Saturday, July 19, 2003

RETURNING JAPANESE: remember the 80s is reporting that The Vapours are about to reform, prior to the release of a best-of (which would be, we'd suggest, a single song).

QUESTION IS - WHO DOES THIS REFLECT WORSE ON?: As a poll finds Americans trust Eminem more than Bush, should Bush worry that he's so distrusted? Or should Eminem worry that he's become such a mainstream sweetie?

THIS ISN'T WHAT THEY WANT: Good news - Sally James is back doing regular work, as a presenter on BBC WM (men and some women of a certain age go misty-eyed and/or mutter 'I preferred Philbin, myself'). Bad news - She's being kept off the new gig for a month while she gets her colon untwisted. Jenny Hanley has (probably) been muttering that she's never needed her colon to be unscrewed.

NEW WORKPLACE HAZARD: Enforced karaoke, or 'paintballing, but with 'I Will Always Love You' instead of hard pellets' to beat stress. If that doesn't work, how about sleep deprivation, or letting a jaguar loose in the office?

THEY'LL SAVE A LOT ON THE CLOTHING MATERIALS, THEN: Shrewd decision by Mattel, who are sponsoring Christina Aguilera's tour in the name of Barbie. The main worry is that the plastic bimbo-doll might be outraged at being associated with Christina, of course, but it seems like Mattel is trying to - ahem - slut the doll's image up to compete with the Bratz range: "Mattel is sponsoring this summer's tour of singer Christina Aguilera to promote the six dolls, which come in different heights and sport attire such as tube tops and mini-skirts." The Flavas range is aimed at kids up to the age of ten. We're a little queasy about a marketing department that thinks that Christina Aguilera should be considered an eight-to-ten-year-old's style of popstar. We'd be a bit scared if our imaginary eight year old was aspiring to be Dirrty.

WHY IT'S IMPORTANT TO CHECK YOUR EMAIL FREQUENTLY: Ian Rankin finally gets round to sifting through email; is delighted to find an invitation to lunch with REM (along with offers of enlarged penises and rapey preteens). Ah. But three days after the event was due to take place. Dammit, you need to check your email, people.

QUICK, WITH THE TIPP-EX: While Jackson Browne can quite legitmately state that he never slapped Darryl Hannah about - Santa Monica Police investiagted and found the allegations to be baseless - we're a little concerned that he's taking action to stop TV shows even mentioning the allegations were made. So long as it's made perfectly clear that he was cleared, we're not sure why the singer is upset at the mere mention of the event. It's not like it's not already in the public realm, and we'd have thought that a clear rejection of the allegation would be better than just pretending that it never happened. And while we're not saying that it should be brought into any program about John F Kennedy Jr, Darryl or Jackson, forcing TV shows to start deleting accurate parts of stories just because they don't show you in the best light would seem to be part of a dangerous way to behave.

QUICK QUESTION: With the Record Companies seemingly determined to burn off the last few bits of goodwill remaining by just issuing writs against ISPs left, right and centre in the US, something kind of odd seems to be happening. They're taking on Verizon, they're taking on Commcast. They're battling all the major US ISPs. Except one. Indeed, if you search for Verizon on the RIAA website, you find thirty-two pages of explication about their evils. If you search for AOL, however, you find not a peep. Is it that AOL users are all sweet little good citizens, or is it the slightly more unsettling possibility that the RIAA, who receive much of their funding from AOL Time Warner, are happy to turn a blind eye to AOL customer's misdeamenours? Or, even more worryingly, could AOL be using its membership of the RIAA as a way of putting costly pressure on its rivals in the ISP business? Should perhaps someone be exploring the ethics of a private body being allowed to pursue legal vendettas against the commercial rivals of one of its members?

HARP STAYS SHARP TO THE BOTTOM OF THE GLASS: Glass Harp are back, and they're making with the downloads. This is part of a test service over on Blogcritics of a DIY section; so even if you don't think the idea of a band who punk were supposed to have buried in a shallow grave returning is that great, pop over and see what else is going on in the neighbourhood.

Friday, July 18, 2003

MY SWEET BLOODY VALENTINE: Not only are they working together again, but My Bloody Valentine could be about to birth a box set. This probably depends on if Kevin can get out of his front door or not, mind. [We hope that naming Oh Manchester as our source for this won't lead to any sudden disappearances]

MUSIC AWARDS RIGGED? SURELY NOT?: Hong Kong police arrest people suspected to rigging music awards; Brits, Grammy organisers put nervous calls through to lawyers "just to be on the safe side."

THEY NEVER FORGET: Juice FM forced to pull adverts after painfully misjudging Merseyside's attitude to The Sun. Juice had carried adverts for the paper, which is still a pariah title in Liverpool following the coverage of the Hillsborough Stadium disaster back in 1989.

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT: Andrew Lloyd Webber's Way Ahead Agency make a thousand quid off the back of the cancellation of the Eden Festival. "We have to cover our staffing costs" they stammer. Of course, if they really want to show they're not cash-sucking scum, they could give their windfall to the charities who are losing out (and have to cover some things a bit more important than staff costs), couldn't they?

LOOK, ONCE MORE: I'M NOT DESPERATE FOR ANY CASH I CAN MAKE, OKAY?: Jackson Five reforms in an E. Nesbitt style bid to restore the family fortunes. It can't be long before Michael Jackson starts to flog lunch dates with himself on the Ebay.

FUN FOR ALL THE GIG-GOING FAMILY: It's Hipster Bingo. Of course, you'd need to include local variations: 'Former member of the La's', say, or 'Tony Wilson'...

LIPS, ANYONE?: Those Flaming Lips autumnal tour dates in full:
Plymouth Pavillion - October 23
Bournemouth International Centre 24
Cardiff International Arena 26
Leicester De Montfort Hall 27
Manchester Apollo 28
Sheffield City Hall 29
Birmingham Academy 31
Brighton Centre November 2
London Hammersmith Apollo 3
Glasgow Academy 8
Edinburgh Usher Hall 9

OFFICIAL: JENNIFER LOPEZ WAS A LESBIAN: Well, not quite. But the character she's playing in Gigli was meant to be. The original plan would have seen J-Lo being a lesbian at the heart of an action movie; now she's having rumpy with Ben Affleck in a romantic comedy. One day, we're going to infiltrate test screenings with hundreds of our stooges and get them to say "we really feel their should have been more accordion on the soundtrack..."

SOMEHOW, IT'S SLIGHTLY MORE ICKY THAN OUR PRISON ANAL RAPE METAPHOR: Clear Channel have snorted that Capital's rejection of a possible merger is like Anne Widdecombe turning down a date with Brad Pitt - which, while showing a nice deft touch with the choice of English and American icons isn't entirely spot-on, we'd suggest. Capital, with it's mainly chart-based formats of one sort and another is not really much like Anne Widdecombe; indeed, it's desperate bid to weld youth crediblity onto an aging roster of faces makes it more like William Hague. And Clear Channel is flattering itself if it really looks in the mirror and sees Brad Pitt. Maybe Mike Tyson might be more the mark?

Roger Parry, biggest cat of all the Clear Channel Fat Cats then puts aside the date-similes to crush Capital with maths, like a giant, um, Calculating-Godzilla creature: "If you do your mathematics, it's obvious why Clear Channel would not be making bids for Capital Radio. Capital's pre-tax profits are about £24m and its current market value is £410m. A company is worth its cash flow, so you'd have to take the tax rate off the £24m - say take a third off, and you've got £16m. You going to buy something for £400m that's producing £16m cash, that's a return of 4%. I'm expected to make a return of 15%. The gap between 4% and 15% is pretty large and only two things could close that gap - either you'd have to assume profits are going to massively go up, or the price would have to go down. Absent either of those two events, I don't think David needs to worry." In other words, Capital is a hideously overpriced beast right now. (We're sure you will have spotted that poo-pooing a merger is a good way to try and talk the price of stocks down).

Parry also says that, if the price was right, Clear Channel would be looking at music or rolling news stations, but not other speech-based radio because the BBC has got that all stitched up. He seems to not really have a very tight grip on the dynamics of the UK commercial radio market, which is pretty much all music-based, save for one brave rolling news operation and TalkSport. (Unless, of course, we're doing him a disservice and he really has been thinking if it's worth trying to take over OneWord, the pixie-sized book station on DAB). Ominously, he also suggests there's an untapped audience for Country Music. Now, there he is kind of right, but only in large enough numbers to sustain with a national analogue frequency - which would mean a hell of a shake-up at Classic FM or Virgin.

