Saturday, January 17, 2004

WHILE MY GUITAR GENTLY WEEPS: Truce has been called in the curious case of George Harrison's guitar. The doctor will hand back the signed instrument; the Beatle family will provide the doctor's son with a brand new guitar, free of controversial squiggles. The doctor will not push his luck by asking "don't suppose there's any chance of you getting Macca to just get a maker pen and..."

Friday, January 16, 2004

THEY'RE JOKING, RIGHT?: Coca-Cola have announced the pricing for their legal download site and seem to be quite proud that you can download a full album for "as little as GBP6.40." They're joking, surely? You can walk to a shop and buy an album on CD - a decent one, like the TLC best of, say - for a fiver, and that's been pressed, put into a little box, put into a bigger box, driven around the country, put into storage, driven about again, carried into a stockroom, sat on a shelf, had staff move it around, price it up, take your credit card, smile, put it in a little bag and god knows what else happens to it. Downloads have absolutely no reason to cost more than the actual, physical CD, and a site that boasts that its lowest pricepoint is higher than the price of records in Virgin or Tesco seems to be just a little under-researched to our minds. And as for the claim that it's the "first consumer-branded legal download site" (we presume they mean in Europe, and we presume by 'consumer branded' they mean branded under a brand used for other stuff) - well, whoop-de-woo. How brilliant. I've been waiting for a consumer branded legal download site to come along. All those non-consumer branded ones were just so freaking scary. I mean, I'd not trust my credit card details to a company whose logo hadn't cropped up on at least three other products in at least two product sectors.

For the very last time: Ben Shaw's Suncharm Cola so beats Coke's ass.

THEY'RE LIKE SOME FAMILY FROM THE LATER DAYS OF BROOKSIDE: It's not just Girls Aloud Cheryl Tweedy that brings shame on their mothers and blots the family name - brother Andrew has just pleaded guilty to criminal damage and drunk and disorderly; he's previously been done for pinching a scooter (which isn't just a crime, but a really lame one - stealing a pop-pop is like swearing at a dinnerlady). And for robbing from parked cars. And for harrassment. Oh, and he and his other sister Gillian were bound over after a fight outside the Metro. Still, at least he's not launched an unprovoked violent attack on someone, so he's some way to go to become the black sheep of the family. Cheryl can still be seen supporting Nestle's boxtops for education programme.

THE OTHER SIDE OF THE TRACKS: Liberty X make their first non-pervoid video, and promptly get shouted at for encouraging kids to play on railways. The new video shows them mooching about on railway tracks, although, unlike 'Robbie*', they don't get their legs cut off by the points and have to spend the rest of their lives staring mournfully at the football boots hanging on the back of their bedroom doors.

* - A bloke from British Rail would routinely tour round schools in the 1970s and show this short in assembly (doubled up with something by Peter Purves showing trains zipping about all over the place - the zipping, rather than the Purves, being what dates this, of course) in a bid to put kids off the idea of larking about on the railways. It also managed to scare them off of ever going anywhere near a railway, ever, and probably accounts for the decline of locomotive travel in the United Kinfgdom single-handedly.

DON'T TELL SHAUN RYDER: According to Steffano Gabbana out of Dolce & Gabbana (an Italian version of Baldwin's Casuals), Posh and Becks are like two pigeons - we're not sure about David, but Victoria certainly is. Walks a bit funny; doesn't do songs; mainly noted for dropping a load of shit all over the place. Yes, we know the punchline is a bit lazy, but it's Friday afternoon...

RISE: After last week's headlines about how illegal music downloading was falling (based on a survey of three people dragged out of their beds in the middle of the night, or something), another survey suggests actually, the number of households downloading has increased in the last couple of months. This survey is based on a slightly larger sample, although we're not sure about the claims that 11 Million people told the investigators that they'd got music off the net - it would take an awful lot of old ladies, with an awful lot of clipboards, on an awful lot of highstreets, to stop enough people to get figures like that, so we're guessing they asked a few and multiplied it all up.

Whatever, having spent the last week singing happy songs about how their plans to crush the family finances of anyone and everyone who so much as hums Eye of The Tiger without handing a small sum for the record companies to top-slice before passing the residue onto the composers, all of a sudden the RIAA are faced with a contradictory report to react to. The bumbling, ridiculous response will be familiar to anyone who saw The Alan Clark Diaries last night - the aptly-named Jonathan Lamy - blustered that it doesn't matter at all:

"For us, the ultimate measurement of success has been, and continues to be, creating an environment where legal online music services can flourish," Lamy said in a statement. "All indicators point in the right direction - sales of CDs, legal downloads and awareness that file sharing copyrighted music is illegal - have all increased."

So, hang about a moment - are the RIAA now saying closing down filesharing isn't their aiml that they don't mind a spot of filesharing providing sales are on the up? We'd not realised that "File Sharing Is A Crime" only applied when the market was in decline, but against a boisterous sales curve the Major Labels fling open their cupboards and say "Help yourself." So long as people know its illegal, it's okay? Or are they merely saying that the incredibly expensive and divisive process of prosecuting 12 year old girls, grandmothers and anyone else with a computer wasn't about stopping filesharing, but merely about boosting CD sales? Couldn't they have run an advertising campaign instead?

MALAYSIANS DON'T WANT MARIAH, EITHER: Pity poor Mariah Carey - there she is, desperately trying to work herself back into a position of respect in the community - and what does she get for her trouble? Malaysians insisting she and her skanky ho' costumes be kept out of their country. The Islamic opposition party in the country is worried that if Mariah is allowed to strut about the stage there, the young people of the land will wind up making pisspoor records with Westlife, jiggling about in frankly horrid-looking knitted bikinis, and smashing all the plates in their parent's houses.

Of course, it's a bit of a shame that one of the few American acts prepared to take the huge risks of flying on a aeroplane to anywhere should be told to piss off back home, but that's the reality of the world today, isn't it? Maybe she'll have better luck with her Middle Eastern dates. Although we have a funny feeling there may be problems there, too.

YOU'LL BE SINGING… WHEN YOU'RE NOT WOMEN: After all the hoopla about Afghan TV showing a woman singing, it turns out to be a bit of a false dawn, as the head of the TV service, Azizullah Aryanfar, has said he's not about to do that again. Not that the Taliban and the old repressive tendencies in the country have any sway now that America has restored democracy and oil pipelines there, oh no. It's just, you know, women, singing… there's only so many talented women about and one every ten years is probably enough, isn't it? You don't want people to get bored by overloading the airwaves with the same sort of thing - look what happened to talking dogs in the UK. One minute Thats Life has a dog saying "sausages", then they're everywhere. But where are they now? Not that Afghan TV would show a dog saying sausages, because that would probably upset someone, somewhere, with some sort of large weapon…

PLAY THAT GENERIC RAP SONG: Every current rap record, boiled down to its barest bones, by a couple of Princeton students. Our favourite bit is the Sean Paul piece, but it's all the, um, shizzle.

THERE ARE SOME VENUES CLEAR CHANNEL DON'T OWN YET?: Non Prophet's MC Sage Francis is striking out on his own, attempting a tour of the States without visiting any Clear Channel venues. The tour - named 'Fuck Clear Channel' jaunt - will also be marked by the pledge that security won't be allowed to shout at or bully fans.

BEENIE MAN COVERS DANIEL BEDDINGFIELD: Car accident... far flung place (this time Jamiaca)... cancelling UK commitments to convalesce... you know the score.

