Saturday, November 18, 2006

Won't someone think of our sides?

You may still be suffering delusions and tremors if you caught any of Children In Need last night. The highlight - and that's a word we use only so you can hear the hollow ring on "highlight", sounding out like the Big Ben bell - would have been the cast of Holby City doing Madonna's Hung Up. Shorn of its overproduction, it did make it clear just what a weak lyric the thing has (Maddy really does do a timecheck at one point - a quarter to two - purely so she has a rhyme for "hung up on you". And "ring ring ring goes the telephone" - was this co-written by the Flumps?) but the bizarre acto-flotsam who've washed up in the series was almost enough to distract you. Jesus and Roland Rivron? Bloody hell.

And let's not even pretend we understood the How Clean Is Your House Gig bit: we know it was for charity and a bit of fun, but unless Status Quo colour in their bed with felt-tip, it was so staged as to be pointless.

We didn't see, we don't think, the cast of Two Pints Of Lager and A Packet Of Razorblades Hidden In Their Crisps "doing" Club Tropicana, as we started to swig neat whiskey round about the time they made Will Mellor and Ralf Little remove their clothes and have Michelle Dewberry from The Apprentice and Scott Mills rubbing fake tan into them.

Every BBC employee will have added Scott Mills to their hatelist after - over on BBC Three's Celebrity Scissorhands - he got the option to shave Mark Thompson's beard, and did so without a single nick, never mind an open blade to his throat and a snarling "don't offshore those people's jobs, Thompson, if you know what's good for you."

It was lovely to see Steve Strange hold his hands steady enough to break a Guiness Record for most heads shaved in an hour. Oh, Norris McWhirter, that you were alive at this hour...

One charity night finishes only for the next to wash into view, of course: and who could fail to cancel all their plans for February at the news that Matt Lucas and Peter Kay are teaming up to cover The Proclaimers' 500 Miles in aid of Comic Relief.

Sov sobs, sods off

Lady Sovereign had a bad night of it last Wednesday, trying to struggle through a performance despite doctor's advice to rest. She tried, though, dammit, she tried:

“She then left the stage abruptly a few times. She tried going through her songs 9 to 5 and Blah Blah but stopped in the middle of both.

“She then completely broke down, bawling hysterically and falling to the ground. They practically dragged her off the stage as the crowd went insane. She never came back.”

Sometimes, you're better off just taking to your bed with a lemsip.

Dave Gahan: "Where's the respect?"

Ooh, it must be tough being Dave Gahan. Simply because Depeche Mode spent years making highly-poppy synth-driven tunes, then discovered s&m and spent the following years suggesting their early stuff was pissweak, before releasing it on a best-of anyway and disappearing via the local dealers' patch up their own arses, then returning with an - admittedly excellent - album and yet another rounding-up of their early stuff, nobody gives them any respect:

“I don’t get it. We’re a band that has come out of England, lasted and done well. But no one seems to notice and it does hurt.

“It’s a struggle here to get recognition for what we’ve achieved. We’re that oddball band that people don’t know how to categorise. We don’t fit the rock category and are not pop.”

It's a fair point - ver Mode are something of a handy whipping boy for the critics. But then... don't you boys like that sort of thing?

Heather Mills wasn't in it for the money

Heather Mills has insisted that she didn't marry Paul McCartney for his money, and can prove it. She told Extra that she can't be greedy, because she does a lot of good work for charity:

“I fell in love for the right reasons. I fell in love unconditionally.

“Eighty-five per cent of my income goes to my charity. The word gold digger doesn’t go with that.

“If I was a gold digger, I would have a lot of money in my bank account. I’d be worth millions and millions.

“I’m a good mother, I’m a good person.”

Actually, Heather, if you were a gold digger, you wouldn't have the millions in your account until the divorce goes through. And saying "I don't have hardly anything in my bank account" is hardly proof of anything much at all. You could, of course, prove those who think that you're a gold digger by, erm, refusing to accept a penny of your ex-husband's money. It really is that simple.

Of course, it'd be an expensive way to prove the point; and, after all, if people think you're a gold-digger, having a few millions might take the sting away somewhat, don't you think?

RandBobit: Ruth Brown

The death has been announced of Ruth Brown, one of the first inspirational voices of R&B who became a thorn in the music industry's side.

Known both as "the girl with a tear in her voice" and "Miss Rhythm", Brown was born in Portsmouth, Virginia in 1928; like many of her background, her first public performances were in church, and then around local army bases. It was her militaryfanbases who scraped together the railfare to allow her to attend a talent show in Harlem, and that win at the Harlem Apollo led to a role in Lucky Millinder's big band.

A backstage meeting with Billie Holiday persuaded Brown to develop something beyond her original half-Holiday approach:

"She was standing there and I went to go by her and she could tell my eyes were just welled up," Brown recalls. "She said, 'Let me tell you something. You've got a good voice. Find out who you are, because as long as you go out and sound like that, they're going to call my name,and they'll never remember yours.'"

While touring, she was spotted by a DC DJ. He knew some people establishing a new record business; he effected an introduction, although a car accident meant it took a year before Brown would be able to take full advantage of the offer.

With her legs still in traction, Ahmet Ertegun and Herb Abramson signed her to their Atlantic Records label. She rewarded them with So Long - the second in what was to be a long run of hit singles for Atlantic, which would come to be known as "The house that Ruth built." She then hit her stride, developing a sassy R&B style which would see her dominate the R&B charts for much of the 1950s and frequently visit the main listings as that most valuable of commodities, a crossover artist.

Her fame, though, didn't count for much in the South in the 1950s. During a national tour with Charles Brown (no relation), a Mississippi gas station attendant refused to allow Ruth to use the toilets - they were for white customers; told they didn't want the gas if they couldn't pee, a situation developed which started to look nasty, as Ruth recalled later:

"They said, 'Oh, you gonna take this gas,' 'cause they had the hose in the back of the car." Charles peeled out, and within minutes, the Fleetwood was surrounded by police cars.

"We thought they might lynch us 'cause we was in Mississippi," Ruth says. "I don't know how we got away except that Charles's grandfather,who was traveling with us, got out of that car and walked around in back and stayed with these officers about ten minutes. We were inside, nervous and scared to death. And when he came back and got in the car he said, 'Okay, let's go.' To this day, we don't know what his grandfather said or did to get us out of that. Charles and I thought we were goners that day."

You can hear her influence on most of the next two decades female singers, from Aretha to Etta; even Little Richard acknowledged that he'd based his vocalstylings on those of Brown. And although she had no formal training, she had a natural ear for music - Dizzy Gillespie observing that " Ruth Brown could hear a rat wee on cotton."

A change in label led to a slump in fortunes, and the 1960s weren't kind to Brown. A 1963 marriage to policeman Bill Blunt ended in divorce - he'd refused to allow her to perform during the marriage - and, broke, and with a child to support, Brown enquired about outstanding royalties from Atlantic. A cheque for $1000 arrived in the post, which was to be the last she'd see of any earnings for twenty years.

While Atlantic continued to do nicely from her recordings, Brown was scraping a living however she could:

"I did nine-to-fives. I washed dishes. I drove a school bus. I cleaned houses. Yes ma'am."

She still sang - at church, at small clubs for little or nothing - but her star wouldn't be revived activist Ann Sneed - buoyed by funding from the National Endowment For The Arts - brought her back under the auspices of International Art of Jazz.

Performing again, but still doing menial work, Brown contacted Atlantic once more to ask if she might not be owed some cash by them. On the contrary, she was told, you owe us monies unpaid from the 1950s. Shamefully, Atlantic continued to lie and stonewall.

An old friend from the 1950s, Red Foxx, repaid Browns' kindness to him the past (she'd helped him with money when he had none; now he came to her aid.) Riding high in the USSteptoe remake Sanford and Son, he got Brown work in the series, and cast her as Mahalia Jackson in his stage musical Selma. It provided a base from which Brown was able to start to rebuild her career, although this comeback was nearly thrown off course after she was the victim of some brutal domestic violence meted out by partner Earl Swanson.

