Saturday, May 05, 2007

Stand up for students, says Harvard Professor

With the RIAA once again attempting to get universities in the States to hand over details of file-sharing students, Harvard professor Charles Neeson has published a demand (co-written with Wendy Seltzer) for the Ivy League institution to tell the record labels to go screw themselves:

One can easily understand why the RIAA wants help from universities in facilitating its enforcement actions against students who download copyrighted music without paying for it. It is easier to litigate against change than to change with it. If the RIAA saw a better way to protect its existing business, it would not be threatening our students, forcing our librarians and administrators to be copyright police, and flooding our courts with lawsuits against relatively defenseless families without lawyers or ready means to pay. We can even understand the attraction of using lawsuits to shore up an aging business model rather than engaging with disruptive technologies and the risks that new business models entail.

But mere understanding is no reason for a university to voluntarily assist the RIAA with its threatening and abusive tactics. Instead, we should be assisting our students both by explaining the law and by resisting the subpoenas that the RIAA serves upon us. We should be deploying our clinical legal student training programs to defend our targeted students. We should be lobbying Congress for a roll back of the draconian copyright law that the copyright industry has forced upon us. Intellectual property can be efficient when its boundaries are relatively self-evident.

But when copyright protection starts requiring the cooperation of uninvolved parties, at the cost of both financial and mission harm, those external costs outweigh its benefits. We need not condone infringement to conclude that 19th- and 20th-century copyright law is poorly suited to promote 21st-century knowledge. The old copyright-business models are inefficient ways to give artists incentives in the new digital environment.
The University’s educational mission is broader than the RIAA’s demands. We don’t have all the answers either, but rather than capitulating to special interests, we should continue to search for fair solutions that represent the University’s mission, its students, and the law in a way that educates students to be leaders of the digital 21st century.

The "special interests" is important here, of course: the RIAA doesn't have any claim to be the sole arbiter of musical law - it's a members organisation of vested powers, not a legally mandated independent body working in the name of culture. Let's hope Harvard chooses the opposite to an easy life, and rolling over for the corporate world - although when was the last time academia stood up to commerce?

Bez: Everything's a sideshow

We could understand Bez's motivation for going on Celebrity Big Brother - he was broke - but selling your own wedding as a public entertainment? That's a little low, surely? Couldn't you just sell the toasters if you need cash that badly.

Bez's fiance, Monica Wood, says:

"I'm not really into TV cameras."

You might want to have a word before the conception of the kids is sold to Bravo, Monica.

Bookmarks: Some other things to read on the web

Stylus revisits the first fifty Sarah Records releases:

Another Sunny Day returns with “I'm In Love With A Girl Who Doesn’t Know I Exist,” the track Sarah detractors would often cite as Exhibit A in their case against the label’s proclivity for sad bastard pop. (Conversely, Haynes said it was one of the most perfect releases in the entire Sarah catalogue.)

Sure, the single is pure schmaltz, evoking modern acts like Aberfeldy – gushy guitar lines, near whining vocals, and Williams revealed to be naive to a fault (“So many times this has happened before / But I never knew that love could make you feel so sore”) – but it’s got subtle, ironic flourishes, too, like that dance-like bass drum featured in the beat. And checking in at just 1:40, one gets the impression Williams got over his romantic mugging rather quickly.

David Hepworth's And Another Thing revisits his twenty year-old Best Albums top ten. Since only time can tell if we stand the test of time, do the choices still stack up?:
1. I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight by Richard & Linda Thompson
Frankly I don't believe in these lists at all but this is still a masterpiece. I picked it for what it represents and I might well do the same again tomorrow.

Idolator watches and transcribes Anne Coulter reviewing Rage Against The Machine:
And, by the way, they are also very unfamiliar with D.C. gun laws if they think they can shoot the president, because no guns allowed.

QVC is the new musical tastemaker, reports the Wall Street Journal, watching Neil Sedaka pitch up and flog scary numbers of albums amongst the cubit zirconium:
During Mr. Sedaka's live performance April 19 at the channel's West Chester, Pa., headquarters, QVC sold nearly 19,000 copies of his new CD, according to his label, about 78% of his first-week sales. That figure helped vault "The Definitive Collection" -- which includes new material and well-known songs such as "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" -- to No. 22 in the Billboard 200, according to data released Wednesday by Nielsen SoundScan.

During the show, the 68-year-old musician's wife watched from the green room as the sales mounted in real time. "She called it 'the slot machine,' " Mr. Sedaka remembers. "It was quite shocking to see how many people would buy off QVC."

Each of the four acts QVC has featured this year has either jumped onto the album chart or seen spikes in record sales after its appearance. In March, the country-rock group Alabama sold more than 21,000 copies of "Songs of Inspiration II" on QVC, the channel says -- or as much as 81% of the figure that landed the album at No. 33 on the chart. After a February performance to promote a special edition of their 2006 album "Let Love In," the Goo Goo Dolls returned to the chart with 15,000 copies sold that week, according to Billboard.

The DigiCreamTimes remembers how Simon Bates suffered for our entertainment:
Radio One disc jockey Simon Bates needed a medical check-up today when he returned to Britain at the end of his round-the-world charity race.

After suffering a severe stomach upset for the past eight weeks, he said he felt weakened and "slightly malariafied" after his travels, which raised £300,000 for Oxfam. Food poisoning, heat exhaustion and a septic foot added to his troubles during the 78-day journey. And on reaching Dover at dawn this morning he quipped: "One thing I have discovered on this trip is there are more cockroaches than people in the universe."

Amy Lee loses another couple from Evanesence

The increasingly one-woman band that is Evanesence has lost a couple more members, with Amy Lee firing John LeCompt and Rocky Gray walking out in sympathy. LeCompt blogged about his cashiering:

"Around 3:30 pm yesterday I recieved a call on my cell from Amy. This call wasn't from a friend who appreciated me but from an enemy who was prepared to hurt me and my family. Without any warning or negotiotiations for my future, I was fired for no good reason. We have not always seen eye to eye on everything, but who does?

"Our common goal was always the same. To make Evanescence the best rock band it could ever be. I have always given blood, sweat and tears to make that happen but apparently that is not enough. I have now become just another of the people fallen by the wayside on the revolving door of her life. It's funny how many of us there are now. I guess it's good for lyrical content, though. Maybe I will be among the blessed to have a song written about me, too. Maybe the song will be 'Call Me When You're Broke'."

It's fascinating that Amy Lee seems to be going about becoming solo by a really circuitous route. She's always tried to play down the Christian origins of the band - presumably that's why she's behaving with so little compassion or charity.

Wouldn't you love to see LeCompt bring an unfair dismissal suit?

Epic records "one step away from handing out deals at random"

While we can understand modeling agencies tying up with Tyra Banks to offer contracts to winners of ANTM - after all, if they're that bad, they can always be made to stand in the background - if the music industry is doing as badly as they say, it is really wise for Epic Records to agree in advance to sign a band who wins some sort of online talent show? They're down to the last five now - and Epic execs must be wondering if what they'd thought would be a PR-friendly way of hooking up with a band with a small but dedicated fanbase is going to turn out instead to be the equivalent of discovering a demon child left on their doorstep?

We've voted for Rudy and The Rhetoric. That'll show 'em

Event Verizon: Akon blows his contract

US telecoms giant Verizon has hung up on its deal with Akon, and deleted him from their phonebook. It was all going so well, until Akon went to Trinidad and simulated sex with an underage girl on stage.

There also seems to be some suggestion he might have promised the girl a trip to Africa as some sort of prize in a non-existent competition, which makes him not only seedy, but grubby in a whole lot of other ways.

Akon has suggested the whole thing was the spirit moving him, or something:

"I got carried away," Alleyne, a pastor's daughter, said in a public apology last month after a local TV station aired the footage. "I started to dance, as well, but I never thought it was going to be like that. I was shocked. My head was hitting the floor."

Luckily, though - or perhaps, unluckily - he managed to pick up his head long enough to get to the end of the routine where he pretended he was fucking a teenager on stage.

There is, of course, an innocent victim in this - Gwen Stefani, oddly enough. Akon was opening for her on her US tour, and so keen are Verizon to distance themselves from even the merest hint of underwriting the activities of a kiddie-fiddler, they've yanked their funding for that, too:
"This week the partnership ended," Verizon said in a statement to Fox News. "We have music services on our cell phone service and we were promoting him as one of the artists. The other part of the sponsorship was the Gwen Stefani tour, of which he was an opening act. We are no longer sponsoring the tour."

It's not yet clear if the loss of this sponsorship will force Gwen to cut back on the number of muter Japanese children who will follow her around backstage.

Ndour calls for Darfur action

Earlier this week, Time called Youssou N'Dour one of the most influential people on the planet. Let's hope so: he's trying to mobilise artists from across Africa to campaign for immediate help for people in Darfur.

He might not solve the civil war and the humanitarian nightmare we've all helped to create, but it's got to be more use than Hugh Grant throwing egg-timers filled with blood around, surely?

Battles of Britain

Truly, this will be their finest hour - Battles have arranged a may tour to accompany the debut album:

May 16 - London Scala
17 - Sheffield The Corporation
18 - Bristol The Cooler
19 - Minehead ATP
20 - Leeds Stylus
21 - Manchester Academy 2
23 - Glasgow, ABC2
24 - Birmingham The Barfly

The album is out a week on Monday but is ready to pre-order.

