Saturday, March 10, 2012

You can really trust Gordon Smart's column

Sorry to return to Smart again, but he had a big exclusive this morning:

By GORDON SMART, Showbiz Editor
Published: Today at 01:42
DAVID Walliams will play Michael Barrymore in a TV drama based on the troubled entertainer's life.

The project is headed by Anne Mensah, Sky Entertainment drama chief. Also involved is Geoff Atkinson, who ghost wrote the autobiography of the late Cheryl Barrymore, the 59-year-old star's ex-wife. Filming is due to start this year.
That's an astonishing story, isn't it? Imagine Walliams doing Kenny The Kangaroo, ordering people out the Summertime Special audience and something something swimming pool.

There is a slight problem, though: it's absolute bollocks:

If he can't get stories right about his own bloody company, what can you trust him on? I'm starting to doubt his word when he publishes photos of himself stood awkwardly with celebrities that it's him in them.

[Thanks to Michael M for the tip]

You can trust Gordon Smart's column

There's a new book about the Phone Hacking scandal - or the parts which have come to light so far - and Roy Greenslade has an extract from Chris Atkins' chapter on Starsuckers. From which, I'm going to extract a key part:

Our biggest story was in The Sun, revealing that Sarah Harding from Girls Aloud was secretly a fan of Quantum Physics.

It ran as a lead story in Gordon Smart's Bizarre column. Smart's article also included a fabricated quote: 'There is a lot more going on under that blonde barnet than Sarah is given credit for. She's a smart cookie and does read an awful lot.'

This quote didn't come from Jen, showing that the Sun will add fictitious quotes into their articles, as well as not running basic checks.

At the time, Girls Aloud appeared regularly in The Sun, so it would have taken minutes to check with the agent or PR if there was any truth to our story.

The Harding physics story was then was picked up by dozens of news sites around the world. Had we claimed it, the story fee would have earned us £600 from News International...
Gordon Smart has been asked about this total made-up bollocks which he published in a newspaper, during the Leveson enquiry:
LORD JUSTICE LEVESON: Actually, what we're discussing is the suggestion somebody deliberately made up a story and phoned you up and then it appeared in the newspaper. I don't consider that's entirely trivial. Do you?

[Gordon Smart]: No, I don't, and we take it seriously. We called the PR, we checked it out, and he said he had no issue with the story. He didn't want to ring the person, Sarah, directly about it because he said it sounds like her. He said, "It wouldn't surprise me at all if she owned a book like that", and that was a green light for me to publish.
There's no explanation of how 'she might own a book, it's not impossible' turns into the made-up quote that Smart published.

What is beautiful, though, is how Smart promises that he takes seriously ensuring that everything he publishes is true while defending publishing a story that clearly isn't.

Josh Homme starts a fight over a bad name

Josh Homme has launched a lawsuit to try and stop the members of a band he no longer wishes to be in trading under that band's name. explains:

Homme was the original guitarist in Kyuss until their split in 1995, but did not take part in the band's reunion tour last year. Garcia had previously claimed that he and Bjork were planning on making another studio album under the Kyuss Lives! moniker, but Antiquiet now reports that they face legal action from Home and Reeder.
It's not entirely clear why Homme is making such a fuss - presumably any fan of Kyuss would know that they're a band with a different line-up; anyone who isn't a fan is, frankly, unlikely to give a hoot in either direction.

Gordon in the morning: Karma cancer

It always used to be a little uncomfortable when someone whose health has been dragged through The Sun turn up doing an exclusive interview; these days, they might as well print the things on paper which smells a bit funny to really ram the point home.

Who knows, though, maybe Robin Gibb willingly spoke to Wendy Leigh; a man who views cancer as karmic payback for the Bee Gee's success could well believe that dancing for Murdoch is part of the price of remission from that cancer.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Gordon in the morning: Ferry bad news

Gordon gets overexcited in the shipping lanes:

THE lads in The Wanted almost lost £6million of kit on Wednesday night when a ferry carrying tour gear was in collision with a cargo vessel.
The Wanted have six million quid's worth of equipment? That's a hell of a lot of make-up and trousers, and a really expensive tape machine, presumably.

