Wednesday, December 31, 2003


Choose a week from the 52:

05 January 2003
12 January 2003
19 January 2003
26 January 2003
02 February 2003
09 February 2003
16 February 2003
23 February 2003
02 March 2003
09 March 2003
16 March 2003
23 March 2003
30 March 2003
06 April 2003
13 April 2003
20 April 2003
27 April 2003
04 May 2003
11 May 2003
18 May 2003
25 May 2003
01 June 2003
08 June 2003
15 June 2003
22 June 2003
29 June 2003
06 July 2003
13 July 2003
20 July 2003
27 July 2003
03 August 2003
10 August 2003
17 August 2003
24 August 2003
31 August 2003
07 September 2003
14 September 2003
21 September 2003
28 September 2003
05 October 2003
12 October 2003
19 October 2003
26 October 2003
02 November 2003
09 November 2003
16 November 2003
23 November 2003
30 November 2003
07 December 2003
14 December 2003
21 December 2003
28 December 2003

RADIO SIXHEAD BECOMES RADIO FOUR HEAD: As if taking over Six Music last week wasn't enough work for one man, Thom Yorke had a crack at editing this morning's Today. Unfortunately while No Rock was still enjoy a morning lie-in - but the show is still online for another week (a must for all Radiohead completists) - and the features will remain online for a good while longer.

Interestingly, Yorke was barred from doing a piece investigating the stranglehold of Clear Channel, because the Today programme lawyers were worried about Clear's reaction. Bearing in mind the show had spent the second half of this year staring down the government and Blair in the Hutton enquiry, the fact Clear Channel scares even them suggests just what a juggernaut the radio-and-ads giant has become.

HAPPY NEW YEAR: As the list of archives grows ever longer, we'd like to take this opportunity to wish everyone a prosperous 2004. Even although we're aware that Blogspot is down at the moment so nobody can read this right now.

I DO LANG SYNE: Natalie Imbruglia marries Daniel Johns out of Silverchair in a "secret" ceremony on New Year's Eve. They needn't really have bothered so much about the secrecy - Launch decided the two have such a low profile now they package the news story under a 'Lenny Kravitz' heading.

JOHN PEEL IS NOT ENOUGH: With thanks to the ever-reliable Peel Yahoo group, here's this year's festive fifty rundown:

1. Cinerama - 'Don't Touch That Dial'
2. The Fall - 'Theme From Sparta FC'
3. Mogwai - 'Hunted By A Freak'
4. Undertones - 'Thrill Me'
5. Bearsuit - 'Itsuko Got Married'
6. Mogwai - 'Ratts Of The Capital'
7. Half Man Half Biscuit - 'Tending The Wrong Grave For 23 Years'
8. The Crimea - 'Baby Boom'
9. CLSM - 'John Peel Is Not Enough'
10. White Stripes - '7 Nation Army'
11. Belle & Sebastian - 'Step Into My Office, Baby'
12. Melt Banana - 'Shield You're Eyes'
13. Nina Nastasia - 'You, Her & Me'
14. Ballboy - 'The Sash My Father Wore'
15. Vive La Fete - 'Noir Desir'
16. Sluts Of Trust - 'Piece O' You'
17. White Stripes - 'Black Math'
18. Yeah Yeah Yeah's - 'Maps'
19. Broken Family Band - 'At The Back Of The Chapel'
20. The Darkness Vs S.F.B - 'I Believe In A Thing Called Love'
21. Million Dead - 'I Am The Party'
22. Undertones - 'Oh Please'
23. Ballboy - 'I Gave Up My Eyes'
24. Party Of One - 'Shotgun Funeral'
25. Futureheads - 'First Day'
26. The Fall - 'Green Eyed Loco Man'
27. The French - 'Porn Shoes'
28. Half Man Half Biscuit - 'It Makes The Room Look Bigger'
29. Architecture In Helsinki - 'The Owls Go'
30. Camera Obscura - 'Suspended From Class'
31. Amsterdam - 'Does This Train Stop On Merseyside'
32. Maher Shalal Hash Baz - 'Open Field'
33. Neulander - 'Sex, God, Money'
34. Black Keys - 'Have Love Will Travel'
35. Mass - 'Live A Little'
36. The French - 'Gabriel In The Airport'
37. Radiohead - 'There, There'
38. Ballboy - 'Born In The USA'
39. Cat Power - 'Werewolf'
40. Broadcast - 'Pendulum'
41. Keys - 'Strength Of Strings'
42. Golden Virgins
43. Belle & Sebastian - 'Stay Loose'
44. Hyper Kinako - 'Tokyo Invention Registration Office'
45. Grandmaster Gareth - 'The Minute Melodys (Any Of)'
46. Super Furry Animals - 'Slow Life'
47. Camera Obscura - 'Keep It Clean'
48. Blizzard Boys - 'Ain't No Stoppin' This'
49. Freddy Fresh - 'You Can See The Paint'
50. The Vaults - 'I'm Going'

Which, if nothing else, is probably going to be the only list of singles you see this year that doesn't have Crazy In Love in it. Nice to see Cinerama and the Fall keeping to the tradition of the list (voted for by listeners to John Peel's show) being dominated by Mark E Smith and David Gedge; nice, also to see Amsterdam and Half Man... keeping a strong Merseyside presence there. We're not sure if the good people at 30242 aren't jumping the gun a little in making many of the last twenty years or so of the Fifty available online, but since Greg Dyke is keen for BBC licence payers to be able to access the programmes they've paid for, it's probably only half wrong.

HOW MUSIC WORKS NOW: Meet SecretsKBDB, a new band who will "blow ur mind" apparently. They've already got their fanclub sorted and, erm, plan on actually making some music sometime in summer.

PUPPET TRAPPED: Despite being seriously injured, Cris Kirkwood of the Meat Puppets is being viewed as a flight risk and looks unlikely to be released on bond. Kirkwood was shot in the back by a Post Office security guard after hitting him on the head with a baton following a dispute over a parking place (which is, dude, so not punk rock). With his previous drug convictions, it's not looking good for Kirkwood entering the new year as a free man.

SOMETHING TO WARM THE HEART OF THE BPI: After a tricky year for British music overseas, what with the world sending back their Robbie Williams albums with the returns slip marked "We already own a Timberlake" and Coldplay - of all people - having to hold aloft the Union Jack (that's going to put Chris' back out), the Windy City Times has at least managed to spot that there's lots of good stuff going on away from the mainstream in the UK. We somehow doubt if this is going to lead to the Tindersticks suddenly dating Angelina Jolie, though, but stranger things have happened.

BEING ON BBC THREE IS NEARLY DISAPPEARING: Justine Frischmann cropped up on something jewish's clunkily-named Where Are Jew Now? feature just before hanukkah, claiming "I do feel I sort of did my bit. So you may well never hear from me again - doing anything." That's except for the BBC Three series on architecture, of course. And the judging architecture awards. And doing MIA. And dj-ing. And teaching. But apart from that...

We've got the Elastica reunion down for 2009.

IT'S THE END OF THE YEAR./ I HAVE JUST SETTLED HERE: We're not sure if anyone could be short of reviews of the year, which pad out the papers and fill up the blogworld at this time of year, but if you're looking to spend the last few hours of 2003 reliving the year just a little bit more, Blogcritics has a round-up of several reviews, and the opportunity to link to your own.

MORE FUN THAN WAITING FOR THE GLITTERBALL: Go to this website; type in some words - the database will then piece together a patchwork of those words culled from various songs and play it back to you. It's most fun when you use a line from a song and the computer, usually, finds a way that it could have been done better. And everything comes out sounding a bit like Girls Aloud.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003

INTERNATIONALPOPOBIT: Anita Mui, Hong Kong based pop singer, has died from cervical cancer at the age of 40. Jackie Chan - who was with her when she died - said Mui had hoped fans would "stay calm and not cry for her." Late last week, Mui announced that she intended to step down from her role as president of Hong Kong Performing Artists Guild.

Although popularly perceived as having shot to overnight fame after winning an Opportunity Knocks style singing contest, Mui actually took a further couple of years to secure the level of success which made her a worldwide icon, albeit only in Chinese-speaking households. The fame may have been a mixed blessing; such was the level of press intrusion into her life she had to make a public plea to be allowed to receive her cancer treatment in private.

Her final live appearance was earlier this month at a cancer fundraiser.

SORRY, MR. JACKSON: Following on from the not-exactly-helping CBS interview, Stuart Backerman, Michael Jackson's chief spokesman, has bailed citing musical differences - erm, strategic differences - with the legal team who are encouraging jackson to go on really badly lit TV appearances and twaddle on about how when he sees a children's face, he sees the face of God - blissfully unaware that we were seeing his face, and in it about a dozen medical malpractice suits. Apparently Mark Geragos, the attorney in charge of Jackson's - well, we were going to say "defence" but that would be stretching it - stepped in at one point during the CBS interview to stop jackson from answering a question - which makes you wonder what he was afraid of, when you consider the stuff he let his client shoot firmly into his own foot.

ME AGAINST THE MUSIC DOWNLOADS: This year saw Britney Spears being used as a tool against the evil filesharers who would deny the management at BMG their shiny leather sofas. According to Yahoo's search terms rundown, more people took this as a sign to seek out Kazaa than to seek out Britney.