THIS ISN'T A LEGAL BLOG, YOU KNOW, IT JUST SEEMS LIKE THAT SOMETIMES: In other Beatle-court news, a bored-sounding judge has suggested that if everyone involved in the Harrison guitar signing case wanted to preserve a little bit of their dignity, they'd be better off pissing off out the courtroom and talking about things like grown-ups.

"TURNS OUT HE'S GOT PREVIOUS FOR DRUGS, SARGE": Paul McCartney is to get a visit from the police following the fracas (it's only people in news stories who get involved in fracas, isn't it?) at the foot of David Blaine's stunt last September. Yeah, we can't imagine why it's taken Kevin Wheal, the photographer who claimed he was pushed in the chest by Macca all this time to bring a complaint forward; maybe he's been inspired by the Corrie storyline where Rita is being pursued for cash following an incident of pushage.

MYSTIKAL GOES DOWN: Mystikal has been given a six-year jail sentence after being found guilty of forcing his hairdresser to suck his cock. He's also had to pay the woman USD350,000 - most of which he's borrowed off his record company. Which is incredibly trusting of them, since he's not likely to be working much in the next couple of years. Mystikal and his two bodyguards accused the woman of stealing money from him and saw the blowjob as a form of justice - let's hope Big Al from Block D doesn't suspect Mystikal of stealing his can of pineapple chunks, eh? It's not known if, as he was being taken down, Michael Taylor blurted out "I'd have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for the completely inexplicable compulsion on the part of R&B singers to videotape every bloody illegal sexual act we're involved in, like we're planning to launch a programme called 'You've Been Shamed' at some point in the future with home videos of rapes and underage sex in it..."

WE DON'T HOLD WITH NO BIG CITY WAYS: The reporters waiting for the Michael Jackson trial to kick off are filling time filing reports about people waiting for the trial to begin. Peter Bowes of the BBC must win some sort of award - perhaps a rubber nose - for this reaction from a local resident:

"It's the biggest thing we'll ever see," said Dennis Szczepanski, a local resident. "It'll be a madhouse, it's a frenzy over a trial. Just look at all the people who're coming out - it's like a circus. Our community of 85,000 is a very agricultural type - country type people and you're going to see a lot of unusual people for us. There's going to be a lot of styles of clothing and hair that we just don't see."

Although we do have to raise a quizzical eyebrow at a man who can be alarmed by unusual styles of hair dropping the size of the town's population so casually into conversation...

ASHANTI DOES HER BIT FOR SAFER SEX: ... by dragging a bloke onstage for a private dance, leading to a massive surge of testosterone-fuelled stage invasions. Ashanti had to be rescued before her teent-tiny hotpants got ripped to shreds. This was in Abuja, Nigeria, at a concert designed to promote the agencies fighting HIV infection rates there.

GOTTA FLY NOW: R Kelly's people are mulling the idea of R taking the role of Rocky in a new Broadway musical. We'd imagine this is crossed wires - when R Kelly said he'd like to do a stage version of that film from the 80's with the boxing in it, we're guessing he was thinking of Bugsy Malone, which would seem to suit his talents a whole lot better.

FRITWATCH: A big bowl of custard for Lyle Lovett, who's cancelled dates in Australia and New Zealand because it's scary.
His agent said yesterday the heightened security level in the US prevented 46-year-old Lovett, a Grammy-award winning singer/songwriter and former husband of Julia Roberts, from travelling.
"Due to the heightened security level placed on all travel by the US Government, Lyle Lovett has decided that international travel is too risky to be attempted at this time," the statement said.

What a bloody yellow-belly. The "heightened security" doesn't prevent him from doing anything - the "abject paranoia and pathetic fear" does - and what sort of statement is "Lyle Lovett has decided that international travel is too risk to be attempted at this time"? Does Lyle get extra special reports from the security services that tells him something that the thousands of people who are zipping about the globe quite happily don't know? Or does Lyle think that he's so fucking important he'd be a target? Or that he's so cherished and adored by the world, that if the very, very slim risk of something happening to him did occur, the world would be thrown into a frenzy of mourning that would make Diana and Khommeni's funerals seem like a cold shoulder from an unloved aunt? What a bloody custard.

A LASTING EFFECT?: It looks as if Britney's recent wedding could have an effect that lasts much longer than the marriage itself - a lot of people are thinking that it might just be a little too easy to get married in certain parts of America, and serious proposals are coming forward that would make it impossible to get drunk and get married before the hangover kicks in.

ELLE GIRL - COOLER THAN YOU, CERTAINLY COOLER THAN US: Maybe the Sexiest 50 Men poll in Elle Girl in the States has helped Clear Channel to embrace black jeans and floppy fringes. We were certainly surprised at most of the choices in the chart - thanks to Becky Bamboo for bringing it to our attention, by the way:

50.) Fabrizio Moretti (The Strokes)
49.) Jared Followill (Kings of Leon)
48.) Jack White (The White Stripes)
47.) Mike Skinner (The Streets)
46.) Ben Kweller
45.) Joel Madden (Good Charlotte)
44.) Benji Madden (Good Charlotte)
43.) Ja Rule
42.) Rufus Wainwright
41.) Joe Firstman
40.) Eminem
39.) Rivers Cuomo (Weezer)
38.) Ryan Adams
37.) Gilberto Cerezo (Kinky)
36.) Adam Levine (Maroon5)
35.) Nick Jago (Black Rebel Motorcycle club)
34.) Conor Deasy (The Thrills)
33.) Usher
32.) Damian Kulash (OK Go)
31.) John Mayer
30.) 50 Cent
29.) Paul Banks (Interpol)
28.) Jason Mraz
27.) Chingy
26.) Taylor Hanson (Hanson)
25.) Tim Wheeler (Ash)
24.) Pelle Almqvist (The Hives)
23.) Beck
22.) Nick Valensi (the Strokes)
21.) Sondre Lerche
20.) Deryck Whibley (Sum 41)
19.) Tyson Ritter (All American Rejects)
18.) Mos Def
17.) Nick Zinner (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
16.) Bert McCracken (The Used)
15.) Tom Delonge (Blink 182, Box Car Racer)
14.) Chris Carrabba (Dashboard Confessional)
13.) Jin
12.) Brandon Boyd (Incubus)
11.) Rhett Miller (Old 97's)
10.) Bow Wow
9.) Julian Casablancas (The Strokes)
8.) Pharrell Williams (N.E.R.D., Neptunes)
7.) Roddy Woomble (Idlewild)
6.) Chris Martin (Coldplay)
5.) Craig Nicholls (the Vines)
4.) Robert Carmine (Rooney)
3.) Conor Oberst
2.) Justin Timberlake
1.) ALEX GREENWALD (Phantom Planet)

Now, assuming you're not po-faced and tutting that they're judging them on their tight little asses and bright shining eyes, and if you ignore Chris Martin - isn't that perhaps the most amazing year-end poll so far? Plus it shows Jack White aint as hot as he likes to think.

NEW ROCK RADIO - AGAIN: After the New Rock Radio piece in the New York Times earlier this week, now Clear Channel is getting in on the act and launching "indie" formats - in short, it appears that the availability of slightly more interesting radio channels over the web is causing the radio behemoth to think that all Limp Bizkit all the time might not be enough to satisfy people who actually like music. They dont seem to be totally committed to the idea, though, and it looks like they don't quite have a clue how to bring their focus-group playlist style to the genre.

