Saturday, June 27, 2009

Glastonbury 2009: View from the sofa - Bruce Springsteen

So, as is so often the case, you shouldn't believe anything you read on the internet: BBC 2 has got Bruce.

It's not clear, though, if the steam rising from the man who likes to be called The Boss a little too much is a snazzy, showman's special effect, or if it is just the sweat of hard work leaving his shoulders. Or perhaps his pants are on fire.

We must await the results in the morning.

But, oh, I don't think I've ever heard such an anaemic Born To Run.

Glastonbury 2009: View from the sofa - Saturday night

The simplicity of Esser vocals don't really stand up to not being able to hear the music properly, like being perpetually in the position of a busy room falling quiet just as you say "... and so I had to hit him with the shovel", but, oh, you could eat Esser with a spoon. Of course, it was all shoved away in a corner of Press Red, but it makes it all feel a bit more special.

Florence And The Machine used to be hidden away, too, but look at this, this year - a 6Music pick, no less. Pity the set sounded a bit ropey and overwhelmed, and only really came alive with a Candi Staton cover at the end.

It's turned out to be impossible to avoid both Reggie Yates and Kasabian, so I finally wound up having to watch Reggie get Cerys Matthews in to keep him company in the hovering sky-studio. Matthews put her shoes on the table, which can cause bad luck, but I guess she figured that being interviewed by Reggie is probably one of those situations from which there is no down. Matthews, somewhat oddly, appeared to be wearing exactly the same blazer-and-no-trousers outfit that Edith Bowman was wearing on Friday evening. One presenter at a time is frugal, BBC, but making them share clothes is just going too far. Will Mark Radcliffe be waiting for Zane Lowe to finish with the trousers before he can go on to BBC2?

If, by the way, Mark Radcliffe seemed genuinely bemused by the idea of going on to do a programme without any Neil Young in, tonight he's going to be totally Jack Wooleyed, as it appears the BBC won't be able to show any of Bruce Springsteen's headline set at all.

Perez Hilton: The scarabous finger writes, and having writ, rushes to press delete

The Zelda Lily: Feminism In A Bra blog has got an interesting post showing how far Perez Hilton lacks the courage of his convictions:

The Michael coverage as of yesterday stated that the popular notion around the back-biting, venomous website was that Jackson had staged his heart attack and subsequent death as a off-putting ploy to avoid his up and coming tour this Fall beginning in London. Lavandeira’s original and oh-so-eloquently-worded post stated:

We knew something like this would happen!!

Michael Jackson was taken by ambulance from his Holmby Hills home to a nearby Los Angeles hospital on Thursday afternoon!!

Supposedly, the singer went into cardiac arrest and the paramedics had to administer CPR!!!

His mother is even on the way to visit him!!!

We are dubious!!

Jacko pulled a similar stunt when he was getting ready for his big HBO special in ‘95 when he “collapsed” at rehearsal!

He was dragging his heels on that just like his upcoming 50 date London residency at the 02 Arena, of which he already postponed the first few dates!!!

Either he’s lying or making himself sick, but we’re curious to see if he’s able to go on!!!

Get your money back, ticket holders!!!!

Having called it so wrongly, so quickly, you might have managed to salvage a bit of respect for Hilton had he kept the original post up and subsequently gone "well, I was wrong..."

Instead, he set about cutting down his post to this:
Michael Jackson was taken by ambulance from his Holmby Hills home to a nearby Los Angeles hospital on Thursday afternoon!!

The singer went into cardiac arrest and the paramedics had to administer CPR!!!

His mother is even on the way to visit him!!!

If you're going to trade on your 'saying the unsayable' schtick, you should surely at least leave the unsayable said when you've said it, right?

Glastonbury 2009: In other Glastonbury news...

This is Fake DIY's crack Glastonbury squad disappear from Tweetdom, although Jemima Kiss was saying it was hard to get a data connection there this year.

That'll be all the iPhones. Thank god the 3GS hadn't had much time to propogate.

NME is reporting that Jamie Cullum did a 'tribute' to Jackson as part of his set:

Midway through his performance, the crooner climbed up on top of his grand piano to lead his band through a jazzy version of 'Thriller'.

Clearly reacting to the news of Jackson's death quickly, Cullum relied on a printed out lyric sheet before breaking the song down with some human beatboxing towards the end.

In unrelated news, staff at an exclusive LA funeral home reported that one of their corpses has asked to be hurried to his grave as "he had one fuck of a lot of spinning in it to get done."

Cullum had turned up earlier in a guest capacity with Spinal Tap - along with Jarvis Cocker, presumably canceling each other out.

Bruce Springsteen filled time before headlining tonight by helping out fellow New Jerseyites The Gaslight Anthem on the John Peel stage. It's a nice gesture, but the entire world is hoping they don't feel the need to return the favour.

Glastonbury 2009: View from the sofa - Crosby, Stills & Nash

I'm sure none of them are annoyed that they're on BBC 4 during the evening when Neil got BBC 2 after dark. It's probably just a coincidence that they're doing a Rolling Stones track where Young did a Beatles one.

Although I'm not sure this IS Crosby Stills And Nash. That raincoat with the short arms pushed up, NHS specs and half-assed shave job - isn't this Crosby, Duckworth and Nash?

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet - Michael Jackson

Amongst the acres of coverage of Jacko, there are some things worth reading - The New York Times dealbook on his dealings with Private Equity companies, for example:

A lot of Mr. Jackson’s monetary dealings have been conducted in private. But several of the pivotal moments have been described in media reports over the years.

Driving many of the deals was Mr. Jackson’s increasingly unmanageable debt load — something that private equity firms can probably relate to these days.

A 2006 article in The New York Times said the principal drains on Mr. Jackson’s finances may have been “monumentally unwise investments that apparently produced equally colossal losses” — and, later, the payments to service his debt.

A financial adviser to Mr. Jackson described how he might have frittered away $50 million on things like amusement-park ideas and “bizarre, global kinds of computerized Marvel comic-book characters bigger than life.”

Michael Jackson: Favourite son

As you might have heard, Michael Jackson died earlier this week. And it's not just celebrities rushing to make sure the camera catches them pulling their best sad faces, oh no. Towns and cities are jostling to try and turn a man's death into a major tourist attraction.

Gary, Indiana wants the body:

The mayor of Michael Jackson's childhood hometown says he'd like to see the pop singer buried in Gary, Ind.

Mayor Rudy Clay tells The Associated Press that short of a burial, he hopes Jackson's body can at least lie in repose at City Hall.

Rudolph says he'll push for that but hasn't broached the possibility with Jackson's family.

That's a nice gesture, then? Taking the man back to the place where the child was born, completing the circle of life and honouring... hang about, can you smell hot dogs? And the sound of someone hammering together souvenir stands?
The 73-year-old mayor says he also hopes the community of about 96,000 along Lake Michigan becomes a mecca for Jackson fans, similar to the way Elvis Presley fans flock to Graceland in Memphis, Tenn.

- at least, that's what we think he said; it was kind of hard to hear above the sound of the machine churning out 'Jackson's birthplace' t-shirts.

But you know what? If you really want to show your emotions by spending some money in a place Jackson was connected with, why not go to Orlando?

Yes, Orlando. Orlando, Florida. Of course it makes sense, just ask the Orlando media:
The pop star spent a lot of time at Disney. He was seen at the Magic Kingdom with child actor Mccauley Culkin.

Orlando Sentinel Music Critic Jim Abbott worked as a boat pilot at the theme park in those years. "He was kind of like this weird eccentric uncle who would come into town unexpectedly at different points."

Yes, it's well known that Disney World welcomes weird, older, single men who see themselves as Uncle figures, eccentrically holidaying alone with young boys to whom they are not related. I believe they usually have a couple of such guys printed on the front of the brochure each year.

Other towns are worried that they might lost their status as home to the most famous dead black pop star. Augusta has swung into action to try and shore up its position:
Makeshift Jackson memorial outside James Brown Arena

Hey, no, it's not quite so random - after all, Jackson was at the arena for one of his last public appearances, except for the times he appeared in public in the following three years.

Bob, celebrated

This is something of a rare delight: House Of Teeth, an online repository for all things Bob.

It starts with, but goes much further than, the video for Convenience:

Glastonbury 2009: Unlikely press releases of our time

Never mind the Jackson tributes, this year's Glastonbury is about the inward investment. According to Into Somerset:

One of the big hits at this weekend’s Glastonbury Festival will not only be its headlining acts – but Somerset itself.

Inward investment organisation Into Somerset says that every year, many of the 180,000 festival-goers have such a great time at Glastonbury that they look to move to Somerset permanently.

Interim CEO Rupert Cox says, “The festival is the catalyst for many of Somerset’s creative businesses. Musicians, artists, actors, designers and many more creatives enjoy Glastonbury so much, that they move here to start their own businesses and capture that unique creative spirit every day of the year.

