Friday, October 11, 2002

COUGH GETS WORSE: Apparently Rufus Wainwright is tucked up in bed, with a big stack of Beanos and a large bottle of Lucozade. He's got a serious bronichial infection which means no touring for him this month.
But remember, Rufie - if you're well enough to watch Des and Mel, you're well enough to go in for the afternoon.

WOMEN IN ROCK: We keep tripping over the concept of "Women In... [insert genre of choice here]. We've said before that we don't think that a question about the influence of gender on the way people react to a female rapper, dj, guitarist or manager is an invalid approach, to use it as the basis of an article, a gig, or a movement seems to be a little bit self-defeating and backward-looking. So, with that in mind, welcome the RollingStone Women In Rock edition.
No, that's not from the seventies, the current RS is treating Women as an amorphous grouping, and attempting to form some sort of scene based on the simultaneous possession of vaginas by Britney, Sharon Osbourne, the Dixie-Chicks and Stevie Nicks. And some others.
Now, doing a Woman-powered issue isn't a bad idea - although "idea" is perhaps over-endowing the concept with inventiveness; it's the music mag equivalent of a special Festive Food number of Martha Stewart Living. It's the "... In Rock" bit which rankles, and sets you up for the inevitable tone of the writing:"These artists think for themselves, calling their own shots, and the audience has responded." Well done, little ladies! How astonishing that you think as well as play the piano.
I don't have the screaming font embedded but: it's 2002, for pity's sake - don't you think that "Women have brains" is slightly stale news?
Of course, the whole issue is an example of the new, lad-tastic Rolling Stone trying to have its urinal cake and eat it - while the copy may bang on about "resisting defintions and restrictions", the cover bangs off over Britney and Shakira...

BROUGHT TO BOOK: Why is it, if anyone else started a book club, encouraging fans to swap books at their gigs, we'd welcome it with delight and chuckling, and yet when Moby does it, we want to rip the fuckers head off and stick it in his silly little box? Why does everything he do wind us up the wrong way?

CHRISTINA ON A BIKE: So, here's the return of Christina Aguilera, telling how she's had a 'breakdown' and is happier not being "a virginal sweetheart". Um, we may have missed something here, but we never really thought you were, were you? Wasn't the deal that Britney was the girl who wouldn't, and you were the one who wouldn't stop? All those songs about rubbing and so on? Ananova says that the video for Dirrty is an abrupt change of image, because she's wearing a "bikini top." Yes, that would be in total contrast to the not-at-all-slutty look in the Moulin Rouge video, then.

I CAN HEAR YOU MOVE: Now, we have to say we're confused about this story. Ian Brown's decided to sell his holiday home in Wales for GBP150,000; and the locals have dressed up as monkeys to protest outside. So, after years of taking action against English in-comers buying up houses in Wales and barely spending any time there (hence Not the Nine O'Clock New's 'come home to a real fire - buy a cottage in Wales' spoof), they're now protesting against English out-goers.
The monkey protesters say that the price of the house is treble the average price of property in the area and "practically guarantees" the house will be sold to someone from elsewhere. Fair enough, but we're assuming that Brown's holiday home is going to be slightly more swish than the average house in the area, and so he's probably only looking for market rate - and he can't be blamed for the stupidity of property prices right now. And surely by selling the house there's slightly more chance of someone from the area being able to live there than when it's the occasional stepping off point for a distant rock star?
Anyway, we have to say: if we went to look at a house on the market and there were monkey-men outside, we'd be prepared to offer an extra GBP10,000 on top.


HE'S JUST A SUPERSTAR. HE DOESN'T FEEL IT: Michael Jackson used to beat chimps, apparently. Of course, Jackson is so mad nowadays that anyone can say anything they like about him and it would sound plausible - "Michael Jackson believes parsnips confer prestige when worn on the lapel"; "Michael Jackon bought Pee Wee Herman's suits, and makes his cleaning lady wear them and masturbate in a giant theatre set he's had built in the middle of Tuvalu" - try it, it's fun - but are we really going to take the word of a man who married LaToya?

AND WE'RE MEANT TO BE INTERESTED BECAUSE?: Terence Trent D'Arby - crazy name, crazy guy, even crazier name

Thursday, October 10, 2002

WHILE WE'RE IN OUR HOME CITY: Liverpool may be reeling from the news that Brookside is being downgraded to a daytime slot, presumably to allow the contract with Channel 4 to drip away until it runs out next year, but it will doubtless be taking a measure of pride in the news that Virgin Radio have decided it is the top music city in the UK. Now, I hold no great love of Manchester (may be time to take down the Commonwealth Games tat now, love, it's finished) but I'm not sure the placing of it beneath Liverpool is entirely fair. If you strip out the Beatles - oh, and please, lets do - you'd have to be overly biased to come down on one side or the other, surely?
Further succour for Scouseland comes from the Classic FM poll for which city deserves to be European City of Culture in 2008. Despite being up against fairly stiff and deserving competition from Newcastle-Sunderland and Bristol, Classic FM chooses to offer its readers a snap poll featuring just Liverpool, Birmingham, Cardiff and Canterbury to choose from. Maybe Iain-Duncan Smith should get his pollsters to adopt this approach - "If there was an election tomorrow, would you vote for Conservative, SDLP or Co-Op?"

