Saturday, August 01, 2015

Morrissey patted down, touched up

Disappointingly, the official TSA blog has kept quiet about Morrissey's claims that his penis was fondled by a security screener at San Francisco airport - although they do report twelve people around the US trying to take bear mace through in their carry-ons. You've got to be one hell of a nervous flier to think you need to be prepared in case there's a bear on the plane, surely?

The TSA have denied that anyone groped Mozzer, though:

A TSA spokesperson said in a statement to Rolling Stone magazine Thursday that after reviewing closed-circuit TV footage of the encounter, the officer in question appeared to have “followed standard operating procedures in the screening of this individual.”

"TSA takes all allegations of misconduct seriously and strives to treat every passenger with dignity and respect," TSA spokesperson Mike England said in the statement.
That respect thing must be difficult when you're faced with someone who thinks it's okay to climb aboard with a can or two of bear incapacitant - or the dozens of yahoos who want to take their loaded guns to have with them as they fly.

The appearance of Morrissey in this story shouldn't shift the focus away from the TSA, as this isn't the first time screeners have been accused of sexually assaulting travellers. It's not even the second time. Depressingly, allegations of sexual assault by screeners are incredibly common.

In fact, if you travel through Denver in 2014, you'd be lucky if it hasn't happened to you. It was quite the thing:
According to law enforcement reports obtained during the CBS4 investigation, a male TSA screener told a female colleague in 2014 that he “gropes” male passengers who come through the screening area at DIA.

“He related that when a male he finds attractive comes to be screened by the scanning machine he will alert another TSA screener to indicate to the scanning computer that the party being screened is a female. When the screener does this, the scanning machine will indicate an anomaly in the genital area and this allows (the male TSA screener) to conduct a pat-down search of that area.”
It took three months from the TSA in Denver being told about this before they did anything about it.

And that's just the top of the pile. Some allegations have been revealed following a FOI request, and they make pretty grim reading:
The female TSO then proceeded to roughly feel of [sic] her breast including her nipples. The TSO didn’t go under her arms or along her sides. She indicated that she did not receive a proper pat down. The search was limited to her breast… Two other individuals came over to where the supervisor and gentleman were and they began laughing. The caller indicated that the incident was not the business of the other two officers and not a show for them. The caller indicated that even the Supervisor, along with the others, began to roar with laughter.
So when Morrissey says he was assaulted at the screening point, the only surprising part of that story is that Morrissey wants to leave San Francisco. Everything else is too grimly believable.

Twittergem: Tiffany

Not every artist would be delighted to hear their old work is going for fifty cents in a bargain bin, which is why Tiffany is to be cherished:

Countryobit: Lynn Anderson

When I was growing up, my parents listened to Radio 2, so Lynn Anderson's Rose Garden was a fundamental part of my childhood. What I didn't know about her, until today's obituaries, was that she appeared in Starsky And Hutch:

Lynn Anderson died following a heart attack on July 30th. She was 67.

How can you tell if you don't actually have anything to write about?

Handy hint: if that is your headline for the story, New York Post, and the story doesn't include the line "police found evidence of two-dozen feline auriculectomies believed to be connected to the manufacture of the dress", you don't actually have a story.

David Cassidy sells up

David Cassidy is bankrupt, and selling his house. He's even reduced to showing people round the home in a bid to sell it:

At least he hasn't yet had to endure Amanda Lamb turning up to cast judgement on how he lives ("offer ways to help with the clutter"), I guess.

And Cassidy won't be down for long. Apparently he's got a Christmas album coming out, so if you do happen to be in a car park at the same time as he is, do pick up a copy.

What the pop papers say: The last NME

Yesterday, Conor McNicholas, former NME editor, Instagrammed a photo of the last-ever NME (paid version) with the words "I'm holding a piece of history".

If even a former editor didn't exactly bother rushing out to get it when it hit the newsstands, you're looking at a piece of history that somehow struggled to write itself.

So what do we get for the extra quid on the cover price? It's a bumper edition - 132 pages, although 50 of those pages are reproductions of the greatest covers (or the "greatest" covers). And I say reproductions, but the older covers - at a guess, the ones which predate digital production on the magazine - look really shit. I can't work out if they're supposed to be artfully distressed, or if they're just distressed. On a few, you can even make out the adverts on page two peeking through. Even covers which have been reproduced elsewhere, in better quality, like the Shaun Ryder on the giant E one, have turned up for closedown looking like they've been scanned for a school project.

What else is there? A history of the magazine spends longer on the punk years than the interesting bit in the middle. The hip-hop wars get a mention - and the 1988 "Greatest Rock & Roll Band In The World" Public Enemy cover is neatly tied to Kanye's Glastonbury pronouncement of his "greatest living rock star" status, but curiously Barry Nicolson declares "the hip-hop warriors eventually won". A strange victory, as Kanye aside, there's not been any other hip hop act (or even hip-hop-ish) on the cover of the NME since Skrillex over a year earlier. If hip hop won - and that's not an unfair suggestion - then the NME was very much the warrior who didn't hear the war was at an end; fighting on deep in the jungle. Fighting on against those deeply into jungle.

This bit's odd, too:

Indie remained the paper's bread and butter, however, and a series of questionable laet-80s cover stars (Cilla Black, anyone?) hinted at a scene in the doldrums
The impression here is that somehow indie was in such a parlous state by the end of the 80s that Cilla Black was an indie hero.

Let's just unwind this a moment. The Black cover was the front of an issue about TV (Victoria Wood and Dennis Potter also featured in that edition; at the time, Cilla Black was the biggest thing on TV. And this issue looking at TV was part of the era when NME used music as an entry point into writing about the wider culture - this was the week after the famous Youth Suicide all-black cover.

