Saturday, September 18, 2004

CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS: As you'll have probably spotted, we got the Ferry boys muddled - it wasn't Issac, the one who got kicked out of Eton for sending abusive emails to a person who runs an animal rescue centre, who danced about parliament in a rubbish 'fcuk your hunting ban' tshirt, but older brother Otis. Nice work you've done there, Brian.

And this is a clarification: in his piece suggesting that OutRage are behaving like a bunch of racists in trying to stop dancehall acts with a history of recording songs calling for the execution of gay people from being allowed to play in the UK (If you've missed this, you can read his defence here), Eric Arnold claims that "Beenie Man had four UK Top 20 hits at the time of the ban." This puzzled us, and since we didn't think that Eric could possibly mean that Beenie Man had four singles in the chart the same week as "the ban" (not that he's actually been banned from anywhere), we decided to investigate this in the Guiness Book of British Hit Singles. Bearing in mind that it's this chart record which Eric is using to build his claim that "reggae is taking over the UK", it probably needs to be pointed out that these top twenty hits have been scraped together since 1998, and at least one of them was selling on the presence of Janet Jackson on the record. Hardly a seige situation, then.

STRANGE LINK-UPS OF OUR TIME: Apparently, the guy from The Sun who showed up the poor security of the security at the Houses of Parliament was originally from the Sunday Mirror when he got the job, which also exposes the poor quality of security at the Sunday Mirror. Anyway, to cheer themselves up, the Sunday Mirror are giving away a free CD this week, and, oddly, besides the usual sort of rubbish you get on these things, there are four tracks hand-picked by the Drowned In Sound team - so Sunday Mirror readers will be washing their dogs and watering their petunias to the sounds of thisGIRL, red jetson, after the silence and jet plane landing. Odd.

MELT ME: Jennifer Lopez was out and about in Las Vegas when she noticed the Venetian hotel had waxwork models of her and Ben Affleck in the reception area. She threw a diva-like fit (it can't have been an actual Diva fit because, of course, she tells us she's not a diva) and insisted the waxworks be destroyed. We hope the venetian staff had their wits about them and turned the two models into giant candles. We'd like to volunteer to start the burning wick.

BACK TO THE ACTING, THEN, DAN?: Ooh, after a long drought, the work's really pouring in for Dannii Minogue - she's got an advert for a car (sorry, she's "one of the four celebrity faces of Mercedes"), someone has given her the money to make another album and now, she's signed up to appear in a movie. Apparently, it's a "Sixth Sense style thriller from the Four Weddings and a Funeral team", which sounds like a parody from the Alexei Sayle show - like Merchant Ivory's remake of the Fly. Anyway, Dannii's really excited, flicking through her diary:

"The film has such a brilliant script and it looks like it's definitely going ahead, just as I start promoting my new album at the start of next year."

So... you'll be needing to do the filming just as you're also going to be expected to do signings in Woolworths? That's great planning.

We also liked the "film insider" who clearly couldn't quite believe she'd been put up for this role:

"She is quite apprehensive as she will be working with some of the most respected people in the industry but she has done a lot of TV work and they're convinced she has the talent and looks to carry off the part."

The words "and I'm sure they know what they're doing" seem not to have survived the editing.

YES, MAYBE IT WOULD HAVE BEEN BETTER TO GO TO COURT THEN, MICKEY: Apparently having realised that giving millions of dollars to anyone who turned up at the door suggesting he might have put his hand down their pants could look a little bad, Michael Jackson has made his defence lawyer read out a long, rambling explanation of why it shouldn't be inferred from that that he's a dirty kiddie fiddler:

The lawyer said Jackson had been pressured to make payments by his advisers and by a music industry that "did not want negative publicity from these lawsuits interfering with their profits."
"Many years ago, he did pay money rather than litigate two false allegations that he had harmed children. ... Mr. Jackson now regrets making these payments. ... Mr. Jackson never admitted any wrongdoing. Mr. Jackson always denied doing anything wrong. Mr. Jackson had hoped to buy peace in the process. ... He should have fought these actions to the bitter end and vindicated himself."

We're sure this will be backed up by calling those advisers to testify, of course. Won't it?

LIFE IMITATES A PASSING WIND, SORT OF: As part of the celebrations to mark the 85th birthday of folk legend Harold Leventhal, The Weavers are doing a one-off reunion show at the Toronto International Film Festival. It was Leventhal who persuaded The Weavers to kick back against their blacklisting during the McCarthy-era (it's hard to imagine - a nation like America with a government behaving like a paranoid, state-controlled bunch of bullies trying to crush any form of opinion contrary to their own).

CASH IN THE ATTIC: Jesus. You wonder if, up in country heaven, Johnny and June are looking down at the four million raised by the Carter-cash auction and wondering if they'd have been better off flogging their old shoes when they were alive, rather than making music.

KABBALAH - IT'S ALL ABOUT SHARING THE LOVE: As Madonna parades her current faddish spiritualism around Israel, she's leaving a trail of trouble in her wake. Two of Maddy's bodyguards are languishing in an Israeli jail after a massive scrap with some press photographers. Nice one, Madonna - Israel is a country which really needs to import some extra violence.

Friday, September 17, 2004

EVERYONE'S A CRITIC: As if being reduced to appearing in a musical version of Saturday Night Fever wasn't bad enough, Kym Marsh got elbowed in the face as she prepared to go on. It was an "accident", you understand.

An accident. Yes. Stepping into the gap as Kym was taken off to hospital was the understudy.

LIKE WE'VE BEEN SAYING SINCE, YOU KNOW, FOREVER: A new survey demonstrates more or less why the RIAA never needed to panic about downloads anyway: eighty per cent of people who pay for legal downloads will still be buying CDs; we'd imagine people who aren't paying for the downloads would be no different.

CROAKING: He had been due to join Geri Halliwell on stage for a breast cancer benefit, but George Michael's got "laryngitis" and has had to pull out. He's going to send a big cheque to the charity instead - fifty grand, which is a small price to pay for not having to share a stage with Halliwell.

What's astonishing, though, is this would have been George's first proper performance since Net Aid. Remeber Net Aid? It was one of those well-intentioned attempts to recreate the spirit of Live Aid; this one, as the name implies, was an early attempt to try and pull the power of the internet together to create a global feel-good event. We remember watching it on TV, but we didn't bother to log on because we knew that with our (then quite typical) dial-up connection it wasn't going to be anything other than a jerky, quirky mess - and the whole thing did flop quite badly. The original aim was a billion hits; they ended up issuing press releases claiming a success with just over two million visits, and were keeping very quiet about how much they raised. In the end, Michale wouldn't let his performance be shown on TV because it was rubbish. There is a Netaid still on the web, but it seems to have put its start behind it.

They did get Cerys to pop along, though ("watched by countrywoman Catherine Zeta Jones").

OKAY, BUT NO TONGUES: Morrissey and his amazing regrowing hairline will be sticking out a new single come October 11th, Let Me Kiss You. More exciting, perhaps, than the third slice of You Are The Quarry is the appearance on Dont Make Fun of Daddy's Voice, a "live favourite" hitherto untroubled by appearing on a record.