STRAIGHT UP: What the hell is going on at Garlands these days? We're not referring to the still-mysterious squirting of barbecue gel through the air conditioning and related fire, but the direction the promotion for the club seems to be taking.
First up, the supposedly gay night used a poster campaign depicting a woman dressed as a schoolie being caned by a male teacher. Now, their posters have the face of Scouse Gonk Lennon all over them. Is this what the queer dance place is reduced? So desperate to get punters into their new home (the arthritic State in Dale Street) that sub-paedo titilation and hoary rock icons are the order of the day?
Its bad enough when the airport feels the need of Lennon to prop it up, but when your biggest disco is relying on Yoko's bitch, you know you're in a city that's got currency problems.

GREAT MILLS: We really feel we should bring this to your attention:
"> Thats right, today is the new Chris Mills record will be unleashed on the American public! I would greatly appreciate it if you could all make your way down to your local record retailer in a calm, orderly fashion and lay your hard earned cash down for "The Silver Line".
Its the first record on my new Powerless Pop Recorders label, and I'm really excited for all of you to hear it!
When he asks so nicely, how can you say no?

On the Right tracks

We're deeply indebted to New York London Paris Munich for bringing the Conservative Pop Songs chart to our attention. Compiled by Bruce Bartlett, it's a source-mining delight of tracks that, if you close your eyes narrowly, can be seen as endorsing right-wing policies. "I'm ignoring the artist" explains Bartlett in defence of having Elton John - a gayist - in the run down, which at a stroke makes a mockery of his own task. Because how can a single line be used to support a cause the writer is unlikely to believe in? For what it's worth, we'd like to take some issues with him...

Paul Anka - You'er Having My Baby. This comes in at one, but that's simply because the tracks are listed alphabetically, rather than by popularity or rabid, barking right-wing-ness. But the alphabet is a cruel mistress, and so the first track happens to be the sort of wan, over-sweetened nonesense that gives not only Conservativism a bad name, but doesn't reflect that well on music, either. It makes the chart on the grounds that there's a line "Didn’t have to keep it /Wouldn’t put ya through it / You could have swept it from your life / But you wouldn’t do it" This is interpreted as being pro-life, and Bartlett then extrapolates that such a song going to number one shortly after Roe versus Wade "also tells us something important about what most Americans really think about abortion". No, it doesn't. The popularity of the track would presumably be related to the same reason it was a regular choice on Simon Bate's Our Tune and a staple of Radio 2 request songs for years - the 'you're having my baby/what a beautiful way of saying how much you love me' refrain - rather than any implied rejection of abortion. Indeed, although the foetus in question is allowed to go to full term, clearly the Ankas have considered termination, and have rejected it out of choice, rather than conviction that abortion is wrong. In that sense, it's actually a pro-choice song. Admittedly, though, the constant description of the baby as "my" rather than "ours" does have slightly unpleasant overtones of a male-centric universe. Bartlett then goes on to praise 'Bodies' as being another anti-abortion song. The well-known pillars of society the Sex Pistols, of course.

The Beatles - Revolution. "The reason is that it is fundamentally anti-revolution." No, it's not. It's anti-violent revolution, and anti-plastic revolutionaries.

The Byrds - Turn! Turn! Turn! This is an odd conservative classic, having been written by old time lefty Pete Seeger and performed by a group that later glorified drugs in “Eight Miles High.” Nevertheless, it makes my list because the lyrics are drawn straight from the Book of Ecclesiastes. I figure that any song based on the Bible deserved inclusion. Sure it wasn't just to wind Pete Seeger up? Obviously, you can see why the right would be delighted to have the Bible quoted in the Top 40, but surely having the hippies quoting your own creed back at you is a statement of radicalism and not conservatism?

Neil Diamond - Coming To America. Yes, its a celebration of the US of States, but it rhymes 'land of the free' with 'democracy', which adds creedence to the belief that the right don't care who they hurt. We'd also raise a curious eyebrow and ask to what extent the American right welcome immigrants today - Bartlett attempts to sidestep the question by claiming the song refers to "turn of the century immigrants", but Diamond's lyrical reference to "arriving in planes" surely makes this unlikely.

Bobby Fuller Four - I Fought The Law. Apparently "on my list because of its strong law and order message. The law won, do you see? I wrote a list, and the padding won, more like.

George Harrison - My Sweet Lord. "The inclusion of this song may be controversial because of its non-Christian lyrics. This crisis is resolved because it's religious and that "makes the song per se conservative, even if the religion is Hinduism or Buddhism. Not, you'll note, if the song is Islamic, for some reason. So, the fact that Harrison was actively helping groups living communaly at the time, and royalties from the song went towards such experiments, is apparently unimportant.

Johnny Horton - Battle of New Orleans. Oddly, Bartlett can't find space in his run down to either include or mention another song about a battle, the Battle Hymn of Lt Calley. Now this, surely, should be included in any run down of Conservative anthems, especially one that stretches the inclusion criteria as far as this one. If you give the nod to James Brown's Man's Man's World for the song's praise for inventors and selling things, why not the lyric which functions as an apologia for one of the US's biggest war criminals and swipes as the draft-dodgers and anti-war protestors at the same time? "While we're fighting in the jungles / They were marching in the street, / While we're dying in the rice fields / They were helping our defeat./ While we're facing VC bullets / They were sounding a retreat, / As we go marching on..." It couldn't be that you're embarrassed, could it?

