Saturday, November 01, 2008

Leons leave Liam livid

It's confusing, isn't it, Liam Gallagher, when bands don't just make the same record over and over again?

"I like Kings Of Leon, but I don't know about this fucking new record. I like the old stuff. I like (singer Caleb Followill's) voice. When they first come out I was going, 'Who the fuck is this?' They were cool, and now they've all got their sleeves cut off.
"It seems to me they've gone for the bucks, man. I'm not dissing (insulting) them because I fucking really like them, but it's like they've got this U2 sound and you can do better than that."

I should point out that it's ContactMusic who feel their audience might not understand the concept of 'dissing' and thus needed to have it explained for them.

The Kings Of Leon have so far resisted the temptation to point out being lectured on making poor-quality cash-cow albums by Oasis is like getting told by Sarah Palin that you should read more.

Ross & Brand: Parkinson weighs in

The descent of public debate continues: Now, Michael Parkinson has decided he simply must say something. He must, he must:

Speaking on Radio 5 Live he branded the calls "obscene, tasteless and unfunny".

He added that he had no sympathy for Brand, who resigned last week, but claimed Ross would bounce back.

"He's very good at his job but he's given to fits of madness now and again." Ross has been suspended from the BBC for 12 weeks without pay.

"In the end what Brand did, and what Jonathan did, was indefensible."

"Jonathan should have more oil in his lamp frankly, more sense," Sir Michael told Eammon Holmes.

"I don't have an opinion on the other guy," he continued. "He's generously called a comedian."

You know, a catty 'generously called a comedian' sounds surprisingly like Parkinson having an opinion on him to me. But then the very idea of Michael Parkinson claiming not to have an opinion on something is, in itself, somewhat difficult to believe.

Pumpkins carved-up on Halloween

Judging by the chilly reaction of the DoneWaiting Message Board, the forty bucks a throw Smashing Pumpkins gig in Ohio last night was all trick, little treat:

the first hour was acoustic (though all the guitars were distorted) and featured covers such as "monster mash", "wipeout" and "hang on sloopy". there were no pumpkins songs. it was amusing for a couple songs, but wore thin when the band seemed to not really know how to play said tunes.

One poster suggested that it was like being hit in the face by Billy Corgan's dick - which, of course, some people would still pay good money for.

Newman's back hurts, back home

Randy Newman has put his tour on hold as he's got a bad back. He's promising to get to Europe just as soon as he can.

It really is a bad back; it's not that he can't face another round of local radio and TV interviews where he has to talk almost exclusively about Short People.

Friday, October 31, 2008

AC-DC excel themselves

The tie-up with Wal-Mart might be lucrative, but it's hardly impressive. However, you can't help but be impressed with the band's boundary-breaking Exel-based music video:

Haven't they burned down Broadcasting House yet?

Being over in America, it's a little difficult to believe that this Russell Brand story is actually happening - it's hard to believe two grown-up men could have made the programme they did; hard to believe that anyone let it play out unedited; hard to believe that the reaction has got so far out of hand as to wind up with Lesley Douglas quitting from Radio 2 and 6Music.

For now, though, we seem stuck in the unedifying position of watching the BBC Trust attempting to please the Daily Mail, apparently unaware that the Mail will never be satisfied:

In its report on the "Sachsgate" prank phone calls, the BBC Trust was scathing of the control and compliance procedures in BBC Radio.

"Editorial control and compliance procedures in non-news areas of the BBC's Audio and Music department are inadequate and need to be strengthened," the trust said.

"We have asked the director general [Mark Thompson] to present formal recommendations to strengthen editorial controls and compliance for the trust's consideration.

"Furthermore, we have requested the executive to strengthen immediately the editorial controls around any programme which represents high levels of editorial risk.

"Also in this area, we have asked the executive to assess immediately the editorial controls and compliance procedures in place for all programmes – across television and radio – where the production company is owned and/or managed by the featured performer."

The BBC Trust also asked Thompson to engage his "most senior editorial team" to come up with a "common understanding within the BBC of what is acceptable [for broadcast] and this must reflect widespread public opinion".

