Friday, February 16, 2007

So long, I'm off to rejoin a Cult

Ian Astbury, who, lest we forget, has been spending the last four years pretending to be Jim Morrison in The Doors, has had enough. He's heading back off to restart The Cult. There's a statement:

"I have decided to move on and focus on my own music and legacy. I have learned a great deal from the both of them, and it certainly has expanded my abilities as a performer.

"This has been a difficult decision to make but I feel I would be holding them back as well as myself if I did not depart at this time."

I'm sorry, Ian, did you just say you were going to focus on your legacy, like you're Billie Holiday or Malcolm X?

And you've got to love the idea that the continued presence of Ian Astbury might "hold back" Riders On The Storm (they can't actually call themselves The Doors) more than, say, the fact that the whole point of the band existing vanished when a guy ODed in the bath back when Elsie Tanner was a lass.

North Dakota knocks back Bono prize

Are you listening, Tony Blair? North Dakota's House of Representatives has knocked back a plan to honor Bono for being so great.

The idea came from Democrat Scot Kelsh, who thought it would be a great thing to do because, erm, no other state had honoured Vox. The majority of his legislative chums, though, figured there was good reason for that, and voted down the proposal.

And then some attempted to take down Bono's ego, too:

Republican Gil Herbel of Grafton, North Dakota, told the AP that he originally though the resolution referred to the late Sonny Bono, the former singer/actor/ Republican congressman and husband of Cher.

"When I saw the resolution, I was looking for Cher's name in there," Herbel said.

The official reason for the knock back was that Bono had no apparent connection with the State - which isn't usually a problem; he often arranges his tax affairs to be paying in a place with no apparent connection with him.

Fur enough

PETA's campaign to persuade people to not wear anything that's been made by ripping the outer flesh off animals has signed up another famous person (well, alright, Jamelia) to rip off her clothes and be photographed.

We're not sure it's such a good idea. Apart from the feeling that PETA have totally run out of ideas - how many naked people have done versions of this ad now? - it might be a little self-defeating. After all, since it's clear that, as long as people wear fur , PETA will persuade pretty young pop stars, models and actors to do nude photoshoots, isn't that going to make people who like to see Jamelia and others with their pants off actively go out and buy rabbit coats?

All the girls love Alice

This, like you didn't know, is Alice McLaughlin. Rather than sitting and looking at her photo, you're being invited to go and sit and listen to her, at the following places:

21st February The Boileroom, Guildford
1st March Hoxton Bar & Grill
2nd Fopp Tottenham Court Road (for free)
6th Brighton Joogleberry
8th Borderline London (with Po'Girl)
12th Slaughtered Lamb Electroacoustic Club

A party with the Gallaghers

Having performed the vital role as the signal that it was time for everyone to go home at the Brits, Oasis moved on to their after-career party ("after-show party").

Liam, of course, was charm itself, turning his attention to former best pal Robbie Williams:

“What’s his fuckin’ problem, man?

“We all know what it is — he’s a fuckin’ drama fuckin’ queen.

“If you’ve got a fuckin’ problem, why do you want the whole world knowing about it? He has to be on the front fuckin’ pages, doesn’t he? Just sort your fuckin’ self out.

“You make a fuckin’ crap album then want everyone to feel fuckin’ sorry for you. Fuckin’ tosser!”

He added: “If you take drugs you end up in rehab unless you’re a fuckin’ rock like me — and then you just give them up.”

You could just have sent some grapes and a card, you know, Liam.

Curiously, Liam appears to have been involved in some sort of scuffle outside the party, which The Sun doesn't mention at all and the the 3AM girls only make passing reference to:
Liam was causing a riot outside the club. It started with him scrawling on snappers' lenses and bald heads with a permanent marker pen.

An autograph hunter was left concussed, cars were smashed, and punches were thrown as chaos reigned.

It all sounds very interesting. Sadly, though, the girls have no details as they were inside the club, looking at Sadie Frost.

Noel, apparently, had established the door policy himself:
"We're throwing our own party so we can snub people and not let them in."

You are controlling the quality of party people, and yet the 3AM Girls are inside the event? What... how does that... ooh...

Keith's daughter and Winehouse fall out

The trouble with big parties is everyone stays up late, gets over excited, perhaps has a little too much to eat and drink, and, of course, not everyone can win prizes and that causes upset. Many parents will sympathise with Keith Allen, whose daughter ended up having a big falling-out with her friend Amy Winehouse:

Lily, 21, looked devastated in the morning and was consoled by boyfriend Seb Chew outside her hotel - but was still in tears as she later prepared to board a Heathrow jet.

The star sobbed: "I had a real slanging match with Amy Winehouse. We had a really bad row. It was terrible."

When an onlooker asked if she was OK, she sniffed: "No, not really. I'm miserable and don't want to talk about it."

It's not clear who she actually sobbed the soundbite to, is it?

Westlife to reform

Oh... scrub that, apparently Boyzone and Westlife aren't the same band with a name changed to confuse their enemies. Boyzone are a totally different band, and they're coming back.

Although, to be honest, they were so bland it was hard to tell they weren't there in the first place. The Sun has spoken to someone who seems to know a lot about it:

It follows comebacks by Take That, E17 and the Police.

An insider said: “We have no doubt that Boyzone can do as well if not better.”

Since the East 17 comeback was an embarrassing debacle and the Police one hasn't taken place yet, quite possibly.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Nice Myspace You've Got Here: Maggie Horn

The Band: Maggie Horn


Downloadable tunes? Yes, the rather fine Come Movie Skyscraper

She says: In the same veign of acts such as Portishead, Esthero, Morcheeba and others she sings seductively over moody hip-hop influenced tracks.

She sounds like: Portishead warming up in a deli

She looks like: she could beat you in a drinking contest

How many friends? 1,879, including Prince Charming (not that Prince Charming)

Have they reskinned? She's gone with blue link text on a creamy-brown background, unfortunately

Do they blog? Very infrequently, but with lessons for us all: "i have since begun fantasizing about said danishes and imagined the person that goes in every day to buy the last one up before i get in there EVERY single time. well folks, some days i win.... sort of... today i got in the cafe and to my delight there was one left. i was so excited i could barely wait to chomp down. and when i did. utter dissapointment."

Best comment: "what up ! I aint beatin no ones bush!"

Do we learn anything? The song done with Crunc Tesla will also be on the Tigerbeat6 LP due out this year

Do you really want to add Maggie Horn as a friend? Yes, but bring your own pastries.

Here come the saviours - they've got electric guitars in their hearts

We're not entirely sure that, well-meaning though Al Gore is, holding a massive series of gigs to try and save us from climate change is quite the best way to go about it. Still, nobody wanted to shout down his enthusiasm and so we're now looking at Live Earth on July 7th.

Muse might be on board, but they're at least aware of the inherent contradiction:

Frontman Matt revealed there might be a scheduling problem for the band, which could determine whether they take part or not:

"There's an issue. We've got a gig that same day in Ireland, so we need to work out if we can make it or not, that's basically what it depends on."

The band laughed off suggestions of 'doing a Phil Collins' and chartering a jet or helicopter to ensure they can take part:

"Private jets for climate change?! Not sure about that! That seems a bit on the edge to me. That's actually the issue to be honest, so we need to think about it."

If they really wanted to do something for climate change, they'd hold thousands of microgigs, just round the corner, that you could walk to, instead of seven or eight monster gigs that people will cumulatively travel millions of miles to get to. And we can't wait to see what sponsors get on board to pretend to care - what price "save the world - drink Coke"?

Cornell's emancipation proclamation: 'slave no more

The future of Audioslave - which has looked pretty dubious for the last few weeks - has finally been smothered with Chris Cornell confirming he's out. Not that sort of out:

"Due to irresolvable personality conflicts as well as musical differences, I am permanently leaving the band Audioslave. I wish the other three members nothing but the best in all of their future endeavors."

But why would you wish them luck if you disagree with their musical direction so much you can't stand to be in the same band as them?

TV On The Radio raze Voice

TV On The Radio are fuming with Village Voice after they were depicted being driven over by Bob Dylan for a cover. TVOTR's Martín Perna suggests that drawing a white man (even Dylan) driving over a black man is insensitive:

Nowhere in the consciousness of Voice editors or illustrator David O'Keefe can we find memories of James Byrd, a black man who was dragged behind a truck to his death by white racists in Jasper, Texas, in 1998, or Arthur "J.R." Warren, who was run over four times and killed for being black and gay in West Virginia in 2000, and all the other lynchings that happened in the U.S. before and since. These events are still fresh in the minds of black people, as well as in the hearts and minds of the rest of us who may not be directly victimized by these particular lynchings but who are nonetheless endangered by racism and committed to social justice and healing America of its sick racist condition.

O'Keefe and his colleagues may not have meant to intentionally be racist. They probably meant to be funny, like the University of Texas law students, Clemson University undergrads, or white college students nationwide who plan and publicize their blackface or "ghetto parties," then act surprised that people find their actions offensive and unacceptable. That this picture could be drawn and not questioned or vetoed by any of the people who saw it prior to publication shows the level of ignorance and racism that persists in leftist institutions like the Voice that continue to posture as hip and progressive. It reveals that among decision-makers at the paper there is not one single person with any sort of racial consciousness or sensitivity who had the power or courage to send that picture back to the drawing board.

