Saturday, February 26, 2005

JACKSON TRIAL WEEKEND UPDATE: The pissed-off woman known as either Caroline or Juror #240 has been kicking up a deeper stink because she didn't get her role at the centre of the trial ("she's afraid he won't get a fair trial") - she went on good Morning America on ABC to moan:

"If I was sitting in his shoes I'd be worried. I just feel that I would just want someone there that I could relate to; someone who understood me."

Joe Jackson - the father of the accused, not the sharp-suited singer - is equally worried:

"I'm sorry that they got rid of the black juror because we needed that juror and it's not fair."

But didn't his son record a song all about how "it don't matter if you're black or you're white" - surely he wouldn't want to live his trial with the jurors being a color?

More to the point, Caroline 240, he wouldn't really need a black juror to have someone on the panel who could "relate" to him - he'd need to find a multi-millionaire with a bunch of severe problems relating to people who thinks its cool for a forty year old bloke to have strangers kids sleeping in his bedroom. I'll bet if Jackson's defense could have found twelve guys like that, they wouldn't have given a bugger if they were black, white, or - in the words of my grandma - sky blue pink.

In other Jackson trial news, the defense has been given an OK to question the accuser's mother. They claim to have evidence showing that she has made abuse claims against her ex and "security guards" in the past; they'll suggest this makes it plausible she's trained her kid to lie.

HOSPITAL BEDINGFIELD: See, we're not so cyncial all the time: Natasha Bedingfield has been helping out the Southmead Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Appeal in Bristol. You can find out more about what the appeal is all about on the SNICU website. We're a little surprised that her brother wasn't also involved, but perhaps he paniced when she told him she had an important appointment at the local maternity ward.

ANOTHER STORE CLOSES: Another small corner of the fabric of the music world unravels: Maschinot's music store is closing after thirty years selling instruments to Newport, Ohio residents. Gary Maschinot is giving up the struggle against the national chains and calling time on the store he started with his parents.

THIS CLOSE TO A GRAMMY: Things that nearly happened in rock, number 173: Slash invited Russell Watson - yep, the classical guy - to join Velvet Revolver. As narrow escapes go, thats up there with Debbie Harry just escaping the clutches of Ted Bundy.

BEST THING JOSS STONE'S EVER DONE: Even although he was clearly just thinking about growing some hair on his chin, we're very taken with Joss Stone's reaction to Robbie William's romantic advances: she told him she fancied him when she was eight; that she's grown out of him, but he'd still be in with a chance with her mum. Short of "what makes you think I've got a cock", that would be about perfect.

Mind you, Robbie's really icky approach can't have helped:

"Joss Stone is amazing. She's one of the nicest people I've ever met. I feel paternal to her... and I feel sexy to her."

Mmmm. I wanna screw you like I'm your Dad. Classy, Robbie.

AH, IF ONLY...: The good people over at are suggesting that Americans respond the RIAA lawsuits in kind, by making use of the law which forbids the filing of frivolous lawsuits. We'd like to see people at least try this...

GOODBYE TO YOUR RIGHTS, A BIT AT A TIME: Sony-BMG are planning to tighten up the 'copy-protection' on forthcoming American releases,

Apparently, Sony-BMG are convinced that people are just crying out for CDs which won't let them use their music in ways they always have done:

"What matters the most to us is the consumer experience," Sony BMG Sales Enterprise co-president Jordan Katz says. "Both technologies offer playability across all standard players, including CD players, boomboxes, DVD players, PCs, Macs, car stereos, video games and clock radios."

Katz says the company wants to alert the industry that it is implementing the content-protection technology, because extensive consumer research indicates widespread customer acceptance of it.

The 'consumer experience', then, doesn't involve making mixtapes for your friends or to play on long journeys, or doing a separate copy of an album to have in your car. We're wondering exactly how Katz has come to the conclusion that consumers have accepted this; perhaps he's confusing "People haven't really thought through what they're losing" - or maybe he thinks that people saying "Well, at least it plays on my PC" as 'consumer acceptance. But are we really in a place where record companies are marketing their records as being a leap forward because they'll actually play on your CD player?

OH... YOU MEAN YOU'RE NOT BUGGERING OFF?: Travis Barker has popped up on LA Radio to try and "clarify" what's going on with his band - apparently Blink 182's hiatus might be less indefinite than we'd all been lead to believe ("hoped"):

"I think it's healthy to take a break. We did the same thing four years ago...we're taking a break and letting everyone be creative on their time off, and have fun and come back when it's time and when it's ready and right. I believe there's great things in the future."

Barker insisted that relations between he, bassist Mark Hoppus and frontman Tom DeLonge were as strong as ever: "I love those dudes; they're my brothers. I wanted to clear up the rumors of us fighting with each other or hating each other. It's just not true."

So far, so standard. What's interesting, though, is that for all Travis' protests about the way the band love each other like brothers, the "hiatus" seems to have been rather sudden and ill-planned: they cancelled a tsunami benefit because "it didn't seem like a healthy time to be playing shows. We needed that hiatus to start right away." Hmm... they all get on, but really, really couldn't play a gig for the worst disaster in living memory because they needed a break from each other that badly?

Even more odd: apparently, Travis didn't know anything about the management's plans to put out the statement about the hiatus. Curious.

A SMALL BRANCH: Michelle Branch is heavy with child, apparently; and is due to give birth in August. She's not going to call it Twig, we hope.

A QUICK LOOK AT THIS MORNING'S PAPERS: Today's Sun shows two things:

First, that the papers aren't going to be that upset by the withdrawal of the major label's back catalogue for cover-mount CDs. They'll just move on to providing free DVDs instead. Secondly: There is spawn of Peter Andre on its way. Hide yourself. Now.

Jordan had kept the pregnancy secret for five months - and let's take the time to thank her for protecting us for that long. Protection is a good thing. Oh, if only she'd realised that back in October.

ONE OF THE LA TIMES MORE STUPID IDEAS: It's not a bad idea that there should be someone at the helm of the World Bank other than the usual Wall Street money-grubber - somone with an interest in the aims of the Bank rather than just wanting to get their jollies by looking at their large piles of money the Bank collects from countries which would otherwise be developing. But who does the LA Times suggest should be given this important job?


And they're not joking - it's not a "he'd be as good as anyone, and if not him, then Ronald McDonald" type suggestion. We do admit that there is an attraction or two in giving the slot to Mr. Vox - firstly, for all our criticism of his showboating and his use of poverty as a way of drawing attention to himself, his heart is in the right place. Second, if he actually had to do something other than just turn up and wave, it might stop him being quite so glib about how simple the answers are. Most importantly, it would tie up so much of his time that we might never get another clod-hopping U2 album thrust at us again.

On the other hand, we'd hate to suggest that the best way to find a person to lead an international institution is by picking the biggest show-off. And the suggestion that Bono is somehow not a Wall Street fave is laughable and poorly-researched: Bono, remember, has those links with Warren Buffet and the venture-capital side-gig down on Wall Street. He's closer to the Bush administration than his wacky, free thinker sunglasses would lead you to believe, as well.

World Bank? Let's see him run a branch of the Abbey National for a few months, then we'll think about it.

