Saturday, October 09, 2004

WHAT THE POP PAPERS SAY: The catchy rhythm makes this a first class track
Attempting to switch gears from Madonna appearing on Will and Grace to Chrissie Hynde on BBC Four's Pop and Politics, Sam Wollaston hit on what he thought would be a easy jump - suggesting that it'd be impossible to imagine Hynde ever doing something as fluffy as a cameo in a sitcom. Erm... surely the Guardian TV critic should know that Hynde was probably the first star of any profile to do a self-send-up guesting on Friends?

Comparing the cover art on Joni Mitchell's new album, advertised on the inside front of the October Word, and the drawings of Madonna done by "fans" featured in the same edition, it's hard to decide who has been least well served by the pencil-weilders.

Amongst those being canvassed for the Word of Mouth celeb recommendations are Alison Moyet - who looks so incredibly delicious in her little picture we're planning spending what's left of the year living between her wheelie bin and her shed in the hope of getting adopted - and Jonathan Coe. Moyet chooses Elizabeth, but sniffs that it's not very historically accurate; Coe comes across like a man trying depserately to not drop names.

We're not sure what possessed the editors of the usually doughy and doughty journal to run two pages of pap shots of celebrities on holiday - we'd like to think that maybe its a cultural exchange and readers of this week's OK are puzzling over three thousand words on the legacy of The Incredible String Band, but somehow we doubt it.

There's a jolly interview with Nick Cave - who worries that questions that imply he keeps making music because he doesn't have anything else in his life might lead the q&a to become a little depressing. His most recent collaborator Marianne Faithfull is interviewed as well, which falls in to the trap of banging on too much about old times instead of today: who wants to read the Daily Herald when there's a much more interesting story breaking in The Independent?

Fantasy Live Aid tries to imagine what a 20th anniversary remix would look like - Jamie Cullum in the Bryan Ferry slot; The Darkness where Judas Priest were, or The Datsuns if we're unlucky.

Nancy Sinatra tells of the perils of meeting with the man currently President: she went to the Oval Office with a veteran's group (I think she means old soldiers rather than what remains of Fleetwood Mac); next thing she knows, she's getting hate mail from her gay fans who think she's crossed over the side of darkness: "If they don't understand I'm a screaming liberal, fuck 'em. I can't write back to everybody."

David Hepworth gives the DaVinci Code a well-deserved kicking - not because he's got a thing against pot boilers, but because it's a 50 watt hotplate that couldn't smoke a kipper, much less boil a pot.

Stuart Maconie turns in the sort of appreciation of Yes that he used to do for Blur back when Select was being published; if only Damon had half the charm of Rick Wakeman.

David Crosby - currently charging about on a mock Presidential campaign - stops to consider drugs: Pot is fine, but the other stuff? Terrible. Graham Nash - his running mate - agrees; it's not like the old days, now it's all blood and uzis behind it all. Over at the real Presidential campaign, Word looks at the involvement of pop stars. It's mixed feelings time: obviously, anything that gets people out to vote has to be a good thing, but is a democracy which needs posters of Christina Aguilera with her mouth sewn together to guarantee participation one that's worth saving?

You'll know we think that Apple make lovely things. But having said that: six pages of iPod add-ons? It's too much. It's only a fucking tranny radio.

It's Esquire's Music issue. And which musical figure has been invited to grace the cover? Erm, Juliette Lewis. Now, it's fair enough that otherwise it might have been Duran Duran, and Simon leBon doesn't look quite as good in skimpy pink panties, but we're not yet convinced that Lewis can really count as a music icon in quite the same way. We know her version of Rid Of Me was okay in Strange Days, we know that she's serious about it, but judging by her involvement in the new Prodigy album, it's all a lot of enthusiasm and good intentions. And a pair of skimpy pink panties.

We're also far from convinced by the piece suggesting that the issuing of bonds by artists (David Bowie) was a smart move on the part of the Dame. The details would probably need someone far smarter than us to spell out, but the purchasers had to make a 7.9 per cent return on their thirty million investment every year, which appears to have left David forced to indulge in some rather undignified actions to ensure the cash continued to flow - the hawking of his past images in the interests of selling bottled waters for Nestle, for example.

Unlike the clearly PR-briefed Tories lined up to claim a love of Pulp and Dido at last week's Tory conference, when Boris Johnson says he loves The Clash's Sandinista, you know he almost certainly does, even though he clearly tuned out the lyrics. More oddly, he reveals that Joe Strummer became a penpal in his later years. Everyone loves Boris, yes, but the frontman of the Clash trading bonmots with the man who would later hold the arts brief for the philistines of the right? Bloody odd.

Esquire takes out a shoe, reconsiders, selects a hobnail boot and takes aim at Q's 1010 songs you must own special issue by providing a list of 1010 songs you can safely delete off your iPod to free up valuable space. Included are "any Blur song where an actor (or a mayor) provides guest vocals" and "anything played on Parkie's TV chatshow".

An attempt is given at allowing Clear Channel a fair hearing - James Craven, the International Communications Director of the UK branch of the organisation points out that at the moment, Clear has no radio interests in the UK at all, having sold its minority stakes it held in JazzFM and Switch Digital; but that's like Dennis Nielsen trying to convince us he's changed because he's not got any human flesh in his freezer right now. But Craven's keen to put the record straight, because he's worried about the perception of Clear Channel. Perception? The company which has an increasing monopoly in many radio markets in the US, which has been accused of refusing to play artists on its radio stations who book tours through competitors to its promotions business, whose founder crows "we're not in the business of providing news and information [or] well researched music; we're simply selling our customers' products", who bought up stations across the Mexican border and pointed them back to San Diego to get round the ownership rules and whose tiny news operation means each station can call on just one third of a reporter should a story break - 110 bureaux struggling to support over 1000 stations? That one? Yeah, it might stink a little. But Craven wants to point out that it wasn't a Clear station which destroyed Dixie Chicks CDs in the wake of Natalie Maine's comments about Bush. Not that he's worried for himself, of course - it's the little guys he's worried about: "Clear Channel has thousands of employees in the UK. It seems wrong that they have to read so many distorted stories. The guys that cleanthe bus shelters - they get up in the middle of the night. They go out and clean bus shelters because the roads are quieter then, and they pick up their Sun newspaper, or they pick up The Mirror and they sit down and they read about Dixie Chicks CD burning ceremonies, and they think 'Oh my God, do I really work for a company like that?'" Actually, James, chuck, guys who are dragging their bodies from bed before the sun rises to scrub the sick and smashed glass out of a Bus Shelter on the side of the B3022 probably aren't doing it out of any sense of corporate loyalty, and probably would neither know nor care if Clear Channel was found to be exporting nuclear children to Iraq to be fed to an angry dragon. People in shit jobs with bad companies probably have quite enough bile against their employers all of their own.

Can you spot the flaw in Simon Cowell's argument here? "I judge everything on what I like, funnily enough, rather than try to guess what the public want [...] All my biggest deals happened because I picked up on things I read about in the Sun."

So, as you may have guessed, the NME came late again this week - although on this occasion we think it might have been rejected by our letterbox for a couple of days because, for some reason, it's been guest editied by the Goldie Lookin' Chain. The whole guest editor thing has been done to death anyway, but at least when Blur were invited to have a go there seemed to be a sense that they might have a few ideas to share. Asking GLC to fill the pages is risky, because they clearly ran out of ideas two-thirds of the way through their first song. Still, we're sure it seemed like a great idea at the time. Right up there with those other great ideas which end in a shame-faced visit to the proctologist.

Of course, it's also back to university week this week, so there's a student guide which comes sponsored by, um, Top Man. When we went up to university, as it was still called in those days, the NME cover had Bananarama on it, which prompted letters to Angst the following week suggesting the paper had lost its mind, its sense, and possibly its bladder control. Clearly, though, it knew exactly what it was doing - yer first night in a strange bed in a boxy halls of residence room, the 'rama would provide a sort of comfort a bunch of one-gag Welshmen couldn't hope to reach. The main irritating bit of the student guide is an interview with Kat Fletcher, NUS President, who says that university "can be one of the best experiences of your life" - although since she's only known school and university, and school is rubbish, she's not calling on very much experience to make this call, is she? All the guides to the various student cities suggest you should avoid the same sort of place: anywhere where locals go of an evening.