The Voice responds by, erm, blogging about it, or at least reproducing his letter, sucking their teeth and going "well... what do you think." Regardless of if you think Perna is seeing offence where there was none or not, that the Voice dealt with the issue by just opening a comments section on its website suggests a spot of cowardice on the editors' parts.

Still, at least some of the comments manage to focus on a more important question hanging over the drawing:
It's not the racist part of it; it doesn't always have to be race when there's a white guy doing something to a person of color. Instead, it's just violent. We get enough of that shoved down our throats daily.

And what became of it at last, quoth little Peterkin? Ah, that I cannot say, says he, but it went out live on ITV

Another quick rush round the Brits coverage from the web, starting with the viewing figures. They're not exactly great news for ITV, which managed an average of just 5.3million, coming second to a football match on BBC1 (Bolton versus what used to be Arsenal) which reached an average of 5.7million.

The Brits started with 6.3 million, from which it went downhill, although half-time at the football brought a small peak, reports MediaGuardian. This performance is better than last year (average of 4.6 million) but not as good as 2005's.

After pointing out that we were unable to click through to find The Times' Brit coverage during this morning's post, we got an email from Wapping with a link to Caitlin Moran's coverage of the awards. Do you wonder, like I do, if Caitlin still keeps in touch with former Naked City cohists Johnny Vaughan, Andrew Collins and Wigan's Stuart Maconie? It'd be an interesting little gathering that, don't you think? Anyway, Caitlin points out Russell Brand bears more than a passing resemblance to Timothy Claypole, before wondering just why the Brits have the reputation for danger:

For these days, the Brit Awards is nothing more than a gigantic works do, organised to allow people in marketing at Warner Bros to put on their second-best suits, get drunk and letch at that hot chick from Parlophone.

Its prominent place in the media calendar does, more often than not, make as much sense as televising Zoo magazine’s Christmas party. Less sense, in fact — I bet Zoo has shackled bears dancing on hot trays and one of those vodka luges shaped like the great god Pan.

Well, there were those women dressed up in costumes somewhere between Goth weekend in Whitby on a budget and "marriage minded Lithuanian seeks man, any age", a jarring note of old school-isms. If they'd gone with a proper bordello theme, or had some pretty boys naked but for feather dusters to escort winners to the stage, we might understand the blind eye being turned, but this was just a spot of business as usual: the men helm the stage, the women wear their undies and take a supporting role.

Random Ramblings was poised to bring us all the action, but:
Unfortunately I dozed off during Snow Patrol so I have no idea whether it descended into anarchy, as Russell mooned the audience and James Morrisson chucked a bucket of water over Gordon Brown. Somehow I doubt it. I doubt if any politicians actually turned out this year as they would certainly have come in for some stick. Not like the old days.

He says that almost as if it's a pity that you can't rely on Noel Gallagher to sob his heart out as Tony Blair makes a promise about how the promised land is just around the corner.

Talking of whom, and somewhat inexplicably, Punk Rock suggested that Noel Gallagher deserved the lifetime achievement award for, uh, the sense he talks:
Gallagher did deserve the Brits’ Outstanding Contribution to Music Award – if only because in recent years the Oasis badboy and king of Nineties Britpop has become a rare voice of reason on the British music scene. They are sad times indeed when otherwise unremarkable statements of common sense become worthy of note. Yet Gallagher’s tirades against the ridiculous and famous are soundbites of rationality in a pop culture dominated by the bien-pensant and self-regarding.

The man bought Mike Oldfield's seaside villa and yacht, Punk Rock. He is the very model of a modern self-regarding ridiculous machine, surely?

And if he really was outside the pop-back-slap-circle-jerk, why would they have offered him a prize for being a good egg? And why would he have accepted it?

Elsewhere, Lily Allen had apparently been a bad loser ever before she'd officially lost, with Starpulse quoting her telling MTV she'd been carved up before she'd even got into the auditorium:
"I already know I won't win any awards. I bet you £100 I'll get nothing.

"The judging committee are all industry insiders and they're predominantly from Universal (Records) - and I'm on EMI. I think you'll find that 70 per cent of the artists here tonight are on Universal. I'll leave you with that."

Well, of course it's all a bit of a stitch up, but is she right that Universal scoop 70% of the prizes?

Let's see:
* British Male Solo Artist James Morrison - Polydor (U)
* British Female Solo Artist Amy Winehouse - Island/Universal (U)
* British Group Arctic Monkeys - Domino (Indie)
* MasterCard British Album Arctic Monkeys - Domino (I)
“Whatever people say I am, that’s what I’m not”
* British Single Take That “Patience” MCA-Polydor (U)
* British Breakthrough Act Fratellis - Island (U)
* British Live Act Muse - Warners
* International Male Solo Artist Justin Timberlake - Jive (Sony/BMG)
* International Female Solo Artist Nelly Furtado - Geffen (U)
* International Group The Killers - Island (U)
* International Album Killers “Sam’s Town” - Island (U)
* International Breakthrough Act Orson - Mercury (U)
* Outstanding Contribution to Music Oasis - Sony/BMG

So, out of 13 awards, 8 went to artists on Universal - just over sixty per cent. Spookily, if you take away the acts voted for, in some way, by the public, you get a figure of 62.5% wins by Universal acts. Almost like there was some sort of quota.

On the other hand, Allen was rejected in the public polls, not even making the shortlist for best single, which might just suggest she's not as good as people are supposed to think she is, and, given a secret ballot, nobody pretends they like her any more. It's a lesson either way.

Some of the other lessons we've learned were detailed by Drowned In Sound:
# Hitting duff notes on the telly doesn’t matter when the viewers have already voted your single their favourite of the last year: see Take That.
# James Morrison, right, he’s really bad.
# Fearne Cotton’s accent is well weird sometimes. Is she from London or Lancashire? Or, like, Greenland. What?

Apparently, we also learned that Joss Stone is hot, or so I'm Not Obsessed would have you believe:
At first, I wasn’t LOVING the pink hair. I thought Joss Stone looked like she was trying too hard. But it seems she has grown into this new person since she’s made the change. Very confident and sexy!

We can only presume he was watching in black and white. On a small screen. Through a window. Or else he has a thing for 1980s gym bunnies.

Putting the counterpoint on Joss is Missy:
Then there was Joss Stone. Oh dear. There she was wondering around the stage failing to get the crowd going and sending love to Robbie in Rehab. If you want to send wishes to Robbie, send a card to his agent, don't sound like Madonna! And the hair!

Then there were certain international bands who won and were, lets face it, a tiny bit OTT. Accept an award with grace not by screaming and crying with excitment. They should take a tip from Amy Winehouse who was very modest thanking her boyfriend and parents.

Of course, turning up on stage so drunk you can't remember which way is forward helps keep the thank you speech to the point.

The mystery about who it was who was down the front trying to at least shake some of the apathy out of the audience is answered on the Brit School Blog, written by the kids at the school underwritten by the Brits foundation:
The BRIT School students were at the forefront of the show, in the pit, with the best view of the artists performing.

Although the only real highlight of the evening was the Arctic Monkeys "not turning up" video, it upset Denni Schanpp, especially because:
They dressed up in hideous costumes—different ones each time—which must have taken longer for them to put on than to get to the event, because they did make it to the Oasis (Musical Achievement) after-party!

Celebrities not turning up to award ceremonies where they are honoured are a pet peeve of mine. I can understand it (grudgingly) if they are actually on tour/playing a gig or—as in Robbie's case—in rehab. I cannot understand it if they feel that they are too big to grace the event with their presence, because it makes me feel like an idiot sitting in front of the telly watching it.

Yeah, shame on the Monkeys for not bothering with hanging about for two hours just to get to mumble a thank you - if they were that keen on not going, they should have eaten three packets of Pro-Plus a day for ten years like Robbie, and had an excuse to check into a health farm. Youngsters today, eh?

Splash enjoyed the Brits so much, they didn't mind not having sex:
I don’t know about you, but I thoroughly enjoyed watching The BRIT Awards last night. It made the perfect date for valentine’s night. The BRITS was sexy, well dressed, funny and all round entertaining, who needs a man!

Well, if you idea of a perfect date is one spent all evening being forced to watch someone celebrating their own dubious achievements and dominating you with their questionable taste, the Brits surely would be the perfect date. Plus, there's someone from accounts I could hook you up with.

Hang about a moment, though, because Lily Allen appears to have changed her mind about the dark conspiracy at the heart of the Brits voting - she didn't lose out because she was victim of block voting, she's quoted by VIP Glamour as saying, it's just bad luck:
“When I heard about the nominations I felt like it was a bit of a burden. I hate being in competitions because I never win. I’ll go home with nothing. I just know I will.”
“Corinne Bailey Rae? I think she’s a bit boring, sorry. She’s a lovely girl but I don’t think her music stands out and I’d be a bit annoyed if she won Best Female Artist. I’d be really happy if Amy Winehouse wins, though. She’s brilliant.”

But Amy Winehouse is on Island, isn't she? Part of the Opus Dei of the Brit panel, isn't it? Shouldn't you be supporting EMI's CBR?

