same time. I've asked my manager for three weeks off around the wedding but he is really tough - so I guess I'll have a three-day honeymoon. I am happy and I am strong and feeling very positive about my future."

It's odd that her manager isn't going to let her take three weeks off for her wedding - we're wondering what, exactly, he's got in the diary for August that can't be shifted - a farm that really needs its tractors being given a good going over with wire wool before harvest, perhaps, or did he have to say "Lisa, the campers won't throw themselves in the pool, you know?"

PROGOBOIT: Bob Mayo, keyboard player and guitarist for Pete Frampton, has died. The 52 year old had a suspected heart attack in Basel, Switzerland, where he was playing on the Frampton European Tour. Mayo had first worked with Frampton on the 1976 Frampton Comes Alive album; during a break he appeared with Foreigner on 4 and Agent Provocateur before rejoining Frampton for a tour that seems to have rolled on for the last twelve years.

SPACE UPDATE: Further to yesterday's tales of Space's cold panic at the prospect that selling a few singles through their website hurting their chart position, we're lead to believe at the moment Suburban Rock & Roll sits at 60 in the midweeks, with 338 copies having changed hands for money. You can see why they think every single single counts.

LETS HOPE SHE GETS PERMISSION FIRST: A splendid point made by Alan C who is now very much 'Acme's Alan' on Barbara Dickson's professed love of Eminem and her suggestion that she feels the same way about him as she did about Bob Dylan. He points out her love of Dylan led to a covers album. We're waiting for 'Raping Lesbians: Dickson sings Eminem'.

LESSIG IS MORE: There's a neat summation of the issues in the Grey Tuesday case over on Lawrence Lessig's blog. Lessig is a Stanford Professor of Law and chair of Creative Commons, which means his understanding of this matter is rather sharp and he's a whole lot less likely to blurt out "record labels smell of saggy boobies" than we are; his solution is allowing artists to indicate if they don't mind their material being remixed in the same way that it's currently allowed to be covered.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: The Vines grow back edition
Another Observer Music Monthly clicks round, bringing Outkast on the cover and Peter 'what on earth are you doing writing about vegetables for the bloody Times, man' Paphides choosing the ten best novelty singles of all time. He suggests Bob the Builder is the best, but chooses Can We Fix it, which is wrong - of course, these things are personal but in that horrible week after the attacks on New York, one of the few things that provided any respite from the multi-channel non-stop Here Comes Armageddon 24 was the video for Mambo Number Five (the BtB version, of course). While not exactly Softest Sheep kissing our foreheads and promising Everything Will Be Alright Again One Day it was strangely comforting. Paphides' other choices include Right Said Fred and Jilted John, which is right, and No way Sis and Doop, which is just wrong.

Miranda Sawyer puts a foot wrong with her condemnation of Duran Duran as the enemy of Postcard and Rough Trade, concluding "Duran Duran were a great pop band, but they weren't influential", as if that was something that meant anything. Sure, they weren't as important as the Smiths, but they were a pop band. And when Pop Bands try to be important, you get Damon Albarn and you get U2. Duran deserve a lifetime achievement award, if only because Simon leBon and Nick Rhodes don't have the Pope's home phone number and their own seat in the UN.

"Some day he will come" they chortle about Will Young. Because he doesn't have a boyfriend, you see - geddit? Tom Cox's Lost Tribe of Pop on indie kids stuck forever in 1991 is to close to home and it's too near the bone for that joke to be funny anymore; Sam Taylor-Wood is prescribed Dolly Parton ("an instant hit") and the Scissor Sisters ("just great pop") by the Record Doctor.

The arrest (again) of James Brown has generated a "the James Brown I met a little while ago" piece by James Maycock.

"When I played a showcase for Island/Def Jam, about thirty seconds into the first song they flipped out. They were calling up lawyers to set up the paperwork before they left the building." That's feFe Dobson, who may indeed be the new Britney, but surely is an example of just what's wrong with the record industry - scrambling to sign people up on the basis of a thirty second snatch and with the business plan coming later, if at all. Apparently the record that changed Dobson's life was Silverchair's Neon Ballroom.

The author Helen Walsh files what's fast becoming a staple of the current market - the E-memoir. She shares her discovery of Legends in Warrington, traces the rise and then the fall, and the comedown after. It's a bit of a sad story, and a familiar one; what's really heartbreaking is that whereas the battle-wounded of previous youth cults tell tales of how they tried to change the world, but failed, the E-crowd's yarns for their grandchildren seldom get beyond the dancefloor and a bit of a buzz. They went one further than the hippies; they really did drop out altogether.

What are Outkast, you might be wondering, hand hovering over the pigeonholes. "I consider" explains Big Boi "Me and Andre to be Funkateers. We make a free-flowing type of music." They'll still be filed under urban, though.

There apparently is a real school of rock,in Philadelphia, where real kids study Jethro Tull. And, apparently, the head of the school, Paul Green, looks a lot like Jack Black. One day, VH1 came to make a programme about the school. A couple of years later, one of VH1's sister companies made School of Rock. Paul Green says "It's better, in a karmic sense, to just reap the rewards"; jack Black says "The film's not based on him. if he wants to sue, go ahead, Good Luck." Which would make Green seem the bigger man, but he makes his pupils dress up like Sergeant Pepper.

Ed Fosdyke wasn't keen on giving Oasis their first break on TV because the last edition of The Word went out three weeks before Supersonic was released and he though it might make the show look silly playing a track 'so long" before anyone could get it - how things are different ten years on.

Why Radio 2 is thriving: "What we [ the management] do is manage the heart of the running order but it seems to me that my job is to decide who were the right presenters, to make sure the right producers are with them, and trust them" says Lesley Douglas. And we really believe that making radio people want to listen to is that simple: choose people who love music, and trust them to play it. (Radio One, on the other hand, is giving Vernon Kaye another two hours a week to muddle through).

David Arnold interviews Ennio Morricone, and asks what the 25 year-old EM would make of the half-century older version. Ennio suggests he'd have a good opinion of himself, which from many people would sound smug - he knows what he can do, and what he can't (cook, apparently), and does what he does incredibly well.

Just occasionally, the NME serves up a cover which feels iconic. Or at least sexy. If last week they'd got rid of Thom and Alex Ferdinand, they might have had one with the Brody picture. This week, they don't bungle the return of the Vines, with a delicious, cut-a-hole and poke yourself through picture of Craig. With a butterfly painted on his face.

The issue comes with some art prints from the awards bash - luckily, instead of the Brody/Josh pairing they stick Josh with Melissa Auf Der Maur and give you a clean Brody shot; there's obviously a Kings of Leon one in there, too. There always is.