If we were the people who make this fine product:

we'd be ringing up offering a advertising deal pretty damn fasr.

ALWAYS DEBATING, NEVER DECIDING: Although the original Metafilter post on the new Prodigy album smacks a little of product placement, the ensuing debate is quite lively on both the band themselves and electronic music in general.

ELLISON'S BOYFRIEND ADMITS GUILT: Jennifer Ellison's boyfriend, Tony Richardson, has admitted screaming abuse at police who tried to move him on from a no-parking zone.

He was fined seventy quid and given fifty pounds costs against him. Of course, if he'd got Yoko to turn up, he could have tried arguing that it was all an art event.

YOKO HANGS HER CUNT OUT IN LIVERPOOL: Of course, she wants you to be shocked by it all, but really, the massively expensive artwork featuring nipples and fannies "created" by Yoko Ono and foisted on the City is just boring.

Apparently she's trying to make some point about motherhood - invoking Lennon's mother who was killed in an accident in the city. Wonder what Lennon's aunt Mimi would have to say about someone hanging posters which do little but coarsen the public space a little more all around the town?

JACKSON COURT UPDATE: As the prehearings continue in the Jackson trial, the court has been told his maid was behaving suspiciously during police searches, as you might expect when your boss's house is being ripped apart. Nothing like a fingertip search for revealing the dust swept under carpets, surfaces left undusted, and photos of small children mis-filed.

THAT COULD BE ABOUT ITS PRICE POINT: Stelios out of Easyjet has apparently agreed terms with Wippit which would see them offering EasyMusic downloads. If they keep to what they're suggesting, it could be the first download service in the world to actually charge a fair price - although the structure of "from 25p" is a bit hazy. Most Easyventures vary their price according to demand - as the jets and buses fill up, the prices rise, but since it's effectively the same delivering the first download of a Death in Vegas remix as it is delivering the thousandth download of REM, quite how the system will apply to mp3s isn't clear.

Also: they've been promising us Easypizza in Milton Keynes for ages, but we've not had so much as a garlic dough ball out of them yet.

DID WE MENTION THAT BILL GATES IS KINDA EVIL?: His latest plan: writing to record labels and suggesting that CD copy protection be hard-wired into the new version of Windows. Effectively, the CD on your Longhorn PC would cease to be an audio CD player at all. It wouldn't surprise us if the music industry dashed to accept this idea, not realising until too late that they'd just signed up to a standard which put Bill Gates in effective control of the whole of the record business.

YOU'VE DONE TOO MUCH, MUCH TOO YOUNG: Apparently, Britney wants to "try for a baby" on her wedding night - although, from our understanding of it, she's already been getting a lot of practice in. She says she wants to be "a young mother" (although, as she's 22, round our way there's a quite a few girls who'd already be preparing for grandmotherhood by her age). It's understandable that she'd want to get gravid on the wedding night, mind, as her previous experience of marriage would have persuaded her of the need to rish these things. She's been talking of her love for Kevin:

"When you are in love and you know that then you should go for it. I was into too much before and now Kevin is just one of those people that makes me go 'Huh'."

Yeah, he made us go "Huh?", too, followed by "How's that again?"

CAHS AND FAME ALWAYS WINS OUT IN THE END: The New Zealand government have given in and are letting Shania Twain buy the property in the island. It's not clear from the brief story in the Australian press how far Twain has had to agree to public access to the land, but Green Party leader Rod Donald has said the sale sends a message that "New Zealand is up for sale." We're putting in a bid for the whole north island.

REMEMBERING ELLIOTT: It's been a year since the death of Elliott Smith, and ULU is holding a gig in his memory. The cash raised will go to the Kids Company people, and the line up goes like this: Jared Louche, Nick Saloman, Toby Burke, Sam Hammond, Byrne, Lucie Thorne and Tom Hall and Sam and Me.

CAN YOU TAKE A LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD BACK?: With the news that the Rod Stewart musical Tonight's The Night is about to close, we had hoped that we'd seen the highwater mark of stage shows consisting of a greatest hits album and a half-arsed story linking the tracks together. Not so, unfortunately: Nick Rhodes has confirmed there's a Duran Duran musical on the way. So far the only thing we know about it is it will feature the Reflex. Maybe, just maybe, it'll be called Girls on Film and will be burlesque. But we're not holding our breath.

NEVER IN THE SAME SHOT: We're actually lead to believe that the pictures of Brett Anderson and Bernard Butler in the studio together were taken by the UN peacekeepers...

POLLY DOWN FOR THE FIRST TIME: Astonishingly, Polly Harvey has never headlined an Australian tour before. That's about to be corrected, with PJ Harvey dates all over Oz this summer (or winter, from our perspective):

November 25, Perth, Belvoir Theatre
27, Adelaide, Thebarton
30, Melbourne, Festival Hall
December 3, Sydney, Hordern
5, Brisbane, Convention Centre

FRONT ROW SEATS/IT'S FREE/NO PAY - SORT OF: The Save the Music foundation, disappointingly, turns out to be a group which buys instruments for public schools and isn't an emergency service dedicated to ensuring that The Music are safe at all time. Anyway, they're going to benefit from this sort of view:

Melissa Etheridge has given her entire front row to the charity for her current tour, which is actually a pretty cool thing to do - you can bid for the tickets if you want to go. Wouldn't it be nice if a lot of other acts offered a chunk of tickets to charity in this way?

OKAY, WHO DREW NINE IN THE POOL?: The Rick James autopsy results are out; he had traces of "at least" nine drugs in his body at the time of death - "including cocaine". It's not shifted the official cause of death as a heart attack, but the coroner suggests that the mix of narcotics is probably what caused it.

"AND THEN ALL MY CLOTHES FELL OFF...": Britney's Mum insists that Britney doesn't dress like a ho, it's just sometimes her dress accidently slips down. So, hope that's clear.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

giving the role of Daisy Duke to in the Dukes Of Hazzard remake?

Bearing in mind this is the original:

this is what they're going with to fill Catherine Bach's shorts:

Yup, Jessica Simpson. We can only thank the lord Paris Hilton was busy.

WE DON'T NEED NO FOREIGN CLEAR CHANNEL, WE'VE GOT ONE OF OUR OWN: The most interesting aspect of EMAP's plans to try and scrabble what will probably be the last new analogue licence in Manchester for Kerrang is more-or-less ignored in the MediaGuardian piece, although there is a hint in EMAP's Shaun Gregory's musing on how this new round of licences will be approached:

"The city [Manchester] lends itself to an alternative rock format, just as Belfast would lend itself to a softer format, maybe Magic."

Now, you might wonder why the young folk of Belfast would be considered to be uninterested in Kerrang while the softer folk of Lancashire wouldn't be worth pitching Magic to, but, of course, the reason why EMAP won't be trying to get a licence for Magic in Manchester is it's already got one. Indeed, EMAP already have Magic1152 and Key 103 in the city, which is why they're falling back on their fourth-favourite format (Kiss won't fly; they'd tried licensing that brand to another operator for the North West but it all ended in tears and a renaming to Galaxy). Surely, though, Ofcom wouldn't hand yet another licence for the same place to EMAP. Would they?

