Saturday, May 08, 2004

YOU'RE TWO FLY, MCFLY: One of those "Really? You mean there's another band with our blindingly obvious name?" incidents: there's a McFly in the States, too - winningly, the American McFly merely say that "it might be a bit of a pickle" if the British version toured the States.

CLOSE THE GATE ON THE WAY OUT: Apparently, BMG are currently weighing up whether or not to renew Gareth Gates' contract. Let's put it like this: wouldn't use the credit card much.

DON'T TELL ME THE DREAMWORKS IS OVER: ... but it is. Just a few months after Universal bought Dreamworks Record division, it's being rationalised out of existence. About half a dozen people will lose their jobs, but they're putting off the drpping artists until a later date.

POPCORN HALF FEATURE: The Fall have quit their tour of the US half way through - apparently because the band are "too lazy" to play. Mark E Smith has decreeded all ticket holders will get half their cash back - which isn't going to go down well. The hand-written statement read, in full:

The Group / New York Agency + Tour Manager are too lazy to play.
50% refund to all ticket holders.
M.E. Smith

Which we're sure tells the whole story. Yes.

BORIS BIFFS MAGIC: Boris Johnson is, of course, to the Tory Party what the Rolo McFlurry is to McDonalds: it's very easy to start to feel warm feelings towards the institution when you enjoy something light and fluffy its managed to produce, and you forget that it's an evil empire led by a callous clown. Anyway, Boris has been appointed Conservative arts spokesperson, and within a couple of minutes of getting the post, was already making policy without clearing it through central office first:

"I am going to open up the bandwidth, so there is much more freedom on the radio stations. I am going to reduce some of the stuff allocated to the Pentagon, so you can get the Rolling Stones in Oxfordshire. I am fed up with just listening to treacly old Magic."

JAZZOBIT: The death has been announced of Barney Kessel, the jazz guitarist. He died Thursday in San Diego, aged 80, from brain cancer. Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1923, Kessel started his career at te age of 14, playing in an otherwise all-black dance band. His career lead him to working with many legendary names, including a spell in a band fronted by Chico Marx. More conventionally, he toured with bands lead by Artie Shaw, Charlie Barnet and Bennt Goodman and played alongside Presley, Ricky Nelson and many more. Even if you don’t know his name, you’ll have heard his work: on Elvis’ Return To Sender, The Righteous Brothers’ You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling and right across Pet Sounds by the Beach Boys. A favourite amongst the Beatles, George Harrison described Kessel as "the best guitarist in this world, or any other world."

Barney hadn't been able to work since a series of strokes twelve years ago, but had continued to have music at the heart of his life. His wife, Phylis VanDoren, reported that he had been listening to music throughout his last day, and had his own work - 'Barney Kessel Plays For Lovers' had been playing at the time of his death: "The last breath he took was in time with the last chord of the last song on that record. The song was 'I'm Through With Love,' which is not an inappropriate title. It was such a beautiful ending."

MR STING CAN'T GO HOME: Get well soon, Mr. Sting - the poor lamb has got a bad throat and had to cancel his Newcastle curtain raiser for his UK tour. Actually, when we say "get well soon" we should stress we're not actually hoping you start performing all over the place again. In fact, we probably mean "get some rest".

UNCOMPLICATED: We've just been watching CNN's The Music Room (no longer sponsored by Toyota, who've probably realised that the break bumper of a woman dancing about apparently unaware she's about to get a racing car up her arse wasn't a great advert.) They were focusing on Avril Lavigne - of course, an old friend of No Rock, so we were interested to see what she had to say.

Actually, you know, we don't think we've ever watched an interview with her before, because it's quite a treat. The woman clearly has nothing going on in her mind as her responses, empty as they are, take so long to form she makes Donald Rumsfeld look like Marvo The Memory Man. She explains the title of her album - "Under My Skin", which she clearly thinks is some difficult, obscure concept - after a lot of Miss World smiling and thought as being "that's where I write about stuff that's there"; which we think means that she writes about the stuff that's under her skin, rather than she peels back the top layer of her epidermis and scrawls down her lyrics on the underside of her flesh. Although we'd quite like to see that.

And what lyrics, eh? She's obviously put her foot down and insisted on being allowed a little more of herself on the new album, and it suddenly becomes clear why she's keen to stress that she's not a teenager any more: because if you tried to date her on songwords alone, you'd think she was a not particularly gifted thirteen year old:

"He gave me a kiss/ it went something like this/ it made me go/ oh oh"

"I sit on my bed alone/ staring at the phone"

And so on.

She does acknowledge that the new album isn't all her own work, becuase she got help from her friends. Everyone who worked on the album was a friend, it seems, and Chantal Kreviazuk is her best friend - by which, we presume, she means she wrote the most of it. On the other hand, this does seem to be part of a push by the Lavigne camp to try and suggest that this album isn't all custom fit, but we're so not buying the 'hey-my-best-friend-happens-to-be-a-famous-songwriter' schtick. It might be they get on know, having spent some time at the office together, indeed a while back, the story was they got to be good friends while writing. (That link also offers up a wonderful quote where Avril describes the death of her grandad: [it was] really hard for me to deal with. But it was good 'cause I was able to write about it." So long as his death wasn't in vain, then.

The Music Room then trotted out a bunch of other, bright eyed, vaguely punklite girls from Tornoto, all of whom had two things in common: they all sounded like Avril Lavigne, and they all insist they aren't anything like Avril Lavigne. To be fair, all of them are at least able to deliver responses to interview questions and give the impression they actually understood what they were being asked. But none of the - Lillix (Avril-as-band), FeFe Dobson (the black Avril), not even Katy Rose, the Avriliest of them all - realised that desperately trying to deny they're record label composites put together to be a bit like Avril is such an Avril thing to do. Katy Rose wins extra points, though, for insisting that the world will see that to be the case "once they hear my b-sides." Because, of course, that's where the soul of an artist would be.

Friday, May 07, 2004

DOUBLE JAIL-ENTRY BOOKKEEPING: Suede, Primal and Echobelly accountant Frank Dixon has been jailed for a year after being found guilty of ripping off his clients. Apparently, he got a light sentence because he'd only been stealing to "keep his business afloat" and not to maintain a champagne lifestyle, which we're sure will please Brett Anderson, lumbered with a massive tax bill he thought had been settled. The money Brett thought was being spent by Gordon Brown on blowing the arms off iraqi kids actually turned out to be "keeping Dixon afloat."

GREEDY, GREEDY, GREEDY, GREEDY: It seems that the RIAA and its members just can't resist squeezing more money from the consumers (that's us), and, hey, if golden-egg laying geese get slaughtered as a result, that's business, yeah? The big five labels are forcing a25 per cent price increase on Apple for songs on iTunes. Now, it's true they wanted the price to rise to USD2.99 per song, but even so - USD1.25 for a single track, which doesn't require any packaging, distribution or storage? They've got to be kidding.

In effect, the RIAA are pricing legal downloading out the market. You can vote with your peer to peer networks.

DASH TAKES OFF POSH: Damon Dash has decided he's had enough of waiting for Victoria Beckham's label to cough up for the work he did on her ill-fated 'rap' album, and is going to go ahead and release it anyway. But someone else will be singing on it instead of Posh. So, that'd be like the Spice Girls records, then.

REMEMBER, BOYS, THAT YOUR FOREFATHERS DIED: Well, the FA would have had to have worked hard to come up with a worse idea for the official England song than the Twisted X Nesbitt/Cockernee affair, and clearly the boys at Lancaster Gate have been up late into the night to rise to the challenge. The Farm's Altogether Now, remixed by DJ Spoony. With a Liverpool's Boy Choir on it. What's curious about the choice isn't that (after Ian Broudie and Ian McCulloch) this seems to confirm only Scousers are allowed to write England songs now (Ned Murphy, your time is coming...), but that the song seems to be totally inappopriate. Peter Hooton accepts his country's call with the good grace of a man who's been living on No Frills Cornflakes for a few years now: "It's a fantastic honour to have our song chosen to be the official England anthem." But he also makes reference to the original point of the song - it was about the so-called 'Christmas truce' football match from World War One also immortalised in yet another scouser's video, Paul McCartney's Pipes of Peace): "The fact that the greatest game in the world had momentarily united the soldiers was the reason I wanted to capture the spirit of that day in the lyrics."