Another survival; another summoning of strength.

Invited to sign some albums backstage after a Washington gig, Brown was surprised to see records she'd never even heard of. Pointing out that she'd never earned a cent from these titles, Brown signed anyway. She was lucky, though, that the autographs had been requested by Howell Begle, an entertainment lawyer. He took on her case, and that of others who had been conned by Atlantic into signing away rights, and threatened with large bills for "unpaid expenses" when they dared to ask about recompense. After a long battle with Atlantic, and then with Time Warner when they bought the company, Brown would eventually win a back payment of $30,000; thirty-five other artists also got the money they'd been owed for thirty years and a shamed Time Warner were bounced into reluctantly endowing the Rhythm and Blues Foundation. (The next time record labels talk about how they "support artists", try picturing the pile of records lost to the world because Atlantic kept R&B singers in poverty, cleaning rooms to live when they should have been making music.)

Brown won Grammys, Tonys and - in 1993 - an induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Her citation in the Hall of Fame records her musical achievements; it oddly finds no space for the arguably more significant work she and Begle did in calling record companies to account.

Ruth Brown died from a stroke. She was 78.

Hudson no longer for the Crowes

The always slightly unexpected pairing of Chris Robinson from the Black Crowes (apparently Primal Scream didn't just make them up to make themselves seem better, then) and Kate Hudson has come to a formal end: divorce papers have been filed.

New large out-of-court settlement request

The increasingly belligerent Universal music has launched a legal action against Rupert Murdoch's MySpace. Not his specific one ("interests: using monopoly power to pervert markets and subvert democracy; boogieboarding; international travel") but the company which he recently acquired. Universal want money for all the unapproved sharing going on.

Having recently successfully shaken down Bill Gates to get a buck every time some schmuck buys a Zune, and done a deal with Google to cover YouTube, Universal is obviously feeling a little unstoppable right now:

Universal's lawsuit, lodged in a US district court, claims that MySpace "encourages, facilitates and participates in the unauthorised reproduction, adaptation, distribution and public performance".

In a statement it added: "Our music and videos play a key role in building the communities that have created hundreds of millions of dollars of value for the owners of MySpace.

"Our goal is not to inhibit the creation of these communities, but to ensure that our rights and those of our artists are recognised."

There are also plans to sue USMail, on the grounds that there must be some postal workers who sometimes whistle, and when they sometimes whistle, they might whistle Universal-owned tunes.

I think we're nine stone now

We're not entirely sure the US network have got the point of Celebrity Fit Club - it's meant, of course, to be Fat Club, only with a letter changed to protect the fragile egos of the slightly overweight celebs. But the American line-up for the next season includes Tiffany and Warren G - neither of whom have exactly let themselves go; indeed, we understand from Playboy "required very little airbrushing" when she spread herself over its centres not so long ago.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Gennaro Castaldo watch: Acts of war

On Monday, as you're doubtless aware, U2 and Oasis complete their respective record company contracts by releasing a bunch of old songs and pretending it's a new album. This, of course, has journalists dreaming of trying to bark up another Blur-Oasis type chart battle, despite the fact nobody much cares about this sort of thing when it's albums.

Still, the retailers are happy for any bone they're thrown these days, as Gennaro Castaldo explains his plans to the Guardian:

"We're going to have enormous images of U2 and Oasis on each side of the door when you walk into our shops," reveals Gennaro Castaldo, HMV's head of publicity. "It will look like a proper face-off."

Nothing says "enter my store" like having to make your way past an enormous Bono cut-out.

Where does all this money to spend on cardboard Gallaghers come from? In part, revealed the Sunday Times last weekend, by charging Irish customers up to 35% more than UK consumers for the same record. Castaldo came in to try and make the gouged Irish customers feel less like dupes who were being raped every time they buy an album from HMV. After all, there's bound to be a clear, understandable reason, eh, Gennaro?:

Gennaro Castaldo, HMV’s head of PR, said the new UK pricing structure may be extended to Irish stores some time next year. “It is contingent on having a dialogue with our suppliers because, ultimately, they have got to be able to give us different pricing so that we can pass that on to our customers.

“These things have to be done piecemeal because it’s quite an undertaking to do it everywhere at the same time, and there are different suppliers in Ireland.”

“I’m not saying it’s definitely happening,” added Castaldo, “but it is something we want to do. Our aim is to be as keenly priced in Ireland as can be.”

Ah... as you pay a quarter more for your copy of Amy Winehouse's album in Dublin than you would if you bought it in Belfast, you'll appreciate it's only contingent on dialoguing with suppliers.

We don't want to accuse Castaldo of spouting out his ass, but this is just flim-flam. If HMV told the distributors that they're going to order all their CDs for the British Isles in one go, then everyone could enjoy the slightly fairer prices. What, are HMV afraid that Universal will refuse to supply them at all? Castaldo does nothing to dispel the sense that HMV are doing rather nicely out of this segmentation of the market, and the "ooh, we really want to not rip off the Irish" hardly smacks of a company determined to sort things out.

Skip back to the start

Apparently, the second Futureheads album was a flop - although I suppose it depends on what you were expecting it do. But certainly, the band felt it underperformed, says Barry Hyde:

"We were disappointed with what happened with our second album.

"We were absolutely ecstatic when we made it. We thought everyone was going to like it and that everyone would just accept the change and the progression.

"But it seems people weren't expecting it. They expected it to be a lot higher tempo and not as melancholic, as some songs are.

"But we made an album we wanted to do. We are dead proud of it and nothing will change that."

So... what next, then, Barry?

"What we are craving is to make a hard album. We are going back to punk gymnastics. I want to write Led Zep-style tunes with monster riffs."

So... the second album was a progression, which nobody much cared for. Which would mean that the third is a regression, right?

[Plug: Surprise someone this Christmas by buying News and Tributes. The Futureheads, probably, will be most surprised]

The shopman and the showman

Poor old Philip Green: he opened Top Shop late for Michael Jackson, and how did Jacko repay him? With snubbery. Jacko was in his car. Green was stopped by security:

"Fucking let me through. I organised the event."

But security replied: "Michael says there is no room in the car. Sorry."

If you'd organised the World Music Awards, you'd be better off not shouting about it, we'd have thought.

Where does Victoria Newton find her stories?

Earlier this week, an anonymous commenter pointed out one of Victoria Newton's scoops was a cut-and-paste from the Observer Music Monthly.

Today, Newton is reporting that Amy Winehouse is talking with Pete Doherty about a duet - which will be news to everyone except, erm, anyone who watched last night's Never Mind The Buzzcocks (or "Could Bill Bailey Look Any More Uncomfortable" as it's now also known.)

Robbie Williams is not filling the role of a tall, dark handsom stranger

Every year, police and council officials in Edinburgh worry about how they'll cope with the numbers who turn up for Hogmanay. We'd like to think the invitation to Robbie Williams to join the Pet Shop Boys during their New Year appearance was a bid to persuade people they'd be better off staying at home, but, being realistic, the chances are the vague prospect of seeing Williams looning about will only drag more people onto the streets.

Didn't he cancel chunks of his tour because he was so exhausted?

What yo-odo-lod-odol-ie-oo waiting for

Justin Timberlake took it upon himself to bring sexy back.

Never one to shirk a challenge, Gwen Stefani is bringing yodelling back.

Surely now, more than ever, it's time for the Frank Ifield revival?

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the lilypond...

We'd thought that the people who'd paid for the rights to the Crazy Frog had accepted that they'd milked the craze for all they were going to get.

But, oh no. It's back with a Christmas record, like Cliff Richard only with a strange, stumpy penis which serves no apparent purpose at all.

A PR puff lands in our inbox:

The single comes just in the nick of time during the run-up to the festive season and coincides with George Michael's newly released greatest hits album "Twenty Five".

What a lucky coincidence it is that the Christmas single appears "during the run-up to the festive season", rather than, say, June.

