Saturday, February 05, 2005

A CASE FOR YOUR IPOD: I fell in love with Neko Case one night when, at a New Pornographers show, she settled a couple of song-requesting hecklers with the admonishment, "Why don't you shut up, you hipster indie snobs!" - 3hive does Neko Case...

VENUEWATCH: The loss of another great small venue comes with the closue of Dr Drakes in Aberdeen; business has been bad for a while and the venue decided to take the advantage of a chance to break the lease to avoid being dragged down further. Understandable, but sad all the same.

PREGNANCY ALL OVER THE PLACE: Blimey - Jonathan Davies S4C chat show was all full of people announcing new babies last night; first Aled Jones was all "my wife is going to have another baby", and then Cerys Matthews said "me too, I've got another baby brewing in my belly" (or words to that effect). Congratulations and stuff, Cerys.

HE'S BITTEN HIS TONGUE FOR SO LONG IT MIGHT HAVE STARTED TO LEAVE A MARK: Husbands defending wives isn't so very unusual, of course, and it's noble to see Paul McCartney rushing to defend Heather Mills against "spiteful, nasty, personal and, untrue" stories. This is described, though, as McCartney "breaking his silence" and, indeed, on the defence on Heather's official site, Paul stresses that he doesn't do this sort of thing lightly:

Normally I ignore it, telling myself that I can’t answer every single point and that most people know better than to believe it, and prefer to make up their own minds based on what they know to be true.

Normally, yes, Paul keeps his counsel. Indeed, it's almost a year since Paul phoned the Sun to complain about the tales. And it's been a few weeks since he last gave an interview to the Daily Mail insisting that Heather had nothing to with the sacking of Geoff Baker, of course. But he's biting his tongue no longer, again, on that one, either:

The split between my former publicist Geoff Baker and me has also been attributed to Heather. The actual truth, which I had been trying to spare him the embarrasment of going public with, was that he had gradually been getting more and more unstable over the past few years. The last straw came when a group of friends and I went late one night to see the magician David Blaine doing a stunt by the side of the River Thames. I was keeping out of sight of a small crowd of photographers when to my horror I saw Geoff pointing me out to the paparazzi who then ran towards me in a feeding frenzy. None of us could understand why he had done this, but it was just another example of his crazy behaviour. After that I tried to let him down gently but it was my decision alone to let him go as I didn’t want that kind of instability around me. It was nothing whatsoever to do with Heather.

Interestingly, this - publicity person does a job of getting celebrity publicity in a public place - seems to be the only example ever offered of what Baker did wrong, and it hardly seems fitting to imply that a man is "unstable" unless you're prepared to back it up.

Then there's the constant rumours about the kids from his marriage to Linda not getting on with his new wife. Paul's got something to say about that:

The media sometimes suggests a rift between my kids and Heather, but in fact we get on great and anyone who knows our family can see this for themselves.

Where do the media come up with these crazy stories, eh, Paul? Perhaps the chap who told the Sunday Telegraph in 2002 that "[the children] find it difficult to think of me with another woman. But it's how it is and how it must be, and I think that more than anything, they want me to be happy - and this is what makes me happy." Telling the papers that your kids have a problem with your new partner, and then whining when the papers report your kids have a problem with your new partner seems a curious set of double standards.

On the other hand, you can understand why McCartney would want to hit back at the most shocking recent statement [...] that “losing her leg was perhaps the best thing that ever happened to Heather as it fed her desire for self publicity” Imagine losing a leg, and dealing with it as bravely as Heather has done and having to read that on top of it! There are some people in the press who go too far, and it is fair enough to slap them down when they do. (Besides being tasteless, it's not even accurate, as snaring a Beatle, surely, has done more for her profile).

Just one curious thing, though: If Paul is so determined to set the record straight, and is keen to make it clear he's not his wife's yeah yeah yeah man, how come his signed piece appears on her website and not his?

HUW DID YOU DO: Last Tuesday, Radio One launched its replacement for the Peel show: the three-headed Cerebus that is One Music. Huw Stephens was the first of the trio to take to the air, with the sort of remit that most people who seldom listened to Peel assumed was the extent of his show - rocky, alty, indie type stuff. How did he do? Let's listen again...

0' 00" - Newsbeat. Police are offering advice about what you can do if you find someone in your property who shouldn't be there; and a spiritual leader of millions called John P is ailing and might not be around much longer.

2' 09" Sucidial Birds - Me Animal. Well, this is actually a cracking start, a mad lady singing into a coffee tin claiming that she's a horse. It's working for us so far.

6' 09" "We were going to start the show with either Belinda Carlise 'we live the same dream' or the first record I ever bought, which was Crowded House..." Huw does a bit business introducing the strand, although he doesn't really make any attempt to explain the clunky claim that this is meant to somehow be a adaptation of a bit of the Radio One website (probably because he understands how that works as little as anyone else does). There's also no mention of the shoes being filled here, which we suppose is fair enough - this is the moving on after the mourning, after all. Huw does have a lovely radio voice, and although he does have a tendency to use words like "tuneage" he's quite a warm presenter. Personally, we'd have kicked off the show doing the bit from Frasier when they'd been moved to the Seinfeld slot...

10' 05" Soundmurder - Untitled. Something a little skanky and lo-produced. The two opening tracks really have the words "look! we're leftfield, honestly, please trust us" all over them, and as a statement that it's business as usual doesn't do badly.

12' 11" Uh-oh, he's just said "wicked"

12' 33" "John Peel was a friend of Melys..." - the first mention of why we're all here. It's nice to hear Betys-y-Coed pronounced properly on the radio. Melys are a good choice for first session, covering both Peel (they did a load of sessions for him, and won the Festive Fifty one year) and Huw (they've also done a lot for The Session In Wales). Plus, they're just lovely, lovely, lovely.

18' 04" Dawn of the Replicants - Rhinestone Cowboy - introduced with the very peelesque phrase "a cover, which you'll probably recognise." This isn't quite such an unusual song to cover - Radiohead did a version a while back; DoftheR makes it sound like a theme tune to an American kid's TV show, which isn't, we should point out, a bad thing. The track, it turns out, was originally recorded for a Peel Session.

21: 44" Huw reads out a list of people in the chatroom, which is probably nice for them; then he reads out an email from Belguim welcoming him to the show. This is a big chunk of yakking, actually, and not really to any good end - yes, we do have some listeners, presumably.

23' 48" Huw speaks over the introduction to the New Rhodes (who sound very like a slightly Welsh-tinged version of The Chameleons crossed with the Nightingales) - which is a bit of an odd thing to do in a programme supposedly about the music and totally uncalled for after a couple of minutes spent reading out emails about himself. It's possibly a weakness of the format that, because the show is called 'One Music', we're going to see the presenters rushing forward to mention their names at every opportunity lest they be seen as little more than caretaker presenters.

27' 36" He also yaks over the end of the record as well. Apparently they're from Bristol rather than Wales. There's another big bunch of talking, as this is the point where Huw attempts to explain how the show is also a website; the two don't actually really knit together beyond the mention that if you send demos in they might end up on the air...

28' 42" ... like this one, from Fleeing New York. It sounds like the sort of thing that Goth mag Shadowplay would stick on their covermount. A boy-girl affair about hooking up at the Hollywood Bowl after a show, although we're not sure what gig they would have been to see there - Clan of Xymox never gigged at Hollywood, surely? It turns out they're from Southampton. We bet they

33' 32" Huw reads out a list of artists on an album he bought "in a well-known record shop" (Huw, it's not 1974; the BBC does actually accept that saying brand names can be done without actuallty advertising, you know - presumably when the senior management comes round the One Music office there's not a panic as everyone attempts to put masking tape over the nescafe logo on the coffee jar?). Huw seems to like lists. He then cues up the Super Furry Animal's remix of The Proper Ornaments, and it doesn't start. After a pause, Huw tries to speak to fill the gap, just as the track comes in. It really is the new John Peel show.

40' 00" Having played a Gruff track, Huw reads out seemingly all the sleeve notes; says about three times that Gruff Rhys will be coming in for a session soon; then reads some stuff out of the chatroom, and moves on to ploughing through the texts. Oh and then goes back to reading out more people from the chatroom. And then an email. He's still talking as the Boom Bip track starts, although he clearly doesn't quite have anything to say - "Have a listen to this" he mutters. Then, suddenly having a spirit of the staircase moment, he realises what he could have said. So he talks some more, announcing his co-hosts will be along for a chat in a moment. Great; there hasn't been anything like enough talking yet.

