Saturday, April 10, 2004

BEYONCE NO-NOS: Oh, come on, Beyonce... Fur? In the twenty-first century? What are you thinking of?

LET THE GOOD TIMES ROLL - WE NEED TO PAY THESE HUGE LEGAL BILLS FROM SUING OUR CUSTOMERS: Making it ever harder for the American record companies to plead impoverishment at the hands of downloaders, US music sales have exerienced a sprightly rise of nine percent at a time when the level of music downloading was also rising. The shocking and unexpected reason for the rise? They started releasing records that people wanted to buy. (The downside, from our point of view, is that it turns out people were waiting at home for Norah Bloody Jones and Usher, but if that's what it takes to prove that downloading and sales can happily co-exist, so be it...)

CRUE MAN FESSES UP: Despite the boss of the brothel describing his own worker as "an opportunist", Vince Neil of Motley Crue has offered a plea of no contest in the case where he was accused of choking a hooker. In return for his concession, an assault charge was dropped - rather like the way he's alleged to have dropped Trixxie Blue into a wall - and Neil has got a fine and a thirty day suspended sentence for a battery rap.

THE WEDDING LIST WILL BE WITH HOT TOPIC IN THE MORNING: Is it possible to be the god of headfuck and married? Only according to Us magazine (look, it's Easter Weekend, things are quiet, we're having to trawl, alright?) Marilyn Manson has got engaged to Dita Von Teese. We know very little about how he popped the question - engagement ring hidden in a bowl of sheep's eyeballs; scratching the message into his belly; or maybe a small annoucement in the back of the Village Voice; but we so look forward to the wedding.

Friday, April 09, 2004

NEVER ON A SUNDAY: The good people who live near Slane Castle are planning to take out an injuction to stop Madonna playing a gig there on a Sunday. The last time there was a gig in the castle on a Sunday, Bob Dylan back in 1984, the event ended in about three week's worth of rioting in the castle and in the town. But organisers are convinced that this time things will be different - "Dylan's gig was by a washed-up former icon who was way past his best and who had become little more than a less-than-funny parody of his former self" said the promoter. "Oh, hang on a minute..."

YOU CAN'T KID A KID: There's an interesting survey which should make some grim reading for a music industry desperately trying to convince the world that CDs aren't a format designed purely to maximise profits for record companies. Even children - famous for happily encouraging parents to pump their cash into ridiculously overpriced novelty items featuring pictures of Sarah Michelle Gellar in her pants or poorly animated robots - have twigged that the music industry charges ridiculous prices for CDs and DVDs. Children - children, dammit, who would tell you that a bloody tin of Steps spaghetti shapes is cheap as chips at two quid fifty - think that the price of CDs is way out of what I believe they call "whack." [Thanks to Eleanor G for the link]

A SIGN OF THINGS TO COME?: An official Glastonbury Ticket auction on Ebay, in aid of Wateraid. So far, the hospitality tix are up to GBP1,125. Now, why can't this form the basis for more ticket sales like this next year?
[Thanks to Andy for the link]

PAIRING OFF: Congratulations to Beck and Marissa Ribisi, who've apparently got married - to each other - about a month ahead of their expected first child. You might know Marissa from her role as Lizzie in the Size of Watermelons, or as a Celebrity Contestant in Search Party. No? But surely you'll recall her tour de force as Ginger in the seventeenth episode of My Two Dads?

WELL... I SUPPOSE HE DIDN'T SAY 'LA! ARE YOU READY TO ROCK?": Gawker has got a collection of Julian Casablancas' bon mots from last weekend's LA gig. A sample of the wit of this generation's Wilde:

"Let's go get subs...nick and i used to get subs for lunch in high school, you remember that? these guys, we love each other, man, we're 5 guys from new york city and i fucking love these guys and we used to get subs."

OKAY, OKAY, ONE FINAL KURT COBAIN POST... THEN WE SWEAR WE'LL KICK THE HABIT: But, in what we can only assume would be an anti-intervention, Nigel R pointed us in the direction of Thurston Moore's piece on the boy from Nirvana. Part of his article more-or-less accuses Kurt of taking down any chance alternative rock had of breaking through with him - with the media-friendly figurehead of the movement gone, MTV and the mainstream rapidly lost interest, creating a vacuum which would eventually be filled by nu-metal. If ever you wanted an agrument against suicide, forget 'what about the family and friends you leave behind' - "shooting yourself will create Fred Durst" has to be a great argument for sticking around and working through it.

"IT'S A TRIAL SEPARATION": It's quite sweet that Mark and Marc are doing a joint trail for their new shows on 6 and 2 respectively:
"After all these years of being called Lard, you're going to have use your real name..."
"Oh, yeah. What is it, again?"
[Sound of rustling paper]
"Marc Riley..."

WHO INVITED HIM?: So, there you are, enjoying a gig by nothern bloke band, when all of a sudden, on shuffles a crumpled figure. Oh, great. Fucking Noel Gallagher's decided to "help out" again. The latest band to "benefit" from Noel's certainty that any set can be enlivened by his magical presence is The Stands, whose Mean Fiddler show got interrupted by Noel clambering onto the stage and picking up a guitar. It's bad enough that he's become so deeply sunk into his Dadrock Ceaser Fixation that he's refusing to let anyone else do anything on the new Oasis album; now he's even stopping the Diddy Oasis from making music for themselves unless he's involved.

Scary fact: The Stands gig audience featured Jade Jagger, Zak Starkey and Sean Lennon. If they'd had Joe Bowie there, it'd have been like the Muppet Babies of Rock.

Thursday, April 08, 2004

SHE'S GOT A STALKER: Good news for Avril Lavigne: Police have arrested her stalker. Except, judging by the reports in the Seattle Times, he's a bit crap at stalking, as he doesn't seem to have done anything apart from sending her some emails and letters. Unpleasant, perhaps, but hardly the stuff of nightmares. Even her stalkers are half-arsed, then.

CLEAR CHANNEL FINED BIG: The complaints about Howard Stern's show have lead to another round of big fines for Clear Channel - eighteen separate fines for USD27,500. It's been calculated that Stern has been responsible for half the USD4 million levied by the FCC in the last fourteen years.

GRIDDLESTICKS: Jimmy Buffett has made a restuarant change its name - it had been called Cheeseburgers N Paradise, but now has, following a letter from Mr. Buffett's lawyers, become Beef N Buns N Paradise. If it was our place, we'd then have introduced an all you can eat Jimmy Buffett. But we have a habit of talking ourselves into trouble.

SIMPLE MINDS: LEE FROM BLUE: Aw, bless. After seven months thinking about it, Lee from Blue has made an official complaint against the police. He's upset because when he was driving when pissed, the police caught him. They confirmed his address to the press, and he's unhappy. This is a selfish little twat driving with nearly twice the legal limit, who was driving so dangerously and with such little awareness of his surroundings that he cut up a police car, and he's blubbing because they revelaed his address - which, we gather, is routine in these matters? Presumably, had he killed someone with his selfish, ignorant behaviour he would have requested the blanket be put over his head rather than the dead guy. Here's a tip, dickhead: you don't want to have the police release your address, don't drive when you're pissed.

HE MUST FIGHT LIKE A GIRL, THEN: Josh Homme should really be careful getting involved in bar-room brawls. Of course, nobody really gives a shit about his side project Eagles of Death Metal so the news that having been bested in a New York pub punch-up, Homme is too injured to play and cancelled one of their gigs will upset few. But now he's pissed off everyone else in Queens of the Stone Age and the band is just him, he can ill-afford to get beaten up too often. Otherwise he'll be sending the band out consisting entirely of hired hands. Maybe he needs to get Trevor's number from Prince.

NEWS TO SEND YOU INTO GOOD FRIDAY WITH A HEAVY HEART: Blur are going back in the studio. And Damon's also working on another Gorillaz album. It wasn't clear what we'd done to deserve the first one, but perhaps he's going to get Banksy to collaborate on the artwork this time round?

