Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gordon in the morning: George Michael is like a Moors murderer or... something

To be fair to Gordon, it looks like the incoherent babbling about George Michael on his pages this morning is only there by automation. The byline on the piece belongs to:

JOHN KAY, Chief Reporter, and NEIL SYSON
The story is that George Michael has been moved out of Pentonville to a lower security prison. Or, as Kay and Syson would have it:
George moved to Myra's soft jail

SHAMED George Michael was secretly switched to a soft jail yesterday where Moors killer Myra Hindley was locked up.
Michael is now in Highpoint, which would seem to be fair as it's not like he's killed anyone. There doesn't seem to be any real need to mention Hindley other than it being a chance for The Sun to rage again about the Moors Murders.

In fact, there's no need to mention Hindley at all, as she never was an inmate at Highpoint - true, she spent the last three years of her life in a neighbouring jail which was called Highpoint at the time, but that is the current Edmunds Hill Prison. The one she was in was the same one Boy George spent time in; Michael's jail was the one Tony Martin passed most of his sentence.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Socaobit: Alphonsus "Arrow" Cassell

The name Alphonsus Cassell might be unfamiliar, but - if you've ever been within spitting distance of a Radio One Roadshow - his big hit won't be.

As Arrow, Alphonsus - who has died from brain cancer - did this:

What's surprising is that the song didn't make the top 40 when it first came out - an indication of how much work it used to take to make the charts back in the 1980s. A remix did scrape into the charts in 1995.

Considered to be the most famous Montserrat citizen of his generation, Alphonsus Cassell died on the island that was his home. He was 60.

Lady GaGa: For all your self-consciously wacky needs

What is the point when an artist slips from 'having a unique style' to 'being a bit of a self-parody'?

It's when they stop dressing to impress, and start punting themselves as a Halloween costume.

Lady GaGa has turned herself into a brand for Party City. It took Kiss years to reach this stage.

Spotify find way to make service much, much worse

One of the strengths of Spotify is that it gives you the flexibility of radio without the need for a low-rent presenter honking between tracks.

What Spotify certainly isn't missing is a show fronted by George Lamb. But it's going to launch one anyway:

Lamb will be reunited with his former 6 Music sidekick, Marc Hughes, for the Starbucks Doubleshot Show in which listeners choose a pair of songs relating to the same album or artist. Lamb and Hughes provide "refreshing banter" between the tracks, says the site.
That's a bit like hiring Sweeny Todd for personal grooming advice, surely?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Iron Maiden: Marketing the skies

I know that Bruce Dickinson is a trained pilot, and has flown commercial flights, but does that really make him an obvious choice to be an airline marketing director?

He's been appointed in the role for charter company Astraeus. The Guardian reports how they explain their thinking:

"Bruce is a great communicator," explained Astraeus's chief commercial officer, Shaun Monnery. "[And] he knows the aviation industry inside out."

"In a demanding industry he is a man who can cope with pressure," Monnery said, "whether as a 757 captain or in front of 50,000 Iron Maiden fans, or senior airline and aviation managers."
Perhaps. Or, much more likely, the decision to appoint a heavy metal guy to a marketing job is, in itself, a wonderful act of marketing.

Downloadable: The Drums

Isn't the idea of The Drums annoying Nicky Wire making them seem even better than ever? To celebrate, here's a new, free track, When I Come Home. From The Drums, not from Nicky Wire.

Gordon in The Matrix: Bizarre goes mobile

Bless Gordon Smart - never one to overstate things:

TODAY I'm announcing the Bizarre App - the most exciting innovation in showbiz news since this column was launched.
Yes, Gordon wants to be popping into your pocket and is very excited.

To be fair, there hasn't been very much exciting innovation demonstrated by Bizarre since the column launched - although we did enjoy the Newton-era innovation of managing to libel people simply by publishing Robbie Williams song lyrics. Interesting that Smart doesn't feel the video sessions were more important for the site than what is, basically, just a different way of accessing the same content.

And wasn't the daily programme on SunTalk exciting for Gordon? Until the whole station was axed as an expensive flop, of course?

Even death can't stop Michael Jackson lawsuits

You'd have to admit it, Michael Jackson dropping dead was a total surprise - a man whose entire being screamed of balanced, healthy decisions.

No wonder his mother is suing AEG for failing to look after his health.