More importantly, while the 80s NME covered indie well, it's a myth to say that indie was the paper's bread and butter. It might have been the margarine, but the main features around this time were as likely to be the Eurythmics or Suzanne Vega as The Wedding Present or The Smiths. In fact, the run of really indie covers (when Smiths and Mark E Smith and Pop Will Eat Itself) had yet to happen when the Cilla Black front page was published.

And it's the date that's really important - because Cilla Black on the front of the NME happened in 1986. 1986. The point where C86 came out - which Nicholson describes just a few paragraphs before as helping "define and contextualise [the] scene". The scene which, we're supposed to believe, was in the doldrums. I know times were tough in the mid 80s, but nobody was ever going to send away for a tape which gathered together the last farts of a dying scene.

The thing is, there's no shortage of actual covers which could have been used to make a similar point - early in 1990, the paper was reduced to painting a world map on a bald writer's head to do a front page.

Barry ends his piece like this:
We approach the future cognisant of the most valuable lesson learned from our past: that music doesn't stand still, and we can't afford to, either.
Well, Time Magazines (formerly IPC) clearly couldn't afford to stand still.

Otherwise, there's a rummage in the archives - a welcome outpouring of love for Swells and Peter Robinson; some features get re-run; as do some live photos. Really oddly for a paper who insists even its reboot is going to be about music, though, the live photos come with only a couple of lines from the original review, and there's no space at all for any reprints of record reviews. Some bits of Thrills are republished, although the introduction is wrong (it was only satrical and made-up for half its life; initially it was straight-faced short items and featurettes - a look back at page 16 shows this because there's Thrills covering the Pistols on the Grundy show) and the reproduction of the cutting so poor you just have to take the captions' word for it that they were funny.

And a chilling statistic: Oasis in their various incarnations have appeared on the cover 78 times. Bowie has only managed 32 (he held the record for a bloody long time, too.) You could argue that Oasis sell papers, but the downward line on the circulation graph would argue they don't.

What does it amount to, then? As a summation of a 63 year history, it's okay - it's effectively the 60th anniversary edition they seemed too embarrassed to produce. They're still treating Lana Del Ray as a big deal, although the rest of the world seems to have moved on. But it's mostly a big thick line. Running through the pages is a signal that this isn't going to be relaunch like Time Out or the Evening Standard - dropping the cover price, reworking the title, but remaining as close as possible to the old model. This feels more like its going to be that time Zig Zag merged with One Two Testing, and tried to start from scratch while keeping the old audiences.

Still, if it means a few fewer Oasis covers, it won't be all bad.

The NME has fallen silent. Next month, who knows what will rise in its place?

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

NME prepares to join the free sheets

Tomorrow is the last day the NME will be trying to charge people money for their services; to mark the occasion they are inviting users to add page impressions wildly ("click through 50 best covers to vote for the best").

They've found space for Simon Cowell's 2009 cover. That's the standard we're going with.

Personally, although I always think the much-hated Youth Suicide issue was the best NME cover ever, and I have a soft spot for the Motorcycle Boy one which was a by-product of corporate meltdowns, I think the occasion should be marked with this one:

Yes, it was awful. But it's a key cover in the NME history, because it was the point where the magazine passed its point of no return.

Not just the WK cover choice - or that they added a second cover because they believed him to be so brilliant. But that does tell its own story - a magazine which would have once seen through his schtick desperately trying to laugh along, hoping it would catch up with the joke.

It's the rest of the stuff on the cover - you could argue what you're looking at it is an eclectic title offering a range of delights. But it's not, is it? It's a rudderless ship throwing not-very-interesting bits of every flavour in the hope something will catch. Travis. Oasis. ODB well past his best.

It wasn't a question of who is this title for, but why is this title here? And over the subsequent 14 years, there have been fluctuations in quality - the magazine got a lot better, and more interesting, and then less so, and then more so again. But that cover - Andrew WK, so good that he needed two covers that week; so poor he never got near the cover again - feels like the point where the paper moved from making the weather, to sheltering from it.

Monday, July 27, 2015

A small round of applause

Hadley Freeman sticks up for Kate Moss in today's Guardian, and in the course of it says this:

I’ve heard and read plenty of tut-tutting about Moss’s alleged former drug use, with much headshaking about the global damage done by drug users and so on, and that’s just grand: well done on your “virtue signalling”, to borrow a useful term coined by the New Statesman’s Helen Lewis. Strangely, though, I very rarely hear such qualms expressed about, oh, let’s say, Noel Gallagher, who has talked frequently about his former cocaine abuse and yet now seems on the fast track to national treasure status, despite writing songs so boring I honestly believe they should not be played on the radio out of concern for drivers falling asleep at the wheel.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Helly Luv is actually an edgy pop star

Time to catch up with Helly Luv, who makes most so-called edgy acts seem like the soft options they are:

She's Iraqi. That song is a direct attack on ISIS. And she insisted on making the video for it in Iraq.

All Things Considered have been to Iraq to find out how she's gone down there:

This week just gone

The top five stories last week:

1. Savage Garden's Daniel Jones seems quite lovely
2. Tim Worthington's guide to terrible protest songs
3. Music your neighbours like best
4. Three Doors Down are looking out for their fans
5. Lily Allen hires a trainer for her face

Last week's new releases:

Flying Saucer Attack - Instrumentals

Download Instrumentals

Samanthan Crain - Under Branch & Thorn & Tree

Download Sing Into My Mouth

Ben Bridwell & Iron And Wine - Sing Into My Mouth

Download Sing Into My Mouth

Tame Impala - Currents