Although George recently missed hitting the Top 10 this week with his latest single "This is Not Real Love" featuring Sugarbabes’ Mutya (it entered the UK singles chart at #15),Crazy Frog's version of'Last Christmas' is likely to get George into the UK Top 10 this Christmas.

We're sure that'll come as a great comfort to George, and not be the sort of tribute which pushes him out to his car with a large bottle of GHB.

There's a half-arsed video too, of course:

The video for Crazy Frog's version of 'Last Christmas' begins when Santa's workshop has been overtaken by evil characters that abduct the jolly bearded one and put him behind bars while they manufacture fake Crazy Frog replica dolls into Christmas presents. To make the toys, the evil ones must obtain blueprints of Crazy Frog. They lure him into Santa's workshop where they attempt to hold him prisoner, but ultimately our green hero reigns triumphant when he botches up their dastardly plans and saves Santa.

Good lord, it's not just half-arsed, but it seems to be containing some sort of unsubtle anti-piracy message as well. Although the details seem a little vague - "evil characters"? Do they mean trolls? Pissed-off elves? Jeffrey Archer? And why do they need blueprints? Don't people just have a look at a real doll and approximate? And if they used the proper tools, and proper plans, and proper stuff, then wouldn't they be proper dolls? More to the point, how is this scheme meant to make money, as Santa doesn't actually charge for the gifts he gives. Wouldn't they have chosen to just make the toys somewhere else so they could flog 'em down the market? It makes no sense.

Obviously, anyone who buys this deserves everything they get, which should, if there's any justice, be absolutely nothing.


It seems that we're destined to only get a new album from !!! every three years - presumably to give the people who rack the CDs in Virgin a chance to try and decide if they get put before or after iForward Russia! or not.

So, following on from 2001's !!! and 2004's Louden Up Now comes 2007, and Myth Takes. Angry Ape list the tracks like this:

01. Myth Takes
02. All My Heroes Are Weirdos
03. Must Be The Moon
04. A New Name
05. Heart Of Hearts
06. Sweet Life
07. Yadnus
08. Bend Over Beethoven
09. Break In Case Of Anything
10. Infinifold

It's one of life's less cruel ironies that a band with a name that is effectively "Oh, anything" come up with such neat track titles.

What else is in the teaches of Peaches?

This comes from an interview from a few months back, but any insight into the thoight processes of Peaches Geldof are worth sharing, don't you think?

"I watched that film [Fahrenheit 9/11] and I felt disgusted the way he [Michael Moore] was so biased. He completely ridiculed him [Bush] and it's just like when you're in a playground and you're bullying a little kid.

"I was for the Iraq war. I supported Bush completely, which was quite, like my friends, like, hated me for that. Of course, it's terrible that millions of people have died, but if you think of Saddam Hussein and all the terrible things he's done, I mean something doesn't come from nothing. Everyone at school, like, a lot of people knew nothing about the war and were wearing T-shirts saying 'Fuck Bush' and saying 'Bush sucks'.

"I think people should be more informed before hating a person for something."

Let's leave aside the curious perspective that a man who signed off the dropping on depleted uranium and cluster bombs on civilian targets has been in some way "bullied" by a shouty bloke with an arthouse movie, and instead think for a moment about Peaches who, clearly is unlike those people at her school who "knew nothing about the war." Even if she does seem to think that "millions of people" died in the war - terrible though that would be.

Still, "something doesn't come from nothing". Unless, of course, it's intelligence on weapons of mass destruction.

Beyonce kicks sand in Morro's face

More upset at the World Music Awards. James Morrison thinks that Beyonce and her people gave him a raw deal:

"When Beyonce got there her people pushed me out of the way. She stormed past me, and they said, 'The beautiful one has arrived.'"

We're not quite sure what James was expecting - perhaps he thought Beyonce might have paused for a moment and asked for an autograph, or a duet. Maybe he was hoping she'd at least think he was James Blunt.

Jackson's staunch fans want cashback

Things go from bad to worse with the Michael Jackson comeback: after the shambles of the show comes the demand for money back from the people who shelled out cash to see their hero:

"I'm furious," said Katherine Kidd, who spent £200 to get to the show. "I feel like I've been ripped off."

Jackson only sang a few lines of We Are The World before leaving the stage. Thriller was performed by Chris Brown.

"It was a huge anti-climax," said 29-year-old Londoner Zareen Iqbal.

"I just walked off. I saw him with all the kids around him and I thought 'I'm not having any of that'."

"People were expecting something significant but he didn't perform at all," said Abdo Binmadhi, who travelled from Oxford for the show at Earls Court in London.

"When the lights went on I saw people's faces and they were like: 'Is that it?'"

"I should have just stayed at home and watched it on TV... We should definitely get a refund."

You could suggest, though, that someone in 2006 who pays £100 to see Michael Jackson is the architect of their own despair.

The organisers of the World Music Awards are keeping very quiet right now.

Nearly all US radio stations change hands

The worrying dominance of the rabidly right-wing Clear Channel group in the US radio market has now become the worrying dominance of a pair of private equity companies: Thomas H. Lee Partners and Bain Capital. Oh, and the Mays family, who used to own Clear Channel.

The deal values the business at USD18.7billion. {Edited - see comments}

Thomas H Lee recently purchased Univision, which including a number of mainly Hispanic radio networks. We're sure this concentration of radio in still fewer hands will be welcomed by almost nobody, except that bloke off the Monopoly board.

Murderers stalk Jonathan Davis

Back in the early days of this century, Korn's Jonathan Davis had a dream: he wanted to open a museum dedicated to murder and killing and such like, because he's so twisted and macabre, isn't he?

Of course, nothing ever came of it, but he'd managed to get Arthur Rosenblatt involved. Rosenblatt sought compensation for the effort he'd put into trying to make money out of the killing of people somebody loved, and a court action led to the pair making an agreement.

Part of which was that Davis wouldn't slag Rosenblatt off. Trouble is, almost as soon as the ink was dry, Davis gave an interview in which he apparently had a pop at his partner-in-crime-museum. So, they're all going back to court again, with Rosenblatt hoping to get a quarter of a million bucks to make up for all the hurt.

We're considering opening a museum of people who've fallen out trying to open museums. Anyone want to give us a quote on an animatronic Rosenblatt?

Is The Greatest the greatest?

The good people behind the Plug Cartel are accepting votes once more for their annual awards, this year split between general and obsessive categories.

Amongst the nominations:

For album of the year:

Band Of Horses - Everything All The Time (Sub Pop)
Beirut - Gulag Orkestar (Ba Da Bing)
Belle & Sebastian - The Life Pursuit (Matador)
Cat Power - The Greatest (Matador)
Girl Talk - Night Ripper (Illegal Art)
Grizzly Bear - Yellow House (Warp)
J Dilla - Donuts (Stones Throw)
Joanna Newsom - Ys (Drag City)
Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings The Flood (Anti-)
Silversun Pickups - Carnavas (Dangerbird)T
he Hold Steady - Boys And Girls In America (Vagrant)
The Knife - Silent Shout (Mute)

For artist of the year:

Arctic Monkeys
Band Of Horses
Cat Power
Girl Talk
J Dilla
Jenny Lewis With The Watson Twins
M. Ward
Neko Case
Silversun Pickups
The Hold Steady
The Knife
Thom Yorke

Music website of the year:
ILX (I Love Music)

Music blog of the year:

New Artist of the year:

Arctic Monkeys
Band Of Horses
The Black Angels
Cold War Kids
Silversun Pickups
Spank Rock
Tapes 'N Tapes
Tokyo Police Club

There are other categories, many, many categories. It's about as close as you can get to filling out the old Sounds readers poll, where you had to set aside three days to decide on your favourite bass player in a trio, or left-handed drummer in an all-girl rock act.

Gardening leave

It's hard to imagine how excited we are at the news Chris Cornell has recorded a solo album. We're really, really excited, I'm sure you can tell. Quivering wouldn't be putting it too harshly.