Rae no Reet

Corinne Bailey Rae was being lined up to play Aretha Franklin in a biopic. That was until, erm, Franklin saw her perform:

Yeah, I just saw Corinne. I thought she was very nice - she's a very nice singer.

"I almost cast her as one of the characters in my play and in the movie, but when I saw her on TV... well, her pictures look one way and when I saw her on TV she looked a little different so I don't think so."

We could have saved you the time, you know, Aretha. We think the word you're looking for is "wan". Or maybe the phrase "nice to the point of inoffensive non-existence."

Couldn't they have got Geoff Capes in instead?

Oddly, Lily Allen's tiredness, which led her to cancel her US tour, wasn't so bad she felt unable to trot out to do a gig for LG electronics. But then, as Alan Partridge would tell you, you need to keep the corporate clients sweet.

Last call for New Order

It's not been so much announced as dropped into conversation by mistake, but Peter Hook has more or less admitted New Order have finally called it quits:

Peter Hook told Xfm that the band have broken up.

He said: "I spoke to Perry, and he asked me to play bass, as he'd heard about New Order splitting up. Well yeah, me and Bernard (Sumner) aren't working together."

On the split, he added: "Bernard went off for a break with Electronic, but that was different. But it's like the boy who cried wolf this time."

What's most interesting about this is that "New Order aren't working together" - a statement on a par for news value with 'Timothy Whites isn't on British High Streets' or 'Thatcher hasn't issued a statement about the local election results' - is still about sixty thousand times more fascinating than anything about Perry Farrell's Satellite Party super-ish group.

Beth en Vogue

Beth Ditto has given an inteview to Vogue which, with her typical tendency to see herself as the centre of things, she has decided must be historic:

“This is probably the first time a chunky person has made it into Vogue, right?”

Although doubtless we'll hear in a couple of months how that was a misquote.

Meanwhile, Victoria Newton is thrilled:
Long may it continue, I reckon.

Beth is far more interesting than most of the skinny airheads who usually make it into the posh glossy.

We're not sure what she wants to "continue" long - Beth Ditto in Vogue? Fashion magazines covering generation two Bis bands? - but it's great to hear that Victoria finds skinny airheads boring.

Having said which, the big splashes on Bizarre this morning are "Britney lapdances for Lindsay Lohan" and "Paris goes to jail", which presumably she's headlining despite finding the "skinny airheads" less interesting than the Ditto story, buried way down below the fold.

Flowers plants seeds

Brandon Flowers has completed the successful impregnation of his wife Tana and, currently, a foetus is gestating inside her womb.

We thought we'd stick to the facts, rather than copy Victoria Newton's strange tone:

I hear the happy couple, who married in Hawaii two years ago and have been desperate for a little soldier, are thrilled.

Desperate for a little soldier? What, because they feel the need to help out with the Iraq surge?

This could, though, mean the end for the band, to judge by an interview Flowers gave to Craig McLean for the Observer last year:
He's desperate to have a baby, 'a little Flower child', but Mormonism places an exalted premium on the solidity of family life; one of his cousins gave up a place on the PGA golf circuit because it would mean being away from home too much. Flowers sees how difficult it is for (non-Mormon) Dave Keuning, whose son is one year old; he couldn't countenance being on the road and not being around his own kid.


The Brown Estate regrets

It is, of course, what James Brown would have wanted. Or, at least, there's no simple, non-spooky way of proving it isn't, as James Brown's family throw his name behind Al Sharpton's campaign to get radio stations to refuse to play rap with sexism and racism in the lyrics.

Brown's family echoed Mr Sharpton's message later at a private gathering at the Apollo Theater, where thousands had gathered to pay their respects to the singer shortly after he died.

"How did we get from 'Say it loud, I'm black and I'm proud,' to where we are today?" said his daughter Deanna Brown Thomas, referring to her father's famous lyrics.

Perhaps via lyrics like, erm, your father's Hot Pants, Deanna?
Hot pants! hey! hot pants smokin?!
Hot pants make ya sure of yourself -good Lord
You walk like you got the only lovin' left hey
So brother - if you're thinkin' of loosin' that feelin'
Then don't - ha
Cause a woman got to use what she got
To get just what she wants hey!

Or maybe that isn't the sort of sexist lyric Sharpton has in mind?

Still, better than a Holiday Inn Express, eh, Paris

Although it's not for crimes against music, we're choosing to see Paris Hilton's music career as part of the reason she's been sent to the slammer for forty five days.

Hilton's explanation for driving while on probation for a DUI is rather weak - she "didn't know" her licence had been suspended. What, didn't they publish details of your previous conviction on Page Six?

Her lawyer, Howard Weitzman, feels poor Paris is being treated badly:

"To sentence Paris Hilton to 45 days in jail to me was uncalled for, inappropriate and bordered on the ludicrous. I think she was singled out because she's who she is."

Of course she isn't, but even if she was - what would your point be, Howard? Hilton gets stuff for free, invited to exclusive events, shuttled to the front of queues, given lucrative television contracts on the basis of "who she is" - oddly, we've never heard you squeal about how unfair it is before. We've been searching Google for a quote from Weitzman along the lines of "it is ridiculous for my client to be allowed to make an album despite a total lack of talent; the record contract exists purely because of who she is" but so far, we're turning up nothing.

Designers give her free clothes because it's great publicity for them for someone with a profile like Hilton's to be seen wearing them. Would it be so inappropriate for prison fatigues to be handed out in the same way?

Friday, May 04, 2007

Today's R&B DUI

This evening's drunken driving popstar, ladies and gentlemen, is Eve, alleged to have been over the limit and failing to provide insurance details when asked. She might have got away with it, if she hadn't been so pissed she drove her car into the central divider at twenty to three in the morning. She wasn't even together enough to off a plausible claim, like it was actually George Michael who was driving or something.

Keep it in the family

Beyonce's Dad, who may or may not be a great pop manager, is taking a leaf out of Tony Blair's book: announcing plans to step down, choosing a date way off in the future (five years, apparently) and creating an heir who can't seem to wait for him to roll over, but who is pretending patience.

Gordon Brown in this little playlet is Solange Knowles, Beyonce's sister and, therefore, according to our family tree making software, also Matthew Knowles' daughter. Brown was too busy today to grunt that she should make sure she gets something in writing, preferably in blood, but we bet he'd have thought it were he not constantly nipping out to the front door to see if the neighbour was making any sort of announcement in the street outside.

Something to listen to: I predict they'll do I Predict A Riot

The Kaiser Chiefs turn up on WXPN's World Cafe for a four-song set.

Peter Gabriel: Can't pay, won't pay, will they?

Pete Gabriel takes space in the Times to promote his entry into an already overcrowded unsigned band market disguised as a rumination on the modern music industry, which starts from a slightly alarming claim:

Many people no longer want to pay for recorded music – it’s a fact.

A fact? "Many" seems less like a fact and, at best, an anecdote. Gabriel then tempers this assertion:
They will pay above the odds to go to a live concert, they will even pay for mobile ring-tones of their favourite artists, but the majority of people under 30 can’t or won’t pay for online recorded music any more.

So, the "fact" is slightly less than a fact, then - already, Pete has recast his "recorded music" into "online recorded music", so he's not actually suggesting an upswing in CD theft from Tesco. But is the claim that "people under 30 can't or won't" pay for downloads even true?

Sure, there is a segment of people under 30 who can't pay for the music they consume - although it was ever thus, and if they can't afford a single single, it's unlikely they'd be willingly paying "above the odds" to go to gigs, either. And is Pete really suggesting there are people who would pay £1-50 for a ringtone willingly who'd baulk at buying the same track for 79p off the iTunes? Or does he simply mean that if it's as simple to get something for free as pay for it, people will take the free option?

Because that's hardly news, Pete. If you'd have left a large box of Genesis albums outside the HMV shop with "free- help yourself" written on a card tucked on top, how many people would have gone inside to buy a copy for seven and sixpence instead?

After a little bit of waffle about the Beatles, Gabriel cuts to the chase. His answer to this dilemma:
There are, as you would expect in the digital world, many different models that can be tried out. The new company We7 (www. is one that I am currently supporting. The principle is simple: it’s an advertising-funded music download service that gives everyone what they want. Fans get free downloads and artists get paid. The only “cost” is listening to some ads, which people do all the time on commercial radio.

Well, except for the half of the time when people don't listen to commercial radio, of course. Obviously, it's great to see someone trying something - well, not new, exactly, as ad-funded mp3 services have been going for almost as long as the technology has made them possible, but at least interesting. But since commercial radio has proven itself incapable of sustaining anything other than a broad, populist, playlisted sludge of broadcasting, it might not be the best model to be building a service upon.
In the We7 model we intend to personalise the ads, based on information that the consumer volunteers, which should make them more useful and digestible.