Back to the remnants of the NME still under proper editorial control, and Hot Hot Heat claim they're just like Nirvana - presumably they mean their singer stinks like he's been dead a decade and there's no prospect of them ever making a decent record ever again; Tom Vek is the radar act and the Concretes are interviewed: Victoria Bergsman reveals she owns 23 wigs, one for every mood.

Lost amongst the dayglo tracksuits and hokey jokey tokey shorts lurks an interview with REM: Michael Stipe reveals that his stance on Iraq isn't just another Hollywood hackage: he's got a relative in the armed forces who's about to be sent out to try and stem the bleeding while Bush decides what to do. He speaks about how he knows that celebs slagging off Bush isn't actually going to work in the Kerry campaign's favour: "but my great fear for a second term might be, internationally, falling on our faces." This plays second fiddle to some polaroids of passers-by with 2Hats from Goldie Lookin' Chain saying if they like their trainers or not.

the music - cambridge corn exchange - "they could be called the dog's bollocks and nobody would think them bigheaded"

the dears - no cities left - "could become the truly special band they promise to", 8
gisli - how about that - "so now, it'll be stale tomorrow", 5
le tigre - this island - "never sounds like Newsnight", 7

sotw - scissor sisters - mary - "I'm not crying... I have something in my eye"
help she can't swim - beano v bunty - "Happy Shopper Pulp"

and finally... today's Daily Star came with a free CD with Suede and the Disposable Heroes of Hiphopricy. Some poor sod had to write a brief introduction for each track to go in the paper. So Animal Nitrate is "this much loved British rock band at their best"; Television, Drug of the Nation was "a big hit for the multi-cultural hip hop duo." After some sucking of the Desmond pencil, The La's There She Goes gets "sing along to this all time popular classic", but best sleeve note of all time - maybe ever - is reserved for Elastica's Connection: "The catchy rhythm makes this a first class track."

ROCKOBIT: Bruce Palmer, Buffalo Springfield bassist, died following a heart attack on Monday.

Palmer was born in 1946 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia and got an early taste of musical acclaim in a number of teenage bands before a spell in Jack London and the Sparrows; although the Sparrows managed a couple of hits in Canada, these came after Palmer's departure. In a straight swap, Palmer joined the Mynah Birds while the Sparrows took on Nick St. Nicholas from the Birds. St. Nicholas would eventually go on to join Steppenwolf, while it was in the Myanh Birds that Palmer would meet his long-term collaborator Neil Young. Following fellow Bird Rick James' imprisonment for quitting the US navy without permission, the pair headed south and hooked up with Stephen Stills, Dewey Martin and Richie Furay to create Buffalo Springfield.

The difficulties caused by Palmer's Canadian citizenship and membership of an American band were among one of the causes of Buffalo Springfield's split after just two years and two albums. While the others went to be CSNY, Palmer made a solo stab at fame - although, as a bassist, he needed to bring in help with vocals, so 1971's The Cycle Is Complete saw him draft back the now released Rick James. Not a glittering success, it was to be the only collection which went out under his own name.

In 1983 Palmer was working again with Neil Young, appearing on the Trans set, and he picked up again with Dewey Martin for a Pete Best Beatles style Buffalo Springfield: BS Revisted. A 1986 proper reunion of the band fell apart when Neil Young "forgot" rehearsals.

IF A LAWSUIT IS MEANT TO SHAKE PEOPLE, SHOULDN'T SOMEONE NOTICE?: We're not sure the coverage of the BPI lawsuits was quite as light as The Inquirer suggested, but they have diagnosed another problem with the RIAA/BPI approach: each extra round of lawsuits they bring forward gets less and less attention. Since the whole point of the legal action is meant to send a message to the file-sharing community - the numbers getting the letters are such a slim slice of the total numbers sharing their musical discoveries with each other, it can't be viewed as a serious, direct attempt to deal with the "problem" - if there's no coverage of the lawyers going in, what's the point? Even at the greedy rates the RIAA are charging their targets for each track, they must be losing cash on the whole deal - if the world isn't paying attention, then it's hard to see what the RIAA are getting in return for their efforts.

YES, IT PROBABLY WOULD BE VILE: George Michael has said that - although he loves him like a brother - he can't think of anything more vile than having sex with Andrew Ridgeley. Which would be part of the thing about loving him like a brother, as, for most people in most societies, having sex with your brother does tend to be a bit of an icky concept. You only have to look at Georgia in Brookside, who did have sex with her brother, Nat - and it was pretty vile, like watching a beautiful horse being ridden by a sweaty clown in burberry. Of course, if you stop and think about it, the thought of anyone having sex with Andrew Ridgeley is pretty off-putting, and we apologise for even mentioning it at lunchtime.

TOMMY GOES TO SCHOOL: Obviously, not on a par with Rebecca Loos wanking a pig or the lovely Debbie McGee washing off a big horse's cock for The Farm, but American TV's new take on reality TV is cooking up a spin of controversey: mainly because quite a lot of people involved with Nebraska University are pissed off that it's the venue that has been chosen for Tommy Lee going to school. It does make the debate over the reduced levels of intellect required for entry to UK unis seem dwarfed.

GENIE IN A BOTTLE: The use of the term "breakdown" is a loose one in pop music - some musicians do have genuine breakdowns, horrible, life-crushing mental collapses where they murder their mothers, retire to live in sandpits, or elect not to join The Power Station. Other times, the words "I had a breakdown" or "a kind of breakdown" means that the singer sat around their house watching Friends re-runs, feeling a bit sorry for themselves and possibly opening one too many bottles of a cheeky little red from the Rothschilds cellar. We'll leave you to decide exactly which sort of breakdown it is that Christina had after being compared to Britney Spears. Luckily, she found a way to stop the comparisons:

"It was kind of a breakthrough for me. I was shedding a skin, this image that the label tried to put upon me where I felt I was suffocating after a while. Stripped was very true to the person I was.

"It was a time when I felt, how can I break out of this shell?'"

Yes, stop the comparisons with Britney by not wearing many clothes and singing pop songs that struggle to be raunchy. That'll work.

WHY HAVING SOME CHARITY WORK TO FALL BACK ON CAN BE A HANDY THING: It's mainly the good works he does for his community that saved Beanie Sigel froma longer prison sentence - he got sent down for a year for gun possession crimes, but without those hours spent helping others, he could have had a three year sentence. In his plea for a softer sentence, Beanie pointed at his children and said that he wanted them to be able to say "That's my dad, Dwight Grant. Not Beanie Sigel." Obviously, Dwight is his real name, he wasn't hoping they were going to be adopted by someone called Mr. Grant.

His attempts to recast himself as a positive role model was scoffed at by the prosecution who suggested that all the songs about raping the pregnant girlfriends of your enemies and pouring acid on their children isn't going to cut it down in citizenship class.

Maybe the judge decided to cut Sigel some slack: he's got other charges hanging over him following a Philadelphia shooting and another punching incident.

NO RELATION: But we just thought we'd give a quick mention to Syntax of Things post titled No Rock 'n' Roll Fun, which is about Lester Bangs.

Friday, October 08, 2004

ROBBIE WILLIAMS ANNOUNCES MORE NEW IDEAS THAT NEVER COME TO ANYTHING THAN BLUNKETT: The latest plan to drop off the Robbie Williams auto-gob is Robbie - The Musical - we're not sure if he'll be doing this before or after his series on the supernatural for Living TV, but the back-of-a-beer-can plan seems to be to tell the story of Robbie's life using his songs. We really hope for the finale he's working on a song called 'Shagged To Death By A Randy Boar In An Unfortunate Woodland Incident'.

