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.

ADD TO THE 'BINGO HAND JOB' LIST: What's nice about Franz Ferdinand's secret Stoke Newington gig is they've revived the art of bands billing themselves under silly names. They were, apparently, A Touch of Velvet for this occasion. Described as more like a Christmas party, they even chucked in a cover of the Fire Engine's Get Up And Use Me. Fanzineytastic.

RATHERLARGESHAMBLES: So, last week's NME featured Drugscope's Natasha Vromen insisting that "[Pete Doherty is] a successful musician... he disproves the myth that if you start using drugs you will always be taken over by them."

Last night, Doherty took the stage - barely - in Blackpool. According to reports, he was barely able to stay awake, couldn't remember the song words. The rest of Babyshambles got really pissed off really quickly, with the guitarist walking off in disgust. Others tried to persuade him to leave the stage as well, but he ploughed on. They tried to get him to leave the stage in a headlock (which we keep picturing like the giant cane that would sometimes try to hook the less successful Muppet acts off stage) and the whole thing ended in a chorus of booing. He then turned up for a second gig down at the Liverpool Zanzibar, which doesn't seem to have gone much better.

So, not taken over by the drugs at all, then.

THANKS FOR THAT GREAT IDEA, MADONNA: Madonna has stuck a plea on her website for all her fans to pray for peace in 2005. Apparently this is her Christmas message to the world - so, she might have abandoned Catholicism, but she still happy to crowd onto the Pope's gig, then.

OF COURSE, NOBODY WOULD BELIEVE SHE WAS ACTING: Overprotective golden-egg farmer Joe Simpson has forced the makers of Wannabe to rewrite the part being played by Ashlee Simpson in the movie because originally she was being asked to play a lesbian. Apparently he was afraid that her movie career might be hampered if the first thing she played had a lesbian storyline, and we can see his point: look at Anna Friel; she played a lesbian and had no sort of career afterwards. Mind you, that's because she's a rotten actress... oh, hang on, we get it now.

Of course, it's probably just as well to have the part re-written: can you imagine the slew of "she's just moving her lips" jokes that would have followed?

HASN'T POP SUFFERED ENOUGH: There's not really anything very surprising in that Coleen McLoughlin wants to be a popstar - every young girl without much in the way of a career plan wants to be a popstar. The frightening and disturbing thing is that, as Wayne Rooney's girlfriend, someone is probably going to give her the chance to live her dream. Apparently someone has told her that she has "natural talent" - Coleen has taken this as an encouragement, rather than drawing the natural conclusion from it being Atomic Kitten's vocal coach who's told her this.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

YOU COULD HAVE JUST PRETENDED YOU FORGOT, OZZY: Oh, that awkward problem: you're a self-respecting Prince of Darkness, and yet you've managed to agree to play a gig at the Royal Variety Performance. What do you do? You could, of course, play the gig but yell "Death to the monarchy" and splatter the audience with paint. Or take to the stage and keep quiet for a whole ten minutes. Or, you could be like Ozzy Osbourne and say sorry, Prince Charles, got a doctor's appointment I've forgotten. No way that would look like an awkward climbdown, then.

NO, REALLY, I FEEL GOOD: Good news from New York - it looks like James Brown's cancer surgery has been a success. Doctors expect him to be back shooting at cops and brawling with women in next to no time.

THE FIRST AUTOPSY REPORT TO BE SENT BACK WITH THE WORDS 'TELL US SOMETHING WE DON'T KNOW' INKED ACROSS THE TOP: Ol' Dirty Bastard died of a drugs overdose, you say? How surprising. Of course, the real question was over the precise ingredients it took to topple him over: the combined effects of cocaine and Tramadol, a prescription painkiller but not a narcotic, it turns out.

