Saturday, September 25, 2004

WE THINK THIS USED TO BE THE DOTMUSIC AWARDS: We'venot heard of the DMA awards before, or maybe we have, and they seem to be convinced they've happened before, so we're guessing - since they're sponsored by BT Rich Media - that in the past they might have been the DotMusic awards and BT never bothered to flog them to Yahoo with the rest of the set up.

These are the nominees:

Best Pop Artist

* Brian McFadden
* Girls Aloud
* Kylie Minogue
* Natasha Bedingfield
* Peter Andre

Best Rock/Indie Artist (sponsored by NME)

* Paul Weller
* Supergrass
* The Concretes
* The Futureheads
* The Zutons

Best Dance Artist

* Faithless
* Fatboy Slim
* Goldfrapp
* John Digweed
* Prodigy

Best Urban Artist

* Estelle
* Goldie Lookin' Chain
* Jamelia
* Lemar
* The Streets

Best Artist Download

* Anastacia – 'Left Outside Alone'
* Coldplay – '2000 Miles'
* George Michael - 'Amazing'
* Keane – 'Everybody’s Changing'
* Mario Winans – 'I Don’t Want To Know'
* Maroon 5 – 'This Love'
* OutKast – 'Hey Ya!'
* Scissor Sisters - 'Laura'
* The Rasmus – 'In the Shadows'
* The Streets – 'Dry Your Eyes'

Best Music Download Service

* iTunes
* Napster
* Sony Connect

Best Radio Station Online

* BBC 6 Music
* LAUNCHcast Radio
* Radio Magnetic
* Virgin Radio

Best Interactive Music TV Programme

*No word yet

Best Web-Based Music Game

* Muse Space Fighter game
* McFly game
* Razorlight Olympics game
* Rooster - Randy Rooster game
* Shapeshifters Hall of Mirrors game

We're a little puzzled as to how Belle and Sebastian can be overlooked for the best web-based music game category; we're also more than a little curious as to in what way LaunchCast Radio has been nominated for best Radio Station Online - nothing to do with Yahoo Launch being one of the sponsors, is it?

And there's a people's choice music website of the year thingy. We obviously know you have better sites to vote for, but if you did want to vote for us it might at least be a bit amusing.

COUNTRY AND ROCK SICK LIST: The country singer Ray Price has had emergency heart surgery in Houston; the 78 year old suffered chest pains on Thursday night; meanwhile, Joe Jackson has had surgery for ulcers - that's Michael's dad, not the singer. Jackson reported to an LA hospital thinking he had food poisoning.

WHATS WITH THESE PUNK ROCK DUDES/THEY CAN'T EVEN SING/I WISH WE'D NEVER HEARD OF THE OFFSPRING: But we did, of course, and now they're plotting the release of a Greatest Hits compilation - missing the Christmas market, though, which is probably a bum decision; and including a Police cover as well, which is almost certainly an even worse one.

NEW BOOTS AND PANTING: Another setback in the onward march of the copyright thugs, as a Federal Judge rules that a statute banning bootlegging is unconstitutional. Judge Harold Baer rejected charges against Midnight Record's Jean Martignon, saying that the unlimited copyright protection the statute claimed conflicted with the "limited time requirements of copyright law." Another example of bad laws made at the label's request.

SIX! SIX! SIX!: There's all kinds of goings-on in the Electric Six camp (older readers will recall the Six; they were kind of like the Scissor Sisters with trousers on). First up, they've signed a new deal with a Warner Music spin-off, Rushmore. Warner are bucking the major trend for culling sub-labels by giving Steve Allen and Paul Brown this new thing to play with.

Then, there's a load of tour dates:
Sep 25 Moscow, Russia - Megapolis Pulse Festival
Oct 08 Roncade, Italy - New Age Club
Oct 09 Cesena, Italy - Vidia
Oct 10 Milan, Italy - Rainbow Club
Oct 12 London, UK - Metro
Nov 4 Santiago, Chile
Nov 6 Beunos Aires, Argentina
Nov 24 Detroit, MI - Majestic Theater
Nov 27 Sheffield, UK - Leadmill
Nov 28 Hull UK - Hull University
Nov 29 Nottingham, UK - Rock City
Dec 01 Manchester, UK - MDH Hall
Dec 02 Glasgow, UK - Barrowlands
Dec 03 Norwich, UK - UEA
Dec 04 Bristol, UK - Anson Rooms
Dec 06 London, UK - ULU

Then, there's going to be a new single, available as a free download from their website on October 11th. It's called - ooh, saucy - Vibrator. If you can't wait for that, there's already a load of stuff to download, including Peaches doing Gay Bar.

Finally, we didn't realise Reuben Wu from Ladytron had been guesting with the band over the summer. But, erm, he has.

Friday, September 24, 2004

BUJU ROUND-UP: Fearing a breach of public order, Greater Manchester Police "cancelled" a gig by homophobialist Buju Banton. He'd been supposed to play the Bierkeller last night, but the police stepped in and axed the gig. Right result, totally wrong reason: it shouldn't be the police banning the event for fear of violence, it should be the venue withdrawing the invitation so as not to be making money from someone with such repugnant views.

Wednesday night, though, Buju had no problems playing Milton Keynes Empire. There was a turn-out of protestors, twenty or so; Thames Valley Police erected pens to keep them neatly out of the way of people going into the venue, but did allow some leaflet handing after they realised the protest was going to be good-natured.

BUSINESS LINK: Yesterday, we heard of a business book suggesting we should all try and be like Madonna. Today, it's the Manic Street Prechers inspiring a woman to start a catering business. Tomorrow: The Hives talk about making sense of the central business rate.

WHAT'S SO FUNNY 'BOUT PEACE, LOVE AND A LITTLE DELOUSING?: Of course, if you want people to stop talking about you like you're a bit bonkers, paying for a full-page ad to carry a two thousand word plea for your own sanity might be considered to be right up there with running naked through the shopping centre shouting "I'm not barmy." But since when has Sinead O'Connor done the obvious thing?

Stung by the response to her suggestion that Ireland put one day aside to delouse everybody, and rid the country of hairlice forever (or until someone came from outside the country with headlice), she took a page in the Irish Examiner to, well, whine, actually:

"I don't think there can be any person male or female from this country who has been as consistently lashed as I have been and always am no matter what I set out to do... If ye all think I am such a crazy person why do ye use me to sell your papers? Please, I just want to be a little old lady now, and not be all controversial and not be bashed and called crazy and laughed at when I open my mouth to sing or speak... If ye wrote about Bono like you wrote about me, he'd kick your asses."

Actually, Sinead, we tend to be a bit more gentle on you, because you seem to be a bit less interested in self-glorification than Bono. And your standards seem a bit higher. But... the whole pope-rip-becoming-vicar-i'm-a-lesbian-i'm-getting-married-delousing-

retiring-not-retiring thing does sort of make you look a bit... well, eccentric.

BLADDERBRAINS: The now-largely forgotten Sisqo has been attempting to use his "fame" to push to the front of the toilet queue. Actually, first he tried to use his famous face; then the tried to use his gym toned body to persuade a chap to step aside; then, finally, he offered cash. According the Mirror.

FREE CHARLIE: It's very easy to pick on the NME - like by saying how they seem to think that Charlotte Hatherley is playing her first ever solo gigs this weekend, although she played Glasgow earlier this week, but why would you want to argue?

They're giving away fifty tickets to see her at ULU this Sunday. Be quick, be gentle, but be polite.

WELL, THAT'LL TEACH US TO SAY NICE THINGS ABOUT ELTON JOHN: John was pissed off when he arrived in Taiwan to discover that he was treated as an ordinary person and didn't have police protection:

The Taiwanese news channel ETTV showed the star, dressed in a royal blue tracksuit and matching sunglasses, clenching his teeth and muttering expletives as he stood with his arms crossed tightly across his chest.

"Rude, vile pigs!" he shouted. "Do you know what that means? Rude, vile pigs. That’s what all of you are."

One of the photographers shouted back: "Why don’t you get out of Taiwan?"

Sir Elton replied: "We’d love to get out of Taiwan if it’s full of people like you. Pig! Pig!"

The musician, who recently performed in Shanghai and Hong Kong, said: "We had a great tour of the Far East and then we come to Taiwan."

His spokespeople have attempted to explain away his hissy fit as being down to him being asked to go through the public immigration area.

SHOULD NEVER HAVE LEFT THE GOLDSTONE: Way back in the past, once a year we'd troop out of our school at lunchtime and dawdle over to Withdean Stadium in Brighton where we'd sit and watch the sportier boys doing their thing in the name of sports day. Withdean was built in a fit of optimism by Brighton Council, who believed that they could create a tennis venue which would steal the crown from Wimbledon. When that failed, they tried to turn it into an athletics hotbed - Steve Ovett trained there - and it enjoyed a brief spell of fame as the home of the Brighton B52s, back when people pretended to like American Football. More recently, though, it has been home to Brighton and Hove Albion, whose own ground was more-or-less stolen from them by an unpleasant regime. The Seagulls have been there for something like five years now, after an unhappy spell sharing Gillingham's ground, and they're really keen to move to a new site. Planning arguments, though, rumble on and on, so they're left with a venue which feels a little like a refugee camp, and is about as well regarded by the rich knobs of Withdean as they would an actual refugee camp on their doorstep.