APPLE AGAINST THE EUROPEANS: The iTunes pricing structure - which let continental Europeans get their Apple-delivered kicks for less than we have to pay in the UK - always looked to be set for trouble; the OFT has been looking into the matter and has now decided to pass the matter onto the European Commission. Which? Magazine is pleased that it's caused all sorts of trouble for Apple:

“The online music market is a huge growth area; the Single Market should work the same in this market as others,” said principal policy adviser Phil Evans “We’re campaigning for free movement of goods and services in Europe and we’ll take on any company, or group of companies, that seek to carve up the market to their benefit.”

Apple, of course, has made the not-entirely-convincing defence that "all things cost different prices in different places." We suspect that the European Commission might be looking for something a bit more than that.

Friday, February 25, 2005

PAMELA. PARIS. DURST: Clearly, there is now evidence that, yes, you'd have to be stupid and desperate to leak yourself having sex onto the web. The people in charge of the internet are considering closing this weekend to remove all traces of the Fred Durst sex tape from the network. "It's an extreme measure, but we think it's worth it."

Seven busloads of web users have already been hsopitalised with defiled eyes after viewing the tape.

NOW JACKSON ACCUSED OF KILLING AN OLD LADY: The family of Manuela Gomez Ruiz are linking Michael Jackson's "illness" to the death of the 74 year old. Although Emergency Room staff had decided Jackson was fit enough to go home when he arrived on February 15th, Manuela was later moved from the primary trauma room to make room for Jacko. As she was moved, she had to be taken off a machine ventilator, and until a new room was found for her, her breathing had to be assisted by a hand pump. They wouldn't have done that to the Pope, would they? Ruiz went on to have two further heart attacks during the day, and died later. Her family, naturally, aren't pleased:

Maria Elena Ortiz, the ailing woman's daughter, said she was in the room when Jackson came in. She was also present when her mother was moved and objected.

"Why does she have to be moved if he's coming in for a stomach flu?" Ortiz said. "I said, 'My mother just had a heart attack and I think it's more critical than a stomach flu.' They didn't say anything."

No one knows if moving Ruiz added to her trauma, but family members said they were told her heart was functioning at 30 percent and other organs were failing. But they say the chaos caused by Jackson's arrival distracted staff, and robbed them of precious time with their mother and grandmother as she died.

When Ruiz was moved to a smaller room, the family says equipment had to be crammed into the room. They also were limited to two visitors at a time. Once those visitors were in the room they could not leave and let other family members in because the hospital restricted movement in the hallways after Jackson arrived, the family says.

"This was the last time we might be able to talk with our grandma. They took that from us," said Marcos Meraz, one of Ruiz's grandsons.

The family are suing Jackson and the hospital, suggesting that someone who apparently had stomach flu shouldn't have been given priority over a heart attack case.

Jackson's publicist isn't happy, either; he's angry that ABC are covering the story:

"Michael Jackson sends his condolences to the family of the deceased. However, it is outrageous that Michael Jackson's name would be invoked into a situation of which he had no authority or control. It appears that ABC is deliberate in its attempt to circumvent Michael Jackson from receiving a fair trial."

And let's not forget, although he walked in and ER staff thought he was well enough to go home as soon as he arrived, Jacko was really ill. He was kept in the hospital, and if you look here at his arrival at court on Tuesday when he'd just got well enough to play out again, you can see just how ill he was:

THIS JUST IN: J-LO MARRIED: In what seems to have been nothing more than an awful oversight, Jennifer Lopez has said 'oh, by the way, I'm married'

Lopez married Marc Anthony last summer, but for some reason never actually confirmed it before - which meant that their grammy duet a couple of weeks back wasn't officially a husband and wife duet. We wonder if she was just holding off until the marriage had been consumated before announcing it?

DE LA SOUL IS DEAD AFFORDABLE: Even the hardest-hearted amongst us (i.e. me, I suspect) would find it hard to complain about the forthcoming De La Soul tour - they're doing it as pro-education thing, with speaking and playing; the spoken word performances are free, while the performances are USD1.20 - that's 60p. They're able to do this because of Toyota sponsorship, which is where we're tempted to reach for our moaning-stick (Toyota, eh? How are their SUV sales going, then? "You want to study the effects of global warming? Hey, why that? Why not do... ooh, aerodynamic design...") But the sponsorship problem aside... see that, Towers of London? Affordable gigs with a useful message - that's punk for you.

A QUICK LOOK AT THE MORNING PAPERS: The Daily Star has really been moving further and further away from any journalism, but even by their standards, this is pretty incredible:

No, try and stop looking down Sarah Platt's cleavage - it's the Jacko piece that's interesting. Funny, yes, but it's hardly cutting edge and it's certainly not reporting. For the record, rather than Mickey-ET-Ronald McDonald, this might have been worth doing:

Interesting to also note the Star predicting the imminent demise of Girls Aloud, something we've been predicting for two years or so - remember, you read it here first. Sort of.

Meanwhile, the Mirror reckons another partnership might be in trouble:

Love stories are all very well, but... there's nothing like a split scare, is there?

RECORD COMPANIES PULL POUTY-FIT. AGAIN: The days of the cover-mounted CD with the national papers (okay, tucked into the colour supplement CD) are possibly coming to an end, as Universal announces it won't allow its back catalogue to be used for the giveaways any more. EMI has already stopped letting its artists find new audiences in this way, and since the big companies act like a monopoly, it's only going to be a wee while before Sony-BMG do the same.

How many extra albums do they think they'll sell as a result? They seem convinced they'll see loads:

"We're saying we are pulling out in terms of regular slots that happen every other weekend," the UMTV [Universal's back catalogue wing] managing director, Brian Berg, told MusicWeek.

"There are so many of the bloody things they are doing more harm than good to our compilations business, and on that basis we feel we'd be better off out of it."

Of course, Record Shops are delighted - the British Association of Record Dealers' Kim Bailey was frothing:

"This is excellent news. We've always said that newspaper covermounts devalue music in the eyes of consumers, propagate the myth that all music should be free and damage the long term viability of the music business. This is a very positive step. We hope this is the end of the free newspaper CD, but that remains to be seen. There's certainly a growing recognition in the industry that giveaways damage compilation sales."

Let's just think about what Kim is saying there, shall we? Firstly, that there's a "myth that all music should be free" - is Kim really saying that there's anyone who holds that view? Really? And that it's a view which is being openly endorsed by The Sun and the News of the World, part of the same empire which release records? And, more to the point, is Kim really suggesting that someone picks up their Daily Star Sunday, finds a compilation featuring Rose Royce doing Carwash and thinks "Blimey, now I've got every right to go and steal that Stereophonics CD from Asda"? Absurd.

The mantra that if someone gets something for free, they'll never pay for it again is one that is fast becoming accepted as some sort of fact the more the record industry repeats it, despite the obvious proof in every other industry that things don't work like that - unless those people sending me the free sample of K-Y warming lube have got their business plan all wrong.

There is, of course, a dubious statistic to support the claim that the giveaways 'harm' sales:

According to official sales figures, sales of compilations have fallen; from 24% of the total CD market down to just 19%, a fall that is partly blamed on the growing numbers of free CDs.

Well... maybe. Or it could be, couldn't it, that people are getting the compilations of various artists, finding new acts they love, and buying single artist albums as a result. It would be unlikely if someone bought a compilation and got a taste for compilations rather than individuals. More to the point, compilations got 24% in a market where poor releases meant the whole market was depressed: 19% of a market where more records were being sold, and in competition with a better choice of more attractive single-artist packages could be every bit as good as 24% without much other competition. We'll bet that Robbie Best Of hurt Now Thats What I Call Music last Christmas.

