Friday, May 22, 2015

Bookmarks: Le Tigre

A photoset from Mike Evans of Le Tigre playing CBGB's in 2000


Bruce Dickinson's air business has wings

Bruce Dickinson out of Iron Maiden continues to prove his credentials as the Freddie Laker of Hard Rock (only successful), as he's expanded to help growth of an African airline:

Now he’s got a new flag carrier role – having signed a memorandum of understanding with Air Djibouti to develop a national airline for the East African nation.

Dickinson signed the deal in his role as founder of Cardiff Aviation, the aircraft repair business he helped set up in 2012. The company is now to manage a European air operator’s certificate for Air Djibouti, find aircraft and provide operational management, and offer maintenance support from its base in South Wales.
This is good news for that nation, good news for Dickinson, and good news for music hall comics:

- I flew in on that new African airline, and I've just been to freshen up
- Air Djibouti?
- No, I just washed my hands and splashed on some cologne


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Spotify suddenly obsessed with running

How can you tell Spotify has reached middle age?

It's suddenly started becoming obsessed with keep-fit and the gym.

Yes, as well as adding podcasts and video in the big announcement yesterday (or "moving on from doing one thing well to trying to do lots of things other people already do better", to use the technical term), Spotify kept banging on about running. Like that bloke from the office who had a mild health scare and suddenly started showing up in a tracksuit, thrusting his fitbit under your nose in the breakroom.

Spotify Running. Every week millions of you lace up and hit the road to Spotify.
Yes, we lace up and hit the road. But what about when we get back from travelling corsetry show? What then, Spotify?
Music is the perfect running companion but sometimes you need even more motivation to push on.
I have some sympathy for the poor sod who had to churn this paragraph out, because the announcement is little more than 'you can do something with Spotify and the Nike+ you almost certainly don't own, and we've put together a playlist of some fast songs', but they're having to try and milk a couple of hundred words out of it.
That’s why Spotify Running is all about helping you go the extra mile.
Fortunately for an announcement about keeping fit, although this announcement is packed with words, none of those words contain any calories whatsoever.
We’ve combined the best music on the planet – recommendations based on your listening history, multiple-genre playlists and original running compositions written by some of the world’s foremost DJs and composers – all tuned to your tempo and seamlessly transitioned to ensure you’ll never miss a beat.
"Original running compositions".

You know how that conversation went:
- Hi, foremost DJ, it's Spotify; we'd like you to compose something running for us
- What does that mean, even? I don't think...
- We will give you lots of money - tonnes of the stuff. Loads more than if you were a composer providing the music for our core business, ironically. Lots of money.
- Really? Hang on a moment.
Goes to Mac, drags half-finished song from Trash, renames file 'Hitting The Streets.mp3'
- Sending something across now.
Start running and Spotify will detect your tempo, matching the perfect music in time to your step – making you a harder, better, faster, stronger runner.
I don't know much about running - although I did once get to prance about wearing one of Steve Ovett's Olympic medals - but what Spotify seem to be pitching is a metronome which adjusts down or up to your pace.

Which isn't really what you want in a pacemaker, is it? The idea is that you choose a song, and try to pace your running to that song. If the song switches the pace you're running at, what is the point?

And will the music start lurching around stopping and starting? You're off like a shot and Icona Pop are I Don't Care-ing it, but you suddenly get a stitch and out of nowhere Morrissey appears? Will, should you collapse to the ground in pain, clutching your arm, Spotify notice you've stopped and lob on a Lake Wobegone podcast?

Then Spotify do this:
The new Now experience will begin rolling out today to iPhone users in the US, UK, Germany and Sweden – with more markets and platforms to follow in the near future. Spotify Running will start rolling out to iPhone users globally today.

That’s entertainment.
And, yes, "That's entertainment" links to That's Entertainment.

Spotify spend a long time making a pitch for how they're awfully clever at choosing just the right song for the right moment through algorithms and brilliance, and then illustrate this ability by showing how entertaining they are with a song that is using the word "entertainment" with an irony so bitter they could put it in bleach to stop toddlers accidentally swigging Domestos.

That's entertaining, Spotify, but not how you think.