Hmm. Again, the principle is fine, but in my experience of answering those surveys which attempt to make emails, cold calls and mailshots "relevant" to you, they seldom make the resultant advertising more useful - it's in the interests of the service to collect information in a way that will inspire commercials, rather than close them down. So, for example, you're asked when your home contents insurance expires, and not given an option to say "I would rather not have insurance companies trying to get me to change my insurer"; so you meekly tick a month (always a guess, because what sort of person knows off the top of their heads when their insurance is up for renewal? Who would go and look?) and once every year get deluged with adverts from insurance companies who have interpeted "I renew my contents insurance in May" as "please send me lots of leaflets explaining why I should change my insurance to me every April."

Maybe we7 have a more sophisticated system.

Artists would also have the chance to exclude some advertising to which they had ethical objections.

Let's hope that, if I'm able to say no to any financial services ads, or anything from oil or motoring companies, right-wing publications, companies that deal with regimes who are unelected, and the artists are screening out booze, drugs and companies with a record of sexist advertising, there's a wide enough range of advertisers left to support everything.
In addition, an average hour of self-chosen content from We7 would have approximately two minutes per hour of ads against an average of nine minutes per hour in commercial radio.

But if the adverts are so relevant and digestable, why should this be a problem? And, come to that, since I think of playing stuff on my Mac as being akin to playing records, rather than listening to radio, why would the fact there's seven minutes more advertising on Capital Gold make me feel any better about having ads in my record collection?

Still, there was the Sigue Sigue Sputnik album, I suppose.

More interestingly, Gabriel reveals how he was persuaded away from the strict RIAA-BPI "music must never be free" line:
Of course, there will be those in the industry who feel that, even if you can develop ad-funded models whereby artists still get paid, at the transaction level music should never be free, because people should expect to pay for the commodity they receive. For years I would have agreed; however, the fundamental revolution that has occurred is that value has left ownership and moved to access. It used to be said that possession was nine-tenths of the law, but you can see – in a world where hits on a site are valued higher than sales, in which I don’t have to own a huge printed library when I can google or go to Wikipedia – that access is king. In the old world copyright – the right to make copies – was based on physical goods. In the digital world that rug has been pulled away. We need to be fluid, fast and flexible and explore all the new models emerging. How can you compete with free? The We7 model is one solution that artists can try. Filtering content is another.

We might not agree with Gabriel's solution, or even how he's framed the problem. But at least he's embraced that there is a need for change. For that reason, he's more credible than any figure in a trade assocation currently chiseling subscriptions out of record labels for their expertise in the music industry.

Rowntree pasted

That Dave Rowntree was unable to persuade Marylebone High Street voters to chuck out the Tories in last night's by-election for Westminster City Council was unsurprising. What is surprising in the result is that he only polled 222 - a drop from Labour's lowest polls in the 2006 election in the ward. The good news for Dave, though, is he increased Labour's share of the vote from 14.6% to 16.5%.

Nor ah-gain

The woman who has to singlehandedly save EMI while Robbie Williams is rubbish ("incapacitated"), Norah Jones, is going to do her first UK tour in three years. That's not that interesting, but support is coming from the much-better-than-this M. Ward. Dates:

August 24 - Glasgow Clyde Auditorium
25 - Manchester Apollo
27 - London Hammersmith Apollo

You could try asking the ticket place if you can buy a half ticket for the pre-interval portion.

Tunstall's next trick

KT Tunstall has elected to avoid a name which might have reignited the "exactly what is her preference in sexual partners" debate for her new album, instead going with merely the bloody awful. Drastic Fantastic, we're very much afraid.

Music composed by: Danny Elfman

Travis are straining at their collective leashes, keen to work with movie and TV composer genius-man Danny Elfman. What's interesting, though, is in explaining why, Fran Healy reveals how he views his band:

Healy loves composing "cinematic" music - and believes teaming up with Elfman could be the band's next step.

"I'd love to work with him," Fran told the Daily Record, "I think all Travis records are cinematic and feel we've got a widescreen sound almost by accident.

"We'd like to give him a song he can embellish."

You have to offer the band some respect for not merely joining the throng outside Timbaland's office - although maybe they've already been rebuffed - but Travis "cinematic"? In the sense of "hot dogs and popcorn are available in the lobby", perhaps, or "an old cinema which has been replaced by bingo hall, providing carefully policed excitement for people who don't have much to look forward to."

Love comes to an end

So, there we were, listening to On Sussex Downs and wondering if there was any wisdom in feeding a shirt to a cow, when, by one of those cosmic coincidences, the newsreader pipes up with the Drowned In Sound announcement of the Larrikin Love split. There is, naturally, a statement as a testament of how good natured all this is:

Larrikin Love have announced today that they have split up. The band would like to thank all their fans for their support and love over the last two years and assure them that all is amicable between the four members.

Further details of ongoing projects from all members will be announced in the fullness of time.

The Larrikins

Oddly, since they signed the statement, they appear to be talking about themselves very, very firmly in the third person.

Still, this does leave the great cow question unanswered. We imagine it depends on what your shirt is made of as to the level of damage it would do to a bullock, but the challenge would be getting the cow interested in the first place. We wonder if they meant goat instead?

Beverley Knight: shrewd shopper or just broke?

The 3AM Girls have enthusiastically applauded Beverley Knight for her down-to-earth shopping style:

Bev, 34, who's on tour this October, said: "I prefer high street clothes. Designer stuff is so over-rated."

Hear, hear!

Yes: hear, hear. Of course, the cynical observer might wonder if this is a bit like "a motor car is phoney/I'd rather have shanks' pony" - making a virtue out of a lack of choice.

Still, let's assume that Knight really does hang up in disgust when Stella mcCartney begs her to wear her frocks. Where was Knight making this observation about how great High Street fashions are?
Speaking at the launch of Warehouse's autumn/winter collection in London...

How brave for a person being paid to launch a high street clothes chain clothes to, erm, say how great high street clothes are.

Dale's shop confirms Osbourne chop

ITV have more-or-less confirmed that the supposedly not-axed Sharon Osbourne show has been axed; they heard the beep and remembered the fun they could be having on Supermarket Sweep instead.

Two famous people talk to each other: Could it be wedding bells?

Normally, we'd not be that interested in news that David Walliams out of Little And Large and Geri Halliwell have spent an evening together, but we're bemused by Victoria Newton's claim at the start of the report:

CAMP comedian DAVID WALLIAMS has pulled gays’ favourite GERI HALLIWELL.

Clearly, then, this must be what Victoria Newton is looking for here - she's seeking out some gays. Obviously she couldn't find any, as I suspect there are no gays who would say that "Geri Halliwell is my favourite" anything. Unless it was a poll about "who is you favourite red-headed member of the Spice Girls"; and even then, we'd bet she'd come second to "Mel C wearing a red wig". Or third to "Sarah Ferguson, if she ever joined the group."

Chocolate, a toy and... oh, this is a surprise

Not totally grasping the point of sixty-page band riders as being as much about yanking promoter's chains as being a bid to get stuff, Thomas Whittaker, "showbiz reporter" from The Sun has extrapolated rather a lot from Motorhead's demand for Kinder eggs:

HEAVY metal legend LEMMY is really a softie — who collects toys from KINDER EGGS.

Let's see you say that to his face, Mr. Whittaker.

Spice Girls to reform. Reports The Sun. Again.

Hold the front page! Or at least a space on page nineteen amongst the 'are you in debt' adverts. Victoria Newton reports they're coming back:

MEL B has jetted into London from LA for a meeting with her fellow former SPICE GIRLS to discuss a reunion gig.

The Artist Formerly Known As Scary had told pals she was making the trip to wish DAVID BECKHAM a happy 32nd birthday at his celebration do.

But I can reveal her two-day visit was actually to talk about the girls staging a Las Vegas-style show.

Mel, EMMA BUNTON, GERI HALLIWELL, VICTORIA BECKHAM and MELANIE CHISHOLM have each been offered £1million to do the one-off at Christmas at a venue yet to be decided.

We're not exactly sure what Newton means by a "Las vegas style show" - people will shuffle off bored halfway through to go and play fruit machines? Like Celine Dion's it will be a thousand nights' residency? Will Mel B be mauled by a tiger onstage?

Of course, this is in no way like Victoria's story from the last time Mel B jetted in to the UK:
MEL B arrived at the Spice Girls’ reunion dinner with a detailed comeback plan for the group.

But, of course, those plans came to nothing:
Until now each has rejected the deal, largely because Mel C has been against the idea of any kind of reunion.

So, Mel C has changed her mind, has she?

Erm, no:
Now it is very much on the cards — with only Mel C still to sign up.

Victoria explains Mel C's absence from David Beckham's party as being because she "was busy filming a pop video", which, if it was what she said when she RSVPed is brilliant, because it's such a lame lie, but one which underlines that unlike the others, she's still making records.

Of course, you might want to argue that today's Bizarre report of the reunion is merely the same reunion that was being discussed in February, and so Newton was right, the negotiations are just taking a long time.

Except, of course, it's not: today, we're promised a "one-off Las Vegas style gig"; in February, it was "a well-publicised tour of arenas around Britain". (Yes, apparently in February part of the secret plan was to actually tell people the gigs were taking place.)

Presumably, Newton is assuming there will be a Spice Girls reunion sooner or later, and is hedging by reporting every time Emma Bunton and Geri Halliwell come within sixty yards of each other as being "negotiations for a reunion" so that when it does happen, she can claim "I told you first". Hoping that people forget every other time she told us first, and told us wrong.

