Saturday, January 14, 2012

Gordon in the morning: Those who fail to learn from Michael Jackson tribute concerts are doomed to repeat it

There's nothing wrong with the idea of a tribute concert from Amy Winehouse. There's nothing wrong with staging it to raise money for the uh, you know, that charity thing.

But surely people have learned by now that the way to destroy an event is to oversell it before it's organised?

THE Amy Winehouse tribute concert later this year is taking shape.
Mitch is talking to TV companies about airing the show and is considering making it pay-per-view, so it makes as much cash as possible.

[A source said] "Big artists will be booked from both sides of the Atlantic so people will want to see it. It will be a huge event."
I hope it is a huge event; I hope it does raise loads of money. But surely we can all agree that this sort of trumpeting before anything is signed runs the risk of over-hyping expectations and can end up with what would be a great event looking like a shadow of the early promise. Nobody wants that.

Norton my watch: Madonna meets Graham

The most useful thing about last night's Madonna appearance on the usually quite-good Graham Norton chatshow was it demonstrated how well the regular format works. All the guests, on stage for all the programme, makes something watchable.

Madonna, though, didn't have to share. This, in itself, was distracting. Why was Madge given the sofa to herself? Was that an offer from Norton's side? That seems unlikely; stars bigger and better than Madonna have squeezed in alongside others.

So was it a demand from Madonna, or her people? Was the cost of getting her on the show an edict that she wouldn't be sitting alongside, say, Nick Knowles and Mark Watson for the duration?

If so, it was a terrible deal for both sides. Shorn of the usual dynamic, Norton's show dragged like the late-period Jonathan Ross on in the same slot used to. For Madonna, she visibly relaxed and her performance improved when she did get some team-mates - the stars of her Wallace Simpson film were brough on towards the end. Madonna, and the viewers, were thankful for the assistance.

Oh, and what a film she's made. If the two tiny clips from WE had been chosen to try and fight against the early notices, they didn't choose well. Clip one was all spinning headlines and newsreel establishment, like the worst sort of wartime potboiler; the second featured stilted dialogue, horrible editing and a ballroom of people dancing to different music from the one on the soundtrack. The suspicion is that Andrea Riseborough took the role as a bet to see if her acting could breathe life into anything; the sense is that she's lost that bet.

Madonna was unintentionally hilarious when talking about making the film, suggesting that she was worried that she might somehow upset the Royal Family by telling a story about the former King. Odd, given that she did so much research it never occurred to her that ITV's 1978 Edward And Mrs Simpson series might have been the point where the Windsors figured that the tale was in the public domain.

There was an awkward sequence with two Italian fans who create Madonna dolls; to be fair to the pop star, I think she was trying for ironic, warm amusement but - curiously unable to show emotion on her face - she spent most of the segment staring at these two men who clearly adored her as if they were gun-toting simpletons.

Being mainly designed to try and drag WE out the dumper, there wasn't very much about music; everyone pretended they hadn't already heard the MDNA album title and pretended that it was a clever rather than desperate idea.

They did touch on piracy, though, Graham and Madge clumping through what sounded like a prearranged trot through 'these people say they're my fans but they access my music illegally' set-piece. This was the biggest failure of the hour; surely, surely, any organic discussion of piracy where a millionaire announces that she's had a bloke thrown in prison for the "criminal offence" of having one or two of her tunes before he should demands some sort of follow-up question. Or at the very least, a cheeky 'if he's heard the song before the production goes on, surely he's suffered enough?'

Instead, this looked like a handing of a chunk of primetime BBC One to a businessperson to push a certain political line on piracy which went totally unchallenged.

The big question, then: Madonna on the show, a new album in the offing - what sort of song did she do?

None, of course. Emili Sande was dragged on to do the performance. Madonna is Madonna. You don't think she's going to sing for her supper, do you?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Gordon in the morning: Corden in the morning

One of the poorer decisions the Brits organisers have made in recent years - besides 'let's do it next year, yes? With the same shortlists?' - was locking in James Corden as host for years and years and years.

To be fair, they are sticking with the pledge and bringing him back to die painfully on ITV for a couple of hours. Which is fascinating, given how the rest of the music industry will dump contracts at the first sniff of underperformance.

