Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Old Zunes struggle to make it into 2009

You really have to hand it to Microsoft: it might not have managed to make the Zune as popular as the iPod, but it's certainly managed to make it as reliable as Windows. Every 30G model of Zune has stopped working. The reason?

It doesn't believe that today exists:

On Wednesday evening Microsoft said it had traced the problem to a software bug “related to the way the device handles a leap year.” Apparently the Zune was expecting 2008 to have 365 days, not 366.

So, hey, it's only a problem which is going to occur every four years, so where's the drama?
The company said the internal clock on the players should automatically reset by noon Greenwich Mean Time on Thursday (7 a.m. Eastern time). Microsoft is advising Zune owners to allow the player’s battery to fully drain and then turn the devices back on on Thursday.

In other words: Your Zune won't work on the 366th day of a year, so wait until the year ticks back over to day one.

I try not to use Zune as a punchline, I really do. But a music player that won't work on New Year's Eve? It's like it wants to be laughed at.

Rate 08: 2008 overview

If you only read one post a year, this one shouldn't be it... but it acts as a guide

This year just gone:

Review of the year, month by month

Other people's reviews of the year

Music: watch our selected videos

Valete: This year's obituaries

The key events of the year:

Now Thats What I Call 1983

Q awards | MTV VMAs

Michael Stipe on The One Show


First night: Madonna Hard Candy tour

Kerrang! Awards

T in the Park


Mandela at 90

Mojo honours

Sony Radio Awards

UK Asian Music Awards

NME nominations

NME award winners

Brit nominations

Brit Awards Liveblog





The ten most popular stories published this year:

1. Daily Mail discovers Jools Holland's New Year show isn't live
2. Miley Cyrus shows off her bra
3. Salford Lads Club pushes Smiths to reform for Christmas Number One
4. Robbie Williams abandons pop for UFOs, golf
5. Even the dead: Hendrix punts a sex tape
6. RIP: Jason Rae
7. RIP: John Stewart
8. Video: Brett Anderson - Love Is Dead
9. The Shins get mixed up in allegations of domestic violence
10. Binki Shapiro joins Strokes side project


Dec 28
Dec 21
Dec 14
Dec 7
Nov 30
Nov 23
Nov 16
Nov 9
Nov 2
Oct 26
Oct 19
Oct 12
Oct 5
Sep 28
Sep 21
Sep 14
Sep 7
Aug 31
Aug 24
Aug 17
Aug 10
Aug 3
Jul 27
Jul 20
Jul 13
Jul 6
Jun 29
Jun 22
Jun 15
Jun 8
Jun 1
May 25
May 18
May 11
May 4
Apr 27
Apr 20
Apr 13
Apr 6
Mar 30
Mar 23
Mar 16
Mar 9
Mar 2
Feb 24
Feb 17
Feb 10
Feb 3
Jan 27
Jan 20
Jan 13
Jan 6

Rate 08: The review menu

January - Robbie Williams on strike
February - Liverpool hits number 77
March - Shed Seven sneak into Parliamentary debates
April - Miley Cyrus isn't wearing any clothes
May - Duran Duran rejected by Deustche Bank
June - Ricky Martin dumps Bush, endorses Clinton
July - James Blunt goes to war with the Athenians
August - Mike Batt insists downloading music is like stealing bread rolls
September - Bestival barely blown out to sea
October - Pussycat Dolls off Sarah Palin a chance to join another clapped-out old party
November - System of A Down draw on their fans
December - Woolworths sinks the Zavvi ship

Plant Pine, Queen told

Amongst those getting the chance to mumble "of course, it would be rude to turn down such an honour" in this year's prizes from the Queen for doing a job you're already well-paid for: Robert Plant, John Martyn and Courtney Pine.

Martyn scores an OBE, Plant and Pine get CBEs. Nobody is quite clear why there'd be a difference, but clearly there is, as there's nothing in any way random about the way these things are decided.

As the year clambers to a close...

Just a quick message to everyone who reads this, and especially sends tips, comments or generally wades in: thanks so much for being around in 2008, and all the best for 2009. May the year to come bring you everything you would wish for yourself. Unless, you know, you're wishing for vertical jiggling with Gordon Smart. Unless you're Mrs Smart.

Rate 08: Valete

Those sadly missed during the year:

Rod Allen - founder & frontman, The Fortunes
Neil Aspinall - "fifth Beatle"
Jeremy Beadle - presenter and promoter
Joe Beck - jazz guitarist
Bill Belew - stylist to Presley
Michael Berniker - producer
MC Breed - rapper
Ola Brunkert - drummer, Abba
Dorival Caymmi - bossa nova pioneer
Paul Cole - cover star, Abbey Road
Arcani Crosswords - rapper
Paul Davis - songwriter
Bo Diddley - Bo Diddley
Klaus Dinger - drummer, Neu! and Kraftwerk
Mikey Dread - engineer and dj
Ronnie Drew - singer, The Dubliners
Syke Dyke - Trouble Funker
Richey Edwards - Manic Street Preacher formally presumed dead
Danny Federici - organist, The E-Street Band
Jerry Finn - producer
Steve Foley - drummer, The Replacements
Frosty Freeze - Rock Steady Crew man
Aaron Fuller - singer, Plan 9
Gidget Gein - bassist, The Spooky Kids
Drew Glackin - bassist, The Silos
Isaac Hayes - singer
Robert Hazard - songwriter
Jeff Healey - bluesman
Don Helms - guitarist
Jesse Helmes - censorist
George 'Wydell' Jones - songwriter & doo-wop artist
Mahendra Kapoor - playback singer
Miles Kington - jazz musician and humourist
Eartha Kitt - actor and legend
Tony Kostrzewa - distributor
David Lander - manager
Brian Lourie - drummer, Slaughter
Ray Lowry - cartoonist
Robert Lucas - singer, Canned Heat
Humphrey Lyttelton - jazz artist
Miriam Makeba - singer & campaigner
Alex McCulloch - guitarist, Me Vs Hero
Mitch Mitchell - drummer, Jimi Hendrix Experience
LeRoi Moore - saxophonist, Dave Matthews Band
Bryan Morrison - manager
Marc Moulin - experimentalist, Telex
Adam Nodelman - experimentalist, Sunburned Hand Of Man
Earl Palmer - drummer
Rob Partridge - PR
Jason Rae - saxophinist, Haggis Horns
Lita Roza - singer
Ruedi Rymann - yodeler
Nick Sanderson - drummer, Clock DVA, Jesus & Mary Chain and The Gun Club
Noel Sayre - violinist, The Black Swans
Mike Smith - singer, The Dave Clark Five
John Stewart - singer, The Kingston Trio
Shakir Stewart - executive
Levi Stubbs - singer
Chase Tatum - manager
Artie Traum - folk figure
Elmer Valentine - founder, Whisky A Go-Go
Jerry Wexler - executive
Norman Whitfield - songwriter
Eric OG Woods - rapper
Richard Wright - keyboardist, Pink Floyd
Maharishi Mahesh Yogi - self-appointed guru

Rate 08: This year just gone: December 2008

Mark Morrison turned his back on a cruel Leicester and Barack Obama can apparently do without an iPod. Boy George was convicted of keeping an escort chained in his house, and may yet go to jail. The brief prospect that we might get shot of Coldplay soon was snatched away by Chris Martin.

There's a dreadful threat that next year might bring with it a new Sex Pistols album and a Stone Roses reunion. The Specials reunion turned out to have already turned acrimonious, with Jerry Dammers unhappy at being sidelined.

Festivals are now so overpriced, they're selling tickets on the drip. The collapse of Woolworths looks like it might bring Zavvi down - there was still some money about, though, as it was revealed in court The Sun had made a fifty grand payment to Amy Winehouse's drug dealers and the Mail On Sunday went into the record business.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Bjork steps in

When Iceland's economy froze as part of the global panic, the witty thing to say was that now the country only had Bjork to rely on. As is often the case, this turns out to be nearer the mark than you might have thought: Audur Capital's attempts to regrow the Icelandic economy have called in Bjork for some heavyweight celebrity endorsement.

Rate 08: This year just gone: November 2008

System Of A Down revealed that a true fan will permanently scar themselves to prove their devotion. The Manics dusted down some of Richey's old lyrics and Genesis started to sound out Peter Gabriel about a reunion. Which isn't as frightening as the Vanilla ice comeback. Or as surprising as KajaGooGoo bringing back Limahl.

Almost certain to upset new best friend Gordon Smart, Coldplay at Knebworth was off - after the band discovered you had to book the venue and couldn't just turn up and play. New Order finally gave in and recalled the bungled remasters of their catalogue - Tony would never have let them out in the first place.

The University Of The Solent gave Craig David some sort of honorary award, just to shut him up about bloody Bo Selecta for ten minutes. Brian May boldly took his bits being left off Chinese Democracy on the chin, but did think it worth mentioning he'd done them.

After Californians voted to ban gay marriage, Elton John seemed quite alright with it but Melissa Etheridge voted to not pay her taxes. Not a single penny, which, by coincidence, is the same amount of profit this year's Glastonbury made.

Gary Glitter was painted - or, rather, chiseled out of Cavern Club history for well-intentioned but confused reasons. Similar intentions to those which somehow made it wrong to ask students to study Glitter Band lyrics. Equally well meaning but ill-judged was Sheffield Arena's attempts to stop Cliff Richard fans queueing up outside in the cold.

Bauer announced it was closing Mojo Radio and thought about rebranding Kerrang. Nokia launched Comes With Music properly as MySpace stole Mobile's URL for their mobile service.

Woolworths and some of its friends invented a logo to tell people what mp3s are. "What's a Woolworths?" was the mp3's puzzled response.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Celebrity Big Brother: You can never accuse Guardian readers of being ill-informed

A vague couple of words speculating that LaToya Jackson might be this year's Jackson in the Big Brother house unleashed an enormous monster of a Jackson fan in the comments:

You would only have to bother Googling La Toya Jackson to know that she too is representing the pop world, with 10 albums released since 1980, a Grammy nomination for her songwriting. A few people out there may also know her recent US club chart hits Just Wanna Dance and Free The World under her alias 'Toy'. She was also part of USA for Africa - We Are The World too. Her last UK releases were 1988's You're Gonna Get Rocked single with hip-hop superproducers Full Force and the accompanying LP with tracks by Stock Aitken Waterman amongst others. She's a best-selling author, actress, and her Playboy issues are still the biggest sellers of all time. It'll be great to see her back. Last time she was over here was in 2005 on Frank Skinner, supporting Michael and talking about her life. It should be a great 3 weeks of top telly with Toy on board.