Like, I suspect, most of the people who complained, I didn't hear the programme so can't really comment except on the basis of sketchy reports of what may have happened. But it seems to have been a mistake, rather than an outrage; a misjudgment, rather than a mortal, moral offence. Apologies were appropriate, but does anyone - outside of Northcliffe House - really think that this is a proportionate response?

Oh. Paul Gambaccini does, apparently:
But the veteran DJ, publicly voicing a resentment understood to be felt by some in BBC Radio about perceived preferential treatment of Brand, said Douglas had a commitment to the comedian that was "almost obsessive" and had paid for it with her job.

Douglas resigned yesterday over the Sachsgate affair. Brand resigned from his Radio 2 show on Wednesday, seemingly partly in what turned out to be a vain attempt to protect Douglas, his BBC mentor.

"She let him get away with so many outrageous things," Gambaccini told Nicky Campbell on the BBC Radio 5 Live breakfast show today.

"Lesley had a commitment to Russell which was almost obsessive. That is to say she believed that his hire was a good move for Radio 2 and she stood by him thick and thin even while he was alienating almost everyone else in the building."

Gambaccini suggested the infamous episode on Brand's show on October 18 - when obscene pre-recorded messages he and Jonathan Ross left on Andrew Sachs' answerphone were broadcast – was the tip of the iceberg.

"I do believe that if anyone had investigated this matter properly – as now Ofcom and the BBC will do – they will find about a dozen items that will make their hair curl on end. I am not kidding you," he said.

"[Lesley] believed it was part of her job to expand the perimeter of the tent – Radio 2's a big tent – and that Russell was an important symbol. The fact is that he was her pet, and she let him get away with so many outrageous things," Gambaccini added.

Goodness. It's almost classical, isn't it? Oh hang on... it is classical, you say, Gambo?
Gambaccini described Douglas as one of the most loved, respected and admired executives in the radio business. He said her departure was a "tragedy which is Greek in its dimensions".

He said the former Radio 2 controller was like Achilles, a "great warrior brought low by his heel ... Lesley Douglas was brought low by Russell Brand".

Perhaps, out of evil may commeth good - surely all any new controller of the networks keen to stamp their authority on the job has to do is shuffle George Lamb out the way and put someone more fitting into mid-mornings on 6? MediaGuardian has decided that Bob Shennan might be in line for the job - controller, not dj - on the grounds that Channel 4 has closed his radio division so he's available. Who would his Achilles Heel be - Nicky Campbell, do you think?

RIAA lawsuits 'unconstitutional', says someone who knows what they're talking about

The RIAA's attempts to blackma- sorry, that's such an ugly word, isn't it? Shall we call it encourage? - filesharers to pay huge 'fines' for alleged misuse of copyright material has been called an abuse of law by Harvard law professor Charles Nesson. He reckons that not only is the law unconstitutional - making a crime out a civil wrong - but that the RIAA should be punished for abusing the law:

In essence, Plaintiffs are using the prosecution of Joel Tenenbaum to extort other accused infringers: the accused are told to either pay the settlement, or else be exposed to the protracted litigation and potentially astronomical damages that Joel now faces. See Milford Power Ltd. Partnership by Milford Power Associates Inc. v. New England, 918 F.Supp. 471 (D. Mass. 1996) (holding that "the essence of the tort of abuse of process is the use of process as a threat to coerce or extort some collateral advantage not properly involved in the proceeding"). The intimidation tactics are working: of the 30,000 accusations the RIAA has leveled against individuals, only a single defendant has made her case in front of a judge and jury... (that sole defendant is now awaiting a new trial).

The RIAA intimidates and steamrolls accused infringers into settling before they have their day in court and before the courts can weigh the merits of their defenses. The inherent dangers in allowing a single interest group, desperate in the face of technological change, led by a voracious, cohesive, extraordinarily well-funded and deeply experienced legal team doing battle with pro se defendants, armed with a statute written by them and lobbied and quietly passed through a compliant congress, to march defendants through the federal courts to make examples out of them should lead this Court to say "stop."