It's good news for Gordon, though, who - you'll recall - clutched his sides with delight at Corden's bon mots.

Gordon and Corden caught up at the Brits launch, where James took the chance to show off his musical chops:

He said at the nominations bash: "Damon is a shining light in British culture so I always get slightly starstruck.

"It will be an honour to be in the same room as him.

"Blur winning their Outstanding Contribution award will be special.

"There hasn't been a more important band."
There hasn't been a more important band than Blur? I mean, I like Blur. Like most people, I've stood in a draughty Polytechnic hall thinking "if he brings that sodding speakerstack down on our heads, I'm not going to be happy" and have enjoyed their work ever since. I wouldn't even argue against the idea that they've been a significant band. I don't begrudge the prize they're being given in order to get a couple of songs from them to close the show.

But there hasn't ever been a more important band? It's a bit like thinking that Stephen Fry is the greatest public intellectual of our times.

Brits 2012: There are some categories that Adele cannot qualify for

A world where Ed Sheeran and Noel Gallagher are measured against each other feels less like a glittering awards ceremony and more like some sort of triage event.

My advice would be to not look at the 'best British single' category, which contains such miseries as to cause Mr Happy to stare blankly into the future muttering "I hope the Mayans are right".

There's a couple of surprises - the appearance of Lady Antebellum in the 'international band category' is so ill-judged it's like when you get one of those paid-for Tweets from Zoosk popping up in your Twitter stream.

And Chase And Status does at least offer a rare indication that the Brit awards judges have noticed that it's no longer 1982, even though they're so unlikely to win their name appears on the shortlist in pencil.

The Adele v PJ Harvey battle in best British album is perhaps the first time in years there's been a genuinely interesting clash in any category.

PJ Harvey releases one of the best albums of the year, and yet isn't considered one of the best female solo artists of the year; likewise, Kate Bush - who didn't tour, nor played live - is one of the best female solo artists, but her record isn't good enough for the album shortlist. Curious.

The shortlist in full, then:

British Male Solo Artist
Ed Sheeran
James Blake
James Morrison
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Professor Green

British Female Solo Artist
Florence & the Machine
Jessie J
Kate Bush
Laura Marling

British Breakthrough Act
Anna Calvi
Ed Sheeran
Emeli Sandé
Jessie J
The Vaccines

British Group
Arctic Monkeys
Chase & Status

British Single
Adele - Someone Like You
Ed Sheeran - The A Team
Example - Changed The Way You Kissed Me
Jessie J ft Bob - Price Tag
JLS ft Dev - She Makes Me Wanna
Military Wives/Gareth Malone - Wherever You Are
Olly Murs ft Rizzle Kicks - Heart Skips A Beat
One Direction - What Makes You Beautiful
Pixie Lott - All About Tonight
The Wanted - Glad You Came

British Album of the Year
Adele - 21
Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
Ed Sheeran - +
Florence & The Machine - Ceremonials
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

International Male Solo Artist
Aloe Blacc
Bon Iver
Bruno Mars
David Guetta
Ryan Adams

International Female Solo Artist
Lady Gaga

International Group
Fleet Foxes
Foo Fighters
Jay Z/ Kanye West
Lady Antebellum
Maroon 5

International Breakthrough Act
Aloe Blacc
Bon Iver
Foster The People
Lana Del Rey
Nicki Minaj

Outstanding Contribution to Music

Critics Choice
1st - Emeli Sandé
2nd - Maverick Sabre
3rd - Michael Kiwanuka

British Producer
Paul Epworth
Ethan Johes

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Avoid the Hard Rock chain

Obviously, nobody goes near the Hard Rock places unless they absolutely have to, but there's even better reason to steer clear. The Hard Rock Hotel in Orlando is apparently catching cats on its property and having them slaughtered. You might want to consider taking your business elsewhere.

Gordon in the morning: On target

At Leveson this week, Gordon explained to the judge the extraordinary lengths his team go to in order to make sure not a word of untruth appears on their pages.

And yet if you hit the Lady GaGa joins darts team, it gives a hollow ring.