ALL OF A SUDDEN, THE STROKES DISCOVER QUALITY CONTROL: Plans to make last year's festive Strokes shows available as a CD have been dumped, as Julian Casablancas had a listen and didn't think it was good enough to charge money for. By this, we can only conclude he never actually got a playback of Room On Fire before it got sent to the shops.

COMEBACK AGAIN: After the wedding failed to spark any interest, Lisa Scott-Lee is pushing ahead with her 'comeback' by having yet another relaunch. She's pushing - again - the new material she's recorded with the bloke from Phats and Small, due out next month, apparently. H was unavailable for comment as we went to press.

GENTLEMEN, READY YOUR AUDIO GRABBERS: As the only people left not offering an online music store are Lidl and Robin Carmody, it's no surprise that XM are getting in on the act, copying across their US-only satelitte networks to the web for anyone willing to pay eight dollars a month for the pleasure.

This might also be of use:

Reciva will, if put close to a wi-fi network, contact the interweb and allow you to listen to internet radio through a proper, wireless type device.

CROSS, CHANNELED FERRY: It's perhaps of little surprise that Bryan Ferry's son, Isaac, was amongst those who, realising that there's no support amongst anyone who actually has a chin for hunting, decided to storm the House of Commons. A couple of years ago Isaac got kicked out from Eton after sending an abusive email to an animal rescue worker:

"You are a f***ing looser [sic]. Why don't you stop waisting [sic] your time and get a real job/hobby,you c***?"

It's not actually noted in any of the reports we've seen if the 18 year old has actually followed his own advice and gone out and got a proper job. We're guessing not.

GO OUT AND WATCH TV: If you've ever fancied settling down in a cosy cinema seat and watching some videos back-to-back, there's great news for you: The Super Furry Animals are having a promo clip retrospective at the National Film Theatre on October 2nd; the Super Furries are having some sort of be-in at the Royal Festival Hall the day before; performances and "various activities" all over the South Bank.

ENGAGEMENT STORY VIEWED WITH PANIC BY MUSIC INDUSTRY: Avril and Deryck engaged, you say? Can you imagine the damage such an engagement might do to their respective markets?

WORDS TO CHILL THE BLOOD: Apparently, in the aftermath of the Glastonbury disaster and the scrapping of the album, Liam Gallagher has tried to help by writing 50 new songs for the Oasis album. Judging by his 'you and your toys/make some noise' standards of the past, this must be hearterning news for Noel. Noel has also written some songs, not quite as many, but from an equal point of self-delusion:

"One of the songs on there The Importance Of Being Idle is one of the best tunes I have ever written. It is The Kinks meets The La's. It is blinding."

NB: Noel was equally convinced of the greatness of the first set of songs they produced for this album, until they had been played to people.

PUNKOBIT: Johnny Ramone, guitarist with, uh, the Ramones, has died. The 55 year-old had been fighting cancer for some time. Johnny died with a curious little gathering at his bedside: besides wife Linda Cummings were Eddie Vedder, Rob Zombie, Lisa Marie Presley, Talia Shire, Pete Yorn and Vincent Gallo.

NOT QUITE GRABBING THE POINT: There's a frankly absurd piece in the East Bay Express by Eric K Arnold, who believes that the current Outrage campaign against reggae hate songs is, oh yes, racist. Arnold believes that the very term "reggae bigot" is "oxymoronic" because of reggae's tradition of making songs which attack racial injustice. It's not quite clear if he really believes that making music in a genre where others have made songs calling for freedom immediately makes it impossible for someone to ever be a bigot - in which case, Skrewdriver can't possibly be racist as they're making music in the same field as The Specials and Lenny Kravitz - but it's when he gets to the crux of his "argument" that he really starts to make enormous leaps of cod-logic:

To be sure, Jamaican artists make an easy target for gay activists. The homophobia in some cases is undeniable, even if it has to be translated for non-patois-speaking folks. But from a political and economic standpoint, there may be other reasons for trying to stamp out Jamaican artists' careers this way. Black music forms like reggae and rap have all but taken over the UK, and the possibility of a vibrant Afro-Caribbean culture emerging from its urban ghettos has to be seen as anathema to the more conservative factions of Jamaica's onetime colonial master, be they gay or straight.

First of all, Arnold seems to be implying that the calls to kill gays and lesbians don't really count as they're made in patois, and thus your average English homosexual wouldn't understand them if they didn't have them translated for them. Which is on a par with saying that Mein Kampf really shouldn't have troubled the British, as it was only upsetting if you sat down with an English-German dictionary.

But then to suggest that the Outrage campaign is inspired by fear of "reggae and rap" "taking over the UK" is just astonishing. The need to add "and rap" into the mix at least suggests he realises that reggae on its own is no more popular than many other sorts of music, and the whole "taking over" phrase itself - like some sort of Daily Mail editorial on asylum seekers, suggests that it's Arnold himself, rather than Outrage, which has some issues to work through.

But then Arnold warns about what the risk would be if leaning on the homophobic reggae artists worked:

"There's a lesson to be learned here from the censorship troubles faced by hip-hop a decade ago, when its mainstream appeal and economic clout was just starting to become apparent -- much as with dancehall today. Censoring "offensive" lyrics by Jamaican artists could result in the same kind of dumbing-down and mainstream filtration that saturated rap music following the PMRC/Christian Coalition machinations of the '90s."

In other words, Arnold believes that if musicians are asked to choose between being welcome in London and making songs calling for the chi-chi men to be gunned down, we're in danger of forcing reggae into being little more than Will Smith with dub. Isn't this rather misunderestimating the talent of reggae artists in the first place? Most of the reggae greats have managed to make complex, interesting, engaged music without resorting to a spot of queerbashing.

Arnold then switches back to inspecting Outrage's conscience for signs of racism:

At the very least, there's a danger in any predominantly white organization attempting to characterize a predominantly black culture according to its own agenda. OutRage's inflammatory press releases, for instance, detail instance after instance of lyrical "homophobic hate crimes" by Jamaican artists, but fail to mention that most of the songs are several years old.

Some of the songs are quite old; but most of them are still part of the targetted artist's live shows - indeed, Arnold's own piece quotes the Jamaica Observer on this very point: "Beenie Man, who was celebrating his birthday, took time to point out that he did not apologize for his gay-bashing lyrics, and went on to perform some of his antigay tunes." So it doesn't matter if someone's singing hate songs now, so long as they were written a while ago?

OutRage's strategy seems to be to force the Jamaican government into action by blockading what is in effect an export commodity. But why not go after the officials who have turned a blind eye to violence against gays and demand change on a legislative level? Instead, OutRage's campaign has dehumanized dancehall artists, and by forcing the cancellation of shows, has imposed de facto economic sanctions on an already poor nation tragically ravaged by violence -- only a small portion of which is directed at gays.