Britney does an Eve

Clearly, Britney didn't really pay very much attention during RS: her latest bemusing photoshoot has cast her as a half naked Eve in some sort of Garden of Eden, covering her topless breasts with flowers. Which looks like a set-up for a "beesting tits" gag if we ever saw one.

Meanwhile, her comeback has run into the sand - the second night show consisted of her lip-synching as well as she could manage through a mouthful of gum (see, if she'd paid proper attention at school she'd have known gum in the bin before we start work is a kind of global rule) and people are reported as demanding their money back. Although since the high ticket price is for the rarity of a Spears gig, complaining about the quality thereof seems to miss the point. It's like early Jesus and Mary Chain gig-goers complaining "there was two minutes of noise and then there was a riot..."

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Congress sets colleges test on filesharing

Because US colleges are such quiet and well-ordered places, the House of Representatives have decided they might as well send nineteen of them a long, rambling questionnaire to find out what they're doing about filesharing.

Curiously, the US government tried one of these last year, but many schools opted to not take part because the usual expectation of filing anonymously had been removed. Hmm... I wonder who else might have been interested in the responses.

The driving force behind the latest survey is Texan Republican Lamar Smith who, having pocketed $7,500 from the RIAA in campaign funds is approaching this less as an open and independent mind, more as a corporate shill. Not that a man can't serve more than one master, of course. Lamar certainly does, as Consumerist details:

he received $7,500 in campaign contributions from the RIAA Political Action Committee as well as $2,000 from the Warner Music Political Action Committee. A group called "Texans for Lamar Smith"pocketed a cool $1,000 from Andy Lack, the Chairman and CEO of Sony/BMG, as well as another $1,000 from the Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. Political Action Committee.

Almost as soon as Smith's gang had published their press release, Mitch Bainwol from the RIAA issued one of his own - presumably he had one prepared, just in case:
“Illegal file-trafficking is a shared problem for the entertainment industry and universities alike,” said Mitch Bainwol, chairman of the Recording Industry Association of America. “We recognize the many pressing issues facing administrators today, but we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to theft on such a massive scale. After extensive hearings and inquiry, members of Congress are right to expect answers. We welcome this effort to document the commitment and resources that universities are putting forth to address this problem.”

Sure, you might think it would be more time for college heads to be examining the botched handling of the Virginia Tech shootings, but compared to the loss of a few quid from the bottom line of Sony-BMG, is that really a good use of their time?

The first gig in prison is always the hardest/ the first gig in prison, the hallways are darkest

Michael Franti is going to follow in the footsteps of Johnny Cash and, erm, Metallica by playing San Quentin. The gig's later this month, which doesn't leave you very long to commit a crime and get thrown into jail before the event.

The Fresh Prince of Bel Aire returns to Princery

There's been a lot of anticipation about the expected reunion of DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince - and there's going to be a ratcheting up as Will Smith confirms there are plans in place:

We always talk about doing a Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince record and a huge tour, we just have to clear the time to do it. Right now, the plan is we are supposed to go out on tour together at the end of this year.

Will Smith is putting his movie career on hold for the project; we're not sure what Jazzy Jeff's immediate plans are, but if you live in the San Fernando Valley, we'd allow an extra fifteen minutes for pizza delivery this winter.

Source dries up again

US Eminem and 50 Cent baiting hip-hop magazine The Source has filed for protective bankruptcy. For the second time.

This time round, the current owners are blaming "dishonest business practices" on the part of the previous owners as having damaged relationships between title and advertisers. Which is why Sarah Beeney advises you to have a full survey done before buying any property.

Er... N'Dours?

Time Magazine has filled a quiet news week by drawing together the 100 most influential people in various fields. We're not entirely sure the order is anything other than arbitrary, but having said that... The arts and entertainment list is quite curious - the top musician is Youssou N'Dour, who gets a touching tribute from Peter Gabriel. Now, N'Dour is a great artist, and when Gabriel says he influenced him, we believe him. But does N'Dour really influence the entertainment world more than anyone else? (Except, erm, Tina Fey, who comes out on top.)

Justin Timberlake, at four, is the second highest placed pop musician in the chart. On that calibration, N'Dour certainly comes out higher. Timberlake's applause-piece comes from admirer Timbaland, which raises the possibility of the two of them going into a post-modern Tweedledum and Tweedledee style double act. Timberlake and Timbaland. We'd pay to see it.

Kaiser Chiefs fight booking fees by, erm, calling them something else

An email pings into our inbox from our old friends the Kaiser Chiefs, reminding us they're about to play a series of gigs in the UK:

Back in the UK, our shows at Hyde Park London (Sun 17th June) and Harewood House Leeds (Sat 16th June) as part of Wireless are selling out fast, to avoid disappointment book your tickets now if you haven't already, you can get them direct from us right here to avoid wasting money on big booking fees and avoiding the touts.

The link is to their website, where they're indeed selling Hyde Park and Harewood House tickets without a booking fee. There is, however, a "Payment Processing Fee" of £3.50 a ticket, or a hefty 8.75 per cent.

Even more bemusingly, if this payment is to cover the cost of the payment being processed, why is it per ticket, rather than per transaction?

Bob Mould! He'll tell us what to do

About four thousand years ago, Karl T alerted us to the existence of the rather wonderful Ask Bob Mould, a service of the Washington City Paper which allows you to bring your questions to Bob Mould for an answer.

And don't bother with the obvious first question, as the answer would be "yes, I am that Bob Mould, out of Husker Du and Sugar."

This week, he's offering advice on combining being a drummer with being a parent:

Try to keep illicit behavior and foul language to a minimum. If you have to smoke, step outdoors. Drinking in moderation is OK. When making important band decisions, always consider the baby’s opinion. Think Brian Eno and Peter Schmidt’s Oblique Strategies.

Good advice, we're sure you'd agree.

Andre walks amongst us again

Phew... for a moment, it was touch and go there, but it seems we won't have to write a straight-faced obituary for Peter Andre. He's fit and working again, although since "working" consists of being in photos with Jordan, that's not saying much.

The couple's spokesperson has issued a statement:

"Peter Andre has been discharged from East Surrey Hospital this morning.

"He now needs to be left alone with his family to recover."

They say that like it's the media who seek out the Andre-Prices, rather than the Andre-Prices who dance in front of any camera available. They're such camera hogs, we hear that Andre insisted on having an endoscopy while he was in hospital as "it would always be handy to have the extra footage for the DVD."

No more Belgians in the Congo

Pop music can't help but feeling bereft, as Billy Joel just isn't motivated by it any more:

"I'm not ruling out the possibility of writing songs again," Joel tells "I suppose if I had the motivation to write a song, I'm not gonna stop myself from doing it. I just haven't felt the compulsion to write songs in pop form. I guess these days I just think of myself as a composer."

So, pop's gain is classical music's loss, then.

Madonna turns down Diana

It's being reported by Gigwise that Madonna has turned down a request to perform at the Diana concert.

It's understandable: after all, Diana was blonde-haired icon in the 80s who everyone loved at the time, until she married a dull bloke from London, moved into a big house, took on a second big house in the South West of England, had a couple of kids, went off the boil a bit and ended her career in a massive car crash. Whereas Madonna is quite different, as her car crash was only metaphorical, and nobody actually bothered to leave flowers outside the spot where she signed the contract to make Swept Away.

Iggy: my knob is in the Constitution, or something

Most men react badly when accused of thinking with, about, for (and sometimes through) their penises. Not so Iggy Pop:

“You write about things of importance to you. And it’s gotta be for real. Do I think about my dick? All the time. I gotta a right to sing about it.”

“If I thought ‘It’s time to write a rock song, I’d better mention my dick,’ then I wouldn’t be able to say dick right. But it’s nature orientated.”

We're not quite sure it's "nature-orientated" in the sense Bill Oddie would use, although we do like the idea of him and Kate Humble hiding in the bushes hoping to catch sight of the first emergence of Iggy Pop's manhood.

Busta Crimes

Trevor Smith, who, for obvious reasons, works under the name Busta Rhymes, has added another infraction to his ever-growing list of things he needs to get sorted out in the law courts: he was arrested last night on a DUI charge.

It's the semi-annual return of the CD-burning booth story

In the same way that you could seldom get through six weeks of John Craven-era Newsround without the bejumpered one predicting that schools were on the point of offering School Breakfasts, without it ever happening to anyone you ever met, music and technology journalists love to announce every so often that the coming thing is booths - yes, booths - where you can burn your own mix to a CD.

The booths are once again being touted, this time as a result of the National Association of Recording Merchandisers meeting in Chicago, where (not for the first time) the booth has been proposed as the saviour of record shops:

New machines, available from at least five different companies and now in operation in more than 150 record stores, Starbucks, book stores and big-box electronics stores across the country, allow consumers to pick 15 or so singles from various artists and burn them onto a CD.

George Daniels, who has run George’s Music Room in Chicago for 38 years, installed one such machine, the Disc-Go Digital Studio, at his store.

“I love the idea of this machine because it puts me back in the singles business,” said Daniels, who started his store with $100 and 100 45-rpm singles. “It will add something new to our store. A lot of people are willing to pay $1 or $2 for a song, but not $15 for a CD.”

