Friday, May 10, 2002

MAILBOX BOMBER UPDATE: Well done the NME for running the "Was a Kurt Cobain fan" shocker about the US pipe bomb kid - if they'd waited until his letter to the school newspaper was published (like here on Yahoo), they might have seen that, erm, actually, he's off his cake on some form of twisted religionism. Rather than doing it because he played Nevermind twice on repeat...

SO, THAT'S WHAT THEY'VE DONE WITH THE HMV CASH: EMI have just bought Mute, ending one of the longest-running indie labels in the country. The home of Depche Mode has become just another imprint. EMI, you'll recall, were cutting dozens of artists not long back after making some pretty stupid decisions, and you have to wonder if this is a purchase designed to build back catalagoue rather than one interested in developing new music. In other label news, internet rumours are starting to get a lot noisier about the possibility of the fucked Vivendi-Universal buying Abbey Road studios off EMI. If they had any sense, they'd sell it to property developers and close the place down - after all, there's so much surplus studio capacity in places where its cheaper to put bands up while they waste time smoking dope and trying to get into girl's pants; it's simply an emotional attachment which stopped Abbey Road being scrapped years ago.

SICK LIST: So Jewel got thrown from her boyfriend's big bucking horse and as a result won't be playing guitar on her European tour this year, while Shirley Manson is being instructed to rest her voice if she's going to be well enough to tour this summer. Meanwhile, the biggest injury-music fear must be Beckham's ankle - if he's not fit enough for the World Cup, it'll only give him time to devote to his scary, scary musical side project. Light a candle, my children.

THE BILL: What with all the coverage of the opportunity for Murdoch to buy Channel 5 in the new Broadcasting Bill, something cold and clammy at the ankles of British music fans seems to have been overlooked. What the terms of the bill makes possible for the first time is for Clear Channel, the American group currently strangling the remaining originality out of US radio stations, to take control of British radio stations. Depending on how relaxed the new rules wind up as being, it's not impossible to imagine a swoop for the radio assets of, say, EMAP and Capital or SMG allowing them to turn a relatively benign local duopoly into a life-crushing monopoly.
And don't think they wouldn't - look at what's happened, for example, in Italy, where last december Clear Channel swooped in and picked up the two major concert promotion companies in one go. Maybe we should all stop worrying a little less about whether News International acquires the home of Night Fever, and look at the threat of the most aggressive radio and concert company being offered the chance to throttle what's left of the UK radio industry.

UP THE JUNCTION: Good news to hear that the well-regarded Late Junction off Radio 3 ("the Wire magazine of the air", if you want) is working to ensure that the supply of quirky stuff it deals in never dries up by launching its own label. Over to (as in "pinched this from the show's website") Tessa Watt: The first four releases will be as follows: 1.There’s a major new album by U.S. composer John Adams, recorded live at the Barbican during the critically acclaimed concert series earlier this year. 2. Max Richter’s brilliant debut album, 'memoryhouse', takes an imagined journey through the last century, using a fascinating mix of found sounds, beats and soundscapes. 3.The David Rees-Williams Trio release their eagerly awaited debut album Hidden Colours-- jazz arrangements of early classical music pieces such as the sublime When I’m Laid In Earth. 4.Diversions #1: Verity Sharp has compiled her Late Junction favourites, reflecting the eclectic nature of the radio programme. Included are artists such as Plastikman, Goldfrapp and Mercury Rev alongside the sounds of frogs in the Amazon Rainforest. This is actually a refreshing use of BBC resources - presumably being financed by Worldwide rather than the licence fee - and a bit of a step up from Bob the Builder type stuff the corporation is usually behind...

REMEMBER WK? Remember Andrew WK? Yes, yes you do - he was the biggest thing in the world, the NME said so. They told us he was the hottest thing in America, only for our bemused American friends to say "Who?" Anyway, we notice that the man apparently so good they stuck him on the front page twice has appeared on the Reading/Leeds bill. At the very bottom on the last day, when people who haven't left early are still burning polystyrene and thinking about bed. He's below Less Than bloody Jake on the bill. Lets hope that's the last we hear of him. His much-hyped debut album, I Get Wet, managed to scrape a low 60's in the chart last November before being sent to the As Many Abums As You Can Carry! For Free! section the following week.