Still, to cheer everyone up, and to promote his new album of the same name, Fatboy Slim is rechristening Withdean Stadium 'Palookaville' for the game against Sheffield United on October 2nd. They'll also be playing the album to the small knot of supporters - as if being caught in the cold and the rain and having to watch the Albion isn't trial enough.

GET THE GEESE OFF THE MENU: Obviously, we agree with Paul McCartney that Foie Gras is a horrible thing indeed, and we would like to see it disappear from shelves right away. However, we're not sure exactly what the point of writing to Arnold Schwarzeneger about a ban would be. Arnie is governor of a state which currently has a eighteen pages of closely typed prisoners awaiting lethal injection - he's hardly likely to have a spark of humanity when it comes to some geese's livers, is he?

GET THE GEESE OFF THE MENU: Obviously, we agree with Paul McCartney that Foie Gras is a horrible thing indeed, and we would like to see it disappear from shelves right away. However, we're not sure exactly what the point of writing to Arnold Schwarzeneger about a ban would be. Arnie is governor of a state which currently has a eighteen pages of closely typed prisoners awaiting lethal injection - he's hardly likely to have a spark of humanity when it comes to some geese's livers, is he?

MAKE YOU AN OFFER YOU CAN REALLY REFUSE: Would you like to go clothes shopping with DeLaSoul? Now your dream can come true - they're auctioning a trip to the shops with band. If that sounds kinda dull, it gets worse, as the small print makes clear:

In support of their new album The Grind Date and their new single “Shopping Bags”, legendary hip hop group De La Soul is auctioning off the opportunity for a fan to accompany them on a clothes shopping trip at some of their favorite stores around New York City.

Winner of the auction must be based in New York City and be available for the trip on the afternoon of Monday, September 27th. Winner must be willing to provide their own money for transportation, shopping or any other personal expenses that may occur during the trip. Also, winner must be willing to have the entire experience photographed and documented for an article in VIBE Magazine. All money from the winning bid will be donated to a charity of De La Soul's choice.

So, from the top then: it's a promo for their new single that they expect you to pay them to be part of (okay, they're going to give the money the auction raises to charity, but even so: you're paying to help them promote their single). It's like they're asking you to pay for a billboard.

And not only are they not buying you anything on the trip, they're expecting you to pay for all your expenses - doubtless they'll be out the cab down Fifth Avenue quick as you like, leaving you to fumble in your purse to pay for the cab. So... what exactly are you getting for you cash? A bunch of old blokes hanging about as you go round the shops is what it seems to us - you know what? You can go on a shopping trip with my Dad if you like. It'd be just as much fun.

MONEY VERY MUCH FOR NOTHING: Just picking up a little further on John Kennedy's ranting at In The City, and his moan that he'd care a little more about how little songwriters get paid if record companies had a fifty percent margin - according to figures in Monday's Independent, they're getting damn near it:

[F]igures from the US show that Apple Computer, the dominant legal download business in Europe and the US, retains just 4 cents from each 99-cent (55p) track sale while "mechanical copyright" holders - generally the record labels, who own copyright in the song's recording - take 62 cents or more. Music publishers take the rest - about 8 cents.

Of course, the labels do have some costs - but if we assume that they see downloads as an extra, rather than CD sales, which most seem desperate to keep as a core business, that's 62 cents of pure profit from every sale. We'd love to be in a business like that.

SCREAMING INJURIES: Rock stars and cars. It always ends in tears, doesn't it? Mark Lanegan's the latest to come to grief, being in a car smash in LA on Tuesday night. Not his fault, not seriously hurt, but he's being told to get a lot of rest by his doctor. East Coast dates have been axed as a result.

I wonder if people who had bought tickets and made other out-of-pocket expenses for those gigs could bring an action against the other driver's insurance?

SMITH DOWNLOADS: Just because it's Friday it's no excuse to goof off and use your computer for non-work purposes. Sure, you could go over to DoneWaiting and sample their link to Elliott Smith mp3s, but that's going to be on a par with oggling pictures of topless women when you should be working, isn't it?

DOWN TO WORTHING, AND LIVE THERE: There's been a kerfuffle over the Ordinary Boys feature in this week's NME, in which the Boys show the paper round their home town of Brighton. Because they actually come from Worthing. The NME reading residents of Worthing are up are in arms (although we're not sure how many people in Worthing actually fit the NME demographic) and to make ammends, the Boys have been insisting they love Worthing really, and it's all the beastly NME's fault:

"NME asked us to do the story - we would have been silly not to. It's sad it makes us look rubbish for doing that.
Growing up in Worthing made me who I am. I would not want to be part of a Brighton scene but everyone in Worthing accepts you go to Brighton for your big night out. It is part of what makes Worthing what it is. But we could not have written the album if we were from Brighton."

This probably has to be the most upsetting issue of NME in history, then, what with making Robert Music cry and now the Boys are all upset. To make ammends, Preston went round with the Evening Argus pointing out his favourite places in Worthing - a trip which must have taken all of two minutes, unless they included the small Woolworths in Broadwater as well as the pier. We just hope there won't be trouble that he gave the interview to the Brighton local paper instead of the Worthing Herald.

FWIW: Worthing played a major role in our musical life. We bought our first album - Parallel Lines - with a Christmas Gift Voucher in the Boots in Worthing.

WHIGFIELD!: Disappointingly, despite what a Des Moines DJ and internet rumour has claimed, Corey Taylor of Slipknot is not dead. Except in a creative sense.

THIRTY FURTHER ODD FEET OF GRUNTS: The latest actor pitching up at the recording studio is...

...Robert Downey Jr. There is a slight difference, though, as he's setting his heights slightly higher than most of the pack, signing a deal with Sony Classical. Although he's not doing classics, but apparently there's no Sony Pop Ballads sublabel. Apart from his own stuff, he's also doing a cover of Yes. Yes, Yes. Your Move, to be precise.

I just hope he knows that the music industry won't stand for any of those drug-addled adventures he got up to while he was in the movies.

THE RIAA: GENEROUS TO A FAULT: Time to check in again on how the RIAA - the most moral organisation in the world - is getting on making ammends for having ripped off American consumers for years. You'll recall that the organisation had been so busy lecturing people about stealing music off the internet they'd forgotten not to rape consumers at the checkout. As part of the settlement, they agreed to distribute free CDs to libraries. As we've heard before, they're not being exactly straight about it, though, and it's not getting any better: Cape May County library has been lumbered with eighteen copies of Christina Aguilera's Christmas Album and a bunch of "third-rate classical recordings." They're not alone:

According to a newsletter Library Hotline, some libraries have refused to accept the donations and other libraries were facing the same situation that Martin reported: “57 copies of ‘Three Mo’ Tenors,’” “39 copies of ‘Yolanda Adams Christmas’” and “34 copies of the Bee Gees’ ‘This Is Where I Came In.’”

THAT'S GOING TO LOOK GOOD ON THE ALBUM SLEEVE: Following a recent jaunt to a Zen temple, Leonard Cohen has been ordained. Now, he's not just Lenny, he also answers to Jikan the Silent One.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

KENNEDY SHOOTINGS: The man who currently runs the UK branch of Universal Music Group, John Kennedy, is about to take over the reins at the IFPI (or, rather, those reins which aren't held by the RIAA, anyway). He used his In The City keynote to give an insight into the way his mind works, (reported by the Register), and the thought of him being at the top of the world record company pyramid is one of those dystopian visions of the future you usually only get on the Sci-Fi Channel. In fact, we did wonder if it was all some sort of joke at first.

First of all, he made clear his love of the lawsuit as a way of communicating with you customers. He has no sympathy for the twelve year old girl whose council-projects family are having to find thousands and thousands of dollars to keep the RIAA from their door - everyone else in the world can see that this was a rubbish move; only a real Scrooge would think that sort of move was a positive PR victory. Kennedy could be that Scrooge: she was a "serious file sharer." Except, of course, she had a few TV themes and a couple of nursery rhymes. Does Kennedy really believe that this twelve year old was a threat to the music industry? Really?

But he was only warming up. Many people have queried the RIAA's claims to be doing it for the artists, suggesting that any cash the organisation claws back is going to disappear into the labels' bottom line rather than to the people who make the songs. Kennedy's answer to that is "Yes - and?":

But he had even less sympathy for songwriters, who receive only a small fraction of royalties that recordings owners receive. that was fair, he insisted, as hits were down to investment in marketing, he said.

He's right, of course - who can forget the time their eyes met across a crowded room as the DJ was playing a song released on two CDs, one with live tracks on the b-side and the other with a video? And surely thousands of babies must have been conceived to the sweet sounds of the track supported by a nationwide 32-sheet campaign and thirty second slots during Coronation Street?

He then went on to claim that record labels spend more on R&D than technology companies - an astonishing claim that would be even more astonishing if it was true. Kennedy said he'd worry more about the plight of the sonmgwriter if record companies had fifty per cent margins. In other words, in Kennedy's view, the artists don't mean shit. Record labels are little more than shops, and there's no creativity at all - it's all down to the magic of the marketing. At least this is a pleasing signal that the cant about labels being interested in protecting artists is over - now, the truth: the artists are little more than irritants, eating away at the bottom line. Their contribution to the process is incidental. Bernie Taupin? He'd be nothing without a gatefold sleeve and a full colour Point of Sale display in Asda.

Students in the US have stopped illegal downloading because of the lawsuits:

Kennedy said that the practice of sueing file sharers had government support and had begun to make a difference, especially in US colleges. Students knew that if they were caught drink-driving they'd face jail, or downloading an exam cheat from the Internet, they'd face expulsion; but students could download music with impunity. The music industry is keen to impose a per-college tax on students for sharing files, although the students lose the music when they graduate.