42' 15" When it's finally allowed to play uninhibited, the Boom Bip track is gloriously lush with a beautiful Nina Nastasia vocal

45' 22" ... of course, Huw comes crashing in over the end, because he really needs to get to the phones to talk to Ras Kwame and Rob DaBank. This is all to introduce something called Chase The Base, which is the sort of thing that probably seemed like a good idea on paper - apparently some bit of music is going to be added to across the three shows to create some sort of remix thing. It's presumably intended to give something other than the title of the programme to tie the three shows together, but it's hard to work up enthusiasm for the plan - "I wasn't going to listen to Ras' show because it's not the sort of thing I'm interested in, but I'll certainly need to find out how he remixed that twenty seconds of music Huw just played him." There doesn't really seem to be any reason for the other two to be on the phones at all - a couple of "wickeds" are thrown about, but if you were expecting something perhaps along the lines of Ras and Rod explaining what they're going to do with their show, or even saying who they'll have in session, you'd go away empty. It sounded a little like you might expect a conversation between three people who work for the same company might be if they met in a lift. And one of them had farted.

51: 35" Melys session track segueing into Alec Empire - probably not a good idea at the best of times, but the segue is botched as well, so it's an awful idea done badly. But at least there wasn't two minutes of blethering between the tracks.

55' 35" Huw is now reading the sticker off the back of the Alec Empire CD. He appeals for more emails - quick, someone send him some before he starts reading the Fire Safety Information off the sign by the door.

1.00' 40" More emails getting read out. Huw's old flatmate has emailed in, and there's lots of texts to work through, too. Couldn't a lot of this stuff be stuck on the website? Very little of it is actually... well, engaging.

1:02' 35" Frankadeli & MC Goz - there's a story to this record; Huw bought it in Budapest on New Year's Eve. It has an air of that, too, like those bottles of undrinkable local hooch people bring back from their holidays and inflict on their friends even though they are without flavour and even a bus-shelter drunk would reject it if offered. I wonder if it's totally filthy in Hungarian?

1: 05' 45" Laura Viers' Jailhouse Fire kicks in - a good shot of decent bourbon to wash away the taste. Although it does feature some the most tuneless whistling we've heard committed to record in a long time.

1:08' 10" Huw lists her previous albums, and then lists her upcoming gigs. And then he tells the tale of buying the record again - he went into a shop and they suggested he buy it. In Hungary. On New Year's Eve. The distance between an amusing anecdote and thing that happened can be measured in kilometres.

1:09' 33" Another session track from Melys - "they'll be talking after this one." Bloody hell, they're even getting the session guests to record extra yammering. If there's any more speech on this programme, they're going to be asked politely to move to Radio 4.

1: 18' 36" A breakthrough - Huw decides not to read the 65 Days of Static tour dates as "we'd be here all night"; as it is, he has to do the introduction for Daedalus strange and attractive new-jazz while it's under way

1: 22" 36" Huw leaps in to back announce the track about a minute before it's done. See, if you waited until they were done, you wouldn't have to worry about that.

1: 24' 55" Huw spells Daedalus, letter-by-letter and does some more emails, and gives out the One World webaddress for about the twentieth time this evening - "bbc dot co dot uk slash one world, it sounds complicated but it's not..."

1: 28' 45" Apparently Steve Lamacq couldn't get into the Battle gig. Huw gives the One Music website address out again.

1: 29' 03" Phantom Buffalo's Domestic Pet Growing Seeds. The troubling question of how someone could write a letter telling you they'd been eaten. Like a double-churned I Ludicrous, or The Chesterfields working with the Stump back catalogue. Apparently this was the Ponys as was.

1: 33' 09 After another plug for the One Music website, it's rubber-stamped Peel Favourites Calvin Party. It's a smart choice of a band to slip in for the regulars - not as obvious as playing The Fall or Teenage Kicks, but a gesture nevertheless. It's from the Probe Plus retrospective. And one of the last records we heard on the Peel show comes next, the Pipettes' I Love A Boy In Uniform, which is even more dizzingly inappropriate than we first thought unless they're about thirteen, which i suspect they're not. Bisexual underage cross-gender kissing. It's what Peel would have wanted. If you believe Julie Burchill.

1: 41' 23" The last track from Melys. We really don't understand how it can be that Melys aren't constantly being paraded about by Jools Holland and invited to play on the Lottery programme and given tea by politicians desperate for the youth vote... "you say there's no I in team/ I say there's no U in my dreams". They've got a date coming up at the Liverpool Cavern, apparently.

1: 44' 18" "Fifteen minutes to the rock show..." Then it's Interface with MC Sweet Pea, who sound like they've sampled that Giant Nature theme tune somewhere in the mix. There's meant to be swearing, but we don't make any out.

1: 50' 29" Another countdown to the Rock Show, before throwing the waiting rock fans a bone - Malkovich, who do those splendid growly rock things that used to be all the rage (emphasis on rage) back in 1987.

1: 54' 17" Back announcing Malkovich: "They're big on the Dutch hardcore scene" - really? That'd be enough to put you off the pay-per-view porn. Next week, we're promised a "Welsh hip-hop special" - which is fine, because the Welsh hip hop scene produces stuff the like of which you wouldn't expect; but isn't it a little early in the life of the show to be doing specials? It'd be nice to have a chance for a few ordinary shows to tell how far the ecclecticism ranges.

So, all in all, not a bad first effort - the difficult balance of paying homage to the late, great while not trying to lock yourself into being a permanent eulogy was actually pretty well achieved. And Huw isn't a bad host, he just needs to tell the difference between what's going to be useful and what merely fills - a clue would be if you find yourself reading a sticker and saying "I couldn't say that better myself" then it's probably something that need not be said at all. We know the one music website is at, and if we don't, we can probably have a decent stab at finding it for ourselves. If we wanted to know who was in the chatroom, we'd go into the chatroom. Emails and texts can add to the interest in a programme, but only if they're interesting in their own right. And if you'd talked a little less, you could have chosen a couple of extra songs. And looking at the playlist, that's really your strength.

ONCE MY PEOPLE WOULD SWEAR AND WERE CONTENT TO WEAR GLUE IN THEIR HAIR: It's a long way from anarchy and swastikas to Punk Aid 2005 - not only is the concept of punks raising cash for a cerebal palsy charity in a Norfolk holiday camp something that would have seemed unlikely during 1977, but the charity is in the name of Vera Lynn. Mind you, although The Buzzcocks are headlining, they're sharing top billing with, um, Slade, who aren't exactly punk. The rest of the line up:

Ari Up plays The Slits; Jayne County; Arthur Brown - The God Of Hellfire; Spizzenergi; Alternative TV; 999; The Lurkers; Chelsea; Shame Academy (The Outcasts - Rudi - Stalag 17) - only UK show; Menace; Sputnik 2 Future with Martin Degville & Ray Mayhew; Goldblade; Angel Racing Food (ex Swell Maps); Section 5; Red Letter Day; Los Paraliticos; Guitar Gangsters; The Stabilisers; The Anoraks; Devilish Presley; Monkey Wench; The Zips; Fire Exit; The Ballistics; Dirty Love; and the Dead Pets.

It all takes place on March 18th 2005, and costs ninety quid. Luckily, most old punks work in insurance these days so that shouldn't be a problem.

HOW DO YOU GET TO MADISON SQUARE GARDEN?: You ensure that you at least manage to get a support who can shift some of the tickets. Oasis have more or less totally given up on trying to create a proper fanbase in America, and so their sole presence there for the next album is going to be a single date - yeah, Madison Square Garden, but when that's your gig for a whole continent, it's slightly less impressive than it sounds. And, of course, since Jet do the sort of thing that the Gallaghers do, but with more conviction and vim, their support choice might help them sell tickets, but could wind up blowing them off stage.

THE RETURN OF POPBITCH TWANG: The moment where Popbitch stretches credibility too far It seems almost unfair to mention this in light of the excellent story about Dre's record company throwing a fit when it found out 1Xtra was going to spend an entire day drawing attention to it being his 40th Birthday on the 18th, but... did Popbitch really run the urban myth that forms the basis of Kangaroo Jack as a story that happened to Staus Quo?

