Saturday, October 01, 2011

One Direction fans claim premature ejaculation

If Twitter is to be believed, Ticketmaster put the sale of One Direction tickets live a couple of minutes before the advertised time of 10am, which meant the tour sold out before it was supposed to be on sale.

It's more likely that the tickets went on sale at 10am, Ticketmaster time, and the people who logged on at the stroke of what they thought was 10 were actually coming to the party too late, but once again the question is: with tours you know are going to sell out, why persist in pretending you can recreate a queuing system online?

Bloc Party comedown for NME

The ructions over at Bloc Party feel a bit like Big Brother or the Rugby World Cup, don't they? You're mildly aware that there's some sort of competition going on, but it's hard to be interested because, whoever wins, it's not like anyone else cares much and nobody is sure what the prize is supposed to be.

In fact, it's like it's only the NME who give a rat's bandana about it, and are now desperately trying to shore up their original coverage of the story:

NME has been accused of sensationalising, or even fabricating, details of the band's apparent split after Kele revealed he had discovered the band's plans to continue without him.

Faced with the singer's allegations, we contacted the band to clarify the situation, and guitarist Russell Lissack confirmed that while Kele is busy with his solo career, the remaining members would be auditioning new singers to allow them to continue playing together. But it appears that Bloc Party are now backtracking on the admission.
I don't think it's fair to claim the NME sensationalised anything. As there was nothing especially sensational about the idea that Bloc Party were looking round for a new singer. But the NME is desperate to uphold its reputation, and so has embedded great chunks of audio which somehow proves something:
But with fans confused and concerned, here we publish all the conversations in full to set the record straight.
Yes, the streets are full of young people, ashen faced, gripping the sleeves of passers-by and crying "what news of Russell Lissack?" Seriously, I even liked the second Bloc Party album, and I can't get very bothered about who may or may not be singing on the next one.

Still, full disclosure from the NME. Because it's the biggest guitar-based scandal of our age:
Here is Kele opening up about spotting his bandmates going into a New York rehearsal space without him. The claim comes four minutes into the Soundcloud file.
Hmm. Apparently, even the NME can't really be bothered about this, as it couldn't be arsed to fired up Audacity and snip out the key bit of the conversation.

They also embed five minutes of an interview with Lissack. There's thirteen minutes of stuff, there.

They end on a plea:
Do you see a future for the band without Kele? Or are Bloc Party trying to whip up publicity at the expense of their fans? As ever, leave your thoughts below.
You might have thought that the second question was one that the NME should have had the answer to before running the story in the first place.

Gordon in the morning: Summit up

Apparently unaware that he's talking about a relationship and not a business deal to provide a small chain of stores with lightbulbs, Gordon focuses on a forthcoming summit:

TOM Crane is jetting into the UK next week for showdown talks with Sarah Harding.
Doubtless there's a slightly-too-small conference room in a Holiday Inn off the M25 being prepared with off-brand bottled water and too-thin ballpoint pens for these talks.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ofcom thinks of the children; issues new pop video guidance

Ofcom has chucked out some fresh guidance to broadcasters about pop videos, having done a bit of research amongst parents:

regarding music videos, of all the parents surveyed, the main concerns were:
sexually explicit content (6 per cent)
and overtly sexual performances (6 per cent),
followed by offensive language (5 per cent),
nakedness/naked body parts (5 per cent)
and generally unsuitable content of a sexual nature (4 per cent).
Ofcom had surveyed 1,024 parents - it's worth noting that only 11% had actually said they were worried about music videos in the first place, fewer than had worries about soaps, films or reality programmes; and more were worried by violence than sex (20% against 17%).

They'd also asked a smaller selection of teenagers (768):
just under a quarter (23 per cent) said they had seen something on TV before the watershed in the previous 12 months that had made them uncomfortable or they had found offensive;

• the top five concerns measured as a percentage of all teens questioned were:
sexually explicit content (7 per cent), offensive language (4 per cent), violence (4 per cent), nakedness/naked body parts (2 per cent), news (1 per cent) and
animals being killed/mistreated (1 per cent); and

• the genres of programme causing most concern measured as a percentage of all teens surveyed were: film (7 per cent), followed by soaps (6 per cent) and reality
TV (5 per cent). Music videos came fifth (4 per cent) after dramas (4 per cent). This was followed by documentaries (3 per cent) and news (2 per cent)
After reminding broadcasters about observing the watershed for all programming, Ofcom turns to music videos:
Ofcom recognises that music videos in the Urban and R&B genres in particular are well known for including mild sexual content and innuendo, and there will be a certain level of audience expectation for this type of content. However, having taken into account factors such as the strength of the images, the genre of music and the time of broadcast (looking particularly at whether the video was broadcast at a time when children were likely to be watching), broadcasters must consider whether potential audiences (including both adults and children) would expect to see such content.
Did Ofcom just say 'well, you expect it with black music, don't you?'