Listen to him talk about it:

“It’s not as aggressive as an Audioslave record, but much more experimental. It’s something that I’ve always done - even in the early days of Soundgarden – and I use that as a time to do a lot of things in music I wouldn’t normally do in a band, which is a lot. I could make solo records for the rest of my career and still wouldn’t run out of things to try.”

We really can't imagine how we've survived the seven years - oh, those seven lean years - since his last solo album, called, uh, something or other. We really, really hope he does make solo records for the rest of his career. Can you imagine how great that would be?

The sadness never ends

Fall Out Boy have come up with a name for their next album, and they've elected to not call it Some More Of The Same Stuff.

No, they're going with Infinity on High.

Wentz seems reluctant to explain why they've chosen the title:

"As for what that means in relation to the record, we'll just let it unfold when people hear it."

In other words, they've fond the phrase being used by Van Gogh, thought it sounded good, and slapped it down on a piece of paper.

Horseface singer and Ghostface Killah

Fresh from only just slaughtering the best song she's ever had, Amy Winehouse is setting up the now-obligatory Wu-Tang collab.

She's going to work with Ghostface Killah on the next single, You Know I'm No Good. Hmm, she really has discovered self-awareness, hasn't she?

We've been talking 'bout Jackson, even though the fire's gone out

There had been a promise of a full recreation of the Thriller video.

In the end, what you got from the much-vaunted Michael Jackson comeback performance was a few, weedy lines of We Are The World. BBC News reports it was a bootastic evening:

He then left the stage to boos from the crowd who had still expected him to sing.

He had also been booed by fans outside the venue for failing to meet them when he arrived, after they had queued for several hours.

The show continued with a performance from Rihanna, but just as Jackson fans were about to give up on seeing their icon perform, he reappeared on stage with a choir of 50 young people.

Thriller, in the end, was performed by Chris Brown.

No, us neither.

The performance was so rotten, even Peter Andre and Jordan struggled to remain buoyant:

"I'm disappointed in Jackson but, hey, he's a legend," pop singer Peter Andre told BBC Radio 1.

"I don't care, he should have sung," interrupted his wife, Jordan.

"He sounded really out of tune."

And if Jordan calls you out of tune, you're out of tune.

If you were watching Newsnight last night, you'll have seen early editions of The Sun were running with Jacko on page one with the words "He looks as weird as ever, but he wows music awards" - which, clearly, had been sent to press before Jackson had even left the comfort of his 18 foot wall hotel; by this morning, he'd disappeared totally from the front page to make room for - oh, the shame - Jordan at the same awards.

The Sun is harsher on his performance having had a chance to actually see it:

But expectant punters — who had spent about £100 a ticket for the London event — ended up booing in disgust at the end after he only sang THREE LINES of We Are The World — when he was meant to sing Thriller with R&B star Chris Brown.

Fan Tina Dedman, 34, who came with six girl pals from Essex, said: “We paid in excess of £500 for our tickets. The whole place was booing him.”

The Associated Press suggested that Jackson's performance might have gone on longer:

Instead he appeared on stage and sang among a group of swaying, clapping kids - until the musical accompaniment inexplicably stopped.

Presumably someone flicked a switch to put him out his misery.

Newsround is kinder to Jackson than he probably deserves:

Michael Jackson, who performed even though he said he wouldn't, was given an award for selling over 100 million albums throughout his career.

But their report focuses elsewhere, on James Blunt's victory.
ITN finds some people who didn't believe their money was wasted, although none of them are named:

Many fans were disappointed Jacko didn't sing Thriller but there were mixed reviews of the brief performance he did give. Some were impressed while others claimed his voice faltered.

It's interesting that a lot of reports seem reluctant to mention the most notable aspect of Jacko's show. Luckily, Eurweb wades in:

Ironically, Michael Jackson was surrounded by a bunch of kids during a rendition of his song “We are the World” Wednesday night at the World Music Awards in London, which marked his first performance since he was acquitted of child molestation charges in June of 2005.

Me? Onstage in London, surrounded by children? With my reputation?

The 3AM Girls manage to find an "onlooker" who speaks fluent tabloidese for the Daily Mirror:

An onlooker said: "This was supposed to be the great return of the King of Pop but it ended up an absolute utter shambles."

Jackson, 48, was just four lines into his charity song We Are The World when his voice began to crack and falter.

Looking bemused, he stopped singing and started rambling to the stunned audience at the World Music Awards last night: "I love you, I love you."

One onlooker said: "This was supposed to be the great return of the King of Pop but it ended up a shambles.

"He must have performed to bigger crowds than that thousands of times but he seemed overawed and petrified.

"When he stopped singing no one could understand why. But when he started rambling a lot of people lost their patience with him. That's when the booing started and got louder and louder until he left the stage."

The Daily Record claims that the stuttering show nearly didn't happen at all, as Jackson decided he wanted a wall built backstage:

Earlier he had plunged the awards show into crisis by threatening to pull out of the event unless a wall was built to separate him from the other entertainers backstage.

His tantrum came a day after he ordered a wall knocked down at the five-star Hempel Hotel where he is staying to create a playroom for his three kids.

And that's not all. He even refused to step foot inside the Earl's Court Arena for rehearsals on the eve of the show - because his dressing room was not big enough.

A source said: "Questions were being asked whether he was even going to sing at the show because of it. So a big compound was built for him instead."

And while the other guests, including Beyonce, Nelly Furtado and Paris Hilton, were happy to feast on £20,000 of in-house caviar, fois gras and sushi, Jacko asked for his sushi to be delivered from Nobu, and KFC to be brought in for his entourage.

There's a glimpse into life inside the Jacko compound: the ex-King Constantine of Pop feasting on sushi while his lackeys are thrown a bargain bucket of gristle and grease.

Still, it's not all bad reviews: had a cracking time:

Jacko returns to stage for a thrilling show - Thursday November 16th 2006: FALLEN King of Pop, Michael Jackson, made his first British stage appearance in nine years at the World Music Awards last night.

Jackson (48) recreated his famous graveyard 'Thriller' video, on the 25th anniversary year of the hit album. The US star, who last performed in Britain in 1997, made his comeback appearance at last night's glittering event.

Were they even at the same, etc, etc?

The awards - yeah, like anyone cares - in full, then:

BEST DJ: Bob Sinclar

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

We must have missed the marches

Here's a surprising fact: the majority of British consumers want to pay more for their music.

Oh, hang on. Maybe they don't.

In support of the push to try and extend the term of copyright in recorded works to an eye-watering 95 years, the BPI have co-opted you, me and everybody and is claiming that we're all gagging for copyright extension:

New research shows a majority of British consumers support the record industry’s battle for extended copyright protection for UK artists.

62 per cent of those polled agreed that UK artists should be protected for the same number of years as their American counterparts, by extending the term of copyright for sound recordings from its current 50 years to 95 years.

The YouGov poll, commissioned by the BPI, the British recording industry trade association, found only 20 per cent of respondents did not agree that copyright should be brought in line with the US, while 18 per cent were unsure.

It's unclear from the BPI's treatment of the report it commissioned exactly what the 62% who were polled was being asked. Interestingly, YouGov does publish results of surveys it conducts on its website, but only when the commissioning organisation agrees. We wonder why the BPI hasn't elected to allow the survey to be published and instead just ripped a single figure and no clear indication of the question they were responding to. It's almost as if they're afraid that the actual results might not support them, or something.

We do know that the respondents were drawn from the YouGov panel - who, while weighted to represent the UK demographic for various surveys, are drawn from people who actively volunteer to join. YouGov encourages these volunteers by offering cash for completing questionaires. Which doesn't make their figures automatically suspect, but does raise a question over how random their sample is - all their panels are all self-selecting respondents who get a payday for providing answers.

YouGov conduct all their polling online - in other words, they somehow manage to claim a representative cross-section of the nation despite having no way of including the over 30% of adults who've never used the internet [source: Office of National Statistics, cited in Citizens Online]. So even without the BPI's reticence to fully declare the exact details of the survey making it hard to judge the value of their headline figure, it's questionable how representative this really is anyway.

