Saturday, March 01, 2008

Lisa Gerrard Weekend: The Wind That Shakes The Barley

Clearly, this is one to close your eyes for - The Wind That Shakes The Barley live in Toronto last May:

[Part of Lisa Gerrard weekend]

Well done, United Kingdom. That's going to be another year of five points if we're lucky.

You'd have hoped that the bemusing selection process for Song For Europe - sorry, Making Your Mind Up; sorry, Your Eurovision Decision - had been constructed to try and stop the voting public sending a lame donkey into the Eurovision finals this year. A first round of head-to-head matches (presumably inspired by Loaded's Crisps world cup) delivering three finalists, topped up with a single Wogan wildcard, and then the decision thrown across to the public phone vote during Casualty.

And yet we still end up with Andy Abraham beating out Michelle Gayle. Everyone looked surprised - not least Michelle Gayle, who sloped off through a shower of sparks. Of course, Gayle's song was a bit weakly delivered. In fact, it might have been better in the slightly more girl-group hands of The Revelations; the rocky delivery made the "woo woo woo" backings sound like feeding time in Battersea Dogs Home. But at least it sounded like a possible Eurovision winner. Maybe a 1980s winner, but a winner nevertheless.

Instead, for some reason, we're sending a mid-set song from a provincial wine bar act. Abraham only made it into the final because of the bloody Wogan wildcard. When you're sat in the commentary box, downing your fourth glass of the local liqueur and complaining that Latvia hasn't given us any points, remember whose fault it this year, Wogan.

Canadians* for Obama

The Arcade Fire have announced two shows in support of Barack Obama's Presidential Campaign: Tomorrow and Monday night:

Arcade Fire will be playing a free concert on Sunday, March 2nd at Stuart's Opera House in Nelsonville, Ohio in support of Barack Obama's bid for the Democratic nomination. The show is at 7 p.m., first come first serve.They will also be playing a free show at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland on Monday, March 3rd. Doors are at 7 p.m., and the show is 18 and over, first come first serve.

* - We know; they're only sort-of-Canadian.

Lisa Gerrard Weekend: Sacrifice

Continuing our weekend of Lisa Gerrard, this is Sacrifice live in Paris last year:

[Part of the Lisa Gerrard weekend]

Icicle defends Beatle

It's been a few weeks since Ringo Starr upset Liverpool by hastening from launching the City of Culture year to laugh when Jonathan Ross asked him what he missed about Liverpool. Ian McNabb - yes, Ian McNabb - thinks his fellow townspeople are being unfair:

THERE’S been a lot made of Ringo Starr’s comments on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross.

Jason Starkey called me the other day and he was saying how upset his dad was by all the negative reaction in Liverpool.

I’m very proud to come from Liverpool, but the main reason this city is on the map is The Beatles.

As far as whatever he said that night goes, where was the famous Scouse sense of humour?

This year promises so much, but we need voices of dissent to question what goes on and the opinions that are presented as fact. One of those will be mine.

Yes, your questioning voice, Ian, has been heard. Although it seems to be desperately trying to spin Ringo's interview into some sort of party line.

Suggesting "the famous Scouse of humour" is somehow lacking when a bloke pockets a big cheque for praising the city, then - as soon as he's off the city's soil - laughs like a drain at the suggestion that there might be something about Liverpool he misses is curious. McNabb seems to think the fault lays with the Scousers who don't enjoy being patronised rather than with the man who takes their money and laughs in their face.

Starr wasn't shounding a note of dissent - he was being a hypocrite. If he wanted to show some individual thinking, he could have done it by not being part of the Capital Of Culture year, and explaining then why he doesn't want to live in a city he supposedly loves so much.

Westlife chaos

That expensive booking fee creamed off when you buy tickets through Ticketmaster - that's for the quality service they give.


Last night's Liverpool Westlife gig was a bit of a screw-up: Ticketmaster customers hadn't received their tickets through the post, so eager Westlife fans had to turn up in hope and lay siege to the ticket office in a bid to get in.

We're sure Ticketmaster will be refunding all those booking fees as they'd not really done anything to earn them.

Of course, poor though this show was, the angry Westlife fans still managed to overstate their frustration:

Kath Johnson, 55, from Liverpool city centre, said: “It has been horrendous. I have never known anything like it. I had to wait over an hour to get my ticket.”

Upsetting. Ruined the fun of the evening. Maybe a bit annoying. But if you can live half a century on this planet and you've never known anything as "horrendous" as having to queue for a little while outside a box office, you might consider your life to have been somewhat charmed.

And if Kath really wanted to know horrendous, wait until she got inside and saw Westlife singing. Now, that's bad.

Darkness at 3AM: Moss chucks Monkeys

More fallout from the night of the NME awards in the 3AM column, with the gossipoids revealing that there's a pop group that Kate Moss won't touch:

Kate Moss has Arctic Monkeys thrown out of Punk club

She had them thrown out of the club?
The Croydon-born supermodel had them thrown out of an exclusive awards afterparty at Punk on Thursday - for not being famous enough.

Not out of the club, then, but out of the party?
"At the VIP area the Arctics were pushed away. The drummer Matt Helders started having a row with Moss and her people.

"But she didn't care. She kept saying, 'They're not coming in. This is my VIP area I don't want them in here'. Matt had to slope off to the bar with the rest of the great unwashed."

Ah. So, then, the headline should have been 'Kate Moss has Arctic Monkeys asked to stand somewhere else', then.

Embed and breakfast man: Lisa Gerrard Weekend

Perhaps the most surprising thing in Lisa Gerrard's career is that amongst the movies whose soundtracks upon which she appears is Layer Cake. No, really. This weekend, as we shake the video tree to pick some of her best performances, we'll try and draw some sort of veil over that one, shall we?

This is Come Tenderness:

More videos over the weekend - they'll be listed here
Sacrifice - live in Paris
Wind That Shakes The Barley - live in Toronto
Heaven - with Heavenly Bodies

The Mirror Pool
Gladiator soundtrack
Wake: The best of Dead Can Dance
Sanctuary DVD

This must be what anticipation feels like

There's a new Oasis album being constructed somewhere - presumably by taking a Gerry And The Pacemakers album and sucking anything interesting out of the mix - which means the Gallagher brothers are roaming about. The pair turned up on Steve Jones' US radio show this week, talking extensively about Sven Goran Erikkson - that must have been fascinating for the LA radio audience.

Then, of course, attention had to turn to the next album. Liam:

“I’m rocking on it. I’m ’aving it.”

Be fair to Liam, when you're churning out the same bloody album again and again over fifteen years, it must be hard to think up something new to say.

Noel had more to offer, though:
“We’re mixing our new record. We recorded it in Abbey Road just before Christmas. We did two tracks in Abbey Road in ’97 but they kicked us out as we were a bit mental back then.

“We were in one of the studios listening back to one of the tunes and somebody who was mixing a classical record next door tapped on the studio and asked us to turn it down.

“There might have been swear words and the next thing was, ‘You can leave’ ”

Abbey Road. Of course, Abbey Road. Abbey... happy... losing concentration... will to live... time to get ready for bed...

Gordon in the morning: It's true, you know

Not in front of the children

You might have to wonder at the wisdom of T4 dedicating an hour of Channel 4 screentime to the NME awards when they're not even able to show the award - acres of coverage of people holding up a pixelated prize. Good work, everyone.

Friday, February 29, 2008

More pre-emptive coverage

It is, of course, because of the culture - things are getting faster. The News of the World can't actually wait for Amy Winehouse to kill herself in chokey, so reports it before she's even been questioned. Maxim's schedule is so busy, it has to review albums before they've been finished. And things are so rushed over at MSNBC, they've announced that MTV has refused to show Paula Abdul's new video before anyone has even bothered asking MTV to show it.

Hope turns into the Palace

If you've been missing Hope of the States since they split up - and who's to say you haven't been? - you'll be delighted to hear of Palace, which features some former HOTS shots and, unashamedly, bill themselves as Shoegazers.

Maxim reviewer: I thought I was a previewer

Maxim's decision to carry reviews for albums still unheard continues to create a fascinating sideshow: Today, David Peisner, the man whose reviews upset Nas and the Black Crowes, puts his side:

“I’m a freelance writer. I was assigned to write previews of the Black Crowes and Nas albums. I did that. When the issue came out, the previews were laid out as reviews complete with star ratings. I never at any point or to anyone claimed to have heard these albums in their entirety. Whatever decisions Maxim made after I turned in my work were beyond my control.”

Peisner doesn't say if this sort of thing has happened to him before - he's been writing for Maxim for at least two years (he reviewed - or possibly previewed - Lindsay Lohan for Maxim back in 2005).

