Saturday, March 27, 2004

The BBC used to have a fifth network... what was its name?

Tomorrow is the tenth birthday of Radio Five Live, the BBC’s News and Sport network. Which makes today the tenth anniversary of the closure of Radio Five, the station which went to make room for it, and which, for the short period in which it existed, was the most exciting music outlet in the country.

It started, as did so many things back then, with Thatcher. She’d decided that simulcasting the same radio programmes on FM and AM was a waste of a scarce national resource - in other words, saw the opportunity to flog something and make a few bob. So, the commercial broadcasters were warned to make better use of their frequencies, or lose them (resulting in the sudden creation of the Gold channels on medium wave up and down the country) and the BBC lost control of the old Radios One and Three medium wave frequencies which went off to become Talk and Virgin. Afraid of losing any more ground, the Beeb resolved to make better use of its radio real estate, forcing Radio Two to finalise its move to FM only and to do something else with what had always been 433 and 330, but had become converted to 693 and 909.

The plan was to scoop up a lot of programming which had never had a proper home - Schools Radio, the Open University stuff that had long been chucked out on Radio Four Long Wave at weekends under the odd “Options” banner, and to build on some experiments which had been taking place to do radio for teenagers, like Steve Blacknell’s Pirate Radio Four, which had also opted out the speech network to offer a talky alternative to Radio One for the young people of the nation. Topped up with the first new kids programmes since David Ryder’s Playground had been dug up off Radio One, the station had an undeniable air of mish-mash, but in amongst the acres of space filling (The “Citizen’s Advice Bureau of the air”, the weather forecast which attempted to namecheck every town in Britain, and, of course, lots of sport) there were some wonderful programmes.

Best of the lot were the regional yoof shows in the evening - originally ninety minutes at 9.30, they quickly moved them up to ten to give them a full two hours. Except when the sport overran. Highlights included The Mix, from London, Scotland’s Earshot and Hit The North.

Named after a Fall song, presented by the then-unknown-nationally Mark Radcliffe from the BBC’s Oxford Road studios in Manchester (already, of course, a legendary name in the music pantheon thanks to the Duran-heavy midweek Whistle Test light of BBC Two’s Oxford Road Show), Hit The North provided an outlet for a range of comedy items of varying quality - Frank Sidebottom would often pop up and usually wear out a welcome, some sort of reportage that would sit well on Lamacq Live these days, the world’s worst jingle (“Hit... hit... hit the north”) and classic music which never paid very much attention to the supposed rule of representing the region. A vital element was missing, however, but a few months in a former member of The Creepers turned up to do a gossip slot (“I’m not one to gossip... but pull up a chair”) and one of the great radio double acts was born. Ironically, Mark and Lard lasted right up until yesterday, when their Radio One adventure ended.

But besides two northerners who said “knackers” a lot, Hit the North had another gift for the nation: the five song live session. Probably the greatest of these was The Verve - back when they were still Verve - who were doing so well Radcliffe encouraged them to extend a track by an extra few minutes, leading to Richard Ashcroft and Mark extemporising the legendary ‘Who’s on the news?’ right up until Nick Mullins had to do the eleven o’clock bulletin.

Hit the North nearly disappeared when, in a further spot of Thatcher-inspired fiddling, the BBC decided it should try and outsource a quarter of its radio production to independent producers, targetting the regional shows as an easy way of doing this. A clearly pissed-off Radcliffe made tart reference to the sell-off on air, but in the end the show survived through a management buy-out. It remained the same, with the sole exception that there was an “M and TV” production credit at the end.

The Mix wasn’t so lucky, though, and got replaced by Fabulous, allowing Mark Lamarr to spread his wings further than he was able to on The Word. This wasn’t so bad, though, as Lamarr’s quick wit and handy catchphrase - “thank god you’re here” - proved a fitting replacement.

At the other end of the day, Breakfast had been given over to Morning Edition, which struggled a bit to find its feet. The first format had been current affairs based, but with such a soft agenda that you needed wellingtons to get past some of the features. Andy Kershaw would pop in once a week to talk about World Music releases - Baba Maal with your Rice Krispies not being everyone’s taste - and there’d be horse racing tips and, quick, let’s review the newspapers until the schools programmes start. However, someone, somewhere, was struck with inspiration and the programme was passed to the bloke who’d originally turned up to do the football phone-in on saturday nights. Morning Edish on Radio Fish was born, and Danny Baker did the show of his life. With a management who was just happy to have someone turn up and fill the airtime, Baker was given the freedom and trust to follow his instincts and lines of thought, creating some great moments. Despite the need to keep stopping for Claire Balding to give the racing tips. Turning news reader Allis Moss into a sidekick, and treating the audience as a resource, it remains one of the high-water marks in British radio.

There were other good things about Five, too: The shouty soap opera of The Mall, featuring a guest appearance by Saint Etienne; Normski’s terribly named Vibe; the return of Johnnie Walker to national radio hosting a daily show; the original version of Room 101, which was always a much better radio format than a TV show. And, uniquely for a British radio service, there was never a single musical format on the station. You’d hear Fry and Laurie doing stuff from the Jeeves and Wooster album when you woke up, move through country and western and go to be with bhangra or the BMX Bandits. Even Six doesn’t come close in the sheer range of music that would find its way onto the air.

It lasted four years, until it was deemed to be in the way. The last part of the BBC’s great plan had been to create a 24 hour news service - Radio Six, based in a loose fashion on the Gulf War rolling news service, known as Scud FM. Oddly, the BBC’s own reports on the launch of Five Live seems convinced that Scud FM had been carried on Radio Five, even although its very name shows that it was actually an opt-out on Radio 4 FM. During the first Gulf war, Today had rolled on until the World At One kicked off, which had then expanded round until PM, and so on. And this was to have been the basis of Radio Six, which had its eye on 198 Long Wave. The only problem was, after contracts had been exchanged and the work begun, expats suddenly realised if they took Radio Four off long wave to make room for news, they would no longer be able to hear the station in France and Spain. They mustered, marched on Broadcasting House and, oddly, won. Quite why the management at the BBC made the decision to listen to a few hundred people who didn’t pay a penny in licence fees isn’t totally clear - the fact they all voted and all tended to be Tory voters may have been a factor - but listen they did, backing down and saving 198 for Radio Four. And Test Match Special. But BBC News wasn’t going to give up quite so easily, and so started looking for a new home. And they settled on Radio Five. The young network hadn’t got a very large audience - because it was mostly aimed at children and the odd specialist taste - and it was unlikely the few thousands who enjoyed Northern Ireland’s Across The Line would be voting Tory (“marching on the BBC headquarters”) in quite the same way. In addition, a lot of the talent the station had nurtured had already moved on - Hit the North had lost Mark and Lard to Radio One, Danny Baker had also gone there for his short-lived show in the old DLT slot, and so on, and the sports elements of the old Five were going to find a new home on what was possibly going to be called UK Live - so there wasn’t much of a fight put up by anyone to save Radio Five.

The big switch off came March 27th, 1994. The last week of the old Radio Five showcased all that was best about it - anarchic, unexpected, funny, and going far from quietly. Seven days in which everyone was pissed off; even the kid’s story Wiggly Park stuck two fingers up at management, with a final tale which saw the park levelled to make way for “newspaper offices and a sports centre.” Not until digital radio made more space on the airwaves would a station with such a wide-ranging musical remit be given the space to just get on with it and the chance to try out so many unexpected presenters. We tend to think that 6Music is basically the old Radio Five, but without the sports. Or the schools programmes. Or the phone-ins about neighbourhood disputes. And it was the launch of 6Music which finally made us able to forgive the BBC for killing off our Radio Five.

CHILLING YOUR MARROW: Never mind "London will be the subject of a terrorist attack, it is inevitable" - is there anything more frightening than this headline from the Gleaner: Listen Up: New bands influenced by sounds of ELO?

Atomic Kitten have a lot to answer for.

YOU JUST HAVEN'T EARNED IT YET, BABY: If you're reading our piece yesterday on the BPI's earnest desire that people don't steal music because it hurts the people who make music, you might want to balance it with, say, these words from DMX about just how those record labels support their talent:

The highest paid artists get 18 cents off a dollar, and the record company still owns their product even though they've paid for it.
It's like straight robbery, straight robbery. They give you nothing, everything is an advance. But they offer it to you, you know. 'Hey, we was looking at the new Range Rover, we thought it would be a great idea if we got it for you.' They get it for you, you look on your P&L (profit and loss) report, you've got $80,000 and like 'thank you' - you end up thanking yourself."

Remember, when the record labels start to talk about morality, it's like being lectured on happy marriages by Bluebeard.

PINK'S NOT DEAD RUDE: The thing we like the best about Pink's live show is that she uses the inflatable dolls to take the place of her co-stars on Lady Marmalade - although it's a bit harsh to call Mya a pumped up plastic sex toy, it's levelled out by being an understatement for Christina. Pink reckons the show isn't as raunchy as the reviwers say, mind:

"It's not as raunchy as they say, it could be a lot worse. Even what I have right now, they tell me to tone down. There's a little, I wouldn't say nudity exactly, and I wouldn't exactly say simulated sex with rubber dolls either. But some people would!"

