Friday, December 31, 2004


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CHEGGERS PLAYS OP: Member of not-really-seminal joke group Brown Sauce and presenter of one of the 80s key pieces of music TV Cheggers Plays Pop, Keith Chegwin spent Christmas afternoon having his appendix removed. He was expecting to be discharged sometime this week.

BIGBANDOBIT: Clarinet-playing, bandleading, composing, multi-marrying Artie Shaw has died. Never comfortable as a celebrity, and always refusing to fall back on cloning earlier success, Shaw was such a huge star that as America finally got round to entering the Second World War, Time magazine told its readers that to Germans, the US meant "sky-scrapers, Clark Gable, and Artie Shaw."

Shaw was born in New Haven, Connecticut, in 1910; he started with the saxophone as a fourteen year-old before moving after a few months to the clarinet. He took to the instrument so quickly that he was touring and playing across the US before his sixteenth birthday. He settled in Cleveland, where he worked under Austin Wylie. A fascination with "race records" lead to a deep respect for Louis Armstrong, and provided Shaw with the influences he would take with him to a position in the Hollywood-based Aaronson band and on to a further relocation to New York in 1930. The tensions between Shaw's interest in the work of modern classicists Bartok, Stravinksy and Ravel, and the commercial demands of his employers (he was a sax and clarinet for hire in the New York radio and studio scene) lead to disillusionment with the music business. Shaw withdrew to Pennsylvania to try and carve a new career as an author.

He would return to music as a sideline: trying to complete his formal education, Shaw moved back to New York to study and did studio work to pay his way through college. In 1936, Artie made his first appearance as a bandleader in what is generally accepted to be the first ever Swing Concert. Invited to fill in the gaps between more established acts, Shaw pulled together an octet to play his composition Interlude in B-flat (in a style now known as Third-Stream Music).

The Artie Shaw orchestra rapidly had a hit with Begin The Beguine, and Shaw took the then unprecedented step of hiring a black female singer as a full-time band member when he hired Billie Holiday. Although able to command massive paydays, Shaw was uncomfortable with his status as King of Swing. What appears to have disgusted him most was the focus on him rather than his music: "The jitterbugs were a pack of morons" he said, "I hate selling myself. I hate the fans. They won't even let me play without interrupting me. They scream when I play. They don't listen. They don't care about the music." He took another break, visiting Mexico and again rethinking his sound. His comeback, Frenesi, used a large studio band and included a full string section.

After Pearl Harbour, Shaw thought he was again quitting the music industry when he enlisted in the navy, only to be asked to create a service band to tour the Pacific theatre. Although not fighting, his proximity to some of the bombing raids lead to a medical discharge and, returning to civilian life, Shaw divorced his first wife Betty Kern and created a new band.

In 1949, Shaw shifted direction again, with a tour and album based on non-jazz (or long-form) classical music for the clarinet. The Modern Music for the Clarinet set drew on Shostakovich, Debusst and Poulenc as well as Gershwin and Porter, finally giving Shaw the chance to directly pay homage to those formative influences.

As you'd expect, Shaw's response to the acclaim this new venture received was to head to the exit; he bought an upstate New York dairy farm and finally completed his first book, a autobiographical-ish work called The Trouble With Cinderella: An Outline of Identity. He did continue to create a number of big and small bands including the still-popular Gramercy 5.

He quit the clarinet in 1954, and the US a year later, living in Spain for five years. A second book came in 1964, shortly after a return to Connecticut. Brief returns to showbusiness notwithstanding (he distributed movies in the mid-fifties and made a one-off return to launch a new orchestra in 1983) Shaw spent most of the second half of the century away from the public eye. "I got out of the Artie Shaw business" was his wry take on his retirement.

Amongst it all, he found time for eight marriages - as well as Betty, his eternal troth was also pledged to Ava Gardner and Lana Turner - and to win plaudits as a marksman and fly-fisher. Earlier this year, he was given a lifetime achievement Grammy Award.

THE STATE OF THE BRITISH MUSIC INDUSTRY: While we can understand the mawkish sentiment that has lead the organisers of the Brits to seek a Bono-Bob Geldof duet to round off next year's event, wouldn't it make more sense to round off the 25th celebration of British muscial talent by, well, asking some British musical talent to do the closing number? Or is this merely the Brits organisers admitting that after a quarter-century of their efforts to promote and nurture UK musical talent, things are so bad we have to go next door to find anyone with a profile that would make the rest of the world take any notice of their party?

THE YOUNG YEAR: We're delighted to hear that Will Young is going to piss away ten grand on a New Year's Eve party at some gormless place Richard Branson's built in the Atlas Mountains; it's just that since The Tall Guy we've never been able to hear of anyone going to Morocco without appending the words "... where Joe Orton used to go to pick up young boys."

AND THEY TRY TO TELL YOU SHE'S TALENTLESS: Both Ashlee and Jessica Simpson are able to belch the alphabet. "Oh yes" says Ashlee, "I really can... A, B, C, D, um... H, T... P? F?..."

DOCK THE HALLS?: The rapid increase in the number of Halls of Fame for specific genres and styles and subgenres of music may have reached its apex: the hideous prospect of needing a Hall of Fame Hall of Fame, to recognise the best Halls of Fame may yet be averted. The Vocal Group Hall of Fame (no, we hadn't, either) is collapsing in on itself. It's based in Sharon, Pennsylvania and was founded by James E Winner Jr, who made his cash from The Club anti-car theft device. Oddly, the chance to see the gowns worn by The Supremes on Ed Sullivan didn't really tempt that many people to make the 65-mile trip from Pittsburgh and, as the debts mounted, Winner pulled out and the new operators attempted to keep the dream alive through donations. When that failed, they tried sponsorship.

Things got worse this month, when Winner returned waving lawsuits - he reckons he's owed ten grand by the Hall, and he's unhappy that the pop tat collection has been taken away from the museum. Now, the dream is going to end up in court.

I HOPE I DIE BEFORE I MAKE LORD: Although, to be honest, it's hard to even raise any sarcasm about the singer of My Generation accepting a CBE from the Queen (the citation for Roger Daltrey reads "close personal friend... lot of good work for charity"); any credibility he might have had disappeared into his trout pool with the American Express adverts - Daltrey's CBE isn't a sell-out; it's merely the establishment stuffing a trophy they claimed years ago.

No surprise, either, that Pete Waterman will be happily accepting an OBE; he's always seemed the type. You can just bet he'll be using it in his production credits, too.

Also saying "Go on, then, Queenie" are Tom and Jack Alexander, who, as the Alexander Brothers - their MBEs are presumably a recognition for the big 1960s depressohit Nobody's Child:

I'm nobody's child, I'm nobody's child/ I'm like a flower just growing wild/ No mommy's kisses, and no daddy's smile/ Nobody wants me, I'm nobody's child.

PARK LIFE: You wouldn't have perhaps expected it, but the first big name to try to help out in the face of the tsunami is Linkin Park. They've hooked up with the Red Cross to establish Music For Relief, setting up the fund with a USD100,000 payment.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

MEASURING CRAZY: We are especially taken with the opinon of Wade Jones, they guy who's auctioning three teaspoons of water from a cup Elvis used in 1977. He doesn't think he's in any way odd to have kept the cup and water for the past twenty-five years, but does think the people trying to buy it might be a bit loopy. It's always the other guy on the bus, isn't it, Wade?

AND ANOTHER THING... POLICEMEN ARE SO UNTIDY THESE DAYS...: The increasingly boring Bob Geldof has managed to get hold of another bugaboo, blaming charity shops for being responsible for the decline in British high streets. Although Bob seems to realise that the appearance of rows of charity shops usually follows the opening of a large out-of-town supermarket, he seems to think that if you stopped the thrift shops from opening up, the high streets would remain vibrant places. In other words, Bob's world is one where Scope forces the local baker to closedown so they can be a few miles from a giant Asda.

Of course, Bob's antipathy towards second-hand shops would be in no way connected with the massive oversupply of copies of Is That It? most of them tend to offer.

ANAIS NIN USED TO KEEP A CARD INDEX FILE OF HER LIES, LABELLED 'LIES': Before Christmas, you'll doubtless recall, Sharon Osbourne was somehow trying to claim that the jewel theft at her house (where someone somehow gained entry to the bedrooms and made off with rings and things) had left her potless, unable to afford so much as a plasma-screen television. Now, oddly, she's throwing a lavish new year's eve party. It's all very confusing.

WILL THE MINNIE DRIVER MADNESS NEVER END?: And yet another bloody actor turns up with a TDK D90: "I've been writing some songs... silly little things really, but I wonder if you'd be interested in..." This time, it's Anthony Hopkins who's decided to have a crack at being a pianist. Oh, brilliant.

EMI GET SOMETHING RIGHT: We're always quick to slag off the major labels, so we're happy to applaud EMI management's wisdom in telling Robbie Williams that nobody wants to see his pubes. If only they also realised that most people aren't that keen on seeing his nipples, either. Or the face. Especially the face.