At best, this seems to be 'GaGa throws a couple of darts' which has been baked up into a wider story, with the inevitable photoshop slapping of GaGa's head onto a dart player's body and insane conclusions:

It's a shame she wasn't over at Christmas when the PDC World Darts Championship was on at Alexandra Palace, north London. The event would be right up her street, especially as she enjoys sinking a pint or two.
This is a bit like grandparents who, one day, hear you say "I liked today's Peanuts" and conclude this a coded way of asking for all gifts in the future to be Snoopy-themed. You toss a couple of darts? Why, clearly, you'd want to spend all your time watching darts and playing darts and talking about darts forever.

Still, let's just admire the hours and hours of diligent fact-checking that must have gone in to standing up the original claims.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

On Madonna's new album title

Really, Madonna? MDNA? Combining none-more-noughties PRMLSCRM-style Only Connect vowel-dropping with "Snurkle! It's Like The DRUCKS" common room yuks.

I don't know if Clapped Out was on the shortlist, but it would have had the same effect.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Farewell, Fareham

HMV tried a pop-up store over Christmas in Fareham, to which the town is now waving goodbye.

Gennaro Castaldo, HMV's pop-up press person, explains at length why (although "it was a pop-up store for Christmas" is all that was really needed):

‘We were pleased with our short-lease store in Fareham and would like to thank our customers for their valued support,’ he said.

‘In an ideal world I’m sure we’d love to have a more permanent presence in the town.

‘But whilst our retail offer may be viable for us during the run-up to Christmas when most big releases tend to come out, it’s less so across the rest of the year when sales are much lower and costs such as rent are much greater in relation to turnover.

‘If we traded the year-round, as we’d ideally like to do, it’s possible the site could lose money, whereas having a temporary store at this very busy time of year enables us to provide a valuable service to customers when they are most likely to require it, hopefully also allowing us to make a return while employing a number of staff in the process.’
I'm sure a tear rolled down Gennaro's cheek as he said "a permanent store might lose money" - given that the company lost £40million in the last six months, if HMV went round closing down stores at a risk of making a loss there wouldn't be a lot left.

There's an implication here, though, that the temporary Fareham store paid for itself, which could offer a glimmer of hope for HMV: could it become a movable feats, opening up temporary shops when there's some demand and not having to pay for large, empty shops at times when older people aren't out buying records? Keep a couple of flagship stores and a strong online presence the rest of the year. It's got to stand a better chance than trying to keep going by selling overpriced headphones.

Michael Gira tour dates

What's nice about the PR shoot for Michael Gira's European tour is that it just has the dates and a photo.

There are some people who don't need overselling:

04-Apr IRE Dublin Button Factory
05-Apr UK Belfast Black Box
06-Apr UK Glasgow St Andrew's Church in the Square
07-Apr UK London Cafe Otto
09-Apr F Paris Le Point Ephémère
10-Apr NL Amsterdam Paradiso Upstairs
11-Apr B Kortrijk De Kreun
12-Apr NL Tilburg Roadburn Festival - Midi Theater
14-Apr DK Copenhagen, Loppen
15-Apr DK Aalborg Studenterhuset
17-Apr N Oslo John Dee Club inside Rockafeller
18-Apr N Stravanger Cementen
19-Apr S Stockholm Debaser Slussen
21-Apr FIN Helsinki Korjaamo Culture Factory
22-Apr D Berlin Roter Saloon inside Volksbuhne
23-Apr A Vienna Chelsea Club
25-Apr CH Lausanne Le Bourg
26-Apr CH Düdingen Café Bad Bonn
27-Apr I Ravenna Bronson Club
28-Apr I Florence Sala Vanni
29-Apr I Rome Chiesa evangelica metodista
01-May CH Zurich Exil
This sort of thing, live:

Gordon in the morning: Health matters

Here's something that Leveson might like to ponder. Earlier this week Sun editor Dominic Mohan and showbiz editor Gordon Smart appeared before the judge, insisting that theirs was an ethical, sound newspaper.

Today, there's rather a lot about Robin Gibb's health, matters which would appear to be private and without any real public interest justification.

Richard White, chief showbiz writer, has apparently spoken to a "close family pal" - one of those "close" "pals" who yaks to the newspapers about a sick friend; we all have those, right?