Whitney Houston - The Star Spangled Banner. You can't argue with the patriotic sentiments of this - well, you can argue with them, but not that they're there. But it's a pity that this makes the list, after that nasty little spat in 2001, when the track was re-released as a desperate bid to try and rebuild Whitney's career (or 'a tribute to those who lost their lives in the Sep'ven attacks') and the Orchestra who played on it suddenly realised they'd not been getting any royalties on it for the best part of a decade. Hardly says much for the free market economy that musicians get ripped off even while they're playing the National Anthem, does it?

Elton John - Philadelphia Freedom. Swallowing his disgust at a homosexual being in his list, Bartlett attempts to persuade us just how wholesome his case is. "Whitburn [Author of Top 40 Hits] says that this song was written as some kind of tribute for tennis star Billie Jean King and her team, the Philadelphia Freedoms. This is not correct. I clearly recall an interview with Elton John just before this song was released, in which he said it was written to celebrate the American Bicentennial in 1976. The lyrics leave no doubt that this was in fact the case. For example, John sings, “From the day I was born I’ve waved the flag.” And there is nothing whatsoever in the song that even hints at any relationship to Ms. King or tennis.
Right, let's just arrange some evidence here. The song was a hit in Spring '75, so was something of a pre-emptory celebration if that's true; and while there is no mention of tennis in the lyric, nor is there any mention of the Bicentennial, either. We have Bartlett's memory of a interview in which he said it was written for the Bicentennial, which if true could be a shrewd man offering an interpretation pleasing to the audience in order to keep sales bubbling along. However, the single does have a dedication to BJK on it. Bartlett's trouble is that he seems to be confusing 'about' and 'for'; the song is about America, but it was clearly written for King, as Superseventies explains: "A short time later, Billie was in Denver, embroiled in a crucial playoff game. Suddenly, Elton entered her locker room, bearing a hand-held tape recorder. With a nervous grin, he punched up a track he had just completed, and awaited her reaction. For many long minutes, the tune played on. And then she smiled. Billie Jean King loved the song.
So, a song by one of the most famous gay men for one of the most famous lesbians in the world. An excellent choice.
If Bartlett had really wanted to force Elton onto his audience, surely the remake of Candle In The Wind would have been far more appropriate? The cringe towards the upper classes, the forelock tugged at the feet of the Monarchy, the mythical Merrie Olde Englande evoked in the name of the dead Sloane - surely that's got it all?

Kingston Trio - MTA. Not a song I'm familiar with, but the precis provided Bartlett makes it sound rather like a post-war era version of Give Us Back Our Cheap Fares by Bananrama. Now, while the casting of Massechusetts Transit Authority fares as "unfair taxes" might sound superficially right-wing, we've got houseplants that can see the only alternative to the State railways charging high fares is to either fund them from higher direct or indirect taxation. So, it's not really a very good free market anthem, since it seems to be calling for redistribution of resources from the rich to the poor who use the buses.

The Kinks - Sunny Afternoon. "British taxes must have been really high in 1966. That year, The Beatles recorded “Taxman” and fellow Brits The Kinks also recorded this anti-tax anthem. As they sing, “The tax man’s taken all my dough…He’s taken everything I’ve got."" Oh, Bruce, how selectively you quote from this 'anti-tax anthem.' Doesn't the song actually go "The tax man's taken all my dough/ left me in my stately home/ He's taken everything I've got/ I can't even sail my yacht."? Do you see what he's done? He's taking the piss out of pop stars whining about how they're having to pay taxes - like the Beatles do in Taxman - while sitting on huge great piles of money. It's satire, Bruce. He's being funny. Not anti-taxes.
Oh, by the way... you haven't gone and called your baby girl Lola, have you?

Madonna - Papa Don't Preach. Bartlett again falls into the Anka trap, and assumes that because a song is about someone carrying pregnancy to full-term, it's anti-abortion. Of course, it's no such thing - abortion clearly has been on the agenda, considered, weighed, and ultimately decided against. It's a pro-choice song, then; only someone who believed that every baby born is an outright political statement against abortion could miss that. At the same time as slapping Madonna's tale of teenage sex on the back as a true conservative classic, Bartlett also praises Diana Ross' Love Child for describing the same situation in terms of condemnation. So, let's see... Madonna having an out of wedlock baby is good, but Diana Ross having one is bad. What could the difference be? Hmm... "The song is all about avoiding premarital sex and the terrible consequences of out-of-wedlock births. The danger, all too real in the Black community, then and now, is that the child is the one who ultimately suffers. Ah, that's it. Black people having babies outside of marriage is a terrible problem; when white people do it it's a crushing defeat for the abortion industry.

Kenny Roger and the First Edition - Ruby, Don't Take Your Love To Town. You wonder if Mr. B actually listened to any of these tracks before including them, or if he even owns a record player. If you read the song literally and positviely - as, typically, Bartlett does - it suggests that it's perfectly acceptable to get a gun and gun down your wife if she's going off into town without you. If you pay attention to the lyrics, however, it's clear that the song is anti-war. Sure, Rogers went and did his "patriotic chore", but look how its left him - incapacitated, about to fall into a grave, left without support and unable to even satisfy his wife's sexual desires. Try playing this to the troops massing for the attack on Iraq, and see how inspired and patriotic they feel.