Kudos to Guardian blogger Alex Needham, who watched the ITV2 aftershow show so nobody else had to:
the quote of the night came from Ana Matronic out of the Scissor Sisters backstage on ITV2: "I'm sweating like a blind lesbian in a fish market".

Last word, I think, to Wateracre, and his post headlined "The Brit Awards cause opinions from 11 years ago to become again timely and relevant":
Christ Almighty, Oasis are shit.

Kerrang widens lead over NME

The plastic-goth Emo craze has helped Kerrang extend its lead over NME, to keep the title of the world's best selling rock weekly. NME lost just over 1.5% of its sales since the last circulation audit, while Kerrang added 12% over the course of 2006. These are the figures from the UK and the Republic of Ireland, so this audit period covers the short-lived Irish NME adventure.

Q maintains its position as the best-selling music title in the UK, but it has dumped nearly 17% of its readership since July to December 2005. Of the monthlies, Uncut had the best performance, aided by an overhaul in May 2005.

The sales chart in full:
Q 140,282
Mojo 114,183
The Fly 108,683
Uncut 93,678
Kerrang! 85,377
New Musical Express 73,008
Classic Rock 62,699
Metal Hammer 48,977
Playmusic - Pickup 23,080
Rock Sound 23,031
Hot Press 19,168
Playmusic 7,434

We bet it'll be a silent movie

It surely isn't a tale that warrants more than an after-school special, but someone has come up with a plan to make a movie out of the the Milli Vanilli story.

Universal, in fact. A proper studio. But then again, of course, they were on a proper record label.

It's going to be made by that bloke who was responsible for Catch Me If You Can:

[T]he film will be written and directed by Jeff Nathanson, who wrote Catch Me If you Can starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.

"I've always been fascinated by the notion of fakes and frauds, and in this case, you have guys who pulled off the ultimate con, selling 30 million singles and 11 million albums and then becoming the biggest laughing stocks of pop entertainment," Variety reports Nathanson as saying.

Is there really enough story here to justify an entire film? Unless there was some behind-the-scenes crime-fighting or superhero action going on, or a scene along the lines of "Rob, if we don't go on Soul Train and open and close our mouths for three minutes, he says he's gonna detonate that nuke in the middle of Manhattan", you're left with a fairly slight plot.

I'm off: Preston turns his back on his career

For all the glitz and glamour and excitement and - yes, the very real sense that anything could happen - that hung around the neck of the Brits last night, it's interesting that the most entertaining pop music moment of the night on the TV was recorded two weeks ago and had already been blogged and written about.

Preston on - or rather off - Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

It had been puzzling us as to why he walked away when Simon Amstell read his own wife's autobiography out to him. Could it be that he was defending his wife's honour? But since he effectively said "not only is my wife's book embarrassing, but it is so embarrassing I can't think of anything to say about it when it's read to me in a public place", it wasn't so much a defence of her honour as a retreat beaten in shame.

He could have had a comeback. He could have even just sat there and taken it. Instead, he got up and walked. Could it be that he finally realised he'd become little more than "rock star boyfriend" in someone else's bad Jackie Collins novel life?

Still, let's enjoy the moment again, thanks to the magic of YouTube.

It's a wonderful moment - it's like Vinnie Jones dressed as Morrissey recreating John Nott on Nationwide.

For the record, the Brits wasn't even the second most enjoyable TV-pop moment last night: that would go to Westlife, and the looks in their eyes as, having been invited on to sing a special Valentine's song on the lottery draw, the football overran and shoved them back to the wrong side of eleven o'clock. After all, if they wanted to sing to sixteen disappointed people, they could get a support slot on an Ordinary Boys tour.

Noel Gallagher has the lost faith

We seem to recall that, upon his election, Noel Gallagher rushed round for tea with Tony Blair. And didn't Noel once make a speech, tears in his eyes, about how Tony was the only hope for the country?

Noel's changed his mind a little bit:

"David Cameron is no different from Tony Blair, and Gordon Brown is no different from David Cameron.

"They're all cut from the cloth and it annoys me that the biggest political icon from the last 30 years has been Margaret Thatcher, someone who tried to destroy the working freaks me out you know.

"So I don't really think there's anything left to vote for. That's why people don't vote.....why people would rather vote for celebrity talent show than would vote for politics."

Noel, everyone can change their mind - indeed, better to be flexible than locked into an entrenched position - but shouldn't you at least try and explain where you think Blair went wrong? It can't be the Iraq war, as - if memory serves - you were one of the loudest voices trying to shout down the anti-war movement, weren't you?
Gallagher criticised Mr Cameron for refusing to admit or deny using drugs while a schoolboy.

"To say no comment is typical of him and his party copping out.

"They wait to see what Tony Blair says...and then they move in behind and switch it and change a little bit."

"It's like a song writer who's eternally ripping off someone else's song and just changing the odd line a little."

You mean... like a band that... perhaps copies The Beatles, or throws John Lennon lyrics into their own... or whose... hang about... all going swirly...

Brits: Anything could have happened, but didn't

The Sun is insisting this morning that "hundreds of viewers" complained to ITV about Russell Brand:

[H]e swore before the watershed and hundreds of viewers complained to ITV1 over his risque gags in the live show.

He cracked a joke about FRIENDLY FIRE — days after the furore over the Iraq killing of British soldier Matty Hull.

It then republishes the somewhat tame shirts and skins joke in full.

The paper even tries to suggest that Russell was sharing the outrage around:
Brand said AMY WINEHOUSE’S name was a description of her liver — then credited Noel Gallagher for that gag.

No, actually, he credited Noel Gallagher with the (funnier) suggestion the set was like being in one of Amy Winehouse's tattoo. But you're near enough.

You'll be pleased to hear that Bizarre has come up with a "verdict" for you to write down on a piece of paper and take away:
BIZARRE VERDICT: Playing to a live crowd is a tough feat — but Russell managed to get the right mix of comedy without being too risque.

Hang about, though - you started out saying that "hundreds of viewers" complained - either they don't exist, or your verdict is totally at odds with your story. And has there ever been anyone on a stage who hasn't played to a "live crowd" - the paper seems confused, as if it thinks that it's the audience who's been on tape the last few years.

But as Alexis Petridis points out in The Guardian, not even Brand talking about Keith Allen's willy was going to be able to make the show live up to what it desperately wanted to be (a shadow of its former self):
You can tell it's that time of year again when you hear music PRs, representatives of the British Phonographic Industry and TV executives telling you that anything can happen at the ceremony, expect the unexpected, batten down the hatches for the most outrageous event in history.

This year, even the host, Russell Brand, was at it. The event, he claimed, was going to be "a carnival of mayhem".

What's aggrieving about those comments - aside from the spirit-sapping tone of forced you-don't-have-to-be-mad-to-work-here jollity, and the fact that it's hard to imagine any kind of Carnival of Mayhem sponsored by Mastercard - is that anything can't happen at the Brits. Nothing unexpected has occurred at the ceremony since 1996.

The Daily Mail attempts to work up some outrage about Russell Brand's performance, but you can just tell its heart isn't really in it:
Brand did his utmost to shock throughout the two-hour show. One swear-word and two references to intimate body parts came within the first hour.

A bad-taste gag about Robbie Williams who is currently in rehab, was poorly received. His joke about the size of the singer's medicine cabinet was greeted with boos.

He also did little to endear himself to Tory leader David Cameron by claiming that the politician, who is said to have smoked cannabis in his youth, was an ideal advocate for the anti-drugs brigade.

Yes, that's what a wild and crazy evening the Brits offered: live, on national TV, Russell Brand threw away his chance of ever becoming home secretary in a Cameron cabinet.

The Telegraph observes that ITV carried the show with a live delay (so, erm, not actually live then), musing that this was probably "wise" with Brand on board. But the paper only mentioned the Cameron gag - presumably it had flipped channels to catch up on Location, Location, Location while he was making jokes about photos of the Queen's vagina. Or maybe that sort of thing is now considered fair game in the multimedia Telegraph hub these days.

The Mirror's coverage, led (of course) by the 3AM Girls, isn't bothered about Brand at all. They're much more scandalised by Sophie Ellis-Bextor's wardrobe:
There was some definite nipple action going on underneath this frilly see-through number.

And she told us: "I took more than two hours to get ready and just when I thought I could slip out, I had to read a bedtime story to my little one."

We hope she's talking about her son!

No, 3AM Girls, she's talking about her penis.

Still, kudos to the girls for getting the interview everyone wanted, with, erm, Jamelia. The column's obsession with Jamelia is a fascinating thing to behold - they even let her guest-edit once, and now they carry her every utterance as if she was Britney or something, rather than a Samantha Mumba understudy:
"Being nominated for a Brit Award meant so much to me.

"You can't help being worried when you read all these things saying that you're about to be dropped or horrible rumours that your album is in some bargain bucket.

"So I felt an enormous sense of relief about being nominated, it made me feel more secure."

That's great. Some people might have thought they were on a rather weak shortlist, just making up the numbers, and felt a little bit used.

Talking of which, how was Lily Allen? The 3AM know, or rather, heard someone who did:
And despite being up for a staggering three awards, the Smile star went home with NOTHING.