Also on a download kick, we were delighted and amused to see that a computer virus circulating the web right now pretends to be from the FBI - although it starts off sounding like it's come from Jason Pierce:

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Downloading of Movies, MP3s and Software is illegal and punishable by law.
We hereby inform you that your computer was scanned under the IP . The
contents of your computer were confiscated as an evidence, and you will be indicated.
You get the charge in writing, in the next days.
In the Reference code: #46129, are all files, that we found on your computer.
The sender address of this mail was masked, to protect us against mail bombs.
- You get more detailed information by the Federal Bureau of Investigation -FBI-
- Department for "Illegal Internet Downloads", Room 7350
- 935 Pennsylvania Avenue
- Washington, DC 20535, USA

Now, having seen the pisspoor attempts of the FBI to investigate the anthrax attacks and "terrorist" activity in the US and beyond (if they knew who the supposed hijackers of the Air France flights were, why not wiat until they tried to board the plane and arrest them?), we could almost be led to believe they would send out such a cockanamee email, but it is, of course, just a lame attempt to get people to open the attachment.

THEY TRIED TO CATCH A FALLING STAR/ THINKING THAT SHE HAD GONE TOO FAR: Something that will provide a spot of schadenfreude comfort for Victoria Beckham when she fails to get the number one slot in the slowest week of the pop year are the reports that even the one of the Spice Girls who can sing is in serious trouble. Many footballers have had their careers scuppered by a leg injury, but surely Mel C is the first pop star ever to be dropped because she'd buggered her knee?.

Meanwhile, Emma Bunton claims her last single was inspired by German Porn Film soundtracks. "When I hear it, I hear something different from everyone else" she giggles. Although since the only people who still follow her career are - shall we say - men of a certain passion, I wouldn't be too sure, Ems.

A KITTIN AT CHRISTMAS: A little treat to lift these dumper days between the birth of the Lord Emmanuel and the Archbish of Canterbury's just-after-midnight New Year message: a streaming MP3 mix from Miss Kittin. Mulled wine, anybody?

THE PRICE OF FAME HAS INCREASED A PENNY - OFFICIAL: So, it seems that Justin Hawkins off The Darkness isn't going to marry his fiancee after all, because of the "difficulties" caused by the band's success (let's not speculate exactly what form these difficulties may have taken, nor if they were selected by the roadies like in the golden days of rock.) The Sun's description of Justin, however, deserves to be noted: He is, of course "the Spandex-wearing singer."

On the same page, by the way, there's reports that Macy Gray is going to jump on the badnwagon of "launching her own range of clothes" - except, erm, she's going to do it under her real name. Natalie Hinds, apparently.

MOST GOES TO HIS WIFE: Mickie Most's will has been read, with his estate being valued at GBP18 million, which isn't a bad pile to have accumulated.

Monday, December 29, 2003

COMING NEXT: EXCEL - THE OPERA: Is it just us, or has David Byrne's whimsical Powerpoint 'artwork' merely doing what Armando Ianucci did with a lot less effort and a lot more impact when he produced an end-of-conference routine using Powerpoint? "There's the problem... my dog has no nose... so, how does he smell? And here are the three possibilities... and there, the solution: awful. He smells awful..." (Maybe you need the slides for that to work...)

FEELING A LITTLE FLAT: We doubt if we'd be able to turn down their chequebook, but even so, we can't help but feel a little disappointed that Pepsi have bought Pink up lock, stock and attitude to front a new pop campaign called "international!" (the lower case 'i' and the exclamation mark are all part of the trademark, we gather.)

The launch blurb is an art trip in itself:

Pink is delighted about the signing; 'I'm really excited to be hooking up with Pepsi, it means my fans around the world will be able to get lots more of my music and there will be cool stuff for them to win too!' Pink's off-the-wall attitude perfectly encapsulates Pepsi's Dare For More message for 2004 and consumers can gain exclusive access to their favourite star through a series of Pepsi initiatives.

We know that Pink didn't actually say anything like "there will be cool stuff for them to win too" but, oh, it hurts that she allowed her manager to rubber stamp the phrase when Pepsi's advertising people ran it past them. Meanwhile, as consumers, we're waiting for the series of Pepsi initiatives that will allow us to gain exclusive access to someone whose "off the wall attitude" so encapsulates the core message of Dare For More.

Although we guess it means there will be cans with Pink on the side, so that's good. Pity it has to be the second best cola, though. Also kind of disturbing that she's happy to shackle herself to Pepsico while there's the little matter of their Walkers workers having to hold union meetings in car parks after they removed that basic human right of free association from their staff: clearly, while Pepsi's message in 2004 might be 'Dare for more', they don't want it to be achieved through group action.

Might we take this opportunity to compare Pink with damn Britney Spears?

WOULD PEOPLE HAVE STARED AT HIS WARTS OR HER BREASTS?: Like airplane near-misses and that time the US military thought the exploding Soviet mars probe was the first wave of a nuclear attack, you sometimes don't realise how close you come to horror until you find out long after it happens. Likewise, it was only long after Lemmy and Jordan failed to fix a date to record together that we find out we nearly had to endure a Motorhead/famous for having big tits duet. He's still angling for Jeff Beck to turn up and help out with his solo album, which seems to be at least twelve months in the future. Twelve months is a worrying large window for Jordan still to get in touch, we fear. Clue: we're not expecting anything on the lines of Little Baby Nothing.

HE HAS A WAY WITH THE WORDS, DOES MR. WEILAND: Scott Weiland has sent an open letter to all Rolling Stone's gossip columnists:

To All Rolling Stone Gossip Columnists | 12/26/2003
First of all let me say that Rolling Stone magazine's gossip columns exist only so rich college boys can wipe their fucking asses with the rag. As for the lad that interviewed me and then printed that I was drunk driving... get your facts straight you moron paparazzi fuck.

Yeah, dammit - he was out of his cake on designer drugs and injecting liquid oxygen into his eyeball, you moron. Or something. You'll note that Scott doesn't actually take the opportunity to give us any facts about his mysterious odd-driving incident. And he seems not to realise that the paparazzi are photographers. Wonder if he spent much of Boxing Day trying to find out how to delete messages from the website?

TALKING OF POPSTARS ACCUSED OF ABUSING KIDS: In Mexico, Gloria Trevi has gone on hungerstrike because, oddly enough, the prison authorities wouldn't let her mum come in and give her a home-cooked Christmas Dinner. (Who does she think she is: Grouty?) Trevi, of course, is popularly known as Mexico's Madonna - although so far Madonna's desperate re-inventions haven't yet taken quite so drastic steps as those Trevi is accused of - kidnapping, abuse of minors, that sort of thing. There's been more bad news for Gloria, too, as the judge presiding over her case has been told to treat the death of her daughter as a homicide - probably due to the odd funeral service Trevi chose, getting one of her backing singers to throw the body into a sewage channel in Brazil. Gloria might want to think about at least snacking a little before the trial, as she might need to have her wits about her when she starts to try and explain herself.

THE CBS EYE SEES THE TRUTH: After a quiet Christmas, then, Jackson trots out onto the telly to put his side of the story, claiming police brutality and showing off what appeared to be a mark from a chinese burn. Now, it is possible that once they'd allowed him to choose the time of his own return from Los Angeles, let him charter his own flight, met him at the airport but merely to provide an escort to the station to protect him from the media, and walked alongside him into the cop shop, that maybe the cops suddenly realised he was meant to be a black guy and knee-jerkingly attacked him, but it doesn't seem that likely to us. Jackson suggests that the police dislocated his shoulder for him - and maybe they did, but since the rest of his interview pronouncements had clearly been prescripted by a PR team based in the outer-suburbs of the capital city of La-La Land, it'd be hard to give very much credence to his claims. Didn't he have a lawyer with him? Like, at all times?

The sad thing is that he's acting (and we think that's the precise word) as if he hasn't really understood that these problems could be avoided totally if he just accepted that grown men known to have spent fourteen million buying off a child-fiddling case and other people's children should not be mixing in bedrooms. The decision to tell Sixty Minutes that he'll carry on with the totally innocent sleepovers isn't going to look good in court, but to a man whose defence is that there's nothing fishy about it all at all, it may have been that his people saw this as the only line he could take.

What really made the media purr was the claim that he'd rather cut his own wrists than abuse a child - although, obviously it'd be better for Fox News Channel if he could keep himself away from the knife drawer until after the trial.

Some words of support though - David Blaine popped up on television during Christmas saying that he was sure Jacko wasn't the sort to rape small boys "on the basis of a long train journey I took with him." The Neverland Team are presumably hoping for jury of twelve people who've taken the Caledonian Sleeper with Michael at some point.