The BPI have also published a little booklet for the benefit of MPs[pdf] considering the proposal, in which they explain how extending the length of copyright in recordings will fund the glorious British music industry's investment in A&R for the good of future generations. (Although, of course, the "British music industry" mainly consists of the Germano-Japanese Sony-BMG, the American Warners, the French Universal and plucky little British EMI.)

We're slightly confused by this, though: didn't Cliff Richard tell everybody that the extension in copyright terms was intended to provide artists with a pension in their old age? How can it simultaneously be shoring up profit and loss in the record companies and keeping ageing rockers in red wine and slippers?

Brown sticky moments at the Hall of Fame

Gordon Brown must be wondering where it all went wrong - how is it you can go to an event designed to extend the Beatle worship industry by a further country mile, inducing Sir George "if the Beatles ever did drugs, they never did so in front of me" Martin into the UK Music Hall of Fame, share a running order with Johnny Borrell playing Beatles songs accompanied by Queen's Roger Taylor and yet you're the one who gets booed?

In what way is that fair?

Ooh, matron

Times are tough for nurses - hell, in the South East, even doctors can't afford homes - but here's something to cheer them up: George Michael is going to give them a treat.

No, no, not sharing his massive fortune, or even handing over what's left of his body to medical science. But he's going to play a free gig for NHS nurses, which is a nice gesture.

He's making good on a decade-old promise:

"Almost 10 years ago, during the last week of my mother's life, I told my friends and family that if I ever played my own concerts again, I would make sure to do a free one for NHS nurses."

Andrew Ridgeley has also offered to entertain as many nurses as he can in an evening, but police are promising to intervene if he tries.

Supporting creative people everywhere

Earlier on this week, our inbox got all pingy as an email from a PR company reached us, bringing the "secret" special Zune launch gigs to our attention.

What we thought was quite interesting in this mail was the last couple of lines:

This email has been sent with an unregistered version of MaxBulk Mailer. MaxBulk Mailer is a new easy-to-use mail merge software for Macintosh

So, the PR company handling the launch gigs use Macs, eh? Who wouldn't. Although, of course, the Zune isn't Mac-compatible, so they won't actually be able to use the device they're busily promoting.

Oh, and they haven't paid the seventy bucks to register the bulk mailing software they're using. We'd imagine the people at MaxBulk would have enjoyed the irony at the thought of gigs promoting a device which will pay a royalty to cover ghost IP rights to Universal Records being pushed by a company who haven't even paid them for the software they're using.

Kooks light flick causes cop shock

As soon as anyone suggests a get-together of more than about three people in the City of Brighton, Hove and Portslade, the Sussex Police fly into a panic warning that terrible things will happen. In a way, they're like your elderly relative - and everyone has one of these, unless Madonna has kidnapped you away from them - who tuts whenever you tell them what you're going to be doing at the weekend: "ooh... you're going to Corby? Lots of murder in Corby. And robbery. You'd better put your wallet inside your stomach, walk sideways and not look anyone in the eye."

After finally having been persuaded that Fatboy Slim can do a beach gig, providing only six people come and they all have barcodes and tickets and two police escorts, now they're shaking with fear over plans for The Kooks to play a few songs at the official switching-on of the Christmas lights in George Street, Hove.

The whole event has now had to be shoved off inside The Slug and Lettuce instead.

Gavin Stewart, Hove Town Centre Manager, said: "This event proves that Hove really is the place to be.

"There is a real buzz of excitement about what businesses can achieve if we all work together. If Hove can follow Brighton's lead by creating a Business Improvement District, this is just a taster of things to come."

Mmm. Although the panic on the part of police and local licensing people - who only heard of the outdoor gig, erm, yesterday and the need for the pub to sweep in and save the plans - does suggest there's some sort of inability to organise a knees-up without the aid of a brewery up the posher end of the city.

Still, it is quite a coup to get the Kooks booked for the turning-on of the lights, which is sure to attract numerous shoppers to the tiny Woolworths, the Co-Op, that furniture shop which sells bedside tables for a tenner that are quite good, considering, and whatever took over the old Sainsburys Freezer Centre when that closed.

Even although, erm, it's not even The Kooks, as such:

However, Andy Walker, from the Hove Business Association Committee, played down the scale of The Kooks' performance.

He said only two band members, not including singer Luke Pritchard, would be present while the rest of the band play in France.

It's not clear what they're going to do about the singing bits.

How the Fall are mighty

Mark E Smith is about to release his autobiography, Renegade: The Gospel According To Mark E Smith, next April, followed by a series of short stories.

It's no mean feat for Mark E Smith to complete his own life story - to be honest, it'd be a surprise to discover he can remember where he lives, let alone what he was doing fifteen years ago.

Reformation, the new Fall album, will turn up in the first few weeks of 2007.

It's curious that the NME headlines all this activity as John Peel's favourite band announce new album - we'd love to see a pie chart showing the number of people who haven't heard of the Fall for whom the description as John Peel's Favourite Band would make them any more interested in reading the story. Presumably that's the 'big enough fan of John Peel to accept his posthumous recommendation but has never yet come across any of the sixty million raves about The Fall he's left behind him' demographic.

All that you can't leave behind

Bono will be delighted that he's had a chance to reclaim his hat, as the courts once again tell Lola Cashman that she must return his hat and some other stuff.

Cashman insisted that Bono had given her the hat to keep:

During the appeal hearing, she claimed Bono was running around in his underwear backstage at the Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona on the last night of the tour when she asked him for the hat.

The court was told he "plonked" it on her head.

Clearly, though, she was lying as anyone who had seen Bono in his knickers would surely have clawed out their own eyes.

So, Bono gets back his tat, and only looks slightly more petty than we thought he might be.

Of course, it also demonstrates that the band were using a stylist as far back as twenty years ago, which does raise a question over to what extent U2's image is theirs, and how much is down to Lola Cashman. We wonder if she could bring a court action demanding that Bono returns her ideas and forces him to grow back the mullet?

Press Complaints Commission oks Mail Doherty stalkage

The Press Complaints Commission - the self-appointed, self-selecting, self-populating body which somehow "regulates" the UK newspaper industry has rejected a complaint about the Daily Express from The Priory.

The private sort-of-clinic place complained that the Mail journalist had “wilfully breached the code by entering the private grounds of the hospital without asking permission and not immediately making her presence known to hospital management.

The Mail countered that she'd turned up, found no security on the gate, the barrier up, and went straight to the front desk and said "I am a Daily Mail journalist."

(We'd have thought going up to people who work in the mental health industry and claiming to be a Mail journalist is the sort of behaviour that would have you led straight down the shock corridor.)

She was there seeking after news of Pete Doherty - nobody pointed out that it's virtually impossible to violate the publicity of a man who hands out interviews every time he passes a stool.

The PCC observed, fairly enough, that it's kind of tricky for a journalist to declare their presence to someone who isn't there, and rejected the complaint.

They were unable to consider a complaint from Justin Hawkins that nobody was interested in violating his privacy.

My two mums

Those of you with long-ish memories might remember a stock photo newspapers would sometimes run to illustrate stories on gay rights about gays of a small child carrying a banner "My mum's gay and I love her." That small child turns out to be Dan Gillespie of The Feeling.

The Sun describes Dan's interview as "coming out in a spectacular fashion", although the paper seems to have missed the slightly key aspect of coming out is that nobody's meant to know you're gay beforehand. Unless things have changed since I were a lad and now you;re not gay until you make a formal announcement in one of the tabloids.

Saints not marching in

You'll recall a few weeks back, The Sun reported straight-faced that All Saints moved their album release date to avoid being caught in a spousal-battle with Oasis.

It turns out they needn't have worried: first day album sales for Studio 1 were just 2,975, which puts them at 41 so far.

Perhaps their target market all went on holiday at the same time.

Jacko: Anything Israel and East Germany can do, I can do better

For a man with financial problems, Michael Jackson is throwing it about a bit on his visit to London for the World Music Awards: he's had his hotel build an 18 foot wall for protect his privacy.

Or maybe the Bayswater Hempel Hotel has put in the wall to protect its other guests from Jackson, come to think of it.