Obviously, if this was information Gibb and his family wanted being raked over by the newspaper, that close pal would be happy to speak on the record, yes?

And just in case there was any doubt:

His spokesman would not comment.
Why is The Sun printing details about a seriously ill person who clearly doesn't want to have that information in the public domain? Maybe Justice Leveson could bring back a couple of Sun people and ask them to show their thinking.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Beyonce ruins birth experience for less-rich mothers

Congratulations to Beyonce and Jay-Z, of course. But, boy, did you really have to be such douches to everyone else who needed to use the hospital?

The New York Times reports:

The familiar area outside the neonatal unit had been transformed: partitions had been put up, the maternity ward windows were completely covered, and even the hospitals’ security cameras had been taped over with paper. Guards with Secret Service-style earpieces roamed the floor.

“We were told we could walk no further,” Ms. Nash-Coulon said Monday. And when she and her husband, Neil, demanded an explanation, she added, the guard claimed, unconvincingly, “ ‘Well, they’re handling hazardous materials,’ ” even as a large group of people screened from view were passing through the main hallway he had declared off-limits.
The most worrying aspect of this is the shutting off of the hospital's security cameras. Sure, Beyonce had people. Who was looking after the other kids?

Mel B appears to need some money

That, surely, is the only motivation for trying to get the idea of another Spice Girls disinterring going:

Asked about rumours linking the group to an Olympics show, she said: "I would never say never. I think it's possible. I'd love it if we got back together and got to go on tour."
To be fair, it's not like she's going to be touring a solo album or anything soon.

Refused again

Here's one I don't think anybody saw coming: Refused have reformed.

It's been a motley 14 years since our band came apart. We've all kept busy in our respective endeavors but we've all remained friends and kept in touch. There have been offers, and lots of jokes about these offers. We've sort of looked down from our high horses and made fun of people who've just wanted to share the psychopathic intensity that we would deliver on a nightly basis in our post-pubescent prime. A reunion has just seemed irrelevant to us. Too much other shit to do.

But then Kristofer got his degree from the Swedish opera academy, Jons medical studies began drawing to a close and Dennis and David started a new hardcore band together. Finally, after a decade and a half hiatus, Kristofer picked up the guitar again. Which made David want to play the drums again. Which in turn led to all four of us suddenly making new music in assorted constellations. As all this was brewing, Coachella got in touch.
There is going to be a point where Coachella starts to run out of bands to drag out of their various crypts.

Gordon in the morning: Hair appointment

It's a miracle there's anything on Bizarre today - not only because Gordon was busy explaining what a tight ship he runs over at the Leveson Enquiry yesterday, but because we now know the hours and hours and hours put into making sure all the stories are true and accurate. Who knows what lengths the Smarties went to in order to check whether the lyrics to a Jay-Z song were true, for example?

Still, some sort of kudos to the subs for sneaking a reference to Smart's day in court into an otherwise pointless bit on Wayne Rooney's ridiculous new Young James Herriot hairdo:

Looks like Rooney’s had the hairdryer treatment
Surely a reference to Gordon's evidence:
Smart says he has heard it mentioned that working for the Sun is like being centre forward for Manchester United; "if you don't score you'll get the hairdryer treatment and get dropped".

Monday, January 09, 2012

Drive-In comes back

Strictly speaking, At The Drive-In aren't reuniting, they've just officially been on hiatus for eleven years.

But whatever you call it, they're back together:

. ”ATTENTION ! To whom it may concern: AT THE DRIVE-IN will be breaking their 11 year silence THIS STATION IS …NOW…OPERATIONAL.”
To be honest, I don't think I'd ever noticed that they'd stopped working. It's a bit like when one of those people you didn't realise had still been alive until their obituary appears.

"Are you free, BRMB?" "I'm free"

Orion, the owners of BRMB in Birmingham, have decided to change the station's name.

To Free Radio Birmingham.

God help us all.

{Phil] Riley, the chief executive of Orion Media, said: "The decision to change the name of our stations after each one has been broadcasting in their areas under their original names for so long has not been easy or one that we have taken lightly.