I know what you're thinking: wasn't Jackson accompanied by a personal doctor who seems to have been there, rummaging in his black bag, while Jackson died?

Katherine Jackson has thought of that, so she's also suing AEG for not overseeing the doctor properly.

This is the act of a grieving mother, of course, and any similarity to a money-grubbing attempt to shift blame to whoever might have a chequebook is entirely coincidental.

Charlatans: Jon Brookes hospitalised

Waking up this morning to news of Jon Brooke's collapse on stage during The Charlatans' Philadelphia gig.

Apparently he stopped breathing before that old stand-by, a doctor in the house, was able to resuscitate him.

The official line from the band:

"[Jon] has now been transferred to a larger hospital in the city for further tests, although his condition is said to be improving and doctors believe there will be no long-term effects on his health."
It's not clear yet what this means for the Charlatans' US tour. Get well soon, Jon.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Love is full of wonderful colours

Exciting news that the Icicle Works are getting back together for a 30th anniversary tour - always deeply underappreciated were the Icicles.

Slightly more disappointing is the way the NME chooses to report this:

Ex-Oasis drummer Chris Sharrock's old band The Icicle Works have announced plans to reform for a 30th Anniversary tour.
The band with a former Oasis drummer in. It's like buying a BMW but telling people "my car uses the same spark plugs as you get in a VW camper".

Nicky Wire: It's like the olden days

What's this? Nicky Wire making an intemperate attack on a smaller band? Such a historic move, it's surprising it's in the NME and not the National Trust handbook:

"When I seen bands like The Drums being fawned over, it makes me feel ill," he added. "There is literally no soul in that band. They've taken nothing from the depth or poetry or amazing lyrics of Ian Curtis, they've just taken his kooky dance. The whole generation is attired in American Apparel, there's no individualism any more."
When the parents criticise the behaviour of the children, it might not be entirely the children's fault, right?

Downloadable: Josh Ritter & Dawn Landes

Husband and wife, about to tour the UK together, get down to a spot of mp3 recording:

I suspect they should have been packing when they did this.

Pretending to be JLS

Given that JLS are such slight things that they probably don't look like themselves if they turn sideways, being a JLS sort-of-lookalike appears to take little more than simply having a face which offers a home to a vacant gawp.

Normally, if someone said you looked like JLS, that would be a sign to wear a balaclava. But not for Jon-Adam Pamment and AJ Reid. They went to the papers.

Jon-Adam, who lives off Great Northern Road, has given up his job at clothes shop G-Star, in Westfield, to "make the most of this great opportunity".

He said: "I used to be at work and people would say 'you look like the guy from X Factor'. Then people started coming up to me on nights out saying 'are you him?'

"I don't watch the X Factor, so I didn't know who he was, but I had a look."

It was later that Jon-Adam met ex-Murray Park pupil AJ, of Sinfin, after he went for an interview at G-Star.

Despite not getting the job, the pair became friends and started to go clubbing together.
'Looking a bit like one of the JLS' isn't, perhaps, the sort of 'opportunity' most of us would quit a full-time job to explore, but it proves that the men have the same acute sense of reasoning as the real JLS. If only they could find people who look a bit like the others, they could form, if not a tribute act, then at least a standing-around-looking-a-bit-like act.

[Thanks to Michael M]

Downloadable: Belly demos

Lovely and waiting for you: Tanya Donnelly is sharing demos from Star.

There's a request for tips if you like what you hear; and I'm also tipping my hat to @danbutt for the, erm, tip.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Burke attempts to squeeze a few more sales out of debut

Alex Burke has announced her second album will be her first album, but with a couple of other singles on it. You could call it a deluxe version of Overcome; you might also call it a cheap buff-job on an an album whose disappointing sales leaves a lot of room to push again.

The decision to basically offer last year's album into this year's Christmas market suggests that there's not much faith in Burke's career as anything beyond a dwindling singles artist at SyCo HQ. But, hey, there's still the adverts aimed at sweaty types to bring the cash in.

Freedom is just a song by Wham!

This, sadly, feels like something that's been inevitable: George Micheal's been sent to prison after the most recent driving-while-drugged incident.

It turns out driving into a branch of Snappy Snaps is just pushing your luck too far.

He's been jailed for eight weeks.

Tory-Lib Dems tell copyright industry to pay costs of pursuing unlicensed files

Ah, if only David Geffen had thought to invite a couple of Lib Dems onto his yacht, maybe things would have been different. The coalition have told the copyright industries they'll have to bear most of the costs for pursuing unlicensed filesharers.