ESSENTIAL UPDATE: Apparently the festival organisers have admitted that poor ticket sales did play a factor in the pulling of stages from the indie rock day, and are seeking to blame the FA Cup and, um, the Badminton Horse Trials (rather than a pisspoor line-up, then) for the low sales - "made it very difficult to get to Bristol that day", it suggests. Of course, every rock fan checks details of dressage shows before deciding whether or not to buy tickets, don't they? That's why the Brighton Essential never worked - fear of Hickstead, of course...

THREE WEEKS OF POP PAPERS IN ONE GO: What with weddings and stuff, there's been three nmes come and go, and no pop papers, so - again, mainly for completeness - here's a quick overview of what's been happening...

the first post-50th issue was a lot better than the one before, to be frank. They've put "New Musical Express" back on the masthead, and they had a band - Hundred Reasons - which was more exciting than many of the covers of late. Plus, a glossy book of photos from the nme when it was good. Excellent...

the next week, it was the Hives - ironically, this came the same time as the Guardian Review which reported a French music journalist as saying "The way it is seen in France, there are 52 NMEs a year, and so - 52 Best Bands Ever." He was wrong, of course - there are only 51 NMEs in a year. There was also something dangerously close to a think piece, which was nice to see, even though the thought it contained - Pink is the new Madonna - only really constituted half a thought. If Pink really is, as she claims, more akin to Maddy than Britney, what was the Christina Aguilera collaboration all about, then?...

The issue also saw the launch of a new side project, NME- Bring It On; free on a monthly basis and also given away in bars and clubs. It's A5, glossy, and a mix of listings and half-thought out articles, sponsored by a brewery. Not anything like The Fly at all, then, is it? It's unclear so far if this is an attempt to do to The Fly what The Fly did to various local listings magazines, or if its a long term attempt to establish a spin-off. Time will tell...

this week, six pages or so given over to Eminem's new album. Now, without disputing that Eminem can turn out a good tune on occasion, we're slightly bemused at how the nme has joyfully played cock-licker to the record label's attempts to hype the new release. There seems to be a swallow-whole aspect to the nme's treatment of the whole hoopla - while you'd hope that a bystander would at least raise the possibility that the careful control of prerelease editions might be due to worries that, maybe, it won't be that good, the nme appear to have accepted the security is because otherwise The Most Important Record In The World would be tainted by having been heard before it can be paid for...

this week's new statesman, funnily enough, has a bit about the fiftieth anniversary of the nme, written by a former nme hack who still has a Kings Reach way with fact-checking (or maybe when he described IPC as the title's "erstwhile publisher", he just didn't know what it meant. Of course, it was better in his day, and the all time Top 50 artists wasn't any good - he claims that "nobody listens to the Pixies nowadays" and then lambasts the chart for being "a list of nme-ish bands" - well, birthday-duh; in short, the piece is about as useful a guide to the nme as the stagger's pieces by bitter old David Cox are accurate on the subject of the BBC. However, Quite How Bad The NME Is Now *did* get well summed up elsewhere in the issue, when a surprising amount of space was given over to a review of Steve Strange's autobiography - a title which the nme couldn't find room for if it wanted to. In the nme overview, it's suggested that the likes of Q and broadsheet rockwriters made it tricky for the nme to compete. When the current affairs weeklies start to do a better job, you have to wonder if any amount of Me Too Regional listings will save it...