In effect, then, the industry has made another stupid decision. It's turned down actually being paid to promote its artists to a bigger market. Is there anyone in charge at a major with any business skills at all?

GREAT NEWS, EVERYBODY: Sharon Osbourne and Louis Walsh have signed up for another series of the X-Factor. Oh, hang about, that's that sub-Pop Idol programme, isn't it? I thought it was the one where minor celebs are smeared in fishbait and cast adrift in a leaky boat somewhere off Lundy where very hungry sharks gather.

DO YOU WANT TO THINK ABOUT YOUR ANSWER?: In an FHM Poll - and, okay, we realise we're not talking about strict science here, what with it being "FHM" and "poll" in the same sentence, if women could have a choice of another woman to have sex with, most would choose... her:

Presumably the thinking is that, if you're not that keen on lesbianism, Christina Aguilera would have so many other people in the bed screwing at the same time you wouldn't have to spend too much time with her. Rachel Stevens came second, followed by Kate Moss and "It depends... what exactly do they do in bed?" Oddly, the chap sent by FHM to ask its target audience of drunken young males which bloke they'd most like to sleep with hasn't returned yet.

YER DAD'S GOT AN MBE: In today's Guardian Review, Max Carlish writes about his life on the edge of the Libertines, getting a blow on Pete Doherty that must hurt as much as the blow Pete allegedly landed on him, sniffing "his Dad was an army major with an MBE, and Pete got lots of A-Levels". If you prick me, do I not rush off to the press and blow your trash-image?

Carlish is, of course, still in love with Pete and his mystique:

It was then that I realised just how smart he was - he rhymed green with spleen and even understood the medieval meaning of the word spleen.

Well, yes, higher intellect indeed - having heard the phrase "I'll vent my spleen" and knowing not only did that not mean someone was going to take out their lymphoid system and give it an airing, but also noticing that the word rhymes with "green." If we were that clever, we might point out that "crack-addled twat" rhymes with "smack-raddled prat", but we didn't get any sort of a-levels approaching Pete's.

But let's not run away with the idea that Max is over-stating Doherty abilities or anything - he compares him to Kurt Cobain, of course, although Cobain's drug use his way of finding a mental highway out of himself, while - in Carlish's own words - Doherty thinks his smack use is "cool" and artisitic; and then the comparisons are cranked up a level:

Look at Ray Charles - he pulled himself back from the brink and did his best work when he was off the heroin. Pete is aware of that, but he's distracted by the tabloids loving his addiction. It would be a great story for them if he died.

Ray Charles? We love The Libertines work, and even if we try to shift the growing feeling that Carl Barat was the main force behind their work, we're not really talking about an act on a par with Ray Charles. Ray Allen and Lord Charles, perhaps. And what exactly does it say about Pete's superior intellect if - as Carlish seems to be implying here - he's doing heroin to help the tabloids out with their story? An intelligent man who is taking a drug habit to life-threatening lengths so that there'll be copy for Victoria Newton in the morning?

Carlish talks about how his role swapped between official filmmaker and onstage dancer, and enthuses - fairly - over the concept of the fans being an extension of the band. Only...

The last time I did my Bez impression was in Southampton. He told the audience that I was making a documentary about him, and they all started throwing bottles at me. Pete thought that wasn't cool, so he dumped me from the stage act. Things began to get messy and complicated.

So, the fans were an extension of the band, and yet when the fans started to bottle someone who was also a member of that loose band collective, the reaction wasn't "Don't bottle us" but to drop Carlish instead. There really is something of the shallows about Pete, isn't there?

Dejected and penniless, Carlish takes to his bed before, all of a sudden, Pete turned up as Kate Moss' boyfriend. Carlish had a friend point out that he could flog the photos of Pete smoking drugs (he doesn't mention the friend's name - Pete himself?) but, oh, what a moral crisis:

He called a friend at the Sun, and before I knew it I was in the middle of a bidding war.

I didn't want to sell the pictures, but I did want to use them as leverage to meet up with Pete again and complete the film. I phoned up James told him what was happening with the newspapers and offered to hold back on the footage - so that we could complete the documentary. I waited and waited and heard nothing. Meanwhile, the Sunday Mirror was getting more and more desperate to buy the pictures from me. Their offer began to look more and more tempting. I was desperate for money, and by this point I had convinced myself I would never see Pete again, would never be able to complete my film, and would have wasted the best part of a year on nothing. Friends were telling me take the money and run. I wanted Pete to get back to me, but he never did. And so I succumbed.

After selling the photos I heard from Pete for the first time in four months. He sounded very fed up. "I hear you've made loads of cash from selling my photos." "Yes," I said. "You know I didn't want to sell the pics, but what I want is for us to get together to complete the film." I told him he was welcome to some of the money for the film if he would use it for drug rehabilitation and get back into the studio. Then I thought: what if we could actually film him going into rehab? What a film we would have there! I thought we could still save the situation. Now it seems he thinks we're beyond that stage.

See? It wasn't about the money; it was all about helping and/or finishing the film. We wonder if there's a word that describes saying to someone "if you don't give me a contract to finish the movie I'll sell compromising pictures to the papers." You know, we're sure there is.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

INDIEROCK DECLARES WAR ON HOWARD. SORT OF: No sooner had Michael Howard got up and said "Drug addled pop stars? Not on my watch" than a former drug-addled pop star stood up and ripped into him. We're not entirely sure that Brett Anderson batting out at Tory immigration policy is going to swing many seats come polling day, but it makes a change from having to rely on Damon Albarn for our political commentary. Brett said:

"There's a lot of scare-mongering right-wing politicians that will tell you that your country is being destabilised by refugees, just to win a few votes in middle England.

"It's a load of old bollocks, immigration is essential to living in a healthy, diverse, multi-cultural, 21st century society and Britain wouldn't have anything like the depth of cultural wealth it has without immigration."

A BATTLE OF GREAT MINDS: Saying he should be called 'Rodney, not Robbie', Noel Gallagher has launched a scathing attack on Robbie Williams, reigniting

Really? We did again? Sorry.

ROBBIE WILLIAMS NOW FALLING BACK ON OLD MAGNUM MATERIAL: BRMB asked Robbie Williams what he thought of the Charles & Camilla wedding. He made a joke about how the video of it will be called - snark! - Seabiscuit 2. Because they look like horses, geddit? Except, of course, Camilla doesn't look like a horse at all - Celine Dion does, but Camilla doesn't have a long face; Princess Anne does, but Camilla doesn't have the same sort of big teeth. And since Seabiscuit - both the horse and the movie - are virtually unknown in the UK, it might be seen as a really odd reference. Why not the more obvious Black Beauty II? Probabl because Williams was just repeating a joke Tom Selleck made. Wonder if Robbie actually understood his joke?

IS THERE ANYONE ON BOARD WHO CAN FLY THE PLANE, DIDN'T HAVE THE FISH AND ISN'T A SKANKY CRACK WHORE?: Poor Whitney Houston was flying across the Atlantic when she became ill with food poisoning, and had to bne rushed to a hospital in Paris as soon as she arrived. Whitney was "very" ill:

"Whitney Houston was rushed to a hospital in Paris because of severe vomiting. She was sick on the aircraft," Houston's Los Angeles-based publicist, Nancy Seltzer, told the Associated Press. "She is doing well. She has gastroenteritis."