“I have no doubt that many of the crowd cheering The Boss will, in future, be bosses of their own creative businesses in Somerset.”

Yes. They're right. Indeed, I was so impressed the last time I went to Glastonbury with how well people selling dubious-looking cider in old chemical bottles did, I moved to Somerset and invested heavily in apples and plastic containers. Three bloody months I sat in a lay-by, and I didn't have a single sale. And that was in the run-up to Christmas.

BPI admit to mistakes. Ten years ago.

Geoff Taylor, chief executive of the BPI, writes for BBC News Online to mark the 10th anniversary of Napster. It turns out, you know, the music industry screwed it up:

Napster understood the internet's potential for decentralised music distribution, and offered it to consumers in a way that was simple to understand and use.

Many critics have argued that the music industry could have avoided some of the problems it faces today if we had embraced Napster rather than fighting it.

That's probably true, and I, for one, regret that we weren't faster in figuring out how to create a sustainable model for music on the internet.

Why ever did you not, though?
But this view also overlooks the formidable hurdles we faced in 1999.

To make music fully and legally available on the internet meant clearing the rights in millions of tracks for a huge number of countries, agreeing how the revenue should be shared, implementing workable DRM (which everyone considered fundamental at the time), developing technology to track all the downloads for royalty purposes, as well as creating a quality user experience people would pay for.

Shawn Fanning and his P2P followers didn't worry about any of those things, and weren't prepared to pay fair royalties or to partner in a business model that could sustain investment in new music.

This is a bit of a rewriting of history. The idea that in 1999, the major labels were sitting in offices, struggling with how to surmount licensing problems and create a workable model is like one of those US war movies which shows the American army swinging into action in 1939. The first response of the coming of Napster was to just try and make it stop, to go away, to protect CD sales; reluctantly, as the companies burned through piles of cash and only succeeded in making illicit internet services more user-friendly and less-traceable, was to try and create a model which ceded none of the control, and kept prices and profits untouched.

Further on - having churned out much the same "boo-hoo" we've been hearing for ten years of a "if you don't pay thirteen quid for a CD, however will we be able to create the next Saturdays or Pixie Lott" type - there's this bit:
A case in point is the recent blog by The Guardian's Charles Arthur saying "Why does the music industry persist in saying that every download is a lost sale?"

The answer is, quite simply, that we don't - our figures are based on a detailed analysis of actual spending behaviour in different age groups.

Is this an actual line of the day decided at the top table of UK Music?

Because this is what Sharkey said in his Guardian piece:
He points out that these numbers don't stack up - that you can't equate every illegal download with a "lost sale"- and asks why the music industry keeps putting them forward.

Writing as chief executive of UK Music, the umbrella body representing the commercial music industry, the simple answer is: we didn't.

Except, as I said earlier in the week, the music industry has said in court, under oath, that an unlicensed download is equivalent to a lost sale.

You know what, though: it's probably not surprising that the BPI and UK Music try to get away with rewriting history and telling little fibs. Since they've spent the last decade or so not quite grasping what's going on online, it's not surprising they can sit around, dreaming up new ways of presenting what's happened in the past, and completely forgetting that anyone with access to Google and could see through it in a second.

Returning Hole: "First I've heard" says Auf Der Maur

There's been some - not very much, but a little - excitement over the news that Courtney Love's new disappointing album will be released as a disappointing Hole album rather than a disappointing solo one.

Why, it's even going to have Melissa Auf Der Maur on it. What more proof could you need of how Hole-y this Hole album will be?

Oh... hang on a moment, though:

"We have not been in touch too much," Auf der Maur recently told Explore magazine. "We've been in touch this year after 10 years of no contact, I will say that." Though Love remains her "soul sister", Auf der Maur said her contributions to Love's new album are due to the involvement of producer Michael Beinhorn, who also worked on the final Hole record.

"Michael Beinhorn and I had an incredible working relationship on Celebrity Skin," Auf der Maur said. "And he called me and asked me if I would sing on [Courtney's] new solo record – which is what I understood it was. And I said 'Yes' because I enjoy working with him and ... well, she and I have a history of making music together. And I'm happy to visit her again in the future."

But rights to the band name aside, Auf der Maur believes this isn't a Hole project. "I think you can't take a Hole reunion that lightly. It's gonna take a little more organising than just 'I'll come and sing some backups and then we got Hole.'"

Unfortunately, that's probably not going to stop Courtney slapping the name on the record, is it?

Just for fun, you might like to imagine the rambling Courtney MySpace post you'd get if Auf Der Maur had done the same thing in reverse.

Michael Jackson: Remember him?

Readers of yesterday's Guardian Films & Music supplement might have been a little confused. While every TV and radio channel was blaring out opinion-honks stressing that Michael Jackson was the greatest musician ever, and how his loss was stealing us of a brilliant, still-vibrant talent, the newspaper had asked dozens of people who the greatest working musician was, and - despite Jacko having been alive and working when the question was posed - nobody thought to mention him.

It's almost as if Jackson could only be the greatest living artist by, erm, dying.

Glastonbury 2009: The Specials

Dammers-less, perhaps, and more jowly, but here's one to go with those free chlamydia tests they're doing at Glastonbury this year:

[Part of Glastonbury 2009 video]

Glastonbury 2009: Neil Young

The ten-minute cut off on Youube videos appears to have resulted in no complete version of Young's Rocking In The Free World making it online yet, so instead: Neil Young does The Beatles:

[Part of Glastonbury 2009 video]


Glastonbury 2009: Bloc Party

They're not as good as they used to be, you know. Still, Bloc Party managed to pull this out the bag last night:

[Part of Glastonbury 2009 videos]


Glastonbury 2009: Little Boots

I think Little Boots was the winner of the first day of Glastonbury, at least when viewed through a TV screen. Some bits of her performance have turned up on the Tube - although not Meddle, yet, which might only have aired through the red button - so let's all have a look, shall we?

[Buy Hands or download Hands - somehow for the same price, for some reason]

More video from this year's festival across the next couple of days
The Specials - Too Much Too Young
Neil Young - A Day In The Life
Bloc Party - Two More Years

[UPDATE: This year, the policing of copyright claims on YouTube seems to be taking place in real time, so most of the videos are vanishing before long]

It's not me, it's eulogy: Robert Webb

Amongst all the celebrities and gossip fodder trying to use statements about Jackson to help their own profiles, some people did manage to offer tributes that were actual tributes. Robert Webb was one who actually celebrated Jackson's achievements:

There's a generation or two of young men that know that there's nothing effete about dancing. That's down to him and it's not nothing.

Gordon in the morning: Coping with grief?

With Nick Parker and Steve Kennedy taking care of knitting fact from base speculation and stuff they read on the internet, and Rhodori Phillips doing Demerol 101 ("FIND out more about the dangerous cocktail of drugs being linked to Michael Jackson dying"), what's left for Gordon?

Oh, he's making himself busy:

Make him No1 tomorrow

I’M urging all Jacko fans to get on t’internet, or go to a record shop and buy his Off The Wall album.

It would be a fitting tribute for the King of Pop to top the charts tomorrow and I am calling for Bizarre readers’ help.

Given that the media has been reporting that Jackson records have been flying off the shelves for the last 24 hours, this is surely one of the most brazen attempts to take responsibility for something that was happening anyway since Laser 558 ran its "wear something blue to show your support us" campaign. Blue, like jeans, you mean?
Chart insiders tell me he is in with a great shout of a stunning chart double this weekend – and it’s our job to ensure he has as many songs as possible in the top ten singles and album charts.

Why, exactly, is it "our job"? Is buying stuff meant to somehow be a tribute?
Retailer HMV also revealed that fans had been flooding their High Street stores to stock up on CDs.

A spokesman said: “We estimate there has been a twenty-fold increase in demand for his recordings.”

A spokesman? A spokesman? Are you failing to give Gennaro his full credit, young Gordon?

Friday, June 26, 2009

Glastonbury 2009: View from the sofa - BBC 2

Ah, the senior service on BBC 2 gets a full complement of presenters - Radcliffe and Laverne sharing main duties, but throwing to Zane Lowe down in front of The Ting Tings, and Jo Whiley off in the studio.

Jo presents an acoustic performance from Paolo Nutini as if it's some sort of treat, although she does use the phrase "it's the same thing, year after year" so perhaps she was trying to be knowing.

They're currently showing a short film explaining who Neil Young is, rather than showing Neil Young playing live. Is there anyone alive who doesn't know who Young is, who is going to go "oh, if this chap David Crosby says he's worth hearing, maybe I will listen to him?"

Oh. Having spent five minutes of their time talking about Neil Young, Radcliffe is now promising they'll show him "in the next show". After - I kid you not - a Newsnight Michael Jackson special.