Coming in next week's mailout: The time Cliff Richard stopped to pick up a mysterious hitch-hiker, who left an axe behind in the car...

Can you imagine the vitriol if a new poster had stumbled onto the board with that tale? Perhaps MediaGuardian's big Holy Moly splash upset Team Bitch so much they took their eye off the ball...

Friday, February 04, 2005

MORE TSUNAMI AID: If you've been looking at that Grief Never Grows Old single and wondering if you ought to just buy it to help with the Tsunami aid project, there's a brighter alternative just round the corner: Tsunami Relief, available from February 28th. Just look at the line-up:

CD 1:
1. Death Cab for Cutie – “Love Song”
2. Interpol – “Slow Hands” (Britt Daniel mix)
3. Bright Eyes – “We Are Nowhere And It’s Now”
4. Desert Sessions 7/8 – “Hanging Tree” featuring Josh Homme and Mark Lanegan
5. WILCO – “Jesus, etc.” (Live)
6. Hot Hot Heat – “Apt 101” (previously unreleased)
7. The French Kicks – “The Trial Of The Century” (Live)
8. The Futureheads – “Piece of Crap” (Live)
9. My Morning Jacket – “The Bear (Live)
10. Magnet – “Heaviest Heart” (previously unreleased)
11. Rilo Kiley – “American Wife” (previously unreleased)
12. Elbow – “Fugitive Motel” (RJD2 remix)
13. Clinic – “Fingers” (previously unreleased)
14. Mercury Rev – “In A Funny Way”

CD 2:
1. Franz Ferdinand – "Dark Of The Matinée" (Headman Remix)
2. The Go Team – “Huddle Formation” (Glasgow Beat 106 FM Session)
3. Grandaddy – “Nacher Anthem”
4. Kaiser Chiefs – “Take My Temperature”
5. Earlimart – “Lullaby” (previously unreleased)
6. The Faint – “I Disappear”
7. Caribou – “Barnowl” (previously unreleased)
8. Eisley – “Lost at Sea” (remix)
9. Dios – “Everyday” (previously unreleased)
10. Juana Molina – “Isabel”
11. Adam Arcuragi – “The Song the Sinner Sings”
12. M83 – “A Guitar and a Heart ”

It's been put together by Filter Magazine and Urban outfitters and... well, even if it wasn't on the side of the angels, it'd be almost umissable.

I SUE DEAD PEOPLE: They've sued twelve year old kids; they've sued grandparents. Now, though, the RIAA's campaign to ensure that nobody escapes their writs has broken through another stage: the RIAA are issuing lawsuits against the dead.

"Hey, have you seen Buffy?" said spokesperson Jonathan Lamy. "Let's not run away with the idea that just because you're dead, you're innocent. It's not as simple as that..."

Okay, he didn't. The RIAA issued a lawsuit against Gertrude Walton, believing the 83-year old to have been sharing music under the name of smittenedkitten. Not only did Mrs. Walton not even have a computer of any sort in her house, she died in 2004. Here's what Lamy had to say:

"Our evidence gathering and our subsequent legal actions all were initiated weeks and even months ago," said RIAA spokesman Jonathan Lamy. "We will now, of course, obviously dismiss this case."

I don't know why the organisation that forces people on low incomes to hand over thousands and thousands of dollars on the basis of their preteen kids downloading TV themes thinks that we'd assume that they wouldn't pursue a campaign against a corpse; but we're not entirely sure why the fact it takes them time to bring an action explains this around anyway - Lamy seems to be suggesting it would have been much better if they'd been able to falsely accuse Mrs. Walton to her face, before she died. Can you imagine what a shock like a demand for thousands of bucks might have done to a frail octagenarian?

Lamy doesn't seem to notice that this woman didn't have a computer. At all. The problem isn't that the evidence took a while to gather - that just compounds the deeper problem: their evidence is useless. No wonder the RIAA is going for kids and students - they're able to put pressure on parents and colleges through that route, rather than confronting the accused themselves who might be able to point out they're not doing anything. How shabby do they want to make their business look?

SURVIVORS FOR SURVIVORS: Alice In Chains are reuniting for the first time since 1996, and the place of singer Layne Staley, who died in 2002, will be taken by Damageplan's Pat Lachman, in his first live performance since the murder of Dimebag. It's part of a Tsunami benefit at the Premier Club in Seattle on February 18th, also featuring Krist Novoselic, Heart's Ann Wilson, Queensryche's Chris DeGarmo and - oh yes - Sir Mix-A-Lot.

KINKY LOVE: He's been talking about it for a while, and he's decided he's going to do it: Kinky Friedman has declared his candidacy for Texas governor. His campaign hit the ground running, as he declared live from the Alamo. He also took easily to the key political trait of our times: fibbing a bit. Freidman claimed he had received 37 write-in votes in the Iraqi election, even although that was less possible than it was likely.

WHAT WERE THEY THINKING?: The organisers of the Brits proved, once again, that they don't really follow the new music scene these days with those young people like Smiths and The Morrissey, as it seems they really did consider trying to bring Morrissey together with Robbie Williams for a duet.

"We're sorry," explained a Brits spokesperson, "we'd misunderstood and when we were told 'over my rotting corpse' by Morrissey, we assumed he was saying he'd do it but bring some sort of cadaver to decorate the stage with..."

Seriously: they thought this was a go-er? A man who thinks that Johnny Marr is too showy working with vapid-boy?

Clearly the record company was keen: A source at Morrissey's record label says, "It was all set to go then Morrissey decided it was not the right thing for him to do. He has passed on his apologies to Robbie."

We can imagine what those apologies might have been: "sorry, little man, are you insane?" or "sorry, what?"

ANOTHER BATTLING POP-STAR: Hitherto, the most fascinating fact about Pheena was their victory in winning Radio Cymru's best pop act last year. Now, though, they've gotten themselves a Tweedy:

Ceri Bostock of the band which once supported Blue has been charges and committed for trial over an alleged assault on Robert Wyn Jones in Caernarfon last year.

He should think himself lucky that they didn't all three set themselves on him at once.

GLASTOFACT: Michael Eavis has basically gone and bubbled the whole secret headline name thing away, while talking to the Wells Journal. Kylie, yes; New Order, yes - and The White Stripes. Presumably Jack had to get in this year as the band won't be around in 2007...

THE IRISH RPM: As part of a cunning scheme to raise the funds to allow Northern Irish bands to travel over to London to showcase (after all, it'd be easier to do that than try to persuade A&R to get on a ferry), Tim Wheeler from Ash and Damien O'Neill of That Petrol Emotion and The Undertones will be doing a one-off special gig thingy at the Brixton Windmill. You can get tickets - on a limited, first-come sort of basis, from

DOHERTY BANGED UP: Pete Doherty's going to spend the weekend in jail, after failing to meet the large bail demand of Highbury Corner Magistrates Court. Almost as if the bench had got the idea that Doherty wasn't very good at turning up to places he's meant to be at, bail was set at GBP150,000 - money which Doherty's lawyer was just not able to raise in time.
(Having said that, The Guardian reckons that the record company got the money in on time) If he does make the bond on Monday, he'll still have strict terms to cope with - no passport, daily reporting to the cops and a curfew between 10 pm and 7 am - except when he's attending a drug rehabilitation centre (presumably they've gone 24 hours a day, then, like Tescos or pubs near the meat market). Most astonishingly of all, Doherty is going to have to be accompanied everywhere away from home by a security guard, pretty much in the same way the FA Cup is when it's doing it's tour of the nation.

We wonder what Kate Moss will say when she finds out that she can only have a romantic night with her boyfriend if there's a couple of other burly blokes with handcuffs there? "Brilliant", we expect.

I think we can assume there won't be a Babyshambles gig on February 22nd, then. Not unless it's over before nightfall.

OH, GOD HAVE MERCY ON OUR SOULS: It's going to take something pretty special for Britain to be able to break the block-vote of New Europe at Eurovision, and we're not sure they've grasped that at EuroHQ. We're going to be choosing our song from Europe from a choice of Andy Scott Lee, Javine, "operatic-style band" Tricolore and... Jordan. No sooner does pop see off Jennifer Ellison than we have to contend with the rubbery vacuum of Katie Price. (We sort of went to the same school as Katie; only it was one boys' school and one girls' that merged after we left). The only thing that stands between us and sending a "model" from the not-even-decent-porn world into battle is the comeback of Gina G. Yep, Gina's going to have another go, because she felt she was "robbed" last time round - something, I suspect, that everyone would agree with.

