Saturday, January 23, 2016

The David Bowie I knew, and what it says about me

There's been no end of great (and also rotten) pieces written about David Bowie, but none perhaps as strange as former NME editor Steve Sutherland's bit which appears in the Stratford Herald. Oddly - I suspect as a quirk of a local paper's publishing system - the online version appears under his wife's byline.

It turns out Steve attempted to save Bowie from Tin Machine by sending him a shoegaze mixtape:

Now, knowing his reputation as a magpie, scarfing up other people’s ideas, sprinkling some fairy dust on them and then successfully representing them as his own, I figured Dave might benefit from an earful of some new stuff, so duly made him a cassette.

The tracklisting went something like Lush, Moose, Chapterhouse, Adorable , Slowdive, The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Telescopes, Ride — a veritable who’s who of shoegazers making a name for themselves at the time and a line-up I felt sure would top-up Dave’s creative juices.

Just goes to show how wrong you can be! A few weeks after I sent him said tape, I received a very nicely wrapped package which contained a small broken-up jigsaw of Michelangelo’s David. When the pieces were all put in place, there was a message handwritten on the back in, if I recall correctly, green ink, the gist of which went something like, “Thanks for the lovely tape. Not really my cup of tea. Try this instead.” The “this” was a cassette tape of Different Trains, an interminable modern classical piece by avant-garde composer Steve Reich performed by the dreaded Kronos Quartet. Shudder.
It turns out that Steve - by this point having moved from the Melody Maker to the NME - had a bit more luck with the next generation of British indie stars:
My last encounter with Mr Bowie was not long after I took over editing NME. All the staff hated me for reasons we needn’t go into here but I figured — rightly as it turned out — that if I could deliver a journalistic coup, they might come around.

So what I did was arrange for David Bowie to meet Brett Anderson from Suede, who were then the hottest band in Britain. I sat in on and taped their conversation with Brett, being a big fan, asking tons of questions and Bowie, being Bowie, offering up sage avuncular advice about not doing too many drugs like he once did etc.

Again, a fun day made easy by Bowie’s polite and gracious ease in company, and his genuine interest in what Brett had to say.
Brett and Bowie, coming together to save an NME editor. There's surely a Hollywood movie in that?

Coco is no longer shouldering the blame

Do you ever find yourself, in quiet moments, wondering whatever happened to "don't call me Sting's daughter" I Blame Coco?

After her first album futtered to a halt in the murky depths of the album charts in 2010, she vanished. But now she's back and she's "gone solo" (although I thought she was pushing the IBC as a PJ Harvey style one person with a collective name affair?).

Anyway, there's a new album. And most of the coverage is still stressing at great length how there's more to her than just being Sting's daughter. Because there's no way the only way she's going to get press coverage is through being Sting's daughter. Oh no. Being Sting's daughter is just a detail in the life of Sting's daughter - a life that started at conception, an event at which Sting was very much present. She's now (again) stepping out from the shadow thrown by being Sting's daughter, to be absolutely her own person. And that person is Sting's daughter. But let's not focus on that famous father - who, by the way, is Sting.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Managerobit: Giorgio Gomelsky

Giorgio Gomelsky, the original manager of The Rolling Stones, has died.

His entry into the music business came by way of London's coffee bar boom - his tiny Espresso bar became such a hit it formed a foundation of a nightclub; then, he helped create The Crawdaddy. This venue gave early starts to the Stones, Julie Driscoll, Rod Stewart and others. Although his stewardship of the Stones career wasn't long, his early support gave them the base on which Andrew Loog Oldham would build; Gomelsky moved on to help The Yardbirds build their career.

By the mid 60s, Gomelsky was running a management/label hybrid, Paragon, releasing music on the Marmalade label. This came apart when the money men for the venture at Polydor fell out with him; Gomelsky headed for France where he would find himself working with Gong and managing Magma, almost single-handedly creating an alternative music scene for the nation.

Since 1978, he lived in New York. He curated a series of music festivals and again got involved with releasing music and managing musicians.