Glastonbury 2009: View from the sofa - Ting Tings & Friendly Fires

Edith has now put on a jacket, with a yachting feel to it. It's like she's lost her bags and has had to rely on borrowing stuff from a bunch of Eton schoolboys.

Shouldn't there have been two people presenting this package of programmes? Isn't that an immutable law of Glastonbury coverage? Was Zane Lowe supposed to turn up but was too wrecked by the thought of Michael Jackson's death to go on? Or is this the new, frugal BBC in action - now 50% fewer presenters?

The Ting Tings come on BBC Three, wearing the sort of sunglasses that the makers of Skins give to their cast thinking it makes them look edgy. It seems to be pretty much the same set we were watching last year, so it's off to the red button extra stuff.

Friendly Fires are there, doing a set whose quality cannot quite disguise that Ed is wearing the sort of shirt that Stuart Adamson gave a bad name to.

Glastonbury 2009: View from the sofa - Lady GaGa

If only Corrie had written the Jack and Connie story the way the touching scenes tonight went, instead of as some clumsy explanation for why Connie might have sex with Kevin in the face of all logic, perhaps Weatherfield wouldn't feel like its in such a tailspin right now.

Sorry, that's not BBC Three, is it? Flicking on to the BBC TV coverage for the first time, it's Lady GaGa, with her famous firework bra.

Except on TV, it looks less like she's got pyrotechnic tits, and more like she's strapped a couple of Camping Gaz stoves to her chest. And like camp stoves, although you get the odd spark from them, there's nothing that's going to really get your soup bubbling.

For Poker Face, she removes her apparatus and strips down to flesh-coloured underwear. It might just be me, but knickers the colour of sticking plaster always seem more like support hose than lingerie. Michael Eavis has stopped banging on about trying to bring teenagers back to Worthy Farm, but this sort of adolescent fantasy seems to be perfect for that.

Over, then, to Edith Bowman stood, forlornly, in some glass box hovering in the sky. Edith observes that GaGa's guitarist looked like Jack White and her bassist looked like Kurt Cobain. This is, it seems, "weird" for some reason. Not as weird as Bowman's outfit, which I've been trying to place and can only describe as the sort of thing a British romcom would have the female lead wear for a 'morning after' scene - Hugh Grant's baggy rugby shirt and the boots from the night before.

Rhode Island fire: Co-owner released

According to a local TV channel, Michael Derderian, one of the co-owners of the nightclub where 100 people died in a fire following a Great White show, has been released early from prison.

He was originally expected to be freed in the autumn, but has secured an early release through good behaviour.

[Rhode Island nightclub fire - full coverage]

Glastonbury 1999: Blondie

More pickings from the festival a decade ago, and even a reactivated Blondie is still Blondie:

[Part of Glastonbury 1999]

Glastonbury 2009: Eavis denies own interview

Just before the music news and the proper news collided heavily yesterday evening, 6Music News at 8.30 had a report where Michael Eavis described reports that he was going to retire after 2011 as "rubbish."

Yeah, total rubbish. Where did anyone get such a crazy idea in the first place?

Oh, that's right - it was when Michael Eavis said he was going in 2011 in an interview with The Guardian, who sponsor the festival. Why would anyone trust such a flaky source?

It's not eulogy, it's me: Al Fayed

You have to take your hats off to Jackson - for a man so bloody strange, with Gellar and Al Fayed as occasional chums, he did manage to find a way sometimes to not be the creepiest guy in the room.

Naturally, having played a key role in turning the death of Diana and his son into a freak show, Al Fayed has turned up now to try and out-tack the already tacky responses to the Jackson death:

He said Jackson once asked to have his own statue at the Harrods store in Knightsbridge, central London, which was "one of his favourite places".

"I'm distraught, can't believe that this could happen, it's a total shock. He was such a great character – a legend," said Mr Fayed.

"The news was such a shock, I didn't sleep last night. Some media were saying he was still alive but on the other side they were saying he was dead.

"When I showed him around the store, he liked my statue.

"He said 'can I have one alongside you?' I said 'I don't mind', so now I'm going to have a Michael Jackson memorial here."

Ah yes. A store mannequin. The most appropriate memorial, presumably.

It's not eulogy, it's me: Chris Brown

Presumably hoping he can set the time spent drafting the press release against his court-mandated hours of community service, Chris Brown has been sharing why this is really all about him:

"Michael Jackson is the reason why I do music and why I am an entertainer. I am devastated by this great loss, and I will continue to be humbled and inspired by his legacy.

So Michael is the reason why Brown does music. Presumably the idea for beating the crap out the people you're supposed to cherish came from Michael's dad.

Bob Geldof invites advertisers of unneccessary shit to salve consciences with tiny logo

Bob Geldof and - tonight playing the role of someone who you'd hope would know better - Kofi Annan have flown to Cannes in a bid to try and stop stop climate change by, erm, putting a small logo on their adverts:

In fact, Annan and Geldof want this to be more than a campaign. They want a climate justice movement to be born amid the acres of polished marble and €15 vodka and tonics of the French Riviera and launched an appeal to ad agencies and their clients to place Tck Tck Tck logos on their advertisements. Consumers can then upload their own individual "Tcks" to the campaign website, representing the seconds counting down to Copenhagen and the immediacy of the issue at hand.

I suppose if this was tuts rather than tcks, it might be appropriate - a vague, disapproving but detached noise.

Any similarity between this and Bob's colleague-cum-competitor-for-sainthood Bono's Red campaign, which also somehow tried to make the purchasing of luxury goods seem like a positive act, is entire.

Kofi tries to explain why this is actually going to make a difference and isn't just some tatty greenwash:
"I can't imagine a company that would put a Tck Tck Tck on its ad campaign or website, and continue to operate without [being greener]. Its own staff, its own workers will be reminded what are we doing here."

That's funny. You'd have thought that a half-decade of running an organisation where the least contentious ideas turn into the focus of pointless posturing and sabre-truth tiger-rattling rows would have made Kofi a bit more cynical, or perhaps realistic. But given how oil companies are quite happy to pump cash both into persuading Congress to let them drill in areas of beauty and running ads stressing how green they are, I don't think I can share Annan's hopes.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Jackson's death - A golden opportunity to shift catalogue

The death of Michael Jackson is a thing that has happened somehow connected with music. And you know who knows about things somehow connected with music? Gennaro Castaldo, that's who.

He tries not to sound too chipper that at least something is shifting CDs by the bucketload:

Gennaro Castaldo, head of media relations for the HMV music store chain, said at the entrance of HMV's Oxford Street shop that he believes the gruelling concert tour could be linked to Jackson's death.

He told Canwest News Service that Jackson, who has in years past visited the Oxford Street store with his entourage during off-hours to browse, probably felt overwhelming pressure to pull off a successful comeback.

Castaldo said Jackson CDs and DVD's were flying off shelves in all 270 of the company's United Kingdom outlets, and disappearing from online inventories, throughout the morning. He said younger Londoners who anticipated seeing Jackson are "particularly sad they won't get that chance to see Michael perform."

Ah, yes. How are those young people bearing up? Luckily, Canwest can answer that, too:
Outside a group of teenage girls, who had been interviewed earlier about Jackson's death, squealed with delight when informed their comments had already been broadcast on the morning news. "We're on the tely!" One gleefully shouted to her friends.

But you know what really puzzles the reporter:
But there wasn't even remotely the kind of reaction felt here after the death of Princess Diana.

That could be because the Dianarama-mawkfest was, in itself, inexplicable, and Michael Jackson was a man who was well-known without being well-liked, do you think?

It's not eulogy, it's me: Madonna, Macca and Dammers

When the famous talk of the recently dead, it's normally not about the corpse, but all about them. Madonna's claims this morning that she "can't stop crying" is designed to say nothing about Jackson's life, or his death, and everything about how empathetic Madonna would like us to think that she is.

So, too, is Paul McCartney's statement about Sir Paul, really:

"It's so sad and shocking. I feel privileged to have hung out and worked with Michael. He was a massively talented boy man with a gentle soul. His music will be remembered forever and my memories of our time together will be happy ones.

"I send my deepest sympathy to his mother and the whole family and to his countless fans all around the world"

I worked with him, he was so talented and everything, so naturally I worked with him.

Not sure about the "boy man" bit. Given Jackson's predilections, that sounds a little unfortunate.

Jerry Dammers response is a lot less attention-seeking:
"The thing that sometimes seems to get overlooked about Michael Jackson is what an absolutely phenomenal singer he was. He had one of the greatest gospel shouts of the 20th century, quite possibly the last of it’s kind. The outros of some of his songs especially, such as “Gotta be starting something”, were ecstatic, and, or, full of pain, like the one about the environment, which Jarvis Cocker attacked him for. I like Jarvis, but I personally didn’t really understand the reason for that."

