Saturday, July 06, 2013

The Black Keys step up to the plate*

* - Yes, I know it's a cliche, but I'm hoping it's refreshed by being in context.

Here's a sweet story. Even more astonishingly, it's a sweet story from TMZ. Dan Auerbach has sponsored a Little League baseball team in West Akron.

TMZ don't bother to mention the name of the team, but then it's not like it's anything to do with Kim Kardashian so they probably couldn't process that detail.

So the kids take to the field with the Black Keys across their backs.

For some reason, Fuck Buttons have been barred from following the Keys' lead.

Friday, July 05, 2013

Bluesobit: Steve Hay

Steve Hay, Scottish blues singer and leader of Steve Hay's Shades Of Blue, has died.

Hay was in the original line-up of The Exploited (back then, going by Hayboy), but after a calendar year as a punk Hay gravitated towards the blues. He landed a tour with Charlie Musselwhite, which he recalled for The Herald last year:

"I thought I was going to be playing the guitar in his band. But it turned out I was the band. It was just the two of us, and he didn't tell me anything. No song title, no keys. All he said was 'when I put my foot down, we start; and when I put my foot down again, we stop'."
Hay balanced a musical life with a bread-and-butter career; he described the day he got made redundant from his last day job, coinciding with a 50th birthday gift of a Stratocaster, as a sign which gave him his "fifteenth wind".

Hay had been due to co-headline the Edinburgh Jazz And Blues Festival. He died on Wednesday 3rd July from a heart attack.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Songs about facilitating successful meetings

Remember Groupon? The boss the company deposed when it turned out that selling money-off vouchers actually wasn't a business at all, Andrew Mason has been busy. Presumably having worked through the nineteen vouchers for one-hour massage sessions that he got as a payout, Andrew has recorded a motivational business album:

Before I leave you to your speaker system or headphones, one word of advice for managers thinking about how to make best use of the album: Context is king. Sure, you can just leave copies of Hardly Workin' on your employees' desks and achieve an incremental increase in productivity and morale (productivity is a function of morale, people!), but I wrote this album as someone someone who believes that messages mean different things depending on the time and place they're delivered. Try ending your next all-hands meeting with "It's Up to Us," for example. Or, having trouble communicating with a low-per/hi-po employee? A "Thinkin' of You" note attached to a flash drive preloaded with "My Door is Always Open" might be the catalyst you need for that transformational breakthrough.
Here's my own management tip - if you go round leaving stuff like that on people's desks, that's going to attract lawsuits.

And if you do plan to end a meeting with a rousing song, I'd suggest you get IT to block access to LinkedIn first because if anything ever said "update your CV and contact employment agencies", it's that.

Interestingly, Steve Albini also has a view on the record. Go on, Steve, get all Big Black-y on this one:
“I think it sits in a tradition of absurd but sincere gestures,” Albini said when reached by phone at his studio. “I think it’s one of the most amazingly realized great ideas I’ve stumbled across in a long time.”
That seems... surprisingly warm. But mostly surprising.

Still, Steve Albini is an independent voice, and if he says there's something in this... oh, hang on, what's this?
Mason holds a degree in music from Northwestern, once played keyboard in a punk rock band and interned for legendary producer Steve Albini, who also counts him as a personal friend.
Let's just pause before going 'oh' and imagine what it might be like being an intern for Steve Albini.

Okay, and now lets go 'oh, he's a pal.'

But could Albini be right, rather than just doing a mate a favour?

Paste supplies a sample of lyrics from Hardly Workin:
Don’t make me cut through no thistles / You can keep all your fancy bells and whistles and shove them / Where the sun don’t shine.
You've got to say: by endorsing that, Steve Albini shows he really sticks by his friends.

Sky falls in as US digital sales drop for first time in recorded history

Every on the deck! Nielsen are reporting that the number of digital downloads sold in the US are falling:

For the year to date as of June 30, digital track sales have declined 2.3% to 682.2 million units from the 698 million units that tracks scanned in the first half of 2012, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

In the first quarter, track sales declined 1.34% to 356.5 million from the 361.3 million. In the second quarter the decline more than doubled to 3.3%, with track sales totaling 325.7 million units this year versus 336.7 million in the second quarter of 2012.
Hang about, hang about, put away your Lars Ulrich Was Right t-shirts, and take a breath.