THE BELL TOLLS FOR NO-ONE: Interesting things, revelations (as we imagine laughing Dave Blunkett will be muttering to himself as he packs up his comedy outsize ID card and prepares to leave St Annes Gate). Andy Bell (the Erasure one, not the Oasis one) was diagnosed HIV+ six years ago, and yet chooses not to mention it until today. Of course, Freddie Mercury held back his HIV announcement until the very last moment, but we can perhaps seek other motives for Andy's sudden sharing of his medical condition - the man himself says that he's perfectly healthy and has a life expectancy no different to the next man's. And maybe that's why he's come forward now, to show that an HIV diagnosis is not a life sentence. On the other hand, he could be cashing in his condition to plug a forthcoming biography - for when were Erasure last front-page news? Still, a helpful message: you can be HIV+ and just as cynical as anyone else.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

VERY GOOD, YOU'VE FALLEN, MINOGUE, A COMEDY BASIC: Poor Kylie - it's not like her ankles have very much to support, but they just weren't enough to take her weight and she came crashing to the ground during a German TV show. Although it apparently hurt like buggery, she was more worried about "exposing herself because her outfit was flimsy" - in other words, she'd not bothered botoxing the covered the bits, then.

UNFORTUNATELY, THEY'RE NOT GOING TO WALL THEM UP IN THERE: The mixed bag of Rock & Roll hall of fame inductees going in this time round will be U2, Percy Sledge, The O'Jays, Buddy Guy and The Pretenders. We're a little surprised that Chrissie Hynde would allow herself to be swept along in something so cheesey, but we guess everyone can get their head turned by the prospect of pineapple on sticks and a big scroll. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five were turned back at the door, so there's still not a single rap artist in the Hall; they have, however, found space for Seymour Stein in the "non-performer" category.

EVERYONE'S GETTING IT: Latest casualty of the flu that everyone is getting but nobody seems to be that bothered about is James Dean Bradfield, forcing the Manic Street Preachers to pull their gig at Cardiff last night and tonight at Glasgow. Everything's been re-arranged for January. It's horrible, though, isn't it, James?

ANDREA THE VIRUS: Things you never thought you'd hear: The Darling Buds, Welsh indie heroes, are being used to soundtrack a new viral mini iPod campaign. It's tiny machine, see, do you get it? Apparently forty thousand people have seen the ad-ish, and it's zooming round cluttering up inboxes all over the place. Probably a bigger audience than the band got for the second album...

Monday, December 13, 2004

CHRIS MARTIN ILLUSTRATES POINTS PEOPLE WERE MAKING: On a special edition of the Jonathan Dimbleby Programme (clearly they'd dropped the standards), Chris Martin has had a go at people pointing out the lyrics to Band Aid are a bit patronising and woefully wrong:

"I’ve encountered a lot of cynicism about this Band Aid thing and I think it’s kind of nonsense because to me it’s not about the song or about the words, it is about the images you sometimes see in the videos. But to me it would be no different if a bunch of pop stars were just standing about banging pots and saying we’re interested in this thing that’s going on in Africa."

"It doesn’t matter what you’re doing, we could all be doing a headstand together it’s just a fact that enough people from one culture are coming on TV basically and saying ‘What about this problem?"

"I think, you, people say that song’s rubbish, or the words are rubbish... it’s like if you pass a busker and didn’t give him some money because you thought the song he was playing was terrible but you could see that he was a bit cold.

"You know what I mean. The music doesn’t really matter, not to put a slight on the song that is, it’s got some nice changes, but you know I don’t think anybody did it for musical reasons."

Which just goes to prove exactly why pop stars are the worst possible people to do anything like thinking. Because Martin goes on to make some half-way there, groping in the dark points about simple changes that could be done to help rebalance the world:

"It’s not a mystical thing - it literally takes like ten men to just sit round a table and say ‘Yeah, why don’t we change this law?', or 'Why don’t we lower the tariff barrier on imports from Ghana?' or 'Why don’t we, why don’t we stop sending so much surplus rice to Mexico?’ - this is in the case of America. It's very easy to do. That’s why I’m excited because I feel like if people like me make the right albums and sell enough records, can talk to the right people, you know - it’s exciting."

- so, Chris, you could have used the audience of millions that the Christmas number one gives you to get that message across, but instead, erm, you choose to preach to a couple of thousand already converted at lunchtime on ITV? Do you see what you did there?

