Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Who's doing nicely out The Voice?

Is anyone doing well from The Voice? Obviously the procession of hats and brave faces competing have yet to pitch any wares (except, I guess, for the Five Star back catalogue), but the judges are doing very nicely.

Gennaro Castaldo, HMV's head of abacus-wielding, explains:

"So far Jessie has seen the biggest lift - with sales of her album nearly 100% up on the period before the show started," Gennaro Castaldo, head of press and PR at HMV told The Radio Times.

"It tends to be the performing guest artistes featured on reality TV audition shows that normally steal the headlines and see a lift in sales of their products, but for the first time it's actually the panel of judges on The Voice who appear to be benefiting."
Jessie J's album sales have been boosted by 89%, albeit in some sort of vague way:
[She] has experienced an 89% increase in sales of her first album Who You Are since the show began in March.
Presumably that's not she's sold 89% more than the total sales up until that point, but it's not entirely clear what period the comparison is with.
Fellow coach Danny O'Donoghue has also seen an increase. His band The Script have seen sales of their first two albums rise by 57% over the past four weeks
I'm presuming there's also been a 57% rise in people getting an album home and feeling really cheated in the same period.

Tripadvisor apparently not good enough for Bono

Bono popped over to Jerusalem and stayed in a swish hotel.

Rather than spending the time like a normal person, forcing towels into his suitcase and moaning about the sachets of UHT milk, he dashed off a little poem:

I think they'd have preferred a tenner slipped onto the bedside table, but still, it's quite a nice gesture.

Obviously it's not a very good poem, and it's horrible overwritten, relying on clunking imagery to fumble towards a big political theme. But that's how you can be sure it's a genuine Bono work and not a forgery.

[Thanks to Michael M]

German court might just make YouTube, internet unworkable

GEMA, the German rights organisation, has won a significant victory in a case against Google.

In short, the German courts have decided that YouTube is responsible for the content posted on its site, not the individual posting videos, and as such should be paying royalties for any music that winds up there.

BBC News explains what the ruling means:

If enforced, the ruling could also slow the rate at which video is posted to the site as any music clip would have to be cleared for copyright before being used.
With sixty hours of new video hitting the servers every sixty seconds, the "slow the rate" here would mean, in effect, stop video being pushed to YouTube.

It's a silly move for GEMA to seek this sort of judgement, as it won't stop the content being posted online - their pyrrhic victory over Rapidshare shows how all they do is scatter the content - and backs into a corner an organisation which is sort-of-trying to do the right thing.

The obvious move would be for YouTube to just bow out of Germany. And who, exactly, would be better off as a result of that?

I'll bet Pinterest were watching this judgement with, erm, interest.

Woodwindobit: Greg Ham

It's been quite a week for loss, so I'm a couple of days late with mentioning the death of Greg Ham, multi-instrumentalist with Men At Work.

The cause of Ham's death is still being investigated.

The Telegraph notes that Ham was deeply affected by the court decision that his riff in Down Under was lifted from an Australian kid's song, and even runs his quote that he hated thinking that this would be what he would be remembered for. Right at the end of the story about his death. Which might be a little insensitive.

So, instead, let's take a look a little further along Men At Work's debut album. This track features Ham on lead vocals, and he got a writing credit for it. A more fitting tribute:

[Thanks to Mike E]

Twittergem: Record Store Day

Gordon in the morning: Aguilera fitter

Beci Wood takes to the Bizarre column to suggest there's something not-quite-right about a magazine cover:

CHRISTINA Aguilera turns back the clock with a VERY Dirrty magazine photoshoot.
Christina's body also appears to have been remodelled — indicating the photoshop wizards have been hard at work.
It's just a shame magazines feel the need to get the airbrush out.
Hang about... this is someone in The Sun complaining about reality being manipulated to make something fit the needs of a publication? Really?

Still, two cheers for The Sun taking a stand against setting up ridiculous expectations of body image. Clearly, Beci isn't the sort of person who is part of the journalistic trend of tutting over women's bodies reacting to food and the passage of time...
The 31-year-old star's yo-yo'ing body shape has been the subject of many discussions.

In the snaps a chain metal belt is wrapped around the star's 'waist' while her arms look much thinner than recent images we've seen as she poses hand on hips.
Oh. So this faux outrage about photoshop is just an excuse to point out that sometimes women's body shapes change when they have babies. At least the Mail doesn't pretend to be concerned.