In conclusion, reports MediaGuardian, Mr Parry also said he wants to put paid to "myths and legends" about his company and address its image as "big bad" ogre of the industry. "They want to portray us as mindlessly commercial, only interested in selling hamburgers. We absolutely accept the fact we are a commercial broadcaster. Our success is based on maximising advertising revenue. The part [British radio executives] chose not to hear is that we do that by maximising and delighting listeners - if you don't have any listeners you don't have anything to sell." So, erm, that would be be being mindlessly commercial then, Mr. Parry - what you do is maximise listeners by appealing to the Lowest Sustainable Denominator. However much it might delight the audience, you're still flattening down the radio landscape to do it.

SPOT THE QUIMBY: Trouble in Colorado, where the mayor of Denver has managed to blow USD130 000 on a concert at Red Rocks - the third year the "festival" has gone through cash like Tom Baker's Doctor munched jelly babies.

Curiously, the enormous expense has been justified as saying that it was all a good marketing exercise, and the large number of tickets that had to be handed out for free wasn't just a desperate bid to fill the place but, rather, an investment - "a way of exposing Red Rocks to community members who don't typically go to concerts." The point of giving free tickets to people who wouldn't go to gigs is lost slightly on us - it's not as if the line-up (the Isley Brothers, the Gap Band, the Poncho Sanchez Latin Jazz Band and singer Heather Headley) was so stellar as to turn the most anti-musical head; we'd have thought that People Who Don't Pay To Go To Concerts aren't going to suddenly mend their ways because someone gives them free tickets - in fact, surely that's just going to make them even less likely to pay in the future (the way the guest-list mentality takes hold so firmly, and all). And the suggestion that anyone living in Colorado might not be aware of the Red Rocks venue is absurd - like giving people in London free trips on the London Eye so they can discover the Houses of Parliament.

The fees and rider details make great reading, too: Payment for the four musical acts: $155,000.

Limousine service for band members: $9,339.38.

Estimated cost for the bands' hotel rooms: $4,566.52.

Catering costs for bands, backstage staff and production crews: $4,752.25.

Each of the performing groups had specific food requests the city was obligated to fulfill.

The Isley Brothers specified Skippy peanut butter with nuts for lunch. Their contract also called for "real brewed ice tea - no powder mix."

For dinner, the band's contract called for "steak cooked well done, medium and rare; grilled red snapper."

In their dressing rooms, the contract required the city to provide "two bottles of Moet Whitestar Champagne with ice bucket; two bottles of Merlot; one bottle of Louis Jardot Chardonnay; six-pack of Smirnoff Ice."

Such contract "riders" are typical in the concert industry.

"That's not unusual - artists can be very particular," said Rodney Smith, director of programming and event services for the Theatres and Arenas Division. "Having to foot the bill for that stuff is normal."

This sounds to us like someone who doesn't hang out much with pop groups, but has seen a few editions of Behind The Music, trying to sound in the know. How the hell did four acts manage to spend more than two thousand bucks a piece on limos? You could taxi the sods in from Birmingham for less than that. And, seriously, the Isley Brothers should be thankful they've got a paying gig somewhere where they don't have to compete with the waitress taking orders for the Coq Au Vin - any shrewd promoter would have looked at their rider demands and said "you can have one bottle of wine for every top forty you've had in the last fifteen years; and your red snapper and steak will come in small cartons from McDonalds, you cheeky chappies." Only the starstruck, or people booking off the very a-list, give in to all the act's demands. Because what are The Gap Band going to do? Threaten not to show up? Judging from the numbers here, that would probably have helped rather than harmed ticket sales.

But, Mayor Webb - if you're doing next year's planning - can we suggest Tony Hadley.

TALKING OF ANTS: Can anyone explain why the Jubilee DVD would be the sixth most popular title in South Korea?

ADAM'S HAD HIS DAY IN COURT, TOO: Last night was Channel 4's Madness of Prince Charming, an investigation/archive raid into the life of Adam Ant.

First things first: Justine Frischmann, who provided the voice over. She was stunning, having decided to eschew her faux-bow-bells rock-cockney for something nearer her usual voice. Obviously, we've long been a slave to her and Elastica, but, really, we'd be happy to sit at her feet and listen to her reading old Smash Hits features on Adam Ant until twilight falls. In the limited but growing field of indie-goddess turned TV anchor, she is the Sue the Panda to Lauren Laverne's Sweep the Dog.

But the show itself? It's a curiosity. Clearly, without the whole having gone mad element, it's unlikely that Channel Four would have turned over a chunk of precious Prime-Time to Adam Ant (it's unlikely that we'll be seeing 'Toyah - Before She Campaigned Against Asylum Seekers in her Neighbourhood' or 'Tony Hadley: Pop Diplomat to Laundromat Singer' anywhere other than Vh1 in the foreseeable future). Not that The Madness of Prince Charming didn't have some of the elements of the current Ch4 obsessions - there were home decoration tips (a friend told how the young Adam's house was painted all black - "walls, ceiling, carpets, the lot" with three nails, on which hung a comb, a pair of scissors and a toothbrush); and the early tales of the transformation from Stuart Goddard into Adam Ant sounded like a great lost edition of Faking It.

But the early and fame days, though fascinating for anyone who lived through them, were little more than the usual run-through of How Punk Changed Everything, even down to the appearance of Malcolm McClaren turning up to tell us how it was all his idea, the whole lot of it. All the old punks on show have hit the point of middle aged spread - even Paul More-of-Me/Morley, but it was still frightening how much Malcolm McClaren has started to look like a supporting antique dealer from Lovejoy, all carcoated-up, greying temples and laugh lines. He's finally growing into his face; that he also looks like a man you wouldn't have bought a second hand table or dodgy youth movement from now is some sort of poetic justice, we guess.

There was an attempt to lace the rags-to-riches part of the tale with some psychology that, while not cod had something of the fish about it; needing to have an explanation for why it all went wrong the documentary had to stir in some seeds of doubt from the off and so decided that Adam's prodigious output and desire for fame at any price was 'stardom as self-medication'. They might have a point, and if the need to push himself further, and sell more was a flaw, then grievously did he pay for it - he even agreed to do The Canon and Ball Show. Shockingly, he'd been offered a choice between them and Morecambe and Wise; he plumped for C&B because "the ratings were higher." There was also footage of the Ants' appearance on The Children's Royal Variety Performance, now officially The Point Where They Stopped Being Punk. As a sidenote, that show was hosted by Man/Puppet act Rod Hull and Emu and the 'royal' in attendance was Princess Margaret; Rod Hull's own plummet from stardom was the subject of a Channel Four show earlier this month; it's only a few weeks since they 'did' Margaret too.

Adam was given credit for being the first person to use the newspapers to sell their music and image, and although this is becoming such a commonplace that 'X was the first tabloid star' that the show before had been suggesting that Victoria and Albert had been, in effect, the first tabloid stars too, it did give a chance to set the triumphant Dandy Highway cover stories with the more recent, equally prominent coverage of the raging demons. The NME often gets accused of building 'em up to knock 'em down, but clearly nobody does it like the tabloids - they might wait years, but once the boots are on, the boots are in.

The end of the Ants and the decline of the career were skipped through pretty quickly, so as to get to the present. The "reasons" for Adam's mental decline - the loss of fame, the two stalkers, the father turning up and turning out to be a Dirty Old Man (as they still were known before the Internet) - were lined up and run through, and both Marco and Merrick were called on to give examples of the slippery slope that would eventually wind up with him throwing an alternator through a pub window and being sectioned. Interviewed between that sectioning and the later one, Adam isn't so Dandy anymore. Some of the time, he was filmed in what I guess is a TV Researcher's idea of what a mental health ward looks like (he was at pains to dismiss the film-glamour of mental illness - "there's no Jack Nicholson, no sexy middle aged nurse… just the smell of piss and death, and people waiting to die", although this also smacks a little of myth-making of a different kind); for these scenes, he was wearing a too-large bowler hat and his face was round and slightly angelic, as if he was trying out for the part of Fred the Flour Grader. But the sadder scenes were the ones where they shut him in front of a large screen and played him highlights of his career, and excerpts of news footage chronicling the descent into tragedy. For these sequences, he watched with a headscarf (we're guessing he's not taken the loss of his hair as lightly as Brian Molko) through tinted glasses, almost impassively. Even talking about the truly great pop moments he made - Prince Charming, Stand and Deliver - he didn't show any spark, any pride, any emotion linked to them. After explaining about how they'd suffered to knock out the Stand and Deliver video in just one day, his comment seemed to sum up his entire life. Flatly: "it went to number one - that's all that matters." He didn't sound as if he really believed it, more that he hoped that other people would.

