Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Osmonds: A house divided

It's not just the increasingly brittle Tory party who are split in two over the idea of gay people having basic civil rights. That other battered, storied institution, The Osmonds, are also having a tough time of it.

Over in Utah, many of The Osmonds are actively campaigning against gay marriage, holding an event:

You'll note it starts with a "gather and mingle", although I'm assuming the mingling was tightly controlled to go girl, boy, girl, boy.

But you know who doesn't have time to listen to a teenager playing the piano in a bid to try and stop people they'll never meet getting married?

Marie Osmond, that's who. Marie's got something to say:

"The God that I believe in is a god of love, not fear. I don't tell my children if you're not good you're going to Hell. I tell my children that God will be there for them when they struggle. That's the God I believe in...I believe in [my daughter's] civil rights, as a mother. I think my daughter deserves everything that she desires in life. She's a good girl. She's a wonderful child. I don't think God made one color flower. I think he made many..."
You know, it might be churlish to point out here that there's not really any doubt that there are many flowers. Although the God making them bit isn't exactly factual.

So let's just applaud Marie Osmond's warmth, and remember that Not All Osmonds Think The Same.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Michelle Shocked tapes mouth, stages protest

Can't help feeling that Michelle Shocked might have done a better job salvaging her image if she'd stuck a bit of duct tape over her mouth before she embarked on the anti-gay rant, rather than outside one of the venues which subsequently canned her.

Shocked is trying to claim that the withdrawal of a platform is akin to being silenced. That would be muddle-headed enough from someone who hadn't lived the life of an activist, but from Shocked is just heartbreakingly crass.

Nobody is silencing you, Michelle. But that doesn't mean that anyone wants to listen to you.

Bookmarks: Amazon

[via The Daily WTF

Gordon in the morning: Robbie Williams so desperate to be in Oasis he's trying to start a war with Blur

Does anyone really care what Robbie Williams thinks about Blur? Really? Tell us then, Gordon:

he singled out Alex for criticism after accusing The Sun columnist of “not being very nice to him”.

Robbie said: “Alex is the bassist in Blur — my nan could do that. All she needs is a new haircut.”
Let's not pause to reflect that being in Take That is a job so simple, Howard Donald is able to hold the role down, and just probe this further.

It turns out that Williams is carrying a grudge:
He explained he first met the band during a TV show appearance in Manchester with TAKE THAT when he was just 16. Robbie said: “From what I now know, looking back, they were suffering from a little bit of middle-class angst.

“I did feel like I was part of the s*** beneath their shoes for being in a boyband.”
There's a bit of confusion between class angst and artistic angst there, and there's the other possibility that maybe Take That, and Robbie in particular, were annoying back then. ("Back then".)

It all ends up with Robbie wailing that he's the victim here:
He said: “There is a lot of snobbery towards pop music, to me and pop in general — it’s kind of a despised art form.

“There’s a lot of ‘Check out that fat ****, he’d be nothing without GUY CHAMBERS.’

“I’m coming from a place of, ‘Hang on, I’m being picked on here, I don’t like it.’”
Actually, Robbie, pop doesn't need you to defend it; it's like KFC defending Fast Food: might be from the field, but not the best placed to argue the value of what they do.

And put your mind at rest, Robbie. Nobody says you'd be nothing without Guy Chambers. They also acknowledge that you'd be lost without Gary Barlow, too.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guitarobit: Jay Smith

Jay Smith, guitarist for Matt Mays, has died. Mays published an announcement on Facebook:


Our guitar player and dear friend Jay Smith passed away this morning in Edmonton. As you can all imagine, we are completely devastated. However, in our heart of hearts we know that we need to Play on. Jay's family as well as the band know he would have wanted it that way. All the proceeds from the remaining shows will be put into a trust for his two beautiful children. Jay's wit, charm, and unparalleled love of music will never be forgotten.

He was our brother and he will live in our hearts and song forever.

Matt, Serge, Damien, Adam and Matt
Smith won the 2009 East Coast Music Award for Songwriter of the year; he led his own band, Rock Ranger, for most of the first decade of this century, joining up with Mays' backing group El Torpedo from 2007. He also released a free solo collection through Bandcamp.

No details about the cause of death have been made public.

Glastonbury 2013: Gimme shelter, perhaps in Joe Banana's tent while it rains

The Rolling Stones are taking a hell of a risk agreeing to headline Glastonbury, surely? It can take so long to get out the car park there they might end up burning through the whole of the time they're allowed to be on UK soil before they become eligible for paying tax here.

Gordon in the morning: Blown off by Blue

Over in the TV part of Gordon's empire this morning, news that Blue are overestimating their own importance:

REUNITED boy band Blue have infuriated ITV bosses after agreeing to perform at only FOUR of The Big Reunion’s 12 tour dates this summer.