Dusty Springfield - Wishin and Hopin'. On behalf of bothsidesnow, may I congratulate you on the inclusion of one of our all time bisexual heroes on the list?

Tammy Wynette - Stand by Your Man. This is the same Tammy Wynette who did D.I.V.O.R.C.E, so we can only presume she didn't take her own advice.

Bartlett concludes by suggesting that he can only think of one left wing song that ever made the US Top 40, which is palpable nonesense. You have to admire his idea, but, frankly - besides a couple of hymns and resurrections of ancient patriotic songs - his choices are ludicrous.

OZZIE'S DREAM UNLIKELY TO BE INCLUDED: Word reaches us (thanks, Ms Bamboo) of the next work from Nick Hornby. 31 Songs is a collection of personal essays about - yes - thirty-one different tunes that have an Arsenal like importance in Hornby's life, and as such forms the musical flipside to Fever Pitch. Even if you didn't have faith in Hornby's ability to write passionately about a subject he loves without making the reader feel like they're watching the sort of masto-fest usually best left in private, the whole affair comes with an illustrating CD with - yes - thirty-one songs on it. It's all due in February.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Bono is God edition
Q magazine has drawn up a list of the most powerful people in the music biz, and reckons Bono is the most powerful. Now, of course, there's good reason for this nonesensical statement - "Fat Bald LA exec you've never heard of makes all the major decisions about what you'll hear" is going to be a difficult coverline to sell - but, really, do we need to feed Vox's monstrous ego any further?...

Talking of things we'd like to just stop, now, forever: Now - Mel B and Max, back together, apparently. Oh, god almighty, has she finally come to the conclusion that her grasp on fame has become so slight she can only get the oxygen of publicity by being locked in a destructive relationship? Remember all those think pieces about how positive the Spice Girls were as role models?...

Onto the nme, then, which has the Vines on the front. Just as the Manics have to have the comedy welsh references, so the Vines have to be headlined "Strewth"...

news: "This is the moment" reads the caption on a full page shot "when truancy reached new heights." Um, no, it isn't. That's a picture of two people on a roof - it doesn't really document New York coming to a halt (and haven't we had enough of that to last a lifetime?), but it does suggest that Meg might not be the only White to forego the attractions of support. And we find it hard to believe they were married - surely nobody would turn their back on *that*?. The nme reports that "many" of the 9,000 strong crowd found out about the gig on, extrapolated from one person who emailed them and said they did.

Isn't playing a gig on a roof a bit corny now, though? Like releasing a single for one day and then deleting it - are you listening, The Music, with your Getaway? Or Liam walking offstage - its bad enough having to go to an Oasis gig, but then to have it turned into a fucking Noel acoustic wank-off seems to be cruel and unusual; shamefully, the nme manages to find space for the trouble-on-boat Mobo story but not the nasty homophobic events outside; less shamefully, but still a bit rum is the apparent belief that Nothing Compares 2U is a Sinead O'Connor song (the clue, you dolts, is in the title); Trucks have dismissed the people who beat them up because of their 'Its Just Porn Mum' song as "five big lesbians" - erm, because lesbians don't like porn, we suppose? - although, more accurately, they were a bunch of schoolgirls. "It's about a kid who wants to watch porn" Mark from Trucks says, justifying himself, "it's not about hardcore anal or anything like that." More's the pity; Jarvis Cocker is given a "bad Monkey" for appearing in the BT advert; the paper tries to work up some sort of hypocrisy charge because the Pulp wouldn't let Nestle for a free CD - although we don't quite see the connection, what with Nestle being targetted by baby milk action and BT not, we think (as we've said before) Jarvis was probably endorsing broadband music downloading as a fuck-off to his former record label; Interpol have been threatened by an old lady weilding an axe - surely that's Courtney Love, isn't it?; Chuck D has called MTV Nazis because they wouldn't play the Public Enemy track calling for freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal - they were happy for the name to be mentioned, but wanted 'free' taken out as "we [MTV] are an unbiased company [and] we felt it was a personal and political position on an individual" - so, no Free Nelson Mandela, then; and presumably that song where Kelly tells Nelly she really loves him - which surely is a personal position on an individual - will be out too, will it?...

the coverage of the robbie deal focuses on his "make america like me, please" begging from Mr Williams. A bloek from Billboard points out that he's sold less than 700,000 albums in the whole of the US, and that all his desperate star-stalking in LA (Marilyn Manson, Ozzy, um, Rachel Hunter) hasn't caused a flicker on his recognition needle. It's no coincidence that Robbie's trying the fame-by-association tactic in the states, since his paling around with Oasis in the UK turned him from the cheeky one out of Take That into the irritating rich cunt he is today. But has he got anything to offer America? Let's hope he packs some humility...

on bands: electric 6 - detroit disco punk and longview - manc shoegazers. (They don't say shoegazers, but you just can tell)...

Erol Alkan is the man who saved the indie club, apparently. Apparently, before Trash, there were no clubs that didn't restrict themselves to the same Big Indie Names. Hmmm, maybe they should have tried travelling beyond London...