No, sweetcakes, Outrage's strategy is to try and create an atmosphere where everyone accepts songs calling for the murder of people based on their sexuality is unacceptable by targeting artists who perform hate songs. Outrage are not targetting reggae acts wholesale, and they're certainly not "blockading" Jamaican artists wholesale. I'm not sure if Arnold is guilty of sloppy journalism here or if he really does believe that Outrage are trying to stop all reggae concerts in the UK.

Furthermore, there are plenty of Jamaican artists who express no antigay sentiments whatsoever in their music, and homophobic statements are just a small part of the overall lyrical content of any one of the more controversial artists. Reducing these artists to one epithet -- gay-basher -- is both inherently racist and revisionary.

But Outrage are carefully targetting just those artists whose lyrics finger them as holding hostile attitudes. To suggest that Outrage is trying to portray all reggae acts as violently homophobic is at best a very muddle-headed understanding of their point of view.

No, Mr. Arnold: this isn't about race.

WE HOPE HE HAD SOME SORT OF HARD HEAD-PROTECTING HAT: Lead singer of Helmet Page Hamilton has fallen off his bicycle, pushing the band's US tour back from mid-September to the end of October. (Okay - "fallen off his bike" might slightly undersell an injury that required part of his shoulder being sawn off and tied together with a cadaver tendon and three screws.)

MAYBE WE'RE BEING A BIT THICK HERE: We're apparently meant to be really impressed that, having had a large swathe of British land taken out of the public domain, Madonna is allowing Quakers to continue a 300 year-old tradition of scattering ashes on that land. But, surely, if the Society of Friends has spent the last three centuries with access to the land, that basically disproves Madonna and Guy's claims that it wasn't public land in the first place. Anyone fancy a Kinder Scout at Ciccone Towers?

BACK TO SCHOOL: We do like a woman who surrounds herself with books, although we're a bit concerned to hear that Polly Harvey is going to put PJ Harvey on hold while she goes to do some Eng Lit:

"Maybe that means I’m going to have to go back to school for a few years, I don’t know. I definitely have a feeling, a yearning for more study. I’m not sure where that will take me, but I certainly know that after this tour I feel like diving into something completely different, maybe into doing some film music, something like that, really to freshen myself up, because I don’t want to keep writing the same material.
I really do have such a desire to learn while I’m on this planet and right now I’m not feeling like I’m doing that."

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

AND ONCE AGAIN...: No pop papers tonight; the Royal Mail has failed, once again, to bring the NME to us... hopefully, pop papers tomorrow.

IT'S NOT QUITE AIR-RAGE: "In these times of extra security, we have to be extra-careful" says an aircrew member, explaining why they called the police after Sonique spent a flight comparing hand size with other passengers.


SOME VERY GOOD BUYS HAVE BEEN TESTED AND TRIED/ IN THIS MONTH'S EDITION/ OF WHICH? MAGAZINE: The Consumer's Assocation have pointed out one of those simple truths, that iTunes users in the UK are paying more than iTunes users elsewhere, and concluded that, basically, we're being ripped off. As we suggested a while back, the CA reckon this could actually be illegal under EU rules. Apple - who are really taking to this being a record label business - are having none of it:

"The underlying economic model in each country has an impact on how we price our track downloads," an Apple spokeswoman told BBC News ONline. "That's not unusual - look at the price of CDs in the US versus the UK. We believe the real comparison to be made is with the price of other track downloads in the UK."

The price of CDs in the UK are kept artificially high by a dubious music industry cartel, Apple spokeswoman. And what, exactly, does "the underlying economic model" mean? Other than "if we can rape the brits, we will"?

THE SIGNS OF AUTUMN: Almost a year to to the day after sacking and re-instating him, Paul McCartney has sacked Geoff Baker again. And this time, he means it. God, how he means it:

"I find it very sad that after years of friendship, my publicist Geoff Baker and I are parting. Over the past few months, his behaviour has not reached the professional standards I had come to expect from Geoff and it is with regret that I am forced to end our relationship.
It is particularly sad that he has chosen to attempt to implicate my wife Heather in this business and I can say now that she has had absolutely nothing to do with this. In fact, she has always been a great supporter of his. This is purely between Geoff and myself and I am sad to see it end in this way."

Who knows what it can all mean?

TALK ABOUT BUMPING UP THE INSURANCE CLAIM: We're not entirely sure where Ananova get the idea that the Natasha Bedingdfield songs stolen when her laptop got "pinched" at Heathrow are worth "millions" to her - we doubt if it's really worth more than laptop itself, to be frank. And we're not sure what the problem is - can't she just get whoever wrote them to fax over new copies?

A source told The Sun: "Natasha thought the computer would be safe in her luggage. But when she opened the suitcase she found it was missing - she's devastated."

Right. How old is she? Does she still believe in the tooth fairy, Santa and Bono as well as the security offered by two elastic straps with your initials on them and a little golden padlock? Who on earth checks their laptop? What was in her hand luggage that was more important? "I'll check my laptop with all my songs on, as I'll really need to have three cans of chicken soup and a copy of A Suitable Boy with me?" - or did she just have Irridium ingots to transport?

A music industry source told The Sun: "She is the biggest name to hit the charts in years. The material on that computer could be worth millions.

What sort of "music industry source" is this? I mean, she's quite popular but "the biggest name to hit the charts in years"? She's not even the biggest name from the Beddingfield family to hit the charts in years. And if the songs are really worth millions, why didn't she make a back-up?

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED WHAT A MOTE IS?: It's a small piece of dust caught in a beam of light. Hence the old saw about "mote and beam", counselling that you shouldn't complain about a fault when you are possibly guilty of a greater shortcoming. This is, of course, all by the by. In other news, Busted accuse Simon Cowell of making a mockery of the British Music Industry.

FIRST CLASS JOHN: Gibraltar is marking 300 years of British Rule by issuing a set of stamps with, erm, Elton John on. Now, we know we shouldn't complain - most places mark the anniversary of British colonisation by burning down a bank and hanging the Queen's representative from a tree - but why Elton John? Although, we guess, he's no stranger to have his back going all sticky after someone's licked it.

THAT'S STYLISH, THEN: Oh, my. Any attempts we've ever made to try and argue that Britney Spears isn't just slobbing down into a Wal-Martian have just been rendered worthless with the news that she and Kevin are having jogging suits made to wear before the wedding. One trackie will read "Mrs. Federline"; the other will have - oh, my, order those carriage-style lamps now - "The Pimp" on it. ("The lucky sod", or "Can I have my half now" would surely be more accurate.

The groomsmen are ready

CHEER UP, MISERY GUTS: How on earth will Avril Lavigne keep up the tortured soul act now she's engaged. Deryck Whibley is the "lucky" man. Yes, him, out of Sum41:

In February 2003, Sum41 covered an Avril song live in concert; a year later he started dating her. Now he's going to marry her. Be very careful what songs you choose to cover would be the warning here.