"STUNNED AND HUMILIATED": That's how Anthony Fitzgerald was left feeling after Prince's bodyguard lunged at him and grabbed his digital camera. Fitzgerald was trying to take a photo of Mr. Prince at the time, it should be pointed out. Of course,Fitzgerald is now claiming he's having trouble sleeping and so is suing Prince. Eh? How is this causing him trouble sleeping? Is he afraid that Prince might appear in his bedroom, and that the whole thing might happen all over again? The best thing about this whole story, of course, is that Prince's bodyguard is called Trevor. Just Trevor.

OKAY, ONE LAST COBAIN POST: Just because we were always a sucker for when Janet Ellis used to come on Danny Baker and read chunks of her teenage diaries, and because sharing how we were when we were teenagers is something that calls for a deal of courage: Lindsayism shares the poem she wrote to mark Kurt's passing. "Tumbling lemmings with screams and sighs."

OKAY, ONE LAST COBAIN POST: Just because we were always a sucker for when Janet Ellis used to come on Danny Baker and read chunks of her teenage diaries, and because sharing how we were when we were teenagers is something that calls for a deal of courage: Lindsayism shares the poem she wrote to mark Kurt's passing. "Tumbling lemmings with screams and sighs."

SEEING YOUR ARSE: Thankfully, we have no photos of Eminem mooning the audience of German TV programme Pro7. Though we fear it's only a matter of time. Apparently he was making a political point about how much more freedom of expression there is in Germany.

FACE SAVED?: The closure of the Face might not be quite as cut and dried as we'd all thought: EMAP has apparently had tonnes of offers to buy the title, although rumours that most plan to merge it with One-Two-Testing haven't yet been denied or, indeed, started.

SNOW'S OFF: The troubles of trying to bring a gig to a remote - well, not that remote - island off the Scottish coast have proven too much for Snow Patrol, who've replaced their Isle of Arran dates with one in the Glasgow University union instead. Apparently the police on the Island objected to one venue because it was "too close to the Main Road"; their other objections included the refusal of the band to play inside a giant man made of whicker-work and to dance with a naked Britt Ekland.

MURRAY MINCE: There's an extraordinary piece about the Radio One in The Times
- although Murdoch writing warmly about the BBC shouldn't be discouraged, it's still quite odd. It kicks off with a picture of a dyed-in-the wool Radio One listener: "...those who have been nourished by the station, who learnt their music at Peel’s knee, who first stumbled across Chris Morris on a late-night Radio 1 slot, who taped Danny Rampling for a big Friday night warm-up, who listen to it today..." - a mythical beast, who somehow started thier musical education with Peel (rather than the more likely Powell, or Lamacq, or Jensen, or Long - would anyone start their musical journey with Bogshed and Anal Cunt - that'd be like trying to discover classical through Harrison Birtwistle), managed to miss Chris Morris when he was on in early evening and yet found him late at night, and... well, I don't believe anyone who actually would be going out with friends would have taped Danny Rampling. And even if we know what they're trying to get at - people who've grown up with the station - these are exactly the people who Radio One are trying to shake off; it's precisely the reason why broad appeal presenters like Mark and Lard are being replaced with the the stealing-traffic-cone-tastic Colin and Edith. And it's for Colin and Edith that the Times are here. Mainly Colin, actually, who has a bit of a gob on him:

“I love it when people say Radio 2 is the new Radio 1.” His words spill rapidly from his mouth. “Have you listened to it? It’s not for people our age. To me, Jonathan Ross is an embarrassing dad. And it’s people our age who are listening to iPods and using the internet and downloading Green Day online. Obviously, stations for people over 40 are getting bigger, and stations for younger people are struggling. But the financial agenda behind the attacks on Radio 1 is huge. One out of two kids aged between 16 and 24 listens to Radio 1, and does so in an advertising-free environment that isn’t about the latest trainers you own, or taking a slice of the door of the gigs we recommend.”

"people our age" - by which we take it he means people a bit younger than him, and a fair bit younger than Edith - may well be the only people downloading Green Day online, but we're sure that iPods are more widely owned amongst the Radio 2 audience, who can afford them, than the Radio 1 audience, and his ridiculous suggestion that nobody over thirty uses the internet is the babbling of a man who clearly wouldn't recognise his own arse if it was served up with peas and chips. His defence of an advertising free Radio One would be admirable, if it wasn't for the - ahem - One Big Weekend and One Live in Londonderry type events: they're not the same as yer basic XFM presents, straightforward affairs, but it's still an operation in a commercial realm. We don't think that's wrong, but we would expect a Radio 1 presenter to be aware of them.

Then Edith cuts in with an attack on people who wish it was still Mark and Lard in their slot (i.e. everybody over the age of three):

"I so do not take any notice whatsoever. The people who are slagging us off probably all wanted to be Radio 1 DJs anyway.”
Murray snorts: “The Mark and Lard listeners we’re receiving e-mails and texts from, who don’t like us, are closer to their pensions than to their 18th birthday. And throughout the history of Radio 1, the people who are always complaining are the people who are just getting ready to leave for Radio 2. The point is, they no longer identify with youth culture. The young Mark and Lard listeners have all been welcoming.”

All of them? Isn't it a bit unfortuante though, that the younger Mark and Lard fans will be the ones who, Colin, listen to the internet and will be trooping off to 6Music as fast as their mice and Real Player 10 downloads can carry them. The point is, of course, not that people don't like you and Edith because they're older than you; it's because you're just not as good. It's wrong to say that people who complain are the ones who "no longer identify with youth culture." Sometimes the complaints are valid - like when Joe Mace is given a show, or when Emma Forbes was handed lunchtime for no apparent reason. Or when Colin Murray was wedged onto the Evening Session. The problem with people who've seen a lot of youth culture is not that they're old, Colin. It's that they can recognise a dud when they hear one.

[Thanks to the other Simon, the It's Up For Grabs one, for pointing us onto this]

NEXT WEEK: FREDDY FORSYTH - THE REAL FIGURE BEHIND KURT'S DEATH?: We really, really hope that this is a joke: Otherwise, Steve Lightfoot really does believe that Stephen King killed John Lennon. For, uh, some reason. [Tipping our hat with our cane and offering thanks to Rufus for this.]

Wednesday, April 07, 2004

BUT TO HIM, SHE WAS STRICTLY MILK, COFFEE OR TEA: Were it not for the fact they would have been just a potential deep inside their grandad's sctrotums when it aired, we'd swear that Busted's new single 'Air Hostess' is little more than a thinly disguised reworking of the old B Cal ad. Although, admittedly, the British Caledonian "I wish they all could be Caledonian Girls" jingle itself was just California Girls with some new lyrics slapped on the top.

SINGING CEREAL: We almost wish we were Canadian sometimes, you know. Not only because they're getting berry-themed Cheerios, but some lucky Canadian is going to be the voice of the cereal. We were at this point going to list some artists who started out singing cornflake ad jingles, but the best we could come up with was Michael Portillo in a Ribena advert, and Petra Roddis from The Charlottes being the model on the front of the milk version of Soda Stream. In Germany. But we're sure it'll be a fine stepping stone. Ian Botham? Although he'd not done the Shredded Wheat adverts before he was involved in We Are The Bunnberrys, had he?

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: Kurt's still dead - but Morrissey isn't - edition
Billie Holiday is making a comeback - obviously not an actual one, although it is Easter, and so everything is possible. But her career is up for one of those periodic reinventions, as what the New Statesman calls “a new generation of artists” bring her work into a new context. Well, they say “a new generation of artists”, but it’s neither Amy Winehouse or Jamie Callum who offer any interesting comment on their newly discovered heroine: Cullum sounds like an estate agent showing us around her artistry: “her readings of many standards have become the definitive ones, and the aga is still under guarantee”, while Winehouse blusters like a fourth grader caught unprepared in her book review: “Her range of skills are vast and mostly overlooked.” No, it’s former Chancellor Kenneth Clarke who manages to sound like an enthusiast - like someone for whom music means more than what they do at the office. There’s something of the true fan in his careful decision that “Billie is my favourite jazz singer, slightly edging out Bessie Smith.” No wonder the Tories fucked the economy - Clarke clearly was spending his nights drawing up lists of the ten best jazz standards about the weather, and the ten most ill-fated collaborations.