Vendetta Red cheerfully admit that they're california skatepunk cliches, so let's move on...

Australia is the new Rock & Roll Continent, apparently. Now, this is just pre-packaged stupid in flatpack boxes. Attempting to suggest that some town may be the burning groin of new music - Seattle! New York! Liverpool! - may just about work; the country-as-crucible claims are more tenuous (Japan, the other week, wasn't it?) but... "the new rock & roll continent"? Please.
Maybe we should offer this revised standfirst instead:
The NME had to pay for writers to fly to Australia to cover the Vines homecoming, so to try and spread the strain on expenses we decided to write up some other bands - including You Am I, in jesus' name - and will do our best to suggest that Australia and New Zealand - an area larger than the whole of the US, plus quite a lot of sea - has some sort of cohesive 'scene'...

"If anyone else asks me if I'm suicidal, I think I'll kill myself" wails Craig Nicholls. Hey, The Vines man - are you feeling suicidal, then? Despite the coverline, it seems that The Vines aren't actually having quite as euphoric a return to Oz as we're meant to believe - "suspicion", "hostile" and similar words pepper through the reportage. We might be being a bit dense, but we can't find a credit for the piece, which may just be an oversight, but is a shame as it's a well written, even handed piece of journalism, marred only by dreadful layout - you get six columns on page 34, then four pages of posters (can you hear the tumbrels? They have Melody Maker poster mags stuck all over them) and a page of Vines pictures, then another six columns, then an ad for Jack Daniels, then another page, and then it concludes thirty pages further on. The nme seems to have forgotten how to present journalism, even though clearly it hasn't lost the knack of writing. And its nice to see Swervedriver getting a small sidebar to themselves, as a result of Craig wearing one of the band's tshirts, although the reference to them not likely to do well during the Britpop Wars is bemusing, since they'd long since given up before the end of shoegazing...

albums - a self-aggrandising review of the nme/war child 1 Love album - Alex Needham gives it ten, which is scandalously wrong. It's a compilation album that has both Darius and Jimmy Eat World on it - who could possibly embrace its entire contents to such an extent? Bah. And Needham's contention that doing an album in aid of War Child is timely what with the imminent Iraq war is dodgy but probably accurate - better start building up the resources to pick up the pieces now, boys. It's curious Oasis are involved, though - thought you couldn't be arsed, boys? Thought you didn't think we could do anything? Thought you were just in a band?...

foo fighters - one by one ("a man who's finally learned to fly", 8);
brave captain (Martin Carr of the Boo Radleys) - advertisements for myself ("best since giant steps", 8);
the delgados - hate ("all you need is hate", 8); apples in stereo - velocity of sound ("vaguely contemporary", 7);
graham coxon (Graham Coxon of The Blur) - the kiss of morning ("an auspiscious manifesto", 8);
the soft boys - nextdoorland ("nothing to spoil their unsullied cult reputation", 8)...

single of the week: the beatings - bad feeling ("a scalding gang chant chorus")
also-rans: simian - never be alone ("call the police")
shaggy - hey sexy lady ("the sid james of pop-reggae")
samantha mumba - I'm right here ("infectious")
disco d featuring princess superstar - fuck me on the dancefloor ("everything is just so...")

live - the coral in newcastle ("only the beginning");
the darkness in King's Cross ("a spirit-sapping ironic take on Queen and AC/DC")'
erase errata in london metro ("stroppy, exciting and confusing")...

and finally, viral marketing has gone mad: a plug for has made it into NMEmail. Is nowhere safe, or shall we prepare for the offer of Viagra next week?

ILL-LITERACY: So, Ananova reports that S Club are going to teach English to kids. Interesting... what sort of English? "Come join the party, come on get up off your seat / Doesn't matter who you are we all dance to the same beat / Come put your hands together, shake your little feet. Or, maybe There's a place waiting just for you/ It's a special place where your dreams all come true/ Fly away swim, the ocean sea / Drive that open road, leave the past behind you / Don't stop gotta keep moving / Your hopes have gotta keep building"?. Of course, both Basil Brush and Lenny the Lion - two earlier stuffed creatures from kids TV - eked out a living towards their twilight years doing reading shows for kids...

HERE COME THE MONEYGRUBBERS: Though its disappointing to see Bob Dylan joining Billy Joel in anything, much less USD150,000 per "infringement" by, dating back to before the service settled with the major labels. It's not clear from the Bloomberg report if the greedy ones want one hundred and fifty thou per track, or for each time a track was zapped across's wires (or, if they're being unreasonable or totally insane). Maybe Rosen or someone would like to lecture these dunderheads that by suing Vivendi Universal (the parent company) they're, like taking money away from artist development and so on. I mean - 150,000 for having Tell Her About It on a server? How many pirate CDs would it take to rob a similar amount from them by those means?
Obviously, Dylan, Joel et al never felt the chill wind of hunger beating down on them as a result of's activities, so lets hope a judge has the balls to ask them to detail exactly what their loss is in this matter.

GOOD NEWS FOR RAGU: Beth Gibbons, whose vocals for Portishead have been officially calculated as the most-listened to singing at first-time dinner parties, has got a new website up and running for her Out of Season project with Rustin Man; the music isn't that far behind it as the album - currently causing the monthlies to nod and smile - is due on October 28th.

It was a long time ago now...

