Saturday, May 16, 2009

Breaking: Tornado at a music festival?

BBC News is reporting - or, rather, twittering - that there's been a tornado at a Peak District music festival.

There's a breaking report now that a stage has come down, with three people injured.

Liveblog: Eurovision 2009

And so, after a fallow year (actually, I was beyond the reach of even the European Broadcasting Union's powers of transnational transmission) it's the return of No Rock's Eurovision Liveblog. Back in 2007, I managed to upset someone from Norway (or wherever it was) because I failed to show enough respect to their between-tracks microfilms; given the fabulous intolerance of Muscovites - demonstrated by the crushing of today's gay pride march - I hope there's nothing in any way amusing about the telecast at all.

This year's event is being shown in HD, which is not so much of a leap forward as the programme going on without Terry Wogan commentating like a brigadier locked in a wine cellar awaiting the arrival of the Cossack hordes. Graham Norton is apparently planning to chair with dignity. Which is probably more than it would deserve.

The UK is fielding Jade, of course, with Andrew Lloyd Webber's terrible song. Or "Sir Andrew Lloyd" as hapless 2008 punchline Andy Abraham called him this morning. ALW is putting his reputation on the line for this year's concert. But since his reputation is as that "bloke who hasn't written anything decent in thirty years", it might well be not so much of a gamble.

What was Duncan Banatyne doing on the lotto show? Isn't he the sort of bloke what made it by hard work, sweat of his brow? Should he be encouraging types to dream of winning cash instead?

Big letters are floating through the streets of Moscow for the opening credits. Straight letters, obviously - they wouldn't have gay letters. Not in Moscow's streets anyway.

The heart sinks as we discover that everything will have a circus theme tonight. Like the Banker's Birthday week on Deal Or No Deal. That was a bit rubbish, too.

Cirque Du Soleil are here to launch their clown-and-tumbling shows in Russia. It's like watching kids doing gymnastics to opera.

Norton, clearly, has abandoned his intention to keep things respectful in his commentary.

Oh, there's a fire juggler. Glastonbury on a really, really bad night.

Letitia Dean is dangling from a flying machine and yelling across the audience, while a tax inspector comes flying in from the sky. Oh, it's last year's winner, apparently.

The list of participants reveals that this year's event is being "partnered" by, amongst others, the Schwarzkopf hair product people. Just like the NME Awards and their tie-up with Shockwaves. Music and shampoo. Natural partners.

The voting is going to be a complicated mixture of phone votes and jury deliberations - this, apparently, is going to stop there being the block-votes that have ruined the event in previous years. Somehow.

On come the hosts. One bloke, one woman. The bloke appears to be a cross between David Walliams and Ross from Friends. The woman is Myleene Klass. "Russia is very cold and always snowing" says Myleene. But she's only joking - that, apparently, is what you'd think if your idea of Russia comes from James Bond films.

Yeah, fancy believing Russia is the sort of place where police break up human rights demos, or people who fall out with the government end up being poisoned by radioactive materials in other countries.

Here we go, then, song number one

Lithuania - Sasha Son - Love
It's Timberlake's hat at Elton's piano.

His song is so dull, all they can think of for the banks of screens is to project some piano keys onto them.

Hang on, he's got up so that he can... erm, go and stand somewhere else on the stage. Girls and boys are crying at home, says Sasha. Well, maybe, but only because you've bored them to tears.

@thisrealitypod isn't impressed:

The Lituania entry is prime Eurovision material. Dull, dull, dull, dull and dull. With more dull on the side.

Israel - Noa & Mira Awad - There Must Be Another Way

As usual, Israel have stuck in a song calling for everyone to get together, let bygones be bygones, stop falling out.

Bloody hell, it's Cher. And a redhead. See? They're both different, but they can get on. Those with pageboy cuts and frightwigs, singing in harmony. Why can't, you know, different races be like that? Assuming they're not being kept apart by a fucking huge concrete wall, of course.

The women are now surrounded by male instrumentalists - perhaps they represent global opinion. I reckon the bloke with the drum is the UN.

Oh, and now Cher and redhead are having a drum. Pleasant enough.

France - Patricia Kaas - Et S'il Fallait Le Faire

This is going to be a chanson, says Gordon. I like me a bit of a chanson.

Patricia is apparently popular in Moscow, and does get quite a big cheer from the crowd.

France's singer looks like Tasha Yar from ST:TNG

Trouble is, this song sounds like it needs to be sung from the broken heart, but Kaas is too thrilled to nail it.


They're rattling through them, aren't they?

Sweden - Malena Ernman - La Voix

Don't look directly into her eyes. Oh, lord - this is the sort of track that a sports programme producer thinks is classy classical.

Malena has now also been encircled, by a group of tall bank tellers, most of whom have buns on their head. And who - yikes - have just come out carrying defiled Bafta awards to hide behind.


Croatia - Igor Cukrov feat. Andrea - Lijepa Tena

Beautiful Tena, apparently. As in the company that makes pads for the incontinent adult.

Oh, some Spanish guitar. And another group all in black. STOP POINTING YOUR CROTCH AT ME, Igor.

Oh, alright. Point your crotch at me, providing I can have a go on those boots. Do you have lifts in them?

Graham's not drunk enough yet

Oh, Andrea's come on now. Her role seems to be to screech a little. If you close your eyes, you might enjoy it more. But you might also not even notice there's a song there.

The backing dancers for these have cloaks made of black gauze. Useless for flying, those would be.


Portugal - Flor-de-lis - Todas As Ruas Do Amor

Refreshing after all these dark outfits to have some bright primary colours. Even if it does look like a high school performance of Hair using the costumes left over from last year's Sound Of Music.

Yes, I like her - she's sassy. It's a pity that she keeps making way for a woman with an accordion, though, an instrument which exists solely to be used as a means of making the next buskers along seem better.

From the front the Portuguese girl playing the accordian appears topless. Traditionun-dress?

Go Portugal.

Iceland - Yohanna - Is It True?

Churning through seven songs in half an hour. We could be in bed by a decent time at this rate.

Yohana is singing in English, wearing a prom dress and hoping for "a perfect dream." Is it true, she worries. Did I throw it away?

This really just shows how badly the X Factor and its ilk have ruined music across the planet.

I'm just sore, of course, that Ireland didn't win through from the semis - I liked their over-optimistic 'Pink has kids with The Bangles, and forces them to become B*Witched' entry, and would have been quite happy to have colluded in some block-voting for them.

Is Iceland's song still going?


Greece - Sakis Rouvas - This is Our Night

Shawndra points out if Greece win, they could use their empty Olympic stadiums. (Although, as Jemini bloke pointed out, the acoustics don't make shit songs sound any better in sports stadiums.)

Sakis is doing a hard gay anthem - more In The Marines than In The Navy. He's really flinging himself into the dance for the song.

Rouvas is now on a giant conveyor belt - it's meant to make him look like he's moonwalking plus, but instead it gives him the air of being a bottle of fabric conditioner moving inexorably towards the scanner.

the Greek singers and dancers remind me of Ben Stiller's team in Dodgeball


Armenia - Inga & Anush - Jan Jan

Oooh... this is more like it. The sort of music you make in a land where your coffee comes in slices. "Everybody move your body" isn't entirely original as lyrics go, but you feel if you don't obey you'll get an authentic ethnic heel up your ass until you fall in line. It's like being menanced by a tourist information office. Splendid.

By the way, all the curtains and furnishings from my Mum's living room were recently stolen, if anyone has any informa--heyyyyyy!

Russia - Anastasia Prikhodko - Mamo

Home team! Home team! Graham says her father is incredibly rich. We're up for being bribed.

Oh, hang about, having seen her and heard the first bit of the song, I'm not sure there's enough money in all the Russian gas fields to persuade us to vote for this. Did the lyrics really go "dicky-ricky-daa-waa"?

Azerbaijan - AySel & Arash - Always

A rash? What sort of name is that for a singer? "What will we get down the club tonight?" "Arash, I think".

This is the second time Azerbaijan have come into the finals, and they're trying to distract us by giving the dancers some pretty purple v-shaped skirts. The song, sadly, is just old-skool Seaside Special.

Graham reckons it's getting a standing ovation. God knows why. Perhaps people just wanted to stretch their legs after an hour sitting down.

Bosnia & Herzegovina - Regina - Bistra Voda

It's a bloke in a white suit, surrounded by characters off the top of a tin of Quality Street. They all seem like they're going to a very, very serious circus. Perhaps a clown has died?

@msilveruk cuts to the important question, though, about their performance:
Bosnia&Herzegovina probably has no gap between either side of the '&' because IT made the field too small

He's right, too, you'd have to bet - I can see them backstage during preproduction, trying to work out who has the longest country name in Europe.

The rest of Europe has gone to ads, so we're getting a knockabout film featuring Moscow police. Which gives Graham a chance to mention the heavy-handedness of the real Russian police, although more in sorrow than in anger.

This is the best argument for the BBC taking advertising.

Moldova - Nelly Ciobanu - Hora Din Moldova

Nelly has got something written on her hands. If it was "remember to wear skirt", it failed as an aide memoir.

bring back the singing street people! #Kalinka malinka, kalinka maya, vsadu yaduga.....#

Knee high purple velvet boots. The songs have been quite humdrum this year, but there's some excellent boots going on.