We try to avoid mentioning the Radio Times letters page much - indeed, we often try and replicate that spell that Willow did when she tried to make everyone forget that she and Tara had had a big row, hoping it will allow us to live in a world where nobody has a recollection that Gill Hudson ever bothers compiling a bunch of letters into the sort of ill-tempered, pedantic whinefest which would make the editors of a freesheet feel ashamed. However, there’s actually a letter making quite a good point this week - that without Mark and Lard, Radio One is going to be even more tightly focused on it’s 15-34 demographic mission (and closer to the youth end at that) and a lot of people who otherwise would have heard some of this modern pop will be completely divorced from the delights of the Radio One playlist. Hudson, of course, misses the point, trilling that Lard’s on 6 and Mark is on Radio 2. Perhaps she was just so thrown by a letter that wasn’t moaning like a wanker in a porn cinema that she paniced. Elsewhere, it’s business as usual, with someone complaining that Pete Townshend featured in the programme about police catching paedophiles - this was, apparently, “gratuitious villification of a good man by association and innuendo.” Which is odd: we could have sworn that it was actual footage of a man who used a credit card to buy child porn, admitted using his credit card to buy child porn, accepted a police caution for using his credit card to buy child porn, and signed the Sexual Offenders Register as a result of using his credit card to buy child porn.

The NME is headlined “Special Commemorative Issue” - No, really, I know it’s a big day in the paper’s history but - this is just too... oh, it’s commeroration of Kurt’s death? Oh. The masthead is made from flowers; it’s quite sweet.

The paper has its findings from its online poll about file-sharing. Although it has to be stressed the poll was an online survey of self-selecting respondents, the figures are still grim reading for the BPI: 85% of people don’t think downloading harms artists; 89% say downloading doesn’t stop them buying music; only 6% saying the BPI’s bullying tactics will stop them from downloading in the future. The NME then runs off to see Matt Phillips, from the BPI. He’s wearing a tshirt, see, because he’s down with the kids. Or maybe he can’t wear a suit because of his forked tail, we’re not sure. Older NME readers will recall when Thrills used to run a feature written by The Man. This week, he’s back, and his name is Matt Phillips. How does he feel about the 12 year old getting sued in the States? It’s a good thing - it brings the message home to parents that they could get sued for what their kids are doing. (Actually, they can’t.) Asked if he’s worried that the BPI are putting a barrier between the Industry and the Music, the Man don’t give a fuck: “people don’t see it as stealing” he trots out, which isn’t answering the question at all. We wonder if the BPI are all like this: “Hello, love, would you like chips or roast potatoes today?” “If people continue to download, there will be no potatoes.” But Matt’s keen to stress that we must pay for our downloads, because without it, the industry would have no money: “the cost [of a CD] is funding the artist, recording the album, paying me to speak to you.” Yes, kids, if you carry on downloading, there’s a very real risk there will be no more BPI to lecture us. A horriffying prospect - at a stroke, that right clicking and “Save as’ dialogue box might as well read ‘Put all the people working in the BPI out of work.’ Have that picture in your mind. And now go and get Bittorrent.

Michael Eavis or Glastonbury or someone says the Glasto ticket debacle will never happen again - every Glastonbury promises the last of something: last itched battle with police; last pillaging of Pilton village; last time Ian McCulloch will be allowed to wear white trousers...

In an extraordinary week, something totally unexpected. A Morrissey interview. In the NME. Actually with the NME. For real. (Unless it was Mike Joyce putting on a silly voice and pretending, but there’s no bit about how “the other guys in the Smiths were the best”, so we’re thinking its genuine.) The only downside is some of the new lyrics are so ropey, you could pull a car out a swamp with them - “where the president is never black, female or gay/and until that day you’ve got nothing to say to me...” Pity Billie Holiday’s dead, then. More Mozzer next week, when he’s even - for the zillionth time - on the cover.

Method Man don’t do karaoke. In fact, he tries to kid Peter Robinson that he doesn’t even know for sure karaoke bars exist. Yeah, right.

Durrty Doogz - that’s two ‘r’s, and two ‘o’s. And a z. And... oh, it’s just mispelled. They’re new, and they’re grime, this month’s short lived new genre.

So, that Kurt pull-out memorial in brief: “this issue is for Kurt... 60 of the aspirin-sized Rohypnol pills... grimly awaited news... assassination of JFK... I was backstage at a Wonderstuff gig... Sylvia Plath... he was lactating... inspired me to check out Deep Purple.” One highlight is then-NME editor Steve Sutherland recalling the way the paper dealt with the news - tellingly, “no-one was surprised”; and how it booted Primal Scream from the cover. “It feels like Kurt’s depression is dragging NME and all its readers down with him. But on page 40 [this is the second issue, with the Courtney cover] there’s a review of Parklife...”; another highspot is a glossy reprint of some of the artwork from Godspeed, the Cobain picture book. The phrase “collector’s edition” is thrown around really easily in the magazine world these days, often signalling nothing more than two different Hollyoaks girls in their knickers on the cover, but this really does feel like something you’ll be putting to one side for the grandchildren.

snow patrol - befast mandela hall - “the bands new material outstrips the old by a long way”, 9
shellac (how odd that albini pops up in the cobain edition) - kings cross scala - “endearingly unpleasant”, 8

albums - is it just me, or do the albums reviewers at the nme seem so much (cough, cough) brighter and dazzling this week?
young heart attack - mouthful of love - “stuffed to the gussets with guitars which sound like laughing kazoos”, 8
tears for fears - everybody loves a happy ending - “MAKE IT MORE LIKE GARY!”, 2
xiu xiu - fabulous muscles - “MBV colliding with Interpol”, 7

sotw - the beta band - assessment - “it’s a joy to have them back”
amplifier - drowned in neon - “sounding fucking mighty these days”

and, finally: we guess it had to be Nirvana in the ‘Why I Love’ column this week; and the band have chosen to explain their love of Jo Wylie. Oh, alright, the other way round. But we’d quite like to see Dave Grohl talking about Jo: “Her way of presenting television without wearing shoes was quite unlike anything we’d ever seen before...”

OF COURSE, THE 'LOOKALIKE' IS THE 'LAZY COMEDY SLAG' OF THE BLOGGING WORLD, THE DASHED-OFF, HALF-ASSED COVER VERSION: But nevertheless... Television's funny man Stewart Lee. Television funny-looking man Will Young. But which is which?

THE OLD BLADDER: Is it just us, or does everyone find that when trying to picture The Darkness playing in a Soccer Six tournament, they always see Billy The Fish in goal?

THE OLD BLADDER: Is it just us, or does everyone find that when trying to picture The Darkness olaying in a Soccer Six tournament, they always see Billy The Fish in goal?

OUT OF THE MOUTHS OF BABES AND H FROM STEPS: For some reason, the slightly dim-looking one out of Steps hasn't taken the chance to shake off the stupid nickname H, and is still answering to it, like a fairly well-trained labrador. He's currently taking time out from a very cheesy - ahem, busy - schedule to do webchats with Sun Readers (the phrase "a meeting of minds" would be apt, if sounding a little bit mocking). It's quite revealing, but for for the reasons H would like to think. The words are his, the emphasis is ours:

Working in theatre is a different experience for me - I'm used to performing in arenas and on TV with in-ear monitors so it's strange to be singing live...

There's been a complete cast change since I joined the show which is nice because it means I haven't started on my own and been made to feel like the new guy...

Claire wants to be Celine Dion...

Being a role model was not something I consciously worried about during my time in Steps...

[An emailer asks 'If you could be in the Big Brother house with absolutely any celebs, dead or alive, who would you choose?]

I'd choose Jennifer Saunders and Rusty (sic) Lee - a TV chef who no-one remembers but who I found hilarious. I would also ask Paul O'Grady (Lily Savage) and Claire Sweeney - who are both good friends of mine - along and maybe the Krankies so I could have two for the price of one! I have been asked to do Celebrity Big Brother before but I've always been too busy. Shows like Big Brother and I'm A Celebrity are only really good for people who want to be famous - that isn't me, I love what I do and fame is just a by-product of that!