Now jet makes sense - there's a big picture of one of Jet and Liam, "passing the baton" from one generation to the next. And all becomes clear - Jet are a band for people who are afraid that liking music is a bit sissy; they are football hooliganism on a CD; pissing up against a lamp-post outside a nursery school in MP3 downloadable format. The picture of Chris and Liam might just be the ugliest thing the NME has ever printed. Although the self-congratluatory 'it was the NME wot won it' triumphalism of the piece on Keane's top ten hit comes close - while the paper's enthusiastic support has helped Keane storm the citadel of the chart, the slump in singles sales must also take a lot of the credit, surely?

Jim James of My Morning Jacket burns the made-up CD: 2Pac, Matthew Wilder's Break My Stride and Ray Charles' Dont Let the Sun Catch You Crying.

Peter Robinson takes on Mark Hoppus from Blink-182. He interviewed him once before, four years ago, when he said if B-182 failed he'd launch a magazine for people who make a living picking up dog shit. Instead he's still putting out music for people who... oh, you're ahead of us. He enjoys fishing, too, which we think is one of those signs that someone has no business being a rock star - angling and rocking are incompatable pass-times.

Radar band is Goldie Lookin' Chain, who are kind of a cross between Margaret Beckett and the Beastie Boys. We're not sure we're not already over them.

Hamish Rosser from The Vines has fucked so many groupies he says he's now "off sex for life" which, to be honest, is probably just as well. The band's line seems to be that the crazyness is passed, and that they've survived. Reading between the lines, we should cherish every moment the Vines are with us, because they won't be forever.

"I told the local promoters we [Tinker] would be opening for the Pumpkins and they were like 'fat chance'; then Billy turned up at the soundtrack going 'where's my friend melissa?' and the promoters crawled back with their tails between their legs! I was like 'told you!'" Sometimes, with her tales of Dave and Courtney and Billy, it would be possible to think that Melissa Auf Der Mar is a little up her own Mar. Reading her story, and listening to what she does under her own banner, the conclusion has to be drawn that she's actually a bit of a perpetual supporting actor; she doesn't seem to have anything pressing to say in her own music, and her interviews are little more than a list of people she's known.

John Squire rules out a Stone Roses reunion again, which we think means we're looking at Glastonbury 2011. He's praised for being "one of the very few artists to successfully combine pop and painting", which is a bit meaningless, like saying Churchill was one of the few politicians to successfully combine Prime Ministering with wall-building.

Posters of rock outrage, anyone? Pistols on Today, Janet's breast and, um, Lennon being shot and, double um, an 'explicit lyrics' sticker blown up huge.

the distillers - brixton academy - "boys left thinking wicked, wicked brody-shaped thoughts",
chikinki, islington academy - "a dancing canine of an underdog"
auf der maur, islington academy - "a grunge Farrah Fawcett'
sleepy jackson, wc2 astoria - "post-grunge paranoia pioneers"

hundred reasons - shatterproof is not a challenge - "only one real clanger", 7
pony club - family business - "the cliche meter is on overdrive", 6
zero 7 - when it falls - "so what if pills are only a quid... it's time to change our ways", 3

sotw no doubt - bathwater/ it's my life - "baked to perfection" (Is this only just being released? Wasn't it out months ago?)
we rock like girls don't - rock n roll freak - "from the L7 school"
i am kloot - from your favourite sky - "a bit like babybird"

and, finally, Bubba Sparxx loves... who? what band are we about to learn about that we might not have sampled before? Outkast.

GREY POWER: Yesterday's Grey Tuesday protest against EMI's bid to frustrate Dangermouse's Grey Album (and all the music industry attitudes that informed that decision) seems to have been something of a success, over 400 websites offered the album for download and generated a small shed's worth of press coverage; organisers Downhill Battle shrugged off EMI's Cease and Desist letter but did suffer from their ISP buckling under the weight of visitors.

The EMI letter is worth a closer look, by the way, for this extract:

Capitol has demanded that Mr. Burton cease distribution of The Grey Album, and Mr. Burton has indicated publicly that he intends to comply with Capitol's demands. As reported by Reuters on February 17, 2004:
'Danger Mouse said he created the record strictly as a limited-edition promotional item, with only a few thousand copies pressed . . . .
The artist, whose real name is Brian Burton, has agreed to comply with the order and will no longer distribute copies. "He just wanted people to hear the record," says a spokesman in the U.K'.
Reuters has also quoted Mr. Burton as saying, "[t]his wasn't supposed to happen . . . . I just sent out a few tracks (and) now online stores are selling it and people are downloading it all over the place." By further distributing The Grey Album, you will not only be violating the rights of those who own the recordings and compositions at issue. You will also be interfering with the intention of the very artist whose rights you purport to vindicate.

This is almost priceless humour on the part of EMI, using a twisted quote from a news agency to suggest that Dangermouse felt that Grey Tuesday was violating his copyright, too - we know that members of the BPI and the RIAA like to claim the moral high ground for themselves, but this has got to be the first time they've then attempted to build a house on stilts on top of it, the better to be more high yet. Reuter's piece doesn't make any mention at all of Mouse's intentions - all he it says is he didn't know it was going to be a cause celebre, and that he himself has said he won't make any more copies. Indeed, elsewhere, you can read a press release from his label which makes it clear Grey Tuesday didn't run counter to his intentions one bit:

"It’s flattering," says Danger Mouse. "I did this project because I love the Beatles and Jay-Z. I knew when I produced the Grey Album that there might be questions and issues that this project would bring up, but I really don't know the answers to many of them. It was not meant to be anything but an artistic expression, and I still hope that that is the way it's perceived".

NOT FIRED: Now, where did we put our Courtney Love trial notes? We need to update them because yesterday Courtney said she'd filed her lawyer; today the lawyer claims he quit. Perhaps he just didn't score well on the self-assessment test; it seems Courtney thanks the Scientologists in the sleeve notes to America's Sweetheart. Now things start to make a little more sense, or at least the lack of sense starts to make some sense.

WE'LL NEVER UNDERSTAND BRITAIN: And one of the reasons is the continuing obsession with people who Rod Stewart has had sex with. God, nobody's that interested in Rod Stewart, so why do we still produce enough newsprint about people who've had to flush his doubtless-Scotland-football-shirt-wearing spermatozoa out of their crevices?

Today, for example, The Mirror finds room to report on Rachel Hunter, who's just dumped Puddle of Mudd's Wes Scantlin. Or rather, not just, it took a couple of months for the Mirror's crack 3am team to pick up the story - maybe it explains the recent Scantlin onstage over-pissed fall apart - if we'd managed to shake off one of Rod's exes, we'd probably go on a two month bender, too.