It was hard to accept these record-it-yourself boxes were a good idea in the late 90s, but at least they made some sort of sense: imagine, you could just choose a mix of tracks you like, and then burn them onto a compact disc to take away. But in 2007, we're befuddled as to who would actually quit iTunes, close down their computer, take a bus into town, go into a shop, stand in a booth for ten minutes working up a playlist, hang around another five minutes for the CD to burn, then take a bus back home to achieve the same result they could have managed in front of their computer anyway?

We can just about see the novelty value of sticking a booth like this in a coffee shop, where it might keep people busy while they're sipping a latte - but as an answer to people buying digitally for record shops? It's not just a dead horse, it's like a zombie horse which has had its head cut off.

Where would they find a market of people who distrust technology enough not to download and burn at home, but are comfortable enough to do it in a store?

To be fair, we did once get to make our own butter and toast some bread one morning at school. But it hardly counted as a school breakfasts programme.

Where is your Young God now?

The Young Gods are on the cusp of releasing a whole new album - it's Super-Ready, and also, of course, super and ready for pre-order. In order to alert the world to the existence of the record, they're going to be playing Dingwalls, in London, on Tuesday 15th May. This, apparently, is to be the only UK show (or so says the voice of God, anyway) and so, consequently, could be the last ever UK show.

The Bjork Swan

People still talk to this day of Bjork's swan oscar dress - not round our way, of course, we've got the proposed upgrades to the local sports centre changing rooms to obsess over. But Bjork, it seems, has no regrets. Or egrets:

What surprises me is that they thought I was trying to fit in but got it wrong, that I expected everyone to be wearing peacock dresses and gorilla outfits!

What they don't mention is that I had bought six ostrich eggs and I was dropping them carefully on the red carpet. But other people's bodyguards kept picking them up and saying in their thick American accents, "Scuse me, mam, you dropped this."

Yes. We can see how, without the detail about you dropping eggs on the red carpet, turning up in giant waterfowl fancy dress might make you sound slightly insane, Bjork.

Select Committee to ponder touting

In response to the calls from the events ticket industry and... well, just the events ticket industry, actually, that "something must be done" about ticket-touting, the Department of Media Culture & Sport select committee are... well, not actually going to do anything, but are going to have an enquiry.

Stuart Galbraith, managing director of events company Live Nation, said he welcomed the new probe, but added he "remained to be convinced" it would be of any use.

"I have to say that I'm very more cynical about the government's intentions to do anything about ticket touting than I was at the start of this process."

LiveNation? Cynical? As in 'cynically using Glastonbury regsitrant's private data gathered supposedly in the battle against touting in a way they promised they wouldn't', would that be?

Brown, only with less Brown

James Brown's Soul Generals are to remain a going concern, even although James Brown isn't. Instead, Daryl Brown - the General's saxophonist - says that they're going to adopt a Have I Got News For You style revolving leadership:

"We're the ones who can keep his legacy alive," he said from his home in Georgia.

"There will be no attempt to replace The Godfather of Soul, with the same single performer.

"Instead, band members will take turns in the spotlight."

Boris Johnson is rumoured to be in talks already.

Timberlake takes it easy

Justin Timberlake is, apparently, winding it down:

"I've had a good share of the spotlight. I don't feel I need too much of it right now. I want to write country music, because I grew up in Tennessee, soul music and I want to be involved in hip-hop."

Jazz is breathing a sign of relief, but it's still not coming out hiding.

We love the suggestion that working in country and soul is somehow akin to toiling away in obscurity.

Someone save Matt Willis from David Gest

You'd have thought that Matt Willis, who we had to go and remind ourselves from our notes, was once in Busted, would be delighted with the chance to appear on television. After all, he was so desperate for people to like him he went on that programme where people put scorpions down their trousers and eat kangaroo testicles and chat to Ant and Dec.

However, it seems even fame-monkey Matt has his limits, and he's upset that ITV is using him as Benny The Ball to David Gest's Top Cat in This Is David Gest:

“I’m dreading seeing David’s show, because he’d ring me up and go, ‘Matt, I never see you, come over, I’m so lonely. Come and see me goddammit’.

“I turn up at his hotel and there’s a camera crew on me! He just doesn’t want to be on his own on camera, so he has me as his little sidekick to bully.

“It annoyed me a few times, bless him.”

Don't worry, Matt. Nobody's watching the programme anyway. And, if it bothers you that much, you could just refuse permission for them to use the footage.

Now, I hear David yanking on your chain. Go, dance for the cameras, reality TV monkey.

But not before we've considered Matt's world view. He's thinking about a trip abroad, but:
"There’s no point [me] going to Amsterdam as I don’t smoke weed anymore!”

Yes. Because it's not like there's anything to Amsterdam than coffee shops selling dope, is there? There's not the place where Rembrandt worked, or the Anne Frank House, or a gallery offering a chance to see the astonishing The Milkmaid; or a place offering the largest collection of VanGoghs in one place. Or the Melkweg, or the canals, or...

Emma Bunton's spots

Imagine a publication whose advertising campaigns tend to consist of a bloke shouting about how its readers can get a holiday for fourpence before ending on "we love it", the oddest strapline for a commercial currently airing (of course you love it, you're the people who make it - telling us you love your own work isn't a unique selling point, it's a circlejerk.) Now, should that publication try critiquing other commercials?

Probably not, but it hasn't stopped The Sun having a pop at Emma Bunton's ad for Prego, currently airing in the States. Now, Prego isn't a very good pasta sauce, and the advert isn't a classic, but it's a mildly amusing set-up (a Spice Girl can't think of any spice missing from the recipe, you see) and Emma does an alright job with the script, which basically calls for her to go "um" a lot.

The Sun can't really find anything much wrong with it, either, so fall back on criticising the accent of the woman who does the end voice-over ("smug", apparently, although what an American would make of "We love it" man is open to question) and then concludes:

Emma joins a long list of stars who cash in by promoting products in adverts.

Interesting to hear that one of Rupert Murdoch's newspapers has apparently been convinced that capitalism and celebrity endorsement is now a bad thing.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Knightly: I'd rather be a Ditto than a pipe

Apparently, Kiera Knightley really, really wants to have a body like Beth Ditto's, but it's just medically not possible. She even asked a doctor how she could go about remaking herself as a ditto of Ditto:

'I went to the doctor to be checked out and asked him what I could do to put on weight. He told me that for someone of my body type to get to a size 12, I would have to eat a lot of shit food, stop exercising and drink loads.

'Basically, my body type is naturally thin. There is nothing I can do about it.'

Which is odd, because we can't quite believe (a) that anybody is naturally that thin, or that (b) anyone would have to ask a doctor how to get fat - what Kiera seems to be saying is that she's surprised that medical opinion is that to have a body with three dimensions, you have to eat food. What did she ask, exactly? "Is there a reverse on the liposuction machine?"

The new Architecture

Currently available thanks to the good offices of Stereogum: Pink Skull's reworking of Architecture in Helsinki's Heart It Races.


It's the greatest game on the internet this side of Nev's Jambusters on the Smile website: Built To Spill are promoting new album You In Reverse by inviting you to spend time on their site, shooting hoops and listening to a stream of the new album. It's, erm, hooptastic.

Stop giving me evils

Is there anything that would chill the heart more than the thought of Amy Winehouse and Kelly Osbourne hanging out together? How about if they had some sort of club with a name and - probably - a secret handshake and a code ring and a scary name?

Osbourne insists they have no plans to calm down yet.

She says, "You should watch out. We call ourselves Team Evil. We like to go around causing trouble."

What, are you like Lex Luthor or something? Sorry, we meant to say: what, are you like seven years old or something?

My Chemical Toilet

Unpleasant times on the My Chemical Romance/Muse tour of the US: Muse's crew and Chemical Romancers and crew have gone down with violent food poisoning, leading to a number of canceled gigs and, we'd imagine, more than a little unpleasantness in the tourbus up the toilet end.

Pirates board RIAA vessel

Here's some news which will make the RIAA gurgle with delight: The people behind Pirate Bay are launching a music-sharing website, promising "virutally untraceable" and "unlimited sharing" of music. It's called Playable, and it's not quite piracy. You'll be invited to lob in some money, which will then be shared amongst the artists. Although, of course, with an untraceable torrent, it's going to be on the honours system.

A broken neck mends a broken band

The nasty accident when Travis drummer Neil Primrose broke his neck in the swimming pool had consequences for us all. Until it happened, Travis were about to split, reveals Fran Healy:

"When you start getting successful the business starts to seep in to any sort of cracks, and then they expand and push everyone apart.

"You then start to see each other as workmates and not friends. It is bizarre but when Neil had his accident and broke his neck we were like - 'oh no, it's Neil!' - not 'oh God, our drummer!'. I think we suddenly became friends again."

You see why taking care at the swimming pool is so important, now, don't you?

Another Sunday: Ozzy open to more Sabbath

Ozzy Osbourne, the man from the margarine adverts, is apparently open to the idea of spreading a new Black Sabbath album across the world. Providing it's worth doing, of course:

"I'm still on for an album and a tour with them, but we have no [new material written]," he said. "It would be so easy for us to get in and out of a studio and make an album. But if it's not up to the par of when I left, why do it? It will destroy the fucking legacy of Black Sabbath, and the legend of Black Sabbath. I haven't dropped the idea, because Tony and I are talking alright about it. I haven't abandoned the idea — like, 'If my album does well, fuck Black Sabbath.' It's what I want to do. We have repaired some of the damage between each other, and now, I'd like to do a really good fucking Black Sabbath album."