Well, judging by the way single sales for H and Claire's stuff tanked, it's not much of a by-product; like the amount of radiaton given out by those old alarm clocks, we'd estimate.

WE'RE DREAMING OF MEL C AND MARK OWEN MERGING THEIR LABELS, LIKE A LATTERDAY UNITED ARTISTS: As Mel prepares to cut the middlemen out of her daily affairs and go it alone (okay, there aren't that many middlemen who were looking to get involved with a new Melanie Chisholm album), she's announced some "intimate" (i.e. small) dates (i.e. at least they'll probably sell out), mostly at Barfly venues this June: 12 - Glasgow Barfly; 13 - York Fibbers; 14 - Liverpool Loft; 16 - Cardiff Barfly; 17 - London Barfly. It's a whopping great fourteen quid to get in, mind, answering the question of how she'll be funding releasing her own music.

OOH, OUR INDUSTRY IS IN POOR SHAPE: The latest set of global music sales figures have been released by the IFPI, which is the RIAA pretending it listens to what Guatemala thinks. But even the IFPI has trouble with the party line, admitting that much of the decline in world sales (seven per cent) is down to competiton from other media and poor economic conditions as much as the old bugaboo Piracy and those damn kids with their damn computers; and they have to concede that the market is showing signs of recovery in some of the key markets. They don't, however, bother to mention that the seven per cent drop is in the value of sales, and not in the actual number of records being sold.

LIFE IN THE CITY OF CULTURE: Despite bleeding the Beatles bucket dry as a stone, it seems Liverpool City Council still haven't got a clue about how to treat their heritage - they're planning to bulldoze Ringo Starr's birthplace. Maybe the city should decide if it really is Beatlesville, land of yellow submarines and magical mystery tours, or if it's not really that arsed about the Beatles at all. At the moment, Ringo House, 9, Madryn Street, is something of a tourist attraction, bringing thousands of visitors into an area without much to tempt visitors. Rather than deciding to try and make this the focus of regeneration for the area, the council seems set on pulling the whole street down. What makes it worse is the residents of Madryn Street would much rather have their homes tarted up than torn down. But, of course, actually keeping the original building would sit poorly with the council's current policies of turning everything into a one-step removed 'experience' - doubtless plans are already underway to build a Ringoesque House Visitor Attraction in the city centre. Just as soon as the European Union decide to pay for it.

WHAT'S WORSE THAN BEING SACKED ON TV?: Being sacked by Sugar Ray on TV. The latest bright idea for the never-ending mish-mash of reality TV is 'The Apprentice' meets 'Pop Idol', as Spike TV in the US persuades eight stooges to follow Sugar Ray on tour while competing, Big Brother style, for a "job" in the music industry. Oh, and a Kia Sedan for some reason. Don't knock it, this is exactly how Mitch Bainwol started out at the RIAA, more or less. Although he found a golden ticket in a packet of Chuppa Chups or something.

YOU CAN TAKE THE 'RADIO 2 IS COOL' THING A LITTLE TOO FAR: Radio 2 have just announced that Brad Pitt is joining their line-up of presenters - he's presenting a tribute to Nick Drake on Saturday 22nd May at 9.00. Uma Thurman is mulling an offer to sit in for Sarah Kennedy over the summer.

ON HIS OWEN AND ALL ALONE: Normally, we're hard-hearted and laugh when we hear of an artist being dropped, but the news that Mark Owen's been dumped by Island made us sniff a little. But, being the plucky soul he is, he's picked himself up, dusted himself down, and is now going to go it alone. Hurrah!

Tuesday, April 06, 2004

BLIMEY... YOU'RE STILL GOING, THEN?: We're surprised to hear that Alex Parks is still going around writing songs for her second album. The Fame Academy winner has, apparently, been in Los Angeles - in America, USA - with "famous songwriters", no less. She's written fifty songs, but that doesn't seem to be enough for the album, which suggests they might just not be very good. And who's the smooth talking PR doing their best to keep Alex in the public eye? Her mam. Bless.

A LOCAL FESTIVAL FOR LOCAL PEOPLE: In a bid to try and stem the flow of bad publicity, Glastonbury has released a bunch of tickets for 'local' people. Seemingly running contrary to the 'only with a debit card, limit of two', the local tickets are being offered through Glastonbury Tourist Information Centre (9 High Street, Glastonbury, Somerset, BA6 9DP), with people being invited to send a "postcard only" to be in the application process for a "limited" number of tickets. Local is being defined as living in the following postcode areas: BA3, BA4, BA5, BA6, BA7, BA9, BA10, BA11, BA16, BS26, BS27, BS28, TA6, TA7, TA9, TA10, TA11 and TA12. We'd imagine a lot of long-forgotten Great Aunts in Somerset are going to be getting surprise visits soon.

I AM TRYING TO SLAKE MY PARTAKING: It's apparently not going to mess with the scheduled tour later this month, but Wilco's Jeff Tweedy has checked himself into rehab to try and shake off an addiction to painkillers. Tweedy's apparently been self-medicating, and then medicating for a couple of imaginary friends on top, for a couple of years, since being plagued with migraines. The label has shunted the new album back until June to give Tweedy a chance to empty his life of the sad routine of counting out the blister packs.

SEE THAT PUNK? THAT WAS MY... UM, OUR IDEA: Now that the chances of a Ramones reunion seems to have become totally unlikely, Marky Ramone has taken the Alistair Campbell route, touring the world with a one-man show, claiming the whole idea for punk was the Ramones', and the Ramones' alone. if you're in Cardiff, you can catch him tomorrow, but he's doing a full UK tour at the moment. The idea is to scrape together enough cash to buy a ticket home ("it's amazing to see all the older fans and friends mingling with the younger fans. They're the reason I continue touring") and to keep the Ramone flame alive. Mark's loving the genuflection the band get now: "Yes we are commercial, the Ramones are everywhere and that's good because we've always wanted more people to hear our music, and more bands influenced by it." And we'd guess the regular checks from the businesses using Ramones in their ads isn't entirely unwelcome, either. Altogether now: "the Bird's Eye Chicken's the word..."

MORE ON THE 10th ANNIVERSARY: Thanks to Mark for bringing the Canoe piece to our attention, and to Alan at Popwherry who provides an impressively full listing of a lot of the Cobain eulogising from the day itself. Amongst our favourite items was BBC News Online's story of Kurt in pictures - I don't think Ladybird have yet produced a 'All About Nirvana' book, but this would be pretty much what it would be like. Blogcritics, of course, had its usual mixture of views, including the observation thatKurt made a poor excuse for an icon - an opinion fatally undermined by the suggestion that, erm, Terence Trent D'arby outscored Nirvana on the creativity front. Of course that's just a goad, but we reckon that D'arby and Love might have made a better couple than Kurt and Courtney - both share a love of public nudity (they're the only two artists to have appeared naked on the front of Q magazine) and both haven't made a decent record for several years.

Talking of Courtney - and boy, do we spend a lot of time doing that these days - it's odd reading her eulogy to Kurt with the benefit of ten years of hindsight; what in 1994 came across as grief now seems a lot more like grandstanding. In some ways, it's like the rock and roll equivalent of Earl Spencer's words at Diana's funeral: move on a few years and what you took to be delivered from the heart starts to sound very much like playing up to the gallery.

Radio One's Kurt and Me documentary is still available through the Listen Again feature, if you've half an hour to spare.

Two final thoughts: First, amongst all the megabytes added to the digital world about Kurt, probably the most perceptive comment was the observation in passing that "Kurt would have hated all this" - of all the second guessing about what might have been and what might have been said and what might have been felt, that probably feels about the most likely.

