Friday, July 03, 2015

Twittergem: Like to like; retweet to retweet

Embed and breakfast man: Flo Rida & Audrey Roberts

It's what you've been waiting for - and by that I mean "you probably haven't been waiting for it" - Flo Rida and Audrey Roberts together for the first time:

Croonobit: Val Doonican

Few of my generation would have been able to hear of the death of Val Doonican without feeling a type of Saturday night we've long since lost.

There's a lot of warmth for Val around the web at the moment, so I'd just like to take a moment to salute perhaps his greatest achievement - he was the man who kicked Sergeant Pepper off the number one slot. And he did it with the superbly named Val Doonican Rocks - But Gently.

It's not quite the hot concept it sounds - in this collection of rock covers, Val found space for The Folks That Live On The Hill, a song which has never, ever been played by any act at Reading. But it's still a lovely curiosity.

It says something about Britain of that time - just as Vesta made a mass market out of taking spicy dishes, watering them down, and selling them on, Val did the same thing with rock music.

Val Doonican was 88. He died peacefully in Buckinghamshire, as many people in Buckinghamshire do.

I wonder how far down the whiteboard of names they got for this

"Johnson, our campaign to encourage kids to jiggle about to keep fit - how are you getting on with finding a pop star to front it?"

"Good news, sir, we've got someone who will be a big hit with the kids."

"Wonderful! Did we get Jessie J?"

"No, she was busy, sir. We had to move slightly further on from our first choice. But the good news is that we've got a huge name."

"Who is it, Johnson?"

"Well, let me say, if I say 'singing' and 'Saturday night telly', who springs to mind first?"

"You don't mean...?"

"Yes. I... hang on, I've just got an email about this very subject... oh. It turns out Val Doonican might not longer be available any more."


"I guess I can put in a call to Ricky Wilson's people. He's available."

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Rose McDowall's solo album is coming back

You know what? It's thirty sodding eight degrees outside and I'm hot, so I'm going to paste a press release in here and that's okay because it's worth reading, alright?

Born in times of difficulty and adventure, Cut With The Cake Knife is the debut album from Rose McDowall, solo-artist and ex-member of cult pop group Strawberry Switchblade. Originally recorded in 1988-89 and now re-mastered and getting the re-issue treatment from Sacred Bones Records (U.S.) & Night School Records (UK, EU)

Marking the beginning of an extensive archive project spanning Rose’s 34 year career, Cut With The Cake Knife will include unreleased recordings alongside unseen photographs and detailed new sleeve notes.

Recorded in various locations around the UK and Iceland following the break up of Strawberry Switchblade, the original 9-track Cut With The Cake Knife album featured songs written and demoed for the group’s fabled second album.

Rose McDowall began her career in her hometown of Glasgow, operating within the nascent punk scene with her first group The Poems. After a meteoric rise to pop stardom, which saw Strawberry Switchblade achieve chart success, world tours and global fame, McDowall’s relationship with partner and friend Jill Bryson disintegrated. The aftermath of her pop career saw McDowall earn a new reputation as an underground artist, collaborating with Coil, Felt, Current 93 and Nurse With Wound among others. Cut With The Cake Knife was recorded against this tumultuous backdrop and is one the most affecting collections of direct pop songwriting committed to tape.

The album opens with one of McDowall’s most heartfelt, honest moments: Tibet; a simple song written with absolute truth about the loss of friendship. For errant Switchblade fans it’s a prime example of why McDowall’s legacy is so important: shorn of unnecessary ornament, it’s one of many songs here that speak loudly and clearly about universal emotional states. Production values throughout lie somewhere between glossy, 80s studios and home-recorded demos but it’s a sound that only heightens the poignancy in McDowall’s voice: her best instrument and one that can evoke vulnerability, as in the near-angelic harmonies on Sixty Cowboys or swirling excitement as in the number 1 hit that never was, Crystal Nights. But perhaps her prowess is best summed up by the album’s title track, written for the 2nd Switchblade album yet thriving here, in which Rose projects a powerful protagonist, tinged with violence but still playful. At the heart of even the most upbeat, transcendently “pop” moments is a beautiful melancholy, a nagging heartache McDowall can call her own.

As Rose writes in the 2015 edition sleeve notes: “They’re real sad songs, about real life.”

Cut With The Cake Knife is out September 18th on Sacred Bones (U.S.) / Night School (UK / EU)
Could I make this 'exciting news/half-arsed post' even more so? Yes. Here's a YouTube embed:

When marketing fails

"Righto, so Jane Zhang could be the first genuine global pop star from China. We're ready to roll out a tour building on the initial buzz from an encounter with Simon Cowell. He's kind of the Xi Jinping of pop, so it works. We've worked up this idea to promote the tour. What does everyone think?"

"Yes, everyone smirks and says 'maybe it means something else in Chinese' - is that a good sign? I think it's a good sign."