Lee Ryan, Duncan James, Simon Webbe and Antony Costa will be seen performing live in the final episode of the ITV2 show, airing at 9pm tonight.

But they opted out of the full Live Nation UK tour, which stars Atomic Kitten, B*Witched, 911, 5ive, Liberty X and Honeyz.
Ah, it's like the heady days back at the start of the century, when Blue would often pop up overestimating their significance in the grand scheme of things. Although now they're overestimating their significance in a not-so-grand scheme of things.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Borrell pauses unloved band for unlovely solo career

Did you know that Razorlight are still going? Or, at least, they were, only Johnny Borrell has put them on hold. Why, Johnny?

He told French radio station Oui FM: "Razorlight are going to play The Olympia in Paris on April 3rd and after that it's Johnny Borrell, for the moment, and that's Freddy who plays in Razorlight, and Joao who comes from Brazil, who we met playing his saxophone in the street, and it's Darren who plays keyboards."
He's talking about himself both in the third person, and as if he was another three people.

Johnny Borrell stopping Razorlight to concentrate on a band who exist solely to aggrandise Johnny Borrell. It's not much of a difference, is it?

Thank you, ITV2. Thank you very much.

Fun quiz! Here's an extract from The Book Of Revelations. But, hidden inside, there's a Tweet from Natasha Hamilton announcing a new single from Atomic Kitten. Can you spot which bit is that most terrible thing?

To the Church in Pergamum

12 “To the angel of the church in Pergamum write:

These are the words of him who has the sharp, double-edged sword. 13 I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. You did not renounce your faith in me, not even in the days of Antipas, my faithful witness, who was put to death in your city—where Satan lives.

14 Nevertheless, I have a few things against you: There are some among you who hold to the teaching of Balaam, who taught Balak to entice the Israelites to sin so that they ate food sacrificed to idols and committed sexual immorality. 15 Likewise, you also have those who hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. 16 I'm off the studio to vocal @AtomicKOfficial potential come-back single!! Could today get anymore freakin' exciting! 17 Repent therefore! Otherwise, I will soon come to you and will fight against them with the sword of my mouth.

18 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it.

Sandie Shaw appears before parliament

Yesterday the Culture, Media & Sport select committee was doing some thinking about the creative industries, which included an appearance by Sandie Shaw.

It's been written up in some places as an attack on Mumford And Sons, but... well, not really:

Finance is the biggest barrier for emerging artists.

At the moment, unless you’re Mumford & Sons and come from a public school and have a rich family that can support you, you’re on the dole and you’re trying to work and by the time you get a sniff of a record contract you just grab anything that they might offer you.”
That's not so much an attack on Mumfords as the lack of support for people who don't have their private means of support, surely? (And the gap is going to get worse, again, as Duncan Smith's punish-the-poor measures kick in in a few days.)

Shaw's not impressed by the alternative, Cowell-driven model, either:
“So many artists are disadvantaged,” she said. “They cannot start because of their background and the best music comes from those in challenging backgrounds, it comes from Glasgow, Manchester, Essex, it comes from places and people that are really struggling to make some meaning out of their existence.

“So all we’re getting is a load of Simon Cowell-type stuff that is being paid for and owned by people and the artists are just mere puppets.”
Yes. What chance do artists who take their first steps through a mere talent show have of creating great art like Sandie Shaw? Remind me, Daily Telegraph, how did Sandie Shaw's early struggle shape itself?
Shaw, whose real name is Sandra Goodrich, was working at the Ford car plant in Dagenham and as a part time model when she took part in a talent contest at the age of 17. Coming second, she got to take part in a charity concert and was seen by Adam Faith, the singer, whose manager won her a contract and gave her the stage name and topped the charts that year – 1964 – with (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me.
But that was a totally different type of impressario sweeping up a talent show winner and giving them a recording contract.

Still, it's not like Faith was a Cowell-esque figure forcing Shaw to do work she didn't much care for, is it? Is it, Wikipedia?
Shaw had originally performed the song as one of five prospective numbers to represent the United Kingdom in the 1967 Eurovision Song Contest on The Rolf Harris Show. She had never been taken with the idea of taking part in the contest but her discoverer, Adam Faith, had talked her into it, saying it would keep her manager Eve Taylor happy. Taylor wanted to give Shaw a more cabaret appeal and felt that this was the right move - and also felt that it would get Shaw back in the public's good books as she had recently been involved in a divorce scandal.

Of the five songs performed, "Puppet on a String" was Shaw's least favourite. In her own words "I hated it from the very first oompah to the final bang on the big bass drum. I was instinctively repelled by its sexist drivel and cuckoo-clock tune." She was disappointed when it was selected as the song she would use to represent the country, but it won the contest hands down, though it has always been felt that this was partly due to her existing popularity on the continent (she had recorded most of her hit singles in French, Italian, German and Spanish).