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Rihanna at war with the Boy Wonder

Rihanna has put in a trademark application to allow her to launch a cosmetics range under her real name.

Trouble is, her real name is Robyn, and that's upset DC Comics:

Rihanna’s legal firm, Roraj Trade, originally tried to trademark her name on June 23, 2014, for her new magazine. DC stopped the singer on May 11, 2015. They claimed that the name “Robin” already has his own trademarked products. The company trademarked the name “Robin” in 1995 so he could have his own comic book series and merchandise. Some would argue that Robyn is typically known as a female name.
Surely there's a more pressing problem here - a woman who isn't known professionally as Robyn and a character who isn't spelled Robyn are fighting over a name which...
...belongs to someone who is known professionally as Robyn, and who does spell it like that.


Listen with No Rock: Glockabelle

Meet - if you've not already had the pleasure - Glockabelle. I think this might be the first track I've ever come across which could have the power to give syanathesia to people who aren't synesthesic:



That's the lead track from her new Wolf BBQ EP. I suspect not everyone will like it, but if you do, you'll like it very much.

She's going to be in the UK supporting The Go Team in June before doing some dates elsewhere in Europe. She also has website.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Labour leadership: Not true to you

Never mind Yvette Cooper's sudden realisation that, actually, she always hated Ed Miliband and everything he said, or did, or thought, or liked, or touched, or tasted, or loved, or licked, or coloured-in, or flirted with, or smelled, or drilled, or folded, or applauded, or arrested, or fed from a packet of seed he kept in his pocket, or folded, or bought, or proposed, or endorsed, or Googled, or polished, or filed away for safe keeping, or sang to, or wrapped.

As John Rentoul has reminded us, last year Andy Burnham went cold on The Smiths. In an interview, Burnham talked about how Morrissey changed his life, but:

[But it hasn’t lasted?] I feel that. I play it to my kids [13, 11 and 8] and the only song that they will really relate to is “How Soon Is Now?” And it has a vibe, or a beat, a bit more of the reverb thing going on, but the jingly-jangly yodelling-type lyric does feel a bit trapped in Eighties indy-land.

When you see those early Top of the Pops performances it’s like a historical curiosity. Did they really do that back then? I’m also – a bit predictable again – a huge Stone Roses follower. I was younger when I liked The Smiths and then the Stone Roses came along, ‘89, ‘90, and I was 19, I was old enough to follow them around. I went to the Heaton Park thing in Manchester when they reformed last year and they’ve also got a film out recently. One thing you notice about the Stone Roses is that they are more Everyman. They are less an introverted sixth-form thing, and they are much more the lads in hi-vis jackets, they are everyone’s band in the way that The Smiths never were. The Smiths were always, I’m a student therefore – The Stone Roses [has] a more timeless feel to it, more relevant.
Also, Morrissey's position on thresholds for strike ballots is so anti-business.


Bookmarks: Joy Division

There's a short-but-lovely piece on the Liverpool Echo where Jamie Bowman suggests Joy Division were as comfortable in Liverpool as Manchester:

Warsaw made their debut in the city at Eric's (where else?) on Mathew Street on August 27, 1977, when they supported punk band X-Ray Spex - a gig notable for being drummer Steven Morris's first with the band.

Later that year they were back to play a New Year's Eve party at the Swinging Apple on Wood Street which became the band's last gig as Warsaw.


Charli XCX breaks our heart a little

I'm pretty certain that Charli XCX could write something stratospheric for Justin Bieber, but why would you want to? If you had a song that Justin Bieber could do well, why not give it to someone who could do it better?

But Charli seems to (over)rate Bieber:

"I like Justin Bieber as a pop star," Charli XCX told Billboard at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. "I think he's really, really great. I really love the song 'Baby.' I think it's awesome."
Really?

It's like that Delia Smith gave the okay to instant mashed potato, isn't it?


What do you give the pop star who has everything?

Back in the day, it was easy. You'd send George Michael a teddy bear, or a handmade card, or a shaky Polaroid of your cock, or a hat, and that'd be that.

Nowadays, if you're shopping for a pop star's birthday gift, the stakes are a little higher:

Fans give $61,000 forest to K-pop star for her birthday
To be fair, actually fans bought hundreds of trees as part of an environment project in Iu's name:
Soompi and Allkpop reported that fans who contributed to her gift managed to raise around 5 million won (S$61,000) for the IU Forest Project.