Still, they "almost lost" it all, did they?
The Wanted ferry nearly lose their kit
So this must have been a really, really serious incident?
The accident happened in Belfast Lough, and roadies with the kit on a Stena ship were so worried it was going down they put on life jackets.
And believe me, if you've got an incident at sea, nobody is better at predicting what might happen than a roadie. If only Noel Gallagher had been on the Titanic, they might have avoided any loss of life at all.

Although... if there's a bit of a bump at sea wouldn't putting a life jacket on be a normal thing to do? Has Gordon taken a basic safety measure, and a minor incident, and inflated it like a seat that can also be used as a floatation device?

RTE have a report on the incident:
A passenger ferry was involved in a collision with another vessel at the entrance to Belfast Lough, authorities in Northern Ireland confirmed tonight.

Police are assisting the Maritime and Coastguard agency in an investigation into the incident.
The Stena ferry has docked at its terminal in Belfast. There are no reports of injuries.
There were 51 passengers and 47 crew on board.

A spokesman said there were no reports of injuries and everyone on the ferry had safely disembarked in Belfast.
So this is a bit of a minor bump, then, and it seems at no time was the ferry in any danger; much less its cargo "almost lost". Still, why let the facts, etc, etc?

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Gordon in the morning: Gordon in the MDNA

This morning, Gordon has a listen to the new Madonna album, MDNA. He describes the album as a "return to form" and the last one as a "let-down".

Which is kind of strange, as when Hard Candy came out, although his review was a bit muted, it hardly suggested he believed she was off-form:

The Chameleon Of Pop has chosen an edgy, urban feel for her latest reinvention.
To be fair to Gordon, he wasn't entirely convinced by some aspects of Hard Candy:
Despite a few tasty treats, I?m not sure rap was the right direction for a singer approaching her fifth decade.
And yet, for MDNA, the supposed "return to form", what does he especially like?
Having rappers M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj on board was a shrewd move and they bring quality as well as credibility to their guest appearances.
So, having rap on Hard Candy was a mistake and a deviation from the brand, whereas the album shrewdly returns to what Madonna does best by, erm, having some rap on it.

To be fair, Gordon isn't really reviewing the album so much as playing a game of aural Catchphrase, listing what he can hear. Trying to capture a sense of a record is something Gordon does terribly badly - as well as MIA and Minaj being "on board", he also tells us that "William Orbit is back on board".

There's also this line:
Opener Gang Bang also follows the dubstep trend.
That might be the clumsiest thing The Sun has done since sliding fifty quid notes into policemen's tunic pockets.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Happy birthday, NME

I've been reading it since it was not as good as it used to be, and it's remained not as good as it used to be, consistently, since. I've been lucky enough to have had some stuff published in there in the past, which was always a teenage dream. For all its faults, it remains the best weekly pop paper - okay, it would be by default, but you know what I mean.

It still has some great people writing for it; it can still surprise and often delight. However much I might wish for a different NME, I'd never want a world without any NME.

Sixty years getting people to give you money for writing about music. Happy birthday, you magnificent beast.

Gordon in the morning: Near the Queen

Kanye West has been in London, and apparently The Queen is unhappy:

Kanye West tear-up upsets the royals

By GORDON SMART, Showbiz Editor

WHEN Kanye West moved to London it was a dead cert he'd rub a few people up the wrong way with his Zoolander antics.

Now he has not only upset the fashion world but also members of the Royal Family.
Gordon bases this on a quote from Kanye's special friend Big Sean:
"We went to London and we were right next to the Buckingham Palace and the Royal Family."
Gordon inflates this claim:
The rapper has been living at the Lanesborough Hotel — just a stone's throw from Buckingham Palace — for the past few months.
Next to? A stone's throw?

Not according to the hotel's website, which points out it actually sits over half a mile from the Palace.