Oh, dear. Nelly is now looking a little like she's gone mad. Like someone who won't let you just enjoy a drink: "lets have a dance. let's dance. Come on, everybody, dance..."


Malta - Chiara - What If We

The song starts with honking car horns. Unless that was outside?

Oh, this has the word "adequate" scribbled all over it. The sort of song you'd get to do half way through your cruiseship set, if you promise the ents manager you'll stick to covers after it.

wooooot for bbw singers, I rather see that than some worn out prostitute that cant sing

Estonia - Urban symphony - Rändajad

First umaluts of the evening, as what would appear to be a group loosely based on Bond (the fairly-pretty classical group, not the spy franchise) take the stage with a track that feels like it might have originally have been aimed at appearing in a promotional DVD for a corporate customer, but got dropped when the credit crunch hit.


Denmark - Brinck - Believe Again

This one was written by Ronan Keating. In part. Have Ireland got so afraid of winning by accident they're sending people to help other nations?

On the other hand, if you were doing that, wouldn't you send someone who was going to contribute something better than a Boyzone cast-off?

was ronan bitter about ireland not qualifing so he's singing in a curtain?

Brinck says he wants to believe in something bigger than the "two of us". What, like a whale or a bus? Why can't you believe in a bus, Brinck?

There are fireworks going off behind the singer. Oh, they've fizzled out now. At least they fizzed a bit longer than Brinck did.

9.15 - Alex Swings Oscar Sings! - Miss Kiss Kiss Bang Bang

The one with Dita Von Teese propping them up, of course. If you stare at her very, very hard, you might forget that it's like Stutz Bear Catz slaughtering the memory of Dean Martin.

Oscar is wearing trousers made of bacofoil which - given the heat of the studio lights - will probably mean his testicles are going to be charbroiled.

Somewhere, almost off camera, Dita is taking her shirt off.

Why is she here? How, exactly, does a special guest star work in a song contest anyway?


Turkey - Hadise - Düm Tek Tek

Did she just say they met or move like animals? She's actually much sexier than Dita Von Teese, so that's a bit of a moot point. Although she appears to have got a CBBC presenter on stage with her doing some of the vocals.

Why don't we get more Turkish pop, just generally, to cheer us up during the winter? Wouldn't you rather have Hadise than Kasabian?

Oh, apparently they're Lloyd-Webber's favourite act this year.

Albania - Kejsi Tola - Carry Me In Your Dreams

Oh, this is one of the semi-finalists I caught while trying to keep myself pure. The girl in the tutu being menaced by a guy whose had his mum run him up a gimp outfit from some used curtains.
Albania - it's Bonnie Langford and a wrong shade of Blue Man

This is quite nice, except for the performance being so stage school. "Search for me in your dreams" instructs Kejsi. Hint: She'll be sat at the exam desk next to you, and probably the first one to notice that you're naked.


Norway - Alexander Rybak - Fairytale

Graham says Rybak has a face he'd like to slap, which is a good starting point. He wrote this himself, too. Although that's "wrote" as in "altered enough from something by Topol to be able to avoid lawsuits".

His dancers are bouncing around on all fours, like cats dryhumping the stage. What fairytale would that be? Puss In Boots When His Mum's Gone Out For The Evening?

"When I was younger." What, you mean when you were an unborn foetus

Norway are meant to be the favourites? Seriously?

Here we are, then, being shouted at by the presenters. This must be a bid to wake up viewers in their later years.

Ukraine - Svetlana Loboda - Be my Valentine! (Anti-crisis Girl)

Righto, so what's going on here? The song seems to be Demis Roussous goes to the disco, but the set... it's like it's been made from pieces picked up when the people who made the Radio Ga Ga video went out of business. "Take three giant cogs, I'll throw in the ladder and a couple of centurions helmets." "Deal."

Blimey, the robot-centurions have just twirled her right through 360 degrees.

Is she singing "bum" over and over again? And having a go on the drums. That's multitasking.

Ukraine: strip club celine Dione?


Romania - Elena - The Balkan Girls

Oh, this is just trying to pull a Ruslana. Hey, we'd all like to pull a Ruslana.

There have been a lot more bearable songs this year, so far - the number of drippy boys in white trousers and serious girls in black dresses doing ballads about love and peace, or loving peace, has been reassuringly low, and hopefully will see them extinct by 2011's contest.

Elena and her dancers have just formed a ring-a-ring-a-roses group. Bless their little hearts.

Given that Israel's songs are always about peace, whose idea was it to give their fans in the audience giant mallets with the Israeli flags on?

UK - Jade - It's My Time

You know how disappointing this is. Lloyd W big on da piano. We should have gone with the twins, which at least has an element of cheap sexual fantasy, something that works well with the judges.

There's nothing she's afraid of. Certainly not the thought of Europe going "meh" as one.

Surprisingly warm reaction from the audience, though.

they were doing so well until they showed his face |:


Finland - Waldo's People - Lose Control

"Welcome back to the 80s" says Norton, as if he'd think that a bad thing.

Spinning fire jugglers! Again! While someone does a very poor Eminem (or at least passable John Barnes) rap.

Twitter is, erm, all a twitter about Jade apparently getting clunked by her violinist during her performance. I suspect they had a trained killer in her backing musicians - "if it goes badly, we must end the performance by any means. I shall give my signal... no, no, abort..."

The end is nigh, of this bit, anyway:

Spain - Soraya - La Noche Es Para Mí (The Night Is For Me)

Spain's problem is their entries always sound like the soundtrack to their 'come to Spain' commercials. And their singer looks like she was expecting to be ice skating - heh heh, perhaps she got her idea of Russia from the James Bond movies, eh?

A (male) dancer has just flashed his breasts at Soraya. She didn't seem surprised by this. Bet she gets it all the time.

Is it just my ears giving up, or did they fade her down way before she was done?

bollocks. not even Sarah Harding in sequins could pull it back for us.

So, now we're into voting. Graham - who is having a brilliant Eurovision, it's so nice for the commentary to be genuinely warm rather than just worldly cyncical - says that every years "thousands" vote for the UK even though they can't.

They're getting cosmonauts to open the voting from space. I'll bet they're not the first people to appear tonight wearing diapers.

The picture from the space station broke up at the end - I'm guessing that would be our new alien ant overlords taking back control, then?

I think I'm going with Armenia, just edging ahead of Portugal in my hearts.

Having done the phone numbers, the TV is now showing a little film dispelling myths about Russia. Apparently it's not all snow and the KGB, you know. Well, not snow, anyway.

Amusingly, Ronan Keating has managed to become a trending topic on Twitter, which might mean Denmark could do well. Or perhaps Ronan Keating should expect a large crowd to arrive with flaming torches and pitchforks in the next few minutes.

After Thursday night, when the Americans spent most of the evening going "what the hell is #bbcqt", they're now puzzling over #eurovision. Although with Dollshouse getting renewed, they're finding enough to keep them interested.

And voting has closed, in the midst of some low-level presenter skittage.

While people add up their numbers, there's the traditional interval act that makes no sense. It's like one of the challenges from a recent cycle of America's Next Top Model. So, on that basis, if the UK does win, we should plot something for half time around the "look, I'm horribly dead" challenge.

Tsk. Don't tap on the glass, you'll scare them.

The votes are coming in.

Spain first - "best one ever" creeps the Spanish host.

10 points for the UK - leading for five seconds, but it's Norway who get 12.

Still, at least we're not going to spend the evening heading for nul points.

Belguim: Ooh, their host has a bun. Their twelve goes to Turkey, and nothing for the UK.

Man, that's some cleavage. Did she know she was going to be in vision?

Three for the UK, and she's frozen at the point of giving out the big scores.


It's already looking like Norway have this in the bag.


If that's her real hair, she could harvest it and use it to stuff sofas. More big points for Norway, and just enough to keep Jade in the game.


They've given the job of doing the numbers to a bloke in Hamburg, in a sea of paper flags.

Eight points to the UK - shaping up for the best result in years, without the need to actually host the bloody thing next year, then.

Czech Republic:

"Calling you from beautiful city of Prague"

Ah, Graham is thanking all the nations, even the Czechs, who give us six. If Terry was here, he'd already be deep into calling up the NATO troops.


Vanessa Feltz is doing their scores for them. Oh, shit, she's singing the results. That's ill-advised.

Norway get the twelve.

But that song was duff.


Iceland looks over-eager.

I love the 'flash movie loading' style bar indicating how much more we've got to go. Although now it's clear that Norway are going to run away with it, it could move a little faster,

Their man is in front of the Eiffel Tower. Imaginative.

Turkey get 12 from France, knocking Jade down to third.

As if to underline their outsider status, it looks like they've invited Chris Langham to give out their scores.

Even Israelis liked Norway, taking them through the 100 point barrier before half the results are in.

And the slow slide continues, as the UK sinks to fourth.

Latvia seem to be hungover. At eleven in the evening?

Two points for the UK takes Jade back to third.

Ah, Montenegro's score woman is so lovely, it's making me wish they'd had a chance to do some singing tonight. Although she has a slight air of wishing she'd not come in national dress.

UK slips to fifth as Monetnegro give their 12 points to Bosnia. You've got to respect tradition.

That. Is. A. Chin. Actually, it looks like she's got two chins - not double-chinned up and down, it's a side-to-side double chin. They give twelve to Spain and lift them from being the only country with zero.

