Saturday, January 13, 2007

Kylie unwell?

According to reports coming from Manchester, Kylie Minogue abandoned her Manchester gig halfway through earlier this evening. Apparently she was "unwell", but there's been no word yet as to what actually might be wrong with her - although we're sure the internet is quite prepared to fill the gap with some ill-advised speculation and half-arsed guessing.

Bookmarks: Some other stuff off the web

Is OK Computer an album infused with the spirit of Ned Ludd? Explore Faith thinks so: What makes OK Computer such a groundbreaking album on all levels is that it’s infected with Luddism--not textile worker angst, but human and ethical alienation in the computer age. From the first track on, the album takes ironic jabs at technology by tongue-in-cheek embracing it and impersonating its sounds. (Actually, the article falls for an over-simplified view of the Luddites motivation.)

Playboy selects the ten best venues in America. Of the Mercury Lounge, it suggests "nothing is as sexy as competence", which explains why their magazine has become so dull.

Creative Review records some highlights of Peter Saville's talk at the Architectural Association: "The most enthusiastic reaction I got to any of the covers was “they don’t much mind it”. The worse was for Lowlife: when they saw it, they all said, in unison, ‘You fucking bastard’. Regret they liked because it was colourful and shiny. Bernard said ‘We might fucking sell something with this one Peter. How long has it taken?’ But they never asked me about any of them, they weren’t interested."

Timewatch and the Open University get with The Beatles: I saw the Beatles on their first tour with Gerry and the Pacemakers and the great Roy Orbison. 'See' is the operative word as I didn't hear much for all the screaming! I remained a fan throughout their carreers. As I grew up, so did their music and that is what kept their fan base

Alan McGee attempts to make himself look up-to-the-minute, ends up muttering "MySpace... Arctic Monkeys... Lily Allen" and looking like Fred Wedlock's auntie: These days, if you want me to listen to your music, don't give me a CDR, give me your MySpace address. Artists have broken through MySpace: Lily Allen, Arctic Monkeys (albeit thanks to the efforts of fans, rather than the band themselves) and Enter Shikari, all with zero marketing spend. These days, if you are smart, you are your own marketing team.

The darkness on the edge of town centres

It's a bit of a shame that Soundgenerator have chosen a rotten headline (one more worthy of the Mail) for their feature on Kele Okereke ahead of the new Block Party album.

They've chosen Bloc Party star 'fears' multicultural Britain as a heading, which seems to imply that Kele is going to be endorsing a UKIP policy or something, whereas what he really seems to be saying is quite the opposite: the bits of Britain which frighten him are, it appears, caused by the failures of multiculturalism. The original interview appears in the Observer (not, by the way, The Guardian as Soundgenerator claims):

No, Okereke will say with some vehemence, he is not proud to be British. But nor does he consider Nigeria, which he last visited when he was 14 (his strongest memories are of begging on the streets and police corruption) as somewhere he belongs.

There are his ongoing concerns about personal safety. As a black teenager growing up in Essex he 'always felt something nasty could happen in the pub'. On the streets of Bethnal Green, where he now lives, he feels that racist aggravation is, daily, a heartbeat away.

Harsh realities are also rammed home on other new songs. The words to 'Where is Home?' begin at the funeral of Christopher Alaneme, the black teenager stabbed in small-town Kent last April. Okereke describes him as a cousin, although they weren't related by blood; their mums, both Nigerian, were very good friends. Okereke says that ultimately the song is about the fostering, by right-wing newspapers, of a fear of 'The Other'. That is, black youth in hoodies. And how that then means opportunities denied.

'I just feel that every non-white teenager will know what I'm talking about when I say that certain avenues in this country are closed to you. Whenever I walk into a pub in London I feel frightened. There are certain activities that are still more predominantly white.' He and his flatmate, a white Austrian girl, have been abused by bigots who thought they were a mixed-race couple. The multicultural melting pot, Okereke concludes, is unworkable.

The original Observer interview explored the confused and sometimes uncomfortable coverage of Kele's sexuality, which Soundgenerator boiled down to half a sentence:

The much-championed indie rockers who release new single "The Prayer" on the 29th January 2007, [...] tackle a range of urban subject mater on the new record, with Okereke even penning a song dealing with his bisexual personality.

We're amused by the clumsiness of that phrase, making being bi sound like it's on a par with owning a rheumatic dog or rusting Nova. "Coming out tonight, Kel?" "Nah, I'm working on my bisexual personality."