I'm indebted to Michael M, by the way, for pointing out a story from Gordon Smart - with his actual byline - from last Sunday's News Of The World ("Sun on Sunday"): Woman eats breakfast in restaurant.

Guitarherobit: Bert Weedon

There's a lot of love online right now for Bert Weedon, who died yesterday.

Although a formidable musician with a body of recorded work which would put Aesop's ant to shame, Weedon's greatest gift to music must surely be the Play In A Day books.

The name was an inspired and forgivable piece of marketing bluster - you weren't going to be able to play in a date; not like Bert, and not to any recognisable standard. But the books would give you enough basic skills to encourage you to keep going and - as the makers of motivational posters and authors of works about moving cheese will tell you - selling a promise of a quick fix is a great way to get people started.

How many people who play now were given a boost into taking the first step by the promise on a book cover? And how many people did they go on to inspire?

Teachers are important - that's something as a society we're scandalously bad at recognising. And Bert Weedon was a great teacher.

Some nice Weedon-related things amongst the many published in the last 24 hours:
Music Radar republishes a 2002 Guitarist interview with Bert
DigitalJournal places Weedon in the ranks of people who aren't household names, but should be
The Daily Telegraph obituary gives a solid account of 91 years well-lived

Friday, April 20, 2012

Singerdrummerobit: Levon Helm

Levon Helm, who drummed and sang with The Band, has died:

"He passed away peacefully at 1:30 this afternoon surrounded by his friends and bandmates," Helm's longtime guitarist Larry Campbell tells Rolling Stone. "All his friends were there, and it seemed like Levon was waiting for them. Ten minutes after they left we sat there and he just faded away. He did it with dignity. It was even two days ago they thought it would happen within hours, but he held on. It seems like he was Levon up to the end, doing it the way he wanted to do it. He loved us, we loved him."
Rolling Stone claims that Helm was "literally a witness to the birth of rock & roll", by which they mean that as a teenager he saw Elvis and Little Richard playing gigs. Certainly he was inspired; by 1960 he was part of a backing band for Ronnie Hawkins which contained the team who become the Crackers, then Levon And The Hawks, and then Bob Dylan's backing band.

Levon took a break from the group during 1965, when their role helping Bob Dylan's eletrification of the folk circuit brought so much hatred he needed a rest. By the time he rejoined, the band was The Band and were already stepping out from Dylan.

After Robbie Robertson split the group - against Helm's wishes - in 1976, the pair would enter into a longterm grudge-feud that was so bad Levon refused to attend The Band's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction. Which makes Levon a good few years ahead of Axl Rose.

Levon Helm was 71. He had throat cancer.

RIP: Bert Weedon

The Press Assocation is reporting the death of Bert Weedon.

Gordon in the morning: The ghost of you stays

Clearly the cupboard is empty at The Sun today. As it continues to grind out extracts from the book about Cowell that nobody cares about ("that everyone's talking about"), the rest of the paper seems to be scrabbling about to try and find anything to fill the yawning holes. Like this:

Ghostly vampire shock for George Michael
Not just a vampire shock, but a ghostly one. For George Michael.

Has David Austin turned up again?

Not quite...
POP legend George Michael’s street is haunted by a VAMPIRE, it was claimed yesterday.
Hang about... if a vampire becomes a ghost, it's not really a vampire any more, is it? It loses the ability to suck blood, so it's just a ghost, surely? That's if a vampire can become a ghost, as not having a soul what would 'create' the ghost?

And where exactly is the 'shock' for George Michael?
Ghostbuster Mickey Gocool, said “exceptionally high levels” of paranormal activity surrounded the ex-Wham! star’s £3million mansion.
So there's just a bloke claiming there's spooky stuff on the street. I don't think that's going to "shock" George Michael, is it? It's not the sort of shock you get when you come to and discover your car is parked alongside the mousemat and mug shelves of Snappy Snaps, is it?

But, come on, let's treat Mickey Gocool like he's an expert - you say there's a ghost vampire on the street, do you?
The house is near Highgate Cemetery, North London, where the vampire was first spotted.
So the 'vampire shock' for George Michael is that there's a claim that a cemetery a short distance away might have a ghost vampire in it.

I can't believe Gordon Smart is breaking such shattering news to him this way. Imagine the trauma that Michael will be going through this morning.

But there's more:
Another alleged ghost is a 17th century woman who murdered 50 kids.
You'll spot the canny use of the word "alleged" there - as we know, Gordon Smart promised Leveson that he diligently fact-checks every word that appears on his pages. The cagey "alleged" suggests that Smart couldn't quite get proof that this ghost actually exists.