The Black Crowes - who must be loving the publicity for an album which otherwise would have slid out largely unnoticed - aren't satisfied with this. Manager Pete Angelus continues to rail:
“There’s no accountability for Dave Peisner, editor James Kaminsky or Maxim magazine. They issued a partial apology to their readership, but no apology directly to the artist whose work they denigrated without having heard more than one song, while attempting to pass it off as an album review. I think Peisner’s claim is absurd. He wrote a review of music that he never heard, he disparaged both the band and the material. He said, ‘It hasn’t left Chris Robinson and the gang much room for growth,’ and yet now he’s going to attempt to pass off his actions on Maxim? Absurd.”

Perhaps Maxim are waiting to see if the album actually does turn out to be better than the review suggested it would be. It would be terrible if they had to then apologise for issuing an apology, wouldn't it?

Amy Winehouse in the clear

Despite the News of the World's predictions last December that Amy Winehouse was facing jail hell and would probably kill herself inside, the Met Police have announced that she's not going to face any charges following their investigations.

Metro: first with the news

Freesheet Metro reports this morning that Cerys Matthews has 'gone solo'.

The paper isn't wrong. Just late. Five years late.

Capital of Culture update: Race the Beatles

Having managed to screw up much of the rest of the plans for 2008, Liverpool seems to have abandoned any attempt to use the year to announce to the world that there's more to Merseyside culture than The Beatles, and now seem to just be concentrating on shoring up Beatles tourism.

So it is that this year, they've given the half-marathon a Beatles theme.

Presumably if you don't make it all the way through to the end, you'll be termed a Stuart Sutcliffe.

KT Tunstall parrots Beth Ditto's gay designer slur

Last year, one of the many times Ditto stuck her foot into her mouth was when she blamed gay men for size zero. KT Tunstall has now reached the same conclusion:

"I think the whole culture stems from the fact that many of the top clothes designers in the past were gay men. And so you've got this fantasy young boy figure. Six foot, no boobs, no hips."

Yes. It's all down to those gay men. Of course it is.

Pussycat Dolls split

Carit Bachar from the Pussycat Dolls has quit the band in order to be able to wear skirts below the knee.

Bachar was distinguished amongst the almost indistinguishable by being the sole member who was in the Dolls when they first set out as a dance troupe.

The band is expected to continue without anyone even noticing.

Jackson: Other houses at risk

More woe for Michael Jackson. Losing Neverland is one thing - he's not been back there since his trial for over enthusiastic child loving anyway - but now it turns out he's not been paying the mortgage on the house his family actually live in, either. The arrears aren't quite so bad as the USD25m owing on Neverland - he's about USD153 behind - so he might be able to salvage things on that front if he gets some royalties from the Thriller re-release quickly.

GlastOn the buses

As we suggested yesterday, Thom Yorke's complaints about public transport links to Glastonbury were a little unfair.

Glastonbury's press office have also said that it wasn't fair:

“[We’re] not sure what Thom is on about specifically, but there have always been extra trains put on for the festival, which arrive at the local Castle Cary train station.

“From there there's a free shuttle bus service to the festival site. There are also special bus services from all the local towns.

“Last year, in order to cut down on the number of cars, we issued 25,000 tickets linked directly to coach travel from all the UK's major towns; this reduced the number of cars by about 7,000.”

The suggestion that each car that turned up at Glastonbury contained an average of three and a half people seems a little unlikely from where we're sitting - especially with the way tickets were sold as pairs and not bunches of four - but that would suggest more, not fewer, cars off the road.

Has everyone got an iPod yet?

Suggestions that the iPod market were saturated have been rejected by Apple's COO Tim Cook, who claims that 40% of iPod sales in the last quarter of 2007 were to people who'd never owned an iPod before.

Which, if accurate, is double good news for Apple - not only is it bringing in large numbers of new people who've decided 'today, I shall buy one of these iPods I hear about', but also means roughly seventeen million people who've previously purchased a player are upgrading (or maybe adding a second player). Cook, at least, is confident that there's more room for growth in the market.

No figures for people swapping from or to Zunes, of course.

Lee Ryan: I didn't do it

Lee Ryan was in court today to enter a plea on charges relating to an assault on a taxi driver on New Year's Eve; he went with not guilty. He's back in court on the 7th May.

Artists to RIAA: Put money where your mouth is

The constant refrain of the RIAA - that they only pursue illegal music users because they care about ensuring artists get paid - is about to be put to the test.

In the battle against the original Napster, Kazaa and Bolt, the triumphant labels have pulled in millions of quids in damages for music shared over the various services. Artists have been sat waiting quietly for the cheques to arrive with their share of the booty.

None, as yet, have shown up - and so a group of management teams are pondering legal proceedings:

"Artist managers and lawyers have been wondering for months when their artists will see money from the copyright settlements and how it will be accounted for," said lawyer John Branca, who has represented Korn, Don Henley, and The Rolling Stones, among others.

"Some of them are even talking about filing lawsuits if they don't get paid soon."

The labels, of course, are blustering:
Record label sources said corporate bosses are still deciding on how best to split the money. In determining the payout, they said not every artist is owed money and it must be calculated with regard to the level of copyright infringement for each artist.

It's funny that the labels could be quite sure that their products were being shared on the services when they're pursuing the filesharers, but all of a sudden don't seem to have any idea what those products were when they're asked by the artists.

But hang on - there might not be any money at all, come to that:
What's more, these sources said that after the labels recouped their legal expenses, there wasn't much left to pass along to the artists.

We're half expecting the RIAA companies to send demands for cash instead of big cheques to their musicians, so they can chip in some of the costs.

Let's hope no artists get a bit tetchy about how, say, EMI could get USD100million from Napster alone and yet not have any money left over to share with the people whose stuff was being shared in the first place. Or, indeed, anyone gets upset that the labels appear to be shunting the costs of attacking Napster onto the costs of arranging compensation for shared files, when the two pots of money should presumably be separate.

Darkness at 3AM: 3ANME

Perhaps Gordon was too busy honing his Pete Doherty thunk-piece, as he seems to missed a lot of the detail his rivals at 3AM have picked up - he mentions Alexa Chung being sick, but the Mirror spotted her hurling over Alex Turner; and while Gordon tells us what he thinks about Doherty's prize, the 3AMies report that some of the crowd booed as he was getting his prize, and that The Enemy weren't happy with his win:

The Enemy's Tom Clarke was unimpressed, telling us: "Doherty doesn't deserve to win anything. He isn't in the music industry any more, he's in the drugs trade."

Which is both pithier than Smart's tirade, and from a more wounding quarter.

Gordon in the morning: No more heroes

Ah, the wisdom of the NME, holding its awards early enough to catch the tabloid's deadlines for the next day.

Actually, it might not such a good idea - it's given Gordon Smart the chance to rail against Pete Doherty's Hero Of The Year award:

THIS bleeding, bloated, greasy, drug-addled junkie was named Hero Of The Year at the bash.

He's a drug addled junkie, you'll note. Not one of those junkies who aren't drug-addled, then.
NME readers voted for this disgrace to win the award.

All twenty seven of you, hang your heads in shame.
And here he is on the night before the NME show performing at East London’s Rhythm Factory.

He had blood pouring from his nose as he performed some of his “hits” that nobody has ever heard.

We don't understand what Gordon's point is here - he's Pete Doherty, he's not The Temptations, so it's not like he was touring a Greatest Hits package. And most Doherty fans, you feel, would rather hear some of his new stuff than just the hits anyway, wouldn't they?
He’s appeared in court more times than he’s washed his spotty, boil-covered face. (And this is the bloke who was voted Sexiest Man by NME readers in 2006 and who NME chose as their Cool Icon two years earlier.)

Blimey, Gordo, why so much hatred of the NME? Did someone not get tickets to the awards - or are you harbouring a pile of "Thank you for your contributions..." letters from the old Kings' Reach Tower?

Gordon then attempts a rhetorical flourish. Strap yourself in, everybody:
Pete Doherty – if he really is Hero Of The Year, will the last person to leave Britain today please turn out the stage lights.

Ah, yes, Gordon. Not only is that a clumsy reworking of the original, are you really sure you want to remind us that The Sun supported John Major so strongly during the 1992 election, ushering in one of the most corrupt, creaky administrations in recent British political history.

Still, Gordon does allow redemption for those who seek it:
ARCTIC MONKEYS were the big winners for the third year running and redeemed their Brits shambles with gracious speeches.

We're sure they'll be delighted with your approval.

Britishinvasionobit: Mike Smith

The lead singer of The Dave Clark Five, Mike Smith, has died from pneumonia.

Born in Edmonton, London, in 1943, Smith's first encounter with a Dave Clark came not through music, but on the football pitch; Clark already had a teenage band and when his singer quit, Smith was invited to join.

Pye Records signed the Five in 1962, with their 1962 debut release credited to the the Dave Clark Five featuring Mike Smith. Although the billing might have avoided the obvious confusion that the band was named after the drummer and not the singer, it was clumsy and quietly shortened by the time the band hit America. The Tottenham Sound might never have lodged itself in the popular mind like the Liverpool Sound, but it didn't hold the band back - although the Five arguably rode the Beatles' slipstream, they turned the opportunity into two years of solid success in the US, perhaps peaking with the movie Catch Us If You Can.