You have to wonder if he applied the same rules to the I Can't Believe It's Not Butter commercials - "I'm not doing the one about baked potatoes unless it's up to the standards of the fucking toast one, man."

Meanwhile, Osbourne worries about the young people and the state of music today. And old bands trying to sell young:
"The bottom line is, these younger bands, there's no structure to the songs," Ozzy said. "They just play angry, which is fine. But there are so many people who come from my era, who try to sound like one of these young bands, and the press just tears 'em a new butt."

Well, what are you without standards, eh? It's like having the bravery to walk away from the idea of a fifth pointless series of The Osbournes, isn't it?

A truly global chart show

It'll be interesting to see what sort of chart the link-up between Channel 4 Radio and Last FM will bring: the pledge is a truly global chart of what people are listening to, although the charts currently publishes aren't really that interesting: people are listening to the Arctic Monkeys and The Beatles.

There's a further promise that the link-up will offer:

The strategic alliance will see the parties working to identify new opportunities for music exploitation on digital platforms. will be able to track and share the music that all 4Radio DJs are playing, allowing listeners registered on to interact with shows and compare their own music taste with that of each DJ.

Although, to be honest, you could do that by listening to the shows, couldn't you?

Britney's sweet return

Last night, billed as the M&Ms, Britney Spears made a return to live performance. We're guessing this was a three-quarters secret gig, then.

E! entertainment news is reporting that she played a "five song set which lasted about ten minutes", which would suggest that she did a collection of punk covers. Reports say she didn't say anything, bar "thanks everyone for coming."

That "everyone" had paid $125 for a ticket to see a supposedly unknown band suggests, strongly, they knew what they were getting. Although at six quid a minute, maybe not how much.

When the Kaiser met Shaun Ryder (and Shaun Ryder blanked them)

Ah, the excitement of life on the road. Kaiser Chiefs drummer Nick spotted a breakfasting Shaun Ryder:

"I gave him a peace sign but he didn't respond. He looked well though.

"Ironically, I was eating melon, but I wasn't twisting them and neither was anyone else... man."

Nor, as far as we can ascertain from the Daily Record's report, did Ryder go with Nick's mother because she was dirty, or call for Nick to tickle judge Fudge. He did, however, clearly not have a clue who he was.

Footballers attempt to drown Paolo Nutini

We're not quite sure why Paolo Nutini was sneaking down into the Celtic dressing rooms in the first place, full of sweaty, athletic men cleaning themselves off. But when they found him there, the footballers asked him to sing (or perhaps, to stop singing) and, when he refused, Nutini was thrown in the bath.

What shall we do with him?
Chuck him in the pool

It does seem, though, they forgot the bit about filling his pockets with heavy stones first.

Radio station bans hate-rap

It might not be quite the headline victory Al Sharpton is hoping for, with his march against nasty rap lyrics, but Sunny Radio Govan has announced it won't be playing Here You, the NEDS Kru track:

Glasgow's Sunny Govan Radio, [..] deemed it "derogatory to their listeners".

Banning the tune, the community radio station said: "It would be seen as though someone from the West End Karen Dunbar mob were taking the piss out of people from schemes."

It would be seen that was as, erm, that's what it is.

I'm innocent, insists Amelle

Apparently, in the Sugababe-nightclub-scrap, it's Amelle who's the injured party:

"The other girls should be the ones punished, not me. What happened was unbelievable and my sister got hit by one of the boys."

Although this doesn't really explain the whole bouncers-calling-police and Amelle-carted-off-by-cops aspects of the story.

3amelia: Robert DeNiro's rating

The 3AM Girls continue to detail Jamelia's every doing, as if she was still famous. Today: That Robert DeNiro chatted me up, he did.

What is Victoria Newton looking for?

Victoria Newton is off on a search, oh yes. She's offering a chance to be Mark Owen for a week to a lucky fan who doesn't mind appearing in a Take That musical from which the band have withdrawn their support. So, obviously you wouldn't be that much of a fan.

And what a brilliant musical it's going to be if they're happy to have one the key members of the line-up chosen as part of a newspaper competition for a week. Say what you like about We Will Rock You, but at least they've never cast the Killer Queen by asking a winner of Daily Star Twingo Bingo to take the stage.

[Victoria Newton picture borrowed from MediaGuardian's coverage of The Sun's trip to a caravan park, the better to understand their readers]

Pete Doherty cleans up

Yesterday, Pete Doherty was insisting albums didn't have to be all clean. Today, there's photos in the papers of him having a manicure prior to doing his fashion shoot for overpriced trouser firm Gio Goi - oddly not protesting that his nails "don't have to be highly polished."

Lily Allen's sobs for Diana

The surprise of Lily Allen turning up on the bill for the Diana concert is nothing compared to the surprise that Keith, Lily and Alfie all plodded down to see the funeral ten years ago. Mind you, Victoria Newton has the story:

A fellow mourner told me: “I was shocked to see Keith standing next to me with his kids.

“Some reporters tried to talk to him but he told them it was a private moment. As the coffin passed, Lily was quite upset.”

Interesting that for ten years this "fellow mourner" remembered the reactions of Keith Allen's daughter when she was just Keith Allen's daughter. Amazing, even.

And she was only twelve years old, so I'm not quite sure we can all make the leap Newton has from a "quite upset" preteen, through
I can reveal how Lily wept in the crowd at Princess Di’s funeral almost ten years ago

ending up with conclusion that
Street-smart Lily is a royalist

Apart from anything, at the end, Diana was hardly a supporter of the monarchy, was she? And can we really believe that Allen would be a supporter of a system whereby people are granted fame and fortune based not on their talents, but who their parents are?


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Shut up, says Sharpton

We're minded to think of the flavour of the month club as we watch the current war on rap profanity. Al Sharpton and the National Action Network is now onboard, planning a march this Thursday on the HQs of three major labels in New York:

"We aren't marching against artists -- we are marching against record companies to ban these words completely," says Tamika Mallory, who is leading the NAN's decency initiative. "It's nice that Russell Simmons asked for these words to be bleeped out, but if we start from the top and ban them, then we won't have to answer questions at the bottom."

It's an interesting and depressing view of the music industry and creativity that the NAN believe that commercial organisations ought to be the conscience and arbiter of art, and that individual artists aren't considered worth appealing to, or capable of exercising their own judgement. Wouldn't it be better if people didn't make records which called women whores because they didn't think of women that way, rather than because Sony-BMG have instructed them not to? Shouldn't rappers (and rockers) be asked to exercise a little personal thought?

Teens no more; still Imperial

It's been five years since the last Imperial Teen album, but the wait is nearly over: Pitchfork report that The Hair, the TV, the Baby and the Band is due this August.

The name, apparently, comes from what the members of the group have been doing with their lives since we last heard from them.

Of levels and revels

Next year, it's going to be twenty years since The Levellers first lurched towards a stage - twenty years of contradictions and commitment. To mark the occasion, there's going to be a massive tour; before that, a slew of reissues. First up, What a Beautiful Day is getting a download-only return on iTunes on 28th June; on the 2nd July, all the albums from their Warners-era (contradictions, see) get a shake down. Levelling The Land is being completely spiffed up - which, in Leveller's terms would mean a new army surplus jacket and a second-hand pair of boots - with a second disc featuring the band's 1992 Glastonbury appearance. (This was back when Glastonbury was still that sort of festival, of course.)

They've still not quite embraced the free market with the gusto exhibited by Chumbawamba, but this is probably about as commercial as they're going to get...

E's back again

Partly on the basis of semi-inspired guesses, and partly because it seems like no bloody band can remain dead these days, Rolling Stone is putting its money on an E-Street Band reunion. But they're also covering their arses:

. Bruce has been known to abandon projects before they reach fruition so be sure don’t book any travel quite yet.

Let's just not talk about Bruce's canoes, shall we?

Haven't they suffered enough?

We know that R Kelly almost certainly has his heart in the right place writing, recording and releasing a song inspired by the Virginia Tech murders, but even with all the money going to the victims, you might wonder if he might have been more empathic if he'd kept a dignified silence?

The lyrics?

"Rise up, when you feel you can't go on/
rise up, and all of your hope is gone/
rise up, when you're weak and you can't be strong"

Yes. Silence might have been better than this, which sounds more like an advert for a fortified breakfast cereal.

This just in: Lily Allen won't wear Moss

Well, that's a total shock: New Look designer Lily Allen says she won't be wearing Top Shop designer Kate Moss' clothes.

Tomorrow: "I'm not tempted by a Big Mac", reveals Burger King.

Mean Fiddler accused of misusing Glastonbury registration data

Back when the registration procedure for Glastonbury was announced, we did wonder about what privacy guarantees were in place to protect all this juicy, valuable information.

It turns out none, as Mike Eccleshall has forwarded onto us a spam email that's been making use of the list of names:

Date: Apr 30, 2007 3:21 PM
Subject: Latitude Music Festival
To: *****

Dear Festival Goer,

I'm sorry you were unable to get a ticket to Glastonbury this year. I hope there will be another chance for you to come during the next four years. Of course there's always BBC TV and radio to keep you in touch with the music that will be going on around the various stages.