AT LAST, WE CAN AGREE WITH MOBY: Specifically, his hatred of copy protection on CDs, a system so stupid he can't play his own music on the computer he created it on. [Thanks to Aaron S for the link]

Thursday, January 15, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: "Punk's not dead? Of course the punk's dead, you silly boy, he's heroined himself all over the walls" edition
We've lived a very long and fruitful life, and seen many interesting things. But even we can still be surprised. If you'd have told us this time last year that the New Statesman letters pages would be carrying a debate on Tears For Fears' lyrics, we'd have asked you if you had some hard evidence. Oddly, though, that's exactly what happened this week.

So, it looks likely that X-Ray is is on its way out, following Bang and (admittedly through choice) Careless Talk into the Top Shelf area of TV Cream. And, it seems, The Dandy might also be going, too (which does count as a pop paper, because Desperate Dan once floated off into the night with the Spice Girls).

Still holding on is Mixmag, the dance title which tries to pretend these days its about anything but. The latest issue is yet another Drugs issue, providing another snapshot about whatever drucks it is young people are cramming down their necks right now. The trouble with drugs specials is, unlike sex specials, there's only a limited amount of stuff you can say about drugs, whereas interesting new aspects of fucking are always presenting themselves.

Of course, the big shake up for all the music titles is the arrival in the next couple of weeks of Nuts and Zoo - not Dandy replacements, although (from what we've seen) they require roughly the same reading age. Zoo - dubbed by sniffy members of staff at its stablemate FHM "the Weekly Wank" - and Nuts, the IPC clone both give off the air of the Daily Star written on three cans of fruit-flavoured lager while watching those Babe TV channels ("Terry has texted and asked us to rub our arses together!"); a third title aimed at slightly younger boys, Sorted, sniffs that boys are embarrassed to read magazines with semi-naked women in front of their mothers and girlfriends, so they're kicking off with Beyonce in a bikini on their front page. That'll be the cultural item instead, then. Of course, what's probably causing sleepless nights at Kerrang and the NME is that these three titles might start nibbling away at the casual purchasers of their magazines.

But NME isn't going down without a fight. Hotter Than Julian, More fucked up than Liam, Deader than Kurt... yes, a bloke who's been dead for twenty five years, ladies and gentlemen - Mr. Sid Vicious. Hey, sure, he was drugged-out fuck-up who murdered his girlfriend, but there's nothing more rock and roll than a spot of domestic violence, is there? To back up the Sid stuff, there's also a Live Fast Die Young pull-out section of "glamorous" corpses - Hendrix, Jones, Curtis, Shakur, Buckley, fat dead guy in a bath, Parsons (Gram, not Nicholas) and, of course, Kurt - and, let's not forget, the rock necrophiliacs are going to be having a field day later this year when we reach a decade from his death. Any time the 'it's cool to be dead' line is trotted out, it's enough to make you queasy - what are we meant to be celebrating here? That Ian Curtis was ill and couldn't take it any more? Are we meant to be high-fiving Kurt's ghost - "you were, like, so totally in pain, dude, way to go!" How about throwing in that Richey Manic cutting his arm poster again? It's perhaps lucky that the news story about Hope of the States broke for next week's issue and not this one.

The big news shot is of Wayne Coyne covered in blood and Jack White ringing in the new year in Chicago - it's stage make-up, right. Jason Stollsteimer, meanwhile, spent Christmas in hospital having work done on his torn retina.

In other news, Franz Ferdinand played a secret gig at the Rough Trade shop in London to a crowd of chin-stroking hipsters (we're just going by the pictures of them here) while the NME doesn't seem at all worried in the RIAA fleecing "file sharers" for "small sums" like five thousand dollars a time, as it cuts and pastes the news release about "the number of people illegally downloading music falling after industry sanctions."

The Sleepy Jackson do the made-up but totally legal CD: You Am I, Boz Scaggs, John Lennon (worse than you think; it's the demo version of Free As A Bird.)

"I apologise if I gloomified your mother's Christmas Day" - Peter Robinson takes on Gary Jules. Nice to see the cap making a return to the top flight of pop music, isn't it?

Are Chikinki "the kinkiest band in Britain", as their Radar headline claims? They've had their picture taken in a sauna, and one of them's called Rupert (so Rupert, Rupert is bare.) Ed, their guitarist, has a cute little pudgy face and a floppy head full of black hair which reminds us of Mopp (as in '... and Smiff'). Oh, they might have songs called Fucking With Our Clothes On ad Wave Your Hands In the Air If You Like To Fuck, but that's just young people, isn't it? They're all obviously as cute as ITV's Saturday Starship, and twice as wholesome.

"Malcolm MCClaren's original plan had been for Sid to sing Je Ne Regrette Rien while walking through Paris' jewish quarter in a swastika t-shirt." Maybe its time someone sat down and produced a popular history of punk that didn't put the holy trinity of Sid, Malc and Johnny (or dead thug, pompous shop-keeper and charmless chancer) at the centre of things. They did manage to knock out some cracking singles, yes; Johnny went on to do some great stuff with PiL. But they weren't situationist geniuses. They were shrewd, but not smart; manipulative but not masterfull. Just because you know how to knock up a platform doesn't mean you've got anything to say, and so much of the Sex Pistol's work, and Mac and Rotten's subsequent stuff, is marked not by a refusal to accept boundaries, nor a desire to question assumptions, but by a total lack of gorm.

The Von Bondies get a two-page spread, but it's all a bit sullied because it's clear that here we're getting a feature about the band with one member who went out with Jack White, and the other who went down at his hands. Even the caption for the photo ("l-r Jack White's ex-squeeze Marcie...") makes it clear that this is what the set-up is. Mark Beaumont acknowledges that Jason's pissed off that he's having to spend his trip to London yakking on about Jack White. Two thirds of the interview is given over to just pointless stirring of the past that the band seem bored by - "is 7 Nation Army about your relationship, Marcie? Is 'Elephant' about you?" - and so instead of hearing about the Von Bondies music, we're off down a pointless side alley of speculating what Jack might have been thinking when he wrote Fell In Love With A Girl. As they always used to say on Crown Court - "objection, your honour - this witness couldn't possibly be expected to know what was going on in the defendant's mind." The interview, incidently, took place before Jack White laid into Jason.

More head-looseness from 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster. Marc, when the band are on TV, fast-forwards to his bit and puts it on pause. Which is presumably the only way to stop the buggers from doing their too-much drug teeth-grindy shakes.

pretty girls make graves - oxford zodiac - "they're cocaine-crazed alligators", 8
the dirtbombs - detroit magic stick - "... meg white's flatmae Ko Zydeco", 7

kelis - tasty - "it never looks, or sounds, cynical... like prince, the pervy tracks are joyful, self-confident, funny", 8
lisa gerrard & patrick cassidy - immortal memory - "cinematic or gradiose; boring or impenetrable", 4
gang of four - brief history of the twentieth century - see, not all punks were rubbish - 6

sotw - lcd soundsystem - yeah - "20 great souls rolled into one"
the fallout trust - EP1 - "a melange of styles"

And finally, jason Lytle from Grandaddy loves the Electric Light Orchestra. But the NME buying guide doesn't include Out of the Blue, which is like writing up Raleigh Bikes without mentioning the Grifter.

THAT'S NOT WHAT THEY'RE SAYING AT ALL: Launch (the American one) gets all overcome by the Darkness, changes name of single to I Don't Believe In Love, which would seem to be 180 degrees wrong. Meanwhile, as the band continue to behave like they might actually be an American success we can be proud of (at last, the States will be reminded it's not all Coldplay over here), Justin talks to MTV, comparing Darkness fandom with the three stages of rabies.