Later when a fan told her she should have beaten her rival, Lily let rip: "I fucking know."

A staggering three awards? Three is hardly that amazing a number, is it? There's more than three people left in Westlife, for example.

Back at the Sun, though, Victoria Newton knew what the real story about Lily Allen was, though - it was all about Newton:
SMILE singer LILY ALLEN had little to be cheerful about after she was snubbed for all FOUR of her gongs, as we predicted.

Erm, actually, Victoria, you didn't. Your article said Lily was afraid of losing them all, and quoted "experts" who said it was possible - you, yourself, didn't predict a thing.

Of course, the Daily Record view everything from a Scottish perspective - pointing out that Snow patrol were also up for three awards, and won nothing. And they even made them play live.

The Record is also the only paper which seems to think the victory of the Fratellis is worth a headline - but, of course, national pride prevents the paper from suggesting this might prove they've got a fanbase more prepared to rig a vote than their best breakthrough competitors. It certainly suggests that, for all Lily Allen's new friends requests she gets on MySpace, few of her friends are prepared to spend a couple of minutes bombarding the Radio One with votes. Popularity only means something if people are prepared to act upon it.

It falls to the Scottish paper, as well, to provide a sentence which crystallises just how horrible mainstream British music has become:
Paisley singing sensation Paolo Nutini was pipped to the Best British Male Award by [James] Morrison.

We're not quite sure how far from the front the Telegraph's pisspoor Spy column was sitting, but the quality of their backstage gossip suggests they might not even have made it out of Earls' Court tube:
Cleo Roccos hasn't let the grass grow under her feet since leaving the Big Brother house. Spy recently reported that Roccos had been seen in the House of Commons with fellow contestant Jermaine Jackson. Roccos informs me of the plans she is hatching with him.

"We are forming a sort of Nobel Peace Prize meets the Oscars," she tells Celia Walden. "It will recompense people like Nelson Mandela and Al Gore for their achievements and the ceremony will take place in Dubai next February.

We bet Al Gore is already clearing his diary to get a prize off that woman who used to be on the Kenny Everett show twenty years ago. Mandela will be there, though. He's a bit of a showbiz whore these days. He's on Buzzcocks week after next.

Seriously, if The Times has anything about the Brits this morning on its site, I couldn't find it - there was a ticker which seemed to be about Amy Winehouse, but clicking on it didn't do anything. (Firefox, Mac 10.4.8 if it helps you, Mr. Murdoch.)

Perhaps we should give the last word, for now, to Alexis Petridis in The Guardian:
It's like a musical equivalent of Ski Sunday. No one watches it to see who wins, they tune in only in the hope of seeing something go disastrously wrong. When it doesn't - and it hasn't for over a decade - the Carnival of Mayhem immediately evaporates from the collective memory.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Ruined in a day: Anthony H has cancer

Tony Wilson has been diagnosed with cancer; typically, he's attempting to argue it into submission:

"It was a bit of a surprise to find out I had cancer because there is no family history.

"All my family tend to have heart attacks in the middle of the night aged in their 70s, 80s and 90s.

"I wasn't too upset when I was told the news. I just think you have to go with it and I see it as another step in life's adventure."

Wilson has thanked the NHS staff who have looked after him at Manchester Royal:
"The sheer quality of the care provided to me by the nursing staff and doctors has been fantastic," he said.

"It's funny that everyone has a moan about the NHS except for people who actually use it."

He's staying in hospital for a while, but hoping a successful release will follow the ingestion of a lot of high-power drugs. Which must be like working with the Happy Mondays again.

Get well, Tony.

Mills meets with the cops

Nobody seems quite sure why, but Heather Mills has had a meeting with Sussex Police.

Her spokesperson suggests it might be a meeting she's requested:

Lady McCartney's spokesman Phil Hall said he had not spoken to her, but she had been having "ongoing communication" with police about death threats.

The police? They don't suggest that:
"It was a pre-planned meeting," said a spokeswoman for Sussex Police, adding it "did not relate to anything specific and she was not arrested".

The "not arrested" bit has the hanging air of an unspoken "on this occasion", doesn't it? The police comment doesn't sound like they'd arranged a meeting for Heather to make complaints.

Like so much of Heather's life, it's all rather curious.

Brits live, live

In a few moments, the Brits will be taking to the airwaves, live - LIVE, dammit. Anything can happen, promises ITV, although that's not entirely true, is it? After all, not being on television live hasn't meant rock stars couldn't perform badly in the last few years, it's just they haven't bothered. So if they do tonight, it's going to be playing up for the cameras, rather than genuine hedonism or excitement.

Added to which, the odd spot of bad behaviour that has happened has been edited out by the Brits producers (employed by the Brits) anyway - so it's not even as if not being live has in itself kept things tame: anodyne editing has been down to the organisers. Why should it be any different tonight? An hasty cut-away instead of a jump-cut, and the result would be the same.

The date is a bit rubbish, too: since the idea is to try and flog some records in a quiet month, what's the point of televising the awards on the night when young people with disposable income are all out disposing of their income, paying double at the Pizza Express? Last night, with the ad breaks crammed full of slots promoting Love Collections albums, it would have made sense. Tonight, the second most popular night of the year for going out, seems to be a bit of an own goal.

And that was without factoring in the performance of Oasis, who've just popped up on Channel 4 News looking like refugees from a 'come as a refugee' fancy dress party.

We'll be adding to the post as anything which is going to happen, happens.

Jason's just told Eileen that he bubbled himself to social services. There's a sense this might be as exciting as the evening is going to get. ITV is trailing The Abbey, which looks like the sort of programme deliberately placed to be dropped at a moment's over-running notice.

Continuity stress that anything could happen. Good lord, the break bumpers are YouTubesque bits of people miming to songs.

Scissor Sisters are on first - Jakes Shears is wearing the sort of gloves last seen on TV when James Herriot was inspecting cows' backsides. There's no muppets this year, but the gimmick is dancers where you can only see their legs. Oh, and more 1970s kids TV black-dressed puppetry after all.

I Don't Feel Like Dancing. That's the note to set things off on, then.

Ooh, they've got Tom Baker doing voice over and an animated skull. Brand's come on to The Smiths. Not wearing a scarf tonight, Russell? Afraid the ITV audience might not be ready for such effemecy yet?

He observes that the set looks like one of "Amy Winehouse's tattoos".

"Dear Robbie... he's gone to rehab. Let me entertain you? As long you don't need 60 red bulls to get in the mood..."

Russell is now getting the audience to "send love" to Williams -he's not being ironic - and now moving onto some business about David Cameron taking drugs and his "egg for a face."

First award: Keith Allen ("he produced Lily from his willy", before the watershed.)

Keith Allen tells us how incredible the response for his daughter was, although trying to wrap it up in a gag about Robin Hood.

Allen's here for the live act prize - Robbie's only shout of the night: Muse have been given it by Radio 2's audience. In Arizona, another can of vicodin is being cracked open.

Matt Bellamy thanks the fans, one of them tries to flirt with the idea of Courtney Love.

Oh, god, Snow Patrol. Chasing Cars. What a surprise.

"If I lie here, would you lie with me?"

No, but if you don't move, I'm going to drive my Mini Metro over you.

They've attempted to add some excitement by, erm, hanging some lightbulbs from the set. It looks a little like a health and safety officer's recreated that Police video with all the candles.

The front row is waving arms in co-ordinated movements - if we didn't know better, we'd assume they were placemen trying to whip the other seventy rows of stock-still people into making the event somehow televisual.

Still, kudos to ITV for not trying to pretend its shot on film, which is the sort of trick Channel 4 would play.

Now we're backstage with an excited Fearne Cotton and a not-so-excited Muse. Matt Bellamy has just said that Kasabian are great. Take back their bloody award.

We have the power to decide who wins the best single - there's a shortlist. Fearne says it's really easy to vote. Judging by the shortlist, Will Young, Snow Patrol, Take That, The Feeling (?) and Razorlight, it's already been too simple to rig. Will Young? They're bloody joking, aren't they?

British breakthrough ("and pierced the hymen") - it's Jarvis presenting. "Have you missed me?" asks Jarvis. He's got a job of work to do, it's not about nostalgia.

Radio One listeners voted for this one, so we know who to blame. In fact, Jarvis repeats that, with the air of a health warning.

Bloody hell, it's The Fratellis. Lily Allen is a step closer to a Craig David, as the band celebrate the capriciousness of the public by showering each other with Irn Bru. (They warned us anything could happen.)

The Fratellis thank the fans for being "in on this thing from the beginning... we'll never forget..."One of them looks like they couldn't remember their name. Oh, and it looks like they had the mic cut on them, so it's not as if anything at all will happen.

Russell suggests that we could avoid friendly fire incidents if the sides in war played shirts and skins.

Toni Collette has come on for international breakthrough act - she's excited to be here, although not as excited as Fearne Cotton. Nobody could be as excited as Fearne Cotton.

The winner, oddly, is Orson. They've turned up, which may or may not be connected. They think it's a fan-voted award. Shockingly, it's not. Tony Orson doesn't seem especially surprised.

Orson attempt to tickle Russell's cock with their prize.