For most people, having gastroenteritis might not be considered "doing well", but after the long-term 'problems' Whitney's team have had to deal with, a genuine bout of non self-inflicted trouble probably is a good one.

LOSING THE GEMS: The Osbournes really don't have much luck with their shiny jewels, do they? First of all, after "coming back from America" a bloke ran away with rings and things he found in Ozzy and Sharon's bedroom; now jack osbourne has lost over a third of a million bucks worth of jewellery and watches.

Jack had put the stuff into his checked luggage while flying from LA to London.

Now, just because you'd have to be stupider than a drunken village idiot to put valuables into checked baggage doesn't mean we should go up to Young Jack and say "Bemmm!" like we did when we were at school. And it would be awful to ride up and down the street outside his house on a tricycle yelling "Hello! I'll put a third of a million dollars into this unlocked bag and give it to complete strangers!" with your pants on your head. Let's not even start to give in to low speculation about what the hell he must have had in his carry-on if he couldn't find space for jewels worth more than ten times the average salary. That would be unfair.

And let's not raise any questions about what he was doing shifting two - two watches and precious things in a suitcase. Apparently "they were gifts" said Young Jack, as he asked a passer-by to hold his wallet while he did his shoes up.

PETE DOHERTY: IT'S BLAIR'S FAULT: Michael Howard, in a desperate bid to scare up a few extra votes amongst... well, it's not clear who, actually... has launched an attack on Pete Doherty. Yes, Michael Howard, who wants to be the next Prime Minister of Britain, thinks the comic cuts adventures of Doherty is worth making a speech about:

"Here you have a man who takes drugs and gets locked up - yet ends up on the front pages," said Howard.

Howard is urging pop stars and celebrities to be positive role models to children as he outlined his party’s policies on drugs, reports BBC News.

“Today, more than ever, we need responsible role models for our children - professional athletes prepared to say drugs are wrong, pop stars willing to say drugs aren't cool, actors who make clear that drugs ruin lives,” he said. “Because we all know that youngsters are more influenced than ever before by the celebrities they see on TV, the musicians they listen to and who are featured in magazines. “

The politician added that the media should not glorify drug use. “Some in the media give the impression that drug-taking is cool - is it any wonder that children believe this?” asked Howard. “I think many parents will have been rather surprised by the celebrity coverage given to Peter Doherty over the last month."

Erm... Mr. Howard... have you actually seen any of the coverage given to Doherty over the last few weeks? "Look at this picture of someone doing smack and say you won't"/"Kate Moss - drop him, we bet he smells"/"Doherty - on drugs and pooping his pants" - it's hardly been saying "Crack is good, yep?", is it? Even in the more laid back corners of the media there's been very little in the way of acclaim for Pete's drug habit. (Yes, some, but even that's been balanced). I wouldn't want to suggest that Howard doesn't know what he's talking about... oh, hang about, yes I do.

Howard also said the Conservatives would restore cannabis to being a Class B drug.

Yes, because making a soft drug more illegal is going to help stop people taking crack.

Of course, Howard's strange Nancy Reagan era approach to drugs is all a way of showing how horrible everything is under Blair, but he hasn't attempted to link Doherty's drug habit directly to the Prime Minister. Even although...

Who's that hanging around in the background as Blair meets that man from the pop band from the olden days? Could that be the shady "Alan" McGee? The man who was Libertines manager? Does this drugs thing go all the way to the top? [Continued in Simon Heffer's column, tomorrow]

GET WELL SOON: Worrying news from Scottish Indie Pop, with the news that Orange Juice singer Edwyn Collins is seriously ill. His wife Grace posted details to the bulletin board on the offficial site:

Edwyn suffered a cerebral haemorhage on Sunday night. He is be ing well looked after in hospital. When there is more to report I'll let you all know. Grace

OTHERS GALLERY SHOW CANCELLED: The Victoria & Albert Museum has dropped its planned Friday Late event, scheduled for tomorrow evening. The show was to have featured The Others, Tell Tales, Patrick Neate, Helen Walsh, Tom Sheahan, a rather tasty line-up. Unfortunately, too tasty, says the musuem:

With regret, the V&A is cancelling the Friday Late on 25th February. We have been surprised by the incredibly high level of interest in this event. We have been told by our security, health and safety advisers that when the numbers reach this high level for a single event with limited capacity, there is a danger of severe overcrowding and it is extremely difficult to guarantee safety. To avoid any risk to the public or the Museum's collections, we have therefore taken the decision to cancel the event. We apologise for any disappointment this will cause.

LOW HUMOUR WRITES ITSELF: Elton John is going to find the time to make sure he gets a Stoke date on his UK tour. Once you've settled down, he'll be playing Stoke City's ground on June 4th. If you're not familiar with the Britannia Stadium, you can find all you need to know on the internet footballl ground guide. If you're not familiar with Elton John, isn't it time you got back out to hear the next part of the evidence, your honour?

JUST LIKE NOT ON THE PILL: Pink is pregnant with triplets, two of whom may have inherited her musical talent. Okay, we've extrapolated rather a lot from the initial story, but then again again, the story Pink is pregnant is based on little more than someone seeing her come out of a medical centre.

She'll not find anything like that at Mothercare, you know.

Buyable: We're more and more worried that it might have been a one-off spark of pop brilliance, but Mizzundastood was absolutely ass-waggling spot on - and is currently only six quid.

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APPLE REFINE AGAIN: If Apple get any more aggressive, they'll turn into Micrsoft. Without even mentioning the rumours that they're about to buy TIVO (hmm... wonder what for?), they've made iPods better yet, again: cheaper, more storeage, better battery life.

JUDGE STOPS PISSING ABOUT: It's possible Judge Melville woke up yesterday morning, and, over his bowl of Breakfast Boulders and cup of coffee, thought "I really don't want to be doing this for the rest of my life." Something, clearly, made the guy turn up at the Jackson trial with a new, get-things-done attitude, as he slapped down time limits on how much questioning potential jurors could be given, and so the jury selection process was finished yesterday. Instead of the "sometime in a few weeks" that everyone was expecting.

We hope that he takes the same attitude with the trial proper - "okay, counsellor, you've got thirty seconds..." We could have a result by Friday teatime; mid-morning if he makes them watch the Bashir documentary on fast forward.

Four men, eight women, the youngest is 20, the oldest 79:

Among the jurors were a woman who said her grandson was required to register as a sexual offender because of a crime; a 20-year-old man who likes "The Simpsons" TV show; and a man who likes Western art and country music.

One of the jurors had been asked during selection if he recognized celebrity witnesses in the case including self-help guru Deepak Chopra. He responded, "I think he's a rapper."

The defence had poll reports which suggested that black jurors would be less inclined to believe the Jackson allegations, and court reports that jackson looked quite upset when two back women were kicked off the shortlist. One of them suggested it was all a fix:

"Just look around us. A jury of his peers would be people of his age and people of color, mixed diversity," she said. "How diverse is this jury looking to you right now?"

No, you're confusing "a jury of his cousins" with "a jury of his peers." We also like her suggestion that the way to achieved "mixed diversity" (as opposed to that modern singular diversity?) is to have a jury without any white people on it.