NOT THEIR MASTERS' VOICE: More trouble for the music industry in its bid to present itself as being at the mercy of kids, komputers and kazaa - HMV has outstripped even analysts' best hopes to post a seventy percent surge in interim profits. And, crucially, the stores US operation has seen a five percent increase in sales. The RIAA will tell you that'll be down to their legal campaign, of course, but since a lot of HMV's Christmas-period sales are gifts, it's hard to imagine Ma and Pa Kettle saying "You know we downloaded mp3s for all the kids last Christmas? Well, we don't want to end up in court so we better buy the proper disc this year." Yes, the sale of music is thriving. If the major record companies aren't able to share in that, maybe it's time they stopped blaming their customers and gave some thought to their own business practices?

THAT'S ALL, FOLKS: WARNERS SET TO BE SAVAGED: However nicely it's all wrapped up, it's pretty clear that the major restructuring of Warner Music under new owner Edgar Bronfman is going to involve a lot of spotting dead wood. And bonfire-building. When the announcement of the overhaul kicks off with phrases like "we can assure you that colleagues who are affected will be treated fairly and equitably with regard to severance and other benefits", there's going to be very few people in the organisation who will be ordering doorname plates with confidence for the next twelve months. To be fair to the new Warners management, they do promise that the people cast aside will get better benefits than if they'd been canned under AOL's regime, so that's something. If we were a band on Warner's roster, though, we'd be sending nice letters to EMI, ourselves.

OVER OUR HEADS: If Now Its Overhead think a guest appearance from Michael Stipe on their album is enough to generate a No Rock story, they're wrong. However, chucking the pretty Conor Oberst into the mix is enough to swing the balance.

WARP FACTOR ONE: There's a nice piece on the Register website today praising Warp's download service - to misquote that pizza advert from a few years ago; they may cost a few cents more, but they work a whole lot better. In other words, you buy the music; you decide what you want to do with it. You're not buying a file with a lot of security gubbins encoded into it.

UNBECOMING X: MediaGuardian has picked up on the rumours of X-Ray being axed and confirm that things are looking bleak for the pocket-sized Select-a-like.

TRY SAYING 'MANSON' WITHOUT SAYING 'MORON': This, from Marilyn Manson, is lifted from his interview for MTV Germany:

""I love to paint most with my Alice in Wonderland children's paint set that somebody gave me once. It has all kinds of light, pastel colours. When I use those paints there's pure irony, because my paintings are always very dark. It makes them even more meaningful. And my favourite colour to paint with is pink. That's quite odd."

Do you see? He uses pastels - betchawerentexpectin that one, were you? See, see, how the god of headfuck plays with your expectations, and then confounds them. And he uses Alice in Wonderland paints. Shhh! They're paints designed for children - and he uses them! Isn't that just crazy?

But there's more:

"My dream is to become a teacher because I think I could encourage kids to want to learn and become as thirsty for knowledge as I am. Nobody in school wants to learn anything. Everybody hates school because it's boring and they can hardly wait to get out. But I think everybody wants to know more. That's why my secret wish is to become a teacher."

My eyes might fall out, I've been so spun around so quickly. Hey - didn't you think he'd rather be a mortician or a gravedigger, and yet he wants to be teacher. Crazy, crazy, too crazy. Presumably he's got so used to standing in front of bunch of bored youngsters who'd rather be anywhere else wondering who the old odd-looking guy is, and why he keeps banging on when nobody is listening to him, that he feels he's got the correct experience to teach Year 10 Geography at Patcham High School. The only bugger will be getting the elbow patches stitched onto the PVC jump suits.

INDIE-OBIT: James Lawrence, guitarist with Hope of the States, has been found hanged. The 26 year-old guitarist's body was discovered at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios in Bath by the rest of the band. The death is apparently being treated by local police as a suicide.

MEMORIALS AND MEMORY: We think Anita Mui might be smiling from the afterlife, as the official Chinese newspaper, The People's Daily, made its first reference to the massacre in Tiananmen Square in her obituary. It didn't mean to, of course - it had just hamfistedly pinched a report from elsewhere for its English language website. Still, it's a first step.

BLAME IT ON RIO... UM, VEGAS: Britney's attempting to try and shore up marriage, telling MTV's TRL that she "believes in the sanctity of marriage, I totally do, but I was in Vegas and it took over me." Let's hope she never goes to Paris, then, because if Vegas makes her get married on a whim, Paris would certainly see her signing up for a chorusline role in a burlesque, getting knocked up by a real-life Count and toying with her sexuality on the Metro. On the first night.

Britney says she can't understand the fuss - "We landed on Mars that day - why aren't they talking about that?". We will, Britney, just as soon as it finds a copy of your wedding video up there.

DONE DEAL?: After months of muttering, the Pixies have confirmed a date at Coachella. Only it's not clear yet whether it's going to be The Pixies [Black, Santiago, Deal, Lovering] or just "the pixies", with just some of the line-up.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

DOTS CROSSED OFF: The not-entirely-unexpected disappearance of the Dotmusic brand (more or less) has happened, with now becoming The turnaround came after BT sold on Dotmusic to its new best buddy Yahoo. The dotmusic name lives on sort-of-stuck onto the edge of some the Launch features, but we'd imagine that it'll soon disappear totally from view. Still, could have been worse - they might have sold it to Undercover.

DASH PURSUED: Damon Dash is facing a civil action from a model who claims he saw 2003 in by raping her in Brazil; he denies it, but it's going to cause his career serious trouble because all the press coverage is going to remind everyone he produced the Victoria Beckham single.

In other musicians and court news, Jack White has pleaded not guilty to beating the shit out of Jason Stollsteimer. He'll face trial in Detroit in March. If he's found guilty, he'll go on to try for the world title against Rita.

HEADS DOWN AGAIN: Although they're meant to be on holiday, Radiohead are back in their studio making music which will probably end up on their next album; which will then be given a grudging nomination for the Brits in 2005; which they won't turn up to see if they've won because they'll be back in the studio making music and... so and on it will go. Forever.

MARIAH CAREY PUTS KILROY TO THE TEST: Mariah is going to play her first Arab gig, with a date in Beirut. Apparently, if she doesn't have a limb amputated during the course of the gig, it will be definitive proof that Robert Kilroy-Silk doesn't know the fuck what he's talking about, and will mark the end of the racist twat's smug-driven career.

PRINT THE MYTH: BBC News Online is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the BBC's ban on Relax. They recall how Mike Reid suddenly realised what the song was about, and announced he would play it no further. " The rest of the BBC followed suit, banning the song, with its veiled reference to gay sex, from all TV and radio airplay, with the curious exception of the top 40 show." It's impossible to understand how such a sentence can be so wrong in so many ways and still appear on the internet (well, the respectable part). In order: the BBC didn't ban the song, the references aren't in any way veiled, it's bisexual sex rather than specifically gay sex, Janice Long was still playing the sex mix on her Saturday nights Radio One show weeks later and the Top 40 did follow the "advice" (rather than outright ban) not to play the music.

The tone is a past-is-a-different-place amused suggestion that this sort of thing couldn't happen today (oh no?). Martin Cloonan, who's apparently written a book about this sort of thing, suggests that the Relax episode was where Radio One "realised this couldn't go on anymore because they ended up looking so ridiculous", although as he must know, in 1991 a list of records it might be better not to play during the Gulf War cropped up and, erm, made Radio One look a bit silly (the presenters weren't allowed to call Massive Attack by their full name, for example.)