Meanwhile, Rachel and Penny Lancaster are banging on about who has real tits in The Sun; Penny is judged to be a double loser having lost the Ultimo modelling contract to Rachel and still being married to Rod. Neither of the little twitters seem to have realised that they've both been used by Ultimo, who figured that swapping the former Mrs Stewart for the current Mrs Stewart would result in a public bitch-fight and acres and acres of publicity for them.

BYE, THEN: Paltrow and Martin plan to move to Spain to bring up their Coldplay sprog, what with someone apparently giving them, like, half of Spain as a Christmas present. "We're annoying people with our constant baby talk" trills Gwynneth - which might explain why their friends chose to club together and buy them a patch of land in a totally different country to live in. That phrase, by the way, is also the reason why the next Coldplay album is going to be the worst thing ever - you can already picture Chris Martin thinking up rhymes for "tiny toes" and "baby rattle."

HOW CAN WE BE SURE HE'S NOT JUST ASLEEP?: Don't get us wrong, we love EasyJet - there's something pleasing about its single level of service for everyone on the plane, apart from anything, and it's orange planes have taken us all over the place. Apart from that one time they'd forgotten to buy any anti-freeze and so we were stuck on a coach from Luton to Liverpool the day before New Year's Eve with a bunch of rowdy drunks. But it's the airline's never-ending capacity to fuck up its PR always leaves us breathless with delight. How many seasons of Airline will it allow to be made before realising that every single episode consists almost entirely of people complaining about how rubbish EasyJet is? And, more to the point, demanding to see Les Gray's death certificate before they'll repay the kid's charity the fare for the flight to the comeback gig he never made is an astonishing piece of flat-footed mismanagement.

THERE ARE THE DOORS. THERE ARE DOORS TRIBUTE BANDS. AND IN BETWEEN...: The Doors who didn't OD and the singer from the Cult return to piss away their heritage some more ("to play three UK arena dates") this July - Wembley, Maanchester Evening News and the SECC. We have it on very good authority that the ghost of Jim Morrison routinely sings Love Removal Machine at the Rock Star Valhalla Karaoke.

FURTHER RETURNS: Juliana Hatfield hasn't been away, so much as concentrating on other projects - reactivating the Blake Babies, creating Some Girls. But this May, Hatfield returns to solo activity with a new album, In Exile Deo. The last album she released was a double pack, and you could either buy it as two separate discs or a single box set. The new one isn't meant to be as complicated.

LET THE GAMES RE-COMMENCE: Channel 4, unsurprisingly, are doing the Games again this year - this was the show which broke Mel C into little pieces and gave us Gail Porter in a swimsuit, the most clothes she's even worn outside of Top of the Pops. This year there are no musical women involved - although we have vague memories of Linda Lusardi once releasing a record - but there is Katy Hill; the men, though are brimming with washed-up musicians - Shane Lynch, Pat "and Mick" Sharp and Romeo, with the numbers made up by Lying Swindle Machine Charles Ingram (we'd suggest Channel Four inspect his running shoes for little steam-powered wheels) and "Mr. Gay UK", who doesn't get so much as a name. The rest are Jodie Marsh, Charlie Dimmock and Lady Isabella Hervey.

VALLANCE CHASES IMBRUGLIA DOWN THE DOWNWARD SPIRAL: Neighbours. Worldwide hit single with a cover of a European track. Awkward flop. Hair products ad. Holly Vallance really is copying the Natalie Imbruglia playbook, isn't she? The good people at Schwarzkopf, who've hired her for a "GBP3 million campaign" (i.e. that's going to be the total cost of media space, production, etc) will be delighted that Holly has really settled into the role as spokesperson for their products:

"It was great to be chosen as the face of Schwarzkopf. After all, don't blondes have more fun?"

Um... Holly, you're meant to be helping flog red and blue hair dye...

WE'D SUGGEST TALKING TO JEANS MANUFACTURERS, SHIRT MAKERS: Justin Hawkins is apparently receiving death threats, although what surprises us is that it's just the two so far. Police are investigating the letters, which started arriving just after the Brit Awards. Let's hope Radiohead disguised their handwriting well.

QUOTE: "I quite like Daniel Bedingfield, but my favourite contemporary artist is undoubtedly Eminem. I think the man is a total genius. He's funny and clever and fabulous and writes great lyrics. I'd love to see him in concert. I really think he's the new Bob Dylan, an extremely talented man."
Barbara Dickson

DO YOU KEN BARLOW: The Pixies, American Music Club... and now it's the return of Sebadoh, announcing their first live dates in five years. The Northampton, Ma date is going to feature j mascis as well. If they'd like to replicate that date in Northampton, Northamptonshire, we're sure the Roadmenders would be only too happy to accomodate.

"PRIOR ARRANGEMENTS": Hey, ifJustin Timberlake says he's pulling out as host of ABC's Motown Tribute show because there was a prior commitment, then we believe him. Haven't we all arranged to go to the shops on the weekend, forgetting we'd already agreed to go and film our movie debut? Let's not hear any speculation that following the Jackson tit incident, Justin's got a bit of a dodgy reputation as far as TV bosses are concerned.

EVERYBODY'S INSPECTED: Good news for people who like Prince's music, but not with the depth with which Prince loves Prince's music. The little fella is promising that there'll be a lot of the hits on the upcoming Musicology tour. The bad news is, this could be the last outing for them, as he wants to 'make space' for the new stuff. Which, to be honest, will be fairly easy - playing his more recent wortk only will ensure there's plenty of space round the back of the hall.

MORE CAMPAIGN NEWS: We hear that fans of Angel, the vamp-with-a-soul show recently cancelled by the WB to make room for more programmes with girls in bikinis in, are planning an attack on American MTV's TRL. Their devious scheme is to encourage supporters wanting to keep the show on the air to ring in and get a specific song played every day next week. Their list reads:

Monday- March 1- Train- Calling All Angels
Tuesday- March 2- Aerosmith- Angel
Wednesday- March 3- Shaggy- Angel
Thursday- March 4- Dido- White Flag
Friday- March 5- Mandy- Barry Manilow

Now, you might think that any cause that encourages people to get that bunch of tracks played deserves to spend an eternity in Wolfram and Hart's vaults, but it'd be a shame for the show to disappear. How many programmes can have a character deliver a line like "sex with robots is more common than you might imagine"? (Oh, and Thursday's song features David Boreanaz in the video; Friday's song, as afficiandos will recognise, is the song Angel sang when he had his character read by The Host.)