FAIR DOS: So last night was the night of a million surprises, all of them blown in advance: Chris Martin onstage with REM; REM the surprise act - yes, it was Make Trade Fair live. We're betting the organisers are regretting putting Jamelia up for interview by the Channel 4 News team: she was clearly committed to the cause, but she didn't really seem entirely clear on the details of what the cause actually was. Oh, to be fair, she knew it was about fair trade - it was going any deeper than that which seemed to cause her problems.

DID ANYONE CATCH FOX NEWS TALKING ABOUT BLOGS LAST NIGHT?: Even although they were interviewing a blogger from their side, they were talking about "web-loggers" (think: Andrew saying 'Vam-pyres) like they were something from another realm. Highlight was when the Fox guy suggested the problem with these things would be a lack of checks and balances. Anyway, all of this is by the by: the movie Outfoxed, which dug behind Murdoch's news organisation have just made a slew of their interviews available for remixing and who knows what else. We expect to hear some Fox News dance music by the end of the day, the people.

BIG FOOTBALL NELLY: That anyone would bother to remake the 1974 Burt Reynolds movie The Longest Yard is puzzling enough; that someone would ask Nelly and Adam Sandler to be in it just makes us need a sit down and have a cup of something refreshing.

BE NICE TO THE PEOPLE YOU MEET ON THE WAY UP...: The name Ray Heffernan might not be familiar to many people, but he's the guy who "co"-wrote Angels with Robbie Williams - we're not sure of the exact split in duties there, although we note that Williams hasn't actually written a song like Angels since. Anyway, in his new biography, Williams accuses Heffenan of being a "quasi-stalker", which has sort-of-upset Heffenan, who has responded by suggesting that if unwanted attention came from anyone, it was in the other direction.

KEEP FEELING FASCINATION: Four hits in, and the Franz Ferdinand singles keep coming; smashingly, they're not going to stick out another track from the album. The release date is dubious at the moment - nothing official, but hints seem to suggest November; the title, however, has been inked in: Can't Stop Feeling. Apparently it was meant to be on the album, but there wasn't space.

BLOWN OFF: Amongst the loss of life and destruction of property caused by Hurricane Ivan, the axing of a gig may well be the least of the sufferings inflicted, but even so: My Morning Jacket have decided not to go ahead with their New Orleans House of Blues date this evening. The date is not going to be rescheduled.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

FRANKLY, WE'RE SHOCKED: TV reality show in filming three endings shocker.

LITTLE CHARLIES: ... and then, as the year starts to run down, The Charlatans are doing a mini-tour. Mince pies and brandy to be left at the stage doors here:

Preston Guildhall (December 14)
Norwich UEA (15)
London Brixton Carling Academy (16)
Leeds University (18)

PARTY ROUND THE BLOCS: Autumn's shaping up to be a pretty neat time for the going out; an already healthy-looking gig diary has just had a Bloc Party tour added in:

October 10th - Brighton Concorde II
11th - Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms
12th - London Lock 17
13th - Bristol Fleece & Firkin
15th - Liverpool Barfly
16th - Wrexham Central Station
17th - Cardiff Iforbach
18th - Leeds Cockpit
20th - Birmingham Academy 2
21st - Hull Welly
22nd - Newcastle Northumbria Uni
23rd - Middlesbrough Empire
25th - Aberdeen Lemon Tree
26th - Edinburgh The Venue

Oct 27th - Glasgow King Tuts

Oct 28th - Nottingham Rescue Rooms

Oct 30th - Sheffield Leadmill

Oct 31st - Manchester Night & Day

A ROLE TURNED DOWN: Someone was supposedly prepared to offer Robbie Williams a million bucks for a stage role in the US. We find that a bit hard to believe, anyway: since nobody in the US either cares about Williams, it's unlikely anyone would consider him worth such levels of investment. Anyway, Williams has turned down the part, in the Boy From Oz, because the character is gay.

We can understand that - can you imagine poor Robbie having a job where his success hung on convincing the public that his sexuality was totally different from what it really is? That'd be hard to pull off.

MUSIC TO WATCH GIRLS DRIVE BY: This is something we can't wait to hear: Burt Bacharach writing stuff with Dr. Dre:

"Three of the four things I've already cut [for his new album] have Dr. Dre drum loops that he gave me," Bacharach said last week from his house in Del Mar, Calif. "It's a challenging, freeing feeling, to take an existing format - like these rigid, four-bar loops - and to see what you can write on top of it. It's hard and challenging too because it does have some restrictions. It's kinda like Hal (David, his longtime collaborator) giving me the whole lyric on 'Alfie' and then having to set that up around it."

We're not sure how Hal David would feel at being compared with Dre, mind.

THE MUSIC AND YAHOO!: The latest twist to the legal download market skirmishes: Yahoo pays GBP89million for MusicMatch. It's an easy way for Yahoo to suddenly acquire its own download capability.

BIGGER, BIGGER, BIGGER: Charlotte Church's mother - Mrs Pushymuch - wants her daughter to be bigger than Madonna. We presume she means the singer, and when the singer was popular with straight people as well; after all, setting your daughter's target as playing to largely empty rooms isn't that challenging, is it?

OH, BLESS... IT ALMOST MAKES YOU FEEL SORRY FOR HIM: Jay Kay, who's been banned from driving in the hope that we all might live a little longer, has built a go-kart track in his back garden because "it's the only way he can feed his drug-like addicition for speed." Unfortunately, he somehow neglected to get planning permission. Whoops.

We're not sure why someone who clearly has a bob or two thinks the the only way to compensate for losing his licence is to go go-karting. Jesus, man, buy some land and drive your brrm-brrm car-car round and round that. Are you dim or are you broke?

SALES DATA: The IFPI (the worldwide music industry, which is basically the RIAA and whoever they let in to do as they're told) has released figures suggesting that worldwide sales are down for the fourth year in succession. There's some curious kinks in their report, though:

The industry body said sales of recorded music in both audio and video formats fell by 7.6 percent in value and by 6.6 percent in units, compared with 2002, and is now valued at $32 billion, on unit sales of 2.7 billion.

First of all, let's give the music industry a slap on the back - it's a thirty-two billion industry. It's something to consider whenever you're being told how bad things are for the record business. It's shifting 2.7billion worth of stuff every year. And those guys pretend they're on their beam ends. If they were a country, they'd be looking at a GDP the same size as that of Guyana, or Andorra AND Papua New Guinea Combined.

Second: what's the sudden appearance of "video formats" in there for? Is the inclusion of this a way of disguising less frightening record sales? And why no mention of digital music downloads in these figures - wouldn't that add a few more millions to total sales?

The IFPI attributed the decline to three main factors: CD burning and illegal downloading; competition for consumer spending from DVDs and cell phones; and economic uncertainty, particularly in Latin America and Asia.