Perhaps in the old days he might have made up a quote from a pal of the ghost - "A source said 'she will wake George Michael up before he goes woooooooooooooooooooh'" - but those days are past.

Almost like a proper journalist, Gordon carefully makes clear that there's no proof at all that the made-up bollocks actually exists.

Coming tomorrow: Tulisa plans trip to Austria. Quite near where Dracula comes from.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Gordon in the morning: A morning outing

The Sun has been dribbling out extracts from the Simon Cowell book all week - the suspicion that Sun staff might struggle with the reading borne out by the fact that it appears to take two people to copy chunks out and pretend it is interesting. They've bought a second book, too, a muck-rakey story about Jessie J. As a result, today's front page is especially unedifying:

Jessie gay
Simon NOT gay
Voice star 'is a secret lesbian'
Cowell: I'm totally straight

POP beauty Jessie J is 100 per cent lesbian, an explosive book claims.
Yes, the front page of a national newspaper is given over to a claim about a young woman's sexuality based on a book that isn't even about her.
The Voice judge, 24, was ordered to hide the truth from fans by claiming to be merely bisexual, the unauthorised biography says.
What? "Merely bisexual"? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Besides "demeaning to bisexuals". Does the paper believe that bisexuality is somehow the easy option? That isn't true.

Oh, but it's trendy, isn't it?
The Voice judge, 24, was ordered to hide the truth by record bosses to avoid turning off male fans, the unauthorised biography says.

They advised the star to say she was a bisexual who liked boys AND girls, because that was trendy.
That'd be right, as no man has ever had a sexual fantasy featuring a lesbian, ever. That's a fact.

Does The Sun really think that outing people - or, rather, choosing to disparage their own choice of self-sexual identification - is what a newspaper should be doing in 2012?

The author of the book, Chloe Gavin, claims:
“Being gay would alienate people. They knew how important image was and asked her to tone it down a bit.

“There are so many homophobes out and there were fears of a career-damaging backlash.”
It's true - being bisexual really takes the huff out of the homophobes. Who can forget Westboro Baptist Chruch, picketing funerals with signs saying 'God hates fags - if only you'd had sex with a woman from time to time, that would have been alright'.

There's a stern warning at the foot of the page:
© The Sun. Our lawyers are watching.
Presumably not lawyers who understand the bit about the right to a private life. Although, given how their company hacked and trailed solicitors, that's a typo and should read 'we're watching your lawyers'.

Presenterobit: Dick Clark

Dick Clark with his 1990 Grammy
image: Alan Light CC-BY

Dick Clark has died.

Clark is a strange figure - a massive, massive star in the US who barely registers in the UK, which feels like a category of celebrity which couldn't happen these days. Mind you, his lack of interest in Britain might have been based on a fundamental misunderstanding:
That started in radio and I learned it from Godfrey. Just be yourself. I’m of English heritage, the English are not known for a great sense of humor. Second only to the Germans, maybe. They don’t come by it natural. So all I could do was be myself. I did pretty well doing that.
As the host of American Bandstand, American radio's chart countdown show and, for decades, Dick Clark's Rockin' New Years Eve, Clark combined the roles of Jimmy Savile and Jools Holland.

Oh, and he was a restauranteur too - with American Bandstand themed diners, mainly at airports. And a businessman (he told Larry King that he owned all the Krispy Kreme franchises in the UK, and, as we know, he didn't really do jokes). And a producer - bringing the American Music Awards and Donny and Marie to television, amongst others.

It's arguable that he did nothing of any great consequence - doughnuts and Osmonds and burgers and "Mariah Carey at number one for a third week" and ringing in the new year - but he was the lubricant on which American pop culture ran for decades.

Dick Clark had been unwell for some time; he died from a heart attack during an outpatient procedure. He was 82.

[update: minor edit, changing 'could' to 'couldn't' - see the comments area for explanation]

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Bob Geldof wants you to put your money into bricks and mortar

Like his chum Bono, Bob Geldof isn't just interested in equality and aid; He's also fascinated with making a quick buck out of property.

He's turned up to push a thing called Progressive Property - shill is such an ugly word, isn't it, so let's use that. He shills in the least attractive way possible, by claiming that land-grabbing is exactly what Gandi would do. PlanetyPropetyBlog raises an eyebrow:

They’re a bit like ... Gandhi (I swear, I’m not making this up!)... who, as we all know, was famous for preaching the redeeming qualities of buying Below Market Value.