Amy Winehouse - with half a beehive (a wasphive?) sounds bloody awful and is dancing in a way that suggests she thinks the floor isn't quite as fixed down as you'd expect. She's doing Rehab, of course. The performance isn't helped by a backing band who sound like they'll be the Hawaiian bar at Minehead Pontins all this summer.

Best British Male is being presented by Joss Stone, who has come dressed as TV-am's Mad Lizzie. Joss sends "big love to Robbie Williams for what he's going through right now." That'd be two boxes of Vicodin and a can of red bull, presumably.

When Tom Baker says "Paolo Nutini" it sounds more amusing than anything he ever had to say for Little Britain.

James Morrison has won. This means, somehow, people have concluded that he's better than Jarvis Cocker, which is plainly nuts.

He actually looks like the love child of James Blunt and Johnny Borrell. He can't believe he's here. Nor can we, pal, nor can we.

Back to Fearne, with Orson gathered around her, stressing again how "easy" it is to vote, although her instructions are different from last time. Did she just call James Morrison Richard?

Back from the adverts, Erin O'Connor and some fashion designer bloke are dragged on to flirt with each other and present International Male Solo artist. Who from the indistinguished list (and Dylan) will win?

Justin Timberlake. He's sent a thank you video telling us he's "flattered".

The Killers are introduced with a giant bedsheet with their name on it dropping away to reveal them. They actually sound a lot better than we were expecting - certainly there's a bit more about them live tonight than they usually manage on record. The effort seems to have gone into the performance rather than the gimmicks - we bet it was even a work experience boy at the record label who did the bedsheet thing.

So far, then, the closest we've had to edgy is the bloke from Orson wearing a hat that looked like it was stolen off a trucker on his day off (in place of his usual pork pie proper musician hat) and Russell Brand making a joke about a photo of the Queen's private parts. If they're not careful, they'll have made it past the watershed without outraged calls to Ofcom.

Jo Whiley has been given best British Female to present; she's doing a bit of career teacher bit about how there are more "girls" making music than ever before.

And yet they've still had to give a prize to Amy Winehouse. Two-nil down, Lily. To be fair, Lily doesn't look too bothered, although the screen froze when they cut away to her. Not as much as Amy does, though, during her rambling acceptance speech, in which she manages to make a list of names sound confusing.

Best international female falls to Ricky Wilson, who calls it best "international girl" - Nelly Furtado is there. Sorry, the winner. (Presumably, then, none of the international males had turned up, which would explain how Justin won in absentia.)

Nelly seems genuinely thrilled to be winning a Brit. And sober, which is quite a surprise.

Take That have chosen to do that new one for their performance, and their all-black matching outfits don't make them look sexy, just like Kwik Fit fitters gone to help out Oswald Moseley after work. Mark Owen has got his hand all done up like Gary Lineker during that World Cup; perhaps he'd trapped his hand in a mincing machine. Gary Barlow might dance like a middle-manager at a Christmas show, but they still sound great.

In Arizona, another box of Xannax and a can of Jolt cola are ordered from room service.

Back stage with Fearne, who is now babbling anything that sounds like it might be a link somewhere in her head. The light is flashing off her bracelet; we like to think it's sending porn stories out in morse code.

Best British band: Giles is giving this one out. Anthony Stewart Head anyway. He doesn't, sadly, come on to Coffee Advert Couples.

The Arctic Monkeys have won, but they're not there. They've filmed themselves dressed up as the Wizard of Oz, and wonderfully don't make any attempt to explain why.

Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and their new film are presenting best international album. The Killers get the prize as a thank-you for turning up. Well, even the least cynical would have smelled a rat if they'd given it to the Scissor Sisters.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers have, of course, removed some of their shirts for their performance. It's meant to be a real big deal for them to be on the bill tonight, but they've played Moe's Bar, so clearly they'll turn up anywhere.

Doesn't Anthony Kiedis look like Posh Spice these days?

They're advertising a Harry Potter chess set - collect week-by-week with some sort of magazine. It's all very exciting. And Microsoft are trying to claim that Windows Vista is on a par with the fall of the Berlin Wall and discovering an elk has moved in next door to you, whereas it's more like seeing the first edition of Metal Mickey and someone walking a cocker spaniel in the path. ITV are also desperately pushing The Abbey in every break, and evey trail makes Buzzcocks seem more and more attractive.

International Group is being awarded by the Sam Fox and Mick Fleetwoodesque pairing of Sophie Ellis Bextor and Steve Tyler. Tyler criticises Brand's hair while Sophie utters a businesslike "indeed..."

If Red Hot Chili Peppers win, it'll show the event up for a farrago.

Blimey, it's the Killers. Hurry up on stage, lads, for Fearne Cotton is filling in while you walk to the front with some words she has thinking in her head about rich rewards.

Good lord, it's shaping up for "Killer's night" headlines.

The mic fades down while Russell is introducing Corinne Bailey Rae - probably because of technical failure rather than outrageous rudery. Bailey Rae is standing looking like she's just got out of bed, and would rather still be there. Which may account for why she appears to be wearing a pillowcase rather than an outfit. Rather than employ dancers, the budget seems to have been blown on hiring a bunch of people to stand around the back of stage looking bored. Oh... hold on, they are moving slightly. One of them is on a bicycle.

Has there always been a middle eight in this song? They've celebrated its arrival by firing glitter over the stage and the standers turning into dancers. Heavy glitter has almost obscured the stage. Blimey, Corinne's swallowed some. Could this be the "anything" they promised? Someone choking on glitrer? Live on TV?


What has been the outcome of the poll for best single? Alan Carr will tell us. Yes you do, Alan Carr. We can only thank god Justin Lee Collins hasn't turned up.

They've been busy counting, and the winner is Take That. Which is the least worst possible outcome. (It's worth noting that Lily didn't make it fromn longlist to shortlist here.)

Gary Barlow says it's unbelievable, and then the mics fail again while Mark Owen is trying to talk. Nobody mentions, you know, former friends who might be on hard times.

Best British album is time for Sean Bean to come on stage - presumably he's still got some sort of contract with ITV that he's working through? Maybe we'll see Caroline Quintin and Rebekah Wade's ex-bloke before we hit ten o'clock.

Will Lily break her duck?

Nope, it's gone to the Arctic Monkeys. Sean Bean mentions how he's from Sheffield seventeen times in his three minutes on stage. This time, the Arctic Monkeys are dressed as the Village People. Excellent.

Fearne's got Take That in her boudoir. Ver that tell her they're going to rotate who gets to look after the award, two weeks at a time. "What's your favourite moment of the Brits so far?" asks a keen Fearne. "Winning" says a Mark Owen, clearly bemused at such a lame question being asked on a flagship show.

Fearne then trails "a blistering set" by Oasis, which, erm, hasn't happened yet - so it's not clear how she can be so sure it's blistering, unless they had large sun lamps on the stage during rehearsal or something. What's left? Has Lily Allen run out of chances?

Great, Blogger is doing its trademark "verification letters not showing" bug. Trident, Cadbury's attempt to break into the less-peanut-allergy-and-samonella-laced chewing gum market, have just made their big launch under the slogan "Mastication for the nation". Do you get it?

Russell introduces another "really important" award, which he's said about them all. It's time for Oasis to be given they're "Your best years are behind you" prize. Brand does at least remind us of Noel's hanging out with Tony Blair. "When I first met liam, I didn't know if he was going to headbutt me or kiss me..." Apparently "football fans love them because they write poetry for all of us." Oh, please.

Wasn't Ringo meant to be giving this prize. Liam does a trying to look couldn't care less "this'll have to do" and Noel says something that can't be heard because the mics break again.

There's ten minutes to fill. That's a lot of Oasis.

Liam is stood, singing Cigarettes and Alcohol, arms behind the back like he did when they seemed a band full of possibilities. But he's singing it like he's a John Culshaw impersonation of himself. Noel stands with the air of a man thinking deeply about something, like he's waiting for a bus and wants to concentrate to avoid to avoid having to talk to the people around him. The sound dips out for a moment - for a second, it seems that they are about to confound us: could it be they're going to pull something a bit more Mudhoney on us? But no, it's just the sound problems ITV have been having all evening. It happens again and again - when they kept promising "anything could happen", who knew it meant the big headliners having their set screwed up by the broadcaster?

And that's it, then - a Brits without much in the way of a story to it, none of the promised excitement, and even watching Lily Allen not win anything wasn't as much fun as it could have been. It's ironic, though, that after all that time protesting that she didn't want to be known as her father's daughter, he was the only member of the clan who made it onto stage all evening.

How would you spend five million quid to improve life in Britain?

Perhaps you'd spend it to plug the gap in thoracic nurses in London, say, or give it to help prop up a failing school. It could be used to convert a few public buildings to sustainable energy, or provide free transport for kids in Somerset or something useful.

The DTI, meanwhile, has spent it providing an extra 4,500 trading standards copyright enforcement officers. They're charged with going round looking into people selling pirated CDs, videos, and games.

This, Trade and Industry Minister Malcolm Wicks believes, is money well spent:

"The UK film, music and game industries are among the most creative and innovative in the world, but peddlers of counterfeits are costing those industries up to £9 billion a year. The taxpayer is also losing out to the tune of £300 million. It's a serious offence, whether committed by small-scale hawkers or international crime organisations."

