Yes, yes, of course the chap who did the hip-hop guitar business at the NME awards was Plan B, not to be confused with the magazine of the same name. Anyway, back to business, and despite having whined a few weeks back that he hated the way he was always portrayed as a bit of a milksop, James Blunt has now taken to portraying himself as a bit of a milksop, moaning that he doesn't get on with girls:
“I think sensitive is the wrong description. I’m British, so I’m quite bad at expressing myself in conversation — as any ex-girlfriend will tell you. I’m probably emotionally stunted.”
Well, you managed to express yourself quite well there, young James. Maybe you should try one of those "build your confidence" tapes they advertise in the cheaper papers. Or perhaps just stop making rubbish albums, which might mean girls stop looking at you pityingly.
Saturday, February 25, 2006
Yes, yes, of course the chap who did the hip-hop guitar business at the NME awards was Plan B, not to be confused with the magazine of the same name. Anyway, back to business, and despite having whined a few weeks back that he hated the way he was always portrayed as a bit of a milksop, James Blunt has now taken to portraying himself as a bit of a milksop, moaning that he doesn't get on with girls:
Friday, February 24, 2006
Having closed the club years ago, an inability to get guarantees on the long-term future of the old Speke Airfield site has led Cream to relocate the Creamfields festival across the border into Runcorn.
Liverpool Echo music correspondent sees this as part of a decline in the city's musical base:
It seems that, rather than encour-aging music into the city, we're pushing it away.
The Royal Court rarely offers live music after the auditorium was taken over by Rawhide Comedy Club, and the latest knock is the news Creamfields is moving to out of the city.
Still, the council are building a shiny new Debenhams. That seems to be where they're aiming for these days.
Poor Russell Brand, given the task of presenting the NME Awards yesterday - his schtick wasn't so very bad, and he might have got away with simply pretending that the room wasn't set up well to capture the responses to his gags, were it not for the roars which the Arctic Monkeys managed when they suggested that maybe he was a little bit Wheeltappers with his north-south divide stuff. The bit of business with Carl Barat was quite amusing in a play-what-I-wrote way, especially because it's nice to see Barat taking the piss out of himself; the pointless stuff with the backstage masseurs less so.
It was a night of jowly Mancunians - Peter Hook came on to present the best live band prize; Pete Shelley handed out the Peel-themed innovation prize which Shaun Ryder collected; Ian Brown (okay, not especially jowly) was the lifetime achievement award. Indeed, they should have just gone the whole hog and got Fred Elliot in to anchor the whole thing.
Peter Hook instigated the only real bit of drama in a night which otherwise flowed from A to B to C: as Brand revealed that Franz Ferdinand couldn't be with them, Hook took it upon himself to rededicate the prize to the Kaiser Chiefs instead. Brand did rise to this, actually, giving a school-teacherly "do you think that's fair?" opportunity for the Kaisers to hand it back. They instead offered it to the Cribs who sent someone leaping into their table. Luckily, the Franzies had already accepted the prize on a bit of tape - from "Uncle" Iggy Pop - so no need to put asterisks all over your list of prize winners.
The Arctic Monkeys did well - not only taking three prizes but keeping just the right side of charming arrogance ("Best band in Britain? Well, who else?") to get away with it, but their Brazil style sweeping of all ahead of them did make the prizes seem less like a summation of last year and more like a snapshot of right now. This modishness on the part of the enfranchised NME reader was really underlined when Pete Doherty, last year's darling, came stumbling on to - eventually, eventually - play Down In Albion. Nobody actually said "oh, look, it's the skaggy ghost of Christmas past", but it was a polite sort of evening.
Apart from Bono's swearing, of course. When - confusingly - Live8 picked up the best DVD prize (despite not actually being considered the best event of the year) - they had a short film from Mr. Vox in which he was warm, amusing and very, very sweary indeed. Up until he started trying to get all holier-than-Bob on us. And then Bob Geldof came up to try and out microJesus Bono. Apparently, it seems every time someone buys a Live8 DVD, it puts a little bit of pressure on the governments to stick to the weak promises they made at the G8 (not to mention some profit into EMI's bottom line, of course). We love this idea of replacing democracy with purchases - we're going to buy three copies of Bob's Vegetarians of Love album today to see if it'll make the council put in a ramp outside the library.
The performances were pretty good - it would have been nice if there'd been some room for music fans to have a bit of a dance in front of the stage, rather than making the bands play to people caught in the perpetual embarrasment of being seated during a rock performance: "do we dance? should we jiggle our heads? maybe we should stare fixedly ahead and hope the camera doesn't focus on us... oh, rats..."
Johnny Borrell seems to have been reborn as an Andy Bell tribute act (when he was in Ride, not Oasis); Dirty Pretty Things still feel half-formed, but coalescing nicely. The hip-hop bloke with a guitar, who we seem to have written down as being Mark One, but that might just be a reminder to us to buy new socks today, was introduced as being a "British Eminem" (cue Brand making some weak joke about chocolates) but actually seemed to be a 2006 version of Lemm Sissay.
Conor McNicholas - who really has grown into his role - came on to do the headmasterly duties for the lifetime achievement award: apparently "Ian Brown is close to the heart of the magazine"; for reasons that were never clearly explained to us, Teddy Sheringham did the actual presentation before Brown said "it is an honour"" and thanked everyone who makes music, ever.
Those winners - as ever - in full, then, including the ones that they didn't show on TV (George W Bush's acceptance speech was just too rude for even E4):
Best British Band
Best International Band
Best Solo Artist
Best New Band
Best Live Band
'Employment' - Kaiser Chiefs
'I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor' - Arctic Monkeys
'The Importance Of Being Idle' - Oasis
Best Music DVD
Carling Weekend: Reading And Leeds Festivals
Best TV Show
Best Radio Show
Zane Lowe (Radio 1)
'Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire'
Brixton Carling Academy
Hero Of The Year
Villain Of The Year
'Back To Bedlam' - James Blunt
Son Of Dork
Some of these are just plain curious - either because they're wrong (Gorillaz? Innovation? Maybe - if you'd never heard The Archies - the first album might have had a smack of novelty about it) or what they say about the NME readership right now: they fancy Madonna, watch Harry Potter and... they still give a bloody prize to Oasis. You might imagine the paper is drawing a large slew of support from younger teens these days; the polls suggest if you factor in people voting on the website, the average age of the NME user is about 50.
One last observation: Shockwaves, the hair stuff that sponsored the awards, were too tight to sponsor the E4 awards show.
A strange story from Sacramento, where a judge has refused to allow a case to go ahead against a man who prosecutors believe tried to accost an 11 year-old girl because the man used a slang term for underage sex.
When she told him she was 11, [the man] allegedly asked whether she had a boyfriend, "then told her he was fixing to do an 'R. Kelly,"' the prosecutor's office said.
The girl ran away before anything bad happened to her. Presumably the judge feels that it's not yet time for R Kelly to be accepted as a term for unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor; perhaps the judge felt that there were other interpretations of what "doing an R Kelly" might mean - perhaps believing himself able to fly, perhaps he was going to hide in a closet. Perhaps the man intended to force the girl's brother to release a sell-through DVD denouncing her. We may never know.
The Darkness are about to "reveal a startling new look", apparently, in the promo for their next single:
Justin Hawkins told GMTV's Lorraine Kelly yesterday: "We're planning a massive, massive overhaul.
"It's going to be outrageous but in a different way."
Let's hope he's not talking about the dancing about in a wedding dress like in the advert for the single, though, because that's not especially outrageous. It just makes him look like Princess Diana.
The Association of United Recording Artists (AURA) made a bit of an awkward slip, popping the personal details of a bunch of pop stars into an envelope and accidently sending them out.
