Saturday, April 07, 2012

Digital music worth more than pub and club jukeboxes

A small step towards digital music sustainability, as PRS announces that the royalties from digital streams is now worth more than royalties from pubs and clubs.

This might be a sign that digital music has become an increasingly robust business.

Or might be a reflection that there are 4,500 fewer pubs in business than 2008.

The illustrated Friends: ... of a friend of a friend

The heart of the song:

I'm a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend
I'm a friend of a friend but you don't know me
I'm a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend
And if I come on the night
Can I get in free?
So really, these characters aren't real friendships at all, are they? They're names being dropped at a door in a bid to wangle a free guestlist slot.

In effect, then, Friends is the spiritual father of this, from Kicks Like A Mule:

But also has a passing affinity with The Pooh Stick's On Tape:

(Possibly the only time that Mr Pastry and Mighty Mighty could have something in common.)

But perhaps we should take this chance to pay a small tribute to the greatest ligger of them all; a man who turned up at so many events it was rumoured that his gravestone would have "Here lies Pete Wylie +1" on it. (And, incidentally, the man who lived next door to me when I first started writing this blog).

Let's start with Pete Wylie doing a tour of Liverpool for the Oxford Road Show:

And here's a more recent (though that recent) performance of Story Of The Blues, while he was part of Dead Men Walking:

[Buy: The Mighty Wah: Songs Of Strength and Heartbreak]
[Part of the illustrated Friends]

6 at 10 again

The best of 6Music's 10th birthday gigs are going to be strewn out the back-end of your digibox this week. Press red for Paul Weller, De La Soul, PiL, Graham Coxon, SBTRKT, Spiritualized, Orbital and the rest:

Available on all platforms

Freesat/Sky/Virgin Media:
Mon 9th April, 6:00am- Fri 13th April, 4:00am

Mon 9th April, 8:55pm-5:50am
Tue 10th April, 7:10pm-5:50am
Wed 11th April, 6:10pm-7:20pm, 10:10pm-5:50am
Thu 12th April, 7:10pm-2:45am
Fri 13th April, 7:10pm-10:20pm

[via the BBC Internet Blog]

The illustrated Friends: Nobby Stiles

Or, rather, Norbert Peter Stiles, as his mam knew him. Perhaps least well-known for his spell managing the Vancouver Whitecaps, this one is about the football.

Mostly Manchester United and part of the England team that won something called the "world cup" back before I was born, Stiles has popped up in music more than once. Thriving Liverpool act Western Promise offer up this:

Sunderland's Toy Dolls got there sooner, mind:

A band from the west; a band from the East. Have any Manchester bands recorded a song about Stiles?

[Buy: Dance Like Nobby Stiles]
[Part of The illustrated Friends]

Blur: No distance left to run (well, a little bit)

John Harris catches up with Damon Albarn for the Guardian, and discovers that we might just about be at the end of the Blur reunion period:

So no more Blur records?

"No, I don't think so."

And will you play live again after Hyde Park?

"No, not really."

This is even bigger news. So that's it?

"I think so, yeah," he says. A little later, he goes on: "And I hope that's the truth: that that's how we end it. I don't know: you can write scripts, and they always end up going… [pause]… well, one thing I've learned, and I'm sure you're exactly the same, is that everything I think I've got totally sorted out, and I know exactly what's going to happen – it never works out that way…"

So how should I put it? That in all likelihood, this is the end of Blur?

"In all likelihood, I would say. [pause] Oh, God…"
This isn't a very clean declaration of an ending - it's a 'ooh, footsteps going near the waterfall'-cum-'well, we never saw the body fall into the canal' conclusion, with a door clearly left open. Albarn is too shrewd - perhaps too realistic - to say 'never again'.