Nothing about piracy - wasn't that meant to be the big threat of the year? - but it does just underline the difference between what the music industry tells consumers, and what it says when it's talking to investors: how often does the RIAA mention DVD and cell phone sales being part of the problem (in other words, that the music industry isn't offering products people choose to buy) or the economic downturn as being an issue? Why don't they make an advert with Britney in sobbing "every time you buy a Hello Kitty phone cover, a singer-songwriter goes without supper"?

And, for comparison purposes, here's how the big five whiners are slicing up the total world music cake:

Universal - 23.5 per cent
EMI - 13.4
Sony - 13.2
BMG - 11.9
Warner - 12.7
Everybody else - everybody - 25.3

I THINK WE'LL LEAVE IT ALONE NOW: Great news for... um, uh... Great news, everybody. Look who's going to be playing some sort of student night in Edinburgh:

Yes, Tiffany has found that even doing nude shots for Playboy hasn't managed to re-ignite her career so she's doomed to play 80s nights forever more. She'll be in Scotland on the 30th September.

HOW TO DISMANTLE AN ATOMIC BOMB: It probably won't come as much of a surprise to you that I hate the name of the new U2 album; it's clumsy and full of a sense of its own misplaced self-importance.

IT'S THE TOUR OF TINY VENUES WITH THE ARENA PRICE TAG: If you're a Travis fan, you'll doubtless be wetting your pants with excitement at the news that Fran and the boys are playing a tour of club venues, although probably, if you're a Travis fan, that won't be a new experience for you. The band are charging a shocking twenty quid for the crush and restricted views on offer here:

Newcastle Foundation (October 3)
Glasgow Barrowland (4)
Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall (7)
Cambridge Junction (8)
Manchester Academy 2 (10)
Sheffield Leadmill (11)
Bristol Bierkeller (13)
London Mean Fiddler (14)

WE TURNED UP TO SCREW WITH THE CORPSE, BUT THERE WASN'T MUCH LEFT TO SCREW WITH: The Sex Pistols are having a third canter at being inducted into the rock and roll hall of fame, and whereas a couple of years ago it might have been worth railing against the very idea, we close our eyes and picture John Lydon on I'm A Celebrity, or Ready Steady Cook, or whatever it was, and it seems to be their natural home. Jostling at the door with them are U2, Grandmaster Flash, Patti Smith, The Stooges, Lynryd Skynyrd, Conway Twitty, Gram Parsons, Randy Newman, The O'Jays, Percy Sledge and Wanda Jackson.

MAC AND JOBS?: The ongoing problems between Apple Corp, which is basically the Beatles, and Apple Computers, which is mostly the iPod, is leading to a rumour that Paul McCartney might end up on the Apple board. Somehow, that really looks like a victory for Microsoft.

GOSPEL? STREWTH: Upsetment in abudndance with Kayne West's nomination for the Stellar Awards Best Gospel Album. The College Dropout does have a song about Jesus on it, but it also has some really sweary and rude stuff on it. Stellar are suggesting this was a bit of a cock-up on the ballot front.

THE AMP ET AL SWAP SIDES: Sky have more or less thrown in the towel on the music channel side, passing day-to-day running of The Amp, Scuzz and Flaunt to Chart Show Channels. CSC, which spun out of the much-missed Channel 4/ITV Chart Show, currently run three services of their own, sort-of; now they'll have a portfolio of six to play with. Hence, it's hoped, economies of scale.

CAN'T STAND YOU NOW: Pete Doherty has written a song, Gang of Gin, about how everyone is just so beastly to him, only giving him the four or five chances to come off smack, and all:

"I’ll tell you my story
The treachery, it bores me
Carl and McGee both promised me
It would not happen this way
Carl is kept sedated
The frontman elevated.
In this industry of fools
Musclemen and ghouls
If you’re not a puppet or a muppet
Then you might as well call it a day"

Pete, of course, is pushing on with his recording career - we guess that's "muppet", then?

SIDESTEPPING THE RIAA: The answer to all, some, or fewer of your online music worries could be here, in the form of Grouper. It's another peer-to-peer network, which allows file sharing, but with a difference. First, it only allows sharing between friends; secondly, and most importantly as far as copyright law goes, you don't download nuffink - you listen to streams of your friend's music. Of course, record labels will still froth and foam - they always do - but even they might decide that something analoguous to listening to your mates play records in their house rather than having them burn you a CD might be worth supporting rather than trying to kill off.

CHRISTINA AGUILERA: AN APOLOGY: Over recent months we may have given the impression that Christina Aguilera was devoid of talent. A long campaign of attrition may have given the impression that we believe Christina to be mostly useless. However, it has now been brought to our attention that she is "capable of opening my own [car] door and don't necessarily need a man to do it" (our emphasis). We are happy to make this clear.

BLUESOBIT: John 'Buddy' Connor, bluesman, died in Berkley, California on Spetember 3rd. The singer, whose career spanned five decades, specialised in blues but was also a noted jazz vocalist. It wasn't until late in his career - 1996, when he was 66 - that he released a track under his own name, Can't Hide Love.

BRITNEY - "BUY CURIOUS": Time is ticking down before we get to see Britney Spears' advert for Curious, a new fragrance from Elizabeth Arden. Until the advert airs on the 17th, we can only imagine what it'll be like, but I'm guessing Britney in knickers and a small shirt jiggling about.

Meanwhile, we're enjoying Lynne Spear's column on the Britney website, where she reveals that Britney has apparently taken up undertaking:

Britney had a girlfriend over to visit and they spent the day laying out by the pool. Kevin went golfing with his friends and cooked dinner for everyone.

Monday, September 13, 2004

LIKE A MATROYOSKA: We were kind of excited to discover that Madonna is being recast as a Russian nesting doll - how apt; the longer you go on, the smaller she gets, until eventually you're left with a Madonna with no surprises left inside her - but then we discovered you can already get U2 Russian Dolls, too. Presumably you keep opening them up until you find Gordon Gecko at their heart.

OOH, SIRE, GET HIM: The relaunch of Sire is being hung on a new deal between the once-successful label and Scando-dandy-gothers Him. Everyone at Sire is very excited:

Sire founder Seymour Stein says, "Bringing H.I.M. to Sire Records is one of the most exciting events since the re-launch of the label. The fact that they picked Sire for international distribution is a tremendous coup for us and one that underscores the label's reputation as a magnet for great music."

Except, of course, the label has been more-or-less defunct for the past few years - indeed, the mere fact that it's treating signing the cosmically over-rated Him as a big deal suggests just how far the label has fallen from its period of importance. If you visit Sire's website, you're greeted with a picture of the Ramones. Relaunching Sire might work, but if all they intend to do is sign some ropey goth acts and trade of their history, they might as well not bother.

EXTRAS, EXTRAS: We've just received this list of the extras which will be included on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs DVD:

A 16 song live concert recorded earlier this year at the Fillmore in San Francisco.
6 bonus live songs
A Japanese tour documentary directed by PATRICK DAUGHTERS (director of the ‘Maps’ and ‘Date With The Night’ videos)
An audience documentary directed by SPIKE JONZE (director of the ‘Y Control’ video) and LANCE BANGS
Promo videos for ‘Maps’, ‘Date With The Night’, ‘Pin’ and the controversial ‘Y Control’and
The band’s performance at the US MTV Music Awards this year

Some of these things are worth having, although the Y Control video gives us the willies - if you've not had the pleasure yet, you can see it here (low) or here (broadband) [Real]; all from a page with a lot of YYY stuff on it.