BISMILLAH! NO!: Another poll, another "best single ever" victory for Bohemian Rhapsody in an all-time chart - this one is to promote the Guinness Book of British Hit Singles. (You might have thought that after the error-riddled travesty of the last edition, they'd put a bit more effort into proofreading, a little less into pointless promotional stunts, but there you go...). Brian May affects to be worried, lamenting that "people will never let us forget it" - pity the poor man, whose early morning slumbers in the arms of Anita Dobson are often disturbed by the thud of a wodge of royalty cheques landing on the doormat. Many is the time he's sat, in the Breakfast bar, hand paused as he fills in a paying-in slip, when he looks up and asks Anita: "Why is it always Bohemian Rhapsody? Why can't, just once, one of these polls offer praise for that tune which I made-up from the Ford advertising jingle I wrote?"
(Talking of Queen, how come when people attack Ben Elton for writing that godawful Queen musical, its always on the grounds that Queen were crap - which, really, they weren't, all the time, rather than asking him quite what he thinks he's doing helping further line the pockets of a bunch of bastards who broke the UN sanctions against South Africa during the aparthied era by playing Sun City?)
Anyway, to save time in future, we proudly present The All Time Singles of All Time, ever, ever, a cut out and keep list which will allow you, at any time, to publish a definitive list of the greatest singles of all time without needing to go to all the trouble of actually organising a poll:
1. Bohemian Rhapsody
2. Twist and Shout (may be replaced by Hey Jude for publications which feature adverts for musical instruments)
3. Imagine
(Number 2 and 3 should be reversed if near a major anniversary of John Lennon's death)
4. Whatever the best selling single of last year was (May be replaced by White Man In Hammersmith Palais if average age of your readership is above 15, or Anarchy In The UK if average age of children of your readership is above 15)
5. Sympathy for the Devil (or something by Whitney Houston if your readership is predominantly female)
6. Like A Virgin (or Ray of Light if your art director wears sunglasses)
7. Wonderful World (Reet Petite or Sexual Healing or Dock of the Bay will do; it's just tokenism, after all)
8. Wannabe (That'll get the letters pages buzzing, you'll see...)
9. The record your editorial director lost his virginity to, or Lay Lady Lay if he's still a virgin)
10. Something off a compilation about to be released by your largest advertiser
- and that's it. Run every six months for a vaguely-considered reason (50th anniversary, 100 years of the gramophone needle, whatever).

NOW, FOR VIEWERS IN KENT: You might not think of Kent as one of the great musical hotbeds of our times - and perhaps with good reason; naming famous Kentish popstars is a bit like playing Ten Famous Belgians - but there's a hugely charismatic scene beavering away at grass roots and looking to expand. So, we're happy to offer a plug for the Medway and Maidstone Bands um, thingy, which is trying to establish an e-community to support the real life activities. It's always nice to see an area where this is done by the fans and bands themselves rather than by a lavishly funded and poorly conceived "official" central agency (whatever did happen to all that cash that got?) so, if you're in or near Kent, or just want to see what's happening behind the Oast Houses in the Garden of England, pop along. And if you're doing something similar in a different area, drop us a line.

WE NAME THE SPAMMING SCUM BANDS: and do so in a cross way. The Yellow Melodies, Vacaciones and El Planeta Amarillo, come on down. Now, fuck right off. HTML spam, which is even worse, although it seems to be down to Elefant records rather than the bands themselves. Hey, Yellow Melodies - if they try and claim part of your royalties have gone in "promotional costs", ask them how much a badly wirtten email costs to put together these days. Also getting an XRRF slap around is Jake Ide, who sent the same email to apparently every music list in the world first of all quoting Hemmingway's belief that there is no music ever written for 3 am in the morning (KLF's 3 am Eternal?) and then claiming to have written stuff that proves him wrong. Since Hemmingway was the sort of bloke who thought that there was dignity in bull fighting, proving him wrong is hardly anything to brag about, is it? And, in this bumper edition of SpamBands, here's the Brilliant Sins, who think that being from Wales but living in LA is enough to make us listen to their "alternative/punk" music. It's not, but I'd love to hear of bands from LA who are now operating in Wrexham.
Got spammed by a band? Forward it to us, and we'll shame 'em - Mariah, we're waiting...