A FRIDAY AFTERNOON BELLY LAUGH: Avril Lavigne has, apparently, dyed her hair blonde in order to get a part playing Courtney Love in a soon-to-be-made film. No, it gets better: Avril thinks she's just right for the part of Love:

"Courtney is really nice and a great mom. It would be an honor to play her. I've been looking for a feisty role that suits my personality, and I think this is the one."

Obviously, this delusion can't be blamed on poor research alone - no amount of mistyping into google would make someone think they were feisty when clearly they're not - but she thinks Courtney is a great mom? How would that be - because she's taught Frances Bean how to call for an ambulance when she ODs? If she's such a great parent, how come Frances was placed in the care of Kurt's mum?

IT'S ALL COMING BACK TO ME NOW: Red Hot Chili Pepper Anthony Keidis is writing his lifestory to be some sort of book or other, and is surprised at just how much he remembers. He thinks that with his enormous drug ingestion he'd have a memory that was full of holes, but no, it's all coming back to him: chopping down the cherry tree and confessing to his Dad; being taken in by the Cunninghams and getting the room above their garage; a spell as a mobster in New Jersey...

THREE LETTERS FOR YOU, GUYS: The music industry - you know, those guys - are now threatening to "take on" Microsoft and Apple. It's a little bit like watching the Isle of Man declare war on the United States and the European Union at the same time. Their battle cry is a simple one: they want a common industry standard for downloads. Erm... guys? Have you heard of MP3?

ARE YOU WITH ESTELLE AND PETE?: As the BPI wonders if maybe it shouldn't have some sort of uniform, the NME launches another survey of downloaders attitudes. It neglects to ask the question 'How does this action make the BPI seem', but that's probably because they have to watch some of the more extreme language in the paper.

BUT FOR THE INTERVENTION OF MARK CHAPMAN: It would have been John Lennon's 64th birthday tomorrow. To mark the occassion, Yoko Ono is holding an exhibition of Lennon's artwork in a New York gallery.

Ono says she's doing it because she doesn't "think most people know John's artwork" - which might have just seemed like a widow's sweet attempt to throw light on another aspect of her husband's character, were it not for the obvious fib in her sentence - surely there's not a person alive who hasn't already seen Lennon's 'someone doodling on a pad while waiting for directory enquiries' "art" - it's even the logo of Liverpool airport. We suspect the real purpose of the exhibits is a way of promoting these:

The Lennon toys and baby range, a cash-in on Lennon's art so cynical it would make Max Clifford blush. Top of the range is a tiny blue elephant which plays - oh yes, it does - Imagine. Yours for seventeen quid. "Imagine no possessions", of course.

YOU'RE DOING WHAT?: Never mind the whole stuff about Westlife trying to break some sort of record for playing somewhere currently held by Steps - what makes our eyes burn is the news that the next Westlife album is going to be Rat Pack covers called Let Us Be Frank. It's like the sea scouts trying to be Hell's Angels.

NOW IT'S ALL LEGAL: Britney Spears has completed the formal part of her marriage ceremony, filing the paperwork which officially makes her married to Joe Schmoe ("Mrs. Federline"). It's unclear when the pants and bra she was wearing as did the signing will become available on Ebay.

APPARENTLY, AIRPORTS ARE QUITE HOT ON SECURITY RIGHT NOW: How could Incubus' singer Brandon Boyd be expected to know he'd get into trouble for taking a knife in his carry-on? It's not like there's been anything on the news about planes or hijackings or anything.

ROCK SICKLIST: Singer and sitcom aspirant Melissa Etheridge has cancelled her tour after getting a diagnosis of breast cancer. In an upbeat statement, Etheridge praised the quality of treatment she's been receiving and looked forward to a swift and full recovery.

U2 DENY TOUR PLANS: A website which was offering tickets to U2's dates next year has pulled the offer following an official approach from the band's representatives suggesting that the dates they had were purely speculative.

Winningly, U2's live booker John Giddings, claims that not only have no venues been booked, but they're looking at "every venue in the world" as a possible for hosting the event. Great news, of course, for Northampton Roadmenders and the Deptford Abyss.

SUBTLE ATTEMPT TO DIG DIRT: You have to take your trucker's cap off to this question apparently asking if in the same way Anrdew Murray comes from Dunblane, if there's a professional footballer from Hungerford. Nobody much biting, though.

PETE BLEAT: It's not just Estelle 'I think I need a bit of a sit down' Morris and furiously masturbating BPI executives who are delighted at the news that download lawsuits are coming to the UK. The grand old man of British Pop, Pete Waterman, is very pleased, too:

Consumer groups have suggested the high price of CDs and the amount of time it took record labels to get to grips with internet piracy have forced music fans to turn to illegal file-sharing sites.

But Waterman, speaking at a press conference to mark the launch of legal action against 28 major online pirates in the UK, argued music prices had fallen in recent years.

"I've seen CD prices drop from £14 to £8. I'm certainly not getting paid £14 for a CD any more," said Waterman.

Presumably the reason you're not getting full price for your CDs any more, Pete, is that you've not made anything anyone's liable to want to buy since about 1981.

He said artists such as the Blur drummer, Dave Rowntree, were only able to claim file sharing did not harm CD sales because they already had millions in the bank.

"It's preposterous. How do they know that? The BPI isn't speaking on behalf of all the industry," Rowntree said earlier this year.

Waterman hit back: "Blur who? They're still going are they? EMI owns Blur's rights. I think you might find it different if you got all four of them in a room and asked if they wanted money taken out of their bank accounts.

"If Franz Ferdinand and Blur want to give their music away for nothing, that's between them and their record company. This is not the NHS. This is music, you buy it."

Here again, of course, there's the pushing of this idea that downloading costs artists and labels money; which makes the actions of the BPI seem slightly more reasonable than the truth: downloading is something people do on top of their usual music purchasing, not instead of; it's something which promotes music sales, not deflates them. The act of downloading (in most cases) doesn't take money from anyone, and this claim needs to be challenged every time someone makes it.

FRANZ: FRIEZING IN THE PARK: Bringing music and what-Brian-Sewell-might-or-might-not-call-art together is nothing new for Franz Ferdinand, which is why it's perhaps a bit of a shame that the organisers of Regent's park Freize arts fair have only got them to curate the music. The Franzie's bit takes place on October 18th and features The Kills and the Kaiser Chiefs.

MONEY FOR BOTH JAM, AND OLD ROPE: We've had sat on our pad the words 'Orlowski City' for over a week now, as The Register's Andrew Orlowski made a speech at In The City suggesting that Record Companies should be as happy as pigs in clover right now. A lot of what of he said made good sense - the labels should be thinking about how they're going to combine their massive libraries with new technology and make a fortune. But he's got some stuff wrong, too, we think.

He thinks iTunes/Napster is bound to fail in the medium to long term, for various reasons. First of all, it "unpicks the bundle." Orlowski belives that there's a serious threat to the industry in freeing listeners from having to buy a collection of songs, CD-style; his theory is that the economics of recorded music will be smashed back to the 1950s if you give consumers the power to only take the tracks they want.

But this is based on the fallacy that there's something organic about the length of CDs or LPs. Of course there isn't, though - the LP is as long as it could be without the sound degrading too much; the length of the CD is an even more arbitrary choice, related to some measure or other of a classical music piece. Sure, if you say to people they no loner to buy every track from an album in one go, you might end up selling far fewer copies of the one where they let the drummer record one of his songs. That could be bad.

However, it doesn't have to mean economic meltdown. While the average album contains, shall we say, four tracks which will tempt people to buy them as singles, and probably two tracks you couldn't give away, there's usually going to be some middling tracks, too. Now, in the past, bundled as an album, you would find it hard to flog the whole lot to loads of people on the basis of the middling tracks - they'd be happy with the singles. In the new world, freed from the need to take the whole lot for a tenner, you could find yourself selling a lot more of the middling tracks as a download. After all, that version of the Joker from the new Fatboy Slim album isn't going to persuade anyone wavering to buy the whole album, but it's worth 75p of anyone's money.

In addition, freeing the world from the concept of the ten track bundle means that artists can actually stick dozens and dozens of tracks online. Yes, they might not sell as many sets of tracks as if they stuck out an album, but because they no longer have to shape what they're making available to a seventy-four minute limit, they might well wind up selling a lot more individual tracks to fans than they would have as limited bundles.