MORE COURT STUFF: Former Suede accountant Frank Dixon was up in court yesterday, charged with false accounting and theft. The prosecution claims Dixon took money from the accounts of Suede, Primal Scream Echobelly (although we'd have thought finding any money in Echobelly's account would have been a talent unmatched) and others, totalling a million pounds' worth. Dixon has pleaded not guilty to all thirty four charges. He's due back in court on October 24th, when his lawyers plan to argue the charges be dismissed on some technicality or other.

WHAT'S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN? (BESIDES THE RISK OF GETTING CAUGHT IN THE EAST-WEST CROSSFIRE?): Yes, we see Ms Dynamite Pepsi is in the UK shops now - is it just us, or has she gone so cold the cans look chillier than Tizer Ice? - but even more excitingly, the US has Russell Simmon's Def Con 3, the hip hop/pop crossover. Okay, it's not that exciting, but it's better than Jane Asher cakes, surely?

STILL, AT LEAST IT WASN'T JEREMY BEADLE: More on the Great Metallica Spoof, apparently from cnn. The spoofer, Ashley from Unrest, might be thinking of a different Lars Ulrich when he says "I may be reaching here, but I wouldn't put it past Lars to actually approve of the parody because it exposes the Internet for what it is," he said, meaning the kind of place where even legitimate news sites might run with the story without a second thought. Yes, we're sure he'll be suing your skinny ass more in sorrow than in anger. What is kind of shocking is that Ananova didn't actually spot the flaw in the URL they were using to stack up the story: - maybe if they deep-linked to their actual sources, they'd have had the spoof pointed out to them earlier and saved their reputation a spot of blushing?
[Thanks to Nigel R for what we'll term ' additional research']

Oh, and while we're correcting: The problem drinker points out Conyers and Berman are Congressmen. They introduced the bill in the House of Representatives. (They're the ones who want to send filesharers to prison)

Thursday, July 17, 2003

THIS MIGHT BE ALL BOLLOCKS, TOO: Kym Marsh has given advice to One True Voice about how to manage their careers. Yes, we know. See? You don't need to make stuff up. Really, the things that actually happen are so much sweeter.

THERE YOU GO: The disappearance of the Metallica story from Ananova confirms that, yes, it was all a gimmicky stunt. But a well done one. After all, this is a band who sue their own fans, and on a day when a similar act really has said "you can't expect live shows to be any good..." and two senators have calculated one track on a P2P network is equal to two and half grand's worth of thieving, why on earth would you need to bother making things up? We took the story on good faith on the basis that Ananova were running with it. And we're sure its the sort of thing they'd like to do, anyway...

NO, THEY'RE REALLY JUST INSANE, AREN'T THEY?: Hats off to John Conyers and Howard Berman, who've introduced a bill to senate that would send file sharers to prison. Because, you know, you might think you're just sharing some Bon Jovi, but that whole filesharing thing could, apparently, lead to 'government security violations', not to mention be used for swapping kiddie porn and them computer viruses. (It's not clear how sending people who are sharing music rather than pictures of naked preteens or the I Love You virus to the big house would exactly stop these things, but we imagine that it's like dope-to-heroin; today you might be downloading the theme tune to Dr Snuggles; by October you'll be pumping a virus up into the Pentagon). Of course, trying to get anyone to take seriously the idea that making available a copy of Love To Love You Baby is a crime that demands you be banged up is a bit tricky, so the two Democrats have cooked up some maths-fudging to push the figures into the criminal zone. They've decided that a file on your machine is worth USD2,500 - and thus an automatic trip to jail. To arrive at this figure, they've had to believe that each file will be downloaded an average of ten times (which, in our experience, is pushing it a bit) and that each download represents the theft of twenty five buck's worth of material. Each track is worth twenty five dollars? What, are they using data prepared specially by the RIAA and Lars to come up with this crazy figure? Because on that basis, an average album would be retailing at two and a half thousand a piece, wouldn't it? We hope this gets treated with the withering disdain such calculations deserve. Look: A legitmate download comes in at around ninety-nine cents. So, to come up to your figures, you'd have to wait for 2525 downloads to make your money up. Andf shouldn't there be something a little more solid than a vague assumption on the part of two chaps who don't look like they spend much time listening to music.

CREED: DEFENDING THEMSELVES. BUT LAMELY: Creed have started to realise that their pisspoor Chicago show could cost them an awful lot of money, and so have come up with a whole bunch of plausible sounding weasel outs ("come out fighting against their critics"). First, They've tried the 'I wasn't pissed and lying down on the job, I was - uh - making a personal gesture' approach - they admit that "some people might not have got it. They've tried bemusement - "While [Stapp] did say he was "fighting off illness" at the time, he said he watched the concert on tape and doesn't understand the fuss. "We didn't feel like it was an awful show," he said. "That's why it kind of shocked us."

And now, they've got their mummies, sorry, attorneys in to say that, even if it was a crap show, then the scummy customer is just going to have to suck on their titties: "Creed's attorney, Rob McNeely, described the claim as bunk. "Buying a ticket to a concert does not mean buying an entitlement or a guarantee to any caliber or quality of performance," he said. "And it has to be that way because of the nature of the arts." He compared the lawsuit to an Orlando Magic fan suing the team if Tracy McGrady had an off night and scored only 4 points. If judges were to rule that Creed's lackluster performance merited refunds, McNeely argues, it would be a "short trip" to the day when judges preapprove song selections for concerts. The same logic suggests judges shouldn't prohibit Stapp from rolling "around on the floor of the stage in apparent pain or distress" or passing out during the performance, as the lawsuit claims."

Except, of course, the lawyer is using a bad analogy: with sports, part of the attraction is that one team might be having an off-day, and when you buy a ticket to see a game, you're accepting the risk that you might see the team lose. (If it wasn't the case, why would so many Brighton and Hove Albion fans have bothered to renew their season tickets?). But with entertainment, it's more like employing a plumber or a wallpapering person. On a microlevel, if you booked a band to play your wedding, and they turned up and were shit, you'd have every right to assume they'd breached their contract and not pay them. The same applies for a band who you're hiring (as part of bulk deal) with the rest of an audotorium. It's news to us that we're buying tickets for events under some nebulous legal understanding that the band might not stick to their part of the deal - and, if this is the case, shouldn't there be some small print saying 'we might suck' on the tickets?

If our attorney said to us 'Hey, guys, just paying someone doesn't mean they're going to be good at what they do" before he has to go and represent us in court, we'd start to think we'd hired the wrong guy.

NEXT TARGET: SUING ALL OTHER UGLY, BADLY DRESSED MORON BANDS: Metallica really are dicks, aren't they? I mean, really, really fat dicks. Okay, we could see their point over the whole Napster thing - hey, if we were of limited intelligence we might even have agreed with them, and made that \m/ sign thing for them. But now? They're launching a legal action against a band for using the chords E and F. "We're not saying we own those two chords, individually - that would be ridiculous" says Lars, which is, of course true. But no more ridiculous than trying to say you own the two chords in that order, and that anyone who writes a song with them in should credit them and pay fifty percent of the royalties for songs which use them. The target of a band who apparently have become so detached from reality that they probably think they can fly is Unfaith, a Canadian act who deserve all our support, I think.

If it wasn't Metallica, we'd assume stuff like this was just a gimmicky stunt: "Metallica's lawyer, Jill Pietrini, said the band decided to take legal action only after first sending a letter of complaint to Unfaith singer/songwriter, Erik Ashley. "They continue to shamelessly feature the two chords on their website song samples and we just can't have that," she said.

update... so, it did all turn out to be too good to be true [see above] - although makes you wonder who actually does fact-checking for Ananova...

MUFFIN'S IN A COFFEE SHOP: Interesting piece on Brassy, who have had to take time off their day jobs in order to tour Australia. Although Muffin suggests that the internet hasn't helped, the real reason why a band like Brassy haven't really taken off to a point where their music can support them lays more in this sort of thing: "Brassy's 'Play Some D' [reports Undercover] was used in a UK campaign, but they didn't see a cent from it. "Motorola were using it. They used Play Some D for the prime time movies, in and out of ads" she says. "We didn't have any say in the matter. We aren't with the publishing company that put out the first album so they just went ahead and did it. They didn't ask and we didn't get any money." Remember, the battle against downloading is being fought in the name of the artists, and yet time and again the artists seem to end up with No Money At All.

