Friday, December 23, 2005

WANT '05: THE YEAR IN ONE POST

It's with a sense of surprise that we find ourselves at the end of 2005, as it never really felt much like the year got going - I suppose that the effect of the tsunami made the changing of the year seem less vibrant and important; there wasn't even that usual couple of minutes of blind optimism as we just bobbed into the year a little shocked and numb and, frankly, that's been the way much of the year has been - July 7th bombs, Katrina, oil depots blotting out the sun with their fire. Were we religious, we'd be flciking through the last bit of the Bible and using it the way we used to use those I Spy books on holidays when we were younger. ("All I need to tick off is the final horseman, and I can send my book to Big Chief I-Spy for a certificate.")

Luckily, as ever, there's been wonderful music and insanely stupid musicians and record company executives to offer us something other to do besides constantly taking the temperature of the lake across the road to see how long we have before global warming wipes us all out.

Apparently, the most important thing that happened in music this year was Live 8, a large event held in London this summer in order to provide material for a DVD to be sold into the Christmas market. We haven't quite managed to convince ourselves that Bono was asked by his big mate George Bush to arrange the whole thing to provide an instantly-grounded lightning rod to soak up the energy of the Make Poverty History campaign and ensure nothing serious happened, but we've not yet seen any compelling reason to believe that he wasn't.

There was a general election here in the UK, which saw the old, tired order who supported the Iraq war swept away and replaced by a young, charismatic leader who, erm, also supported the war on Iraq. Sadly, this only happened within the Tory party; despite the best efforts of Billy Bragg and, erm, Tom from Rage Against The Machine, nothing much else changed at Westminster.

Having slightly more of an effective response politically was Kanye West, whose "I can't believe I'm saying this" moment during a Katrina telethon sparked a debate about race that America had been trying to avoid for much of the last ten years. In the interests of balance, we should point out that George W Bush's mum denied that he didn't like black people.

Talking of Katrina, as soon as New Orleans was washed away, Michael Jackson sprang into action, promising to pull together the top stars in the world to raise money to help. And we look forward to the single from that sometime in 2008, once he's finally got the 9/11 one out the way. Jackson, of course, was acquitted of touching children, although the sweetness of the moment was rather ruined by some jurors saying "actually, we think he probably does touch kids, just not those kids at that point."

Further pyrrhic victory came for Robbie Williams, who despite camping it like he wanted to understudy John Humphries when it suits him, apparently found being thought slightly gay to be such a distressing slur that he had lawyers deny it in court (or rather, deny that he'd lied about sleeping with women.) Williams has spent much of the year strenuously trying to prove just how attracted to women he is; we're expecting him to grow a beard sometime in 2006.

Elton John, of course, got married, much to everyone's surprise a few years back. To a woman, although even her name (Renate Blauel) sounded like something that hadn't been fully-thought through at the time. This year, his wedding to David Furnish is lower key, but much more believable.

Despite having made a very noisy retirement from public life in February, George Michael has been busily running round telling everyone he's going to catch the bouquet, so to speak, at Elton's wedding and be the second famous gay wedding in the UK. Unless Sandy Toksvig gets there first. (and that there's never going to be Wham reunion, either).

Less happy marriage stories in the US - less than five months after their first joint interview (on Ellen) and almost as soon as baby Preston North End had been born, Britney Spears and Kevin have been having contractual difficulties. It looks like they might spend Christmas together, but it's not clear anyone can explain why.

Keeping to her pattern of doing everything Britney does, just twelve months later, Christina Aguilera will be setting up the marriage breakdown for Fall 2006. At the moment, she'll still be ruing having cut a deal to flog the pictures from her wedding to Ben Elton for "only" a third of a million.

The real heart-flipping love story of the year, though wasn't any of these, nor even The Subways' Mary and Billy getting engaged on stage. No, the love story of the year was centred, of course, on Pete Doherty. It looked for a moment that it was all over, and he was going to turn the back on the one he loved the most. But, no, as soon as Kate Moss told him to choose between the drugs and her, he went straight back to the drucks. "You've always been there for me, and you understand..." he sobbed, taking them back in his arms. Or anywhere he could find a vein.

A year on from John Peel's death, and it was hard to find anyone with a bad word to say about him (apart from Julie Burchill, of course, so no change there.) Indeed, it turned out that the whole world used to listen to every programme, to judge by the John Peel Day commeration. But then, since it turns out that Peel music was mostly middle-market, Times2 type stuff, maybe that's no surprise. We wonder what happened to that bloke with the same name who used to play stuff we'd never heard the like of before?

Madonna's comeback is another thing where we're not sure we're hearing what everyone else is. People insist that Confessions on a Dancefloor is return to form, but no matter how we strain our ears, we can only hear the album that Paris Hilton wants to make. It's been a busy year for Madonna - indeed, she's been too busy to find time to make any comment about Eliyahu Yardeni from her beloved Kabbalah Center suggesting jews who died in the holocaust bought it on themselves by not being Kabbalic. Having sustained a career on the back people getting tossed off, she really reinvigorated it by getting tossed off the back of a horse. Still, it gave her the chance to appear on US Network TV riding on the back of one. Not that she would have let the kids watch, of course - as this year, we discovered that Madonna firmly believes TV is for selling things on, not watching.