Orlowski makes some interesting suggestions about where the future is lying technologically - the iPod will be replaced by phones, and even if the record industry tries to block the technology here and in the States, the Chinese are waiting in the wings. More importantly, he points out that if Bill Gates ever does manage to build a version of Windows which secures intellectual property rights (and it's a slim hope; he can't even build a browser which doesn't spew your privacy out the back of your PC) all he'll have done is create a product which makes Linux look more attractive than ever. And Orlowski is dead right - Gates could buy up all the music industry tomorrow, with the cash he keeps under the clock on mantle. If the RIAA really think he's going to make a product which protects their market at the cost of his own, they're even more doofed out than we thought.

We diverge from Orlowski, however, when he recommends that the Record Industry lobby for some sort of tax - on broadband, or phone bills, or anything. He suggests it could be as "little" at 28p a week. But whether its 28pence or thirty pounds, this is a ridiculous proposal that must sound like Santa has arrived down at the BPI. Why on earth should taxation be raised for the benefit of private companies simply because they've screwed up their own industry by playing a mishanded strategy? And why on earth should all broadband users start to help inflate EMI's shareholder value? Making mobile phones more expensive because Universal failed to seize the moment when it was told where the future lay?

Of course, some people might see this as analagous to something as harmless as the licence fee - where you pay some cash towards the BBC regardless of if you watch any BBC programmes or not, simply because you have a TV. There is a crucial distinction, though: the BBC is not a private company, and the cash raised from the licence fee is clearly meant to be used for the public good - not to pay shareholders, not to invest in populist pap for the mass market. You might argue about how well the BBC lives up to the duties its licence fee gives it, but the principle is clear enough. Under the Orlowski model, though, taxation would be raised, and passed to the labels, and they could do what the hell they chose with it - your grandad, who only uses his broadband connection to listen to a small jazz station, would find his tax dollar going towards creating mass-market bilge.

So, if the music industry wants to be funded through public taxation, fair enough: but then it must become a public resource. If the BPI wishes to have access to a slice of my phone bill, great - provided it's going to be using the cash for the public good. The concept of tax being raised on behalf of private companies is clearly wrong - so the only answer would be to nationalise the music industry. I don't think it's what they'd want, but it's clearly the only acceptable solution. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I start to like the idea. The logic of the argument is that you can get rid of piracy and the whining of the record executives at a stroke.

But since that's not likely to happen, we come back to the ridiculous idea of fleecing the public to prop up companies who've screwed up. The big O thinks there might be other objections, and tries to head them off:

PUBLIC: No job is guaranteed. Why should I give the pigopolists a job for life? - A: Record companies simply own the recording rights: they've paid for them, after all. So buy the recording rights from the record companies. That market is open for business.

If this sounds vaguely familiar, it's probably the echo of Hugh Laurie in the sketch where he's trying to raise a loan from the bank to sell smack to kids because "Europe is open for business." Let's not even bother getting into the at best dubious terms of trade which allow the record companies to claim ownership of music long after they've made back their initial investment, and then some profit, and then more. Under the Orlowski plan, record labels will be pulling in cash simply for doing nothing - and if that won't distort a market, I don't know what will.

- PUBLIC: I never listen to music. Why should I pay for it? - A: I don't have a car or children, but I pay for your schools and roads. Knowing roads and schools are there is an incentive to join you. It's a public good, so you might want to start enjoying music now.

Well, yes, music is a public good. But while it's not quite fair to compare music with schools, you've done it. If a supply of music is vital to the public infrastructure - and yes, it is - then why should that supply be left to private companies? (We were going to say nobody would be stupid enough to pass tax funding to private, profit-driven companies to provide schools, and then we remembered Jarvis and the Public Finance Initiative, which might disprove the point, but underlines what we were trying to say).

There's a lot more in his speech, and its well worth a flick through. His problem is that he can picture a different technological world, but still has the same corporate structure at its heart. Coming up with proposals that support the current big companies in the music industry does nobody any favours - not music fans, not musicians, and, ultimately, by shoring up companies who failed to adapt when warned nearly a decade ahead of the risk to the bottom line and choking off the chance of new forms of music company to rise up, not even the people whose pension funds are invested in the business of shifting units.

Thursday, October 07, 2004

PROBABLY SOME SORT OF JOKE ABOUT OLD TITS HERE, THEN: This barely counts as being in any way connected with music, as it's about Jack Osbourne and Kimberly "Daughter of Rod" Stewart; apparently she gave him her old implants which he now has hanging on his wall. It's probably lucky he wasn't dating Kylie Minogue, then, as he'd be able to use excess skin as wall-hangings. Probably.

Not, of course, that Jack and Kim were an item, she insists: "That's the most untrue thing that I've ever heard in my life." Must have been watching VH1 when Powell was briefing the UN about Saddam's weapons, then. It does make you wonder what body parts she gives to her lovers, doesn't it?

CHRISTINA AD CHOPPED: After a stream of complaints from real nurses, an advert for shoes featuring Christina Aguilera as a sexy nurse has been dropped. Meanwhile, Christina has been suggesting all women should vote as, erm, it'll stop domestic violence. (How does that work? Drunken husband, about to throw punch, stays his hand and sobs "how can I punch a registered Republican?"). But Christina feels she's got to make things up because "It's embarrassing and shameful to know I haven't been part of voicing my opinion as a female and as a women." As a female and as a woman, eh?

KIDS? THEY'RE TARGETS, SAYS BPI: A journalist asked the BPI, presumably mistaking them for gentlemen, if they'd follow their Daddies in the RIAA in taking legal action against preteens. Of course, snarled the BPI, while they wouldn't go out of their way to throw kiddies into prison: "It is not our intention to target children but [we will] if they are breaking the law on a very large scale."

Still, it's not just the BPI making themselves look evil: Estelle Morris is adding the government's weight to the legal campaign. Estelle - who of course resigned as education secretary because she was out of her depth - seems not to be quite able to touch the bottom of the downloading debate, either:

"Piracy is theft - pure and simple. Whether it's Jamelia or a jobbing musician, the artist suffers. We owe it to them to make sure they get a fair return for their creativity, flair and inspiration. The government supports the principle of proportionate legal action against the worst offending uploaders. I hope it will stop the habitual offender who uploads to make a quick buck out of other people's talent."

Righto, so if it's meant to be about the artists, how come it's not the artist's representatives who are bringing the actions? The BPI are the voice of the labels, surely? And what's all this about "making a quick buck"? Is Estelle so poorly briefed she thinks that people charge for eDonkey downloads? Perhaps it's just as well she's giving it up at the end of this Parliament.

WHEN LOVERS SQUABBLE: The bloke who she rips to pieces in her "auto"biography has paid Victoria Beckham back for her tattling. Leaving aside the question of who proposed what to who and where, his real bomb is his claim that Posh called him up to gloat just before she married David:

He recalls, "The girl I was seeing at the time had just left me and Victoria rang me up and said, 'You're quite sad, really. You're on your own, you haven't really got a life. Look at me. I've got Mercedes, BMWs and a big house. You've got nothing.'"

If only he'd had the wit to respond "I've got more chance of having a number one than you do, honey."

BOYS IN FILMS: There's nothing very surprising about the news that Simon LeBon is a bit of a tranny.

I mean... it's hardly going to make anyone hold the front page, is it? It's up there with "Martin Kemp enjoys wearing kilts."

BUT WASN'T IT ALL ABOUT THE STARVING IN AFRICA?: Not that he's still bitter about it, or anything, but Midge Ure still feels the need, twenty years on, to point out that he got pushed down the bill at Live Aid. What we do like about this story, though, is that they used the excuse "Adam Ant is having technical difficulties", a phrase which we intend to bring out anytime anything fucks up, ever. Late for a deadline? Sorry, Adam Ant was having technical difficulties. Accidently deleted someone else's vital files? Adam Ant, guv. Taken the country to war on the back of defective intelligence? I wish we could have known the truth upon which to base our decision, but I remind the honorable gentleman that at that time Adam Ant was having technical difficulties..."