THE HITMAN AND E.R.: Pete Waterman has waddled down to Buckingham Palace to pick up his OBE for services to Bananarama and post-pub television. Michela Strachan is expected to receive a Damehood in the Birthday Honours.

"The Queen asked me about the songs - I was quite shocked she knew them" said Pete, although he didn't say exactly what she'd asked. I mean, if she'd said "surely if you'd given Rick Astley 'Too Many Broken Hearts' that would have given him a much stronger career base to work from, while it was wasted on Jason Donovan who clearly wasn't that interested in a long-term pop career" - that would be shocking. If all she asked was "Is it difficult coming up with so many ideas for your [quick glance at clipboard] 200 hit songs?", that would be slightly less shocking.

NAILS IN YOUR NEIGHBOURHOOD: Trent Reznor has already sold out two nights in the Astoria, and now he's turned his attention to the rest of Britain:

London Brixton Academy (July 4)
Glasgow Barrowlands (7)
Birmingham Academy (8)
Manchester Apollo (10)

We wouldn't recommend singing along, but we would point out the 10th Anniversary Deluxe Edition of The Download Spiral is now available:

... although Trent Reznor's idea of "luxury" would probably be not using the rusty handcuffs and a ball gag instead of gaffer tape.

DUTCH COURAGE... WELL, GLASWEGIAN COURAGE, MANCUNIAN COURAGE...: Prepare yourself for a medium-sized Bravery UK tour this May:

Glasgow Barrowland (May 20)
Manchester, Academy (22)
Leeds Metropolitan Univeristy (23)
Bristol Academy (24)
Wolverhampton Wulfrun Hall (25)
Oxford Brookes University (27)
London Astoria (28)

Prepare yourself for the sing along by pre-ordering the debut album:

It's out on March 14th.

"I don't think anything can kill me now, so the Camden shows will probably make me stronger" - Josh Homme, NME, this week

"QOTSA have cancelled their remaining European dates after Josh Homme was taken ill with a serious lung infection" - Drowned in Sound, this morning

So, it turns out Josh has decided that, actually, coughing up lung blood actually can kill him after all. Statement? Statement:

"We've toured with everything from broken ankles to bruised livers, but simply weren't prepared for this relentless attack of teeming bacteria. Our fans know that we ain't pussies and this is an obvious downer for everyone involved. All we really wanted to do was play our new tunes for everybody, and turn this "promo tour" into more of a party. So, for those of you with any unused tickets, hold on to them. We'll be back as soon as possible to make up these shows, and when we do, we'll have something special for all of you with an un-ripped ticket. We ain't in the habit of cancelling, and we don't forget."

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Welcome to DanceVine, a new title for Pop Papers - "your independent guide to social dance" it says, establishing itself as a refreshing alternative to, um, those unindependent social dance magazines like Vested Interest Dance. Although about dancing in general, it seems that if you want to get people waggling in modern Britain, you need to be doing salsa. Oxford Adult Education Department is even getting in on the scene, offering salsa classes in the college opposite the Ice Rink; meanwhile, it turns out that the biggest salsa night in the Thames Valley is held at the Basingstoke Conservative Club. I hope they realise that Salsa is an alien music form...

Back on more familiar ground, it's the Poll Issue of NME, which means one of those uneasy winner's parade covers: Alex Kapranos has his arm round Paul McCartney; McCartney has the look of someone who's just realised when this picture gets published he'll have been cuaght out in his "I can't come and watch you in Question Time, i've got to see my chiropractor" white lie; while Brandon Flowers embraces Noel Gallagher with all the enthusiasm of a work experience boy asked to clean the kennels. Noel, meanwhile, just looks weatherbeaten; a great loss to the gang sat outside the bus shelter drinking vinegar.

There's a CD, by the way, which is a winner's one - yeah, it has Green Day, but there's also Streets, Franz Ferdinand, Bloc Party... that's pretty good; it almost makes you not notice that the magazine has gone up ten pence and is now at £1.90.

There's photo coverage of the Towers of London's smashing up a venue. "[The bouncers] told us to stop but we're punk rock stars, we're not going to stop for no bouncers. We carried on because the kids were loving it..." Yes, Dirk, the kids were loving it. But what about the poor sods who had to clear up after? Or the bands who'll find it that little bit harder to persuade places to book them? Punk rock was never about smashing things mindlessly.

Jack White has now turned into Steve from Placebo. It's true, I'm afraid.

Peter Robinson interviews Ozzy Osbourne, and slips in a sly question about how it could be that a guy with a ladder could get past the Osbourne's security to wind up in their bedroom. Apparently they'd "just got back from America" - ah, so that would explain it, then; most security systems won't work if you haven't had a chance to unpack your suitcases. Ozzy then conjures up this image: "I was naked so I was lucky he wasn't gay and didn't jump back in and fuck me in the arse." How did you know he wasn't gay, Ozzy? But, yes, just imagine how sickening it would be if the guy had had sex with one of you and stolen a necklace. Insult to injury.

The Mitchell Brothers - first signing to the Streets label - are starting to realise that, just maybe, they've chosen a duff name: "When people hear our name they think 'Phil and Grant' but we aint no clowns. We're not corny and this is serious." Which makes it a really, really duff name for a great act. Let's hope it doesn't sink 'em.

Talking of which, British Sea Power pop up to Grasmere to do a gig, with James Jam making a pretty good case for them having been ahead of their time - guerilla gigs, intelligence, clubs; all the things which are so modish now, they've been doing for years.

Amongst the awards souveniers: Dita Von Teese calls her husband "Manson", like the sort of woman you used to find in the Home Counties who'd come back from Kenya at Independence who'd only refer to their spouses by their surname. Apparently "Manson" gets really jealous - almost as if he thinks Dita could do much better for herself.

Edith Bowman is starting to look like Shelly from Corrie. I'm sorry, but she is. I wonder if Colin Murray plays mind games with her? "If you want to spend time with that crew from Five Live, fine, I just hoped you'd be a little more... loyal. That's all."

Matt from Muse wants to play gigs so huge he'll need a helicopter to get in to them.

GLC turned up - if everyone gets fifteen minutes, they're well into injury time now, surely? Their jokes don't even make sense: "this tablecloth's been on and off more often than my missus' vibrator" - eh? What does that mean?

McCartney tries to sidestep the Doherty "hero or villain" question before settling on "hero I suspect" - raising the possibility that Pete could follow Paul's career arc. One day we might be able to buy unpleasant ready meals branded Kate Doherty's. Although somehow I suspect we shant.

Noel is apparently considering 'The Ear Has No Memory' as a name for the Oasis album, which sounds like one of Miles Kington's Albanian Proverbs: something which sounds profound at first, but actually are totally meaningless.

Tucked away under a picture of Fearne Cotton is the phrase "the time team (ie NME's sister magazine Uncut) - we don't think we've ever seen the NME claim kinship with Uncut in that way before; we wonder if they're thinking of resurrecting the branding mistake when they tried to pass Vox off as "the NME monthly."

eastern lane - london astoria - "like puppets being torn to pieces by a seven headed cerebus"
the rakes - camden koko - "put their songs on display and torture them for our pleasure"
patrick wolf - london borderline - "pretty darn cute"
willy mason - chalk farm enterprise - "simple folk melodies"

kaiser chiefs - employment - (is it just us, or do the Chiefs look a little too like Menswear for comfort?) - "every track could be a single", 8
mars volta - frances the mute - "doesn't do much ELP and even Led Zep didn't achieve", 7
the house of love - days run away - "nothing here comes close to the early work", 5

totw - the bravery - an honest mistake - "ever so-slightly homosexual"
ambulance ltd - stay where you are - "an organic alternative to prozac"
britney spears - do something - "perfunctory"

And finally: next week they're promising a poster of Noel Gallagher. In 2005. Who for, exactly?