Although popularly viewed as the muscial bedrock of the band, when talking to the NME in 1968, Smith was more modest about his talents:

I've studied piano since I was five, and I probably know more about music than Dave, but that does not make me a Brian Auger. I regard myself as a session organist - that is, I know what is going on in the studio and the techniques involved in producing a record.

The band split in 1970, although Smith and Clark continued to work together - partly to fulfill contractual obligations; eventually, the balance of power would be reversed and nucleus of The Dave Clark Five turned into Mike Smith's Rock Engine.

After the band had finally run its course, Smith first formed a partnership with Mike D'Abo - yielding just one album release for the Japanese market - and appeared on the first recorded version of Evita; mainly, though, he concentrated on production and writing for commercials.

Dave Clark's tight grip on the Five's legacy kept all but a handful of the band's records out of print for decades and meant that, when Smith first returned to live performance in the late 90s, Mike wasn't able to mention the connection in publicity. Instead, he revived the Mike Smith's Rock Engine label, and carved a degree of succcess on the nostalgia circuit.

Smith's death comes weeks before the band was due to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame - a double tragedy, as some believe they had actually qualified for induction last year but the votes were fudged to ensure Grandmaster Flash could be elevated instead.

In 2003, Smith suffered a fall which left him paralysed; he remained in hospital until last December. After developing pneumonia, he was taken back to Stoke Mandeville where he died, yesterday.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

NME Awards 2008: Oh, the Arctic Monkeys won.

The NME awards have been doled out tonight, mostly going to the Arctic Monkeys, as seems to be the way, once again proving that the alternative to the Brits works by, erm, giving the same prizes to the same people.

And they had the Klaxons playing as well.

The backstage blogging from the site is a little toe-curling:

Big Gig VIP Party: Too cool for school

Imagine a backstage party so cool that the hottest model in London and one of the coolest bands from Scotland gets turned away from.

The party is so full that Agyness Deyn and Franz Ferdinand are still queuing to get in.

Is this the NME or the Daily Star? And if they're queuing to get in, how have they been turned away?

Those prize winners in full, then:

Best band: Arctic Monkeys
Best track: Fluorescent Adolescent
Best video: Teddy Picker

Best album: Klaxons - Myths of the Near Future
Best solo artist: Kate Nash
Best new band: The Enemy
Best live band: Muse (Muse could probably win this even if they didn't play any gigs for the year)
Godlike Genius: Morrissey scribbled out and replaced by Manics
Hero: Pete Doherty (it's not actually clear for what, although having the chutzpah to flog that bloody journal to publishers might count)
Villain: George W Bush (Like the US electorate, the NME voters turn on him when it's too late to make a difference)
Worst band: The Hoosiers
Worst album: Blackout - Britney Spears
Best international band: The Killers (really? Really?)
Best music DVD: Nirvana - Unplugged In New York
Best live event: Reading / Leeds Festivals (Is it really fair that two separate events have their votes added together? Since it's unlikely anyone attended both - apart from those involved - shouldn't you vote for one or the other?
Best TV show: The Mighty Boosh
Best film: Control
Best website: Facebook (But that's a cop-out, isn't it? It's not like Facebook has any content, it's like being asked to vote for your favourite radio show and choosing Radio 4.)
Best dressed: Noel Fielding (Fair enough. He puts in the hours on it.)
Worst dressed: Amy Winehouse
There are too many awards, aren't there? Way, way too many
Sexiest man: Noel Fielding (Oh, hang on now... he's alright, but not when he turns in profile. You still might, but surely the sexiest man has to work right round the sextant?)
Sexiest woman: Kylie Minogue
Radar award: Glasvegas (this is the NME staff's brightest hope prize)
Best dancefloor filler: The Wombats - Let's all dance to Joy Division
Too, too many categories. It's like prize giving day at the world's most egalitarian schools.
Best album design: The Good The Bad And The Queen (Because Damon Albarn has to win something, just in case)
Best band blog: Radiohead
Best music blog: The Modern Age

Black Keys lock on UK

Exciting news of Black Keys tour dates has just arrived:

Monday 19 May – LONDON – Astoria
Wednesday 21 MANCHESTER – Academy
Thursday 22 GLASGOW – ABC
Friday 23 LEEDS – University
Wednesday 28 BIRMINGHAM - Academy

Bussed off: Radiohead rule out Glastonbury

Radiohead's decision to not play Glastonbury is, apparently, due to the lack of decent bus services, says Thom Yorke:

"[We're] trying to [...] only play in areas that have a public transport infrastructure in place.

“So that rules out Glastonbury for this year. Maybe we can work out a plan for the future. They’re probably sick of the sight of us anyway.”

To be fair to Glastonbury, they've always been pretty good with bringing people to the venue by public transport - even as far away as Birmingham New Street on the Thursday you can see the influence of the festival on Britain's transport network; back before buying a ticket became a military operation, you'd be able to pick up an entry pass from the Badgerline Coach people in Bristol. Things have probably changed now, somewhat, what with tickets costing about the same as a small car.

Guy Hands slaps A&R

Having had some time to peer at the inner doings of EMI, Guy Hands has seen the role of A&R up close:

"The power and the decision has sat with the A&R man, who is someone who gets up late in the day, listens to lots of music, goes to clubs, spends his time with artists and has a knack of knowing what would sell."

So, people who live an unconventional lifestyle but, crucially, live and breathe music and understand what the people want to hear. Sounds good. Except, erm, Hands doesn't think that they're the best people to choose what records to release:
"What we are doing is taking the power away from the A&R guys and putting it with the suits - the guys who have to work out how to sell music."

So - instead of the people who understand music and know what people want, Hands is passing the power to people who don't understand music but get their sales through brute force of advertising. It does make some sort of sense - creating products which people actually need and want and value is time consuming and expensive; creating any old shit and flogging it through adverts is cheap and, of course, lucrative. It's not like Hands cares, is it? He's not going to have problems sleeping with this deal.

Oddly, though, having suggested that marketing is where the power should be seated, Hands, erm, then suggests that marketing people don't know what they're doing, either:
"You might as well have put a £50 note on the CD - it probably would have done better [than some EMI imprints' marketing]."

That sounds like the place to pour your resources into, then.

EMI might be more trouble than we'd imagined.

Jings! Its the Jicks

Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks are doing a slew of UK dates and, erm, a one of Ireland dates:

Shepherds Bush Empire – June 5
Manchester Academy 2 – 7
Glasgow Oran Mor – 8
Dublin Tripod – 9

Conor McNicholas and his media

We know he meant it in jest, but there was something telling about Conor McNicholas' explanation of his magazine habits in Monday's MediaGuardian:

There are lots of magazines I read from a work point of view because I'm constantly looking for good ideas to steal.

Wouldn't the world be a happier place if he was reading magazines to see who was stealing his ideas?

More interesting is his take on new media:
But I've almost completely given up on MySpace and Facebook already. They're really great fun for three weeks, but I just don't have the time any more. If you're 15 years old, though, and fantastically self-obsessed, they're a brilliant invention.

Alas, space is not on hand for him to explain if he also sees users of the NME's social networking tool, MyNME, as "self-obsessed" fifteen year-olds.

Dave Cameron does a Thom Yorke

The new Tory party is, indeed, a broad church, magpie-ing away policies from all over the place.

In today's The Times, for example, Dave Cameron steals one of Thom Yorke's ideas:

Radiohead are one of my favourite bands. But it's more than their music that I've found inspiring. In October last year, Radiohead released their latest album, In Rainbows, online - but that wasn't the only innovation. They invited their fans to download the album for whatever price they wanted to pay. Many people thought they were mad. But Thom Yorke, the band's lead singer, has since revealed that the digital income from In Rainbows has surpassed that of all their previous albums put together.

Do you see where this is going yet?
Well, he may not appreciate me for saying this, but I'm afraid that Radiohead's innovation has become a model for something else: for the Conservative Party's new effort, launched today, to reform the funding of political parties and engage more people - particularly young people - in politics.

Yes, Dave is introducing a new membership scheme - sorry, "Friends" scheme (they are, after all, going for the MySpace kids) - with a pricing model ripped off from In Rainbows:
We want to reinvigorate politics by giving people new ways of supporting our party. And, vitally, I see this as a way of broadening our funding base. That's where Radiohead come in. Like them, we're not specifying how much people need to donate to become a Friend of the Conservatives: you can donate as much or little as you like.

'Freinds', then, will be able to get what they need from being associated with the Tories without full membership.

You pay what you can, you get what you need.

Or, to put it another way: From each according to his ability, to each according to his need.

Hang on - that wasn't Thom Yorke, was it?

Petition against 'three strikes'

Reporting on one of those valueless Number 10 epetitions appearing, calling for a rejection of legislation to codify the three strikes and you're off the web demands of the BPI, Chris Williams at The Register points out that the other option - a deal struck in private between ISPs and the BPI - might actually be worse. At least legislation would be debated in public and exist in a proper legal framework, he says.