It's almost heartbreaking - the very efficiency with which the RIAA has been dipping into the pocketbooks of Americans being used as evidence of how much it's abusing its power. Almost heartbreaking; but at the same time, kind of funny.

Nesson made his comments in a legal defence filed in support of Joel Tenenbaum who's counterclaiming against the RIAA. If we were music business executives, we'd be very, very nervous about what losing this case would mean for the entertainment industry - given that they've taken money off 30,000 people using these rules and just repaying those people would be costly. If 30,000 sued for damages, it could be wipe-out bad. And given that the RIAA squeezed them, there's no reason to expect they'd feel moral compulsion not to squeeze back, is there?

Winehouse dealers banged-up

As if it wasn't hard enough for Amy Winehouse having her beloved Blake in jail, now her dealers have been banged up, too:

A couple have admitted supplying drugs including cocaine and ecstasy to singer Amy Winehouse.

John Blagrove, 34, and Cara Burton, 22, both from Dalston, east London, were warned they face a jail term as they appeared in Snaresbrook Crown Court.

Their big mistake was, erm, selling footage of Winehouse doing drugs to the papers, which kind of led the cops straight to their door.

Diddling the Dick-A-Dum dude

Some bloke has been sent to jail for a massive credit card fraud which even saw him impersonating Des O'Connor at one point. Police captured him when someone noticed that Olanrewaju Apalara was using O'Connor's card but was capable of holding a decent tune.

Jackson Five... no, make that Four

Despite Jermaine Jackson's apparent belief that the Jackson Five are about to get back together, Michael insists he knows nothing about it:

"My brothers and sisters have my full love and support, and we've certainly shared many great experiences, but at this time I have no plans to record or tour with them," he said.

"I am now in the studio developing new and exciting projects that I look forward to sharing with my fans in concert soon," he added.

So - not going to happen then. On the other hand, Jackson has been in court so often in the last few years maybe he's just learned to deny everything, emphatically, as soon as possible.

Perhaps they'd be better off with Janet anyway.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Simon Cowell launches new publicity stunt

Simon Cowell isn't a stupid man - annoying, yes; tasteless, certainly; but not stupid. So when he starts honking about buying the rights to Top of the Pops and "putting the Christmas special on ITV", he must surely know that everyone sees this for the grandstanding that it is. There's value left in the Top of The Pops brand for the BBC - more, certainly, than Cowell would bid for the rights - and while not having a Christmas special won't help increase that value, it's nothing compared to the hit having it ruined by the home of The Roxy would mean.

If Cowell's so bloody keen for ITV to do something like this, why doesn't he revive The Chart Show?

Stone casts votes

If there's one thing the US heartlands love, it's getting lectures on democracy from Europeans. It always goes down well. So what better than Joss Stone to get the vote out?

"America is a large, major power and it affects everywhere, so I can't just sit down and shut up," she said in an interview last week. "Just because I can't vote doesn't mean I can't say what I mean and what I feel. I just hope that people will vote. ... I'm not here to say Barack or McCain, I'm hear to say, 'Have a voice and use it.' It's so important."

Well, she's right that she can't just sit down and shut up; that's for certain. But if it's so very important with America being this large, major power, then shouldn't Stone endorse a candidate? How does saying 'vote for someone, anyone' actually mean Stone is using her voice?

Still, we should find out who she's back soon - there's less than a week to the election and since Gordon Smart insisted that Obama had personally invited her to write a campaign song for him, we must surely be about to hear it, right?

Beatles scramble onto games bandwagon

In something of a strange move for such digital refuseniks, the Beatles are rushing to have their precious, precious music slapped into a video game format - the Rock Band franchise, to be precise.

Given they took their time coming to CD and are still dragging their feet over downloads, the rush to get built into Wiis and PSPs is eyecatching and curious. Why so rushed, Macca?

“The project is a fun idea which broadens the appeal of the Beatles and their music,” McCartney said in a statement. “I like people having the opportunity to get to know the music from the inside out.”