Second: also ten years ago this week, this happened. Remember Kurt, but set him against the scale of human suffering in Rwanda:

"Our men were ready to fight, even though they didn't have any weapons, so they died standing. You would not think that they were all going to get killed because they were very many. We did not think they would get killed.
My neighbour Gitera was there. Imagine someone leaving their home, knowing the possible victim's name and their children's names.
They all killed their neighbours' wives and children.
All the people they were cutting fell on me because I was near the door. I had too much hair but it all was washed with blood.
My body had been drenched in blood and it was getting dry on me so killers thought I had been cut all over. They thought I was dead."

MORE ON THE 10th ANNIVERSARY: Thanks to Mark for bringing the Canoe piece to our attention, and to Alan at Popwherry who provides an impressively full listing of a lot of the Cobain eulogising from the day itself. Amongst our favourite items was BBC News Online's story of Kurt in pictures - I don't think Ladybird have yet produced a 'All About Nirvana' book, but this would be pretty much what it would be like. Blogcritics, of course, had its usual mixture of views, including the observation thatKurt made a poor excuse for an icon - an opinion fatally undermined by the suggestion that, erm, Terence Trent D'arby outscored Nirvana on the creativity front. Of course that's just a goad, but we reckon that D'arby and Love might have made a better couple than Kurt and Courtney - both share a love of public nudity (they're the only two artists to have appeared naked on the front of Q magazine) and both haven't made a decent record for several years.

Talking of Courtney - and boy, do we spend a lot of time doing that these days - it's odd reading her eulogy to Kurt with the benefit of ten years of hindsight; what in 1994 came across as grief now seems a lot more like grandstanding. In some ways, it's like the rock and roll equivalent of Earl Spencer's words at Diana's funeral: move on a few years and what you took to be delivered from the heart starts to sound very much like playing up to the gallery.

Two final thoughts: First, amongst all the megabytes added to the digital world about Kurt, probably the most perceptive comment was the observation in passing that "Kurt would have hated all this" - of all the second guessing about what might have been and what might have been said and what might have been felt, that probably feels about the most likely.

Second: also ten years ago this week, this happened. Remember Kurt, but set him against the scale of human suffering in Rwanda:

"Our men were ready to fight, even though they didn't have any weapons, so they died standing. You would not think that they were all going to get killed because they were very many. We did not think they would get killed.
My neighbour Gitera was there. Imagine someone leaving their home, knowing the possible victim's name and their children's names.
They all killed their neighbours' wives and children.
All the people they were cutting fell on me because I was near the door. I had too much hair but it all was washed with blood.
My body had been drenched in blood and it was getting dry on me so killers thought I had been cut all over. They thought I was dead.

YOU KNOW YOUR MARRIAGE IS IN TROUBLE WHEN...: ...this David Beckham Photographed With His Wife - is considered a newsworthy headline

HANDY: It's great news that J-Lo's mum has won USD2.4million on some sort of casino game - she might be able to help her daughter out with a few bob. Recently, Jennifer Lopez has become so short of money she's had no choice but to accept any humiliating offer which comes her way, from appearing in Gigli to recording 'Baby I Love You', in a desperate bid to keep body and soul together and pay off the caterers she'd hired for her wedding to Ben Affleck ("I'm very sorry you've split up, love, but I've got a fridge full of individual pizzas and we've had the work experience lad sticking pineapple and cheese on cocktail sticks for the best part of a week, so someone's got to pay...")

PROOF THAT LOCAL RADIO DJS DO HAVE VERY LITTLE BRAIN: You are presenting a live show on radio. One of your listeners texts in a joke, which you don't understand at all. Do you (a) read the joke out on air anyway or (b) delete the text and make a mental note to ask a grown-up about what it meant? If you answered (a), you qualify for a show on Belfast's Cool FM, where the idiot dj only discovered he'd just read out a sick gag relating to the deaths of twenty-three people in Morecambe Bay when the complaints started to come in. Meanwhile, a presenter on LBC just found the very mention of "cockles and mussels" so overpoweringly funny he started to guffaw his way through a guest talking about the same incident.

In other regulatory mishaps, a bemused T4 seems to be genuinely hurt that they've been carpeted for broadcasting Sharon Osbourne braying "fuck off" on her little lad's Sunday morning show and for Marilyn Manson talking about fucking - the Manson one really upset them, as they'd cut lots of the interview out already, trying to "strike a balance." We're not sure how deleting large chunks of an interview is going to head off someone complaining about the bits that get left in - "Dear Channel 4, well done for cutting out the fisting, cunt-flaps and tit-torture parts of the interview with Marilyn Manson. In light of this, I'm delighted to welcome the golden showers, dwarf-frottage and anal lick stripes you did broadcast"?

Good news for EMAP, though, who managed to get away with blaming the broadcast of the f-word on it being Christmas, somehow. Of course, nobody is losing jobs over any of this, which is as it should be - the point of regulation is there for guidance rather than vengance (we'd be happy to pop over to the FCC and explain this with some powerpoint slides and handouts) and certainly we're a lot better off with the 'learn from your mistakes' attitude than the Clear Channel style zero policy in the States. Having said which, if the BBC did use 'one strike and you're off the air', we'd be spared Colin Murray in the afternoons.

BLAME BUSBY: Having screwed up the ticket allocation process for Glastonbury 2004 so astonishingly well, the Glasto organisation is looking around for someone to take the heat. Luckily, they've found a handy Aunt Sally - the Glasto shambles is all BT's fault, claims Michael Eavis:

"I have to say I'm very sorry that so much trouble has been caused by the serious delays within the phone lines and the website. Clearly the engineering specification was well short of what was needed - particularly the BT exchange in Nottingham which was cutting back our calls to the call centre by as much as 60 per cent some of the time. We will make sure that this doesn't happen again at all cost."

Now, we're not quite sure how he knows this - unless he means that six out of every ten operators were sitting, staring at the phones, willing it to ring, like Geri Halliwell dreaming of a Spice Girl reunion. Even if BT was trying to stop the call centre from being deluged, to what extent would have allowing an overloaded system to be swamped with even more people on hold been in any way useful?

There's something else curious here, too. Because the website was buggered, some people have found themselves having bought six tickets when they thought they were buying two (the first four transactions appearing not to have gone through) - so, what checks were actually in place to stop people buying more than their fair share of tickets if some people were over-buying by accident? And, more seriously, other tickets have been cancelled because the organisers report insufficient funds available, even when people have had more than enough cash on hand.

So, what's going to happen to these tickets? Will they be made available again to the public? Erm... no: "Any further returned tickets and duplicate orders will be absorbed by the needs of traders, staff, and locals" say the organisers. Eh? Shouldn't those people have already been dealt with, enough tickets earmarked and set aside for them before they were put on sale to the public at large? How many tickets, exactly, are being withdrawn from circulaton in this arbitrary manner? And shouldn't there have been a warning when it was announced that 115,000 tickets were going to be sold that not all of these would, actually, be sold to the public in the end?

THEY'VE SUFFERED ENOUGH, SURELY?: Is it really fair to make so much of Courtney Love's admission to the police that she'd taken Hillbilly Heroin? Don't Hillbillies have enough to contend with without being linked with Courtney Love?

MTV PRESENTS THE 'ANTI-POP IDOL': Although, somehow, Breaking Point, the series which claims to follow "proper" bands (i.e. the sort of bands MTV shunts off to MTV2 and VH2) sounds just like Channel Four's The Next Big Thing from about ten years ago rather than an exciting new idea. And whatever did happen to FMB, eh?

SOMEONE REALLY SHOULD TELL HER ABOUT TENALADY: We know there are numerous YahooGroups for girls without much bladder control; we wonder if Paul Abdul could be the first celebrity to get their own piss porn Yahoo Group. But really: Arsenio Hall so funny you piss yourself? Woman, you'd better not go anywhere near the Daily Show.

THE RIAA GET SERIOUS: Lawsuits haven't helped. The very real fear of Lars Ulrich coming round your house and telling you off in front of your Ma hasn't helped. Now, to stop the curse of downloading, the RIAA is going nuclear: it's called in Mandy Moore. She's starring in a new advert aimed at making people feel guilty:

"I believe in getting quality music in a way that's fair. It takes so many people to produce a CD; illegal downloads deprive every one of those people. You get paid for the work you do, right?"