BEP v KFC: The Black Eyed Peas are joining a PETA campaign against Col. Saunders - they're calling for better treatment of the chickens KFC use to make the goujons, chicken-belly-platters and chicken icecream sold in its store. We're sure chickens everywhere will be delighted by the news that people are put so much effort into making sure that when they get slaughtered, they get slaughtered nicely, but are probably wishing they'd throw their efforts into trying to persuade people not to wolf them down at all. And while the Peas are campaigning against KFC, couldn't they try to get them to sell mashed potato in their UK stores, too?

IT ALL MAKES SENSE: Since the BPI seem to follow everything the RIAA do a couple of steps behind, it makes sense that there's now a UK equivalent of Boycott RIAA, Boycott-BPI. Even if you're not able to stop yourself from buying records, the pages are a lush resource of information on the music industry and its dodgy behaviour.

LOST IN SPACE: Did you know Space were still going? No? Well, it has been a while since they last had anything out - record company troubles, we understand. One of the only ways the world knew they were still going at all was thanks to the band's website, which for the last two years has been run for free by a couple of fans, keeping the faith that one day, the band would return and everything would be alright again. And on Monday, a new single - Suburban Rock & Roll - finally emerged, proudly carrying the website's URL Splendid.

Except, if you visit the site, instead of some pictures of Tommy and the boys, you get a sorry tale of a band who should know better trampling on their fans. The webmasters crime? They wanted to be able to offer a few copies of the new CD for sale through the site. From their side of it, the management became virulently afraid that to flog copies through the web would harm the band's chart position (the site had been thinking they might sell ten copies). It's not unexpected - Space's manager Mark Cowley last made the papers when he had fist-fight with one of China Crisis, up until that point one of the bands he represented - but it's all a bit of a shame.
[Thanks to ginsoakedboy for the lead]

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

THEY THROW THE STUFF AT HIM; HE ENDS UP IN THE CELL: It's hard to feel sorry for Wes Scantlin, the singer with Puddle of Mudd. So we won't. We'll just titter at the discovery that even Puddle of Mudd fans and the band sometimes notice that their band is shit. POM came on to play a gig in Toledo, but by four songs in most of the band had trotted off stage. Scantlin was left there on his own, muttering that he was too fucked up to play. The audience, unsurprisingly, didn't take this too well, and threw stuff at him, and someone called the police. Since there's not actually a crime of 'being so rubbish even a not especially discerning bunch of metal fans notice' in Toledo (yet - vote 'Yes' on proposition 39), the cops took him in on a disorderly conduct rap. By the time he got to the station, he'd added a charge of spitting in a police car. We're counting to thirty, by which time we expect to hear of class action suits demanding money back...

JACKSON NO LONGER HAS THE HORNE: Janet Jackson's bouncing breast continues to knock things over - can nothing stop it cutting a swathe through American culture? Now Lena Horne has insisted that Janet isn't allowed to play her in ABC's forthcoming biopic. We're not sure if Lena will reconsider as it becomes increasingly obvious that it's No Janet, No Biopic.

THE TROUBLE WITH ANANOVA: We were actually kind of relieved to discover quite late on yesterday that we'd not fucked-up reading the report on the death of Les Gray, and that for a short period Ananova had indeed credited him with the Kylie and Spiller tracks that we'd passed on to him - of course, it would have been nice if they'd admitted they'd made an error, too. This, however, isn't a mistake - from their Showbiz Quirkies comes a headline: Iglesias says 'thousands sing better than Pavarotti'.

Now, clearly this is Luciano getting up on a high horse and then riding up a mountain, isn't it? Doesn't the old Spaniard have a bloody cheek, being so dismissive of Pavarotti, eh? Obviously he thinks he does better.

Erm... except the story is the complete opposite of what the headline suggests. He does make the statement, but it's in the context of 'I'm not a very good singer, there are loads of people who sing better than I do; I mean, there's even people out there who singer better than Pavarotti does...' - the polar opposite of the implication of the headline.

WALKER'S RETURN: Good to hear that Johnnie Walker is about to return to Radio 2, following his cancer-enforced absence. Apparently, he died three times while on the operating table with a burst intestine. We like to think what kept bringing him back was the fear that Noel Edmonds would have got the drivetime slot permanently.

SUES YOURSELF: Ever wondered exactly how much value Eminem puts on himself? We now have an answer, thanks to his legal action over Apple's apparently uncleared use of 'Lose Yourself' in an iTunes ad. Eminem's lawsuit states:

"Eminem has never nationally endorsed any commercial products and ... even if he were interested in endorsing a product, any endorsement deal would require a significant amount of money, possibly in excess of $10 million."

So, now we know exactly what price Eminem would put on his soul, right there, then. Every man has a price.

GARAGE SALE: Little Steven - the one from the E-Street Band and The Sopranos, not the winsome child who was the logo of MenCap for so long - is running a competition on his US Radio show to find the nation's number one garage band. Van Zandt is describing the search as more American Hoodlums than American Idol. It's his attempt to bring bands back from the underground, where an uncaring club and radio scene has forced them. He also says it'll be like King Kong versus the Ant People, which sounds a little like a mismatch to us.

THE PHEONIX CLUB: While it's not quite as exciting as the reunion of the Pixies, nevertheless there will be a few spines quivering with quiet joy at the regrouping of American Music Club, some ten years after they last worked together. Only this time round they've added a pianist and trumpet player to the old mix of Mark Eitzel, Dan Pearson, Tim Mooney and Vudi. There's to be at some point a new album, a few dates in warm-up for their SXSW appearances, and a band approved collection of bsides and oddities called 'American Music Club 1984-1995'.

PIXIES SELL BIG: Just as in the UK, tickets to Pixies gigs sold out within nanoseconds for the Canadian and US dates. Your only hope now is being adopted by Kim Deal.

DRAGGING IT OUT: Is Courtney really trying to piss off the judge in her trial? After the business last time round with the - ahem - man with a gun, she's now tried Judge Patricia Schnegg's pateince even further by sacking her lawyer, getting another two-week delay to the schedule. If she carries on putting the court date off like this, she'll have got the follow-up to Miss America out before she gets a judgement.

JACKSON "APPALLED" AGAIN: This time, what's making Jacko appalled are rumours that he's in rehab in Aspen. He's rushed out a statement - just gone there to play in the snow, how can people say these things, yadda yadda. We're not sure why he finds suggestions that he's, you know, chilling out and getting some quiet time quite so disgusting, but there you go.