So Bertelsmann has finally fessed up that, yes, actually, we did pretty well out of supporting the Nazis. Does it matter that the owners of RCA, Arista and Elvis' contract made their money through publishing Nazi materials, and only got closed down because so strenuous was their support for the Project that the National Socialist's in-house printers were pissed off at the competition?

Their spokesman was on Today after that publication of their confession saying basically - let's draw a line under this now, it's not like we've built our business on this. But that is exactly what they have done - of course, trading in the years 2001-2 hasn't drawn any cash directly from the production of unpleasant material, but the seedcorn that allowed Bertelsmann to turn from a small German publishing company into an international media giant did. And to simply say "Yes, we've checked our records and it turns out, we did make a lot of cash from supporting a regime which gassed Jews, gays, the mentally ill, Romany, Poles and many other members of our current customer groups" and think that makes it alright sends a message to companies now that, if they do find themselves dealing with unacceptable regimes, keeping your head down for a few years until it all blows over is all they need to do.

So, how about this as a proposal: the writers, the musicians, the artists who currently have contracts with Bertelsmann companies could be argued to have signed a deal with the company without knowing the full facts about who they were dealing with. Why not declare these contracts voided, and allow everyone involved to renegotiate with Bertelsmann if they choose, or go elsewhere if they'd rather? Sure, it will end up costing BMG and its sister companies millions. But it really would draw a line under the past, and show that Bertelsmann's remorse is genuine, and not merely a PR spin to cover the clatter of skeletons coming from the closet.

we'd quite like to apologise... [Bertlesmann statement] - it's okay, we like Jews now...

COLDPLAY WARM THEMSELVES UP: No, Coldplay, you can add Tim Wheeler and Simon Pegg to your records all you like; it doesn't make us like you any more; it just makes us respect them a little less.

... ROMANS FOLLOW ON: More than just the sum of its blog, 12 Apostles is part-project, part-mission; half-english, half-Australian; half-joking, possibly.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

NON STOP EROTIC CABARET STOPS: The fortchoming Soft Cell tour has been postponed as Marc Almond has gone down with a severe hernia. Their management are saying they expect him to be well enough to be touring America next month, and to be the object of the obvious gags in time for the Christmas Never Mind The Buzzcocks.

All hands on the bad one

Pitchfork is reporting that a bloke has been arrested after being caught wanking at a Sleater-Kinney gig at the Seattle Showbox. A guy who's being identified as Hton Kim has apparently got a track record of playing the One Beat during S-K and has already been charged in similar circumstances for behaviour at other gigs. Pitchfork observes that, usually, the wanking at indie gigs is left to those on stage.

FREED - THE WHISTLE TEST TWO: It's the end of an era, and no mistake as Mark Ellen quits EMAP to join former Whistle Test and Smash Hits buddy David Hepworth in a new company. Great news for him - over the last couple of years EMAP has turned from being home to a great portfolio of creative ideas into a giant crushing robot dedicated solely to extracting Brand Value - but probably bad news for EMAP, losing one of the few people working in publishing who had a personality and knew that magazines needed them too.

Does anyone have a kind word?

Richard Park is going round slagging off Fame Academy - and he's bloody in it. However much it improves, if the central figure on the make-a-star show is saying it was only worth 15 out of a hundred, is there anything salvagable there?

THERE'S NOTHING ABOUT THIS THAT DOESN'T LEAVE DOUGHNUT STYLE GREASE ON YOUR FINGERS: A charity called MusiCares awarding the likes of Bono and Billy Joel prizes for doing charidee watch. As we've said before, we're sure Bono's heart is in the right place, but praising a man who heads up an organisation that brings in an annual USD69m for doing a little bit of good work is precious little different from handing out knighthoods or breaking into choruses of "For he's a jolly good fellow" whenever he walks in the room. Surely this sort of prize should be given to people whose work has been less geared to getting their photo taken with the President, and more towards the sort of people whose actions are less self-aggrandising?

ARE YOU SURE?: According to the BBC BPI DG Andrew Yeates believes that "Put simply, paying for music has to be a better option than stealing it." Um... Andrew? While "selling music has to be a better option than giving it away" is inarguable, 'paying for something you can get for free elsewhere', on its own, isn't much of a proposition at all. If the BPI really believes that at the moment music downloaders are doing say while saying "If only we could pay for this", why not just set up a tip jar with Amazon?

I should be so lucky

The Daily Telegraph may be delighted at Pete Waterman's claims that he ripped off Wagner for many of the tracks knocked out by the Hit Factory, but we're not so sure. Apart from causing us to wander round singing "Together forever/ and never to part" and trying to work out what part of the Ring cycle it comes from, Waterman's seen as such a touchstone figure by the people hammering together the rickety craft that a lot of bands are floating about on that his claims in BBC Music Magazine are probably going to condemn us to the charts of Summer 2003 being full of girls looking uncomfortable in bondage gear lip-synching over the top of the Water Music. Ta, pete.

YOU LOOK LIKE ME - BUT PLEASE DON'T TURN INTO ME: Jarvis to be a dad - maybe this makes sense of the Pulp hiatus?

Monday, October 07, 2002

ASHER FREE'D: So Solid Bloke Asher D has been released from chokey after that inevitable jail-or-death incident.