Ah. The 'broadening appeal' comment makes more sense than the 'inside out' one - after all, if McCartney really wanted people to know music from inside out, wouldn't there be lots of remix-y bits and pieces available online for them to do just that?

The rush to Rock Band is an early sign that Apple Corps is starting to try and cope with a declining franchise - the Beatles might still be gods to Oasis, but to a younger audience, they're starting to look a little bit like your Grandad's favourite band (and the Cirque Du Soleil hook-up hardly helped). The Beatles need Rock Band more than Rock Band needs the Beatles.

He's not a plumber, he's not called Joe and he's not going to be worse off under Obama

Although McCain likes to call us - all of us - "my friends", he doesn't really have that many friends, does he? So it's not surprising that McCain grabs closely anyone who shows the slightest interest in him.

But what is Samuel The Unlicensed Plumber Wurzelbacher's motivation for hanging around McCain, endorsing him and going out to stump for the downward spiral? It turns out it's got nothing to do with politics, and everything to do with trying to launch a career as a country musician:

On Tuesday, Wurzelbacher joined country music artist and producer Aaron Tippin to form a new partnership that includes booking-management firm Bobby Roberts and publicity-management concern The Press Office to field the multiple media offers he’s received over the past few weeks.

Less harmless than Palin's motivation (a 2012 run in her own right), perhaps, but it must be heartbreaking for McCain to realise that his expensive presidential bid is running out its last few days as the poor man's American Idol.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Collateral damage: Manda Rin jinxed by Sachs suspensions

As the perplexing over-reaction to the Brand/Ross phonecall show continues to gather pace, it's the innocents what suffer. Manda Rin had gone through the Never Mind The Buzzcocks line-up round torture to help push My DNA but - because Brand is a guest on the programme, it cannot now be shown and the episode is being sealed in lead and buried in a deep storage unit under the Lake District.

Missing the point by a country mile: Punk for sale

The fate of all revolutions, of course: Christies in New York is holding a massive punk memorabilia auction, with anti-establishment items expected to be bought by the rich for up to USD6000 a pop:

"We understand that tastes change, tastes mature," said Christie's pop-culture chief Simeon Lipman. "Ten years ago, punk memorabilia probably wouldn't be something we'd be auctioning here. But now, people of a certain age have a certain ability to splurge on this material."

How lucky they didn't overthrow the social order in the end, then.

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet

Wired's Listening Post gathers some of the many covers of MIA's Paper Planes:

Late last year, I called it "the best use of a Clash sample I've ever heard." In 2008, Thom York played it on the BBC and many artists have found it necessary to bust out some impressive cover versions and remixes. I'm from Barcelona even used the same name for one of their songs, as if some of the song's powerful mojo might rub off on them as a result.

Angry, angry Daily Mail: Computer error message

The Daily Mail takes a break from calling from Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross to be burned as some kind of witches to get angry at Hewlett Packard for encouraging child abuse. Or, rather:

Computer giant Hewlett Packard has caused outrage after paying convicted paedophile Gary Glitter £100,000 in royalties to use one of his songs in their latest ad campaign.

In the promos for the new HP TouchSmart monitor, Eighties rocker Joan Jett's cover of Glitter's 1972 hit Do You Wanna Touch Me is heard over the visuals.

It's not even Glitter's version of the song they're using. Is anyone really outraged by this, Mail? They have found an American organisation - - to froth at the mouth a little, but given that even convicted paedophiles are still allowed to earn a living, it's not quite clear what the problem is. (Nor, indeed, why the Mail didn't get quite so exercised about George Bush using Glitter's music in the 2004 election campaign.)

The paper tries to make the song sound like it could be a hymn to sex wrongs:
The song include the lyrics: 'Every girl an boy. Needs a little joy. All you do is sit an stare.

'Beggin on my knees. Baby, wont you please. Run your fingers through my hair.'

- surely not even the Mail thinks that Glitter was using baby in the "newborn child" sense of the word, rather than the pop music usage of "person who I love", is it?

Still, the paper is clear: Nobody should be delivering cash to Gary Glitter. That is its line.