Their environmentally-friendly efforts saw them plant more than 250 types of trees since January so that they were able to give IU her very own forest.
The stakes are raised, Directioners. If you don't get Harry Styles his own estuary, you're not real fans, right?


Monday, May 18, 2015

Brandon Flowers might be slightly wrong

At least Brandon Flowers believes in himself:

"Whether the people want to accept it or not, we might be the best band in the last long time," Flowers is quoted as saying. "I'd go up any night against just about any band that's come out in the last 15 years. Not that it's a competition, but I do feel sometimes people don't have a grasp on what we've accomplished and what we've acquired."
I think people know what you've accomplished, Brandon. A half-decent album; some amusing Christmas special things for Jimmy Kimmel. In Mr Brightside, a song chosen by people who think they're being edgy when they appear on singing talent shows. A sequence of albums where the proportion of acceptability slid from 'half-decent' to 'three per cent alright'.

I think there's around nine thousand bands who could probably crush yours if you went toe-to-toe, but let's just start with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs while you nip off to pick up your coat from the hatcheck, shall we?


Pop stars in reduced circumstances: Gareth Gates

Gareth Gates, once the original Pop Idol. Wonder what he's up to these days?

Playing to standing-room only crowds, that's what. Even if it's not actually the Albert Hall:

TV pop star Gareth Gates headlined a concert for holidaymakers in Burnham-On-Sea on Saturday night (May 16th). The singer, who shot to fame during ITV's Pop Idol, performed at Burnham Holiday Village during a concert as part of a nationwide Haven Holidays tour.

There was standing room only as over 500 spectators filled the park's performance area to see him sing a line-up of hit songs from the past 20 years.
For people struggling to place Gareth, the Burnham On Sea website helpfully points out that "more recently" he was on Dancing On Ice. Which is true. If you don't recall him winning Pop Idol in 2002, you might just recall him coming fourth in Dancing On Ice seven years ago. There's every chance.

The power of having Simon Cowell shape your career.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bono tries to claim he's a business person, not an arsehole

Having previously attempted to explain his 'do as I say, not as I do' line on tax as being somehow an obligation, high priest of the tax weasels Bono is now suggesting he's merely being sensible:

Asked about his position on tax, he told Sky News that just because he had campaigned for a fairer society it did not mean he had to be “stupid” in business.

Bono said: “It’s just some smart people we have working for us trying to be sensible about the way we’re taxed. And that’s just one of our companies, by the way. There’s loads of companies.”
They're just being sensible. Because minimising your tax bill - or minimisering, if you'd prefer - is sensible.

The trouble with this line is that if you accept it, there's not really any way to object to a UKIP spokesperson saying that foreign aid is expensive, and if we stopped paying any foreign aid we could reduce everyone's tax burden. Because that, too, is a sensible statement. It's also fucking selfish.

When Bono said "it’s just some smart people we have working for us trying to be sensible about the way we’re taxed", what he means is "it’s just some fucking selfish people we have working for us trying to be fucking sensible about the way we’re taxed."

Because you'll note those "smart people". This isn't Bono turning up at a tax place, with one box saying '20% tax' and one saying '80% tax' and choosing the smaller figure. It is people who are working to come up with "smart" ways to avoid paying tax. Bono and U2 are actively trying to avoid paying tax. It's not sensible, it's deliberate. Different thing.

Hang about, The Edge is also keen to not be seen as some sort of rich arsehole avoid taxes:
U2’s lead guitarist, The Edge – real name David Evans – said: “So much of our business is outside Ireland. It’s ridiculous to sort of make a big deal about the fact that we operate outside of Ireland.”
Yes, that's true. A lot of your business is outside Ireland. In a huge part because you channel a lot of your business outside Ireland to avoid paying tax in Ireland. That's not a defence against the charge of tax avoiding, it's the methodology you use to avoid tax:
[T]he Rolling Stones and U2 also channel royalties through the country, and that both bands have an office on Amsterdam’s Herengracht.
It's hard to imagine how U2 could make this any more insulting to our intelligence, but Bono manages it:
Bono added: “And we pay a fortune in tax. Just so people know, we pay a fortune in tax; and we’re happy to pay a fortune in tax, people should."
Bono, when you're discussing how you sensibly avoid paying a fair share of taxes, that might not be the best time to tell people that they should be paying their taxes.