A man in a plaid shirt, looking like a coy Ricky Gervais. Finland only gives Norway eight, and twelve to Estonia.


Not being neutral, then, this time. Norway seem to have a run of eights and tens, but still have double their nearest rivals.

Bulgaria announce that they're having a great time. And they looks like it.

The UK pick up seven points, but remain solidly fifth.

France aren't really doing all that well, considering their singer was meant to be some pan-European star. Perhaps the aging bit in her performance frightened Europe's kiddies.

The points are flowingto Norway again.

Oh Duncan Bloody James. Why? Is Myleene Klass busy? Could we not have had Adrian Chiles, at least?

The people of the UK have given twelve points to Turkey, which makes sense. I forgot I liked them by the end of the performances, but they were great.

Macedonia seems to be trying to take control of the programme from within a split-screen window. Oh, ten points for Bosnia. This new system really has worked, hasn't it?

Twelve points for Turkey, putting them joint distant second.

They're doing commercials? During the voting? Even the Russian host seemed surprised at that move.

Still, gives a chance for a quick dip into Twitter:
I'm still embarrassed that the UK gave 10 points to Norway. Who exactly ARE our expert panel anyway?!?!?

And we're back in the room, after a quick for the official DVD. Buy it now, before you find out how it ends.

Their guy looks like he's only doing this because his date never showed up outside the Odeon.

Ten to Norway, 12 to Estonia; Britain still solid fifth.

Someone has taken time off preparing his lecture on archaeology to turn out and give twelve to the UK, bouncing us up to... erm, third.

I really wish the Russian producers would keep the bloody scoreboard on screen

Bjorn Borg's zombie cousin pops up with wacky flowers and wacky medals and a general air of a man for whom a slap would be the correct response. 12 to Croatia.

Actually, now Graham thnaking every nation for a few measly points is starting to take on the air of Uriah Heep. Six points for the UK, and Norway vanish off so far into the lead we could all go to bed.

It's Bet Lynch doing the scores. Twelve points to Azerbaijan? Seriously?

Perhaps the runners-up could host next year's semi-finals?

The slightly creepy Albanian bloke reveals their country didn't love Norway quite so much as everyone else - seven points.

"Everybody's still talking about how unforgettable it was" says their presenter. Yes, people haven't shut up about it yet. Given how it's still going on. 12 points to Bosnia-H

The UK is now neck-and-neck with Turkey. Cyprus gives its 12 to Greece. So I think you know which bit of Cyprus it is.

Poland is also singing, although their chap looks like a policeman recently elevated to the CID. They give enough points to the UK to take Jade to fourth. Norway have so won, the question now is if they are going to score a record win.

Ah, as befits a country below sealevel, their scores are being given by a mermaid. And knocks the UK back to fifth. Apparently the mermaid fell in love with the Norwegian boy. Does that mean she's barred from awarding twelve points, though?

She's pissed off. Really, really pissed off.

Their 12 points for Norway break the 300 barrier, and make it the biggest winner ever.
Graham tries to make a game of guessing where we'll end up. Mid-table, Graham.

A low budget Courtney Cox delivers the required 12 to Bosnia.

Apparently, the Russian audience is pissing off home, catching last buses and so on. 10 from Portugal puts UK in fourth, and 12 goes to Moldova. Moldova? Really?

Hair and makeup ahoy. They also give 12 points to Moldova. All of a sudden, Moldova is popular.

Ireland do a spot of blarney, as they are supposed to. And they give ten to the UK. And not a sod for Ronan's Denmark effort. That's surely got to hurt.

Apparently there is a comb shortage in Denmark. Who give all their 12 points to Norway. 339 for Norway now.

Steady on, we're near the end. Moldova give 12 to Romania, for some fraternal reason.

There are a lot of countries in Europe, aren't there? Their presenter calls for a minute's silence for Slovenia failing to qualify. It goes down like a 9/11 joke in a US airport. 12 points to Norway.

"Everything looks beautiful" she simpers, her head shaking on its overlong neck. The UK are still, by the way, fourth place. Finland are at the bottom, although possibly only on alphabetical order.

The Hungarian points woman seems thrilled, truly, to be here. Like she'd won a trip to a tractor factory or something. 12 to Norway.

By a freak, Norway will be doing their scoring last.

She looks spookily like Charlotte Coleman. Or perhaps I'm getting bleary-eyed. She keeps leaving scary pauses. Their twelve goes to Turkey, and once again the scoreboard vanishes too quickly to see what that means.

Norway already look like they've embarked on an alcohol-based national celebration.

So, Norway win. UK come fifth, which, sadly, will probably be good enough to lead to another run out for Lloyd Webber again next year.

They're firing the glitter cannons into what remains of the audience, in preparation for the encore performance.

They're sweeping the glitter off the stage now - health and safety mate. The song's popularity seems even more mystifting now.

So, what have we learned? That the BBC should probably have put Wogan out to grass much sooner. That the music actually seemed better this year, but still nobody is going to do their best stuff for it. And never mind the gay audience - if Eurovision is aimed at any particular sexual group, it's the boot fetishists who will really be getting off.

Eurovision: Every loser's whinge

With it being Eurovision day, it's time for the now annual disclaiming of responsibility for earlier disasters. Because, naturally, doing a poor performance of a rubbish song is never the reason the UK loses.

Andy Abrahams turned up on BBC Breakfast blaming them pesky Eastern Europeans for his failure to score many points - apparently they colluded to vote against a poor performance of a rubbish song.

And six bloody years on, Jemini are still wailing how their loss wasn't down to them at all:

[Chris Cromby] said: “We were confident about representing the UK, but it all went tits up on the night.

“The hall it was held in wasn’t a music stadium, it was a sports hall, so it wasn’t somewhere which usually holds concerts.

“The monitors weren’t working, Gemma couldn’t hear herself, so she was out of tune.

“The BBC blamed our management and our management blamed the BBC.”

Ah yes. How hard for Jemini, forced to compete in a sports hall. When, erm, everyone else was performing in exactly the same bloody place.
Chris said: “As each country’s votes came in, we had a glass of wine. It was probably a good job we didn’t have to go back on to sing, because we were tipsy.

“About halfway through, we knew we wouldn’t get any votes, but it made us stand out, everyone remembers us.

“It is a talking point and it is going to be on my grave at the end. We get the odd person who gives us a bit of stick but we find the majority of people are great and very supportive.

“It was a brilliant experience, but I would not do it again.”

Chris, sweetheart. I know you might think that "everyone remembers you", but frankly, when people talk of Eurovision, it tends to be Cliff, or Sandie Shaw. Bucks Fizz. I don't think anyone remembers you, except once a year when you pop up to try and deny that you scored no points because you gave a poor performance of a rubbish song.

This year, Jade Ewen is promising to come top five. All that's really up for debate is how poor her performance of the rubbish song will be.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Face off over the Manics sleeve

The ridiculous and offensive decision by supermarket chains to cover up the sleeve of the new Manics album gives HMV's quotemeister Gennaro Castaldo a chance to stress the youth club's liberal values:

HMV’s Gennaro Castaldo said: “It’s not the retailer’s place to censor the choice that it makes available to its customers.

“The fundamental difference here is that while specialist stores see music first and foremost as an art form, to be respected and appreciated, to supermarkets an album is no different to a tin of baked beans.”

It's not just Gennaro with an opinion here, of course. The supermarkets are keen to defend their decision to hide a figurative painting of a child with a birthmark:
Tesco say the painting, by Jenny Saville and titled State, is “inappropriate”.

Well, that's a firm and clear line, at least. Why is it inappropriate, Tesco?
But a spokesman admitted yesterday he did not know what the image depicted, adding: “We are a family retailer and we feel that it is the right thing to do.”

Ah, yes. A family retailer. Let's have a look at some of the stuff on that family retailer's website, shall we? How about the second-best selling PS3 game Dead Space, for example? Tell us about it, family retailer:
Strategically Dismember the Necromorph enemies - limb by bloody limb.

Ah yes. Fun for all the family there.

And then there's Assasin's Creed:
Experience the power of the Assassin.

Jerusalem, 1191 AD during the brutal times of the Third Crusade. The streets are bustling with activity, but in a few seconds, everything will change - all because of you, Altair, a feared Assassin.

Plan your attacks, strike without mercy, and fight your way to escape.

Experience heavy action. Use a wide range of medieval weapons, and face your enemies in realistic swordfight duels.

Ah, yes, smiting people in the holy land without mercy. You can see why a family who expects that sort of thing from Tesco might be shocked at the Manics album sleeve.

Doubtless Tesco would protest that there's a difference between a record on a CD rack and a bloodthirsty description of a computer game on their website, and they'd be right. Kids are much less likely to be wandering around the shop unaccompanied by an adult who can explain the difference between birthmarks and pretending to be a killer.

The Manics are not happy:
Manics singer James Dean Bradfield called the situation “utterly bizarre.”

He said: “We just saw a much more modern version of Lucian Freud-esque brushstrokes. That’s all we saw.”

So, should we be blaming the supermarkets, then? Maybe not:
Nicola Williamson, Sainsbury’s music buyer, said: “We felt that some customers might consider this particular album cover to be inappropriate if it were prominently displayed on the shelf.

“As such, the album will be sold in a sleeve provided by the publisher.”

Provided by... the publisher? So the label is actually behind the cover-up sleeve. You have to wonder if the record company hadn't turned up offering packets to hide the 'offensive' art from view, if anyone would ever have bothered in the first place.