Talking of people making money from Music, Daniel Miller made a few quid when his label was hoovered up by EMI, and continues to helm the now not-quite-indie. Miller is interviewed for today's Guardian Online and while he shudders over the RIAA "victimisation" of individuals, he does parrot the line that "There's no question that [filesharing] is having a negative effect on the record industry" - um, actual, Daniel, there is a very, very large question indeed over whether its effect is negative. It's like an enormous question. It's a question so huge, you have to pack sandwiches and spare water if you wish to traverse it. And any time we see anybody trot out the "it's unquestionably a bad thing", we shall spring to our feet and wave our order papers.

EDEN - THE FALL: Wirral's not-shabby Eden Festival (comprising a huge green fair, and the likes of Ian Brown, Ray Davies, Har Mar Superstar, Pink Grease, The Bees and, um, The Levellers has been cancelled due to last-minute objections to the licence from what the organisers call 'statutory organisations.' In short, the council decided that the organisers couldn't cope with the projected numbers. Of course, this was actually to be the first of the big officially-designated Cultural Events at the heart of the Liverpool City of Culture hoo-hoo to have come since the place was awarded the title. Let's hope it's not an omen. Because if Merseyside can't cope with 40,000 people over a weekend, how are they going to deal with the millions projected for 2008?

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

NO ROCK REVIEW, TWO: Becky Bamboo and Placebo...

Well, Placebo have totally redeemed themselves. Playing in front of a sold out crowd at Slimís, they banished all memories of the wasted, out-of-tune mess of a show they put on last time they visited San Francisco. It was one of those hot, sweaty, crowded shows where at least three people are touching your ass at any given moment and you honestly donít care because youíre all jumping around and singing along and grinning madly. There was, of course, the obligatory obnoxious drunk girl in front of me who would lean so far back at the waist I felt like her dental hygienist (ìOkay, now rinse and spit!î). I put my purse in between us as a barrier so it would get dry-humped and not me. She eventually moved to go annoy another segment of the crowd. Brian was looking exceptionally sexy with his new short hairdo and a sleeveless black t-shirt and weird acid wash jeans. Stefan had on a half buttoned black shirt and jeans and danced around like a man who knew he was getting laid that night. Steve wasnít wearing a shirtÖ mmmhmm. The songs were mostly drawn from the new album, with only a few from _Black Market Music_ (thank goodness) and a few from _WYIN_. No ìNancy Boyî, but ìAshtray Girlî rocked enough to satisfy me. It was a really short show ñ only an hour and 15 minutes but they promised theyíd be back this winter. Pictures will be forthcoming as soon as I remember to take my film to the grocery store.

THE NO ROCK REVIEW: Our West Coast (CA, not Cornwall) correspondent Becky Bamboo has been working like a floor-mopper at an Amsterdam peep show (and we stress the 'like', not 'as'), but in her few seconds off she's gotten to go to a couple of shows. First:

Spoon! I jetted out of work last night at 8:30 to head up to the city to see Spoon at the Fillmore. I missed the first opening band (Rogue Wave, a local band who, from the name, sound like they should be opening for Jack Johnson) but caught the second, Natural History. They also opened for Spoon last time they came through just a few months ago. (Note: it may have actually been sometime last year but Iím getting old and time seems to be accelerating.) On second listen they again struck me as very derivative of Spoonís sound, but without the catchy songs and moments of beautiful minimalism that Spoon does so effortlessly. I did like them a little better this time, but Iím not convinced they have the tunes to be a serious rival. I enjoyed watching them for two reasons though: first, their drummer is freakishly hot in a Clark Kent sort of way and second, the bass player had so much shit in his front pants pockets that he looked like Torgo from _Manos, Hands of Fate_. He had the Torgo hair and beard going too, which only made the resemblance stronger. I wonder if he did it on purpose. While we were waiting for Spoon to come on, the unstamped, underage boys in front of me asked about my shirt (I was wearing my Handsome Family t-shirt with the picture of the little girl holding a shotgun). I told them they were a great band and they said theyíd check them out. Then they noticed my bag (the one with the Patsy Cline 45 in the clear front pocket) and started raving over that. Ah, the adulation of teenage boys. I felt like a slightly pervy babysitter. Anyway. I love Spoon. I love the driving, jerky rhythm of their songs. I love the way every song goes on just long enough. And I love the way Britt Daniels sings as if words are unfamiliar shapes in his mouth. Live, every song sounded like a hit single and each elicited enthusiastic applause from the audience. The set was drawn mostly from the last two albums, but the occasional early song fit in seamlessly. Britt told us that we were the most people for whom theyíd ever played and the whole band seemed a little giddy at having a sold out show at the Fillmore. I didnít get to be until 2 a.m. and when my alarm went off at 5:45 a.m. I had a hell of a time getting out of bed. But Iíd do it again in a second.

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Unpleasant Sexual Imagery Edition
Possibly the ultimate boy-loses-virginity moment came in the Buffy episode The Zeppo, when Xander - in between fighting off zombies who want to blow Sunnydale (sky) High - is dragged off by Faith into her motel room, deflowered, and deposited, unshowered just as suddenly. Until this week's heat, there was no image that could stand as the polar opposite. But now we have one - with this week's revelation from Gareth Gates that, yes, he did shag Jordan, while she was six months pregnant (which at least gives her an excuse for having such an odd craving as to want sex with the boy hedgehog). Gates claims he was flattered to be pursued by the plastic tits of self-promotion, which is a bit like being delighted that the Jehovah's Witnesses are taking a personal interest in your redemption. The whole thing is just too, too horrible to think about. Let us never mention it again.

From gross to Goss. Matt Goss - one half of Bros - who's making another one of his period comebacks. Nobody ever seems bothered about what happened to the other one, do they? Anyway, in an interview so flirty it was almost touching him up, Metro found out he was happy this time round as he doesn't feel the whole "is he cool? is he not cool?" pressure - which puzzles us, because we can't think of anybody at all who ever might have mistaken him for someone cool in the first place.

Beyonce is in Sneak, and you know when she says ""I try not to think about [image] I know I'm an average person, I am an average size but on TV I'm curvier than some women. I don't think there's anything wrong with looking different from the person on the cover of some fashion magazine" she's trying to send out a positive message about how you should be happy with who you are, but we can't help feeling it gets lost a little and the line of the day teen girls will be taking away will be "if Beyonce thinks she's too big, that makes me elephantine."

The Flaming Lips stepped into the gap left by Jack White wanking his hand off (or whatever it was that happened) not just on stage at T in The Park, but also on the front of the nme. The whole T in the P coverage is slightly weary; in common with all the London based media there's a feeling that the scots should think themselves bloody lucky that anyone turned up for their festival, and that any coverage will do - and that comes across in the reviews.

News: Kate Moss went backstage to see the Kings of Leon b- we're not sure what the news value of this is, since Kate Moss has been in the dressing room of every band to play in the United Kingdom since 1984. Interestingly, the Darkness news report is also more a list of the people who went to the gig - oh, look, there's samantha morton - which suggests the nme is starting to see heat's pointless tattle as the target to aim for, rather than a source of detached amusement. Likewise, there's a page of bollocks from an astrologer about why (like Jack White didn't) pop stars die at the age of 27 and what we had hoped was an amusing parody of the 'touch becks' ankle and pray' Sun guff with a pciture of 'jack's' finger - but which, in light of the rest of the issue (the laboured Bing Crosby and David Bowie joke, the lame caption on a picture of one Hot Hot Heat) we suspect may not have been a joke at all.

The NME is launching another spurious chart into the overcrowded market - this will be on MTV2 every night and will differ from other spurious charts because the people voting for it will be employed by slightly cooler subsidiaries of the major labels than the ones rigging the Smash Hits chart ("because it will be voted for by nme readers). This magazine, of course, stopped running its indie charts because they considered they had become meaningless. Doubtless the revenue stream from the project won them round.

Cooper Temple Clause are fighting over their new album tracklist.

Two knuckleheads who murdered someone in the states are trying to blame Slipknot on the basis that they'd been told to do it by the lines "I want to slit your throat and fuck the wound/ I wanna push my face in and feel the swoon" - although, apparently, the two twits had slit a throat, the wound-fucking and swoon-feeling hadn't taken place. We assume "Slipknot told us to" is just "not guilty by reason of insanity" in a different way.