Now, it's not quite Paul McCartney's PIN number or a photo of Madonna kissing a man who is her husband:
They include a copy of David Gray’s driving licence, Bjork’s bank details, passport copies of Paul Heaton and David Rotheray from The Beautiful South — and details on Geri Halliwell.
After all, David Gray isn't likely to be victim of an identity theft as he doesn't really have one; Bjork might be a more tasty target but with such a singular person, pinching her identity would be like stealing a Munch painting - you'd never be able to take it onto the opne market without someone noticing. And Geri Halliwell? The name is familiar - wasn't she a question in the 1990s Trivial Pursuit box?
That the stuff was sent not to Junky Meer's Dodgy House of Card-swiping and to, erm, Price Waterhouse Coopers does lessen the problem somewhat. But we do like AURA's response:
“We take all normal precautions.”
We love the bristly implication that, you know, any company might find itself accidently sending out lists of home addresses and bank details, and there's hardly anything you can do to stop it happening.
The Aura spokesperson then went on to say no, that wasn't their PIN number written on their palm and why would we think the post-it stuck to the computer with "CHANGEME" was their system password, before looking horrified and leaving saying "Oh, shit, I left the iron on..."
In the same way that doctors are morally obliged to ensure that their patients don't hurt themselves, are marriage guidance counsellers equally charged with saying "you'd be better off rid, pal" when a couple come where "saving the marriage" would be akin to "cutting my own head off"?
If so, Kevin Federline might be a little nervous right now: Britney and he are calling in a little help.
Thursday, February 23, 2006
There's Bloc Party, having a nice old chat with Rolling Stone about what the second album is going to sound like, and it's all shaping up lovely, like a mix of Radiohead and TV On The Radio, and then Gordon Moakes goes and says this:
He expects the track "Uniform" to be a people-pleaser, "Atonement" to be the record's "centerpiece" and "Wet" to get feet moving. "If all goes well with that one, it will be quite a brooding dancefloor-type thing, and quite druggy," he says. "We're hoping to maybe have some strings in that."
Noooo! Just because the chap from the label said "you know, you sold so many of your first album we'd happily pay for, ooh, a string quartet and maybe a couple of extra violas", you don't have to take them up on it. The curse of pop is the band who suddenly develop strings on their second album. Don't be tempted...
More from No Rock on bloc party
As people gather for the NME awards, on the other side of the ocean Simon Reynolds sat down for a chat with the Seattle Weekly and took the opportunity to say what he thinks is wrong with the NME today. Not enough Paul Morley, apparently:
It's complicated. NME is no longer like it was at all when I was a kid. At that point, NME saw itself as a magazine about all music, not just indie rock. They would have Bob Marley on the cover, a big piece on Michael Jackson. There was a sense of journalistic responsibility, like The New York Times or something. I feel like if the NME of then was around today, they would have had Dizzee Rascal on the cover. They would have a cover story on crunk and the whole Girls Aloud phenomenon, all this stuff that's happening now. Usually now it's rubbish. It's unfortunate with the Arctic Monkeys because they are actually really good, and that's going to just reinforce the NME being so narrowcast.
SW: The level of discourse in music-writing then seems so much higher.
Reynolds: That element appealed to a minority of the readership, but quite a lot of that minority was musicians. I was surprised when I interviewed musicians for the book and they'd say, "Oh yeah, Paul Morley was gospel. We'd read him every week." But the core music-press readership is always looking for a four-man guitar band from Britain that reflects back their lives to them in a slightly heroic way. The Clash did that, Joy Division in a more existential way, Echo & the Bunnymen, the Smiths, Stone Roses, the Libertines, Arctic Monkeys. It's the same all the way through. That is precisely what someone like Ian Penman at the time would have critiqued. When readers wanted Echo & the Bunnymen, he was writing about Grace Jones and the idea of artifice.
Of course, the key words here are probably "like it was when I was a kid", as each generation measures the NME from what it was like when they were teenagers, and always finds it wanting.
What's interesting, though, is that Reynolds is in effect arguing that to make a great music paper, you have to give the audience precisely what it doesn't want, which sounds so counter-inuitive as to be unsustainable.
Mind you, we're not sure we should waste too much time on any paragraph including the words "the Arctic Monkeys are actually really good", because that's stretching generosity of spirit a little too far.
If this was Vietnam, we'd have had a few decent albums of anti-war music by now. As it is, musicians are only now slowly coming together to say "this Iraq thing... maybe it's not going quite as well as it could be, yeah?" Leading off with a big anti-war protest in New York are http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060223/music_nm/antiwar_dc">Michael Stipe, Bright Eyes, Rufus Wainwright, Public Enemy's Chuck D, Devendra Banhart and Peaches.
A pretty impressive line-up, although for some reason they elected Casey Spooner spokesperson:
"It is impossible not to react to the current state of affairs through personal action and artistic production," Fischerspooner's Casey Spooner says. "We have been at war for three years. One desperately feels the need for someone to speak some sort of truth, either poetic or factual."
We're not entirely sure what a poetic truth that isn't actually factual would look like, but we're sure that the White House will be preparing a whole bunch of them right now.
The degree to which the FBI couldn't tell a terrorist from a turtle is amply demonstrated by the discovery that they think Morrissey is a threat of some sort:
The FBI and the Special Branch have investigated me and I've been interviewed and taped and so forth.
"They were trying to determine if I was a threat to the government, and similarly in England. But it didn't take them very long to realise that I'm not.
"I don't belong to any political groups, I don't really say anything unless I'm asked directly and I don't even demonstrate in public.
"I always assume that so-called authoritarian figures just assume that pop/rock music is slightly insane and an untouchable platform for the working classes to stand up and say something noticeable.
"My view is that neither England or America are democratic societies. You can't really speak your mind and if you do you're investigated."
Perhaps the saddest thing there is that Morrissey realises he isn't a threat to anyone any more. And to think Tory MPs once called for his head.
Having seen a week in which The Leveller pledged to build only as many penthouse flats as strictly neccesary, it's nice to be able to report that some people still have some principles.
Hummer - the people who make the vehicles which destroy the environment so badly you can hear the planet cry every time someone starts one of their engines - wants some music to use in their adverts. People keep saying no.
"We thought about it for about 15 seconds, maybe," lead singer of The Themals Hutch Harris said.
They said no.
Washington D.C.'s Trans Am were offered $180,000 by Hummer for the song "Total Information Awareness."
"We figured it was almost like giving music to the Army, or Exxon," guitarist Philip Manley said.
They said no.
The post-punk band LiLiPUT, who broke up more than 20 years ago, could have pocketed $50,000 for "Heidi's Head" after making close to nothing during their five-year existence. But they, too, said no.
"At least I can sleep without nightmares," Marlene Marder reasoned.
What's hilarious is the reaction of the people charged with trying to advertise Hummer seem genuinely surprised that people don't want to take their money. Lyle Hunsen of Bank Robber Music is trying to find the songs to go on the advert, and he's keen to stress that when the Hummer people aren't trying to burn through the remaining oil of the world up, they really love music:
"I will say about the Hummer guys, they are some of the most intense music listening guys out there," Hysen said. "They are on my A-list. They find music on their own, go to shows, they aren't waiting for a major label to call them."
"My standard line is you guys will play a hundred million gigs before you see this amount of money," Hysen said. "Usually they come back with, 'We'll do anything BUT Hummer.'"
Perhaps they should call Chumbawamba - after all, they've been comfortable taking money from Hummer's General Motors parent in the past.
Failing that, it'll probably be worth trying Moby or Sting.
[Thanks to Nigel R for the link]
Poor old Nick Cave - there he was, happy that he made a film full of a horrific ending, when he sat down to watch The Passion of the Christ. And he realised that Mel Gibson had bested him:
Well, a head explodes, and if you shoot somebody in the head then maybe that's what happens. I wrote the whipping scene before The Passion, and when I saw it, I said, ' Oh fuck, you can't whip anyone more than they whip Christ in The Passion.' So we had to think of a different way."