Breaking: Police break up gay pride march

The BBC is reporting that the Moscow police have broken up the Gay Pride march ahead of tonight's Eurovision.

Earlier in the week, the Dutch entry had threatened to pull out if this happened - it'll be interesting to see if they stick to their promise, and if anyone follows them.

Gordon in the morning: Jackson still had actual skin?

The not-entirely-surprising news of Michael Jackson's skin cancer is passed to Emily Smith to break to a concerned nation:

DEFIANT MICHAEL JACKSON is determined to make a full recovery after doctors assured him that his skin cancer is treatable.

Well, yes, you would, wouldn't you? If a doctor said "Mr Jackson, your cancer is totally treatable", you wouldn't react by going "well, frankly, I'm not interested, I'm quite happy to die from it."

With Emily doing the reporting, it falls to Gordon to offer an opinion. Now, you might think there's not much to say beyond 'whatever you think of him, you wouldn't wish cancer on him', but apparently it calls for the editor of the showbusiness beat to say a few words:
HE has dangled his son from a hotel window, completely changed his appearance with cosmetic surgery and been dogged by shocking allegations about his bizarre private life.

But one thing that Michael Jackson can not be criticised for is his unique and unquestionable brilliance when he is entertaining fans on stage.

Gordon, presumably, hasn't seen any Jackson performance from, ooh, the last twenty years or so, where either he sets himself up as a pompous God figure, or else doesn't so much phone it in as use a freepost reply coupon.
As shocking as the news is of his cancer, I have no doubt he will be prepared to put giving 100 per cent to fans this summer ahead of his own medical fears.

It's not clear if Gordon feels the cancer is more shocking than the allegations about Jacko's private life - and don't you love that, out of respect to the man's illness, they're not bothering to go into "sharing bedrooms with young kids and giving them surprisingly large sums of money shortly after" nature of those allegations.

But does Gordon really think Jackson would put his fans ahead of his own health? When he supposedly he wouldn't even visit the UK for fear of swine flu and has a track record of not turning up to gigs he's been booked for? It doesn't sound much like the Jackson everyone knows and... well, everyone knows.
His farewell tour dates at the O2 arena in East London have been the biggest talking point in pop for fans, journalists, fellow musicians and the music industry since it was announced earlier this year.

Until the Spandau Ballet reunion, at least.
He is the only living artist capable of filling the 20,000-capacity arena for a whopping 50-night stint.

No he isn't. Especially given that the dates are spread over a period of months, Pink Floyd could. The Stones could. McCartney, certainly. Oasis and Robbie Williams, probably. However chilling those prospects might be.

Gordon burbles on in this fawning manner for a while, before coming to his conclusion:
Everyone is willing him to get well soon. For all the music memories he has given the world, he deserves to bow out on a high.

Actually, for all the rubbish he's done since Thriller, he deserves a long and happy retirement.

Jackson's not the only singer who has medical problems this morning: Will Young is having to have singing lessons after an operation for tonsillitis. Yes, yes, there is an obvious joke hanging there, but it would be cruel and unnecessary; even if you don't much care for Young's music, you'd have to wish him well.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Darkness at 3AM: PRS join in the Eurovision fun

The 3AM Girls have a small piece this morning about Bucks Fizz:

Making Your Mind Up still has loads of, er, Fizz. With this year's Eurovision looming, the 1981 entry by Bucks Fizz is revealed as the most played track in the contest's history by the Performing Right Society.

More often than Waterloo? Really? You might wonder at the state of record keeping that came up with that nugget, but more to the point, you might also wonder why the PRS is spending money skimmed off songwriters' royalties on filling up gossip columns with meaningless fact-nuggets.

Gordon in the morning: Classical gas

The online version of Bizarre kicks off this morning with classical music.

Yes, classical music. Philip Case turns in a report on the Classical Brits, which will probably delight the organisers.

Yes, I'm sure. It's classical. In fact, so unlikely is the idea of The Sun giving a second violin about classical music, Gordon Smart contributes a signed piece to reassure readers that it's alright:

WHY the sudden interest in classical music?

Well, they rhyme with Brits and get fellas showing a remarkable understanding of French Horn.

So gents, get down to an opera house to sample some delightful musical AND physical arrangements if you want to meet stunners in Bach-less dresses.

It would be a Verdi wise move if you ask me.

He actually wrote that. It came out of his head, he typed it in, and then published on the Wall Street Journal's sister site. French horn.

I do love the idea of a Sun reader seeing Gordon's advice and turning up at the Welsh National Opera with a hopeful grin and a box of tissues. Actually, I don't love it.

Philip Case's report is just as bad:
MYLEENE KLASS puts the woodwind up the fuddy-duddy world of classical music — arriving at an awards bash last night in this sizzling gown.

Actually, that's unfair to Case. Smart would have used woodwind in an erection gag.

Doubtless there are people at the Classical Brits who will feel that having musicians treated as wank-fodder will be good for the profile of the event and the music it promotes. But "actually, some people who like classical music are quite pretty" is such a toxic message for so many reasons.

But it's not like the music didn't get a look in at all:
In the past the frocks on the do’s red carpet have sometimes been as gloomy as Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

Why is the word "famous" in there? Obviously, yes, it is famous, but that does suggest that the word "famous" is redundant; if you need to be told it's famous, then that would suggest you don't know the piece so what would be the point anyway? It's not like Bach produced numerous Toccata and Fuges, most of which are quite jolly, apart from the one everyone knows.

Elsewhere, Gordon is surprised to hear Eminem got help from Elton John:
SIR ELTON JOHN is the Queen of bitching, the master of extravagance and one of the finest songwriters Britain has ever produced.

One thing I never thought would appear beside those CV highlights is the role of drug counsellor to top hip-hop stars.

EMINEM has confessed that Sir Elt is the unlikely character responsible for helping him conquer his drug demons.

I've been impressed before with Smart's willingness to go into print revealing that he apparently doesn't really know very much about the entertainment industry at all - like here, showing that he's apparently unaware that Elton often tries to help guide younger stars from repeating his expensive, miserable mistakes of overindulgence.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

How bad are things for Gordon Brown?

Things are so bad for the PM that Lily Allen is able to patronise him:

She has said that Gordon Brown is “a nice man” and that she could never become a Tory.

Although what of the Tories, Lily - aren't you working with them?
Boris Johnson, is “a cool guy” and that she wants to fulfil her promise, made in the wake of the glut of teenage stabbings last year, to help London’s troubled youth. But not until she has enough time to do it properly. “I could just turn up to something and shake people’s hands and have my photo taken, but I’d rather do something hands-on and actually achieve something.” Then she breaks into squealing giggles. “Boris wrote me a letter recently, but I’m not going to tell you what it’s about.”

So... so far, she's just been part of a big, splashy press launch and not actually done anything because she doesn't just want to do something for the cameras and then no do anything? I see.

Download shift blame for Faith No More falsies

The promotion of Faith No More's appearance at Download as "their only UK gig" has caused some upset to fans, who bought tickets in good faith only to discover that, erm, they're going to be at Reading, too.

Download Festivals' John Probyn has been explaining to efestivals what went wrong and why it wasn't their fault, oh no:

[Efestivals]:There has been some controversy surrounding the status of Faith No More's appearance, as it was first billed as the 'only UK show of the year', and then simply 'first UK show of the year'. Many fans have suggested that they were mislead over the exclusivity of the band playing, is that something you guys hope to fully address soon?

[Probyn]We don't tell lies, we give people information based on facts at the time. What's the point in me misleading a fan, is that going to make them want to buy tickets in the future?

[ef]Was the band's 'self-confirmation' for Reading and Leeds as big a surprise for you and Andy as it was for everyone else? It came out of the blue...

[P]Every day is a day at school in this business.

[ef]Though the festivals obviously have different core audiences, if Faith No More do end up playing Reading, do you think it would undermine Download, particularly given the hype surrounding Faith No More's announcement?

[p]Look at the line-up on the Sunday at Reading last year, did that undermine Download and stop 50,000 people having a great time?

Hmm. You might think that, if your big selling point is an exclusive gig, you wouldn't need any extra business education to ensure that the word 'exclusive' appeared somewhere in the contract.

The long tail: Can't tell the bottom from the top

More, I'm afraid, on that PRS survey. Music Ally has seen it, and focuses on a more interesting point:

A new filesharing study claims to refute the “Long Tail” theory made famous by Chris Anderson, arguing that (at least in the p2p world) downloading patterns strongly resemble those in the world of mainstream hits.

“Consumers are still driven to seek the same music in legal and illegal markets”, explains the report, from Eric Garland, CEO of p2p analyst BigChampagne, and Will Page, chief economist at UK collecting society PRS For Music. “The most swapped files were also the most downloaded on legal music sites, indicating that what’s popular is popular”, continues the report, which claims that filesharing actually demonstrates “a very hit-heavy, skinny tail profile.”

Says Garland: “We are yet to see a big hit or wildly popular release in the pirate market that was not also a top seller in the licensed market.”

Right. Although - as Music Ally also points out - "the long tail" was about digital in general, and had nothing specific to do with piracy.

And you're rejecting to suggestion that there would be a long tail of downloads by pointing to the fat head of real-world downloads? Isn't that trying to disprove the existence of the sea by pointing firmly at the beach?