But what about bondage, I hear you ask? Okay, maybe you're not asking, but apparently lots of people do:
Ofcom has been asked whether the Code restricts images of sexual bondage, dominance and sadomasochism in music videos before the watershed. The Code does not prohibit such images before the watershed.

However we advise broadcasters to take into account the nature and length of shots used and the overriding theme of the music video. Before the watershed broadcasters should take care to avoid any explicit images of sexual bondage, dominance and sadomasochism in music videos, or any inappropriate cumulative effect resulting from the repetition of these types of images that are unsuitable for children and likely to cause concern to parents.
Seriously, Ofcom? There are broadcasters ringing you up saying "look, I've got a video here with a lass tied up, ball-gag in mouth, and a naked bloke spreadeagled getting whipped - is that okay for teatime?" They need extra guidance on that sort of question?

And, let's make it clear, your video is not going out dressed like that:
It is important to note that in pre-watershed content, Ofcom would not expect to see singers and dancers wearing clothing that does not adequately cover their bodies (in particular their breasts, genital area and buttocks). As above, broadcasters should consider the length of shots used and the overriding theme of the music video
Not entirely sure if Ofcom's use of "breasts" is because they don't realise men have them too, or if it's just trying to spare us yet another R&B singerbloke taking his shirt off.

Ofcom adds a warning that lyrics which might be double entendres when heard lose at least 50% of their entendre when slapped on screen with a simple-minded 'show what they say' video:
For example, the lyric “You want some more baby? I love the way you do it cos you do it so crazy” does not contain an explicit sexual reference,
is ambiguous in its meaning, and is unlikely to be understood by children as specifically referring to sex. However, when combined with clear, sexualised images (for example, women in sexual positions) the strength of the material is raised in terms of its potential to cause offence and concern to parents.
There are also some reminders about dancing. You'd have thought that the rules about sex would have been the same whether someone was jiggying in tune to the music or not, but Ofcom thinks there's a category of dancing that is lewd of itself. Perhaps it saw Dirty Dancing, but left during the interval.

And, to wrap up, there's a reiteration that showing violence isn't all that cool.

It's all fairly sensible stuff, but has a massive "of course, they can go and see it on YouTube any time" hanging over it. It's not Ofcom's place to ask why we should just assume R&B videos will be fairly degrading to women, but perhaps they should prompt us all to ask the question.

Absolute clones Frank Skinner show

This sounds like a really, really terrible idea: Absolute is going to take the Frank Skinner show and run it on all its themed radio stations, just with different music. MediaGuardian explains:

Skinner's Saturday morning show between 8am and 10am will be broadcast an hour later on Absolute 80s, Absolute Radio 90s, Absolute Radio 00s and Absolute Classic Rock.

The programme will be re-edited so that most of the words remain the same but the tunes will change depending on which station you listen to. So saying "I really like Frank Skinner but I just don't like the music" will no longer be an excuse for not tuning in. At least, that's what Absolute Radio bosses hope.
Isn't the main point of listening to a radio show the interplay between the presenter and the music they're playing - that's what makes a show work, isn't it? Doesn't this simply turn Skinner into a one-man Adrian Juste*, lobbing out-of-context jokes between songs he's not even listening to?

* - technically, Adrian Juste was one man.

Gordon in the morning: Won't someone think of the children?

Now, there's no excuse for the person tweeting at Cher Lloyd that they hope her mum dies. Today Cher calls for someone to do something:

She said: "It disgusts me that nobody really cares about online bullying. I kind of take it on the chin but there are boys and girls out there who can't."

Cher added: "I'm worried about something happening to a young person. The Government should step in."
Yes. Perhaps they could start by stepping in and banning a TV programme which effectively offers a platform to millionaires to get richer by bullying people who want to sing a bit, as that's clearly not helping create an atmosphere where people think about what they say before they say it.

Hiphopobit: Sylvia Robinson

Syliva Robinson, who co-owned Sugar Hill Records, has died.