Sunday, December 28, 2003

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY AT CHRISTMAS: 'Putting everyone on a warning that if they say 'proper crimbo' within a ten metre radius they'll be getting discarded turkey down their shirts' edition
Ah, the spirit of Christmas - peace on earth, and goodwill to all men. Except of course for Michael Jackson, who was plotting to come and spend the festive season in the United Kingdom with Uri Gellar - we're tempted to suggest that regardless of what the Ex-King Bonkerstime of Pop may or mayn't have done, nobody deserves to spend the longest day of the year with Uri - "Oh, I know... I'll bend the spoon in the brandy butter now, yes?" - but it was by no means certain that Jacko would be allowed to flee from California anyway. Nevertheless, the Brighton Argus decided to gather some opinions about the proposed visit anyway, and so went direct onto the phone to, erm, Michelle Hadaway to ask what she thought. Hadaway is, of course, the mother of one of the two little girls murdered in Wild Park, Brighton back in 1986. Quite why her thoughts on this matter were even sought is puzzling - we're picturing an editorial meeting where they realised too late she'd have been perfect local background colour for the paper's Soham Trial coverage, so they resolved to call her up for the very next story vaguely associated with children in peril. If the choice of interviewee was odd, though, the decision to run the piece anyway despite its frankly baffling lack of coherence is frankly stumping all synapses: "Jackson should be banned until and unless he is cleared of these charges. It is out of order letting him in with these allegations hanging over him. I hope someone like him isn't involved in child abuse but then Gary Glitter was my idol and looked (sic) what he did. It is difficult to know who to trust these days so it is better Michael Jackson stays where he is. If the allegations are false and he is cleared then we should welcome him back." Really, the paper would have been better off running a story about some lost kittens or something in the space.

As if being told to stay home by the mother of a dead child, things got worse for Michael Jackson when Ulrika Jonsson used her News of the World column to call for Jackson to be banned from Britain in total. And that meant from the radio and the muzak-tubes of the nation's stores. Apparently the woman who single-handedly created the John Leslie episode this year has taken to flouncing up to cowering sales assistants and demanding they take Thriller out the CD machine. Going a bit far, surely, Ulrika? If it was Earth Song, though, we'd be right behind you.

One of the best pieces of music writing of the Christmas period came, oddly, in The Economist, which took three pages out to consider the state of music on the Congo. Pieces such as this in, say, The Wire or Observer Music Monthly usually suffer from a double-entrapement for the writer, who assumes the audience to have a working of background knowledge of the far-flung music scene in question, (which often we don't) and then feels the need to score some points with a little showing-off (trying to demonstrate they know more than the level of background they've assumed, erroneously, we have). The Economist explores the scene with the same assumption they bring to articles about the Azerbaijani Oil Industry - the compliment that we're interested without the expectation that we're initimate with all the basics. We've always like Papa Wemba's music, but we've never before been offered the context that explains why he makes the music. We'd also missed the news that Wemba had been detained in France, facing charges of smuggling several thousand Congolese into Europe under the guise of his "entourage."

Talking of the Observer Music Monthly (we were, a moment back), the December issue had a bloody scary photoshoppy-airbrushy Beyonce on its cover and a slightly sad Top 10 Party Animal List. Keith Moon at One, perhaps, but Belinda Carlisle earns position six on the basis of once waking up having bought a greyhound and Lee Ryan from Blue is at number ten. Hey, why not include Will Young on the strength of the awful Leave Right Now video where he pretends to be needinga good throwing out of an art launch?

The secret life of Elton John reveals - shhh - he's got a knighthood, buys a lot of flowers and supports Watford. Shhh... just between you and me, okay?

Raymond Briggs gets the Record Doctor treatment, resulting in a prescription of Morrisey, Van Morrison and Nick Drake (the ultimate 'May cause drowsiness - do not drive or operate heavy machinery', we'd guess) - Briggs had reservations about the Moz, but hated Van - "couldn't stand it - just terribly crude and oh, god, just miserable."

Paul McCartney writes up his trip to Russia, offering the OMM the chance to use lots of erroneous 'Back in the USSR' gags - although the USSR doesn't exist and he'd never been there before anyway. Paul got told not to cycle round Red Square because it was "sacred" and responded "But I did a concert here last night", which we guess is the closest he's ever needed to come to having say "Don't you know who I am?"

Uday Hussein used to be the patron of the Iraqi pop radio station, Voice of Youth, and would dictate what got played. Kind of like Johnny Beerling at Radio One, then, only his reign of terror went on a little longer. This information came from a piece of Baghdad's answer to Westlife, Unknown to No One. Actually, "answer to Westlife" doesn't quite convey the full horror - "they grew up listening to Air Supply, Whitney Houston and Phil Collins."

The evils of the West are further explored by Luke Bainbridge, recalling the Christmas when The Saint Winifred's School Choir got to number one with "There's No-one Quite Like Grandma." The scary fact here is that the Winnies' recording career lasted longer than that of the Beatles. Onto 2003, and the Darkness' attempt to write an 'I wish it could be christmas every day' for the jaded, post-ironic market is lauded as "song of the month" - now, we like The Darkness as much as the next man (except on those rare occasions when we're stood next to robertshaw), but we were cursing them for trying this even before we were visited on the Christmas Eve by the ghost of Christmas future who took us to a place where the track is pumping out of every fourth doorway in the mall, from the end of October until the start of January. We really could have done without another Thank God Its Christmas, thank you.

Ardal O'Hanlon meets Cliff Richard, thereby offering a sweet 'one small bomb' possibility - no more My Hero, no more relaxed-Christmas-pop-with-a-christian-message. Instead, we find out Cliff uses Nioxin, a shampoo designed to reduce thinning and receeding hair. "I've only been using it about six months, and haven't noticed that much difference. I'm going to check it out in six month's time. I'm going to give it a chance because I think we move on from things too quickly these days." Blimey, Cliff even treats his grooming products with Biblical charity. He truly must be the greatest man ever, right? Of course not. "I mean, I cannot beat Jesus. It's just impossible" he chides.

The trouble of loving Jesus and playing the devil's music is one familair to Cliff, of course, as it is to others. Beyonce - OMM's artist of the year - admits her public personna is "distorted so that people can be entertained. At this point I don't try to make it less confusing because I can't prove anything to anybody and I don't feel I need to." Which, in a line, is what Marilyn Manson has been struggling to express a billion times since he paniced in the Columbine aftermath and wanted to distance himself from his act. It's easier for Beyonce, of course, because she's walking a line that's familiar to many - wanting to be good, but feeling good - whereas Mazza is trying to simultaneously be a philosopher while making clown rock.

The OMM's choices for the year's best:
single: Crazy In Love
band: The Darkness
gig: The Roots (London Jazz Cafe, January)
fashion icon: Christina Aguilera (actually, OMM, girls have been dressing like colourblind hookers for about the last five years round our way)
album: Blur - Think Tank (hmmm)
object: the iPod
idiot: Pete Brame

"I'd heard rumours the new [Top of the Pops] presenter could be Alan Rickman or Eddie Izzard" whispers Paul Morley, confusing TOTP with Dr Who for comic effect. Paul frets that there's no real role for ver Pops now - "a steam engine in a world packed with jumbo jets" - but along with every single other piece we're read about TOTP since Peters refreshed (okay, fucked-up) the programme, it misses the point. There was a similar review in the Christmas Private Eye, suggesting that the revamp has failed and its time to put the show out of its misery. Well, the revamp has made a failing entertainment worse, that's undeniable, but to suggest that the displacement of a couple more million viewers is going to spell the end for the programme is to ignore what Top of the Pops is - it's not a show in its own right, the Friday night edition is merely the centrepoint from which the brand is spun. The function of the Pops isn't to deliver viewers, but to continue to fill the BBC with valuable archive (the Corporation has probably made enough from flogging old footage of Slade to Christmas nostalgia shows to more than cover the next year's costs of production) and to be the heart of the format machine - there's seventy-nine thousand TOTP clones onscreens around the world, not to mention the magazines flying under the banner, and the games and puzzles and so on. To worry that Tim Kash is a crap presenter and not fit to kiss the cigar of Jimmy Saville is like believing that Treasure Planet marks the end of for a Disney Studiowhich has long since given up caring about the cinema and started concentrating on flogging Winnie the Pooh wall friezes and blankets.

Hindsight is a beautiful thing, and we're wondering if Colin Pillinger is using his to weigh the value of getting Blur to record the "Beagle has landed" fanfare for Europe's Mars probe Beagle2 - the tune that has yet to be heard (at time of writing) some three days after it should. For the first time since they released 13, the entire universe (or our part of it) is actually desperate to hear a Blur song, and the bloody thing isn't coming through. Alex James wrote about how Blur came to be involved in the whole project in the New Statesman, suggesting that having Blur's name inolved helped the mission along (more, apparently, than the various Universities did, which might tell you more about the poor status of science in our country than it does about how great Blur are.)

Also in the NS, William Cook clearly got a little bit too pissed listening to School Reunion: The 80s at the Statesman Christmas Party before writing his piece on the Here and Now tour - the 80's had "the camp, self-deprecating couplets [of] Noel Coward", Boy George's "disarming insouciance recalled the heyday of oscar Wilde." He even applauds Ben Volpeirre-Pierrot for telling him "when you're hot, you're hot - and..." (prepare yourself, dear reader) "when you're not, you're not" - this is, apparently, "philosophical" rather than aged marketeers speak.

The Smash Hits Poll Winners Party has been cancelled - allegedly because the American winners can't be arsed to fly over to dance around on a stage in the docklands in front of the rapidly diminishing British preteen market - which means, for the first time in donkeys years, the Reader's Poll results come in the year end issue, with the acceptance speeches printed instead of yelled into a microphone against a backdrop of screaming.