ISPs will only be made to pay the costs of notifying their customers; 75% of the bill will be passed to the people who care about the copyright.

However, the government's decision today, based on a consultation on the cost-sharing proposal, said that the argument to split detection costs had been rejected as a "business as usual" bill for copyright holders.

"This argument was rejected as the initial proposal to share costs 75/25 was made in the full knowledge that copyright owners did have these separate costs to bear," said the government. "At the level of the individual copyright owner the level of detection activity (and any legal action) is a matter for them. It was considered these were largely 'business as usual' costs that copyright owners would face as part of protecting their own copyright material."
In a related decision, citizens won't be forced to pay a fee to appeal against one of these proceedings:
"As a free system risks the possibility of large numbers of unnecessary appeals, the government will monitor the situation closely, and reserves the right to introduce a small fee at a later stage," the government added.
This puts me in a horrible position of thinking that the coalition have made a good decision. Better if they'd scrapped the whole idea of snooping and letters, but it's a start.

You can tell its a good decision, because the copyright industry is squealing about how it's soooooo unfair:
"We continue to believe that ISPs should bear a greater proportion of the costs of communicating with their customers about illegal peer-to-peer use on their networks," said a spokesman for the British Recorded Music Industry (BPI), which represents the UK's music companies.

"We will work closely with the government and Ofcom to ensure that the costs framework overall is workable and affordable, in particular for small labels, and that the Code can be swiftly implemented."
Won't it cost what it costs?

Monday, September 13, 2010

And in the last few minutes...

Mani has just apologised to Peter Hook for that jibe about blood money:

"I wish to apologise unreservedly to Peter Hook and his family regarding comments made on a social networking site, which was totally out of character for me. It was a venomous, spiteful reaction to a lot of things that are going on in my life right now and I chose to vent my frustrations and anger at one of my true friends in this filthy business, and ventured into territory which was none of my concern," said Mani.

"The Freebass thing has tipped me over the edge and became the focus of my bilious rants. Twenty-two years of being tripped up, face down in the mud and being kicked in the face with an iron boot will do that to the most stable of men. I hope I haven't blown a great friendship forever. Sorry Pete."
It's not clear what bit of the honking-mouth-off-on-Twitter was supposed to be out of character; perhaps Mani just means he doesn't normally use Twitter but instead shouts through letterboxes.

Close analysis of his apology indicates that Mani isn't saying he was wrong; he's just saying it wasn't anything to do him and he shouldn't have said anything. One of those unreserved apologies that are only sort-of sorry.

He also doesn't withdraw his suggestion that Freebass was a bit rubbish.

Streaming Now: Manic Street Preachers

The Guardian has got the whole of the new Manics album streaming on its site. Right now.

Unless you're not in the UK, when you only get a snatch.

Freebass: The dream is over

How shall we go on without Freebass? The Mani-Hooky supergroup has split up in what looks like acrimonious circumstances. The NME reports:

Mani posted a host of outbursts on his Twitter account,, attacking Hook for supposedly exploiting his past glories. Hook recently performed a series of shows where he played Joy Division's 'Unknown Pleasures' album in its entirety.

"Three things visible from space, Great Wall Of China, Peter Hook's wallet stuffed with Ian Curtis' blood money, Man City's empty trophy cabinet!" he tweeted, adding: "I've actually got an ongoing career, so I don’t feel the need to exploit my past glories. I exist in the here and the now."
That's sort-of true, isn't it? It's not entirely Mani's fault that his first name has become "FormermemberoftheStoneRoses"; and Primal Scream might be exploiting past glory to remain a going concern these days, but most of the glories date from before Mani joined.

And it isn't entirely clear what Mani thought Freebass was, if not a chance to cash-in on the past lives of those involved - nobody would have got to the end of the first demo track if it hadn't had Hook's name on it. Maybe Mani thought that was down to people's affection for Revenge.

The reference to Manchester City's trophy cabinet doesn't make any sense, either - why would an empty cabinet be visible from space? Unless someone had built a large cabinet to put nothing in? Was the emptiness supposedly visible from space by itself?

The formal announcement of Freebass split runs like this:
"It is with great sadness that just prior to the long-awaited album release of 'It’s A Beautiful Life' we have to announce that the much anticipated Mancunian union of bassists, Freebass, is no longer a functioning group."