Trouble is, it's down to the people who call up the BBC programme - so it's liable to either be Jordan or Javine. And Jordan seems to be very, very determined:

"I'm always surprising people, so I don't think there will be any change there, and as I always say 'never underestimate the Pricey.'"

To be frank, since her skills are having breasts and having blonde hair, we can't quite see how you'd be able to underestimate her. Do you really believe that Jordan is going to be able to impress the Dutch, the Swedes, the Germans? Nations who do proper, grown-up erotica? People of Britain, we can't rely on some deluded belief that all we need is a "glamour" model. We need to send Gina G to Kiev.

A FRIGHT AT THE OPERA: Geri Halliwell has kept her side of the bargain she made with Dick Lugner, relieving him of half a million quid in return for a date at the opera. In many cases, a woman fleecing an old bloke and forcing him to spring for a box would call for a police investigation.

WE DIDN'T START THE FIRE: The splendid-but-mysterious N - just a name and a butt is all we have - is hosting a couple of arcade fire mp3s from a gig earlier in the week; included is the bit where David Byrne came on stage to join them at the Irving Plaza.

GERALDO - THE ORIGINAL TV FREAKSHOW HOST: The attempts of Fox to cosy up to Jacko while simultaneously distancing themselves from him continue to create an odd, whirring motion as Geraldo Rivera gives the man some time for some special pleading.

Michael blubs that he's a target for all these mean things because of his celebrity status - not pausing for a moment to think that perhaps some of the troubles might be down to, you know, happily banging on about how it's great have strangers kids over to sleep in your bedroom; or paying off accusers rather than going to court to clear your name; or just dangling your own baby from the edge of a hotel. Admittedly, nobody might have noticed if you hadn't been famous, but that's not really an excuse, is it?

He managed to make time to continue boo-ing on about how Eminem is mean to him, taking the piss out of him and all:

"I've been an artist most of my life and I've never attacked a fellow artist," Mr Jackson said. "Great artists don't have to do that."

... said Michael Jackson, attacking a fellow artist.

YOU'RE QUITTING YOUR WHAT?: Apparently, Jennifer Ellison is quitting her pop career, which is on a par with us abdicating from being King of Belguim. We're not quite sure why she's bothering to make the announcement, or, indeed, who she'll be sending her letter of resignation to.

"I gave it a good go because I've always wanted to be a singer."

Yes, Jennifer "gave it a good go" releasing all of two singles and no albums before she elected to call it a day.

She even did her best to look like Rachael Stevens, in the hope of confusing people shopping in Woolworths. But after the almighty struggle, she's decided it's just not worth the effort of doing a third single.

"When I got into pop I found it wasn't so much about the singing as about how cool you wrere. How can you expect to be given a fair chance when no one will give your record airplay."

Let's just hold the thought here that Ellison is more or less suggesting that she isn't actually cool - goodness - and try and pretend that she's really finding that the world won't listen. (Yes, we know Baby I Don't Care always seemed to be on the Box and Smash Hits TV whenever we switched it on, but let's let that pass). If Jen were finding it difficult to get her record played, surely she must have found some compensation in the acres of coverage in Heat, the red top tabloids, those magazines called things like 'Pick Me Now' and 'Choose', being in that Gordon Ramsay swears at you thing... Indeed, the question might be how did someone with all that exposure not manage to sell many records?

Perhaps, Jen, it's not that you weren't cool enough... could it be you just weren't good enough?

LUCKY HE'S NOT A WOMAN: But as he's not, it's all "waa-hey, you old fox, Clapton, a daddy at 59, eh... you don't need to note down the details of that advert with Pele, do you?" This is Eric's fifth time of being a father, and it would be very impolite to point out that by the time his new daughter is as old as his wife is now, Clapton will be older than the current Pope.

TURTLE, UM, SHELLED: Waking up and choosing which pair of bright orange dungarees to wear this morning is Al Nichol, the Turtles guitarist. He was caught driving while tanked last May, which would have been bad enough if he'd not been on probation for a previous DUI. To cap it all, he turned up sloshed to the court hearing.

"I don't know what to tell you, Mr. Nichol," Justice Court Judge William Rogers said during Wednesday's hearing. "It's sad that you've taken a successful life and turned it into the town drunk."

The Turtles, of course, last had a big hit in 1967, so at least it's been a slow decline.

THE GAP BETWEEN THE HEADLINE AND THE STORY: The headline: Dave Matthews Donates $1M to Charity [Yahoo News/Associated Press]
The actual story: A concert featuring the Dave Matthews Band raised a million dollars; so the donation was actually from Dave Matthews Band fans. God alone knows they don't have much going for them, they should at least be allowed their generosity acknowledged rather than just ascribed to Mr. Matthews.

The cash, by the way, will go towards summer camp for sick kids, a playground and programs for the homeless. It is in an impressive sum the DMB helped raise there; a working definition of "out of evil commeth good", we guess.

JUSTICE? WHO CAN WAIT FOR JUSTICE?: It seems like the family of Lana Clarkson have got a little tired of waiting for fair trials and due process, and so her mother Donna Clarkson has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Phil Spector. Her attorney explains:

Lindblom said in a statement that the Clarkson family had hoped that the criminal proceedings would have been resolved before the civil action was filed. But the family, he added, understands "that the fair administration of justice takes time."

So, since Clarkson can't be arsed to wait for the proper trial, she's doing what? Attempting to do a slightly less fair, but much faster trial to raise a few quid? We know that losing a daughter in such terrible circumstances must be awful, but this does have the air of an unseemly rush to try and turn a buck off the back of it.

TSUNAMI SONG STATION SACKS SICKOS: Under strong pressure from parent group Emmis Communications, New York's Hot 97 have been forced to increase the sanctions against the team responsible for the racist tat song that made sport of the tsunami victims. The programme's producer Rick Del Gado - who wrote the thing - has now been canned, along with co-host Todd Lynn. The other suspended members of the team remain suspended, but will be allowed to be in charge of transmission equipment again soon - presumably just in time to do some dead Pope knockabout.

It's perhaps worth mentioning that one of the morning zoo squad - Miss Info - avoided suspension and sanctions; she alone had objected to the feature, in the face of the jeers of her colleagues.

CHARGED: Although yesterday there was suggestions that the alleged victim wouldn't be pressing charges, Pete Doherty has been charged with robbery and blackmail following the hotel incident. Alan Wass of Lefthand has been charged with same offences. They'll both appear in Highbury Corner Magistrate's Court later today.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Hot oats with lemonade
Ah, the Royal Mail is back to its irregular service, and so Pop Papers falls on a Thursday.

The NME comes with a little plastic card which entitles you - yes, you - to 10% off at HMV. Off NME nominated albums. Providing you go into the shops. Although you can look at the list of albums on the web if you wish. But, erm, yeah, that is a special card which guarantees you a ten percent saving off Franz Ferdinand, the Scissor Sisters, The Libertines, The Streets or Green Day. It's not quite clear why HMV went to all the bother of producing a plastic card for such a limited offer.

This week, it's Johnny Borrell on the front, and the weekly does a pretty good job of surfing a developing story: it even manages to throw up some more of the ever-changing story of what's wrong with the Borrell throat (we'd missed the 'hospitalised to have nodes removed' story) - but best of all, Mark Beaumont brings the clearest reports yet of the Denver incident, and speaks to Johnny the next day: "I don't wanna say 'it's so hard being on tour' but spending so long without talking to anyone outside the band you do get quite isolated..." Denver, of course, was the ninth date on the tour, which is hardly like being into the fifth or sixth week of a major haul.

There's an interesting thread linking Razorlight to The Dears as well - bands inspired by early Blur are starting to work their way through the system. Borrell talks about how he thinks his record sets out to be as good as - and exceeds "all the great songs, like when Bang came out" while Murray Lightburn loved early Blur so much he went on a pilgrimage to the Good Mixer. He does admit that "when I met Blur I realised they were assholes and I really started to dislike them." Which, to close the circle, reminds us: there's a report from the making of the new Gorillaz album this week.