More to the point, while it's true that you could have chosen to record, say, Ramalamadingdong and it would have had the same net money raising effect, isn't there something a little bit shortsighted in shrugging and saying "the words aren't important" when millions of people are hearing, over and over, the claims that "nothing ever grows" in Africa and the portrayal of an entire continent as a basketcase with nothing but starving kids from horn to cape? That maybe part of the reason why people are so unconcerned and uninterested in the fate of people in some parts of Africa is because they're not really given the chance to understand the complexity of the continent, and that when someone gets a rare platform where people are prepared to listen to something about the place, those on the platform really don't think what they actually say is any more important than that they're just on the platform.

There's even something in that last bit - "That’s why I’m excited because I feel like if people like me make the right albums and sell enough records, can talk to the right people, you know - it’s exciting" - which implies that Chris would rather not be trying to inspire anyone else anyway; all he wants is their passive assent in driving him onto be the one talking to Presidents and Prime Ministers. You just buy the record, you don't worry your pretty little heads with the thinky bits. Chris and Bono will do that for you.

THAT'S DR. EAVIS: The University of Bath has made Michael Eavis an honorary Doctor in honour of his work for the Glastonbury Festival over the years. Eavis was at a ceremony at the Bath Assembly Rooms to receive his award earlier today; he handed foty percent of the vellum citation over to two chaps from the Mean Fiddler who followed him onto the stage.

FOOTBALL VERSUS MUSIC: Soccer player turned label boss Kevin Campbell has rushed to court to get an injunction preventing Mark Morrison from releasing an album for anyone other than Campbell's Wikid Records. Kevin says he's "gutted" at having to go to court (he is, after all, a footballer) and says that Morrison has ruined his dream of working in the music industry. He's heartbroken to discover that the music industry is full of greedy backstabbing sociophobes, and can't wait to get back to the purer world of Premiership Football. In the meantime, Mark Morrison is unable to release any records. That's got to be a result for everyone.

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Bloody late, aren't you?
Okay, this is very late, which I put down to having spent the last week feeling like crap. Hopefully, in the New Year, pop papers will be back in its regular, cozy, Wednesday night slot. (In the next couple of weeks, though, god alone knows when or where it'll turn up).

Still, it means the Observer Music Monthly has drifted by in time to make the shortlist: they, like the NME, are placing their girdle around the year and running down what was best and worst about 2004. And the Top 10 rock scrooges, which rightly picks on usher for his credit card business, but finds no space for Bowie turning himself - briefly - into a bloody Bank (sorry, Banc).

There's a letter from Chris Campion grumbling about John Peel being "out of his depth" when he played grime music - which must be some sort of pinacle moment in rock journalism: a writer on a magazine using the letters column to score points off someone who died the month before. About grime music. Still, what matters is the record, eh, Chris?

And so what do st Etienne get in return for giving him the honour of immortality in song? Not bloody much - Forsyth (given the saints by the Record Doctor) complains that he can't hear "one bloody word." He did like an album of Radiohead covers, though, which surely means on the next Strictly Come Dancing we're going to have to see someone off Coronation Street dancing to Paranoid Android. (Talking of SCD, while we're here: the highlight of the finals was watching Malcolm Hebden trying not to look too upset that Tess Daly kept calling him "Norris" as if that was his real name.)

Laurence Donegan files a diary about his tour with the now-resurrected Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. He's taking a risk - Donegan, of course, is now a Guardian journalist, and back when one of his other bands, the Bluebells, reformed off the back of the Young At Heart car ad, he did a similar piece about being back on the road then. The band didn't like his frankness, and he was quickly returned to the status of an ex-member of the Bluebells again.

For some reason, there's a story about a dog written by Sharon Osbourne, filling two pages which could have been used for a photo of some wire, or a list of some sort.

So, onto 2004, then. The Scissor Sisters are "the band of the year" - the OMM reckons that they're also "the people's band of the year", too, which we're not entirely convinced by. Certainly, everyone likes the Scissor Sisters, but we've not really met anyone who absolutely loves them: a band to change plans for rather than a band to change lives.

The single of the year - Milkshake by Kelis - is an equally surprising choice; the whole chart seems kind of odd. Fuck You at four? Really? Of course, that's the trouble with lists like this: choose stuff that people agree with, and it's all "oh, that's such a safe list"; claim with a straight face that Milkshake was the best record of the year, and people will look at you as if you're mad.