Which is a fair point.

Less encouragingly, Williams then waves his IT fist at coverage of the story so far:

Since the plans made a splash in the mainstream two weeks ago, the public debate has been awash with technological tosh. Tinfoil hat fantasies about ISPs being forced to inspect every packet have been bounced around with little regard for the truth.

The funny thing is, though, the mention of "inspecting every packet" comes not from Williams' comically depicted of "tinfoil hats" (because thinking BT and EMI shouldn't be arbiters of who gets to use the internet is exactly the same as believing the CIA was behind 9/11) but from, erm, the organisation representing the ISPs (the ISPA quoted by the BBC, for example, saying "ISPs are no more able to inspect and filter every single packet passing across their network than the Post Office is able to open every envelope." Interestingly, the ISPAs are privy to the negotiations between the BPI and the broadband providers - something which isn't true of Williams.

He then goes on to detail how, actually, the proposals are much simpler than that:
So let's all run through the notes together once more, this time with feeling:

* The rights holder body (BPI/MPAA/whoever) will act as the "policeman". Its job is to catch you.
* It will provide your ISP with easily-obtained (see video here) screenshot evidence showing your IP address participating in a copyright infringing BitTorrent swarm.
* The ISP will act as the "magistrate". Its job is to punish you.
* It will issue warnings to you to stop illegally filesharing, effectively putting you on probation.
* After an agreed number of warnings - probably two, maybe more - if the rights holder supplies further evidence you are still involved in infringement, you will be disconnected.
* Consider yourself digitally ASBO'd. We don't know yet whether you'll appear on a shared naughty list.

All very reasonable.

Of course, in a desperate bid to paint anyone who might have described the ISP as being forced to "police" their users, Williams has mangled his analogy to the criminal justice system.

The BPI will not be acting as policeman. It's going to find IP addresses it claims is responsible for file-sharing, and pass them to the ISP to investigate the ownership of that IP address. That's more like a complaint - going to the authorities and claiming you've seen evidence of a crime - although, of course, victims of crime generally don't instruct the courts in the punishment to be meted out.

It's possible the ISP will act like a magistrate - although since they'll have to also investigate the 'crime', they will be like the police, won't they? And they'll also adminster the punishment, which makes them the prison service. And, apparently, the probation service, too.

That Williams has trouble with the way the justice system works is shown from the off, when he suggests that the BPI - as the police - turn up with their evidence, shows it to the magistrate "and it's their job to punish you". Now, I know that we've had our rights chipped away a bit in the past couple of decades, but I thought we still worked on the basis that the magistrates come to hear evidence with the job of weighing if it supports the claims of the prosecution or the defence, and only then imposes a sentence if they find the accused guilty. A magistrate who turns up with the belief that it's his job to punish those accused of crime would be a bad magistrate indeed.

More seriously, Williams' admirable attention to the fine detail of the BPI's requests misses the broader point - that this proposal fundamentally changes the relationship between the ISP and their customer. It might not call for them to "inspect every package", but it does make the ISPs liable for the content they carry. The point is that this is seeking to codify ISP compliance, and it's a nonsense to suggest that ISPs can be made responsible for the use of their networks while not being able to know what is being done upon them.

Remember: the proposal in Burnham's document is not that there should a law banning illegal filesharing - that prohibition already exists. The punishment would be for ISPs not policing - sorry, magistrating - the system to the record companies' satsifaction.

As another part of the Register points out, the likely upshot of all this would be a clause on filesharing slid into ISP terms and conditions, a clause which would require some form of investigation before it could be safely invoked.

Yes, Chris, there's nothing in the BPI's position which calls explicitly for the ISPs to "inspect every packet", but in order for the system to have any effect, the ISPs would have to retain the right to do so. Even if just to defend themselves in the first legal action brought against one by an unjustly disconnected customer.

Williams also suggests that the BPI aren't trying to actually beat filesharing:
Everyone who cares about this needs to realise that telling the record industry "three strikes" won't restore its 1980s business model or that it is in an unwinnable arms race is pointless. That side-argument is boring, often childish, and in 2008 is best left to the pages of Digg.

Rights holders' successful Westminster lobbying has not been about stamping out illegal filesharing. The BPI et al are not stupid enough to dream that would ever be possible. Their aim is to change the mainstream perception of it as a normal online activity with no consequences.

Oh, yeah? But if the BPI aren't stupid - and an industry which took so long to wake up to the implications of the changes taking place under its noses, an industry which required a wake-up call from one of Metallica to even start slumbering its way forward does look pretty dumb from where we're sitting - then it would realise that the only way the legislation was going to have an effect would be if the public felt that illegal filesharing had a probability of getting you cut off from the web, rather than a possibility. Which would imply an awful lot of people getting cut off. Does the BPI really have the funds to carry out that level of investigation? Or is it just hoping to shift the costs to someone else?

Meanwhile, in the Mail...

Liz Jones is spluttering with outrage at the thought of Amy Winehouse launching a clothes and cosmetics range - even although there's been no real suggestion it's going to happen.

But it's not just that which has angered Liz. A vague suggestion that fashion magazines might like to carry photos of Winehouse, and she's off again:

Winehouse is, according to the editor of British Vogue, Alexandra Shulman, the star that all the hip photographers most want to place in front of their grubby lenses, as she has an "exotic" look and is instantly recognisable.

Shulman didn't mention whether or not she, along with every other glossy magazine editor worth her clothing allowance, was pursuing the 24-year-old multi-Grammy Award winner to appear on Vogue's cover.

But I can only guess that if she were offered Winehouse's services, she would leap at the chance to boost circulation.

Yes, the level of conclusion-jumping and speculation in an average Jones piece can be seen from the Moon.

But just imagine: a publication putting a photo of Amy Winehouse on the front to boost sales. Thank god the Mail would never stoop so low, eh?

Jones then lays into the fashion industry:
The fact is that people in the fashion industry are not in the business of protecting the young people who buy their products.

Instead, the industry feeds on the disposable, the young, the tragic and the new.

Liz shares some heart-rending letters from young women, desperate to break into fashion, before snorting:
I really wish these girls, who bewail the state of their bodies and wonder why they are not pretty enough or thin enough, could sit alongside me in the front row here at Paris Fashion Week.

They would see for themselves that the models, while young and beautiful and tall and slim, are not remotely perfect.

Yes, Jones is attacking the cruel and twisted fashion industry from the front row of the biggest fashion jolly of them all.
Will no one stand up and say "enough is enough"?

We're wondering that ourselves, Liz.

Darkness at 3AM: They've got the big Amy story, too

The 3AM team aren't going to be left snoozing by The Sun, though: they're reporting that, erm, Amy is being feted by TV networks for an exclusive interview:

In the States, Larry King has been bombarding Amy's people with requests to get her on his CNN show, Larry King Live. Oprah Winfrey has made similar inquiries. And in Blighty, Sir Trevor McDonald is pulling out all the stops to bag Amy, too.

Trevor? Really?
Sir Trevor has come out fighting. The ITV news anchorman is planning a one-off Tonight special with Amy and has already made discreet inquires as to whether she would consider doing it.

We hear: "Trevor knows the US market may have a slight edge money-wise, but he feels strongly that he can get her. There are so many unanswered questions from Amy about her drug use and time in rehab - not to mention her Grammy comeback. It will be compulsive viewing."

But hasn't Trevor given up doing Tonight to concentrate all his energies on the revived (okay, maybe not revived) News At Ten?

Elsewhere in 3AM, Chris Martin is spotted out without a wedding ring. More to the point, though, is how they describe his coat:
The Coldplay singer wrapped up in this michelin style jacket as he rode around London on his bicycle.

Presumably they actually mean Michelin-man style jacket, rather than that his coat was like a car tyre?

Gordon in the morning: Amy "back in drugs hell"

As is the usual form for the big entertainment stories these days, Pete Samson (working again with Virginia Wheeler) has filed the Amy Winehouse back in drugs hell story, leaving Gordon to supply a - well, let's be generous and call it a think piece, shall we?

She must get out of London
Bizarre Editor

Seasoned Gordon watchers will note that he's even being inconsistent with his own byline these days - Bizarre editor? Showbiz editor? What's it to be? But the inconsistency doesn't stop there:
MY heart sank on Brits night when I realised Amy Winehouse was back on the gear.

On Brits night? It's funny, we don't remember your page mentioning it at the time. Or, indeed, at any point during the last week.
I got a call during rehearsals to say she was all over the place, struggling to keep it together and clearly back on it.

Ah yes... this would be at the time you were reporting she missed the rehearsal not because she was addled by drugs, but because she was distraught at the thought of Blake swapping her pictures for heroin, wasn't it? When you said
I hope Amy does pay him off and get rid of him once and for all. It sounds like she’s starting to realise she’d be far better sticking with clean-living photographer BLAKE WOOD, aka Blake II.

... and quoted a friend:
“Amy has opened her eyes recently.