Peter Robinson meets Roots Manuva. Roots predicts that "urban" is about to die as a tag, probably buried by Joss Stone. He also suggests making Ready Brek with hot 7-Up, though, which makes us wonder if he should be allowed on his own in a house.

Excellent piece by Keith Laidlaw on the conviction of Luke Mitchell for the murder of Jodi Jones. Oddly, it's taken a music paper to point out that the only real case the prosecution offered was "he liked Marilyn Manson." The right person may have been convicted, but there was such reliance on Mitchell's love of the clowny goth in court, it suggests that there wasn't very much effort put in to proving the link.

Onto more wholesome young people - Athlete happily turned down groupie's offers of lesbian sex shows for the tour manager - which seems to suggest that even Athlete fans haven't quite got the grip of the whole groupie business.

green day - brixton academy - "a straight-faced reading of Queen's We Are The Champions"
yeti - 93 feet east - "yeti wink at you from the shadows"

bloc party - silent alarm - "aren't just hoping, they're trying", 9
chicks on speed and the no heads - press the space bar - "uneven intrigue guaranteed", 6
six organs of admittance - "join this carnival of freakery", 9

totw - doves - black and white - "a modern-day ghost town"
pure reason revolution - the bright ambassadors of morning - "starts like Enya... rounds up Pink Floyd"
felix da housecat - ready 2 wear - "nobly epic"

And finally, they interview the three replacements for Peel - Rob DaBank promises "a never-ending jukebox of new music from all over the shop." Hmm. We'll see.

OH, THEY'VE BEEN GOING TO BARBADOS: We're opening the book for people to speculate on just what the point of Jet flying to Barbados to write the new album would have been? Somehow, we can't quite imagine that they'll have allowed the local musical tradition to have stopped them from sounding like the same bunch of half-educated sloth rock. They're going to record the thing in LA, so any residual sense of beauty or ambition they might have picked up in the Caribbean will be shaken out of them.


RUF OVER OUR HEADS: Rufus Wainwright is planning to come and sparkle his little haunches all over us, touring in support of Want Two. Look, but don't touch, at the following places:

Truro Hall For Cornwall April 5th
Bristol Colston Hall 6th
Newcastle Tyne Theatre 9th
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall 10th
Birmingham Symphony Hall 12th
Nottingham Royal Concert Hall 13th
Salford Lowry 14th
London Shepherd’s Bush Empire 15th

GRUESOME: Nasty business over at an unamed London Hotel where Houston (the r&b mate of Nate Dogg, not Whitney) tried to jump to his death. His security team managed to stop him taking a leap from the balcony, but an obviously distressed Houston still managed to gouge his own eye out. The singer has a history of manic depression.

FRANZ CALLS FOR NATIONAL ASSISTANCE: Alex Kapranos' call for more government funding for music is well-meant, but we're not sure that it's the best answer for ensuring British music remains vibrant and exciting. We've seen quite a few results of pumping in public money to rock and pop concerns, and quite often they're dreadful, and usually worse than that. For example, we recall enormous sums being pumped into a project in Liverpool called Braveheart - and their 'edutainer' band Jezzebelle; the project flopped badly while the similar privately funded Atomic Kitten did much better.

Public funding means accountability, which creates extra acres of paperwork; that tends to move the project into the control of people who are good at filling out forms and reporting spending rather than people with great talent and exciting ideas (not always impossible to find the pair of attributes in one person - but can you really, in all honesty, see, say, Bloc Party taking the time to fill out a fifteen page lottery application?

It also provides a cushion which separates the artist from an audience - I think it's fair to say that part of the reason The Picket started to do badly in Liverpool was it had funders underwriting it for its social good, which lessened the need for it take commercial decisions and put together shows which would attract audiences. Sure, everyone got a chance to play, but often to small audiences.

That's not to say that there isn't a place for government support - indeed, until the Tories started to turn the role of the dole into stickybeaks and personal action plan gurus, unemployment benefit was a really effective way of underwriting Britain's artistic community. They got a living wage - just about - and the space to be creative; the money wasn't dependent upon them producing a business plan or ensuring they managed to tick some boxes about social inclusion. University grants - which freed students from the need to do temporary jobs and allowed them much more time to just dick about with guitars - was another form of unacknowledged subsidy. Trying to fund "music" is always doomed to fail. Providing people with a little bit of cash to explore their dreams, though, can have marvellous results.

MORE ON THE LATEST DOHERTY DISASTER: So, as we mentioned earlier, Pete's found himself in the cells again: more details of what he's gorn and done this time are emerging. The guy attacked was Max Carlish, who took the picture of Pete smoking heroin which cluttered around the tabloids last week.

Carlish is a film-maker, and had been making a film about Babyshambles. It could be argued, of course, that if you flog a photo of someone you're meant to be working with to the tabloids to get a few quid, you might expect there to be consequences, but Carlish doesn't seem to think there was any just cause:

"I'm feeling bloody battered, but I'm bowed and I feel sorry for Pete. My heart goes out to Pete, he has screwed up big time now.

"Frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if in three weeks time he's hanging on the end of a rope in a jail cell somewhere. I do not want that to happen, so I'm not going to press charges.

"Pete may be thinking 'I can't stand Max now', but I still love Pete and I want the best for him.

"If that involves me giving him money so he can go into rehabilitation, the money I've earned from the Mirror and the people who are waving cheques in my face, then so be it."

Yes... that'll help: having helped toss an already ill man to the tabloid hyenas, you could then give him some of the cash you've made from helping to make the pressures on him even greater to get some vague sort of "help" - despite the clear desire on his part to reject any rehab he might be offered.

HOMOPHOBIA IS FINE, BUT SAYING RUDE WORDS...: We'd imagine Peter Tatchell is in two minds today: his arch-nemesis (okay, not his arch one, that's Mugabe) Sizzla has been thrown into a St Thomas jail. But not because of his musical calls for the slaughter of gay men and lesbians. Oh, no: Sizzla upset the Jamaican police by swearing on stage. Too much. He's going to have to serve fifteen days in a prison.

CLEAR CHANNEL BEG FOR UNDERSTANDING ON SLASHDOT: Of course, you can't be absolutely certain that it's genuine, but the slashdot posting from a 'Clear Channel programmer' has the whine of truth about it:

For what's it's worth, most of us Clear Channel programmers would love to have deep, eclectic playlists loaded with interesting songs and artists.

Now, either this post came from a person who believes programming a radio station is just cutting and pasting a playlist generated by a computer 2,000 miles away, or else the Clear Channel Computer has got a /. account. Can we get a Turing Test here, anyone?

The problem is that not enough people would listen to our stations for us to keep the lights on.

Oh, yeah? That's quite a claim, and one that we suspect doesn't hold up. "To keep the lights on" would mean that a radio station with an interesting format wouldn't be able to break even. Clearly, that's not the experience of a lot of independent stations - and surely a station that enjoyed the economies of scale and ability to broker national deals that would come as part of a media giant would be even better placed to be able to turn a modest profit from a more exciting collection of records.

More importantly, it's not about numbers, is it? The Guardian would sell more copies if it adopted an editorial line similar to the the Daily Star, but it wouldn't make it more profitable as it would lose the advertisers who value its readership profile. By smashing everything down to simple, widest-possible-audience/ least-possible-offence, Clear Channel aren't perhaps choosing the route to best underwrite those utilty bills.

We're not force-feeding anything. Our short playlists are dictated by the market, and we spend million each year researching the musical tastes of our various target audiences.

Well, in those markets where you've bought up comeptitors to the point where you're dominant, you are force-feeding, aren't you? "Don't like this... try our sister channel, like this but with 70s and 80s classics..."

It's odd that Clear Channel's "research" - most of which is done in a way that generates the answers the sample thinks the researcher wants to hear - never really chimes with what people say about radio when they're talking to their friends rather than people with clipboards. I used to work at a northern radio station whose parent company spent squillions on "research" which lead it to cut the size of its list of records it would allow djs to play down to just five hundred tracks. My role brought me into contact with a lot of that station's core audience - who all adored the presenters, but would complain that they got sick of hearing the same songs all the time.