He also had to remove all the bits of the script he'd written in aramaic as well.
Hide your eyes, quick. Victoria Beckham is lending her name to some sort of terrible sunglasses brand linked to her range of "have you ever seen anyone wearing them? No, us neither" VB Jeans.
It seems Beckham is worried that people copy sunglasses she wears in public, so she might as well make some money off them. Presumably in the same way that when women saw her walking down the street with David Beckham loads of them went out to get him, too.
Obviously, with sunglasses so important in protecting the vision from the glare of the sun, we'll all feel better knowing that Victoria has checked they're safe.
Now that Matt Davies has got over his throat problems, Funeral For A Friend have re-organised their tour:
Exeter University (May 15)
London Shepherds Bush Empire (16)
Bristol Carling Academy (24)
Liverpool University (25)
Southampton Guildhall (27)
Reading Hexagon (29)
Edinburgh Corn Exchange (31)
Newcastle Carling Academy (June 1)
Birmingham Academy (2)
Manchester Academy (3)
London Hammersmith Palais (4)
Probably only of interest to those of you in or near London, but there's a free indie club opening on the first of March, promising c-86, Grebo, shoegazing and shambling thrills. (What no Camden Lurch? For shame.)
An excellent observation comes to us from D'arcy's Carrot, who has spotted a curious difference between the British and American versions of KT Tunstall's album covers:
This is the British one we all know and can't avoid in Tesco:
This is the American version:
We're sure they didn't just want to avoid the "are those gay braces" problem... did they?
Most people muttering they fancied someone in a magazine interview would be just so much column filler. When it's Sadie Frost foaming over the Gallagher brothers, she's probably already booked a room.
Of course, he was only joking, but the image will be one you find hard to shift as Jay Kay hopes for sex with Lester Piggott:
And referring to gay cowboy movie Brokeback Mountain Jay, 36, joked: "Perhaps I could use some of that to promote my album - me having fun with Lester Piggott?"
The big question here - besides "you've already put some thought into this, haven't you?" - is if Jay knows the difference between jockeys and cowboys, or if he's disappointed by the Grand National every year because you never see the Injuns who are chasing them.
The convicted cannibal-murderer Armin Meiwes apparently wants to eat Robbie Williams. Or Liam Gallagher. Unfortunately, the news report is way to brief as it finds no space to explain how on earth you'd find a recipe that'd make either of those two palatable.
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
In one of the most curious book prize shorlists ever, the WH Smith Book prize is pitching John Peel's posthumous memoir against Harry Potter, Jamie Oliver, Jeremy Clarkson... and Piers Morgan and Sharon Osbourne.
The short list in full:
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince - JK Rowling
The Insider - Piers Morgan
Jamie's Italy - Jamie Oliver
Margrave of the Marshes - John Peel and Sheila Ravenscroft
Sharon Osbourne - Extreme: My Autobiography
The World According to Clarkson - Jeremy Clarkson
Peel is also nominated in the autobiography section, where he'll again take on Osborune, along with Gloria Hunniford's Close To You and Alexander Master's Stuart: A Life Backwards.
A new album from Beyonce in summer? That would be wonderful. Unless, you know, she was doing it in the gaps between making the sort of terrible movie she's fast getting known for.
Oh. She's planning to record the tracks in the small window between completing the movie Dreamgirls and starting to promote it. For some acts, six weeks would be a luxury of time, but... we don't bet Beyonce is making a punk album, is she?
As Ray Davies launches his solo collection Other People's Lives, he's making sure that he's not slamming the door on his past. He's hinting that he'd be more than happy to make some more Kinks records:
"It's finding a voice after spending most of my life in a band called The Kinks, a wonderful band, I love all the work I've done with them, I hope to do more one day, who knows. I'm not sure, but I did have to find a voice because of being part of that machinery, the technology, the sound, I was part of the sound."
Apparently, Morrissey was a bit fed up during the Smiths days:
“I find it shocking to look back at the period of The Smiths and to reflect upon the magnitude of doom that surrounded me every single day. I have no idea how I made it through my 20s. Grit?"
Possibly. Possibly all that adulation?
“It was impossible for me to agree to any aspect of life or to compromise with it. I think I doomed myself. The terms of my connections with other people were dreadful, and I couldn't ever manage to feel responsible for my own life.”
Of course, he did manage to sort out the contracts so they were skewed in his favour, so it's not like he was totally unable to cope.
“When Johnny ended The Smiths I was forced to go solo, and I found myself going further with all my experiences of life, and, although Johnny didn't intend it to, it helped me.”
Sadly, his cheering up started off a period of something of a creative drought. We probably should throw buckets of water at him to keep him sharp.
Yesterday, we had The Levellers building penthouses in Brighton. Today, the king of the hippies, Jerry Garcia has been sold as a brandname by his estate. For "Artisan Teas", if you please - i.e. over-priced teas.
There doesn't seem to be any word in the press release about the teas being in any way organic or fair trade, so we'll assume they're not.
Of course, we doubt that Garcia will be spinning too much in his grave at this one. He was never one to turn down a few dollars.
In some of sort of bid to salvage what passes for his privacy, Kid Rock has got a injunction barring Red Light, the Paris Hilton sex tape people, from distributing the video of him and Scott Stapp having sex on a tour bus.
Not with each other.
"We don't deny the authenticity of the tape," Kid Rock's lawyer, William Horton, told the Detroit Free Press. "But they're using this without his permission to drive the sales of their other products."
God alone knows what sort of "other products" could effectively use Stapp's pudgy pumping ass as a loss leader.
The Test Icicles are sort-of splitting, but as you might expect from their general attitude, it's a half-assed sort of split:
The band have just come off a European tour and are exhausted from the constant pressures of touring, subsequently they have cancelled their show at the NME Awards and US tour."
The band will play their UK tour in April. Details of a final single to be taken from the album to announced. There are currently no plans to make another album or tour beyond this.
That's not really a split, is it? There should be some passion of some sort, a clean break. Perhaps a little blood.
The former manager of The Killers - Braden Merrick - has decided that the time is right for an angry fist and an "I made you": he wants the band to accept they broke a contract with him and that he deserves $16million in return.
Sixteen million bucks? How much money does he think they've made off their sales to date? If he thinks that's a fair cut, then his knowledge of the music industry must be so poor he should be reinstated at once, purely so he can be sacked again.
Don't, whatever you do, under any circumstances, call Lindsay Lohan a 'teen queen'.
Presumably, she feels that the whole thing diminishes her, uh, many talents (is having a car-crash father and many car crashes actually talent?). However, as she's 19 and in no sense either metaphorical or literal a queen, she should just hang on a few months and the name will expire.
With Michael Jackson facing growing cash problems, and unsettled bills with his vet (not to mention problems with gas and electricity and unpaid staff) the animals from Neverland's "zoo" are starting to be removed. The llamas, camels and some others have left; left behind are tigers and elephants but we're prepared to bet they're just negotiating an exit strategy.
Meanwhile, it seems that the plans for Citigroup to take on Jacko's debt have started to fall to pieces...
You might have thought that Bono spent his evenings sat in the lounge with the lights off, wondering how it is that he's come to be George Bush's spokesperson. But no, financial trader Bono is quite chipper about being so close to the No Child Left Unbombed president:
“We have had lots of rows and we have denounced the Bush administration when they have made mistakes, but we're not placarding and throwing rotten tomatoes at people who are trebling our aid to Africa.”
Now, we here at No Rock are quite close followers of Bono and his doings, and we're a little surprised to hear about these 'denunciations' of the White House – we remember a little gentle chiding of the Canadian Premier, but we seem to have missed something as serious as a denunciation of George W Bush. Perhaps it was a private denunciation, which would hardly be to denounce at all.