We're guessing it's not simulated, then.

'GUILTY' VERDICT IN ZAPATA TRIAL: After three days of deliberation, the jury in the Mia Zapata murder trial have returned a guilty verdict. Jesus Mesquia will be sentenced next month. He's facing up to twenty years in prison.

Friday, March 26, 2004

WILLIE APPEALS TO BUSH: So, the navy wants to take over some land in North Carolina for practice, and YahooWillie Nelson clings to the hope that George Bush might give a shit about some family farmers who'll be affected. Yeah, maybe he will - which oil family did you say they were from again, Mr. Nelson?

DON'T TELL ME THE DREAM IS OVER, I LIVE IN A DREAM: It's like the end of, well, not an era. It's more like the end of a tube of Smarties. But it is, nevertheless, an end. Mark and Lard have left the Palace of Glittering Delights. (The final show is archived to listen to through Real Player* - we haven't heard it ourselves yet - but apparently the Tindersticks weren't on, which seems wrong to us.)

[*To use the link in your Real Player, right click and copy shortcut, then paste in - if you want to use the BBC Radio Player, click on the first link]

UNION IN MOTION: Okay, it's not the teaching union, so it must be the rapper Nas about to tour the UK. Dates where you can see him shifting copies of his rehash ("tenth anniversary edition") of Illmatic are May 1 - Manchester Apollo; 7 - Glasgow Apollo; 8 - Bristol Creation; 9 - Birmingham NEC and 11 - London Apollo.

DO AS DADDY TELLS YOU: Pretty much in the same way that Blair had to struggle to find reasons to support Bush in his war on Iraq, so that his ally didn't have to go it alone and look stupid, it seems the BPI has been bounced into threatening to copy the RIAA's storngarm tactics against music fans in the UK to make Cary and the gang seem less gung-ho heavy-handed.

The BPI have put UK filesharers on a warning:

The British record industry has put illegal filesharers of music on notice that if they continue with their activities they risk court action.
UK record companies? trade association the BPI (British Phonographic Industry) this morning unveiled research indicating that 8.0m people in the UK claim to be downloading music ? 92% of them (7.4m people) using illegal sites.

This has lead to some reporters claiming that "only 8% use legal sites", which isn't the case at all, of course - it's possible, and amost probable, that of the 92% who use illegal sites would also be using legal sites as well, and many of them may only be using the illegal sites because the music industry has chosen not to make the music they want available in the format they want at a fair price. It's perhaps fair at this point to do a spot of number crunching with the raw survey data that the BPI have produced. They surveyed 3,367 people in the UK, 17.8 per cent of whom said they had downloaded music -so, the assumptions they're making on the habits of downloaders are based on just 600 responses. That's 600 people answering for eight million people - or every 'yes' counting for 13,333 people, which seems a little shaky to say the least. This survey also dates from a vague "late last year" time, which would put it before the launch of MyCokeMusic and the beefing up of Wippit, the first proper attempts to provide a viable alternative - kind of like asking Spanish voters intentions three weeks before the Madrid train crash changed the situation.

Downloaders spending less on music
For the first time research has quantified the effect of illegal file-sharing on the record industry. A comparison of the buying behaviour indicates that downloaders spending on albums was down 32%, and spending on singles was down 59% over the previous year.
?There is no clearer evidence of the damage that illegal downloading is doing to British music and the British music industry,? says BPI Chairman Peter Jamieson.

But this isn't actually providing proof of that - perhaps the reason their spending on music was down was because they found sites like CD Wow which allowed them to buy the same number of CDs but pay less money for them? Or because they realised if they picked up their records in Asda they could pay half the price they used to? Or because the industry reluctantly realised it had to stop charging what the fuck they liked for music.

?Illegal filesharing is causing real financial damage to artists, to songwriters, to record companies, publishers, retailers and everyone involved in the business.?

By the BPI's own figures, the size of the music market has shrunk by just 0.8% in the period they're looking at. This at a time of a lot of price cutting. EMI has just announced ballsy profits. It's hard to see the evidence of this damage - and if it was obvious, then surely they wouldn't need to be issuing surveys with number play trying to prove it?

File-sharing is illegal
The BPI points out that illegal file-sharing is outlawed under the The Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.
Specifically it runs counter to:
Section 16, which reserves to the owner exclusive rights to copy and to communicate their works to the public;
Section 20, which says communication to the public includes ?the making available to the public of the work by electronic transmission in such a way that members of the public may access it from a place and at a time individually chosen by them?.
Instant messages warn of action
The BPI has unveiled a new ?instant messaging? campaign over the internet warning uploaders that they face court action if they do not disable file-sharing software on their computers.

Illegal, yes, generally. We know. But since having file-sharing software is not illegal, what right do the BPI have to tell me or anyone to disable it. Can we tell the BPI to switch off their Microsoft Word programs, on the grounds that it's possible to use Word to produce illegal copies of newspaper articles? And how will the BPI know people have file sharing software in the first place? Are they just going to guess (in which case, that would be spam, which is also outlawed) or are they going to poke about on people's hard-drives? The BPI says they're going to be using the built in IM functions of the file sharing software, which we seem to remember is actually a breach of the terms of use of the software in the first place.

No excuses
The BPI points out that the UK is at the forefront of the development of new legal download services.

No it isn't. Napster, Walmart, BestBuy and iTunes are - the UK is tottering along slowly behind

?There is no excuse whatsoever for people taking music without permission,? says Jamieson. ?There are literally hundreds of thousands of tracks available on legal internet music services in the UK, and the number of tracks available and the number of services providing them grows weekly.?

Erm... "hundreds of thousands" tracks available isn't quite the same thing as every song you might want being available. How many tunes would you find in an average Virgin Megastore? Even a pokey one probably has about half a million there. The BPI try to make out that they're all about the music lovers, but you have to be slightly insane to suggest that the logical reaction to not being able to find a legal download of, say, Hurrah's How Many Rivers is to plump for a legal download of Meat Loaf doing 'Bat of Hell' instead of seeking out a bootleg version. And it's that complete faliure to grasp what drives the main downloading frenzy - a desire to hear a specific tune, now, in a simple format (and at a fair price), now, now, now. The BPI's bid to portray illegal downloaders as thieves shoving CDs under their jumper at random in a branch of Woolies is why they'll never be able to stop them; a closer model - if you must have a criminal model - is of jewel thieves breaking into private collections to steal pieces to order. The BPI is trying to stop that with the equivalent of putting reinforced glass in Elizabeth Duke's windows.

BAD REVIEW: We were delighted a couple of Corries back when the Weatherfield Recorder ran Ken Barlow's review of the Webster child's school production of Grease - as Norris pointed out, it was on page 32. The selfsame page the eponymous Bad Review in the Half Man Half Biscuit song appeared on. Hopefully the storyline would have been an object lesson to all - singers, actors, singer-songwriters and their soon to be ex-wives - that responding to a bad review makes you look even more shit than the performance which lead to the review in the first place did.

We're thinking that maybe we should send over a tape of that episode to Ryan Adams, a man who seems incapable of just shrugging and walking away from any criticism at all. He called up Pitchfork for an interview telling them how much he loved, no, really, loved, their scathing review of his work and suggestions that he's actually gone a bit shit, but thathe wanted to put his side, too. On the plus side, though, Amanda Petrusich manages to get a good interview out of him, in which he pledges he'd never call Sting up and tell him to stop making records because he sucks. Which must come as a bit of a relief for Sting, then. But it's actually the first Adams piece I've read in about two years that hasn't made me want to use him as the sample in my 'can people float in a bowl of piping hot chicken soup' experiments.

COSTELLO READIES PEN, ELECTRIC TYPEWRITER: We're half convinced that Elvis Costello has only agreed to write two books purely to allow the headline writers to use 'everyday i write the book' on the story. One of the titles seems to be some sort of loose adaptation of his lyrics into a novel form (presumably with an eye to Ben Elton picking them up for the stage) - lots of joining of Oilver's Army when you hear a Tokyo Storm Warning type fun ahead, then; the second book is "a work of comic philosophy" called How To Play The Guitar, Sing Loudly and Impress Girls... Or Boys. Which, give Elv's way with a tale, could actually turn out to be quite good.

H-A-R-M-OW: Trouble at SXSW: Har Mar Superstar loses it after he gets hit in the face by a giant penis - although it was when the cock-tosser then poured a drink over Mr. Superstar's head that Har went all Grr and a bit punchy - or rather, threw some garbage at him.

Elsewhere at SXSW, a security guard needed surgery after a scuffle at a Chikinki gig. Mind you, this really boils down "blood spilled in brawl in Texas bar on a Saturday night" so it's not so much of a news story as it might have been.