While people bitch and wail about short playlists, the fact is that when we exercise poor music discipline, our ratings generally decline. Since commercial broadcasting is still predicated on a free radio, advertiser-subsidized model, low rated stations go away pretty quickly. We're a publicly held company, and have to return value to the stockholders (this could mean you).

Two things: Radio 2 has, over the last few years, moved away from a really rigid and unimaginative format to including a lot of new music, often from surprising artists. It's kept its core audience and grown by attracting a load of new listeners as well. The point is, of course, that if the programmers do their job well, and know their audience properly, the surprises they programme for them will delight and please them. If you can't programme a station that is both interesting and reflects the values and tastes of its audience, you perhaps shouldn't be in radio programming.

Second: Returning shareholder value. What would an advertiser prefer: an audience of 100,000 drawn from right across the spectrum by a bland, inoffensive to all playlist, for whom the programming is so familiar they don't even really notice it any more; or 20,000, tightly focused listeners who pay attention to the radio because it's often surprising them and playing them things they like, but don't know yet.

We know tight playlists aren't for everyone, but they're for *most* people. Amazing as it may seem, radio listeners actually like hearing their favorites on a regular basis. Adults, in particular, punch out more often than not when something new comes on -- no matter how good it is.

Not buying this - for a start: how would Clear Channel know? When have their stations ever tried this? Secondly, the American TV market produces programmes like The Sopranos, Frasier, Seinfeld, Desperate Housewives, Buffy - why is it that when they're viewers, American adults manage to sample stuff that plays with their expectations and does things they might nor expect, and yet when they're listeners they panic and switch off because they get a George Jones album track instead of Islands In The Stream again?

Real music enthusiasts with well-developed tastes have a lot of options open to them these days, if they don't mind paying for them. Hell, I own an iPod, too. But free radio is still out there, playing the hits, ready whenever you need a pop fix or breaking news.

Okay, flame away. But that's the deal.

So, in a nutshell, then: Clear Channel feel they're incapable of programming a radio station that does anything than play the same few songs over and over again; and they've got some expensive research which backs up their timidity. You can hear it in their output, can't you?


IN TROUBLE AGAIN: So, how's Pete Doherty getting on with cleaning up his act to impress Kate Moss? He's been arrested on suspicion of theft and assault. On Thursday a thirtysomething man somehow ended up at University College Hospital with facial injuries; Doherty ended up in custody.

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

RAZORLIGHT ANNOUNCE RESCHEDULED TOUR: Assuming they make it through to March - and that Johnny's laryngitis-like-style disease heals itself - Razorlight are moving their dates for the UK tour to March:

Manchester Apollo now 13 for tickets dated Friday February 4 and 14 for tickets dated Saturday February 5;
Glasgow Academy now 16 for tickets dated Monday February 6 and 17 for tickets dated Tuesday February 7;
London Alexandra Palace now 23 for tickets dated Friday February 11 and 24 for tickets dated Saturday February 12;

WEAR HIGH HEELS, AND GET A RECORD DEAL: We've just had Street Signs [pdf download] brought to our attention, notable for an article on the mighty Kenickie written by someone who knows the story from within: Emma Jackson. Now she's an undergraduate; back then, she was Emma Kate-Montrose. It's a too-familiar tale of a record company that doesn't know what to do with what it's got, and the tendency to treat anywhere north of Hatfield as terribly exotic by London-based writers:

There is a tendency in the music press sometimes to write the speech of people from ‘Oop North’ phonetically - I have never heard anyone say ‘oop’. This was matched with the annoying habit of following a quote from one of us, with the something like ‘squealed Marie’ or ‘screamed Lauren’. Whilst we were very noisy, we did not squeal. This had the power to totally transform an accurate quote into something quite different. When these two journalistic devices were used together, what had seemed to be a successful interview could be transformed into a slightly embarrassing feature. Although our status as ‘northern lasses’ was a novelty for the media, it became a problem for the record company.

MEGAMAN TO FACE RAP: Dwayne Vincent - once briefly better known as Megaman from the So Solid Crew - and his friend Carl Morgan have been remanded in custody pending their trial for the murder of Colin Scarlett. The pair are expected back in court March 18th to enter pleas.

THE SECOND CUT: We're not sure about the reformation of The Slits - sure, it's got Ari Up, but the new touring line-up is going to include Princess Superstar and MC Kinky; it feels less like The Slits than some sort of slightly whacked-out supergroup. We're not expecting overmuch when the new album comes out this summer; Ari's solo stuff sounds much more promising.

Purchaseable: Cut, the Peel Sessions and - released later this month - Live at the Gibus Club.

UNIVERSAL SEEK TO BE PAID FOR ITS ADVERTISING: Suppose your product relied on getting its commercials out to the largest number of people possible. Then, suppose that someone came up to you and said "rather than charge you to show your ads, we'll show 'em to an audience for nothing?" What would you say? "Yes, please", we'd imagine. Not if you're Universal - they're trying to makecable and broadband video services pay them for the honour of promoting their artists. More ominously, they're putting financial pressure on TV and web companies to agree to this 'offer' by threatening to withdraw paid-for advertising from networks that don't pay up. (We believe those in the trade call this "an offer you can't refuse"; ethically, it's not very far from turning up at a business and muttering "it would be a shame if something were to... happen).

Not that Universal - co-owners of Murder Inc, a label being investigated for money laundering - are unreasonable men:

...for example, it would allow music retail Web sites to carry 30 seconds of a video free if they also included a "buy" button that consumers could use to purchase music.

Is it just us, or is that saying "if you like, you can carry our advertising for free"?

STIPE SPOOKS MACLAINE: We hope that Michael Stipe hasn't really taken it to heart that when he told Shirley MacLaine that he'd had a dream about her she called securityShirley MacLaine that he'd had a dream about her she called security: he might have thought he was telling her an amusing anecdote, but we think Shirley MacLaine lives in a permanent world a bit like that Far Side cartoon 'what people hear/what dogs hear' - he should be relieved that she wasn't holding a potato peeler.

Meanwhile, Michael has been talking about his sexuality. Possibly in more detail than you would want:

"I was first attracted to men actively when I was 13.

We're not quite sure what the difference between being attracted to men, being attracted to men actively and doing it with boys actually is, although we suspect it might be the length of time your parents will ground you for.

"I kind of had my first sexual awakening much earlier, with a brother/sister team with red hair in a bathtub on Easter Sunday. It was fairly innocent, but it was really fun and I never looked back. I still have a thing for redheads and freckles."

Hearing this, someone in the corner of the room started trying to shake off his current date:

WITH A REBEL YELL...: Billy Idol, who has chosen to take it upon himself to launch a comeback, has managed to get himself into a lot of silly bother by appearing on CNBC's The Big Idea and yammering away about swastikas:

"We were young kids and all we wanted to do was piss off the people who fought in the war who were teaching us," Idol recalled. "Then we found out how terrible it was and we never used it again."

So... let me get this straight, Bill - you knew that the swastika would annoy and upset the older generation, but you didn't know it was terrible? Apart from not really knowing how anyone who was a child in the 1970s could not have known what the swastika meant anyway - TV being filled with Colditz and Secret Army, and every newsagent selling war comics like The Victor of an "Achtung! Englander!" type - what Bill demonstrates here is how quickly punk let itself down; from being a youth movement with a degree of intelligence and individuality to a bunch of guys in bondage pants who didn't apparently have the brains to think why what they were doing was getting a reaction.

REEKY INGLESIAS: Okay, we're in no place to complain about sudden commercialisation, but even so... in the round up of musicians looking to squeeze a little extra out, Enrique Inglesias will now testify as to the quality and delights of Tommy Hilfiger perfumes. Enrique will be the face and - if we ask him nicely - the shirtless chest of True Star Men. I know what you're wondering - why Enrique? Why, Tommy Hilfiger, why did you choose him?

"Enrique represents the universal power of music. His worldwide appeal brings an exciting new spirit and depth to the Tommy Hilfiger Fragrance business. We are excited to be entering into this partnership and look forward to collaborating with him for many years to come," said Fabrice Weber, President, Aramis and Designer Fragrances.

The Universal Power of Music - of course he is. We knew that. Shame on us for thinking the phrase "Brad pissed away his chance when he split with that nice woman" may have come up there. But Enrique, surely, has his reasons for this exciting new partnership, doesn't he? You bet:

"Creating a fragrance will be an exciting way to reach new fans while connecting with those people who already enjoy my music," said Enrique. "I have always admired Tommy Hilfiger and am excited about this new venture with Tommy Hilfiger Toiletries."