GOODBYE: One of our favourite sources for browserising on the web, the Arts & Letters Daily has closed down. We'll miss it a lot.

ALL OUR FRIENDS ARE HERE: Most people we come across are aware that Spiritualized are a group of almost godlike genius. The people who make us purr with delight are the ones who acknowledge this, but then pause and say "Yeah, but I miss Spaceman 3." For those of you in that category, we offer this biography from the Magnet archives.

First hit of new Williams contract: EMI's Share Price

Now there's been a couple of days for people to mull the implications of the "groundbreaking" Robbie Williams deal, it's starting to look a lot less rosy for EMI.

First up, the GBP80million price tag has been thrown out - Investic has priced the deal at a more realistic GBP35million, a large portion of which is based on sales of non-music related items. In effect, rather than signing up to make music for EMI, Williams has mortgaged a portion of his future earnings on memorobillia, concert tickets and other tat. Interestingly, this is believed to be the area in which artists who are creatively dead make their cash - the example offered is the Rolling Stones, who couldn't get a new single near the Top Ten but are still ticking over nicely touring. In theory, EMI have made a shrewd move, a first step away from being a record label into what the Guardian describes as a "full entertainment company." But its debatable if this such a great move - as we've heard, it looks as if, in the short term at least, the age of Big Tours is over. Even if the serious slump in Top 50 gig ticket sales is reversed, you can only make huge sums by hammering American roads - and right now Robbie Williams couldn't sell out a shopping mall in Beckenridge, never mind fill arenas with punters enough to justify the size of the contract. As ever, much hangs on the ability to break America. We don't think Robbie can do it - not in his current incarnation.

Making matters worse, no sooner had Robbie signed to EMI than his long term writing "partner" Guy Chambers announced he'd had enough and was going to do other things. Since we imagine the partnership involves Guy Chambers writing the music and words, and Robbie Williams choosing whereabouts in the video he'll look into the camera and gurn, it was enough of a blow to knock EMI's already battered shares down further still - it's akin to spending a fortune buying the rights to Lambchop and discovering that Shari Lewis wasn't part of the deal.

EMI maintain that there's any number of songwriters who could write "with" Robbie, but the fact is there's already a distinctive sound, and there's no guarantee that pairing him up with James Dean Bradfield, say, is going to do anything other than dilute the brand.

Williams - can he be the new Daniel Bedingfield? [Guardian]
Whoops, there goes another penny [FT]

MAYBE THIS WILL BE AN END TO IT: We're hoping that the reactions of the public on BBC Online to Fame Academy may lead to the BBC to take the decision to bury the whole thing - maybe restrict it to BBC Choice, or perhaps CBeebies, where it'll do less damage. They were prepared to yank the ill-conceived British version of The Real World. Will they be brave enough this time?
Certainly, the reactions of the audience are more interesting than any of the talent on display.

TOM JONES AT THE FRONT: As usually happens, the indie sector has been the first to actually work out which way the future lies, as AIM have cut a deal on behalf of the UK independent labels which could be the way forward for Internet Radio. While the US system gets further bogged down, anyone with an internet radio station anywhere in the world is now able to sign up to a royalty rate linked to the station's profitability rather than a standard cost; in return for the payment, stuff from acts as diverse as Tom Jones, Badly Drawn Boy and Oakenfold will be available to the broadcasters. There's more than this on BBC online, but be warned that the top picture does make it appear as if the agreement is going to lead to giant clones of Badly Drawn Boy attacking Jools Holland - not a bad thing in itself, we reckon, but it might give you nightmares.

SO, IS THIS MORALLY RIGHT?: We may need someone from Napier University to pick the bones out of this one - John Otway gets given a Top Ten hit as a birthday present. Now, is that a cynical manipulation of a meaningless chart, or is it a sign that popular sentiment is still actively reflected in the Official Singles Listings?

THE ROCK BED SHE DESERVES: If the transitional nature of Pink's Get This Party Started leaves you wishing she'd rocked up a spot earlier, Soundhog has the answer - slapping the vocals over a Sabbath backing. Excellent, and - though I'm no expert - probably what she had in mind all along, judging by the way the scream fits...

It's not just music fans

Hey, we can stand and point at the prices in Virgin all we like, but our wails are probably going to be drowned out by Computer Gamers over in the corner, if Fairplay - Campaign for cheaper videogames are to be believed.

Although strictly speaking, of course, video games have no business being in a record store in the first place - as the old Charlatans manager observed, if there was logic to selling Tomb Raider next to Will Young, in the 70's record shops would have been flogging Monopoly sets as well. But we wonder if the BPI are hoping the campaign takes off - while it might throw a harsh light on the cost of CDs as a knock-on, the mark-up on games Cartridges is so much higher that it makes the record companies look like Santa in comparison; and if the price of games comes down it might free up enough cash in the bumbags of Britain's youth to get them buying records again. A crazy idea, but...

The full majesty of the law

As the judge in the US case where Verizon is being bullied by the RIAA into revealing private information on one of its customers says that Congress could have made the law clearer, Cary Sherman drops another humorous little doublespeakette into the proceedings: "One of the things we're discovering is that people are not aware that that they are engaging in conduct which is clearly illegal - If you got a letter from the RIAA saying we know that you're doing this, I'd say there's a good chance that you would stop."