“She’s grown close to this other Blake, Blake Wood, and is trying to live a better life."

Strange way of reporting the life of a woman "clearly back on it", don't you think?

Gordon, surprisingly, has suddenly decided that Amy's rheab was little more than a bid to try and keep her career on track:
Amy’s short time in rehab was nothing more than a token effort to clear the path for the Grammys.

She was in and out so quickly she didn’t even manage to kick her addiction to sweets, never mind the Class As.

Ah yes. That's exactly what you said at the time, wasn't it, when you reported her visit to get her visa:
IT’S chest what we all wanted to see – AMY WINEHOUSE looking almost back to her best.

And, indeed, when she went in to rehab, clearly with a management eye on the Grammys - despite there not being enough time to actually come off drugs, Gordon was excited:
Winehouse has cracked it

IT’S not often I have good news about AMY WINEHOUSE – but the troubled singer is slowly starting to win her battle against drug addiction.

The Back To Black star spent her fourth day in rehab yesterday, where she is delighting doctors with her progress.

Gordon blames the label for not doing anything:
Her hotel in London has seen even more illegal antics — without any action from her record label, yet again.

But wasn't it the label and their big book of cuttings which even Gordon admitted persuaded her into rehab in the first place?

It's a good job nobody takes Gordon seriously. You'd be very confused if you relied on him to cover a story.

At least he's on safer ground with breasts. Nobody could accuse Gordon of not knowing what he thinks about breasts:
OK Boobs star shows them off

It's probably best if you stick to that sort of thing, Gordo.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Sun: 'Winehouse on drugs'

News 24 has just been doing the first look at tomorrow's papers - although they didn't mention it (focusing on the earthquake story instead) the Sun is reporting that Amy Winehouse is back on drugs - "E, coke and dope", we think it said. Nothing on the paper's website as yet, so we've no idea what, if anything, the basis of their story would be.

Keith Richards: Two hours on stage and still has to do a sex

Keith Richards seems to be feeling his age:

For me, doing a Rolling Stones show for two hours a night, that’s enough fuckin’ exercise, you know? Then I’ve got to go to bed with the old lady, bonka bonka. You know?”

No wonder the old boy tries to hide up trees. But "bonka, bonka"? With "the old lady"? What a silver tongued smoothie.

Blackie Lawless blames internet for all world's ills

Remembering when all this round here was fields, Blackie Lawless has been muttering about how everything's rubbish these days. The press doesn't come up to scratch:

"The press has turned so tabloid, so hopelessly obsessed with bullshit."

A man who makes his living singing Animal (Fuck Like A Beast) might, you could argue, find himself in some difficulty complaining that the newspaper industry has dumbed down in the last few years.

Lawless also complains about the internet:
"What people never seem to be able to realize is that there is one, and just one, reason why we'll never see more bands the size of AC/DC or PINK FLOYD. These were bands that were allowed to try and fail, allowed to grow, allowed to go on at their own pace, and evolve without record companies or other stress factors interfering. Do you think AC/DC would have been able to make an album like 'Highway To Hell' if they had not been allowed to do things at their own pace? I don't. Music needs support, bands need support, and stealing an artist's work will never ever be labeled 'support.' Illegal downloading does not support the artists; illegal downloading is one of the biggest reasons why popular music is past its peak. Most new bands are not able to play, they're not able to write decent songs, and will be forgotten before this interview's over; and the reason for this is exactly what I've told you now. They're not given the opportunity to try and fail, and take the time to learn their craft properly, and illegal downloading is a major factor in this."

The only trouble with this theory is that it's wrong. The 90s offered no acts the size of the big names of the 80s, like Madonna or U2. The 80s couldn't compete with the size of acts like the Floyd of the 70s. That deacade, in turn, never got out of the shadow of the Beatles. This isn't because music started to suffer from pre-emptive internet panic but more because more and more bands were able to play more and more outlets, and everything got shared out a little more. It's wrong to say that popular music is past its peak - Americans bought more music last year than they did the year before - it's just harder to command a massive portion of public attention in a very, very competitive market. The internet hasn't helped with that, but it's not because of illegal downloads - it's down to the ever-increasing number of platforms and outlets and places to hear bands.

Lawless has a point that bands aren't able to develop at their own pace any more - but that's got nothing to do with the internet, either, but is down to the record labels demanding success on the first album or dropping the bands on the spot. This tendency was well in place before the music industry started to grapple with online. But if Lawless is telling us that the WASPs of the future will fall to pieces before they get going... well, that doesn't sound so bad, does it?

ITN dilutes brand with Brits coverage

Here's the ITN On coverage of the Brits. If you watch closely, you might spot something odd:

There's surprisingly frequent mentions of Semi Pro, the latest in the long of line similar-feeling Will Ferrell movies about not-very-good sports people. A poster appears in the background of one sequence; the cab the reporter takes has got the logo on the side; and so on.

Thing is, though, the mentions of the movie weren't there when the footage was filmed - it's been dropped in afterwards as a paid advert, as explained in Creative Review.

Now, we know it's only some entertainment story, but does ITN really think its appropriate to be doctoring news footage with paid-for sponsorship? Isn't that a line that should probably not be crossed by a news-gatherer with a reputation to protect? If ITN ever found itself in another libel case like the one with Living Marxism, wouldn't a willingness to manipulate footage in return for cash give it a harder time occupying the moral high ground?

Has Maxim actually heard any album it reviews?

After yesterday's discovery that Maxim had given 2.5 to an album by the Black Crowes, Nas is now saying that his album has also been given the same score despite not being finished yet, either.

Spinner says Nas "chewed out" the magazine, but really he just shrugged:

"I'm finishing the album now, and it will be out April 22," Nas told the New York Post's Page Six. "I'd prefer [a review from] Playboy," Nas said. "That kind of stuff doesn't reach my radar or effect anybody around me. I don't know what a music rating from Maxim is ... I don't know what it even means really."

Should we have a little sympathy for Maxim? It's being caught in the crunch as labels bring the turnaround to get albums into stores faster than ever, to avoid leaks, and the monthly magazines' lead times. The monthly titles are going to have to rethink how they review albums in the future - when albums hit the iTunes store almost as soon as the microphones are switched off, it's getting harder and harder for them to listen to the records to have reviews published for the release dates.

The answer might be to concentrate on longer, more considered pieces which might come two or three weeks after the album has been in the shops, rather than scrabbling to get some made-up number into the pages as soon as possible. It certainly would be lead to less awkward moments.

Dead man signs petition

MusicFirst have drawn up a petition calling for American radio to pay royalties for playing tunes. The old view of radio plays - that they were as good as adverts - has been abandoned in a bid to open up a new revenue stream.

And, you'd have to say, there's a strong argument that US radio should pay a fair price for paying music - after all, if everyone else has to pay, there's no real reason why radio stations shouldn't.

What is odd, though, is the list of signatories to the document [pdf document]. For not only did Amy Winehouse make time during her recent trials to sign up, but who's this, a couple of places under James Blunt?

James Brown? How compelling an argument must be that the dead come back to life to endorse it.

[UPDATE: Music First have been in touch to explain that the James Brown who signed the petition is an oboe player with the English Chamber Orchestra, and not the dead James Brown. Which is fair enough. Being an oboe player doesn't disqualify you from signing a petition as far as we know.]

Winehouse No, No, Norway

Amy Winehouse's appeal against her dope charges in Norway has been put on hold after her lawyer won a postponement:

Ole Kvelstad, successfully filed a petition to postpone the hearing, in Bergen, for the moment.

He argued that Norwegian police had failed to make adequate arrangements for Mr Fielder-Civil to appear.

Mr. Fielder-Civil's appearance, of course, is tricky as he's due in a British court on the day the appeal was originally due.

McCartney - Mills announcement plans announced

The latest round of the McCartney-Mills marriage misery comes to an end on March 17th, when Mr Justice Bennett is expected to deliver his judgement on how much money should be swooshed from one account to the other.

Of course, if Mills objects to the terms (or if McCartney does, come to that) we'll all go round the mulberry bush again up to the court of appeal. If it's not settled then, it's going to be double-or-nothing on a game of Connect4, under some semi-obscure law.

Vampire Weekend pull UK dates

No Vampire action for Glasgow or Manchester, it turns out, according to their MySpace:

“We're very sad to announce that we have to cancel this week's shows in Manchester and Glasgow due to illness. We were very psyched to come, but at least we'll be back in May.

We sincerely apologize to anyone who was planning on seeing us. Hope we can make it up to you in a couple of months.

Please send positive health vibes our way.


Probably something to do with garlic. It usually is.

Win prizes: Get to be quite near Marti Pellow

A heartbreaking tale from the latest batch of Advertising Standards Authority judgements, about a person who entered the Sheffield Star's Meet Wet Wet Wet competition, and won, only to find:

although she was in the vicinity of the band, she did not meet them.