"... oh, and there's an enormous cheque involved, too." We're a little confused as to who the 'new fans' are that might come to love Inglesias through his bottle of overpriced aftershave - have you ever met someone at a gig who said "Yeah, at first I really found Destiny's Child grating, but since I started dabbing a spot of Beyonce's Perfume behind my ears, I've really warmed to them..."

We note, however, that Enrique has abandoned his attempts to become known solely by the single name, and - as with the Daily Mirror when its attempts to become merely the Mirror stiffed - has reverted to using both his names when trying to let people remember who he is.

Meanwhile, the marketing department's dream boys, Maroon 5, have signed some sort of deal to do a tour in praise of the Honda Civic.

Civic drivers were reported to be ecstatic that their car of choice is being linked with such a quality act.

THE SILENT FIVE: Interesting that the defence team in Michael Jackson's trial have elected to leave Jackson aides Vicent Amen, Marc Shaffel, Dieter Wiesner, Ronald Konitzer and Frank Tyson out of the case - because they don't want to risk them being cross-examined. (At least, this is according to Fox News, which is a bit more reliable on the fluff than it is on proper news stories.)

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO GO TODAY?: The iPod has swept the world. Including, it seems, Microsoft's campus, where as many as 16,000 of the corporation's 25,000 employees (in as far as they actually have proper employees) are choosing to use Apple's musicbox rather than the Msoft 'Plays For Sure' players. Naturally, this is going down pretty poorly with Bill Gates - the people he's bought having the competition blasting straight into his head - and management are rushing to try and correct this free-thinking bug:

For example, an internal e-mail circular sent to several senior managers in mid-December talked about iPod shipments to Apple's nearby store in Bellingham.

The e-mail said: "FWIW, the gal at the Bellevue Square Apple Store said that they are getting in two shipments of 200 iPods every day to keep up with this week's demand, and are nearly constantly selling out."

The note prompted a curt reply from Dave Fester, general manager of the Windows Digital Media division, who wrote the group: "I sure hope Microsoft employees are not buying iPods. We have great alternatives. Check out http://experiencemore."

Fifteen minutes later, the manager responded: "I don't know what I was thinking. I'm sure that Microsoft employees are not buying iPods, or Macs or PlayStations."

Microsoft have always been touchy about Apple products - they canned a blogger who took a snap of Apple Macs being delivered to their headquarters, even although - since Microsoft make a range of products for the Mac - there was nothing that odd about them owning the machines.

READ' HEADS: The headliners have poked, jumped and leaked out for the 2005 Reading Festival (and the Leeds Consolation event) - and although they fumed and stamped that inviting 50 Cent last year wasn't a mistake, this year they are taking a spray can and stencil and putting the words "ROCK" on the side of the box, and probably making that \m/ gesture, too: The key acts are The Pixies, The Foo Fighters and - oh, my - Iron Maiden. Iron Maiden. Blimey.

JO WHILEY NIPSLIP: Apparently Jo thought she had a nasty mole which needed removing. It turned out to be a third nipple. That's only one fewer than a cow has, you know.

Whiley had previously had surgery to remove the long, thin growth on her right shoulder.

THEY CALL ME PROFESSOR KAPRANOS: As Alex Kapranos prepares to give his Edinburgh lecture, he's been media-tarting it about: last night he was on Channel 4 News making wide eyes at discovering Gorbachev had given the lecture in the past - "it was hard enough following Brian Wilson at a festival" - and this morning he did an interview on Today [Real Audio] which, um, we haven't had a chance to listen to yet ourselves because we were in the shower.

TO AMERICA - AND BEYOND...: Ash haven't been able to get their Meltdown out in the US due to problems with record labels (do you need us to point out that record companies are idiots?) - but are finally going to be able to release it in March on the Record Collection label. Only two years after the rest of the world enjoyed it, then. As a result, the band are heading off to take advantage of the exchange rate at the following venues:

Philadelphia Theatre of the Living Arts - March 9;
Washington DC Black Cat - 10;
Carrboro Cat’s Cradle - 11;
Atlanta Vinyl - 12;
Houston Engine Room - 14;
San Antonio Sanctuary - 15;
Austin SXSW - 17-19;
Dallas Trees - 20;
Albuquerque - 22;
Phoenix Mason Jar - 23;
San Diego Casbah - 25;
Los Angeles Troubadour - 26;
San Francisco Slims - 29;
Vancouver Richard’s on Richards - 31;
Portland Crystal Ballroom - April 1;
Seattle El Corazon - 2;
Salt Lake City Lo-Fi Café - 4;
Denver Bluebird Theatre - 5;
Chicago Metro - 8;
Cleveland Agora Ballroom - 12;
Toronto Opera House - 13

The support is from The Bravery, which makes it a rather fine package all round.

Meanwhile, the band are going to close that circle of Star Wars fandom by providing music for the soundtrack of the soony come
Republic Comando
Star Wars game. We wonder if they wrote a single called Clones knowing that would happen. Rumours that Jamie Cullum is currently doing a track called 'I'm Your Father, Luke, Use The Force' cannot be confirmed...

COACHELLA AGAIN: Yes, of course we were excited yesterday as the pearly dewdrops of the Cocteau Twins announced their reunion; what we failed to mention at the time is Bauhaus are reuniting for the event as well. Mmmm. Pete Murphy's cheekbones - will they have stood the test of time?

That line-up in full, then:

Saturday, April 30: Coldplay, Bauhaus, Weezer, Cocteau Twins, the Chemical Brothers, Wilco, Keane, Snow Patrol, Rilo Kiley, Cafe Tacuba, Doves, Sage Francis, Armin Van Buuren, the Raveonettes, Bloc Party, Mercury Rev, Fantomas, Hernan Cattaneo, Zap Mama, DJ Peretz (a.k.a. Jane's Addiction frontman Perry Farrell), the Secret Machines, Jamie Cullum, M83, Ambulance LTD, Four Tet, MF Doom, Josh Wink, Amp Fiddler, Tiga, the Kills, Donavon Frankenreiter, Spoon, Boom Bip, Katie Melua, DJ Marky, Immortal Technique, Jean Grae, Razorlight, Swayzak, Radio 4, Buck 65, Eisley, the Sexy Magazines, k-os.

Sunday, May 1: Nine Inch Nails, New Order, Bright Eyes, Gang Of Four, Prodigy, Black Star, the Faint, Roni Size, the Arcade Fire, Roots Manuva, DJ Krush, Thrice, Junkie XL, M.I.A., British Sea Power, the Dresden Dolls, Miss Kittin, the Fiery Furnaces, Aesop Rock, the Perceptionists, Jem, Autolux, Sixtoo, Tegan & Sara, Stereophonics, the Bravery, Matthew Dear, Diplo, Subtle, Beans, Shout Out Louds, the Futureheads, Sloan, Kasabian, The Blood Brothers, Matmos, Wolf Eyes, Gram Rabbit, Smokestacks, Zion I.

Shamefully, it looks like Britain has been dumping its waste on the festival: Cullum, Melua, Coldplay and The Stereophonics are hardly going to convince the US that we're thrown off the dullness...

Bluff your way in Bauhaus with The Burning Inside, the last proper album (it's the one with She's In Parties on it) and 1989's Mask, which is probably their best collection.

ACTION: Today's Big Question: will the Outkast movie be a Slade In Flame, or will it be a Spiceworld The Movie? Direcotr Brian Barber outlines the plot:

"I had this idea in my mind for two years and wrote the film loosely based on my life and wrote their parts loosely based on some of our experiences together," Barber explained. "Basically, Dre and Big Boi have coinciding stories.

"Big Boi's in a love triangle and has to choose between his dream of being a businessman and his family. Dre's is more of a tragic love story. He falls in love with someone from out of town, which motivates him to follow his dream."

"His dream of being a businessman"? Are they angling for LearnDirect sposnsorship?

Richard E Grant, your cameo is probably assured.