And you might pay a lot in taxes, but don't you dare come round trying to argue that you're doing the right thing by making that amount as small as possible and expect thanks for paying that smallest possible amount.

Your behaviour is legal. Your behaviour is rational.

Your behaviour is selfish.


This week just gone

What interests Facebook users? 2015's most popular stories amongst people visiting from Facebook:

1. PRS hire an investigator who sounds a lot like a sales person [2009]
2. Robin Thicke ripped off Marvin Gaye - official
3. Is the NME about to go free?
4. Of course Kanye West fans know who Paul McCartney is
5. Brits liveblog
6. Shirley Manson crushes Kanye West
7. ... but not everything she says is about West
8. Gennaro Castaldo's top ten spokesings
9. Bo Bruce could be in the papers, speculates story in the papers
10. Kasabian play to the BAFTAs; BAFTAs watch in polite silence

These releases were interesting:


Thea Gilmore - Ghosts And Graffiti


Download Ghosts & Graffiti



Joanna Gruesome - Peanut Butter


Download Peanut Butter



The Fall - Sublingual Tablet


Download Sub-Lingual Tablet



Roisin Murphy - Hairless Toys


Download Hairless Toys


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Absolute Radio a little less absolute

Absolute Radio - the one which used to be Virgin back when it started - is starting to see its UK AM network crumble.

Listeners in Berkshire (and bits of the country that touch the county) are being advised to swap to digital after - effectively - the station was told to get orf a farmer's land:

The AM transmitters at the privately owned Manor Farm site were switched off on Friday, as the lease on the site is not being renewed.

Absolute Radio's transmissions on 1233kHz, which served Berkshire, southeastern Oxfordshire and south west Buckinghamshire were terminated on Friday morning.

Smooth Radio, which inherited the former frequencies of Gold last year has also been affected. Its service on 1421kHz from the site was switched off alongside its service on 1485kHz, which although broadcast from a different site operated under the same commercial AM radio licence serving the Thames Valley area.

Listeners to both stations are being advised to continue listening via digital radio, either via DAB digital radio, online, via mobile apps or through digital TV services.
Yes, that's right. Because someone who's listening to a music service on AM in 2015 is doing so because they have the ability to listen digitally, but are choosing not to.


Friday, May 15, 2015

Bluesobit: BB King

According to his lawyer, BB King has died.

King called all his guitars Lucille, after he nearly killed himself running into a burning building to rescue an instrument. As he told the story:

“One night, two guys started to fighting and one knocked down one of them containers [kerosene barrels, for heating the club] and it was already burning with kerosene and so when it spilled onto the floor, it looked like a river of fire and everybody started to run for the front door – including B.B. King.

“But when I got on the outside, I realized then that I had left my guitar on the inside. So I went back for it. The building was a wooden building and burning rapidly. It started to collapse around me and I almost lost my life trying to save my guitar. So the next morning, we found out that these two guys that were fighting were fighting about a lady that worked in the little dance hall. We learned that her name was Lucille. So I named the guitar Lucille to remind me to never do a thing like that again.”
King was 89; he died in his sleep in Las Vegas.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

Coming soon: Bob Collins

Bob Collins used to (and from time to time, still does) lead The Dentists. He's been all this time in the business (if you can call it business) and never done a solo record.

Until now.

Or not quite now. It's out on June 16th, and here's the press release:

Remarkably, this is Bob Collins’ first album under his own name, despite his prolific and accomplished songwriting in The Dentists and other assorted acts over the years. Telescopic Victory Kiss brings together the finest songs from his latter day career performing as a solo acoustic artist or with the three piece Full Nelson combo.

The Dentists occupied a unique spot in the no-man’s-land between garage rock and nascent 80s indie pop. Thanks to a renewed interest in that era, and two reunion gigs in 2010, they are now receiving some of the recognition that eluded them in their heyday, to the extent that they are now a de rigeur presence on any self-respecting compilation of 80’s guitar-indie.