FARRAKHAN, THE COLONEL CAN'T: Russell Simmons seems to have set himself as today's civics lesson in moral equivalence. He's joined the boycott of KFC over the company's frankly shabby treatment of its chickens - although, as a vegan, he's not really turning his back on much there.

But at the same time, he's created a storm by shooting commercials calling for an end to anti-Semitism. You'd think that would make the anti-defamation league happy, right? Erm... no; they're a bit pissed off that Simmons refuses to withdraw his support for Louis Farrakhan. They have:

...called for Simmons to "publicly distance himself" from the teachings of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who they say has "a long record of anti-Semitism".

The ADL issued a statement that reads "While it is important that the public be informed and educated about the current state of anti-Semitism in the world, it is unfortunate that one of those promoting this campaign is Russell Simmons."

The statement goes on to say that "It is hypocritical for Mr. Simmons to lead a charge against anti-Semitism while failing to denounce manifestations of anti-Jewish hatred within his own community."

it's unknown if KFC are going to run a campaign to suggest that Simmons objects to them because of their kosher mashed potato.

GOD CONSIDERS REVISING HIS 'MORE HAPPY ABOUT SINNERS REPENTING' POLICY: What's interesting about the news that Brian 'Head' Welch has quit Korn to spend more time with his Saviour is not so much the reaction of metallers, but the way the Christians have reacted to finding Welch hammering on their holy doors. There seems to be some fear he might let Fred Durst into the cathedral:

I remember being in Korn's dressing room drinking beers with Korn and other bands. I use to working for bands like Limp Bizkit and also I helped run Korn's offical chat room. I have pictures of Brian and I drinking up together. He would get pretty drunk almost nightly. I really am glad he has found Jesus. I hope it's a true faith and that I will see him again in heaven. I don't blame him one bit for leaving. The bands lyrics and lifestyle are about as unmoral as one can get. I should know, I seen and heard it first hand. I'm still praying for Jonathan Davis by the way, that guy has been through a lot emotionally and is a very quiet person in real life. I hope he finds rest in Jesus for the pain he's in [...] I just e-mailed one of Brian's pastors a long letter for him to pass on to Brian. I'm praying, and I hope you'll pray as well, that this may open some doors. I would like to encourage Brian on his new walk but also this could lead me to getting in contact again with Fred Durst (lead singer of Limp Bizkit). I only knew him when I was a nonchristian. We were close enough where I had his home phone and he would call me at home every now and then. It's been years though since we talked. He's always been searching for the truth and has had a lot of issues to deal with in his life. I would love to talk to him about Christianity. It's something I have thought about for 3 years. It may be that God is now answering that prayer and giving me the chance. Thanks for anyone taking the time to pray about this.

Blimey, it seems that nearly everyone in nu-metal is heading Jesuswards. Except Fred Durst. What we don't quite understand is, if being in Korn is so bad, why aren't the Christians praying for the others to leave rather than the one who's found God already?


"It's easy for people who don't know me to criticise me, but there's more to my life than people will ever know."

"If people think my life is totally amazing and perfect, they should take a good look."

"I sort of live in a glass box. Everything happens in front of other people. When I break up with my girlfriend, everybody has to know about it."

"I try to stay positive, but sometimes I've got to smile when I don't feel like smiling."

We've spoken to our people, and they've confirmed that, actually, nobody is forcing Usher to be rich and famous. Quite the contrary, in fact, as there is a Church in Newfoundland which runs a non-stop prayer vigil trying to end Usher's fame. So, if you don't like it Usher, there's a really simple answer. Stop courting it. Happy now?

A DARK DAY FOR NUMBERS BANDS: First, Blink 182 go on hiatus; then it's announced that isotope 217 have reached the end of the road. And there's been some mumbling that Eve 6 are looking a bit peaky...

IF MY HEART BLED ANY MORE, I'D NEVER GET THE STAIN OUT MY SHIRT: It must be really tough being a music industry boss - during the bad times, it's fairly easy to attack "threats" like cassettes and peer-to-peer networkers; but in the good times? You really want to sit down, swig a glass of champagne and order up some fresh hookers, but you can't; you still have to make with the miserables, because otherwise the pursing of 70 year old women for money they don't owe might start to look a little vindictive. So Andrew Lack, CEO of Sony-BMG had to try and paint a gloomy picture during the two-into-one major's Grammy party:

"The industry has tough years in front of it. I don't think it's going to get suddenly much better," Lack told The Associated Press. "The industry has really been hurt, and it isn't because there isn't great music. This year is strong, and yes we got a little uptick. But the strength of the music was not reflected in the real sales that we should have had[...] don't want to be a cold shower on a night when we are all celebrating but the reality is the business is still really tough for us."

Normally, we just snort that the executive is lying through his teeth, but let's give him the benefit of the doubt and say, instead, we actually agree with some of his analysis. First, the "hurt" done to the industry wasn't totally down to three or four years of shit music - although, of course, that played a major role: when you're pretending that Usher and Nelly are the match for Thriller-era Michael Jackson, say, you know that your entire range has been downgraded in quality, and of course that's going to hurt.

But the industry has had a tough time recently beyond having relied on shoddy product. See? Common ground with Lack. Where we probably diverge is on the reasons - he'll have you believe that it was evil downloaders stealing from his cornpile, whereas we'd, of course, point to the massive sales of DVD as being one of the challenges the industry has faced, and, of course, the taking over five years to actually offer any proper form of online sales as having cost the industry millions and millions in lost revenue. But that, of course, would mean Lack and the others would have to admit that their management has failed and probably should be offering his resignation. (Hey... have you got stocks or a scheme that invests in the music industry? Wouldn't it be fun to ask them why they've wasted your money?)

No, Lack trots out the same tired old 'blame the downloaders' schtick. Of course, to complain about the number of people sharing files after a year or so of RIAA legal action would be tantamount to standing up and saying "That really hasn't worked", so Lack has prepared a new complaint: Napster and LimeWire might not be a threat directly any more, but they've damaged the very basis of civil life:

"They're [The Supreme Court] going to be looking at whether in fact, these services have really undermined basic principles in this country that have for 200 years protected artists, writers, producers. I think they're going to see it our way."

Yes, them damn computers have altered the relationship that the founding fathers created between the effective monopoly of a Music Industry Cartel and the artists for the release of records. It's interesting that the music industry is keen to keep things just the way they are, except when the changes are being made in their favour - that the period of copyright was enshrined at the birth of the nation didn't seem to bother them overmuch when they were lobbying for an extension, for example.