But hold on: what's this?
Scroll down to see the ad

Yes, having slammed HP for running Glitter's music and delivering him royalties, the Mail is, erm, running the ad featuring Glitter's music and, thus, delivering him royalties.

Sony Music: The losses turn from drain to vortex

The Sony Corporation as a whole is suffering right now - pricing stuff in Yen doesn't do it any favours - but in a sweating company, it's the now wholly-owned music division which looks like the plague victim:

Sony BMG losses ballooned from $8 million to $57 million “due to the timing of new releases combined with the continued decline in the worldwide physical music market not being offset by growth in digital product sales”. Sony reckons buying out Bertelsmann’s half of the JV will cost $600 million.

If you think you can hear Teutonic giggles at the idea that they've been given millions of dollars to sell off twenty-five million bucks' worth of loss, you might just be imagining that.

It's interesting that the division is trying to explain away its performance in ways that don't make sense. Sure, not having any big releases hurts the bottom line, but equally, you're not shelling out for promotional work, manufacturing and what-have-you. Not having a record to sell doesn't instantly turn you into a loss-maker.

And still blaming the decline in physical sales? Has this year's decline really been so huge as to explain away such a massive increase in the amount of cash spunked away for nothing? And given that physical sales have been dropping year-on-year for about a decade now, shouldn't a company have a grip on how to manage the decline?

Larks with Parks

It's not quite a comeback, but it's certainly rare enough: Van Dyke Parks is playing a gig in London. Jazz Cafe on November 23rd; price an eye-tightening GBP45 and Inara George will be sharing the stage.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Feeder-ing the flames

Coming within moments of tragedy: Feeder's crew tour bus caught fire over the weekend. Luckily, driver Colin Campbell spotted the flames and was able to get everyone awake and off the bus before it turned into an insurance write-off.

Somewhat surprisingly, though, Grant Nicholas manages to balance his praise for Campbell with a plug for the plimsole shop that gave them some new shoes:

Speaking about the incident, Feeder's frontman said: "It's terrifying to think what might have happened, just shocking. We can't praise Colin enough for his quick thinking and action, he saved all their lives. We'd also like to thank the police and firefighters who dealt with the situation and of course, JD Sports for their generosity."

JD Sports had presented the band with GBP800 worth of shoes - their trainers got destroyed in the inferno - and while it's nice to say thank you, it does take some of the shine off the praise for a guy who saved 13 lives to put that on a par with some freebies.

Glasvegas bring back Christmas

While the BBC is pulling on the Scrooge pants, Glasvegas are rushing to complete their to-do list in order to deliver a Christmas album. Complete with Christmas ghosts and everything:

Singer James Allan said: "One of the guys working on the record was that tired he started hallucinating.

"He saw somebody in a chequed shirt waving at him in the studio."

The frontman added: "That gives you an example of how intense it was. We were in a mad rush to get it finished."

And, as any student will tell you, there's nothing like the quality of work you get when you're working ragged at three in the morning and starting to see things.

BBC axe Christmas

Or, at least, they've decided there won't be a Christmas Top of The Pops this year. The official line is that it hasn't earned it, baby:

Top of the Pops was decommissioned in 2006 after 42 years on the air.

"We said at that time the Christmas Special would continue but would have to earn its place every year," said a BBC spokesman.

"This year it was felt that pop music would be better represented over Christmas by an eight-part series of TOTP2 that will reflect some of the year's key hits and possibly the Christmas Number One."

The spokesperson then looked stern and said that anyone who thinks they can just waltz in to a place on the Christmas schedule should think again, before pointing and screeching "I'm talking to you, Lizzie Windsor. No More Orphans."

Monday, October 27, 2008

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Head to head to head

As the charts become less and less important, the battles to be number one seem to get stronger - almost as if someone believes that we'll be more interested in the tarnished crown if people are fighting for it. Indeed, you'd have to raise a curious eyebrow at the clash of schedules which sees Britney Spears, Leona Lewis, Beyonce, and Christina Aguilera releasing singles on the same day. Surely, this is a rigged attempt to create interest through a faux race, isn't it? Come on, Gennaro Castaldo, tell us the truth:

HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo tells The Sun, “We haven’t had a heavyweight chart battle like this for a while. It’s wide open but you have to fancy Britney, perhaps just ahead of Leona.”