But, hey, Big Sean can save this non-story. What if the royal family were actually in the hotel?
There were members of the Royal Family staying below us.

"Kanye had rented out the top floor and we was banging that bitch out.

"Every room was a studio. The Royal Family below were complaining like, 'We got all this loud-ass rap music above us and weed smoke.'"
Yes, the Royal Family would be staying in a hotel in central London, on account of not having hundreds of bedrooms available in the city.

It's funny, by the way, how Sean talks about selfishness as if it's a great thing.

Miley Cyrus has killed God

Miley Cyrus was taken with a photo of Lawrence Krauss, so much so, she shared it with her Twitter followers.

It had this quote from Krauss attached:

“You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements (carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, all the things that matter for evolution) weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in stars. So forget Jesus. Stars died so you can live.”
I know what you're thinking: how could he have left out mentioning how we have to get back to the garden, right?

That, though, isn't what has caused a storm of stupid to come raining down on Cyrus' head:
“You seriously believe that crap? It’s so ridiculously stupid. Go to hell,” one person tweeted at her, while another added, “So are you no longer a Christian? Forget Jesus??? Seriously? What has happened to you out there in the famous world? What????
Cyrus has politely rolled her eyes and, well, raised them to heaven:

I'm not entirely sure that trying to win round people who don't believe in scientific origins of the Universe with a quote from Einstein is going to be effective, but kudos for not taking the career-minded route of issuing a cringing apology.

It's surprising that Miley Cyrus turns out to be one of our bravest pop stars; it's depressing that we live in times where quoting Krauss is brave.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Sony suddenly comes up with a digital strategy

It might be a little late in the day, but Sony seems to have decided to try taking digital music seriously.

It had owned 51% of the incorrectly named IODA - "Independent" Online Distribution Alliance - and now it's going to buy up the rest, in order to be able to merge it with the other significant American digital distributor, The Orchard. Sony will then own about half of the new company, which will be called The Orchard.

Keeping it? This is a fairly dull post, but probably quite significant: as a label, Sony is as clueless as its competitors about how to make money online; as a distributor, it might well be getting its act together.

Warner Brothers introduces a brilliant new service for 1996

Hey - do you have a DVD that you'd like to put on your computer?

Great news: Warner Brothers have invented a brilliant new service for you, that's easy, quick and cheap. Apart from cheap. And the easy bit. It's not exactly quick, either. Public Knowledge explains:

The head of Warner Home Entertainment Group thinks that an easy, safe way to convert movies you already own on DVD to other digital formats is to take your DVDs, find a store that will perform this service, drive to that store, find the clerk who knows how to perform the service, hope that the “DVD conversion machine” is not broken, stand there like a chump while the clerk “safely” converts your movie to a digital file that may only play on studio-approved devices, drive home, and hope everything worked out. Oh, and the good news is that you would only need to pay a reasonable (per-DVD?) price for this pleasure.
That's right, you'll have to go to a professional outlet to have your DVDs ripped. For a small fee, of course.

I think we must tip our hats to Warners, for coming up with a process to digitise a DVD that actually is more complex than obtaining the thing physically.

Gordon in the morning: The Sun is a very different place

The Sun just can't help itself, can it? Yesterday, it ran shoddy long-lens photos of Stacey Solomon smoking (apparently this is in the public interest because she's pregnant, and as we all know, once you've conceived your uterus instantly becomes property of the commonwealth; besides, she was on telly singing, right?)

And having had the public beheading, today Smart's column puts the head on a pole and makes it talk, with Solomon forced to beg for forgiveness:

"Every puff is sneaky and guilty and I know I'm doing something bad.

"Seeing the pictures put it into perspective about how awful it looks and was the spur to seek the help I need.[...]
"And thank you to The Sun from the bottom of my heart for allowing me to write this piece."
In case it just looks like bullying, here's a medical opinion:
UNBORN babies whose mums smoke get less oxygen and less nourishment because the placenta does not work as well.

And every time the mum takes a puff, the baby's heartbeat surges.