Also garnering a surprising amount of goodwill was the Oasis album, presumably because this one must have been better than the one they had to scrap because it was so rubbish. As part of an otherwise disappointing BBC FOUR Britpop night, John Harris suggested that Oasis main contribution to the music orld had been the invention of the Athlete and Coldplay style empty drone; Coldplay had a new record out, too, come to think of it but not even Chris Martin's claims that it was inspired by porn could raise any real passion about it.

Much more welcome return was in the form of Kate Bush, who, once she'd got the "look, I'm not living like some bloody hermit, okay" bit out her system picked up where she'd left off.

Limp Bizkit had a comeback, too, albeit in the unwelcome form of the death of a fan while Fred Durst got the crowd to hurl abuse at security guards returning to haunt them. Meanwhile, Fred Durst's attempts to get some flashmobby internet-action with the "secret" album fell a bit flat when the secret remained really well-kept.

Doing more business through the interweb were the Arctic Monkeys, who briefly made MySpace cool when they used it to surf to number one and the (albeit downgraded) Top of the Pops; sadly, by then, Rupert Murdoch had already bought MySpace and was working on turning it into a safe area for respectable businessmen to take money from kids.

Of course, the music industry is Murdoch's type of place, being run mainly by men who don't care for music and who are convinced of one thing - that they're right. For example, in February, Sony BMG announced plans to enhance the consumer experience with extra copy protection on its CDs; by the end of the year, after even Microsoft had said their software was pretty evil, Sony was finding itself with a PR and financial disaster. It withdrew five million CDs, but left another five million with a different sort of evil software on the shelves, with a shrug. Meanwhile, even as it settled its case with Rosa Parks over misappropriation of her image it refused to admit any wrongdoing, even though its refusal to settle any earlier had meant the last year of her life saw her medical records being thrown open to the public view and the dignity stripped from a dying woman.

Meanwhile, all the labels were getting caught breaking US law by paying to have their records played on the radio; and yet these paragons of virtue continued to sue people they believed were sharing music: having had a pop at the preteens in previous years, in 2005 they surpassed themselves by suing a dead woman. Now, they're lobbying the EU for the rights to see records of all EU citizen's phone and web communications. For the good of the artists, don't you know?

Boy George got back to doing what we know him for - being arrested over some confusing drug allegations; even his "I thought my rent boy was robbing me and called the police..." tale didn't come close to the tragicomedy of Mindy McCready's life; and even she may have done some fucked-up things, but didn't - unlike Courtney Love - get so out of it she'd shag Steve Coogan.

The Pixies followed their 2004 reunion by announcing they were sticking around; The Darkness got more press for dropping their bassist than dropping the new album and the star of Glastonbury turned out to be the Kaiser Chief's inflatable dinosaur.

Strangeways politely, but firmly, declined Ian Brown's offer of a return there to play a gig; Lil'Kim made her way inside after being found guilty of perjruy. Megaman from the So Solid Crew went all the through a murder trial only for the jury to not come up with a verdict, so it's all back to court next year for that one. Megaman's former mate, Romeo, was found not guilty of wounding with intent despite London's increasingly Mariah Careyesque mayor Ken Livingstone slamming the band as a bad example during the trial.

And who can forget the chart battle back in May between Mel B and Geri Halliwell? No? Anyone even remembered they had singles out?

Has there been a single moment in the last twelve months when Bono hasn't been up to something? How we wish, how we wish, but, no,Hanging out in Davos with the rich and the powerful even while fans who'd paid £25 for the right to be able to buy tickets found the U2 servers melting away; trying (and failing) to buy Lara Croft; getting involved in a petty legal action over trousers; leading the eulogies for the recently deceased pope, and sitting down for a happy meal with racist and homophobe Jesse Helms. It's increasingly clear that Bono is a man who loves hanging out with the powerful, and it seems more and more obvious that he's happy to use the plight of the poorest to get access to them. It's probable that if someone did manage to solve world poverty, Bono would probably have to steal some people's goats just so he'd still have an excuse to go and see George W. Which is pretty much where we came in for this review of the year. Here's to 2006...

Just at this festive point of the year, I'd like to take the opportunity to thank everyone who's supported No Rock over the last twelve months - whether by reading it, sending us an email with some interesting links or titbits, joining in the comments, providing a link to us from other blogs and websites or writing or saying nice things about what we do here in the so-called old media. Everyone's support is really appreciated.


8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I'd just like to say THANK YOU for writing an amazing blog! I don't know how you find the time to write so much music-y goodness. Do you *ever* have a day off? Have a brilliant christmas x

Jim el Buho said...

Great roundup of a great year! More power to your elbow in 2006!

Anonymous said...

Merry Christmas and more power to your elbow in 2006!

BTW, are you sure you meant Robbie was like John Humphries? Are you perhaps thinking of John Inman, who played Mr Humphreys in Are You Being Served? It's just that I don't think of JH as being that camp...

Eleanor G

simon h b said...

I dunno, Eleanor, there was that time when he chased the burglar down the street naked...

Yes. I did conflate actor with the role there. (Interestingly, Jon Inman got married yesterday to his civil partner...)

clara said...

thankyou for this blog. it keeps me laughing and informed. you rock. have a good christmas. xx

mike said...

superb roundup. Excellent work

Anonymous said...

What a great blog. I've read almost every day for the past year or so now- superbly written and a credit to you, Simon et al. Not mentioned in the New Years Honour's list- shame on them!

Ade

simon h b said...

I know I shouldn't try and make sense of spam comments... but:

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This post is old and I'm seeking for the updates of blog admin.
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- in what way would you expect a round-up of the year 2005 to be get updated?

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