After all, Bono does tend to give Bush a really easy ride – take, for example, that bit about Bush "trebling our aid to Africa" (interesting use of the word 'our' there – is Bono speaking as an American citizen or a member of the Bush administration?). Who says that Bush has trebled US Aid to Africa? Not many people, apart from Bush himself – unfortunately, it's simply not true. Independent research by the Brooking Institution has discovered that by the time you look at what Bush pledged, what Congress actually signed off on, and what proportion of that has been spent, and take into account the Bush administration pretending Clinton's spending was lower than it actually was, there's been at best a 56% increase in actual aid money being spent. And a big chunk of that was emergency food aid, rather than funds for development.
Bono's generous decision to go with what Bush says he's doing rather than judging him on his actions is what one would expect from a friend; and this friendliness is returned by the White House, who are able to use Bono's frequent and fulsome praise as "evidence" of how generously they're treating the developing world – for they must be, because Bono would surely never praise empty gestures, would he? It's a virtuous circle, in which everyone wins. (Okay, maybe not any Africans win, but it's a hard world, isn't it?)
There is just one question, though: if Bono is quite so relaxed about his love-ins with Bush, and if – as he likes to claims – his trips up Pennsylvania Avenue are designed to keep global attention on George and to act as his conscience, then why is Bono so tetchy about being photographed with him? According to the White House News Photographer's Association:
the White House released a photo of President Bush meeting with Bono of U2. When questioned why photographers were excluded, the White House response was that Bono’s people did not want press coverage.
Perhaps he was afraid that independent photographs might reveal something he'd rather keep hidden, like traces of Bush's colon on the tip of Bono nose?
There's a lot of excitement as Apple prepares itself to spit out download number 1 Billion (US billion, of course) from the iTunes Music Store. Most of the excitement takes the form of grumbling that the official counter isn't counting properly, and the noise of people building more "accurate" counters. But this does miss the point slightly, as the person who wins a ton of bounty (British ton, of course) for being the 1,000,000,000th downloader might not actually be the real billionth download - indeed, you can enter yourself for a chance to be the symbollic billionth downloader without downloading anything, or even having iTunes on your computer.
Yes, that confuses us - it's a bit like a supermarket waiting to greet its millionth customer, but giving the store dash to someone popping into the launderette next door.
For some reason, Kelly Osbourne - she's related to the bloke from the butter advert, apparently - has felt the need to explain why Mischa Barton dislikes Paris Hilton:
"Everyone goes through phases, one day you're best friends, the next day you hate each other. Hollywood turns you into a bitch."
Let's hope you never wind up there, then, Kelly. Stick to the reality TV and... erm, whatever else it is.
Tuesday, February 21, 2006
A couple of years ago, Andrew Lack was seen as the man who would salvage Sony's decidely shabby music business. He wasn't a music industry insider, and the idea was that his outsider's eye - he'd most recently been running NBC - would allow him to spot the problems in the machine without being too emotionally involved.
Didn't work; so now Lack's out, replaced by Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, who has some music background (he had been Sony-BMG chairman) but a heart in TV and magazines. Lack, meanwhile, becomes chairman of the board instead, with some sort of responsibility for a film division. Why Sony-BMG feels the need to have a film division is anyone's guess, but it's the sort of shrewd decision making that will probably delight the Sony proper board. Assuming they've forgotten they have a proper movies business and don't really need their music company blundering round in competition.
Of course, it is just about possible Kevin Federline is a great rap artist, who was just fannying about as a chorus line dancer for Justin Timberlake because he never had the breaks.
Just about possible. More comforting is the thought that he's a chump who is only in a position to put recods out now because he's got a rich wife.
Clearly, he's not the tightest waistband in the wardrobe. In a Newsweek piece (they flatter him by calling him K-Fed throughout) he doesn't seem to realise why two million people downloaded his (web-only, free) debut single:
"If my album has even half that attention, watch out," says Federline, who plans to release his debut—deal or no deal—by this spring. "That means everybody out there who loves me still loves me, and everybody out there who hates me—well, they're secretly buying it, too."
But, F-k, you haven't actually sold a single record yet, and there's no reason to suspect that there's anyone who loves you. There's fascination, but that's about as far as it goes. He's also not going to put out a record with Britney - no, no, not because it's unlikely she'd want to prop up his fantasy any further:
"We have collaborated," says Federline. "But I'm not gonna put the songs on this album because it's, like, 'Respect me first, then I'll show you what I've done with my wife'."
Really? You're going to release a video of that?
We can't imagine Britney was keen to join Funk-D on his record: it's one thing being married to Coco the Clown, quite another to join in the act. And, yes, bungling clownage does seem to be the level of the lyric:
"Just a California kid doing what I do
Smashin' in the Ferrari and breaking all the rules."
'the car my wife bought for me and sadly missed
when she took it away cos she was pissed', of course.
Curious that he still has no deal, even although the recordings have been paid for. What do we read into a lazy music industry not wanting his stuff when offered on a plate?
Struggling with troubles aplenty, we're sure the last thing R Kelly wanted was for his brother, Carey Kelly, to release a DVD in which to make some claims about him.
R Kelly's people are sniffy about the claims:
"This is not the first time Carey has made ridiculous accusations against his brother, and we're not going to dignify them with a comment," they commented.
Carey claims that R was so proud of the alleged video of him shagging an underage girl that he showed it on his tour bus; that when the heat was on R asked C to pretend it was him; that Trapped In The Closet was a coded revelation that R was gay (although, presumably, the sort of gay man who has sex with young girls; that he beats his wife, molests his nieces and... well, you get the drift. The level of veracity or otherwise of these revelations is questionable; it might be worth considering the decision to release them on sell-thru DVD rather than, say, in a courtroom or to a police officer with a notepad.
The death of Billy Cowsill, member of family band The Cowsills, has been announced.
The news was broken during a memorial for his brother Barry Cowsill, who died in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina late last year.
The Cowsill Family featured four brothers (later augmented by a sister and, slightly awkwardly, their mother) had a string of hits during the 1960s and early 1970s prior to an acrimonious split.
Originally signed to Mercury Records, it was the first track with Mom onboard, The Rain, The Park and Other Things which brokethrough for them - MGM picked the title up and it became a million seller. Dad Bud Cowsill jointed the team as manager, and plans were laid for a TV series based on the band; at the last minute, though, Columbia Pictures TV dropped the real-life family band in favour of a faux-family, The Partridges.
Bill started to drift away from the band to work on a solo career - he was briefly considered as a replacement for Brian Wilson in the Beach Boys - and in 1995 put out an album with his a band called The Blue Shadows.
Cowsill had been ill for several months; the exact cause of his death has not yet been made public.
The growing sense of a musical genre reaching maturity is starting to surround hip-hop these days - perhaps it's Kanye West's influence? Now, Ladies Love Cool James has called for an end to hip hop videos which degrade women:
"I think that there's more room in the videos for women to be portrayed in a better way, like, classy. I don't mean that they can't be beautiful - can't wear swimsuits, can't wear bikinis - (but) I don't think that every woman has to be a stripper in every video.
"When you have three daughters and you're sitting there watching the video channel and every girl that's on there is like a stripper... I don't think that we have to tell them that this is all there is for you to do in order for you to make it."
Of course, LL is right, but you have to wonder who's responsible for this attitude in the first place?
Could it be songs like, say, Put Your Hands Up:
Hoes I had give better blows than Felix Trinidad
One I had flew her Benz in from Baghdad
with personalized tags, chrome mags and Prada bags
I refused to stab, now she cryin in the rehab
Wishin while reminiscin about all the sessions we had
You knew all the positions to keep me on a mission
Put the Playstation 2 in your Limited Expedition
You're the mami I kept dipped, slept wit, crept wit
Once you got needy and greedy sweetie I flipped like a brick
Or perhaps the respect shown in This Is Us:
They say a man gon' be a man, but that's only half the scenario
You nag a cat, you givin him a license to fuck a hoe
When a man come home late, he want his girl to say hello
Not hear all that bullshit, bout, "Nigga where you go?"