He was a great singer. For a while, anyway. Dammers' focus on the music does him well, until he starts to get on to Earth Song - a song so meaningful, apparently, that he can't even remember the name of it. And Jerry never really understood why Cocker took the piss out of a Brits performance which cast Jackson as a mesiah-figure surrounded by adoring children of all nations? Really? You never understood that, Jerry?

Glastonbury 1999: Merz

Last night, we whizzed back twenty years to enjoy some moments from Glastonbury 1989. Now, depending on how you look at it, we're either going to come forward ten years, or go back ten. To 1999, to pick out some of the highlights of that year to run alongside this year's stuff.

Judging by how YouTube is crammed with Kula Shaker and The Corrs, clearly it was already going downhill by then. But there are some gems - first up, this is Merz:

More across the weekend
Blondie - Heart Of Glass
Manic Street Preachers - My Little Empire

Menu item: The death of Michael Jackson

The items covering the death of the vocalist on Quincy Jones' greatest album:

Monday 29th June
08.30 How did Gordon Smart's chart marching orders work out?

Sunday 28th June
20.25 Tory MP for Mid-Bedfordshire shares her wisdom
21.01 Q sorry for suggesting Jacko wouldn't manage 50 gigs at the O2
20.46 Mail On Sunday humiliates itself with plastication story
11.02 The Sunday papers play catch-up

Saturday 27th June
20.50 Perez Hilton knows it's all a stunt
20.10 The New York Times unpicks his finances
19.50 Towns claim Jacko as one of theirs
10.15 Eulogies: Robert Webb
09.50 Gordon in the morning: Campaign promise

Friday 26th June
19.07 Eulogies: Al Fayed
18.56 Eulogies: Chris Brown
18.30 Gennaro Castaldo: It's terrible, but oh, watch those CDs fly
14.15 Eulogies: Madonna, Macca, Dammers
08.10 Gellar, Ellen on Today
00.10 The Great Gambo on BBC News Channel

Thursday 25th June
23.10 Wikipedians declare Jacko dead
23.34 LA Times confirm the news
23.29 Reuters report his death; cite TMZ
22.10 TMZ report Jackson taken to hospital

Psychobit: Sky Saxon

The world lost a true musical maverick last night, with the death of Sky Saxon.

Saxon was born with the slightly more plain name Richard Marsh at some point around the Second World War - nobody seems quite sure when. After brief spell as a doo-wop singer, Little Richie Marsh, Saxon reinvented himself as lead singer with The Seeds. Saxon was the American bridge between Sergeant Pepper and US punk, turning out three albums at the end of the sixties which more-or-less defined Flower Power.

The Seeds burned brightly, but quickly - their final album wasn't even a proper Seeds album, coming out under the name Sky Saxon Blues Band.

The 1970s saw Saxon getting religion, joined The Source Family, changing his name again to Sunlight and then withdrawing to what's generally assumed to be a life withdrawn from the public in Hawaii. Even so, he still played with a number of local band, most notably YaHoWha 13.

A comeback of sorts came in 1984 when Saxon teamed up with Steppenwolf's Mars Bonfire and members of Iron Butterfly for a record. Saxon did well in the late 80s, with a namecheck on The Pooh Stick's On Tape showing how he'd become something of an indie hero. Work with the likes of Redd Kross followed.

Somewhat surprisingly, his doo-wop work resurfaced in the 90s - his new wife, Marianna DaPello, releasing an album of Little Richie Marsh material alongside a number of bits and pieces from the Seeds archive. It was only ever going to be a matter of time before the Seeds reunited; that happened in 2002. A new album, The Red Planet, followed the initial tours; the band were still a going concern at the time of Saxon's death.

Sky was also still active as a solo artist; his last album, the Clem Burke and Danny B Harvey produced King Of Garage Rock was released in 2008. This was a "back to his roots" type-affair - or, more cruelly, a classics cover album. Saxon had also been working with a new band, Shapes Have Fangs.

His publicist confirmed his death last night, but did not have any further information on the details.

Here's some early Seeds, in Color:

Mini Liveblog: Ellen and Gellar on Today on Michael Jackson

Today has, so far, not gone too bonkers about the death of someone who last made a decent record two decades ago - surprisingly, even the Thought For The Day contributor stuck to their prepared piece on the burkha rather than trying to work up some god-themed observation.

But the 8.10 slot is still going to be about him.

Mark Ellen is there, which makes sense. Uri Gellar, though, is also popping up, using the "close friend" card which he's been dining out well on since the last time he saw the man - sometime back round 2003, apparently.

James Naughtie is working through an obituary package - at least this is one place where you won't expect "King of Pop" to be used as if it was a genuine title rather than a self-awarded marketing slogan.

Naughtie has a bit of 2001 when Jackson tried to blame the lack of sales of Invincible on some sort of racially-inspired under-performance by Sony Records marketing department.

David Hepworth is Tweeting that Today called Thriller a comeback album - "no it wasn't", he says. Although this seems to be a new theme being developed today, that it was a "comeback" from the tailspin induced by puberty, Mr Hepworth is right on this one.

Gellar seems to be leaving a pause before every answer. Perhaps we're meant to imagine he's calling on a satellite phone from 2003.

"I have to face the reality" says Uri, for the first time in his life. "He was here a few times in my house... this very room... He said to me 'Uri Gellar, I'm a very lonely man'."

For a man who supposedly was a close friend, his viewpoint seems strangely like a man who read about him in People magazine.

"He didn't understand" is Gellar's take on the children in bedroom stories - it's funny, everyone keeps saying how clever and shrewd Jacko was, how knowing, and how his public image of being a child and eccentric was just a front for the media. Until they get to the child abuse stories, when all of a sudden they decide he wasn't.

It was, it turns out, the anxiety of having to play 50 dates that did for him, in Uri's opinion.

"I'm not a doctor" concludes Gellar.

Mark Ellen on now, so we'll get a bit more sense. Naughtie lining up one of his overlong questions.

"It's a shame that even today we can't look back through this mire of soap opera and remember his artistic achievements" says Mark, going on to list them. An old-fashioned pop star is his conclusion.

"But he was also Wacko Jacko" says James, helpfully.

"He had no emotional hold on the world at all" says Mark Ellen, but it's hard to see how you could manipulate emotions (which is what marketing is, effectively) if you didn't have any themselves.

I could have done with hearing a bit more Mark, a bit less Uri.

Mark Thompson, amusingly, has been waiting in the wings for his organisation's flagship news show to interview him while the former editor of Smash Hits and a bloke who bends spoons on variety shows takes the plum 8.10 slot.

Downloadable: Care Bears On Fire

There's nothing like a shiny new band to kick off the day. Although Care Bears On Fire aren't that new, really. They're young - almost so young they're probably too young to remember Michael Jackson - but have still somehow managed to be going since 2004 which would suggest they started when they were about four or something.

You might think "oh, they look like they're going to sound like The Donnas" and, while chiding you for doing the book/cover thing, I can't say you'd be entirely wrong. But don't say that like it's a bad thing.

Download Superteen mp3

Befriend them on MySpace

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mini Liveblog: Gambaccini remembers Michael Jackson

BBC News at Midnight puts in a call to The Great Gambo, who points out that he's actually quite in demand right now: "I"m getting calls from news organisations" and confirms that he knows, for a fact, that "this is the number one story in Japan right now."

Gambaccini also confirms that he once met Jackson's llamas - presumably while someone in the gantry was wishing they'd got the llama on the line instead - and recalls having had a conversation with "the late John Peel" about what a great showman Jackson was. Even if you didn't like his music, apparently you couldn't deny his showmanship.

"He was probably as clever as a fox" is Gambo's final judgement, having skated over all the unpleasantness by simply dismissing his personal life as "odd".

Now they've got a live link-up with people at Glastonbury who are hoping that it won't spoil the festival for them - "I hope it won't overshadow the great bands we've got on this year."

How the news was broken

From the revisions page of Wikipedia:

(cur) (prev) 22:49, 25 June 2009 TexasAndroid (talk | contribs) m (119,637 bytes) (Removed category Living people (using HotCat))

One day, being removed from the Living People category will replace a death certificate, won't it?

Meanwhile, Darryl1974 on Twitter pointed out how a "Michael Jackson's died" rumour is an annual staple at Glastonbury raising the possibility that someone was still starting the rumour just as it was coming true.

Breaking News: LA Times reporting Michael Jackson dead

Breaking News: Reuters reporting Jackson has died

But - when the page eventually loads in - it's only source is a report on TMZ.

Breaking News: Jacko hospitalised - TMZ

TMZ is reporting that Michael Jackson has been hospitalised with what the scuttlers are claiming is a heart attack.

Glastonbury 1989: All About Eve

Concluding - very, very swiftly - a trip to Pilton twenty years ago, All About Eve turn in a performance of In The Clouds.

[Get the All About Eve back catalogue]

[Also: Throwing Muses]

Glastonbury 1989: Throwing Muses

There's not much of Glastonbury 1989 floating around online, so this will be a fairly brief section.