Understandably, 'be in the vicinity of Wet Wet Wet' hadn't been considered as an attractive offer for the front of the paper, but the paper tried to mount a defence:
Sheffield Newspapers claimed that the chance to "meet" the band, as described in the front-page flash, meant the chance to be in their presence, to encounter them and to come together at the spectacle. They argued that the prize was detailed in the competition copy itself and delivered as described.

Furthermore, they said, the organisers let two of the prize winner's mates in for free and:
They asserted that the winner and her guests were in the presence of the band and that the lead singer blew the winner a kiss.

Come on, how much more of a meeting do you want than having someone mime a kiss from across a room at you?

Understandably, the ASA was having none of this:
We considered readers would understand from the claim "meet ..." that winners would come face to face with the band and would have the opportunity to interact with them in some way, for example by speaking to them or being photographed with them.

Indeed, trying to tell people that being in the same place as someone constitutes having a meeting with them - isn't that what low-level stalkers do?

Madonna sucks

Of course the new Madonna album is going to be called Hard Candy. Of course it is. It's the sort of name that could have been on any Madonna album, from the first, to the last one.

Hard candies: the sort of thing that grandparents offer children thinking it's the sort of thing they'd like.

"Well, Kirstie, the house is right but I was hoping for something more like a safari park than a zoo..."

Michael Jackson's beloved Neverland Ranch could soon be passing into ownership of a grown-up. Jacko owes £12.5million on the place, and unless he coughs up in the next few weeks, he'll become the highest-profile victim of the credit crunch. Lenders will stack his collection of Magazines About Chess outside the gates and start to auction the property.

Kiss: 35 years of pompous

Signs that your band has long since ceased to have any value as a band and is now little more than a money-making machine, number 396: You issue a newsflash to announce the design of your tour logo.

The album is dead

Graeme Thomson, blogging over on The Guardian, provides a eulogy for the album - not in a 'the sky is falling and so are sales' way, but lamenting the loss of how we used to listen to music:

Does anyone still do this when they get a new release: sit down and physically play it over and over again while giving it their sole, undivided attention? Is the sense of breathless anticipation impossible to recreate in the digital age, when we might already have access to a leaked version, or heard a few songs on MySpace or YouTube? Whether we download or buy CDs, most of our music is instantly fed into a vast swirling swamp of existing music. Do you leave a new album to the Darwinian vagaries of the shuffle function? How many spins does it get before you start automatically skipping one of the supposed weaker tracks? Is there room for "the grower" any more?

I'd argue that the digital age makes music more accessible but somehow less tangible. I've always regarded the cover, the artwork, the inner sleeve, even the typeface of a new album as a doorway into new music, a means to get closer to it, further to understand what is being expressed this time around. When there is no physical element to link us to the music, surely some vital little part of the over-arching artistic statement is lost.

I'm not sure the distinction is quite so clear-cut: certainly, by the 1990s any album you'd want to buy, you'd probably have heard a couple of tracks as singles, maybe one or two on Peel and - possibly - seen some other tracks live, so it's not as if it's ever been that you were coming to a whole slew of unheard music, unless you were buying the album on spec.

For me, I still listen to albums all the way through, but then I'm bloody ancient. I only really managed to overcome my distrust of shuffling the order of album tracks randomly last year.

Gordon in the morning: The end of the Spice affair

And this would be the official end of the Spice Girls reunion: The Sun has called an end to the fawning. Even Gordon - who a couple weeks back was still full-on-fawning - has decided he no longer needs to treat the band with kid gloves any more. Indeed, the discovery of a tongue-in-cheek remake of Oleta Adam's Get Here (only with 'fuck' rather than 'get') allows him to reopen the paper's hostilities with Mel B:

I’ve said before that Scary Spice is indistinguishable from her foul-mouthed Bo’ Selecta! character — and those lyrics have those fat fingers all over them.


Gordon, it turns out, has always hated the way the Spice Girls are just so rude:
They’d better just hope it doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Not that these girls seem to give a XXXX these days.

Their tour tested the definition of a family show.

Yes - like, erm, when you were sat chuckling while they did gags about your cock onstage, you mean, Gordon?

Thank God we can rely on Gordon to keep up standards of family entertainment, panting over Penny Lancaster not wearing a bra and Britney Spears wearing a bra. It's hard to imagine where the Spice Girls get it from, isn't it?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Gerard Way: cartoon villain?

Comic book hero Hart Fisher set Gerard Way on his way to fame and fortune, offering him a start out in the 1990s. Now that Gerard is spreading his wings from badly-drawn music into the comics field, Fisher is getting grumbly. Indeed, he's suggesting that Way ripped him off to create My Chemical Romance. It seems the heart of the beef is that Fisher published a comic by Way on his Boneyard imprint, and feels now Way is writing for Dark Knight, he's not being given his due.

Fisher, it's fair to say, has more than one axe he's taking the opportunity to grind on this one:

I'm not sure if your average comics fan has noticed, but my company's work, and the work of it's creators, has consistently been black listed from the comics price guides. Why don't you go find out how much Garry's first comic is worth. You know, On Raven's Wings #1 (april 1994) and #2 (september 1994) and good luck on finding that shit listed anywhere. Now go looking to see how many Bill the Bull comics are listed, you know, with Duncan Rouleau's first published work (see if that's listed in the guides kids). Go see if John Cassaday's first published work, a Bill the Bull story called "Justin", is listed anywhere in the guides. He worked for several years at Boneyard before he broke, he's been one helluva friend to me over the years, and he lists my work on his site, but you won't find it listed in the guides. How about those Dahmer comics. Any of them listed on there? How about John Lucas's early work for me, you find that listed anywhere? Flickering Flesh anyone?

Fisher is apparently now trawling his own work to find evidence that My Chemical Romance lyrics were a straight rip from him, rather than every other goth band ever.

iTunes moves up to number two

Here's some figures which show why the majors are desperate to try and find someone, anyone, to take on iTunes with a serious proposition: Apple is now the second biggest music retailer in the US, bested only by WalMart, according to NPD Group. And that's without selling any CDs at all.

Equally alarming for the companies which cling to their old business models: 48% of American teenagers didn't buy a single, physical record in 2007.

The good news for musicians, though, is that Americans bought 6% more music last year than they did in 2006.

New Q?

Bauer, currently working through the bits of things it bought with EMAP, is touting round a new look for Q Radio, headed up by Ric Blaxill, late of 6Music and Top of the Pops:

Sources close to the situation are suggesting the relaunch could happen as early as May.

A spokesperson for Bauer said that no firm decision has been made as the “teams are still assessing the demand for a bigger Q Radio”.

Since we're not sure there's much of an actual demand - unless we've missed some sort of public debate - we imagine they're hoping to create a demand. It's part of Blaxill's brief:
to look at a range of new male music propositions including a new version of Q Radio with stronger ties to monthly music magazine Q.

So, a station that plays a lot of U2, then.

Black Crowes dismiss pre-emptive review

Maxim ran an advance review of the Black Crowes new album in the March issue, giving it a ho-hum two-and-a-half:

[T]he reviewer opined that the album—the band's first in seven years—"hasn't left Chris Robinson and the gang much room for growth."

The only trouble is, there's no way the reviewer could have heard more than the first single released off the record. The Black Crowes are, um, crowing:
"Maxim's actions seem to completely lack journalistic integrity and intentionally mislead their readership," the Crowes' manager Pete Angelus said in a statement. "When confronted with the fact that they never heard the album they are claiming to 'review' in their music section--with a star rating, no less--they attempt to explain that it was an 'educated guess.'

"What's next--Maxim's concert reviews of shows they never attended, book reviews of books never read and film reviews of films never seen?"

Good lord - reviewers not actually sitting through the things they're reviewing. Whatever next?

Maxim, of course, were caught out because giving a Black Crowes album anything more than a single star is going to look very suspect indeed.

Perez Hilton: Starmaker?

Not that the major labels are running out of ideas or anything, but the New York Times reports Warners are seriously considering giving Perez Hilton a vanity label. It's not entirely clear why Mario Lavandeira would want to throw his lot in with Warners - couldn't he just come to a direct deal with the acts to release them online?


There's a shock court case over at the High Court, as two former members of the band that became Busted are claiming ten million quid for songs they say they wrote before they were shaken out the band.

Yes: Busted wrote some of their own songs. It's truly shocking.

Ki McPhail and Owen Doyle reckon they co-wrote some of Busted's songs with James Bourne and Matt Willis, before they were ejected from the band and asked to sign away their rights to the tunes.

Tim Penny, representing the pair, said: "The pressure placed on the claimants consisted of repeated advice and threats.

He said they were told "unless they released their claims in relation to the group members' songs and in particular the four songs, they would be sued, Ki McPhail's parents would lose their home and the claimants would never work in the industry again".

We're not quite sure why anyone would have fallen for this, but apparently they did. The case is going to grind on for three weeks.

Don't sing in Brighton

Last year, there was some attention given to Brighton and Hove Licensing's decision to ban venues from hosting events at which hate music was sung - songs which called for the killing of gays, for example.