Thursday, May 09, 2002

ESSENTIAL TRUTH?: So, the festival season has kicked off with a massive fuck-up - promoters of the Essential Festival in Bristol last weekend are acting all surprised that people are a bit fucked off that they axed a large chunk of the bill for the rock day. They pulled a third of the stages, losing Reef, Therapy and Hell is for Heroes in the process. Organisers say that the site was waterlogged and wasn't safe for all the tents, but, strangely, the rest of the weekend the ground was fine. Happily, those days happened to be the ones that had sold out, whereas the rock day hadn't. Lucky that the weather was there to scale down the smaller day. The essential people claim that there were signs outside saying that some bands weren't appearing, and that people could get refunds providing they didn't go in, which is fair enough. Although its not like it was a gig in a city where people would have only travelled a couple of miles, is it? The thing with festivals is people invest a lot of time and money getting there, and chances are will go in because otherwise they'd be stuck in fucking Bristol with nothing to do all day until their train will take them home. So while, yes, morally, the festival can say "you could have turned back", maybe they might want to say "but seeing as we sort of mucked up and weren't able to cope with what was by no means a remarkable level of rain, we'll give everyone a couple of quid off the Hackney Marshes re-run..."
Of course, there's a petition - somehow, I doubt if they'll take any notice
BBC reports - but remains tight-lipped about Radio One's part in promoting the sorry event in the first place

NME BLAMES ROCK: "accused pipebomber quite liked Kurt Cobain" reports - erm, not that its got anything to do with the crimes he's accused of, mind. You'd expect Tipper Gore to say this should re-open the links between rock and violence; for the nme to do so suggests they're getting closer, quicker to an AOL wholesome partyline than we might have feared...
NME jumps to the sort of lame-assed conclusion we'd expect of the religious right - "Probably heard some Marilyn Manson, too" speculation starting about, ooh, now...

OOOH, UNIQUE: Sadly, while we were away, the hammer fell on Craig David's shoes and so we never found out what the chance to make soup from his odour eaters went for - oodles, we bet. However, while poking around, we found this item on ebay, one of many attempts to flog cut-up copies of Billboard to the general public, page by page. Read the description, and then head for your Music Week stash:
You are bidding on a rare radio trade magazine advertisement promoting a CD single.
Rare? Now, I know that US radio might be almost entirely owned by one company, but I'd imagine that most people would still get their own copy of the magazine. Assuming they only sell one copy per ten stations, this magazine must have a circulation in the thousands at the very least. So, hardly rare...
This is an 8 1/2" x 11" trade magazine ad on slick paper stock. It is from a magazine that is intended for music business insiders, not the general public. The record companies use these ads to promote songs and artists to radio stations.
The general public is a slippery term, isn't it? To the police, the dj and the producer would be the general public. And since very, very few trade mags actually require proof of career before purchases can be made, it's not like this is in any way a limited edition.
Trade magazine ads are very collectible and perfect for framing. They are valued by collectors because they were produced in limited numbers (trade magazines publish much fewer copies than regular newsstand magazines) and they often contain photos, artwork and information that are unique to the ad.
I'm sure they're desirable to demented collectors, in the same way that people collect those little shoes that exist solely for the purposes of collection. But "perfect for framing?" - really? What usually amounts to little more than a pack shot, and a list of promo dates? It's hardly original album artwork, is it? Even a front page would be more desirable, surely?
What really surprises, though is not that the seller thinks that a Craig David advert from a generally available magazine is worth $5, but that he thinks he can find buyers for 1,007 adverts in total. Yup, theinsound has spent two hours cutting up a pile of magazines, and believes he's got a pile of clippings worth over $5,000 - at this rate, this week's Music Week must be a pretty solid investment...

R KELLY UPDATE: Nice to be greeted back at our desk with a statement from R "never been convicted of nothing" Kelly, who rejected angrily allegations that he has sex with little girls - "I know I'm not a criminal; my music speaks for itself." Which is hardly much of a defence, actually, since his music is probably causing more suffering in the world than any amount of underage sex. Of course, if Kelly is so certain of his innocence, his advisers might recommend that instead of settling out of court, next time he should come to court and show the world that he's the upstanding figure we all believe him to be.
Whatever happened to Peter Andre?

JUST WHEN I NEEDED YOU MOST: Usually, the fact that blogger can be a bit sticky doesn't bother us - even when it means we lose a fantastically witty post about Bryan Adam's mum. But we could have cried when we attempted to post a short message announcing we were off on honeymoon and we'd be back, um, now and it got swallowed. We scratched at the doors of internet cafes across Bavaria, and even tried shouting into the modem hole in a hotel room, but to no avail. We didn't stop caring, people... but now we're back. Hurrah!