In 2001, he spoke to Eurock about how the business had changed in fifty years:

When I got to London in the mid-fifties, the “pop” scene was just a pale imitation of white US commercial music. At least there was a local “do-it-yourself” music, “skiffle”, (imported to the UK by British bandleader CHRIS BARBER) derived from Lonnie Johnson and other blues/folksters, which allowed young people to take up instruments. The Beatles started out as “The Quarrymen” and were able to inject some freshness into music when they started to make it. The Stones and the other blues bands introduced a new generation to black music thereby rendering an invaluable service too. European musicians were practicing jazz, and although aesthetically more appreciated than in the US, it seemed less urgent, less “dramatic”, less speaking to a new generation. So rock took over. Later the punks kicked everybody in the proverbial ---. This opportunity is still present, but bands/managers/labels are now so focused on making it in whatever category they and the “industry” define themselves to be, that a “major breakthrough” has become well nigh improbable. It’s the old story yet again, the seemingly tragic-comic vicious circle between the true function and merit of art and that of commerce and politics. Ultimately, it’s a question of education. I’m hopeful that the internet will allow the natural curiosity of those attracted to music to explore every nook and cranny of musical production and discover where the real values are and that bands will emerge who know what directions to pursue.
Giorgio Gomelsky was 82. He died of cancer, like so many others.

Onehitobit: Troy Shondell

Troy Shondell, a Transatlantic one-hit wonder, has died.

His hit, This Time (We're Really Breaking Up), sold a million copies in the US - making it to number six (different world, 1961) in America and 22 in the UK. Nothing he did subsequently would worry the chart compilers on either side of the ocean.

Shodell went on to work with Phil Spector, but decided that his professional future wasn't in front of the microphone. He moved into the collections business, becoming an executive at ASCAP.

Troy Shondell died from complications related to Alzheimers and Parkinsons. He was 76.

Chou Tzu-yu forced to apologise to Beijing

If you think that UK pop stars are a little disconnected from the struggles of everyday people, you might want to redirect your attention to South Korea, where a 16 year-old K-Pop star has been forced to read out a cringing apology to the Chinese government. But, happily, Chou Tzu-yu reads the note in such a way as to make it clear she's totally disassociated from the content.

Here's what happened: Chou is from Taiwan, and she went on TV in South Korea with her band Twice to do a song or two. During the course of her performance, she waved the Taiwanese flag about a bit.

Cue a massive shit storm.

The end result? Her panicky, pissweak management forced her to read out a prepared statement apologising to the lovely people of the Chinese government. That a K-Pop star should be forced to dance attendance on the Beijing regime is no surprise - our Chancellor and Prime Minister regularly submit themselves to lick buttholes in the hope of getting a few Yuan shoved into their hands.

But Chung managed to signal so much distance from the words she was being forced to mouth, she managed to create the least authentic pop star video since Sam Smith did the Bond theme:

It's hard to think how she could have distanced herself further from the bit of paper - perhaps if she'd have pretended the words were being dictated to her by a sock-puppet, or maybe made the "Whatevs" sign at the end of each sentence.

The funny thing is, her flag waving and the breeze it created may have helped swung the Taiwanese elections this week against the pro-China Vichyesque regime, and in favour of Tsai Ing-wen's independence party.

She's 16 and making pop music. She's also bringing geopolitical conflict to a head. What have you done today, Ellie Goulding?

This week just gone

The most popular posts from 2006 - you'll notice a theme:

1. R Kelly's sex video is to be shown in court
2. Lily Allen gets changed on a train
3. McFly remove all their clothes
4. Heather Mills strips for PETA
5. The Sun is outraged to discover Heather Mills did erotic photoshoots
6. KT Tunstall thinks people assume she's gay because of her braces
7. The Sun is still outraged thinking about that Heather Mills porn
8. RIP Joaquin Tavares
9. Possibly people interested in a Yop advert
10. Britney Spears offers to remove her clothes for art

These were this week's interesting releases:

Hinds - Leave Me Alone

Download Leave Me Alone

Sea Pinks - Soft Days

Pete Astor - Split Milk

Download Split Milk

Villagers - Where Have You Been All My Life?

Download Blackstar

Derek Bowie - Blackstar

Download Blackstar