It turns out that, as some sort of balance, Sussex Police are cracking down on peace music, too. They've arrested a woman for singing a song at a camp in Wild Park protesting against the presence of US weapons corporation EDO MBM in the city of Brighton and Hove.

Madonna is excused

TMZ is reporting - in far, far too much depth - about Madonna's day turning up for jury duty in Beverley Hills. In the end, she was allowed to go without having to hear a case, presumably because anyone who swallows the Kabbalah centre line whole can't be relied upon to spot a fib.

Turns out Ricky Wilson only has marginally more patience than everyone else

If you're bored of Kaiser Chief songs, Ricky, how do you think the rest of us feel? We're not even paid to listen to them.

Wilson doesn't think we know how hard it is for him:

"It gets out of hand for a band when you've made a couple of albums," Wilson told the Daily Record.

"You make an album then you're supposed to go around the world for two years promoting it - boring."

Well, yes. Especially the last lot, we'd imagine.

Different to what?

We're still trying to work out exactly what producer Nate Danja Hills means when he talks about the forthcoming Madonna album:

Madonna’s eleventh studio album has been described as “very different”, by one of its producers.

Speaking about the sound of the record, Hills said: "She wanted up-tempo, dance, club music, and for everything to have a hip-hop underlining."

That's neither different sounding to the last couple of disappointing Madonna albums, nor from most of the sludge churned out by older people hoping to catch the younger audience's ear. So: different to what, exactly?

Pete And The Pilots

When we saw the NME headline yelling about Pete and the Pirates "in plane flight drama", we held our breath and clicked through. Were they on that flight where the co-pilot died? Had they found themselves next to Ian Brown in the air, keeping out a nervous eye in case he threatened to cut off flight attendant's hands again?

Erm, no:

The aeroplane the Reading band had been scheduled to fly back to the UK on after a gig in Italy was grounded due to excessive fog, meaning that the band had to hastily alter their schedule.

After some frantic rescheduling the band managed to get on an alternative flight and walked onstage at the Astoria with only five minutes to spare before their slot would have been pulled.

That's not really 'plane flight drama' - 'band have to reschedule air tickets' more like, surely?

Jay Z: Slave profiteer

It might come as something of a surprise to discover that Jay-Z, rather than being a hip hop moghul as usually styled, turns out to be a profiteer from the African Slave Trade.

Well, that's what this bloke reckons, anyway, "this bloke" being Clive Campbell. Campbell has launched a five billion dollar lawsuit against Barclays Bank, Bruce Ratner and Jay-Z:

In the claim, Mr. Campbell said that Mr. Ratner and Jay-Z worked “in concert” with Barclays, and “profited from the African Slave Trade and continue to profit from these gains, through a conspiracy dating back hundreds of years and continue to date to oppress Black people, enslave them, unlawfully deport them to all corners of the Earth.”

Jay-Z's apparently on the list because he's supported Ratner's project to build a sports arena in Brooklyn - an arena which will be named after Barclays. Which seems somewhat tenuous even by the standards of the case.

We'd imagine Barclays aren't going to be earmarking five billion dollars in case this goes against them.

Oddly, though, according to the New York Observer report, Barclays isn't just sniffing that the case is without merit, but denies that it had anything to do with the slave trade. Interesting. Why, then, did the exterior of Martins Bank in Liverpool have carvings depicting the city of Liverpool being held aloft by African children? Martins now being part of Barclays. Through Martins, Barclays also absorbed Heywood's Bank, which had been founded by a pair of brothers who made their money from the Africa trade routes (and a spot of piracy).
[Thanks to Michael M]

Sting: heals the world, reunites the warring

The Led Zeppelin reunion. You might have thought it was down to the death of the band's mentor Ahmet Ertegun. But, no - it turns out that the desire to pay tribute to a key figure in their career was merely an excuse. Really, they just wanted to copy The Police, reveals Sting:

"I'd like to think we had some influence over that... I would have loved to have been there."

We've checked the historical record, and it's true - no group ever got back together before The Police did so.

Sorry, Pete

The terrible treatment of Australia's indigenous people. Slavery. Apologising for historical wrongs is quite the thing at the moment.

George Martin has just donned the sackcloth, issuing a sort-of apology to Pete Best for his part in Best getting shown the door from The Beatles:

It was Sir George who, just before the band became big, decided to replace the drums on Love Me Do with those of a session musician. “I felt guilty,” he tells a Beatles fansite. “Maybe I was the catalyst that had changed his life.”

'The catalyst that changed his life' is quite a jolly way of putting 'the person responsible for him languishing in obscurity while his replacement became one of the richest, most famous men on the planet.'

Still, Pete had the last laugh - he's still in The Beatles, albeit Pete Best's Beatles, while Ringo Starr is a struggling solo artist.

Blakes apart

Jack Bynoe emails to point out the Daily Mail has shunned Gordon Smart's confusing Blake I, Blake II nomenclature for Amy Winehouse's brace of Blakes. Oh no, the Mail has a much simpler system:

The troubled singer, 24, has been enjoying the company of Wood, dubbed 'Good Blake' because of the contrast of his clean-living lifestyle with Amy's addict husband Blake Fielder-Civil - a.k.a. 'Bad Blake'.

Note the use of the popular "dubbed", which is Fleet Street for "we are calling him this and hope it takes off".

Darkness at 3AM: Cowell gripes

The 3AM team are still making the most of their flight to LA, too, giving Simon Cowell a chance to moan about not being invited:

"They think I'm the Antichrist. They don't like us TV people to be part of it - it's ridiculous. It reeks of snobbery."

Yes, the Oscars organisers hate television people having anything to do with the Oscars at all. That's why it was hosted by the Jon Stewart from Death To Smoochy rather than the Jon Stewart who presents The Daily Show. Can you imagine how awful it had been if they'd got that invite muddled up and the whole Oscars ceremony had been helmed by someone who works almost exclusively in television?

Gordon in the morning: It's only 36 hours after the Oscars

Remember the 2008 Oscars? Gordon Smart's pages this morning take a nostalgic look back at the event this morning. Apparently, the most interesting interesting thing that happened was Russell Brand "pulling" Dita Von Teese. Gordon calls it pulling, anyway - although since Brand's tale involves getting her phone number and, erm, sending her a couple of texts, it's not quite a relationship of From Here To Eternity beachfront proportions.

What is astonishing, though, is the headline for the story:

Brand gets new nookie wook

Well, yes, it's almost a pun on his book title, My Booky Wook, but isn't quite as a pun has to have a second meaning. And there was no "nookie" and wook doesn't mean anything at all in this context. Had Brand bought a cabinet in which to store his Star War figures, Brand gets new Wookie nook might have worked, though.

Tilda Swinton's amusing acceptance speech delighted Gordon, too, although we're not sure it was quite the reaction she'd have hoped for:
OSCAR speech of the night goes to Brit TILDA SWINTON — for slipping in the words “buttocks” and “nipples”.

He's getting all excited and giggly because someone said nipples. Seriously, is he eight years old? And isn't Swinton's suggestion that George Clooney is a secret rubber fetishist more the point anyway?

Sir Humphrey over Sir Paul

When asked by a company which had its own reasons, just over a quarter of Canadians said their dream job was in entertainment.

37%, however, said they'd rather be a civil servant. Presumably because you're more likely to meet Bono if you work for the government.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Dr Drinks

The days when a celebrity brand extension had some sort of logic behind it have long since gone, so we're no more surprised that Dr Dre is launching a range of vodkas and cognacs than we would be if he told us he was selling sink plungers and doweling.

What is surprising, though, is Dre's going to be pushing fizzy vodka. Either he's spotted a gap in the market which has somehow been missed in the last two hundred years, or he'd been drinking an awful lot of vodka before coming up with idea.

Aha! Maybe there's the link between personality and product - they can use a slogan "Drink enough of this, and you'll forget about Dre."

eBay deal turns sour

Americans. They're not like the British. We learned the hard way never to trust an eye-catching auction bid, when that giant Blue Peter chocolate bar turned out not to be worth a million quid after all. Americans, though, didn't go through that experience so when someone bid three million dollars on eBay for that massive record collection, they didn't smell a rat. Of course, now the owner of the account on which the bid came claims he's been a victim of identity theft.

Gigging for peace

Having solved the problems of world poverty and global warming through low-key mobile phone sponsorship opportunities and Coldplay songs, rock music has now decided to deal World Peace. Obviously, nobody would be as foolish as to believe that mankind's bloody history could be offset with a single gig at Wembley - even one with U2, Led Zep and the Floyd - so World Peace One intends to bring about peace through a ten year special concert programme:

"Our mission is ending all war at the end of our 10-year period," [WP1 founder Doug] Ivanovich tells Billboard. "Our intent is to foster and generate the largest peoples' movement, grassroots as well as institutional, in the history of the world."

Ivanovich -- who has a background in business development, finance, executive management, communications, event production and broadcasting -- has already enlisted an impressive array of governments and has the endorsement of Claes Nobel, senior member of the Nobel Peace Prize family.