First, here's Throwing Muses doing Mania:

[Download: Hunkpapa]

Glastonbury 2009: Boom!

Schadenfreude has started a day early at Glastonbury - or rather, not at Glastonbury - as thunder storms are ravaging the site.

Robbie Williams is not to blame for this extraordinary coincidence

The key detail in the coverage of the story of the photographers who had their entire kit pinched just hours after photographing Robbie Williams is the way the press describe exactly what the photograph was of.

The Times:

The photographs showed Mr Williams smoking a large hand-rolled cigarette.

The Telegraph:
[T]hey captured images of Williams smoking a large roll-up cigarette.

The BBC declines to comment on the photos themselves.

The Sun:
The cops want to see if Robbie, 35, can help them discover if there is any link between the raid and photos taken of the star smoking a large roll-up cigarette in the Bahamas.

But, of course, The Sun fears its readers might be missing the point, so offers another gentle nudge:
He left [rehab] the following month and since then has been "clean".

Good lord. It's not like the photos showed him with a crack pipe, is it?

Journobit: Steven Wells

Steven Wells, what are you, Steven Wells?

There is, of course, a story about Steven Wells, whose death was reported earlier today. The punk-turned-poet-turned-NME-journalist-turned-TV-turned-Phildelphia-Weekly-writer story is a great one, admittedly. With a rotten, stinking, too-soon ending.

But if you read his stuff, if it was during his period on the NME that the paper meant the most to you, you'll have memories. The first time my scrawny little name ever graced the inky inside of the NME it was a letter sent to Angst defending something Swells had written about Sellafield, in response to a harping letter from Cumbria the previous week. (Yes, it was that era of the NME.) Not that Wells needed the support from me - he could take care of himself; the weeks when he took the editor's chair for the letters page were always the best Wednesday night tea-time reads: all screeching sound-effects and all the letters complaining about Morrissey cut into one long, dribbling drool, neatly dispatched at the end with a sharp put-down.

There was the frankly bizarre time Mark E Smith started honking that everyone knew Swells and Quantick were doing it to each other, gleefully detailed in the paper. There were singles reviews which, if Feargal Sharkey really thinks Charles Arthur's description of albums is beautiful, would have made the head of UK Music sob bitter tears. There was little time for the Smiths, less for Chapterhouse, and none whatsoever for The Levellers.

Admittedly, many of these targets were still exercising him as recently as this year, and in much the same terms as he was writing about them back in the early 1990s, but presumably his life in the US made it hard for him to update his British music bile in quite the same way.

I think, more-or-less, I can still do a Seething Wells poem from memory:

I'd die for my country said a patriotic dickhead
Well, go ahead, die, you make me sick
Slice your wrists and slash the statistics
The number unemployed fell today
Fifteen thousand bled away
So we stripped them cold naked
And shaved their heads
Stopped the thrashing of severed nerve endings
By boiling the buggers in sterilized lead
Laid them out in cold, grey ranks
Introducing the human sandbag
A small donation to the nation's maintainence
A YOPS scheme to absorb radiation
This depression won't fade away
It'll trickle away down blood-clotted drains
One way or another

Well, he was never going to be writing Hallmark card verse, was he?

Wells was 49.

Amongst the tributes:
James McMahon in the NME:
I’ve been a fucking disgrace. I’m thoroughly ashamed of myself; the sheer weight of articulating what his words meant to me, let alone at least two generations of NME readers, has almost ruined me. I’ve made cups of tea, I’ve smoked cigarettes, I’ve been for an obscenely long lunch. I’ve done anything I could do to avoid writing something on page. Even in death, the unique talent, spirit and flair of Steven Wells has left me questioning everything I’ve ever believed. Articulating the life and times of a character as big as Steven Wells is a job for a big man and I can’t help questioning whether I’ve got the girth for the job.

Former NME colleague James Brown writing for the Guardian:
Swells had helped me start my fanzine and given me my first NME review to do. He also helped open the door for my staff job there as a 21-year-old. I repaid him by bringing in a generation of fanatical music obsessives and great writers like Steve Lamacq, Bob Stanley, Stuart Maconie and Barbara Ellen and giving them all the work. He welcomed the revolution but not the smaller pay cheques. As an NME writer, he was obsessed with class war, masturbation, dogs, cancer, Jello Biafra and the multiple use of the exclamation mark. His work was littered with it. Almost creating his own language. '(SUBS LEAVE THESE LAST THREE SENTENCES IN)' was a regular sentence in his copy.

Aside from the surreal comedy column he co-wrote with David Quantick, Swells was increasingly marginalised in a more-music, less–politics NME until he took up the offer of interviewing Phil Collins. Asking questions no one else would dare to, the end result was brilliantly funny and he realised that if he delivered a great interview it would piss the rest of the staff off, which seemed to be his main purpose in life.

I think he'd have been amused by the reaction of Wikipedians, recorded by Sarah Bee in The Register:
Say what you like about Wikipedia, you can't accuse it of lacking tact. Within 48 hours of the untimely death of music journalist Steven Wells, his entry has been summarily marked for deletion on the grounds that he isn't famous enough.

The Quietus, for which Wells was writing, had a nice headline:
Swells Dies. Caps Lock Buttons Sigh In Relief

He was also writing for The Guardian - both the sports section and for the music part online. Tim Jonze:

When I started editing a year ago, it was a privilege to have him writing for us. We were all agreed that he was the master of bashing out killer blogs: keep it simple, keep it funny, drive half the readers into a frenzy of rage. My personal favourite in recent months was this Guitar Hero blog, in which he argued that all guitars should be destroyed (they take ages to learn, they hurt your fingers etc) and replaced with simple, piece-of-piss "button guitars". When I told him that the piece was getting a lot of our readers worked up, his response was classic Swells: "Tim … never underestimate the stupidity of guitarists."

We'll really miss him.

His co-conspirator David Quantick, in a Twitter two parter:
One more Swells memory - after a news story about a small boy who'd had his arm ripped off by chimps after he'd climbed into their cage...
Steven loped round the office waving an imaginary arm over his head, shouting OO OO MISTER SHIFTER!!!

The last word goes, of course, to Swells. The sort-of final line from his final Philadelphia Weekly column:
This blog entry has no last paragraph. Scroll to the top and repeat.

RIP: Steven Wells

Just heard that one of the great music writers, Steven Wells, has died.

[Updated: Fixed link - thanks to Alan C for pointing out the mistake]

Darkness at 3AM: Going Dutch

Really, 3AM?

We're all for equality but we were shocked when Noel Gallagher left his missus Sarah to pay for a cab.

They''d nipped into a West London pub but as Noel ran in gasping for a pint, she was left fumbling in her purse.

It's two thousand and... nine. Is a woman paying for the cab really such a surprising site?

Perez Hilton is a sorry, sorry man

Let us, for a moment, gaze into the black heart of Perez Hilton's soul, as he writes an apology for calling Will I Am a faggot.

Apparently aware that nobody believes a word he says, Hilton spends most of his apology stressing about how he really is apologising, no really, and it's all his idea:

"People make mistakes," he writes. "I have made many in my life, but this past week I have made more than I can count on one hand. I am sorry. And I mean it. No one is forcing me to write this. I am not feeling pressured to say this. I am speaking out because I realize that the last few days have been more hurtful to me - and many others - than the repeated blows I suffered to my head in Toronto this past weekend."

Perhaps, if you're really sorry, you might want to stop going on about how you got hit in the head. Because "I'm sorry, did I mention that I got punched?" seems a little less than genuine.
"I am NOT apologizing to GLAAD," Perez writes. "I could care less about them, my former employers. I am apologizing to the gay community, to anyone who was hurt by my choice of words, and to all the people who have ever emailed me to thank me for all that I have done to fight for gay rights over the last few years."

And that... that seems less to be an apology, more an attempt to try and project yourself as some sort of gay rights crusader, rather than a bloke who - when he thinks nobody is listening - hurls the word "faggot" round like an insult.

It might be easier to believe that Hilton is actually ashamed and sorry had he apologised before TMZ ran the video showing what he did to prompt the attack on him, rather than after.

It might be easier to believe if he didn't keep trying to change the subject to try and make himself the victim:
I am sorry that any good work I have done for promoting equality may be tainted by me reclaiming a hurtful word - that's been personally used against me and the gay community - to hurt someone that was verbally attacking me. It was stupid.

And you know who really needs to take a good hard look at themselves? Erm... everyone else, it turns out:
The "F" word will never be uttered from my lips again. Just as others use the "N" word to insult and hurt - or as part of their everyday speech - I challenge them to remove it from their vocabulary as well.

It's not that you said it, is it? It's that you thought it.

Still. The important thing is he's said sorry, and taken the chance to remind people - did he mention it? - that he got hitted:
Violence is never the answer. Never.

Victims should not be mocked.