First of, downloads are now competing for attention with streaming, which is going to have an impact.

But there's more than simply a drift to Spotify here - as Billboard explains:
Getting back to the softness in tracks, the decline can be attributed to a 20 million unit decrease in catalog sales, which at the mid-year point fell to 366.7 million units from the 386.9 million units that were scanned at the mid-year 2012. Meanwhile, current track sales grew slightly to 315.5 million from 311 million units.
So, as we saw with CDs, there comes a point when the mass rush to buy music already owned on a different format starts to fall away. That new songs are still selling well is pretty good news.

And there's... something else:
But with the decline in catalog sales, it’s more likely that the decline is due to the growing popularity of complete my album features at download stores, and the possible repricing of catalog sales up to 99 cents and $1.29 price points from the 69 cent tracks that was rolled out to catalog song titles when iTunes first embraced variable pricing in 2009.
Shock! Digital music tracks respond to pricing changes according to very basic laws of supply and demand!

You may now put on your Alfred Marshall Was Right t-shirts, and go about your business.

Gordon in the morning: Remember Madonna?

Gordon has a teaser question:

Chain reaction: Who’s the face behind mask?
POP star courts controversy by wearing religious-style get-up and a sword in mouth
It's going to be Madonna, isn't it?

Yes, of course it is.

Madonna courting controversy by a waving a lazy paw at a religion?

No, no, come back - because this time it isn't linked to a Pepsi ad.

What's she done, Gordon?
The Queen of Pop has upset religious fanatics – again – by dressing up in this Muslim niqab-style chainmail mask.

She posted the snap with the message: “The Revolution of Love is on... Inshallah”.

It’s no doubt a comment on female oppression.
Really? This has upset people? I suppose people are touchy.

Well, Gordon, tell us who's upset.


Who are these "upset religious fanatics?"

It turns out there aren't any, and so Gordon falls back on a "friend" insisting that it's all very edgy:
But a pal of the singer, who also shared a photo of herself biting a sword warned: “Stirring up controversy about Muslim practices is something Madonna knows could be putting her life at risk.”
That sound you can hear? It's Salman Rushdie's eyes opening so wide in disbelief his forehead is at risk of ripping clean off.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Gordon in the morning: A second look at Ed Sheeran

This morning, Ed Sheeran reveals his looks nearly cost him his job:

The Suffolk lad, who’s gone on to sell millions after initially being knocked back, said: “Every single label I had gone to at the time had told me this song wasn’t a hit. They said this song wouldn’t work.

“And the fact that I was slightly chubby and ginger was not a good ‘marketing tool’ for them.”
That just seems unfairly rude - sure, going 'your record isn't very good' is fair enough, but to then go 'and you look all wrong too' isn't particularly kind.

Very much "Mr Jones, your pies are full of gristle and bone. They are quite inedible. We couldn't possibly put them in our shop.

Also, the font you're using on the box is unpleasant."

Monday, July 01, 2013

Glastonbury 2013: Suzanne Moore goes to Pilton

There's a "ooh, I've gone to Glastonbury I could have stayed at home IN MY GARDEN" bit from Suzanne Moore in today's Guardian.

The tale of hardship...:

What I couldn't get to grips with was the rubbish. Cans are strewn through every field. Lager carnage. Meanwhile there are the banners for Greenpeace and WaterAid everywhere. I imagine the average Ayia Napa crowd is more environmentally aware.
... is a little bit undermined:
Thanks to Yurtel for Suzanne's accommodation.
Yes, she was staying in the luxury area. They even fetch her a television. It's akin to filing a piece from Oxford, but basing your impressions on staying in the Holiday Inn on the by-pass.

Would Suzanne eventually embrace the true festival spirit?
"What about the Stones?" people keep saying when I whinge. "You have to see them." I did. In the 60s.
Arbitrary rank-pulling over having seen a headline band somewhere cooler? Oh, Suzanne, you might rail against the event, but you are so Glastonbury.

Glastonbury 2013: Late breaking news

I have no idea how accurate the description in the tweet is, but... it's believable, isn't it?