Smokers are also more likely to go into early labour. Stacey really should quit.
You know what will really help with that? How about sneaking about shoving cameras in her face, running pieces denouncing her in the papers, and then simpering the obvious but simplistic "Stacey should stop" without any balancing thoughts about why it might be difficult to stop an addiction, especially when you have the added stress of men with massive cameras trying to get photos of "your bump" every time you step outdoors.

Smoking while pregnant isn't a good thing to do. But neither are show trials.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Michael hacked, son

Yesterday's Sunday Times had a story about Michael Jackson's entire recorded history being lifted from Sony's secure systems. In a spirit of puckish wit, today the NME has liberated the story from behind News International's secure paywall:

A source told the paper: "Everything Sony purchased from the Michael Jackson estate was compromised. It caused them to check their systems and they found the breach. There was a degree of sophistication. Sony identified the weakness and plugged the gap."
Ah, yes, they plugged the gap that created a weakness which - with a degree of sophistication - allowed compromising of the system.

I don't know who the "source" was, but I suspect he or she came from Sony's movie division, where they generally write scripts featuring hackers and big screens flasging "ACCESS DENIED".

It's obviously that Sony was unwittingly involved in making these files available to the internet - they didn't realise when they put them on their system that other people could download them. But when individuals used that line as a filesharing defence - they didn't realise other people could access the files on their hard drive - Sony and the RIAA weren't impressed. I hope Sony do the right thing, and pursue themselves to the fullest extent of the law.

Gordon in the morning: Cheryl's Ray of hope

Oddly, the news that Cheryl Cole is supposedly going to record an unwanted Lana DelRay song is brought to us by...

Which seems a bit surprising. Perhaps so many people are being kept busy at Wapping helping the police with their enquiries articles are written by anyone who happens to be around.

Of course, it's all down to a "source":
A source said last night: "Cheryl is a big fan of Lana and was intrigued to hear she had lots of songs written which she wasn't going to sing herself. She got hold of one and was really taken with it.

"The record label are pretty happy about it because Lana has a massive following."
And it's well known that pop singles tend to sell on the basis of the writer's credit.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Cheryl Cole was going to work with Michael Jackson, we're asked to believe

DigitalSpy trumpets a jewel lost to the world:

Cheryl Cole, Michael Jackson duet was planned, says
Oh, really? Call my a cynic, but I can't imagine that Jackson's list of potential collaborators was so short it needed the woman off the hair adverts to pad it out.

So, what does this "planned duet" actually mean?
"I told Michael Cheryl was the hottest thing in the UK and he was keen to meet her," told The People. "I was gonna write them a song."
So, the headline should read:

Cheryl Cole oversold to Michael Jackson, as will i am hoped to score some royalties from an album padding duet somewhere down the line

Rockobit: Ronnie Montrose

Ronnie Montrose, rock guitarist, has died. A statement on his official website confirms the news:

Ronnie Montrose ~ 1947-2012

A few months ago, we held a surprise party for Ronnie Montrose's 64th birthday. He gave an impromptu speech, and told us that after a long life, filled with joy and hardship, he didn't take any of our love for granted.

He passed today. He'd battled cancer, and staved off old age for long enough. And true to form, he chose his own exit the way he chose his own life. We miss him already, but we're glad to have shared with him while we could.
Montrose ran his own bands - Montrose and Gamma - alongside a lifetime of working as a guitar for hire. His spell filling in after Rick Notts quit Rail showed the respect in which he was held, as the band shared billings with him (Ronnie & Rail) and included Montrose songs in their set.

Ronnie had been away from music for two years while receiving treatment for prostate cancel, but in September 2011 had sounded positive during an interview with the North County Times:
"I didn't touch a guitar for two years, but when I realized I was seeing the light at the end of the recovery tunnel and was going to live pain-free, I realized again that it was a fun little instrument to play."

"I've blocked all my health issues out of my mind. That's a portion of my life that I'm done with. Now, I can't wait for every day to come so I can wake up and plug in. I'm up there entertaining myself and my playing is stronger than ever, because my excitement is back."
It sounds like something went sadly wrong.