Some things we do, yes; other times, we produce stuff just because we like doing the work and we enjoy it. There's thousands of bloggers out there, for example, producing quality work for nothing (okay, they all dream of a book deal...)

PLEASE, DON'T HAVE NIGHTMARES: This is, apparently, what Alanis thinks nudity looks like:

VICTORIA BRINGS TELSTAR CRASHING DOWN: Telstar's big adventure - attempting to spin a 'proper' record label out of a Ronco-cum-KTel style compilation outfit - seems to be over, with the label going in to administration. The company made a loss of GBP8.5m in 2001, the last year for which accounts were available, and since then stuck out Victoria Beckham's clunking solo material, which has been expensive and often unreleasable. The label's other bright move - signing the Cheeky Girls and trying to desperately keep them going long after they'd passed the 'Best Before' date and had turned green and slightly runny - has outweighed their smarter actions, such as signing Mis-Teeq and The Hives.

Mr. Pickwick is rumoured to be reconsidering his plans to approach Kylie Minogue.

Britney Spears Tour Bus Driver Chased, Stopped By Police
Pop Star Not On Bus During Traffic Stop

ALL DOWN THE LOOS?: "A royal wedding we adore/ the pomp and pagentry of yore/ we'd just as soon headline, of course/ a scandalous royal divorce" - Leon Rosselson.

Of course, the press have been waiting for something like a schism in the Beckham's perfect world for years - happy couples sell papers, but unhappy couples sell far more. And so they've taken great care not to set their hares running too soon, waiting until something meaty enough to at least please the braver of their lawyers came along. And now, in Rebecca Loos, they've got security guards witnessing kisses between David and his PR girl, or so they say; dubiously obtained text messages which may or may not have been filthy and even more dubiously sourced quotes, apparently spoken in pure journalese. Beckham, of course, is denying it all; the Sun can barely contain itself: Victoria is 'ashen faced' and 'deep in thought' (well, that's a first) - but taking care to run the Beckham denial next to a picture of Posh Spice looking like she was caught mid-puke (at least let the lady finish her morning beauty routine, guys), producing a handy guide for choosing sides if, you know, the worst happens and getting way too excited that "Beck's Girl" is bisexual ("lusts after both men AND women", the paper explains for the benefit of its slower readers.)

It's difficult, though, to feel any sympathy for either Victoria or David in this whole mess - they ignored the advice about using long spoons to sup with the devil, virtually inviting belzebubb to a finger buffet by turning their love affair into a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder. All couples choose their wedding colours to look good in the pictures; the Beckhams picked theirs to go well with the blue and red of the OK! masthead. And when the public appetite for happy, snuggly pictures starts to wane, it's only to be expected that the press will try to work their investment in some other way.

Monday, April 05, 2004

MORE BOLLOCKS FROM THE BPI: Why does a download cost more if you buy it from a legal British download site than an American one? Because the theiving shysters can get away with it, of course. It really is that simple. But, of course, they can't say that, so the BPI have worked up a new justification:

"The US benefit from a) Greater economies of scale b) Smaller sales tax (6% as opposed to 25% in some places in Europe) and c) Lower costs,” argues Matt Phillips from the BPI."

Greater economies of scale? Is this to be a new factor we should be using when we work out if a record is good value? Only at the moment, BPI members don't bother to reduce prices of the biggest selling singles - Kylie records enjoy far greater economies of scale than Victoria Beck... (sorry, it'll be Victoria Adams again, won't it) Adam's records, and yet the prices don't seem to reflect this.

Taxes? But records are cheaper in continental Europe where sales taxes do, indeed, rise as high as 25 per cent, whereas in Britain CDs cost more and the VAT rate isn't as high; likewise, sales tax in the US varies from State to State (the BPI's figure of six per cent is plucked at random - it varies from zero in Alaska to 7.25% in California) and yet the price of a download is uniform right across the country - because on ninety nine cents, we're talking piddling little differences.

And lower costs? But with downloads, the costs of additional sales are almost zero - a tiny bit of computer bandwidth, a sliver of storage. The main costs are in the production, and the cost of The Rolling Stones making a track that sells in the US are identical to those of making a track for the British market. And, the other beauty of downloads is the company can site itself wherever it chooses, wherever costs are lowest - are we expected to believe that MyCokeMusic has got all its servers in Britain?

No, we suspect the real difference between the British and American markets, the thing that really distorts the prices, is the huge mark-up. But when they try and sell it to us, they could at least try and come up with something a bit more convincing.

SIMPLY. DISGUSTING. IT WAS SIMPLY. DISGUSTING: We're wondering what the people who took small children to see Britney Spears in Tornoto told them as they strapped them into the car at the start of the evening? "We're going to go to a big room, with lots of music, and leave in a huff", presumably, as surely there's nobody on the face of the earth who would like Britney Spears enough to shell out for tickets for her gig, and yet wouldn't have been curious enough to either read a review or listen to the new music before turning up? So, we can only assume the parents marching children away from the "lewd" Toronto show must have planned to be outraged all along. One woman shuddered to the National Post that it "was a little too much for this age group", rushing to shield her five year old from Britney's bra. Hang about - what would a five year old be doing at a rock concert anyway? And what sort of person would be so concerned about her kid that she didn't think to check what Britney was likely to be doing on stage in the first place? Are we meant to believe that the toddler had insisted on going to see an artist who was already firmly in the 'adult themes, strong language, sexual references' zone before they were out of nappies?

INTO THE NEW THING: The Charlatans have announced two London gigs on May third and fourth, which will be given over to playing stuff from the new album, and almost exclusively so.

REPORTS SUGGEST JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE IS GOING INTO HIDING - "WHEREVER OSAMA IS": While we count down the hours until Todd finally gives in to his throbbing inner turmoil and kisses the gay nurse from Weatherfield General, George Michael is trying to line up another top celeb snog, dropping not very subtle hints that he'd like to rub his greying stubble against Justin Timberlake's bumfluff. But although Michael, 72, says he'd like to be the thrusting force behind a male answer to the Madonna-Britney kiss at the MTV awards, he's got more self respect than to try and, you know, go further with Timbo. He wouldn't want more than a snog; a full-on, manly collaboration would be wrong, somehow:

"I couldn't bear people saying there's this old guy clinging on to a young talent. Maybe I'm a little less worried that my star might fade than Madonna."

Well, yes. You wouldn't want to actually record some music, would you? That might make you look a little sad. Much better to sit around salivating about the possibility of getting a quick fumble off of Justin whenever an interview light comes on, eh? There's your actual dignity for you.

BY POPULAR DEMAND: The last time we tried this, we had server-falling-over problems, so we had to take down the images. So, as an Easter treat, here again is Pete Burns and Susan Somers. But which is which?

scared now

MODERN LIFE IS RUBBISH: With his daughter safely off to rehab, Ozzy Osbourne has been taking time to fret about the way the internet is a threat to us all. The Prince of Darkness says that he's shocked by drugs being available on the internet, which is understandable - his vague grip on the modern world would mean that discovering that hooking a typewriter to the telly allows you to do shopping at all would probably give him cause to spend a few hours lying down in a darkened room; he then starts to sound just like someone's Dad: In this day and age, the availability of getting drugs is incredible. You can get it online. In my day, you couldn't get it online, and thank God. I would have been dead if I could have gotten it online" Okay, someone's alcoholic Dad, but a Dad nonetheless. Yeah, just imagine if Ozzy could have got drugs online - it might have left him permanently fucked, unable to string together a coherent sentence and in such a bad way that he could be lead like a puppy into making a twat of himself on television to help feed someone else's Godzilla-sized monster need to be famous in their own right. We must be thankful that the difficulties Ozzy faced in getting hold of drugs - sometimes, it could be as difficult for him as having to open a door and remembering how to ask for some drugs - ensured he survived into a fit and healthy old age.