IT'S LIKE THE SEWAGE OUTFLOW COMPLAINING THE SEA HAS FLOWED INTO IT: Not quite grasping the concept of irony with a full grip, sources close to Geri Halliwell have muttered that Simon Cowell slagged her single 'just to get his show in the papers'. Yes, Geri, nobody was covering the X-Factor at all until he mentioned your record.

THAT WAS THE YEAR, THAT WAS, MORE OR LESS: Just added to our 2004 uberpost: ACME calculates what Peel loved the most; the Worldwide awards don't stretch much beyond North-West England.

Monday, December 27, 2004

BUT SHE DOESN'T ROCK AND SHE'S NOT MUCH OF A PERSONALITY: We've always wondered quite who listens to Virgin Radio these days, and having heard the listener's choice of rock personality of 2004, we're more bemused than ever. Sharon Osbourne? Chat-show host (failed) and judge on a karaoke competition? Even by the standards we've come to expect of the station, that's a pretty weak winner.

THIS WAY, TO SEE 'HOPE' TRIUMPH AGAIN OVER 'EXPERIENCE': Good lord, Kelly Osbourne is readying another single and album, is she? We've heard of not being able to take a hint, but this is ridiculous.

Mind you, she describes her new single, One Word, thus:

"It has a little to do with Nostradamus and how he predicted all the things that were gonna happen and that did end up happening."

And we guess anyone who can swallow the bollocks that Nostradamus "predicted things that did happen" would have no problem in believing a music industry wonk when they tell her "this time we're getting a great pre-buzz from radio and with marketing providing a push we see this being a top ten, probably top five both sides of the Atlantic."

IF IT HAD BEEN A BIT BIGGER, NOBODY WOULD HAVE SPOTTED YOU WERE LIP-SYNCHING THE WRONG SONG: We're not sure if it was in response to her Dad-manager's creepy enthusiasm for her sister's breasts, but Ashlee Simpson has been singing the praises of her "large" nose.

INTO THE SAUSAGE MACHINE: If you were left with any lingering doubts as to how far Coldplay count as proper musicians, you need look no further than the next act that their manager, Dave Holmes, is working with. He feels that the Coldplay marketing model will work just as well for Delta Goodrem. Pretty face, inoffensive songs.

04 TO THE FLOOR: As 2004 slowly packs away its belongings and promises it'll call, so the annual year-end lists come out. We'll be featuring some of them here over the next few days, but if you require a massive round up already, right now, Ur music has scooped up a whole slew of Revs of The Year in several easy to use pieces. (Now we feel like we're Slashdot or something).

As we mentioned a while back, Edward at Enthusiastic But Mediocre battled not just Christmas but also internet cafes to bring the top 125 singles of the year: he's still around the 70-point, but you can tell where the quality bar has been set because Ruslana only makes number 113.

Rob DaBank is going to be in charge of the Festive Fifty this year, but it takes someone truly dedicated to fire up Excel to produce the chart Peel would have wanted. Dan at ACME has done the required number crunching to discover the tracks Peel played most often...

Meanwhile, ACME also offer an album-of-the-year-omatic selection device thingy doobery that tells me my album of the year was the Albert Ayler boxset.

The 2004 Worldwide Music Awards (not to be confused with the World Music Awards) took place on that day which nobody is entirely sure if it's meant to be called Boxing Day or not when it falls on a Sunday; amongst the winners was Mr Scruff for Keep It Solid Steel. A John Peel 'Play More Jazz' award went to SA-RA Creative Partners and Booty La-La was a deserving winner in the Cuts of the Year category.

K-Punk's review of the year is a little too kind to Natasha Bedingfield, but is most acute (although depressingly so) when they observe that Roisin Murphy's brand of popstarriness is old-fashioned.

As it should be: The Fall top the Festiva Fifty - and, as the list shows, fears that non-Peel listeners might have been tempted to swamp the charts with Maroon Five have been proved baseless (or else they've mucked about with the rankings):

1. The Fall - 'Theme from Sparta FC Part 2' (CD Single) - (Action Records)
2. Bearsuit - 'Chargr' (7") - (Fortuna Pop!)
3. Caroline Martin - 'The Singer' (LP- I Had A Hundred More Reasons To Stay By The Fire) - (Small Dog Records)
4. Aereogramme - 'Dreams and Bridges' (LP- Seclusion) - (Undergroove)
5. Sluts of Trust - 'Leave You Wanting More' (LP- We Are All Sluts of Trust) (Chemikal Underground)
6. The Delgados - 'Everybody Come Down' (LP- Universal Audio) - (Chemikal Underground Records)
7. Sons & Daughters - 'Johnny Cash' (mini LP- 'Love The Cup') - (Domino)
8. Half Man Half Biscuit - 'Joy Division' (Peel Session)
9. Graham Coxon - 'Freakin' Out' (Split CD Single thing) - (EMI)
10. Jawbone - 'Hi De Hi' (LP- Dang Blues) - (White Label)
11. Bloc Party - 'Helicopter' (LP- Promo) - (Wichita)
12. Texas Radio Band - 'Chwareon Bwtleg Pep Le Pew' (LP- The North South Divine) - (FF Vinyl)
13. Martyn Hare - 'Do Not Underestimate' (4.55) (12") - (Designer)
14. Cinerama - 'It's Not You It's Me' (7") - (Go Metric! Records)
15. Aereogramme - 'The Unravelling' (LP- Seclusion) - (Undergroove)
16. PJ Harvey - 'The Letter' (CD Single) - (Island)
17. Laura & Ballboy - 'I Lost You But I Found County Music' (CD Single 'Past Lovers) - (Sl Records)
18. Jawbone - 'Jack Rabbit' (LP- Dang Blues) - (Loose)
19. DJ Distance - 'Ritual' (EP- Closer Than You Think) (CDR) - (Lix Recordings)
20. Bloc Party - 'Banquet' (LP- The Silent Album) - (Wichita)
21. Ballboy - 'The Art of Kissing' (LP- The Royal Theatre) (SL Records)
22. The Black Keys - 'Ten AM Automatic' (CD Single) - (Fat Possum)
23. PJ Harvey - 'Shame' (CD Single) - (Island)
24. Decoration - 'It Tried It, I Tried It, I Loved It' (CD Single) (White Label)
25. 65 Days of Static - 'Retreat! Retreat! (LP- The Fall of Math) - (Monotreme)
26. McLusky - 'That Man Will Not Hang' (LP- The Difference Between Me And You Is That I'm Not On Fire') - (Too Pure)
27. Listen With Sarah - 'Animal Hop' (White Label)
28. XBooty - 'O Superman' (12") - (White Label)
29. Digital Mystikz - 'B' (12") - (DMZ)
30. The Black Keys - 'Girl Is On My Mind' (CD Single) - (Fat Possum)
31. Art Brut - 'Formed A Band' (CD Single) - (Rough Trade)
32. The Delgados - 'I Fought The Angels' (LP- Universal Audio) - (Chemikal Underground Records)
33. Shitmat - ''There's No Business Like Propa' Rungleclotted Mashup Bizznizz' (LP- Full English Breakfast) - (Planet Mu)
34. Magic Band - 'Bug Eyed Beans from Venus' - (Peel Session)
35. Jon E Cash - 'International' (12") - (Black Ops)
36. Wedding Present - 'Interstate 5' (CD Single) - (Scopitones)
37. Tunng - 'Tale from Black' (LP- This is…. Tunng - Mother's Daughter and Other Songs) - (Static Caravan)
38. Melys - 'Eyeliner' (CD Single) - (Sylem)
39. Decoration - 'Joy Adamson' - (Peel Session)
40. Cornershop presents Bubbley Kaur - 'Topknot' (CD Single) - (Rough Trade Records)
41. Calvin Party - 'Northern Song' (LP- Never As Black) - (Probe Plus)
42. Plasticman - 'Cha' (12") - (Terrorhythm)
43. Kentucky AFC - 'Be Nesa' (LP- Kentucky AFC) - (Boobytrap)
44. Bloc Party - 'Little Thoughts' (CD Single) - (Witchita)
45. Aphrodisiacs - 'If U Want Me' (CD Single) - (SL Records)
46. Mountain Goats - 'Your Belgian Things' (LP- We Shall All Be Healed) - (4AD)
47. Magic Band - 'Electricity' - (Peel Session)
48. Ella Guru - 'Park Lake Speakers' (LP- The First Album) - (Banana Recordings)
49. Ballboy - 'I don't have time to stand here with you fighting about the size of my dick' (LP- The Royal Theatre) - (SL Records)
50. The Vaults - 'No Sleep No Need' (10") - (Red Flag)

... plus, of course, it's a mainly white, mainly guitar-based chart, which means up in heaven, Peel is enjoying his annual whinge about how conservative the Festive Fifty is.