To be fair, Perez, I think most of the world was laughing at your reaction - reaching for Twitter - rather than the whole being punched thing.

Pez doesn't want the world incorrectly labelling him homophobic. It's terrible, to do that to someone you know. Oh... hang on a moment... uh-oh, though: haven't you done that in the past?
I have reached out to Isaiah Washington, someone I incorrectly labeled a homophobe in the past, despite his own public statements that he was not.

Oh, well. That's alright, then.

By the way... did Perez Hilton mention what a great lot of good work he does for the gays?
I will be donating any money collected from my lawsuit against Polo Molina, road manager for the Black Eyed Peas, to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

And I will continue to speak out for equality and support the great work done by LGBT organizations, such as LAMBDA Legal and HRC.

Perez: don't you think everyone might be a little bit better off if you stop speaking out? Maybe just for a little while?

Gordon in the morning: Say it with Winehouse

Something of an open goal for Gordon this morning, as EMI announce plans for Amy Winehouse branded greetings cards and accessories.

Gordon has, naturally, had his team mock-up how one of these cards might look - which is rubbish - but his "source" is actually quite amusing:

A source said: “The bosses at EMI are keen to keep the cash cow churning out the readies.

“The first item in the Winehouse range will be wrapping paper with the chorus of Rehab emblazoned all over it.

“The Amy-branded cards are classy too. You Know I’m No Good is best for heartfelt apologies and Back To Black, with an appropriate wreath, will be the respectful response to a bereavement.”

If only it wasn't a source, you might be applauding Smart for having written something funny. But Gordon would never put his own words in the mouth of a non-existent source, would he? That would be pretty poor journalistic practice.

Thing is, the genuine quote is even more hilarious:
Jonathan Channon, EMI Music Publishing Europe vice president, said: “We are looking to create innovative revenue streams from our songs with mainstream retailers and the Amy wrapping paper and gift cards received a very positive response. These are songs which already have a great resonance with the public.”

Ah, yes, EMI - the songs have a great resonance with the public. They mean something to the people who cherish those songs. Let's see if we can chisel a few more murky quid out of people by ignoring that resonance and putting them on a sheet of giftwrap to go round a bottle of wine.

Elsewhere, a long-lens snap of Daniel Craig with a hood on prompts a comparison with Emperor Palpatine:
The Emperor famously told Luke Skywalker: “Your feeble skills are no match for the power of the Dark Side.”

Dan would say: “The name’s Palpatine, Emperor Palpatine” . . then shoot him.

Bizarre is being guest-edited by Alan Partridge.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Glastonbury 2009: BBC Weather at 10.35 ends on an ominous note

"If you're in Glastonbury, I'm sure you've taken wellingtons... haven't you?"

GEMA slaps Rapidshare

Germany's version of the RIAA has succeeded in getting a court to fine Rapidshare for alleged offences against copyright. [Google translated version of the page]

The detail seems to be based on 5,000 tracks which - apparently - someone had been using Rapidshare to, erm, share rapidly; the onus, says the court, is on the file-sharing service to make sure that it isn't hosting unlicensed music. There's a €24million fine, as well.

Bad news for Rapidshare, good news for GEMA. Although, perhaps, not as good as they seem to think:

Dr. Harald Heker, Chief Executive Officer of GEMA: "The decision of the regional court in Hamburg is a milestone in the fight against the illegal use of musical works on the Internet. GEMA will continue to protect its members from online piracy. We are confident in this way to be able to achieve the reduction of illegal use of the GEMA repertoire on the Internet to a negligible level. "

Really? You think that closing down one of the dozens and dozens of file-sharing services is going to be that significant?

Maybe they're thinking that they can spend some of those €24million on carrying on the fight. Just as soon as the leprechaun delivers them.

Feargal Sharkey counterblasts

Charles Arthur's piece in the Guardian a couple of weeks ago has sent Feargal Sharkey off to the study, to don his UK Music hat and fight back:

Charles Arthur, the Guardian's technology editor, says: "We saw the release last week of some 'research' that said 7 million people 'use' illegal downloads in the UK, 'costing the economy billions of pounds and thousands of jobs'" (Filesharing isn't music's biggest foe, 11 June). He points out that these numbers don't stack up - that you can't equate every illegal download with a "lost sale"- and asks why the music industry keeps putting them forward.

It's a fair question. So why do the music industry keep putting them forward, Feargal?
Writing as chief executive of UK Music, the umbrella body representing the commercial music industry, the simple answer is: we didn't.

Strictly speaking, this is true - UK Music, specifically, hadn't said it the other week. But this is a standard stand-by for the music industry for years. But let's just concentrate on this one example. Do carry on, Feargal:
The report referenced came from the Strategic Advisory Board for Intellectual Property (Sabip) - an advisory board to the Intellectual Property Office.

Well, yes, it did. And where did they get that figure from, Feargal? Ben Goldacre, you'll recall, tracked it down:
I hunted down the full Ciber documents, found the references section, and followed the web link, which led to a 2004 press release from a private legal firm called Rouse who specialise in intellectual property law. This press release was not about the £10bn figure. It was, in fact, a one-page document, which simply welcomed the government setting up an intellectual property theft strategy. In a short section headed "background", among five other points, it says: "Rights owners have estimated that last year alone counterfeiting and piracy cost the UK economy £10bn and 4,000 jobs." An industry estimate, as an aside, in a press release. Genius.

That this was a figure cooked up by the creative industries, Feargal seems to believe, proves his point, rather than blows it out the water:
This was not focused solely on music, but on digital consumption across Britain's creative economy.

Ha! You see, music doesn't say that illegal downloads are lost sales, because it's said by a whole group of people making money out of intellectual copyright. That's completely different.

So if a gang of us got together and chanted "Feargal, you've lost it", none of us would actually be saying it, because we all would.

But even if you accept that - and, frankly, you'd probably be advised to keep away from knives and driving if you do - there is still the difficulty that people believe the music industry keeps claiming an unlicensed download is equal to a lost sale because, erm, the music industry has said so. Under oath:
However, the RIAA and Lionsgate Entertainment had both submitted requests for restitution—they had argued that each individual copy of content downloaded through Elite Torrents was the equivalent of a lost sale. For example, the RIAA said that 183 albums were transferred through Dove's server 17,281 times, then multiplied that by the wholesale price of a digital album in 2005 ($7.22) to conclude that its member companies were owed almost $124,769 in restitution, or $47,000 if Dove agreed to be part of an RIAA "public service announcement" about piracy. Similarly, Lionsgate said that it owned copyrights to 28 of the 700 or so movies that Dove served up—Lionsgate argued that Dove caused the movie industry to lose some $22 million, and since Lionsgate owned copyrights to about 4 percent of the available movies, it was owed $880,000.

Surely Feargal knows about this sort of claim? Would he be the right person to be chief executive of a musical umbrella if he didn't? But if he does, why would he try and pretend that it isn't at the heart of one of the key claims many of those sheltering under that umbrella?

Sharkey runs through Arthur's stance that music is losing out not to piracy, but to people spending their money in other places. And then:
Of course music faces intense competition for wallet share from games, movies and a host of others. It's a fact of digital life that the switch from physical to online purchasing results in revenue displacement - something most newspaper proprietors would acknowledge.

The music business is embracing these challenges. Music has never been so accessible or affordable. The UK has more licensed digital music services than any country in Europe. Fans can download MP3s for as little as £0.29, or use streaming services like Spotify or We7 for free. Universal Music recently announced plans for the world's first unlimited download subscription service.

Erm... wasn't Nokia's Comes With Music the first unlimited download subscription service? No matter.

If you were coming new to this story, you might be impressed to hear that the music industry has been go-ahead, embracing digital distribution and cutting their prices to reflect the new realities. You might be surprised - "why", you might say, "I would have assumed that the music companies would have reacted with paranoid petulance, dragging their feet slowly to develop digital services, and even when reluctantly doing so, trying to keep prices artificially high in the hopes of making the same revenue for a digital product as they used to for an item which required manufacture, storage and distribution. I may even have assumed the price would have been set low - against the labels' will - by public realisation that the supply of digital music was now virtually infinite and that the price should tend towards zero."

Having slapped the music industry on the back - the back they've been so long staring wistfully over - Sharkey then wags his fingers:
However, to deny that a totally free, unregulated peer-to peer ecosystem - which redirects revenues from UK creators, artists and entrepreneurs towards Pirate Bay and other unlicensed businesses - has a negative impact on jobs is illogical.

Well, no it isn't, Sharkey. In fact, it flows perfectly logically from Charles Arthur's belief that filesharing isn't having much, if any, impact on sales. If it isn't affecting sales, it can't be affecting jobs. You might dispute Arthur's central contention, but that doesn't undermine the logic.