Also in the 'when audiences cause trouble' file: Fran Healy is trying to recast his outburst during Travis' Cardiff gig as 'good humoured':

"Hey all.. For what it's worth, from where we were standing, we thought the gig was brilliant. Lots of excitement on stage and happy faces wherever I looked. There was the coin throwing, maybe meant as a donation to my busking I think. It was meant in good humour but you should never throw coins at a stage, it's a big no no. When I pulled whoever did it up he was booed into next week. Thank you Cardiff."

Yeah, it's all in fun, and maybe those people who were throwing coins at you didn't know they could hurt, eh? (Or perhaps they didn't realise it's more fun if you heat them up first?). We wonder if Fran always views assaults in such a positive way - "Ha-ha, yes, poke the knife in like that - careful, not at an angle, that hurts a little bit more like that... ho-ho, yes, my nose probably could do with a gentle reshaping... was that a bone crunch? Oh, you are a one..."

CONGRATULATIONS, IT'S A BABY SHAMBLES: Pete Doherty's side project Babyshambles are set to launch a debut single - just 2,000 CDs and 1,000 on vinyl are being pressed, although that's enough to get to number one these days. Apparently, this is to be the start of a "series" of Babyshambles releases this year.

HAVE THEY COME ACROSS THE INTERNET BEFORE?: That interview which has been doing the rounds for a couple of weeks - the Century FM one where DJ Tony Wrighton asks Kylie deliberately provocative questions and she calls him a twat (after she thinks nobody is listening) got turned into a song, you know. But Century have made take it down because they were unhappy about it being used in that way. They seem not to have realised that once it's out there, it's out there. Although, to be honest, the original tape was much more fun. Kylie claims she's never had plastic surgery in it.

DOES WHAT EVER A SPIDER CAN: We're loving more and more the Distillers round our way. Although the recording of soundtracks for computer games thing sucks a bit - Brody et al are providing the them for a new Spiderman game - because it's the 21st century version of going on the Val Doonican show. But don't tell her we said that.

BROWN DRIES EYES, LEAVES COURT: You know, we'd have sobbed like a baby if we'd been sent down, too, but there's good news for Bobby Brown as he gets released from chokey. Oddly enough, that big unpaid child maintainence bill that he said he couldn't afford had been settled - strange how spending a night with Marilyn, the squat thrust champion from Block C, can jog your memory about where you might have put sixty thousand dollars aside for emergencies, isn't it?

As he came out of court, Brown told reporters:

"I thought it was paid. Things happen like that when other people are dealing with your business."

Yeah, it can be a bit of a bummer when you cede responsibility to make sure your own kids have shoes and enough jello and Mr Goodbars to survive on to somebody else. You can't be expected to know that your own kids have been left to doing the best they can on Mac and Cheese, can you? Obviously, if you ever saw them you might have spotted the ribs poking through the goodwill store shirts, but I daresay that's something else you palmed off to someone elsewhere in the Brown Organisation.

See you back in court May 5th?

ME AGAINST THE MUSIC: You can't fault her ability to sniff out a bandwagon and clamber aboard - Madnna is joining the growing ebb of pop stars going to court, as her vanity label sues its parents. Maverick claims that Warner Music has shafted it, "engaging in acts of self-dealing and profit-taking." Maverick believes it's contributed GBP55 million in profits to Warner's bottom line, while Warners hasn't kept to its side of the deal in providing services like marketing and promotion. Warner has a forty per cent stake in the label, but is going to have to tread carefully round this one as Madonna is signed directly to them. Which could make things interesting.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

THE OSBOURNES AND THE LOVES: ITS LIKE A VERY BAD SOAP OPERA: Oh, god, it's like two Liz McDonalds at once: Courtney and Sharon Osbourne screeching at each other through the media. Here's a sample:

"I saw her (Courtney) on TV and I felt so bad for her, my heart went out to her and I thought, 'Lay off her, leave her alone, she's got enough c**p going on in her life and she doesn't need me giving her a hard time,' but that was last week.
Well missus, it's not cool to say that you got them (drugs) from Courtney because Courtney's not cool.
You're right when you say I don't want you to hang with KELLY. I don't and I don't want you to go near my son. Carry on with your own life. God bless you, good luck with everything in life, just stay away from the Osbournes. Leave us alone."

Yes. Both of you, leave us alone.

LET'S HOPE THOM YORKE BREAKS HIS FINGER OFF ANYWAY: With a heart sinking at the certainty that someone, somewhere is already dubbing this "fingergate", the whole world is abuzz with the question Did Simon Cowell give Paula Abdul the finger, or do you not give a fuck. Oddly, since Cowell's whole persona is supposedly based around this blunt character who doesn't mince his words, Simes seems incredibly outraged that anyone could think him capable of doing such a thing:

"I certainly would never make a gesture like that toward Paula or on national television. Sometimes I lean on my index finger. Sometimes a different finger. Sometimes two at the same time, or, God help me, even the whole hand. I never even thought about it until now."

Yeah, good god that you should find a reputation for making playground gestures should start to replace your current reputation for telling sixteen year old girls that they look shit, sing shit, are shit and that their dreams of being popstars are so misplaced the only way they'll ever get near to celebrity is being allowed to suck the cock of the least clean roadie in return for a glimpse through the backstage door crack at a Bros reunion tour. I mean, getting your jollies pissing on the dreams of kids is one thing, but you wouldn't want to be thought of as being a little impulsive.

Curiously, the main fuel for this particular fire has come from the Drudge report - no, really. Obviously time weighs heavy since Clinton stepped down.

the precise level of nothing that the fuss is about

Naturally, the FCC have decided this sort of thing is something they need to look into. Naturally.

JACKSON LEAVES WORLD TO FEND FOR ITSELF: We're considering producing a 'more bad news for Michael Jackson' template to save our fingers. In fact, we might look into suing him if we ever develop RSI. This time, Jackson's charities are going tits-up; his Heal The World Foundation has been suspended since 2002, when it failed to file any accounting statements - in its last year its assets of USD3500 were nibbled away by USD2500 expense claims; Heal LA has been lying doggo since 2001 and the New York sister project Heal The Kids has been so useless that the attorney general has told it to disband; and the Neverland Zoo Foundation went to pieces in 1998.

It's not that Jackson hasn't been handing out cash, of course: it's just he's been a lot more targetted in his generosity, making a massive USD14million payment to one specific kid in a bid to keep him out of the courts.

Nobody seems sure why Jacko's charities have been faring so badly, although our charity expert said "Hello? Michael Jackson's charities? Would you trust him with so much as a meat raffle?" But perhaps the lack of any earnings he needed to have tax offset on might give a clue, too.

FIRE PUT OUT: The less-than-tactful Great White Burning House of Love compilation is being pulled from the stores. The band's management claim that the label responsible for the clanging name hadn't thought through the connection between the album title and the not-entirely-under-reported burning to death of a hundred people at a Great White gig. Which is a bit like saying "What?" when caught flogging Diana Car Crash Princess Headless Dolls.

BOYS LIKE YOU... ARE BAD THROUGH AND THROUGH...: Ah, pity the poor plight of the British Theatre. Where once Shaw and Wilde held court, now it's reduced to a murky backwater full of ill-conceived musicals based loosely on a collection of song titles. The latest threat is Wham! - The Musical, which apparently more than one producer is trying to bring to the West End. Actually, we could see this working if the early stuff was marshalled properly into vaguely homoerotic tale of a boy watching his best mate head off to get hitched without ever telling him that he had down there thoughts about him. Actually, we'd make it more than vaguely homoerotic. Very, very dirty indeed. But I can't see Ben Elton going down that route.

Anyway, regardless of how regrettable it all might be, George Michael seems to feel like it's an inevitablilty:

"Two or three different producers have approached Andrew and I about this and I'm a bit torn. I absolutely hate the idea on a creative level. But on another level I know that a certain generation of people would love it."

For which we read "fuck, I've committed myself to giving away my future records for free on the internet... how the hell will I pay the gas bill? Ah, I've got a cunning plan..."

But he admits that the creaky tunes which made early Wham so great were like musical timebombs:

"Those songs are borderline in terms of presentation, and the only reason we got away with the pastiche of them is because they were done with so much conviction and big hair and big teeth, and genuine fun and passion. But the truth is that done on stage there will be no charm and you'll be left with a lot of cheese, so I'm torn. Am I being too much of a snob? I would literally have to avoid the premiere."

On the other hand, we bet Andrew turns up, stuffing his overall pockets with the cheese footballs and gala pie slices from the green room.

hot cock action

- yes, only vaguely homoerotic...

MTV BLINKS FIRST: MTV has backed down in its battle with indie labels, having calculated that they really were prepared to wipe Eminem-to-White Stripes off their networks. Viacom has returned to collective bargaining, and sent an open letter from MTV's "David" Brent Hansen:

"Don't get me wrong - we still fundamentally believe that collective licensing does not serve the best interests of independent labels as they relate to MTV," Mr Brent said in the letter.
"Direct deals offer many significant benefits and we remain convinced at the strength of our case - and unconvinced by the arguments and tactics of the VPL and AIM.
However, in the interests of supporting the issues that the indies have raised and in a genuine effort to reach a resolution we have decided to return to the negotiating table with the VPL."