"We have given this a great deal of consideration and undertaken detailed research. The original on air names of each station means a lot to all of us at Orion, and we know and understand the deep affection many people have for those names.
"But" continued Riley "we really don't care."

Oh, hang on, he didn't say that:
"However, the radio market has changed dramatically recently and we have to adapt and respond."
It's not entirely clear what "dramatic changes" have meant the only logical response is to throw away four decades of brand recognition and heritage (Mercia, Beacon and Wyvern are also being shorn of their names.)

So, what's the thinking behind the name? Some might wonder about the chutzpah of using "free radio" - usually a sign of a rebel group broadcasting against a despotic government rather than a Top 40 hits station with the weather forecast sponsored by Anglian Windows. So, is this the International Brigade of broadcasting?
Riley said the "Free Radio" name was chosen because it was "easy to remember, easy to spell, and is flexible enough to work in a number of different ways. It's not free as in cheap, it's free as in freedom to have a bit more character".
Ah. Freedom to have more character. Created by taking four distinct stations, each with their own character, and imposing a bland, marketing-driven blanket name over the lot.

Gordon in the courtroom

Gordon Smart has been giving "evidence" to the Leveson enquiry this morning; his written submission to the enquiry has just been published.

He seems to print an awful lot of photos of celebrity's kids for someone who takes the PCC code so seriously.

This bit is interesting, where Gordon talks about the use of "sources":

Without further corroboration, that story would not be published. This happens very occaSionally, For example, one member of my staff had a great contact linked to a female pop star. She was reluctant to reveal his/her identity because both she and her contact were aware I was close to the pop star in question and they had concerns about the contact’s anonymity being compromised. The story was published because I was able to corroborate the information officially through the PR company and my contacts.
Gordon also shares the process which went into the publication of the photo from Mani's mum's funeral, and - oh! - the heartbreaking difficulties he faced deciding to publish:
By way of example, this year I chose to print a picture of a band reunited for the first time in 20 years after an acrimonious split. The picture was taken by a pub barman at the wake of one of the band member’s mothers. After careful consideration I decided the story of their reunion was such a positive pieces of news, I felt we could publish the picture despite the circumstances in which it had been taken. The publication of this picture caused some upset at the time amongst certain relatives of the bereaved band member, but I have since spoken to him and he accepted that it was a fair decision to publish
You'll spot that the upset was amongst a number of relatives, who have turned into a "him" by the second clause of the sentence.

And you'd have to wonder at the mindset of a man who - even if a self-justification written months later - would think that it was "positive" that two people had met up at a funeral.

The other strange thing is that Gordon claims that all Bizarre stories are rigorously stood-up before publication; and yet this photo was published connected to a claim the Roses were reuniting. A tale which was pretty comprehensively rubbished as soon as it appeared. Unfortunately, Gordon's written evidence doesn't seek to connect how the story was simultaneously being stood up while being knocked down everywhere else. Perhaps a question for another day?

Twittergem: Lana Del Ray

Magazine tweets that it's about to publish a feature about the making of a different magazine's feature. Journalim has collapsed:

Gordon in the morning: Spray job

Gordon's second-biggest story this morning is him looking a photo of Kelly Rowland and speculating.

What does he speculate?

KELLY Rowland's stylist must have used a whole can of hairspray to make her barnet stay in place for this shot.
It's really hard coming up with stories these days, huh, Gord?

HMV confirms a miserable Christmas

HMV needed a good Christmas, or at least nothing worse than a mildly bad one. Santa didn't turn up.

Like-for-like sales were down 8.1% in the five weeks to the end of 2011. Unfortunately, given that they closed all those stores, this means actual total sales were down 16.6%.

Trying to find something positive to say, the former record shop chain offer that this is a "slowing" of the decline of the business. But presumably that's because there's not much left to fall away.

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Kesha points to Achilles' Heel, asks not be shot there

KeUSDha has announced to everyone that the next record will see her being vulnerable:

"I think that my first record was heavily influenced by Licensed To Ill and the Beastie Boys and that record is very brash and very sassy and very unapologetic and irreverent. And I love that," she told MTV. "I'm really proud of that, but I have learned over the past three years of doing this that being vulnerable doesn't mean you're weak.