Harris is also very, very good at getting Albarn to talk about drugs, and in particular the extent to which 13 is Blur's smack album. John's honest enough to admit that there's a massive spoon of hindsight to his insight:
But even though Frischmann's drug problems were becoming well known, nobody who wrote about Blur – myself included – seemed to cotton on (much like, perhaps, when Britain averted its eyes from the fact that YMCA by the Village People was a joyous hymn to the gay lifestyle).
Read the full piece, though, it's an excellent interview in a lovely piece of writing - and it explains why Albarn is now friends with Noel Gallagher, but less so with Jamie Hewlett/

The illustrated Friends: Jim Morrison

Really? Do we have to?

Morrison died in 1971, the same year as Michael Miles. A very bad year for Adam Ant's friends.

Here you are, then:

I think we were better off with PJ and Duncan.

[Part of the illustrated Friends]

The illustrated Friends: Michael Miles

Let's get back to the people Adam Ant claims to be Friends of his. If you're just joining us, this is what it's all about.

Next up is Michael Miles. Given the song was released in 1979, a year after Halloween came out, casual listeners might have assumed that the guest list had found space for this chap:

But, in fact, Adam was chumming up to Michael Miles, former host of Take Your Pick. By the time of the song, Miles was already starting to drift away from the public consciousness - Take Your Pick was as far in the past from Friends as Going For Gold was in the future. But the format - and, in particular, the Yes/No interlude - never quite vanishes.

Miles had a crappy hand dealt him: Take Your Pick was dropped because the company that made it lost its ITV franchise; he suffered from epilepsy and, ashamed of his condition, would lock himself in his dressing room. That, though, just created rumours that he was an alcoholic. He died in 1971.

But can we find a tenuous bit of music? We had Mr Pastry dancing; we had an Adam Ant song directly inspired by Allen Jones. Surely there must be something?

Well... kind of. Take Your Pick was revived twice - once for a full series, hosted by Des O'Connor...

... and once, as a one-off as part of ITV's Gameshow Marathon. Hosted by Ant and Dec. Let's prove there is a downward spiral from Des, shall we?

[Buy: Des O'Connor - Inspired
PJ And Duncan - aka Psyche]
[Part of the illustrated Friends]

Gordon in the morning: No sob stories on The Voice, eh?

Gordon appears to be enjoying the holidays, letting the rest of his staff have a go at writing things.

So, how is The Voice going? The programme that was supposed to be all about the voice, and not about sob stories? How is that working out?

AMY WINEHOUSE’S best friend auditions on The Voice tonight – and reveals that her tragic death inspired him to make music again.
Oh. That sounds a little bit like a sob story. But that's just one contestant, Tyler James. It's not like all of them have tragic tales to tell, is it?
Tonight’s show also features Cassius Henry, who already has had record deals and even appeared on Top Of The Pops with the song Broke in 2002. He also worked with R Kelly and Kanye West.

But two years later his brother died and while he took time out to grieve, his career stalled.
Ah. Okay. But surely there must be someone whose life hasn't been touched by misery? Surely?
Tonight’s episode, which starts at 7pm on BBC 1, also sees another X Factor reject try their luck on the rival talent show.
Joelle Moses, who auditioned for the ITV series in 2008 but lost out at boot camp, has gone on to sing backing vocals for Rihanna and Toni Braxton.
Oh, the humanity.

Friday, April 06, 2012

The illustrated Friends: Stuart Sutcliffe

It's always surprising that there's ever room for debate about who the Fifth Beatle is. It surely can only be the full-time Beatle who recused themselves from the band. And that would be Stuart Sutcliffe. (And, to be fair, Pete Best is the only plausible Sixth Beatle, but if you want to argue the toss over Epstein-Williams-Ono or whoever being the Seventh Beatle, feel free.)

You're familiar with the story, of course, but just in case you're not, here's a Deustche Welle report on a cartoon retelling of Beatles Band: The Hamburg Years:

Towards the end of last year, a supposed recording of Stuart Sutcliffe singing Love Me Tender appeared:

Bill Harry, though reckons it isn't him, and Harry should know, having booked the Beatles early on.