And this is where we really start to have a problem with the plan - because Altogether Now was, as we understood it, a song about war that drew on a football match, not a song about football that mentioned the war. And the lyrics seem to support the way we remembered it:

Remember boy that your forefathers died
Lost in millions for a country's pride
But they never mention the trenches of Belgium
When they stopped fighting and they were one

A spirit stronger than war was at work that night

December 1914 cold, clear and bright
Countries' borders were right out of sight
When they joined together and decided not to fight

All together now
All together now
All together now, in no man's land

All together now
All together now
All together now, in no man's land

The same old story again
All those tears shed in vain
Nothing learnt and nothing gained
Only hope remains

All together now
All together now
All together now
In no man's land
All together now
All together now
All together now
In no man's land

The boys had their say they said no
Stop the slaughter let's go home, let's go, let's go

Now, without wanting to second guess what the football scores will be, we can see why a song begging for an end to the slaughter and an early return home might be apt, but we just don't see how the song really fits: it's a contest between countries, so "countries' borders right out of sight" seems to be a total contradiction of what the competition is about. And that's without the queasy feeling of a song that originally paid tribute to millions of men killed in a nasty, Jingoisitic war is being turned into a sing-a-long for thousands of sunburned jerks to bellow in a nasty, Jingoisitic fashion.

PERMISSION TO PERM: As The Darkness carry through their stance to its logical conclusion and record with Mutt Lange (i.e. Shania Twain's wife), one brave man claims the credit. When Justin and Shania appear together singing Christmas songs in a sledge next winter (you know it's going to happen) you'll know who to blame, the kids.

MORE COURTROOM FUN: Ricky Martin is being sued by Angelo Medina, his former manager, over the terms of their professional divorce last September. Meidna claims he was meant to carry on representing Martin in Puerto Rico; Martin's people say he wasn't.

LOYAL TO THE LAST: The two workers who may or may not be co-indicted with Michael Jackson over the latest charge - that of conspiracy - are blustering that even if the State serves papers on them, they won't cut a deal with the prosecution. The men's lawyer says that he doesn't think the prosecution is "open-minded." Funny that, a prosecution who's convinced that the people being prosecuted is guilty. Not at all usual that, with prosecuting attorneys usually opening their cases with "Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, who knows if these guys did it? I don't, for one..."

BRAND STRETCH: MTV is the latest big name to announce a download service, hooking up with MusicNet to offer downloads from some point later this year, according to "people familiar with the plan", whatever that means. We're guessing here, but one dollar a song, crappy Windows Media format, DRM making the downloads virtually useless. Are we warm?

A REPUTATION TO PROTECT: If you're looking for something to do with your Friday, while you wait for Donald Rumsfeld to see just how far his "confused old man" act can protect him ("look... I'm doing that thing where I lick my lower lip to try and look like your grandad... you wouldn't sack your own grandad, would you?"), you might want to meet the Reputation. Elizabeth Elmore (ex-Sarge) has been using the band name to cover her musical project for a couple of years now, and they're about to launch a new album on Lookout Records - complete with a free MP3 sample track.

YOU WAIT AGES FOR A PISSPOOR BUFFY RIP OFF WRITTEN BY A POP STAR TO TURN UP...: And then you get two, as hot on the heels of Susanna Hoffs, Simon Webbe from Blue has written a TV horror show which he's quite proud ofand is getting interest from proper networks:

They're calling it the British answer to Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I've been a footballer, I'm a singer, I have my own production company and I do a bit of acting.
I couldn't say which one I love best. I'm an all round entertainer."

And we couldn't begin to say what one you actually do in an entertaining way.

SPECTOR OF A NOT GUILTY VERDICT: There's good news for Phil Spector, as forensic reports seem to give creedence to his version of the death of Lana Clarkson. Reports suggest that Clarkson died with a gun in her mouth (consistent not just with Spector's story but most Suede songs) and that she had shot residue on her hands, making it plausible that she did indeed blow her own brains out, rather than relying on Phil to do so.

FACE-OFF?: So far, the RIAA's legal actions have worked for them simply because everyone's been too scared to call the organisation's bluff and let them take it to court. They figure that a multi-billion pound industry is probably going to be able to afford better lawyers than they can, so they grudgingly settle out of court. This suits the RIAA, who know that a high-profile court case is going to leave them looking worse and open to questions. But it looks like they're about to be dragged into the daylight, as Fayetteville resident Barbara Johnson is challenging them to justify their demand of USD750 a song for music downloaded by her grandson.

DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT MEAT: Jim Kerr, former husband of Patsy Kensit (but then, isn't everyone?) has flogged his restaurant - Glasgow's OKO - to the head chef. Which is like selling Simple Minds to the drummer. Or the bassist, at a push.

AND THEN CHRISTINA CAME OUT WEARING THE VERY SAME DRESS: Hey, the fact that Christina Milian went away and then came back looking exactly like she'd stolen Beyonce's dry cleaning is just a coincidence, right? It's not like she's copied or anything - the very idea:

There are a lot of comparisons. We're all the same age - obviously it's Beyonce right now because I've lightened my hair, but I personally just did it for a change. Last year I was getting bored and it helped with my film career as well just lightening it so I've got it like this right now, I'm gonna change it a little later on. You know, the comparisons are nice at the same time because I admire those girls and they're all doing their things."

Yes, Christina, they're doing their things. And now you're doing their things, too.

IT HAD TO HAPPEN. IT DOESN'T MAKE IT ANY BETTER: Sooner or later, Jerry Hall was always going to release a record - and now, unfortunately, it's sooner. Working with Bill Wyman and Bob Geldof, she's "talk-sung" two tracks, enough for a single. We've not heard it, but the phrase "talk-sing" makes us assume it's going to be like her tortuous Bovril advert from a few years back, where she sounded like an aunty trying to be Grace Jones.

HEARTS AND MINDS: The RIAA's partners-in-arms, the MPAA, are pumping a load of dubious "educational" material into schools in a bid to combat file sharing. Of course, being sponsored material it's a totally partial package, encouraging schoolkids to pretend they're "starving artists" and to write essays about how file sharing is bad, mkay? As far as we can tell, there's absolutely no space given over to a fair examination of the arguments in favour of file sharing.

OKAY, SO THERE'S THIS GUY HAVING A REAL MANIC MONDAY, YEAH? AND HE HAS TO WALK LIKE AN EGYPTIAN...: Susanna Hoffs Roach, the one who did that strange thing with her eyes every bloody time out the Bangles, has written a movie. Let's not be quick to file it under the 'stuff a bit like Buffy' heading, just because its called Exorcism for Dummies and is about an unlikely hero casting out demons. The movie has been sold to Revolution Studios, and is in development.

NOT QUITE DEATH METAL: Looking at the inside wall of a cell is Gaahl, the lead singer of Norwegian black metal band Gorgorth. He's been found guilty of ritual violence, which includes drinking blood from the victim. Mind you, the victim is going to get USD11,000, which makes it quite expensive blood. Gaahl will be inside for 18 months.

Thursday, May 06, 2004

STARS IN THEIR EYES? BATS IN THEIR BELFRIES, MORE LIKE: We'd like to apologise to everyone with eyes, but...


This is Bev Callard from the next celeb Stars In Their Eyes, apparently doing Anita Dobson doing Cher.

RELAX, THE REMBRANDTS: The Rembrandts are apparently afraid they're going to go down as one-hit wonders. They needn't bother about that - they'll always be the 'theme tune guys', won't they?

"IT'S A SHIT BUSINESS" MOANS DAUGHTER OF SOMEONE FAMOUS: Leah Wood, daughter of Ronnie Wood, is right cheesed off with the music industry, slamming the people in charge of the companies as "idiots in suits." The reason? They've so far failed to award her band a recording contract - which means that why she's right, she's actually condemning them for one of the few decent decisions they've made in the post-Williams era.

Leah is determined that she's not going to use her Dad to beat the system, though: "I'm determined to get a deal without using Dad's influence." Although, of course, there is a subtle element of the 'I am not going to mention that my Dad is the famous Ronnie Wood of the Rolling Stones, oh no' about that. Mind you, it's likely Wood wouldn't be able to score himself a solo deal these days - the Stones have been shit since Undercover, and its only their back catalogue that keeps them able to sit down with label bosses come renegotiation time. We do, though, admire Leah Wood's steadfast refusal to trade on her famous name with her band, erm, The Leah Wood Group.

"AND NOBODY IS GOING TO MOP DOWN THE ROLLERCOASTER BEFORE YOU RIDE IT, EITHER: Poor Michael Jackson; there he was, hoping a day trip to Six Flags Magic Mountain might take his mind off the seventy year prison sentence hanging over him, only to find that for some reason the amusement park management aren't quite so fawning as they once were. They refused to let him have a go before the park opened, and then said "No" when he asked for VIP treatment during opening hours. They feared they might generate bad publicity for themselves, although we're not sure why insisting that a man suspected of sexually abusing kids was told he couldn't be kept separate from the visiting public and would just have to mingle with all the families during the day is considered to be a PR coup is beyond us.