Fake PRS try to shake down victims

Back, once again, to the PRS. As if it wasn't enough for them to cope with their member's works being copied for illicit gain, now their methods and manners are being pirated, too:

We have been made aware that some private residences have been contacted fraudulently by people claiming to be from PRS and that failure to submit a licence application may result in prosecution and a fine of up to £1000 – we would never threaten customers like this.

If you are in any way concerned about the contact you receive, please contact customer services on 0845 309 3090, we will confirm whether the contact is from PRS for Music.

The PRS would never threaten "customers" (non-customers, surely?) that if they don't get a licence, they could be prosecuted and fined? Really? How do they persuade people to buy licences if not with the threat of prosecution? And what are the press releases that shoot out at times of court cases, such as that with Kwik Fit? Sure, it might be worded gently and more in sorrow than in anger, but isn't the idea of a press release pointing to a big company dragged in to court designed pour encourager les autres? And why would they have copyright investigators with part of their role being to "[a]scertain[...] the accuracy of data collected by checking various databases, this then allows legal proceedings to commence if the customer refuses a licence"?

It might upset the PRS to think of themselves as an organisation whose revenue streams depend - in part - on being able to wield the threat of prosecution, but surely it needs to be honest with itself about the exact nature of its business. If it was merely collecting monies handed over out of love, it wouldn't need operatives to "produce reports that may lead to civil action in the UK
courts for Copyright Infringement."

PRS pick on Chambers Of Commerce

Looking for the details of the PRS survey, I came across this story from earlier in the month:

It has come to our attention that the British Chambers of Commerce has conducted a small survey amongst 200 (0.2%) of its members relating to contact they may have had from us.

We are extremely surprised and somewhat perplexed that the BCC have issued a press statement, stating that a significant proportion of businesses rate their experience with us poorly. This is not a pattern that we recognise. Of the businesses that we contact we experience a very low level of complaints – less than 0.05%. If we do receive a complaint we look at each individual case very carefully to ensure that the music licensing system is delivered fairly and equitably. We value all of our licensees, and membership base, and strive to offer the highest levels of service to both.

The PRS complaining about reports based on small survey sample sizes and - while running that supposed music debate site which only publishes pro-PRS messages - upset that someone would issue a press release claiming to speak for everybody when they believe there might be a different spectrum of opinion? Whoever would have thought?

PRS says that there's some file sharing going on

The PRS has spent a little more of songwriter's money on a big report that announces that there's a whole lot of unlicensed music transfers going on:

The songs of popular musicians like Lady Gaga have been passed on 14 million times each in one year alone with no payment to the artist, according to a report by PRS for Music, the organisation that collects royalties for songwriters and composers.

That clunkily-written standfirst suggests that this is basically a report which attempts to stick a made-up number on downloading. And it is. Oddly, the actual report doesn't appear to be on the PRS website at the moment, which means we are stuck seeing it through the Telegraph's eyes:
The research involved analysing billions of swaps on global music sites like Pirate Bay and its findings illustrate just how rampant illegal filesharing has become.

On average the most popular files were swapped over 14 million times for the twelve-month period.

What does that actually mean, though - "on average"? And how were these "billions" of swaps get "analysed"? And how, exactly, were any of these swaps "on" Pirate Bay?

The Telegraph piece is written by Urmee Khan, who has the title Digital and Media Correspondent, and yet they seem to fundamentally misunderstand how the Pirate Bay works. It's a bit like having an agricultural correspondent who says that potatoes grow on bushes - it's near enough, but suspiciously wrong.
According to the authors, the Pirate Bay trial - where its founders were jailed - did little to dampen illegal activity from the popular site which advises people on the best ways to download the latest films, music and video games.

It's a search engine, Urmee. Yes, there is a 'how do I download' page, but it's very basic.

And the founders have been given a prison sentence, but haven't yet, actually, been jailed.

Still, it's nice to see the PRS has spent songwriter money on an expensive survey which just confirms that the Pirate Bay trial did not a piece of good for anyone's bottom line. Indeed, it's hard to see what the point of this work is at all. Lots of people share files, and many of those files result in no payment going to the artist. Do they think that there is anyone on the planet who would care about this, and yet doesn't know?

I get that the PRS thinks that, by saying "ooh, there's millions of swaps every second", they'll spark some of sort of crackdown, but really they're doing the opposite. Sticking out a press release which shows that billions of files are being swapped all the time, and that even a high-profile prison sentence can't dent the levels of activity, really just underlines how the PRS and the RIAA have totally lost. This should spark a big shake-up - but the shake-up is needed for the copyright capitalists to admit their business has changed forever.

Gordon in the morning: On me 'ead, son

There is one, undeniable truth in life, learned young, when pinching your brother's issues of Shoot and checking out the Focus On... column: footballers have rubbish taste in music.

Oh, sure: there are exceptions - Pat Nevin and... well, Pat Nevin. But, generally, most professional footballers' entire music taste could be catered for by the CD racks in a tolerably well-stocked branch of Asda.

This is known; and it has been known since the dawn of recorded time. Or at least since the introduction of the minimum wage.

It turns out, though, that it's news to Gordon Smart:

CRISTIANO RONALDO deserves a straight red card for some of the howlers in his CD collection.

What's he got, Gordon? Renee and Renato? Nothing but Stars On 45? George Sampson's record? (Okay, that last one is just ridiculous. Nobody bought that one.)
The Man United ace has all RICKY MARTIN’s albums and admits his top track by the Latin hip-swiveller is cheesy No1 single Livin’ La Vida Loca.

It's hardly that bad. For a footballer. Is it?
Ron says: “Ricky’s tunes are very catchy. Livin’ La Vida Loca is his most catchy by far and it is my most favourite.”

What a winker.

On the other hand, Gordon: You think Kasabian are brilliant. People who live in glass houses, with Kasabian on the CD player, shouldn't... well, they just shouldn't.

Elsewhere, here's Gordon's coverage (about three weeks after it was actually news) of the Beth Ditto doll:
BETH DITTO is more sumo wrestler than delicate Barbie.

But High Street store Evans have created a slimmed-down doll of THE GOSSIP singer to mark the launch of her plus-sized clothes range.

The image of her blubbery belly squeezed into a pair of Spanx at Radio 1’s Big Weekend is burned on my memory.

But the plastic version is altogether more pleasant.

Gordon Smart prefers unnatural doll to a real woman. Again, not exactly something you'd hold the front page for.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Folding magazines: iD halves

Bloody hell. i-D has been going for thirty years now. But even the doughty style magazine is feeling the pinch: it's reducing frequency to six issues a year:

"We see this restructure as a reinforcement of position and strength towards a magazine and brand we are passionate about and have protected for so long," said Terry and Tricia Jones in a statement.

"As one of the most respected and loved independent voices within the international fashion community, i-D is determined to maintain its unique status bridging the space between high fashion and street savvy."

If you didn't know they were axing six issues a year, you might have that soundtracked by trumpets in your head.

The magazine isn't going to go bi-monthly, though: instead, it's going to publish more or less randomly:
The August issue will go on sale 9 July. i-D will then publish in September, October, November, February, March and April. The April issue will remain on sale for up to four months.

There's a word for that in newsagency: "howarepeoplesupposedtoknowandorrememberwhenanewissueisout".

Eurovision: Gays go home

If you don't want your city to be visited by large numbers of gay men, Muscovites, it's probably not a good idea to host the Eurovision Song Contest.

Eurovision is being used as a focus for a day of gay rights activity in the capital - you'll recall the last major music-related gay rights event in Moscow didn't end well - and the Russian bigots are out in force:

Just across the road from a statue of Pushkin, a handful of demonstrators have put up a modest sign. It reads simply: "Moscow is not Sodom." As a cold wind whips through the Russian capital's Pushkinskaya square, activists hand out leaflets showing two men kissing, crossed out in angry red ink with the slogan: "Say no to spiritual terrorism."

Ah, it does say much about the family of man that Russian homophobic right-wing nutjobs are almost indistinguishable from American homophobic right-wing nutjobs. Under the skin, we're all the same. Apart from homosexuals, of course, who are different and wrong.

The mayor of Moscow, Yuri Luzhkov, is proudly homophobic, but is faced with damage to the city's expensive investment in Eurovision if he stops the planned pride march - the Dutch have already said they won't sing if the march doesn't go ahead, and given they're one of the better entrants for the contest, an awkward, attention-drawing gap on the Saturday evening television across Europe might be a little too much attention.

On the other hand, maybe the mayor wouldn't want to ban the march, given that the likely painful results don't seem to be anything he worries much about:
Few are optimistic the rally will go off without trouble. "Groups of fanatics and extremists will be roaming the streets in the centre of Moscow looking for people to beat up," Nikolai Alekseev, the organiser of the Slavic Pride rally, told the Guardian. "Nobody will care. Moscow police will do nothing to protect them." Asked whether gay British fans should avoid travelling to Moscow this Saturday, he warned: "Everybody has to make their own choice. But they won't be safe."

Well, that's cheery then. The thought of gay people being beaten up by police is quite grisly, and the Guardian is quick to put it into some sort of context:
Nonetheless, there is now a distinct possibility that Russian nationalists and neo-Nazis will once again beat up gay demonstrators – as well as visiting Eurovision fans – in what would be a severe blow to Russia's international reputation and to Eurovision, already reeling from eastern European bloc voting scandals.