Bob’s signature passion-fuelled jangle is as in evidence on the new album as it is on any of his former band’s past catalogue, now combined with his own rich vocal delivery, doing justice to the lyrics like only the writer can.

Since their split in 1995 all members of The Dentists continued to be musically active if not prolific with recorded output, largely due to the continuation of a hesitant and dismissive approach to engaging with anything resembling the ‘music industry’.

After a brief respite Bob Collins supplied some guitar and songwriting craft to the self-confessed classic-pop MOR of Fortune West on a 2000 single, then appeared on an album and EP with Mick Murphy’s Fortress Madonna project in 2002. A collaboration with former Dentist Mark Matthews in the Great Lines, stormed SXSW 2005 before imploding and leaving a legendary album ‘in the can’.

Bob finally began performing in earnest as a solo artist in his native Medway Towns, in 2007 soon adding fellow ex-Dentist Rob Grigg on drums and ex-Ascoyne d’Ascoyne (another one of Bob’s former combos) Mark Aitken on bass as the Full Nelson.

Between co-authoring “The Kids Are All Square” a celebration of the early 80s Medway punk and garage scene, joining the extraordinary punk-pop-blues combo Stuart Turner and the Flat Earth Society, and co-promoting Medway’s Homespun independent music festival Bob managed to squeeze in the recording of this album during 2013 and 2014 with his Full Nelson colleagues.

Recorded in Medway’s analogue Ranscombe Studio, this ten-song assortment of self-penned material is as fresh, heartfelt and engaging a collection of guitar pop nuggets as you are likely to have heard in a long time.
Bob Collins And The Full Nelson's Telescopic Victory Quiz is just a month away.


Sarah Brightman puts space on hold

Remember all that hoopla about how Sarah Brightman was heading to be the first ex-wife of Andrew Lloyd Webber in space? The dream is over, or at least on hold:

Brightman announced today (May 13) that she won't be making that trip to orbit. The U.S.-based space tourism company Space Adventures was brokering the multimillion-dollar flight for Brightman. (The terms of Brightman's deal have not been officially disclosed.)

"Ms. Brightman said that, for personal family reasons, her intentions have had to change, and she is postponing her cosmonaut training and flight plans at this time," reads an update posted today to the English singer's website. "She would like to express her extreme gratitude to Roscosmos, Energia, GCTC (Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center), Star City, NASA and all the cosmonauts and astronauts for their support during this exciting time in her life."
So we shall have to slumber on without Sarah Brightman high over our heads, for an unknown period. Be strong, fellow earthbound types. Be strong.


Tumblrgem: Cassettes

Apparently-official cassette versions of albums that you might have thought only ever existed on CD, download or hipster-vinyl variants, via The Dapper Bastard:

http://thedapperbastard.tumblr.com/post/118849323054/modern-albums-on-cassette-produced-for-malaysia


Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Stapp misses court date

To Denver, where Scott Stapp was due to appear in court to face misdemeanour charges following his 'riding on a luggage carousel' stunt last month.

He didn't show up.

Maybe he tried, but couldn't get past DIA without finding himself trapped in a luggage locker.

There's now a warrant for his arrest.

Stapp's band, Puddle Of Mudd, last released an album in 1963.


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Fallen Idol

It's perhaps more surprising that Fox was still making American Idol than that they're cancelling the series.

It's going to limp to the end of its 15th season, and then vanish for good.

Dana Walden, co-chairman and CEO of the Fox Television Group, described it as a "pretty emotional decision" to end "American Idol."
"A pretty emotional decision" here means that, with audiences starting to drop below nine million, people were starting to feel the well-known emotion of 'look at that old warhorse cluttering up the schedules bringing down ratings lets stop paying the people on it the millions we're shelling out and make something cheaper that viewers might like more'.

The series hasn't really had a massive star-making role since, arguably, Jordin Sparks back in 2007.


Bookmarks: Carol Decker

There's a lovely short piece in the Henley Standard that's partly about T'Pau, but really about how children don't really know what their parents do at work:

CAROL Decker’s daughter didn’t realise how famous her mum was until she saw her singing in front of 10,000 people.