And what happened to Jacko's Cartmanland of his own? Has the management of Neverland barred him, too?

BITTER MEN OF POP: Gilbert O'Sullivan, who doesn't wear the cap anymore, doesn't like Jonathan Ross over much, he tells The Sun:
I was watching Film 2004 in bed one night and Jonathan Ross was reviewing a Sofia Coppola film called The Virgin Suicides.
"A lot of these films have music in the background and in this particular movie we gave them permission to use Alone Again (Naturally). It was one of a dozen songs in the movie and they used about 30 seconds of it in a particular scene.
He reviewed the film and said: 'Gilbert O'Sullivan notwithstanding this is a good movie.' So what he was implying was that if my song wasn't in the film then it would have actually been better than it was.
I thought: 'Hang on a minute, if I was acting in the movie or involved in the production then criticise me. But for Christ's sake they only played 30 seconds of my record!'
Jonathan is a good broadcaster and if on his radio show he criticised me musically or called me an idiot, then I'd have no problem.
But that wasn't a good enough reason for him to have a go at me on a film programme and I deeply resented it.
I was a bit depressed about the whole thing and wrote to the producer to express my concerns. The producer wrote back and said Jonathan does put his foot in his mouth sometimes… I think he must have verrucas in there.
Now I won't go on his radio programme and I can do without him.

Despite Gilbert's claim he was watching Film 2004, we're assuming the most recent point Ross would have reviewed the movie would have been its UK DVD release in 2000, so that means that O'Sullivan is still brooding at great length over a flippant remark nearly half a decade ago about a snatch of music on film. It was a gag, Gilbert. A throwaway line. Let it go, lest it eats away at you.

We do like the "Well, I won't go on his radio programme" claim - I'd imagine Broadcasting House has a person dedicated to ringing him every day hoping he's relented...

FIRING YOUR LAWYERS JUST BEFORE COURT - IT'S THE NEW ROCK AND ROLL: Bobby Brown borrowed a play from the Michael Jackson/Courtney Love legal approach and sacked his lawyer just before going to court to be told that he was going to be tried for attacking Whitney Houston. "Sacked" is a questionable term, actually, as he hadn't paid any legal bills to Vincent Dimmock since February, and so it's not entirely sure he knew he was employing him. Perhaps it's like the child support, all dealt with by other people for him? Or not, as the case may be.

IMAGINE THE WORST POSSIBLE THING YOU CAN. IT'LL PROVIDE YOU SOME COMFORT: However bad your worst imaginings are, they'll seem like your best friends compared to the plans for the unofficial England song for Europe 2004. Everything about it makes us wince. Everything about it makes us wonder if the people the Guardian was fretting about yesterday, ruining their hearing in noisy clubs, are actually quite aware what they're doing, and are just desperately hoping their eardrums rupture before the record is released.

How awful is it? Let us count the ways.
One: the band is called Twisted X. Which is the sort of name US high school dramas would come up with for a punk band featuring a good looking boy and three others with haircuts.

Two: It's a godawful supergroup affair. Now, we like The Libertines and can tolerate Supergrass in small doses, but generally the only way these things can ever work is to have a clear, focused band at the heart of the track. Which is why New Order's World In Motion was a success - sure, Keith Allen and various others had stuff to do, but the actual heart of the song was left to a bunch of people who were used to working with each other. Likewise, Three Lions: get in the novelty casting lead vocalists if you must, but for god's sake leave the music to a proper band. Compare this with, say, Fat Les or that Echo and the Bunnymen/Spice Girls confection, where the desire to spread the blame over as many people as possible gave a record that sounded like the musicians had met each other for the first time at the recording studio.

Three: The title: Born In England. Sounds more like a BNP election slogan than a tune about a sports team.

Four: The novelty casting lead vocals. James Nesbitt? Come on, he was alright in the Yellow Pages adverts but are we so short of vocalists in the country we need to get an actor in? And he wasn't Born in England, was he? He was born in Coleraine.

Five: The selection process. The song was written for a competition and the winners were selected by listeners to Christian O'Connell's XFM show. Neither the widest popular vote nor the most sophsiticated electorate, then.

Six: The first endorsement for the track came from Neil 'Don't call me Doctor' Fox: "If the Gallaghers were to write a footie anthem for Euro 2004, this would be it. Born In England is a blinding tune.
We need an anthem that the fans can sing on the terraces and that also sounds great pumping out of the nation's radios - this is that tune."
Doesn't that make you hate it even more?

Seven: It's not even the official bloody song, so there's going to be another one (announced on Friday) cluttering up the radio.

Eight: Why do we need a song, anyway? It's a very minor competition that we still won't do very well in; if the people going to get sunburned and drunk in Portugal really want to chant something moronic on the terraces, couldn't they come up with their own words?

Nine: If we must have a song, why not have one along the lines of "Look, you've gone to Portugal - why waste your time watching a bunch of twinks on the football pitch - why not visit some of the villages or try the food?" Even Guardian Football writer Will Buckley is sick of football; when even he can see there's nothing to be excited about, why try and force the charts to join in?

"what i want right now is to be touched. i am very sensitive when it comes to touch and smell"

Presumably, Fred also wants to be smelled, too.

MORE FOR MOYLES: New radio listening figures are out, and the depressing news is that Chris Moyles is actually living up to his "saviour" tag, putting 400,000 listeners on the Radio One breakfast show audience. If he was insufferable before...

YEAH, LIKE YOU'RE REALLY CALLED THE OTTER: Ray Liotta hates working with rap stars because he hates having to use their stupid names. Plus, you cann out "Ice?" and everyone in the room turns and says "Yeah?"

TORRENT OF SOUND: If you're looking for Pixies live shows in bit torrent format, you might want to try a quick click.

YOU DON'T WANT TO THINK ABOUT THIS: Lenny Kravitz puts down his success with women to having a pierced cock. Well, he's ugly and dull, so we guess there has to be something. Actually, we're assuming he's talking about a piercing - a bit of metal that helps him out sexually could be one of those anti-impotence inserts, couldn't it?

DON'T PUT LABELS ON ME: Aw, poor Avril. She's still moaning on about being pigeonholed:

"I always hate it when I get labelled punk or whatever, because I'm not and I never claimed to be punk."

Oh, no?
In the early days,she (and, more importantly, her press people) repeatedly described her look as "skater punk"
She told CNN in 2002 " I like Nirvana, Green Day, System Of A Down. I also like punk rock."
And then there was this, from the National Post:
"Later, when it is mentioned that she seems poised for pop stardom, she is quick to correct. 'No, no, no. Rock stardom,' she says forcefully. 'I don't like using the term pop star because that's not my personality. My personality is like a rock star. I'm hardcore.'"

We could go on. Certainly, Avril made much of the punk connection on the way up. Surely she can't be ashamed of having tried to dress herself up in clothes which didn't fit?

MOST APPLES YET: Last week's upgrade to iTunes has given Apple's online music store a boost, happily coming just a few days before Sony launched its Sony Connect service. Apple now claim half the mp3 player market and 70 per cent of online music sales.

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

REGGAEOBIT: Clement ‘Coxsone’ Dodd, reggae producer and label owner, has died at the age of 72. Dodd started out as a DJ before starting out recording the sounds in Kingston. In 1963, he hooked up with Lee Perry to found the Studio One label.

In the first year of the label, Alvin ‘Seeco’ Patterson encouraged a young Bob Marley to audition for him. Coxsone snapped up the Wailers on the spot, giving them a five year contract and a guarantee of twenty pounds a side. Since then, an impressive list of artists have made their way through the doors: Toots and the Maytals, The Heptones, The Skatalites, John Holt, Bob Andy, Marcia Griffiths, Alton Ellis, Dawn Penn, Jackie Mittoo, Don Drummond, Roland Alphanso, Tommy McCook and Monte Alexander. Studio One released over 10,000 singles and 700 albums, and to a certain extent was the Jamaican music industry.

Coxsone is sometimes described as the root of reggae; certainly, he provided the ground in which it was able to grow. In the mid-80s Coxsone had moved to Brooklyn, but was back at his Kingston studio on Tuesday when he had his fatal heart attack.

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Back at the 'regular' time edition
First, belated second birthday greetings to Inform, the sexy little Liverpool A5 listings and arts magazine - it’s virtually impossible to keep a mag going on Merseyside without the Echo attempting to undercut you and advertisers deciding not to pay, and to do it so well is quite a feat in itself.