"If people want to get an album for free, they can just go into a shop, buy it and then take it back the next day" points out Jason Pierce, asked how he feels about the new Spiritualized album being all over the web like Faith's juices over Xander's jowls. Has the RIAA been alerted to this? Surely they should be taking steps to force Record Stores to stop their returns policies...

The Raveonettes and Elbow have both been driven to want to kill each other. Oh, no they haven't, it's just what happens in their videos blown up for an almost engaging headline. The good people at the nme can be expected to be first with 'Thom Yorke turned into tree' shocker any day soon.

Jack Osbourne blah blah drugs blah killed myself blah blah that close blah blah on the edge blah blah. We've heard of people using suicide bids as a way to attract attention, but he's got to be the first person to try and use his not attempting suicide as a way of making us look at him.

Is Thom Yorke the new Mozart? (nb: no, he isn't)

Stellastar* feel like outsiders in the New York Music Scene, they tell nme. Nme doesn't take the hint that they were dropping, viz. they're the only band from NY who haven't yet been given a big fawning front page feature.

The Donnas burn a CD, with Pulp, Abba and Falco on it. They could be us, except we look a whole lot sweeter in a babydoll nightdress.

Colder's Mar Nguyen is just very, very French indeed.

Steve from Hot Hot Heat went to school with Nelly Furtardo. I wonder who they want to come back to do the alumnus speech.

"Everything's opened up" since Black rebel Motorcycle Club came to Britain. And you know how record companies always tell us their obsession with copyright law is based around a desire to protect the artist? Then why is it Robert feels unable to carry out his dream of burning off CD-Rs of new BRMC material to give out to fans because he "would get into trouble?"

The Darkness are going to re-release I believe in a thing called love - the nme thinks it'll get to number one, or 179 places higher than its previous outing managed. We'll see.

dizzee rascal - boy in da corner - "one of the most assured debuts of the last five years", 9
movietone - movietone (re-release) - "now a much less interesting proposition", 5
janes addicition - strays - "this rocks, full stop", 8
super furry animals - phantom power - "phantastic power", 9

sotw - thrice/Thursday split single - "honest, impassioned, forward-thinking"
stereophonics - maybe tomorrow - "sub-Faces bollocks"

ryan adams - new york battery park - "playful disorder"
slayer - astoria - "before we piss in their graves, we should get rancid hyenas to fuck them in their eye sockets"
the rapture - shoreditchh cargo - "all the compulsion of an early happy mondays"

a very treading-water week for the nme, then. but at least there's no mental image of gareth gates buncing off those silcone orbs. Or maybe he put it between them, which would be like getting a spanish necklace off a pair of spacehoppers. Or... but no, we must go and lay down. Or burn our brains out.

THE SUB-EDITOR HAS COME OVER UNWELL: Else... How do you explain the headline on this article?

THEY KNOW HOW TO HURT, THOSE BOOTLE KIDS: Eleven year old competition winners taunt Dannii Minogue with Would you like a number one, Dannii? question. Dannii, to her credit, managed to keep her chin up and said it would be "brilliant" (and, presumably, hugely unlikely) rather than punching the girls in their mocking faces. Megan, one of the girls, couldn't contain her excitement: "I've never seen anyone as famous as this, it's amazing." Since there was also Atomic Kitten and Girls Aloud there, this suggests that Megan doesn't get out much.

WE ONLY HOPE TWO HUNDRED BOYS AT THE BACK DON'T SPOIL IT BY SINGING RUDE WORDS: Liverpool is apparently looking to recruit 2003 singers to form a huge choir to open the soon-coming Beatles Festival. Apparently, the aim is - officially - to "to form an outstanding choir of unaccompanied voices. We want to bring together 2003 people aged from 11 to more than 60, and from all different economic and cultural backgrounds to form the biggest ever socially inclusive choir the city has ever seen." This kind of implies that there have been bigger choirs in Liverpool, only they would all have been white, middle-class males, we suppose. We wonder how we've managed to miss them going about their business.

IT'S HYNDE VERSUS THE COLONEL: Chrissie Hynde takes on KFC, threatening to shout outside a branch for two hours...

BUSH ON THE WING: Gavin Rossdale to play member of crap England 1950 World Cup Team in a movie about the US team which knocked the English out the world cup. (Knowing the usual conenction of Hollywood movies to the truth, we'd imagine in this version the Americans go on to both win the world cup outright, and foil plans by "Muslim Fundamentalists" to blow up the Queen of England at half time.) It's a given fact, of course, that all films about football are rubbish - with the sole exception of Gregory's Girl, of course* - and we're far from convinced that hiring Gavin is a sign that this one is going to change the run of duff-ness.

We especially like the way the report tails off with "Just a Girl" is one of No Doubt's hits", like an old person trying to prove that they're still capable of managing their own finances.

* - Actually, what was that movie about the girls who broke into the footy stadium at night? Those Glory, Glory Days. That was quite good, actually. But it was made for TV and as such, doesn't count. Nor does Another Sunday, Sweet FA, before you ask. But we remain to be corrected - email us at oi-the-ref-needs-bloody-glasses if you want to take issue.

THE MOVING FINGER SPLITS, AND HAVING WRIT, MOVES ON: Jack White has written this for the band's website about his brokey finger:

Hello candy cane children,
I broke my finger, three breaks, car wreck, horrible left turn in front of me, no chance of escape, air bag, the air near my fingers, devil in my left hand, doctors say no way, lot's of pain, typing with one finger, made it through year of rock n' roll death, got off with just a warning.
Apologies to those wishing to see my hand live, soon enough I'm sure, now me and meg can share war stories, I love when we share, like once there was a monkey, and we shared the experience as children do.

Let's not look at his poor usage of apostrophe - that might make some people want to go and take to the other fingers with a large mallet of some sort - and wonder at the bizarre coincidence he alludes to. He'd said that he was afraid of being 27 - the year of Rock Death (Hendrix et al buying it at that age); only to go and have a big car crash on his 28th birthday. Again, we're starting to be convinced of the existence of God; and a God with a slightly evil sense of humour, to boot.

Missing from Jack's accounts of his accident is the choice morsel that he was sharing the car with renee zwelleger, who apparently is "his girlfriend." We're guessing Meg cut the brake cables.

If anyone can explain how you share a monkey experience, we'd love to hear from you at the usual email address.

BUT HOW CAN THIS BE? DON'T THEY LOVE EACH OTHER?: We're frankly shocked - no, more than shocked, our poor meat-filled head is whooshing about like a washing machine on spin cycle, only someone's put speed in instead of those new Persil fizzy tablets. Tatu are about to split because the two girls hate each other?? And Julia has got a boyfriend? Boy, are we ever looking stupid now for believing they were a proper lesbian couple who went way back together. Oh, hang on a moment... sorry, when we said "we", we meant "every newspaper, ever", didn't we?

MADONNA THE NEW FACE OF JOHNNY MATHIAS: The Gap have continued their tradition of giving a helping hand to artists down on their luck by giving Madonna a spot on one of their adverts. We bet they pay her in gloves.

WE DON'T WANT TO COME OVER ALL PETER TATCHELL: ... but we're not sure the Gay Bar feature on the Scott Mills show is all that well thought through. Is he saying that "gay" and "a bit camp" are interchangable? We hope that he's allowed to stay up and watch Are You Being Served on UK Gold one day - he'll find Mr. Humphries a total hoot...

OPPORTUNITIES THAT ARE OPEN TO ALL AREN'T THE GOLDEN ONES: It's interesting that Victoria Beckham has felt like she has to defend her sudden interest in hip-hop. It might be cynical for us to point out that at a previous slump in her career led to Victoria to suddenly announce a hitherto unremarked obsession with UK Garage; or that her career has now sunk to a point where you can amaze kids in Beckham-branded sportswear by saying "Did you know his wife used to be a pop star?" and the phrase "I badly need a Mariah Carey style makeover - although not to the going mad and destroying the crockery point, of course..." must have been snarled more than once.

Victoria - you'll remember her from those crisp adverts a while back - has this to say about her marriage of convenience with Damon Dash ("collaboration with a bloke who must have figured the cheese factor will be outweighed by the extra publicity"):

"I think there's been a lot of anticipation for this record, a lot of people wondering what it's gonna be like, when it's gonna come out, because it's good music and I like it."

I used to spend a lot of time wondering what a small nuclear explosion over the Chatham Dockyard would be like. This didn't mean that I was exactly 'anticpating' the event, mind. And how can people know its good music and yet also be "wondering what it's gonna be like"? And who'll be wondering very much - some standard hiphop with Victoria Beckham's electonically aided voice around the top, but not too near the top, of the mix...