Hmm. And Claes Nobel has Madonna's phone number, does he?

Now, it would be lovely to think that - come 2018 - we could be living in harmony and peace, with no more war. And it might happen, although to be honest it's going to depend more on the oil running out in the next decade than if The Kinks and the Boomtown Rats get on the same stage.

How is it supposed to work, then? There's always been art - much, much of it calling humanity for its stupidity and love of shooting, clawing, slicing and dicing other parts of humanity. It's a wonderful desire to want to do something to stop the pointless killing. But a few stadium gigs? It's like hoping the Oscars will cure cancer.

Late Summer

The first new Donna Summer album in seventeen years has been announced: Crayons is out in May:

"My dream is that when people hear the music it will remind them of their youth, their childhood and the joy and wonderment they felt exploring their first pack of crayons."

... before, presumably, shoving it up their noses and being whisked off to casualty.

Live, tonight and thereafter: Los Campesinos!

Fabchannel, home of the ad-supported free streaming live show, is streaming Los Campesinos at the Paradiso, live from 8.30 GMT tonight; and then on demand thereafter. is where it'll all be.

Right-wing politician in 'no sense of humour' shock

Dana, the anti-abortionist singer, isn't amused by the Irish people choosing to send Dustin The Turkey to Eurovision. Having been sent to Europe herself by popular vote when she was an MEP, you'd think she'd have sympathy for the voice of the people when it's spoken, but instead, she pulls a sourpuss face:

"I just think it's making a mockery of the contest and if we think it's such a big joke then let's get out of it".

She added: "Certainly don't put a turkey in a trolley up against singers who are desperately trying to make a way in their career."

Making a mockery or Eurovision? Can you imagine such a thing? Clearly, the turkey act fails to appreciate that Eurovision is a serious-minded cultural event - as evidenced by previous winners like Hard Rock Hallelujah and Dana International's song.

You've got to be impressed with her desperate bid to try and make it seem like there's a serious issue at stake here - 'think about the struggling singers', as if bread is being stolen from their mouths by some people having a bit of fun with an event that's supposed to make people smile. It's not clear, by the way, why Dana believes that puppeters and the singer-doing-Dustin's-voice should be denied their chance to further their career.

Dana worries this might just prove to be the thin end of a wedge:
"The problem is they love puppets in Europe. If, God forbid he wins, we'll probably have more puppets than people in next year's Eurovision," she said.

Yes. The way that after Lordi won, every nation entered a heavy rock outfit in pantomime gear.

Go and see REM (take binoculars)

REM have announced a bunch of stadium dates this Summer. Here's where the sharp-eyed might be able to make out Michael Stipe jumping up and down:

August 24 - Lancashire County Cricket Club, Manchester
25 - Millennium Stadium, Cardiff
27 - Rosebowl, Southampton
30 - Twickenham, Twickenham

Please try and act surprised when they add an extra date in London, okay? Tickets go on sale to the general public on Friday this week, and then through eBay about twelve seconds later. The cost? £45 before booking fees. Loyal to the Bank of America indeed.

Vote drummerfromblur

Dave Rowntree has finally found a safe seat to fight at the next election: He's been elected to fight the Cities of London and Westminster seat for Labour.

Unfortunately, while it's a very safe seat indeed, it's not a safe Labour seat, but a safe seat for the Tories. Indeed, it's 116th on Labour's list of targets, which means we're talking about Cameron being caught selling heroin to orphan puppies before we'd be liable to see Dave Rowntree on Prime Minister's Question Time.

MTV: Over fond of advertising

The impression that MTV is awash in advertising has usually been unfair, maybe not. An Ofcom review of advertising minutage [pdf] on MTV channels has found that on "several" occasions it was showing more than the maximum allowed total of twelve minutes in any one hour - once, indeed, by an extra eight minutes.

MTV feels it can explain:

It stated that three of these incidents were the result of mistakes made during the implementation phase of a new computerised advertising airtime booking system and an additional advertising break had been inserted just prior to transmission. The impact of the change on total advertising minutage in the relevant hours had not been checked and an excess had occurred as a result. The broadcaster had subsequently retrained the relevant staff and improved its procedures to ensure that all clock hours were checked regularly prior to transmission.[...]
MTV explained that the remainder of the incidents had been due to programming either over or under running due to a mismatch between the original, planned, scheduled duration and the duration as actually delivered for transmission. This had had the knock on effect of pushing or pulling advertising breaks into the following or preceding hours, causing the total advertising minutage in these hours to exceed the 12 minute maximum. Transmission staff had failed to make appropriate last minute adjustments to the programming and the overall schedule to prevent such excesses occurring.

It's not clear which excuse is supposed to explain how an MTV channel carried twenty minutes of advertising in an hour, but neither seem particularly convincing from where we're sitting - an eight-minute underrun on programmes seems unlikely; it also seems unlikely that the 'extra' ad break inserted would have been eight minutes long (and, had it been, surely someone might have thought 'hang on - is this going to push us over the limit'?)

Still, Ofcom would not be bought off by such explanations, and has subjected MTV to strong writing-down-in-a-book of what it's done wrong:
Ofcom has therefore decided formally to record a breach of RADA 1.2. In the circumstances, and in particular the significant number of breaches involved and the time taken effectively to remedy the causes of these errors, the licensees should note that if further breaches occur, Ofcom may need to consider further regulatory action.

This isn't, of course, the most strict punishment Ofcom has its disposal - it could have chosen to tut loudly, or tell MTV it was very disappointed.

In the old days, MTV could have just stuck a pop video to fill the gaps.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Mum rock

You can't have failed to notice that, this year, Mother's Day is being cranked up a notch by the stores - there's a slightly unnerving sense that they've just swapped the signs on the Valentines stock to "For your Mum". Indeed, with sparkling wines, heart shaped chocolates and even - I swear - John Lewis slapping a "For Mother's Day" sign on its sexy knickers stand, the sense is that the shops are seeing Oedipus as their key customer this year.

The Independent has considered what all this means for the music industry and, naturally, called HMV's Gennaro Castaldo for advice:

HMV's Gennaro Castaldo said consumers could expect to be bombarded with a dizzying array of deluxe editions, new material and back catalogue collections over the next few days."The idea that mums are all in their 60s and 70s and are happy with a box of chocolates or a pot plant on Mother's Day is completely out of date," he said. "Many are in their 30s and are still very much in touch with popular culture. An album is seen as a very credible and cool gift for them, particularly by their children."

Aha. And The Indie then tells us what the key sellers for this "credible and cool" market segment are:
This year a plethora of compilation albums featuring housewife favourites such as Michael Bolton and Rick Astley are already lining the shelves. Among the most-high profile offerings is Simply Red's multi-million-selling Stars, being re-released for those anxious to relive their glory days.

Oh, yes. In touch with popular culture and that Rick Astley.

Darkness at 3AM: The glittery, glittery Hollywood whirl

The cash-strapped Mirror has dispatched the 3AM Girls to the Oscars - money well spent, to, erm, produce coverage that misses the paper's deadline and hasn't appeared on the website yet.

Indeed, the 3AM column is forced to focus on the Oscars pre-parties and Britney Spears not going to any of them. Good work, everyone.

Gordon in the morning: Gordon is broken

Oops. Whoever's been supposed to take care of updating Gordon's page to seamlessly incorporate the Oscars news with Gordon's stuff didn't get the "seamless" part - it seems like The Sun has the same problems updating a website at three in the morning than the rest of us.

The rebuild of the page has also shuffled what the newspaper edition shows as the biggest story down the running order to be leapfrogged by, erm, Charlotte Church dyes hair and Gary Lineker is still going out with the same woman as six months ago. The sudden interest in Lineker's date is because someone's noticed that her surname - Bux - is the first syllable of Buxom, which means there's the option of breast jokes.

I say "jokes":

Danielle was the dish of the night in her low-cut number dress – and I’m sure the Match Of The Day host fancied the bangers.

It's more pointing and saying "breasts!" over and over.

And that main story? Noel Gallagher is leaving Ibiza "to escape James Blunt". It's an amusing angle, but selling a £5.5million house because of a vague chance of seeing James Blunt? Sounds more like a cover story to us.

Oasis are busily recording a new record, which is got Gordo all twitterpated:
I can’t wait to hear the lads’ new material. Apparently it’s a bit more psychedelic than previous offerings.

I’m told one of the tracks is an absolute epic, featuring a 50-voice choir. Sounds mega.

Yes, he did just say "sounds mega".

So keen is Gordon to snuggle up to Noel that he decides to stand behind as his hero kicks sand into Blunt's eyes going "you tell 'im, boss":
Of course, Noel will have to find somewhere new to relax and put his feet up after finishing the project.

Sunny Ibiza is now out of the question thanks to that Factor 50 idiot Blunt.

Perhaps whoever did the Oscars story rebuild was trying to save Gordon from himself by burying this.