Simon Reynolds has weighed 2004 and found grime most mighty over at Blissblog; and, contradicting K-Punk's judgement of "over-rated", has lots of praise for what The Streets did.

Rolling Stone elect to not try and pretend that there's a "best" record of the year, and so just produce a list of alphabetical order Top 50 that includes The Libertines, Franz Ferdinand and The Streets - if you haven't compiled your albums of the year list yet, you can find sheets available at WH Smiths which have these albums pre-printed to save you the effort. Nice to see Tegan and Sara's So Jealous on there, although the dull, worthy thud of U2 is also there. Oh, and Velvet Revolver? It's okay to admit that its pisspoor, you know. You don't have to pretend to like it just because they've got a profile.

Metafilterites (or is that Meta-osexuals?) respond to lists by making more lists. Infinite Jest reminded us that we'd much enjoyed The Kleptones Yoshimi Battles The Hip-Hop Robots, which approached the Flaming Lips and hiphop (in its widest and most general sense) in much the same way Dangermouse took on the Beatles and Jay-Z; every bit as culturally significant, a lot more musically interesting.

Entertainment Weekly's Ten Most Overlooked Albums of 2004:
Various - Unclassics
Mark Lanegan Band - Bubblegum
The Hidden Cameras - Mississauya Goddam
Madeleine Peyroux - Careless Love
Haika d'Etat - Coup de Theatre
Various - Watt Stax: Highlights from the soundtrack
Ambulance Ltd - LP
Ben Harper & The Blind Boys of Alabama - There Will Be A Light
Amp Fiddler - Waltz of a Ghetto Fly
DJ/Rupture - Special Gunpowder
- it's worth remembering that Heat was going to be the British Entertainment Weekly when it started out.

Tiny Mix Tapes takes 2004 from a variety of angles - The B-sides list could broadly be described as 'experimental best of' but would rather be (PEEL + LATE JUNCTION) - (XFM * VH2); Matt Weir presents his fifteen top songs which he could draw - although, to be honest, "draw" is stretching it a bit; Marti provides a white boy take on hip hop of the year - like Rolling Stone, the Mercury Awards people and Band Aid 20 he's suffering from the collective delusion that Dizee Rascal is some kind of genius. And there's an appreciation of the top 20 album covers, too. Yes, there's also a more mundane writer's poll if that's what you want.

The Canton Repository [registration required, tell 'em you're from Azerbaijan] has compiled its list of best albums, a task performed by Dan Kane. This is what's moving them in Ohio:
To The 5 Boroughs - Beastie Boys
Twentysomething - Jamie Cullum
Franz Ferdinand - Franz Ferdinand
The Libertines - The Libertines
American Idiot - Green Day
Pretend You're Alive - Lovedrug (the "record of the year"; it's from a local band)
Careless Love - Madeleine Peyroux
Scissor Sisters - Scissor Sisters
Contraband - Velvet Revolver
... if it wasn't for that local band, you might think this had been compiled by the AP.

Oh Columbus lists the fifty best-selling albums at their local, Magnolia Thunderpussy - extract:
1 The Streets - A Grand Don't Come For Free
2 Modest Mouse - Good News For People.
3 Beastie Boys - To The 5 Boroughs
4 Lovedrug - Pretend You're Alive
5 The Shins - Chutes Too Narrow
6 Jet - Get Born
7 Interpol - Antics
8 Bjork - Mudulla
9 The Postal Service - Give Up
10 Mastodon - Leviathan

The official end-of-year UK sales charts:

2004’s Top-Selling Albums


2004’s Top-Selling Downloads


2004’s Top-Selling Singles

16, MY BAND, D12

2004’s Top-Selling Music DVDs


YOU CAN NEVER GO BACK HOME: John Mayer was touched that his old high school wanted to induct him into their Hall of Fame - a nice honour to sit besides his Grammy. So he was happy to change his schedule to get to the ceremony. He was a little surprised, though, when he turned up at Fairfield Warde High School. Rather than being delighted to find their most famous son returning, the school went into a funk, detained Mayer in an office and then marched him to his car, claiming that they had "security concerns" about his attendance. Luckily, they didn't know about the smoking behind the bike shed incident, otherwise they'd probably have given him detention as well.

Friday, December 24, 2004

JUDGES BACK THE MACK: In what must be a first, a judge has come down on Mark Morrison's side. Morrison is, of course, in a battle with Everton player Kevin Campbell over Campbell's attempts to release a Morro record. A High Court judge refused Campbell an extension of the injunction preventing Morrison from releasing An Innocent Man on a label other than Campbell's 2Wikid. Campbell has threatened a breach of copyright suit against any other label which attempts to make the recording available, which, with the fairly small market likely for The Mack these days is going to make it seem less of a commercial boon.

A CHRISTMAS SONG: As it edges closer to midnight, we feel the need to commend Talen t In A Previous Life's rewriting of Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Nicola Girls Aloud takes the Rudolph role.

THE MISUNDERESTIMATION OF THE BRAND: Things needn't be quite so bleak for Mariah Carey - as Celine Dion has demonstrated, when your market shrinks, you just find a way of squeezing more out of the top layer. But rather than admit she's become a Gold Station artist, and make do with playing venues where your audience can sit down and order a steak and some Tums while you play, Mariah seems determined to try and cling to the Teen Vogue market. Hence the appointment of Jermaine Dupri as producer. Because, rather than play her a couple of songs that would sit well on a Hallmark Christmas freebie album, he's telling Carey what she wants to hear:

"Her singing is something kids could follow. All those kids like Christina Aguilera, they looked up to Mariah when they first came out. That was the person they liked voicewise. In the studio, I'm telling Mariah, 'This is what you gotta do, you gotta get yourself back to what kids is following'."

I don't actually recall Christina or any of the generation-before-the-current one expressing admiration for Mariah myself, but we do look forward to the undignified spectacle of Mariah attempting to follow The Sisters Simpson and Hillary Duff's lead.

DONNAS PINCH FLUFF: SAVE LIVES: If it wasn't so near to Christmas day, the story that The Donnas once removed an out-of-date jar of Marshmallow Fluff from a food drive would probably blow clean away in the wind.

CELEB IN 'SPECAIL TREATMENT' SHOCKER: If you wondered whether it wasn't a little cosy the way Diana Ross got to pick and choose when she'd serve her sentence for driving about pissed off her head; the way she was allowed to clock up her hours in little pieces, the food delivered to her cell and the mobile phone she was able to keep with her. It was hardly Cell Block H. Well, you wouldn't be alone: the Greenwich Police Union were also mightily cheesed off with the way she seemed to get special treatment, and issued a 44-page complaint about how Ross appeared to be the boss. As a result, Police Chief James Walters has held a press conference to admit that, yes, he was indeed starry eyed:

"In the situation involving the incarceration of Ms. Ross, I made some poor decisions and accept responsibility for them," Walters said at a news conference Wednesday. He didn't say which decisions he regretted.

Walters said Ross and her lawyers told him that her two-day sentence could be broken into two 24-hour blocks. Without a female guard to supervise Ross, Walters said he thought it appropriate to send her home.

As for her cell phone, Walters said he never allowed her to have one and assumed a police officer searched Ross.

It seems the ordinary plods have some other beefs with the way Walters runs the police; the Police Union voted no confidence in him earlier this month. Walters has been officially scolded.

BLAME MANSON: It must be shit enough being a juror on a murder case which involves a horrible death of a young girl, even more so at Christmas time. But then to have to endure a Marilyn Manson DVD as well seems to be going beyond anything anyone should be asked to do. The prosecution case against Luke Mitchell, the 16 year old accused of murdering Jodi Jones, seems to revolve around Mitchell's ownership of a Manson video showing vanilla shots of writhy bonded corsetted models. Although forming part of the case against him, Mitchell told detectives he bought the DVD, The Golden Age of Grotesque, two days after Jones' body had been found; and it came from Sainsburys. The case continues.

VICTORY FOR BRITNEY: The Annual adding up of the Google requests for 2004, the zeitgeist report, has been tabulated (I know, I know, there's about two percent of the year left to run) and Britney Spears will be able to draw some comfort from the news that she's the most popular search term this year, beating Paris Hilton and arch-rival Christina at two and three respectively; Britney was also the most searched for woman in images. She didn't quite manage a clean sweep, though: she was only the fourth most popular person requested through Google News. George W topped; John Kerry came third, but it was a singer who separated the two presidential rivals: Janet Jackson's breast was the hot button issue for News Googling. If only the Democrats had got her nipple on the ticket, they might just have saved America.