This week’s NME has got Matt Bellamy, staring back from the cover like one of Buffy’s less challenging opponents. It’s been a while - you could almost have forgotten they existed (well, actually, not, with the face-smashing thing, but you get the point). Though not as easily as you could have let the Prodigy slip through your memory sacks; the Big Picture features Liam Howlett holding up a CD which he says “proves” the new Prodge album is finished. However, we can get the Conjuring Sheep to hold up a CD and claim that it’s a brand new album from Doctor John, but it’s not quite the same as, you know, releasing a record. Howlett’s upbeat about the prospects for new one, though: “Nobody’s stepped on my toes since the last album, and now this album is here to step on everyone else’s” he claims, apparently blissfully unaware most people are going to have to Google to even remember the last album.

More hard work: The Libertines have hired security guards for their studios, supposedly to stop Carl and Pete from killing each other - we reckon its more Carl’s afraid he’s going to wake up and find the video gone again. The Beastie Boys have condemned Bush as a “sick fuck” and a “moron” - so at least they’re using words he’ll understand. And the Razorlights are looking for a new drummer because the old one couldn’t keep up (either that, or he saw Spinal tap and got nervous.)

The Zutons burn a CD: Roy Orbison, Parliament and Benny Goodman.

There’s been some suggestions running about of late that maybe Jason Von Bondie’s “I was punched by Jack White” routine is turning into the Detroit Rock equivalent of Martin Bryce’s “It has to be said, I did save a child’s life.” It might be time, Jason, to be brave and stop dining out on the story. He’s up against Peter Robinson, and manages to edge the conversation round to facial injuries pretty quickly. We bet his mam has a car sticker: “Ask me about my son’s punch from Loretta Lynn’s Producer.”

There’s a really odd promotional tie-in column (promoting Liptons Ice Tea, which is actually quite nice) going on about “bands people thought would be dire” - see, it’s the don’t knock it until you try it schtick. Apparently Keane are the Ice Tea of current British Indie. We hope this is going to lead to a rash of pieces comparing bands to drinks - Coldplay as Dasani, anyone?

Radar band is The Rakes, who do 22 Grand Job, a song named after the amount a “moderately well-paid job” would pay these days.

Curiously, Matt from Muse is quick to remind everyone that the band isn’t political, while simultaneously claiming the malign influence of Blair and Bush is what motivates much of their songwriting. He offers Rage as a better model for politico-rock, “bringing unknown causes to the public eye”, although with the shamingly low turnouts in Western democracy these days, you could argue that Voting is pretty much getting an unknown cause.

There’s a nice Through the Keyhole bit, with pictures of popstar houses - that perennial bsn concern - and the inevitable “who lives in a house like this?” question. You get to see The Libertines’ gaff, which is a bloody hovel, and discover that the Zutons apparently live on a table top and only drink takeaway coffee.

Posters this week is a bunch of Vintage Rock posters - pretend you were at Woodstock! Claim to have seen the MC5! Wonder why The Libertines count as “vintage”!

Tim Jonze gets an iPod; his girlfriend makes it sleep on the sofa and it forces him to listen to the Tindersticks. It’s clearly trying to split them up.

the bronx - amsterdam paradiso - “a different kind of hot fucking”, 7
the concretes - 100 club - “songs come and go in a glacial throb”, 7
supergrass - nothumbria university - “no one makes music as fun as they do”, 9

morrissey - you are the quarry - “solid, occassionally spectacular... a triumph of faith over industry cycnicism”, 8
keane - hopes and fears - “bedshaped will rule the radio dial from end to end”, 7
hot chip - coming on strong - “a collection of oddball DIY pop songs”, 8

sotw - morrissey - irish blood, english heart - “stupendously well-put together”
goldfrapp - strict machine - “should be number one immediately”

And finally, Harry Hill likes Beck. You’ve got to have a system, and so on.

VOSS THAT NOISE?: remeber Campag Velocet? Five years ago, they scored acres of music press coverage because they were family, and didn't turn many of the column inches into record sales. But now, they're back, with a new single - Vindicitve Disco on Pointy Records (we know) and they're going to be playing gigs in London. We guess this means Pete Voss isn't dead in a ditch somewhere.

A NEW DAWN: A whole bunch of Japanese companies have come together to create a new, common music format. Led by Sony, OpenMGX unfortunately has a name which will remind older tech kids of MSX, the common computer standard which was supposed to have beaten off Commodore and Sinclair back in the 80s but became little more than a playground taunt.

Sony seem to feel that they've got an edge over arch-rivals Apple because their format will work with Playstations, which might be true but misses the point that Playstations aren't entirely portable, and Sony's portable music devices haven't yet got the following the iPod has achieved (or, of course, that Sony's Walkman managed back when MSX computers were cluttering up the far end of Woolworths' shelves.) The new system might be in with a chance of stitching up the lucrative Japanese market - and we're sure none of the companies involved would be too upset if that was all they managed - but worldwide, it seems doomed.

RUBOUT: Every time a brilliant music blog closes, a small part of the net shakes and weeps, and we're especially sorry to see that The Rub has called it a day. Sniff.

KELLYBATE: Bad news, boys. Kelly Osbourne's sworn off boys. She "can't be bothered" with them because "they start getting serious on you." Yes, her choice. Oh, yes indeed. It's no good even thinking of asking for her number. Oh no.

IT'S EITHER THIS, OR BRIBING LENO: Now the scent of desperation in the air around Kylie as she tries to crack America is starting to attract bears and lions from the hills - she's hoping Pharrell Williams will take her on. Does he do pro bono?

THEY'D BE CLOSE ENOUGH TO SEE MY HANDS: Madonna and her geezerblokehusband Guy Ritchie have launched their bid to become actual, genuine rich, selfish cunts rather than just like behaving as if they were with the start of the hearing into the inquiry about their estate. Madonna and Guy, apparently convinced there's anyone left who'd give a fuck about them, are objecting to the new provisional map of England. The map is designed to ensure that the citizens of the country are able to go about their lawful business without rich people frustrating their rights of access. Madonna and Guy are worried that it could mean people might come within 100 yards of one of their many houses, spreading disease and poorness amongst them. God alone knows how much public money is being wasted on Madonna's vanity here. After all, why is she so worried about someone taking a shot of her in her house? Does she think a stolen snap of her in her underwear is going to affect her kids' wellbeing? Because, you know, they're going to have seen a lot worse. [Not Safe For Work]

IT'S STILL NUMBER ONE... FOR THE TIME BEING: The BBC is "standing by" Top of the Pops (and no, not "standing by it waiting until it gets a chance to push it front of a Tube train", either). MediaGuardian claims the show has lost "millions" of viewers, although the figures it produces comparing year-on-year show that in April 2003 it was pulling 3.1 million, while in April 2004 it was getting, um, 2.7 mil. So "millions" in this case means four hundred thousand, more precisely. The programme is getting lower ratings than it did in November, but that could, of course, be something to do with how November is cold and wet. It's managing thirteen percent audience share in the tricky slot against Corrie, which for a programme of little interest to anyone over the age of about twenty five is pretty good. Besides, never forget: Top of the Pops is a brand, and its value to the BBC doesn't lie in how many people watch on Friday night on BBC One, but in the worldwide sister show rights, the CDs, magazines and archive. Mind you, they really need to get rid of Tim Kash. Perhaps they could tempt the BPI's sexy Matt Phillips to present instead? He could deliver a short lecture on the evils of downloading from a hot tub and then introduce Mary Chapin Carpenter. I'd watch.

Meanwhile, Tim Kash's other employers MTV are having trouble with their big brand - the transplant of Total Request Live to the UK hasn't been such a success, with a sample edition in March trailing five other music stations, including MTV's supposed minority channel MTV2. The bosses at MTV seem to think that all the show needs are a few more gurning kids standing around outside the windows - because, of course, there's never any young people in Camden, are there? - so they're moving MTV off to Leicester Square, following an appeal against Camden Council's original rejection of their planning application. Leicester Square is, apparently, "one of our most identifiable and popular London landmarks" according to Michiel Bakker of MTV. Really? "Identifiable and popular"? Do you think he's got it mixed up with Trafalgar Square? It's easy to see why MTV have pinned their hopes on Leicester Square turning things around - there's two Pizza Huts and it is a little bit like Times Square, where the US equivalent comes from - but it won't alter the fact that for much of the year, Leicester Square is grimy, grey and rain-soaked. If they'd really wanted to come up with a solution that would have boosted the audience, they'd have hired a van and taken the show round the country.

FRED DURST'S THOUGHT FOR THE DAY: From his blog: "this is my living room where i write, everything in my whole house is white and minimal. weird?"

Except for your thoughts, eh, Fred? They'll be all black, black, black.