For my part, I'm not quite sure how a system can be "totally free" and have its revenue redirected. That seems to be a bit illogical.
Arthur concludes that such a correlation is "idiotic". "The music industry's deadliest enemy isn't filesharing - it's the likes of Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony, and a zillion games publishers", all of whom persuade consumers to spend £40 on a game as opposed to a "CD for £10 containing two good tracks and eight somewhat less inspiring efforts".

Yes, yes he does.

To most readers, what Arthur was saying was that, frankly, most albums aren't really all that good and crowded with filler. Given the way the music industry mutters about individual downloads, instead of album-sized packages, you might assume that this was uncontentious - most labels know that, given the chance to choose, most consumers wouldn't bother with many tracks off an album because they're only interested in one or two tracks.

Feargal, though, isn't having any of it:
Such stereotypes do his argument no favours. The UK leads the world in terms of musical diversity and creativity. British artists and the UK's music business are innovating and experimenting. We want to work with music fans and have them use legal, licensed services.

Stereotypes? Good god, is Feargal suggesting that saying many Top 40 albums aren't entirely chock-full of value is stereotyping, like racism or sexism? Will the next deputy mayor Boris loses be canned when he's overheard saying that the new Kasabian one could lose four or five tracks without anybody being too upset?

You'll also notice that his little outraged flounce allows Sharkey to completely ignore Arthur's point that most albums aren't as attractive a purchase when compared to the value given by a computer game. He's so busy crying "people who make albums are creatively creative" that he somehow neglects to pick that one up.
We are not alone in this dilemma. Every copyright-based business has been affected by online distribution and online power-shifts. Music was the first; we are moving forward, but none of us have a monopoly on the challenges, opportunities or solutions.

Indeed, Sharkey actually doesn't really seem interested in talking about that charge - that the record industry is a victim of its own ropey products, instead using the column to talk about how hard it all is, and how hard the industry is working. And no wonder - given the amount of special new rules the private companies that control mainstream music are seeking from government, they're not going to want to enter into the fundamental question of if they're any good for music.

Liam Gallagher to pretend to be a pop star

I suspect it was always going to happen that Kevin Sampson's Powder would be turned into a movie. I'm not sure anyone would have put money on it featuring Guru Josh and Liam Gallagher.

But apparently that's the plan:

The DJ's website said: "Producer-author Kevin Sampson has asked Guru Josh to play in the movie of his bestselling novel Powder. Guru Josh will act as himself alongside co-star Liam Gallagher."

The entry continued: "Is the world ready for Liam Gallagher and Guru Josh together on the silver screen?"

This seems to have been picked up from the Sun and spread around the world, although there isn't actually any such post anywhere obvious on Guru Josh's site. There is this:
June 17th 2009: Guru Josh has signed to appear in what will be next years most talked about movie,at present details are hush hush as the final details are put to bed.Dont forget to check the NEWS for more details real soon!

However, if you check the current Google Cache version of the Josh's page, the story is there. Never mind if the world is ready for the pair of them on the screen - was the internet ready for the announcement, Josh?

The exciting thing about this project is Sampson's book was based on his time managing The Farm, offering the prospect that Liam Gallagher's big screen debut might be playing, effectively, Peter Hooton.

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet - God Help The Girl

Stuart Murdoch on the joys of making a concept album:

It's funny to me that however nice your record label is, however well you get on with them, you are still usually engaged in two different campaigns. I guess each side tells themselves that they are getting what they want, while pushing in entirely different directions.

Jay Bennett: Accidental overdose

The Illinois coroner has issued his report into the death of Jay Bennett, blaming an overdose of Fentanyl. The death is being treated as accidental.

Breaking news: Conor McNicholas leaves NME for Top Gear

Conor McNicholas, who has been at NME for what feels like a country age, is leaving - he's moving to the BBC Worldwide magazine division, where he's going to take control of Top Gear magazine. It's unlikely Andrew WK will get a double cover there.

No word on who might step up to edit the NME.

Britney Spears takes a rest break

Sky News: Is woman uses a toilet really a news story? Even if it's Britney Spears, and it's a public toilet?

The singer was caught short (numbers one or two, we are not clear on) while out and about in Calabasas, California.

The worry is that they probably have got Adam Boulton trying to clarify if passers-by heard a splish or a splosh.

Sky's attempts to try and find a news angle results in this bizarre sentence:
Britney Spears has still not learnt to tap into her bladder.

Eh? What does that even mean? Are they suggesting that she should be using a catheter?

Irish ISPs face legal action from majors

With Eircom having folded and told the big record labels that it would do whatever they asked of it, if you're looking for an ISP in Ireland and want one which puts your privacy ahead of the interests of international companies, you've still got a choice.

For now. Because the lawyer-happy music industry is now dragging BT Ireland and UPC to court to try and force them to introduce a 'three strikes' rule. To be fair, the majors have no choice but to behave in this manner, as part of their agreement with Eircom was that they'd try to ensure their competitors also had a three strikes rule so as not to put them at a competitive disadvantage.

Funny that, isn't it? The record companies try to tell us that three strikes is in everyone's interests, and that most people would welcome this sort of rule, and yet Eircom clearly feel that being the only company with three strikes on the book would cause customers to shun it to a worrying degree.

IRMA - which is the RIAA pretending to be interested in Ireland - are pressing ahead despite increasing evidence that throwing people off the internet is going to fall foul of European human rights legislation. It's not often I feel sorry for BT, but having to go to court to try and argue why it doesn't really want to find itself in court in Strasbourg seems a little unfair.

Gordon in the morning: Wiltshire, Manhattan

If you can believe a word of what appears in Bizarre...

Well, let's just pretend we can, shall we?

Madonna is supposedly trying to recreate her Wiltshire mansion in New York. Perhaps she's reaching the age where it's just going to make it easier to find the toilet in the night if it's in the same layout.

Let's hope the architects charged with creating a clone of the mansion don't try to get a look at the original, what with how Madonna had people's rights to cross her land removed on the grounds that she was Madonna.

Meanwhile, Sara Nathan files a report that the Kidscape charity has nothing better to do than issue press releases about Jordan calling Peter Andre a cunt on Twitter:

Kidscape director Claude Knights said: "Celebrities have a responsibility not to negatively influence young people. Teenagers have a huge presence on Twitter and young girls model themselves on female idols."

Well, yes, but if Kidscape think this is the sort of thing it should be spending its time and money doing, wouldn't it be better off trying to campaign against the idea that a woman who has made her money showing her tits to people is a brilliant role model in the first place?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Bruce Springsteen: Man of the people

Springsteen, of course, has made his career out of his blue collar, man-of-the-people image. It's been picked at in the past - older readers will recall the NME's story about how he treated his staff and his canoe - but who would have thought Bruce would withhold the good tickets from the ordinary folk of New Jersey?

But an examination of ticket sale data from the May 21 concert shows Springsteen himself may be part of the problem. The best seats in the house that night were the 1,126 seats in the four sections closest to the stage, but only 108 of those tickets were ever for sale to the public, according to new ticket data obtained through the Open Public Records Act.

It's not only shitty to keep all the good seats for your chums, but it's actually against New Jersey law to keep back more than 5%.

This gig was the one where Ticketmaster had problems with their computers when the tickets went on sale.

Springsteen's manager Jon Landau has responded that this new story about Springsteen keeping tickets back is little more than Ticketmaster trying to shift back blame for that failure, somehow:
Yes, we do hold significant numbers of tickets when we play New Jersey, New York and Los Angeles, as does every arena headliner. These holds are used by Bruce, his band members, and longtime members of his extended organization, their families and close relations; by the record label for their staff, for reviewers, and for radio stations; by charities who are provided with tickets for fund raising purposes, such as special auctions; for service people who help us on a year-round basis; and for other similar purposes. Unlike some Ticketmaster managed artists, no tickets are held for high dollar resale on TicketsNow, or through any other means.

Where are the Bruce holds? The 2,000 to 3,500 tickets closest to the stage are on the floor and more than 95% of them go to the public, making the basic premise of the Star Ledger headline inaccurate. Secondly, with regard to seats held in the best sections on either side, we always blend guest seats with fan seats so that there are never any sections consisting entirely of guest seats.

In addition, it is well known that we sometimes release a significant number of excellent tickets on the day of the show at the box office, which can only be bought with direct entrance to the venue. It's known as the "drop." Many think that is done on purpose to help combat the scalpers who prey on fans at the last minute. That is a good thought.

I'm sure Landau hasn't deliberately written the piece to sound as opaque as possible, but it doesn't really explain exactly what number of ticket holds there are: is it 5% of the 2,000 to 3,500? Or are all of those holds, but 95% find their way through promotions of some sort to the "public"?

And isn't the question of if guests sit in a single block, or with some paying punters between them, something of a red herring when the question is over numbers?

Most irritatingly, what's that last two sentences about? If you're doing it to beat the scalpers, then say so. If you're not, don't try an "aaah!" to make people think that you are.