And then there's the Ballad of a Spycatcher affair, when Leon Rosselson put the story of Peter Wright to music, creating worries that playing the track would break the injunction the Thatcher government had taken out on the book. Radio Sussex's Turn It Up tried playing a bit of it, hoping if they faded it out after a verse and a half they'd be safe; it was Simon Bates who went ahead and played the whole thing one morning shortly after.

Even more odd was the Light That Suddenly Went Out. In the week when we weren't allowed to smile, following on from Prince Charles murdering Princess Diana with a crowbar in the grounds of Clarence House and then engineering a curious charade with a double, a drunk Frenchman, some photographers and an ambulance to try and cover it up and make it look like an accident, Jo Wylie slipped There Is A Light That Never Goes Out onto her Radio One show. (All that about crashing in darkened underpasses, of course). She then disappeared from the airwaves for about a week, as a result of "seafood poisoning."

So, clearly, the BBC's Pop Music network managed to make itself seem a bit silly way after the 1984 Relax episode. In fact, John Walters explained to listeners to the Night Time show in 1987 that there was another Morrissey related incident, when production staff had a top-level meeting to listen to The Smiths new single, Shoplifters of The World. Was it encouraging shoplifting, worried the management. "In the end, we managed to get it through because we pointed out the line was 'shoplifters of the world, hand it over', so we said they were telling shoplifters to give things back", explained Walters.

Back to the present day, and there's some debate raging on the Peel mailing list over the announcement John has been reading out at the start of his show warning about rudeness ahead. Is he being made to do it?

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Now that Christmas is over, and the post is back to normal (i.e. rubbish) the nme has returned to not turning up on time. WTPPS will, therefore, be appearing here tomorrow night instead. Assuming it shows up. Sorry.

SONGWRITOBIT: Randy Vanwarmer, who had a hit in the dog-end years of the 70s with Just When I Needed You Most, has died. The 48 year old was being treated for leukemia at a Seatlle Hospital. Best remembered for the song that was a hit for him when he was just 18 - and for being the puncline to a tortured gag about heaters for a passion-wagon - VanWarmer had carved out a small niche for himself as a songwriter, writing US number one hits for Alabama and The Oak Ridge Boys. Although born in Colorado, he spent much of his childhood in Britain, growing up in Cornwall.

MOODY JOINS POUTY: Oh, God almighty. As if the Evanesence/Limp Bizkit crossover wasn't bad enough, now Avril Lavigne has picked up Ben Moody to join her team of clean living instrumental monkeys. It appears Ben contacted Av's "people" and offered his services. One look at his cv - playing watered down metal in an anonymous band led by a woman who mistakes eyeliner for personality - convinced them he was righ for the job.

I NEVER SAID SHE WAS: Kylie Minogue is not pregnant.

SURVIVNG NUGENT: MIGHT NOT BE THE CONTESTANTS WHO HAVE THE SURVIVAL PROBLEMS: So, somehow Ted Nugent managed to stop short of cutting his own leg off, but nevertheless it's entertaining that the only person who's having trouble surviving his reality show is Ted himself.

THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT BE TELEVISED. OR GIVEN ANY AIRPLAY: Sarah Jones is mightily pissed off that the FCCs misunderstood her cover of Gil Scott-Heron's The Revolution Will Not Be Televised and banned it from American radio. So she fought back. And won.

ROCKFALL: Diana Ross' ex, Arne Naess, has died in a mountaineering accident. As well as being the husband of Ross, Naess was the father of Leona Naess, the second subject of Channel 4's proto-Pop Idol The Next Big Thing?. Her run of episodes on the show was slightly overshadowed by those of FMB (Fuck My Boots), a hopeless indie-fraggle outfit from somewhere East Anglian or something, and despite having an incredibly rich father and Diana Ross for a stepmum, somehow never quite lived up to the promise of the show's title.

DO YOU KNOW HOW IT FEELS TO BE UNLOVED?: We're quite happy with who we are and what we do, and we don't spend much time wishing we were somebody else. However, we would have quite liked to have been the person who works for the NFL who got to say "Sorry, Mr. Bono, we don't really want you to do the half-time show at the Superbowl. Have you tried the NHL?" Of course, it would be typical of Bono to think he can just call up the football people and land a slot on the entertainment, so it's quite amusing to see him being told he's not wanted. His plan was to do some song about Aids killing people to raise awareness of what a great bloke he is ("the humanitarian crisis"); something judged by the NFL to be a bit inappropriate in the context of the half-time show at a football match. Now, if Bono was really desperate to get his message across, why doesn't he just take an advertising slot during the match on the telly? He's rich enough to be able to afford it.

Also feeling rejected and unloved are Blue, upset at not being nominated for any Brit awards this year. While it's true that they haven't done anything worthy of any sort of recognition in the last twelve months (and that's being generous), it hasn't stopped a dozen other equally lightweight acts from getting a come-on from the judges.

THE LAST TABOO: Readers of Pop Papers will know that Boy George's reaction to the absolutely scathing Broadway reviews for his ego-musical Taboo was to tell New Statesman readers that the ticket sales proved critics didn't know anything. Taboo is closing after three months. That's the trouble when you throw yourself on the mercy of the public - the public just aren't very nice at all.

The show's backer, Rosie O'Donnell, has spumed away ten million bucks on the effort, but she's philosophical: It has been "the most fulfilling experience of my career. Many lessons were learned, and so it goes. For this experience, I am profoundly grateful." Ten million seems a bit steep to learn a few lessons. You could go to an English University about three hundred times for that, even one of the good ones, even after Blair has forced through the new fees.

"LA TOLD ME/ YOU'LL BE A POP STAR, BUT/ COULD YOU PASS THAT BOX HERE/ I'VE GOT A DESK TO CLEAR": One of the few music industry execs to get a cameo appearance in a top 40 hit, Antonio 'LA' Reid has resigned from BMG label Arista. Although being responsible for one of the best selling albums of last year - Outkast's Speakerboxxx - the 3.2 million that shifted couldn't balance out pisspoor sales for TLC, Toni Braxton, Whitney Houston (although there, what did they expect?) and our sweet Pink.

BMG and Sony are currently hoping to be allowed to merge themselves together, and obviously it's been denied that Reid's "decision" to leave has nothing to do with the restructuring that will come about if the competetion authorities allow that to go through. Execs at the label will report to Michael Smellie, chief operating officer of BMG, until they close it down ("make a longer term decision").

Arista lost USD100 million in the last two years.

BANKS BANKS ON WANKS: Realising that music is a dodgy trade to be in, G-Unit's Lloyd Bank has announced a move into a steadier business, knocking out porn movies. It's possible both he and 50 cent might turn up in cameo roles, but a spokesperson says "they've got tiny penises which wouldn't show up on camera, so they'll keep their pants on" ("neither 50 Cent nor G-Unit will be engaged in any sexual behavior but may make general appearances in film.")

I WAS A PRETEEN MOUSE-EAR WEARER: They're making a TV Movie based on the Britney and her Mom 'book' A mother's Gift, which everyone seems to have decided is a "biopic about Britney's early life" despite being about a girl called Holly.

And besides, if it was going to be a Britney biopic, who gives a stuff about the days when she was in the Mickey Mouse club? It doesn't start getting interesting for years after that...