So, whowonwhatthen?
Best Band In The World, Ever: Busted ("winning awards is such a cool thing!")
Best dressed male: Duncan from Blue ("winning awards is cool thing!" - that's almost a consensus now, then)
Worst single: Fast Food Rockers - The Fast Food Song ("We love that we've won - at least it's just a novelty record" - kind of implying they're doing a service taking the heat off 'proper' artists, as if they intended the fast food rockers to perform the role of pop scapegoats. Unfortunately, if it hadn't been them it would have been the Cheeky Girls who took the title, and they really do need to be told that - while we all enjoyed the joke - it's perhaps time for them to withdraw to babecast TV or somewhere and stop trying our patience).
Most fanciable female: Beyonce ("Oh, wow")
Best Male Solo Artist: Gareth Gates ("Thanks")
Best Dressed Female:: Rachel Stevens ("Wow - my second award as a solo artist." Yes, and its for sitting around in Pretty Polly knickers, Rach.)
Most fanciable Male: Justin Timberlake ("I can't believe so many of you think I'm so hot" - you came just ahead of Gareth, Timbo, I wouldn't start plotting your career as the new face of Calvin underpants just yet)
Best International Act: Westlife - we're frankly surprised that they're still stinking the place up. I mean, we can understand the teenage mums who got knocked up to them dialling in during little Kian's third birthday party to give them ITV's Record of the Year, but frankly, the only way we can figure they got this award was that a large number of the current SH readership didn't know what the long word starting with "I" meant and so skipped this category.
Top Pop Mop: Mattie Busted
Flop Pop Mop: Kelly Osbourne ("Kelly understandably decided not to comment")
Best female solo artist: Christina Aguilera
Best Dance Act: DJ Sammy ("Thank you, amigos"
Best Album: Busted - Busted
Best Video - Beyonce - Crazy In Love
Hot New Talent - Girls Aloud ("It is unbelievable that we won" - yeah, you can say that again)
Pop song of the year: Madonna-Britney-Christina
TV Show of the Year: Pop Idol (these last three suggest that mash its readers don't ask for very much)
And the best single... Gareth Gates - Sunshine. Crazy In Love didn't even make it into the top five.

While we're flicking through Smash Hits, when did it become a girl's magazine? There's some sort of 'what sort of dancer are you?' quiz which just assumes without a word that you'll be wearing a skirt and fancying boys. Okay, so that doesn't rule out every boy, but we think we might have worked out why the sales figures have collapsed so amazingly in the last few years. A further disturbing trait is the slapping of an amusing thinks or says bubble on the middle of every picture - we're using the word "amusing" at the limits of its tolerance here. But then the magazine seems to think that Avid Merrion is some sort of comedy genius, so what would you expect.

Javine is put in charge of the problem page, which she deals with the sort of bland 'love yourself' guff you'd expect a Popstars Loser to dispense. But even she can't quite deal with one poor soul - Heidi from Wales - who writes "A lot of people say I've got a face like Gail from Coronation Street." "Get a facelift" advises Javine, tactfully, before trying to say that she had it bad, too, because people told her she looked like Angela Griffin. Except Angela Griffin is incredibly gorgeous, Javine - so it's like someone saying "please help me, I've got a face like an arse" and you saying "I feel your pain, I look like Alyson Hannigan." Except it's not even that, as you don't look anything like Angela Griffin, Javine - maybe people said you looked like the Midland Bank Griffin?

So, onto the NME double issue, which featured the Libertines dressed up like Victorian Urchins on the cover - "a rock n roll Christmas carol", apparently, although for some reason Carl and Pete are clearly The artful dodger and oliver, which is quite a different book.

The big picture is Marilyn Manson and Peaches, as Mazzer attempts to try and link his sideshow onto the Peaches big top - it doesn't work, of course; Manson's now pianfully self-conscious and cartoony, while peaches isn't; it's like a meeting between Vera Duckworth and Anna from This Life - they're both made-up people, but the fictions which support them are just so far apart as to make their meeting seem like an error in space and time. It's less a meeting of minds, more internet slash fiction made flesh.

"Happy new year from the White Stripes" promises a prodcution-deadline cursed nme. "There are rumours Jack White will have to go back to hospital" worries the paper - yes, that badly bruised hand will need a looking at, we're sure.

The Pet Shop Boys do the made-up CD thing - Colin Blunstone, propaganda and kraftwerk. Mmmm.

Peter Robinson takes on Dave Grohl, who is lovely, as you might expect. "I don't have much body hair, so Queer Eye wouldn't have to wax me" explains Dave. Oh, Mr. Grohl - waxing has nothing to do with unwanted body hair, my friend. It's about seeing how much pain you can take before you start screaming.

You know, one of the things that makes us happy is seeing all the Libertines back together; it's like Tim and Dawn wandering off holding hands:
Pete - Did I ever go to midnight mass? Yeah, I used to go with my Mum and cry
Carl - I used to go with your mum and cry as well.
Of course, it'll all end in tears again before 2004 is out, but let's just enjoy it while we can, eh?

The Kings of Leon don't bother with a question asking them what Kate Moss was like, because they met Satan, who they think is more famous. More famous? When did Satan record a song with Primal Scream, or dance in a White Stripes video? Best he could do was a walk on playing the fucking violin in The Devil Went Down to Georgia, and that was a bloody long time ago.

Get various stars to draw santa and then have their pcitures psychoanalysed - a long, roundabout way to find out Steve Bays from Hot Hot Heat is "possibly emotionally unstable."

One of the ten distinguishing characteristics of 2003 festivals: "Keith Allen no longer officially a celebrity sighting"

Pub Golf! This is what Christmas is all about. And it's called pub golf this year, which is right, and they've got some proper people in it - Mira from Ladytron, who we'll be worshipping as a god this year, we've decided and Hank Von Helvete of Turbonegro. Of course Hank bloody wins. He's dressed up as a man with spiders for eyes, isn't he? Of course he wins.

Unfortunately, the rather fine Christmas edition of the nme starts to flag by giving three pages over to Avid Merron. This time - oh, please, stop it - in the characters of Michael Jackson, Elton John and Justin Timberlake. It's like the karaoke part of your office party. We put our hands over our eyes and wonder why the BBC never treated Rock Profile better.

Aggie and Kim from Channel 4's Do You Live Like This, You Disgusting Person? God, I Shudder To Think What Your Foreskin Must Be Like - Look, You've Got Bloody Flies In Your House - Flies, Like In the 19th Century, Dammit ("How Clean Is Your House") are called in to look at Elbow and Electric Six's tourbuses. Aggie worries Elbow need to wash their sheets once a week at sixty degrees and that Electric Six don't bother emptying their ashtrays.

Jeremy Vine - one of No Rock's hero-god figures, of course - Vicvky Pollard and Charlie Busted do the annual single review thingy - jeremy observes that "even if some White Stripes songs are quite ropey, it's about the sound" and "what eminem did with a hammer and a chisel, 50 Cent does with a mallet." Ouch.

Album of the year is Elephant - Think Tank comes in at a more realistic 21 here, and fever to tell, which is what we'd choose, is at five.

Another slight embarrasment - if the Bo selcta piece is the karaoke at the office party, then the claim that Lennon's Happy Xmas is "one of the most important protest songs ever" and attendant piece of flammery is the boss standing up to make a couple of weak jokes and blether on about how next year we should all be pulling our weight and looking forward to a successful year (i.e. ill-judged nonesense that even he himself doesn't believe in.) "Of course it's not bigger than 'White Christmas' in terms of sales, but it's bigger in a sense that this generation relates more to 'Happy Xmas'" opines Yoko. She was talking "recently", apparently - although before the Idols cover version proved what we all knew anyway; it's seen as just another piece of meaningless shopping soundtrack. Nobody hears the little school choir and thinks "You know, maybe we should try and do something positive in Serbia, otherwise the election of indicted war criminals may lead to another bloodbath right in the heart of our continent" - they think "Would aunty Kath like that tray with the chickens on? Will this song be over before I get to the front of the line? Do Marks and Spencers take credit cards yet?" Of course Yoko likes to claim that her hubby's work made - makes - some sort of difference. But in a world where even Band Aid now gets flung out over the Christmas Carvery speaker system, it would only be a self-deluding fool who believed that.

Fab Morretti chooses his favourite band to enthuse over. He chooses guided by voices, which makes us suddenly look at him with a new degree of respect. Good choice, fella. But the second album is still lacklustre.

NME single of the year is - uh-oh-uh-oh oh no - Crazy In Love, although the obvious statement of fact is undermined a little by the way they try to pull a "Ha, you didn't expect that, did you?" on us. Yes, yes, we did expect it, but that's okay - choosing Beyonce over seven nation army and even the year's other 'look at my surprising choice' Outkast demonstrates that there's still so much right with the nme, that the spirit which sniffed punk coming and warned us that we were going to like Public Enemy is still around there somewhere. That the stuff that we're meant to believe the nme actually cares about - like Jet at 47, or Kelly Osbourne (nowhere) or Andrew WK (nowhere) - does so poorly when the writers are asked to choose what they want, rather than made to write to the needs of AOL focus groups - makes us just wish we'd get a bit more instinct, a bit more "what we play in the office" rather than "what we're told will play well in the University shopping centre." Because, you know what? We still love nme. We spent a happy hour stretched out reading an issue cover to cover in the Dallas Airport Marriott Courtyard North early on in this month, and it made us smile as much as it made us cross. And we're aware that the pop papers is usually hectoring, and especially so about the nme's faults, but that's because we love the paper. Now, we know that beating up on something you love is domestic violence, which - hey kids - isn't cool, but that at least entitles us to the tear-stained "it's just you make us so mad when you go on about Kelly Osbourne like we should care, nme." And so, at this most magical time of the year, we wanted to take you all under the mistletoe, and kiss you. One or two of you we're going to fondle in inappropriate ways, too, but all of you deserve a kiss. Because for all your faults, Wednesday would be a darker place without you. [Pausing to wipe our eyes]. Now, don't you go and spoil the moment by doing something shit like an Oasis special next week, will you?