Over at the albums, it's a list that could have been drawn up by someone choosing the albums to be scattered on a table in a Better Homes photoshoot: The Streets at one; Dizzee Rascal's Showtime at two; then Youssou N'Dour. N'Dour's album - 'We'd Better Have A World One In And Fela Kuti's Dead' is good enough, but it's not outstanding either in terms of his back catalogue or the new CDs in the bit they keep locked in a special room at the Virgin Megastore.

Bob Dylan is the man of the year - for the knicker ads, presumably; Britney is woman of the year while - and here prepare to laugh your hardest - Gwen Stefani is the "fashion icon of the year." It's bemusing: we enjoy the OMM most months, as compared to, say, the Telegraph's Thursday music thing, it seems to be written by people who enjoy music on a regular basis. And yet this best of appears to have been put together by people who've used Google and articles translated from Dutch to form their opinions. It's fair to say that nobody dresses like Gwen Stefani (aside, maybe, from blind people with very cruel friends) but that doesn't make her a fashion icon.

Back onto the feature articles and things start to feel better: Craig McLean puts stuff up on Ebay and then contacts the buyers, which is an interesting premise even if it never quite brings anything very fascinating to light in the end. Most people tend to buy music on eBay because they like the band, in other words, although he does shake out someone who prefers Goodbye Mr MacKenzie to Garbage.

They extract a final piece of John Peel's writing from a soon-to-be-published book on Grindcore (which is slightly puzzling: he wrote lots of brilliant stuff for the Observer; it's like Quiznos sending out for a sandwich).

Paul Morley reviews Jonathon Ross' punk programme for BBC Three, correctly pointing out that 312FU is probably exactly what proper punks had in mind when they knew what they didn't want to be. It's got Simon Schama in it, apparently, though not - and for this we must be grateful - not singing White Riot.

Peter Robinson dissects the Band Aid video: (Caption to picture of Busted) - "Tonight, thank god, it's them, instead of Blue..."

Aled Jones interviews Goldie Lookin' Chain, which could have been interesting, if it had been anyone other than GLC, as Aled clearly is up for a bit of japery but the Chain don't really have the improvisational skills to keep up.

I'm not sure if this is the earliest the NME has ever done its annual review - although you can see there's a certain logic to it, as it's been badged "the ultimate Xmas Buyer's guide", so presumably it could be used by The Kids like those H. Samuel catalogues in the adverts: all over Britain, young people are sellotaping the cover of Selfish Cunt's No Wicked Heart Shall Prosper (album, 49) to the inside of their gran's birdcages.

But like an office party too early in December, there's that awkward feeling you get when one bunch of people are already sweeping through the company-funded Tesco Gin and the others are still trying to order kidneys and pills for the patients. So, while you've got Muse's Butterflies and Hurricanes being twirled around to up one end of the paper (tracks, 39), at the other you've got Peter Robinson giving them hard stares in the hope they'll keep the noise down while he interviews Nikki Six (he doesn't know the difference between mittens and gloves but, hey, he's straight, man, totally straight...)

And as The Day Today (Comedy DVD, 5) makes a hat of tinsel and prawn sandwiches, you've got Natasha Vromen from Drugscope saying that - hey - calling Pete Doherty the coolest guy of the year isn't a bad thing at all ("he's a successful musician... he disproves the myth that if you start using drugs you will always be taken over by them.") No, Natasha, he proves the truism that if you've got someone to underwrite your habit, clean up and issue apologies after you, you can carry on blundering up your own arse. He's been kicked out of his own band, fucked his relationship with his best mate and got - at best - a shaky reputation. Let's not hold him up as an example of living well on crack.