Wow... more people wanted to look at her naked in Playboy than anyone else, huh? That's quite an, erm, achievement (outselling Debbie Gibson's vagina? Who wouldn't be proud?). Still, it's actually quite sweet to see that Jackson still has fans so proud of her that they'll submit a biography to counter any suggestion she might be less famous than Mutya from the Sugababes. I say "fans"; jumping to the conclusion that the press handout might have come straight from the PR team who have got her into this mess in the first place might be uncharitable.

Amongst the others being tipped for a place in the programme which is part handbasket, part tumbrel, are Terry Christian (recently lost his unfair dismissal claim against the BBC on the grounds that, erm, he didn't work for them); Michelle Heaton out of Liberty X (sort of undermining Popbitch's belief that they somehow beat Hear'Say in the long run); Ulrika (getting GBP175,000 - more than anyone else, according to Wikipedia); Lucy Pinder (apparently not owning a shirt now constitutes 'celebrity'); Malcolm Gladwell (hoping to discover exactly where his tipping point is); Verne Toyer (as part of his bid to appear on any reality programme that will have him); Tina Malone (off of Brookside); Coolio (wearing a tshirt reading 'self-parody? what does that even mean?') and Ben from A1, who will spend the three days before he's evicted wandering around showing off his nipples.

Rate 08: This year just gone: October 2008

Santana has, you know, started to have a dream of quitting music and opening a church of his own, but Beyonce was more interested in a little self-worship. Sarah Palin was offered a role in the Pussycat Dolls where, at least, she could lip-synch. No Age slightly overplayed being asked to remove an Obama shirt before going onto Craig Ferguson while the Foo Fighters told McCain to not play their stuff at his rallies. Bravely, Fall Out Boy cancelled their album so as not to distract attention from the US elections. Or perhaps from Ross and Brand's phone calls to Andrew Sachs.

The individual memebrs of Limp Bizkit decided that their inability to attract attention since their split was a problem which could only be tackled by reuniting and Dirty Pretty Things went in the opposite direction and, after Dorian's illness, The Long Blondes split.

No more fan mail: Read Ringo Starr's lips.

Plans for a variety show based on The Osbournes wobbled when the Writer's guild told members to not get involved. The Featured Artists Coalition created something a bit like the Musician's Union with some digital savvy. The music industry, meanwhile, hoped that Nokia's Comes With Music might save them, at least from iTunes. Apple's lead, though, was massive and growing. Universal's Doug Morris admitted he didn't know if the RIAA suing strategy was going to work.

Graham Gouldman moaned that nobody loved 10CC and Cliff Richard fans complained that Oasis had ripped off their idol - and not just by getting old and embarrassing. Also a little embarrassing was Guy Ritchie's dad, who felt the need to stand up for his son in the face of beastly Madonna, thereby crimping his gangster stylings. Thank god Geri Halliwell is going to start making films to save the UK film industry.

Channel 4's glittering digital radio plans were axed in the face of the impossibility of turning Hollyoaks into The Archers; to try and make the company think of something other than "oh, shit, we're all going to be sacked", Andy Burnham attempted to bring back Top of The Pops although he might have had more support trying to stop Parkinson launching his own record series.

U2 took a step closer to world domination of evil corporations by taking a chunk of LiveNation stock.

After 17 years, Guns N Roses finally announced a release for Chinese Democracy, turning a rather good running joke into a crushing disappointment.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A different kind of Blue

Blue, it seems, aren't letting Duncan James' coolness to the idea of getting back together and playing to tiny rooms stand in the way of a reunion. Antony Costa says they're pushing ahead:

"Everyone said Take That wouldn't work without Robbie Williams but they were so wrong. The fans want it and we're up for it. It could be Duncan's loss but we're planning something for the New Year."

The fans want it, and it would be a shame to let down seventeen people by not sort-of-reuniting.

It's true that Take That did work without Robbie, but isn't Blue without Duncan James more like a Take That staffed entirely by Jason Oranges?

Rap: It's from Scotland

No, actually it isn't, but Professor Ferenc Szasz suggests that old Caledonian Flyting battles are a little bit like rap battles.

Szasz suggests there is "a clear link" between the two:

According to the theory, Scottish slave owners took the tradition with them to the United States, where it was adopted and developed by slaves, emerging many years later as rap.

He has uncovered a previously overlooked version of Tupac, Where's Your Troosers by Puff Daddy which he insists proves his point.

I was going to finish this by suggesting that it's only at Christmas that the Sunday Telegraph would stoop to publishing this sort of made-up guff, but I'm not confident that's the case any more.

Rate 08: This year just gone: September 2008

Travis Barker and DJ AM survived a horrible plane crash; sadly, the rest of their party didn't.