"At the end of the day I've been told I should do it this way, I should do it that way, but I'm doing it my way and I'm doing what I like. So I'm not surprised people are being positive about it because it's a good record at the end of the day."

You'd never tell she was the wife of a footballer, would you? "It's a good record at the end of the day, Brian." But who could possibly have forseen that Victoria's choices would involve her being dumped by her label last year and not making any records for anyone for the longest time, eh?

"It shouldn't all be about your celebrity status and whether that opens or closes doors for you - it shouldn't make a difference."

This is almost so self-delusional that we suspect she might actually be sincere in her little Gucci-wrapped heart when she says it. Maybe she really does think that Mr. Dash was keen to work with her because of what she can do in front of a microphone rather than what she does on the front of newspapers. Maybe she believes that if she'd spent the 1990s working on the Pick'n'Mix counter at Bridlington Woolworths rather than being in the biggest pop band of the time, she'd still be on the cover of the Daily Star and getting to make hip hop records left, right and centre.

A NIFTY NEW TOY: It looks like something that they're going to be rolling out across the whole of BBCi, but at the moment the BBCi communicator is being soft-tested on Radio One. It works kind of like Instant Messenger, but it puts you directly in touch with people looking at the same page. So, supposedly, you should be able to hook up with other people seeking the name of the fifteenth track Peel played last night. Of course, absoultely everyone on the service is nineteen years old.

MUSIC SITE LINK OF THE DAY: Radio One invites readers to Find out more about sexuality. Sadly, this doesn't take them to Wes Butters' page.

KNICKERS: And back again we go to pick over the Liz Phair Goes Pop affair - Reuteurs Hollywood Reporter take the time to interview both Phair and the Matrix's Lauren Christy. Interestingly, Phair compares the process of collaborating with being a painter who gets told they're going to do a public works project. ""This album represents me trying to get the voice of an authentic woman where young girls will hear it," Phair says. "I feel very frustrated with music and women and their role. I hope to God I can take my name at the end of this and make my own little recordings, but nobody made me do anything. If you hate this, point at me." Hey, not only does she now have Avril's sognwriters, she's starting to issue Avril's defensive statements, too.

The Knickers headline? Apparently the chorus in Favorite, where Liz compares her ex to underwear, was against her judgement.

Sales of the album are still lagging behind whitechocolatespaceegg at this point, but she's picked up a heavy rotation slot on VH1 and the new single is doing well in US airplay. Maybe the sacrifices will pay off, after all.

Curious margin note: Beth Orton never got all this shit when she worked with the Chemical Brothers, did she? And wouldn't that have been for pretty much the same reasons?

ORLANDO MAKES BLUE MOVIE: We've had our doubts about Orlando Bloom - he is, admittedly, not entirely ugly, but his delight at playing something in that film about elfs and orcs and so on made us wonder if he needed to think a little more clearly about the roles he accepts. That he was so thrilled about a part in a Blue video he waived a fee only reinforces that viewpoint. Maybe his time on Lord of the Rings has given him a taste for working with ugly trolls.

I THINK WE MAY HAVE SAID SOMETHING LIKE THIS BEFORE, YOU KNOW: Another survey finds that even heavy downloading of illegal MP3s leads to increased, not decreased, sales of proper CDs. Coming soon: Government lied about weapons of mass destruction.

DAMMIT, WE'VE GOT TO BE NICE ABOUT AVRIL: Although we're curious as to why Ananova's report of 'Avril' making the tracks available through iTunes doesn't think to mention they're only on offer in the US, but fair play to 'Avril' for seizing the opportunity to test market a handful of live tracks from her recent Dublin tour online. We say 'Avril'. Of course, we mean Her Management Team.

NOT BUFFY'S SISTER: 'If you pick up on it quick, you can say you were there' advised The Cure's Robert Smith, and it's a dictum we've taken to heart. So we're excited to be only the nineteenth website today to bring you The Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players, which is a project we can best describe as those Mikwright Calendars (or the Twisted Yarns greeting cards, the UK equivalent) crossed with The Tinklers - other people's abandoned slides worked into quirky pop tales. And, as ever, there's a White Stripes link, too.

COMMERCIAL PRESENTATION: We're just going to take a couple of seconds out of work here, shoving rock and pop into a deep-fat fryer, to remind you again about the glories of mmmexchange, a nascent global food nexus, if you will. Part red cross parcel-line for the expat, part food-as-rock-star, it delivers a certain degree of food related whimsy to your mailbox, and can send Nachos to your very door. You can subscribe through email, too, simply by clicking here. Now, back to our regular programming...

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

ANOTHER DEATH NOTICE: We've only just heard of the death of Scott Jernigan, former drummer with Karp who'd just started out with new project The Whip. He died early last month in a bizarre boating accident.

WAH KID: It's always a pleasure to hear from erstwhile No Rock next-door neighbour (true) pete wylie, and in the new (first) Wah newsletter he's not only sounding positive, but also plotting a comeback:

first off,apologies for my comparative absence from the stage,the airwaves,the website and your rich and beautiful lives!
[...]meanwhile,there's a lot of theoretical hard work going on in the background .and before too long it should result in a powerful base for the foreseeable,and guarantee some longevity and more consistent activity from yours truly...
amid the big plans,there are the obvious practicalities,like the daily battle wit' the dollar.
i'm skint!
as some of you know,I've never made money from royalties[recording or publishing],as I've NEVER recouped the advances[the money companies pay up front and the costs of recording etc.]
in fact i worked out that in terms of money i owe the music biz,I'm a minus millionaire![and that was before 'songs of strength and heartbreak'...]
in the past I've had a managers/agents/accountants/ recording deals/publishing deals.not anymore.
so I'm tryna get that the meantime,it's all down to me-and some of you can imagine how thrilling that i can be![oh,the irony...]
but I'm not moaning,not a bit.
there are lot's of cool things concomitant,and i love the freedom,though the odd deadline wouldn't kill me.
And i have got the website!
I'm writing countless songs for Pete sounds',getting down rough demos at disgraceland,and tryna work out how I'm gonna record the masters etc.
and then what to do with them-you know,do a deal,do it myself,lock it in a deep dark well.
but it ain't much like the story so far,so be prepared for a[hopefully pleasant]surprise.
And I'm gonna make sure that some of the website regulars hear them first!
we've got a plan or nine for the live shows,and we're hoping that happens before too long.
hoping for a band tour,and I've been talking to mates around these parts including keith o'neil from cast and martin campbell from richard ashcroft's current band about the possibility of us doing something together
once again if you're registered at,you'll get all the news before anyone else
and discussions are afoot for a WAH!WEEKEND,possibly october,and all details for the website wonders asap
I'm also looking into ways to generally'raise the profile' of the mighty wah!
-just the odd jolt to remind people in the big wide world that there were some great moments in the back catalogue.
maybe robbie or ronan will discover wah! covers,and i can cancel my lottery tickets...
I'm gonna start doing more production,hopefully starting with the Crescent[of whom more soon] and ending with elvis 2010!
and I'm looking at a bunch of cool collaborations,but no definites yet...except wth my longtime chum yorkie from fine liverpool pop beauties 'Space'
I'm knocking together my internal heads to try and get them to collaborate on an auto biographical memwah! [any takers?anyone know where i was between 1983 and 1998?]
I'm even talkin about doing a club!
but we'll see...
and once the new football season starts,all this will be forgotten!
anyway,hope all's well with y'all
don't forget to register at for all the exclusives-there are great plans for upgrading the website soon,so join now!!!

There's a whole city full of chancers round here, but we've always had a lot time for Pete, a man who's managed to keep up a profile despite fate hitting him over and over with the garden rake of misfortune.

REMEMBER OUR THEORY? THE SITCOM ONE?: The wonderful news that three-quarters of My Bloody Valentine are working together again is on a par with, say, James Bollam agreeing to do the final part of the Likely Lads trilogy. We can't begin to say how much thinking of Kevin, Colm and Bilinda working together makes us feel. We might dance of to play Feed Me With Your Kiss in celebration.

SOMEONE STANDS UP TO CLEAR CHANNEL. WE ASSUME IT'S A MISTAKE OR SOMETHING: Seriously, the FCC is going to close the loophole which has allowed Clear Channel to control nearly half of the San Deigo radio market. Up until now, the company's been shrugging and pretending its Mexican stations are a separate concern, despite programs and advertising clearly being aimed over the border. But no longer. Blimey [Thanks to Rocktober.]

