Saturday, May 02, 2015

In Liverpool, even the nostalgia industry is nostalgic

The Beatles Story on Albert Dock (which used to be called The Beatles Story Experience) is celebrating (if that's the word) twenty five years in business.

Probably a bitter sweet day for Radio City, who just three years before The Beatles Story opened had had to close their two million quid stab at a Beatles Museum a few steps away in Seel Street. Beatles City only lasted three years - somehow, it managed to be ahead of its time while being focused on the past.

The submarine-styled building is still there, though:

Legendobit: Ben E King

Earl, as you'll be more than aware by now.

Ben E King has died - in the same month as Percy Sledge, which must be making Babylon Zoo's Jas Mann feel a little nervous right now.

King told WGBH how he wrote Stand By Me - it wasn't a struggle:

[S]omeone asked me, what was you thinking about or what was you feeling about? Songwriters just write songs. It's like an artist that paints. They paint what they feel. It's not about how many of these painting I'll sell; it's just how they feel at the moment. And that's how I wrote "Stand By Me". And the song to me as I was writing it, it was just a song, it just, personal of course with its moments

It's OK 'cause a singer has got a different attitude, they're they're so whacked out they don't know what they're doing half the time. Singers; they're spoiled too. I'm a songwriter. So I'm OK. But when I wrote "Stand By Me" as a song and to know that the song will probably be here for hundred and hundreds of years to come, it's great, you know. And it was just simple lyrics. "When the night has come and the land is dark and the moon is the only light we'll see, no I won't be afraid. No, I won't be afraid just as long as you stand, stand by me. So darling, darling, stand by me, oh stand by me, oh stand, stand by me, stand by me." It's just simple lyrics but enough to, enough to connect. And I didn't realize that when I was was writing it, it was just something that I felt like I wanted to say. And during those times like in my early years as a writer I could actually write a song in ten minutes because all of a sudden a song is writing itself, I'm just putting down words. It just seem each line that you put down flows with the other ones. It's like writing a love letter - you don't think about it, it's something from the heart. You're writing how you feel. And when you're finished you put your signature on it and you mail it off and that's it. And that's how "Stand By Me" was really.
It's worth noting, though, that King's performance of his song was as important as the words in ensuring its longevity - as the Library Of Congress observed:
Stand by Me" is anchored by perhaps the best known bassline in recording history, composed by Stoller and played by Lloyd Trotman. His upright acoustic bass is doubled by an electric guitar played an octave higher. According to Stoller, a Latin-American percussion instrument called a guiro played "... on every second beat and a triangle on every fourth." Legendary engineer Tom Dowd recorded "Stand by Me" at Atlantic Studios in New York City. Stan Applebaum wrote the soaring string arrangement, which includes a two-part invention. All these elements contributed to the song’s success, but it was King’s incandescent vocal that made it a classic.
Ben E King was 67; he died April 30th.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Russian politician finally finds something positive about U2's iTunes giveaway

Who knew? That time when the U2 album cluttered up desktops and mobiles across the world wasn't a dying dinosaur's desperate grab for relevance. It turns out it was gay propaganda all along:

In Russia, Duma deputy Alexander Starovoitov​, a member of the far right LDPR party, asked Russia's attorney general to investigate U2 for distributing "gay pornography" to minors.

This is apparently because of the album's cover picture (by Glen Luchford) of U2 drummer Larry Mullen jr embracing his 18-year-old son, Elvis. Both were shirtless.
Now, if only Bono had thought of that line at the time, maybe he might have found some support.

Although the rantings of a right-wing jabberloon might be amusing, this is part of the hardening hatred for LGBT people in Russia, and while we don't need to take Starovoitov's U2 gay panic seriously, we need to take the witch-hunt winds on which his stench is blowing very seriously indeed.

Grooveshark finally stops swimming

After ten years of a liberal attitude to copyright, and battles with the music industry, Grooveshark has thrown in the metaphorical towel:

“Today we are shutting down Grooveshark.