Can I suggest that you might like to look at the possibility of going to another festival---namely the Latitude Festival, set in a beautiful part of Suffolk. Although much smaller it has some terrific music and has a similar feel to it by way of theatre comedy circus and much more.

Tickets are available at

Best wishes and thank you so much for supporting our Festival

Latitude Festival

Mike's response is worth reading, too:
Dear Mean Fiddler / Latitude Festival / Glastonbury Festival,

I did not register for Glastonbury 2007 tickets to receive SPAM from (other) Mean Fiddler festivals.

Your email (copied below) does not contain an unsubscribe link, nor was an opt out option available at time of registration and is thus, under the terms of the Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003, subsection 22 (C)'. illegal

(c) the recipient has been given a simple means of refusing (free of charge except for the costs of the transmission of the refusal) the use of his contact details for the purposes of such direct marketing, at the time that the details were initially collected, and, where he did not initially refuse the use of the details, at the time of each subsequent communication.

Please remove this address from all mean fiddler mailings immediately.

Please also reply at the earliest possible time with the relevant section of the Glastonbury Festival Ticket Pre-Registration Terms and Conditions which state that I have agreed to be contacted by you in relation to other commercial offers. Failure to do this will leave me no choice but to report this, massive (circa 400,000?) unsolicited mailing to the relevant Data Protection Commissioners.

Glastonbury Festival: Mean Fiddler have let you down.

Interestingly, they've broken Michael Eavis' word. It's been taken down from the official Glastonbury site now, but originally the tickets page had an assaurance from Eavis:
"I assure you that your details will not be used for any other purpose"
No information collected by registration will be offered for sale or use by any third party organisation. Unsuccessful ticket applicants will have their data destroyed and all ticket holders’ registration details and photos will be destroyed within one month of the event.

... but not before we've sent out ticket applications for Latitude.

Curtis, sea: Cannes plans

The Ian Curtis biopic is to get a premiere at the Cannes Film Festival later this year - precisely the sort of glittering, star-bejewelled occasion Curtis wasn't known for at all.

Gigwise reportsthe premiere will be:

attended by members of U2, Depeche Mode and the band formed from the ashes of Joy Division, New Order

They might want to rethink the use of a metaphorical "from the ashes", since Joy Divsion ended comprehensively with the actual funeral of the lead singer.

Doherty solo effort & new 'shambles prepare to burst forth

Having seen what an virtually unfettered beast Pete Doherty's Babyshambles project produced, god alone knows what we should expect with an album that doesn't even have the pretence of being a group work to protect it. It sounds like the label is slightly edgy about quality control, on the new Babyshambles one too:

"I think it's pretty much done. It's just now trying to convince the record company that everything doesn't need to be highly polished."

Let's hope they can at least compromise on 'mostly listenable', then.

Too much gravy: Evans wins prizes

No wonder this morning's Today sounded a bit ragged: they'd have been out celebrating their Best Breakfast Show prize at last night's Sonys. If anyone can explain to me how you can effectively weigh up John Humphrys interviewing Tony Blair over decisions to invade Iraq against Chris Moyles "pretending" to be a "big black man", we'd love to know.

Chris Evans won a prize - the entertainment award - just like it was 1999, and as if he was entertaining. The now-defunct Mark Radcliffe show picked up best music programme; even John Peel managed to get a gong - although that was a venerable, Broadcaster's broadcaster type prize. Having said which, we doubt if Peel would have nominated himself for such a prize.

Colin Murray was garlanded as Music Broadcaster of the Year; Christian O'Connell (who is Colin Murray with adverts) won for best competition.

These are the takey-home prize winners in full:

Breakfast show - The Today Programme (BBC Radio 4)
Music programme - The Mark Radcliffe Show (BBC Radio 2)
Specialist music programme - Friction (BBC Asian Network)
News and current affairs programme - Five Live Breakfast (BBC Radio Five Live)
Sports programme - Sportsweek (BBC Radio Five Live)
Speech programme - The Reunion (BBC Radio 4)
Interactive programme - PM (BBC Radio 4)
Entertainment award - The Chris Evans Show (BBC Radio 2)
Music broadcaster of the year - Colin Murray (BBC Radio 1)
Music radio Personality of the Year - Chris Evans (BBC Radio 2)
News journalist - John Humphrys (BBC Radio 4)
Speech broadcaster - Eddie Nestor (BBC London 94.9)
Station programmer - Francis Currie (Heart Network)
Drama - Lorilei (BBC Radio 4)
Comedy - 1966 and All That (BBC Radio 4)
Feature - Radio Ballads 2006: The Song of Steel (BBC Radio 2)
Music special - Malcolm McLaren's Musical Map of London (BBC Radio 2)
News feature - Letters from Guantánamo Bay (BBC Radio 4)
Breaking news - The London Tornado, BBC London 94.9
Live event coverage - The Alan Shearer Testimonial (Magic 1152 Sport)
Community - The Plot (BBC Radio Berkshire)
Promo - The Ashes (BBC Five Live Sports Extra)
Competition - Who's Calling Christian? (Virgin Radio)
Station Imaging - Planet Rock
Internet programme - Firin' Squad unsigned podcast
Station of the year: under 300,000 - Isle of Wight Radio
Station of the year: 300,000-1m - BBC Radio Derby
Station of the year: 1 million plus - Radio City 96
Digital terrestrial station - Gaydar Radio
UK station of the year - Classic FM
Broadcaster's broadcaster - John Peel
Gold award (outstanding contribution) - Paul Gambaccini
Lifetime achievement award (for regional broadcasters) - Tony Butler (BBC WM)

Radio City best station with a TSA over a million? There'll be celebrating at the top of St John's Tower tonight. Well, if they still have any staff on overnight.

The 2007 shortlists

Commercial Radio loves new music, providing it's not too weird

James has contacted us to bring the second UK music to our attention. We hadn't noticed the first, but apparently it was a very successful week promoting British artists on Independent Radio. The commercial stations love to get excited about this coming together of all the stations, as if most of them weren't owned by the same three or four large companies anyway.

James is sceptical, and, frankly, we couldn't put it better ourselves. So we won't, we'll just run his email:

Part of me thinks it's great that
radio stations are doing something to promote British music. A couple of
years ago, in the week before the Brits, Radio 1 decided to devote its
entire daytime playlist to British music from the last 40 years, and it
sounded brilliant.

However... *Commercial* radio? As in 'Rob n' Kat's Morning Crew, brought to
you by Fellatio Nightclub in Kettering'? As in "You're never more than two
songs away from Daniel Powter"? As in 'Natasha Bedingfield Winning Weekend
(Don't forget your cue to call!)'? As in "Call now for your chance to win
£1000 in the Cash Climb (inexplicably hosted by a different presenter to the
rest of the show, who never asks callers where they're from)"? Since when
did Commercial radio care about promoting *any* sort of music beyond the
tracklisting of the latest 'Housework Songs' CD?

I flicked onto my local commercial station the other day. The first thing I
heard was a jingle proudly announcing "We skip out the wierd stuff... And
just bring you great music!". Now, I may be wrong, but I'm fairly sure
'stars such as Amy Winehouse, Mika, Paolo Nutini and Travis' have released
their fair share of 'wierd stuff'. When they were getting started, tracks
like 'U16 Girls' were a long way from the polished likes of 'Sing'. They
were darn fine songs nonetheless, but I don't recall any commercial station
excitedly playing Amy Winehouse's debut single, or even Razorbastardlight's.
Why not? Because presumably they sniffily looked down on it as 'wierd
stuff'. If Paolo Nutini staggered soberly up to Cesspit FM one day with a
demo tape, would the powers-that-be say "Hurrah! Let's give it a listen and
maybe champion British Music!"? Or would they just call the police?

I suppose I'm just a bit baffled by this sudden interest in promoting
British music to 'fight back against the BBC'. The BBC has its faults, but
they do more to promote British music in one evening than the average
commercial station does in a year. They play plenty of 'wierd stuff' because
a) They can see the talent behind it and b) Some of us actually like 'wierd
stuff'. Commercial radio seems to jump in at the last minute, first sitting
back and letting the BBC (and other broadcasters) give airtime to a vast
array of artists, waiting to see which ones sell a million albums and *then*
deciding that they're worthy of a place on the playlist between The Fray and
The Fray.

Is this really "A unique dedication to the UK music industry"? Or does it
just mean every station is going to sound like Virgin for a week?

Art for heart's sake

Ana Matronic, out of the Scissor Sisters, is currently popping up on the Arts Council website insisting that the arts literally saved her life. It's part of an initiative by the council to promote the value of public arts, although, obviously, they're not as important as the Olympics. Otherwise we wouldn't be cutting the funding for the arts to pay for the overgrown school sports day.

Boy George "innocent" with photos to prove it

Boy George has responded to the kidnap claims by sending his brother Kevin out to appeal directly to the public:

Showing pictures of Carlsen, posing semi-naked in handcuffs and stilettos to reporters outside George's flat in Shoreditch, East London, 47-year-old Kevin said: "These were taken a month ago.