Scarlett Coates was 10 when she and her brother Dylan watched T’Pau’s performance at the first Rewind festival in Henley.


Monday, May 11, 2015

We seem to have gone backwards

Not only do we have the same faces in cabinet doing the same jobs, but Katie Price is going to try to be a pop star again.

The second time as farce, everybody. The second time as farce.


Dolores O'Riordan is going to be charged

Dolores O'Riordan is, it appears, going to be charged following her attack on an air steward last November.

In theory, she could end up in prison for six months.


Adam Levine dusted in the street

It might look like the aftermath of a party at George Osborne's house, but it's actually Adam Levine after he left the Jimmy Kimmel studio and got attacked with sugar.

Sure, it looks bad, but at least it was granulated sugar. Imagine if it had been cane sugar. Or a block of molasses.

Entertainment Weekly suggests that Levine might have brought the attack on himself:
"Your sugar. Yes, please. Won't you come and put it down on me?"
That might be one of his lyrics, but pretty much everything he's written seems to demand stuff be thrown at Levine. Doesn't mean we should, though.


Sunday, May 10, 2015

Life with Cameron: Charlotte Church is our new vanguard

Charlotte Church was out on the protests against the new Tory government on Saturday. The Tories, of course, were unimpressed:

But in response to Ms Church and the protesters, the Welsh Conservatives' leader [Andrew RT Davies] said: "It's champagne socialists standing shoulder-to-shoulder.

"At the end of the day, to denigrate the electorate, who has just spoken, within 48 hours of the election, is slightly unfortunate and unbecoming."
Champagne socialists. Is that the best you can, Mr Davies?

You and your party suggest that we should ensure that "hard working people" have their rights protected; that they have their choices respected.

And yet as soon as someone who has a few bob in their pocket says anything that suggests caring about others might be the right thing to do, suddenly we discover that this makes them "champagne socialists" and their right to comment has, magically, become nullified.

(It's unclear where the point comes that you stop being a champagne socialist and cross into the jealous underclass - perhaps somewhere around the living wage?)

Obviously, it's a cliche. But worse than a cliche, it's not even like champagne is that much of a luxury product anyway. And worse than being a tatty cliche, it's not even right. Because Church is actually marching in the streets with a placard, which isn't what a champagne socialist is supposed to behave.

Davies also seems to have missed the point that the Tories only won the support of 27% of the voters who turned out in Wales - it came second, and yet Wales now has a Tory government. To suggest that objecting to the runners-up sitting taking pole position is denigrating the electorate is a little odd.

But then if we thought the Tories understood humility, perhaps we wouldn't all be so bloody terrified about what's going to come next.


Spotify assumes your mum is a confused old dear

Mothers, eh? You literally couldn't have lived without them. And if there's one thing that's true about mothers is that they're people.

Spotify, though, isn't aware that mothers come in different shapes and sizes. They seem to picture them as confused old people who might struggle with the very idea of music streaming:


To be fair, my Mum would take a lot of catching up if I had to explain streaming music to her - "right, here's what's happened since 1983; maybe we'll start with compact discs..." - but most mothers aren't going to be befuddled with the idea of digital products. Most grandmothers wouldn't be, either. And those that are (along with men who are) are probably not stupid, but just uninterested.

A bad move by Spotify. Unless 'insulting your customers' is a cunning business strategy.


This week just gone

The most-read stories from the coalition government years:

1. Paul McGuinness on how to save the Music Industry
2. Noel Gallagher says it was better under Thatcher
3. RIP: Charles Haddon
4. Gordon Smart builds the audience for the Tulisa sex tape
5. Why Jessie J is apparently part of the illuminati
6. RIP: Jon Fat Beast
7. PMRC's Tipper Gore breaks up her family; presumably that's music's fault, too?
8. Glastowatch moans about people moaning about Glastonbury ticketing
9. Daily Mail calls Katy Perry fat
10. RIP: Daniel Cho


These were this week's new releases:


Rozi Plain - Friend


Download Friend



Giant Sand - Heartbreak Pass


Download Heartbreak Pass



The Lovely Eggs - This Is Our Nowhere




Emika - Drei


Download Drei



Django Django - Born Under Saturn


Download Born Under Saturn



Palma Violets - Danger In The Club


Download Danger In The Club


Friday, May 08, 2015

Embed and breakfast man: Pins

The news today is unremittingly depressing, which given what the Tories will do to mental health services is probably going to be cyclical.