This is a little disingenuous - the implication that students have stopped - and let's use his language - stealing music because they've been scared into it by the suing of twelve year old girls; they've stopped because the colleges have been bounced into setting up "legal" download systems. Many colleges are now forced to charge students a fee to cover subscriptions to the likes of Napster whether they use them or not. The presence of a legal download option that won't cost them any more is what's stopped many students using file sharing, not the legal actions.

We actually agree with his observation thatin the past labels had "got greedy and decided to be retailers as well as wholesalers," he said, and had forgotten that the record company isn't a brand that means anything to the mass market., although, oddly, it was Universal (Kennedy's former employer) who pushed this the hardest - even sticking "Universal" idents at the front of their record ads, as if to try and make people care.

Someone from The Observer asked why Apple had been able to make a success of the iPod when the record companies had failed. Sniff. "A hardware company came up with a sexy piece of hardware. A record company couldn't do that." Oh, no? What about Sony, who must have been in with a shout? And Philips managed to come up with both the compact cassette and the compact disc while simultaneously running a pretty succesful record label. And the early 45 and 33 formats were created by record labels rather than electronics companies. So, Kennedy is just plain wrong - this is the first major form of music delivery that hasn't been driven by the music industry. And that's probably a sign that the era of the record company is really coming to an end - it's become dependent upon other sectors to get to its market.

Not that Kennedy thinks its about to game over - we still need record companies, you see:

"No unsigned band has been broken by the internet," he said. "Bands are screaming in space on the internet."

And, to a certain extent, that's true. So far. But it's only a matter of time now. What Kennedy fails to factor in is that, on the internet, it equally doesn't matter who your backer is. Sooner or later, someone's going to put funding into a band who make a profit and a reputation online. Had there not been the dotcom crash, it would have been happening by now, actually. Tesco or the Princes Trust or even Apple could put up the cash. When you needed a full infrastructure to press and distribute a physical record, you needed a physical record company. They put up cash, but they also had a network that was vital. As actual record sales yield to the download, all you're going to need is the money half.

Kennedy does like the download, though, provided it's all legal and DRMed:

"For 79p you've got a work of art that's like a Picasso, only one that's as close to the original as you can get."

We think the analogy with Picasso - whose work now sells for prices that are ridiculously out of whack with what they're actually worth - wasn't intended to be a signal that he thinks that 79p is too much.

Finally, just a thought: Kennedy is soon to be at the head of the global headmastership, ticking people off for breaking the rules about copyright. However, he made this observation:

At Polygram (which became Universal), Kennedy had stopped the practice of chart-fixing, he said, "because we were so bad at it. Songs that were supposed to chart at No.6 were coming in at No.34".

So, he stopped chart-rigging not because it was wrong, and against the rules, and almost certainly illegal, but because they were shit at it (despite, erm, the magic of marketing, oddly enough). Presumably, if they'd been good at it, he'd have happily carried on waving through the buying of chart positions. Something to bear in mind when he starts lecturing us about how poor twelve year old girls are immorally stealing records.

PUZZLING MOVE: Since it's already clear that Sony's ATRAC format is about as popular with consumers as having an ostrich forced up their shower drains, the company are starting to realise they may have buggered by their attempts to challenge the iPod by insisting their players will only play ATRAC tunes. So now, Sony have decided that some of their players might cope with that there MP3, too. It's a mainly pointless move - why not allow all of them to play MP3s? Isn't 'some' confusing? And it's now made the Sony Connect store even more of a lame duck: the only people who would have had any interest in buying tracks in the format were people who'd inadvertently discovered that otherwise, their expensive Sony Walkman wouldn't play anything at all. There's going to be fewer of them around soon, too. Do Sony actually have a strategy, or are they choosing their direction from a giant blue tombola in the company HQ every morning?

IT'S THE ONLY CHART THAT HAS A SMALL EGGTIMER TO COUNT: We've not looked at the download chart since it first started, so here's this week's listing:

#1 (1)'These Words' - Natasha Bedingfield BMG 3
2 (4) 'American Idiot' - Green Day Warner 4
3 (3) 'She Will Be Loved' - Maroon 5 BMG 3
4 (new) 'Real To Me' - Brian McFadden Sony 1
5 (10) 'Leaving New York' - R.E.M. Warner 2
6 (3) 'Golden Touch' - Razorlight Universal 2
7 (6) 'This Love' - Maroon 5 BMG 4
8 (5) 'Lola's Theme' - Shapeshifters EMI 4
9 (8) 'Dry Your Eyes' - Streets Warner 4
10 (new) 'My Place' - Nelly Universal 1
11 (7) 'Dumb' - 411 Sony 4
12 (new) 'Love Machine' - Girls Aloud Universal 1
13 (new) 'Whatever Happened To Corey Haim' - The Thrills EMI 1
14 (18) 'Sunshine' - Twista Warner 4
15 (new) 'Leave (Get Out)' - Jojo Universal 1
16 (17) 'You Had Me' - Joss Stone EMI 2
17 (11) 'Bedshaped' - Keane Universal 4
18 (14) 'Laura' - Scissor Sisters Universal 4
19 (new) 'Slash Dot Dash' - Fatboy Slim Skint 1
20 (9) 'The Sun Ain't Gonna Shine Anymore' - Keane Universal 2

for comparison purposes, here's the top twenty for those old-fashioned singles thingys:

1 (new) Eric Prydz - Call On Me (Data)
2 (new) Girls Aloud - Love Machine (Polydor)
3 (new) Green Day - American Idiot (Reprise)
4 (2) Nelly - My Place/Flap Your Wings (Mercury)
5 (4) Jojo - Leave (Get Out) (Mercury)
6 (1) Brian McFadden - Real To Me (Sony)
7 (5) 3 Of A Kind - Baby Cakes (Relentless)
8 (6) Twista - Sunshine (Atlantic)
9 (new) Joss Stone - You Had Me (Relentless)
10 (3) McFly - That Girl (Island)
11(7) Natasha Bedingfield - These Words (Arista)
12 (8) Maroon 5 - She Will Be Loved (Octjay)
13 (9) The Pirates feat. Enya/Ama/Boss/Ishani - You Should Really Know (Relentless)
14 (new) Status Quo - You'll Come 'Round (Universal)
15 (10) 411 - Dumb (Sony)
16 (new) The Corrs - Angel (Atlantic)
17 (11) Houston/Chingy/Nate Dogg/I-20 - I Like That (Parlophone)
18 (new) Razorlight - Vice (Vertigo)
19 (16) Mousse T feat. Emma Lanford - Is It Cos I'm Cool (Free2airrecordings)
20 (13) Goldie Lookin' Chain - Gun's Don't Kill People Rappers Do (Atlantic)

So, a couple of interesting points there - first, the download chart actually seems to allow songs to hang around a hell of a lot longer than the singles chart does; second, apart from Norman Cook's Slashdotslashslash, everything in the download chart comes from the big four and a half labels. Curiously, the singles chart seems to have become a friendlier place for the old chaps - Status Quo back in the twenty, The Corrs, Mousse T and so on doing well, perhaps because their audience are more likely to make the trip down to WH Smiths to buy a single than leap on their terminal to access music. It's actually possible that The Alarm could have got exactly the same chart position they managed earlier this year without having to pretend to be some bunch of youngsters.

NEVER MIND THE CHILDREN, WHAT ABOUT OUR BLOODY EARS?: You'd have hoped that people hoping to record a song for charity would manage a quiet dignity as they pitched for the gig, but Geri Halliwell isn't people, is she? She's so in need of a fillip for her career - presumably to give her something to drool on about in a third pointless autobiography - that she's taking her campaign to be the official Children In Need single more-or-less public. Girls Aloud are also in contention; they've recorded a cover of the Pretender's I'll Stand By You. Ballady and with a 'hey, let's stick together' theme - you can see boxes being ticked; you can even picture it running over pictures of kiddies born with no faces and teenagers trapped in pits of eternal fire. You can even see the 'To donate now...' ticker crawling onto the screen as the big crescendo starts. Halliwell, on the other hand, just seems to have rummaged in her tape cupboard and pulled out any old shit - offering her new single 'Ride It' (mmm, lame sexual innuendo to raise money to help abused children; that'll work) or, even more puzzlingly, 'Feel The Fear'. We don't often throw our wieght behind Girls Aloud, even less so behind covers of songs by classy bands, but on this occassion: C'mon, Tweedy!

IF THE BUS DOESN'T SHOW, HE'LL GET WET WET WET: Marti Pellow might be looking for a lift to the Wets reuinion gigs later this year, as the dolt was doing 100 miles an hour on the M74. He's now lost his licence for three months and got fined GBP150.

LIKE A VIRGIN; MAKE A MILLION: we've really missed our calling - clearly, the money is in knocking out half-assed management books, for which there seems to be an insatiable demand. Latest to turn up is Business Plans for Dummies by Colin Barrow. And his tip? Be like Madonna.

He doesn't mean waggling your arse and getting your picture taken with Vanilla Ice wedged up you - although that can work quite well, too. Apparently, Madonna is just full of the business skills:

"Using what can only be described as mediocre talent and competent performance skills, she has managed to move to the top of her industry and stay there by continually reinventing herself." Her business skills include "planning, personal discipline and constant attention to detail", he said.