PROTECTION: There's an interesting little aside in an interview with Sue Whitehouse, the manager of the Darkness: it seems record companies lie to the very talent they're supposedly protecting about how crappy their copy protection is:

"When we first released the album we had it copy-protected, which I didn't want. I really argued that you hear terrible things about CDs not working and messing up computers, but the record company talked me into it, saying that there was new technology that had proved to be problem-free. And, of course, the album came out and we were flooded with complaints about it not working."

SURELY ASDA MORE ABOUT THEIR MARK?: Proving the value of a quick intervention, Tesco have decided to stock Goldie Lookin' Chain's new album. They had decided not to bother, on the grounds that it was full of words like "penis" and, frankly, so shoddy it makes Tesco Value Lager look like some sort of ambrosia, but the Chain had been threatening to "picket" the Tescos in Harlech Retail Park and so the chain has elected to take the line of least resistance and are going to order a couple of copies to lay, unloved, on the shelves.

We're not actually sure why they bothered, though: most branches of Tescos have their doorways cluttered by hordes of incoherent young people in ugly clothes getting in people's way. If only it was so simple to persuade them all to leave.

ALE AND PARTY: Oddly, for a woman who's supposedly in Israel flogging magic water, Madonna is also in London spending a grand total of thirty quid on a knees-up for Guy Ritchie's birthday. The bash at an "Irish" theme pub in Mayfair was twenty of Guy's closest friends (i.e. all of them, and then some more to make up the numbers) and an Oirish Band. Everyone had a splendid time, although I'm sure Guy couldn't help having a quiet think that he's married to one of the richest women in the world and yet she was too mean to actually fly them to Dublin for a Irish-themed birthday. "Thirty quid" he might have thought, "that's what - two pieces of red string? We could have Ryanaired to Dublin for less than that."

TILTING AT WINDBAGS: Really, there's no need for Alex Kapranos to attack Pop Idol; it's like Boeing having a pop at the chap who sells balsawood planes in a little toy shop in Harrogate, isn't it? I mean, he's spot on calling Gareth Gates and Michelle McManus* "boring", but it's not really worth the effort. Indeed, it sort of makes Franz Ferdinand seem less exciting that they're even bothering - is that what they intend to do with the spotlight? Complain about Pop Idol?

"Some of the contestants can't write music and they need other people to produce their records. It's not about talent. It's about marketing."

It's not even a coherent attack - frankly, who cares who writes the songs so long as they're brilliant? The Proms, eh - bunch of shit; none of the guys in the orchestra have written the stuff, have they? Alex, sweetness, nobody cares what you think about Gareth Gates. Good fucking grief, complaining about Michelle MacManus. Does anyone even remember who the hell she was? What's it going to be next month? 'Kapranos rails against Lena Zavaroni - "Opportunity Knocks Should Be Banned"'

OR YOU COULD JUST BUY YOUR MUM A BIG BOX OF TERRY'S ALL GOLD: Now we're past the September 11th Memorials, the shops are starting to fill up with tat for Christmas. And top of the list for that "Oh... how, um, nice" reaction this year will be yet another Tina Turner compilation. Of course, the last one nabbed the title Simply The Best, so this time round she's making do with All The Best (which sounds wrong - maybe Ike will rush-release one called Cheers, Pal) and it's got all those songs on. As is the way, there's a new single to prop up the whole shaky edifice. The new songs are Complicated Disaster and Trevor Horn-endorsed Something Special.

BITTER MEN OF POP: The man who made Smack My Bitch Up has had a pop at the Beastie Boys calling them "weak and dated". Laim Howlett is basically grumbling that the Beasties invited him to DJ before their Reading set only to make some suggestions about what to play. How shocking. Let's hope that The Prodigy continue to do well, otherwise Liam might find himself in the position of the hired hand in other circumstances. He's especially peeved they wouldn't let him play Bitch - probably thought the Beasties were picking on him, specifically, but it's such a rubbish song it's now included as a standard on all contracts for mobile DJs that they won't play it.

Grump on, Liam:

"I hate their new record. It's weak and dated. But, I mean, I don't ring them up and tell them their album's crap, do I?"

No, you just tell the San Francisco Chronicle. Liam also says that Madonna's new stuff is shit and, yeah, he did DJ for her, but only for the money. Curious that he's happy to whore for Maddy but not for Ad-Rock. Perhaps Ad should have paid him another tenner?

SHOWOBIT: Fred Ebb, the lyricist who was "sweetly vague" about his true age, has died. Ebb, believed to be 76, suffered a fatal heart attack at his home in New York.

Over a four-decade collaboration with John Kander, he provided the music for eleven Broadway musicals, including Cabert, Chicago and Kiss of the Spiderwoman. His most successful work was probably New York, New York - originally part of the score for a 1977 Scorsese movie, it was destined to become one of Frank Sinatra's standards. A winner of four Tony awards and an Olivier (for Chicago), and nominated for five Golden Globes, Ebb's prominence in musical theatre would have seemed unlikely to anyone who knew his family - apparently no music was ever listened to in the home he grew up in, but Ebb developed his taste outside.

After graduating with a degree in English Literature, Ebb drifted from job to job (including a spell bronzing baby shoes) before hooking up with Phil Springer, who introduced him to prosody (the AABA song paterns rather than verse-chorus-verse). In 1953, the Ebb/Springer partnership were hired to write for Judy Garland, and they went on to produce a stream of songs for nightclubs and revues. In 1964, however, Ebb was introduced to John Kander, and it was at this point (after a couple of false starts, notably the unstaged Golden Gate musical) that he really hit his stride. Besides the musicals, the partnership also produced a number of songs for Liza Minelli's TV series.

In 1997, Ebb and Kander received the Kennedy Center honor. Ebb's last major work was 1997's Steel Pier.

SWAMPY DRAINED: The death of Wane Swampy Jarvis was a bit of a blow to his wife and daughter - although an Australian music legend, Jarvis hadn't exactly made a pile during his life, and had only fifty four dollars to his name when he died. Picking themselves up, his widow Kerrie and daughter gathered together a collection of memoribilia and held an auction; in the process, they managed to raise $65,000 - enough to allow them to live in relative comfort. Except the trustees for Jarvis' estate then turned up and took the lot. They felt that since Jarvis had died a bankrupt, they deserved the money - even although the items his family had been selling hadn't actually belonged to him, and weren't actually part of the estate at all. Indeed, some of the items didn't even have any connection to Jarvis at all. Kerrie plans to try and get her money back from the "trustees" of Wane's estate, but she's already expecting to see the cash disappear in legal fees, even if she is successful.