THE BEATLES BOYS: Despite what we would have thought would have been the obvious warning of how poor their one-shot collaboration on Wilson's album earlier this year turned out, Paul McCartney and Brian Wilson are going to come together and make a whole album together. It's just a Rick Wakeman short of being a full Travelling Willburries, isn't it?

MAKE OTHER ARRANGEMENTS FOR MAY 2006: At least she's given us fair warning: Cher is planning to do a naked photoshoot to mark her 60th birthday. The one positive thing is at last we'll be able to see how they're securing all the skin they keep pulling back up from her face. We're guessing it's going to like a kind of fin halfway down her back.

... AND THAT'S THE THANKS YOU GET: The main curiosity about the split between Britney Spears and her manager of seven years, Larry Rudolph is the suggestion that what caused the split was Rudolph's insistence she get an annulment from her marriage to Jason Alexander - but surely that was a wise move, for without it, not only would she not have been able to marry Kevin Federline, but, presumably, would even now be shovelling cash to Alexander on a weekly basis?

WOULD NEVER HAVE HAPPENED WITH BUSTED, OF COURSE: In a soap/pop crossover unrivalled since John Peel turned out to be at school with Robin Snell, McFly are going to appear in Casualty. The original idea was for them to play a talented, bright, rocky-pop group, but instead they just went with playing themselves. The plotline involves a McFly fan falling out of a window, and a subsequent visit by the band to the hospital.

Busted, of course, being staunch Tories wouldn't dream of appearing on Casualty after their heroes in the Thatcher cabinet accused the series of being politically biased back in the 1980s.

Casualty would also have had the option of building the episode around Limp Bizkit. Of course, Fred Durst wouldn't actually turn up at the hospital, but everyone could just pretend that he had until the inquest.

THAT'S JUST ASKING FOR TROUBLE: Uh-oh, someone's only gone and nominated Bob Dylan for the Nobel Prize for Literature, which would be fine, except it means we're in for another six months of the "are song lyrics poetry" debate, even although that's been firmly answered.

Yes it has. You remember: Song lyrics are poetry, it's just mostly they're bloody awful poetry.

MORE "CRIMINALS" BROUGHT INTO LINE: Have you noticed how shabby Elton John has been looking lately? Been upset that Paul McCartney looks like the poor dear can't afford to feed himself? That's because of terrible criminals like Mary Methven, playing a radio in her hairdressers for 35 years without paying a penny, if you please. Of course, these sort of people can't be allowed to get away with it, can they? So the PRS is having a crackdown.

On the other hand, maybe we should be looking at the PRS' insistence that playing a radio in a public place is a broadcast. Set aside for a moment the other cases, which could be jukeboxes or djing in a pub, where the music is clearly emanating from the premises, and consider this question: the radio station Ms Methven has on in her parlour has paid to broadcast the music to its listeners. Ms Methven is doing no more than turning the radio on to access the broadcast which has already been paid for. So why should the record company be recompensed for the same thing twice? Maybe its time someone stood up to the PRS and asked them exactly what the rationale is for charging someone for something that's already been paid for?

THE MAN SPIES ON THE BAND: Following on from the release of the CIA's secret papers on John Lennon (we've not seen them, but we're guessing "terrible bore" and "unlikely to indulge in any activity that would harm property prices" features heavily), The Clash are worrying about what information the British Government holds on them:

London Calling legends Mick Jones and Paul Simonon believe the British government were so frightened by their actions in their late '70s heyday that they instructed MI5 to compile a dossier about the band.
Simonon says of the existence of the MI5 file: "There probably is, yes, alongside the file of the Sex Pistols.
"It's hard to fully appreciate now, but we certainly stood out back then, we really made a noise.
"It wasn't just us, it was every punk - anyone, in fact, who wasn't wearing flares was making a big political noise that terrified the government."

You'll note, of course, that there's no actual indication that there is a file, just the belief of the relaxed radical that there must be. Wouldn't they be crushed if it turned out there was nothing?

ROCK OF AGING: Where once Motley Crue were hard-living, fast-loving, creature-touching, babe-crunching, drink-guzzling monsters, now they find that time is catching up with them. Crue guitarist Mick Mars has just had a hip replacement. Now he's got his all-new hip, he's hoping there's going to be a reunion tour. Presumably that depends on the other timetables for surgery.

BPI LET THE DOGS OUT: They've been itching to do it - even though it'll do no good and makes them look terrible: the BPI are sending the lawyers in. They've identified 28 UK filesharers who they believe are "large scale" uploaders (although if they're using the RIAA's definition of "large scale", that could just mean someone with the A-Team theme tune and a Jesus Jones b-side on their hard drive) who they are about to set out to ruin.

The press release the BPI are pushing suggests "[t]he large-scale uploaders subject to legal action include users of the KaZaA, Imesh, Grokster, Bearshare and WinMX networks." In other words, they're not even touching bittorrent, which is where the swapping really takes place. It's like suggesting you're going after the Mr. Bigs of the illegal gambling circuit, and sending the police in to break up an office sweep on the Grand National instead.

But don't run away with the idea that the BPI are sporting huge erections at the thought of getting to spend some time in Rumpole's chambers with real-life lawyers. It's done with a heavy heart:

"We have resisted legal action as long as we could," says [BPI Chair] Jamieson. "We have done everything we can to raise awareness of this problem. We have encouraged legal services and launched an Official Download Chart.

"But we would be derelict in our duty to protect and promote British music were we not to take action to demonstrate that this activity is illegal and harmful to every aspect of the creative British music industry. We believe we have no alternative other than to enforce our rights through the courts."

Except, of course, British music has been happily co-exisiting with filesharing for six years, and is in rather rude health. The bottom of the press release suggests there's something else at work here:

The announcement of the first actions in the UK forms part of an announcement from international record companies' trade body the IFPI of a total of 459 new legal actions against illegal filesharers across six European countries.

Yep, just as Bush more or less bounced Blair into Iraq so that he wouldn't be seen to be acting alone, this whole slew of actions is being forced on everyone by the RIAA and their international puppet, the IFPI. The RIAA have been badly stung by not having an answer to the obvvious question "if suing twelve year olds stopped filesharing, why isn't everyone doing it?", and it would take a cynic not to wonder if the accession of a chap from the British Music Industry to being at the "head" of the IFPI wasn't in some way linked with this sudden activity on the legal front.

MAKING DO WITH A FEW LESS OF THEIR FAVOURITE THINGS: In the continuing post-Flawless tailspin, Big Brovaz have been dropped by their label.

In what almost seems like an act of generosity, the company had waited a full year since their last top ten appearance before requesting the clearing of desks.

WU-TANG BING BANG BACK AGAIN: The Wu-Tang Clan have cobbled themselves back together for a new CD and DVD type thing; there's a trailer for the DVD Disciples of the 36th Chamber online available in High, Medium and low bandwidth flavours. Ol' Dirty Bastard really is at the age where he should think about doing as Gaz Top did before him, and changing his name back to what his mum used to call him.

IF THATCHER WAS THE ORIGINAL SPICE GIRL, DOES THIS MAKE WILLIAM HAGUE THE LOST MEMBER OF BUSTED: Of course, they're slightly dumb boys from a posh background: of course Busted are going to be Tories:

Accused of being a "Tory boy" by [Matt] Jay, former public schoolboy [Charlie] Simpson told Tatler magazine: "I don't really like politics but I've always grown up with their views - the Tories' way of doing things. I just prefer it."

Jay, who claimed to have once voted Liberal Democrat, added: "Yeah, actually, you know what, I am not going to be ripped off any more. From the financial position I am in now, I am a fucking Tory boy too."