Certainly, the midnight trip to Top Shop suggests that Jackson's starting to watch his pennies a little more closely. Philip Green, owner of the chain, opened the doors specially for him and greeted the former entertainer. Wonder if Jacko took the opportunity to expand his well-reported comments on Green's co-religionists as Green danced attendance on him.

On a busy trip, Jackson also dropped by the Guinness publishing offices, to pick up some sort of award. Since he's hardly troubled the team who compile the British Hit Singles and Albums of late, it fell to the Book of Records people to deal with him - they presented a prize for Most Successful Entertainer of All Time: although that sounds so made-up: on what basis is this "success" measured?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Bookmarks: Some other stuff to read

Billboard watches as Microsoft and AOL try to go all indie: Bill Wilson, senior vice president of programing for AOL, says the indie-rock community is a natural fit given its strong involvement with digital music.

Wired - Momus reports on how technology now puts back the noises it takes out: Some people took the crackle fetish much further than I did. Around the turn of the century, Carsten Nicolai, recording as Alva Noto, managed to turn tiny particles of audio dust into drum kits. And Stefan Betke released a series of records under the name Pole which consisted almost entirely of dubbed-up crackle generated with a broken Waldorf D-Pole filter.

Side-Line redesign, worry they might scare away their Gothcore readers: Because for those that have been in the dungeons for a while, the scene is getting more and more coloured: fluo hair extensions, fluo shoes, fluo T-shirts, fluo bags and so on and so on. Add to this that CD covers are getting more and more colorful and you can only decide that black only is over and out as far as the complete 'dark' scene is considered.

LA Weekly features L7's Jennifer Finch's 14 And Shooting photo exhibition of West Coast 1980s punks: Macias sang predominantly about Christianity and even briefly started his own ministry. Vallejo says the other band members were not into it. “That was really John’s whole thing,” he says. “He was into religion and incorporated it into the lyrics. People started wondering if we were Christians, but then thought we couldn’t be because they [the Family] were beating people up at gigs.”

The New York Times' David Pogue weighs up the Zune: What’s really nuts is that the restrictions even stomp on your own musical creations. Microsoft’s literature suggests that if you have a struggling rock band, you could “put your demo recordings on your Zune” and “when you’re out in public, you can send the songs to your friends.” What it doesn’t say: “And then three days later, just when buzz about your band is beginning to build, your songs disappear from everyone’s Zunes, making you look like an idiot.”

Guardian Weekend meets the men who wrote 'hit prediction software', and ponders if it means the end for A&R: Mostly, McCready tries hard not to claim that his software will mean death for A&R people, the record-label talent spotters who build their careers on their gut instincts. But then he uses a metaphor that revealed how radically he plans to change the industry. "If you design a race car that's only marginally better than the other race cars, and put it in the hands of a much inferior driver, he's not going to beat Michael Schumacher," he says. "But if you give an inferior driver a race car that can go at the speed of sound ... well, you probably are going to beat Michael Schumacher."

Zune has a model in brown, you know

As Microsoft's long-awaited (Redmond perspective only) Zune player gets to market, Apple shows the scale of what they're up against by announcing plans by six airlines to make their inflight entertainment iPod-integrated. In other words, you'll be able to plug your pod into the seat in front - assuming you're not stuck behind one of those idiots who insist on reclining into your lap as soon as the plane leaves the tarmac, and watch your video content on the screen in the back of the chair.

70 per cent of new cars sold in America next year will also be easy to link to your iPod.

Microsoft has some catching up to do. But it does offer a model in brown, a market segment hitherto ignored by Apple for some reason.

Ready your bidirectional exclamation points

iForward Russia! clearly intend to best their record of 389 gigs in a year by doing even more next year, and are going to start with a honking great tour during the winter:

15th February - Liverpool, Academy 2
16th - Manchester, Academy 2
17th - Newcastle, Northumbria University
18th - Glasgow, Garage
19th - Aberdeen, Lemon Tree
21st - Edinburgh, Liquid Rooms
22nd - Belfast, Speakeasy
23rd - Dublin, Whelans
24th - Birmingham, Academy 2
25th - Norwich, Waterfront
27th - Oxford, Zodiac
2nd March - Southampton, University
3rd - Brighton, Concorde 2
4th - Bristol, Bierkeller
5th - Stoke, Sugarmill
6th - Leeds, Metropolitan University

You'll note this leaves them with January free. The Scottish Islands would love to see you, people...

He'll vend you umbrellas then go on his way singing toodle-oodle-oodle-oodle-ey...

Tucked into the latest batch of complaints investigated by Ofcom (they're like the Justice League of America, only they're British and have a mighty programme code instead of the ability to shoot lasers out their eyes) was a series of complaints from Charles Ejogo. He was the man who wanted to put umbrella vending machines on London Underground stations and sought the support of the rich, self-obsessed vanity gnomes who make up the panel on Dragon's Den. He was upset by what he took to be slights against him in last December's follow up show.

Amongst a number of complaints - dismissed, it should be noted, by Ofcom - was that he didn't like the soundtrack on his segment:

Mr Ejogo complained that the music played during his contribution portrayed a “cowboy-type” image of him.

Ofcom appreciates that a well selected soundtrack can both directly and indirectly communicate to an audience. It is possible for a lyric or tune, to evoke an emotional response and help the viewer interpret programme footage. Ofcom sought to determine whether the lyrics or music played during Mr Ejogo’s story acted to portray Mr Ejogo in an unfair way.

The following songs were played during Mr Ejogo’s contribution:

Artist Song
Moby : Run On
Coldplay : A Whisper
Supergrass : Coffee in the Pot
Blur : The Universal
Blur : To the end

After listening to the above song list, Ofcom was unable to associate any of the songs with a well known “cowboy”, “western” or in particular any negatively associated “cowboy-type” image. Added to this, the complainant did not provide Ofcom any supporting evidence that the music played during his contribution was associated with that of a “cowboy” theme.

Based on Ofcom’s assessment of the soundtrack, and in the absence of any convincing evidence from Mr Ejogo, Ofcom found that the music played during Mr Ejogo’s contribution did not portray a “cowboy-type” image and found no unfairness to the complainant in this respect.

We would have enjoyed seeing someone attempt to demonstrate that nice South-East schoolboys Albarn, Martin and Coombes were in some way actually country music artists; although to be fair, if anyone overlaid Moby on top of footage of us we'd be pretty sore about it. We would love to see To The End's Last Year in Marienbad video reworked as a Western, though.

MTV axe Russell

It probably won't bother him overmuch, but MTV are axing Russell Brand's 1 Leicester Square programme at the end of the year.

It's the second time they've parted company with him - they dumped him the first time because he turned up for work on 12th September 2001 dressed as Bin Laden. This time round, there's still an element dead-eyed, muddled-headed, cold-hearted ruthlessness, but it's on MTV's part. The Evening Standard reports:

MTV said it wanted to focus on producing more entertainment series in the mould of Totally Boyband, Virgin Diaries and Pimp My Ride UK.

Mmm. Why would a music TV network want to waste money having a show where bands played music when they could, instead, show people having me-so-vapid stripes on the side of their Volkswagen Beetles?

On the other hand, Brand's latest show did feature Ben Elton as a guest, so maybe an hour of a mumbling incoherent attacking his car with the contents of a downtown Orlando Motorists Discount Centre would be preferable.

The Prince in the playground

Jim McCabe brings this story of what is, in effect, the sound of the mighty falling: a report from Prince finally embracing his inner Wayne Newton and starting his residency in Las Vegas. As Jim points out, the rush to deny the Purple One is now entering a market where his peers are Celine Dion and Cirque Du Soleil is just a little too hasty.

Be undressed and ready, my angel

What we love most about the announcement that Sarah Harding out of Girls Aloud has the hots for Carl Barat is the way it confirms that, yes, popstars live in different worlds to indie stars:

"I like rock boys. I saw Carl recently and I was like: 'Who is THAT?'" The girls looked him up on the internet."