Akon threw a fan off the stage, Bestival almost blew straight into the Solent and a church in Ohio predicted that Katy Perry would go straight to hell. But could Paul McCartney manage to negotiate the difficult waters of a Tel Aviv gig without resorting to trite cliches? No. Still, Ted Nugent promised he'd look after him if there was any trouble.

After a rotten year, British Airways finally did something to cheer everyone up by losing Pete Doherty's hat. Jon Anderson was a little annoyed at Yes going on tour without him and Jack White got all angry with Coca-Cola for playing the tune he'd written for James Bond on an advert. Bill Bailey finally tired of being part of Buzzcocks and MTV decided it had had enough of TRL.

James Hetfield was proud at being US military's torture music maker of choiuce. Annoyed that he was playing their music at all, John McCain got a cease-and-desist from Heart while Rage Against The Machine got police attention after annoying the RNC. Russell Brand's MTV awards mockery of absitinance pledges was, insisted the Silver Ring People actually a good thing for them, as a matter of fact. Perhaps a silver ring might stop George Michael from getting into trouble in toilets, although this time it was drugs, not sex, so maybe not.

Corey Taylor suggested that new music was mostly rubbish, but still required a chart recount to steal the US album list from The Game. Talking of number ones, Gordon Smart announced there was "a good chance" of Status Quo being number for Christmas. U2, though, won't be in contention - they're taking time to achieve greatness for their next album. Or, rather, Bono was off blogging for the FT.

Out Magazine listed the gayest albums ever - in the good, late 20th century sense of the word - but this would be of no interest to Cliff Richard and his former Priest friend. "I knew all along" announced Simon Cowell as Clay Aiken came out - well, yes, we all did, but that's not the point.

Not heeding the fuss that caused Yahoo and Microsoft to abandon the idea, WalMart tried to switch off its DRM server. Best Buy bought Napster, but at a deep discount

That's what the wrath of Danny Baker can do: download store Wippit folded. Virgin Radio became Absolute Radio instead, but they made sure neither of the listeners were confused. Virgin DJs JK and Joel quit, to spend more time fruitlessly pitching TV projects. Although given the arrival of Dave Pearce at 6Music, they probably shouldn't have ruled out a return to the BBC. Anyway, why would they want to appear on TV? Lisa Maffia did, and it turned out to be all made-up. George Lamb's interview style didn't make friends with Ray Davies.

After Noel Gallagher got pushed over on stage, fans started to get the ball rolling on vigilante justice before quietly letting it drop.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Venuewatch: Astoria to be born again

Melvin Benn is insisting that, after it's been knocked down and Crossrail completed, a new Astoria will arise in place of the old Astoria:

"It is a sad day for music fans who are losing out to long planned and long awaited progress of London's transport system," he explained.

However he added it was not the last of the Astoria: "We can do no more than celebrate how good it was and look forward to its replacement being born when construction begins."

It's possible that the current downturn might help the Astoria's chances of being rebuilt - after all, if nobody is going to want to pay top dollar for land for chi-chi flatlets or high-end retail, you might as well reconstruct the steady-earner of the Astoria on the site.

Still, it's nice to hear good news from Benn for a change.

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet: Last FM

Richard Jones of the recently downsized Last FM talks to Daily Tech about its assets and its future:

“It is a huge challenge; the common numbers are something like 300 million different tracks that we’ve recorded (that’s in tons of different spellings), and about 20 million different artists – but obviously not all of those are valid,” says Jones. “That’s the challenge: we still haven’t quite answered the question of how many unique artists there really are – there’s obviously much less than what we actually have because of all the misspellings. It’s an ongoing problem and it will never be solved, because there’s always new music being released as well and so you have to constantly keep updating the system.”

Peaches Geldof is tired of something

Peaches Geldof's marriage really is the gift that keeps on giving - since nobody is very interested in her pet magazine ("I Am Peaches Geldof, Hear Me Churn" - available wherever magazine retailers enjoy filling out return forms), at least she can constantly complain about reports on the state of her marriage to that bloke from that band:

She says, "It was a complete lie (that we are getting divorced). But a lot of newspaper stories are lies. They (rumours) just came out of the blue like a lot of tabloid stories. Just because I got married, they wrote that I was getting divorced. It didn't really (affect me), because I knew it wasn't true, so did my husband and my friends. So who else matters?"

A very good point, Peaches. So... erm, why are you issuing statements about it?

U2: Dissent in the ranks

Hey, it turns out it's not just us who worries about the people Bono rubs shoulders with. Larry Mullen isn't that comfortable, either:

Although he says he admires his bandmate for his achievements on the world stage – which he says will be “his legacy”, as well as his his voice and lyrics he adds: “My biggest problem really is sometimes the company that he keeps. And I struggle with that. Particularly the political people, less the financial people. Particularly Tony Blair – I mean, I think Tony Blair’s a war criminal. And I think he should be tried as a war criminal. And then I see Bono and him as pals, and I’m going: 'I don’t like that'.

He said Bono "would know how I feel about Tony Blair". Mullen said he understood why the singer had cosied up to President Bush. "George Bush has been very generous to his cause … the difference between him and Tony Blair is that Blair is intelligent. So he has no excuse for what he did. Whereas I think George Bush could find a few excuses for his behaviour.