So, we - the taxpayers - are paying five million to target a loss to us of just £300 million. Is this really such a good deal? That £300 million in "losses" is based on the amount of VAT which would have been paid had the goods been legitimate and purchased over a counter.

But this five million in spends isn't going to bring £300 million back into the exchequer, simply because even if it wipes out all illegal sales (which, of course, it won't - 450 people couldn't manage to police all the car boot sales in the country, to say nothing of street markets, odd little shops, people flogging dodgy CDs in pubs, the bloke that hangs about the council offices offering round a list of albums he'll burn for a fiver...) then a large number of people who are happy to spend a couple of quid on a CD-R of a record aren't going to suddenly decide to nip down to Virgin and spend a tenner instead; they'll probably just buy an extra pint of beer.

There is, of course, the usual justification that what might seem like a bloke you recognise from the allotments flogging fake Lily Allen albums could well be the pinnacle of a multinational crime syndicate:
Ron Gainsford, Chief Executive of the Trading Standards Institute, said:
"Crimelords currently earn fortunes peddling fake goods, bootleg CDs and DVDs through car boot sales and other outlets. People might think they are getting a bargain and turn a blind eye to what is really happening but they should realise that the proceeds from the sale of these goods are used to finance a whole range of criminal activities."

But if this is the case, why not arrest the crimelords for the drug-and-gun running they're apparently using car boot sales to launder for? We know that accountants love to point out that Al Capone was done for tax fraud and not murder, but are we really in such a potmess that the response to a bloke selling guns and laundering the cash through a boot sale is to, erm, focus on the boot sale?

If it's a nine billion pound industry, as the DTI claims, isn't it possible that people might be in it for the cash from the piracy itself rather than to fund other criminal activities?

And we've not seen much in the way of evidence that British gangsters are sitting around burning CDs of BBC Sporting Themes to make sure they can buy new uzis.

There's a few cases of a small amount of class As turning up alongside the copying equipment - but that hardly proves a major link between major criminals and the average pirate CD seller. There's been one case where a guy had an air gun. But even when the DVD industry tries to prove some solid link, they really can't come up with much worse than "people who sell counterfeit DVDs break the law by selling counterfeit DVDs." Of course, the law is the law is the law, but if we've got five million quid to spare on law enforcement, wouldn't it be better to spend it trying to break the rings of people trafficers who are forcing women into prositution, or major drug dealers, rather than trying to shore up record company profits? I can't think of anyone out of upper management at a record label who has been clamouring for nearly five hundred copyright cops to be brought onto the streets.

EMI shares dropping like especially heavy flightless birds

We're not sure you can blame it entirely on Robbie Williams' planned swing album looking dubious now, but EMI have issued a fresh profit warning - the second this year. This time, they're saying the six-to-ten percent slump in profits they warned about in January? It might be closer to 15%.

Norah Jones' album didn't do the trick, then, boys?

EMI shares had started a bounce back after falling as low as 201p, but are still nearly 14 per cent down on the day's trading.

If you see one of their executives at the Brits tonight, do the decent thing and don't expect them to buy their own drinks, eh?

Gennaro Castaldo watch: Reunited, and it feels so good

The Belfast Telegraph has noticed a trend - that old bands are getting back together.

And a trend cannot be noticed without an expert being asked to explain the trend.

This, of course, is a job for HMV's Gennaro Castaldo:

HMV's Gennaro Castaldo said he thought there was a "fun" element to it as well.

"Usually most of the names that are successful enough to reunite... have to be of a certain stature anyway, hence the motivation is very rarely likely to be financial," he said. "They think it would be a lot of fun, maybe with a slightly different audience."

But not every band can make a successful return.

Gennaro said: "All Saints failed to match the success enjoyed by Take That when they recently reappeared on the scene. Their new album Studio 1 debuted at number 40. All Saints never really had that kind of emotional engagement.

"You also need a song that really announces you are back in a big way.

"Take That had their single Patience - it was not out of place for them to sing but it came across as still being relevant."

You know what? He's right. Except for, erm, Take That coming back and doing a sell-out tour before they'd even thought about going into the studio. Except for that bit.

I'm not even sure Bikinilicious is a word, you know

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue occupies a special place in the pantheon of porn-lite: it's there for the kids too afraid to try Playboy and whose households don't have room for the National Geographic. It's erotica for the weak-willed. And it still tries to pretend that it's in some way an educational experience - in the sense of having something useful to say about swimwear in modern America, not in the sense of teaching teens why they should switch the radio on when they explore pictures of half-undressed ladies.

This year, though, the Swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated is, in itself, a special edition - for some reason, it's a music/bikini special. To this end, Beyonce is on the cover, with the words "as you've never seen her before" - although, frankly, "not wearing many clothes" seems to sum up precisely how we've seen Beyonce every time before, to be honest.

It won't sell any music. It won't sell any swimsuits. But it might sell a pile of magazines.

Tonight, they're rock and roll veterans

Our stomach clenched a little with the news that Oasis are lining up to do five songs at tonight's Brits:

The group are then scheduled to perform 'Cigarettes & Alcohol', 'The Meaning Of Soul', 'Morning Glory', 'Don't Look Back In Anger' and 'Rock 'N' Roll Star'.

Good bloody God: presumably ITV will have wandered off to show something with dinosaurs and/or Trevor McDonald in long before the end of that little bunch? After all, there's not much point in the Brits running past ten o'clock anyway, as it's the Preston strop on Never Mind The Buzzcocks tonight and, frankly, missing that to see Oasis doing Meaning of Soul (nope, us neither) isn't much of an attractive proposition.

Meanwhile, Noel has been wittering away about the next album:
"Our producer Dave Sardy is coming over for the BRITS so I guess we'll have a chat and kick around some ideas. I've got eight songs that I'm pretty happy with.

"Liam has got one of two that he thinks are brilliant. I fancy doing something more elaborate with this one. It's about time."

But every bloody time you suggest that the last album was just treading water and the next one is going to be amazing, until you... how many songs? Liam's got two... happy... clear the table, mother, I think I'm going...

Glasto: You can now make more friends

Acting in response to some of the complaints from previous festivals that the "tout-beating" limit of two tickets per purchase was a bit tight, Michael Eavis has announced that this year, if you're able to get through, you can buy four tickets. Oh, and it'll help the planet, too:

Our stated aim has always been to combat the ticket touting and to make the ticket buying system as fair as possible. Now in response to many requests, I am pleased to announce that when tickets go on sale on 1 April, it will be possible to buy up to FOUR tickets in a single transaction.

"Not only will this be more convenient for families and groups, but it should also vastly reduce the number of cars coming to the farm."

Of course, to buy four tickets, you'll need to have three friends who have also stuck their faces into the computer matrix of proven identification that is ruling this year's festival. You've still got a couple of weeks to persuade everyone you know that they might want to pass their details to a site with only the vaguest privacy policy.

Give me back my Give Me Back My Heart

As our thoughts turn to Valentine's Day, what, you might find yourself wondering, is the 69th best love song ever?

Happily, the New York Daily News can help you out, there. It's Vision of Love, by Mariah Carey.

At least, that's according to their 100 Greatest Love Songs of all time. Not sexiest, they're quick to stress - this isn't about wrapping yourself in naked, getting chained to the wall while your naked arse is spanked to within an inch of steak tartare. Oh, no. This is romantic, slushy, "I've booked a table for two at Red Lobster, and we don't even have to stick to house wine" stuff, compiled using science:

Eligible songs had to have endured at least a decade in the public consciousness, if not two or three. And they had to have been popular enough to have ranked among the top 20 pop songs in whatever year they were released.

So, here's the top ten:

1. "My Girl" The Temptations
2. "I'll Be There" The Jackson 5
3. "Wonderful Tonight" Eric Clapton
4. "I Just Called to Say I Love You" Stevie Wonder
5. "You Are So Beautiful" Joe Cocker
6. "In My Life" The Beatles
7. "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" Roberta Flack
8. "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" Elvis Presley
9. "Michelle" The Beatles
10. "I Can't Stop Loving You" Ray Charles

In My Life the most romantic Beatles song? Cocker's old croaky tune? Wonderful cowing Tonight? Good lord, this isn't even table-for-two-at-Red-Lobster; it's more "I might see you at Taco Bell if I get out the strip joint early."


Further down the list, there's Take On Me by A-Ha. Which, while a great pop song, hardly constitutes one of the most romantic, does it?

Noel: The penny drops

It seems to have struck Noel Gallagher - too late, too late - that tonight, Oasis pick up the old fart's prize:

“We’re finally up there with EURYTHMICS, STING and BOB GELDOF.

Finally, Noel?

“Otherwise they’re going to ask us every year. It seemed the right time.

“We’d put out Stop The Clocks and we’re all under 40.

“So we just decided, ‘Fuck it, let’s ..."

No, it's no good... we're going...

Robbie Williams is not in control

We might be especially cynical, but we can't help wondering: when Robbie booked rehab, did he think "it's my 33rd birthday, which is a pity, but if I'm going to try and upstage the Brits..."?