BURYING GOOD NEWS? IT MUST BE THE MUSIC INDUSTRY: Clearly afraid that too much attention to the record level of album sales in Britain would wreck attempts to portray the music industry as a business on the ropes, Andrew Yeates, director general of the BPI, has raised the spectre of suing filesharers in the UK. The attempts to drag the spotlight off the details of sales of CDs are booming is a classic rehashing of stuff the BPI has already muttered about in public, although I think this is the first time a named official has admitted that legal action is a possibility that's being considered. Oddly, the BPI DG says that they want to introduce new legitimate online download services - which raises the question: what, exactly, is stopping them? The only reason iTunes hasn't launched on this side of the Atlantic yet is because the labels are holding it up.

"Recent industry statistics reveal that file-sharing is on the decline in the US but increasing in Europe since the RIAA embarked on its legal campaign", reports Reuters - even if you accept that the legal action has caused the alleged decline in the US, why would it have had any effect either way on Europe?

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

IT'S LIKE SUING THE SEA BECAUSE IT KEEPS PIRATES AFLOAT: Another unexpected example of the RIAA throwing its weight about like it was some sort of elected body comes in one of their own press releases, having sued a couple of people who run a flea market. It's another blow for the artists' rights, right? Erm, not really, because the two guys Ho Suh Jin and Gustavo Zarate hadn't sold so much as a single faux single. Instead, they were sued because - it's claimed - they'd not been proactive enough in stopping people who took stalls at their markets from selling pirated music. Now, you might wonder what they're meant to have done - demand certificates of authenticity from every vendor for everything they sell? - and, if this market was such a hotbed of illegal record sales, wouldn't it have made more sense to sue the guys flogging the records rather than the blokes who did little more than put up the handbills? Ah, but then, of course, there would need to have been solid proof of illegal activity; any court would ask to see the records and the proof that they were, indeed, bootleg - there would have been a need for a criminal burden of proof. Much easier to sue the flea market managers, a private, balance-of-probabilities type affair.

There's a secondary aspect to this story, and the other pretend-police raids on men selling boxes of records from car boots (and the complaints about Amazon's 'buy used' buttons) - because any flea market owner is going to think twice before letting Record Box Men take a table now, regardless of what their stock consists of. The RIAA is slowly using a cloak of anti-piracy to try and shut out the entire second hand record business. We'd be very surprised if we don't hear of the targeting of shops before the season is out.

A LITTLE HARSH, SURELY?: Curious choice of soundtrack for the current CBeebies promo running on BBC TV - small children getting up to all sorts while their appropriate adult sleeps, mucking about with keys and so on. Now, since the dangers of unwatched children and matches can rapidly spiral out of hand, is using Ash's Burn Baby Burn the most tactfull of music beds?

MODS BEAT M.O.D.: In news that will lighten the heart of Ocean Colour Scene fans everywhere, attempts by the Ministry of Defence to stop clothes shops and bands from using the RAF roundel have failed. Rather like the case (see below) of Frank Zappa's Missus bringing legal action over ten-year-old furniture adverts, the real puzzler here is why the MOD suddenly got itself all excited about a logo that surely hasn't been used on an item of clothing since Britpop started to become a bit of an embarrassment (i.e. the London Swings Again edition of Vanity Fair's publication date). Maybe Suede singing the line "it's the t-shirts that you choose/ like you're in the air-force" alerted them to the problem. Or perhaps the British military is planning on launching its own leisurewear range. Then again, it could be in the public's best interests - imagine how it would be if you were wearing an Ocean Colour Scene tshirt in a foreign country, and got captured because they saw the roundel and assumed you were an airman who had been shot down. It could happen, you know. Mind you, then you'd be taken off to a camp and treated as an enemy combatant under the Geneva Convention. Whereas if they realised you were just someone who thinks The Day We Caught The Train is a great piece of music, you'd be buried up to your neck and pelted with stones.

ANOTHER SHREWD APPLE MOVE: Apparently, the HP-branded iPod will play stuff in the prevalent but clutzier .wma format, thereby opening up nearly all legal downloads to the iPod user. In case you think we're biased, waven't got an iPod. We've got an ancient Rio and we're actually quite happy with that. Although a few more than the 30 tunes we can fit on it would be nice, I guess.

WILL X-RAY BE SEEN THROUGH?: Music Week are reporting on the front page of their website that Capital Radio are seeking a new partner for X-Ray magazine, following the end of their agreement with Swinstead Publishing (Sleazenation Ltd, as was) - although we can't find any further information on this, so its not clear why the divorce has come about. We hope it's not the first signs of the abandonment of the title altogether. In other X-FM news, the station is apparently considering abandoning the concept of playlists, and Christian O'Connell is to become a father, although if he carries on making quips of a "I must have been drunk" nature, we're imagining he won't need to worry about not sleeping through the baby's crying at night. Indeed, he'd be lucky to stay in the same house.

GRAMMY DATE FOR BOXER JACK: Boxer Jack and Miss Meg are going to play at the Grammys. The White Stripes will be lining up to play to a room full of balding fat guys who are scared of the internet alongside Christina Aguilera and Justin Timberlake, assuming Jack doesn't start punching the crap out of the bouncers on the way in. We recommend the article about this to you for the sweet way they try to pretend that winning the writer's poll for best album in the NME would make the Grammy seem like a lesser accoldade by comparison.

CRASHING LIKE THE ASH FROM VESUIVIUS: Ash have gone to America, USA to record in Hollywood, and the outcome is the heaviest Ash album to date. They tell Rolling Stone this time round, they've tried for something a little more coherent (because it is tricky to pigeonhole Ash, which has always been part of their charm.) They also drank all of Dave Grohl's booze. The cheeky monkeys.

AND IF YOU THINK CD SALES HAD MADE A RECOVERY: Daniel Bedingfield is out of hospital after his car accident, which must be quite odd since at least one British tabloid had reported he'd broken his neck. Maybe they heal faster in the southern hemisphere.

WE LIVE IN A BEAUTIFUL WORLD: Women singers return to Afghan TV now the new American-endorsed rulers have overturned a ban imposed by the previous American-endorsed rulers; while in Baghdad, Iraq's first heavy metal gig - possibly ever - has taken place, following the fall of the previous, once American-supported regime and the introduction of a new set of American rulers. The BBC's Chris Hogg says "there are few other places in the world where a heavy metal concert by a bunch of amateurs would make the headlines", but since he's a diplomatic correspondent rather than a rock writer, he couldn't be expected to know that the self same thing happens whenever Limp Bizkit play.

THAT WHICH WE CALL A CLIFF, BY ANY OTHER NAME...: Australia has named a rose after Cliff Richard. We'd imagine it thrives in a soil-filled bag. Cliff describes the rose as "attractive but not pretentious" - and, apparently, it's head is a bit full of itself. It's unlikely to reproduce.

CRIME DOESN'T PAY; MUSIC WON'T RECOUP: Could we as delictaely as possible point out that Ronnie Bigg's son had no pop career to 'relaunch' in the first place?. And, if he had had a career to relaunch, wouldn't he be known as Michael Biggs rather than Ronnie Bigg's son? Jesus, even Sean Lennon manages to get a murmur of recognition in his own right rather than as simply the spawn of a Beatle. "I was going to cancel the gig" he says "but the bloke who runs the pub said it was too late to book Howard from the Halifax Ads to replace me so I'd lose my deposit" ("my Dad didn't want that to happen").