DIDDY DO? NO: Some good news at last for P Diddy, as a jury decide he has not case to answer in the lawsuit filed by the Detrorit DJ who claimed that the Diddy's men had roughed him up.

OH GOD. THIS MEANS HE'S GOING TO MAKE MORE RECORDS, DOESN'T IT?: Dave Matthews signs a new deal with RCA.

PROBABLY ON A NOVELTY KEY RING: There are many ways that this day, the start of the period of fasting in the Christian calendar, are marked around the world - pancake races in Olney, mardi gras celebrations in New Orleans and Brazil; that advert with the bloke squeezing lemon onto his plate because he forgot the pancakes. We think the best event his year, though, is the presentation of the keys to Kansas City to the Flaming Lips. It's not clear if this gives wayne Coyne the right to herd men-dressed-as-sheep through the city, but we like to think that it does.

CAN I HELP YOU WITH THAT?: How nice of Max Clifford to take time out of his busy schedule to suggest that Charlotte Church needs help. Max reckons Charlotte "desperately needs somebody that understands the way the media works." If only there was someone like that, Max, but where would she find someone willing to take on such a job? Frustratingly, Max doesn't suggest any names of, say, silver-haired media fixers who represented that woman who claimed that the Hamiltons had raped her and advised Kerry McFadden not to do I'm A Celebrity. We wonder if he had anyone in mind.

ACTUALLY, IT'S DARKNESS (AGAIN): Must Destroy, the label which spotted the Darkness first is expecting to get a big cheque through pretty soon, being as how they originally released I Believe In A Thing Called Love. Their plan for the payday is to pay off "the debts from our other bands", which means that Must Destory could be the only record label in the UK which actually works in the way the BPI likes to pretend they all do.

HE'S BACK! WHO? EXACTLY: A slightly over-excited email reaches us - "Remember One True Voice?" After much searching through the archives, we recall the band, comprising the only people ever to have appeared on ITV at Saturday teatime never to have had a number one single. "Well Matt johnson the 18 year old from Deeside is going solo and i cant wait!" It goes on to plug some sort of ecommunity for the one left standing from one true voice. The way things are going, he might even manage to scrape into the charts with his "debut" single, if only on the basis that some people are going to think he's the bloke from The The. Although it's clear that 1TV Matt is never going to sing about anything coming from his scrotum to your womb - an 18 year old with undescended testicles isn't going to want to draw attention to them.

We're sure he will make the charts, though, because anyone can these days. It was suggested to us that our sniffing at the Alarm/Poppyfields number 23 'hit' was because of residual dislike of Mike Peters, which is wrong on two counts: we love the Alarm, because they could have turned into U2 so easily but didn't; and secondly - we stand by what we say. Getting to 23 in the charts and saying "Ha ha! We have fooled you and got a top-selling record" at the moment is utterly, utterly meaningless. As if to prove our point, Yeovil Town Football Club have made it to 36 this week (although it'll probably turn out to be Manchester United under an assumed name trying to prove some sort of point); the first time in the twin histories of football and music that a third division team have managed to get their football song into the Top 40. Unless you count that awful Ian McCulloch/Spice Girls thing from a few years back.

CHARLATANS ABOUT AGAIN: The new-look, all-relaunched Charlatans website has got a set of tour dates for Tim and the boys:

23 – Aberdeen 'Music Hall'
24 – Glasgow 'Academy'
27 – Manchester 'Apollo'
29 – Liverpool 'Uni'
31 – Leicester 'De Montfort Hall'
01 – Nottingham 'Rock City'
03 – Folkestone 'Leas Cliff Hall'
04 – London 'Hammersmith Apollo'
05 – Brighton 'Dome'
06 – Bristol 'Academy'
08 – Newcastle 'Northumbria Uni'
09 – Doncaster 'Dome'
10 – Birmingham 'Academy'
11 – Newport 'Centre'
13 – Isle-Of-Wight Festival

We've picked up their punctuation from the site - we kind of like the slightly twee use of quote marks, although it reminds us of the slightly cowed BBC we've got at the moment, who at the weekend were running the CCTV footage of the Greater Manchester Police kicking the shit out of that guy. In went the boot, over and over again. And yet the BBC didn't seem to trust the evidence of its own eyes, choosing to title the footage Police 'Kicking' Video, as if it might have been like that old Guardian advert and if you looked from the other angle they were trying to save him from an angry dog or something. But we're wandering off the point. We reckon the Brighton Dome has got to be the pick of these dates. Tickets not on sale yet, unless you know where to ask.

If you're anything like us, you'll be sat there thinking "all well and good, but what's Tim's hair like now?" We can report long, bobby and jet black:


... perhaps slightly like sharleen spiretti now you mention it.

Monday, February 23, 2004

TURN IT UP AGAIN: This year marks twenty-one years since the start of one the classic radio music shows. If you had any business in Brighton during the late 80s/early 90s - and chances are you did - and you were in town on a Sunday night, you'd feel compelled to tune into Radio Sussex to catch Turn It Up. For a few short years, and except where it was compressed by the Sussex Sunday cricket league matches over-running, it gave Brighton music a voice and space and was pretty instrumental in helping develop a vibrant scene where previously there was none, combining local music with interviews with touring acts and boasting the only listener's year-end chart to outshine the Festive Fifty. Dale Shaw, one of the TIUppers at the time it was axed from the schedule (we've got a feeling it was the act of John Henty, who mumbled some promise that the people involved in the programme would have input elsewhere into the station, by then renamed Southern Counties Radio) is in the early stages of planning some sort of reunion programme. He's trying to gather together people who worked on the show to come up with a way of paying tribute to one of the gems of local broadcasting. We wish him luck, and we'll keep you posted on how he's getting on.

SOMETHING TO LISTEN TO: This year's SXSW festival is streaming two channels worth of showcased artists radio in MP3 and Ogg Vorbis formats.

VINTON-OFF: Bobby Vinton had a bit of a turn during last Sunday's gig at the Lancaster American Music Theatre. An hour into his gig, Bobby had to be caught by his piano player, whereupon he announced the gig was over. An ambulance was called but Vinton felt better by the time it arrived and had no further treatement.

BPI ATTEMPT TO TURN BACK TIDE. AGAIN: Having attempted - and failed - to try and force CD Wow to charge the prices the BPI want for CDs, the UK music price fixing cartel has come to a "settlement" with Play has promised the BPI it won't source recordings outside of the EU for sale back to the UK. The BPi claims that this is "contravening UK copyright law", although it's not entirely clear how and the BPI's chairman Peter Jamieson said "Ello, mate... little bird tells me you're trying to undercut us. Now, me and my friends, we ain't too keen on people trying to cut their way into our cosy market, and we might be forced to do a little cutting of our own" ("All British-based record companies and all retailers - offline or online - are adversely affected when product specifically designated for markets outside of Europe flows back into the UK. It is impossible to invest in, develop and market new British talent if we do not protect our legal rights to prevent parallel importing.")