Although really, he'd have been better off waiting 24 hours. As, instead, today there's just the sense that he's a bad loser. The 3AM Girls in the Mirror (in an "exclusive" headlined "torment of Robbie") more-or-less blames us - the Great British Public - and them - the Brits - for conspiring to feed Robbie Xanax:

The bombing of his latest album Rudebox - mauled by critics - coupled with former band Take That's hugely successful comeback only pushed him further into the abyss of depression.

And Robbie, once the golden boy of pop with a clutch of awards and millions of fans, was distraught when he managed one paltry nomination at tonight's Brits.

For the first time in 10 years he is not up for Best British Male, Best British Album or Best Single - just a conciliatory nod in the Best Live Act category.

As an abyss is bottomless is bottomless, it's not clear you can actually go further into one - it's like saying there's a deeper bottomless pit somewhere.

The 3AMies reckon the birthday check-in is part of that big 'ole wacky Williams sense of fun we all know and have to endure in gurning appearance after gurning appearance:
Sources close to self-confessed cocaine and booze binger Robbie, whose career is on the slide, said his decision to check himself in to the Meadows rehab clinic in Arizona on his birthday was down to his "weird sense of humour".

Yes. Very funny. Although a rehab you can check into with a cheeky wink doesn't sound like the sort of place your demons chase you to, does it?

The Meadows, of course, was the rehab clinic where Kate Moss was "cured" of cocaine use in about five minutes, and where she later sent Pete Doherty. Doherty didn't exactly come back a different man.

The Daily Mail swings into action, erm, cutting and pasting bits from Lisa D'Amato's News of the World interview on Sunday:
'Sad Robbie has to pop pills just to get through the day'

The Mail details - or rather, quotes the NOTW detailing - how Williams needs to pop pills just... oh, you're ahead of us.

Not that the Mail isn't sympathetic to a suffering man. Elsewhere, it offers a Bedlam style chance to look at the madman:
Scroll down to watch video of Robbie behaving like a child

It brings its readers up to speed on the story, too:
Williams has become a recluse at his home in LA and recently cancelled the Asian leg of his world tour, citing stress and exhaustion.

That's the sort of recluse who bumps into America's Next Top Model competitors at glittery parties and pops up in paparazzi snaps shopping with Michelle Trachtenberg. That sort of recluse.

But while the Mirror suggests the root of his problems is a string a terrible setbacks, the Mail quotes his sister Sally as saying his trouble is he's like a god:
'He has a vulnerable side and is very human. People tend to put him on a pedestal and he has almost become public property. There is a lot of pressure that goes with that.'

At confusing times like this, we must turn to Victoria Newton in The Sun. Much like Churchill during the darkest days of war, she'll shine some light into the now-even-deeper abysses where Robbie struggles with the loss of his fame and being too popular. Of course, the story is really all about... her:
I SPENT an incredible two and a half hours alone with Robbie Williams in the middle of his Close Encounters world tour last year.

Of course, Victoria. For you are, it says here:
The Journalist Who Knows Robbie Best

Although not so well as to stop your paper running a big piece yesterday morning about how Robbie would be marking his 33rd birthday with a celebration, of course. But do carry on.

What was he like when you met him last year?
Robbie is immensely likeable and charming in the flesh, and despite confessing he hated being on tour, he seemed to be going through a happier phase of his life.

You really do know him well, don't you? Odd that everyone else seemed to think he was a pill-popping crime scene.
I’ve met him at various stages of his life. From when he was just a cheeky young chappie in Take That — to when he was hopelessly addicted to drugs and drink and incapable of holding a conversation.

Wasn't he incapable of holding a conversation while he was in Take That?

Still, at the meeting where Robbie seemed happy and relaxed, Victoria - with her trained journalist's eye for detail - noticed that he didn't seem all that happy or relaxed:
[W]hen I met up with him in a posh hotel in Vienna, he seemed happy.

He admitted he would crack up if he wasn’t still on the “happy pills”, and I watched as he downed at least six double espressos during the course of the interview. And each time he put out a cigarette, he immediately lit up another one.

I also noticed that he still finds it impossible to sit still or relax.

He is constantly fidgeting, wandering around the room, whistling, singing, and obviously finds it hard to just sit back and chill out.

Actually, we'd be pretty agitated if we were locked in a room for two hours with Newton.
And while he did seem genuinely upbeat, a lot has happened to Robbie since then.

He was forced to cancel dates in Asia claiming he was exhausted while his Rudebox album was met with mixed reviews and disappointing sales.

And he has been forced to accept that the Take That reunion tour has overshadowed his own record breaking Close Encounters tour.

Not that you'd have got that impression if you read Newton's column, of course.
I think it’s a combination of those things that probably tipped him over the edge.

Oddly, Newton makes no mention of one of his other big troubles - former Take That manager Nigel Martin-Smith threatening to sue over lyrics to one of the songs on Rudebox. You'd have thought that expensive slip would have been close to the top of Newton's mind, what with her printing the lyrics in full and the paper then having to run a grovelling apology to Martin-Smith and all.

It's also interesting that Newton suggests that a bad late autumn pushed an otherwise contented Williams "over the edge" when all other suggestions - even her own bloody piece - make it clear he's been popping pills since Mrs Dale was a diarist. But then Newton is clearly so afraid of losing Williams exclusives, she can't even bring herself to call him a self-obsessed fuck-up. Indeed, you'd think she was applauding:
Robbie is a complex character with a big heart and a big ego — coupled with low self-esteem and self loathing. It is exactly that combination of things that makes him the best performer this country has produced in years.

He's so brilliant, he's had to check himself into brilliantness rehab, to stop his wonderfulness burning a hole in his amazingness.

So, what's he hooked on? The Sun knows, of course:
He is hooked on the powerful and controversial anti-depressant Seroxat, which has been linked to suicidal tendencies in teenagers.

And daily he gets through an incredible 36 super-strength double espresso coffees, 60 Silk Cut cigarettes and around 20 cans of energy drink Red Bull.

That's a lot. Especially since The Mirror reckons:
Friends feared Robbie, 33 yesterday, had lost his mind thanks to his addiction to potent pills Vicodin and Xanax.

It's the red bull that's the most worrying, of course. Think what it's doing to his teeth.

Still, if he is getting through sixty fags a day, it might go some way to explaining why it takes him three hours to get it up.

The Mirror, meanwhile, frets over how he spends his day:
He spent days on end watching TV or reading about himself on the internet. His curtains stayed drawn all day as he lost track of time.

Reading about himself on the internet? You don't think he ever... nah, surely not.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

RIAA not ready to make sense, nice

The fun-loving, tireless guys at the RIAA have sent a interesting letter [pdf] to America's ISPs calling for their help in the war on illegal downloads.

First, the music industry hints that it's about to launch a new wave of pointless, nasty legal actions:

You may have noticed a recent decline in [requests for user details]. We anticipate that we will begin providing such notices to you again soon and that our members will follow such notices with new Doe lawsuits and subpoenas.

Well, just because an idea is a self-defeatingly expensive one, that's no reason to give up, is it?

Then, they claim that consumers love having their privacy violated by their internet service provider on the say-so of some record company:
Communication [between ISP and customer] should begin as early as possible.[...] Many ISPs already do this and we have heard repeatedly from ISP users that they appreciate this early notification.

Yes, when people are thinking of buying a broadband package, they do often consider "how quickly will this company bubble me to the RIAA" as almost as important a factor as contention ratio and price. Now, we're not going to call the RIAA liars, but we have heard repeatedly that making stuff up is a pretty good indication of fibbers at work.

The RIAA then provides a "model" letter, and reiterates that consumers will be thrilled - "will appreciate" - getting them.

Not as much as customers would appreciate their ISP asking for a higher level of proof from the RIAA before caving in, we'd imagine.

Then the letter takes a gently menancing turn - the RIAA shakes its head, claps the corporate hand round the shoulder, and warns that some ISPs have been bad. So very, very bad.

Some ISPs, it says, have told customers to ignore the RIAA. Some customers have been "given the wrong number" for phoning up the record companies represntatives. Heaven forbid, some ISPs have even tried to help their customers:
The ISP told a subscriber that "it seems likely that the RIAA could have been wrong in identifying your IP address as the source of the infringement it claims" and directed the subscriber to certain websites, instead of having him contact the RIAA.

Fancy that - simply because the RIAA have been wrong, the ISP told its customer to find out some facts from a third party before speaking to the people demanding thousands of pounds on a bit of a whim. Just imagine, eh?

The RIAA suggests some re-education is required:
We ask you to caution your help centre staff [...] In particular, we ask that your help center staff refrain from issuing opinions about the validity of the copyright claims.

Why? Obviously, it's inconvenient for the RIAA if an ISP tells its customers that the RIAA's writ is not law, but surely "asking" staff to be prevented from pointing out that the record company is pursuing action which has been proven to be flawed in the past is an attempt to interfere with the customer's right to be given all the facts, isn't it?

But then, the RIAA hints quite clearly that it has been working on bum information in the past:
If you or your staff determine that you have misidentifed a subscriber account in response to a subpoena or if you become aware of technical information in your possession that causes you to question the information you provided...