POSTCARD FROM BLACKPOOL: We owe Matthew Lloyd from I Love You Trinny a huge, ribbon bedecked thank you. He was at Blackpool to see Pete Doherty, and he's sent us this report:

What Peter Did - Babyshambles In Blackpool

Last Christmas, Peter Doherty graced the cover of the NME dressed in tatty
Victorian garb fitting of Oliver Twist. One year on, and our favourite
Dickensian urchin that never was has seemingly taken his role to heart. Once
more cast adrift from the warming bosom of The Libertines, the little lost
boy of rock has stumbled into a dark underground of shady characters and bad
influences. The Artful Dodgers that are Babyshambles keep him from a
(relatively) calming family home. Fellow London bands take on the roles of
forgotten orphan thieves, veritable angels with dirty faces. So who plays
Fagin in this tale? The infamous Wolfman wouldn’t look out of place in any
pantomime, but perhaps the most damaging and corrupting influence in our
Peter’s life doesn’t take human form at all.

Babyshambles emerge on stage 45 minutes late, and bang out the intro to ‘The
Man Who Came To Stay’. Something of a relief, given the whisperings of a no
show that had been spreading across Blackpool’s Empress Ballroom. But
there’s still no sign of The Man We Came To See. A few minutes later, and
here he is. Cloaked in a familiar cream mac, Peter Doherty stumbles onstage
and lurches into his vocals. And they’re awful. Still, this is a man famed
for his, shall we say, unconventionality. Here is a man who named his outfit
Babyshambles, after all. The song peters out (no pun intended), and the band
gather around their frontman. It becomes apparent that there are rather more
road crew than usually necessary at the side of the stage. The events that
unfold over the course of the next few songs are absolutely astonishing.

It seems to begin when Peter jumps, or possibly falls, from the front of the
stage. He is frantically groped by the crushed and adoring throng as he
frequently lurches towards them. His eyes are barely open, and his skin a
peculiar shade of yellow, which does nothing to put off despairing girls who
attempt to push their tongues as far into his mouth as possible. Singing
takes on a background role for Peter, far behind the more pressing matters
of standing up and staying awake. As he clambers back onto the stage, band
members and road crew descend upon him, and offer encouraging hugs and pats
on the back. You can almost hear what they’re saying, ‘just keep it
together, Pete’.

While most of the crowd are growing tired of the rigmarole and giving a more
lukewarm reception to events, there are still the ever committed Doherty
acolytes crushed at the front, screaming at their hero’s every move. Then he
takes his coat off, to reveal a rolled up sleeve and a red belt tied around
his arm. A collective gasp can be heard around the room. Shortly afterwards,
guitarist Patrick throws his guitar to the ground and storms from the stage.
The look on Peter’s face is priceless, it sums up every event in the last 18
or so months of his life; he has no idea why his guitarist would leave. No
matter that he has already alienated one band in a similar situation; he
still believes he is a misunderstood innocent, a romantic poet who needn’t
be constrained by something as meaningless as convention. When Peter looks
in the mirror, this is what he sees, and not the dying face of a washed up
smackhead that stares out at us tonight. He lifts Patrick’s guitar from the
ground and attempts to play on himself, as the other two members of
Babyshambles mill around uncomfortably before following their guitarist from
the stage.

Similar scenarios arise throughout the gig with unsettling familiarity,
until it becomes a surprising feat that the entire band can be onstage
together. Announcements are made, Patrick disappears and returns, road crew
frequently take to the stage, and more items are thrown from the restless
crowd than if 50 Cent were to play Reading for a fortnight. At one point,
Peter is unceremoniously dragged from the stage in a headlock by the chief
roadie, to ‘have some water thrown in his face’, surely the understatement
of the year, as it’s unlikely that throwing acid in his face would wake him
from this drug induced stupor. Meanwhile, the crowd are subjected to the
sort of tedious, 10 minute ‘jam’ only a bass player and drummer can concoct.

Upon their return, Babyshambles launch into what must be said is a storming
version of latest single ‘Killamangiro’. But it’s too little, too late, and
the normalcy of awfulness is soon returned. Even ‘What Katy Did’, ever the
trump card of the Doherty cannon, fails to raise spirits. A few songs later,
and Babyshambles leave the stage with ‘Wolfman, one of the increasingly
disappointing batch of recent Doherty compositions. However, as the
houselights are raised, it becomes apparent that Babyshambles haven’t left
the stage at all. Or, more precisely, Peter’s still there. And so it is,
that the most lauded songwriter of recent years is reduced to caterwauling
through the songs of a band from which he has been cast out of for good.
‘What A Waster’, ‘The Delaney’, ‘Time For Heroes’, he trawls through them
all in the heartbreaking manner that only he can. Heartbreaking because they
are so appalling, so tragic, so fucking shit.

In a fittingly pantomime ending, a villainous manager emerges and asks the
crowd if they’ll be happy with ‘one more song’. The mob screams in
appreciation, like schoolchildren at a matinee performance of ‘Oliver’. A
girl nearby shouts to her friend, ‘best gig ever!’ And in the middle of it
all, a little lost boy with a guitar, too high to suffer the pain, too low
to feel any happiness, strums the opening chords of ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’. An
ending fitting for the start? Let’s just pray this is no ending at all.

HO-HO-HO: If you fancy a wee Christmas gift for yourself, 3Hive are able to point you in the direction of a Wedding Present download. Flying Saucer, in fact.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

WILL IN A DRESS: If someone had a picture of us in chickwear and it was described as "criminal property", we'd be really hurt. Even if we'd been a bit sloppy with the hemline or misjudged the tightness of hotpant our Christmas period butt could cope with. Having said which, the pictures of Will Young in a dress had actually been stolen. Sharife El-Whabe has been found guilty of trying to flog stolen stuff from Young's flat; the pictures (Young was preparing for a movie role) appear to have been part of the haul.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

YOU KNOW WHEN PARENTS USED TO WARN ABOUT HORSEPLAY?: There's a reason you're asked to not muck about, you know, as Kai discovered when he attempted to balance a bucket of water on his head in a New York nightclub. (He's a fashion designer, apparently, which is an answer to both 'who' and 'why' right there.) The b=icy water ended up going all over Bjork - and although she's from Iceland so shouldn't be that thrown by cold temperatures, she was upset and a whole fight broke out and everything. Bjork should carry a spare swan outfit with her at all times, just in case.

IT'S ALL ABOUT THE ALLEGED: As far as we can follow the Snoop Dogg case, some woman claims that he assaulted her, and said that if Snoop didn't give her piles of cash, she'd go to the National Enquirer, or maybe even tell a journalist. Snoop is now suing her, saying he wasn't part of any assault and she's little more than a common blackmailer. Now some poor judge is going to have to pick the bones out of it all. We're so glad we didn't study law.

APPLE SAUCE: Pissed off with rumours that Sony has been sitting on a finished album from Fiona Apple for a year and a half, and still have no plans to release it, Dave Muscato has built a website,, dedicated to petitioning and stunting until the thing comes out once and for all. Sony reckon the album isn't "commercial enough" to warrant making available. Muscato sees the title as being a victim of Sony's decision to concentrate on higher yielding pop and r&b slurry instead of music which takes a bit more nuturing; a "bottom-line" mentality that you'd expect with the company now being run by a man with no interest in music at all. (Sony's current head, you'll recall, is former NBC man Andrew Lack). The campaign to get Extraordinary Machine released is being based around sending apples to Sony's HQ.

BLUESOBIT: The blues legend Son Seals died from complications relating to diabeties on Monday. He was 62.

Born in Arkansas, by the time Seals moved to Chicago in 1971 he'd already built a reputation as a formidable drummer through his work for Stax: he backed Albert King on Live Wire/Blues Power. In the second city, he moved up to fronting his own act, quickly signing to Alligator records to release The Son Seals Blues Band and Midnight Son; it was the latter which earned him the plaudit of "the most exciting young blues guitarist and singer in years" from the New York Times. What might be described as an interesting relationship with Alligator's owner (and his own manager) Bruce Iglauer saw him quit the label for a while during the 80s, but he returned home during the latter stages of his career, releasing Lettin' Go in 2000. It was a period which saw him being adopted as a figurehead by younger artists, most notably Phish, with whom he toured in a support slot.

Son put his skill down to his father's method of teaching - sweating the details over showy elaboration: "My father taught me everything from the start. Tuning the guitar, fingering. Where I wanted to be riffing around all up and down the neck right away, he'd keep me on one chord for hours, until I could feel in it in my sleep. I'd get up the next morning, grab the guitar, and I'd be right on that chord."

Iglauer recalls it was talent, rather than looks, upon which Seals built his reputation when he first reached Chicago: "Son didn't look like much in those days - a skinny young man straight from the South, with unkempt hair and pants that didn't reach his shoes. But he played and sang like his life depended on every note and word."

Seals is survived by fourteen children.