Thank god it's going to be nine years or so before any of their fans will be able to vote. We wonder, though, what it is about the Tories' way of doing things that Charlie likes - obviously, as a nineteen year old, he'll be too young to remember the high ground of Thatcherism, lucky sod. Or maybe he does, and maybe he really does approve of what she did to the country.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

AN EXAMPLE OF HOW GREEDY THE RIAA ARE: Downloading is, of course, wrong and illegal and set well beyond "tutting" - we imagine that if God was sending down the commandments, he'd include some words about not ripping an MP3 from a CD. We're equally curious, however, to know what God would think about the blatant greed being exhibited by the RIAA in its lawsuits. The latest example of grasping claws comes from Florida, where Erika Emanski's kids downloaded 634 rap songs - five hundred bucks worth on iTunes. The RIAA claims that it's due USD475,000. Seven hundred and fifty bucks per song. Of course, once again they're going after poor people who can ill-afford to stand up to them, and so will end up "settling" for a few thousand. We know the RIAA believes it has to make some sort of point, but is this the point it really wants to make? That the people who run the music industry are such greedy assholes they'll claim songs are worth nearly 1,000 times their actual value to shake some cash out of people already making ends meet?

Maybe the people caught in the RIAA cash-grab should take a lesson from the way the RIAA members paid their dues when convicted of price-fixing. Ordered to give free CDs to worthy causes, they sent any old shit they had lying around. In that spirit, people sued by the RIAA should pay in a mixture of old postage stamps, coins dropped from circulation, post-dated cheques and money from the plastic bowl where the foriegn currency goes at the end of holidays.

EVERYONE DREAMS OF BEING A POPSTAR: The trouble is, nowadays, it seems like everyone gets a chance to have a crack at it, too. For example, Olympic Gymnast Carly Patterson has got the air that "if Hilary Duff can do it, why can't I?"

"I want to be an all-American singer like Hilary Duff," Patterson said. "I've been singing since I was little. I pretty much sing all the time. A lot of people know who I am. I am recognized. I'm sure little kids would buy my records. I just need a record producer to give me a shot."

You'll note that she doesn't think she'd be successful because she's any good - she just knows that people will buy her record because she's got a famous face. This cynicism would be bad enough in anyone, but Patterson is sixteen years old.


At this size, it might look merely like they're appearing with Cilla Black, but it is, of course, your favourite, happiest clown. Destiny's Child have signed a sponsorship deal with McDonalds - although with the comparative strength of the Beyonce and MaccyDs brands right now, you'd think it would be the other way round. The whole thing is slightly clunky, with McD's crowbarring in the whittle-light I'm Lovin' It slogan. The tour is going to be called "Destiny Fulfilled and lovin' it", which is probably the clumsiest welding together of titles since the New Statesman and New Society merged.

Beyonce shrugs off the sheen of independence by muttering some pre-scripted words: "We're lovin' the chance to work with McDonald's and know that together we'll create lots of fun and cool surprises. McDonald's shares our passion for music, so we can't wait to start connecting to our fans -- McDonald's customers -- all over the world."

We're not sure if Beyonce is suggesting that Destiny's Child fans and McDonalds customers are the same people, and if they are, then why is the clown spending money trying to promote himself to them? Surely he'd be better off trying to attract fans of a band who aren't already McDonalds customers - okay, maybe a contract with Morrissey seems unlikely, but you get the idea.

If Beyonce sounds stilted trying to sound like a corporate shill, then Larry Light, McDonald's Executive Vice President and Global Chief Marketing Officer, trying to sound like a hipster is even worse:

"Music is a universal language that touches the lives of everyone. And it will continue to power our brand as we connect to our customers around the world in fresh, relevant ways. Destiny's Child is a dazzling addition to McDonald's."

Surely "beef" is what powers the McDonalds brand? Or at least chips? And that word "addition" is a slightly scary one, like they're going to lock up them up and keep them there forever. Which reminds us: whatever happened to Justin Timberlake after he did the I'm Lovin' It jingle?

RIMES AT TIMES: Bloody hell, that Leann Rimes is a busy thing, isn't she? One minute, she's playing gigs for US troops - in Germany, mind, so fairly safe; the next she's adding to the pile of not very good kids' books by celebs; and now she's become the face of Eczema, accepting a role to educate the public about the skin condition. Apparently she used to have to wear two pairs of pantyhose to disguise the flaking on her legs when she was stage. While that's clearly uncomfortable, on the bright side it would double her potential earnings on any subsequent ebay auction.

YEAH, A HETROSEXUAL MARRIAGE. THAT'LL FREAK OUT THE STRAIGHTS: "No, No, it's going to be an unusual wedding... we're getting a romantic castle in Berlin and... uh, we won't accept toasters as gifts..." - the engagement is announced of Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Tesse. Although Dita is clearly marrying beneath herself.

Pictured above is Dita promoting cups of tea. No, really.

WITH KYLIE IN OUR HEARTS: Apparently, working with Kylie Minogue has provided the Scissor Sisters with inspiration for their follow-up to their Scissor Sisters debut. Which probably means we can expect a range of songs about face-lifts and the use of airbrushing to preserve the myth of a perfect arse.

COAL MINER'S DAUGHTER WANTS HER SONGS BACK: Spying a change in ownership as a way to reclaim her work, Loretta Lynn is taking Sure-Fire to court to win back copyright on about 150 songs she assigned to the company in the sixties. Under the original agreement, Lynn had the right to take back ownership of her catalogue if Sure Fire changed hands - a lucky break, considering she'd been forced to use the same solicitor as Sure-Fire when the agreement was drawn up. Amongst the contested songs is Coal Miner's Daughter, probably Lynn's masterwork and certainly her signature tune.

SURPRISE!: As surprises go, a freebie gig by Kings of Leon isn't quite on a par with discovering Alyson Hannigan getting an all-over tan in your backgarden, but it's something. The Kings play HMV Oxford Circus on November 1st; Alyson, we'll leave the latch off the gate up, okay?

PUFF MADE TO PAY MORE FOR BEING THE DADDY: It's not so much the court ordering P Diddy to up his child support to nearly twenty grand a month that irks him, but the fear he'll also have to pay the same amount under all his other names.

JUST WHAT WE'VE ALWAYS WANTED: Currently on Ebay: the pants and bra that - allegedly - Britney wore to get married. Of course, the real value lies in their being the only pieces of her underwear that Britney hasn't been photographed showing off in.

WELL, HE WAS IN GODSPELL: A lot of popstars like to think they're Jesus, but only David Essex can claim to have curative powers. Jane Hancock found an Essex gig enabled her to overcome a twenty year condition - she had been unable to leave the house due to agoraphobia; no counsellor had been able to help her.But news of a David Essex date tempted her out. David Essex said he was "delighted."

AFTERSHOCKS: After all this time, who knew that Atomic Kitten could still dominate the front page of anything? (Okay, it'sd only Monday's Daily Star, but even so...)

Come on, Natasha, you're just not trying hard enough.

LOU GETS HER STUFF BACK: Ah, we love a happy ending - Lou Harrison has got her suitcase back, although it was missing some photos she signs for charity.

In other news from the Beatles/Law and Order interface, it's been announced that Mark Chapman has had his application for parole knocked back, on the grounds that he still doesn't have enough respect for life. If I might be permitted to speak for Bill Hicks: That's what you get for sparing Yoko.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

YOU GIVE IT AWAY LIKE FREE SAMPLES/ I DON'T WANT WHAT ANYONE COULD HAVE: The music industry - we've been watching it for a long time, and yet even so, we still can't believe its ability to miss the point so greatly, it doesn't just shoot itself in the foot, but it manages to hack the foot off with a blunt penknife and tosses it in the air before taking the pot-shot. The latest piece of stupidity comes from the big music chains. Remember them? The ones who are knowing they're watching their lifeblood drain away, who know it's time to manage decline and find other revenue sources. Their big beef is newspapers giving away free CDs.

The problem, they feel, is that the papers giving away tracks makes it harder for them to sell music. And, yes, maybe they might have trouble interesting passers-by in the very same tracks. But how does it actually hurt their business?

Let's imagine that The Daily Courant gives away a free CD with its Saturday edition, with twelve tracks on, one of which is The Jam doing Going Underground. Now, there may be a few people who had been thinking "I'd quite like Going Underground on CD" who will rub their hands in glee and buy The Courant. It might even been that a few of these people who wanted the track may have been planning to go down to the store rather than just fire up BitTorrent. And yes, they would be lost sales. I can't believe, though, that we're talking more than a few dozen for any specific track.