The albums of the year, by the way, are The Streets at 3; The Libertines at 2 and the Frannies at one. I'm no expert, but I bet this is the first time ever that the top two slots have been held by self-titled albums. Over in the Tracks department, the dog-on-hind-legs principle must be responsible for The Pixies Bam Thwok scraping in at 48; the top three were the same bands with The Libs' Can't Stand Me Now edging out Franz F's Take Me Out. Two things stopped Pete Doherty's Killamangiro making it to the top ten: it was released too late for the voting period, and it was rubbish.

there's a scientific comparison of excitement levels at Embrace and Thrills gigs, with Keane as the control. There are graphs.
art brut - camden barfly - "your country needs you"
the magic numbers - london borderline - "one of the most amazing shows this writer has ever seen"

manic street preachers - the holy bible 10th anniversary cash-in - "the idea that somebody would want to wallow so intently in such sheer, abject misery - let alone that a major label would fund the whole endeavour - seems almost quaint", 10
various - team kitty-yo - "in need of a star striker or two", 7

totw - the radio department - "pure heartache at zero degrees celsius"
pnau - again - "cheese-free, unapologetic dance record"

And finally: No, it's not double edition day next Wednesday.

TERRORISM, HUNTING AND COUNTRY MUSIC: It's not just the Prisoners of War being held down at Guantanamo in contravention of the Geneva Convention who've been trapped in the crazy aftermath of Bush's Pants On Fire War On Terror. Some deer have also been trapped since Sep'ven, down at Columbia Heights. They'd wandered into a reservior area to eat some of the good green grass when - panicing that anything could happen next - the gates to the reservoir were shut tight in case a terrorist did bad things to the water supply. Trapped inside, the deer didn't have much to do but eat and rut, and now there's lots of deer.

If it was you or I, you might think "well, let's open the gates and let the deer out." But instead, the Minnesota Water Work people decided it made more sense to let some hunters in to blast the crap out of the deer. (Yes, we know: they closed the gates because the water supply had to be protected, and couldn't open the gates to let the deer out, but were happy letting a bunch of guys with guns and knives in to roam about). Now, though, country star Troy Gentry is offering to pay for the deer to be rescued and taken to a nature reserve. Obviously, the only response to such a sensible suggestion will be to put Gentry onto some kind of no-fly list and arrest his grandkids.

HARD TO SWALLOW: Overpriced burgers for ageing tourists joint The Hard Rock Cafe have added a new item to their menus - Joe Perry's Rock Your World Quesadillas. The Aerosmith themed dish is ordinary quesadillas with a huge price tag, and if it had been us we'd have come up with a Chicken Peri-Joe-Perry dish, which at least gives you a wobbly pun for your money.

Apparently Joe Perry has been spending time out from Aerosmith developing a company manufacturing ketchups. He explains it all:

"Great food is something you rarely get on the road--that is why cooking has become one of my passions. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to help create this delicious quesadilla that will bring my rockin' hot sauce to Hard Rock's world-famous menu. It truly is an honor to have my original hot sauce creations featured at one of my favorite restaurants, Hard Rock Cafe."

We're a little confused as to how someone who considers the Hard Rock Cafe to be one of his favourite restaurants could possible complain about the quality of catering backstage at large rock events.

PERHAPS IT A SEEING-EYE DOG?: The good people at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas must be really pleased with Britney Spears - the photos of her feeding shrimp to her faddy, faggy dog in its restaurant have brought the wrath of the health department down on the hotel's shoulders. What makes it worse is the management were already in trouble for letting Kevin Federline on the sofa.

OUR FAVOURITE CHRISTMAS CRACKER JOKE OF ALL TIME: What's the difference between an elephant's bottom and a postbox?

The standard joke about desperate wannabes is that they'd turn up to the opening of an envelope. Here, Geri Halliwell comes out for the launch of a postage stamp. (No, really).

HOT TOPIC COMPLETES ITS DECLINE: We've noticed on each subsequent trip to the US that Hot Topic has had less and less actual alternative clothing; more and more cutesy cartoon character cash-in (when we were over for Thanksgiving last year, the ratio of PVC:Spongebob SquarePants was 0:all). Now, they've actually got the cartoons doing the designing, as they've signed up Kelly 'Oblomov' Osbourne to "do a range" for them.