TALKING OF PISSING AWAY LEGACIES: The thing about the plans to do a Queen tour with Paul Rodgers at the microphone is that it shows just how absolutely deluded some people can be. If it was merely a case of pulling something together for the second big Mandela aids bash (46664 mark 2 is going ahead at Fancourt Hotel And Country Club Estate on March 19th next year), you could perhaps put it down to goodworkforcharity whatfreddiewouldhavewanted howcouldyousaynotomandela; but it's not: it's a warm-up for a full tour. Brian May clearly nourishes a warm belief that people saw Queen as some sort of musical partnership, and not merely onstage catnipper Freddie Mercury and some plodding blokes behind him. It's the only way May can suggest him, Roger Taylor and some bloke singing is in any way "Queen" with a straight face. If cheese and crackers comes back together, only with jam instead of cheese, no matter how hard you insist that it's cheese, it's never going to be, is it?

GIVE US THE CASH, MOTHERFUCKERS: Another unseemly tussle over band heritage is kicking off around the legacy of the MC5. The wife and kids of singer Rob Tyner are suing the reactivated remaining members over rights to the band's name and image, as well as cash-related stuff like royalties and so on. It's unclear if this is merely a pocketbook action, or if Rebecca Derminer has heard just how shit the current MC5 are and wants to step in and stop the pain, the pain.

PITY IT WASN'T PAXMAN, MIND: At least Pete Doherty went into his Newsnight interview knowing he wasn't going to be the most mashed rock star to appear on the programme this year: there wouldn't be enough drugs in the world to turn Doherty/Wark into a rematch of Esler/E. Smith from the day Peel died; and it seems like he kept it together pretty well (we're not in a place where we're able to watch the footage right now; we're hoping it's going to be working its way through bittorrent for when we get back to Broadband). It sounds like Kirsty gave him the sort of grilling he probably needs:

When I asked him about the trail of destruction and violence that accompanies heroin's journey from the poppy fields to his body - particularly the plight of mainly female drug mules - I don't think he'd given it any thought.

Naturally, there's a lot of debate flowing in the wake of the appearance: Drowned In Sound have a thread: Tobyj muses on how the Libs have grabbed the posh media:

Endeacott scored a first radio play ever for the Libs (I think) on Radio 4's Today Programme, while being interviewed about something else. With hindsight it seems oddly consistent with Doherty ending up 3 years later on Newsnight - true rebellion maybe being the capture of the posh media. David Baddiell discussing Pete on R4 probably stretches their audience much further than an NME cover.

... and you can see his point; although this is a process that started with Suede a decade ago, where The Independent, the Late Show and the South Bank Show latched on quickly; presumably because by the start of the 90s these programmes and papers were being edited in part by people who had bubbled up the media from a fanziney/NME route and who had both the knowledge and the passion to communicate about slightly-more left-field music in a way other than "Punks! Hide yourself!"

DOWNLOADY HEAVEN: Secretly Canadian recording uber-lord Jens Lekman has established a Department of Forgotten Songs to carry free downloadable mp3s of rarities and obscurities. Canadians are nice people.

HIS MODEM'S VOICE: We really aren't keeping a list, but maybe we should: we could have sworn that HMV had already got some sort of music download system in place; or maybe we're just surprised that it's taken them until 2005 to get round to it. Now, though, they've announced the intention to pump ten million quid into establishing an online music store. It's going to be pushing WMA files onto a stumpy public, so it's not that exciting at all, really. Just another name with the same framework underneath.

What is exciting, however, is the picture BBC News Online is illustrating the story with:

WILLIAMS BEATEN BY CHUBINDIE: Who would have given odds on Keane having the best-selling album of 2004 at the start of the year, eh? This is on the basis of HMV sales, of course, so when the official chart comes out positions might be reversed, but there's something warm and satisfying that a debut album can outsell a solid banker like a Robbie Williams singles compilations. Sure, they might not be the most excitingly daring of bands, but for a bunch of unknowns to triumph in the marketplace - it does give you a warm feeling about the record-buying public, doesn't it?

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

THE SUICIDE RE-SOLUTION: 2005 is setting itself up to be a bumper year for the reissue and the return, with the news that not only are Suicide preparing remastered resurrections for A Way of Life and Why Be Blue? and a small tour; but also that Bowie is reissuing his afficiando-only live albums David Live and Stage. We're not entirely certain, but we think these aren't only the first releases of these two on CD, but that they've been off the catalogue so long they probably skipped cassette release entirely.

Those Suicide dates are:
January 15 New York Knitting Factory
22 Rome Villagio Globale
24 London Electric Ballroom
25 Paris La Locomotive

YOUR CAREER? OVER BEHIND ELECTRICALS, NEXT TO THE FRESH PIZZA COUNTER: From the illustrated "mighty long way down rock and roll":

The Cheeky Girls doing a signing. At Asda. In Swindon.

LAT ENTRY FOR THE MOST CYNICAL MOVE OF 2004: We're sure there's absolutely no connection at all between Destiny's Child telling fans to not try and copy their bodyshapes (Kelly Rowlands saying "We feel it's important to speak out on young girls being body conscious. Eat. Don't live to eat, eat to live. You find so many cases where kids are obese or don't eat, and you never know what's going to happen. Love yourself. If you don't love yourself then how can you expect the rest of the world to see what's so beautiful about you? Everybody on this earth is made differently.") and their role as spokespeople for McDonalds. Another McFlurry, Beyonce?

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TIME OUT: Apparently, Kerry McChipshop has got a really hectic schedule (Doing what? Posing for Heat magazine? Writing a book on Churchill's record as a social reformer?) that medics have ordered Katona to take a break from the spotlight. I'm not a doctor, but that sounds like a bloody good idea. Could I suggest a course of about twenty years?

DRUGS, DO YOU SEE?: Ah, to have the soul of a poet: every time Elton John flies over the Alps, he thinks: snow-capped... snow is another word for cocaine... like cocaine... drugs... I used to do drugs. Or at least that's what he's told a German magazine, Neon, the thought process that leads him to link the alps to his coke intake is; we suspect it might be "a mountain-sized pile of white powder" that does it.

BET HE WENT OUT WITHOUT A PULLOVER ON: That bronchial-pneumonical thing that has been sweeping the UK has claimed another victory - sorry, victim - with the forced cancellation of a Status Quo gig in Edinburgh. Francis Rossi, bless him, has got the ague. The date planned for Thursday has been shoved off back until February.

PRESUMABLY YOU WERE ALSO SICK AS A PARROT?: You'd imagine the one positive thing that could come out of sending a songwriter to Sudan, to see the horrors unfolding, is that on his return, as someone whose business is the marshalling of language, he would be able to offer powerful testament to what he'd seen.

Instead, Fran Healy returns from Sudan and how does he describe what he's seen?

"I'm gobsmacked at what I saw in Sudan."

What makes this flat reaction even more disappointing is that Healy thinks it's more than enough:

"As a famous person the thing you can do is go to a place and report on it. A singer like myself is able to talk freely and express an opinion."

We don't know if we're more crushed by the words "as a famous person", or by Healy's belief that "it's gobsmacking" is a worthwhile use of the platform and profile. And you can only picture Africa, as a continent, being delighted with this sort of attitude:

"I was naive before I went - thought Africans were needy and desperate. But they're the strongest people I've ever met who are surviving against all the odds - I don't know how they do it."

Cliche and the replacing of one stereotype with another, eh, Fran? I never thought I'd say this but: you really should get back in the studio and start making some new Travis album.

DON'T DO IT, KIDS: Record labels getting pissy about online leaks isn't anything new - but what is different about GSL's complaints about the Mars Volta leak is that they're worried the quality isn't up to it, not the lost sales:

"The collective GSL staff and certain members of the band think what you are doing is f*cked. You should honor the band's wishes and take the songs down. Leaks suck, and are an unfortunate evil of the Internet. It sucks even more when it's such a bad copy as what is being passed around right now. As much as the hype that's swept over the internet for this release is amazing, no one wished anyone to hear such an amazing album in such piss-poor quality this side of the 70s."

Monday, December 20, 2004

FEAT OF CLAY: Poor Gareth-Gates-lite Clay Aiken, suffering so because of his American Idol victory. It's terrible never being taken seriously because you're seen as a reality show whore he wails, as he promotes his "inspiring" autobiography tracing his journey from nobody to nobody with a PR agent, Learning To Sing. (We hope the title is what he plans to do next.) As you'd expect in the current God-sucking US, he's added a healthy dose of The Man Upstairs to his tale, even kicking off his slim volume with a quotation from Exodus. The Bible one, not the Marley one. Clay's people's choice was "the Lord will fight for you; All you have to do is stand still." Which we hope is advice he remembers if the crosswalk lights change while he's in the middle of a six lane highway sometime.

Although Aiken acknowledges that American Idol was a great "sidestep" to fame, he really does get riled that people see him as a flash in the pan just because his fame is based on a gameshow and he has absolutely no secure fanbase to fall back on. Like most people who win these things (and, indeed, the people who don't), Aiken is carrying a belief that he was predetermined to be famous and the gameshow was just a short-circuit to the adoration that he would have achieved anyway. We're expecting a second book, "Buttfucked By Reality", sometime round Fall 2005.