We have some trouble with this. Firstly, Play is based in Jersey and so not actually in the EU anyway - more or less - so its hard to see why it would be strictly wrong of it to use non-EU CDs anyway. Secondly, it's worth pointing out that what we're talking about here are records that are produced by British labels, and then shipped off for sale elsewhere at prices lower than the identical item sold within these shores. Now, if we accept that the prices are set in the UK to ensure that there is money left over for the record labels to re-invest in their industry, why on earth aren't the labels also charging that same price overseas? Surely the record industry would be the only one in the world to say to foreign customers "tell you what, we were going to charge you ten quid a unit, but we'll knock the research and development costs off seeing as you're overseas and call it seven fifty?" And even if Jamieson isn't lying and trying to pretend that the supernormal profit being charged in the UK market is actually being used to create new talent - why on earth does he think that everyone in Britain would think it absolutely fair that we pay more for CDs to develop that talent? What's the deal here? "Ah, Tony, we should pay fifteen quid for this CD, so that the British music industry can develop more talent to sell cheaply overseas" - in effect, Jameison's cockeyed logic is that British consumers should cheerfully subsidise the enjoyment of music lovers overseas. Now, you know, I'm happy to pay a few pence extra for Cds if it really would help new artists, but shouldn't everyone who buys music pay a slice? And if the idea is to have extra cash in the music industry piggy bank to help out new British talent, why does a CD by an act developed by the American or Canadian industry not cost less in the UK market?

BYE, YA', AIWA: In an awkward bit of fudgery, Sony's plans to try and bring some spark back to it's cheaper end Aiwa brand has tripped up as its new MP3/FM radio product has had its launch pulled. And the technology that's caused the cock up? The radio bit. Well, they've only had eighty years to develop a radio receiver.

MUDOBIT: Les Gray, singer with Mud, has died following a heart attack at his home in Portugal. Les, who had three number ones with the band in the 70's, including Tiger Feet and Lonely This Christmas, had been battling cancer of the throat. After Mud split in 1977, he went on to have a slightly less stellar solo career. [Correction: He didn't, as we were erroneously claiming earlier, go on to earn credits on both Spiller's Groovejet and Can't Get You Out of My Head for Kylie Minogue, because that was actually Rob Davis from Mud instead, and it turns out we can't read. Thanks to everyone who took the trouble to point that out to us].

TABLOID SAYS SOMETHING SENSIBLE SHOCK: We don't usually have much in the way of kind words for the Sun, but they do point out that Charlotte Church celebrating her 18th birthday by drinking a little too much isn't really that unexpected an event. Interestingly, while everyone else seemed to think that her coming of age meant she'd be getting her hands on GBP16million, she herself has been told she's worth just five and a half - not that that's bad for an 18 year old, mind, and seems to be slightly more than Aled Jones had amassed by this point. Then again, he didn't have such a nice arse.

MAKE IT STOP. NOW. EVEN IF IT INVOLVES SCALDING THE FACE OF THE EARTH CLEAN WITH BOILING WATER, ERADICATING EVERY LIVING CREATURE AND PLANT, JUST MAKE IT STOP: The I'm A Celebrity line-up have recorded a cover of Jungle Rock. How many of these orange pills do I have to swallow to make it certain?

THIS IS A ROCK STAR SHOP FOR ROCK STAR PEOPLE: Aww, bless Ozzy Osbourne. While his daughter runs about making a show (with no audience) of herself and his wife continues to add to the pile of really bad television formats (if only she could tempt the WB with Arm Wrestling With Chas and Dave), Ozzy has done something really useful, helping out his threatened local shop by flinging them a few quid. It's not only a really community minded thing to do, it also ensures Jack and Kelly will have somewhere to sit outside drinking cheap cider when they stop playing at working.

IN THE WILD WILD WOOD: The Forestry Commission are repeating last year's gigs amongst the trees experiment - Motorhead in Sherwood, Courtney Pine (I'll bet they pissed themselves when they came up with that booking) in Thetford Forest - and booking a whole new set of gigs under the leafy-roof of the national forests. Amongst this years delights will be the Sugababes, the Fun Lovin' Criminals and Paul Weller, and Status Quo are down to play as well - and only a forest fire can stop them.

A KIND OF HOMECOMING: Like Odysseus, people have been waiting a long time for Morrissey to return home. It's twelve long years, in fact, since Stephen Patrick set a musical foot back into the city which made him what he is today. On May 22nd, however, Mozzer's exile will end as he returns to play Manchester. Assuming he's able to get past the 5,000 bottles of milk on the doorstep and can work his way through the last decades-worth of taped Corries, he'll be playing the MEN supported by Franz Ferdinand. He always did have an ear for a neat support.

THOSE LONG WINTER HOURS MUST JUST FLY: Scenes from Melissa Etheridge's marriage:

"She's actually an old-fashioned girl. Her favorite music is Rosemary Clooney. But every now and then I'll be like, 'Honey, it's the Who!' And she'll be like, 'Who?'"

What a great loss for the world that Liverpool's post-Oasis troubadours The What didn't achieve global fame. Ms and Ms Etheridge could have worked up a whole 'who's on first' for the twenty-first century.

THE SOUND OF THE MUSIC: The tight corset of msuical pigeonholes is a constant source of angst in the rock world - "we're not goth/emo/romo" - but, according to Alex Ross in the New Yorker, being pegged as shoegazing is nothing compared to having the weight of 'Classical' written in chalk on the back of your blazer. Ross takes the opportunity to call the abanondment of the term in the interests of greater cross-cultural fluidity. It's a nice thought, but if you don't ring-fence "classical" then the more venerable end of the music spectrum will find itself becoming more and more like the pop market, where talent and originality lose out to a bright smile and a firm set of breasts. And what would Bond, Vanessa Mae and Mylenne Klass do then... oh, hang on...

SALES ARE SLOW: Fourteen weeks after release, and Kylie's Body Language has finally managed to sell its 100,000 copy in Australia. Although it's not a totally disastorous figure, it's certainly going to cause worry at Fort Kylie - since it's managed roughly 13,000 sales since Christmas, it's going to take one hell of a shove to get even halfway to the 400,000 copies shifted by Fever. And with equal crises in America and the UK, it's unlikely even Kylie herself will be able to get round all the places which need her attention. Of course, it's not the first time Ms Minogue has had a spot of career meltdown, but what's noticeable this time round is the press almost seem keen for her to fail and rather than wrapping the bad news in a soft, lovely cooing 'never mind, love' the general tenor seems to be 'long time coming.'