Then he goes on to laud Germany for its relatively stable housing market – it’s not a casino economy based on property says Bob, because lots of people rent and rents are capped by the Government (“not something you want to hear”, he admits).

Ooops. Quickly changing tack, he then gets back to the flattering stuff (you’re all great entrepreneurs who will save the country!) and slags off the banks for not lending money to property investors and for giving themselves big bonuses.
Hmm. You can watch the full video here; it's rather long and a bit rambling, but in short: free Daily Expresses and Bic-style razors all round...

Gordon in the morning: Off-colour

How can you tell when you're just running a pap snap for the sake of it, and not because there's even a slither of a story attached?

Yes, having to change the colour of your headline in a bid to add some sort of interest. That'd be a clue.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Lydon draws attention to single he doesn't want you to buy

John Lydon is livid - livid - with the re-release of God Save The Queen. Livid, I tells you:

In a statement, Lydon said of the re-release: "It is certainly not my personal plan or aim. I am proud of what The Sex Pistols achieved and always will be but this campaign totally undermines what The Sex Pistols stood for.

"This is not my campaign. I am pleased that the Sex Pistols recordings are being put out there for a new generation, however, I wish for no part in the circus that is being built up around it."
'Yes,' continued Lydon, 'those singles that are available in all good stores, via and to download from iTunes certainly don't have my blessing. I'm certainly doing my best to stop people from noticing what otherwise would have been an insignificant and frankly embarrassing re-release by trumpeting quite loudly how I don't approve of people buying them'. He then got a box of records from the boot of his car, yelling 'roll up, roll up' as he sold them, tutting in the face of everybody as he pocketed their cash.

Embed and breakfast man: First Aid Kit

Fresh from an appearance on Conan O'Brien:

Gordon in the morning: I'm sorry, we don't take faces

I'm not sure Gordon's story about Tulisa in a shop makes any sense.

Tulisa is, supposedly, buying some wine. But - because she looks so young - she is challenged for proof of age.

She said: “I didn’t have my ID so he wouldn’t give it to me.

"There were all these mags with me on the front cover so I pulled out one, slapped it on the desk and said ‘Look, there’s my ID.

"Can I have the wine?’ He gave it to me.”
There's a problem here, though. You're not asked for ID to prove who you are, it's to prove how old you are. And even if Tulisa happened to find a magazine which happened to quote her age, I'm pretty certain a gossip column in Closer doesn't have the same legal status as an official proof of age issued by the Home Office. Or The Economist.

Still, there is something refreshing in this story, as it's not often you'll hear a person off the television telling a story which revolves around people not knowing who they are. Tulisa, and - in yesterday's Countdown - Margaret Mountford, and that's about it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dr Dre finally catches up with Cliff Richard

There's a lot of excitement at the idea of Tupac's "guest appearance" with Dr Dre a short while ago at Coachella.

Isn't this just what they used to do to get Laurence Olivier onstage at Time: The Musical back in 1985? Slightly better technology, maybe, but it was duff when Cliff Richard and Dave Clarke invented the idea; now it's just an expensively duff idea.

Still, given this slow moving of technology from the West End to hip-hop, expect a flying car onstage at Coachella sometime around 2025.

Gordon in the morning: Oh, don't take those sleeping pills

Noel Gallagher had some bother at Coachella on account of his stash:

“They [Coachella security] pulled out my sleeping tablets and asked me to explain them.

“There were about 30 little yellow and white tablets.

“I said, ‘In all seriousness Chuck, or whatever your name is, do you not think these would at least be down my sock? They are sleeping tablets.

“ ‘What do you want me to do? Take one before I go on stage to prove what they are?’ ”
Smart - who is in Coachella for some reason (presumably The Sun's US editor Pete Samson wasn't judged to be the right man for the 'job'?) - shares Gallagher's apparent outrage at this, the story calling the security guards "High Flying Bird Brains".

But hang on a moment - if they were over the counter sleeping pills, they'd be in a packet; if they're prescription, they'd be in a proper bottle, and presumably Gallagher would be carrying the prescription to help him answer questions at security lines. So either Gallagher has embellished his tale, or else has taken the decision to carry his pills in a plain packet for some reason - maybe to generate this sort of story?

And should security guards be disinterested in someone carrying a large number of sleeping pills anyway? Some people use them to turn off the effects of other, less-wholesome pills. Others use some types as part of their date rape kit. Obviously, Gallagher wasn't going to use his sleeping pills like that, but that means his outrage boils down to 'do you know who I am'?