Yes, it's almost as bad having a secret policeman crack your skull open because you love other men as it for Terry Wogan to have to watch Bulgaria and Romania awarding each other twelve points each.

The Gossip: Back to work, then

It's been three years since Standing In The Way Of Control. Three years. A long time to coast on one record, and about time for The Gossip to turn out a new record:

[Beth Ditto] said: "If it doesn't do as well as Standing In The Way Of Control then it doesn't really matter - the label would think differently but I don't really care."

That isn't, of course, the politician's trick of lowering expectations so that second place can me made to look like a victory.

The new record will, naturally, be different:
Gossip had huge success in 2007 with single Standing In The Way Of Control but they're not concerned with replicating the success.

"You can't make the same record twice," said guitarist Nathan Howdeshell.

Given how they've worked the last one to death, they're not wrong. They didn't even need to make a second record.
Ditto: "You can't, and you can't expect the same results. Isn't that what crazy people do? To keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect the same results? That's the definition of insanity."

No it isn't. It's exact opposite, surely? It'd be insane to do the same thing repeatedly and expect - all other things being equal - to get different results. You wouldn't take a kettle back to the shop if it boiled water every time you switched it on.
"I really want people to like it, that's the difference," said Ditto.

So you want it to be liked, but don't care if it's successful, then. Righto.

Heather didn't go with the Mills Of God, then

Heather Mills' latest bid to reinvent herself is to turn herself into a kind of cruelty-free Colonel Sanders. She's opening a vegan restaurant in Hove, which she believes will be franchised out around the world:

The Argus can exclusively reveal that Ms Mills’ latest venture called V-Bites will open at Hove Lagoon in July.

V Bites? Maybe you should register plans for a juice bar chain called H Sucks while you're at it.

The idea - a vegan food chain - isn't a bad one in itself, although the lack of a successful vegetarian chain, despite there being more vegetarians than vegans, suggests the business planning might have been a bit weak. And Heather doesn't seem sure what sort of place it is:
“It has been made into a very hip 21st century place.”

So it's a hip, high-end place? Sounds expensive.
Ms Mills said the menu will be affordable and visitors to the nearby park will also be able to buy vegan burgers from a serving hatch.

It's a hip, high-end place with a cheap burger hatch?
Ms Mills said that each room would have a different feel to it, with one turned into a family creche area where children can play with interactive screens which will teach them about different fruits and vegetables and a dining area which will serve a daily selection of vegan dishes from around the world.

"Mummy! Mummy! Can we go to the restaurant where we can learn about the kumquat today? Pleeeeeease..."
[Mills] said: “It’s for everybody. It will be very family orientated during the day but it will be for all ages. My grandmother lived here for 38 years so I really want it to be somewhere elderly people can go as well.

“It is going to be really funky, with nice music and ambience and good staff.”

So it's funky and hip, for children and the elderly, pushing burgers through a slot... I'm not sure, but I suspect Mills may have ended the tour by telling The Argus that the restaurant will also be able to fly, and special singing potatoes will provide makeovers at the Fairy-powered clamshell.

Comes With Music expands a little

The initial take-up of Comes With Music - Nokia's music-subscription-with-a-phone - hasn't been entirely stellar, with suggestions that only 23,000 people have signed up so far. Although those that have it are very keen on the service.

Now, Nokia have done a deal with Orange to bring a CWM handset to another network:

Orange will be the only UK network to offer the service, marketing it through five plans ranging from £25 a month for 200 minutes, 300 texts and unlimited music to £45 a month for 1200 minutes, 500 texts and unlimited music.

The sting? If you want to have the music directly on your phone, you'll still have to pay for the data transfer. Which makes free music quite expensive.

Gordon in the morning: Brand and the Bunny

According to Smart this morning, Russell Brand might be seeing someone who worked for failing soft porn empire, Playboy:

Not only that, it’s HOLLY MADISON, former girlfriend of the grandaddy of all legendary swordsmen, Playboy boss HUGH HEFNER.

Or, as the headline puts it:
Is Russ Avenue, Madison?

Which doesn't quite work, but is a good effort.

Since there's probably nothing to the story, and even if there is, there's not very much to it, Gordon is reduced to mumbling:
A source in Vegas said: “Russell has really hit it off with Holly. She’s a big star in the US, which he finds really attractive."

Not to make Brand sound shallow or anything.
“And his constant tomfoolery has her in stitches. Russ has been making late-night visits to her home in the Hollywood Hills."

Tomfoolery? Constant tomfoolery? Does he make apple-pie beds or something?

Elsewhere - and if you don't know how Harry Potter ends, look away now - Gordon has photos from the next movie:
HEARTBROKEN witch Hermione carries elf pal Dobby’s body to the grave in emotional scenes from the final Harry Potter film.

Now, it is just a plastic elf from a children's story about wizards, but clearly the entertainment team has decided to treat the story gently and reflect the emotion poured in to the movie scene by the cast and crew.

Hasn't he?
Drop the dead Dobby

Oh. Maybe not, then.

Gordon, meanwhile, has got his Photoshop team to mock up Michael Jackson as he might look if he was amongst the young cast of High School Musical. Luckily, only from the waist up.

This is because of Kenny Ortega choreographing the Millennium Dome gigs. And Ortega did the dance moves for High School Musical. So, right, it's like Michael hiring the guy from the movies to try and bring that magic in to his world, right, Gordon?
The choreographer, who also worked with Jacko on his Dangerous and HIStory world tours, said: “To be invited to partner him again is a dream come true."

So, rather than "Jackson hires High School Musical man", it's "Jackson continues to work with his long-term collaborator". Presumably, though, it'd be harder for the Photoshop crew to mock up a picture of Jackson looking like Michael Jackson.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

ISPs refuse, again, to do copyright holder's policing

Up to a point, anyway.

As the copyright capitalists continue to cling to their belief that cutting people off from the web would be both legal, and help the dwindling market price of licensed content, the UK ISPs have again said they aren't going to become the cops. Not unless there's something else in it for them:

But the ISPs aren't going quietly into that dark night. In a statement, the Internet Service Providers' Association (ISPA) said that it agreed with creative industry calls for "the safe and secure delivery of legal content." Getting access to this content remains difficult, though, and ISPA notes that "Internet companies remain extremely frustrated by the ongoing difficulties in securing licensing that is needed to offer consumers legal alternatives through new models of online content distribution. It is our view that legislation on enforcement should only be introduced on the condition that the rights holder industry commits to significant licensing reform."

So, it's not quite the high-minded rejection of the idea that you should be cast adrift from participating in society so much as the insistence that, if they're going to be providing security for copyright material, they want a slice of the action.

Eminem: Some sort of stimulus

It's not going to solve the problems of the motor industry. It's not going to solve the laid-off workers' problems. But Eminem flying sacked auto workers to Jimmy Kimmel and throwing a show for others might at least lift their spirits for a short while.

Unless they hate Eminem's music, of course, but it's the thought that counts.

It's like Huw Edwards pushing The Leisure Society

I'm still trying to follow avuncular NBC Nightly News host Brian Williams in his leap to indie-pushing music guru. He's launched a section on the NBC News website called BriTunes, where he's going to meet-and-greet bands. Starting with Deer Tick.

Yes, Deer Tick.

Bob Dylan follows in our footsteps

Some - good bloody god - six years after No Rock went to the Beatles' childhood homes, Bob Dylan's popped in for a look about.

The only question about the BBC's news story:

Dylan unnoticed on Beatles tour

Folk legend Bob Dylan mingled unnoticed with Beatles tourists during a minibus tour to John Lennon's childhood home.

If he was "unnoticed", how exactly did someone manage to tell the press about him going?

Aiden wants to be treated like Nine Inch Nails

Apple's wobble and revision when faced with the Nine Inch Nails iPhone app has now knocked on into being a question of moral relevance, with Aiden demanding to know why, if the NIN app is fine, theirs is being blocked:

What can I really say that Trent Reznor hasn't? "I want to fuck you like an animal?" Oh wait, he said that. "I am a big man and I have a big gun. Got me a big ol’ dick and I like to have fun, held it against your forehead, I'll make you suck it, maybe I'll put a hole in your head, you know, just for the fuck of it." Yeah, he said that, too, all on a record called The Downward Spiral. I have purchased that album five times in my life. I first got it on Cassette when it came out in 1994, I bought it a couple of times on CD and last year I purchased it on iTunes right after I went out and picked up the vinyl. Why? Because it's a great fucking record.

I don't want to go on the same rant as him, although I probably share the exact same feelings.

So what if a crappy punk band from Seattle sings about the deception of religion as a whole? So what if they sing about Catholic priests molesting little boys? Who really cares at all if they wail about a Hungarian Countess that was born in the 1500's and killed over 600 women? Who Cares? The PMRC? Ted Haggard? Congress? Jesus? Oh wait, no… JESUS ISN’T FUCKING REAL.

Yes, maybe we talked a little bit of shit while doing the commentary for the iPhone app about Christianity, about sex and about... Fuck I can't even remember because it's so fucking insignificant. Why don't you be a little clearer in what it was that we need to watch out for? Oh wait... I thought I lived in America where my freedom of speech right was protected by the constitution?

That's right, I forgot. I actually live in Hell. Oops. Remind me to tell someone I have a complaint to submit in the box on the wall.