The Stuart Sutcliffe Fan Club insists, though, that it is genuine, and they call Pauline Sutcliffe as evidence.

[Buy: Backbeat]
[Part of the illustrated Friends]

The illustrated Friends: Your chromosomes

"I'm a friend of your chromosomes" insists Adam. It's a little hard to imagine how that friendship could occur without - at the very least - a spot of alarming behaviour.

On the other hand, it's possible that your chromosomes are off somewhere, making music. UCLA has been diligently trying to turn DNA sequences into music; Nomunak has gone one better and, er, actually created videos to go with the songs.

This is Collagen Recognition by Integrin for Signal Transduction:

[Part of the Illustrated Friends]

The illustrated Friends: Shirley Bassey

This one's not, perhaps, the biggest challenge of the list. Shirley Bassey, star of one out of three of Tom Jones' anecdotes. I suspect there'll be a special edition of The Voice dedicated to just those.

So, what shall we go with? How about whisking ourselves back to one of the strangest periods of Saturday night light entertainment, when Mike Yarwood and Shirley Bassey had a perplexing slot-sharing agreement which saw their programmes alternate: one week it'd be unconvincing Denis Healey impersonations; the next - heralded by Shirley throwing shapes on a speedboat - it would be Bassey.

Here she's introduced by songwriter Rod McKuen - a man who seems convinced that his love of sheepdogs is some sort of matter of public record - belting out a heartbreaker:

[Buy: Shirley Bassey: The Singles]
[Part of the illustrated Friends]

Jessie J: Win your chance

Coca-Cola's extraordinary 'water with some vague vitamin' product Glaceau is currently running a contest to let a lucky winner go to London and party with Jessie J.

A London promotional party with Jessie J? What could possibly go wrong with one of those?

The illustrated Friends: Allen Jones

Allen Jones wasn't just one of Adam And The Ants "Friends", but a huge influence on Adam during his art school years, and beyond. The exhaustive has an early interview in which Adam explains the role the sculptor played in shaping his style:

The S&M thing stems from [when] I was at College Art School, with John Ellis (of the Vibrators), and all the time I was at Art College I was very influenced by Allen Jones the artist. All my college work is pretty much like this, this is just a musical equivalent of what I was visually doing at college. I’m not personally into S&M, I mean I never smacked the arse of anybody. It's the power and the imagery. There's a certain imagery involved with that which I find magnetic. It's not done viciously, if you read S&M mags and spank mags or anything like that, it's done with an essence of humour... war dress and stuff, that just appeals to my imagination.
You can see how that would feed into something like this:

Jones was invited to design the Korova Milk Bar set for A Clockwork Orange, an offer he turned down sharpish when Kubrick suggested he might like to do it, Big Society style, for nothing. Instead, then, Alex and his Droogs drink surrounded by Jones-ish sculptures, rather than the real deal:

Here's Jones talking about his actual work:

Apparently at some point during the Live At Pompeii movie, Dave Gilmour holds up a photo of one of Jones' sculptures announcing "the Allen Jones project" - I've had no luck finding this online, though...

[Buy: Women and Men: Allen Jones]
[Part of the Illustrated Friends]

Loudobit: Jim Marshall

Jim Marshall, whose work has probably appeared on more rock stages than anyone else, has died.

Marshall's focus had originally been drums. He'd earned a small fortune as a drum teacher in the 1950s, enough to set him up with a music shop. Depending on which particular mythos you want to believe, either drummers came to him asking if he could help out their guitarists, or else he was selling guitars and amplification was the next obvious step.

But whatever the spark, it was what he did, and what he - and the company that carries his name - have been doing successfully for fifty years.

Jim Marshall was 88. Without him, we'd not have heard rock the way we do. And, I suspect, many of us would hear everything else a little more sharply.

The illustrated Friends: Mr Pastry

So, who is the first name Alan Ant claims is his good friend? It's Mr Pastry.