To cheer ourselves up while we wait for the to turn Broadcasting House into flats, here's a new video from Pins:


Thursday, May 07, 2015

Soulobit: Errol Brown

Errol Brown, lead singer of Hot Chocolate, has died.

Brown can't really be held responsible for one of the most awful things the British Monarchy has done, which was this:

In fairness, had Brown not recorded You Sexy Thing, Charles would have been half-heartedly pretending to be a male stripper to a different song, but it's an object lesson in how a record can be ruined forever.

(As a side note, it wasn't the first Brown-Windsor coup - Hot Chocolate played Charles and Diana's wedding reception.)

Let's instead hail his victory as being the only man ever to take a song about a UFO over London into the top 10:
The writers were Mike L Burns, Steve Glen and Donny Most. At the time the talk was about a close encounter of the third kind taking place at Stonehenge -experienced by one of the writers and his wife. Or as Errol Brown put it in a 2009 interview with The Mail on Sunday (25th of January) "This was written by two guys who thought they saw a UFO over Hampstead Heath".

It turns out the encounter was witnessed by Steve Glen and Mike Burns.

The details are given from the horses mouth as it were in this interview from The Borehamwood Times of March the 11th 2011.

“It’s a true story. I was driving on the Hendon Way with my writing partner Mike Burns and he pointed up in sky and said ‘what’s that up there?’ I nearly drove off the road. I was producing The Toys at the time and the band was following behind us in a van. I veered off onto West Heath Road and stopped by the Leg Of Mutton Pond. It was right above us. It was massive – about four or five houses wide and when we got out to have a look, an orange cloud came out of it.”

“The reason I’ve not talked about it much for 30 years is everyone said at the time we must be on drugs but all six of us saw it. We asked each other ‘did you see that?’ and we all said, ‘yes’. We
went straight back to Mike’s house in Long Elms and wrote the song No Doubt About It. I’d never written one so quick, and it was Hot Chocolate’s biggest seller.”
Making the heir to the throne shake his moneymaker, and taking aliens to the heart of Top Of The Pops. That's a career right there.

But not a solo career - he never managed to carve much space for himself outside of Hot Chocolate. Brown was pragmatic about this, as he explained in an interview with Blues And Soul, which also gave him a chance to take a dig at Ali Campbell:
“It was a very unfortunate thing. My first solo record on Warner Brothers was a song called ‘Personal Touch’. And I guess when things are meant to be, and when they’re NOT meant to be, is a funny thing. One of the things I found out when I left Hot Chocolate was that it’s amazing how you can be in a group for so many years, and people are still not familiar with your name. I mean, I love UB40 and the stuff they do. But I can’t for the life of me remember the guy’s name who sang lead on their hits, though I love his voice. And what I realised was that, when people said ‘Errol Brown’, it just wasn’t immediately obvious to the public that it was the lead singer of Hot Chocolate. So, I guess a successful solo career just wasn’t meant to be! But, you know, it’s OK!”
He might have been surprised over the last 24 hours just how much that name actually did mean to people.

Errol Brown was 71; he died May 5th in the Bahamas from bowel cancer.


Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Looking for a revolution

The scientific inquiry into music revolutions is interesting:

The evolution of western pop music, spanning from 1960 to 2010, has been analysed by scientists.

A team from Queen Mary University of London and Imperial College London looked at more than 17,000 songs from the US Billboard Hot 100.

They found three music revolutions - in 1964, 1983 and 1991 - and traced the loss of blues chords from the charts, as well as the birth of disco.
But it's fundamentally flawed, isn't it? If you want to know what's happening in music, the very worst place to look would be the American charts. It'd be like a seismologist restricting themselves to measuring only the smallest of aftershocks.

Just as a for instance, that methodology means that punk is more or less ignored and the revolutions spotted are timed about two years too late.

Still, as a guide to what sorts of music American radio was prepared to play, it's a useful exercise.