It's also disappointing but not surprising that the Associated Press allowed Lack to get away with his "they're gonna see it our way" claim without a challenge. The US Circuit Court of Appeals didn't see it their way. The lower courts didn't see it their way. When Sony were taken to court by Universal City Studios in 1984 in a similar battle over Betamax videos, the Supreme Court saw it Sony's way - or rather, Sony's way when they owned the technology; the opposite way Sony see it when they own the copyright. (Interestingly, if the Supreme Court do agree with Sony this time round, it's possible Universal Studios could bring a legal action against Sony for twenty years' loss of movie revenues, which would be hilarious).

POOL EMPTIED SLIGHTLY: The actual start of the Michael Jackson trial got a little closer yesterday as the prosecution and defence used their right of arbitrary objection to dump twenty potentials - including a karaoke fan (well, can you imagine what he'd be like when the jury are sequestrated?) and a cheerleader. The cheerleader once did a routine to a Jackson song, which was enough for the prosecution to assume she would be biased. The defence objections took out a bloke who had friends in law enforcement and two mothers.

The jury pool is now down to 221, and today they'll have a dance contest to thin it down further.

Meanwhile, Judge Melville has been insisting that Jackson really was ill last week:

"Mr. Jackson really was sick. He really did have the flu. I talked to his doctor," Melville said. "I wouldn't let anyone take advantage of us that way."

But as Jay Leno pointed out last night, it's very unusual for someone who had been so sick he had to be hospitalised to then turn up a couple of days later with his head out a car window...

IT MUST BE PUBERTY: Has it really been a decade since Blink 182 started to annoy the world? Whatever, the world's longest adolescence has come to an end with the news that Blink 182 are going on indefinite hiatus (that's "splitting up", Blink 182 fans):

"For over a decade, blink-182 has toured, recorded and promoted non-stop all while trying to balance relationships with family and friends. To that end, the band has decided to go on an indefinite hiatus to spend some time enjoying the fruits of their labors with loved ones."

In possibly unconnected news, scientists at a lab in Nevada reported that the collective IQ of the planet jumped by ten per cent yesterday.

WE'LL NOT HOLD OUR BREATH: Interesting that this morning's Daily Express - part of the Red Hot 40+ Wives media group - is reporting that Robbie Williams is going to work with the Scissor Sisters. We find ourselves wondering if maybe this is Robbie's revenge for Jake Shears' calling out of him on the gay question. "If Jake says I'm gay and threatens my credibility, I'll say he's working with me and totally tank his..."

FRESH MEAT: There's a new Meat Beat Manifesto album due at the end of May, with the addition of Peter Gordon on flute.

IF IT'S NOT SMACK, IT'S BLOWS: Repaying the magistrate's trust in him, Pete Doherty used his evening pass from bail conditions to have a fight with Babyshambles guitarist Patrick Walden during the Brixton Academy gig.

The gig had got off to a bad start, with the crush of car-crash looky-loos and Shambles fans so heavy security stopped the gig to do a "move back" rotuine. A couple of songs later, according to the BBC, Doherty accidently unplugged Walden's guitar, leading to the fight. Bouncers separated the pair, but after a cooling off period, the band managed to get the end of their set without fighting each other any more. On stage.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Z V R: The mace-sprayin' end to the Jay-Z /R-Kelly tour has spawned it's inevitable countersuit. While R was suing Jay for having him thrown off the tour in a constructive dismissal style, Jay Z is now suing R Kelly right back atcha. Kelly wants 90 Million dollars; Jay Z is counter-claiming that... well, first of all that Kelly is caught up in a bunch of lawsuits because of his somewhat young girl habit (although, Jay, it's not like you didn't know that when you agreed to go on tour, is it?); that Kelly wanted to do the tour to try and settle some of spirally legal costs; and then insisted on extra dates for more cash. Then he went and booked staff for the tour who were rubbish; didn't turn up for rehearsals and then goofed around playing basketball when he did; pissed about on his comedy sketch routines; played like shit when the tour started; got grumpy when he was made to drop his pisspoor comedy bits; turned into a "weeping emotional wreck" and threw temper tantrums.

Then his behaviour became odd. In St Louis, he punched a guy and left the venue "in a people mover" to go and work in a McDonalds. And on and on it goes. The Smoking Gun has it in full. At least, that's Jay-Z's tale.

THE NO'JAYS: After twenty years, the first big alt-country band The Jayhawks have brought their business to a graceful close. Rounding off a three week tour which saw original singer Mark Olson back in the band for the first time in a decade, the band has decided it's run its course. Other singer Gary Louris told a passing local paper:

"I don't think we're going to do anything else. We felt like we've done that enough. Everybody just wants to do something else. We haven't completely closed the door, but … I'd say it's dead."

Louris' interests in other things may be down to his having spent time hanging out with the Dixie Chicks.

NOT THE REAL DEAL: Legal trouble for Ozzy Osbourne as an Illinois Osbourne fan hits Epic with a lawsuit over remasters of The Blizzard of Ozz and Diary of a Madman. The music lover, Anthony Wester, bought the two records only to discover that the April 2002 versions of the album hadn't simply been remastered, but had the original drum and bass tracks from Lee Kerslake and Bob Daisley with the percussive work of Robert Trujillo and Mike Bordin, who were Ozzy's percussion dudes at the time.

To put this in context, Kerslake and Daisley were suing Osbourne at this point for unpaid royalties; dropping them from the remasters looks to have been a move to try and save a few bucks. As with most great money saving ideas, it looks like it could end up costing more in the long run. Wester wants his money back - and he wants money back for everyone who bought the record thinking they were getting one thing, only to find quite another.

MR. GALLAGHER, YOU'RE SPOILING US: It's hard to imagine that the new Oasis album will be anything other than a bunch of splodge produced by two blokes who live a softy lifestyle hob-nobbing with the pretty and vapid, but let's give Noel the benefit of the doubt for just a moment.

No, sorry, everytime we try to clear our mind to pretend that Oasis have any relevance to modern life, we find ourselves thinking about lemurs instead. Anyway, here's Noel who has finally finished the sixth album:

Describing the past year as “difficult”, Gallagher said: “Not difficult in that everyone’s been feeling down about things, just frustrating that we thought we got to the finishing line, but when it came to it, it just wasn’t worthy of putting out.”

You see, you could suggest that that proves there's still a really strong rock heart that burns in Noel's chest, not prepared to put out a substandard album.

Sorry, though, it doesn't, does it? It really suggests that the band are so surrounded by 'yessir, mister noel, sir' licker-ups that they didn't realise how poor their two year's work was until it got heard by the outside world. They're like the Royal Family, caught in their own version of reality that is perfect until you ask someone from the world everybody else lives in it join it.

He added: “The longer that we took to do the album, the better it had to be because of the time from the last one. When it was two years, we asked was it good enough after two years of fucking about and now we have to ask if it’s good enough after three years.”

But this time, things are clearly going to be different. They wouldn't stick out a stinker after having had to scrap one... no, it's no good...

... he's back.

FREE! THE OUTLAWS!: As part of their effort to make the world a little bit better, The Outlaws are making the Too Many Fools Following Too Many Rules mix available for free; the deal being if you like it, you make a small contribution to the DEC Tsunami appeal. You get some great music, they pick up some fans, and a little bit of good is done for the tsunami victims. Everyone's happy. Download off of

MOLKO AND PETE TONG ON HAND FOR WHEN IT ALL GOES, UH, PETE TONG: Since it's almost certain there'll be another parade of natural and man made disasters over the coming years, a bunch of guys - oddly, Pete Tong, Brian Molko and former taxman and Lib Dem peer Lord Newby - have come together to form a kind of musical Disasters Emergency Committee - a perpetual Band Aid on standby. they're calling it the Playing Live Foundation. Molko said in that butt-tucky tasty voice of his:

"We wholeheartedly support the great fundraising efforts of Playing Alive in response to the humanitarian disasters in Darfur and elsewhere in Sudan."