LIVING WILL: We'd like to make it clear that if No Rock falls underneath a tourbus, we would have no objection to a scantily-clad Beyonce jiggling her ass on our grave, and we suspect Ulysses S Grant wouldn't have minded much. Indeed, since Grant was considered by many to have been a drunk and fond of a spot of cash-for-shaggage, we'd be tempted to suggest the old man would have been a bit chuffed. "You're a long time dead, after all" he said, according to the official No Rock medium.

IT'S LIKE JANE AUSTEN MEETS THE CITY PAGES: Oh, how coy and sweet the moves of young EMAP. Hearing the news of a new suitor in town, when changes to the rules will bring the American Mr. Clear Channel a-courting amongst England's roses, Emap giggled and fanned herself a little. "Why, we have no intention of pursuing an assignation with Mr. Channel, should he wish to press his suit upon us - why, we would be forced to consider his offers. For to do otherwise would be a dereliction of our duty as a young, vibrant public company."

BAND BECOMES BRAND: We can understand J-Lo making mimsy-wimsy perfumes and even Slim Shady setting up as the Mike Baldwin of rap. But, apparently, Blur have launched a 'clothing range' (nb: this isn't just band tshirts). We hope they don't make trousers, because if they took after the band, the bit that holds them together would fall out and disappear, leaving you with just the arses.

THE RETURN OF THE KIDS FROM FAME: Police have called off their search for David Sneddon. The young man was last seen winning the finals of Fame Academy, the pop show which combined all the excitement of school with the talents of Pop Idol. He has since sunk without trace.

Meanwhile, attention turns to the new series of Fame Academy, which seems to have been resurrected more due to the success of the celeb version than the original thing. This time, though, they're making ch-cha-changes which will make it even more electric than the first time round. For example, they've brought in Robin Gibb as a judge. Robin, known worldwide for his sense of humour, laid back attitude and ability to laugh at himself will add a cheerfull puckish quality to the judging role which would otherwise be filled by a grumpy, self-important bore. And rather than just line up a bunch of Sophie Websters in crop tops, the audition process has involved researchers going to churches and folk clubs, to find people who can actually sing. And look good in a crop top. [Remember, by the way, LushFest 03 is still seeking entrants for our Only Honest Talent Competition, where we'll not pretend to judge you on skills but vote on looks and looks alone - to enter, send an URL and/or jpg, plus a brief intro, to The overall winner will grace the No Rock masthead throughout September]

There's a possibility that Fame Academy will be going head to head with Pop Idol, which might suggest that it's all a careful plan on the part of the BBC to kill off the New Faces meets The Long And Winding Road format stone dead by Christmas.

Having said which, at least Fame Academy does something more than create dimwitted clone bands to keep I {heart} Pop's poster pages full. Taking the cash raked in from the votes last time round, they've established two bursaries, to buy music and support young artists. Which is more use than just funding new trousers for Simon Cowell.

LOVE DOES FUNNY THINGS TO A MAN: What else could cause Chris Martin to compare Gwyneth Paltrow's level of fame with that of Jack Nicholson or the Pope? Although, admittedly, the Pope doesn't get his outfit criticised in quite the same detail...

WHAT DO CHARLOTTE CHURCH AND RUDYARD KIPLING HAVE IN COMMON?: Besides the fact that neither of them have ever made a decent job of presenting Have I Got News For You? Well, both have gotten pissed off by tour buses pulling up outside their homes - although its unlikely that Charlotte will repeat Rudyard's mistake. So fed up was he with the trips run by a Brighton publican that allowed tourists to peek over his hedges, he sent a letter of complaint to him. Unfortunately, this merely gave the publican an extra piece of Kipling to wave around and tempt passengers with. Charlotte should merely sit and wait; by next summer the Americans on board will probably only want to go and see her house until they find out that Charlotte Church is a former singer, and not a cute little Welsh chapel. You can bet Aled Jones doesn't get disturbed by sightseers anymore.

TORN COPY: In a piece that tries to suggest that there's more to Natalie Imbruglia than just 'Torn', while apparently only being able to think of that song, The Baltimore Sun explains how the challenges she faced caused problems for our Nat: Imbruglia attempted to parlay that momentum [from Neighbours] into a singing career, but her hopes stalled. She began venting her frustration on paper, and the result was "Torn." So, somehow by writing about her frustrations, she wound up covering someone else's song, eh? Still, if Avril can claim to write her stuff, why not? And Natalie's got a great future ahead of her - just listen to how she sells herself: "As much as I don't know what I'm doing, I'm competent as well." The competent person who doesn't know what she's doing. We'd hire her. Actually, we would. She's got a major special talent: "You can be sexy in men's pajamas," Imbruglia says she now realizes.

BUSINESS: Eminem's people suggest Shady Inc are being 'frivolous' in trying to keep their own company's name. They've been making clothes under the Shady name since 1999; Eminem has launched his boutique this year under the same name. Ah, but apparently the word 'Shady' has become so associated with Mr. Mathers only he should be allowed to use it, he thinks. Certainly he'll get known as Shady Legal Arguments if he keeps this up.

CORRECTIONS AND CLARIFICATIONS: We've not had anything to say about the New York Times and its recent - ahem - "troubles" because they've not really strayed onto our patch. But their screw-up suggesting indie label TVT was in danger of going under has led to a massive, section front apology. They're probably lucky they don't have to cover McGee and Wilson's bids to recapture their glory days by burning through furnace-loads of cash. What's curious about the NYT slip, though, is TVT president Steven Gottlieb seemed more upset by the suggestion he was "litigious" rather than the whole "head of a company in dire straits" bit. Something his attorney was quick to deny in a densely worded four-page submission to the Times.

POSSIBLY CIA MATERIAL: Kelly Clarkson in 'a bit dim' shocker - so afraid is she of being recognised (you might question why she entered a TV talent show, then) that when she goes out, she wears disguises. Which she describes in intricate detail. Which sort of reduces the immediate point of wearing them.

NOTHING STOPS METALLICA, THOUGH IT COMES CLOSE: Metallica came close to having to pull a date due to unexplained serious problems with their roadcrew, according to Lars Ulrich. We guess he found someone with an MP3 player backstage.

JUST WHEN YOU'RE LINKIN THINGS OVER: Linkin Park's shouter Chester Bennington (and what sort of a name is that for a rock star?) has been attempting to explain why the band won't let people download individual tracks from services like iTunes:

"We're all going to have to adjust. You know what I'm saying? Eventually everything is going to be purchased online. It's just a matter of how you're going to do it. You know? Do you sell albums by track or do you sell albums to download for one cost when you go in to download the music? Who knows? It's not up to me, it's up to the people to figure out the way they want to do it, and to do it in a way that's not going to destroy the bands that they love. Bands like us that have commercial success by selling records are in a different place than the bands that are in a lower playing field, so it's hard for us to really understand from our point of view. But we do understand that there's an issue there, and until everybody kind of figures it out and there's more education on how to fix it, we're not really going to run around and preach anything that we don't know is going to work for certain."

So, that's clearer, then? It's nothing to do with the horrible, clammy hand of fear that maybe - just maybe - people might not want to shell out for the filler flim flam that is a Linkin Park album track, then. They're just waiting for "people" to figure out, uh, the way, uh, it's gonna work. Why do I think its not so much the comemrcial success that makes it tricky for Chester to understand the issues so much as being a bit dense?

WE WILL SCARE YOU: Sorry to do this to you first thing in the morning, but is this the most scary thing you've ever seen?