Starting out in music as a singer in the 50s, Sylvia was half of the duo Mickey & Sylvia, who wrote and recorded their own work. Love Is Strange is one of theirs:

Love Is Strange was a massive hit; it crossed over into the main Billboard charts and, more lucratively, was covered by a rich mix of acts. Buddy Holly, Bo Diddley and The Everly Brothers had a go, but more surprisingly, so did Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin:

After marrying Joe Robinson in 1968, the former Miss Sylvia Vanterpool added label owner to a range of recording, producing and writing credits, co-founding All Platinum Records. Although relatively tiny, All Platinum made some glorious contributions to the early 1970s - Shame Shame Shame from Shirley And Company was on the label - but started to struggle after audaciously buying Chess Records out of bankruptcy.

While running the label and producing, Syliva - by now working as a solo singer - also found the space to have her biggest hit, the proto-French-Kiss Pillow Talk.

But, arguably, her greatest contribution was still to come. By now in charge at Sugar Hill Records, Sylvia saw hip-hop happening in New York clubs and was among the first to bring it to a wider audience. As the LA Times recalls:

"She saw where a DJ was talking and the crowd was responding to what he was saying, and this was the first time she ever saw this before," her son Joey said in a 2000 interview with NPR. "And she said, 'Joey, wouldn't this be a great idea to make a rap record?'"

It turned out she was right. After gathering three rappers — Master Gee, Wonder Mike and Big Bank Hank — to record the 15-minute song, the party groove became a sensation. The condensed version was considered the first rap song to get radio play and reached the top 40 on Billboard's Hot 100 chart.
Sugar Hill Records would go on to offer a home to Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five, amongst others.

The label ended badly - a deal with MCA went sour, and Sugar Hill stuttered to a halt in 1986, but not before they'd added the invention of the cassingle to the list of their accomplishments.

Sylvia Robinson was 71; she died from congestive heart failure in New Jersey.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Photographerobit: Robert Whitaker

Roger Whitaker, who photographed the Beatles during their final tour, has died of cancer. The Guardian has a full obituary today.

Perhaps his most-famed Beatles-era work was this cover:

Dananananaykroyd nononono

According to a brief, brief message on their facebook page, and confirmed by This Is Fake DIY, after their October-November tour, Dananananaykroyd will cease to be.

Bad news for lovers of good music; good news for people who really, really hated having to type out that name.

Still, at least we'll always have our - ahem - Muscle Memory:

We7 decides the kids are where it's at, relaunches

Decent-but-underloved digital music service We7 is relaunching with a new logo, and a belief that "younger" people is where it's at.

That's the old logo... and this:

This would be the new one.

The meat, though, is in focusing on people who want a free service, seeing the gap Spotify has left by scaling back its free operation; and simplifying the way things work:
Steve Purdham, chief executive of We7, said that the new-look site should be thought of as a 'personal DJ', likening it to the Pandora service in the US.

'Some people love the idea of going through the catalogue to create a playlist, but the vast majority of us who love music do not want to make that investment in time and just want to be entertained,' he added.
Not entirely sure "just wanting to be entertained" is the same thing as "loving music" - there's a difference between a zipless fuck and a romantic entanglement - but that's probably the least of We7's challenges.

In Spotify, it's taking on a service which has established itself as an almost generic name for streaming online services - and trying to get people to use We7 when they're thinking they're Spotifying is going to be tricky.

Gordon in the morning: Man wears hats

Who knew Gordon could balls-up a simple piece about a man wearing two hats? He manages it this morning:

[T]here is nothing religious about [Ronert Pattinson] dedication to American football teams.

Over two days R-Patz has worn the colours of two different clubs. I'm going to send him a Hibs hat, The Pride Of Edinburgh.
Perhaps Gordon was too busy having his "people" mock up an image of Robert Pattinson wearing a Hibernian hat to bother checking the two teams on his actual baseball caps. The Baltimore Orioles and the San Diego Padres.

Baseball teams, Gordon. The clue is in the name "baseball cap".

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Southwest throw Uh Huh Her off plane

Not while the plane was in the air - that would be dangerous - but it looks like Southwest Airlines have kicked Leisha Hailey and Camilla Grey off a flight because they were gay:

"No matter how quietly homophobia is whispered, it doesn't make it any less loud. You can't whisper hate," said the duo in a press release issued Sept. 27.

"In no way were our actions on Southwest Airlines excessive, inappropriate or vulgar. We want to make it clear we were not making out or creating any kind of spectacle of ourselves, it was one, modest kiss. We are responsible adult women who walk through the world with dignity. We were simply being affectionate like any normal couple."
Southwest are keen to make it clear they didn't eject them from the flight because they were gay at all. No, no: it was because they were too gay:
Southwest Airlines claim Hailey -- perhaps best known for her role as Alice Pieszecki in the Showtime series 'The L-Word' -- was removed after some passengers complained about the "excessive" affection.