Never mind judges being out of touch - someone who works in the music industry managing to be unaware of the existence of Carl Barat despite, you know, the whole Libertines having been mentioned once or twice in the newspapers over the last three years or so. We've got visions of Cheryl Tweedy leaning over the Google saying "apparently he was in a band with someone called Pete Do Hurty..."

We can only hope this leads to GA doing a cover of You Fucking Love It next year.

A writ-er shade of pale

We suspect that Justice Blackburne has been unfairly accused of not being with in the court report in today's Daily Mirror. Covering the first day of evidence into claims by Matthew Fisher, Procul Harum organist, that he should have got more cash from his contribution to the tune, Fisher's barrister Ian Purvis checked that the judge knew his Procul from his Prolapse:

"The issue before you concerns the ownership of musical copyright in the work A Whiter Shade of Pale.

"In these type of cases, one always risks a 'What are the Beatles' moment but I hazard a guess that your Lordship remembers."

The judge's response was a put-upon "I am of an age, yes." But he gave a hard stare to the next gambit:

Mr Purvis reminded the judge that this year the song was "given a name check in the number one single I Wish I Was a Punk Rocker (with flowers in my hair) by Sandi Thom".

The court erupted in laughter as the judge remained silent and fixed Mr Purvis with a blank stare.

We're not so sure that that stare would have been blank. After all, the judge was a music student, so it's possible the mention of Thom's confused attempts to merge Chairman Mao's Little Red, and the Smash Hits Year, Books created a sense of hostility in his belly, represented by a warning stare. Or, maybe he - like the rest of the world - fails to see why the song got a mention in another song influences the case at all. Either the deal cut for Fisher was fair, or it was not fair. The fairness is unaffected by the success of the track, although the sense of biterness may be inflated as a result.

The case continues.

Babyshambles against the racists

Drew McConnell, out of Babyshambles, is organising a Love Music, Hate Racism event due for Fabric on November 30th.

There's the people you'd expect to turn up at an event organised by one of Babyshambles (The View, Mystery Jets, The Paddingtons, Lupen Crook) and the sort of people who you'd hope would swing by an anti-racism event (Terry Hall and Jerry Dammers). It's a great cause, top entertainment, and all for sixteen quid. And, with the BNP apparently being told by the courts that it's just this side of legal to go round stirring up shit, more important than ever.

Drew says:

"The work LMHR is doing is incredible, it restores my faith in humanity's ability to feel solidarity and indignation at injustice, and actually act on it. LMHR continues to bring to our attention the reality of what's going on with the BNP, and how they prey on some of Britain's most troubled areas.

"What we have is music, so join us, a motley crew of indie bands, grime acts and drum'n'bass DJs to help send a unified message to the BNP - Britain is a multicultural society and that's how we like it."

Although we must stress that its a "Motley crew of indie bands" and not "Motley Crue and indie bands".

Dinotour junior

Dinosaur Jr have announced a handful of US dates - although, remember, dinosaurs have larger hands than you or I:

Portland The Big Easy - November 28;
Boston Paradise Rock Club - 29;
Northampton Pearl Street - 30;
New York Rebel - December 1 & 2

Robbie Williams is not a pantomime dame

So, it's come to this: Robbie Williams is doing panto.

Oh, yes he... oh, please yourselves.

He's going to appear as hologram genie in the Stoke Regent's Aladdin, which is starring - oh, the surprise - Jonathan Wilkes.

It sounds like a cracking night out - yelling "Robbie Williams is behind you" at Wilkes is something every tabloid editor and gossip hound dreams of.

It's also the second time this year Williams has appeared as a hologram - he was there in annoyingly unpunchable form during the Take That gigs. Perhaps he's only prepared to appear like this now, and Parkinson will have to listen to some lightbulbs blubbing about how nobody understands how difficult it is being rich.

Let's try not to think of the actual jobbing actor who would have loved the chance to play the genie and earn some money at Christmas who's been elbowed aside by a magic lantern version of a pop star.

Can't get away to carry you today, my life won't let me

We're going to just smile and nod and accept Kylie's explanation for not making good on a promise to join Bono onstage at U2's Sydney gig, returning the "favour" when Bono crashed Kylie's date.

Ms Mingoue suggested she was too whacked out from the dates she'd played to show up.

And any suggestion she didn't want to be walked on leash by Bono as some sort of trophy is unfair.

Golden age of leather

Oh, those Sugababes - they're just teasers, aren't they? Still, Keisha's apparent crush on the Coles is more interesting than Charlotte Church's feud with them. Lock your doors (or don't) Cheryl, here comes Keisha:

"I have a little crush on Cheryl and Ashley as a couple. They are lovely.

“I bought Cheryl a diamond-encrusted whip from Agent Provocateur for their honeymoon."

Amelle pipes up, too:

“A bit of arse whipping - there's nothing wrong with that!"

It would make a great deal of sense if the 'babes are really into sadomasochism - it's probably the only way they've managed to survive the atmosphere in the band for the last decade.

Pete's priest pops pills

We're not going to suggest for a moment that it's anything to do with spending time with Pete Doherty, but the Reverend Robert Pearson, the jail chaplain who worked with Doherty while he was in Pentonville, has been suspended for allegedly using a "Class A drug":

“I have a reckless streak. I’ve been leading a double life.”

Okay, "leading a double life" implies that maybe it's not been a single E during a Redemption TV concert.

It does give the Sun the perfect excuse to use the More E, Vicar headline.

Instant live recordings qualify for the chart

In what smacks to us as something of the opening of a glorious loophole through which unscrupulous managers may choose to crawl, recordings made and sold at gigs are to count towards the chart.

The recordings - which people like to pretend are in some way bootlegs, although, of course, they're official - are at first only going to count in single format, as they've only been around years and the chart people don't want to rush into anything. Although who'd buy a live single as they left a gig? If the experience was so terrible you'd only want one song from it, would you really bother?

There's also what seems to be a somewhat unnecessarily complicated download system as well, which involves buying a scratchcard or something that you can use to put in a unique code when you get home. The idea being, you can limit puchases to people who went to the gig.

The idea is to stop proper bootlegging; this seems to assume that you'd only ever want to own a copy of a live gig which you attended, as if people who buy bootleg tapes spend their evenings trying to hear themselves cheering in the audience. The actual outcome would seem to be making illegal bootlegging easier, by providing high-quality CD copies of the gig to be used as a master - unless the music is made available to people who didn't attend as well.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Universal Music Boss: Your mp3 player is full of swag

Why would you bother buying Universal artists tracks for your mp3 player? UMG chairman/CEO Doug Morris basically says your iPod, your Rio - yes, even your PlaysForSure Microsoft DRMed machine - is little more than :

"These devices are just repositories for stolen music, and they all know it. So it's time to get paid for it."

The only fine, upstanding citizen, of course, is the Zune, which Universal gets a cut of sales from. And since nobody has a Zune yet, if you have an mp3 player, Universal Music Group believes you're a thief.

Has any industry ever treated its customers with such contempt while remaining so successful?

Who dressed the dogs up?

In between getting into trouble at airports, Snoop Dogg has apparently been busy signing off a line of dog clothes and toys bearing his brand:

The Snoop Dogg pet line, which will be marketed by JPI, will include dog toys, apparel and accessories inspired by the rapper himself, including items featuring a sound chip that plays signature Snoop Dogg phrases.

Dog apparel. We're not sure if this marks the point where Snoop turns from The Most Evil Man in Rap into some sort of dancing bear/Vanilla Ice hybrid, or if we missed the actual moment that happened.

Kevin Federline rocks too hard for Hard Rock

The Hard Rock Hotel is, like the overpriced burger bar of the same name, not really very rock and certainly not hard - a more honest, though less tourist friendly, title might be The Mild Humming Hotel.

So it's not surprising that when a prostitute claimed she'd spent a weekend with Kevin and some drugs at the Las Vegas Hard Rock, the chain rushed forward to issue denials.