We started out nearly ten years ago with the goal of helping fans share and discover music. But despite best of intentions, we made very serious mistakes. We failed to secure licenses from rights holders for the vast amount of music on the service.

That was wrong. We apologize.
Without reservation.

As part of a settlement agreement with the major record companies, we have agreed to cease operations immediately, wipe clean all of the record companies’ copyrighted works and hand over ownership of this website, our mobile apps and intellectual property, including our patents and copyrights.”
Having spent so much time and money fighting the labels, I'm not entirely sure Grooveshark can really claim they're apologising "without reservation" - "with reluctance but, hey, what can you do" might be nearer the truth.

Salon seems thrown by the idea of a nice pop star

Does not compute... does not compute... does not compute

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Technics Pro has never heard of its competition, apparently

Some strange goings-on captured in the latest Advertising Standards Authority judgements, with a mysterious case of a competition prize.

Technics Pro, a company which sells (as the name implies) Technics kit, sent a sloppy but exciting tweet:

A competition on Twitter stated "Congratulations to [name] who is the winner of a free customized turntable! Don't loose [sic] hope as we will have alot [sic] more giveaways to come, and rthe [sic] next winner could be you!"
The winner was thrilled - a free turntable! What could be better.

Trouble is, the turntable never arrived. He complained to the ASA; they asked Technics Pro about the missing prize.

Technics Pro didn't, to their credit, pretend not to be a turntable business ("hello? no, this is, erm, a laundrette..." but they did try this response:
Technics Pro said they did not remember publishing any advertising of this kind.
Guys, that happens. How many times has a ticket holder turned up at Lotto headquarters only to be met with blank stares and someone muttering "Yew-Row-Millie-Yons? I don't think we do a YewRowMillieYons contest, do we?"

The ASA upheld the complaint - as the internet hadn't forgotten the competition, even if Technics Pro had - and warned the company to be more careful in future. It might be a moot point - the website has vanished and their Facebook presence hasn't been updated since Christmas.

A Courtney Love lawsuit

There was a time not so very long ago when you'd barely get through a week without hearing of Courtney Love being in some sort of legal skirmish.

More recently, there's been no need for the permanent lawyers parking slot outside her home. Which makes today's lawsuit against Love sound like some sort of revival event.

Writer Anthony Bozza has brought an action claiming that he's been unpaid for work on Love's yet-to-be-published "auto"biography:

In the suit, Bozza states that his collaboration agreement with Love guaranteed him a minimum of $200,000 from advances Love received, as well as his expenses, regardless of whether the book came out. Bozza says he has spent around $10,000 on getting his interviews with Love transcribed, an expense he claims she has not reimbursed. Furthermore, he would receive royalties up to a maximum of $300,000. So far, Love has paid Bozza only $100,000, he claims, despite already receiving $400,000 of a $1.2 million publishing advance.
Ten grand might sound like a lot for transcription services, but let's not forget that Love can ramble when she gets going.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Bookmarks: Katy Perry

I missed this when it was first published just after the Superbowl - Gabrielle Korn on how Katy Perry gets away with homophobia:

She gets away with an entitled, IDGAF-what-you-think brand of homophobia while also appointing herself a spokesperson for LGBTQ rights. It's like there's this pressure to laugh at her gay jokes because she insists she means well. If you take her homophobia too seriously, it's on you for being uptight: Kind of like how I wasn't allowed to be offended when men sang it to me on the street. It was just all in good fun.

Jack from Jack And Jack makes it nice. Not actually nice.

Earlier this year, Ryan Seacrest ran a Make It Nice campaign, a well-intentioned attempt to try and raise the level of discourse on the internet. Amongst those signing up were Vine-grown rap stars Jack And Jack.

And how are Jack And Jack making it nice?