And I can't believe that the number of people who purchase just The Courant for Going Underground who had been planning or likely to buy it from a shop anyway aren't going to be more than offset by the people who will have been buying the Courant for the news and colour magazine, heard the CD, and suddenly were overwhelmed with the desire to then hear Beat Surrender, or Start or... other Jam things generally.

In fact, I think it's demonstrable. If you check how Sneaker Pimps first album is selling, it's currently in the mid 2000s on Amazon sales ranking - not setting the world alight, but quite impressive for an old album (as a guide, The Best of Lush is in the 8000s; Credit to The Nation's Take Dis is down at 32,000) ; I'd suggest the pretty healthy sales for a defunct band's 1997 album is totally down to the Independent carrying Six Underground on a covermount the weekend before last. Likewise, while the release of Smile will have helped move Beach Boys back catalogue, the reappearance of The Very Best Of The Beach Boys in the UK Top 75 owes a debt to the Mail On Sunday giveaway. And so on. The British Association of Record Dealers (BARD) claims to have carried out a survey which suggests "two thirds of labels see no sales rise as a result of covermounts", which seems odd to us - but then BARD also reckons that the 10 million CDs given away with papers last weekend have a potential value of GBP100 million - which means they think a compilation of hugely over-compilated golden oldies retails at ten quid.

The music retailers are threatening to withdraw support from any act which ends up on a free CD - which, sorry, is just absolute bollocks. If sales are so poor a limp collection of 70s love songs with the Daily Star is going to ruin your business, how can you afford to not stock The Libertines album because they gave a couple of tracks to The Observer? Or pull Hot Chocolate and The Jam off the shelves? On the other hand, as the blade hacks its way through the ligament, and the record shops load their trusdty lugers, who can be sure they really won't fire away at their own limbs once again?

FIDDLER IN CRISIS: The planned handover of power in the Mean Fiddler empire - which would have seen Vince Power step down and power pass to Dean James - has been dumped in hugely mysterious circumstances which has seen the Mean Fiddler shareprice tank, Power return as chief exec, James and new chair Richard Clingen out before they'd even got their business cards and - most signifcantly of all - plans for the Fiddler to take over Media Internet Telecom have been dumped. The purchase of MIT had been at the heart of the Fiddler's plans to make music downloads a significant part of its business. The announcement wiped 20 per cent of the stock exchange valuation of the organisation.

HAVE SOME SELF RESPECT, MAN: YOU'RE NOT A DRUMMER: Treephort are a punk band who you won't have had much to do with, unless you live in Flint, Michigan (which rules out Michael Moore these days). However, they've finally managed to get the international fame which most bands dream of - although, sadly, not for their re-defintion of the sound of '76, but because their guitarist took off his thong and set fire to it. As he proceeded to run round naked, the bass player joined in, and the management decided they'd seen enough. Treephort were ordered off stage.

Setting fire to underwear isn't big. Now, setting fire to your pants while you're wearing them - that's impressive.

TURNING TO ASHES: The plans for Ash's new single, Renegade Cavalcade, seemed to be in place. The release date had been set, everything had been agreed. Then everyone went on holiday, returning to discover that the record label (thos guys again) had gone and made a video without asking anybody, and they'd made a shit one, to boot. The manager pulled the vid, and as a result the single now won't be released anything like as soon. New date is November 15th.

In other Ash news: Charlotte Hatherley has lovely hair.

In other, other Ash news: The band aren't going to have time for a "proper" album next year, but to keep everyone happy they're going to offer up an acoustic album as a little bit o'something to keep us tided over.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SO GOOD THEY PLAYED IT TWICE: Their rather well-recieved reunion has been one of the delights of the year, and to round off both the year and the tour, Black, Kim, and, uh, the other two, are going to play two Pixies dates in New York on the same day. December 18th, if you're in the city what doesn't ever sleep, you can spend all day in the Hammerstein Ballroom. There's going to be a 7pm show and a midnight round-off. These dates are in addition to the run of six at the Ballroom already announced.

GEORGE STUFF PINCHED: Bad news for the Harrison family: George's sister was en route to present some Beatle memorobilia to the Clinton Presidential Library when her briefcase was stolen from her car. Hmm... something stolen from a high-profile Democrat in an election year? This one has the Republican National Committee's dabs all over, surely?

You might be curious as to why the stuff was going to be exhibited in Little Rock anyway. George's sister, Lou Harrison, explains:

She said she decided to donate the memorabilia because "Clinton is the Beatle president".
"There's not enough things to leave for my grandchildren," she said.
"So I thought maybe if I could house them at the Clinton Library, where they could be on display, that all the Beatle people could enjoy seeing them."

We can kind of understand the logic, although surely with the drugs and sex parties and the unlovely use of brass instruments, and the hanging around long after his time was up, Clinton is much more the Rolling Stones president? (And the mysterious deaths in dubious circumstances...) If we had a small pile of stuff to show to Beatles fans, we'd have probably decided a Beatle museum might make more sense, but then what would we know? Actually, there's a second suspect... maybe the Beatle Story Experience has set out to take back what it sees as rightfully its own...

DYNAMITE BOMB IN WARDOUR STREET: We'd wondered what had happened to Ms Dynamite, who'd been quiet of late: it turns out she's taken to having exciting nights out. Ms Dynamite got herself arrested in a restaurant on Wardour Street a couple of weeks ago, after an alleged assault on another person. Nice to see that she's keeping to the letter, if not the spirit, of her calls for an end to gun violence.

IF ONLY IT WOULD BE ENOUGH TO STOP HER: Paris Hilton, the oddly faced and increasingly desperate rich girl, is trying to launch a pop career. Her first attempt resulted in Hilton being booed off stage after three songs. Sadly, we doubt if she'll take this as a definitve comment on her talents so we fear she'll be back.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU FORGET TO CALL HIM 'KING OF POP': Just when we think that Jackson's tactics to prove his innocence can become no more odd, he's chosen to call for the prosecutor in his child-fiddling case to be removed for "secret" reasons. Actually, it's not just the prosecutor - Jackson appears to be demanding the whole of the county's District Attorney office be pulled off the case. Maybe Michael would like to choose his own prosecution team? "Janet, Tito, Jermaine... and, oh, Jermajesty as the jury, please."

SECOND CHANCES: Apparently U2 have pledged to their fans that if they make two crap albums they'll quit and let Bono find something else to do. Now, we're kind of tempted to ask them when, exactly, they're counting from - because, let's face it, Zooropa is a bit ropey, and maybe you'd argue that Passengers doesn't count, but Pop surely does? On the other hand, the more time Bono spends in a studio and ordering pizzas from a stage while dressed like the member of the Hen Party who got to the costume shop last, the less time he'll spend helping George Bush get re-elected, and the happier everyone will be.

EXTOPLASM VERSUS THE TABLOIDS: Robbie Williams' ongoing attempts to bark up a non-story every day between now and the rapture continues with a Robbie Williams is Haunted story. There's a shady character from the past apparently sitting in a chair in Robbie's house. Probably just Jason Orange, then. Apparently having a ghost has made Williams think he'd quite like to present a TV series on the paranormal - he says (we kid you not) "perhaps on Living TV."

Monday, October 04, 2004

THAT'S, UM, GREAT NEWS, BILLY: Oh, how we look forward to Spring time, the period of lambs and daffodils and snowdrops. It's slightly buggered this year, though, because there's also going to be the first Billy Corgan solo album to contend with. Suddenly, the prospect of a Narnia where you never get to the end of winter seems attractive.

PUNKS NOT DEAD: But it's not looking good. London TV, which is a station that dedicates itself to just talking about how great London is (no, we're not sure how that differs from any of the other TV channels) has got some ironic little station idents running which focus on aspects of how London is seen compared with what London is really like. So it is that Ancient History is depicted by a Matt Belgrano style punk stood in Trafalgar Square banging on about the "old" days.