Hmm, we're not so sure Barrow's analysis stands up - if Madonna's millions were based on using a slim talent in a really smart way, how do you explain the movies? The shrewd business advice after Shanghai Surprise would have been to not make any more films, which ate up time she could have been spending on music; and which stank so much they only harmed her brand. Likewise, a shrewd businesswoman wouldn't have pissed Pepsi off with the Like A Prayer video, which cost her a plum sponsorship worth millions. It also seems, at least from The Scotsman's precis, that Barrow doesn't know a great deal about the music industry in the 80s:

"When Madonna first bounced into the pop world singing Holiday in 1983, it only reached number six in the UK charts and 16 in the US. "

Except, in 1983, number six and number sixteen were great achievements for an unknown artist, surely? Indeed, for all the talk of how she's "stayed at the top of the industry", her recent chart performances have comparatively been much worse than her debut.

Then, there's this:

Bert Padell, her manager for 15 years described how she paid attention to the minutest detail. "We had to fax her every cheque we wrote on a daily basis and she would call us to say if it was OK before we could send it out." Mr Padell and Madonna parted company amid acrimony in 1996 and she sued his firm for more than £1.5 million in a row over her tax bill.

So, shrewd businesswoman Madonna would have cheques faxed across, but somehow her attention to detail didn't extend to checking her tax return? Isn't this confusing pedantic control freakery with a keen eye for detail?

FIRST, BUTLER AND ANDERSON REUNITE...: Now, FreakyTrigger has spotted all of Blur, out together, laughing, like they didn't all hate each other.

Next week: Axl, Slash kiss and make up.

THE SPECTRE OF SPECTOR: We know that Phil Spector is rock's greatest paranoid, but we were a bit surprised to discover his lawyers are equally convinced the world's got it in for him: Spector's been ordered back to court next Monday, and his legal team can't think of any reason other than a secret grand jury having decided he needs to face murder charges over the death of Lana Clarkson.

A DATE FOR YOUR DIARY: After much humming and hahing, Oasis have set a date for the release of the follow-up to their last album, Heathen Chemistry. May 26th, if you're wondering. You might think the reason we've not had one yet is because the stuff they'd recorded for it was rubbish and had to be thrown away, but Noel seems to think there's another reason - yes, Oasis haven't put an album out because they're brilliant:

"We've got a release date now, which is why it's been meandering for a bit because we've not had a date to work to because we're extremely successful. So they just say: "Alright, finish when you finish" - but it's kind of been rambling on and not working too hard on it but now we have to have it finished by May 26."

Yeah, Noel. Your label might be not that bothered about when you finish because you're stellar. On the other hand, if you're that successful, wouldn't the label be biting your hand off to get hold of the next money-spinner? Perhaps, following the disappointing sales of Chemistry, they're just keen to offset the day when they have to pump thousands into promoting the next set of not-quite-as-good-as-the-last recordings. "Finish when you finish" is recordcompanyese for "we're happy re-packaging the back catalogue, actually, mate."

MORE LOOSE ENDS THAN TIED KNOTS: Well, it turns out that Britney isn't married this time round, either - some sort of paperwork hold-up means shes still Miss Spears and not Mrs. Federline. Apparently some four-page document turned up by Us magazine found an agreement between Britney and Fred to hold a faux marriage. So, they're not legal - but they do feel married:

Spears herself has said: "No pieces of paper can capture what I feel. I know we're not completely legal until we file the licence, which we will do next week, but in a spiritual sense, we're married."

Federline added: "We'll file our licence next week. We were advised to wait a certain grace period. More importantly, this was such a spiritual connection for us."

So, they're spiritually married, then. We're not sure what Fred actually means by "waiting a certain grace period" - is this some nicety of marriage ritual we've missed out on? Exchange vows, do the rings, cut the cake, go on honeymoon, wait a week, file the licence?

Apparently, the evening before the spiritual wedding, Fred and Britney spent the night together, listening to Phil Collins' greatest hits. Thereby proving that it really is bad luck if the groom sees the bride the night before the ceremony.

HEADLINE OF THE DAY: There's obviously someone with a sense of humour at ABC News, which is running the headline U.S. Says Cat Stevens May Have Terror Ties right next to this photo:

The actual details of what Islam may or may not have done are getting murkier by the second - shady "government officials" are muttering that Stevens might have been giving cash to support the terrorists who blew up the World Trade Center in 1993. But, surely, if the Americans had any evidence to support that claim they'd not say "Go away, Cat" - wouldn't you be more likely to hold him and charge him?

What's even more puzzling is why Islam was able to visit the US without any trouble at all back in May. Has some "new evidence" really come to light during the last three months? It hardly seems credible. Of course, in an age where Ted Kennedy is only able to get on planes by calling Tom Ridge up to vouch for him, we shouldn't be surprised that someone called Islam is finding the welcome chillier and chillier in the US. The Bush campaign is expected to announce plans to add a rider to that thing about "poor, huddled masses" specifically excluding men with beards.

CAN ANYONE SEE THE FLAW IN THIS PLAN?: The rash of giveaway CDs coming cover-mounted (or, more accurately, wedged inside) the tabloids is causing some concern over at the Evening Standard - free music is a great promotional device, but with all the "news"papers doing it, it's become like an arms race - every week it's getting more and more extreme, and it's costing a hell of a lot of money. Apparently, every new reader tempted to pick up a copy of the Standard costs the paper five quid. And they have to stick around for quite a while before the paper makes that back. Which they don't always do, as, you know, it's the Evening Standard. If only, ponders the paper, we could make some cash out of these things.

So, the Standard is hoping to dump the totally free CDs and sell music downloads instead. They're hooking up with something called the London Music Network, which is going to offer this unattractive sounding proposition:

The CDs will contain some tracks that can be played on a normal CD player but others will only be accessible on a computer and can be played a maximum of four times.

If readers like what they hear, they can then buy the songs through the London Music Network website. New songs will also be added to the website on a weekly basis and will be accessible through a code published in the weekly Metro Life magazine on a Thursday.

Similarly, these tracks will play a limited number of times before they will become "locked" and users invited to buy the tracks if they want to download them permanently.

So, the idea is to try and treat music like heroin - a small hit for free, and then introducing charging through the nose for it. Why they think this confusing farrago is going to appeal to anyone isn't clear - It's a newspaper free gift you have to pay for! It's a CD you can't play on a CD player! Try the Evening Standard tonight!

Interestingly, the ES has picked up the language of the BPI, who were worrying that all these free CDs couldn't possibly be good for the record industry (although we notice none of their members chose not to make the tracks available; funny that):

"Newspaper covermounts as they exist do little to proclaim the value of good music to their readers. The London Music Network is an innovative way of leading listeners directly to the great new sounds we are writing about every week," said David Smyth, chief rock and pop critic at the paper.

"This is a true demonstration of how digital technology and the growth of broadband is complementing traditional methods by giving another route to market," added Andy Brown, chief executive of BT's Rich Media division.

We're not quite sure the route is as direct as Smyth would suggest - you put a CD in your car machine, it won't play the key tracks, so you put it in the computer, where it will play them, but only a couple of times; or you can dig out a secret code number from a magazine which you can then put into a computer and download some tracks before they lock themselves up and you have to try and find them again on the website... it's certainly a route to market, but it's equivalent to getting into the centre of Manchester by heading for Oldham. The Mail on Sunday, god love them, are going to confuse their readers by using the same technology this weekend.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: The good god of head fuck edition
Ha ha! The NME has got a humorous cover - they've got Phil Oakey to dress up as Kelly Osbourne for the cover... oh, hang on: Marilyn Manson. Oh.

News has got coverage of Chris Martin's impending baldness and razorlight praising the genius of the Cure.

Kasbian does the made-up CD thing: Tangerine Dream and Donna Summer and People Under The Stairs.

Peter Robinson takes on Paul Draper, out of Mansun, who confirms what all right-thinking people knew: even Mansun knew the third album was shit. Of course, he'll now come in for a kicking from Mansun fans on internet message boards. "How dare he say that what does he know anyway" type posts will be going up even as we speak.

radar band are the Go Team: they say they're "six people who will change music for the better."

Imran Ahmed goes to interview the Music and makes Robert Harvey cry. Now, that's an interview for you. Its when Ahmed challenges a slightly tipsy Harvey that he doesn't really care how people perceive him that Harvey cracks, and blubs and blubs. It's not quite Richey at the Norwich Art Centre, but it's probably the closest you'll get this year.

The Ordinary Boys take people round their home town, which is Brighton, of course. They don't drink in the Park View, shamefully.

Hmm... not sure we can endorse the suggestion that Goldie Lookin' Chain's "Argos aesthetic is merely a modern day take on the Beastie Boys' habit of wearing cheap Volkswagen badges on even cheaper chains" - it's a little bit like suggesting The Wurzels crowding round a combine harvester was on a par with the KLF's police car.

We like the Duke Spirit, especially because Leila explains they chose the name because it's "ennobling."

Marilyn Manson, sweet little goth boi, still thinks he's unsettling. Who to, marilyn? He compares his "threat" to that of Osama Bin Laden, which is like Pookey The Rodeo Clown trying to claim a kinship with Bob Hope - a distraction talking up their role a little too far. The trouble is, of course, he's just too chickenshit to actually take a line on anything. Manson is asked a straight question, say: Did you agree with the Iraq War? Now, that's a yes-or-no question; or maybe an 'up-to-a-point' question. Manson's answer is twisting prevarication: "It's like 1984. Is it real or is it fake? Who knows?" (Erm... the families of the fifteen thousand dead, probably, Maz) "Do we know that it's real when we hear the horror stories of the people who went over there not expecting what they got?" He wants to be the dark boil in America's buttcrack, but he's too shitscared of what people might think to even answer a simple question. Sideshow Bob.