"I very much want to be seen as a strong woman, but I realise that vulnerability can also be a strength."
Vulnerability, like eccentricity, can only really be pointed out by other people and not claimed for yourself, surely? I think what Kesha means is that her next record will demonstrate an understanding that vulnerability can also be a selling point.

Bowie at 65: Bookshelf

Looking to read something a bit more substantial about Bowie? How about this:

This is Dave Thompson's To Major Tom, a made-up correspondence between a teenager and Bowie which sees the Dame's career twists reflecting the growing pains of a teenage boy. You can also get it for your Kindle, if you're into that sort of thing.

Angie Bowie has printed a couple of autobiographies, which focus on her time married to Dave. Because, after all, what else would she have to write about? The best one is the earlier, 1981's Free Spirt, which sees Ange claim the credit for mostly everything Bowie ever said or did, and for inventing bisexuality. Oh, and in a spectacular fail for the literature editing business, also makes room for some of Angie's poems.

If you'd like something a bit more considered,Low in the 33 and a third series is a lovely piece of writing about a brilliant album. That's also Kindle-ised.

[Part of Bowie at 65]

Bowie at 65: The Tomorrow Person

A diversion into 1970s kids TV now, and the cross-pollination of ideas between Thames TV's Blake's Year Sevens series The Tomorow People, and Bowie:

[Buy: The Complete Tomorrow People on DVD]

[Part of Bowie at 65]

Bowie at 65: Since I was Six

One of the many tributes-in-song to Bowie. The Brian Jonestown Massacre's (David Bowie I Love You) Since I Was Six:

[Part of Bowie at 65]

Bowie at 65: Bowie saves 6Music

6Music is currently celebrating Bowie's birthday, as well they should, after he helped fight off closure:

Alright, it's actually Adam Buxton. But still... Bowie would have done it himself, if he could have.

[Part of Bowie at 65]

Bowie at 65: Bowie at 50

With acres of newstime to fill, it's easy to get attention for an anniversary these days - BBC News did a big splash about Steven Hawking's birthday a few minutes ago, which is a lot of attention for a very minor character from The Simpsons, when you think about it.

It wasn't so easy to get a full-on carnival celebration back in the last century, which makes this - BBC Two clearing an evening to mark Bowie's 50th birthday - almost as much of an achievement as the some of the events it chronicled.

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Bowie at 65: The Man Who Sold The World

Yes, yes, you're sick to death of the Lulu cover of the Man Who Sold The World. How about Suede doing it, though?

Bowie still, I think, holds the record for the man who has appeared on the cover of the NME the greatest number of times, including the time he shared the front page with Brett Anderson. "One day, son, all this will be yours" ran the coverline. Anderson has yet to collect.

[Part of Bowie at 65]

Bowie at 65: Twin Peaks

Anybody fancy a quick smattering of Bowie-related tat to mark the great man's 65th birthday? Too bad.

First up, here's Dave stinking up the screen in the Twin Peaks movie, Fire Walk With Me:

You know that something's gone incredibly wrong when one one of your key star's performance is so bad that he's given the "Tom Baker in the Five Doctors" treatment. Even although he actually turned up.

At the time, the claim was that David Lynch had planned a run of Peaks movies, with Bowie's character taking on the central role, but the idea was junked after seeing the rushes.

[Part of Bowie at 65]

This week just gone

The most-read No Rock Bowie stories of all time:

1. Telegraph announces Sting and Bowie plan to launch lapdance boats
2. Evan Davis blames David Bowie for killing the economy
3. Daily Star claims Ziggy Stardust will play Coachella
4. Video: David Bowie and Nine Inch Nails, together, live
5. Bowie considers early retirement
6. Carla Bruni covers Bowie
7. Bowie does Spongebob
8. Bowie joins Polyphonic Spree
9. Pixies to reform, open for Bowie. In 2003
10. Bowie's face up for sale

[Part of Bowie at 65]

These releases came from the week before Christmas crept over the country:

Charlotte Gainsbourg - Stage Whisper

Download Time Of The Assassins

The Music - The Last Dance Live

Download The Last Dance

X - The Unheard Music