... or you could play along, Gennaro. You could just play along.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

George returns, again

Here comes Boy George, again, embarking on a tour of the regional press to push his new, in-reduced-circumstances tour, chatting to the Lancashire Evening Telegraph. It's a long way from New Sounds New Styles, isn't it?

George, it seems, doesn't really want local papers rummaging in his life:

And he recently announced he had secretly relapsed back into old habits but was now clean again. Asked when he turned the corner, he bridles. "I'm off them. Absolutely off. Off completely."

The tabloids said you had been clean for about six months this time? "No, I've been clean longer than that." How long then? "Mind your own business, hahaha! All you need to know is that I'm clean. The time is irrelevant."

Well, up to a point, George. If you've been clean for, say, four months or five months, it doesn't matter a great deal. If you've been clean for somewhere between 'since breakfast' and 'about half a week', the timescale does have a significance.

George is convinced that he has put his past behind him:
"I'm not a road sweeper, I'm not a drug addict, I'm a musician."

Unfortunately, George, you're perceived as being all three. And not so much musician these days, either. When even the local papers are more interested in your addictions than Karma Chameleon, you're facing a massive task to shift that perception.

[Thanks to Michael M for the tip]

Sharkey - shall we call him "music tsar" and have done with?

Fergal Sharkey's rise to music industry powerhouse continues tomorrow, when he will be crowned head of UK Music, a well-meaning sounding organisation that is going to work with schools nationwide:

In January, Sharkey will oversee a national programme that will see secondary schools invited to start a record label, with teenagers encouraged to write and record tracks as well as produce and market a CD. It follows a number of successful pilots.

That sounds fine, right? Except it's a little odd that they're teaching kids how to be record labels rather than give them the tools to be able to self-release and to negotiate deals directly for themselves, isn't it?

That would be because UK Music is the latest record label attempt to stop "piracy", and is aimed at promoting the status quo rather than really shaping a UK music scene that's able to cope with the new world. Nick Mathiason's piece on Sharkey's role for today's Observer is stuffed with what sound oddly like BPI lines, picked up and half-digested:
But Sharkey's chief task will be to lead the fightback by the music world against illegal music downloads. The launch of UK Music comes just weeks before the first warning letters from broadband operators are sent to those suspected of downloading large volumes of music for free. Next month will also see the launch of the first subscriber services offering fans the chance to download tracks, as well as gaining access to a vast music library for a small extra charge on a monthly broadband subscription.

The first subscriber services? Really? What's eMusic, then? Or could it be the music industry are suggesting that subscriber services haven't happened before because it allows them to say "now there is another option rather than 'stealing' music" one more time?

And since when did "downloading large volumes of music for free" become, by definition, wrong? There are loads of ways of downloading tons, tonnes even, of music for free without once setting foot outside of the law.

But Sharkey seems obsessed with the idea that 'free' is bad:
Speaking exclusively to The Observer before the launch of UK Music, Sharkey said: 'I think people do realise once you explain it to them that music isn't for free. There is a harmful impact and, ironically, the people it most harms are the ones people are most engaged with and have most respect for - the songwriters, composers and musicians. For some reason people don't make that connection.'

UK Music is going to push the 'if people only knew that music can't be made for free, they wouldn't download from the torrents' line again, is it? As if people don't already know the arguments inside, outside, backwards and forwards.

How, by the way, is Sharkey going to cope with the 'music can't be for free' line when the phone companies start to launch services which imply the music they come with is for free, and advertising-supported free services give the same impression? If - as UK Music would have us believe - there are people left who think that free music is a victimless crime, how does Sharkey intend to try and deliver a message that sometimes free music is alright, and actually has value, and sometimes it's bad, and doesn't.

I'm also looking forward to UK Music teaching kids about where the money really goes when music is sold - and the economic implications for artists of some of the deals the BPI labels have been cutting recently with companies like Nokia. There will be time for that, right, Feargal?