The posters - which come in the middle of this - are like The Clash. Who actually had something more to offer than some gimmicks bought cheap when Hallmark was flogging off last year's halloween overstock.

kasbian - birmingham irish centre - "much less genial than the Happy Mondays" (crikey)

interpol - antics - "they allow us to look forward and backward in time", 8
brian wilson - smile - "one of the greatest albums of the 21st century", 9
six by seven - 04 - "retains the sonic power most bands couldn't muster", 7

sniff... this could be the last time; in the next few weeks, singles are being dropped by the nme in favour of reviewing tracks instead. It's all about the ipod, you see...

the dead 60s - riot radio - "ska not stuck in the decade of legwarmers and Thatcher"
the duke spirit - cuts across the land - "not unlike PJ Harvey after a decent meal"

and, finally, Tim from keane chooses a Why I Love. Nick Drake. I'm shocked by such an astonishing choice.

THE FAMILY THAT RIPS MAMMALS TO PIECES TOGETHER, ERM, DOESN'T ACTUALLY STAY TOGETHER: So, we already knew Bryan was fond of a spot of fox hunting - dressing up like a tit and listening to an intelligent creature making blood curdling noises no challenge for someone who's worked with Brian Eno. Isaac Ferry got kicked out of Eton for sending threatening messages to someone who actually likes animals. Otis Ferry was one of the yahoos who broke into Parliament last week to try and determine British law by the use of threat and coercion. The only person missing, so far, from this Happy Families set was Mum. But now Lucy Ferry, Bryan's ex-wife, has been given a conditional discharge for taking part in last week's thuggish displays outside parliament. And, good news for a future society wedding, Jackie Coward, Otis' girlfriend, has also pleaded guilty to obstructing the highway, just like Mrs. Ferry.

HACKED THE WEDDING: We'd love to see screen grabs, should anyone have them, of the hacked Busted website. Universal have been forced to take the site down after someone altered files to reveal Matt Jay and James Bourne's homo-pop-boy-lust feelings for each other.

Of course, what with losing all those valuable hits and opportunities for ecommerce all the time, it might work out being more cash effective for the label to instruct Matt and James to come into line with their false profiles, rather than trying to keep the online profiles straight. As it were.

... AND NEXT WEEK, TED NUGENT ON GUN CONTROL: Hats off to MTV, choosingChristina Aguilera to host a programme about sex for teenagers. Christina's taking it seriously, preparing to come on like Clare Rayner in a push-up bra and edible crotchless panties:

"Every year one in four sexually active teens gets a sexually transmitted disease" warns Christina.

Presumably the other three are split between her and Paris Hilton. She's got some other figures, too:

"More than one in three young women gets pregnant before aged 20, almost always by accident."

I think rather than "almost always by accident" you mean "always through sex", don't you, Christina? We're not entirely convinced that an unplanned pregnancy and an accidental pregnancy are quite the same thing - one, surely, is an educated risk and the other is a sloppily-applied condom - but we do applaud MTV's balls in putting Christina up to front a show which is basically calling for exual absitence. Kind of like getting the Pilsbury Dough boy to front up a telethon to promote a sponsored fast.

IT'S FAR FROM OVER: The success - or otherwise - of Yahoo's late entry into the music business with its own planned player and store is, of course, tied up in a much larger package of IT stories.

The gist of which, is, of course, that we could see a three-way struggle for supremacy: Apple v Microsoft v Yahoo. It would seem that Yahoo is in the weakest position - it's coming to market late, Apple has got the iPod and Microsoft the near-monopoly on browsers.

Ah, but let's not forget that Yahoo has a secret weapon up its sleeve - although it's apparently a competitor with Google, it also owns a hefty stake in them, thanks to a recent bit of court business over targetting adverts on searches.

Taken together, Yahoogle owns internet search - of the people finding No Rock through a search engine, 95% come from the one or the other.

And there are clear rumours that Google is about to launch its own browser. At the moment, Microsoft's Internet Explorer dominates the browser landscape, but its constant security flaws are damaging it badly - again, looking at our own stats, it's already plummeted to an 82% share from the 93-ish it's commanded in the past. One of the few things that is keeping it afloat is that the next best option has a funny name and most non-techies haven't any idea who's behind it. If IE had to take on Google and Mozilla, Microsoft's stranglehold on the web would become a thing of the past. And that could be very good news indeed for Yahoo.

It's no wonder Microsoft are now desperately trying to strike a deal to build copy-protection into the next version of Windows - it might be their only chance of having any unfair advantage over their competitors in the music download market in years to come.

WEMBLEY... ARE YOU READY TO ROCK? I SAID WEMMMBERLEY, ARE YOU READY TO ROCK? LOOK, COULD YOU PLEASE TURN THAT BLOODY CEMENT MIXER OFF, I'M TRYING TO MAKE MYSELF HEARD: Ah, the new Wembley, that triumph of British can-do and planning that should have been open years ago and cost a third as much as it will - what will this bright symbol of the new Britain call upon to mark its birth? To demonstrate to the world that we are a nation that still has much to give, that we're not really a bunch of old geezers sitting on some mined-out rocks desperately retailing faded glories of old? How about a gig by the Rolling Stones. That'll do it.

The one piece of soothing balm is, for the Stones to be the first band at the new Wembley, they'll have to finish building it before they die. Not much chance of that, really.

YOU CAN'T TOUCH THIS... OH, ALRIGHT, BUT BE GENTLE: Bloody hell - MC Hammer rides again. He's joining an actually not to be sniffed at line-up for VH1's first ever Hip Hop Honors, which are being filmed before a studio audience in a couple of weeks. Hammerman's human alterego (seen below with, apparently, Donald Sutherland) is sharing the stage with the Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Ice-T and Grandmaster Flash. Kid Rock's going to perform as well, but you'll need to take a pee break at some point, won't you?

Mind you, we were already feeling old when we saw that TV ad for "old skool" R&B albumlast night. Hearing that Hip Hop is now in VH1's domain makes us feel ancient.

JACKSON: MORE TWISTS: Could the trial of Michael Jackson get any rummer? Following reports on an LA radio station that amongst the items seized during the search of Neverland were pictures of naked boys, the Jackson camp issued a high profile denial. The odd thing is, of course, the story would have more or less stayed with KFI radio had team Jackson not rushed out a high-profile quashing of the story - so are we to assume they're incompetent, or that they had ain interest in bouncing this story out now. Attorney Thomas Mesereau's statement runs:

"The Michael Jackson defense team has learned that information is circulating throughout the media regarding alleged photographs supposedly seized from Mr. Jackson's residence. That information is false. The prosecution has confirmed that it is false. We demand an immediate retraction from any news or media organization that made such an announcement."

KFI news director apparently turned down Jackson's demand for a retraction and is standing by the story, although it's not clear if he means that in a Greg Dyke or Dan Rather fashion.

SUES NEWS: After a summer with a steady stream of stories suggesting David and Victoria Beckham might have been having a bad time of that marriage business, the Beckhams have finally instructed m'learned friends to take legal action against the News of the World for their most recent front page story about the pair. Harbottle and Lewis are bringing the action over the 'Posh and Becks on Rocks' story printed on September 12th.

BET SHE'S FEELING REALLY SILLY NOW: After two years on the run from Mexican police, Gloria Trevi (who is meaninglessly described as 'Mexico's Madonna') was found in Brazil and brought back to face trial om charges of rape, kidnap and corrupting minors. Yesterday, a Mexican court ruled there was insufficient evidence against her.

So she'd actually have been a lot better off sitting and waiting in Mexico - indeed, she might actually have got off before the end of the last century if she hadn't run away.

STICKING TO HER PRINCIPLES: Avril Lavigne, of course, is lauded here for her strict insistence that "I won't wear skanky clothes that show off my booty, my belly or boobs." Some people, though, aren't quite sure what non-skanky clothes look like. Which is why we're delighted to bring you these pictures from Maxim magazine, in which Avril demonstrates how you can wear clothes without falling foul of any desire to offer cheap titilation to try and sell records with sex:

MORNING HAS BROKEN: And if you need to be reminded of the need for a regime change in the US, surely the refusal of America to allow Cat Stevens entry on "national security grounds" is as much an indication of an administration that's gone nuts? Stevens, whose passport now carries the name Yusuf Islam, was detained by the Feds at Maine Bangor airport - apparently his name was on an "international watch list", and the threat he presented to the US was so important, they even diverted the plane from its planned route in order to get him off the flight as soon as possible.

Now, it is possible, we concede, that Cat Stevens was travelling with a suitcase full of nuclear material and the plans to the inside of Camp David, in exactly the same way that it's not totally impossible that Donny Osmond brought a thousand rabid bats into the UK on his recent visit, hidden in his hatband. But both are equally unlikely. In which case, it seems that Stevens has turned up as a threat to national security in the sense of being a prominent and vocal critic of the war in Iraq - and how insecure must a government be to see criticism as a threat to be repelled?