You see, smaller labels - they're only doing it in your best interests. Of course it would be better for you to negotiate individual deals - because you're going to have much more leverage as a label representing a couple of welsh indie bands than as part of an industry group representing a couple of hundred Top 40 artists, aren't you?

IPSWICH... ARE YOU READY TO SWAY MILDLY?: We're not sure why we're bringing you the Will Young tour dates, but here they are:
May 22 , 23, St. David's Hall, Cardiff; 24, New Theatre, Oxford; 25, Regent Theatre, Ipswich; 27, BIC, Bournemouth; 28, Colston Hall, Bristol; 29, Pavillions, Plymouth; 31, Royal Festival Hall, London; June 1, Dome, Brighton; 3, Guildhall, Portsmouth; 4, Royal Albert Hall, London; 6 , 7, Bridgewater Theatre, Manchester; 9, Royal Concert Hall, Glasgow; 10, Playhouse, Edinburgh; 12, Symphony Hall, Birmingham; 13 , 14, Royal Concert Hall, Nottingham; 15, City Hall, Newcastle; 17, Empire, Liverpool; 18, Symphony Hall, Birmingham;19, Royal Opera House, Blackpool

We're not sure about some of those two night bookings - Nottingham two nights in a row for a tour that's also calling at Oxford and Ipswich? That might be a bit of a misjudgement. Unless it's one night for the gay fans, one for the screaming girlies?

ARE THERE NO JUDGES WHO'LL SIDE WITH A SINGER?: Bad news in court for Michael Jackson, who's had many of his claims for unpaid royalty payments thrown out by a judge in LA. He's being allowed to proceed with claims from after 1994, but any demands for money Michael has made that are over ten years old have been struck out. It's all related to the way that Jackson's been paid by Universal for stuff he did on Motown when he had a normal-looking nose and some talent.

BROWN IN THE RED, SO HE'S BACK IN THE POUND: Bobby Brown broke down and sobbed as he realised he was heading straight into jail again, so soon after getting an early release from a Georgia prison so he could trot off over to Massacheusetts for a child support hearing. It turns out that he owes the mother of his children about sixty thousand bucks. The court didn't believe Brown when he said he couldn't pay because he had "no job and no income." His own attorney was so scathing about Brown's career we're thinking of offering him a guest spot on No Rock - he admitted that his client had been successful in the 80s and early 90s but "he has been nowhere near that in recent years." Brown seems convinced he's about to make a film and a new album, which somehow he's going to turn around in thirty days, but the judge refused to believe he'd not got an advance on all this work and knocked back an offer of ten grand now, fifteen by the end of next week and a friendly chat about the rest, and sent him to prison for ninety days or until he comes up with a better offer. Only trouble is, of course, on May 5th Brown is due in another court, back in Georgia, over charges relating to the beating Whitney incident. Whitney, meanwhile, has checked herself out of drug rehab and so that should make for an interesting hearing.

HALLELUJAH AND GLORY TO GOD: All she was asking for was a little bedrest, and she got it - Aretha's out of hospital following what was either an allergic reaction to antibiotics or a virus. Her publicist said she had a "rash-like skin condition", which would be a rash, then. Anyway, she whooped a hallelujah or two and has gone home to get fully well.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Courtney and Malcolm punks not dead edition
So, it’s been a grim week on the outskirts of the music press, with The Face and Just Seventeen being invited in to see the manager, leaving a couple of minutes later with a pink slip and a black plastic sack to put their belongings into; so it’s cheering that another not-strictly pop paper came into being. The London News Review, in its launch format of a Rhine Zeitung style newsprint broadsheet, looks a lot more like it reads now, and there’s much in it of interest to, well, people who read this. Like the quiet way it points out that Janelly Fourtou, who pushed through the European parliament’s Intellectual Property Enforcement Directive is married to the CEO of Vivendi; apparently the concept of ‘conflict of interests’ didn’t occur to her as she cheerfully criminalised making a CD copy of an MP3 you’ve paid for; the revived Rock Against Racism gig is reviewed, and the Google-proof ‘just the gist’ lyric quiz has survived beta testing. Oh, and the manwhofellasleep pops up in there, too.

Over at the Observer, Miranda Sawyer has gone to meet Alison ‘Va-va-voom’ Goldfrapp, musing that “it’s odd that she [isn’t] straddling music like a jack-booted frilly knickered wonder woman.” Odder yet that the Goldfrapp piece is booted from the Observer Music Monthly to the bog standard cakes and makeover weekly magazine to make way for Alicia Keays. What’s going on there? Is the magazine proper trying to attract attention from the casual OMM reader, or did the OMM decide that the ho-hum no-offence Keays is where they should be going towards, leaving the more interesting Goldfrapp to be picked up by the other supplement? So it’s the Magazine which gets the good stuff: Goldfrapp announcing that her fans are either all overly sincere, or pervy. Some times, Alison, it’s possible to have long lists in green ink and wear waders to bed, you know.

Whereas the OMM is left to pick the bones of the very nice, managed as tightly as a security team protecting the President Alicia Keays. Worryingly, she seems determined to have a crack at acting.

The chart is the best one so far - ten worst reunions, although the 21st century Doors barely counts as a reunion; it’s more a tribute act. Who cares what percentage of non-Morrisson original members are involved? It’s a shadow cabinet act through and through. Jesus Jones, we learn, have got back together simply to play a single song at motivational speaking events in the US - although who the hell would be motivated by Jesus Jones isn’t explained.

Maybe we’re getting desensitised, only we were surprised to see that people had written letters complaining about last month’s Outkast cover. Naked women, see? You might have thought that it was a rather lovingly re-created pastiche of seventies artwork; and perhaps the outraged letters were in the same vein - “I’m going to write a letter in the style of Andrea Dworkin.” If the writers were serious, then we’re even more convinced we’ve become too desensitised: apparently, all the gains of women post Sylvia Pankhurst were undone in one moment four weeks ago, and we never noticed.

There is no secret life of George Michael left to be explored; a man who waggles his willy in the face of all comers is in every extent public. Still clinging to 1980s knobs, Tim Moore recalls buying into the Merton Parkas C&A take on Mod, offering the justification that it’s better than Avril Lavigne.

Eastenders Ray Panthaki has decided the time has come to explore music beyond hiphop. Oddly, it was hearing Starsailor which led to this decision, something which would lead most normal people not to consult the record doctor but to stick sharpened drumsticks deep into their ear canals. Anyway, the doctor suggest Jeff Buckly who goes down well, but The Specials leave Ray cold - “a bit too UB40.” A man who can find life-changing charm in Starsailor but can’t tell the difference between Too Much Too Young and Rat In Mi Kitchen? What is he using to base his judgement on - sleeve colour?

Oh god, Malcolm McClaren is back. For some reason, music’s del Boy is always treated well despite his rubbish track record. What’s he actually ever achieved? He’s credited with being some sort of godfather of punk, when all he did was follow a trend and pretty much throw out all the things which made punk a vital youth artform and turned it into some granny-baiting parody played by cartoons - in short, he took The New York Dolls and gave us Blink 182. And having managed to make a bit of cash out of being in the right place at the right time, ever since he’s tried desperately to try and live up to the popular view of him as an instigator; it’s like Fleming was so ashamed of being credited with the discovery of penicillin when he really just employed the people who did the work that he spent the next forty years trying to interest the world in other sorts of moulds: “look, this greeny-blue stuff that grows on damp wood in window frames... that might cure rabies or cancer or something.” This time, following the lack of interest in opera-as-rock, double dutching and Ghosts of Oxford Street, McClaren is pushing chip music, made from the gizzards of PacMan machines. “You don’t need instruments to make it, you can use a gameboy” he pitches, blissfully unaware that the Kids were using their X-Boxes to mix music together when he was still trying to flog us frock coats.

Julie Burchill believes that we’re all children of Thatcher and McClaren, but this misses that they’re actually one and the same: she came from a grocers, he came from a trouser shop; they built their position on the back of the working classes preaching the virtues of self-interest, while making sure they got more than their share of the spoils. And none of them have done anything decent since Jubilee Year.

Oh, and Malc claims that ITV wanted to bring him in to replace John Lydon when he quit I’m A Celebrity. Yeah, Malc, and you wrote Anarchy in the UK.

Sufjan Stevens is picked by Kitty Empire as a name to watch for the future: in his spare time he teaches knitting to the blind, which is good news for Gyles Brandereth.

John Harris explores Cajun country, going beyond swamps and crayfish to discover ”an audible win-some-lose-some fatalism and affectingly sad songs.”

reviews judges Patti Smith’s Trampin to be sometimes “close to horses” and Paul Morley qupis that “without Stars in their Eyes there wouldn’t be dry ice in our house” - maybe you had to be there. Helena Christansen asks Michael Stipe “Who is carrying the torch of music?” (yes, exactly like that); Stipe waffles and mentions no names before suggesting that no one person can carry the torch, for which read “I haven’t bought a record since 1987 but I’m not about to admit that.”