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

AND MAY THE LORD HAVE MERCY ON OUR SOLOS: 2004 is shaping up to be a year of solo side projects - John Frusciante of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers is now readying his. Maybe 2005 will be better.

NO TIMBERLAKE IN 2004: JuJu Timberlake is taking 2004 off to spend time having as much sex as possible with Cameron Diaz before she wakes up to herself and realises she's dating, like, one of Hanson. "I realise that I've probably got about two months before she starts to get calls from Gwyneth Paltrow saying 'Don't do it... don't repeat my mistake'" he told some reporters, probably, "so I'm not going to have my people make any records for me so i can cram as much sex with Cameron in as possible before the inevitable happens."

Last night, Mark Frith popped up on test the nation, oozing about how cool Justin is. Now, that's got to be a sign - when the editor of Heat says you're cool by their standards, that places in you the segment of known society alongside Jade from Big Brother and Victoria Beckham. Frith also claimed that Madonna's children's book was a great piece of writing - now, obviously the editor of Heat can't be expected to tell a good piece of writing when he sees one, but it does fly in the face of what anyone else who's picked up The English Roses reports.

TROUBLED TIMES CALL FOR... UM, TROUBLED STARS: Oh, sweet jesus - Jacko is now relying on support from the likes of Darryl Strawberry and MC Hammer. And "commedian Eddie Griffin", who we suppose Americans might have heard of. Serena Williams is apparently standing by Michael, though - although what she'd know about having your childhood taken from you by an overbearing father forcing you to live out his dreams, we can't imagine.

BAD NEWS FOR ACTING, FASHION INDUSTRIES: Victoria Beckham has said she'll switch to acting or "fashion" if her music career flops - we always knew she wasn't going to turn up on celebrity Mastermind, but we're a little surprised that she doesn't know what "if" means. Seriously, though: acting? Does she see herself as Portia, perhaps? Or, judging by how long it'd take her to learn anything approaching a full script, maybe she should start working on her
Miss Marple now.

BRANCH UNDRESSING: Chuck writes to us with news that suggests Michelle Branch's sales might not be going that well:

Interesting factoid you might not have heard of: Maxim USA's latest covergirl is a rather topless Michelle Branch. In the article, she declares, "I'm kind of a pervert. We'll be on the tour bus, and me and my makeup artist will be watching porn. Everyone thinks about sex, so why are we pretending that we're not?" She also says she has a pirate fetish. (And for some reason I haven't figured out, they keep making barbecue jokes about her.)

Their greatly-abbreviated online version is on the Maxim website.

Interesting... and not even the figleaf of musical respectability conferred by being in the slightly-less-purely-for-wanking Blender, we note...

CENTURY OF PAIN: It looks like the Radio Authority has elected to go out in fighting style, issuing a final warning to Capital about the programming on Century. The Century Licences in the North West and North East were originally won by Border Television, who promised a distinctive style of music and "challenging speeech." Since Capital hadn't maanaged to win a licence since the early 70's, it had been pursuing its bid to be a delicious takeover target for Clear Channel ("expansion plans") through the process of buying up stations and basically making them fairly bland versions of Capital FM. And so far, it's got away with it. But no more, as the Radio Authority had stamped its feet at Capital's choosing to ignore previous warnings, and basically told the group to put back fifty percent speech in daytime, or kiss its lucrative franchises goodbye.

Capital may be regretting the hugely expensive TV campaign which had suggested Century was the place to go to sing along with Ronan Keating and Kylie, which kind of advertised how far it had wavered from what it was meant to be doing with the frequencies.

Monday, December 22, 2003

RECORD COMPANIES LOOK FORWARD TO EXCITING 1954: The Record Labels always tell us how they struggle to find all the cash they can to promote exciting new acts, and so, as you'd expect, the release schedule for the first quarter of 2004 is jam-packed with hot new "shit" from the street. No, really, it's a load of reissues - 50th anniversary of rock, 40th anniversary of British Invasion, and even - god help us - Black Tie, White Noise getting a second, third, fourth run out. Plus the still warm corpses of Harrison and Cash are shaken by their legs, while that five CD Dave Brubeck retrospective you've been wishing for finally becomes a reality.

But don't worry, traditionalists - there's also going to be yet another Frank Sinatra best-of.

"I CAN'T GO TO PRISON... DO YOU KNOW WHAT THEY DO TO PRETTY BOYS IN PRISON: Jack White's looking at a year in prison following his mashing of Jason Stollsteimer's face - he's been charged with aggravated assault. It sounds like Wayne County Prosecutor - that's the bloke in charge of law in the place where it happened, not a man who dedicates himself to bringing transexual singers to book - doesn't think too much of them there celebs: "It seems that far too often celebrities think that the law doesn't apply to them. So many don't understand the impact they have as role models on young people." Or indeed the impact they have a punchers on the faces of young people, come to that. Our legal expert is predicting a spot of plea bargaining, and some community service. If only Jack had a drug problem he could cite and swap the threat of chokey for a couple of weeks in rehab, eh?

BIGGER THAN, UM, ABBA: More an example of how easy it is to maintain a song in the lower reaches of the charts than any reflection of his talents, we suspect, but Robbie Williams has now spent more time in the charts than T-Rex and Abba. More interestingly, Buddy Holly has disappeared from the rundown of the Top 100 artists with rock longevity or whatever it was the chart was measuring. Not the first time he's vanished into nothingness, of course.

RIAA "BUNCH OF CHANCERS", SUGGESTS JUDGE: The RIAA have been frustrated in their attempts to force Verizion to reveal the names of its customers who zip files through their servers because, a judge points out the ISPs aren't the people storing the files and so, really, it's nothing to do with them. Under US law, the music industry can still bring actions against file sharers, but what this judgement means the process of finding out who those people are has just become enormously more time-consuming and expensive.

Meanwhile, in Europe, a Dutch court has thrown out an action trying to rule the very existence of Kazaa illegal, saying that while you can do bad things with it, that doesn't make the software illegal. Although bloody obvious (to have concluded otherwise would have had the effect of making video recorders illegal across Europe) it's still an important precedent to have been made.

THE WRIT OF CHRISTMAS SPIRIT CAN RUN ONLY SO FAR: Frankly, we can't find it in our hearts, even at the most magical time of the year, to view the return of Gomez planned for 2004 as anything other than a punishment for something we may or mayn't have done.

ASDAWNLOAD: The most evil corporation in the world (ranked in terms of how much it earns, and the size of the sexual discrimination class action suit it's fighting, and its apparent habit of hiring illegal aliens and paying them below minimum wage), WalMart is entering the increasingly overcrowded download market, with its USP being price - 88 cents a pop. Now, sometimes you have no choice but to shop in an Asda or a WalMart, but really, wouldn't you feel better about yourself stealing from Kazaa rather than lining the pockets of the World's Largest Comapny when buying online music?

Bryan Adams unveils a stamp with a picture he took of the Queen

We're going with '"Not my mother, too" wails Charles'

I AM THE LAW: What on earth is Pete Waterman's problem with Michelle winning Pop Idol? The choo-choo train obsessed bloke stormed off the Pop Idol set when it was announced Michelle had won, blethering "I just want to leave now because I don't want to detract from the final. This is not about me being negative, it's about the winner". Pete seems to have a problem with the concept of someone who doesn't look as if her final course involves kneeling the the bathroom each dinnertime being in the music industry at all, and fulminates that he doesn't think she's Pop Idol material. Well, maybe not, but coming from someone who endoresed the anodyne Will Young and who this time last year was helping One True Voice to their new lives as shoe salesmen, it's a bit rich. Clearly, there is a problem with voting system since it appears to have accidently delivered victory to a person who you don't want to drown in bleach, but couldn't Pete at least have pretended to be happy for her? Or to shrug and say "The audience have spoken, I may have been wrong. Again."

Cheer up, Pete - maybe it'll be an annorexic next year.

CHEAP AS CHIPS: Eminem 'livid' as tracks appear for sale on Ebay. Now how could such a thing have happened? Not as a distraction from the lawsuit against The Source, surely?

COMEBACK... WHAT DO YOU KNOW?: Danny McNamara out of Embrace makes a surprise re-appearance on his own messageboards:

Just got back from the gigs.Thanks for all your emails and messages. I can't tell you how good it is to be back, after spending the last two years doing nothing but writing songs. Even on my birthday which was new years eve I was at home all night writing. The bars been raised to a level that’s so high you can’t see it from the ground. Now at last we’ve got 10 songs that clear the bar. Everyone seems to be saying that we’ve got something back that we lost along the way. For me each album has got progressively more honest. The difference with this one is that the big tunes are back. I want to write songs that make people stick out their arms in a t shape and shout TUNE. We're going to carry on writing over Christmas ,then we go into the studio at the begining of next year to start work on the new album with Youth. He’s the most challenging person we’ve ever worked with. We’ve already spent some time in pre-production with him, which was one of the most inspiring times we’ve ever had. As soon as he walks in the room everybody raises their game by 50%.