TO THE BARRICADES... COULD YOU BRING MY MAKE-UP?: Pink has poked her fellow pop stars with a big stick, lambasting them for being lightweights without an ounce of political conviction in their souls. She feels she missed her time, believing her heavyweight political tracks like 'Get The Party Started' and 'I Had A Shit Childhood, Me' and 'They Didn't Like Me Much At School' would have gone down much better in the 1960s.

BETTER SOLVE THAT WORLD AIDS PROBLEM QUICK, MIKEY: Apparently, the judge overseeing the Michael Jackson molestation case has "no doubts" it'll proceed to trial.

BABES MOURNED BY MOZZER: For the bsides to his next single, Morrissey is exploring a subject usually only dealt with in graffiti on bridges across the M62. 'Munich Air Disaster 1958' is, of course, about the deaths of eight of the Manchester United team as their plane crashed on take-off at Munich airport in a blizzard. In all, twenty-three people died in the crash, which is still remembered with pain in Manchester and as a cheap, ghoulish taunt amognst football crowds on Merseyside.

I AM TRYING TO TAKE YOUR ART: If we'd just stuck up a band's album onto the internet several weeks before release, we doubt if we'd be sending the songwriter our transcribed lyrics for his yea or nay as to their accuracy. But Wilco fan Rone Givony is made of stronger stuff than us, and also he doesn't find himself in the unpleasant position of being a Metallica fan; so he sent Jeff Tweedy an email promising to buy the album when it eventually came out (we're sure he didn't mention 'just as soon as the guy outside the Frisco Burger has got them burned off and the artwork laser-printed out'). Tweedys response was to launch, offering fans the chance to donate a few quid in compensation for the ill-gotten gains. In less than a day, it pulled in USD1,500 (the sort of cash-sign-up that would have had Glastonbury ticket servers falling over, in other words.) Not only has Tweedy and Wilco demonstrated that people who share illegal files would give money if only they could, but the bucks raised by Just A Fan will all be going to Medecins Sans Frontieres, the charity established to help Stuart Hall, stranded in Southern Italy since Its A Knockout was axed. Oh, alright, the International medical charity. Point proven; honours even and some cash in the back pocket of a well-deserving cause. If only Metallica had been half as smart, eh?

UN, HEADS OF WORLD RELIGIONS PLEAD WITH ALANIS NOT TO GIVE UP DAY JOB: Invited to host the Junos, Canada's answer to the Brits and Grammys (or, more often, the answer to 'You have a music industry in Canada, too?), Alanis couldn't wait to show her "funny side:"

"After I said yes to it, I immediately came up with about eight ideas of different bits.
I've been in improv comedy troupes since I was 14 years old. That's definitely a part of me that hasn't necessarily and understandably come out in some of my songs, which just didn't seem appropriate."

This shocks us - Alanis was doing those songs straight-faced? That video where she wanders about in the knack - she wasn't attempting to take the piss out of herself? Jesus Bloody Hairdo. Amongst the 'bits' Alanis did was appearing dressed in a "naked body suit" and ripping her nipples off - either this was a Janet Jackson gag or she was acting out online fanfiction, we're not sure.

Normally, we'd be quick to point out that one lame joke in a naked body suit had eclipsed the awards themselves, but the prizes went to Nickelback, Sam Roberts and Nelly Furtado, so... pretty much in the shadows to begin with.

BOB DYLAN IS PANTS: What product would you associate with Bob Dylan? Perhaps whiskey of some sort, or maybe even rugged outgarments. Saucy undies, perhaps not so much. Nevertheless, Bob Dylan is set to appear in an advert for Victoria's Secret. The ad sees Bob play a seedy old man in eyeliner leering at young, flighty things in their pants, which will call for a lot of acting on Bob's part as he doesn't usually wear eyeliner. As part of the deal, Victoria's Secret stores will sell a special album of Dylan tunes - because what could go better with a spot of hows yoru father in expensive knickers than Bob Dylan squeewailing his way through Maggie's Farm?

TURN iTUNES INTO YOUR TUNES: You know what would make Apple's iTunes store really great? If there was some sort of device which would rip out the rights management stuff and left you to use the music you've paid for in the way that you choose. appily, there is just such a tool, and it's called playfair - we've not tested it ourselves, but if it does what it claims to do, it could make those 99cents a track seem a whole lot more worth the cash.

PRESUMABLY COURT TV WOULD BE AT THE FRONT OF THE QUEUE: In happier times, fallen stars would turn to drugs and booze to make their problems go away. Nowadays, drugs and booze are suddenly part of the problem - whatever happened to a Hollywood where, so long as you turned up to do the Carson show and you had some whites of your eyes still visible, and didn't leave drool on the sofa, you were left alone? With the needle no longer an acceptable way to escape the miseries of being rich and able to shag your way through any cheerleader team you choose, stars are being forced to find a new way to cleanse themselves, and, unfortunately for us, it's the fly-on-the-wall series; the addiction which delivers a daily hit of Feeling Like A Big Star. Bobby Brown is reported to be currently attempting to turn his spectacular fuck-ups into a thirteen part series. It was better for the rest of us when they'd just retire to a penthouse with a dozen call girls and enough smack to becalm an angry elephant. At least they left the TV schedules alone.

WHY BRITNEY SHOULDN'T PLAY CHINA: (Not counting the chances are that it'd put some bad juju on her career.) Could Britney Spears really be comfortable playing in a country which arrested Namkha and Bakocha because of the content of their songs? The Chinese authorities claim the arrested Tibetans had recorded political songs, although the rabble-rousing value of their tracks such as King's Messenger and Courageous Amdo Man relies pretty much on how you choose to interpret them.

We'd be equally interested to hear from Brett Anderson, say, and Space, as to what they were doing playing Peking.

STITCHED UP LIKE A KIPPER?: If it's true that it was the doctor who filled Ozzy up with too much medication (rather than, ooh, somebody else close to him) thereby creating the human shambles at the centre of the Osbournes, is it right that Ozzy is making complaints about him? Shouldn't it be that Dr. Kipper sues Ozzy for unpaid royalties, having been co-creator of one of TV's best loved characters of a couple of years ago? After all, if Ozzy hadn't been staggering about like a man divorced from the realm, who would have been interested in their series - would a whining spoiled brat, an older whining spoiled brat, and a thousand yard stare under a bad haircut have held the attention?

BACKSTREET'S BACK... IT SEEMS: Sometimes, you have to accept that the tide of pop has turned and run away from you; face up that trying to restart a motor that's been idling too long is just going to end up in bitterness of defeat; take a look in the mirror and say "We've gotten too old for that schtick." Or, you could be like the Backstreet Boys, reunite three years after your last album and try to hope that those intervening years of legal struggle haven't seen all your fans grow pubic hair, get married, move out to the suburbs and take up a firm place on the local church flower rota.

Sunday, April 04, 2004

I REMEMBER KURT: A round-up of some of the early coverage of the tenth anniversary:

Dominic Moron, sorry, Mohan (that never gets tired, does it?) calls Kurt the “last great Rock hero” in The Sun, a paper which somehow you can just picture Kurt sitting down to enjoy of a morning. He’s fighting, dammit, for Cobain’s legacy: ”Do you really think The White Stripes, Radiohead and Coldplay would exist if there hadn’t been a Nirvana? Not to mention Grohl’s Foo Fighters and the nu-metal movement, of course.” Erm... Dominic? Radiohead were contemporaries of Nirvana; Coldplay clearly draw on the influence of Oasis and Suede and Britpop, which was more of a ‘despite’ than ‘because of’ grunge movement, and The White Stripes? Would they have existed without Nirvana? Almost certainly; if you knew half as much about creativity as you claim to you’d see that Jack White is a man who would be producing music even if he’d been brought up in a small, soundproofed box for the first twenty years of his life. Dominic could have cited Dizzee Rascal, who's busily citing Kurt as an influence at the moment. But we’re sure Dominc really was a fan. We can picture him singing along and shooting his guns, right down the front row.