A COUPLE OF SWELLS: There's not much music news that actually gets us so excited we jitter like a kitten on three mugs of Colombian, but Secretly Canadian's plans to re-release Swell Maps' A Trip to Marineville and Jane From Occupied Europe have made our shoulders a little shaky and forced us to have a bit of a sit down. That this is part of an ongoing scheme of revitalising the whole of Nikki Sudden's back catalogue.

If you're shopping for anyone of that certain age this Christmas, your task may have just got a whole lot easier.

IT MAKES ME DIZZY, DIZZY, DIZZY IN MY HEAD: Oddly, U2 had threatened to make their new stuff available online ahead of "schedule" if the "stolen" copy of the album leaked, and yet - despite there being no leak - single Vertigo has appeared on iTunes ahead of "schedule". Just fancy that, eh?

POOR AS A CHURCH MOUSE: Presumably in a bid to cut off the flow of begging letters - not that it'll stop us selling them - Charlotte Church has issued a strict corrective to reports that she's worth sixteen million. Apparently, she's not, she's worth just five million.

Might make you think twice, eh?

In other Charlotte news, she's decided she's not going to make a raunchy pop video to launch her post-classical career because she doesn't want to upset her nan. Her nan, if she still believes Chazza to be a good girl doesn't read any newspapers but does watch MTV Hits, then.

PROBABLY OLDER THAN GOD: But we've only just come across the The Polyphonic Spree's The Quest For The Rest game, which is more fun than actually listening to their album. [Thanks to Eclexys]

SONY WORLDWIDE TO FOLLOW SONY JAPAN'S LEAD?: The BBC is reporting that Sony is going to be axing all copy protection on its CDs - not just in Japan.

While the move to allow people to choose upon which CD player they want to play the music they've bought is welcome, we can't help wondering if there's a slightly more cynical ploy to Sony's move: now they've decided to start abandoning the ATRAC only format for the Digital Walkman, making CDs more easy to rip from is, of course, suddenly a lot more in the company's wider interests.

POWER COMES FROM THE BARREL OF A GUN: If we were Britney, we'd be ever so slightly alarmed that Kev is taking lessons in shooting with a gun. Apart from the chances of nasty accidents, it would leave us feeling a little bit alarmed that less than a week in to the wedding he thought "I should find out how to shoot things dead..."

THIS IS WHAT FRANZ FERDINAND HAVE TO MAKE UP FOR: The latest list of top-grossing tours of the US has been published by Pollstar, and the slightly depressing news is the biggest British artist in the US is... Rod Stewart, who raked in GBP176 million in the first six months.

Overall, US audiences spent two per cent less on live music up until the end of June compared with the same period last year. Prince and Madonna topped the list of big hitters.

URE BACK: After his 1985 visit with band Aid, Midge Ure had said he'd never be able to face a return trip to Ethiopia. However, Save The Children persuaded him to take a second look. He found a mixed picture - although the horrors of the 80s have passed, the country is still teetering on the edge of another major crisis. It is, of course, doubly timely for Midge to make his return, as Blair and Geldof are meeting with the Ethiopian Prime Minister this week, and Midge is currently on a signing tour for his new autobiography.

He turned up on BBC Breakfast this morning and suggested that only he, George Michael and Robbie Williams had been able to break out of the boyband cookiecutter to do something different.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

THE MUSIC THAT MAKES THE MAN: As part of a bid to try and make the Tories seem a tad more human, they made a little film where various Conservative faces were asked questions. Yes, clearly the party isn't just bereft of ideas in its policy making, it's even reduced to stealing Channel 4's placer commercials for its own publcity. Amongst the ridiculous claims are that Liam Fox claims to listen to the Scissor Sisters, policy co-ordinator David Cameron says he finds the "depressing" music of the Smiths uplifting - yes, so do we, particuarly Margaret On The Guillotine - and, most deliciously of all, Nicholas Soames reveals himself to be a fan of Dido. Oddly, this week, Nicky Wire also came out as a Dido fan - odd, from a man who once endorsed the view that Slowdive were worse than Hitler. It's slightly alarming to think that Soames and Wire are starting to develop common ground. Although "starting" is wrong, of course: the Manics have been drifting towards the middle ground for much of the last decade.

FACTORY MODEL FOR UNIVERSITY: We've heard, of course, of students setting up record labels in their spare time, and even of them skipping lectures to create the spare time for them to run labels; we think Discparc is the first label ever to be created by a University (in the UK, at least). it's been put together by the Exhibitions Department of Dundee University, who hope to emulate Factory Record's success - so, a few years of classics and then hoovering up any bunch of chancers who fall through the doors, then, before being sold out to a major to allow them to acquire the early catalogue and shut down the rest, then.

THE LIZ MCDONALD OF POP: Poor Geri, teetering around on stillettos three inches too high and ten years too young; now she's had to have her Halliwell knees covered in plaster as she's twisted her knees.

WELL, REALLY, THAT'S JUST PLAIN WRONG OF HIM: To the great disappointment of The Associated Press, they find the new Elliott Smith album fails to have a suicide note on it - "Album gives little insight into singer's tragic death" sniffs the review.

FROST PAYS BACK: Although he hopes they're going to turn round and give him the money straight back, Rep. Peter Sessions has decided to offer a refund to people who bought tickets for the now cancelled Peter Yarrow benefit.

EXCUSE ME, I'M ABOUT TO COVER MY EYEBALLS WITH HAZLENUT SPREAD AND SEE IF I CAN FIND SOME HUNGRY SQUIRRELS: We know that Robbie Williams doesn't have an original idea in his noggin, but if he must clone Madonna, couldn't he just make a shit film instead of getting his clothes off and doing a version of the sex book. My eyes, my beautiful eyes.

HERE YOU COME WITH YOUR CHEST ALL BARE/ A LITTLE GOLD INGOT AND A LOT OF GOLD HAIR: Who, us? Would we call Billy Joel the oldest swinger in town? Not at all. We're just delighted to be able to offer him congratulations on marrying a twenty-three year old, Kate Lee. What's that, Bill? A man is just as old as the woman he feels, eh? We've got some wedding photos here...:

Oh... hang about, that's not it, maybe it's this one:

OOH, THAT LONDON: In an astonishing outburst, Fran Healy has moaned his arse off about London. Apparently, it's full of backstabbers, and the big C for the congestion zone really means "Cunt" because "that's what you get to be" (presumably if you venture no further south than Euston, you'll be fine). Banging on to Scotland on Sunday, he warms to his theme:

"When I was growing up in Glasgow there was always this idea that we had to have a music industry in Scotland. I always thought ‘fuck that’. The music industry is just a place for people to stab each other in the back. I really always believed that that couldn’t exist in Scotland because we don’t have the capacity to be that dishonest. Only in London...

London is a place where people do that all the time. If you drive into central London there is a big C painted on the road at the point where the congestion charge kicks in. I always think it means you pay five quid and you get to be a cunt."

Healy has made seven million quid out the music indsutry, which must mean he's something of a cunt himself. As if to prove his point, he then starts to mutter about how young bands have it easy these days:

"I was speaking to a couple of guys in a band who were doing a pub gig in Camden recently. Steve Lamacq was there, as were a couple of record company scouts. The guys had been in a band together for just two months. That is not enough time to hone your skill, assuming you have any. It took us six years to get there. I was thinking: ‘You wee shit!’"

This throws up two interesting points: first, that Healy can't conceive of a band actually being worth interest and support from the off - it doesn't all have to be workmanlike, does it? Second, and more significantly, it torpedoes Healy's gripes about London, surely? The reason why it took Travis years to break through was because their early records were, frankly, rubbish; and yet the supposed back-stabbing, cuntish London scene gave them support and support slots which gave them time to get - well, if not better, then at least popular. A man who was allowed the time and space to record again after making the shocking U16 Girls might want to think a bit before moaning on about how everyone is simply beastly to him.

FURTHER DELIGHTS VIA 3HIVE: Today, they've got a collection of links for the lo-godfather, Daniel Johnston. Excellent.