It's admirably outspoken and honest of Mullen to say that in public - although it's hard to see why he's any more relaxed about the financial chums of Bono.

Bono, of course, has an explanation for why he rubs shoulders with Bush:
“It was embarrassing for the band. Edge always tells me, 'You’re an artist, remember that. You’re not a politician'. But if you’ve looked into the face of a mother whose daughter or son has died in their arms for no good reason, they don’t know or care who’s President of America. It’s something that once you’re a witness to, you can’t get it out of your head and so you don’t take shit on their behalf."

And that's a fair point - if you have the access, you should use it to push for good. Trouble is, Bono seemed to always be popping up to help Bush - photo-ops, stressing what a good job he was doing. And, indeed, the only time Bono seems to criticise his famous chums is when their period of power is coming to an end. It might be easier to believe that Bono is using his unique position to forward the needs of the many if the people with whom he met seemed more like they found the meetings awkward, rather than so much great fun.

Rate 08: This year just gone: August 2008

In one of the most poorly-thought-out screeds against downloading, Womble don Mike Batt used a bread metaphor that rapidly got stale. The LA Police suggested that Lindsay Lohan's sexuality had somehow calmed down the paparazzi. Dave Pearce left Radio One after someone spotted he was still in the schedules some ten years past his sell-by date.

Be Your Own Pet couldn't see a future with them in it but Magazine announced a reunion and Placebo swapped their Steves and the Dead Kennedys dropped another singer. Iron Maiden threw a little tantrum when they were nominated for a comeback award. Forward Russia spoiled the year by saying they were quitting; Bailterspace reactived and The Black Kids warned they might not be arsed to do a second record.

As Roger Daltrey railed against compulsary retirement, Cliff faltered trying to reach number one. Duffy seemed to think comparing her to Dusty Springfield was an insult, and not to Dusty. James Blunt wailed that he wanted to be left alone by the press during an interview with the press while Alice Cooper admitted he owed it all to Mary Whitehouse. Not all outrage is good, though: paying cash to Holy Fuck threw some Canadian arts funding into doubt.

Some punks came out for McCain, Jackson Browne told McCain to stop while Gordon Smart alone laughed as Rod Stewart drew penises on McFly. Gordon also excelled himself by exclusively revealing that Joss Stone was going to record Obama's theme song, a story only weakened by its lack of being in any way true. The Telegraph wasn't too worried about the truth of Britney to play lesbian stories, it just counted the clicks.

30 Seconds To Mars owed Virgin big time, at least according to Virgin; Chrsyallis blamed its rubbish performance on having rubbish bands, Sony became sole owner of Sony BMG while Google got into legal, paid-for downloads, at least in China. Buckcherry kicked up a fuss about their music being leaked online but when strangely quiet when the Wall Street Journal revealed it was their manager wot dun it. Could Kid Rock's success be because he wasn't on iTunes? No, just despite not being so - as Estelle's people discovered when they tried the same trick.

Madonna had a charity football event kicked out of the Millennium Stadium, not far from where REM were struggling to fill venues. Mel C's positive pronouncements about how great the Spice reunion was makes strange reading in light of what she said on Buzzcocks a couple of months later.

If Miley Cyrus had hoped for a night off for her birthday, she was disappointed: Disney turned her Sweet Sixteen into a public event with a price tag. Australians put a price of Everett True's head as he managed to upset an entire nation - and even the prospect of a Chris DeBurgh date had Iran raging.

In a world torn between laughing and crying over Peaches Geldof's hackneyed Las Vegas marriage, only Hello magazine alone tried to look on the bright side.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Legendobit: Eartha Kitt

The not-quite-irony of a woman who recorded Santa Baby dying on Christmas Day was, sadly, not lost on any news network, all of whom used it as a hook for their obituaries of Eartha Kitt. Kitt lost her fight against cancer yesterday.

Born out of wedlock in 1927 - when such things mattered - into a poor family, Kitt turned an inauspicious start into a sixty year career, setting a template of singing and acting that would eventually invent Streisand, Turner and Middler, amongst others.

Although she was already established as a singer by the end of the Second World War, and with a debut album released in 1953, it was during the 1960s that she really cemented her position. Playing Catwoman in the TV Batman, and earning herself a blacklisting for condemning the Vietnam War. If she upset the right during the 60s, it was the left who would scold her in 1974, when she toured apartheid South Africa. Kitt's argument was that she was raising awareness, which at least sounded more plausible than when Queen, say, tried to justify their bumper pay days in the same manner.

It would be dance music - and the passage of time - which would eventually reclaim Kitt from the mire of political boycottage and start to buff her yup into something approaching national treasure. The combination of faux animal skin and kittenesque purr gave her a trademark identity, and a willingness to work hard past the point where many might have plumped for retirement ensured she sealed her position as a solid-gold legend.

Rate 08: This year just gone: July 2008

Having run out of enemies, Amy Winehouse started to slap members of her own organisation while James Blunt took on all of Athens. Having been invited to play Quebec, Macca managed to insult the city. On its birthday. Dublin, meanwhile, decided to upset Dubliners just to keep Dutch singer Bono happy and approved plans to let his property company screw with The Clarence on the river.