Angry nuns against Katy Perry

The story of a group of nuns in LA who have sold their convent to a restauranteur, at the same time as the Church has sold it to somebody else, would be entertaining enough without the added extra that the Church has flogged the building to Katy Perry.

The nuns have now gone to court in a bid to stop Perry getting her hands on their private quarters.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Cameron might torpedo Glastonbury houses

There's a shortage of affordable homes in the country. So it's brilliant that Michael Eavis is going to release a parcel of land in Pilton for a number of small homes-to-rent in the corner of the village.

Except now he might not. These new homes, and a number that have been built previously, are threatened by Tory right-to-buy policy:

[There is] a proposal to name 10 new cottages in Pilton after Margaret Bondfield, a trade unionist and Labour MP who in 1929 became the nation’s first woman Cabinet Minister.

Except the cottages may never be built, victims of the ­pernicious Tory plan to nationalise housing association properties and flog them at discounts of up to £77,000 or £102,700 in London.

I’m told Eavis isn’t prepared to release land if it could end up in private hands a few years later at a fat profit.
Understandably so. I say "understandably", although it's not clear that the government really understands.

Yesobit: Chris Squire

Chris Squire, bassist with Yes, has died.

The band released an official statement:

It’s with the heaviest of hearts and unbearable sadness that we must inform you of the passing of our dear friend and Yes co-founder, Chris Squire.

Chris peacefully passed away last night (27 June 2015) in Phoenix, Arizona.

We will have more information for you soon.

Thankyou for all your heartfelt tributes on Facebook and Twitter.
Talking to For Bass Players Only in 2013, Squire explained that his interest in music was actually divine intervention:
[My musical upbringing] was mainly in the Church of England, at my local church, where I was in the choir. I got very good musical training there because we had a very good choirmaster. He was very enthusiastic about music and he was young, so he made it really interesting for me and the other guys in the choir. By the time I became 15 and the Beatles broke, that shifted my reality from that kind of music to another kind of music! That’s when my rock & roll education started.
Equally, he credited some of his success to dodgy wiring:
Yeah, the headphone output I had was very tinny sounding. It didn’t have much low end on it. So the engineer at the time was surprised when the producer was saying, “I need to hear more bass, I need more bass,” because he wasn’t getting much bass on his headphones. He had decided to mix the album on headphones and that a lot to do with my general success, I think, because of that weak headphone socket. [Laughs]
Squire was generous and humorous in ascribing a lot of his (and the band's) success to luck and chance. Talking to Ultimate Classic Rock, he suggested that luck was an element even in the artistic freedom the band enjoyed:
I think we were just lucky that we were in a time when record company executives were more open to the artist’s approach and it wasn’t so reliant upon a producer, at least not in our case anyway. So we just were lucky to be in a niche I think and especially of course, Ahmet Ertegun had signed us personally to Atlantic Records, so he liked our vision and our experimentation that we were up to. There was nobody really on our case at the record company saying that we should be doing something like this or something like that. With the Roger Dean artwork and everything playing into the image of Yes [including] the triple live album Yessongs with the huge gatefold cover, we [also] had Ahmet’s support on all of that. It was pretty hassle-free as far as being told by the record company anything.
Luck? Or trust that came from being a band that knew what it was doing?

Chris Squire was 67. He died Saturday.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Glastonbury 2015: How did Suede go down?

Suede were astonishing last night - headlining the John Peel Stage. Obviously, having neither Lee Nelson or Kanye West on stage with them gave them something of an advantage, and obviously my waistline and hairline makes me a bit biased. So don't take my word for it. Here's a quick round-up of Suede reviews.

It's fair to say that the Western Gazette's reviewer hasn't exactly kept up with the band over the years:

Starting with two lesser known songs, Brett Anderson, Bernard Butler and co entered the stage as though they owned the place, with a studied nonchalance that they had more than earned as a band that at one point nearly did.
There was a lot of smoke and those flags blocking the camera views on the BBC coverage, but even so, I suspect the return of Bernard Butler would have been a bit more noticeable.

And, not wanting to carp, but... Mercury Prize. Three number one albums. Fastest selling debut album in a decade. That's a bit more than "nearly did", surely?

Anyway, the paper warms up:
And then, as the first few notes of megahit Trash were heard something suddenly snapped.

Lead singer Brett Anderson's standoffish manner was thrown aside and his utter delight to hear thousands of fans still remember the words became plain for all to see.
Comperes say a lot of things: but when the guy closing the tent after Suede exited told the crowds they had just watched the best performance of Glastonbury, I couldn't help but agree.
While the Telegraph's liveblog tried gamely to enjoy Kanye, they were getting reports the highlights were elsewhere:
Hard to believe, but people are watching other bands at Glastonbury now. Rupert is at Suede, maybe with all those people that signed the petition saying Kanye shouldn't play.