Richard Hearne created Mr Pastry as a stage character, moving into television when having a highly specialised novelty act could still get you a regular, long-running series rather than just three minutes of scorn from Simon Cowell. In fact, if there's anyone who has a claim to be the first proper TV star, it'd be Mr Pastry.

Athough perhaps sliding down the memory hole now, at the time Hearne was huge - he was offered the Doctor Who role when John Pertwee left the Tardis, but turned it down because he wanted to do Who-as-Pastry; he also was a regular on the Ed Sullivan Show back when Paul McCartney was still searching for free submarine toys in boxes of Wheatie Flakes.

When you're looking for someone to compare One Direction's current American status to, Mr Pastry would probably be a more useful model than The Beatles.

Obviously, being from a more uptight era, Hearne would have behaved himself on those American jaunts - certainly there'd be no mysterious claims about large numbers of children looking desperately for a pastry-father.

So this, then, is Mr Pastry. He's a friend of Adam Ant:

[Buy: There doesn't seem to be any Mr Pastry available on DVD, but Hearne stars in The Time Of His Life]

[Part of The Illustrated Friends]

The illustrated Friends

You might remember that a couple of Crucifixion Bank Holidays back I did a thing which illustrated Hello by the Beloved. Of course you don't remember, but pretend. Okay?

Well, a few months back Paul Wells dropped me an email suggesting that there was another song that could benefit from the same treatment. Friends.

No, no, no, not that Friends.

This one, in fact:

Friends, by Adam And The Ants, from Dirk Wears White Sox.

Which seems like a nice way to spend a couple of days off.

Here's those lyrics in full:

I'm a friend of mr. pastry
I'm a friend of allen jones
I'm a friend of shirley bassey
I'm a friend of your chromosomes

I'm a friend of stuart sutcliffe
I'm a friend of michael miles
I'm a friend of jim morrison
I'm a friend of nobby stiles

I'm a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend
I'm a friend of a friend but you don't know me
I'm a friend of a friend of a friend of a friend
And if I come on the night
Can I get in free?

I'm a friend of michael jackson
I'm a friend of mr spock
I'm a frend of dr kildare
I'm a friend of the woodentops

I'm an old friend of charles hawtrey
I'm a friend of michael caine
I'm a friend of stanley spencer
I'm a friend of big john wayne

I'm a friend of stevie wonder
I'm a friend of erich fromm
I'm a friend of bryan ferry
I'm a friend of terence stamp

Let's see if we can't find something interesting for each of these friends. over the weekend.

[Buy: Dirk Wears White Sox]

Gordon in the morning: Gone West-life

There's a sizeable story on Bizarre this morning, as Aaron Tinney and Blanaid Murphy turn up with grim news from the Westlife camp:

WESTLIFE star Shane Filan has started a court battle over massive debts.

A property company set up by the Irish boyband singer, 32, ran into trouble owing £4million.

He applied for a legal agreement in London this week to pay back creditors over a period of time.
This may be a prime example of sticking to what you do best. Although having heard Westlife's music, it's quite possible that being a property tycoon still is what Shane Filan does best.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Plan B gives the kids a chance

I think everyone was pretty impressed with Plan B's Ted x Observer speech, where he called for us all to do more for disadvantaged kids.

Now, he's turning his words into actions, giving a leg-up to a kid who had a rough start:

Made In Chelsea's Caggie Dunlop has revealed rap star Plan B is helping her pursue a music career.[...]
Caggie told The Sun: "I sent Plan B some of my stuff ages ago and it's really progressed since then.
"He called and talked me through everything. He's sort of a mentor for me."
To be fair to Plan B, we've only got Dunlop's word for it. But thank god someone is working to get these kids out of the ghetto that is E4 reality television and into proper jobs.

[Thanks to Michael M]

Gordon in the morning: Good morning, America

Although Gordon seems more surprised by young people playing a game that everyone is playing, surely there is a real story in the news that One Direction are going to play Madison Square Garden.