Fried chicken ready, t-shirt and panties at the stove
Messages written down, blunt rolled ready to go
Give me a hug, not too long, give me space
When a cat got issues don't need you all up in his face
Rub your breasts, kick back, smile a little
If it's rainin outside, chill, listen to the drizzle
Now kiss my chest, call me Superman
Pull down my boxers by the Calvin Klein band
wash it, enjoy the flavor, I return the favor
This behavior, should save ya
from me all night freakin, with a nineteen year-old
half naked Puerto Rican, creamy ass leakin
Every man will agree, when she nag it's killin me
... but perhaps LL doesn't worry about what he's rapping; or perhaps its not an issue for other people's daughters.
Today, Michael Jackson's sixty-day period of grace on the $270 Million he owes to Fotress Investments are up, according to Fox News, if you can trust them. Roger Friedman claims that Sony is going to bail him out:
As I wrote in this space on Friday, Sony Music is working hard to secure a deal in which Citigroup will buy the loans from Fortress. Sony will secure the debt, keep Jackson from bankruptcy court and keep Sony from having to deal with yet more partners.
Fortress will get a nice piece of change for their year of holding the notes — possibly as much as $50 million.
Sony, we suspect, are not solely interested in thinning down the number of partners they have to deal with; we'd imagine this is all about back catalogue. Coincidently, Sony have just embarked on a series of Jacko re-releases.
Friedman also updates on the Katrina single - whether it appears or not, it seems to describe it as a Jackson song might be stretching a point:
The music for “Dream” was written by David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager for a contest. The contest winner, Ric Kipp, a Nashville songwriter, wrote the lyrics.
All four names (including Jackson’s) are on the copyright, but Kipp has not been acknowledged so far in any of the publicity.
You might wonder why Jackson wants his name on the writing credits if it's intended for all the cash to go to charity...
As usually happens, the line-up for Ireland's main festival Oxegen looks pretty similar to the line-ups for the British Festivals: Red Hot Chili Peppers, Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Primals, Kaisers, Franz Ferdinand and, of course, The Who. Of course.
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs are heading towards the UK for the shortest of short tours this May:
London Forum 16-17
Glasgow Barrowlands 19
Manchester Academy 20
Birmingham Academy 21
There comes a time when every anarcho-crustie has to settle down and get a proper job, like property developing.
The Levellers - remember them? - have just announced plans to start a two million quid flat conversion in Kemp Town, Brighton. That's right, the Levellers, who take their name from the movement which proclaimed the Earth as a common treasury for all, are setting about turning their recording studio into luxury flats. Drummer and project manager Charlie Heather protests:
"The roof is continually leaking, the upkeep is getting more and more expensive, the heating system should be in a museum and the space is inefficient. We are creating the flats to help pay for the upgrade of everything else. It's not about making lots of money, it's about improving the building and giving the Metway a long-term future, which at the moment it doesn't have."
Hmmm. Maybe there is a need to make the building pay for itself - but couldn't that be done with, perhaps, starter homes rather than penthouse flats?
[Thanks to Morag]
When Paris Hilton is choosing a push-up bra to go and record music in, what is running through her head? What are her influences? You might be surprised - the site is in German, but Flaaart has helpfully translated the quote for us:
My main influences are Babyshambles, Keane and Madonna. I wanted to meet Pete Doherty, when I was at the Brits in Great Britain, but he was at none of the parties.”
We would quite like to see Paris really follow Doherty's influence and do a couple of months bird in Pentonville, now we come to think of it.
We have a new, unnamed hero. While Robbie Williams and his close personal friend Jonathan Wilkes were out in LA, probably looking for girls, they dropped by a karaoke bar.
Being Williams, he thought it would be quite the joke to do Angels - although, since karaoke is belting a song someone else has written over a backing track, usually with a surfeit of over-emotion, it could be argued that he's done nothing but karaoke versions of the song all along.
The crowd lapped it up and all was well until one numpty observed, that while Rob’s version was pretty good, he preferred 25-year-old Jessica Simpson’s original.
Numpty? Daily Snack, shame on you: whoever he was, the guy was a genius.
We're not sure we can answer that. Alex Kapranos was ticked off by the manager of a Singapore hotel Franz Ferdinand were staying in, so as an act of revenge, the band took 150 fans back for an after-show party.
Because, yes, that'll show the manager - but it's not going to be the manager who has to cope with 150 people milling about, is it? It'll be the lower-paid staff who actually do the work. It's like kneecapping someone's mother when you fall out with them.
Obviously, we don't begrudge Paris Hilton a go at the pop charts - hey, Orville had a go, the Krankies had a go, why shouldn't Hilton? But we do think someone needs to take her to one side and tell her that aiming for a Pussycat Dolls style burlesque dance routine would be like watching the Wurzels do the same thing. We've seen the burger advert - you've seen the burger advert, everyone had a look - and if that didn't convince her that she can't do sexy, it's probably unlikely that anything will, so surely it's down to a friend or a manager to sit her down and say "the last thing anyone wants to see is you in a corset doing some disconnected writhing. Cover your breasts up and try and think of something you're good at."
We wonder if he crayoned "worstest idea ever" on the top of the page when Wayne Rooney came up with his idea of a rap idol programme.
Yes, the spud-u-like from leisurewear company Manchester United and his mate Rio Ferdinand are pitching an idea ("came up with after watching 8Mile" - couldn't they have stuck to porn like the rest of their colleagues?). Oh, and:
Wayne even plans to get on the mic — taking on Portsmouth’s Lomana LuaLua, 25, during the final.
We're not sure when they hope this series to air, but we'll be out the country. And we're not coming back.
Monday, February 20, 2006
There's a battle we would have liked to have seen: Shakira versus Courtney. Yes, even although her breasts are small and humble, Shakira reckoned she could have a had a chance with Kurt:
"I was 14. I saw that blonde guy on TV, and although I couldn't see his face well, I knew that I wanted to marry him.
"I couldn't get over that song.
"I watched the video and ran to the store to buy the album, and it awakened certain feelings in me that I didn't know how to describe."
Okay, maybe when you were 14 you couldn't describe them... but surely now, Shakira? Surely you can now?
More from No Rock on kurt cobain
The mighty Vice Squad, still led by Beki Bondage, are gearing up for a new album and a massive tour. The album is mainly new material with a pocketful of reworkings. The tour does this:
Italy - Forte Prenestino Rome
Italy - La Gabbia Bassano Del Grappa
Italy - Sonar Colle Val D'elsa
Italy - Transilvania Milan
Usa - Orange Pavillion San Bernadino
Norway - Elm St Oslo
England - The Railway Ipswich
Jul 21 9:00p
Scotland - The Wickerman Festival East Kirkcarswell
England - The Cartoon Croydon
England - Club Phoenix Ilfracombe
England - Wasted Festival Blackpool
Aug 16 To 29th - Japan (Dates To Be Confimed)
Usa - Los Angeles, Ca
Usa - Fresno, Ca
Usa - San Fransisco, Ca
Usa - Portland, Or
Usa - Seattle, Wa
Usa - Boise, Id
Usa - Salt Lake City, Ut
Usa - Las Vegas, Nv
Usa - Corona, Ca
Usa - San Diego, Ca
Usa - Phoenix, Ar
Usa - El Paso, Tx
Usa - Albuquerque, Nm
Usa - Oklahoma City, Ok
Usa - Dallas, Tx
Usa - San Antonio, Tx
Usa - Houston, Tx
Usa - Memphis, Tn
Usa - Nashville, Tn
Usa - St Louis, Mo
Usa - Chicago, Il
Usa - Indianapolis, In
Usa - Cincinnati, Oh
Usa - Detroit, Mi
Usa - Cleveland, Oh
Usa - Pittsburgh, Pa
Usa - Washington, Va
Usa - Baltimore, Md
Usa - Philadelphia, Pa
Usa - New York, Ny
Usa - Boston, Ma
Canada - El Salon Montreal
Canada - L'anti Quebec City
Canada - Foufounes Electriques Montreal
Canada - Ottawa
Canada - Kathedral Toronto
Some dates still to be confirmed
The problems of success: it seems that Alex James is finding Damon Albarn a bit of a pain to work with:
"The more records Damon sells, the less I get to say in Blur sessions."