A nurse claimed that hosting a festival trebled the pregnancy rate in her town, but that was nothing compared to the mess Zoo8 left in its wake. Even worse was the Moscow rave where the lasers somehow ended up being shone into people's eyes. Coldplay ticket holders were asked to return their tickets to get different ones for no apparent reason.

Long-promoted 'three strikes and you're out' plans to disconnect people the BPI don't like resulted in a pointless compromise. The EU decided to extend mechincal copyrights to 85 years - hoping that was long enough that Cliff would be dead by the time his expired so he might stop visiting them - but also called for royalty organisations to be more competitive. Yahoo tried to pull the your DRM servers are being switched off trick. Surprisingly, McFly and the Mail On Sunday hooked up.

As the TV coverage focused on Nelson Mandela and not Queen, Brian May felt ITV had missed the point of Mandela's 90th birthday show; Dave Lee Roth had a fake, nut-allergic Dave Lee Roth to contend with and Lemmy sort-of broke German law (and all laws of good taste) by dressing as a Nazi. Billy Joel at least had the grace to admit he had never been in a concentration camp before comparing a rehab resort to one.

Having been at the middle of a really nasty incident with Kele from Bloc Party, John Lydon found a corner of the world where he was still treated with respect, as the Daily Star's gossip column was handed over to him for a day; Calvin Harris tried for a reviewer's job at NME - hopefully not simply to upset Mark Ronson - and Kanye cranked up his own platform to bypass the lying media. Hey, it's worked for Courtney Love - where else would she have got the chance to issue a claim that Ryan Adams robbed her blind without a bunch of lawyers insisting on proof and such like?

Hints of a Madonna affair suddenly made people in the UK have to pretend they knew what an A-Rod was and we discovered that Morrissey will never, ever share a toilet and 50 Cent will not tolerate jokes at his expense.

Alan McGee told new bands not to bother with record companies; and it turned out EMI's Guy Hands had invested in the movie Nine Dead Guys while Poison started fighting over their booking to play a rodeo. Amongst themselves. Noel Gallagher wouldn't approve - he wanted an end to violence - perhaps by banning computer games? Boris Johnson thought that Lily Allen might have the answer to knife crime. Ringo Starr asked for world peace as a birthday present, but the world had already bought him some crayons and a sweater.

David Davis resigned from parliament in order to make some sort of point that he'd not quite thought about. Who would fall for such showboating? Bob Geldof was the first to endorse him. At least he didn't accidently endorse a mayoral candidate on air, like Jason Donovan did on 37 networked GCap stations. Jason went with Boris, but don't worry, Gordon: Robin Gibb still loves you - unfortunately, it was Tony James who ended up on Today.

Irony hit: Tim from the Cardiacs had cardiac problems.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: MGMT

Everything must run its course - and, indeed, our plough through just a few of the better tracks of the year has reached its end:

MGMT - Time To Pretend

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Florence & The Machine

Florence & The Machine - Kiss With A Fist

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: The Research

The Research - I Think She's The One I Love

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Polly Scattergood

Polly Scattergood - Machines That Bleed

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Neon Neon featuring Cate Le Bon

Neon Neon featuring Cate LeBon - I Lust U

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: The Hold Steady

Continuing our trawl thorugh some of the tracks of the year:

The Hold Steady - Sequestered In Memphis

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Ipso Facto

Ipso Facto - Six And Three Quarters

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Whispertown 2000

Whispertown2000 - Old Times

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Esser

Esser - Headlock

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Metronomy

Metronomy - On The Motorway

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Pink

Pink - So What

After the nasty Try This, its good to see Pink re-embracing the idea of a decent single:

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: The Week That Was

The Week That Was - Learn To Learn

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: XX Teens

XX Teens - How To Reduce Your Chances Of Being A Terror Victim

The greatest record ever to be inspired by a Fox News feature

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Ting Tings

Ting Tings - That's Not My Name

Yes, yes, of course they're more faux than Bet Lynch's leopardskin and, really, the song doesn't even quite count as a 2008 release. It's pop music.

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Emmy The Great

Emmy The Great - We Almost Had A Baby

The best video of the year, obviously, as it features a toy lemur:

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: Stickboy

Stickboy - Pirouette

Rate 08: Christmas selection box: The Kabeedies

You could see it as an off-road version of Christmas Top Of The Pops. You could see it as a giant stocking filled with the cream of 2008's music. Or you could say it's just a bunch of YouTube videos strewn across the day. Whatever, sit back and enjoy. First up:

Kabeedies - Lovers Ought To

Rate 08: This year just gone: June 2008

The rising cost of gas was perusading bands to stay at home - not always a good thing. Michael Eavis was travelling by train, which gave him the chance to talk to black people about Jay-Z. With quite a few unsold tickets for Glasto, he could do with the support. Still, they all sold in the end and at least Glasto didn't suffer the fate of Go Wild In The Country, cancelled after Bjork quit.