Gordon explains the significance:

The Garden is usually reserved for the top names in music, yet One Direction have so far only released one album and a couple of singles — including Top 3 hit It’s Gotta Be You.
Well, not always reserved for the top names in music: Nickelback are playing there in a few weeks; it's about how many tickets you can sell which isn't always a guarantee of quality.

Still, it would be churlish to not be impressed at the machine which has managed to take an ordinary-to-the-point-of-dull act and turned it into an American craze.

Not having quite such a good time of it in the US was The Wanted. They're starving:
Singer Tom Parker was handed tins of Heinz beans by fans at LAX airport after admitting he was missing his favourite UK food while touring the States.
If he was missing them so badly, why didn't he, er, go to a supermarket and buy a can? They're sold (as Heinz Vegetarian Baked Beans) in pretty much every food store. It's like saying 'oh, I miss creme eggs while I'm in America.)

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Man stabbed at Blackberry phone party

ContactMusic are describing last night's stabbing in London as having taken place at a "Jessie J party", but it actually sounds more like 'man stabbed at Blackberry promotional event'.

Perhaps there's two PR teams fighting over who gets the credit - "we're on prime time now, we don't need that level of edgy" "no, no, we're dropping our consumer product lines, we don't need to be connected with men getting stabbed in the neck..."

[Update: This piece was originally published with a weak pun headline; the subsequent death of the victim made this feel inappropriate and so the headline has been revised 22/04/12.]

Grooveshark splits up with EMI

Music streaming service Grooveshark has upset most of the major labels, but had at least managed to come to a proper licensing deal with EMI.

EMI, though, is now suing the company, saying it never got its money.

EMI says it's cancelling the deal, and wants $300,000 it says its owed.

Grooveshark has responded with a 'well, I never liked your hair anyway and your feet smell':

“Grooveshark was recently forced to make the difficult decision to part ways with EMI due to EMI’s currently unsustainable streaming rates and EMI’s pending merger with Universal Music Group, which we consider monopolistic and in violation of antitrust laws. To date, Grooveshark has paid over $2.6 million to EMI, but we have yet to find sustainable streaming rates.”
And, to be honest, you'd suspect that EMI's ire is more about their new owners finding an out from a contract than any real beef.

Gordon in the morning: Looking at U2's stools

Gordon excitedly reports on a change of direction for U2:

The Irish rock giants are planning to reinvent themselves as a boyband when they leap back into action later this year.
Gordon has, of course, promised a High Court Judge that he diligently ensures all the stories he runs are genuine, even when it looks certain that - at best - he's fallen for some sort of April Fool jape:
Bono, Larry Mullen Jnr, Edge and Adam Clayton — have been in touch with a collection of hit Swedish songwriters who helped make One Direction a global sensation.

Carl Falk, who co-wrote the Brit award-winning What Makes You Beautiful and One Thing for the teen idols, revealed the secret plan, saying: “There’s a long way to go but we are doing something with U2.”
Gordon has created a "source" who elaborates on that single "something" by, er, listing known facts about U2:
A source added: “The band are back in the studio getting a feel for new material after the last album No Line On The Horizon. had a credit on that and they are looking to explore that direction further. They have been working with Dangermouse and Redone They are excited about getting to work with Carl Falk.”
Obviously, Gordon would never reveal his sources, although technically there'd have to be an actual source to not be revealing before that becomes honourable.

But Gordon's big claim?
U2 fans should brace themselves for a new twist to their famous live shows – four stools and standing up during key changes.
You'd be more likely to see Noh theatre reviewed in Bizarre.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Listen with No Rock: Marcella Detroit

Here's something to soothe the rough start of the day - a new song from Marcella Detroit:

Gordon in the morning: You can make me whole again

Worrying news from the Atomic Kitten reunion talks: there's still a prospect of an Atomic Kitten reunion.