Oh, Alex, sweetchops, surely by now you've realised that your band is now just another part of the Albarn solo-ego collective.
If her mother-in-law to be is to be believed (and if she isn't, then she isn't her mother-in-law to be at all), Kylie and Olivier Martinez will get married in April.
"My son has promised we will be flown over for the big day," Mrs Martinez is quoted as saying.
Well... yes, you'd hope so, wouldn't you?
More from No Rock on kylie
The do suggest that a fool and his or her money part as easily as Jessica Simpson and whatisface at the end of an MTV contract, but it's heartwarming that at least while Madonna is wasting her cash on "oxygen machines" she's got less to pump in to keeping the Kabbalah Centres afloat.
Oxygen machines? Yes, it's funny you should ask. But you can understand why Madonna is grumpy about having to pay congestion charge when she could be spending her money on this, um, technology:
"You can take the oxygen machine and inhale if you're feeling really tired or jet-lagged, which is one of the reasons I have them at home.
"You just lie down for 10 minutes and put it in your nose. They are really great."
Hmm. Could it be that what actually makes you feel less tired after ten minutes lying down is, you know, the lying down?
Now, there's no reason why Madonna shouldn't pump anything she likes into her body, and her recent history suggests she's gullible enough to fall for any old rubbish, but you have to feel a little sorry for her. After all... the last time an 80s icon announced how much they enjoyed a little nap with some extra oxygen would have been when Michael Jackson was kipping in his oxygen tent.
Morrissey doesn't offer his praise for a new band very often, but when he does, it's usually the kiss of death, as the drummer from Bradford told us last week when we bought some laces from him.
Bad news, then, for The Boyfriends, for whom Mozzer made a rare trip out this weekend. Apparently, having been "mobbed" (presumably by fans yelling 'go away with your poisonous support') Mozzer snipped out and re-entered London's Metro Club by the fire escape, "licking his lips and making a noise like an angry horse gurgling blood", according to no onlookers whatsoever.
Remember the Datsuns? Yes you do. No, that's The Vines you're thinking of. Got them? Good.
They've got a new ep lined up for April and are going to roam about the UK encouraging you to buy a copy or two:
Stoke Sugarmill (April 18)
Bristol Fleece (19)
Newcastle Academy 2 (21)
Liverpool Academy (22)
Glasgow ABC2 (23)
Sheffield Plug (25)
Manchester Academy 3 (26)
Birmingham Academy 2 (27)
London Underworld (28)
Oxford Zodiac (29)
Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (30)
Last year, Ofcom had 55 complaints from people whose reaction to the Live8 gig was not that it was obscene that so many people live on nothing in this world, nor even that an attempt to do something about was hijacked into promoting soft drinks companies and mobile phone operators, but that some people said a rude. Ofcom has now investigated, and said the BBC didn't do enough to stop people swearing on the broadcast [pdf document], and didn't apologise enough:
The swearing and offensive language referred to by the complainants started at just before 18:00 when coverage from Berlin of “Green Day” performing “American Idiot” included the word “fuck”. This was followed at approximately 18:30 by Snoop Dogg’s performance, which included swearing and racially offensive terms almost from the start (“motherfucker”, “fuck”, “nigga”, “shit”, “bitch” and “blood claats”). This set lasted for nearly 15 minutes. Following that, expletives (“fucking”) were used by two performers at 18:56 and 19:18. The subtitles for these performers’ speech (at 18:56 and 19:18) also included the words “fucking”. The BBC state that it was not possible for it to apologise for Snoop Dogg’s performance as it was not aware of the content until twenty minutes later. Yet, as noted above, there were other incidents that occurred over a period of nearly one hour and twenty minutes and for which apologies were not given. The latter incidents occurred during a time when, according to the BBC, it had regained control of its compliance arrangements.
What is really fascinating is the reasos the BBC gave for having no senior staff available during Snoop's gig:
The broadcaster said that normal procedures had been put in place to deal with unexpected strong language, including plans for an on-screen apology at the first available opportunity if necessary. The BBC said that, as The Live8 Story documented, tensions had existed even before the concert. On the day itself however, one repeated theme was the problem of the concert potentially overrunning, due to the number of bands performing, and, if it did, how people would get home on public transport. During Snoop Dogg’s performance, as shown in The Live8 Story, an emergency meeting was held to discuss the problem. This placed great pressure on the concert’s organisers which had repercussions for the BBC’s production team. The timing of the meeting was not of the BBC’s choosing – indeed no-one from the BBC was present at the meeting.
Perhaps as a result, there was a confrontation between the organisers and senior editorial figures from the BBC which meant that the two key BBC editorial personnel missed much of the performance by Snoop Dogg and were unable to set the apology procedure in motion. At the same time, other BBC personnel were involved in dealing with other serious operational problems (such as the virtual collapse of the cellphone system which made any communication extremely difficult) and the difficulties which the overrunning of the event would have caused with relation to link-ups with other broadcasters. Therefore no apology was made as the key BBC personnel were unaware of the problem until approximately twenty minutes later, as they were fully occupied dealing with other issues. Had they been, Jonathan Ross would have been instructed to make a full apology on behalf of the BBC. By the time the extent of the problem during Snoop Dogg’s performance became apparent to the senior BBC editorial team, it was felt that the moment for a full apology had passed and that to have returned to the issue would have merely drawn further attention to the original offence.
Confrontation, they say? Part of the problem, of course, might have been down to Live8 putting Snoop on at teatime in the first place. It's equally incredible that the organisers hadn't planned what they were going to do when, as would be inevitable, the thing over-ran.
More from No Rock on snoop dogg
Ah, splendid. Mogwai review The Brits:
"Coldplay's Chris Martin hinted he may avoid the limelight. 'People are fed up with us and so are we,' he said. No shit"
[James Blunt] "I have spewed blood down dirty toilets with more talent than him."
"And the Kaiser Chiefs won best 'rock act', which is just mental. They're not a rock band. I met one of them in Japan and he was lovely, if a little scared by my over-affable drunkenness, but they're no rock band."
There was a little hint, though, that Barry Mogwai might fit in with the 3AM girls after all:
"First off, let us say a big well done to the Arctic Monkeys for not turning up to the Brit awards and instead playing a gig in Portsmouth. Why would you go? I think you have to pay to go anyway, which is a joke."
- liking the Arctic Monkeys and complaining about the lack of freebies? He'd fit right in.
Good lord, does the Mirror not pay the 3AM girls or something? (Actuially, it would make sense if they didn't get paid, since there is a smack of a weekly advertising freesheet about their journalism). They clattered along to the BAFTAs last night, and what was their main observation? Was it about the way David Puttnam reduced the entire room to tears talking about his dead father, or praised the current state of the film industry for proving wrong his fears that it would only be a blockbuster, effects heavy future?
No, the 3AM girls were complaining about the freebies:
Whereas your US A-listers might head home with £10,000 of diamond-encrusted watches and tooth-whitening sessions, last night's attendees got, wait for it... a CD, a DVD of a BAFTA-winning film and a set of hair products from Nicky Clarke. Oh, and the official awards brochure. We could hardly contain our excitement...