Ronnie Montrose was 64; he died yesterday.

Bookmarks: Fatai Rolling Dollar

Now, that's a comeback: France24 meets Fatai Rolling Dollar, who's not only launching a comeback in his 80s, but also attempting to bring back an entire genre:

Wearing a yellow-and-blue outfit, canary yellow sunglasses and a military beret, he sits in a popular Lagos bar discussing the highlife music that was born in Ghana in the early 1900s and reached its peak in the region in the 1950s and early 1960s.

Highlife features quick, repetitive rhythms driven by electric guitar and wind instruments played beneath a sometimes melancholic chant that typically satirises modern life.

Noel Gallagher cherishes outdated musical shibboleth

It's perhaps no surprise that a man whose music is so resolutely backwards looking would want to bring back Top Of The Pops. Noel Gallagher misses it:

"It was a great British tradition to have Top of the Pops on a Thursday, and it gave you a chance to see what these people looked like who you were listening to on the radio, and we don't get that anymore. I would bring it back in a heartbeat."
Ah, yes, we know how much Noel loves the idea of a show which brings you into contact with different types of music, and bands you wouldn't normally seek out.

Why, remember how much he enjoyed the last Top Of The Pops which was made, for Christmas last year:
"Christmas Top of the Pops was ­dreadful," he said, according to the Sunday Mirror.

"Every song ­sounded like it came from the same field of music. There was a rap in there somewhere, everyone sang in a transatlantic soul voice and it was rubbish."
And yet he wants to watch that every Thursday night.

Embed and breakfast man: Julia Holter

I have just five minutes to convince you of the wonder of Julia Holter.

I could do with it this interview with Altered Zones, or with this, Marienbad, from the new album:

Or you could do both.

[Buy: Ekstasis]

Alex James tries to clear the stink of Cheesefest

The disaster that was the otherwise-successful Alex James Presents Harvest cheese-and-music bash not paying anyone gets a close look in today's Observer.

Alex James is given space to not quite apologise, but stress how bad he feels about it all:

James acknowledges how furious many of those involved have been. Although he did receive part-payment upfront, it did not, he says, compensate for the work he put into the festival. '"It wasn't about the money I lost. It's just a mess. It was easily the worst business deal I've ever done. I'm gutted that some people didn't get paid."
It's pointed out that James has been involved in trying to get money to some of those left unpaid, and is fairly generous to him.

This is quite surprising. The piece is written by Observer eating critic Jay Rayner. Rayner was a pretty strong critic of James and the cheese disaster, tweeting this just a couple of weeks ago:

So, either Rayner has had his pants charmed off him, or else James' contrition convinced him.

Twitterites have pointed out to Rayner this morning the lack of any trace of contrition, but Rayner says there was no space:

You might think that James would have been better served by being portrayed as someone apologetic for the mess in the article itself, but I don't think Rayner would have been so warm to him if he didn't believe it was there.

This week just gone

What were the most popular stories being read this week last year?

1. Phil Collins quits the drums
2. R Kelly sex video blah blah blah
3. Vox clarify anti-gay position as 'not phobic, just dislike'
4. US immigration double-check Take That visas; Gordon Smart splashes non-story
5. Belfast chosen to underwrite 2011 MTV Europe promotional work
6. KT Tunstall thinks she knows why people think she's gay
7. Soul music was apparently just missing Cliff Richard
8. Pete Doherty linked to music shop robbery
9. Tatu can't imagine why people think they're gay
10. How Coca-Cola use music to rot teenagers' teeth

These were interesting, and new, this week:

Fanfarlo - Rooms Filled With Light

Download Rooms Filled With Light

School Of Seven Bells - Ghostory

Download Ghostory

Shearwater - Animal Joy

Download Animal Joy

Napalm Death - Utilitarian

Download Utilitarian

The Ting Tings - Sounds From Nowheresville

Download Sounds From Nowheresville

David Sylvian - A Victim Of Stars

Download A Victim Of Stars