Still, you've got to love the offer of popping a sleeping pill before the High Functioning Birds takes the stage - he slept-walk through the last ten years of Oasis, so presumably wouldn't be too much of a challenge for Noel.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Managerobit: Paul Hickey

Paul Hickey, long-time manager, and former partner of, Andy Bell, has died.

Hickey had been unwell for some time; he was 62. He recently published a memoir of his years with Bell and Erasure.

Courtney Love realises she might have been wrong

After going on Twitter and bellowing that Dave Grohl had tried to get off with Frances Bean Cobain, Courtney Love appears to have sobered up:

Courtney Love apologized to Frances Bean Cobain via Twitter early this morning.

"Bean, sorry I believed the gossip," she wrote. "Mommy loves you."
Oddly, Love seems to have neglected to apologise to Dave Grohl - which is odd, considering that the original claim marked Bean out as a victim of a predatory older male. It's like driving a car into someone, and apologising to the fender.

Saxobit: Andrew Love

Andrew Love, fifty per cent of the Memphis Horns, has died.

Born in Memphis in 1941, like many of his generation and background, Love's induction into live performance came in church. He left to study in Oklahoma, but returned to Tennessee upon graduation and took a session job with Stax records.

It was here he met Wayne Jackson - the other fifty per cent of the Memphis Horns - and together they would provide a Southern brass kick to almost countless recordings. You can hear their work here:

Al Bell of Stax was generous remembering the Memphis Horns on Friday:

"Stax Records would not have become what it became without them. I love saxophone players, and I have many saxophone players I admire and hold in high esteem. But I have never heard a saxophone player who affects and penetrates me like Andrew Love. It was the spirit in him, and you could feel it in the music. He could arouse your deepest emotions, but he would do it gently, softly. It was like he was making love to your soul."

Earlier this year, The Memphis Horns were given a lifetime achievement award at the Grammys - only the second time backing musicians have actually been treated by proper human beings by the academy.

Love had been living with Alzheimers for over a decade; his death was believed to be linked to this condition. He was 70.

Physical decline: Best Buy closes 50 stores

Another knock for CDs: Best Buy has announced plans to close 50 big-box stores in the US in favour of opening 100 Best Buy Mobile shops.

The closing stores have massive racks of CDs. The opening ones, not so much.

Nobody in Cleveland much cares for Axl Rose

Last night, Guns N Roses were officially inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Some of the band turned up, but Axl didn't.

How did that go down?

Boos rang out from some of the 6,000 in attendance early in the evening when Billie Joe Armstrong, lead singer of Green Day, asked the crowd "who was missing" as members of Guns N' Roses were up on stage accepting their award.
I imagine if there'd been a moment when Axl had been wondering if he'd done the right thing when he stayed away, those doubts would have vanished faster than GNR's dignity when they had they guy with chicken bucket on his head.

If I've understood the scenario correctly, the people at the Hall Of Fame have decided that Rose created one of the seminal rock acts in music history, and wanted to show their appreciation of that work by, erm, booing him for not schlepping over to Ohio on a cold Saturday in April for them to tell him how great he is.

Surely not going to the Hall Of Fame bunfight is exactly the sort of anti-establishment bullshit the Hall Of Fame is supposed to be celebrating?

[UPDATE: Fellow inductees Rod Stewart and Adam Yauch also had better things to do. Oddly, their non-appearance wasn't turned into a circus.]

This week just gone

The most-read 2012 stories this far are:

1. Noel Gallagher remembers how it was all better under Thatcher
2. Gordon Smart helps promote the Tulisa sex tape
3. MySpace sort-of returns from the wilderness
4. Brits 2012 Liveblog with... sorry, have to stop you there
5. Frank Skinner says the Brits aren't as good as in the past. Like when he presented it.
6. Some thoughts on Whitney Houston
7. Spotify claim they're about to crush iTunes
8. RIP: Christopher Reimer
9. If Bono says no, what do you do?
10. The illustrated Friends

These were interesting and released last week:

Ian Prowse - Does This Train Stop On Merseyside?

Download Does This Train Stop...?

The Cornshed Sisters - Tell Tales

Download The Cornshed Sisters

Sea Of Bees - Orangefarben

Download Orangefarben

Trembling Bells featuring Bonnie "Prince" Billy - The Marble Downs

Download The Marble Downs

M Ward - A Wasteland Companion

Download A Wasteland Companion

Gemma Hayes - Let It Break

Download Let It Break

Florence & The Machine - MTV Unplugged

Download MTV Unplugged