"The bloke has done a fair bit of modelling for our clothes shop, so how can what he said be true? George isn't at all annoyed at the allegations, in fact he thinks it's hilarious.

"Yeah, he was arrested, but the police are always going to follow it up when someone makes a complaint like that."

Now, there's obviously no way of knowing who's telling the truth, but the problem with Kevin's photo-waving is that, erm, it supports part of Auden Carlsen's stories (of fetish photo sessions) without actually contradicting them. Nor does "he's modeled for our shop" actually disprove the allegations in any way, does it? It's not like having done photos in your pants for a person automatically creates a impermeable barrier around you.

Good news from Peter Andre's bedside

Yes, the news from the hospital where Peter Andre is being treated for Meningitis is better than anyone could have hoped: he's been told not to do any work until June.

Mind you, since his job seems to involve doing very little other than standing in the background of photos with Jordan in, he might be able to ease himself back in sooner.

There's a wonderful bit in Victoria Newton's report, though: having shared the news of Andre's recovery, she then adds a footnote:

CRUEL rumours circulated yesterday that PETER ANDRE had died in hospital. His aides confirmed there was no truth in the internet whispers.

We're glad Victoria double-checked with "aides" before adding the news of Peter Andre not being dead to a story about his recovery headlined "Brain bug Pete is on the mend". Just in case everyone was confused.

Di-lye Minogue

Riding, as she has so often before, to the rescue: Kylie Minogue is coming to rescue the Diana memorial concert from obscurity.

Or, erm, possibly not:

A pop insider said: “We’re just signing off some details, but it all looks good.”

You'll note that it's not a Palace insider, or a Brand Minogue insider, or even Dannii - it's a "pop insider", a term so vague it could cover just about anybody from the bloke who delivers sandwiches to the round-the-clock legal team dealing with George Michael's driving adventures through to Cheryl Cole.

Tom Chap-lin(e)

Simply checking into rehab hasn't made Tom Chaplin interesting, so today, Tom's given an interview to Victoria Newton about how much he loved snorting coke. Well, we say to Victoria Newton. He gave it to Q, where Victoria read about his drug problems.

Or, as Victoria puts it, presumably using some sort of keyboard shortcut:

Now the singer has revealed the scale of his drugs hell.

Apparently, he even quit the band at the end of a Japanese tour. Only he didn't tell anybody, which... well, it's not quite quitting, is it?

Then, he traipsed off to the Priory:
“I was at the end of my tether in Japan. I was tired of life and feeling pretty suicidal.

“I got off the plane and phoned my dad. I told him I’d left the band and that I was falling apart. I checked myself into The Priory.”

But this wasn't a sudden thing - oh, no: Tom had problems before:
“In late 2005 and the start of 2006, when we were finishing Under The Iron Sea, I was in a state. Tim would come to my house and I’d refuse to answer the door. I was spending a lot of time at home crying in front of Cash In The Attic."

Well, who wouldn't? When they're trying to scrape together the money to buy an iron lung or something, and the auction's going badly, and they start to play the 'sad' version of the music under the saleroom sequence, with Alastair putting a consoling arm round a woman who's just seen her treasures barely scrape the reserve price... I'm starting to sniff myself, and this is just a composite Cash In The Attic I'm making up in my head.

It sounds like Chaplin's problems have very little to do with drugs - drug hell or otherwise - and more like depression. Still, apparently treating the symptom has done well, so that won't be like cutting a limb off but being okay because you've staunched the flow of blood.

One other thing: Victoria says that Tom's two gramme a week habit would "have cost him £700" - where the hell do Sun journalists get their cocaine from? Selfridges? Based on prices quoted by Drugscope, if you shop around you could get ten times that amount.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Living like royalties

SoundExchange are the group, who, in their role as collectors of webcast royalties, have pressed for the ridiculously higher rates which are currently threatening to kick American radio off the net. But they're only doing it because they've got musicians interests at heart, right?

Maybe not: Apparently, only sixty cents out of every dollar they raise has made it to artists; the rest is being held "in reserve for artists and sound recording copyright owners (SRCOs) that have not been identified or located."

So, with all this cash sloshing about in the bank, that's earning interest for the artists, right?

Erm, not according to the organisation's most recent annual report[pdf]:

The administrative expenses of SoundExchange are paid first with interest income earned and then through an administrative charge applied to royalties available for distribution in the form of an Administrative Rate. SoundExchange expresses its Administrative Rate as a fraction, the numerator of which is the Total Annual Expenses less Annual Interest Earned on Investments and the denominator of which is Total Annual Royalties Received. If SoundExchange’s Administrative Rate is less than 20%, SoundExchange shall pay the difference between its Administrative Rate and 20% to repay the principal and interest outstanding on the Promissory Note entered into with the Recording Industry Association of America, Inc. (“RIAA”) for the repayment of costs incurred in the initial arbitrations to establish rates and terms for preexisting subscription services and eligible nonsubscription transmission services. For the period April through December 2004, SoundExchange repaid $575,097 in principal and interest to the RIAA.
SoundExchange’s Administrative Rate for the period April 1 through December 31, 2004 was fifteen percent (15%).

Hmm... so more money languishing around in SoundExchange's bank accounts is good news for the RIAA. Whoever would have thought?

Parker bowls Stefani over

Sarah Jessica Parker, off that programme a few years back, has tried to promote her new horse couture - sorry, haute couture, I don't know why Sarah Jessica Parker always makes us think of horses - by complaining about how much you have to pony up for Gwen Stefani's clothing range:

[T]he actress calls Stefani's designs "much more avant-garde" than her own, adding, "I don't want to do that for women, because that's not their lives." She also doesn't approve of the high cost of L.A.M.B. fashions. She says of her Bitten items, "You're going to be able to buy $200 worth of clothes, leave that store with six bags and be able to pay your utilities and take your kids some place special for their birthday."

Or, of course, you could go to a shop that hasn't employed someone to slap their fadingly-famous name on the label, buy $100 worth of clothes, leave the store with one bag being used for all the clothes, pay your utilities, eat well for a month and still take the kids to the zoo. And not look like you're a half-wit who needs to be told by the woman out of Kate-And-Allie-With-Dildos what to wear.

Brit comeback u-turns into go-away

The half-secret Britney comeback gigs are half-secret no longer. And, indeed, not gigs anymore, either. Britney's pulled them. Still, at least nobody knew about it. Or half-didn't-know.

Remember Darfur; forget Lennon

You could be forgiven for not having noticed yesterday's day of action to show solidarity with the people of Darfur - presumably bands were too busy arguing about how many solar-paneled toilets they get at Live Earth to do anything about it. So credit to Green Day, who have recorded a special track for Darfur victims. It's a cover of Working Class Hero, which wouldn't have been our choice, but it should raise a load of cash when it goes up on iTunes tomorrow.

Save Darfur petition
Oxfam's Darfur appeal page

Courtney to sell pieces of Kurt

Not literally pieces of Kurt, although her everything-must-go sale of Kurt's belongings probably would have bits if they'd not been cleaned up properly. Courtney's motivation isn't to make as much cash as she possibly can, though. Oh, no:

"My daughter doesn't need to inherit a giant bag full of flannel shirts. A sweater, a guitar and the lyrics to Teen Spirit — that's what my daughter gets. And the rest of it we'll just sell. Everyone's been positive and behind me on it. We'll make a lot of money and give a bunch of it to charity."

The "give a bunch of it to charity" sounds, ever so slightly, like an afterthought. Still, nice of Courtney to decide what Frances might want to keep of the father she barely knew.

Extremists Christians try to cut 50 Cent down from the cross

With so much misery, poverty and suffering in the world, you'd have thought that Christians would pretty much have their hands full. Not so, apparently, as The Resistance have elected to spend their days trying to get 50 Cent to stop wearing his big diamond cross. Mark Dice, leader of the self-styled Resistance, explains:

"50 Cent is no Christian, and if you listen to his lyrics it becomes clear that he is more of a Satanist than anything.

“He is defaming the cross and committing blasphemy by wearing it while he raps about killing people for no reason because he’s a big bad ‘gangster.’ I think a large diamond studded platinum satanic pentagram would be a little more fitting for him."

Then, of course, the Back In Control Center could run a campaign condemning him for wearing Satanic symbols.

This is all a little bit silly - all crucifixes may be crosses, but not all crosses are crucifixes, and to suggest that a slightly camp piece of jewellery is blasmphemous is more than a little absurd. Since when did any special-interest group hold domain over an entire geometric shape?

They didn't have MySpace back when they ruled the earth

Streaming now, over on TheirMySpace: that new Dinosaur Jr album in full.

Krief after grief

At the start of the month, Patrick Krief of the Dears and other projects had USD18,000 worth of kit pinched from his rehearsal rooms.

As we end April, though, a happy ending: family and friends have rallied round and bought him a new Fender Stratocaster and some money over for pedals and whatnot. Krief reveals it wasn't totally without strings:

"With extreme intensity he [Dears singer Murray Lightburn] exclaims 'Don't thank me, don't do anything, take this fucking check, and get insurance tomorrow or I'll fucking rob you!'"

Of course, if Krief does get insurance tomorrow, then Lightburn could rob him and they'd both have... no, no. There's been enough crime.