There is, however, a sticking point:

PLANS to re-form Atomic Kitten have turned into a stand-off between Jenny Frost and Kerry Katona.

Jenny, 34, refuses to rejoin the band if founder member Kerry, 31, is going to be in it too.
The reunion is built around a TV series, and there's no way this is an attempt to raise interest in the comeback before they start shooting.

You'd have to wonder how much interest there'd be, relatively, in a reunion featuring nation's sweetheart-turned-nation's cokehead-turned-nation's comeback queen-turned-and-turned-again Katona compared to one without her; generally, a Katona-less Kitten would have the star power of a Take That consisting mostly of Donalds and Oranges.

Still, there's work being done behind the scenes:
Now manager Martin O'Shea is said to be frantically trying to compromise.
How, exactly, would that work? Katona in the band, but has to wear a mask? Katona in the band, but not allowed to sing or dance in time with the other two? Getting the origianl Sugababes in instead?

Monday, April 02, 2012

Gordon in the morning: Down under

Gordon has a curious tale this morning about Mel B apparently wanting to become Australian:

The married mum of three said: "I would love to become an Australian citizen."

Eldest child Phoenix, 13, has enrolled at a school in Sydney.

Mel added: "I've set up shop here. We are all really happy and settled."
There's little context to this surprising announcement.

Which is understandable, because the whole thing has been lifted - without any acknowledgement at all - from The Sydney Sunday Telegraph, which basically uses a few words to line up some photos of Scary.

In other words, Gordon is now pinching stories from glorified photo captions.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Festivalwatch: Sonisphere axed

There's not going to be a Sonisphere this year.

Organisers said the cancellation came with "very heavy hearts and much regret".

Evanescence, Marilyn Manson, Cypress Hill, The Blackout and Faith No More were also on the line-up.
Perhaps it's for the best, eh?

Gordon in the morning on Sunday: Jokes and trains

Today, Gordon reports on Rihanna's love affair with the London Underground:

Tube gets a Jubi-Rih line
Rihanna is obsessed with the Underground
It's what you'd expect - random old nonsense, held together by an unsourced and clearly made-up quote:
The Bajan singer, who has been in London this week to promote her new film Battleship, has made a wish list after browsing through the Transport For London online gift shop.

She dreamed up the idea after necking a few glasses of wine while watching several episodes of BBC2 TV series The Tube on the iPlayer with a girl pal.
Understandably, the rubbish doesn't stand up to any examination; indeed, almost as soon as it was published, Going Underground's blog trashed it to within an inch of its life.

There is one thing, though: today is April Fool's Day. Could it be that this pile of unlikely sounding bollocks is meant to be unlikely sounding? Could this be Gordon trying to do a joke?

The trouble is, when every day you run obviously false stories supported by blatantly invented quotes from transparently non-existent people, how would you flag up when your readers are meant to be in on the joke?

On this day, readers are well-advised to approach newspaper stories with enough salt ready to cure a haddock. But every day is like that for the Bizzare column.

[Thanks to @jamesthegill for the tip]

This week just gone

The most-read stories in March 2012 were:

1. Spotify insist they'll kick iTunes butt
2. Gordon Smart promotes the Tulisa sex tape
3. Kylie Minogue underwear range to grow
4. Tatu complain that people think they're gay
5. Frank Skinner complains the Brits isn't as good as it used to be
6. AC/DC won't come to iTunes
7. Radiohead attempts to block scumsucking spawn ViaGoGo fails
8. NME turns 60
9. That Jessie J is part of an illuminati plot
10. Gordon Smart continues the bullying of Tulisa over the sex tape

These were the interesting releases this week:

Blood Red Shoes - In Time To Voices

Download In Time To Voices

Mark Stewart - The Politics Of Envy

Download The Politics Of Envy

The Mars Volta - Noctourniquet

Download Nortourniquet

Various Artists - Late Night Tales Belle & Sebastian Volume 2

Download Late Night Tales