And the OMM has given Peter Robinson two pages to fill with stuff, which he does with a broken Phixx mug and an old Smash Hits.

Back over at his other job, then, the NME has got Franz Ferdinand in white jackets on the cover, which is less ‘for those about to rock’, more ‘On tonight’s watchdog...’ Inside, mind, they’re dressed up in school uniform, and they look a lot more comfortable. The video they’re so attired for is a tribute to Blue Remembered Hills, which we remember pissing off writers to Points of View because they couldn’t cope with adults playing children.

The news kicks off with Courtney, of course, who is a one-woman column filler. There’s breasts and self-serving and pity me pie aplenty, including her attempt to demonstrate how unfair life is by claiming “No-one in the history of rock music has ever been arrested for someone being hurt at a show” - without even needing to point to examples where people have been seriously injured, Shane McGowan was arrested for precisely the same thing as Courtney when he hit someone at Liverpool University with a mic stand.

Round, like a circle in a spiral, NME has bought the finger off Thom Yorke’s Brat award from ebay and is now offering it as a prize. They paid two hundred and fifty quid for the thing, which makes us assume it’ll be back on Ebay without seconds of it arriving at the prize winner’s house, although they’re hoping their ‘I deserve to be fingered by Thom Yorke’ tie breaker style comp will preclude that happening.

Icarus Line burn the CD: Rollerskate Skinny, Lilys and Kool Keith.

Peter Robinson’s Other Kingdom meets Har Mar superstar. He’s not real, you know, he’s just a made-up comedy character who advertises vodka.

Art Brut are the radar band, and they deserve your attention, if only because they’re releasing a single that mentions Top of the Pops - just like the Rezillos.

Franz Ferdinand scoff at the Daily Record and the way they write about David Byrne as “Scots born”, despite his having moved away when he was six. (The Liverpool Echo, of course, still worships McCartney, and treats Kim Cattrell and Halle Berry as if they lived in Huyton - but then, look at what they’d have to work with otherwise). This is made even funnier by the “discovery” that Elvis was, in some vague way, Scottish.

They also start to talk about having used Hitler’s microphone and suddenly realise they’re heading off towards a National Front Disco where Kula Shaker draw swastikas on the wall. Instead, they list bands who kept it right all the way through: Belle & Sebastian, Pulp, The Smiths, and Brian Eno.

Ty Cobb have apparently renamed themselves Mad Action.

Completely unmentioned on the front cover, there’s an interview with Brody Dalle - and she does it naked. Down a telephone line, yes, but you can imagine. (Unless you’re an Observer Music Monthly reader, who’ll probably be mentally dressing her in some cord dungarees).

The pull-out posters are all of mug shots - damn, only jack White looks any good in his.

Four skinny southern Indie boys? Lying in a bunch of yellow spring flowers? Is the Ride revival under way? Not quite; these are delays, a band who spent last Christmas making a hash cake contaminated with E.

cky - london astoria - “ftotally shitty dude”, 1
adam green, ICA - “best song poet since Leonard Cohen”, 6

radiohead - com lag: 2+2=5 [the japanese bside collection] “bloody minded as ever”, 7
weird war - if you can’t beat ‘em, bite ‘em - “retro-ghetto”, 4

sotw - art brut - formed a band “this might be a chord. now form a band”
pink grease - fever - “a daft man trying to be sexy”

and finally... ana mantronic loves siouxse and the banshees. the last time she (sioux, not the scissor sister) appeared on the front of the nme they also had a feature about Hurrah!, you know.

INDIES TO MTV: YOU'RE NOT COOL ANY MORE: Are we just vultures, or is everyone enjoying the indies versus MTV battle? Yesterday, MTV tried to smash up the indie coalition by saying that it was demanding stupid money. Today, the indies have hit back, warning MTV that it's no longer the place for cool music and making it clear that they're not joking: the Strokes, White Stripes and MisTeeq could soon be banned from the MTV family. Apart from the slightly cringey use of the word "cool" - like the company which made stars of Dire Straits, Ray Cokes and Sharon Osbourne has ever been cool - it's nice to see some slightly smaller companies standing up to an attempt to bully them. Of course, with EMAP and Sky's music channels to fall back on, it's not exactly like the AIM labels are betting the whole farm.

HONESTLY, VICTORIA, YOU'VE GOT NOTHING TO PROVE TO US: She's become like a woman possessed, seemingly desperate to have a number one to silence the critics who would suggest that she couldn't carry a tune if she bought a bicycle with a special basket designed precisely for tune-carrying by a team of German aerodynamic design experts. Now, Victoria Beckham has drafted in Cathy Dennis to write a song for her, a song she hopes will return her to the top of the tree and allow her to gloat. It's a nice try, but rather than using your money to buy songwriting talent, why not use it more wisely and get someone to do the singing for you?

HOMING PIGEON: First, George Michael seemed to set aside all that "Fony" business and returned to the Sony fold he'd fought so hard to extract himself from. Now, Prince has decided being a slave wasn't so bad after all and has signed up again with the Columbia offshoot of the organisation he claimed had treated him so badly he'd been forced to biro the word 'slave' on his face in protest.

LIMP BIZKIT BOMB: The standard example of the limits to freedom of speech is that nobody has the right to cry 'fire' in a crowded theatre. And everybody would agree with that. However, you're almost tempted to make an exception to the general rule to allow people the right to call in bomb threats to disrupt Limp Bizkit shows, as happened in Katowice, Poland. Details of what actually happened are vague, with the warning being given variously to the police, the promoter and the venue at some point between two hours and five minutes before the Bizkit were due to go on, and oddly, Fred Durst seems to be claiming that he took the decision to evacuate the concert hall in the face of opposition of the police (who expected a riot) and the promoter (who was worried about his money). You often find that when police are taking a bomb threat seriously, they'll leave it to a pudgy American to make the call on what to do. There was, of course, no riot of fans, who seem to have been remarkably calm about the news that they'd have to go home without seeing little Freddie jiggling in his bright red cap.

Durst is very quick to stress that he's got film of the police telling him about the bomb, almost as if he thought people might accuse him of making the bomb up to get out of playing. How cynical does he think people are?

THE DEVIL FINDS WORK FOR IDLE THUMBS: Busta Rhymes given six months probation after entering a no contest plea to a charge that he'd attacked a woman who touched his chin. He claimed he'd taken her hand and asked her politely to not do it again; his no contest plea would seem to give creedance to the police line, that he'd pushed her head into a table and said "If you try touching me again, I'll kill you." Rhymes had also filed his own assault charge against the woman, Celine Giguere, which comes up today.

Busta's real name is Trevor Smith.

THE NEXT MRS. BRATMAN: Obviously, this is from The Sun, and via an elderly relative, so it might not be true at all, but it's claimed Christina Aguilera has got engaged to Jason Bratman, who she's been seeing for seven months. We imagine he realised getting her into a wedding dress might be the only way to find out what she looks like with clothes on.

JESUS, HASN'T HE HAD ENOUGH OF COURT ROOMS: And what does it do for your bad boy image when you have to ask the courts to protect you from a painter and decorator? Puff Daddy is suing his interior decorator claiming he overcharged. Aw, bless. She probably also used a misty buff instead of a wispy cream on the dado rail.

LAWYERS. THEY'LL TAKE ON ANYTHING: We don't quite understand the lawsuit filed against Ja Rule by Tony Veanie. His beef seems to be that Mr. Rule filmed a video about a murder for the I Cry single near his house, and, somehow, as a result, Veanie has been threatened, shot at and stabbed. The connection between the two isn't clear, unless Veanie is suggesting that criminals view the video as a kind of 'Wish you were here' for street crime - "let's go and do some stabbing on that street, Elmer" - but he reckons that it's USD25,000 in trouble. Ja Rules The Inc. (nee Murder Inc) have dismissed the claim as coming from a man who is "sick in the head."

A BIG BOY DID IT AND RAN AWAY: Having kicked off the whole RIAA hunt against the file sharers, Metallica are now considering withdrawing from the Record Company infrastructure altogether. They've got one album left on their current deal with Elektra, and according to Lars Ulrich, they might just decide to go it alone after that, in the style of Simply Red.

DOING IT FOR THE KIDS: So, it turns out Bobby Brown's early release was designed to allow him to turn up in Massachusetts for a paternity suit, and not in Virginia for a criminal trial. Like we said: he's got a lot of legals to juggle.

MOTOWNOBIT: Motowon producer and singer Johnny Bristol has died in Brighton Township, Michigan. He was 60. In 1961 he cut his first record with Jackie Beavers, 'Someday we'll Be Together', eight years later providing backing vocals for the Supremes hit version of the same song. In twelve years with the label, he worked with virtually all of Motown's big names: Michael jackson, Diana Ross, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves and the Four Tops. A post-Motown career had taken him to MGM and Atlantic. Bristol had been married to Iris Gordy, niece of Motown inventor Berry Gordy, but the union ended in divorce. He's survived by a son and two daughters.