Aside from the content issue, the app was also rejected because you want to "protect" the value of the iTunes store and having an app with embedded content "competes" with what is ultimately your monopoly. Ironic and hypocritical, no, since Apple owns both channels?

I just want to say thank you Apple for not approving our iPhone app. Thank you so much. To celebrate this great occasion, I'm going to visit your iTunes Music Store and download The Slim Shady LP; I really want to hear that song he sings about killing his wife and dumping her body in the ocean. Awesome!!!

William Control / AIDEN

PS: Any by the way, we have sold over 325,000 albums so far in our career without widespread mainstream media exposure. So, we must be relevant to someone.

There's a point in there somewhere, although it's a little bit lost in the pointless detailing of how many records the band have sold, and the somewhat overwrought writing of the complaint. I guess that's only to be expected, given the band, though.

Argos breaks back for art

Ouch. Eddie Argos is on the strong painkillers and (probably) sleeping on a bit of board after throwing his back out in Amsterdam:

"We were in Amsterdam and I completely collapsed in a restaurant. I was carried out crying," Argos said.

Actually, something similar to that once happened to me in Amsterdam, although I wound up going down a metal spiral staircase backwards. But for Eddie, this was the after-effects of dancing, not spendingtoolongdrinkinghotchocolate:
"The doctor said anything can bring it on--stress or unusual movements. And I said, 'Like skipping with a microphone lead on stage? Would that have done it? Is that an unusual movement?' I was just showing off a bit on stage."

I like the idea of the doctor going to pull out a medical journal and checking before confirming that, yes, skipping with a lead on stage is an unusual movement.

Get well soon, Eddie.

Microsoft: Ah, you've got to love them for trying, haven't you

Microsoft haven't quite given up on the Zune yet. Not quite. Look, they've made an advert with someone who got fired on the US Apprentice:

Ah yes. Rather than pay an entirely notional $30,000 to fill up an iPod, instead, make an open-ended commitment to pay Redmond fifteen real bucks a month until they finally get bored pouring millions away each year on the Zune and axe the product. Deal!

[via Engadget]

Sony Awards: The winners

So, we know that Chris Moyles was mocked - mocked - by being told that he's one of the very best broadcasters in Britain. But who else won Sony prizes?

Vanessa Feltz won speech personality of the year, although she beat Ian Wright on TalkSport to that one, so maybe not quite so unusual. Nick Ferrari won speech broadcaster (a subtly different category), which was more surprising

David Rodigan's Kiss programme won best specialist music show, Chris Evans took both music radio personality and the entertainment award, which seems to confirm the theory that Evans does his best work when he's not trying to be "Chris Evans off the telly".

Radio 3 was, as Gordon Smart pointed out, station of the year. Kerrang was best station broadcasting to an TSA of a million plus, somehow being specialist and general at the same time according to the judges (no, us neither.) BBC Hereford & Worcester won the station prize at the next tier down, and Beacon Radio in Shropshire picked up the best small station award.

Fun Kids - perhaps the most godawfully named radio staion in the entire world - picked up digital station of the year.

Music broadcaster of the year went to Mark Radcliffe, which is well-deserved. Although you have to feel sorry for Stuart Maconie who seems to have been inadvertently labelled a sidekick by the Sonys. Which isn't fair at all.

Winners in full:

The Music Programme Award

Words and Music – BBC Radio Arts and Radio 3 for Radio 3

The Specialist Music Programme Award

David Rodigan – Kiss Specialist Production Team for the Kiss Network

The Music Radio Personality of the Year

Chris Evans – BBC Radio 2

The Music Broadcaster of the Year

Mark Radcliffe – Smooth Operations for BBC Radio 2

The Music Special Award

Vaughan Williams: Valiant for Truth – BBC Radio 3

The Entertainment Award

Chris Evans Drivetime – BBC Radio 2

The Music Programming Award

Classic FM

The Drama Award

Mr Larkin's Awkward Day – BBC Radio Drama for Radio 4

The Sports Award

5 Live Olympic Breakfast – BBC News Programmes and BBC Sport for 5 Live

The Speech Award

Simon Mayo and Mark Kermode – BBC News for 5 Live

The News and Current Affairs Award

The World Today – BBC World Service News and Current Affairs for the World Service

The News Special Award

The Investigation: Never Too Old To Care – A Stark Production for BBC Radio Scotland

The News Journalist of the Year

Gavin Lee – BBC News for 5 Live

The Speech Radio Personality of the Year

Vanessa Feltz – BBC London 94.9

The Speech Broadcaster of the Year

Nick Ferrari – LBC 97.3

The Breakfast Show Award

5 Live Breakfast – BBC News for 5 Live

The Listener Participation Award

Electric Radio Brixton: Daily Show – Prison Radio Association and Electric Radio Brixton for Electric Radio Brixton

The Comedy Award

Count Arthur Strong's Radio Show! – Komedia Entertainment and Smooth Operations for BBC Radio 4

The Feature Award

Between The Ears: Staring At The Wall – BBC Radio Documentaries for Radio 3

The Interview Award

Feargal Keane interviews Lana Vandenberghe – Taking a Stand, BBC Radio Current Affairs for Radio 4

The Breaking News Award

The Rangers Riot – BBC Radio Manchester

The Live Event Coverage Award

Absolute Coldplay – Absolute Radio and TBI Media for Absolute Radio

The Community Award

A Sound Fix (Spots) – Prison Radio Association for Electric Radio Brixton

The Themed Programming Award

Family Life – BBC Hereford and Worcester

The Promo Award

Kiss The Planet – What Will You Do? – Kiss Imaging Team for the Kiss Network

The Competition Award

Facebuck – Galaxy Network Imaging for Galaxy (Manchester, Birmingham, Yorkshire and North East)

The Station Imaging Award


The Internet Programme Award

The Budgerigar and the Prisoner – Clifton

The Multiplatform Radio Award

Wimbledon – BBC Radio 5 Live Interactive for 5 Live

Station of the Year (Under 300,000 listeners)

Beacon Radio (Shropshire)

Station of the Year (300,000 – one million)

BBC Hereford and Worcester

Station of the Year (One million plus)

Kerrang 105.2

Digital Station of the Year

Fun Kids

UK Station of the Year

BBC Radio 3

Gordon in the morning: When entertainers clash

Having made himself look a bit stupid by running a "Moyles to leave Radio One" story that wasn't entirely true, it looks like we're now in for a period of fighting between two men who do their best to turn morning entertainment into a tiresome round of self-obsession.

So it is that Moyles getting the Sony Bronze prize in the Best Breakfast Show category is portrayed this morning not as a near-miss, but as some sort of horrific snub:

I just wanna mock DJ

And the loudmouth DJ can now add a new, glittering honour to his CV... he hosts the third best breakfast show in the country.

A new jingle must be in order for that landmark achievement?

The lardy Leeds host was the biggest casualty on a bad night for the station at the Sony Radio Academy Awards.

I'm sure it's frustrating to miss out on a prize, but it's hardly mocking someone to put them on a shortlist, is it?

Mind you, Smart doesn't really know much about radio at all:
UK Station Of The Year went to stuffy BBC Radio 3 ahead of their young, cool neighbours. [Radio 1]

Radio 3? Stuffy? And you really think that Scott Mills and Vernon Kaye are cooler than Verity Sharp and Fiona Talkington? Seriously, Gordon?

Still, this isn't really about radio, is it?
Chris seems to think I have it in for him.

I’m more worried about the way my poached eggs are cooked at Sun HQ every morning.

Ha! Dissed you, Moyles. Like, Gordon couldn't care less about you. He's more worried about his breakfast than your breakfast show. Although, oddly, Smart isn't running obsessive knocking copy about his eggs whenever he gets a chance.

In another part of Smart's obsessions, Liam Gallagher has been thinking about solo records:
Talking in Brazil during the group’s world tour LIAM said: “If everyone starts going off doing solo records then you might as well just split the band up, know what I mean?”

Yes, yes, it sounds good in theory, but it just means we'd end up with five useless records instead of one.

Maybe four. There might still be some hope that Andy Bell has a bit of something left about him.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Redmond seeks SeeqPod

The death of SeeqPod is not, it turns out, the end - the corpse may yet be dug up and ripped to pieces. Microsoft are rumoured to be buying what remains of the company - not, naturally, to bring back the music search, but to use the technology at SeeqPod's heart to power a disappointing and poorly laid out multimedia search as part of... what are Microsoft calling their search these days? Windows HotLiveSearchMSN or something?

Boy George is out

No, no: Out of prison. He's been let out early for good behaviour; he's tagged and has a curfew to make sure he stays at home.

Although given that the offences of which he was convicted took place at his flat, I'm not quite sure how that's meant to help. It's like telling Lenny The Safe Guy he has to sleep in a vault at his local NatWest, isn't it?

Oasis feature in some sort of election story

How can we hope to inject some sparkle and glamour into the European elections? How about by working in a popular beat combo into the story? Or, at a stretch, Oasis?

Beware! Beware! Oasis might influence the outcome of the election in the North West:

A music concert in north Manchester, featuring the band Oasis, could delay people voting in next month's European ballot, election officials have warned.

Uh-oh. Is it not bad enough that Noel Gallagher ruins everything he touches, without him spoiling the European Parliament too?

How are Oasis going to frustrate the popular public desire to turn out in their low numbers to make a disappointing choice from a frustratingly narrow list of candidates?
The Manchester band plays the first of three huge open-air concerts in Heaton Park on 4 June, which is polling day.