Erm, by calling people who post body positive images online sluts:

[Jack Johnson] tweeted: ‘I feel like I’ve seen a lot of girls use this “Body Positive” thing to post slutty pictures and not get called out for it [insert monkey with hands over mouth emoji]’
I think, Jack, you were probably looking for a emoji with a foot in its mouth.

Jack's career, like the Vine videos which started it, clearly has a tight time limit.

Bieber reverts to type

So, how is that teary-eyed new-look Justin Bieber - the one putting the loutish behaviour behind him - getting along?

That phase is over, apparently, and he's back to being a chaos monkey. He's gatecrashed a school prom:

A statement released to Yahoo Music reads, “The school was aware that Mr. Bieber was at the venue recording, but was assured that he would not come out to interfere with the program. His entourage pushed past the school’s security to gain access to the dance floor and was there for three to four minutes. From the students’ perspective it was a once in a lifetime experience to have him at their prom, but we were extremely concerned for the safety of both our students as well as Mr. Bieber. No student was injured while he was there.”
A kinder, gentler Bieber. Except when there's a vague possibility Groober and Spatz from year 12 might have put vodka into the fruit punch.

Joni Mitchell is unwell, but not that unwell

There are reports floating about this morning that Joni Mitchell is in a coma.

She's not, says her website:

Leslie Morris, who is with Joni in the hospital, has approved the following statement to be made through "Contrary to rumors circulating on the Internet today, Joni is not in a coma. Joni is still in the hospital - but she comprehends, she’s alert, and she has her full senses. A full recovery is expected. The document obtained by a certain media outlet simply gives her longtime friend Leslie Morris the authority - in the absence of 24-hour doctor care - to make care decisions for Joni once she leaves the hospital. As we all know, Joni is a strong-willed woman and is nowhere near giving up the fight. Please continue to keep Joni in your thoughts." You may add your well wishes for her at the website
Yes, that's right: somehow, a document transferring power of attorney has somehow wound up in the public domain.

Bookmarks: Lush

Under The Radar catches up with Miki & Emma from Lush. They talk about Chris' death, how horrific their management were, and - of course - about the music:

"I'm not going to say that we were trying to be Britpop," says Berenyi. "Because that's just horrendous. I think the world went Britpop, or certainly Britain went Britpop. I think we just carried on doing the same thing, actually. I don't think there's a huge amount of difference between songs like [Split track] 'Hypocrite' and 'Ladykillers' in terms of spirit."

"It was annoying," adds Anderson, "because people go, 'Oh, Lovelife, they've gone all pop.' But actually, we've always had pop songs. 'For Love' [from Spooky] was a pop song. And so was 'Sweetness and Light' [from 1990's singles compilation, Gala]. It wasn't obscure music. It was always really accessible, songs that were written in a very traditional manner. We were never an experimental sonic band."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

America: A nation where R&B singers are underwriting the costs of cleaning senator's offices

Nathan Morris, one of Boyz II Men, has stepped in to start a campaign to help raise funds for Charles Gladden, who works in the Dirksen Senate Office but doesn't earn enough to keep a roof over his head.

Morris has chipped in ten thousand dollars and is hoping to raise a similar amount from others.

Which is the right thing to do. The other right thing to do, of course, is get angry that this situation even exists:

Instead of celebrity attention, policymakers need to put their heads together to find long-term solutions to poverty, experts say.

The campaign "might be helpful for Mr. Gladden, and God help anyone who wants to help those in need, but obviously the problem of homelessness is a multi-billion dollar problem," says Ken Stern, author of the book "With Charities For All." "This man is working in the Senate, and the Senate has the power to help millions of people. Those are the sustainable solutions that we need. There are thousands of people out there who need this type of help.”
The Christian Science Monitor there, although it's not just "experts" who say that a situation where you're relying on one of Boyz II Men to subsidise keeping your government offices clean you're kind of screwed. You don't really need any kind of expertise to see that you've got a organisation here which is fundamentally flawed. Tellingly, the senate isn't hoping that Blackstreet's Mark Middleton will organise food parcels for their security detail.