Still, none of that should distract us from her main, valid point: a lot of British creativity has been nurtured by young people using time on the dole to develop a voice. You could argue that a guitarist writing songs while out of work is doing something to help with his "job search" - but the system has no way of recognising that.

It's true that if you force a young Jarvis Cocker to work stacking shelves for nothing in Poundland, he'll get a lot of ideas for songs. But you'd need to give him some space to write the things down.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Jodeci: You never get a third chance to make a second impression

Late last week, there was a 90s nostalgia night (and, readers who are my age, don't think too deeply about that phrase, lest you start to install a stairlift) at Wembley Arena. It was an R&B night, with bands like Blackstreet, SWV, Dru Hill. Oh, and Jodeci.

Jodeci were so bad, that even at a gig watched by people happy to pay cash to see faded R&B stars, they managed to piss the audience off.

Soulculture details the nightmare in glorious detail:

The moment Jodeci appeared on stage professionalism didn’t appear to be at the top of their agenda. Just 30 seconds in and Mr. Dalvin decided to jump off stage like a long jumper to then find he couldn’t get back on it. After being told to get back on the stage by his group, a swift leg up from a steward put the singer back in the spotlight.

Things then went from bad to worse swiftly. Just one song in and the entire sold out audience started booing the once iconic group. Not looking like they knew what they were doing at all, there were points throughout that they were singing out of sync to the point no one actually knew what it was they were singing.
Surely anyone looking at that line-up would have thought "let's leave after SWV" anyway?

Spotify to try TV advertising

In a bid to become the Kings And Queens of music streaming, Spotify are taking to the TV to advertise their wares.

Oddly, it seems Spotify have chosen an expensive, lush, produced advert, which compares strangely with the bursty, shouty adverts they host on their own service. Almost like they don't really think that approach would be very effective.

The advert is going to be flung onto The Voice, prime-time on NBC. So not really being targeted at anyone who cares about music.

Motownobit: Deke Richards

Deke Richards, Motown songwriter, has died.

Richards was one of the four members of The Clan, and - after the Clan disbanded - was one of the four members of The Corporation - alongside Berry Gordy, Alphonzo Mizell and Freddie Perren. Both groups of songwriters were created by Berry Gordy, desperate to avoid the creation of more "back room superstars" after Holland-Dozier-Holland grew too large for the label.

Although only partially successful at burying the characters of the team, both groups did well as creative forces. The Clan was short-lived, but produced a couple of outstanding tracks for Diana Ross & The Supremes:

The Corporation were even more powerful creatively:

The team was disbanded in 1972 - their main focus had been writing for the Jackson 5, a role that was being taken on by Hal David. Subsequently, Motown relented and allowed their group credit to be replaced by the names of the individuals involved.

Last year, Richards was involved in selecting and polishing a collection of Jackson 5 rarities, Come And Get It.

Deke Richards had been suffering from oesophageal cancer. He died March 24th, at the age of 68.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Blur/Oasis: If they bury that hatchet any deeper, even Tony Robinson won't be able to reach it

Well, it's a happy ending of sorts: A Blur/Oasis crossover edition marking the end of the Britpop wars:

Former Britpop rivals Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn have buried the hatchet and performed together at a charity concert.

Oasis guitarist Gallagher joined Blur singer Albarn and his bandmate Graham Coxon at a Teenage Cancer Trust gig at the Royal Albert Hall in London.
At long last, they've buried the hatchet.

Except... hadn't they already done that?

According to The Onion's AV Club, the pair buried the hatchet last May, when Albarn offered Noel the chance to sing along with soem Burundian drummers:
Blur's Damon Albarn, Oasis' Noel Gallagher bury the Britpop hatchet, finally

Albarn says he'd be happy to collaborate with the onetime brains behind Oasis who's since gone solo. "Well, why not?" Albarn says. "He should come on the Africa Express train [an Albarn-formed music collective] in September." Self-serving, sure, but a nice sentiment all the same.
Bit harsh to call Noel Gallagher "onetime brains". I'm sure he's used them on at least three occasions.

But hang on, surely the hatchet was buried before that? In February of 2012, when Albarn announced the cessation of hostilities at a post-Brits party:
Gallagher, 44, kissed both hands of Albarn, 43, before planting a smacker on his lips in front of shocked guests including Professor Green, Cesc Fabregas, Adam Deacon and Coldplay's Chris Martin.