Writing in The Age, Helen Razer struggles to cope with the Cobain myth. Rather clunkily, she kicks off "In the first quarter of the past decade, any kid with their antennae trained to pop culture knew and understood an object called Kurt." An object? And surely, erm, part of the problem was that while everyone thought they knew Kurt he kind of pointedly revealed that nobody ever quite understood him. But nice to reduce the man to an object as his memorial. It gets worse: "To gauge Cobain's popularity is simple: he claimed enough airtime, ink and eyeballs to be a bona fide celeb." He may also have made a record or two, we hear. Tim Rogers, of You Am I, toured with Nirvana, and remembers the night his death was announced: "Our band was playing a gig in Perth and the club DJ made an announcement before playing a song from (Nirvana album) Nevermind. Something very cheesy and cynical like 'This one goes out to you, Kurt!'
(Former You Am I manager) Kate Stewart walks up to him and swings at this guy. I'm not sure if she made contact. She certainly managed to express how inappropriate it was to trivialise his suicide."
Not entirely sure what a club DJ would be expected to say that wouldn't be seen as "trivialising" his suicide, and why it would be any worse to dedicate a song to the recently deceased than, say, take part in a Ten Years On background colour piece.

Of course, if he hadn't died, Kurt would have been able to clear exactly what did and didn't count as proper respect for us, but we're left to speculate. In the same way, the Tacoma News Tribune speculates on what might have happened if Kurt had survived that night - by now, he might have been recording with Michael Stipe. Or, on the other hand, he might been swept back into obscurity. Oddly, the don't bother to suggest other, equally plausible possibilities: he might have joined the church, or co-anchored the Daily Show alongside Jon Stewart, or moved to England and opened a pottery shop, but the News-Trib had already filled the space up and didn't need to. has got a wider range of contacts and far stronger credentials to fall back on - after all, there's no doubt that the world's biggest selling rock weekly (and, more especially, the now-defunct Melody Maker folded into it) got Nirvana, and got Nirvana quickly. Although it could perhaps do a bit better on the website than pieces by Evan Dando and, um Lars Ulrich, but then much of the paper's powder is being kept dry for this week's special edition, we guess. And they have taken the trouble to remember the man through his music, compiling the 20 best Nirvana tracks.

The Associated Press’ standard drop-in to mark the anniversary reminds us all that we don’t actually know quite when we’re meant to be lighting the candles - although we all know when the body was discovered, the closest we actually have to a fixed point of death is a vague “within 24 hours" - so it could be that we've all missed the moment, or are all jumping the gun, in a kind of grim, literal way.

The timing of Cobain's death gave rise to another commonplace misconception, that we can remember trying to squish back in 1994 through the pages of an almost unread fanzine: that the mainstream papers chose to ignore Kurt's suicide. We were surprised to see the same complaints resurface this weekend in the Independent [subscription required] when David Lister tut-tutted over how few column inches Kurt received the morning after the electrician came a-calling: "The Times just had a short report on page three; the Guardian a mere 147 words... The Daily Telegraph also a short, page three report. The Independent did better, running the story at the foot of page one. Younger readers were bemused at this lack of coverage..." Maybe they were, David, but surely a person who works in the newspaper industry would not be so surprised that a death that by eight in the evening, British time, hadn't even been officially confirmed didn't pick up very much coverage in a Saturday paper? With very little time before the presses rolled - and certainly no time to get a reporter up to Seattle, and most of the obvious people to call for quotes already out drowning their sorrows (or preparing elaborate 'I remember where I was when I heard the news' myths), there was precious little for the papers to put into their reports; so little it would hardly have been judged worth massively overhauling the layout of the paper to make extra space to fit in what would have been little more than cuttings and puff. It's true, as Lister says, that no subsequent extinguishing of an icon has been quite so under-reported (least, not in proportion to their perceived cultural significance), but that's because the only icon who's died at such an awkward time for the UK press was that former Princess, and she was deemed worthy of a last-minute rejig or two.

PARTRIDGE SEASON AGAIN: We're a little surprised to read via the Rock and Roll Report that VH1 is planning on remaking the Partridge Family - we presume it would have to be made as a period piece, because to try and set the series in the present would mean the younger Partridges would spend their time being sent to rehab, only emerging for the inevitable legal battles when they discover mama and papa Partridge have been bleeding their trust accounts dry...

I THINK I TRIED THE NIGHT KURT COBAIN DIED: It was an odd night in lots of ways - for some reason I’d wandered halfway across town for no real reason to call in on some friends; for some reason, rather than the usual non-stop Byrdsfest that was their usual listening, they’d tuned into the Friday night dance show on Radio One, so when the story came through that a body had been found in Kurt’s garage, and it was probably him, everyone wondered if the odd choices we’d made that evening had somehow been driven by a subconscious force, bringing us together to be in front of the radio at that time. Then - and this is where my recollections start to come apart from the standard line that this was our Lennon, our Elvis - we all shrugged and went off to watch Coronation Street. After all, the news was a bit vague, and it wasn’t like we’d not been on the Cobain deathwatch before.

Of course, by the end of Corrie, they’d become pretty sure that it was Kurt’s head that police were trying to reassmble in evidence bags, but even then there wasn’t any great feeling of shock or loss. The shock was blunted because, honestly, you’d not have got great odds on Kurt making it through to Christmas 94, the ways things had been for the last couple of weeks. And loss takes a while to hit you.

It creeps up on you in strange ways, and for me it wasn’t until the following morning that I felt the dizzyness of the way Kurt had chosen to become fixed as the definitive voice of his generation, edging out Douglas Coupland and leaving Eddie Vedder desperately trying to claw back through the release of vinyl records and powerlifting. I was wandering down Liverpool’s busy Utting Avenue - the sheer amount of time provided by glorious unemployment made a daily trip to buy catfood part of my routine - and noticed the newsagents had got Kurt Cobain poster magazines, smiling (okay, scowling - this was Kurt, after all) from the window.

You know the sort of thing, not quite as commonplace now, but for a while you’d get a slightly out-of-focus poster version of a bog standard press shot on one side of a glossy A2 sheet, folded into four with usually poorly-written cuttings jobs and quotes pulled from other sources making up the editorial input. In the 80s they’d thrived on the back of Duran and Wham! and A-ha, but the 90s were proving harder times for the companies and they were being forced to try and sell to more tricky markets. It was a tribute to how well that Nirvana were doing that they’d been judged to be attractive to the teenage market; it was clear how ill-formed that judgement had been that the Nirvana poster magazines had spent quite a long time sitting on shelves in shops across the country: When Kurt had had a face, fan-sector teenagers had been less than keen on having it on their bedroom walls.

Suddenly seeing Kurt in the window made me catch my breath and hit me in a way the news reports hadn’t: Kurt, the stupid sod, had killed himself. It made me feel queasy. And here was a shop that had poster magazines in the window, waiting to leap out on other unsuspecting indie kids and making them dizzy in public, too. Obviously the shopkeeper hadn’t heard the news from Seattle. I decided to perform a public service, to help the other long haired, black jeans wearers of Anfield come to terms in their own time. It didn’t occur to me at this point that, had there been any other long haired, black jeans wearing indie kids in Anfield, the magazine would have sold out six months beforehand and I probably wouldn’t have had rocks thrown at me and the “Hippy hippy shake” sung at me when I ventured out during daylight, but this was a day without much in the way of clear thinking.

I strode into the shop, and the newsagent looked up, saying nothing.

“Erm... I just noticed you have Nirvana poster magazines in your window...”

The newsagent nodded, puzzled - where was this going?

“I don’t suppose you’ve heard, but he killed himself last night.”

By now, puzzlement had disappeared. He nodded, blank-faced. “You want one?”

“No... no, I just thought you might want to move them. You know, it might... upset people.”

“They’ll want to buy them” he replied, in a tone that appeared to be fusing boredom with hostility.

I looked at him. He looked at me. But he was looking at me in the more frightening way, so I turned and left, picking up my catfood mission.

It was only as I walked back past the shop carrying a tin of KatKins that it suddenly struck me: the day before, the newsagent hadn’t had the Nirvana magazines in the window. Far from being unaware of the suicide, he’d seen it as an opportunity. Of course, other people would go on to milk the corpse for all it was worth, but I like to think that newsagent was the first person to try and turn a profit out of the death.