Maybe the Baftas felt that giving expensive gifts to people who are already incredibly rich was vulgar and disgusting, girls?
Still, if you really want to start an appeal to see if your readers would like to buy some "diamond encrusted watches" for the poor, deprived likes of Mischa Barton, give it a go. See what sort of response you get.
It's taken her a lot of struggle to get them under control, but Liz McClarnon has finally beaten the panic attacks which made her life a misery while she was in Atomic Kitten. Yes, back when their horrid covers of Kool and The Gang were making our lives uncomfortable hers was pretty grim, too:
"It was hard to get me on stage because I thought someone was in the crowd was going to shoot me," says Liz, 24. "I was totally paranoid."
Hey, you kick a hellcat like Kerry Katona out the band, you've got to expect some sort of retribution.
Now, though, Liz has found mental peace again through, it seems, a relaxing mantra of therapy-speak:
"I made mistakes and it had a knock-on negative effect," admits Liz. "I was vulnerable and I went for the wrong type of man.
"It wasn't that they were nasty, it was just that we weren't giving each other what we needed, so it was self-destructive.
"I was getting hurt and hurting other people, then feeling guilty. I think everybody goes through something like that at one point. But then something clicked inside me and I'm a different person now."
What's interesting is while she was afraid she couldn't go on stage in case someone shot her, and suffering all these panic attacks, she did manage to breathe into a brown paper bag long enough to sign the contract - and appear - on Celebrity Love Island. Live on ITV night after night after night.
Still, it's a good job she did, as it provides a handy explanation for how she's got so little to show for a three-year post-Kitten career:
"Eighteen months ago I pretty much wrote my album, but since doing Celebrity Love Island I feel completely different about so many things, so I've scrapped loads of songs and started again," she explains.
"I'm still using parts of songs and melodies but lyrically everything's changed because I feel so differently about so many things.
"It was more lovey-dovey before, but now it's more empowering, saying F you if you don't agree with me. It's a more confident me, but I'm also a lot less serious than I was in the past. There's more of the real me coming out in this music."
But you've just told us that the real you in a panic-attack prone woman who makes shit choices when choosing a partner. Where are you planning on touring this - day centres?
More to the point: if you've written such a shining album, why are you leading off with a pisspoor Barbara Streisand cover?
More from No Rock on barbra streisand
There's something inevitable about the return of Girls Aloud to reality TV - they're going to be followed by cameras during their first tour of Australia and New Zealand, and the resulting cleared bits will go out on E4 at some point. The Channel 4 team are, mmm, kinda excited:
“The series will reveal what it is like to be at the heart of a chart-topping group. It will also show the girls as they try to escape professional pressures and unwind with loved ones.”
So, a bit like Rock Follies, then.
Having last week decided that the only reason for people assuming she's a lesbian is because of her brightly coloured braces (suspenders, for our American readers), she's now launched into a long babble which seems solely designed to try and keep her lucrative gay market happy:
Of course I have kissed a girl - every girl should have kissed a girl!
"There was a friend of mine when I was at school and she was like: 'I don't know if I'm any good at kissing.'
"So we were like: 'OK, 'I'll see what you're like and you see what I'm like.' It's part of growing up, definitely."
Hmmm. Just a phase, then, KT?
And KT said her boyfriend Luke - who is the drummer in her band - thinks it's great too.
She laughed: "No boyfriend is going to have a problem with lots of girls fancying your girlfriend - he loves it!"
So, in summary then... it's a phase that everyone should try although, obviously, you grow out of it; i really can't stress enough that I'm not gay and I like boys not gay not gay notgaynotgay and then, finally, of course, lesbianism isn't a proper sexuality, it's really just a bit of a wank fantasy for straight blokes. Yes, that'll keep the gay audience happy, KT.
[Updated 23/08/08 to add tags; content unchanged]
Sunday, February 19, 2006
The news that Smash Hits was to be finally hit on the head with one final, fatal falling picnic table was met with a degree of sadness amongst those who grew up on, with, or by the magazine, but not, we imagine by those few left who choose between it, I Love Stars (nee I Love Pop) and Top of the Pops magazine these days. After all, the magazine had long-since ceased to make its readers feel like they were part of a club, and they themselves probably didn't realise it was once sich a significant part of the magazine make-up of the UK.
The reasons for its decline? Part of the story was contained in the reports of the closure - "the Smash Hits brand will live on" in various digital TV and radio and mobile phone formats - when EMAP is in need of the goodwill of artists to leverage cash off their likenesses in the new, always-on world, it couldn't really afford to have that brand built around a magazine which was taking the piss out of them. As such, what few teeth the title had have long since been drawn - for some time now, SH has been careful to only laugh with, not at, the popstars - the club boundary was redrawn, and the readers were no longer in league with the magazine.
Demographics have also played their part - as teenagers try to mature more quickly, they've started to drop Smash Hits from their hands at an ever earlier age. Faced with the loss of the top end of the demographics, the team have pursued younger readers with more vigour; that, of course, has accelerated the drop-off of older readers as they come to view the magazine as more and more childish. The crazy cycle has continued to a point where, apparently, the average SH reader was just eight - if they'd carried on churning like this for another 18 months, the likely outcome would have been a repositioning alongside the CBeebies comic. Many magazines suffer from seeing their readers picked off by the grim reaper; Smash Hits was starting to be caught in a panic that a large part of their target market hadn't been born yet.
So, this is where it ends up - a sad flash proclaiming "New Look!", a nasty little personal organiser competing with Pony's "free bendy zebra pen". Oddly, the strange journey of indiepop has thrown up a farewell cover mainly taken up by Preston from the Ordinary Boys and with some space for a photo of Alex from the Arctic Monkeys talking to Alex Kapranos.
The modern version of Bitz - called News, Gossip, Whatever - has some hilarious blind items which, erm, print the answers upside down; and some not-so-hilarious photos of, for example, Lee Otway from Hollyoaks showing his bottom and Liam Gallagher gurning. It's also where the cover story (all 200-ish words of it) sits. Prepare to go inside "the mental mind of Preston": "I'd love to have a cameo in Eastenders."
Blimey, he is mental, isn't he?
Some band called Love Bites are called upon to rate boys - they give Pete Burns zero out of five because "make-up on blokes is a real no-no." Have these girls not seen Velvet Goldmine? (Okay... that question might answer itself.)
With the closure of Smash Hits, the world of journalism will be facing up to the loss of The Official McFly column, written by a different one of McFly each fortnight. Or, more likely, written by the same press guy pretending to be a different one of McFly. Significantly, Tom reveals that he's moving out of the house he's been sharing (in a Monkees, not Brokeback way) with the other members of the band. "I notice that Danny has developed a bizarre obession with his nipples" he offers, although it's not clear if this is by way of explanation.
Shayne Ward is in even worse straits - he only got to do one official column before the magazine was pulled. We wonder if he'll take that as some sort of warning about the fickle hand of dame showbiz.
The rump of the mighty Black Type is now called Inbox and if it's a little brutish, at least it's short. Kirsty Hammond from Newport emails to say that she's liking the new series of the OC but "that new girl Taylor better stop being nasty to Summer 'cos nobody likes a bully." Blame it on email - twenty years ago nobody would have wasted the price of a stamp on this sort of thing. Having said which, there seems to be no shortage of people splashing 25p on pointless texts: "Ash simpson nu toon rox!!"
And, a few pages on, here is Ashlee Simpson herself, revealing that - gasp - she's in a relationship. "Braxton Olita plays guitar in my band" she trills. Oh, great, so the time you funked off the stage leaving your band to cover for you in front of millions, it wasn't just your colleagues you let down, it was your boyfriend as well.
The regular feature of modern celeb magazines, the 'what's your most embarrassing moment' column turns up Dave from Son of Dork talking about the time he got drunk, went up to his mum, told her he loved her and took off all his clothes. Which seems less like a thing you'd tell a magazine read by eight year-olds, more like a fertile subject to be covered in a full issue of the British Psychiatry Review.