SHORT, SHARP, BUT NO SHOCKS: The judges have taken the Shortlist Longlist, and dropped acts they're jealous of, have never heard of, have slept with but want to forget, or have been knocked back by, and now there's a Shortlist Shortlist:

Air - "Talkie Walkie" (Astralwerks)
Dizzee Rascal - "Boy in Da Corner" (Matador/XL)
Franz Ferdinand's - Franz Ferdinand (Domino/Epic)
Ghostface Killah - The Pretty Toney Album" (Def Jam)
The Killers - "Hot Fuss" (Island)
Loretta Lynn - "Van Lear Rose" (Interscope)
Nellie McKay - "Get Away From Me" (Columbia)
The Streets - "A Grand Don't Come for Free" (Vice)
TV On The Radio - "Desparate Youth, Bloodthirsty Babes" (Touch & Go)
Wilco - "A Ghost Is Born" (Nonesuch)

Of course, the most interesting thing about this list is that, because of the vagaries of the time periods the awards cover and the UK-US release schedule, there's actually two Mecury prize winners on the same Shortlist shortlist. And you've got to love Franz Ferdinand's chances of winning the whole thing.

NOW... IT'S MP3s AGAINST BUSH: As part of the ongoing campaign to get the vote out in the US (apparently, it turns out the election is taking place this year, although from most of the coverage we've seen on the US networks it looks like it's taking place in 1969), a new idea: get someone to register, get a free download. The likes of Bright Eyes and Radiohead and Lisa Loeb are amongst the artists, and perhaps in December we all need to sit down and have a think about a democracy which needs to bribe people with Von Bondies and Vast tracks to get them to participate; but for now: if you're American...

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

ROCK SICK LIST: Or, rather, getting better: Shirley Manson has been on a course of iron pills. Prior to that, she'd be diagnosed with suffering from pica, a disease related to anaemia. The upsohot of the condition was Shirley Manson was having to fight a compulsion to eat dirt. And gravel. And so on.

She's also signed up to be an organ donor:

'It felt a little strange to fill out a form dictating what doctors can or cannot pillage from my cold lifeless body when I quit this mortal coil. I felt pretty good although it was such an easy thing to do and took so little time and effort I confess it was a little spooky. I wonder if there's a similar organisation in America in case I don't drop in my homeland? I want my precious parts to be nice and fresh in someone else's body.'

Form an orderly queue, people.

PREGNANCY MATTERS: Congratulations to Carnie Wilson, out of Wilson Philips and the gruesome online stomach operation. She's expecting her first child - something we hope she doesn't elect to do on pay per view. Oddly, considering her need for desperate surgery to handle her weight problem, she's really chipper about the prospect:

"It won't be a problem eating for two -- that's the good part."

THE MATHS OF THE WAR ON PIRACY: Take a look at the report on the "swoop" on an anti-counterfeit operation in Salford. The investigation turned up "more than 100,000 discs of pirated DVDs, CDs and computer games" - so, less than 200,000, then, otherwise we'd have been quoted the higher figure. And yet we're also told this was a "GBP3million swoop." So, if we plump for the figure of 150,000 items seizeds, that's meant to be an average of twenty quid for each fake.

Where on earth are these people finding customers if they're charging twenty quid for a knock-off Britney Spears album? Surely the only attraction of buying at boot sales is the prices are lower, not higher, than in the shops?

GOING FOR A SLASH: So, the fact she's talking about it must mean that Minnie Driver thinks saying "I looked like Slash" is going to surprise us.

In a way it does:

... but only because you don't think you do now.

This is all part of the puffery for the pointless Orange Playlist, ITV's new post-midnight programme that wouldn't exist were it not for the large cheque paid into ITV's bank account by the mobile phone company. Trying to distract our attention from how wafer slim an idea lies at its heart (erm, a rundown of the most downloaded ringtones), they've tried to add a piece of celeb glamour, and drafted Lauren Laverne in... but even so, the whole thing just reeks of a programme that only exists to stop the two sponsors credits meeting in the middle. Even the promo picture has an air of embarrassed shame about it:

DOHERTY NOT TURNING UP TO PLAY GIG SHOCKER: Surprisingly, Pete Doherty's pledge to help the monks by playing the TMBUK benefit has fallen through as he's meant to be in Manchester with Baby shambles on the night of the gig.

CAN'T WE ALL JUST TRY TO STOP RELEASING NOVELTY SINGLES?: Not what the world is waiting for: Rodney King is about to relase his debut rap single. Yes, that Rodney King. The single is called Beat Down, actually, which is probably only a step shy of calling it Yes, That Rodney King.

ASTONISHING: ContactMusic suggest that Rod tewart takes tea at four every afternoon "to keep in touch with his English roots." He's obviously been drinking rather too much tea if he's actually managed to forget he comes from Scotland, surely?

FIT AND WORKING AGAIN: Unlikely pairings number 778: Nelly and Roanld "brothers" Isley - oh, and the Surgeon General Richard Carmona, all coming together to promote Take A Loved One to the Doctor Day. We only hope Hallmark hasn't sold out of the cards by the time we get there, that's all.

(BACK) INTO YOUR ARMS: There's a new album from the Lemonheads on the way. Apparently, Evan's been inspired by helping out with the MC5 tour and it's made him want to get back into the studio. They've not done an album since Car, Button, Cloth back in 1996.

STIPE STREAMS: The new REM album is going to be thrown out for audiograbbing through a collaboration with - there's no actually need to join the poor man's Orkurt to hear the album, apparently. MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe - we wish we knew him, we'd love to greet his entry into the office by going "It's De-wolf!" every time - is cagey about who's paying who for this event:

"Our site is supported by advertising," he said. "But there will be times that a music company will pay for advertising, and there are times when we will do business development deals."

So, we're taking that as a hint that MySpace aren't being paid a bean for this, although they're not doing badly out of it, we guess. And, of course, it keeps the adverts from Atkins diet comapnies rolling, rolling in... - the site seems riddled with diet adverts.

SECRET ONE-OFF REUNION SHOW: We can't say that we're that bothered to have missed it, as we never really felt as a band they quite added up to the sum of their parts, but The Fugees reunited over the weekend. The first time in eight years Pras, Wyclef Jean from the telephone adverts and Lauryn Hill have played together was at Dave Chapelle's Block Party; they have hinted there may be more Fugees to come.

EVEN STELIOS ISN'T THIS CHEAP: Those nice people at Drowned In Sound - they know how to use shampoo, they seldom speak with their mouth full and now they're even offering a free Do Me Bad Things download. You can't grumble, can you?

AT HOME IN LOWESTOFT: We're raising a curious eyebrow that The Darkness have already been deemed worthy of a South Bank Show after just one album - is Melvyn running out of subjects, or is this merely ITV network centre requesting something to help boost the overall audience share before Christmas? Whatever it is, it's going to air on November 21st.

BALD MEN SET THE PACE: Poor Chris Martin is going bald, and he blames the disappearance of his hair on the "stress" of recording a new album. Yeah, Chris, it's a pity you can't get some help in to take the strain this time, isn't it?

THE NEWLYWED GAME: We're told that, following their marriage at the weekend, Britney and Kevin spent forty-eight hours locked together in their hotel room. We don't think they were shagging, it was just when they shut the door there was a 'Do Not Disturb' sign hanging on the back of their door so they were scared to open it for two days.

Meanwhile, Christina is trying her hardest not to be bitter. "It should have been me" she wails, looking at all those front pages. Actually, she seemed bemused by Britney's decision not to turn her wedding into a three-ring circus but to go for something quiet with a few guests and no helicopters full of long lenses flying overhead:

"I'd never have thought that girl would have done it this way. I know she really loves Kevin, but this is like really low rent this time. It's surprising. The whole affair seems somewhat pathetic."

Lucky that Christina found time between getting her pubic bone pierced, kissing the hatchet-faced Paris Hilton and stuffing dollar bills into lapdancer's gussets long enough to accuse someone holding a quiet wedding of being low-rent and pathetic.

Meanwhile, there's some sort of rumours circulating that the priest had no authority to marry Spears and Federline, and it's just "in name only" to protect Britney if it all goes wrong. Which is a curious way out of having to sign a pre-nup: it's virtually a de-nup.

ISN'T THIS ABOUT THE NINTH TIME THIS STORY HAS APPEARED?: Tatu are relaunching, again, and, oh, by the way, they weren't really lesbians at all, you know. The Sun reckons that this time the pair are really, really coming back, with Trevor Horn at the helm. And... erm...:

"They still want to be controversial and shocking. They want to look and act hotter than ever before - but not as lesbians. Julia and Lena are getting rid of their skimpy school uniforms in favour of a sassier, sexier look."

Yes, that's probably a good idea. Who wants dowdy old lolita lesbians dressed as schoolgirls snogging in the pouring rain? Thank god they've decided to sex their image up a bit.

WE'RE VOTING FOR THE ONE WHERE THEY BLOW THEMSELVES UP AT THE END: If you're a Travis fan... okay, okay, that's a really unlikely opening. Let's try that again: If your work brings you into contact with people who despise music so much they might be thinking of going to a Travis gig, they might like to know they can vote for what songs the band will play as encores at their forthcoming gigs. Everyone, of course, will go for their "unexpected" cover of Hit Me Baby One More Time.