The hooker Danielle Coakley - coakley by name and by nature - reckons she spent some quality time with Kevin:

"Kevin was a real party animal. We went to two casinos then went back to his hotel suite in Vegas. There were lots of drugs - cocaine, weed and ecstasy."

Stripper Vanessa Hulihan also reckons she got to know Kevin well while there (whatever happened to 'what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, eh?'):

"Kevin said we could be together if he wasn't married. Another time I went to his hotel suite and the tub was full of strippers."

Hard Rock spokesperson Jeff Beacher denies anything of the sort would have taken place in front of their valuable collections of The Seekers' hatbands and the drumsticks used by Hermans Hermits:

"Anyone that can take a stripper and a hooker seriously obviously has their own issues. "We were with Kevin all weekend - no drugs and no girls."

Well done, Jeff, for the implication that sex workers are, by their very nature, liars and untrustworthy - and, of course, in a battle for the moral high ground between a sex worker and a bloke who left his pregnant partner for a richer woman ("someone else"), of course you'd side with K-Fed.

We're a little alarmed, too, by the suggestion that the Hard Rock Cafe didn't let Federline out their sight for an entire weekend. Just where are the cctv cameras hidden in the rooms there?

Pink wants to make Beyonce's ass sore

Pink, as we know, is fond of the animals. Like Doctor Doolittle with tats and a gym membership, she is. So she's not likely to hold back when she sees colleagues who are slightly less big with the animal-rightsing.

Like Beyonce, for example:

Beyonce 'is a bitch!'

'Some of the practices are so cruel and as a celebrity you have a responsibility to think about the message you're sending out by wearing fur.

'People will think it's ok or cool, but it's not.

Pink also declared: 'I only hope she gets bit on the ass by whatever animal she wears.'

Beyonce hopes so, too, which is why she's started wearing the pelts of hot long-limbed boys to nightclubs.

Bono: My mate Madge is right

Spectacularly missing the point, Bono has defended Madonna's adoption of David:

“Madonna should be applauded for helping to take a child out of the worst poverty imaginable and giving him a better chance in life.

“Baby David is lucky to have been adopted by someone who can give him a chance of survival in this world and I don’t think it’s fair that people are criticising her.”

Aw, poor Madonna being criticised. It's so unfair, isn't it?

Of course, Bono has totally missed the main objection is the way that Madonna has adopted - her magic fast-track which means nobody has had any chance to consider if she is the right person to be guardian of David. But then Bono is rich himself, and probably doesn't understand that just because you can grease wheels and ignore laws doesn't make it acceptable.

He also seems more worried about Madonna's feelings than the feelings of the father - who, clearly, has doubts about the whole process.

And Vox doesn't even consider the argument - put forcibly by people like Duncan Balantyne who have been working with orphans in Malawi for years - that it's far more important and valuable to help the children in situ; that the money goes further, helps more than one child and can be vital to helping reinvigorate an entire neighbourhood.

But then, it's wrong of us to be unfair to Madonna.

Syd's family writes will; does rather nicely from will

Because he was too far gone to be trusted to do it for himself, Syd Barrett's family wrote his will for him:

The guitarist’s £1.25million estate was shared among his two sisters and brother.

Some fairies and elves had intended to contest the will, claiming they had a later one which proved they were due to inherit, but their will was improperly witnessed by a unicorn and a bloke who came to read the gas meter.

Some things hurt more, much more than cars and girls

We wondered if the disappearance of Cerys Matthews from the line-up for Sky One's The Race (or I'm A Celebrity, Get Me Into Gear) would have come at roughly the time Richard Hammond had his accident and reminded people that, even if you know what you're doing, driving fast cars is bloody dangerous.

This morning, we wonder if Ms Dynamite is wishing she'd stepped down, too, as she wakes up in hospital following an accident on the show - apparently Brian Johnson of AC/DC clipped her from behind, sending her into a spin.

She was taken from the racetrack, but was said to be conscious and was being kept in for observation.

The part of Robbie Williams will be played by Mr. Vox

Would you be entitled to your money back if you'd bought a ticket for the Kylie tour, waited patiently and hopefully while she struggled with cancer, and then turned up at the rescheduled date only to find bloody Bono on stage?

Bono joined Kylie for the second night in Sydney, doing the male part on Kids. A part originally written for a self-pitying multimillionaire, of course.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Elton takes on Pope, Chief Rabbi, and all comers

Having taken aim at his employers last week, this weekend Elton John is taking on organised religion. All of it.

Elton meets with Jake Shears out the Scissor Sisters for the Observer Music Magazine gay issue - which obviously collapses into a predictable "me too" session that it hardly seems worth the effort of bringing them into the same room. Elton and, say, Chris Moyles - that might have revealed something interesting about one or both men, and their sexuality and attitudes. Jake Shears and one of the boyband closeteers, like Gateley - that may have been worthwhile, watching one man who built his career on his sexuality, and one who hid his sexuality for the sake of his career.

But Jake Shears meets Elton John? It's just lucky that Elton still blurts things out without thinking:

I've got this really naive idea of what life should be like - it's an idealistic idea but it's completely integrated. We can't keep thinking of gay people as being ostracised; we can't keep thinking of Muslim people as being [ostracised] because of the fundamentalism that occurs in Islam. Muslim people have to do something about speaking up about it. We can't judge a book by its cover.

From my point of view I would ban religion completely, even though there are some wonderful things about it. I love the idea of the teachings of Jesus Christ and the beautiful stories about it, which I loved in Sunday school and I collected all the little stickers and put them in my book. But the reality is that organised religion doesn't seem to work. It turns people into hateful lemmings and it's not really compassionate.

The world is near escalating to World War Three and where are the leaders of each religion? Why aren't they having a conclave; why aren't they coming together? I said this after 9/11 and people thought I was nuts: instead of more violence why isn't there a [meeting of religious leaders]. It's all got to be dialogue - that's the only way. Get everybody from each religion together and say 'Listen, this can't go on. Why do we have all this hatred?'

We are all God's people; we have to get along and the [religious leaders] have to lead the way. If they don't do it, who else is going to do it? They're not going to do it and it's left to musicians or to someone else to deal with it. It's like the peace movement in the Sixties - musicians got through [to people] by getting out there and doing peace concerts but we don't seem to do them any more. We seem to be doing fundraisers for Africa and everything like that but I think peace is really important. If John Lennon were alive today he'd be leading it with a vengeance.

We're not quite sure how one would lead a peace movement "with a vengeance" but it's sentimentalist twaddle to assume that Lennon would be organising peace marches. Lennon would be too busy organising his tax affairs to do anything of the sort.

Clearly, Elton hasn't even allowed this thought to half-form before sharing it with us - what the hell is a "hateful lemming" when it's at home? Something that really thinks it deserves to commit suicide?

And while we're no big fans of the Pope round here, it seems a little bit unfair to blame the Vatican for all the wars; Bush and Blair might think they're God's anointed but they're hardly representatives of an organised religion any more than Bin Laden or the Taliban are? And if Elton is really convinced that the leaders of organised religion are full of hatred and busily attempting to attack gays, how can he simultaneously suggest that they're the people who should be giving leadership and bringing peace?

Do you want organised religion banned, Elton, or do you want it at the centre of a more loving world? You can't have both.

If the leaders of the great world religions did come together, and announce they'd managed to whittle their various Bibles and Korans and Torahs and Rules of Association Football into a single, workable version of the truth, would that for a moment persuade the manufacturers of cluster bombs and the uranium depleters to go "blimey... better close up the shop, then."

Elton then splutters up this gem:

I think religion has always tried to turn hatred towards gay people. Religion promotes the hatred and spite against gays. But there are so many Christian people I know who are gay and love their religion ...

Now, it's true that a lot of religious people do seek to cause misery for gay men and women, but to suggest that all religion makes its number one priority the persecution of gays is the sort of silly, slapdash stereotyping which would have Elton painting banners against if it was directed at gay men. Indeed, blinkered, unsubtle way in which Elton manages to pull all religious people into one mass and demonise them for an attitude he's assigning them is, surely, precisely the sort of thing he's calling organised religion on?