"Our crew, responsible for the comfort of all customers on board, approached the passengers based solely on behavior and not gender," they said in a statement. "The conversation escalated to a level that was better resolved on the ground, as opposed to in flight."

The airline added they'd work directly with Hailey and Grey to "offer our heartfelt apologies for falling short of their expectation."
Of course, Southwest will be able to back up their claim that this isn't homophobia by pointing to all the times they've thrown straight couples off the plane for showing excessive affection.

Right, Southwest?

I guess it's a start that Southwest believes that lesbians might have an expectation that being gay doesn't prevent you from being on a plane.

Hackney Council takes on Britney Spears

You can't trust anyone, can you? There was Hackney Council, all happy having Britney Spears film a video in the borough, only for her to go and add a gun to the mix:

A Hackney Council spokesperson said: "Hackney Council carefully vets all requests to film in the borough.

"In this case we did not agree that a replica gun could be used on location at Stoke Newington town hall.

"We are disappointed that the film crew made a last-minute change to the scene. We will be raising this matter with the production company."
Not quite sure what Hackney thinks "raising this matter" will do; it sounds like they're going to send the sort of stiffly-worded complaint that can only be dealt with by the production company getting a runner to draft a 'oh, soz' response.

Britney's people have issued a statement in the meantime:
A spokesman for the star said: "The video is a fantasy story featuring Britney's boyfriend, Jason Trawick, which literally plays out the lyrics of a song written three years before the riots ever happened.

"When the video is released, people will fully understand its narrative. The pap shots don't deliver that of course."
If the video does "literally" play out the lyrics, then why would we have to wait for it be released? Couldn't we just read the lyrics?
He is a loser, he’s a bum, bum, bum, bum
He lies, he bluffs
He's unreliable.
He is a sucker with a gun, gun, gun, gun
Actually, couldn't Hackney Council have just looked at the lyrics?
He is a villain of the devil’s law
He is a killer just for fun, fun, fun, fun
That man's a snitch and unpredictable,
He’s got no conscious [sic - presumably 'conscience'? ]
He got none, none, none, none
Hard to see how anyone at the council might have thought this video would reflect on anything other than the glories of Stoke Newington.

Although, having a look at the films that Hackney is proud to have had shot in the Borough, it doesn't seem that they're really that bothered about how the place looks on screen. (I don't just mean Alien Autopsy, either.)

Nicola Roberts not bothered by success

Record sales? Nicola Roberts isn't in it for the record sales:

"You don't make music for commercial reasons. You make music because it's what you love to do," she told The Sun. "Not everybody can always like something. That's just the way it is. Maybe they'll like the next one better. That's how I look at it."
Of course she's not just putting a brave face on her solo album juddering to a halt at number 40; clearly, she's only ever made music because of the love of the music she's making. Why else would she have gone on a talent show to try and win a place in a band, any band, if she wasn't solely motivated by the desire to make whatever sort of music it would be that she'd be told to make in that band?

Liam Gallagher: music critic

Have you ever wondered what Liam Gallagher thinks about Radiohead? No, of course not. It'd be like wondering what a shrimp thinks about lobsters, wouldn't it? But he's going to tell us anyway:

I've never even heard 'OK Computer', but anything by Radiohead doesn't make much sense to me. Everyone's going on about Radiohead pushing things forward, but the only thing they’re famous for really is songs like 'Creep' innit?

They then go off-roading for the rest of their career. I just don't get it. I mean, we've all written songs like 'Creep', y’know, them classic songs. So that’s what makes them what they are. 'Karma Police' is alright, but it's The Beatles, innit?
Yes, that's Liam Gallagher, out of Oasis, having a pop at Radiohead for sounding a bit like The Beatles.

Still, it's an interesting viewpoint: apparently everyone talks about Radiohead's avant garde side, but at the same time people only know of Radiohead's Creep. I say "interesting"; I mean incoherent.

What the pop papers say: Cold extras

Just flopped onto the doormat is this week's NME, with Noel Gallagher staring out of the cover. It looks like the same Noel Gallagher picture that always appears on the cover of the NME these days; indeed, it might appear on the cover of the paper every week.

As you try to avert your eyes - out of embarrassment and kindness rather than disgust, a strapline catches the attention:

REM Split: The original indie icons remembered
Original indie icons? Weren't they on IRS, and a major act, from the get-go? Surely they were college rock anyway?