WHO CAN YOU TRUST?: We're very impressed with the work the World of Stuart has done investigating The Industry Trust For IP Awareness, and in particular their Jonathan Ross-fronted claims that people knocking out dodgy CDs and DVDs at car boot sales are really gangsters. (Of course, the short version of this is: if people selling pirate discs were gangsters, wouldn't the So Solid Crew be releasing a single about it by now? "Goin' down the school field / floggin' wonky DVDs/ also got some china dogs/ I'm sellin' for my aunties"). Perhaps the most amusing part of the study is how, in each of the local packs, the spokesperson for the local Trading Standards people used exactly the same words; there's some impressive sleuthing into an incident which the ITIPA claims proves the link between DVD duplication and drucks:

So. The "Industry Trust for IP Awareness Limited's"

QUOTE:Counterfeit DVD production was found to be financing drug trafficking, when a seizure of counterfeit DVDs from a boot sale in East Sussex led police to raid premises at which cannabis resin and cocaine were seized with a street value of £20,000.

should in fact be

QUOTE: Counterfeit, stolen and dangerous items, including dodgy DVDs, dodgy clothing and airguns, were seized at a car boot sale in East Sussex. Six individuals were arrested and their homes were searched. Police found what they believe to be a small amount of drugs in a house in Eastbourne, and DVD copying equipment was found in different premises miles away. No link whatsoever has been presented between the counterfeit DVDs and the alleged drugs.

In fact, it's pretty comprehensively shown that the whole document is about as reliable as that one that Colin Powell showed to the UN that time, and shows the same sort of disregard for fact in an attempt to reach a conclusion that's already been arrived at. Yes, piracy is wrong, and bad, but it's not the major threat to everything we hold dear that the movie and record industry would have us believe.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

"AND SITTING DOWN? THAT WAS OUR IDEA, TOO": We're fascinated by the current legal spat between Simons Cowell and Fuller over similarities between Pop Idol and The X-Factor. You'd have to be symapthetic to 19 Television's claim that X Factor is similar to Pop Idol - both are an almost unwatchable parade of overpaid puffed-up foghorns spraying gratuitously worded insults as the deluded untalented shuffle forward for their moment in the spotlight. We do look forward, though, to the lawsuit, where 19 argue that copying New Faces was their idea first.

BONO'S NEW FRIENDS: You'll have heard, no doubt, of Bono's new venture capital adventure, with the singer sticking cash into Elevation Partners. It might seem kind of curious for someone who makes much of his commitment to relieve the burden of debt in the Third World suddenly popping up hanging out with investment bankers - it's like an animal rights campaigner suddenly inviting the badger baiters round for a meal. (At the end of 1976, USD75billion of the non-OPEC least developed countries' debt was with commercial banks, USD45bn of which was held by American finanical institutions). Even if you don't think there's anything wrong with simultaneously calling for overseas debt to be set aside while wading into the investment market yourself, you might wonder about the sort of people you're dealing with.

So, who else is joining him in this exciting new opportunity? Well, Private Equity Week reports that Bret Pearlman's on board. Pearlman has, hitherto, been a senior managing executive with The Blackstone Group, a company who are very cosy with Kissinger Associates, Inc, Henry Kissinger's consulting firm. Blackstone were appointed to be Enron's principal financial advisors "with regard to its financial restructuring." Wonder how that's going. And Kissinger, of course, has a rap sheet as long as a long monkey's arm: Christopher Hitchens could fill in some blanks for you.

Also onboard is Roger MacNamee, who previously was at Integral Capital Partners. Amongst ICP's investments was Rambus Inc, bollocked by the FTC in 2002 for "deliberately engaging in a pattern of anticompetitive acts and practices that served to deceive an industry-wide standard-setting organization" - in other words, they participated in an open standards project while simultaneously attempting to patent a proprietary standard behind everyone's back. Of course, you can't really blame the company's backers for that, can you?

Merrill Lynch has been hired to act as placement agents for Elevation Partners. Back in 2001, Merrill Lynch were found to have been promoting stocks to investors while ridiculing them in private. In a nice piece of circular motion, one of those stocks is believed to be Enron.

But, of course, none of these murky pasts are reasons not to do business with people. After all, what would be the other option for Bono? Not drawing down the healthy rewards for being part of the Financial Services Industry? Not being invited to all those lunches and suppers and coporate jollies? Unthinkable.

POOR WORLD: Can the claim possibly be true that Celine Dion has sold more records than any other female artist, ever?. She's being given some sort of award to mark this depressing fact.

NOTHING UPSETS CHRISTINA: ... like the media focusing on just one aspect of her personality. Which does surprise us - there are aspects beyond "here are my boobies"?

THE EVER-EXPANDING HINTERLAND OF KIM WILDE: So, what do we have on the list? Rock star, gardener, TV presenter, PMS expert, knowledgeable about parenting, defender of the fell pathways - and now Kim Wilde is a promoting waste management and recycling at an event in Cambridge.

APPEARING IN VISIONS? SHE REALLY DOES THINK SHE'S THE OTHER FREAKING MADONNA: People are supposedly spotting Madonna selling overpriced water and schmuck-priced pieces of string to passers-by:

A source tells internet blog THE JEWLICIOUS, "My friend TZVI reported the first Madonna sighting of the Holiday season. Just after midnight last night he was stepping out of the home of an actual Kabbalist in the old city he saw a man and woman walking down Rehov Shonei Halachot.
The woman, dressed in layered, flowery Israeli-hippy style dress, was clearly recognized as the Material-turned-Spiritual Girl herself as she passed him by. The man seemed to be a bodyguard. They were, we think, on the way to the Kotel to pray."

Hmm. Somehow, we're not buying it. But it's a beautiful dream.

A MATCH MADE IN HEAVEN: It's probably inevitable, since her bland pop is the sort of stuff we imagine footballers* dream of soundtracking their signing for the likes of Man United or Real Madrird, that a footballer would end up "dating" Dido - it was probably only a question of who it would be. Sol Campbell, as it turns out.

* - Except Pat Nevin.

CAN RE-DO: Monster Movie, Tago Mago, Ege Bamyasi and Soundtracks, four selections from the Can back catalogue are being re-released in a remastered format. Oh, and with new sleeve notes, as well. Yes.

CROOKS ATTACKS GANGSTAS: Joining the queue of people condemning rap's fascination with the violent side of life is Garth Crooks, Spurs player turned TV presenter:

There is an epidemic out there, and it is killing some of our children. Do you think there could be a correlation between this and the growing dissipation of our cultural values?

Crooks was talking at yesterday's London Schools and the Black Child conference, organised by Diane Abbott. Abbott, of course, signalled her determination to try and change things by, erm, taking her kid out of the State System. As far as we can tell, nobody actually bothered to invite anyone who is involved in British rap to put their perspective.

JAKARTA OFF? NO, SHE PULLED OUT OF HER OWN ACCORD: Following the bomb outside the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Alicia Keys has pulled her date for the Indonesian capital. Blue are also scheduled to play there in October, but haven't et made a decision on whether to play or not. Surely, so long as no elephants are dying, though, they'd want to go ahead?