"Recent events have made Freebass entirely unviable as a band and, with this in mind, it has been decided that the project should be shelved, rather than placed on hiatus while members pursue their other interests.

"The band would like to take the opportunity to thanks friends and fans for their support and interest, especially on the UK tour in June 2010. We also hope that people will enjoy the album, which concludes five years of work, and treat it on its own merits. No third parties were involved or harmed in the break-up."
The clash of egos. Even smothered in a polite PR sheen, you can still see that from space.

[Thanks to Michael M for the tip]


It's not entirely clear why MTV - a network which now broadcasts wall-to-wall programming featuring people who can't act trying to act like they're not acting - persists with the Video Music Awards, but they battle boldly on.

The handing of eight awards to Lady GaGa - seven for the same song, Bad Romance - gives the impression of a network which doesn't really keep up with music any more, and relies on the odd piece of music reporting in the papers to keep fresh. Lady GaGa is what the kids like now, right?

That Cher turned up wearing her If I Could Turn Back Time costume did little to dispel the sense that this is an awards ceremony that used to be a somebody. Even GaGa was wearing a dress that was a drawing of one she'd worn before. Jesus, they even had Taylor Swift do a song about last year's awards, and Eminem opened proceedings.

Usher and Linkin Park were among other performers on the night.
Sure, it still gets the MTV brand mentioned on TV, but given that MTV isn't really MTV any more, why are they still pouring cash into an expensive event which seems to have lost any interest in what its supposed to celebrate?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Switzerland: It's not just for hiding looted gold and tax evasion any more

The Swiss love of privacy has been extended to IP addresses. Ars Technica reports that Logistep, one of those snide companies which spies on internet users to see if they're using unlicensed files, isn't welcome in the Alps any more:

Switzerland, which is not an EU member, has decided that it can't sanction Logistep's behavior. The country's Federal Data Protection and Information Commissioner, Hanspeter Thür, took Logistep to court and this week won a major victory. The Federal Supreme Court ruled that IP addresses are in fact personal information and that companies like Logistep can't go about slurping them up for mere civil cases like file-swapping lawsuits. Logistep must cease all current copyright infringement data collection.
Logistep, of course, feel this is a bad thing:
Logistep's dueling statement (in German) rounded up a quote from Nikolai Klute, a Hamburg lawyer, who said the decision flew in the face of most other European precedent: "Soon, Switzerland is likely to have the reputation of a safe haven not only for tax evaders, but also for copyright infringers."
Switzerland has always found its tax and banking regime does wonders for its economy. Somehow, I don't think Switzerland is going to abandon privacy because Logistep indulges in name-calling.

R&Bobit: Carlton 'King' Coleman

King Coleman, R&B pioneer, has died.

Best known for Do The Mashed Potatoes, and a number of diminishing-returns novelty hits on a similar theme, Coleman's real gift to music was in his work away from the headlines. He was a tireless champion of his fellow musicians, his enthusiasm finding an outlet as a DJ.

Carlton Coleman died in Miami from heart failure. He was 78.

HMV turns out to have been feasting on carcasses all along

Last year, HMV's growth figures were hailed as evidence of a store doing something right. More cynical eyes wondered if the fillip was just down to all the competitors having gone bust.

Year-on-year sales across HMV's businesses in the quarter to September 4th fell by 10 per cent; HMV itself fell by over 14%.

The reasons are clear - having enjoyed the jump of picking up rival's customers, it's now experiencing the sector's drops all on its own.

Of course, HMV won't admit this is the case; it casts about for another explanation:

Chief executive Simon Fox insisted that the danger posed by the World Cup had been flagged up earlier this year. “Suppliers deliberately do not schedule new releases when people will be watching the television,” he said. “This happens every four years.”
Really? A football tournament has taken out seven of every fifty sales, has it? And "suppliers" think "well, there's a World Cup, so we won't bother releasing a DVD in the month of that. Or, for some reason, the month after that. Because people won't buy a DVD or a CD for thirty or forty days after the final whistle has blown.

Summer is always a weak period for releases, which is why you compare the period with the same weak release period from twelve months before.

Fox's plans is to expand some more - fashion (you might have seen the cringe-making Everything Everything Lee/HMV jeans ads last week) and more festivals. It might work, but the real truth is that to grow, HMV needs its rivals to die. It's a carrion corporation.