... no, it doesn't want the ISP to efficiently and quickly inform its customers this time. "Tell us", says the RIAA, so we can avoid "perpetuating the mistake by filing a lawsuit."

Of course, since the RIAA is pushing for settlement as quickly as possible - before court - chances are the labels will be pocketing the money before anyone has a chance to notice the mistake.

The letter encourages ISPs to make sure their help is good. Eye-openingly, it then lists some of the problems its trying to avoid:
In response to a subpoena, the ISP identified a customer who was not even a subscriber at the time of the infringement[...]

The ISP identified a subscriber [but] failed to maintain records [so] could not exculpate the subscriber.

But if the ISP has no record which shows the subscriber wasn't using a certain IP address, doesn't that mean they also have no evidence which proves they were?

And if there are cases where the record-keeping has been this poor, doesn't this mean the RIAA have been leaning on people incorrectly?

And if the RIAA have made mistakes in the past, isn't it only fair to tell customers that, when they become the target of the RIAA?

Taking a deep breath, the organisation offers to forward a form letter to the ISP which can be sent to customers suspected (remember, only suspected) of illegal downloads. Smart guys at the RIAA - they're cutting costs by getting the ISP to pay the postage on their legal notices. That's one way to keep the spiralling fees they're paying the lawyers down. It also offers - "to benefit your subscribers" - a chance for the ISP to participate in an extended period of negotiation if they play ball with them.

This is all a little puzzling - the RIAA maintains that file-downloaders are no better than common thieves, pinching stuff and putting kiddiewinks into the poor house. It's only - assuming their IP addresses are right - customers who are involved in this theft who would benefit from this extended window. So are the RIAA really saying that ISPs should sign up to a scheme which is only of benefit to their law-breaking customers? If the RIAA is serious about how bad downloads are, why are they offering such a deal?

It's because, of course, the legal threats are no longer about right and wrong, or protecting artists in a digital age. Threatening the poor with enormous legal bills they can't afford, and offering a cheaper get-out, has become a nice little earner for some sections of the music industry and entertainment lawyers. The letter shows a shameless bid to shake-down rather than a serious attempt to enforce copyright.

Most compellingly? The RIAA is setting up a website,, purely to process "early settlement" payments from frightened families. None of this has stopped people from downloading music, but it's certainly helped redirect cash from families to paralegals and executives.

Can you replace iPod batteries yourself?

The consensus - or rather, official line - is no you can't. But, apparently, it's easy when you know how to. Not for us, though, we're a bit rubbish at stuff like this - but DIY iPod repairs aren't impossible.

Peer to peer sharing: "Close to zero" effect

Over the last half-decade or so, we can only guess at the person hours, cash and goodwill squandered by the RIAA fighting peer-to-peer file-sharing. They believed that it was that, rather than a reliance on a dwindling number of big hitters and an inability to embrace the digital opportunities on offer, that threatened their businesses.

Guess what? They were wrong.

The latest Journal of Political Economy features research by Felix Oberholzer-Gee and Koleman Strumpf which has found the effect of peer-to-peer sharing's effect on legal sales has been "close to zero":

Analyzing data from the final four months of 2002, the researchers estimated that P2P affected no more than 0.7% of sales in that timeframe.

"Using detailed records of transfers of digital music files, we find that file sharing has had no statistically significant effect on purchases of the average album in our sample," the study reports. "Even our most negative point estimate implies that a one-standard-deviation increase in file sharing reduces an album's weekly sales by a mere 368 copies, an effect that is too small to be statistically distinguishable from zero."

This, remember, is 2002 - before there was any workable legal alternative to peer-to-peer downloads.

Although, of course, losing another 368 copies from Ashlee Simpson's albums total would have sent her into negative sales...

Ahead, just the Grave

Pretty Girls Make Graves have announced their farewell tour dates:

10 May Milwaukee Mad Planet
11 Iowa City Picador
12 Chicago Empty Bottle
13 Cleveland Grog Shop
16 Philadelphia North Star Bar
17 Cambridge Middle East
18 Providence Living Room
20 Washington DC Black Cat
22 Atlanta Earl
23 Tampa Orpheum
28 Austin Emo's
3 June Los Angeles Troubadour
4 San Francisco Great American Music Hall

See ya! MTV chops

In what seems to be the latest staging post on a long, slow decline, MTV has announced 250 staff are being given the chop in the US. This, apparently, is:

"an attempt to reduce costs and expand its digital reach and its newer networks."

The reducing costs bit we can see. But how, exactly, does one "expand" a network with less people working on it?

Still, MTV could always try stopping making rubbish lifestyle programmes and just stick out some pop videos instead. Crazy idea; might just work.

Charlotte Church: Michael Parkinson was well out of order

Charlotte Church has tutted that Michael Parkinson asked her about shagging:

"Michael Parkinson asked me, 'How's your sex life?' I said, 'Mr Parkinson, are you serious?' He went, 'Oh, sorry, I shouldn't have asked that'. "Damn right he shouldn't," the Welsh star said, "he's old enough to be my grandad."

We're not quite sure how much younger Parky would have had to be for it to be alright - or, indeed, why the question was so far out of line when she, erm, has been threatening to write a sex guide.

Charlotte, you see, believes that there are lines over which interviewers should not step:
"The producers suggest questions - 'Ask Ashlee Simpson about the plastic surgery rumours' I go, 'No, she's 22.

"If she's had plastic surgery [a rumoured nose job], it would have been because she's so insecure. I'm not going to bring that up.'"

Which might be fair enough, were it not for three things. First, having your nose replaced by a totally different nose isn't exactly a secret, what with it being as plain as the, well, nose on your face. It's not the sort of thing that you do if you don't want people to admire it.

Secondly, Simpson's hypocritical pronouncements in Marie Claire about how you should you shoud love yourself for what you are, made while having the appointment with Doctor Newnose already pencilled in, would more than make it fair game for an interview - after all, since she's been caught out churning out positive-sounding stuff in the media, shouldn't an interviewer ask why anyone should believe a word she says?

Thirdly, and most importantly, Simpson had already been talking about the nosejob elsewhere on her promo tour - something the producers of the programme would have known, even if Church didn't.

Fair enough, The Charlotte Church Show isn't Newsnight, but Church has made it clear that there's no point whatsoever in watching, as guests are going to be treated to the softest ride of their lives. Not Newsnight? It's not even Davina.

Doherty fined

A small cash settlement is going to see Pete Doherty right with the police - he's been fined £300 for driving without insurance, £100 for driving without a licence and £55 costs following his traffic offences, according to BBC Radio London news.

Something to listen to

Momus covers Bowie's Ashes to Ashes

This morning's Today programme featured a report on mash-ups. Yes, it might be a few years behind the loop, but that's because the hook they're hanging the report on is the half-hearted embrace of the genre by EMI

Radio 4's Freak Out Frank Zappa story.

Zune on a stick?

Microsoft is, surprisingly, coy about releasing figures for sales of Zune, almost as if it's unloved and left gathering dust in the darkest corners of the electronic shops. However, one indication of how well the player might be doing can be extrapolated from Zune Marketplace installations: in December, a not-entirely-massive 0.22% of Windows users had installed the player, which suggests that (unless it did surprisingly well in the Christmas market), Zune's launch wasn't one of the great successes of the new media age.

Pops off - or are they?

Liverpool's fantastically cash-hungry summer pops have been axed for this year, in the midst of the City's run-up to be Cultural capital of Europe. Although, being Liverpool, the scrapping of the event isn't that neat: "Town Hall sources" reckon three companies are apparently keen to pick up the min-fest, insisting they can run it without the need for the huge subsidies the songs-in-a-tent.

But then again, are they?

Cream had originally asked for an uncapped contribution from the council, but deny they're prepared to run it without ratepayers footing the bill:

Cream boss James Barton today denied he had offered to run the Pops for free, but said he wanted to discuss with the council how the event might be staged.

He said: “We believe the Pops should take place and we would be prepared to sit down with the council to find a way it could take place this year.”

You'll note the suggestion that running the event on the basis of a commercial event, making a profit, has magically transmogrified into running the event "for free."

Murdoch tries to remove beam in his own eye

News International (along with Viacom, Disney and so on) have hurled accusations at Google that they're effectively living off immoral earnings by serving up adverts on a pirate download site, while, at the same time, Fox has been threatening YouTube with legal action for sharing episodes of The Simpsons and 24.

Of course, if Murdoch is complaining about other sites hosting illegal material, he's going to need to ensure he's got his own house in order. And he's taking a step towards that: MySpace has announced it's going to try and stop copyrighted videos being uploaded:

"MySpace is dedicated to ensuring that content owners, whether large or small, can both promote and protect their content in our community," Chris DeWolfe, MySpace's co-founder and chief executive, said in a statement. "For MySpace, video filtering is about protecting artists and the work they create."

Really, Chris? Sure it's about the artists and not protecting yourself from lawsuits?

The kids are alright

The excitement about the Police tour might be unfathomable, but is certainly tangible. However, the band have found a way to test even the patience of the most ardent fan with the choice of opening act: Fiction Plane. We're sure they were invited for their "blend of U2 and Starsailor" and not simply because their leader is Joe Sumner, son of Sting.