FIGHT BUSH... IN YORKSHIRE: We wonder how many of those red-jacketed types who were so worried last week about tradition and country ways will turn up at Fylingdales on Saturday to join the protests about the use of the base as part of America's Stratgeic "Defence" Initiative - basically, the Bush adminsitration's idea is to try and protect America by making Yorkshire a much more attractive target for nuclear devices. Amongst those who will be there are Kat Hudson and Thom Yorke - this is what Thom has to say:

"im planning a trip to fylingdales anybody want to come? its a nice place. they have big domes and stuff. its up north. and im down south. bring a sandwich. i think they are planning world domination there or something.

"its the 25th. thats also a saturday. what should i say. i dont want to be rude. but they are about to announce star wars.."

Punctuation Thom's own, of course.

MOVE FROM BIG FIVE TO BIG FOUR MIGHT NOT BE QUITE AS SLICK AS THOUGHT: Let's hope that Sony and BMG haven't ordered the new letterheads for their merged labels just yet - Impala, the European indie trade assocation, is planning a legal challenge to the union. The only trouble is, they need to know why the European Commission allowed the merger to go ahead - and the EC hasn't yet published the details. The EC makes a lame excuse that it's been on holiday (no, they really did) and also suggests that part of the delay is down to one of the parties not yet having sent back its copy of the judgement. Sony and BMG get a chance to mark up the document to ensure that no confidential information accidently slides into the public domain, and, according to the EC, one of the two hasn't sent theirs back yet.

Hmm... so, in order to lodge an objection to the merger, the indies have to get hold of a document. And the two merged companies can keep that document out of the indie label's hands simply by dragging its feet in sending them back to the Commission. But even before they send it back, they're able to proceed with melding their two businesses together, meaning they'll have a pretty strong argument during an appeal that they've already merged and it would be unfair, even impossible, to demerge. Is that entirely fair?

MATCHLESS: Apparently, Newcastle United are making a reality TV programme following a bunch of celebs and a bunch of football legends as they "pit their wits" against each other leading up to a charity match. You might think that having a team of sunset footballers is going to be a bit unfair - having a big pig's bladder bouncing on your skull for twenty years doesn't exactly sharpen your wits - but to balance things up, the celebs have got Antony and Simon from Blue on board.

INSIDE OUT: You don't hear much about Jesse Rae in England these days*, apart from the occasional report of him wandering in Highland Dress. You might have wondered, in an idle moment, if he ever took off his big sword. Apparently not, it turns out, which is a bit of a worry as he's fighting the Royal Bank of Scotland on a civil matter at the moment, and Rae turned up at court with his sword. The staff at Selkirk Sheriff Court weren't impressed with this show of patriotism, and he's now been charged with possession of an offensive weapon.

* - unlike, of course, the heady days when he took Over The Sea to number 65.

WILL THE HOLLYWOOD WALK OF FAME RUN OUT OF SPACE?: Probably not, as they've just given a star to Billy Joel which probably means that they'll run out of celebrities before they run out of space to put them in.

WHEN SINGERS STRIKE BACK: Of course, when music writers in Kuala Lumper start getting hate mail (and hate texts, or - presumably - h8 txts), the police are going to suspect a singer of being responsible. The detection process, we imagine, will be sifting the very long list of musicians who fit the profile to find the guilty one.

WHEN SINGERS STRIKE BACK: Of course, when music writers in Kuala Lumper start getting hate mail (and hate texts, or - presumably - h8 txts), the police are going to suspect a singer of being responsible. The detection process, we imagine, will be sifting the very long list of musicians who fit the profile to find the guilty one.

Monday, September 20, 2004

ANOTHER DAY, ANOTHER TARGET: Well, having got the attack on Pop Idol out the way, Alex Kapranos is at least moving on to more demanding targets: he's now had a pop at Sting for being divorced from reality. Kapranos has expressed disbelief that Sting has to be in a tower surrounded by candles to need to write songs. To be honest, we reckon that that's to be encouraged rather than disparaged: we like the idea of Sting being in a tower surrounded by naked flames, and would suggest that he spends more time trying to become inspired in just that way. Possibly wearing parafin shoes.

UNUSUAL MOMENTS: That's surely got to be a first. The first play of The Verve's rediscovered single This Is My Moment went out this evening on Zane Lowe's show on Radio one; the second, though, is going to be on Ken Bruce's show tomorrow on Radio two. Now, that's stradling the demographic.

SOCCEROBIT: While the world is mourning Brian Clough, it's worth taking a moment to recall what we believe is his single foray into record making, when he teamed up with JJ Barrie to produce a single designed to stop the hooliganism that was ruining English soccer at the time. (Of course, in the end, hooliganism didn't ruin English soccer because Murdoch and the sponsors turned up to ruin it in quite a different direction. Hooliganism itself became a lot less common when people realised Paul Heaton of the Beautiful South was a hoolie, and so it lost its allure.) Clough wasn't asked to sing for the record, so instead he contributed a piece of free-form babbling which is the sort of rap even Vanilla Ice might feel brings his artform into disrepute.

We can't remember much of the song, to be honest, but the chorus was along the lines of:

You can't win them all
You can't win them all
Football's the game
I love my football
But as everyone knows
That's how it goes...

Clough, of course, would later forget the plea for leaving violence out of sport and would take to punching people more or less at random - a couple of pitch invaders at Nottingham Forest, Nigel Jemson for playing poorly, and even slapping Roy Keane - himself currently under investigation for assaulting a teenager, as if to prove that violence is indeed an endless cycle. Lou Reed was right.

HOLIDAY! CELEBRATE!: We did wonder if there could be anything this week more depressing than reports that Bono, the international venture capitalist, supporter of George Bush (and enthusiastic endorser of his decision to promote abstinence rather than condoms as the way to avoid the deepening of the Aids crisis in some African countries) and friend of Warren Buffett to address the Labour Party Conference. We doubted it, but then we hadn't heard at that point about Madonna calling for peace while doing some tourist promotion for the Israeli government:
Israel hopes [Madonna's visit] - the biggest pop celebrity to visit in years -will revive tourism battered by four years of Mideast violence, and government officials were on hand at a Tel Aviv hotel to share the spotlight, the glory and the photographs.
Madonna, wearing a green-and-white patterned dress, said she was hesitant to come to Israel "after seeing so many news reports about terror attacks. I realize now that it is no more dangerous to be here than it is to be in New York," she told the gathering.

Well, that is really good news. Does the Israeli government - personified at this meeting by tourism minister Gideon Ezra - endorse the view that Israel is no more dangerous than New York? In which case, presumably, that giant wall can come down now, can it?
Tourism officials hope the singer's well-publicized visit to Israel will calm fears that have kept many potential tourists away from the Holy Land, despite its religious and other attractions. Israeli Tourism Minister Gideon Ezra said Madonna's visit was better than advertising for tourism. "If she comes here and goes back and was happy with her visit, it means for a lot of people who were afraid to come here that they can come without any problem," Ezra said.
Who knew that Madonna was now doing PR for the Sharon regime, eh? You might wonder if it's so safe in Israel, Madonna felt the need for quite so many bodyguards; you might question the judgement of a woman who believes a country safe, whose leader is warning of imminent civil war, a country whose troops are shooting teenage girls in the street and firing missiles at Hamas leaders; a country where suicide bombers are still a very real risk. Madonna believes that Israel is no more dangerous than New York? Either she grew up in a really risky neighbourhood, or else she's putting way too much faith in the power of her red string friendship bracelet to ward off the bogeyman.
Madonna said the people she met during her five-day Holy Land trip "have one thing in common — we want to create peace in the world."
Presumably she's betting without the two bodyguards who ended up in prison for beating the crap out of reporters.
"We want to put an end to chaos and suffering," she said, "but most of all we want to put an end to hatred with no reason."
Is anyone else getting the horrible feeling she's softening us up for her cover of Whitney Houston's Greatest Love of All?
The singer said she was not representing a religion. Rather, she said, "I'm here as a student of Kabbalah. A Kabbalist sees the world as a unified whole. A Kabbalist asks why."
But Maddy, if you asked why for even just a moment, you'd surely have realised there's nothing more stupid than saying "put an end to hatred with no reason." If you really want to help bring peace to the Middle East - and let's pretend that you do, and it's not just some sort of faddy thing like talking about dildoes or writing children books - you're going to have to work a little harder into the asking 'why.' And if then you still believe that the hatred in the region, on both sides, is for "no reason", then we'll meet up with you and hand out your magic strings and wait until the giant dove of glorious love manifests itself from heaven, when we'll all ride on the back of unicorns and cavort naked under the lemonade fountains. On the other hand, you might just realise that the hatred has born and grown over a couple of thousands of years of history, and it might take something more than a John Lennon song and a few candles to heal the rifts. Your mystic religion schtick is all a lot of fun when you're doodling round Hampstead; it's at best ill-judged to take your Lets Pretend Mysticism to a war zone and make like a silver-gilt Pope.

COUNTRYOBIT: Veteran Grand Ole Opry legend Skeeter Davis has died at the age of 73. Skeeter, whose four decade career saw her hitting with I Forgot More Than You'll Ever Know, The End of the World and Gonna Get Along Without You Now, had been battling breast cancer since 1988. Originally part of The Davis Sisters, she went solo after the death of Betty Jack Davis in a car crash. Skeeter received five grammy nominations.

MASSIVE-LI: Massive Attack have spent nearly three months producing a score for the new Luc Besson movie Danny The Dog. The film, a cartoon about a dog who gets lost after stealing a pie and has to find his way home by asking people he meets en route, opens on October 11th, and features Jet Li, Bob Hoskins and Morgan Freeman.