Rupert Hawksley: God knows what Kanye West is up to on the Pyramid Stage but it would be a miracle if he gets a response to any tune quite as raucous as the one just experienced at the John Peel stage as Suede rattled through Brit Pop classic, Trash.
The NME news desk tried to keep a sense of journalistic detachment, but couldn't quite:
1996 single 'Trash' was played early on in the set, followed by more Britpop favourites including 'Animal Nitrate' and 'We Are The Pigs'. The former track saw the first big singalong of the night. Anderson kept stage chat to a minimum, but did encourage the crowd to "fucking have it" during 'Trash', while he spent a large portion of 'Killing Of A Flashboy' writhing around the floor. An acoustic 'Living Dead' saw the frontman put his mic down to allow the audience to sing, and early single 'The Drowners' also drew a frenzied crowd response after Anderson performed much of it while hanging onto the safety barrier and greeting fans.
Disappointingly, The Guardian's liveblog was so obsessed with Kanye that it didn't manage to mention Suede at all. They should have listened to the Mid Devon Gazette, which recommended Suede as a fine alternative to a man who needed a helicopter to get on stage:
If however, you are staying in and are determined not to watch Kim Kardashian's other half, the BBC is devoting much of its schedule to all things Glastonbury tonight, so do a spot of channel surfing and you should be able to find some music more to your personal taste.

Cue a video of 90's favourites Suede who are on the John Peel stage at roughly the same time as Kanye.
Panic Manual reviewed the set from Toronto, where - apart from when those sodding flags got in the way - there was a great view:
wasn’t actually at Glastonbury, but rather, I was at home, in Toronto. Now before you question the authenticity of my review, I have assured you I have taken the appropriate measures to simulate Glastonbury as best as I can at home, including:

- Rain, it was pouring rain outside. I opened the windows so the sound of water coming down on the earth would resonate in the background as I watched the show. A sound many Glastonbury fans would be familiar with.

- I watched it on my 40 inch TV in high def, which frankly, makes me feel a lot closer to the stage then 95% of the people at the Peel stage
So, what are the advantages of this superior view?
Having access to cameras on stage, I could tell Bret and co were ecstatic about being at Glastonbury even Richard Oakes tried to muster a smile, maybe he saw a hot dog in the crowd or something.
That's just mean.

But is that really the best way to watch the gig? Is it?
The rest of the set read like a greatest hit’s list, including everyone’s favorite b-side about a heroin addict, The Living Dead. The crowd absolutely lost it when the group ended with Beautiful Ones, which had the crowd LALALALALAing so hard I could hear it through my speakers.

It was at this point I wished I was there and not my living room. Sometimes you just can’t replicate a live experience, no matter how you set it up. An encore set of She’s in Fashion and New Generation sent the crowd back to their mud filled, dirty tents happy. I would have cried if they brought an orchestra or something for Still Life, luckily that was not the case.
But if you're crying, you'd at least be crying in the privacy of your own home. I'm presuming you'd have shut the curtains first, anyway.

Getty let you embed images on blogs now, you know. Here's what people were either seeing on their home screens, or squinting at to spot in the melee of the crowd:



Gaaboard were watching:
Suede aren't great but they're singling without autotune and singing their hits which puts them about 10 places ahead of that twat on the Pyramid stage!!
It wasn't all faint praise, though:
Jaysus I think Suede are hitting the mark. Have seen them at Glasto twice. It just didn't work the year I seen them outdoors but I think they might have been hitting the needle a bit too much back then. Indoors they are immense.
The Singletrackworld board was also experiencing mixed feels:
Northernmat: Suede - meh, never really got them. Lead singer bloke looks old now.
Scamper: Lead singer of suede looking old? I take it you are about 20, Matt?
Let's give the last word to DigitalSpy commenter Barbeler:
Suede have saved Glastonbury as far as I'm concerned. It was a magnificent performance that made every other band I've seen so far look like dreary amateurs.

Glastonbury 2015: The impossible happened

Who knew that, faced with Kanye West headlining the main stage, it was possible for the density of the self-regarding worn-out unwelcomeds to increase from there?

But it did:

KANYE West's Glastonbury performance was interrupted by an intruder.

The rapper, who was performing on the pyramid stage on Saturday, was greeted by comedian Lee Nelson.
Do you still count as a "comedian" if you have one joke that is so tired it doesn't even wake up when on stage at Glastonbury?
Taking to his Twitter to explain his reasons for joining Kanye on stage, Lee wrote: "Some people were saying Kanye shouldn't headline Glastonbury so I thought I'd give him a hand."
That doesn't even make sense.
Choosing not to address the stage invasion, proud wife Kim took to her Instagram to post a picture of the rapper on stage, along with the caption: "Glastonbury 2015! Craziest show ever!!!!!"
Hold on a moment, OK magazine - maybe Kim was talking about the stage invasion there. Or maybe she didn't even realise that Lee Nelson wasn't part of the act. (Okay, it seems unlikely - if West was going to draft in a comedy stage invasion, there'd be some clunky piece of cross-promotion with a "project". At least Nelson wasn't promoting an energy drink or TLC reality show.)