Now, usually you'd expect us to make a cheap crack here, and the stuff about people making giant T shapes is tempting, but it's Christmas, and we quite like All You Good Good People, so we'll lay an extra place at the table for Embrace and kiss them on the forehead.

Thursday, December 18, 2003

PRETTY GIRLS MAKE LEMSIP: Pretty Girls Make Graves' Andrea has gotten the flu and so the band have pulled their UK shows. Boo achoo.

THAT'S JUST CRUEL: It's horrible that a judge on World Idol told Will Young to get singing lessons - why tell the bloke to further pursue a career he has no talent nor aptitude for?

AND ONCE AGAIN...: No NME - probably be blamed on the Christmas post or something - which has really put a crick in the schedule, to be honest... as a result, Christmas pop papers will be the highlight of Christmas Week (i.e. next week) on No Rock...

THE INCOMPREHENSIBLE FESTIVAL: Thanks again to Dave for pointing out the Mars-Venus style conjunction of Captain Beefheart and The Fall sharing a stage - that of the Royal Festival Hall, to be exact, on January 23rd next year. You're sure of a good time, but you'll be lucky to make out one word in four.

CHRISTMAS CAROLS: There's a Christmas Card from Sing Sing online containing a frustratingly brief extract of their next ep, Madame Sing-Sing - which is only going to be available on the 19th of January alone.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

BUT, EM, THEY'RE ONLY RELEASING THINGS YOU TALK ABOUT IN YOUR LIVING ROOM: Eminem - a man whose career has depended on Voltaire-levels of toleration of "your right to say them" - makes an unlikely figure to go running off to the law courts to block someone else's records, but he's brough a lawsuit blocking the Source from releasing the CD version of his early racist rapping. Wonder why - after all, he's not denying the existence or the veracity of the recordings, choosing instead to mumble an apology and put it down to passion and youth, and all the blocking of the CD is going to do is make it look like there's other stuff on the disc that could throw him in an even worse light.

Having said which, The Source is going a bit overboard with this story - the whole of the February issue is going to be cleared to rake over the minute details, with or without the covermount. Sure, it's not an episode which reflects well on young Marshall, and if the magazine had come up with further, more recent evidence then we'd be looking at a major furore. But we're not sure there already well-publicised ages old tape is quite worthy of the Kruschev At The UN tactics.

LAVERNE TAKES OVER: Lauren Laverne is going to replace Zoe Ball on teatime for XFM, because Zoe's hopping it to concentrate on being a mother and drinking. So it's going to be Lauren V Sara Cox at the 'battle of the blondes before bedtime', then. We're not expecting many changes in format except for a lot more records by J. Xaverre making their way on air. We're hoping that Lauren sees this as a fill-in before he fulfills her destiny of taking over the lunchtime slot on 6Music - it's part of our fantasy schedule, don't question us.

ODDLY, ALL THIS WAS MISSING WAS DANNII MINOGUE AND IT WOULD HAVE BEEN MY DEFINITION OF THE VERY LIVING HELL: Ronnie Wood. The Stereophonics. Covering Beatles songs. Talk about yer actual land where it's always winter, but never Christmas.

BLOODY HELL, THAT'S GOT TO HURT: Jack White is claiming he did this:

go on, hit me... doesn't make me wrong

... in self defence. He (or rather his press office) says he punched the living crap out of Jason as he "defended himself as any normal person would have under the circumstances." This would be self-defence in the sense of Lee Ryan's understanding of the concept, we'd imagine. Obviously - strangely - they've not released any pictures of the injuries Jack may or mayn't have suffered, but we're imagining if they called for that level of self-defence, his very face must be liquidised. Jack White: Indiepop's Cheryl Tweedy.

"JUST FOR THE FANS": Apparently, Madonna's new book is "only for fans", although since someone's realised that her dwindled fan base (fourteen gay men and Britney Spears) doesn't represent much in the way of a target market, they've decided to limit the exclusive nature to define fan as "anyone who can type '' into a web browser. The book itself sounds dreadful - "Nobody Knows Me is Madonna's ultimate statement to her fans. 52 pages of success, rare and unseen shots commented by an Icon and her angels. Music, love, fashion, stardom and much more..." So, as sickening as the Sex book but without the aid to masturbation, then. Having said which, at least it's unlikely ever to get quite as grim as this [not office safe].

PINK MAY NEED TO BUY A NEWSPAPER: While we're delighted that Pink has taken time out to campaign to get a stageshow elephant freed, we're just wondering if anyone thought to mention that sending a letter to Seigfried and Roy about their pathetic pachyderm might be choosing the wrong moment to try and get their attention.

Pink used an elephant in the video for Just Like A Pill - it's funny, all we remember is the gaffer tape, too - but says she's now learned that elephants are "out of place around bright lights and gawking people." And, apparently, they really hate being around men having their throats ripped out by tigers, too.

A FAIR COP: We're a little confused about the case in Australia where acop posing as a child used a picture of Pop Idol Sophie Monk to lure a suspected paedophile. Because this is Sophie Monk:

i am twelve

... who doesn't really look that much like jailbait. And is quite famous - it's on a par with a British cop trying to gather evidence against a kid-fid in the UK by sending pictures of Sonia from Eastenders. Curious.

FIGHTING OVER THE KID: Aaron Carter's mum and dad have fallen out. Mum, Jane, really "doesn't want to involve the press in private family issues" but, erm, has stuck out a press release to maintain that's she's been a great manager to little Aaron and to dump on his dad a little. Won't somebody please think of the children?

URL COLLABORATION: Thanks to David for pointing out that the Half Man Half Biscuit link on the left is dead - we can forsee a Christmas of hardcoding the links stuff beckoning. Meanwhile, if you're after a burst of online Nigels, try this.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

WHAT WERE THE PARENTS THINKING OF?: Apparently the choir singing on the Darkness' Christmas single (currently outselling Pop Idol three to one, neck and neck with the Jules) were summoned to their headmistresses office and handed envelopes without a word, which seems a rather odd way to do things: almost as if the school was thinking "If we don't actually say anything, it won't be our fault if they get into trouble." This, and other details, can be garnered from a newsround report by one of the girls on the record.

YOU JUST DON'T GET THIS, DO YOU, SCOTT?: This time, Scott Weiland's got himself in trouble by being caught smuggling drugs. Into rehab. We're still waiting for Slash's explanation of how this is all a terrible mistake, and how we've gotten it all wrong.

YOU CAN BUY THE MCDONALDS JINGLE, APPARENTLY: I'm Lovin It, downloadable for a quid from Justin's website. He's at the bold forefront of the new era of heavily policed media downloads, you know...

THEY THINK THEY'RE INTERPOL: Jay Berman, head of the IFPI, has made his Christmas message, outlining his anti-technology strategy for 2004. Let's slip inside and see what he has to say, shall we?

FPI and its National Groups have spent the last year waging an intensive public information campaign on the issue of online music - both legal and illegal. Our educational tools range from music coalition websites to PR initiatives, projects at schools and colleges - and ultimately, to lawsuits against major infringing uploaders. Our campaign will only intensify in 2004 - and the need to communicate our message effectively has never been more important.

Interesting choice of language - "waging an intensive… public information campaign We've always been lead to be believe that campaigns are conducted, wars waged - but it gives some insight to the mentality of the International Record Labels that they always see the music fan as something to be attacked. Don't you know there's a war on?

Nice also to see the implication that lawsuits are the last resort - we're sure that writs have been flying about since long before they got Britney in to mouth the "it's like stealing a CD from a store, or maybe some coins from a blind man…" line in those ads.

Every campaign has its key messages. Let me suggest what ours should be.
Key Message One: Making available copyrighted music without permission on the internet - that means the bulk of all file- sharing - is illegal in practically every country of the world. Those who ignore this legal reality may have to face the consequences. Whether there is a profit motive or not is totally irrelevant. The publicists of unauthorised file-sharing will suggest this is a grey area. It is not a grey area. It is clear under international law, including WTO rules and the WIPO Treaties. Lawsuits on a large scale have so far been restricted to the US; this 'fightback' will almost inevitably have to take place internationally as well.

Wooah… back up there, bloke. "The bulk of all file sharing" is unpermitted music files - are you sure? Apart from anything, doesn't this contradict "National organisation" RIAA's claims that the file sharing networks are full of kiddie porn? Take that out, the spoofs, the music files being shared with full knowledge and consent and the millions of files which have nothing to do with the entertainment industry, and you're starting to get quite far from "the bulk."

But thanks for suggesting that file-sharing is an easy and effective way to buck the remit of the WTO - it seemed the only advantage was easy access to Hanson tracks and Kelis videos, but now we know we're sending a message to the WTO, it's not just fun, it's political.

And let's not forget how "successful" lobbying in Canada had just made file-sharing into a very grey area indeed in that country, and throughout the world at large. A very big, tantalising gray area.

Where do the record companies who are always pleading poverty keep finding money for these futile legal campaigns, by the way? And should we take this as a pissed-off, American dominated international music body trying to pressure the slightly more PR savvy European trade organisations into following its lead so the RIAA doesn't look like the only bunch of sods taking its customers to court?