SEEMS TO BE THE HARDEST WORD: Poor Eton John has got something in his throat; he's now had to pull two dates on the advice of a specialist; in related "everyone's going down with it", the Zutons are touring Ireland without Abi Harding who has been carrying severe sinusitis round with her.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

PROBABLY WORKING TOWARDS A THEORY, THEN: As often happens with the digging into the background of a guy with a gun, the killer sounds more and more like someone who really could have done with a friend or two rather than a gun licence. A former marine, Nathan Gale wasn't unknown to his local police but hadn't a reputation as a major troublemaker. He was, however, considered odd: Dave Johnson, a Columbus musician, tells of how Gale once tried to get his band to play some songs he'd claimed to have written. When someone pointed out that the songs were actually Pantera tracks, Gale claimed Pantera had stolen not just the songs, but also his whole identity, and that they were about to face some serious legal action.

On the day of the shootings, Gale had stormed out of the local tattoo parlour - a place he could often be founded boring people about heavy metal - following a row over something.

The saddest thing in the whole story is that Gale has been survived by his mother who - perhaps understandably - is trying to keep away from the media.

Besides Darrell Abbott, Gale murdered club loader Erin Halk, gig-goer Nathan Bray and bodyguard Jeff Thompson. Drum tech John Brooks has been released from the local hospital, and tour manager Chris Paluska remains in a stable condition.

WOMAN WHO DIDN'T BUY EARPLUGS COMPENSATED FOR HER OWN LACK OF FORESIGHT: We'd be tempted to suggest that if everyone who experienced pain and suffering at a Bon Jovi gig got a ruling against the promoter, there'd be a lot of well-compensated people wandering about. In germany, however, Marek Lieberberg Konzertagentur (MLK) have been ordered to pay a woman about five thousand US dollars to compensate her for the "pain and suffering" she claims she experienced to her hearing at a Bon Jovi gig in Nurmeburg in September 2000. They're also expected to underwrite medical expensese and loss of earning.

The woman says that since going to the gig, she has suffered tinnitus. Now, that's a nasty condition, and it's something we're not unfamiliar with as our years of gig-going catches up on us. But it's not really the fault of the promoters - the woman in this case was standing three metres from the speakers which would seem to us to suggest that she kind of chose to put her own hearing in danger. Promoters have a duty of care to the audience, of course: to ensure that in the event of a crush there's a team who can pull people out; to make certain that the venue can cope with the numbers attending; to check that barriers are rigid and that Fred Durst shuts the fuck up. But equally, we do have some responsibilites ourselves, don't we? If we choose to go and stand right in front of a speaker the size of a small block of council flats, and elect not to wear any extra hearing protection, then can we really complain if our ears are fucked in the morning? We're surprised the court chose to side with the complainant; it's another step towards the cotton-wooling of society. (If you need another example: check out the warning in the middle of the Christmas Radio Times to ensure you carefully fold down the staples when you pull out the Holiday supplement.)

WHO ARE YOU?: Strictly speaking, Robbie Williams, if - as you say - no-one knows you in America, where you live, it doesn't mean that you're "forgetting" that you're famous. It just means that you're not actually famous at all. That would be one of the marks of being famous: that people know who you are.

BAD WEEK FOR LIVE MUSIC AUDIENCES CONTINUES: After the pot-shots in Ohio comes a hand-grenade into a Sri Lanka concert crowd. And - just as how the crowd at the Damageplan gig weren't entirely sure if what they were seeing was part of the show - it took people with blood pouring from them before the audience twigged they weren't listening to fireworks to mark the end of the event. The concert had been controversial because it was scheduled for the day before the anniversary of the death of Gangodawlia Soma. Soma had been a leading campaigner against the conversion of Buddhists to Christianity, and it was felt that to hold a singalong musical entertainment during the mourning period was a little insensitive. 200 Buddhist monks had to be moved on by police before the concert could start; it's not known if a Buddhist sympathiser was involved in the violent end to the gig.

'04 TO THE FLOOR: It struck us this week, looking at a frightening long 'to do' list, that the main problem with the world is having New Year and Christmas at the same time. How the hell can a chap be expected to draw up a proper list of greatest records of the year at the same time as also having to think of interesting things to write in relative's Christmas cards, negotiate an office party, wrap gifts and still work through a normal month? It's just too much of a task. If new year, and its attendant list making, could be put back a while - perhaps to Chinese New Year - the workload could spread out a little more easily.

Luckily, not everyone is sitting about complaining that they're too busy for drawing up charts.

Edward at Enthusiastic But Mediocre is not only battling 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.