SCISSOR SISTER'S BRIEF SPELL AS 'FASHIONABLE' DECLARED OFFICIALLY OVER: Oh, Scissor Sisters, you were going so well, managing to pass off a video like Talking Heads would have churned out twenty years ago as somehow fresh, and for a few short weeks giving hope to The Honourable Division of Dungaree Manufacturers that they could be about to crossover out of the Playschool Presenter/Lesbian ghetto market. And then this lot turned up for your Attitude 10th Birthday bash last night: Elton John, George Michael, Will Young, Paul O'Grady, Alex Parks, Cilla Black and Lulu. Jesus christ - was Ned Sherrin busy?

Actually, it's curious why so many people would turn out to support Attitude's birthday anyway, what with publisher Richard Desmond having overseen the disgraceful Daily Star coverage of the Corrie gay kiss and his little "all Germans are Nazis" outbursts. Desmond might not have much to do with the daily running of the magazine - he once suggested they try and boost the circulation of the title by putting girls on the cover - but even so: bit much to drink his wine and eat his canapes, surely?

NOT SO SUPERSONIC: Liam Gallagher has issued a statement - oh, come on, surely he must have got a grown up to help him? - denying that he's forming a supergroup at all - not because him, Squire and George's kid aren't so super, either:

"The welcome heat of Sunday's weather in London must have got to the editorial staff at The Sun newspaper, so much so that they dreamed up a bizarre story about Liam Gallagher forming a supergroup with John Squire.
Liam is already in a supergroup called Oasis, and far from taking a break in London, as The Sun story would have us believe, he is busy and recording and mixing the next Oasis album, due for release later this year."

Hope he checked with Noel that he was still in Oasis before sending that out. More to the point, do Oasis count as a "supergroup"? They do include two members who used to be in better acts (Andy from Ride and Gem from Heavy Stereo - hey, we said better, not brilliant) and you could argue that the habit of releasing poorly written histrionic songs displaying the mistaken belief that they're some kind of working class spokesperson suggests that if he was still alive, Lennon would be on board, but "supergroup"?

ALL YOUR CRIMES ARE MADE WHEN YOU'RE CHAINED TO THE MIRROR AND THE RAZOR BLADE: Even we're impressed with how slowly the German wheels of justice turn - they've just now got back the results of Liam Gallagher's blood test following the Munich brawl, and they think he might have taken cocaine prior to getting his stupid face punched in a bar. The authorities seem certain that they won't need to bring Oasis to trial, expecting the band to quietly pay some fines and draw one of those lines under the affair.

AFRICA, YOUR PROBLEMS ARE OVER: You can say what you like about Thatcher, you know, but at least in her defence, while she fucked the British coal, steel, electricity, gas, oil, telecoms and airport industries, ruined the NHS and education systems, bungled us into a Falklands War that could have been avoided, prolonged the Northern Ireland troubles by a generation and couldn't deliver a funny line to save her life, at least she never put Bono in charge of anything. Blair, on the other hand, really does seem to be about to ask him to in some way "head up" his Africa initiative. We know it's just a spot of political stunt casting, but it's rubbish: Blair obviously thinks it'll impress the Kids (what next, eh? - Jimmy Young at Transport?), but if we were in Africa hoping for some help from the west and we discovered the British Prime Minister treated us with such little sympathy he'd pull someone off Top of the Pops to help, we'd be a bit pissed off.

It's just lucky Geri was busy, eh?

KITTIN CHITTIN' CHATTIN': Playlouder loves Miss Kittin, and so do we.

rippin kittin

The difference is, of course, Playlouder have taken their love and turned it into an interview with Caroline. She proposes that all English people should be made to live somewhere else for six months, like a cross between National Service and A Place In The Sun.

LEE HO FOOK PROVES GOOD STRONG HOOK: Proving something, although we're buggered if we can work out what, listeners to Jeremy Vine's Radio Two show have voted the start of Warren Zevon's Werewolves of London as the best opening lines of any song, ever. Zevon's "I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand, walking through the streets of Soho in the rain. He was looking for the place called Lee Ho Fook's, going to get a big dish of beef chow mein" just edged out Bill Hailey's Rock Around The Clock and Tutti Frutti by Little Richard.

Curiously, throughout the report on the victory, BBC News Online seems unable to decide if he's Warren Zevon or Warren Zuton.

LIGHTHOUSEKEEPING: Thanks to Matthew B, who was the first person to point out some of the links down on the left weren't actually totally unfucked - hopefully, we've got that sorted now...

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

LOVE BARGAINS: Looks like Courtney's blustering insistence that there's no problem is about to be dumped in order to allow for a spot of plea-bargaining on the drugs charges: she'll have to do drugs awareness training ('granny, this is an egg') but it could spare her from a conviction.

KOPYRIGHT LIBERATION FRONT LIBERATED: If you play hard and fast with intellectual property, sooner or later you're going to get bitten in your own butt. That's the hard lesson being learned by Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty of the KLF, who have found their name pinched to promote a tour in Australia by Wanda Dee. Wanda, of course, was sampled by the KLF - "stolen" and "ignited into the KLF, and not by kind intervention", and now is taking part in a dance tour as either "Wanda Dee of the KLF" (her words) or "the KLF" (the promoter's). Her slightly tortuous logic runs like this:

"I am touring as Wanda Dee of The KLF. I have nothing to do with how the promoters promote it. I do everything in my power to make sure that the people know that the performers are coming out and not the producers. Again, the producers created that whole confusion. I am a solo entity and have always been a solo entity. Due to the fact that they didn't honour my contract with them, we did track them down and had to pull them by the coat-tails and get them to properly credit me for publishing. By the time we caught up with them they had not taken all of the publishing but most of it. I had to settle with them. They were supposed to give me a feature credit in the video as part of my contract and they were supposed to give me an extra track that they were to produce as part of my agreement but they kept my track, they still have it to this day. They didn't credit me. They in turn caused all the confusion."

There's more confusion, though, as the tour also features "C+C Music Factory", or, rather, Barbara Tucker. Tucker was originally in C+C, but solely as a dancer. However, Robert Clivilies has given her act an official blessing: "As the last surviving co-creator, co-producer and sole remaining owner of the C+C Music Factory name and franchise, there is only (1) one current incarnation of my multi-platinum group that has been personally sanctioned by my office to rightfully and legally use the name in conjunction with live concert performances and events both domestically in the U.S. and internationally around the world; and that is the C+C Music Factory show featuring Barbara Tucker." So, who'd feel cheated by that, then?

Snap make up the third part of the tour, although unusually, they do feature an original, singing member of the band - Turbo B. Just the one, mind, but it seems that that's more than you;d have any right to expect these days.

BECK TAKES TO DOGGING: Part of us is as excited as an eel to hear that Beck has recorded a cover of the Korgi's Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometime. His version is for the new Carrey-Winslett movie Eternal Trailer of the Arthouse Movie; theirs reached number five back in 1980. It's common to write the Korgis off as one-hit wonders, but prior to Everbody's..., they'd had a number thirteen hit with If I Had You, and did manage another (much more minor) chart entry afterwards.

IT IS A LOVELY THING, ISN'T IT?: We're a couple of days late, but even so, we thought we should mention that - if he wasn't dead - Bing Crosby would have been 100 last Sunday. That's if you believe his gravestone; actually, Crosby would have been 101, because his brother, while managing him, fudged his birthdate to make him seem younger. Even Bing's autobiography cites his birthdate as May 2nd 1904, and although brother Everett thought Bing was born in 1901 and was trying to shave three years off his age, the only documentary evidence - birth announcements in local papers - pegs his birthday as being May 3rd 1903. But while facts are sacred, the Crosby family wanted to maintain the myth of the May 2nd, 1904, and so that's the one we're going with.

What's not disputed is somewhere at the start of the last century, a baby was born Harry Lillis in Spokane, Washington State. Crosby started out as a singer with the Paul Whiteman band but was let go (for reasons usually given as unlikely sounding "peccadilloes.") Crosby quickly took to the developing entertainment industry, carving out a career that crossed between making records, doing radio shows and making movies - he was like the Minnie Driver of his day. Unkeen on doing live performance on air, Crosby was an early advocate of pre-recording shows and it's claimed that he was the main reason the radio industry developed the use of magnetic tape - so, when home taping was killing music, it was Uncle Bing who'd been the godfather. He's also credited with hastening the development of video recording, when he transferred his show to television in 1964.

Bing's White Christmas is usually thought of as being the first million-selling single in music history, and trapeziod analysis of figures suggests that he might have been the most popular figure in the twentieth century, helped by his sixty films (twice the number Elvis made, and let's be honest, Presley wasn't that choosy about what he'd appear in) and weeks on the Billboard chart (More than The Rolling Stones, Elton John, Madonna, The Beatles and Elvis added together). He also found the time to help flog Shell petrol, at a time when Shell had oil reserves to sell, and to maintain a fairly impressive golf handicap.