WE HAVE A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION HERE, GEOFFREY: Interesting the difference in views of Pete Doherty at that Tsunami gig. At the nme, where he's recently been crowned Coolest, he was collected:

BABYSHAMBLES singer PETE DOHERTY raced overseas from PARIS last night to headline a special benefit concert in LONDON to help children who suffered in the ASIAN tsunami [...] The ex- Libertines guitarist, who has a reputation for turning up late or not at all, was surprisingly prompt for the packed out charity gig at The Garage in north London [...] But the biggest cheer came when Pete swaggered on stage with a pair of shades and a black leather jacket for an eventful 30-minute set, which involved plenty of crowd surfing, stagediving and beer[...]The security on the other hand had to contend with several fans trying to hug and kiss their hero as they charged the stage.

Of course, though, for the Sun, Pete is the insane crackhead who is trying to tempt Kate Moss to the dark side:

HAIR soaked in sweat, one eyeball rolling back into its socket, completely off this planet. This is the shocking image of wild Pete Doherty — the man who won the heart of Kate Moss [...] The shot was taken as heroin addict Pete, 25, performed with his band Babyshambles. But clearly Pete is the shambles. (Clever wording, cheers) Friends — and Kate — have begged the spaced-out wreck to sort himself out. Everyone wonders how the former Libertines frontman can be dating one of the world's great beauties [...] But that night he jumped on Eurostar and headed back to his seedy London haunts. The Astoria? Seedy? By 11pm when he hit the stage at North London's Garage venue for a tsunami benefit gig, Pete was out of control on crack cocaine and heroin. An onlooker said: "His eyes were all over the place. All you could see were the whites — a frightening image."
Pete was bundled out of the gig by minders and yelled at photographers.

So, an enthusiastic chap doing a spot of enthusiastic work for charity at a top London venue, or an out-of-contol loony rolling around with both crack and smack inside him (presumably the catering on Eurostar is now pitched cleanly at your late-night traveller?).

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

FURTHER SUGGESTION THAT IT MIGHT NOT BE LARYNGITIS: Not, of course, that we don't believe the official line, but the new Time Out has a feature written by Chris Salmon who saw Razorlight's Denver gig - the one Borrell walked out on - and, well, he doesn't seem to think that it was down to a sore throat, either:

Journalist Chris Salmon spent time with the group in the US and witnessed the Denver gig, during which singer Johnny Borrell walked out mid-way through the set.

Borrell, who has been upfront about his teenage drug addiction, had apparently been drinking heavily the previous day, and admitted subsequently that he was "very drunk." "If I start drinking I just fucking lose it completely," he added.

His behaviour and subsequent comments did little to still rumours of internal divisions in the band, which many have come to perceive as a talented frontman - Borrell - with three other hangers-on.

"I can't believe he [walked out]" said guitarist Bjorn Agren. "The gig is sacred."

BA-NA-NA-NA-REP-UBB-ER-LIC: The trouble with politeness is that refusing to be blunt can sometimes blow up in your face. So the Brits decided to give Bob Geldof an award - which is fine - but, because they're not a humanitarian body, they're pretending it's for his musical achievements. Just to spare everyone's blushes, of course: if it was to thank him for his charity work, it could raise questions over why it's taken them twenty years to lob a gong to the Live Aid organiser.

Trouble is, The Boomtown Rats are pissed off, figuring if the prize if for Bob's music, then they deserve a slice too. After all, weren't they as much a part of Rat Trap and I Don't Like Mondays and... well, There's Someone Looking At You.

Geldof has batted away the demands of Gerry Cott and Johnnie Fingers, though, saying the award also recognises "his solo work and leadership of Band Aid." Well, the second part - while almost certainly true - isn't what the Brits claim its for; and as for believing that the solo work deserves some sort of lifetime achievement award - well, you're 'avin a laff, aintcha, Bob?

"My four solo albums have in some cases sold more than the Rats and certainly gathered more critical plaudits, so what about that? The Guardian pointed out about the award, "Would he have got it if he didn't do Band Aid and Live Aid?" and the answer is no, and that's the answer to Gerry, because the Rats wouldn't have got it on their own. Gerry left the Rats before the band ended and had absolutely nothing to do with some of the bigger hits. I don't understand the beef here. It's like saying Sting, who got this award, should have reformed the Police. He didn't. The Rats were a seriously good band. As for them being written out, that's bollocks. I'm doing songs I wrote in the Rats and I'm talking about how good a band it was, and I'm promoting the records from which I hope they will derive much benefit financially. I don't know what else I'm supposed to do that's not Stalinist. "

Oh. Not laughing at all, then. The difference between Sting getting a lifetime achievement award and Geldof doing so, though, is that Sting made something of his solo career after ending the Police. You, Bob, made that Vegetarians of Love record.

Nobody would begrudge Bob his moment on the stage, pumping Chris Evan's hand. But let's not pretend it's got anything to do with music - the award is on a par with one for Harvey Goldsmith or Michael Eavis, not Brian Wilson or Eric Clapton.

JURY SELECTION CONTINUES: Yesterday, Michael Jackson turned up wearing white - as he requested his supporters to do. "The colour of innocence" as The Sun helpfully explained to its readers - although it's also the colour of Leeds United, which doesn't say very much. Today, though, he showed up wearing black, although from that it would be a bit too much to decide that he's changed his plea to guilty.

Today was a second day of jury selection, ploughing through another 300 people, everyone of whom was weighing the horror of having to give up a half year of their lives against the kudos of being able to say "of course, when i was on the Jackson jury..." for the rest of their lives.

Choosing a jury is a tricky business, as to be fair to Michael, they have to pick people who have no reason to bear him ill-will. Perhaps that's why he's been leaving so many bills unpaid this last few years: it's not that he's broke, he's just been trying to piss off the whole of America, personby person so that they could never find anyone impartial to judge him. And the last couple of albums would have helped there, too.

Incidently, this time last week, at the same point on the UK's main terrestrial networks, the following programmes were showing:
Child Of Our Time
Trouble At The Top
Like Father, Like Son
Crime Scene Investigation
Michael Jackson's Boys.

SEMINAL 70S BRITISH BAND REUNITE: Okay, they might not quite have been 10CC or Thin Lizzy, but they still managed five top thirty hits - including a number four smash with its own dance craze - and now they're coming back together again for an Australian tour.

Yes, The Goodies are reuniting, and while most of their new act seems to be answering questions and basking in the glow of adulation, they are promising to do (do, do) The Funky Gibbon live one last time.

Apparently, later this month there's a second DVD collection of the 'best bits' which didn't make in onto the first. The first had the giant kitten and the Saturday Night Fever spoof, so it's hard to imagine what they're sticking on the second set. And we suspect that The Goodies might be one of those programmes better enjoyed in your memory than on your flat screen telly.

FROM DESPAIR TO... WHERE?: There are probably few music fans of a certain age who aren't going to stop and have a quiet thought about Richey Edwards, who disappeared ten years ago today. BBC News are collecting memories.

Although we didn't realise it at the time, we heard the news in a sideways fashion. In an event which makes my life a decade ago sound much more exciting than it actually was, I'd just arrived in Prague and was being shown around the city by a presenter from that city's Radio One - this would have been February 13th, I think - when I noticed that the city was swathed in posters for a Manics gig the previous evening. "Did you go?" I asked my guide, Jan, and he shook his head: "No, no... they didn't come. Apparently one of them... Richey?... was ill so they cancelled." It wasn't until I got back to England a couple of days later that the chance remark took on a more sinsiter and sad aspect.

ROBBIE WILLIAM'S USUAL PR MUST BE OFF ILL: Because only that can explain the really rubbish attempt to get people to look at him today: Apparently, it's odd getting Robbie to voice the Magic Roundabout movie - not because he's an irritating fool with a voice that makes sane people want to ignore the advice about not using cottonbuds in their ear canal; nor because the very idea of a smug tuber-head like Williams doing the Roundabout is an act akin to simultaneously emptying chemical toilets into Eric Thompson's grave while despoiling the childhood memories of millions - oh, no, it's odd because Robbie Williams was supposedly scared of animations.

Funnily enough, this phobia never came up when he was bringing his skills to Robbie The Reindeer, but then perhaps it hadn't been made up then.

On the other hand:

"Scooby Doo, The Magic Roundabout, Bagpuss and Mr Benn used to scare me for some reason - I used to hide behind the sofa when anything came on that was animated.

- the fear of anything animated would at least explain his pedestrian performance when anyone asks him a question.