It's surprising that the NME, which seldom misses a chance to run a Vox-style retriospective issue these days, chooses to stick REM on a strip on the top rather than making them the focus of the issue. Obviously, someone thinks that Noel Gallagher sells copies - although the frequency of Oasis covers and dwindling newsagent sales would contradict that - but a proper farewell to REM might have been a sign of some sort of coherent thought shaping the title. Instead, it's more congealing Noel, pushing a solo career that nobody really has any interest in.

Here's Noel talking about the video for the single:
[Russell Brand] is in it now...
Of course he bloody is.
... as some sort of crazed... well, you'll see it.
I wouldn't count on that.
He wears a top hat. It's fucking ridiculous.
A top hat, you say? A top hat? Why, the very idea of a long-haired comedian doing a cameo, in a pop video, wearing a top hat, is a hill-airy-oz idea. I can't imagine why nobody has done it before.
Noel tries to avoid giving an opinion on the "state of rock and roll" because "I'm 45 next year", which is amusing, given this is a cover story for the house journal of alt-rock. He does end up giving one, though. Of course he does:
There's bands that are good, make good records, but you see them on the telly at Glastonbury, and they're just not interested in having it
"Being interested in having it" being the key criteria in judging a band, rather than, you know, making good records. Who cares if the album is brilliant if the band don't punch each other on stage, eh?

Remember back in the early days of magazines arriving on the internet, Time Warner tried a crappy paywall idea where they printed a code in the print title which they hoped people would type in to a browser? Astonishingly, NME have revived the idea with something they're calling NME Extra.

Each edition has raffle-ticket style number printed on the front page - the one I got was 277205, if you're interested - which you input at to get "special" content only available to people who have bought the magazine. Or copied a number off a front page in WH Smiths. Most of the stuff appears to be old articles from NME, which you would have thought should have been on the website anyway.

Still, there is some good stuff in the magazine. Most notably, Laura Snapes attempting to triangulate Marina Diamandis - she doesn't quite manage to, but that in itself is telling. You could buy the magazine to read it, or wait five years, and see if there's a magic code to type in so you can have a look online.

Gordon in the morning: First discs

Lucky for Gordon, his copy of Q has turned up, giving him the chance to "report" on its contents. To mark 25 years of the magazine, they've asked people about their first single. Alex Turner attempted to make some sort of point:

"I think it was a cassette single and if it wasn't Let's Get Ready To Rhumble it might have been Edwyn Collins' A Girl Like You.

"The new generation have got it easy now. You'll ask some kid and because of downloading it will be Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures.

"I'd like to be able to say that but it probably was Let's Get Ready To Rhumble. Actually, it might have been Zig and Zag... "
It's an interesting reaction - in fact, you might ask with downloading and streaming, will Q be able to ask the same question in 25 years time in any meaningful way - but Gordon can't get past PJ And Duncan:
NEXT time Arctic Monkeys are asked to do a cover, they should go for one of the first songs frontman Alex Turner ever bought –

Alex confessed the song that saw Geordies Ant & Dec "wreck the mic" was an early feature in his music collection.
There's even a clunking headline:
Alex Turner, are you Geordie sure?
To which the answer is, er, no: clearly he's saying he isn't sure what his first single was, if you mean 'are you sure this was your first single'; or, yes, he's sure he bought it, if you meant that.

But then, writing a scoffing article about how embarrassing an early single purchase was when the subject was trying to illustrate that very idea seems confused enough without the headline.

Elsewhere, Gordon takes one for the team, writing a piece plugging his bosses' Sky Living Steps Reunion series:
STEPS have revealed one of the reasons for their bitter split ten years ago — BRITNEY SPEARS.

The band's Ian "H" Watkins hit it off with the singer when they supported her Baby One More Time tour in the US during 1999.

He began flying to venues in the star's private jet while his bandmates slummed it on a bus.
That doesn't really sound like Britney Spears was the "reason" for the split, but to be fair, if Gordon didn't stick Spears into the headline, the story would probably have got as many readers as the Steps series will have viewers.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Soulobit: Vesta Williams

Vesta Williams, soul singer and actress, has died, reports the LA Times.

Although her music never sold in massive quantities - her crossover chart record never matched that of her achievements on the R&B chart - she managed a name recognition that outstripped her sales. (Helped, perhaps, by a recurring role in Sister, Sister.)

Williams had been rebuilding her career after something of a slump in the 1990s, which coincided with health problems. She had recently taken on a role promoting awareness of childhood diabetes and obesity; she was performing again and had been due to appear on sub-par American Idol clone The Voice in the next few weeks.

The cause of Williams' death is currently not public; her body was found in a hotel room in LA. She was 53.

[Thanks to Michael M]