We bet Dannii would kill to be worrying about sales of 100,000.

SUMMER NIGHTS: Lord Cliff Richard is going to spend some of the summer playing a season of dates in the grounds of very big houses in the country. It kicks off with Cliff at the Castle, when he plays Warwick Castle on the 9th and 10th of July. No Rock went to Warwick Castle once; we didn't enjoy it much because the owners had scattered the place with unconvincing waxy figures dressed in old-fashioned clothes making strange noises and moving in a jerky, awkward fashion. So it's the obvious place for Cliff to start. Later on, he's due to wind up the Bickling Hall series on July 23rd - a week of gigs that also features Simple Minds. Get the picnic basket, mother, we're going out.

In other Cliff news, in last night's slightly overlong Ultimate Pop Star on Channel Four, Cliff was given the title of, um, Ultimate Pop Star on the basis of his single sales alone. Although he has had a significantly longer career than a lot of other bands - maybe it would have made more sense to divide the total sales by number of singles released, which might have thrown up a somewhat different chart. Although it could have had Elton John at number one.

Of course, a lot of people will be pleased by the crowning of Cliff as the ultimate pop star, like Todd Slaughter, president of the Elvis fan club. He wrote to The Times last week in the wake of the Brit Awards to shake his head over these young bands and ended with a plea:

"Take me back to the Sixties, when the real giants of pop were Elvis, the Beatles and the Stones, the Brits dominated the American charts, and the only piracy came from broadcasters in the North Sea."

Well, last night was for you, Todd. [Thanks to Simon Tyers for the letter link]

ALL I EVER WANTED, ALL I EVER NEEDED: The Depeche Mode box set bonanza rumbles on with the announcement of a preliminary release date for boxes four, five and six of March 29th (UK) and 30th (USA). The project is slowly bringing every Mode single, with every b-side, back into the world. Possibly in a form WH Smiths will sell. These three will cover the 'heroin years' between 87 and 03, so that'll be your Enjoy The Silence and... the other singles they released back then. You might want to save your money for the Dave Gahan solo boxsets, of course.

WE MADE A PROMISE TO A LADY: Less than a year ago, Jennifer Ellison made a promise that she was going to abandon the 'tight and revealing' outfits that had made her famous. We offered to help out, as we thought it might be a tricky transition. Now, almost as if she hadn't got any attention whatsoever (no follow up to the Transvision Vamp cover, Jen?), she seems to have stumbled slightly:

though probably not enough material to be tight

Doubtless she kept all her clothes on for her cover shoot for this month's Maxim, and the beastly boys have just airbrushed them out. Unless she's decided to abandon her pledge, and all but the briefest of undergarments, in a bid to restart a stalled career? I'm Still A Celebrity, I'll Get Them Out In Here?

Sunday, February 22, 2004

BANDS WHO BLOG: The Flaming Lips website boasts a blog, usually updated by Kliph from the drumstool. The band seem to be loving Australia, which is just another reason they're so not Limp Bizkit.

PRESUMABLY GETTING STUPIDS OUT HER SYSTEM: Due to go on The Daily Show in the US this Wednesday, Norah Jones tells the Associated Press she's afraid she'll say something stupid. As if to illustrate the sort of stupid thing she might say, Norah then tells the interviewer that she doesn't watch much TV because she "prefers to read":

"I've always loved to read, but sometimes I go for a year without reading a book because I forget to, or I don't have a book that I can get into easily."

We could add something that rakes over nearly every word of that quote and holds it up to the sunlight, but really, sometimes, these things are just best left to themselves.

A SMALL VICTORY: Of course, fourteen bucks for five years of ripping off the consumer is nothing more than a token, but even so, it feels good to read about individual consumers getting their small cheques off RIAA members because the organisation that loves to lecture us about theft got caught fixing its prices. You know, I hope that nobody brings up this whole business when that legal action against them for acting like a bunch of racketeers comes up - it would be awful if just because they've admitted being an illegal price-fixing cartel people would assume they act like the maffia in every respect, wouldn't it?

SINGLES OUT: WH Smiths is dropping singles from its entertainment department, citing falling sales for the format. The chain says it intends to continue flogging other stuff like DVDs and albums, although various revamps of the glorified newsagency has seen music taking up less and less floorspace in its stores. Back in the 80s the Brighton Smiths had a stand alone records-only store across the way from the main Churchill Square, but going in to a WH Smiths in the 90s to buy a record would be like heading into a Soviet department store - even if you could find the corner of the shop where what you wanted should have been, they almost certainly wouldn't have what you wanted. The chain stuck with music, though, even while Boots was phasing out its record department, although the idea of having a section of the store for music had been quietly dropped, with the albums being folded into the video and DVD section and, to be honest, we'd be surprised if by next year Smiths' commitment to selling music isn't reduced to a couple of those cheesey Hallmark holiday style compilations (Pure Love for Valentines, All Woman for Mother's Day, Singalongasanta for Christmas) and perhaps some Uncut cover mounts.

Whatever, if Woolworths decide to follow Smiths lead and ditch the short format, it could really spell the end of the single as a mass-market product.

"... and somehow, I've never quite got round to mentioning it before..."

So, the reason John Lydon walked out of I'm A Celeb was because he knew his wife was flying in to Australia and the production team wouldn't tell him if she'd arrived safely or not.

Because, of course, had she been on a plane which had plummeted into the sea, ITV would have kept him in the dark so as not to spoil the show, wouldn't they?

Oddly, Lydon tries to justify this by explaining that he and his wife had been meant to be on the flight that was blown up over Lockerbie in 1988.

Is it just me being incredibly cynical, I wonder, because I'm surprised that we've never heard this story before in the last fifteen years. Wouldn't you have thought something like that might have turned up in his 1994 autobiography?

Maybe - just maybe - Johnny would have thought that it would have been slightly tacky to turn the deaths of so many people into a showbiz anecdote; but then it's hard to see why he'd then suddenly use them as a comfort blanket to cover his reasons for giving up a gameshow.