(Actually, IMDB says the plot of the film is this:

This is the story of Danny(Li), a slave who has lived his whole life without any sort of normal human education, with the mind and personality of a young child, with only one lesson learned: how to fight. Treated like a dog by his owner/boss, Bart(Hoskins) which includes having to wear a collar, Danny has been raised to be a lethal fighting machine who fights in illegal gladiator-style fight clubs, where he earns lots of money for Bart as the undisputed champion. After a car accident that lands Bart in a coma, however, Danny meets a kind elderly blind piano tuner(Freeman) on the run because he knows secrets some bad guys don't want known, who uses music to teach Danny some things about the world and about being human.

But we think our story sounds nicer.

HEADLINE OF THE DAY: Britney Spears releases smell. Which is about her perfume of course. The promotion of which won't be hurt by her shock and awe sudden attack wedding

MSNBC have calculated if she continues to hold weddings at the same rate, she'll have been married 39 times by her 50th birthday. Apparently, she was wearing a strapless white dress by Monique L'Huillier, although it's not recorded if she said "I do, like, really, this time. Smell my breath. See? I mean it."

The other details: pink and white roses, Kevin Federline wore a custom-made tuxedo and managed to get through the evening without asking when he gets his half, and apparently there were about thirty people there to witness the event.

ALMOST BLUE?: The new single is called Curtain Falls, Duncan admits the next tour is "a bit of a farewell tour" but apparently "it's definitely not the end of Blue", insists Dunc. Apparently it's only a farewell tour in the sense that the band are closing down for a short period. Yeah, and we're still waiting for the next series of Whistle Test.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Another Sunday outing
I mean, what's the bloody point of calling yourself a Postal service if you can't deliver post to people with any degree of accuracy or certainty? We started last week having to deliver a letter to a house in a different street with the same number as ours; we ended this week with a wait for another NME that never came. The Royal Mail is shit, and if I were the Queen, I'd be asking for the name back.

Anyway, this has lead to a curious flopping over of the issues, so the Guardian Fashion special has turned up in the meanwhile: Amy Winehouse is their special model, looking awkward wearing clothes chosen for her by other people, but keen to show her tits and legs. So, modelling career pretty much like her singing career, then.

The new Observer Music Monthly has also arrived - now, curiously, synching with the Woburn Sands Farmer's Market. Their main boast this time round is an interview with Elton John (the OMM, not the Farmer's Market), which they've marked with a cover shot of an out-of-focus shot of Elt. Or it might be Roy Orbison. It promises "Elton John as you've never seen him before", which isn't totally true. Although there is a picture of a dog wearing an Elt access all areas pass, which is something we've not seen before, to be honest.

And, to be fair, for all his faults (which is our code for "Stop hanging out with royals, you loon") he does have a way with a tale that many of the other top drawer stars don't - Michael Jackson's lived, sure, but he can't string a sentence together; McCartney is always too self-editing; Keith Richards has been dead since 1985 but everybody's too polite to say anything. But Elton? An hour in his company is always time well spent - even if we've heard the schtick before, the mental image of Graham Taylor lecturing John about his drinking is one we'd always turn up to hear. And he knows his music - even Elton's more rubbish side, your Cold as Christmases, your Nikitas, have something about them that makes them harder to dismiss than, say, Phil Collins' solo work. They're crafted rather than just banged together. And that's because he came from an age where you could have ten brilliant albums being released at the same time - and he actually went out and bought them. Ten albums. When was there last a week when there were two nine-out-of-ten albums released?

The OMM Top Ten is the best party songs - we've never been to a party where they played Bessie Smith and Black Flag, but we think we'd like to.

The Record Doctor goes to see Mark Lawrenson, and doesn't suggest the Boystown Gang or any cheap shot like that. Instead, it's The Zutons for Lawro. He also liked I Am Kloot.

R Kelly pops in for interview, conceeding that "there are people that love to party. That's me. There are people that love sex. That's me. There are people that make mistakes. That's me also." Yeah, but as mistakes go, forgetting to wipe the tape, that's a biggie, R.

The coming band are The Knife, a brother and sister act making politico-electro. Apparently.

Michael Bracewell contributes a consideration of U2, which is the sort of thing that will please Bono - "Elevation possessed the effective device of a heart-shaped stage, painted red, within which the group could perform. The punning was simple and charming -
U2 were playing from the heart." And so it goes - apparently U2 shows touch "on a secular notion of ritual or ceremony." The other possibility - that they're big, showy, blousy pieces of nonesense tossed together to look impressive but ultimately meaning nothing - doesn't seem to occur to Bracewell, despite the obvious clues that this might be the case in Bono's political career and the music the band have made in the last fifteen or so years.

Paul Morley worries what Razorlight will be like when they're on Letterman. I believe the phrase is "cut away from quickly", Paul.

Peter Robinson offers a pop fact in his John Craven's backpages: there were thirteen members of Poi Dog Pondering.

It's remarkable he had any pop facts left over after squiring the current NME: 1,001 rock facts. 1,001 of the bleeders. It's a fine issue (but then, we would say that, wouldn't we?) and so good, we'd recommend buying it twice. We fucking well had to because of the Post Office and its shortcomings. Handily, and to prove the facts are all there, they're numbered: so 666 is the amount Virgin paid Mariah Carey to get her off their books. Lists are a great thing, and lists of facts are something that rock lends itself to, so, unless you're the sort of person who doesn't understand Scott's Miscellany, there'll be something diverting and fascinating for you here. Even if it is wrong about Mama Cass' heart attack: yes, her heart had been weakened by the weight problems, but it was the strain of the vomitting caused by the ham sandwich that brought on the heart attack that killed her. It just bloody was.

Mike Davies gets to do the CD thing, but since he's got his own radio show, that hardly seems fair (and its got Slayer on it, too)

The posters are from an exhibition of current rock photography: chris martin, the brother cester from jet; the Libertines; scissor sisters, jack and meg and the hives.

soundtrack of our lives - 93 feet east - "a good rock show"
velvet revolver - hammermsith apollo - "they look like they should look, and that's enough"
ratatat - oxford street metro - "a sight so preposterous producing music so touching"

the music - welcome to the north - "a meeting of dance music's communal vibe and rock's bluster", 9
22-20s - 22-20s - "one of the best British rock albums of the year so far", 8

sotw - chromeo - needy girl - "the beats are still very much alive and kicking"
interpol - slow hands - "no recent introduction of Prozac to the new york water supply"

And, finally, HMV are hiring Christmas staff to work "from September to January."

THAT'S WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU HANG OUT WITH GEORGE MICHAEL: Less than a week after George Michael pulled out of a gig with a wonky throat, fellow 80s survivor Morrissey axed a gig for the same reason - although Mozzer, poor lamb, had a fever and sinusitis as well as laryngitis. He was meant to be headlining KROQ's inland invasion; oddly, it fell to Ian Brown to announce the non-appearance of the Moz.

Morrissey has been told not to speak for two days, something which he should find incredibly easy.

GET ON YOUR BIKES: Its not often we find ourselves agreeing with Elton John, but - although "Elton tells young musicians to pay dues" smacks of the old trying to control the young - he does have a point. The long hard slog round the few smaller venues which haven't been turned into Wetherspoons or lap dancing joints does turn out acts with a better chance of longevity. What Elton neglects to mention, of course, is that it's nowadays ridiculously difficult for young bands to be able to afford to do that sort of career prepartion - even in the early 90s there was a certain elasticity in the benefits system that would let a group do teeth-cutting support tours for less than it cost to play the gigs without starving. Half-assed "initiatives" like the New Deal for Musicians don't provide the same sort of support and don't spread to as many people as the dole did. Paying dues is all well and good - but only if you can afford it.

BLIMEY... SOMEONE ACTUALLY HAS SAID NO TO FRANZ FERDINAND: Another one of those poor decisions - artist Lucy McKenzie has known Alex Kapranos for 13 years, and so she was his first choice to design the sleeve for the Franz Ferdiand album. She declined, because she didn't feel up to doing something that would "get that much attention."

Having decided not to be part of the album hasn't stopped her issuing demands that the Franzies use their newly earned money in the way she sees fit:

"Why don’t they buy the Chateau [the run-down Gorbals warehouse where they staged many early gigs]? They’re being a bit hypocritical otherwise," she said.

Well, yes, it would be a nice gesture, although it suggests that McKenzie has absolutely no idea about how much money new bands earn - we don't know, but we're guessing Kapranos would probably still struggle to put a downpayment on a static caravan right now.

IT'S ALMOST AS IF THEY WROTE DOWN ALL THE FEMALE SINGERS THEY COULD THINK OF: We're indebted to the electronic edition of the London News Review for bringing the 200 greatest female rock vocalists list to our attention, if only because it's allowed us a happy hour or so of trying to work out exactly how they decided the order - what makes Amy Ray of the Indigo Girls the 143rd best female rock vocalist, and therefore just a little bit better than Emily Saliers, the 144th best, and therefore second best singer in the Indigo Girls? We suspect the answer is that they thought "oh, the Indigo Girls should be on there somewhere" (for whatever reasons of their own) just as they got to the 143 slot. But maybe we're being unfair, perhaps they have a scientific reason for deciding that Joan Osbourne (116) is a little bit better than Avril Lavigne (117), and that Jennifer Warnes (134) outranks Pink (172) by quite a distance, but yields to Kim Wilde (128). Tomorrow, doubtless, they'll be compiling a list of everything they've eaten.