This picture was taken to mark the re-recording of Queen's We Will Rock You, only with John Farnham on lead vocals instead of Fred. We have absolutely no idea why they've bothered. Brian May's explanation is "I put about 15 more guitars on, and did a little jiggery-pokery. Then Roger came in. He actually LIKED the arrangement - a result for me! And he loved Johnny's vocal - it gets better the more you listen to it. I have to say Roger delivered a KILLER drum track, in no more than couple of takes plus a few 'special requests' - you OZ guys an' gals are going to LOVE this!!!! I actually think everyone else will too - the whole thing is a nice progression for the song - it starts off very true to the original, but gets to a new place, kind of post 'Five', post Pavarotti, post New York .... It sound huge. What? Well, it will be a favourite in MY car anyway - screw you guys!" [Exclamation points, meaningless babble May's own]

T IN TWO OR THREE: We've wombled up Laura's T In The Park reviewettes, so you don't have to:

The Warlocks - under-appreciated
The Basement - no opinion, left after one song
Biffy Clyro - out of their league
The Proclaimers - clichéd but brilliant
Cosmic Rough Riders - *still* shite
Inme - energetic
Flaming Lips - fan-fucking-tastic
R.E.M. - ranging from quite good to rather good
The Darkness - blinding
The Grim Northern Social - mehh
Hell Is For Heroes - ok, and they did cover a Cure track
Funeral For A Friend - pop metal
Supergrass - ok, nothing more, nothing less
Feeder - good show

Monday, July 14, 2003

OTHER MUSIC BLOGS ARE AVAILABLE: And this one is pretty nifty: it's an on the road diary of a couple of fans as they follow Suede around Denmark. Many years ago, we followed Suede around for a few dates. We ended up with an infected foot and blood poisoning. Not Brett's fault, so much as the cheap shoes we'd bought from the now-defunct Flip Clothing Store. A lesson for us all, we like to think (although we still do buy cheap shoes). Talking of Suede, their live set is just one of many of the Glastonbury highlights still available to download from Playlouder. You, too, can answer the question: is Brett finding the high notes tricky, or does he sound more like a smurf?

YOU'RE PLAYING CATCH UP: Classic FM's decision to treat Henry Kelly like shit ("to reorganise its schedule without a word of warning") has come back to haunt it. Not only have angry listeners started a campaign called Bring Back Henry - and, let's face it, if the other option was being lumbered with Simon Bates, who wouldn't be getting a petition together? - but it's also turned out that they hadn't thought through the whole sacking thing in the first place. Because our 'enry is still contracted to present Classic FM's biggest live showcase this summer. Whoops.

LET'S JUST EXAMINE THIS, SHALL WE?: We're told the number of downloads on the web is rising. We're told that this is having a negative effect on the number of records sold, as - supposedly - every download is a sale lost. Then how come the Chairman of EMI is able to report that EMI is selling more records now than at this time last year?. Surely it stands to reason that every label should, if their contention is correct, be selling fewer records?

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WHAT DID CLEAR CHANNEL SAY?: The largest radio company in the US has tried to distance itself from claims that it attempted to enforce a party(political) line on the Iraq War. Since Clear Channel are already over here in many guises - they represent David Beckham, you know - and look set to become a player in UK Radio, it might be interesting to read this transcript of a CNN interview with Roxanne Walker. She used to work for Clear Channel. She doesn't any more. Guess why?

THE 'SLAVE' BITES BACK: The Artist Formerly Known As The Artist Formerly Known As... is doing his bit to make Traditional Record Companies look outmoded and shorn of any particular point by making the new Prince album available online and online only. The four fourteen minute tracks (come in at USD7) probably wouldn't ever make it on a proper release schedule; not because they're bad but because, hey, where's the single?

The best thing about the site is the loading screen, though, which has more than an air of Independent Television For Schools and Colleges about it.

THE RULES OF ONLINE BUSINESS: It used to be a commonplace that the existence of ebusiness turned all the rules of usual marketing upside down, onto their very heads. So perhaps that's why Amazon have managed to become one of the biggest international brands despite having very, very poor customer service, as one customer found out, as they tried to get a simple answer to a simple question. What's almost touching about Amazon's incompetence is their belief that people will find it tricky to find the information they want on the page, and yet in the next breath they promise that the editors are going to try and add even more information...

WEEKLY CHARTWATCH: Normally, this last couple of weeks before school holidays is the easiest time to drop a single straight to the top of the charts; indeed, sales are so low that any major artist who can't enter right at number one is in a position where they really should consider giving up. Which means that Madonna's torpid Hollywood crawling to number two should give the former Great One pause for thought. Of course, why she thought anyone would be interested in her experiences in Hollywood in record form when nobody wanted to see them in movie form is still open to debate. The mighty Beyonce keeps her position at the top of the singles listing, and Pink should consider herself lucky to make number three with the 'will this do?' theme from Charlies Angels Full Throttle. Javine trickles in at number four (is she a Fame Academyer? A Popstars Rivalette? Was she in eastenders?) and Eminem can only manage number six - it might be a bit early to start writing him off, but he seems to have started to have the Madonna Palsy; a condition which leaves the sufferer unable to convert column inches into a high chart position. Whatever, Business ain't doing the, ah, business.

Doing humiliating first thing in the morning PA sessions in outer Manchester gyms has rewarded Kym Marsh with an entry at number ten for Come On Over. Really, it's time she accepted with grace that the public have invested all they're going to in her career, and if she keeps sticking singles out she's going to have to cope with chart peaks in double figures. If she's lucky.

Having said which, she's by no means the ark who's run aground furthest up Mount Ararat. Blur's 18 for Crazy Beat would have been disappointing during the days they were still being labelled Scene That Celebrates Itself; We're sure Mick Hucknall will suggest that hitting twenty one for Fake is no major problem (they're all about the albums, see, and they don't have a big company doing promo for them, the Simply Red) but Avril Lavigne's people will be having to take the top off and poke about inside when her newbie Losing Grip can only enter at twenty-two.

Further down, The Sleepy Jackson register enough to make it to number 50 with Vampire Racecourse, and a very small payback for her not-noticeably-well-received Party In The Park set sees Melanie C's distinctly underperforming On The Horizon turn round and rise again (only to 62, admittedly, but last week it looked like her Top 75 time was up altogether).

Beyonce holds the Album Chart firmly between her thighs and bites the head off all comers there, too; in the main battle for hearts and minds between the 70's Throwback Rock of The Darkness' Permission To Land and the 60's revisited beardy Kings of Leon's Youth and Young Manhood, it's the Darkness which comes out the best, entering at two; the hairies manage only five. There's still enough Ocean Colour Scene fans out there to get North Atlantic Drift into number 14 - it's an aptly titled album; wet, windy, in the way and feels like its been around forever. Just htting - as irony would dictate - the early thirties, Suzanne Vega's best of appears further down; Michelle Branch (or what the young vega would have been if anyone had dared suggesting a swimsuit shoot to her) has hotel paper debut at 35.

Even death has its upside: The Barry White Collection has made its way back in to the listing at 68. Robbie William's escapology also re-enters the chart, although he hasn't felt the need to die to get those extra sales. Yet. But we're sure EMI have got a plan along those lines somewhere.

OF GOOD STOCK: That there Muse single, Stockholm Syndrome, is available for download off the Muse website from today. The good news is that for your ninety-nine pence you can hear the actually very very good single, and get some cover art. The bad news is that, despite paying for it, you're only allowed to burn it once, and its in crappy Windows Media Format (interesting that the band created such a fuss about being linked with Nestle but have no qualms about helping along the far-more-disturbing Microsoft towards a monopoly.) If you don't have a credit card, you can reverse SMS pay for it (something to do with mobile phones, m'lud) - although then you pay one pound fifty, which seems to be imposing a tax on Muse fans under the age of 18.

Us? We're waiting for BT to sort out our broadband.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

FRANK BLACK REVEALS 'PLAN B': Just a few days after the Guardian was wondering why Frank Black has never been able to recapture the glory of his band days, Charles himself has mulled about the idea of resurrecting the Pixies. Now, we love the Pixies. We loved them (although we do have an amusing story about walking out of their biggest UK gig ever - another time, I think, another time) and we love them still. But we can't help feeling that a reunion is going to come off more Grace and Favour than Whatever Happened To The Likely Lads, if you get our drift. Sometimes bands stop because they run out - of time, of ideas, of the joy of doing it - and time apart can rejuvenate them; the spark can return. Other bands split up because they know it's over. Their work is done. And we've always thought that the Pixies belong in that latter category. So, while the reunion of the Throwing Muses is an occasion for joy, the prospect of nuPixies is slightly off-putting. And what if he tries to make Kim sing any of his Beach Boys Inspired stuff?

POLYPHONIC SPREE LOSE 'MOJO', BEG FOR RETURN: Some stinky old Polyphonic Spree robe has been stolen and they want it back. Apparently, if the thief returns the item, they'll be given an easy time with no awkward questions asked - so, not unlike a Bang interview with the band themselves, then.

THIS IS MY IDEA OF FUN: Kym Marsh reckons that she's having more fun as a solo singer, and who knows; maybe she is. On the other hand, her career is so badly damaged that she was spotted by Morag this week doing a PA in a Manchester gym. At nine thirty in the morning. The Top Ten entry for her single this evening might suggest a career on the mend, but in the middle of summer, when single sales slump, the desperate lengths gone to scrape that position are a better indication of where her future is going....