Pink, meanwhile, pops up to tell you how to follow your dreams: "never let people tell you you can't do something." Pink - who has had several hits, writes songs, and generally has something interesting to say - only gets a tiny corner, though, as room has to be made for a full page of the thoughts of Paris Hilton. And, obviously, filling. "God blessed me with everything I have" - well, actually, petal, your rich family gave you most of it. "Whatever I do - clothes, make-up, hotels, clubs - people love it and it's great."
The interesting moment, and it's surprising to report there is one, comes when they ask her what her ideal man is like - "I can't say, because I have a boyfriend, Stavros." Presumably Stavros had someone explain to him the implication that, well, whatever her ideal is, he isn't, as since the interview was published, they've split.
The saddest moment? After the issue just stutters to a halt with a bunch of songwords and some pictures of Britney Spears looking awful, there's a promise of what should have come in the next issue. Bands? Big interviews? The return of Barry? Nope, the only reason people are given to come back in a fortnight is the promise of free Pineapple pencilcase. Oh, and a free pencil to put in it. When even the free gifts are as appealing as another column by Shayne Ward, maybe the time is right to pull the plug.
Is the end of Smash Hits a sign of a deeper problem in music? There are other signs that something - at least in the corporate end of the world - has gone very wrong indeed. The Guardian's City Diary reported on the Brits - and not because it felt out of place there: "We're not sure what musical link the likes of Lloyds TSB, HBOS, Scottish Widows, Skandia, Goldman Sachs or UBS can claim to justify hosting a table or two at the bash. At least Mastercard ca explain bagging a whopping 26 tables as one of the perks of being the main sponsor." And they wonder why the atmosphere feels like it's a bankers conference these days. It's because the audience is like a banker's conference.
Observer Music Monthly week comes round again, bringing Jim McCabe's take with it. He's especially delighted by Paul Morley's unwanted piece on ten years of the Spice Girls. Jim says "Looks like his bouts of supplication at the feet of St Bono & 15 minutes of chav acclaim via Celebrity Big Brother have accelerated Paul Morley's journey towards mid-life crisis. It's a sorry spectacle when someone from the punk years morphs into the next Benny Hill, but there you go. BTW, someone should have a quiet word in his ear if he really thinks that the Arctic Monkeys are the new Spice Girls." Yes, the once spot-on Morley does indeed suggest that the rise of the Arctic Monkeys and the manufacture of the Spice Girls are of a piece.
The OMM also chats with John Lydon, and having made himself look a twit attacking Green Day for, uh, not being what he means by punk, this time he manages to side with one of the biggest bigot's friends in recent British political history: "I'm not awkward for the sake of it. I stick to what I believe in, which is do the best you can, mean what you say, and think about it. People don't mind profiting off me and, let's face it, I'm far from talentless.'
And then he adds the name of another politician who was condemned for his beliefs: Enoch Powell.
'Don't get me wrong. I'm from a multicultural family, I lived through Thatcher, but Powell stood up for what he believed in.'"
(Lived through Thatcher? When, exactly, did you relocate to the US, Lydon? And isn't your main line of work, buying and selling propety, the ultimate career choice of the Thatcherite anyway?)
Is it really such a great thing that Powell "stood up for what he believed in" when what he believed in was that "the black would have the whip hand over the white man", when what he believed in even Ted Heath saw as "racialist in tone", when what he believed was described by the chair of the West Midlands Race Relations board as "an act of brutality" against one million British citizens? And in what way is your family background meant to give you a pass on supporting the poster boy for the NF and the BNP, John? After all, Powell quit the Tories in a strop over Europe (when he wasn't proposing stopping immigration, he was the Kilroy-Silk of his age) and joined the Ulster Unionists.
Perhaps the greatest irony, of course, is that Powell's most vitriolic speech, the Rivers of Blood tirade, was made in a bid to derail the 1968 Race Relations Act, one of the key provisions of which was to make illegal the sort of signs - "No Irish, No Blacks, No Dogs" - which Lydon uses to give a title to his autobiography. The reason why Powell was vilified, you twit, was not because what he said what he thought, but because what he thought was spiteful.
"The NME shows are a homecoming for us" pledges Richard Archer in this week's issue of still-the-world's-biggest-selling-rock-weekly, which is just as well as they didn't pick up a Brit (although with the level of support they're getting from the Sun these days, they might be in with a shout next time round.)
While Preston got a full interview last week, Maggot has to make do with a Peter Robinson versus. Not that we think that's a step down, actually. He still maintains he was in CBB to make up the numbers, although he allowed that "January is always a quiet month" so he wouldn't have been doing much otherwise.
Radar peers in an odd way at The Young Knives; they don't like "the IKEA generation", although we've never quite understood what the problem with Ikea is, actually. Yes, it would be nice if we were all William Morris and had time to whittle and carve oak chests when we need a new place to store CDs, but who has the time? Who has the skills? Nobody would, given unlimited options, use Ikea; but nor would anyone use Tesco. Ikea frees times that would otherwise be wasted worrying about furniture to be used having sex, drawing diagrams, or plotting political troubles.
Back to Eastenders for the Belle & Sebastian piece - the NME has decided that its readers won't know who they are and so has gathered together a bunch of facts about the band, including the time they got arrested for trespassing on the Enders set (back when TOTP was shot next door up in Elstree).
reverend and the makers - leicester princess charlotte - "before long you'll be one of the congregation"
be your own pet - london bush hall - "like a cat clawing your ankles to buggery"
the darkness - alexandra palace - "the gig crumbles to an end and the band walk off"
stellastarr* - harmonies for the haunted - "only four points for quality", 4
beth orton - comfort of strangers - "gracefully aging doesn't make for great records", 6
some girls - heaven's pregnant teens - "each a more glorious violation of the senses than the last", 7
totw - delays - valentine - "the best thing they've ever done"
the pistolas - listen listen - "sticky fingered genius"
and finally, here's the Guardian Weekend magazine with... oh, another interview with Preston. I'm not sure I can work up the interest...
More from No Rock on alex kapranos
Oh, rotten plans from Sony-BMG who are hoping to try and rebuild Michael Jackson's reputation as "The Guy Who Made Thriller" in place of his current standing as "a one-man freakshow who if he doesn't actually fiddle with kids certainly behaves like someone who might."
And how do they plan to do this? By releasing a single a week from him every week for the next five months.
Now, the weakness of this idea - and it's inability to capture any sort of public imagination - is that we read a lot of music-related stuff and only found about it via the Sunday Herald and, more crucially, we'd not even have known about it if Gennaro Castaldo, our favourite HMV spokesperson, hadn't offered his opinion ("In the case of Elvis, the first single got to number one because it was released in January, which is traditionally a time of low record sales, but they may have left it a little late with Jackson. Next week he’ll have to compete with some pretty strong releases, particularly Madonna’s new single, Sorry.")
What makes it even more of a bad idea is that they're kicking off by re-releasing Thriller as a single, which could just about work - it was a mighty fine single - but then working their way through subsequent singles chronologically. In other words, in a couple of months time they'll be on Earth Song, or one of the McCartney duets, or Blood on the Dancefloor. Which means, if the sales are high enough to register, people might wander around next week going "can't stop this driller! thriller! tonight!" and thinking "actually, Jackson's pretty good, I wonder why I stopped listening to him"; a dozen days later there's going to be the song about how it really doesn't matter if you're black or white coming out the radio and they'll be thinking "oh, yes, I remember now - he went shit really quickly."
If Sony had any brains, they'd have started with Blood on the Dancefloor, and gone in reverse chronological order, so the campaign would have ended on a high point. Instead, we're going to have to endure a former giant crumbling on fast-forward.
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