MOTHER, GET OUT OF THAT TREE: Ginsoakedboy writes to us, perhaps a little harshly, to say:

...but it's nice to see that the mother of Nicky Wire, the biggest tosser on the planet, is in some distress about some wood somewhere.
There really is no band, other than the Manics, who would make me want to bulldoze cute animals, but there you go.

He's bringing Nicky Wire's Mom Irene Jones and her struggle to save some trees in Blackwood. It turns out the British Police now have some sort of experts in enivornmental protester removal at their disposal, although it seems Mother Wire only required some gentle coaxing before she quit, in tears:

"Nicky has been supporting me and we've done all we can. But I don't feel that I've done enough. I shouldn't have come here today - it's so upsetting.

ANOTHER HIT: He's 72 and lumbered in daytime TV hell, but Des O'Connor has all the virility you'd expect of the only person to have a simultaneous number one TV show and single - he's about to become a Dad again. As is, of course, Jodie Brooke Wilson, who's written with Don Black and Cathy Dennis for Hear'Say and last year attempted to shift from having her name in brackets under the song title to getting her name on the front of the record with her debut as a singer, Halfway To Paradise. I'm sure they've done the "Des will be 90 before the kid is old enough to vote" math, so we'll just say 'congratulations.' Oh, that was Cliff Richard, wasn't it?

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

WILL WILCO?: Chromewaves are reporting that rumours are circulating that people are suggesting that the signs are that Wilco might soon be streaming their new album A Ghost Is Born from their website. Might make sense - it's already leaked out into the internet, and so a streaming official version might help mop up some of the curious who otherwise would be bittorrenting it straight onto their CD burners.

CHRIS DEBURGH BANNED: In the first case aping last year's dropping of Rolling Stones CDs from American shelves, HMV have cleared their shelves of Chris DeBurgh albums following his label's exclusive deal with Woolworths for his new collection. We're sure HMV could give a shit about selling DeBurgh's stuff, but the nature of the deal is obviously being viewed as a serious threat for future business and so they're kicking up a fuss. Plus, "We have no Chris DeBurgh CDs" is a hell of an encouraging advertising slogan.

TIME RUNNING OUT FOR INDIE VIDS ON MTV: The dispute which threatens to wipe indie videos off MTV's European networks looks like reaching a point of no return - MTV have described the cash being sought by the Association of Independent Music as "stupid" (i.e. they're reluctant to accept a hell of a lot less than they were getting before) and is seeking to divide and rule, suggesting that AIM and its VPL offshoot don't represent its member labels and trying to come to individual agreements with individual labels. If its attempts to encourage labels to break away from collective bargaining succeed, from next week we could see MTV2 and VH2 having to rely purely on videos from smaller companies who've broken ranks: like Sky Sports trying to mount programming with just Leicester City, Stockport, Grimsby and Gillingham. It's unlikely that MTV really want to set a precedent where it has to negotiate with every single label on a separate basis - having one industry-spanning umbrella organisation saves Viacom time and money, too; and they wouldn't want to set a precedent of separate deals that the majors might want to seize on. So, who's going to blink first? Our recommendation: if you want to be sure of seeing White Stripes videos in April, make sure you've got The Amp.

I LEARNED THE TRUTH AT JUST SEVENTEEN: With the death of the Face, the axing of Just Seventeen has gone by largely unmourned; although you could argue that J-17 had a far deeper influence on the British newsagents than The Face did - while both changed magazines, Just 17's impact can still be felt today, whereas the Face's niche has more or less disappeared totally (... presumably taking the Face with it). Nevertheless, Just Seventeen's demise is relegated to a footnote in stories about The Face. That's a little unfair.

Before Smash Hits gained its sister publication, teenage girls' magazines would go on dates with boys but seldom do more than a spot of hand-holding. For better or - as Bob Geldof would have it, worse - J17 actually listened to its readers when they wanted to know about what would come next, talking frankly about breasts and penises and necking and pregnancy. Blamed for turning Britain into a nation of slappers, J17 actually did what the schools belatedly realised what they should be doing, too - providing the facts in an honest, non-censorious, non-alarmist way and trusting the kids to use their own judgement once armed with those facts. The Daily Mail would tell you that J17 created the boom in single, pregnant teenagers; we'd suggest it actually helped control it.

We weren't that regular a reader of it - like porn, we'd always enjoy it when we happened upon it, but never could quite work up the swagger to place a regular order at Bill's Newsagents; however, Me-ish not only read regularly and covered their bedroom wall with its posters, they even got to go to the offices. It does seem to have caused them a Larry Mullen obsession, though.

JET POPULAR IN CANADA: Most weeks at number one on radio playlists; most weeks at number one for a debut single; most weeks at number one on the rock chart. Whatever the other suffering in the world, we must make time to offer our sympathies to the people of Canada, who clearly are suffering badly right now. We're all collecting to send care packages of indie-pop and Young Heart Attack singles to America's blameless neighbour.

MY WEEK WITH MORRISSEY: Professionally dour Mancunian Morrissey is set to play a five night residency at the Wiltern in LA. The nights - in April - will give him a chance to warm up before trotting back home for his first Manchester gig since about 1802 in May.

YOU ARE THE FUTURE? WE ARE SCREWED: Quincy Jones is putting the finishing touches to a grand charity concert in Rome. It's going to feature lots for the ladies - both JayZ and Norah Jones will be there - and an awful lot of well-meaning but muddle-headed stuff that will be saying, like, give peace a chance. So, um, 2,000 "children in indigenous costumes" will link hands, while Jones also hopes to bring together Israelis and Palestinians for the event, assuming there are any left alive by May 16th. It's the children in indigenous costumes that gets us, though: we keep thinking of that Square Pegs Christmas special...

CAST OFFS: Apparently still mulling how best to best Britney's latest attention grabber - we're guessing it'll be a broken arm and a leg in plaster - Christina Aguilera is preparing to move into a new house. It's one designed for Liza Minelli, which means either Christina has very scary taste indeed, or is going to have to gut the insides and start again from scratch, although we might point out to Sarah "if you want to sell a house, you must keep it as neutral as possible, don't impose your taste on the prospective purchasers" Beeney that the custom built Minnelli manse still managed to hit a five million dollar sales target. It's believed the house comes complete with an en-suite David Gest in the master bedroom.

COURTNEY MESSED UP. AGAIN: We're wondering at why Courtney Love always plumps for Howard Stern to act as her confessor whenever she's in schtick. Certainly, this time it's backfired on her as Love burst into tears and ended the interview as soon as Stern mentioned Frances Bean. She seemed to be pissed off that Howard had brought the kid up - although someone's got to, surely - and yet, a couple of minutes later, was quite happy to yak away about how it's between Frances and Arnold Schwarzenegger's girl who loves horses the best of all the animals. (Interesting, isn't it, the circles that the Love-Cobains seem to be moving in these days?)

YOU HAVE BEEN WATCHING...: If anyone needed more evidence that the Sugababes are packing up their picnic blankets and putting away the thermos flasks, you need to look no further than the new video. Each of the girls has a segment of their own, and for much of the segment, their names (or, rather, future brands) get displayed prominently enough to try and burn them into our memories - clearly an attempt to avoid a "which one was Hannah again?" confusion that followed the dismantling of S Club and Steps. It also, of course, gives the sense of being the closing titles to the band's career.

DO YOU WANT 'DO FRIES GO WITH THAT SHAKE' TO GO WITH THAT SHAKE?: Last week, it was Starbucks adding digital music to their slightly overpriced coffe menu. This week, McDonalds is hooking up with Sony for the launch of Connect. The LA Times reckons that Ronald had been plotting a tie-up with Apple but switched horses at the last minute following a polite cough from Sony. You can see why Sony need the bulk of McD's customers - it's backing a non-compatable format in a bid to try and flog its new Walkmen range, and flinging the songs at people for nothing is probably the only way they'll be able to gain enough of a sales base.

Only problem is, of course, it's by no means guaranteed that people will bother to take their little codes from the cups or whatever and tap them in online - Apple and Pepsi's controversial iTunes promo stalled because nowhere near as many people kept hold of the magic winning bottle caps to convert them into songs; the Sony/McDonalds tie-together is banking on enough people holding on to what is, in effect, garbage, and carrying it around until they get to a computer - that's apart from the few brave souls with wifi connectivity who risk their Vaios in a grease-besmirched, ketchup-strewn child-raddled outlet like McD's.