Two main roads bordering the park, Bury Old Road and Sheepfoot Lane, will be closed at 2130 BST - half an hour before polling stations close.

Oh. So, with the polls open all day, anyone who goes to vote at the very last minute will have to make a small detour if they happen to take the route down past the park.
"Elections officers in Bury say that one way to avoid any potential problems would be to use a postal vote," a Bury council spokesperson said.

"Alternatively, some people might choose to go the polls a bit earlier."

Or perhaps go down the next road across.

In other election news, if angry, barking dogs were in all the streets in Devon on June 4th, it might cause some people to have to edge very, very slowly down the side of the walls to get to the polling booth. "Or perhaps they could distract them with sausages or something" suggested polling officials.

Festival axed: Outsider remains outside

Another festival has pulled itself out the schedule, citing 'ard times, guvnor. A couple of weeks after Scotland's Homecoming Festival went, The Outsider Festival has gone, too:

The Outsider programme was ambitious and ground breaking, combining live music and DJs with activities - including mountain biking and running - with debate and discussion, film, comedy and food in a uniquely beautiful and environmentally important setting; Rothiemurchus in the Cairngorm National Park.

However, due to the unremitting economic downturn and audience numbers now projected we feel that we cannot produce an event that provides you with a festival experience at the level that is expected and deserved.

Clearly a recession is not the time to realise this bold new concept but we still believe the Outsider was right for its time and perfect for its place and are hugely disappointed that it is not going ahead.

I'm not sure there's ever quite going to be a right time for a festival which combines Sharleen Spiteri and riding on bikes; both of which are fine ways to spend time but seem to go together in one package like eggs and compost. But, clearly, even if there is a right time, it's not when the already overcrowded festival season is suffering from a shortage of bands, a shortage of audience, and a shortage of money.

Eminem hit by Cannon

Had Eminem hoped that his return to active service would be marked by signs that he's still culturally relevant, the discovery that this time round he's only been able to upset America's answer to Ant and Dec is going to come as something of a bit of a disappointment.

Yes, Nick Cannon, host of No, America Really Does Have Talent, isn't taking Eminem picking on Mariah Carey, Mrs. Cannon with a turned cheek. And so he wrote an angry blog.

Then he decided it might be better off to turn the other cheek after all, and the blog vanished. But not before the internet saw it and copied it down, word for word. Entertainment Weekly read it:

A sternly worded post this weekend on Cannon's blog, which seems to have since disappeared (hmm), dismissed Em as being "still obsessed with my wife, the same female that wouldn't let him get to second base from 8 years ago" and summed up Relapse as Eminem "rapping about when he used to be hot...Like when Al Bundy gloats about his High school football prime."

I suspect the post might have been removed when Cannon walked out of his den, and told Mariah what he had done:

- Heh, I've really stuck it to Eminem; I ripped him a new one by telling him off
- That's nice, honey... what did you do?
- I was like, all, you're stuck in the past, rapping about things which were, like, important when you were important, eight years ago. Heh heh... and I'm like get something new, Mr. 2001...
- But... didn't you say he was rapping about me?
- Oh... um... shiiiiitt...

On the other hand, perhaps Cannon pulled the blog because he suddenly realised what this bit sounds like:
"I realized, that this so-called man has just disrespected and slanderized one of the world's most significantly influential artists, one of the most notable BLACK females of our time, the incredibly cherished, globally loved and world-embraced woman of color, Mariah Carey...You sold your little records and made a little bit of change but now you are stepping in the wrong territory. You may have been able to rape and pillage our artform like an old school Caucasian con man and nobody said anything because we respected your talent, but now you've made the ultimate mistake.

I'm sure Cannon loves his wife, and anyone would be angry and upset at that. And, yes, Eminem is odious when in full flow. But, really, Cannon, you believe that Eminem is picking on Mariah because she's black?

And - seriously - you think Mariah occupies some sort of she-Mandela position in the global pantheon?
one of the most notable BLACK females of our time, the incredibly cherished, globally loved and world-embraced woman of color

An inexplicably popular singer, yes. Perhaps on a plane with Whitney Houston. But she's a slightly overelaborative singer; she's not Alice Walker.

Hold the front page...

We were delighted to hear that Bono has recovered from his parasitic worm infection, joy only slightly diminished by the discovery they were talking about a dog.

Little Boots: Somewhere between Twitter and Breakfast News

As you'd know if you were following Little Boots on Twitter, she's going to be on BBC Breakfast in about checks watch ten minutes.

Gordon in the morning: A slice of lamb

Given that Jordan's career is built on showing her breasts, it's extraordinary how excited Gordon Smart has got over a photo of her in a low-cut top. It's like making space to run a story about Alex Ferguson being a bit disgruntled.

Mind you, there's signs of scrabbling to fill this morning: George Lamb explaining why he'd not fit in at Radio One is the sort of story that surely only makes the cut when you're desperate for something, anything, to put in. Stuart Pink considers a move to Radio 1 that doesn't seem to exist anywhere outside the article:

He's been touted as a future Radio 1 DJ but the silver fox admits he'd struggle working with set playlists.

George said: "At some point I would like too broaden my horizons.

"Trouble is in some places your so constrained by the music. I could do a weekend show on one of those stations where you have to play dross but if I had to listen to Basshunter everyday I don't think I'd bother."

You don't think being 30 might also prove a little bit of an obstacle?

And, erm, if George would have trouble on a station where playlists were shaping the programming, how does he cope on 6Music with its daytime playlist, exactly?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet - Mother's Day

Today isn't mothering Sunday, but Americans are pretending it is, and so eMusic have invited some mothers to review their kids' music by choosing a favourite track:

Frances Hannigan, mother of Lisa Hannigan

*Sea Sew

Obviously being Lisa's mother, and a very proud one at that, it is difficult to pick just one; a little like Sophie's choice. Probably because we, as a family, were all involved in the making of the videos for "Lille" and "I Don't Know," I would have to pick one of these. What turns out to be a few minutes on YouTube in fact represents days and days of hard effort — but it was also a great deal of fun. During filming, the songs had to be repeated over and over again, and while some people would say that familiarity breeds contempt, I feel it is more like a comfy pair of slippers! So I will have to choose "Lille." But, then again, I don't know.

Champion denies plagiarism

With actual lawsuits pouring in now, Coldplay are backpedaling furiously from Chris Martin's original claims about being good at plagiarism. Latest part of the new stragegy is Will Champion telling Hampton Roads that they absolutely didn't steal Viva La Vida:

I don't general, we're very...It's tough when people accuse you of stealing something when you know that you didn't. So, we accept that it's part of the territory and know it is only for some reason, God only knows why, the successful songs that seem to be the ones that are accused of being stolen. So you go figure it out.

Songs that people don't get to hear are seldom the focus of plagiarism cases? Songs where nobody is making money off the disputed version aren't worth the legal fees? Gosh, yes, Will, that is strange, isn't it?

To be fair, he has a point - it's hard to write a song that doesn't sound like something you've heard before. Especially when you're Coldplay, and all your songs sound like they've been around for a decade and half:
Yeah I mean I think if everyone...there are elements of our music that I've heard in other people's music but it's kind of...I don't know. It's interesting but a very difficult thing to define. How can you...there are only eight notes in an octave and no one owns them. And there are probably about 12,000 songs that feature the exact same chord progression. I think it lies on an intent to steal, which we certainly have never done and never would. So it's unfortunate but it's the way people are. That's that. We're confident we haven't done anything wrong.

Following those remarks, the writers of 12,000 songs announced plans to instruct solicitors.

This is just made up, isn't it, News Of The World?

Today's News Of The World reports that Susan Boyle isn't going to have dinner with Barack Obama.

In order to justify this being in the paper, it then has to pretend that she's been invited, and has said no. That the writer, Douglas Wight, and the rest of the team can't seem to decide if this is a snub, or she'd rather just stay at home, or she's too nervous, makes it seem even more cod.

Still, it gives the crazies a chance to come out in the comment box:

Obviously a talented and SMART woman who knows a huge pile of BS when she sees it unlike the morons in this country who voted for Communism and Socialism implemented by a Community Organizer!

By James . Posted May 10 2009 at 10:19 AM.

Bravo Susan!! Good to see there is still someone out there with a mind of their own and willing to control her own life instead of jumping on the band wagon of "Obamamainia". It still remains to be seen what kind of President he will be. So far, a lot of people in the US are trying to come to terms with adjusting to the "changes" in their lives, most of which are very financially painful. The new moto seems to be "trust your government to run your country into the biggest financial hole in history". Bravo Mr. President- my $250.00 stimulus check bought one weeks groceries and filled my tank up with gas. Wonder what I will do next week??

By sally. Posted May 10 2009 at 10:12 AM.

Ah, all this applause from the Unabomber massive is delightful, given that it just demonstrates their weak ability to understand words, so their failure to quite grasp that Obama didn't exactly take over a working economy is perhaps understandable. Both "sally" and "james" seem to have completely overlooked the final paragraph of the NOTW piece:
"She knows she would have been incredibly nervous if she'd gone," said the source. "But her dream is to sing for President Obama one day.

"She loves him and thinks he is already a terrific president."

Yeah, well done Susan for not jumping on that Obama bandwagon that you, erm, are apparently already on.