SHIFTING SIX: COLLINS OUT, LAMMO IN: Starting from April, there's changes afoot at 6Music, as Steve Lamacq displaces former NME colleague Andrew Collins from the teatime show. Lamacq takes the weekdays at 4 o'clock slot while Collins is sent to the digital radio Siberia of Sunday afternoons and some sort of chart show.

The Ridiculously Gaunt Lammo is excited by the shift:

"Hopefully the new show won't be too po-faced or serious - and it certainly won't just be me and a bunch of old indie records.

Which is a pity, as we'd quite like just him and a bunch of old indie records. Except the Kingmaker ones, obviously.

Meanwhile, controller Lesley Douglas is pointing out the opportunity in the new slot for Andrew Collins:

"I am very excited about Andrew's new shows. He has a mind which can turn to anything - from music to television, from art to trivia - something that listeners will be able to enjoy in his new Sunday show."

In other words, it's very exciting that instead of being able to enjoy his company for fifteen hours a week, we can get that pressed down into just three.

LEE RYAN: A TOUGH CHOICE: Young Lee might be about to "throw a Borrell" and cry off the Blue tour with a bad voice:

The Sun reports that Blue's upcoming tour is in trouble due to Lee Ryan's throat condition. "Lee had tests on Friday," a source revealed. "He wants to do the tour but can't risk ruining his voice forever. There's a strong chance the tour will be called off this week." (from Popdirt)

I'm sure I speak for all the nation when I say "Lee, do the tour. It's a risk that's more than worth taking. And even if you do ruin your voice, it's not like you're damaging something important like your arse, is it?"

TO UPDATE CHURCHILL: A rumour will be snaking round the globe on a T1 connection while the truth is still struggling to plug in its dial-up modem: Now, there's a (clearly false) response to the Cher 'disses' Britney and J-Lo story. If you've not had a chance to scan the page today, you may have missed that Cher wisecracked she was quitting because of J-Lo and Britney, and - in a phrase it's impossible to say without a tongue in your cheek - said "yeah, they're hoes, aren't they?" Now comes the "response":

A rep for Britney Spears and Jennifer Lopez responded to a report that Cher referred to both as hoes during a concert in Auckland, New Zealand on Sunday night. "For someone who has had their fair share of bad press, it is surprising she would comment on two women she hardly knows," the rep told The New York Post.

Obviously, this is bollocks - who, exactly, would represent Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears? It's like saying "the guy who does Foreign Affairs for both the Iranian government and the Dutch said..." - so it's a made-up quote, but even so, didn't whoever said it suddenly get to the bit about "fair share of bad press", pause a moment, chuckle and go "oh, I get it..."?

THAT WAS MY IDEA: The most puzzling thing about the sudden appearance of a writ claiming Britney and the studios stole the script for Crossroads is: what took Christopher Merrill so bloody long to notice? It's not like it's the most complex story in the world, and yet Merrill appears to have taken three years to spot the "shocking similarities" between Crossrodas and his own film script, Dream Alive. (Merrill, according the IMDB, has never had any of his work actually made into movies or anything, so it's kind of odd that the reports describe him as a screenwriter - until someone makes a movie, it's just paperwriter).

Personally, if we'd written a film and the only difference between it and a proper movie was the proper movie had Britney Spears in some flimsy tops in it, we'd keep quiet about it.

WE SELDOM NEED MUCH EXCUSE TO MENTION CERYS MATTHEWS: According to her official site, as well as guesting on Jonathan (a chat show hosted by former rugby player Jonathan Davies), she's taken part in the recording of a Welsh band-aid style tsunami benefit.

If you're in South Nashville, you can catch her playing a gig at The Basement on 8th Avenue on March 2nd.

IT'S A LEARNING CURVE: We're curious as to what the mistakes that Britney says she's learned from actually are. We'd like to make some suggestions:

* Never marry the loser the same night he proposes - wait at least until sunrise
* Next time someone offers you six million for sex, always ask for a photo before dismissing the offer out of hand
* Shagging Fred Durst doesn't make you feel any cooler, just itchier
* Spending all day wearing a skintight PVC catsuit? Plenty, plenty talcum powder
* When someone asks you for a photo for their "scrapbook", double check they don't mean " if I sell it to US, I'll be able to cut it off the front page and paste it in"
* For some reason, people will get the wrong idea if you dress like a schoolgirl and dance like a polegirl. Best to leave the tie off in future.
* Howard Stern: Watch the hands, the man's like an octopus

ALL ON HIS OWNSOME: In other I Love 2004 news, the possibly worst-kept secret in history has been confirmed now as fact. Try to look surprised when Carl Barat tells yuo he's signed a solo deal, won't you? He doesn't know we all know.

THE TWO-NIGHT ONE-OFF: Lock up your spoons, warns BBC News, as it announces Doherty to play one-off concert. That's one-off, except for last night, of course. Which they even talk about in the report.

THE HUMOUR DOESN'T SEEM TO HAVE TRAVELLED: The Sun don't quite seem to have got the very real possibility that, when Cher said she was quitting because of the "young girls coming out like Britney and J Lo" and then, in response to the crowd booing, cackled "I know, they're hoes, aren't they?", she was actually joking. You know, maybe she wasn't sitting astride a giant gun at the time, but we don't think Cher has any illusions about her own stage act, guys.

THIS IS YOUR HERO ON DRUCKS: Interesting piece about the coverage of Doherty's drug life in Spiked, which compares the way the papers barely mentioned Jarvis Cocker or Brett Anderson's fondness for heavy drugs while really going after Doherty. Neil Davenport suggests that this marks a change in how the media deal with star's little habits, although it's not really the cultural shift he seems to think it is. The real difference between now and the Britpop/Grunge years is actually mentioned by Davenport, although he doesn't seem to notice:

And they're not alone. Recently BBC4 devoted half an hour to Doherty, with Newsnight's Kirsty Wark cheerily probing his drug habit like it was a fondness for Haagen Daaz. [...]
Elsewhere Kurt Cobain famously threatened British journalists who raised questions about his and Courtney Love's heroin use.

So, let's ask the question again: why are the media running interviews with Doherty (happy to chat about his problem to fund drugs he otherwise couldn't afford) when they didn't with Kurt, Brett et al who were desperate not for it to become too-common knowledge to the extent where they would schmooze or threaten to keep it out the papers? Any ideas?

Actually, it's not even true to say that there was this blanket 'don't mention the drugs' at the start of the last decade. Surely there wasn't a person alive who didn't get that Brett's skin problems weren't the side effect of forgetting to use a buff-puff three mornings running? And for a solid nine years, the only mention of Evan Dando in the pop papers was in the 'How much of his talent has he pissed away on crumble this week' column on page seven of the Melody Maker.

A final point: if the tabs didn't write about Doherty doing drugs... well, there's not much of a story there, is there?

Meanwhile, Doherty turned up on stage for a Babyshambles gig last night, waving his naltrexone implant about. Truly, he is the People's Smacko.