SLIM FINGERED?: He was murdered to death himself last year, but now Soulja Slim is being lined up as prime suspect in another murder case. (Although, obviously, it would have to be "another" case, otherwise it would be a suicide case, wouldn't it?") Detectives investigating Slim's killing have uncovered what they believe are links with the slaughter of Robert Lee Paige Jr, who was shot, and tossed, weighted down with bricks into the City Park Lagoon in New Orleans. Slim's family are less than happy with the suggestion, and counter that the police are merely trying to tidy up two unsolved murders with one investigation. Meanwhile, the DA has said that Slim's suspected killer won't be charged as there's "not enough evidence" to link Garelle Smith to the crime.

ONCE IN A HOUSE ON FIRE: Great White are distancing themselves from a re-released album that appears to be cashing in on the Rhode Island fire which their fireworks started. The label Horizon Italy has cobbled together a set of covers by the band, which in itslef wouldn't be so much of a problem. It's the name that has caused some upset - the title track has been deemed to be a cover of X's Burning House of Love, which is the sort of tasteless that even shocks us.

ROCK AND ROLL FUN: While it's not true to say there wouldn't be a No Rock and Roll Fun without Sleater Kinney, it would have been called something else entirely. So it's only right and proper to point out they're about to tour the US, squeezing in some dates between writing and recording stuff for the next album.

B-E-D-R-E-S-T: Aretha Franklin has been hospitalized. Nobody's saying why, or how long she'll be there - but if she's not out by Thursday she'll be marking her 62nd birthday alongside the bedpans.

THERE'S GONNA BE A JAILBREAK: Bobby Brown has found a perfect way of getting out of jail. He's been released so he can go and attend a court hearing in a different state - from Atlanta to Virginia. He was due out on Thursday anyway, and it'll be nice for him to have a go at filing through some different bars.

REM PLUS NONE: Michael Stipe has been hugel dismissive of Helena Christensen's request to record a song with REM. It's not that they've got anything against her - they're letting her tag along on tour and take photos, and Stipe seems to have invited her to get drunk in his hotel room and sing, but he's firm on the question of public collaboration. Although it's hardly fair to say to someone "you can sing with us, but only when we're in our pyjamas", however wise that might be.

Monday, March 22, 2004

ACCOUNTING: So, we now know how much Ms Minogue takes home in her paypacket each year: Kylie manages to draw down a salary of GBP1.2million a year, based on what she takes out the company Darenote, which is run by her parents and made a not-that-bothered-about-sales-disasters-yet GBP2.8 million profit in the year up to March 2002. And, as is good practice, the company donated some of those profits to charity - a thumping, um, GBP3,500 - or a world changing generous figure of 0.125 per cent of total profits.

WILSON. LIKE IN PRESIDENT: Many thanks to Barbara Flaska off Flaskaland for bringing this interview with Mary Wilson to our attention; as Barbara says "now that she's an ambassador, it seems knighthood for some may be just a breath away." Clearly, Mary's got her eye on Kofi's position...

AXED - OFFICIAL: After a long period of uncertainty and a little spell of almost certainty, EMAP has put the Face and Just 17 out of their misery, telling staff they're both definitely to close. The last Face will come out on April 8th, unless someone pops by to buy the title (we think they mean the whole thing, not just if they buy a single copy).

We're waiting for the London News Review to charge in on a big white horse.

DOLLS BACK TOGETHER: Morrissey must have been a very, very good little boy indeed, as he's managed to persuade the New York Dolls to reform. The band haven't played together since 1977, so we're kind of assuming they might need to rehearse before they take up Mozzer's offer of a slot on the Meltdown stage.

OLD PEOPLE ROCK OUT: We got really excited when we heard that Bob was going to be returning for a UK tour. We were crushed to discover it was Bob Dylan plotting British Isle dates and not indie-champions Bob (who did 'Convenience', a song which can still find itself on our internal jukebox without a moment's notice.)

Lights also once turned green just for Madonna's convenience, but now she has to work harder; which is probably why the "Re-invention Tour" is being billed as a greatest hits set - basically, yer Here and Now tour on a slightly larger scale. In the UK, she's booked up Earls Court for August 18th (just the one night?), popping herself into the venue that's used for the Daily Mail Ideal Home Exhibition and the Boat Show. Interestingly, her manager has seemed to let the cat out of the bag:

"Madonna has already started rehearsals for The re-Invention Tour and she can't wait to get back on stage to recreate her songs from the earliest days of her career up to the present. There is no doubt that this tour will be the pinnacle of her long standing and well deserved reputation as one of the most exciting live performers of our time. And, as a special treat to her fans, existing Icon fan club members will have access to tickets prior to the on-sale dates in local markets."

So this is the pinacle of her career, is it? Which would mean, then, all downhill from here? And the 'special treat' of being allowed to buy tickets a little earlier is stetching the definition somewhat - a few quid off, or a signed photo or secret CD - that would be a special treat. Getting a couple of hours jump on buying tickets ahead of the hoipolli - that's surely the bare minimum you'd expect if you've clung to the faith long enough to still be a member of an expensive Madonna fan club in 2004. Unless you're David Gest, of course.

Dylan can be seen blowing in the wind at Cardiff International Arena June 18; Newcastle Telewest Arena, 22 and Glasgow SECC, 23; Stormont Castle, Belfast, 26; Galway's Pearse Stadium, 27.

CASH CASH COW?: A quick touch of the corpse's forehead has suggested to Hollywood that the body is now cold enough to start pumping it for money and so a Johnny Cash biopic is set to start filming in June. 20th Century Fix has set aside USD28 million for the project, called I Walk The Line and starring Joaquin Pheonix - who we always thought looked more like Lord Percy from Blackadder than Cash - and, oh god help us - Reese Witherspoon as June Carter Cash. They might even - seriously - be casting the state of Louisiana to play the part of Tennessee.

Could we make a small plea to people who work in the film industry? If you happen to walk past an open door, or find yourself crawling through an airvent, and hear someone saying something like ", to please the kids, we thought we'd get Fred Durst in to record his take on The Man in Black..." could you please let us know as soon as you've lobbed in a smoke bomb?

LAKE PLACID: has news of the forthcoming new stuff from the Charlatans - single called Up At The Lake on May 3rd; album of the same name May 17th. The full track listing is:
Up At The Lake
Feel The Pressure
Watch You In Disbelief
Cry Yourself To Sleep
Bonafide Treasure
High Up Your Tree
Blue For You
Ill Sing A Hymn
Loving You Is Easy
Try Again Today
Apples And Oranges
Dead Love

Tim Burgess will be wearing slinky, tiny bathing costumes at every date on the tour to support the album, to keep in with the 'lake' theme.

THE FIVE PENISES IN DWARFLAND: Apparently that's one of the working titles for the new And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead album. Long-awaited follow up to 2002's Source Tags and Code, the new album - whatever it winds up being called - is expected to be more experimental and will be released when it's bloody ready, alright?

FAREWELL FROM LA X: Flawless has been kicked out of Big Brovaz following his being caught carrying cannabis through LA airport. Customs found the dope, he was arrested, deported and sacked - possibly also pilloried and condemned - in one slick movement, and was back in Britain issuing the ritual "I've been bad, please forgive" statements almost before the US inspectors had pulled off the rubber gloves. We're still not clear if Flawless was sacked because he uses cannabis, or if he was sacked because he lost the band's stash.

PANTLESS: In a desperate bid to try and interest someone - anyone - in her new album, Alanis Morissette has been reduced to the old phonesex standby of 'I'm not wearing any knickers.' "Ooh," she squeals, "when I'm at home I walk about... with any clothes on." We're not sure it'll sell many copies of the record, but it'll do wonders for blind sales in her neighbourhood.

PANTLESS: In a desperate bid to try and interest someone - anyone - in her new album, Alanis Morissette has been reduced to the old phonesex standby of 'I'm not wearing any knickers.' "Ooh," she squeals, "when I'm at home I walk about... with any clothes on." We're not sure it'll sell many copies of the record, but it'll do wonders for blind sales in her neighbourhood.

THE ALLURE OF THE RICHER ("OLDER") WOMAN: Poor Rachel Stevens, whose rebound fling with "businessman" Simon Brodin has crumbled. Brodin dumped Stevens because he got a sniff of rich lady and presumably ran a few equations through Excel Spreadsheets which suggested a better long-term outcome and a far improved bottom line. Rachels "friends" say that the hardest thing is being jibbed for someone fifteen years older, which is the sort of supportive things friends often like to point out.

BRILLIANT MINDS: People who really cherish jazz, or indeed any sort of music, are generally dismissive of artists who "reinterpret the jazz classics for a modern audience", suggesting that they take the guts out of the music and turn it into so much furniture. So, it's probably apt that Steve Tyrell, jazzish singer, has just been reinvented as a furniture range. As you'd expect, the furniture is gormless updates of classic pieces aimed at people who have the money to buy expensive stuff they hope will cover up their lack of taste.

Jamie Cullum Wardobes are expected to arrive any day now in MFI.