Key Message Two: There is a legitimate online alternative for consumers. The success of Apple iTunes in the USA, now joined by Rhapsody, Napster and others, is pointing the way for the rest of the world. In Europe, services, like Tiscali, MSN and Wanadoo, and traditional retailers such as FNAC, Karstadt and Virgin are offering an online catalogue of more than 300,000 tracks. There are some 30 sites in Europe where consumers can buy downloads, 'tethered downloads' or subscription services. Companies like Wippit and Playlouder show the emergence of legitimate peer-to-peer services.
IFPI is at the vanguard of this development. The groundbreaking international webcasting agreement finalised in November will create a licensing one-stop shop that has been warmly received by webcasters and collecting societies. For the first time in Europe, a small but highly competitive legitimate online music sector is evolving. It is documented on the pages of our website, and it is fast-growing. I confidently expect Apple iTunes, Amazon, Napster and others to launch their own services in Europe in the first half of 2004. There are also technical platforms at national level, such as Phonoline in Germany - offering huge new online catalogues of local repertoire. More encouraging still, surveys are clear that consumers are prepared to pay for music online. Numerous surveys indicate that one third of all internet users will pay for music.

Is "tethered download" a new industry term? Doesn't that sound like an offer anyone in their right mind would run a mile from - hardly suggests freedom and consumer sovereignty, does it? It's like McDonalds giving you the choice of take out or Imprisoned Consumption.

What's amusing, of course, is the Record Industry claiming to be "at the vanguard" of a force it's spent the last five years trying to turn in its tracks, as if Saddam had clambered out of his little hole saying "I was amongst the first to welcome the American occupation of Iraq; why, it was virtually my idea."

Key Message Three: Internet piracy means lost livelihoods and lost jobs, not just in record companies but across the entire music community. For those who think the 10.9% first half sales fall in 2003 does not speak for itself, look at the other evidence. Artist rosters have been cut, thousands of jobs have been lost, from retailers to sound engineers, from truck drivers to music journalists. Surveys in five major markets - USA, Canada, Germany, Japan and the UK - show that internet copying and file-sharing is reducing CD sales significantly more than it is promoting them.

Which surveys? Is this the same UK where CD sales are growing? The kindest thing we can say about this is it's a radical interpretation of the text. How can the world fall in sales be attributed solely to the Internet anyway - where does the counterfeit CD industry come into this? Or do fake CD sales magically account for exactly zero percent of the drop in CD sales? Why would it be that the crappy performance of Universal Island be due to internet filesharing, when the rest of its parent company was crumbling due to really bad management? The purging of artist rosters at EMI was also surely down to mismanagement, wasn't it, and cost cutting not connected to the internet download issue. Which Scandinavian country was it where EMI cut its entire roster, after a couple of years of acquisition of indie labels there? And, above all: the music that's selling is mostly local artist stuff, the sort of music that travels poorly - Chiswick has little use for the Dixie Chicks, Canberra can't do much with Will Young and Kelly Clarkson becomes toxic the moment she passes out of US airspace. Frankly, music is moving in ways the international labels can't cope with, and their offerings are failing to whet the appetite of the audience. That's where your sales falls are coming from, not some chap with an I-Mac. (We know, we keep saying this, and we'll keep saying it until they stop making the ridiculous allegations.)

Key Message Four: Our industry is fighting back - by making a vast music catalogue available online, by a swathe of educational projects and, where necessary, by resorting to the law. In 2003 we have made huge progress in raising awareness of the issues surrounding online music.

See, they really do think people are thick - that they haven't realised that if they download a Flock of Seagulls track off the net, Mike Score isn't going to get any money as a result. The legal downloads help, and have demonstrated there are millions of people who were happy to pay for tracks all along, they just never had the opportunity because the record labels were worried if you could buy a Radiohead track online, you might play it your friend down your telephone line and bring their whole industry to their knees. So, they've finally worked out that offering fairly-priced, versatile tracks in a secure environment, and people will tend to rather give them the few bob than spend hours cursing Kazaa for dropping. And yet: the music industry thinks they are educating us.

In the USA the music industry was forced to resort to hundreds of lawsuits against major uploaders - a move which has doubled the level of consumer awareness of the illegality of unauthorised file-sharing. Internationally, the education campaign is just as proactive. The pro-music website, launched in May 2003, has brought together a diverse coalition of music sector interests; we have issued thousands of copyright brochures to colleges and companies in over 20 countries; we have sent mass quantities of instant messages to infringing uploaders in several countries to warn them of the illegality of their actions. These four messages - despite the evident problems we have in our music markets today - add up, in my view, to a positive picture. We will never eliminate piracy altogether. Rather we must reduce online piracy to levels where legitimate online services have the space to develop on their own.

Ah, poor Music Industry, "forced" to resort to legal action - who could have been bullying them into doing that? Were record bosses' wives laughing at them when they went home, snapping "be a man" like the Tsar's wife? There's a slight curiosity that these legal actions came so soon into the life of iTunes, don't you think? Rather than waiting to see if legitimate downloads made a difference to the amount of copyright "theft", they jumped straight in with the briefs. Good job they're not doctors: "Well, Mr. Smith, we're going to see if the new drugs help restore some feeling in that leg, but while they're taking effect we're going to amputate it anyway." Of course, this way, any drop in files zipping through Kazaa can be claimed for the might of the law (and justify all the cash the labels pour into the RIAA and IFPI) rather than put down to the surprise that people would rather pay for their music if they can.

This migration from pirate to legitimate music on the internet is now happening. IFPI and our National Groups are playing an integral part in making that happen and we will step up our efforts in 2004.

Oh good. Let us know how you get on, will you?

NOT LEGAL ENOUGH: In a splendidly stupid move, the BPI are now bringing legal action against CD Wow because they source their CDs from outside the UK and thus are able to offer them at less-than-outrageous prices. Rather than the BPI admitting that we're being raped on the prices we pay for recorded music in the United Kingdom, and encouraging its members to reduce their factory gate prices to a level where they can compete with CD Wow, instead the organisation lumbers into its solicitors' offices once again and decides to waste court time and blow thousands of pounds bringing an action claiming "breach of copyright." Except, of course, they're doing no such thing - if you want to see how flimsy their legal case is, it's akin to refusing to allow you to bring a copy of a paperback book home from America because it would infringe the British publisher's copyright.

We suggest that - while you're doing your Christmas shopping - you might want to buy any CDs from CD Wow this year.

SUEDE GO PUTT: There's something really unsatisfactory about the Suede split - although it may very well be true that, as Brett says, at some point in the future there will be another Suede album, but that really takes away the toothsome sadness of the end - there we were, all ready to fling ourselves, weeping, onto a pyre, and what should we do now? Just scald our fingers with some matches? Burn off some hair?

BANG GO BOOM: To the surprise of none-whatsoever, Bang is to close after its current issue. It turns out it was aiming for readers who felt they were "too old" for the NME but not old enough for Q - which, since Q has got younger and younger since the demise of Select and the canabalising, by Mojo, of the top end of its readership, we calculate as a gap of something like minus eight years. It always felt to us like those first copies of Select, when they ran with covers of Prince impersonators and The Beatles but gave away tapes with The Pale Saints and Northside on them - as if they'd spotted a gap in the market, but couldn't quite judge what its tastes were. I hate to say "largely unmourned" but, well, it's not like when ZigZag went, is it?

LISTED SONGS: Our proposal a few months back that some songs be given listed status, so that artists such as Atomic Kitten would have to apply for permission to cover them, never really thought songs like Kool and the Gang's Ladies Night would need such protection. It seemed self-evident that something that required special levels of groove to attempt would never be approached by anyone other than properly trained professionals. And yet, bless 'em, Atomic Kitten have had a go. If you've ever wondered what "getting the funk out of your face" would sound like, wonder no more as the Scouse triptych have produced a cover version so de-funked it's almost like listening to a painting-by-numbers that nobody has yet taken a brush to. Dismal.

IT SOUNDS LIKE THE PLOT OF A SCREWBALL MOVIE: K D Lang and a boatload of lesbians. I wonder how long they thought before they came up with the idea of K D Lang as the cabaret guest - "I've just had a call from Anne Heche's people and she's not available at the moment, so KD it is, then..."

NOT TONIGHT, TREVOR: Ah, how accomodating ITV can be when it wants. Normally, of a Monday, the two episodes of Coronation Street slap themselves comfortably around a spot of journo-light from Tonight With Trevor McDonald. However, last night, the thirty minutes that passed between Martin Platt driving his car into the wall and Tommy The Great Ape pulling him out didn't have the usual presenter or the usual branding - although the contents of the show (lightwieght interview with someone vaguely related to something happening in the softer end of the news) were prime TWTM material. Only, of course, last night's chatters were Michael Jackson's mother and father , defending their son (we think - god, did those people mumble) against the allegations stacked up against him. Clearly, someone realised that there might be some eyebrows raised at the quality of ITV's current affairs department if the interview had run under the Tonight branding, seeing as it was that show's Martin Bashir exclusive that landed Mikey in his current spot of hot water in the first place.