Albarn, who had earlier collected the lifetime achievement award with his Blur bandmates, said: "It's funny to think Blur were last here 17 years ago when we were big rivals. Isn't it funny how we've both mellowed after all these years? We've buried the hatchet."
No, hold on. It was back in October 2011, wasn't it? The hatchet was buried back then, when Noel was generous in a Shortlist interview:
"Funnily enough, when I was out last night, I bumped into him," Gallagher told ShortList of Albarn. "I literally haven't seen the guy for 15 f**king years and I bump into him in some club.

"We both went, 'Hey! F**king hell!' and then he said, 'Come on, let's go for a beer'. So, we're sitting there, having a beer, just going, 'What the f**k was all that about 15 years ago? That was mental'.

"Then he said, 'It was a great time, though', and I was like, 'Yeah, it was a f**king good laugh'. It was cool, man."
In fact, Blur and Oasis have been burying the hatchet now for the best part of a decade. Here's The Guardian in 2004:
Just over nine years later, it looks as though Blur frontman Damon Albarn and Oasis songwriter Noel Gallagher will finally bury the hatchet - both have signed up to perform on the new Band Aid charity record, due to be released in time for Christmas.
The Britpop feud might have been a great marketing scam. But, boy, the hatchet-burying is proving to be something of a strong pension scheme.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

You know what the immigration debate really needs? Minor celebrities

As if the world wasn't already knee-deep in people who don't know what they're talking about, talking about immigration, we're now being blessed with The Cheeky Girls sharing their insight.

Shall we see what they have to say?

“It’s too easy to claim child benefit and send the money to children back in Romania,” says Monica. “That’s wrong.”
No, Monica. You're wrong.

At the moment, if your child lives in Romania then the most you could claim for would be eight weeks of child benefit, assuming they'd just returned to Romania, although there are some ways to claim a portion beyond eight weeks. But not what I'd describe as being "easy" ways to make a claim beyond that time.
Gabriela adds: “No one should be allowed to claim benefits unless they have worked here for a year.”
It's an interesting idea. And one of those things that doesn't sound unreasonable, until you ask how Gabriela ended up at this 'one year' cut off point. Is that a meaningful, reasoned point she's come up with, or has she just plucked a period of time out of the air?
Monica chips in: “And then they should only be allowed to claim benefits for a year before being asked to go home."
Hang about... someone has worked for a year in the UK, and then - I'd say 'struggled', I suspect the Cheeky Girls would say 'lived large' - been on benefits for a year. That's two years. How do you then decide that 'home' is somewhere else? If you're twenty, and spent ten percent of your life - all your adult life - in one country, how can a Cheeky Girl decide where that person should believe their home is.

Unless what Monica means is that people should go back where they came from. Now, where have I heard sentiments like that before?

Monica then undercuts her own outrage:
“Even during the bad times when our record label went bust we never considered claiming benefits."
Yes. And you know what, Girls, most people are like that. Most people are like you. They're not rushing about to cadge a few quid for doing nothing here and there. They might want to come to and work here; they might want to come to Britain to go on one of our talent shows and build some sort of career popping up on chat shows and the crueller panel games. Why do you think anyone else from Romania would be any different to you?

(Is it wrong to suggest that applying for benefits might be a more honest way to feed yourself than, say, just helping yourself from Sainsburys, by the way?)

But you know what? If you needed help from the state - from the rest of us - you should have asked. Because we're happy to help out. Because we're clever enough to understand that while today you might need a bit of assistance with paying the bills or covering the rent, yesterday you were sharing some of your earnings from The Big Fat Quiz Of The Year through the tax system, and tomorrow, when you find some more work, you'll become a contributor again.

Because it's called sharing. And because even if you didn't claim benefits directly, you benefitted from the way we work together in this country - to provide broadcasting infrastructure and make Never Mind The Buzzcocks; to keep trains running to take fans to signings; to build hospitals and a legal system where someone can make a mistake stealing groceries from a shop but still get treated with even-handed fairness. It's all part of the same thing.

And for two people who have done really rather well out of the State we've all created in the UK to suddenly suggest we change the way behave to anyone who might come later really reeks of hypocrisy.

This week just gone

The most-shared things on Twitter, ever, ever, ever:

1. Noel Gallagher thinks things were better when Thatcher was around
2. U2's manager wants to save the music industry
3. The Olympics closing ceremony
4. A pigeon poops in the very mouths of the Kings Of Leon
5. RIP: John Barry
6. Kerrang Awards shortlist 2012
7. RIP: Nic Potter
8. Cher offers to follow you for money
9. Gennaro Castaldo on treating file sharing like drink driving
10. Gary Barlow worried about canibalism

These were this week's interesting releases:

Marnie Stern - The Chronicles Of Marnia

Download The Chronicles Of Marnia

Low - The Invisible Way

Download The Invisible Way

Suede - Bloodsports

Download Bloodsports

Billy Bragg - Tooth And Nail

Download Tooth And Nail

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club - Specter At The Feast