Glastonbury 2013: It's all over bar the abandoned tents making a mockery of the festival's attempts to be green

From a long, long way away, that looked like the best Glastonbury in quite a while - especially if you put a hand over one eye and ignore the over-freighted Rolling Stones bit.

Sure, it edged ever closer into the belly of the establishment:

Delivering his regular Sunday morning press conference at 11am today (June 30), Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis confirmed that Prince Harry attended the festival on Saturday.

The 77-year-old farmer and festival organiser revealed that he told the royal he should stay up all night to get the best of the event: "I recommended that he should go through the night, because the nightlife is really what Glastonbury is all about," said Eavis.
Well, no, Michael; visits from heirs to the throne seem to be closer to what Glastonbury is all about these days.

Mind you, you've got love Eavis' apparent unawareness about Harry's reputation:
"At three in the afternoon, you won’t get it, will you? So I told him to get his taxi driver to come back at five in the morning and, you know what, he lasted until four in the morning, so he saw all the best stuff," he said.
Michael Eavis is the only person left alive who'd be surprised that Harry held his end up until the small hours of the morning.

Harry left eventually, though, mumbling that he didn't want to be around when Mumford And Sons turned up as "they make me feel common."

I'm not sure that Uli Jon Roth out the Scorpions coming on stage during the Smashing Pumpkins set made anything better, but it was probably the most inspired collaboration of the weekend. Except for that bit when it wasn't entirely clear if Kenny Rogers had just hallucinated having Sheena Easton on stage.

But I think we can agree that The XX won Glastonbury this year, yes?

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Glastonbury 2013: The Stones rolled on

The Rolling Stones at Glastonbury was, you'll have spotted, hugely overhyped, like some sort of crossover episode, or the completion of a set of Pokemon collections.

Given that it had been given the full moon-landing-status before, it's going to take something special for Michael Eavis to rise the occasion for his traditional complete overstatement. It's a challenge... but he'll do his best:

The Rolling Stones' hit-packed Glastonbury debut has been hailed as "the high spot of 43 years" of the festival by organiser Michael Eavis.
And I think we can confirm that, yes, this is the most overblown statement of 43 years of statements on Glastonbury from Michael Eavis.

Most people seemed to enjoy it in their own way - people whose musical tastes ossified somewhere around the time they started shooting Crossroads in colour had a great time; everyone else made their own entertainment before turning over to watch Public Enemy.

What's strange, though, is that the existence of people refusing to pretend this was anything other than an adequate performance by a band who've been trotting their retirement-fund greatest hits set round the globe for three decades now seemed to outrage the believers. Suddenly, people who you thought would know better were fuming at the very idea that there was snickering at the back.

Andy Kershaw pulled a grim face:
Meanwhile, a depressing amount of bitter, mean-spirited, cynical comment was posted about the Stones on my Facebook page last night.
Imagine that, eh, cynical comment about a band who arrange their world tours to minimise their tax liability. What a world, eh?
Almost all of that hostility was based on the band members being old.
Here's a funny thing, though - obviously, I can't speak for the people who were throwing things in Andy Kershaw's direction, but that isn't true.

Sure, there were a lot of jokes about how old they are - although that was more than balanced by the (surely more patronising) posts about 'goodness, they're moving around, at their age, aren't they marvellous'. But there were also snarks about the songs the Stones have flogged to advertisers; Jagger's strange costume choices; the bizarre film effect that had been slapped all over the footage; the way they only let one chunk of the set go out on TV; the audience being a mix between the bored and the bad dancers.

Now, perhaps Kershaw would dismiss all this as being bitter, mean-spirited and cynical - but given we've just sat through two solid weeks of reverential whispering that 'The Stones are honouring the world with a gig at a music festival', culminating yesterday in John Humphrys being sent off to a yurt for a meeting with Jagger hi'self - I'd suggest it was just the realistic sound of a crowd objecting to being told what to think. The sort of thing you'd have thought Andy Kershaw would welcome.

But what of the 'old' jokes? Even Danny Baker - jesus, DANNY BAKER - pulled an 'Oprah looking stern' face at them:

It's like seeing Hetson Blumenthal saying he doesn't understand why putting an egg into a saucepan makes it go hard, isn't it?