FIGHT! FIGHT! FIGHT!: Gathering in a small group around the tussle, we see that at it's heart is Jason Stollsteimer of the Von Bondies and Jack White of My Summer As Evan Dando. Both have put in complaints with Detriot police after the bad indierock hurting at the launch of some record or other, but by all accounts White won the scrap, getting Jason onto the ground and giving him a black eye. There's been a long running fued between the two, which seems to be because Jaosn is the only person in Detroit who doesn't worship Jack as a full deity or something. We're sending him fruit, and telling Jack to stop behaving like, yaknaaa, a dick. No wonder Meg dumped you.

MOLKO RATIONS FOR 2004: The phrase "only UK gigs of [insert year here]" is never welcome, especially when it comes before the year starts, but regardless, Placebo have announced two shows for 2004, and that's it. Strangely, they've also been told by the marketing department ("have decided") to release English Summer Rain, erm, in February - a cunning choice almost certain to condemn the track to a mid-30's Coca-Cola chart languish.

Wonder what they've got planned for the rest of the year? Sex and dwarves, probably. Or maybe Brian's getting a hair weave.

molkorific - a placebo list

HONESTY IN POP MUSIC: You have to go to India to find it, but Priyanka Chopra, the former Miss World, is quite candid about her new singing career:

"Put a woman in a bikini and she's sure to be a hit. The songs will therefore be shot in and around swimming pools and beaches for maximum erotic impact. Pubs and bars also lend themselves to romance and glamour and make for some really provocative sequences. With my experience in films, I certainly know how to shake a leg and audiences should get an eyeful."

Monday, December 15, 2003

GET INTO BRITNEYS PANTS, ETC: That odd company in the US which puts free CDs on the top of drinks cups has somehow got hold of Britney's outfit from the Me Against The Music video and is offering it as a prize. Remember, the kids, there's no hint of lesbianism in the video so even your local priest or vicar would approve of it. As ever, they never tell you if the item in question has been washed, which may frustrate your plans to use it to make some sort of very wrong soup.

We really hope it's won by a drag queen.

HARDLY FAIR, THAT: We're as worried about them there date-rape drugs as the next person, and we're no great fans of most of the sods who run Liverpool nightclubs, but is it really the responsibility of the licensee to ensure their customers don't have their drinks spiked? How about adding in to the letter currently going out from the City Council to clubowners that if people embark on shoddy relationships which start in their cluns they could lose their licences then, too? I'm sure there are very few clubs in Merseyside which would actively want their customers to be slipped a roiphie and taken off to be raped - if only because it'll eat into their bar profits - but are they really meant to provide a person to watch over every customer's glasses?

The Liverpool Echo says "the move will help to ease parents' fears when their children head into the city centre during the festive season", which would seem to suggest that Liverpool parents are very easily placated.

DOGG SUED: Doris Burns is suing Snoop Doggy Dogg after refusing to have simulated sex with him. Curiously, she'd turned up to act on some sort of television show he's involved in, and while she was happy to sit in her pants on his bed, didn't want to be filmed jerking him off. So, with judicious use of blurry screen, Dogg created the impression that she was doing it anyway and used that. It seems to me that everyone's a winner here - Dogg got the footage he wanted, Burns didn't have to touch his rancid penis, and everyone knows its TV and all made-up anyway. So what's the actual problem here? And what did an actress sent round for a part in Snoop's show expect to be doing, anyway? He's hardly likely to have been holding casting sessions for nuns and teachers.

THE COPYRIGHT BOARDS OF CANADA: Good news if you're Canadian: you're now free to download whatever the damn diddly doobery you wish, as your mighty nation has slapped a tax on portable MP3 players to allow the record companies to be rewarded for their work. Now, if we've been getting the Record Label's whines right all these years, the problem they have is with the people who make tracks available for download - that's what the court cases in the States have been targetting. So does this mean "I downloaded the tracks from a Canadian, where P2P file sharing is not illegal and, indeed, taxed" could become a legitimate defence?

HOW THE HELL WOULD HE WRAP IT, ANYWAY?: Pity Paul McCartney... he goes to all the trouble of sneaking out to record a rare Beatles song as a surprise Christmas present for Heather and the wee kiddie, and the Sun goes and spoils the surprise. We can imagine that for the next few days it's going to be tricky at Macca Towers:

- You swear you didn't see the Sun on Monday?
- No, Paul, why?
- Oh, no reason...

And then on Christmas Day, Heather's going to have to try and act surprised - "oh, wow, a Beatles song of my very own... " and try and act like she's thrilled that the richest man in the entire world hasn't bought her something like Berkshire but has instead just slapped together a song he must have written with someone else in mind over thirty years ago. And you thought giving your girlfriend ill-fitting crotchless panties was a bad idea...

BRITBATS: Of course, it would never have worked out between Britney Spears and Fred Durst - she's was too tough for him. While Dursty cancels his far Eastern tours and hides from the turrists under his My Little Pony duvet, Britney ploughs on through Korea and takes the whole of the Pacific Rim.

Meanwhile, she's denied that there was a 'lesbian vibe' in the Me Against The Music video - well, yeah, it had Madonna in it which squished any sort of sexual buzz out of the whole endeavour right away, so that goes without saying.


SANTA Maria braces again for pop star - Santa Maria Times, CA
Tracee Reynaud lives in Santa Maria, works as a nurse and loves pop singer Michael Jackson.

BET THEY WISH THEY'D BOOKED SINEAD, INSTEAD: It's always the same, you invite people round for a nice Christmas get together, and there's always one who spoils it for everyone else. Even at the Vatican, where Lauryn Hall broke off from doing stuff for an Italian TV Christmas Eve special to hurl abuse at the Catholic Church, saying that she'd not come to celebrate Christ's birth but to ask why his death isn't mourned (we're not theologians, but we think we have an answer for that) before going on to list the Chruch's failings (which, being the Catholic Church, took a while) and telling people to seek blessings "from God not men."

Organisers say it's "likely" her outburst will be cut from the televised version of the event, which is a pity, as it'd be certain to pull the viewers in. We're expecting the smell of copies of That Thing roasting on an open fire to start drifting northwards across the Alps by lunchtime.

THE REAL REASON FOR THE SUEDE SPLIT?: Apparently, Brett Anderson's moved to America and taken up High school wrestling:

Cary-Grove took a 7-0 lead before Kepp and 103-pounder Brett Anderson came back with pins. The difference came down C-GHS putting together back-to-back decisions followed by a trio of pinfall wins.

Although it sounds like he's put on some weight...

Sunday, December 14, 2003

FURTHER COMMENTS FROM ALAN C: It almost feels as if we're taking advantage of a man on a coffee high, but... here's a couple of pieces from Alan: First, in response to the Myleene Klass-ical stuff:

What exactly does "edgy" mean? And in what sense is the pop world "edgy"? Is she suggesting that the classical world gets some computers to work out the components of commercially-succesful products and endlessly reshuffle them into new units? Or does she have in her head someone saying "you know, I stopped on this channel to look at that girl's knickers and knockers, but I'm actually really starting to enjoy these Lieder"? As for the "composers are rock 'n' roll" angle, the best Myleene could do is to front a Ken Russell retrospective on Channel 5. Seriously.
(Also, I'm a bit fascinated by Bond)

and then, on downloads:

I'm excited about the ingenious approach Warp are planning for
where you pay a pound or whatever and you get a track. No DRM, no
restrictions, no package deals, no fuss, no muss. You know: it might catch

But can you really imagine the newly-merged SonyBMG people sleeping soundly knowing people might copy their tracks onto countless mix CDs?

Saturday, December 13, 2003

DO WHAT, RON RON, DO WHAT RON RON?: Ronnie Spector Greenfield, wife of Phil Spector, tells reporters she'd never seen Phil "violent, with a gun or anything." Is this the same Ronnie Spector who in her 1991 Autobiography 'Be My Baby' claimed that he had pulled a gun on her in the first three months of their marriage?

THEY'RE NOT GOING QUIETLY: We're a little lost as to the exact reasoning behind the RIAA going after ordinary file-sharers - it was to scare everyone, or something, right? Only when people do pay up (there's a few dozen capitulated to their bullying tactics) nobody much hears about it, as the cases which make the news are the ones which just portray the buddy-group of the big labels as heartless, thick gits - like the action bought against a New Jersey woman for her 13 year old daughter's downloads. Michele Scimeca - who comes from Rockaway, perfectly enough - isn't going to let herself be rolled over by the RIAA and seems to be set on creating a wonderful large stink. [Alan C, again: we thank you]

WELL, HE COULD PROBABLY BENEFIT FROM HAVING HIS OWN DIPLOMATIC BAGGAGE: People really should be more careful when they're handing out awards. Last year, Britney inadvertently lead Michael Jackson to believe he'd been given an Artist of the Millennium prize, and now Colin Powell seems to have created James Brown as "secretary of soul and foreign minister of funk." Now, of course, Powell is no stranger to making odd pronouncements about non-existent stuff - let's not forget the time he tried to pull the United Nation's leg about lorries transforming into biological weapon factories at the drop of a hat, and chemical weapon plants which disappeared in a puff of smoke when you went to look at them - but this is especially astonishing. Apart from anything, shouldn't Brown be Foreign Minister for funk, suggesting funk is his special overseas responsibility, rather than of funk, which would tend to imply that he came from funk?

Anyway, we doubt if Brown will ever be allowed to take up his position - the Senate is bound to pick up on his spell in chokey for firing guns at the police before anyone ever gets round to deciding what functions of the Department of Homeland Security should be brought under the new Department of Soul. [Thanks to Alan C for the link]