Sensing the way the wind was blowing, George W Bush supporter Ricky Martin switched to the Democrats. He wouldn't be saddled on the losing side, he decided, endorsing Hillary Clinton. Craig David wasn't about to change sides, though: still banging on about Bo Selecta after all these years; equally unhappy were Devo, ripped off by McDonalds, they said. GCap Radio revealed they'd been running dodgy competitions on-air.

Blake Fielder-Civil pleaded guilty, R Kelly was acquitted but even appearing in court was nothing compared to what Chris Martin had to face - a Radio 4 arts programme interview.

WalMart suppliers Handleman announced they would handle CDs no longer as there wasn't any money to be made; after all this time, Paul McGuinness was still using the simplistic file sharing equals shoplifting metaphor. Legal download business SpiralFrog signed up EMI for its service, which now boasted more suppliers than customers and QTrax tried to launch again with limited success. Limited to "no" success. To capitalise on the failure of DVD-Audio, someone launched BluRay Audio into an overcrowded format market. Microsoft tried to quietly switch off its Plays For Sure DRM servers.

Usher offered to cure lesbians, Josh Homme fell back onto rubbish homophobia onstage, MTV France got fined for somehow managing to broadcast calls for gay people to be killed. The Daily Mail attempted to convince emokids that it was the paper, not the black clad youths, who were the victims of misunderstanding. In return for organising an anti-racism festival, Jon McClure got a smattering of threats as Boris Johnson axed the long-running Rise anti-racism event - which at least went down well with the BNP.

There wouldn't be a Jam reunion, as Weller damned the idea of reuniting as cabaret - which was enough to get Blue talking about dates.

I Was A Cub Scout were a band no longer while Mike Skinner announced the end of The Streets was in sight. Noel Gallagher realised that Oasis might not be as good as The Beatles.

Madonna announced she was now a director. Goodness, won't that make Guy surplus to requirements?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Punk professor punched

Nasty end to a nostalgic night-out for a man who went to see The Damned's Komedia gig in Brighton. He'd been thrown out by bouncers who thought that he had attacked a woman - mistaken identity, he insists - and then noticed a group of men gathering in a threatening fashion. The Komedia staff weren't, he claims, entirely helpful:

He said: “A lot of guys just jumped on top of me. They were punching and kicking me as I was flat on my back on the floor.”
The 44-year-old said that as he lay battered and bruised on the ground, he was told by door staff: “What do you expect? It’s Brighton.”

The victim of the attack is apparently too scared of reprisals to speak to The Argus without a guarantee of anonymity.
A Komedia spokeswoman said she could not comment on the case because it was in the hands of the police but said violence was not a part of nightlife at the venue.

Really? The Komedia won't comment because the police are investigating? Or is that just a convenient excuse for not wanting to address the alleged behaviour of the door staff at the venue?

Zavvi endings?

Obviously, the timing of the collapse of Zavvi has been sped up by the failure of Woolworths' distribution, but it seems that all that has done is sped the inevitable, rather than brought destruction where there was only light. Even Zavvi's management team seem to tacitly accept that:

The group's founding partners Simon Douglas and Steve Peckham said: "We have done all that is possible to keep the business trading, but the problems encountered with EUK, and particularly its recent failure, have been too much for the business to cope with."

- that there was much else to cope with besides is certainly implied.

It's sad - who wouldn't rather buy music in a shop that at least once used to understand it rather than at Tesco? - and, for the staff, you'd have to hope they can salvage something in the New Year. But nobody who's shopped in a Zavvi since the ugly frontage first appeared on the High Street is going to be that surprised by this one.

Rate 08: Albums of the year

Not comprehensive - but possibly too large - guide to the albums of the year; tomorrow, celebrate Christmas with a musical selection box of tunes.