THE AFTERMATH OF DEATH CAN BE MESSY: Jennifer Chiba has spoken to journalists about the coroner's decision in the Elliot Smith case. Chiba ha sobviously been the target of whisperings and mutterings since the coroner said he couldn't be sure Smith's death was suicide, mentioning lacerations on Elliot's hands and wondering why Chiba removed the knife when she found the body.

Chiba says "Up until now I've chosen to remain silent because I want to maintain some sense of privacy for Elliott and his family and myself in this really difficult time. But I want people to know that I'm not keeping quiet because I have anything to hide.
If I was a suspect, I would have heard from the investigators, for one thing. Another is that his sister and his parents and everyone close to him knows the truth, so I'm not worried about it.
The media are just looking for some sort of sensationalistic angle that will sell their publications. In my mind, there's no question to what happened and there's no need to put that kind of spin on it".

Although, as far as we know, there's no investigation because nobody officially has suggested he was murdered; and even if he had been, it would have been almost impossible to get to the truth anyway. But it's quite sweet to think that she believes "Irregularities In Indie Singer's death" is something the US media would make up to sell extra copies of papers.

ZAPPAUNSMART: Frank Zappa's wife is suing a furniture store. Not because of repeated problems with missing rubber feet for flat pack furniture, but for good commercial reasons. Tanguay, the Candian furniture concern, is alleged to have used Watermelon in Easter Hay to flog its products - without permission, of course. As if the whole thought of any shop using zappa to advertise itself isn't hard enough to cope with, the adverts aired in 1995, so it's taken nine years for Gail to bring the legal action.

Monday, January 12, 2004

I'VE CHANGED MY PLEA TO GUILTY: There's no be no trial for Diana Ross over her drunk driving, as some background plea-swapping means she's going to cough. Indeed, not only will there be no trial, but Ross won't even have to attend the court - she's going to be allowed to phone it in. No, really. We presume she'll be on speakerphone, at the very least.

BRIT-A-BRACK: Oddly, the first set of Brit nominations we've got came from the Telegraph, who were obviously upset that Liz Hurley didn't get nominated for anything. The Darkness lead the nominees, with four cracks at winning; Dido confirms her status as the new Annie Lennox by spinning three nominations from awfully dull music. Of course, just because there's a new Annie Lennox doesn't stop there being a nomination for the old one, as well.

Here's the rest of the things:

Best Pop: Christina Aguilera, Daniel Bedingfield, Black Eyed Peas, Busted, Justin Timberlake.

Best International Male: Beck, 50Cent, Sean Paul, Damien Rice, Justin Timberlake.

Best International Female: Christina Aguilera, Beyonce, Missy Elliott, Alicia Keys, Kylie Minogue.

Best International Group: Black Eyed Peas, Kings of Leon, Outkast, The Strokes, The White Stripes.

Best International Album: Christina Aguilera, Stripped; Beyonce, Dangerously In Love; Outkast, Speakerboxxx; Justin Timberlake, Justified; The White Stripes, Elephant.

Best International Breakthrough: 50Cents, Evanescence, Kings of Leon, Sean Ball, The Thrills.

Outstanding Contribution: Duran Duran.

Best British Male: Badly Drawn Boy, Daniel Bedingfield, David Bowie, Dizzee Rascal, Will Young.

Best British Female: Sophie Ellis Bextor, Dido, Jamelia, Annie Lennox, Amy Winehouse

Best British Group: Busted, The Coral, The Darkness, Radiohead, Sugababes

Best British Album: Daniel Bedingfield, Gotta Get Thru This; Blur, Think Tank; The Coral, Magic and Medicine; The Darkness, Permission to Land; Dido, Life for Rent.

Best British Dance: Basement Jaxx, Goldfrapp, Groove Armada, Kosheen, Lemon Jelly.

Best British Breakthrough: Busted, Jamie Cullum, The Darkness, Lemar, Dizzee Rascals.

Best British Single: Dido, White Flag; Gareth Gates featuring the Kumars, Spirit in the Sky; Jamelia, Superstar; Mis-teeq, Scandalous; Rachel Stevens, Sweet Dreams My LA Ex

Best British Urbans: Lemar, Big Brovaz, Mis-teeq, Dizzee Rascals, Amy Winehouse.

Best British Rock: The Darkness, Feeder, Muse, Primal Scream, Stereophonics.

You will have spotted that Gareth Gates and the Kumars have been nominated for best British single - now, even if you set aside the really, really rubbish comedy bits on the record (Meera Syal, you have forever sullied your reputation in our eyes), Gareth's reading of the song is totally lacking any sort of conviction - either for the words, or (it is a comedy record) that the words are ridiculous. Was the year really so bad for singles that it nominated a nod? And how did Primal Scream get counted as Rock? Is this on hair length alone?

KURT DEFEATS DURST: Of course, while the news that radio stations across the US are abandoning Limp Bizkit and Puddle of Mudd in favour of 'classic alternative' is, from a cultural point of view, a good thing (we picture radio station managers pitching up at second hand stores trying to swap large piles of Nickelback albums for Nevermind and anything by the Jesus and Mary Chain), it's also, from a cultural point of view, a defeat on a massive scale. College Radio has become a proper, grown-up market segment; and stuff that once meant something has been identified on flip-charts and computer punch cards as the best way to flog beers and cars.

OASIS: EVEN THE DRUMMER'S HAD ENOUGH OF THEM: Oasis are apparently taking another step towards turning into a Four Tops style collection of session hacks - at least behind the two Gallagher brothers - with the news that Alan White's tendonitis might mean he has to hang up his sticks for good.

HAVEN WE MET BEFORE?: We're a little confused as to why is describing Haven's return to live music as "long-awaited" - we've not met a single person, read a single website, heard a single muttering that suggested anyone had noticed they'd even gone away in the first place. But their guitarist Nat Wason has been sicklisted with Bell's Palsy, and he's got better, so I think everyone would like to wish them well as they attempt to regain their position in the music industry. Albeit halfway down to the dumper.

MY NAME IS PRINCE/ AND I AM FUNKY: More news from the Prince of Wales, who's planning an 'urban' event to make the Princes' Trust seem more relevant to today's young persons. He's hoping to catch the interest of disaffected black youth in the inner cities by, um, getting Justin Timberlake and some grafitti artists (probably Banksy, then) in to do some, you know, jiggy-jiggy bling-bling.

THOUGHTFUL GIFTS ARE APPRECIATED: Apparently, Prince Charles sent Ozzy Osbourne a bottle of whisky to help the recovering alcoholic through his nasty quad bike accident. (Ozzy, you'll recall, had fallen off the child's toy, a kind of motorbike with stabilisers, and gave himself a nasty bump.) The shockingly arriviste Sharon took the opportunity for a little bit of name-dropping when she returned to the helm of her godawful chat show.

The bad news for the cancer-raddled and trauma-beaten of America is that their stock role as stooges on the show is going to be squeezed to make room for a "tribute" to Ozzy. Like he'd died, or something. A number one, some actual material for the wife's chat show, and a bottle of something malty from the Palace - really, it's all a win-win situation for the Osbournes, this bike crash, isn't it? Of course, there was a chance that after the accident, Ozzy might have become a mumbling, confused wreck incapable of supporting himself or stringing a sentence together, and happily it does seem he will make that full recovery.

IN HAPPIER TIMES, WE COULD ALL TAKE GUNS ON PLANES: Country songwriter Hugh Prestwood apparently last person in the world to realise airport security is now pretty strict, as he tries to take a loaded gun onto a plane and ends up being carted away.