WHERE THERE'S A TIT, THERE'S A WRIT: God, it's taken lawyer Eric Stephenson long enough to come up with something and someone to sue over Janet's breast. He's finally decided that CBS had used false advertising to "lure" him to watch the Superbowl Halftime show, and is claiming five thousand bucks in the small claim court. And there we were, believing that all lawyers were money-grubbing types. Stephenson - from Utah - has built a case that requires the court to agree that Viacom advertsied the show as "for general audiences" but instead presented him with "inappropriate, lewd, offensive, violent and degrading adult content." Let's hope he doesn't go to see The Passion expecting something biblical and pretty.

ANOTHER REUNION: This time it's proto-quasi-Goths Love And Rockets rumoured to be hitting the Special K in a bid to squeeze back into their 80s stage costumes.

BRUCKEN AND BRUISED: Remember the 80s are reporting that Paul 'the one out of OMD who didn't do Atomic Kitten' Humphries and his partner, Claudia Brucken (no, we didn't know that, either) who was in the mighty Propaganda have put together a new band OneTwo. As if it couldn't get any more 1980s, Martin Gore is also involved. Meanwhile, Claudia is also collaborating on a project with Andrew Poppy on a lougey style covers album. But, frankly, Claudia Brucken could do 'Time for Teletubbies' and we'd want to hear it.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

WE DON’T GO TO SXSW SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO, EITHER: We’re shipping their devolution back to them: Joss Stone has gone down well at the Austin music event, which we take some satisfaction at - bet that’ll make Americans think twice before they unleash an Avril Lavigne style musicbeast on us again.

Kris Kristofferson’s no fool, mind - knowing that the city is packed with bands demanding attention from the masses, he twigged that the quckest and surest way to ensure a packed crowd was to choose the Ampitheater venue which offers free entry to locals - in a town where everywhere else insists on an expensive pass to let you in, the words “free to all” is an incredible draw. Mind you, while the door fee might have guaranteed attendance, it’s Krisofferson’s presence which keeps the attention, smashing out his back catalogue and whacking out his protest anthems Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down and Not In My Name right in George W’s back yard.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Matthew Mayhew will have our own Becky Bamboo nodding emphatically with his emotional epiphany at the event: He discovered The Wrens, shimmering in the glow of a band who tour because they want to; who nearly got lost seven years ago under a pile of record label blah; who were just so damn good on Thursday night the door staff closed the doors; who were so damn good the wannabe audience reacted to closed doors by entering through windows instead.

Elsewhere at the festival, the Montreal Gazette had trouble telling the local crazies from the visitng industry eccentrics, but winningly came up with a claim that the event “was for the Haves and the Have-nots”, spotting New Zealand band the Haves and Leicester’s the Havenots tucked deep inside the list of bands.

Back to actually listening to the music, the nme reports The Hives set consisted of seven new tracks (and four old ones) and a new uniform (black shirt, white dinner jacket, white tie - sounds a little bit like Modern Romance meets Owald Moseley); it’s all Iggy influences now, except the wearing clothes bit, obviously.

If you’re looking for something with a bit more depth, you could do worse than try Ricardo Baca, who blogged SXSW for the Denver Post or Glenn Gamboa, doing the same thing for Newsday. More bloggy coverage: sxswblog concentrates on the Interactive Convention (not surprisngly, it’s the computer side which attracts most blog attention - Mike Slone provides a list of the blogs-about-talking-about-blogging); donewaiting covers the music and starspotting in Austin as it develops a cough and eats Australian hamburgers.

CHIN UP, SUPREME TELLS POOR KIDS: We're sure Mary Wilson's visit to a school in Dhaka was well-meant, but we're not so certain that her Margo Leadbetter lecture to children was very well-judged. Her text was "I was poor, too, but look - a spot of hard work and here I am", which misses the point that however bad 1950s America was, even for blacks in the South, it looks like the spilling of the cup of plenty compared to the situation in Bangladesh, a country with nearly half its population living under the poverty line. Mary Wilson's promise that, if they just knuckle down, all the children of the school could become internationally famous pop stars sounds a little like a glib claim that fails to acknowledge that in countries low down in the pile need more than just the gumption of their residents to get out of the hole.

TOWNSHEND'S TROUBLES REVISITED: If Pete Townshend had thought he was going to be able to start to move on from the child porn story, he'll be less than pleased that the BBC filmed his arrest and are building an episode of new TV series Police Protecting Children around it. He might, however, allow himself a wry smile that one of the papers most outspoken against him at the time of his arrest have, erm, been carrying child porn on their own website - supposedly to illustrate how a mother taking a photograph of her own daugheter makes her little more than a child pornographer herself. Apparently, the Sun believes the best way to campaign against child porn is to make it widely available on Britain's best-selling newspaper's website for free.

OBSCENE SCENE: Rolling on from the recent scare of an African American Mammary Gland on obscured view on television, America's New Victorian Era progresses from dawn to mid-morning, with Congress raising the maximum fine for obscenity and stretching the terms so that "non-licensees" can be fined for bad behaviour on the airwaves. This means not just getting on for a twenty fold increase in the fine, but a major shift from who the US government holds responsible for the content of programmes. When Bono swore his face off at an awards ceremony, the "crime" was judged to be the broadcaster's, for not taking the time to bleep out the rudery and protect the children - the poor, sweet, innocent children - of America; likewise, with the Jackson Superbowl, it was CBS who were deemed to have been wrong from the FCC point of view. Now, though, Mr. Vox and Miss Jackson would be getting fixed penalty notices from the broadcast regulators.

This is a subtle but worrying shift: by empowering the government to fine the guest rather than the broadcaster, it's raising the possibility that edgy, difficult bands, commedians and even thinkers might find themselves turning down the chance to appear on television in case a slip of the tongue leaves them looking at bankruptcy. Remember, we're living in an era where it's zero-tolerance, no excuses - and nearly anyone could find themselves with a half a million buck slip of the tongue.

There's no great mystery as to why Congress has been happy to shift responsibility from the broadcasters to the guests and performers themselves. The performers, of course, don't have nightly news programmes that play a major role in shaping the way people vote. The new "polluter pays" rules play up to the demands of America's vocal-but-tiny New Victorians, while providing a comfortable escape route to save the FCC from ever having to hold Fox responsible for its own output. Everyone, except lovers of arts and music and free speech, is a winner.

DROPPING THE HEAT: Still touring, but not partying. As much. The Reverend Horton Heat has managed to survive into the twenty-first century by stepping off the partying. He's that rare thing in the music industry: someone who seems to care more about actually playing the music and doesn't want to give the fans a bum steer by rolling up hungover and clumsy. (Maybe they should send Puddle of Mudd down to have a chat with him.) He's playing because he loves it, and he plays because it's what his heroes did (Willie Nelson, Ray Price, BB King) and he's happy enough with his status - "we're just little podunk fish in the tank. We're not even a band or a fish - kind of an algae in the tank." He sounds really happy. Perhaps Robbie 'boo-hoo' Williams might want to think about that.

HUNDRED REASONS WHY: Hundred Reason's lead singer is quite confident for a rocker named Colin, isn't he? The band have just got back from New York where they've recorded a new album, and have returned keen to make it clear they haven't been tainted by that art rock that you get in the water round there:

I heard that Scissor Sisters track recently and it just sounded like an even shittier Bee-Gees. All these fashion-led groups make me sick. Bands like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are just dull as dishwater. They're all selling albums because they're supposed to be cool but no-one's listening to the music - probably coz it's so bloody dull. I think people were expecting us to sound like Interpol after recording in America, but I can tell you for certain that ain't gonna happen."

Ah, Colin, you might be convinced of that but we're still certain if you went to New York a couple more times, you might start to become good enough that people might mistake you for Interpol.

BEGGING FOR IT: Things must be getting quite desperate round at Girls Aloud HQ - they've sent out not one, but two emails begging their fans to vote for them in the FHM 100 Sexiest Poll. There's nothing wrong with FHM's annual poll to discover the masturbatory fantasy of the UK's virgins, and believe you me, if we could squeeze into a corset and kitten heels we'd be hoping to get a mention ourselves. But to actually campaign quite so actively? Reeks a little of desperation.

The odd thing about the voting booth on the FHM website is that although Hannah Spearritt is listed, her photo is just an empty space. Maybe she forgot to bring a box to stand on?

DANCE MUSIC ROTS YOUR INSIDES - OFFICIAL: Get well soon cards and a packet of Settlers Tums to Junior Jack, who collapsed at the Miami Winter Music Conference. He's been diagnosed with five stomach ulcers.

IF WE HAD OUR WAY, THERE'D BE PEOPLE HIDING IN THE DARK WAITING TO JUMP OUT ON ROBBIE WILLIAMS, TOO: We're not quite sure how secret a secret party for Robbie Williams can be if BBC News know about it. On the other hand, we're not entirely convinced it was meant to be a secret party for Williams - if everybody we knew was planning to go off to Scotland without telling us, we'd take that as a pretty strong sign. We're assuming Williams had found out about it - Jonathan Wilkes talks in his sleep, maybe? - and so leaked the story to the BBC in order to bounce his "friends" in having to invite him under the guise it was all a secret to surprise him, rather than avoid him.