BACK IN THE BIG HOUSE: Time for Bobby Brown fans to stick a little sticking plaster on their face again, as Brown has been thrown back in jail. Nobody quite seems sure what violation of his parole terms has lead to Whitney's husband being taken back to DeKalb County Jail (where Big Brucie on D-Wing was said to be look forward to a little humpin' around), but he's going to be there for at least a week, as he's not due back in court until February 27th. To be fair to Brown, we should point out this is only the second time in a year he's violated probation and been sent back to prison, and he'd managed to keep his nose clean for six months since the last time. Unfortunately, he hadn't been able to keep Whintey's nose clean, having been up on charge of battery just before Christmas after a spot of alleged wife-beating. Let's hope Big Brucie takes the chance to show Bobby how you should treat your lover - gently, always gently...

DOOM TO THE RIAA: Obviously, computer viruses are nasty things, but at least the latest variant of My Doom has its heart in the right place, targetting the RIAA and Microsoft.

NO BIZKIT IN AUSTRALIA: Even before it had been officially announced, Limp Bizkit had pulled out of taking their joint tour with Kiss to Australia. We're not surprised - for some reason, Fred Durst seems really reluctant to revisit the country where one of his fans received fatal injuries during a gig where he encouraged the audience to have a pop at the front of house staff. He couldn't even be arsed to travel back for the inquest, as we recall. But the Bizkit camp are "looking for future alternate opportunities to play down under", they say - perhaps they'll stand in South Africa and encourage any Australian fans they have left to gather on the West coast with telescopes?

THE PRICE OF FAME: BBC One's Sunday teatime catch-up with the winner of its pop stardom singfest was given the title Fame Academy: Alex's Story, which made it sound more like it was going to be the sort of tale that you'd find in the network's current Taking Care season: a young life ruined, crushed hopes, the faint whiff of despair. And, oddly for a light ent documentary, that's pretty much what you got. It seems that while ITV's Pop Idol franchise churns out any number of questionably talented individuals spinning their hay into pure gold, Fame Academy is desperate to discover young people with an actual germ of talent, and then clobber them repeatedly with the misery shoe until they give up. So, while 2002's winner David Sneddon has long since fled home, this documentary - probably conceived as a cheeky, breathless tour of a sexy, bright-eyed pop pup as she lives large off the back of her win - had the air of spending a few moths with someone slowly having their joy choked out of them.

Part of the trouble is that Alex herself isn't a showbiz natural - she sings pretty well, but once she sets foot off stage, any natural joie de vivre she may possess hides itself away more securely than Osama Bin Laden in camouflage at nightfall. We see her doing a lot of interviews, and in every single one she's flat, dull, and clearly has nothing to say. Fame is, of course, more about how you work your talent than how much talent you actually have; in marketing terms, Alex has the spark of a small ad flogging a slightly dented fridge freezer in the Grimsby Evening Telegraph's Under £50 column. She complains, of course, that she's asked the same questions over and over again, although she doesn't explain why she still takes about ten minutes to frame an answer to any of these standard queries. And other artists, who have to play the same songs to the same pubs hundreds of times without getting one-thousandth of the media exposure that Parks has achieved might ruefully consider that if she'd had a more conventional career trajectory, she might have learnt to deal with the repetition that makes up much of the work side of the music world with a little more grace. As it is, her inability to cover her boredom makes her sound boring - during a Five Live interview, Simon Mayo seems so desperate to avoid having her monotone chase away his audience he spends about five minutes putting a question to her, stopping half way to answer on her behalf the first half and starting a new one afresh. Anything... just don't give her a chance to talk.

There are times you wonder why she bothered enrolling on a programme called Fame Academy at all, since she clearly has no wish to be famous - there's a protracted dance around a paparzzo which says it all, really: her manager trying to stop her being photgraphed, lest she appear in Heat magazine or something really horrible like that.

There's the now obligatory interview on the London Eye, where, high above Parliament, Alex allows herself a little smile at having a platinum record, and indulges in a spot of self-delusion: "some people are buying it for the covers, some are buying it for the original material..." - but of course, they're not; On Fame Academy she won by singing covers; her single chugged out of steam because it was an original. We're promised that the next album is going to consist of stuff entirely written by Alex alone. She'll doubtless be very proud of it; equally, we suspect she'll be delighted by the dwindling attention from Heat and The Sun, and the chance to spend more and more time in her beloved Cornwall. One thing you can say for Fame Academy: you're never likely to see their winners desperately trying to cling to the public affection through the I'm A Celebrity/Back to Reality franchises.

VICAR CANCELS PAPER, CALLS FOR CENSORSHIP: Pastor LaRoy from somewhere in Tennesse has cancelled his subscription to the local paper, The Tennessean, and is now agitating for local churches to boycott the title. The reason? It ran a picture of the Madonna-Britney kiss to illustrate it's Valentine Day's feature. Never mind that the picture has been shown and reproduced everywhere in the world, never mind the paper called it "Most infamous kiss ever" rather than, say, "Check out the chicks"; never mind that the entire bloody world knows that it was two famous people showing off for the cameras - oh, no, LaRoy is convinced it's all part of a moral decline: "I am sick and tired of the gay and lesbian agenda taking over our media." Erm... what gay and lesbian agenda would that be, exactly? Had the secret gay cabal living in one of the uprights of the Golden Gate Bridge (why do you think it's painted pink?) decided to try and turn people, I'm sure they'd have come up with a sexier coupling than Madonna and britney (ie. Britney and any woman other than Madonna). Oddly enough, the pastor was equally incensed that the woman who operates the subscription line didn't make any editorial apology on the spot.

We're guessing he's just pissed off they didn't run madonna/christina's snog.

MUST HAVE BEEN GREAT WINE AT THE GRAMMYS: Surely EMI haven't signed Richard Marx purely on the back of his Grammy award this month? Although he's managed to feed himself by writing songs and producing since his singing career stalled, the Grammy victory wasn't so much a vote of faith in his talents as his luck at co-writing with Luther Vandross shortly before Vandross fell life-threateningly ill. It's odd that EMI feels its financial strength is so robust as to be able to take a punt on Marx the singer; although he's sold thirty million albums, most of those were in the late eighties when he was fashionable. It's going to take an awful lot of marketting input to try and convince the public he's as relevant now as he was in the days of Miami Vice.

RADIO ON THE TV: You wouldn't really expect Radiohead to be the sort of people who'd suggest that reality TV-based pop is an unquestionable good thing, but Thom and Jonny's objections are actually a step beyond the usual condemnation of the game-show as A&R genre. Citing the likes of Alex Parks, they feel that it's a shame someone with a "fucking great voice" is only able to get a deal through appearing on Fame Academy, and decrying the tendency of the people behind the shows to force everyone to sound like Annie Lennox - in other words, the problem with talent spotting TV is even when it does spot talent, it hasn't got the first idea of what to do with it. Although we're not expecting radiohead to invite Alex to guest vocalise in the near future.