It was golf that finally did for him; he collapsed and died on a course in 1977. Bing had played his last gig at the Brighton Centre - curiously, also the venue for the final date by The Jam.

THE ARCHDUKE TAKES ON THE BPI MAN: Last week saw a face off between Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand and Matt Phillips of the BPI at an Edinburgh University debate on, of course, file sharing. Is it just us, or is Matt Phillips popping up in the media more and more? Almost like the BPI is trying to shrug off its faceless fat cat image by giving itself a not entirely unattractive face. I mean, if he wasn't working for the BPI and we weren't spoken for, we'd probably buy him a Bacardi Breezer or two in a bid to getting a chance to place a firm, manly hand on his thigh. Anyway, Alex doesn't have a problem with file sharing, providing it's for community, not cash:

"the most important question [is] is there a profit? If nobody is making a profit then leave them alone. If they are, do they have a right? If they don't then the government should probably legislate against them. I am quite in favour of downloading and file sharing shared between players of music but that doesn't mean I am in favour of unscrupulous organisations making a fast buck from somebody else."

Talking of unscrupulous organisations making a fast buck off somebody else, here's Matt's couterpoint:

"Record companies have always spent the most promoting new artists. We still get this image of the recording industry as greedy fat cats in suits who are churning out CDs at £20 a time and ripping off the consumers. It's a cartoonish view. What the argument is about is the need to protect the investment in artists."

Why, we wonder, is the image of the industry one of fatcats in suits ripping off the consumers with over-priced CDs? Could it be something to do with the music industry actually being like that? Isn't the image of record comapnies staffed by brown-eyed boys helping out little guys much more of an cartoon?

MIA KILLER GETS 36 YEARS: Jesus Mezquia, the man convicted of the brutal rape and murder of Mia Zapata, has been sentenced. The County Deputy Prosecutor Tim Bradshaw played the court a short film celebrating Zapata's life, before describing her as "an exceptional person." (How many State officials ever say that about punks when they're alive?). Bradshaw then asked the court for a show of hands to demonstrate how many people believed the sentence should go beyond the standard ten years. The result?

the courtroom, a sea of hands

King County Superior Court Judge Sharon Armstrong accepted the prosecution's argument, citing the horrific injuries discovered on Mia's body. Praising the warmth and fortitude of her friends, family and fans, Armstrong said "It is evident that Mia Zapata was an extraordinary person. It is obvious that she was very vibrant and that you loved her very much. It is almost 11 years after her death, but it's as though for many of you she is still alive."

Mezquia was sentenced to thirty six years.

THE MONEY WAS ONLY RESTING IN MY ACCOUNT: The record companies are always keen to make it seem like they're not pursuing file-sharers for themselves, but for the good of the artists. Which makes it kind of funny they somehow had neglected to hand over USD 50 Million in royalties. The record companies had to be forced by New York State Attorney to actually pass this money on to the people it belonged to. Hey, isn't not handing cash over to the people it belongs to, you know, like stealing? Wouldn't that be having the same effect on the artist as if we'd just gone into a store and stolen a CD?

The record companies, of course, have a plausible explanation - they'd have loved not to have sat on the fifty million bucks, earning interest (we reckon even if they'd stuck it in a current account, it would have pulled in a couple of million a year), but they'd lost track of the artists it was meant to be going to. The artists included Dolly Parton (clue: she's got a bloody great theme park named after her - we're sure they'd have been able to forward a cheque) and Sean Combs (ask any attorney in the States, perhaps?).

YOU'LL NEVER BUY A SONG AGAIN: Not if Microsoft has its way - it's just launched a new version of its Digital Rights Management gubbins for the unpleasant Windows Media format which will make it possible for "content owners" to ensure you can only hire songs and movies for a brief period, with them becoming unplayable after the hire period is up. This really is a music company's dream: in the past, they had to invent a whole new format to make us buy our record collections all over again; now, our collections can be made to evaporate every Thursday.

NOBIT: The death, from cancer, of Lizzy Mercier Descloux has been announced. Although largely passed over by the record-buying public, her No Wave work was extremely influential on fellow artists, and was reissued a couple of months back by Ze Records. Born in 1956, Lizzy is best known for her 1981 album Mambo Nassau, which was an early attempt to fuse together "western" music with African sound. In a busy career, Lizzy also helped create French pop paper Rock News, worked with Patti Smith, Richard Hell and countless others, published poetry and even found time to branch out in painting.

BANDS WHO BLOG: First, the bad news: Limp Bizkit aren't breaking up. Fred Durst says anyone who says they are is a moron and if destroyed still true. Actually, since the departure of Wes, Limp have been little more than Fred Durst's pull-along-ego on wheels, it'd be kind of tricky for them to break up anyway, wouldn't it?

Now, the good news: Fred Durst has got a blog. It's called American Alien - cuz, like, y'know, he's American but he's so, like, other? And it's like he's some kind of outsider, yeah? Because y'know how strange it is that he doesn't buy his clothes in the same stores as everyone else?

Actually, we were surprised to see that he was playing Loveless by the Valentines last time he posted - although we didn't think anyone of his age would be listening to the sort of stuff his band makes unless they were being paid, but the real gems are in Fred's Thoughts:

i am fascinated with russia. this is masha [picture of a woman], she is from russia. very cool

as the evening falls i slowly become a shadow within a shadow and lose my ability to rise above any fears or concerns i may have buried throughout my day

i had such a beautiful day with my son. it must be cool for him to have a dad this is definitely still a child at heart. i look into his eyes and they are so innocent. he is not damaged from the outside world yet. it just boggles my mind to think of this eventually changing as he gets older. we are all a perfect example of that

There's a lot about how sad he is. Even when he's happy, he's sad. And when he's sad, he's even more sad inside. Inside the inner sadness, he's sadder than you could possibly imagine.

IT'S THE WORLD OF R KELLY: It's hard not to view everything R Kelly does as his way of preparing to spend some time wearing orange dungarees breaking rocks. So, when he tells Vibe magazine all about how he loves boxing, we read this as a warning to the guys in B-Wing that he ain't no pushover; (the reassurance that he doesn't think the sport will damage his looks, of course, is a cheeky wink to the guys over in F-wing); the complicated sounding rush-release of seven albums seems less like an act of a totally deluded solipsist (R Kelly does music in a German style? With an oompah band, presumably?), more someone racking up the work to keep him in snout and tinned pineapple for the next couple of years; and "poor me, I had a nomadic childhood and I weren't too good with the book-learning" just stinks of a plea to the jury. Maybe he's going to try and claim that his adding up was so poor, he didn't realise that thirteen came before sixteen, and not after. Still, his confession that "Sometimes I don't feel my spelling is correct like everybody else's. I'm a little slower when it comes to things like that" explains why he went for a single letter instead of a tricky name - if he'd recorded under the name Reginald Kelly, the queues for autographs would have built up round the block.

But don't let yourself get fooled: Kelly isn't getting in touch with his humble side:

"My talent has overwhelmed me - it automatically beats the pen and pad to the punch. Lyrics come just like that, out of nowhere. God blessed me with a talent I don't see anybody else with.

Hmm. He does actually make it sound like his creative process is on a par with a cat sicking up a furball, although he doesn't seem to get the similarity.

DAMN, NOEL EDMONDS MISSED A TRICK: Mariah Carey's star has fallen so sharply - although not without providing cash rewards as it did so - she's been reduced to a walk-on role in Funkmaster Flex's Rapping Top Gear programme. Mariah features shopping for a helicopter with him - we're not sure what she plans to do with it when she's bought one; our bets are split between creating a new star vehicle for herself, viz. Mariah Carey's Treasure Hunt; dropping 'please buy my album' leaflets from the sky; or maybe just to get ready for the next time she needs to beat a quick retreat from a live performance.

AND DON'T THE PIXIES REIGN IN MINNEAPOLIS IN THE SUMMER TIME?: It won't be around forever, but if you fancy hearing what the Pixies sound like on this comeback tour* klepshimi has got the lot available as mp3s. Splendid.

* - we're assuming they're not as grumpy as Prince about calling it a comeback.

DON'T CALL IT A COMEBACK. NO, REALLY DON'T CALL IT THAT: Prince seemed to have been too kicked back during his current reappearance in all our lives, so it's nice he's still found something to kvetch about: being described as a 'comeback' artist:

"I would ask people who want to call this a comeback, where they think I'm coming back from?"