BAD HAIR DAY: Oooh! Avril Lavigne got all hissy because she'd had pink paint tossed all over her for a photoshoot and it took ages to get out. Not quite sure what she's so upset about - she's spent the best part of the last two years desperately trying to be Pink, hasn't she? Beware what you wish for, Av...

BLUE PHIXX: If you love rather lame gayboybands, and adore Blue Peter's Matt, you've probably already downloaded the song Matt Baker wrote for Phixx, haven't you?

MIGHTY MIGHTY: Not only were we surprised to hear of a new album from The Mighty Lemon Drops - a 1988 radio show being lovingly released under the name 'Young, Gifted and Black Country' - but we were equally surprised to find out they were still a going concern as recently as 1992.

YG&BC has got "all the hits" played for Deidre O'Donoghue's SNAP radio show, and, to top things up a little, the Like An Angel EP. We remember loving the band at the time, but we're fucked if we can remember how any of the songs go right now.

I AM THE ONE AND ONLY: Everyone's third or fourth favourite celebrity show-off series, The Games, is returning in the new year, and, as ever, it's a handy chance to benchmark which pop celebs careers have really accepted that that's it as far as their credibility and career goes, and are cramming in the last few minutes of screentime. You won't be surprised that Chesney Hawkes is there, nor Kevin Simm out of Liberty X. But Lisa Mafia's acceptance of a starting place alongside the bloke who was Tinhead in Brookside and Jonathan Morris out of Bread might come as something of a surprise.

CAN'T ANYBODY LEAVE IT ALONE?: As so often happens when the acting jobs and tabloid scandal have started to dry up, another semiceleb has decided to have a go at a "pop career" - after all, how difficult can it be; it's just like taping yourself doing karaoke, isn't it?

Yep, Amanda Holden, who is famous for having sex with the bloke from the Homebase advert and Boon while married to the guy who used to do the impression of Mavis from Coronation Street. Apparently, Amanda thinks that having a spell as a pop star will be a great way of "taking a break from the limelight" (so, at least she's being realistic about how much interest there's likely to be in her singing) and to give Chris Hughes as chance to have the spotlight taken off him for a while. (No, not the one from TV Cream; apparently she's going to marry this one - and, coincidently, he works in... oh, the music industry. Presumably if she was marrying a butcher she'd be mulling a career arranging her chops in a shop window.)

WASN'T IT THE PIES?: We don't often have much in the way of good words to say for Robbie Williams, so in the spirit of the season we'll offer a small smattering of aplause for his honesty in the reason why he took drugs: because he enjoyed doing them. It does make a refreshing change from cleaned-up celebs who suggest the whole thing was just hell from start to finish.

He does blame the drugs for his enormous weight gains and bad judgement calls, though, which seems a little harsh on the drugs: surely pies and ego played their part?

... BUT THEY'RE LYING: Jimmy Nail has successfully thrown more good money after bad, having had an appeal for an increase in libel damages against Rupert Murdoch's News of the World and Rupert Murdoch's HarperCollins thrown out by the court. Nail had won thirty grand after the two sister companies of Fox News published fibs but - because he'd turned down an earlier offer to settle - hadn't got his costs awarded to him. Now, he's having to not only fund the two grand for the first hearing, but he's going to have to find fifty thou to cover the appeal as well. A re-release of Crocodile Shoes is not out the question.

THEY'RE NOT REPLACING HER, OKAY?: TLC have issued a hurt denial that the whole reality TV search for a new member is about "replacing" Left-Eye. They're not looking to replace her at all, you see. Just find someone to be a temporary third member to top up the numbers while they crank out a greatest hits pension package. That's hardly the same thing at all, is it?

PROBABLY WON'T NEED YOUR JUKEBOX MONEY ANYMORE: Another small detour on the rock trail has disappeared with the news that the original Love Shack (as in the B52s song) in Athens, Georgia, has burned down. Police are exploring the possibility that it might be arson; a 24 hour guard has been posted outside the Rock Lobster's home as a precaution.

VICTORIAN STYLE EXPLOITATION OF ROSY-FACED CHILDREN: It's odd that the NUT managed to allow the somewhat dubious message of What I Go To School For pass unchallenged, but they've finally decided that Busted have pushed them far enough: the teaching union has complained loudly about Universal Records pressganging kids into pre-teen street teams. Universal, of course, see little wrong with the concept of forcing ten year old kids to hand out flyers and put up posters, arguing that "they've been doing it for two years" (which isn't really a stout moral defence) and that "the kids enjoy it." Pretty much the same attitude the Victorian mill-workers took towards the kids getting their arms caught in spinning machines, in other words. Still, it all saves the record label a few bob, and doubtless someone at Universal has decided: if they're old enough to be sued, they're old enough to work, dammit.

But at least the Victorian chimney sweeps got paid for their efforts...

Sunday, December 19, 2004

DISCOBIT: The death has been announced of Burt Reid, singer and sax player with the Crown Heights Affair. Reid, 48, died from lung cancer on December 12th.

Part of the first wave of disco, Crown Heights Affair first hit with 1975's Dreaming A Dream. A string of hits - including Foxy Lady - followed, with Reid eventually leaving the band to concentrate on writing and production as the disco glitterball burst in the early 80s. His production credits cover work with a range of acts, including Raw Silk and Denroy Morgan; he also continued to make music more directly, putting in studio time with Louie Vega.

MAYBE WE SHOULD BE ASKING NOT 'WHY NOT AMERICA' BUT 'WHY ANYWHERE': There's an interesting piece by Bill Lamb over on Blogcritics right now pondering why America hasn't fallen in love with Kylie and Robbie:

Is it misplaced nationalism? Puritanical morality? 2 left feet on the dancefloor? Regardless of the reason, those of us lacking in American nearsightedness will continue to enjoy the music and personalities that are Kylie and Robbie and welcome them with open arms when the barriers finally come down.

Maybe, Bill, it's that America has more than enough mid-weight talents of their own without the need to import Robbie Williams; more seriously, both Kylie and Robbie exist not as singers (one is passable; one is like passing petrol) but as celebrities, and in the UK the doings of the pair creep up to newsworthy mainly because it's a small nation without very much going on its borders to fill the gossip columns. In an America which has stars shooting b-movie actresses, driving into the back of busses and getting married and divorced to each other all the time, it's hard for Kylie and Robbie to break through to get any notice at all: "Australian girl quite charming; gives name to pants line" and "Thicky McThicky moans about how bad life is - again; gurning pictures page 5" isn't really going to cut it. They're left to rely on their talent alone. And that's a problem.

ON THE ROCKS AND ROLL FUN: We're still not quite sure we've got the whole Gwen-Pearl Spam-Gavin problem straight in our head: surely if it happened before Gwen and Gavin got together it's not the marriage breaker the now-defunct Sunday People claims it is? "They don't even stay in the same hotel" claims the People - but surely that is as much down to them being in different places as anything?

Meanwhile, the Mail on Sunday reckons that Jack White and Renee Zellweger have called it a day (this is about the ninth time, right?) because Jack wanted Renee to give up acting (we all want that, love, after seeing the latest Bridget Jones) and move to Detroit - probably so she can be on hand to help out the next time he gets into a bar fight.

ONLY ONE THING CAN SAVE OUR EYES NOW: Oh, Victoria Beckham, however much you're paying your PR, you can't afford it. We loved the idea that anyone would believe that Vanity Fair - the American Vanity Fair - would be entertaining the idea of paying you a million bucks to put you naked and pregnant on the cover of the magazine. Because not only did they do that with Demi Moore years ago, and probably don't need to revisit the idea, but why would they want you on the cover at all, much less naked? Perhaps if you paid them a million, you might be in with a shout - but where would be the logic of a magazine shelling out large sums in order to have a derivative covershot of someone nobody in their market even remembers any more?

In other news: Geri Halliwell turns down Time magazine's "kind, kind offer" of Person of the Year title.

A BUSY MAN: Extraordinary that with all his other problems, Michael Jackson felt he had to make time to issue a statement about the rumours that there are tapes of him taking the piss out of his fans. The claims say that Jackson was caught at the time of the HIStory tour back in 1996 (when he had more fans to badmouth) ripping the piss out of people who hadn't deserted him even although all his talent had. Jackson's statement begs fans to pay no heed to the rumours:

"Recently, there has been a rumor circulating where I am accused of bad-mouthing my fans. I was deeply hurt when I heard about this. As an artist and performer, the most rewarding part of my work is to know that I have such loyal and supportive fans. I would never resort to any such negativity. Like so many other allegations, this is a lie. I love my fans and appreciate you all so much. I would never take that for granted."

"...there, that should satisfy the little fuckers; they'll lap it up like the credulous little shits they are. Hang about... if the red light is on, does that mean it's still recording? Shit... shit... bugger. What one? The third button to stop it?"