Considering the RIAA have done nothing but bleat about filesharing being responsible for all the evils of the world for the last three years (hey, how many Dell PCs do you think Saddam's got in them Presidential Palaces - all running Morpheus twenty-four-seven, I'll bet), there probably isn't an American alive who hasn't got the message that file sharing is at best a dubious hobby. What Sherman actually means is "If we could start firing off threatening letters, I'd bet them code kiddies would cack themselves - then we'd see some unsecure downloading; straight down their big pipes..."

Lets go round again, shall we? Yes, strictly speaking, many music downloads are illegal. But very few music downloads equal any loss in sales. And singling out individual music fans and threatening them with dire consequences is taking a carpet bombing to crack a nut. Do the words "Ineffective PR disaster" feature in your 2002-03 year planner anywhere?

More on Australians with less on

What surprises us most about this story about a South African chain withdrawing GQ magazine from its shelves because of the cover (Kylie, some boots, some knickers, that's it) [Independent Online] is not the skimpyness of Kylie's underpants, but the size of the GQ masthead - it's enormous. Blimey.

This, of course, comes with Abs - the ridiculously named former member of Five (or 5ive, as they used to call themselves) - singing a song about meeting a girl who tells him "she's on the front of GQ magazine." Now, since the covers of GQ all round the world tend to be of a Kylie nature, or at the very least a Selma Hyack, are we supposed to believe that (a) Abs has bumped into a woman from the short list of near-standard heterosexual male fantasies and not recognised her (actually, that doesn't strecth credulity so far, Abs coming across as nice-but-dim) and (b) this woman who could have any man liable to find her fleetingly attractive has chosen a man who resembles nothing so much as Henry, the mild-mannered janitor, only with a six pack and no redeeming Hong Kong Phooey-ness.

Maybe Britney believes he's about seventeen...

The Holly and the why me?

We lift our hat to the good people at The [Australian] Age for the headline on their Ms Valance piece - Holly's semi-nude baptism of fire (would a flaming baptism be worsened by semi-nudity? would full nudity be better?), and since we've got our hat off, we'll bang our head a little bit, too. Holly wonders why - when there are a lot of female singers out there - she always gets compared to Kylie. The Age does its best to fill her in: "They both cut their teeth in Neighbours, and since Kiss Kiss, Valance is close behind (if you will) in the race for the most celebrated posterior in pop. Both are also Melbourne girls.

But the two Ramsay Street alumni also owe a debt of gratitude to the same songwriter: Rob Davis, who has penned Valance's sumptuous new single Down Boy, was also responsible for Can't Get You Out Of My Head, the number-one hit that reignited Kylie's career last year. (Davis also co-wrote Groovejet (If This Ain't Love), which propelled Sophie Ellis Bextor into pops upper echelons.) And if truth be told, Can't Get You Out Of My Head and Down Boy (the video which has Valance getting comfortable on a large bed with a variety of male and female chums) do share a certain robotic sensuality. Shall we go on?
Apparently, that isn't similarity enough for Vallance. "You can't compare what we do" she fires back, getting tetchy. Okay, maybe

Dannii might be a more apt yardstick, but even so...
Interestingly, Holly would rather be comapred to Natalie Imbruglia, and yet at the same time, she claims she's "only" going to have an eight year career in pop (so, that's about sixteen times as long as Natalie, then).

"The previous day, [Valance tells the Age] she was cornered in a London restaurant by a gang of children screaming, "Show us your bum!" The singer says she found the experience "pretty upsetting, to tell the truth".

When the Sunday People asked pretty much the same thing, though, she was happy to oblige and readers of the Sunday Tabloid were treated to a glossy poster of the results over their breakfasts yesterday. You may now wonder idly why a bunch of kids could presume to think that Holly would want to flash them.

Weekend videos of note

Britney, when you sing "knew he must have been about seventeen" in your cover of I Love Rock and Roll, why would that be of note? When Joan Jett sang the line, the implication was "he's younger than me, probably a virgin, I'm going to take him, teach him, and possibly break him." When you sing it, Britney, it implies nothing so much as "he was in my year at school, then." Still, the video is as an impressive piece of attempted market repositioining as I've seen in an age - especially the frantic rubbing yourself clean of any residual spittle from Justin Timberlake (although in future you might find a kleenex more effective than a motorcycle.)
I'm sure a lot of men, and the author of the ever-excellent glitter-splashed britney-loving lesbo, will be suddenly realising that they now do, actually, have to make good whatever their half of the deal with god, satan or their own personal jesus was.

Talking of repositioning - I'm supposing the low-key Joy Division at rest styling of the new Fischerspooner video is supposed to be a riposte to critics who accuse them of being all wig, no tunes. "Here we are. This is us. Judge us on our music alone." Okay, then - we will: You sound like the Fixx.

At the other end of the market, there's the new Coral video. You would have thought that faced with a bunch of lads who - let's be honest - aren't ever going to be asked to pose for Calvin Klein - it would have been kinder not to get them to do close-up singing into a fish eye lens; indeed, since they'd gone to the expense of hiring a bear suit, you wonder if maybe they all should have dressed up. I wonder if the whole thing was meant to be a homage to Hotel New Hampshire; whatever, it winds up looking a bit like an animated version of the Be Here Now sleeve.