Well... years in the wilderness, a bunch of largely ignored, not-very-good stuff, what seems to have been over a decade of not actually being the funkiest little guy in the globe and spending time dicking about changing your name to something from the Dingbats font and writing words on yoru face, since you ask.

FIRE SALE: We're looking at a long line we've drawn, running from "enterprising" to "ghoulish", and we still can't decide where to place the New York radio station auctioning the grill from Billy Joel's most recent car crash. Mind you, it would form the basis of a great collection, and with Joel leaving the road seemingly once or twice a year, there'd be plenty for everyone.

PRESCRIPTION CHARLIE?: The defence's claims to have the prescriptions for the drugs Courtney was caught holding might prove to be true; unfortunately for Courtney, the prosecution are claiming that she tested positive for cocaine when she was arrested.

CONSIGNIA WASN'T CONSIDERED, APPARENTLY: Having discovered there's already a band called The beatings in the US, the (other) beatings have changed their name to avoid confusion. To, erm, Beatings. No The. No chance of getting muddled up there, then.

EXTRAORDINARY CLAIMS: Geoff Sewell, told that his band Amici Forever ("the opera band") "looks like S Club 7 but sounds like Pavarotti":

"We have another group in London called Liberty X and people often say that about them and us."

Hmm... this is Amici Forever:

And this is Liberty X, of course:

I'm not so sure that I'd be muddling the two of them up - perhaps Geoff has been mishearing people saying "You know what's uncanny? You lot look exactly like the juniors from the office who handle the accounts for Liberty X."

THE BOY DONE SURPRISINGLY GOOD: We'd imagine that Boy George would be as surprised as anyone that Taboo picked up a nomination for any US awards at all, but it has: the Drama Desk awards has nominated George's life-of-me to be considered for a best music prize. Mind you, he's up against The Musical of Musicals: The Musical. Which is a lot to take on.

SING SING FOR THEIR SUMMER: Passing the buck to fans is all the rage these days, what with Westlife saying "if you don't buy our single, we'll split up" and Marillion begging their fans to buy three copies of every single. A slightly less cyncial call to arms, though, reaches us from Sing Sing, who just want us to buy their ep, so they can use the money to make an album:

We need to tell you what the situation is with the band and the second album. Basically we have no record label and very little money. We thought that the ‘Madame Sing-Sing’ EP would raise money for an album but, even though we have broken even and gone into a small amount of profit, we have not raised enough money to go back into the studio with Mark van Hoen as we would have liked.  Our only hope is now you guys.

Many of you might not have bought the ‘Madame Sing-Sing’ EP as perhaps you were waiting for the full-length. Well, the deal is this – if you DON’T buy the EP there will be no album. So if you would like to see a second Sing-Sing album and you haven’t bought the EP yet, we would strongly urge you to do so. Of course, not enough of you might buy the EP even for this but if you don’t then at least you will have the last songs ever released by Sing-Sing. To be perfectly honest, the future of the band now really rests with this. Please help us out.

If you would like to hear and even download for free a track off the EP as a taster, you can do so here.

So that’s that. Sorry if this seems a bit desperate but these are desperate times in the music business. The thing is – Sing-Sing is now a cottage industry and in our quest to be truly independent, we have to operate like this and not be dependent record company advances (which are all very well but with that comes the worry that you may always be dropped if you aren’t ‘performing’ as well as they would like). This is the way many bands are operating now – relying on their fans and not record labels.

Of course, buying anything in the shop, not just the EP, will help. We can tell you that we now have vinyl available to buy too. The ‘Panda Eyes’ single that was released on Elefant Records (7” red vinyl – very cool) is back in stock and, for the first time, we have the vinyl version of ‘The Joy of Sing-Sing’ album which was only released in North America. All the other EPS, except for the Manifesto promo, are still available (with b-sides unavailable elsewhere) as are T-shirts.

So that’s that. We would love to make another album and we hope you would love to see one too. All the songs are ready to go so if you feel you can spare a few quid/dollars/euros please do.

Unless you have cloth ears and a granite heart, you'd have to agree that buying a tshirt or a rather nifty ep to help a band make more music has to be a decent investment, yes? Your indie needs you.

Monday, May 03, 2004

SUPERGROUPS: DIDN'T WE TELL YOU THEY WERE THE RETIREMENT HOME OF THE STARS?: The Virgins - now, there's an ironic name for an alt-country offshoot comprising Melissa Auf Der Maur, Evan Dando, Ryan Adams and James Iha. In their defence, they apparently came together when everyone involved was less than Super.

WHEN I HEAR THE WORDS "ANTI-GUN CAMPAIGN", I REACH FOR MY GUN: Obviously, we're not big fans of guns here at No Rock, as we've not really yet been persuaded that anyone really needs a gun, and so we're always interested in any idea to get them off the streets. We're not quite sure how coralling Damon Albarn, Jamelia and Lemar into the House of Commons is going to stop dim young people firing ammunition into other dim young people - is anyone in the inner cities going to say "Hey, if Beverley Knight and that bloke who lost on Fame Academy tells me shooting the face off people I barely know is wrong, then I'm surely going to hand my gun over to police and go back to stabbing people with broken Bacardi Breezer bottles instead"?

A FISH OUT OF WATER FEATURES: So we know what Marillion are up to these days, but what of Fish? The former Mr. Derek William Dick is, ACME reports, doing a Kim Wilde and getting some time in down in the garden. His first job was in forestry, so a "back to his roots" observation is a little bit more than a bad pun, although not much.

Funnily enough, our local garden centre reopened a couple of weeks ago and we popped in to see Kim Wilde doing the ribbon-cutting honours; the poor sod was trapped signing autographs for hours in the "furniture department" (somewhere between bread oven and third circle of hell hot) for young people who were clearly wondering what they'd be able to get for them on Ebay. We don't think Fish would have been so gracious, although when he used to play the Liverpool Lomax he would always spend time with his fans after the show, inviting each to buy him a pint. An awestruck Lomax employee once told us how he saw Fish rack up sixteen pints along the wall, consuming them all in the gap between "last orders" and "time, gentlemen, please."

Of course, the last time we mentioned Marillion we were pointed at and called UK Music hipsters by thisStrangeEngine, which actually cheered us up quite a lot; we've never actually been accused of being a hipster before - of any sort; generally, our reluctance to spend more on trousers than we do on pizza in any given month puts paid to our chances on that score.

OSBOURNE CASE THROWN OUT: Marcel Berlins, could we ever do with you around. More court action involving pop stars - this time, a Californian judge has put a halt to seven years of litigation against Ozzy Osbourne and his lovely lady wife Sharon. Robert Daisley and Lee Kerslake have been trying to claim cash and credits for their part in the Blizzard of Oz and Diary of a Madman albums; the lovely lady Sharon insisted that they were just harassing the family and that their contribution to the two albums had been axed because they'd been "abusive and unjust" in their behaviour. The judge refused the two musician's attempts to appeal against an earlier judgement against them.

YOU'RE NOT LIKELY TO COMPLAIN ABOUT YOUR LABEL BOSS HERE: Well-known hitting person Mike Tyson is planning to launch his own record label. Who's going to be on it? Anyone he wants to be, we suspect.

Tyson - who's calling the company Tyson, presumably to make it easier for him to remember the name of it - says "I'm into the music scene so intensely. For 20 years, I've known about all these rappers; Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, people a lot of rappers now aren't even aware of."

We're not quite sure what to make of that - we'd consider ourselves to be pretty intensely into music as well, and yet we'd not attempt to demonstrate that by listing precisely two acts that we "know of." Still, the official launch is coming soon, and that'll give him a chance to come up with some songs that he likes, too.

SUPERGROUPS: THE RETIREMENT HOMES OF THE ROCK GODS: The only cheering aspect of the news that Liam Gallagher is going to go and spend the next few months creating an album with Dhani Harrison and John Squire is that it probably means that Oasis are well and truly fucked. Or that Noel will be waving him off to go and do his godawful side project and recording all the bits for the new Oasis while Liam's out the building. Either way, Liam's Big Mates plan to get a record out in time to spoil everyone's Christmas.