First of all, 'Rolling Stones being old' as the point of a joke have been around for almost as long as they have - I can remember cartoons depicting Mick Jagger with a Zimmer Frame in the 1980s.

At that point, it wasn't so much about them being old, as having been around a long time. Remember that their main rivals, The Beatles, barely scraped into the 1970s. In the 1980s, the very idea of a rock band still going after a couple of decades was, in itself hilarious - they were in middle age, pursuing a career which had only ever been followed by youngsters. It wasn't old, it was just older.

Cliff Richard, who also endured, endured much the same thing even when he wasn't actually, or actuarially, really past it.

And now, in 2013? There's still a lot of that at the heart of the jokes - a general perception that they've got stuck in a job which is really intended for people to do at a younger age. Mick himself admitted more-or-less this in his interview with Humphrys:
“[A]ll these things that you think of when you’re a teenager you could think, well I would have liked to have done that, but that’s completely pointless. I’m very pleased with what I’ve done.

“Everyone wants to have done more things in their lives. But it’s a slightly intellectually, undemanding being a rock singer but you know you make the best of it.”
Doubtless Baker and Kershaw will be giving him a dressing-down for that refusal to treat his work with the due respect.

Danny's comparison with Al Green and Aretha Franklin? I'm not sure it's a fair comparison, given that neither of them are rock stars. Their chosen field has always cut across the generations; soul music never built upon a lyrical groundrock on simply being young in the way much of rock music did. The same is true of Country, for example. Or the blues. If The Stones had just stuck closer to the source material, the 'old' jokes wouldn't work; they would just be coming to the end of taking fifty years worth of cracks at how they're quite young to be doing this. ("You woke up this morning, did you, Mick? Yeah, and you were born yesterday.")

Added to that, there's also the unavoidable, extraordinary durability of the Stones. They've been going longer than the venerable event at which they were playing, and much (oh, so much) had been made of that in the run-up. If you spend weeks pointing out how long these cultural touchstones have been rolling, can you really be surprised if that gets reflected back by those who are less than impressed?

But, I think, the main reason why people make jokes about the Stones being old - in a way you tend not to hear about Paul McCartney, for example - is more familiar. It's the same reason why people make jokes about David Cameron's posh background, or Donald Trump's hair.

Calculate how long Jagger must spend prancing on a running machine. Add up the number of times Keith Richards mentions all the drugs he takes.

The Rolling Stones cling desperately, visibly, to their youth. There's something awkward about a bunch of men who seek praise for a fifty-year career while trying to pretend they're not pushing seventy. It's a like a man who was in the Bullingdon Club trying to hide his kitchen suppers.

Of course people are going to find that funny. Of course that's going to be the fault line where a nation, force-fed the idea that these tax-exiles offering to be paid for doing a couple of hours work in Somerset on a Saturday night is an epochal moment, will gather to snigger.

Glastonbury 2013: Rob DaBank: It wasn't me

I've updated the iDiot with an iPad story to reflect this, but just to clarify - Rob DaBank wasn't the bloke who was using an iPad to video from the Chic stage on Friday; indeed, the video he shot from the stage captures the bloke using the iPad.

Apologies to Rob for the misidentification, both of him and his video technology.

This week just gone

These are the most-read June stories:

1. Liam Gallagher prefers something quieter these days
2. 6Music asked for requests for Liam Gallagher. The responses restore your faith in people.
3. ... and the Beaky Eye albums weren't exactly jumping off the shelves
4. Who does Bono help? Mostly Bono
5. Glastonbury 2013: It wasn't Rob Da Bank after all
6. Robin Thicke: 'Those aren't exploited women, they're just in their natural state'
7. Kim Deal quits the Pixies... again
8. 'How about if we did some Oasis songs?' Beady Eye plead
9. Liam Gallagher wants Smiths to reform
10. MySpace try to tempt you back by wiping out anything you might have given it for safe keeping

These were the interesting releases:

Various - Scared To Get Happy

Various - Sing Me The Songs

Download Sing Me The Songs

Empire Of The Sun - Ice On The Dune

Download Ice On The Dune

Bent - From The Vaults

Download From The Vaults