ANOTHER SHAMBLESHSAMBLES: It's actually more newsworthy that Babyshambles managed to make it through their Sheffield gig unscathed than the inevitable no show of Doherty at last night's Astoria date, prompting a riot after fans - kept waiting until 2 am - reacted badly to the news that Doherty had fucked up again. Police were called after a stage invasion, although no arrests were made. reports that there were rumours Doherty was actually in the Astoria, so presumably he was just too cooled up to play.

THE WAR ON BITTORRENT: While the RIAA concentrate on the relatively soft p2p targets like your Bearshares and Kazaas, clouds are starting to form over the much more significant Bittorrent network - and the main push seems to be coming from the MPAA. In Finland, a local Bittorrent site has been raided, with varying reports of the number of arrests; meanwhile, has closed up for good - possibly ahead of the planned strikes on the operators of networks being threatened by the Movie Industry. Of course, it'll be impossible to close down bittorrent, but then American corporations seem to enjoy pissing away their resources in a non-stop war of attrition against ghostly enemies.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY REAPS: From deep within the more-money-than-sense department, somebody has splashed out half a million bucks for George Harrison's old guitar. At the same auction, though, nobody was that fussed about Elvis Presley's old trenchcoat.

YOU CAN MEASURE THE SUCCESS OF CAREER BY MULTIPLYING THE DISTANCE BETWEEN A CELEB AND THEIR DIGNITY BY 4.7: Justin Timberlake dresses up as a gingerbread man. For daytime telly.

CASH CRISIS: While it must be all very upsetting for "an intruder" to break in to your house uninvited and without being asked and to manage to evade your security systems and to get into your bedroom and make off with jewels and that, we're not entirely sure who Sharon Osbourne thinks she's fooling when she claims that having jewels stolen has left her unable to "afford Christmas." What? Is she telling us that she was planning to take her wedding ring and her surviving cancer ring down to Cash Converters in order to raise enough to be able to buy Jack a catering sized pack of Panadol and a box of black hairdye for Kelly? Or was there an aspect to the robbery that we don't know about? Why would Sharon suddenly start to make public announcements of how she and Ozzy, now those bangles have gone, have absolutely no money at all to talk of? Is it to stop people sending begging letters of some sort?

Of course, it could just be that Sharon loves publicity so much she decided this would be a great way to get some more press coverage. But if so: how much does that stink? We hope the people struggling to scrape the cash together for a fire-damaged turkey and a couple of toys for their kids are able to find it in their hearts to feel a bit of sympathy for a successful businesswoman so desperate for the spotlight she gives interviews saying how the loss of a couple of expensive rings is really going to limit the number of flatscreen TVs she can afford to gift this Christmas.

HOOBATSTANK YANK: Another one for the rock sick list, as we excitedly await the first gig to be cancelled due to avian flu. Hoobastank have pulled their current US tour because singer Doug Robb has "bronchial pneumonia." A chastened Robb admitted not listening to his grandma and wearing his outdoors coat indoors. "I guess I just missed it when I did go outside. Now I've got this."

WE DON'T KNOW WHO'S DOING HIS PR, BUT... THEY'RE NEVER GOING TO WORK AGAIN, ARE THEY?: The most positive thing we can think of is that he's attempting to demonstrate that he's so other-worldly that he doesn't understand the gravity of the legal charges he's facing, but it's just as likely that Jackson really doesn't care how greeting two hundred kids to a special secret party looks to the outside world.

The kids were met at Neverland by Michael Jackson and Santa - a fabulous figure who brings delight by having children sit on his knee before presenting them with a surprise from deep within his sack, and a bloke in a fake beard and red suit.

One of the curiosities is that some of the kids came from the church attended by Jacko's defence attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr. Or at least, that's what reporters were told. The church in question, the First AME Church in Los Angeles, said that it hadn't authorised any such stunt ("trip"). Funny, that.

EYES IN THE UK: The soft, lovely fingers of Conor Oberst will be dancing over the doorkeys of UK hotel rooms in the new year as Bright Eyes tour England and Scotland:

Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms (March 9)
Leeds Metropolitan University (10)
Glasgow QMU (11)
Manchester Academy (12)
Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall (13)
London Astoria (14)

Mmm... Conor... Conor...

Conor looked out the window as the English countryside sped past the window. "So, what's a Wulfren anyway?" he asked, playing idly with the hair of the half-smiling body curled on his naked lap. Two eyes raised themselves gently to meet his; and for a second the tongue which had been working its way up and down his semi-erect cock stopped its insistent movement. "If you make me giggle" warned M, clutching Conor's ankles slightly more tightly in their grasp, "there's a danger I'll bite this thing off..."

POLLY GONE?: We'd be a little more distraught over the news that PJ Harvey announced Polly's retirement from live music last night if she hadn't been sharing a bill with The Libertines at Paris' Studio 287, who almost certainly were playing their last show. We're putting it down to the excitement of the moment. And hoping very hard.

RECORD COMPANIES TRY TO CUT OFF RED CROSS FUNDS: While the soft, squishy warm face of the music industry hunkers down to do some good festive work (bookmakers are now refusing bets on the Christmas number one, taking 'betting without' wagers for the number two slot instead), it's cold hearted grinch business as usual in the back office. They're trying to get the International Red Cross to freeze some of its assets because, of course, file-sharing is much more important than trying to help the dispossessed, the starving and the frightened.

Some bozo in Australia's self-appointed music piracy body has discovered that Sharman Networks has a trust adminstered in Vanuatu, one of the main beneficiaries of which is the International Red Cross. Now, because the Australian music industry is suing Sharman over what it claims are peer-to-peer inspired copyright infringements, Michael Speck of Australia’s Music Industry Piracy Investigations believes the money should be frozen. Thats right, it shouldn't be being used to try and help kids who've had their arms blown off by landmines or women and men raped by soldiers, or feeding the starving. That money, they believe, belongs helping Phil Collins pay for a new dado rail, or to ensure that Brian McFadden can afford his next four cans of Special Brew. But let's not run away with the idea that Speck and his body are cold, Scrooge-like money-grubbers more interested in their comfy offices and car-seat warmers than helping those in real need - they're offering the Red Cross the chance to freeze the funds voluntarily. Because, after all, says Speck, "it would be incredibly disappointing if we had to sue them."

"Disappointing", you see, to tie up a major humanitarian agency with pointless legal movements over a few dollars that may or may not have been redirected from a record company bottom line. That's "disappointing" as in "obvious to all that we're little more than scum", of course.

We're surprised that whenever we think the multi-billion pound record industry has sunk to its lowest, it always manages to find a new depth to sink to. Presumably the real reason for threatening to sue the Red Cross is that they just can't find addresses at all for the homeless to sue them directly.

Friday, December 17, 2004

THANK YOU, DROWNED IN SOUND: We'd just like to thank the team at Drowned In Sound who have given us the title of Blog of the Year in their 2004 awards. Thank you, DiS.

WE'RE PROBABLY COMING A LITTLE LATE TO THIS ONE: As Pete Doherty leaves a small trail of muss in his wake, Babyshambles got themselves ejected from the Top of the Pops studios last week, apparently, after Pete had got himself involved in a scrap. TOTP used a rehearsal film instead. The 'shambles must be wishing they were in a position to cut Pete out the band like the Libs did, by now...

NOTHING AT ALL CREEPY HERE, THEN: Yesterday, you'll recall, Joe Simpson was getting Ashlee's first movie role re-written because he didn't want any smack of "unnatural" sexual practices attaching themselves to his daughters. Today, he's talking to GQ about how great his kid's tits are:

"Jessica never tries to be sexy. She just is sexy. If you put her in a T-shirt or you put her in a bustier, she's sexy in both. She's got double D's! You can't cover those suckers up!"

Just goes to prove: Nobody can pimp like a papa.

OH... SO THAT'S A SCOFFLAW: And he's not been convicted of any crime, so why shouldn't Michael Jackson throw open Neverland for a kiddie's party this weekend, eh? Let's just remember sweet, innocent Michael loves kids and what better way to show that than having some over to his not-at-all-scary-freaking-giraffe-strewn-ranch and slipping a small surprise into the top of their stockings?

IN OTHER NEWS: POLICEMEN LOOKING YOUNGER; WEATHER FORECASTS 'UNRELIABLE': Poor, poor Christina Aguilera. She says that she has to struggle to remain successful because she's not very talented and there's a limit to the number of times you can flog a single off the back of a wonderbra and pierced genitalia. Sorry, I mean "because she's surrounded by untrustworthy people who are desperate to destroy her reputation."

Aguilera wails:

"Showbiz is a crazy world and so are the people in it. And that includes me. Showbusiness is a fake business filled with people who are fake.

"You are surrounded by people, each one more false than the other, always ready to step on you. Either you quickly learn to survive or you fail, you lose everything as quickly as you find success."