BRITNEY'S HERES: Britney is to call at four large rooms in the UK and jiggle in skimpy clothes ("has announced she'll tour Britain") for the first time in four years. The dates are: Glasgow SECC - April 30; Manchester MEN Arena - May 1; Wembley Arena - May 3; Birmingham NIA - May 5. Expected costumes include: Cowgirl hat and rhinestone jeans; floaty gauzey-type scarf thing over jewel-encrusted bikini top; top hat and tight-fitting trouser suit; something that looks like it might have been made for one of the crew on the spaceship used in Silent Running.

LIKE LAZARUS: We've been meaning to mention the Brave Captain website for a while, not just because Martin Carr is offering a full download of an mp3 ep (I Am A Lion), but because it's also hosting a mini-site to mark ten years since the Boo Radleys did Giant Steps. (Ten years? Bloody hell.) Recommended.

WE NAME THE SPAM BANDS - UPDATE: We've seen rather less direct spamming by bands (and their agents, the "electronic street teams") in the last year, although one band, violane, has continued to over-enthusiastically send out promotional emails. In fact, they've now started to steal another trick from the Viagra salesmen and style themselves v-i-o-l-a-n-e. We're sure this is just because it's pretty and isn't a sucky attempt to try and work their way round the spam filters of people who are sick of them.

In the second half of 2003, the most heavy spamming acts we came across were Suture Seven and Camera. They haven't stopped mithering our mailbox since. (By the way, we're not saying we don't like hearing from bands - indeed, we love it - but only if you're actively writing to us, thanks).

You might recall that we infiltrated Soulhooligan's Official Street Team, to see what the members of a group for a proper band on a grown-up label (Maverick) were being instructed to do. For the last five or six months, the list has been more abandoned than a fairground in Scooby-Doo, with only porn spam giving us the gentle reminder that it's still there. There's something pleasing about a group set up to orchestrate spamming itself falling down under a light dusting of spam, but if we were in Soul Hooligan, we'd be checking our contracts pretty closely right now.

ANOTHER GLASS CEILING SHATTERS: I think everyone will feel this morning the joy at the tumbling of another barrier to equality, as Michelle "Mick" McManus becomes the first ever Scottish, female, solo artist to start their chart career at number one. And, since it's usually the way with these Pop Idol kids, probably end her chart career there, too. Further down the chart, Victoria Beckham proves that even the poor number three entry last week was a weak flash in the pan, as she skids down to number seven. If we ran Pickwick Records, we'd be ringing up Telstar offering to buy her contract right now.

MORE '03 LISTAGE: Troubled Diva's musical picks for the year that's now, like, so last year. It's a really great list (Tatu apart) and we respect anyone who thinks that Sweet Dreams My LA Ex is wonderful ("but it was written for Britney! the video was designed for kylie!" - I'm not sure why this is meant to be a bad thing; it's like saying "How could you want to live in that house? It was designed for someone with really high standards to live in...") and that I Believe In A Thing Called Love is the best Darkness track.

Sunday, January 11, 2004

JUDE LAW TIPPED TO "GROW SHIT BEARD": We are stepping back so far in our admiration for the PR department at Virgin that we feel we might be in danger of falling backwards into the sea. They've somehow managed to get the not-moving-very-fast plans to film Richard "Sir" Branson's autoborography cooked up into an exciting sounding project - the tale of record seller turned, um, whatever it is he actually does now isn't merely going to be a few scenes of him signing a record contract with Mike Oldfield, flying a hot air balloon into the ground a few times and dressing up as a bride. Oh no. It's going to be a British version of Forrest Gump. Now, if by this they meant it's going to be schmaltzy overlong pile of half-hearted folksy wisdom smeared across a plotless aggregation of crap stunts built around an irritating businessman who likes to pass himself off as an everyman, they'd be right. But what they mean is the movie will use Branson as "a reflection on society, viewing the world through his eyes." And they've even started to drop hints that Jude Law would be a likely actor to play Branson, although it doesn't seem like anything has been done to start casting beyond writing a wish-list of names. Someone should point out that, facially, Noel Edmonds would make a cracking Branson.

Still, there would be something rather pleasing about a film made about Branson's early career. As he's spoken about more than once, the early days of Virgin retail were founded on him selling off records at a cheap price, because they were meant for export only and thus had avoided the imposition of taxes. A tip-off before a raid allowed him to avoid a nasty case of the Custom & Excises, and he was able to use the money he made from selling records to found Virgin Records (now part of EMI) and later V2. Something to think about when you next see the BPI getting its knickers in a twist about record shops selling legal 'grey' imports - indeed, you might ask why they haven't thought of getting Sir Richard, or any of the artists from the Virgin roster, to front a campaign against this apalling affront.

MAN VAGUELY CONNECTED TO MUSIC INDUSTRY "LIKES COCAINE" SHOCK: There's perhaps the most rubbish expose ever in today's Sunday People, which breathlessly reveals some taxi driver used by BMG knows where to buy cocaine. Apart from his splendidly crap nickname - Stabby - Gary Stabana seems to be more than a bit weak as a figure to outrage the good people of middle England. The People reports:

Stabana boasted to an undercover People investigator how he can...
SUPPLY "wicked" charlie - the illegal class A drug cocaine.
ARRANGE dates with girls.
FIX private rooms for sessions at lapdancing clubs.

Yes, so cocaine is illegal and dealing in it isn't a career path you can get into via JobCentre Plus, but even if he was drug dealing, for a man in his job, to pretend this is somehow shocking and unexpected is to act out a defintion of disingenuous. And "arrange dates with girls"? getting "private rooms at lapdancing clubs"? Why not dig further - we bet he'd have claimed to be able to get people booths at the nearest Pizza Hut, knows how to get served first at a busy bar, and has a way of getting people to hand burgers, drinks and "fries - small, thin cut chips" out of a window straight into your car at McDonalds. But it gets worse... what did he do next, The People?

Over a drink Stabana then began slagging off some of his pop star clients.

Really? Has he been spilling the beans? Really sticking it to them? What did Stabby say?

He referred to handling a tour for zany chart- topping trio the Fast Food Rockers who had a hit with their first single Fast Food Song. He said: "The guy in the group, Martin, is a good laugh but the two girls were bitches and think they are really something special." He then slated pop star Gareth Gates saying: "I think he is finished and on his way out...." But he said Will Young will go on to greater things and be around for a long time.

So, he was slightly rude about a band who has had their five minutes, said something about Gareth that's now been said so often that it actually appears in the new edition of Brewer's Phrase and Fable, and he's incredibly generous in his assessment of Will. Really, this is thin, thin stuff.

THE LAST TEMPTATION OF EVANESENCE: Oh, good god: desperate to try and give the impression that the jib isn't up for their Christian-but-don't-mention-it metal-but-not-metal combo, Amy Lee Evanesence is trying to start a rumour that Wes Borland will be hooking up with the band. She's also flying a kite that, you know, her oldest friend and fifty percent of the band's backbone quitting halfway through a tour was actually a good thing. Of course.

APPARENTLY AIRLINE SAFETY FEARS ARE MISPLACED: If there really was a risk of aeroplanes turning into flying bombs right now, would Limp Bizkit be announcing a show in London? Wet-my-pants Durst called off his Far East dates because he was too scared of a nebulous terrorist threat to go there, so we're assuming that someone must have reassured Durst that its safe to cross the Atlantic. He's probably been reassured by Homer and Marge making it back without their plane being hijacked.