BANK HOLIDAY MUSIC TV: As we sit here, watching Britney's Onyx Hotel on T4 and understanding why she's selling so much merchandise on the tour (it's pretty dull, and we'd be wandering off looking for something else to do - maybe it's more exciting to actually be there?), we're trying to recall if anything musical on TV this weekend has challenged BBC Parliament's rerun of the day democracy died (twenty-five years to the day, they're reshowing Decision 79 in full - it's frightening how much like Alan Partridge Michael Cockerill looked back the day Thatcher won power), and we're concluding that, really, no. Saturday night saw BBC round off its otherwise blameless Music Live week in Belfast with The Beautiful Night, which seemed to have artists chosen by getting a contestant on Ken Bruce's Popmaster to name as many Irish acts as they could think of. ITV did a double dose of Stars In Their Eyes, adding a soap special to the kids' special: they're all special at the moment, probably so nobody gets to feel their feet are in the permanent presenter shoes left vacant by Matthew Kelly. Seeing Dead Barry off Eastenders being Meat Loaf was no real shock, but evil Cilla from Corrie turning into a frigteningly accurate Kirsty MacColl could have had us warming to her. Lukily she was back doing her lopsided guilty face and being mean to Les, a dog and Chesney (in ascending order of cruelty-to-dumb-animals meanness) the next night and that soon evaporated.

Sunday night's Faith and Music was always going to be tricky, coming straight after The South Bank Show on Jeanette Winterson would be a hard enough slot, even if it wasn't filled with Terence Trent D'arby. It'll come as a surprise to many that he abandoned a pop career - only in the sense of leaving thousands of unsold records behind him, surely? - and he was an odd choice for the programme which has rapidly used up all the actual devout pop stars willing to talk about it in public. "He is a very spiritual person" puffed the Bob Harris voiceover, like a heathen couple desperately trying to convince a vicar why they should be married in church and not in the registry office above a branch of Hepworths. The best bit, though, was the attempt to suggest that the belief that D'arby had been wronged when he was portrayed as a raging egomaniac. To put those days behind him, he'd changed his name. To Sananda Maitreya. So, to prove he was no big head, he chose to rename himself 'saviour of the universe.'

Sunday, May 02, 2004

ASHTON UNDER THREAT: There are few venues which keep going much beyond a handful of years, so you'd imagine that having a successful music venue, attracting fans from right across the northwest of the country, bands from across the country and beyond, and offering rehearsal space and support for young bands (and, by implication, that disaffected youth we hear so much about) would be a source of pride for a local council, wouldn't you? And yet, Tameside Council seems really happy to force the Ashton-Under-Lyme Witchwood to close after twenty years, in order to allow the land it stands on to be used to create some identikit nowhere town officey units. The venue is looking at a compulsary purchase order. Of course, if there was any real demand for the blanding down of the area and the destruction of one of the regional venues most important in the British rock scene, you'd expect the developers to be bunnying up the cash themselves for the project. Instead, Ask Property Development is being handed GBP14.25million of public money to build the offices. The Witchwood is campaigning to stay open, and we wish it all the best.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING NEXT YEAR?: Most stars are so aware their fanbase is more fickle than a haughty cat, it's probably all they can do to stop themselves from constantly covering 'Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow'. No such fears for Daniel Beddingfield, mind, who's opened booking for a March 2005 tour. Blimey, even if he sells tickets for so far in the future, he's running the risk that he'll bound out on stage in Nottingham next March and there won't be anyone there, because everyone will either have forgotten him, or forgotten buying tickets, or forgotten where they put them.

VOD KO - MTV RIP?: No wonder MTV was desperately trying to force independent labels to give them their music for virtually nothing and has ripped up its local formats - there's a looming danger that could threaten to wipe out music TV as we know in the near future and it's probably that Viacom are trying to squeeze out the most value from MTV in the couple of years it has left in its current form. Universal Records has signed a deal with the crappily named Gotuit Media in the States to pilot a video on demand service over digital cable, which effectively is laying down the basics to allow anyone with a TV and a remote to choose their own music videos when they want to see them. You know, like The Box used to offer until everyone twigged that, really, no matter what time of day you rang up you'd probably never actually get to see the video you chose; except with this system, it really is music television you control. Expect more MTV retrenching and a lot more sub-moron Jackass style programming.

VOICES FALL SILENT: After two decades, Robert Pollard has decided to call it a day for Guided By Voices. He's not quitting the music industry - he's planning to continue as a solo artist, but he's decided that he's too old to be a gang leader, even of a gang of which he has been the only member to go the distance and constantly in charge of picking the team members. So, although it's not like GBV has done anything that he wouldn't have wanted, after all these years Pollard's decided it's time his own name should be above the door.

3MV GIVES UP THE GHOST: Bad news for the indie sector, as distribution company 3MV have gone out of business. The company website is in denial, but the two directors Dave Trafford and Max Kenny have issued a statement:

"3mv is a victim of the diminishing margins in sales and distribution. The market has grown tougher and the business model that has previously worked for us is viable no longer. Our situation has been compounded by the loss of a number of key clients in the last year. It's a very sad day for Max and myself, the whole team at 3mv, our roster and the independent sector as a whole."

Among 3MV's clients were V2, Rough Trade and Placid Casual, the Super Furry Animal's own label. An early casualty of the collapse has been Phantom Force, a bunch of Super Furries remixes by the likes of Llwyber Llaethog and Brave Captain. They've been trying to sort the problems out, but with all the discs in the hands of 3MV, even getting stuff out to Amazon has proved tricky.

BLIMEY, YOU'RE NOT DEAD, THEN?: Astonishing comebacks, number seventy-nine: Apache Indian is still going, it seems, although he's hardly rubbing shoulders with greatness: he's spent the last twelve months recording with Boyz II Men, Blackstreet and, um, UB40, and contributing a track to Scooby Doo II: Monsters Unleashed. Since that affair has hardly left anyone involved unscathed - we suspect it might have been watching former co-star Sarah Michelle Gellar cavort with a badly realised cartoon dog that sent Nicholas Berendon down the off licence - we feel his pain. On a brighter note, he has been touring with Sean Paul, which does allow writers to shoehorn references to Beyonce into articles about him.

Naturally, it's Boomschackalak which has turned up on the Scooby movie - the song which Apache must thank every time he can afford a hot meal; even more naturally, he's keen to release a swift cash in ("2004 version")

HEAR POLLY! SEE POLLY!: There's a chance to sample the forthcoming video from PJ Harvey at her official website right now.
polly j
They've got the video for the Letter [Real low; Real high]

In other stuff to listen to, tracks from Patti Smith's new album Trampin are available in Quick Time format from her website. Patti says she wasn't too sure about all this:

And now we have some streaming on the songs. I never heard of it before so I was kind of suspicious. They're these little [clips] of the songs you hear on the computer. I tried it out and they sound good. You have to have a QuickTime thing. I don't know where you get it. Maybe it comes free in the computer. In any event it's probably not analogue.

RAY CHARLES SAY'S HE'LL GET BETTER: Ray Charles rolled up to see his old recording studio named a national monument, and said that he's a bit frail now, but he'll get stronger. Sadly, some of those closest to him aren't quite so sure. Charles' long-standing business associate said he didn't know anything about rumours that he was dying of liver cancer and that funeral arrangements were already being put into place, but he seemed less convinced that Ray would hit the road again. There is a new album in the works, but it's one of those duet-type affairs which always have the gloomy air of a career coda to them.

ROMAN REHABS: Good news from Australia, where Rocket science's Roman Tucker has come out of his induced coma. He's currently suffering from post-traumatic amnesia, but seems to be making good progress. [Thanks to Nicholas B. for the update.]

INFAMY, INFAMY, THEY'VE ALL GOT IT IN FOR ME: We always thought Warners desperate bid to try and pretend the fact they were calling Madonna's label a cash-sapping pain in the ass wouldn't affect their working relationship with the former pop star was a bit of a desperate hope - like Seymour Skinner trashing his mother in public and then whispering "We're still going antiquing Saturday, right?" to her - and so it turns out. Madonna hasn't taken the demands for her to pay squillions to cover the cost of piles of unsold Tyler Hilton and Home Town Hero albums that well, and Warner's "but we can still be friends" has been thrown back in their face. In fact, she's called Warners suit "nothing short of treason". As our man in the capital David McIntosh asks: "So does she consider herself a nation, a sovereign or perhaps both? Will a successful legal action result in the death penalty for Warner bosses? Or is she just a ridiculously self-important pop star without a dictionary? We should be told."

HOPE I DIE BEFORE THE WORLD TONIGHT: Roger Daltrey's not a happy man. He's hacked off by the people in charge of radio - specifically, Radio 4. In a curious rant, he moaned about how they "fucked up" the network by moving The Archers - something that happened about five years ago. And we're not sure why it should bother Daltrey that the BBC moved moved one of the broadcasts of the programme by fifteen minutes - it was a pain for people who'd listen during their lunchtime when it moved to 2.00pm, but it's not like he's going to be forced to get back to his workstation at 1.55, is it? Besides, doesn't everybody use 'listen again' to choose their own time to hear The Archers now? Maybe Roger should ask a friend who knows about computers to show him how to do that - Pete Townsend could perhaps lend a hand. He seems to know how to use a browser.