Black Mountain - In The Future

Adorable - Footnotes

Cat Power - Jukebox

Aidan John Moffat - I Can Hear Your Heart

Lightspeed Champion - Falling Off The Lavender Bridge

Tying Tiffany - Brain For Breakfast

Xiu Xiu - Women As Lovers

Sons And Daughters - This Gift

Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend

Helen Love - It's My Club & I'll Play What I Want To

The Duke Spirit - Neptune

Robots In Disguise - We're In The Music Biz

School Of Language - Sea From The Shore

Simon Breed - The Smitten King Laments

Tegan And Sara - The Con

Pete & The Pirates - Little Death

Los Campesinos - Hold On Now, Youngster

Die So Fluid - Not Everyone Gets A Happy Ending

Hawksley Workman - Between The Beautifuls

The Orb - The Dream

Malcolm Middleton - Sleight Of Hand

Kathryn Williams & Neil MacColl - Two

The Kills - Midnight Boom

MGMT - Oracular Spectacular

Neon Neon - Stainless Style

Operator Please - Yes Yes Vindictive

Ivor Cutler - A Flat Man

Be Your Own Pet - Get Awkward

Kimya Dawson - Remember That I Love You

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy

Diamanda Galas - Guilty! Guilty! Guilty! Brand-new album from DG - her 17th

The Black Keys - Attack And Release

Boy Kill Boy - Stars And The Sea

Brian Jonestown Massacre - My Bloody Underground

Dawn Kinnard - The Courtesy Fall

Capercaillie - Roses And Tears

Forward, Russia - Life Processes

Blood Red Shoes - Box Of Secrets

Tift Merritt - Another Country

Tindersticks - The Hungry Saw

Long Blondes - Couples

Fosca - The Painted Side Of The Rocket

Half Man Half Biscuit - CSI Ambleside

The Fall - Imperial Wax Solvent

Portishead - Third

Robert Forster - The Evangelist

Crystal Castles - Crystal Castles

The Wave Pictures - Instant Coffee Baby

Tokyo Police Club - Elephant Shell

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

The Shortwave Set - Replica Sun Machine

Delays - Everything's The Rush

Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan - Sunday At Devil Dirt

Cut Copy - In Ghost Colours

They Came From The Stars, I Saw Them - We Are All In The Gutter, But...

El Perro Del Mar - From The Valley To The Stars

Spiritualized - Songs In A&E

Johnny Foreigner - Waited Up 'Til It Was Light

Ladytron - Velocifero

The Silver Jews - Lookout Mountain, Lookout Sea

Shearwater - Rook

The Notwist - The Devil, You And Me

Johnny Truant - No Tears For The Creatures

Rudimentary Peni - No More Pain

Sarandon - Kill Twee Pop!

Gemma Ray - The Leader

Joan As Policewoman - To Survive

Errors - It's Not Something...

Lykke Li - Youth Novels

Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes

Emmylou Harris - All I Intended To Be

Tilly And The Wall - O

Wild Beasts - Limbo Panto

The Beep Seals - Things That Roar

Black Kids - Partie Traumatic

Patti Smith & Kevin Shields - The Coral Sea

Cute Is What We Aim For - Rotation

The Hold Steady - Stay Positive

Wire - Object 47

The Charlatans - Best of the BBC Sessions 1999 - 2006

Various - Life Beyond Mars

She & Him - Volume One

Heloise & The Saviour Faire - Trash Rats And Microphones

Marianne Faithfull - Live At The BBC

CSS - Donkey

Noah And The Whale - Peaceful The World Lays Me Down

Late Of The Pier - Fantasy Black Channel

Thom Yorke - Eraser: The Remixes

The Week That Was - The Week That Was

Pivot - O Soundtrack My Heart

Stereolab - Chemical Chords

Juliana Hatfield - How To Walk Away

Fujiya & Miyagi - Transparent Things

Squeeze - Complete BBC Sessions

Giant Sand - Provisions

Loudon Wainwright III - Recovery

Thomas Tantrum - Thomas Tantrum

James Yorkston - When The Haar Rolls In

Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires

Little Jackie - The Stoop

Manda Rin - My DNA

Emiliana Torrini - Me And Armini

Calexico - Carried To Dust

David Holmes - The Holy Pictures

Fiery Furnaces - Remember [Live]

Neil Halstead - Oh, Mighty Engine

Glasvegas - Glasvegas

Polysics - We Ate The Machine

Drever, McCusker & Woomble - Before The Ruin

Amanda Palmer - Who Killed Amanda Palmer?

Michael Franti & Spearhead - All Rebel Rockers

Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby - Wreckless Eric and Amy Rigby

The Streets - Everything Is Borrowed

Christophe Beck - Buffy The Vampire Slayer: The Score

Jenny Lewis - Acid Tongue

O'Death - Broken Hymns Limbs and Skins

Roses Kings Castles - Roses Kings Castles

Euros Childs - Cheer Gone

Mogwai - The Hawk Is Howling

Cold War Kids - Loyalty To Loyalty

TV On The Radio - Dear Science

Thievery Corporation - Radio Retaliation

Ladyhawke - Ladyhawke

Mercury Rev - Snowflake Midnight

Ani Di Franco - Red Letter Year

Hot Puppies - Blue Hands

Euros Childs - Cheer Gone

Leonard Bernstein - 90 Years Of... box set

Of Montreal - Skeletal Lamping

Mr Scruff - Ninja Tune

Asian Dub Foundation - Punkara

Lambchop - Oh Ohio

Department Of Eagles - In Ear Park

Lucinda Williams - Little Honey

Tilly And The Wall - O

Those Dancing Days - In Our Space Hero Suits

Eugene McGuinness - Eugene McGuinness

Shelleyan Orphan - We Have Everything We Need

The Long Blondes - Singles

Okkervil River - The Stand Ins

Will Oldham & Bonnie "Prince" Billy - Is It The Sea?

Various - Jon Savage Presents....

Danielle Dax - Dark Adapted Eye

Lotus Eaters - Silentspace

Pink - Funhouse

Bloc Party - Intimacy

Los Campesinos - We Are Beautiful, We Are Doomed

Chairlift - Does You Inspire You?

Steinski - What Does It All Mean?

Various - BBC Radiophonic Workshop: A Retrospective

School Of Seven Bells - Alpinism

Robin Guthrie - 3.19

Tony Christie - Made In Sheffield

Belle & Sebastian - BBC Sessions

Sigur Ros - Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust

David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today

Headless Heroes - The Silence Of Love

Aimee Mann - One More Drifter In The Snow

Beyonce - I Am Sasha Fierce