This is, of course, totally different from all other fields of human endeavour. Had Christina chosen, for example, to enter the financial services industry she would now be enjoying the warm glow of working with colleagues and competitors who are eager to assist you in developing your own career and growing success - even if it means sometimes they have to take a step back themselves. A Wall Street trader - off to cover for a sick colleague to make sure they didn't lose their bonus for this month - said: "It's a shame, poor Christina. I can't believe there are people in the music industry like that. She should think about joining us on the trading floor. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've just noticed someone from our main rivals has made a mistake. I'd better go point that out to them pretty sharpish..."

WANT CHEAP CDS? GET BERGERAC TO BUY THEM FOR YOU: Continuing the push to try and make CD prices match up to the actual value of what you're buying, Tesco have found a little loophole which removes VAT from the disc price - by sourcing them in the Channel Islands. Providing you spend less than eighteen quid per package, you can sit at home in England, order CDs through, and make a small saving. This will probably lead to the BPI having another bout of squawking rage, because once again, it's going to make the prices record companies try to impose on British consumers look artificially high (even if, in this case, it's not entirely the label's fault).

PARTNERDAVIDFURNISH TO NOT BE HUSBANDDAVIDFURNISH UNTIL IT'S LEGAL: Elton John's partnerdavidfurnish has sniffily spat back at rumours that he and Elton are going to tie the knot at Christmas. "We're going to wait until it's legal" said Furnish, who insists that once the partnership bill is through, him and Elt will just nip down the register office and have a small, official ceremony in a cheap wood-lined civic room, conducted by a tubby bloke with spinach in his teeth:

"We have decided that everything would be done very simply, in a Register Office. There's absolutely no discussion of having a party or anything like that."

Righto, David. So Elton John - a man who buys fireworks and swans carved out blocks of ice to celebrate the opening of a new box of All Bran - wouldn't throw a lavish party for his wedding, then? He had a massive blow-out for his last wedding, and that was just pretend, damn it. We're not entirely sure we're falling for "we're just going to keep it quiet - a quick ceremony, family and friends, and then Pizza Express and two carafes of house red."

ON THE OTHER HAND, IT DOES MEAN HE WON'T HAVE TO BUY A COPY OF THE BLOODY SINGLE: If you set aside the ethical and political complications of the messages sent out by Band Aid 20, and look at it purely as a way of raising money, you'd have to agree it does exactly what it sets out to do: raise large sums. This time round, it's going to raise even huger sums, as rich man Tom Hunter has agreed to match Band Aid's earnings pound-for-pound. Hunter says he was moved to do so after watching BBC ONE's Band Aid documentary the other night, and deciding that we must never see scenes like that again in our lifetime. We think he meant the bits of suffering they snuck into the programme, although if we had a small fortune and could use it to stop the smug, self-satisfied faces of Joss Stone, Bono, Damon Albarn et al from hogging large chunks of prime-time telly, we'd be writing multi-million quid cheques, too.

GEE, THANKS, MOM: You've had a son who has been a bit wayward in the past, but has started to get it together again, talking to his invisible dog, scaring the bejezus out of the not-exactly jumpy people down at the tattoo parlour, and claiming that famous people have stolen your existence. So, what would you do to congratulate him on his work so far, and to encourage him to continue his normal, everyday behaviour? Well, if you're the mother of Nathan Gale, you'd buy your son a gun, of course. Handily, it gave him something to shoot Dimebag Darrell with. Thank god for that, eh, or he might have had to fall back on a knife, or heckling. Mary Clark gave an interview to NBC4 in Columbus, where she said "whoops":

She said that she bought the gun before his diagnosis – which would lead to his medical discharge from the US Marines after serving less than half of his four years.

She said: "And I still don’t understand the whole thing, but he came home with his medications, and I don’t know if he took them or not. I don’t know if he was afraid to, or… ashamed to, or… didn’t believe it himself. I have such remorse for those families, and I am so sorry that they are losing their loved ones. Their sons, brothers, fathers."

So, if you're out Christmas shopping for a loved one this year, maybe you'd like to consider giving the great gift of firearms - it's the gift that keeps on Killing.

JIB JAB: Well, that's going to make it difficult to find crew to work on the Motley Crue reunion tour - and possibly the Crue themselves - as Dallas police are a-hunting Vince Neil after he beat the shit out of his own soundman durring a gig at Gilley's nightclub. (The mere fact Neil was playing Gilleys may well give a clue to anyone puzzled as to why the Crue are so desperate to reap a pension-boosting reward from an arthritic reunion tour). Dallas police say if they can't find Neil, they'll just wait until he happens by Texas again and serve him with a warrant then. Sure, as if they'll be able to spot a ghoulishly over-made-up guy in a silk scarf and big hair amongst all those like him in Texas.

LET'S ALL HOPE THIS ISN'T GOT TO BE A SURPRISE STOCKING STUFFER FOR ANYONE WE LOVE: If you were a taxi driver, and discovered that Bryan Adams had left some old socks behind in a car you'd driven him to an appearance in, what would you do with them? Would you be straight down the end of the garden with a small can of parafin and a box of Cook's Matches, or would you instead decide to auction them for charity? It's a simple question, and the answer will be obvious to anyone who has had any experience of taxi firm's approach to Lost and Found items. Bryan Adam's socks sold for six hundred quid. We're really looking forward to the scene on Christmas morning: "You know you wanted a new bicycle, Julie... well..."

REMEMBER: IT WOULD JUST BE FOR THE TWO DAYS: We always assumed when Robbie Williams fancied a "relationship" with a lady he just rang his PR and waited to read in the Mirror who he was going out with. But it seems that's not good enough this year, and the witless singing welder has been - sniff - saying how he needs to find a Princess or he'll be all alone on Christmas Day. There's no sense in him getting a girlfriend for the day before Christmas, of course, as there aren't any papers published on the 25th so what would be the point?

We're a little puzzled why Robbie is so sure he'll be alone at Christmas - why doesn't he just go to his bloody family's home? Or do they all hate him as much as we do?

THE PRICE OF ELVIS: We're a little surprised that Lisa Marie has flogged off an 85% share of the Presley estate for just fifty-one million quid, even although at current exchange rates that is quite a lot of US dollars. We can understand the desire to release some of the cash tied up in the 68 Comeback special and, um, GI Blues, but she's handed SFX entertainment and its boss Robert FX Sillerman (are those his real initials? We're somehow finding it tricky to accept that) a huge chunk of an industry which pulled in nineteen million quid's worth of business up until September this year, and is about to have a massive boost to its take in 2004 with some sort of anniversary. Perhaps signing really shit deals with shrewd businessmen is genetic?

The great news (by which we mean "shit news") is that Sillerman thinks what Elvis needs is some more "aggressive marketing." We can't quite imagine what ghastly Elvis-faced tie-ins he's got in mind, but if the awful Official Tat is viewed by its new owner as being too restrained, 2005 looks like it's going to be the year when the corpse is dug up and sat back on the toilet to promote the Presley Diaper range. (we're going to call him and float our idea about a cartoon featuring a superhero Elvis who fires Hawaiian Lasers out his eyes and has a special anti-crook guitar, but we fully expect one of these to be in development anyway.)

Sillerman somehow forgot to include Lisa Marie's music career in the deal.

ZOOM ZOOM ZOOM: Having coughed to a driving while off his box on drugs charge last week, DMX seems to have got a little confused and seemed to think the punishment for that covered him for motoring offences for the rest of the year as well: Now he's been caught speeding, which isn't that great for a guy who only picked up a conditional discharge less than seven days earlier. The whole suspended licence thing might be a problem, too. Perhaps he was just really curious to see if it really is like Bad Girls on the inside.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

... LIKE THE BACK END OF A BUS: Apparently, there was nothing more to Whitney Houston driving her car straight into the back of a bus than her failure to yield at a junction. It's just a minor misdemeanour. And, hey, which of us can honestly say we've not missed something as small and tiny as a bus looming up in front of us from time to time?

DUO INJURED IN PANTO-DISASTER: Slightly-disturbing double act the Krankees* have been hospitalised following an incident at a Glasgow theatre when Jeanette, the one who pretended to be her own husband's son, had her ten foot beanstalk collapse underneath her. Jeanette - or "wee Jimmy" as she's known professionally - was sitting on top of the mystical legume when it gave way, throwing her on top of her co-star (not her husband/daddy, this time). The pair were whisked off to hospital, while a crowd of Presbyterian ministers gathered to issue statements about how this is clearly God's judgement, and so on. The second half of the show was cancelled - apparently there was no understudy able to take on the part of a fifty-something woman schoolboy.

* - yes, they are on our patch: not only did they release their catchphrase-crushing Fan-Dabi-Dozi about sixteen times, but they also recorded a frightening cover version of Charlie Brown. If you have Soulseek, we implore you not to seek it out.