Perhaps it's not Landau's fault that his riposte is written in such a way as to obscure the facts. But the allegations against him in the New Jersey Star-Ledger are simple to follow; you would have thought that it would equally simple to disprove them.

RIAA confuse jury with focus group

To be fair, the RIAA have so far avoided indulging in mindless triumphalism over the results of the Jammie Thomas case - mainly, I suspect, because the stupid sum in damages is so indefensible, anyone looking at it for very long would see whatever the legal rights, there's something morally out-of-whack there.

However, Joshua Friedlander can't resist, and has written a think-piece for the RIAA blog. He starts by rambling about how many focus groups the RIAA hold to try and work out what people want:

Last week we got a chance to listen to one of these groups outside the usual circumstances. It wasn’t a research project, and it wasn’t by sitting behind a two-way mirror. This group of 12 industry outsiders likely hadn’t engaged in debates about long-tail sales theories, the effectiveness of DRM schemes, or consumption patterns of digital media when marginal costs approach zero. Which isn’t to say they were disengaged – most of them had mp3 players, and at least some knew what peer-to-peer software was. But overall, they were probably a good cross section of ‘real world’ music listeners.

We’re speaking, of course, of the 12-person jury in Minneapolis who rendered a decision in the case involving Ms. Jammie Thomas-Rasset ( This group of 12 Minnesotans showed us that, despite the protestations of some pundits who suggest that the digital world should resemble some kind of new wild west, the majority understands and believes that the same laws and rules we follow every day apply online. Not just in theory, but in practice. Another group of 12 people presented with similar questions said the same thing two years ago. That makes a sample size of only 24, but it’s certainly enough to learn from.

But hang on a moment, Joshua - this wasn't a focus group, and they weren't being asked their opinion. They were a jury - and part of being on a jury is that you are expected to set aside your beliefs about the legislation and approach it as a law.

You can approach this as some sort of focus group, but all it really tells you is that 12 people believed that Thomas had done what she was accused of; not that they believe copyright law is correct. In fact, as you state yourself, Joshua, these are people who haven't followed the debate, who aren't engaged with the questions - so if it was a focus group on copyright law, they were pretty poorly placed to offer a considered opinion.

Some good Real Estate news

The original Sunny Day Real Estate, rather than the 1997 half-assed model, have gotten back together.

Downloadable: The Mars Volta

As a sample taste of the new Mars Volta album Octahedron, Amazon are currently hosting a free download of Cotopaxi as an mp3.

Perhaps Perez brought it on himself

While Perez Hilton might have had the Twitter exclusive on him being beaten up by the soft hands of the Black Eyed Peas, TMZ has the video. Which makes Hilton look a little less of a victim and more of... I believe the phrase is "a total douchebag":

With a crowd surrounding Perez, Will and Will's manager, Polo -- the guys argue back and forth for about a minute, until Perez tells Will, "you're not a fucking artist ... you're a fucking faggot."

This, of course, is the same Perez Hilton who set the world on Miss California for her less-than-open-minded attitudes towards homosexuality, tossing the word "faggot" round like it's an insult. Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Violence is never the answer. But you can see why it might have seemed like it.

[Thanks again to Michael M]

War says: Frankie! Hide yourself

You'd have to suspect that when Frankie Goes To Hollywood say they're thinking about doing a comeback on the back of the Virgin Atlantic advert, this was a reunion in search of an excuse.

Chris Brown plea-bargains his ass out of jail

So, it's six months community service and five years' probation for Chris Brown, following a plea-bargain deal.

Judge Patricia Schnegg told him: "I think it's commendable that you took responsibility for your conduct, sir."

Although, surely, that he only did this after a couple of months of trying to find a way to weasel out of responsibility by trying to shift the focus to the LAPD is a little less commendable?

As part of the ruling, Brown and Rihanna have to keep fifty yards apart from each other:
except at entertainment industry events when the distance is reduced to 10 yards.

Thank god the US courts are prepared to show the organisers of the MTV Video Awards a little flexibility with their seating plans.

This apparent faith in the power of the goody bag to regulate Brown's behaviour is only slightly tarnished by the assault having taken place on the eve of the Grammys.

Gordon in the morning: Eating kidneys with relish

All those people hoping for an Atomic Kitten reunion (or "Kerry Katona and her dependents" as they're known) will find Gordon Smart's pages grim reading this morning:

The former ATOMIC KITTEN star [Jenny Frost] reckons she would rather "eat her own kidney" than reform the girl group with original member KERRY KATONA.

Nadia Mendoza knows this because, erm, she read it in Closer.

Quite why a reunion would feature both Frost and Katona, though, who weren't in the band at the same time, isn't explained.

Also, it would be handy to know if Frost meant she'd rip out her own kidney, with her bare hands, before eating it; or if she'd have it removed painlessly and professionally before being served to her. Perhaps the confusion on that point is why Gordon hasn't had his "boffins" create a photoshop image of this event.

In other news: Gordon's obsession with Bruno reminds me of the way three year-olds get fixated on Ice Age.

Someone still loves you, DAB

It's hard to find someone with a kind word to say about DAB these days. And even if you do find a kind word, it will be of the "it was a great idea but one whose time has come and gone".

But not Tony Moretta. Oh, no: He takes to the Guardian blogs to argue that DAB has a future. That it is the future.

Of course, his fervent belief in the format is most easily explained by the final line of his piece:

Tony Moretta is chief executive of the Digital Radio Development Bureau

His argument is achingly familiar, pointing out that there are DAB radios in one in three households in the country, while not mentioning the fact that most - probably at least one in ten - radios in the UK aren't.

Moretta points to the success of digital TV as a sign of hope:
And finally, as food for thought, it is six years until the end of 2015 – almost the same as since the launch of Freeview, when there were only about 600,000 households with digital terrestrial television. Now there are almost 18m. A powerful example of what a broadcast industry can achieve through co-operation, innovation and hard work.

But it isn't the same thing, is it, Tony? Digital TV offered a range of extra services; currently, DAB extends your choice very, very narrowly. Old TV sets can be adapted to take a digital signal; most radio sets can't. Households may have two or three TV sets; some households could have more than half a dozen radios.

And that spread of Freeview boxes? Don't forget that those aren't just an example of what the broadcasting industry can do; it was also a way of distributing an alternative method of broadcasting digital radio programmes. By your own figures, there are just nine million DAB sets in the UK; dwarfed by the number of people who can get the same stations on just one of the digital TV formats.

So why is Tony so chipper? He points to the plans:
1. Improved coverage and reception: We will roll out DAB coverage to match FM, through new transmitters and signal strength increases.

You haven't even finished building the initial network yet. We're still waiting for the regional multiplex in Beds, Herts & Bucks to appear; the licence to build it was awarded two years ago. I say "waiting", but there's no baiting of breath on it.
2. Improved, co-ordinated marketing: Last Christmas saw the first joint campaign across the BBC and commercial radio. We are developing this approach still further with the manufacturers and retailers, to more clearly brand digital radios and sell the benefits to consumers.

DAB radios have been on sale in the UK for a decade. If people aren't buying them, it may very well not be an "education" problem.
3. New and improved content: DAB already offers much more choice than analogue, with strong services from the BBC and commercial radio, and this will only increase as the economy improves and the increased take-up of digital improves the business case for digital-only stations.

Although it offers less choice, much less choice, than signals broadcast alongside TV, and a world less than IP radio. So if you're going to go to the trouble and expense of upgrading, what would you go with?
4. Cheaper DAB radios: Already under £30, within 12 to 18 months they will be £20 or even £15. At that price the benefits of DAB will appeal to millions more consumers.

That's the way to drive take-up - "don't buy a set yet, as in 18 months you'll be able to get one for half the price..."
5. Cars: Ford and Vauxhall, the manufacturers of six of the 10 most popular cars in the UK, have announced their support for the Digital Britain proposals. Manufacturers are increasingly fitting DAB as standard or as a low cost option, and this will increase quickly now with a common technical standard across Europe. Low cost, easy-to-use adapters are already available and will only improve.

Wow. Half the seventeen or eighteen new cars they're expecting to sell this year will come from a manufacturer that "supports" DAB. Come on, Tony: even the motor industry doesn't really think new car sales will help the motor industry at the moment, much less a radio format.

And you know what else you can get low cost, easy-to-use adapter for? iPods and iPhones. One will let you have your own music in the car; the other will give you access to an increasing number of broadcast and web-only radio stations on an unlimited data package.

Again, what would you choose?

The cruelest irony is that what might have once been the great hope for DAB - an analogue switch-off - is actually going to be the final kicking. The old AM and FM radio frequencies will wind up delivering wireless internet, making web-radio even more accessible.

What's fascinating is that Moretta's whole argument sees DAB as being in competition solely with FM and AM radios. It's as if Britain had shaped its entire 20th century foreign policy to avoid an invasion from Napoleon.