Also, as part of his stated intent to create a 'warts-and-all account of where my mind is right now', there are the songs about sexuality. Is 'I Still Remember' autobiographical?

'Not really,' he replies, before adding: 'I guess, partially.' Can we call it a gay love story? 'Yeah, but is it a love story? It's one person longing for somebody they can't really have. But it's not consummated. It's not a mutual thing. It's weird - a lot of straight women that I know have confided that they've got it on with other girls. It seems quite a healthy part of their sexuality. Whereas it seems that the same impulse is apparent in heterosexual men but there's no ...' He stops again. 'I can't tell you how many times I've been propositioned by straight boys.'


'Yeah, yeah. It happened a lot before all this [the band] started happening. This is probably a contentious issue, but I swear that I could always see it in people, in the way that guys would need to be touching other guys. You could see there was something they couldn't say aloud. And I saw it when I was at school. And I guess 'I Still Remember' is an attempt at trying to confront that. I don't think that my sexual impulse is that bizarre or foreign. [But] the way that it's supposedly discussed in mainstream culture is [that] it's a crazy thing. But I know from my own experiences a lot of heterosexual boys had feelings or experiences when they were younger. And that's not really ever spoken about, that un-spoken desire.

'Not two gay boys,' he continues, 'but the idea of two straight boys having an attraction, or there being an attraction that's unspeakable - that was the idea of that song. When was the last time you heard an interesting pop song that actually tried to give you a different perspective on desire?'

He's traumatised by the 'definite homophobic bias-slash-persecution' that he thinks informs most coverage of non-heterosexuals, and he mentions a particularly upsetting music magazine interview in 2005 which challenged him about his sexuality. He feels that an elliptical - but obvious - reference to his hitherto 'in the closet' status in the Observer Music Monthly's Gay Issue a few months ago is an example of the 'hounding' that still goes on.

He's aware that this is likely to be the most widely read interview he's done in the UK. Which is possibly why - despite him having given an interview to gay lifestyle magazine Attitude - he is now back-pedalling somewhat on any questions about sexuality.

'It's not something that I'd be inclined to talk about ...' His stutter is worse tonight. 'It isn't black and white. It isn't clear-cut. Britain has always had a love/hate relationship with gay public figures,' he says with some exasperation. 'They're treated as funny and inoffensive and camp. But then when a seemingly heterosexual person seems to display an inclination for the other team it becomes this real hounding situation. You're allowed to exist if they're [sic] seen as a kind of sub-class. Something ineffectual, a comedy Kenneth Williams character.'

Which is, of course, why Sean in Corrie is allowed to proposition Jamie, but never gets to take a man back to Eileen's. It's also why, arguably, Boy George did more damage to the movement for equality than any good he might have achieved - acceptance as a stereotype is not acceptance at all.

Kele shouldn't worry about being straight (as in honest) with a mainly-straight publication and keeping his other side for magazines aimed at the other side, but its understandable why he might be - just because you sing about doesn't mean you want it to become the key aspect of your personality, and you can already hear the Newtons and 3ams setting their autocorrect features up to ensure his name always appears as "Bisexual Kele, 25." After all, who would want their very personality to be defined by the sort of people they enjoy seeing in their pants?

Robbie Williams is not going to be buying a new awards cabinet

You know things are looking bad for an act when, not only does their label blame them virtually single-handed for the departure of their senior staff, but the conservative, fawning Brits academy effectively tell you to keep away.

Robbie Williams look likely to get just one Brit nomination, and that's in the fairly pointless Best Live Artist category. Let's hope he's not up against Take That or anything for that one, eh?

Babyshambles or triumph?

Both The Sun and Gigwise went to see Babyshambles not-very-secret gig in Camden on Thursday night. Neither came away especially impressed.

The Sun seemed annoyed at getting beer on their clothes:

He threw lager on the crowd – which included SADIE FROST and AMY WINEHOUSE – then complained when the stage was crashed by fans.

Gigwise, more interestingly, were worried at what the show hinted for the future of the band musicallly:

The majority of the set consists of new songs, and the excitement of the assembled masses visibly fades with every ska-by-numbers tune they reel off. Bizarrely, the recently released and comparatively excellent ‘The Blinding’ is ignored.

Apparently the audience perks up when the old songs are played, but the overwhelming impression is that Doherty has passed the Oasis tipping point, when the creative spark has gone and composing becomes a job. Still, it won't affect the invites to the masked balls and so on.

It's not the money, it's the cults

As David Beckham announces that it was Tom Cruise who told him to go to LA (it's really like that bit in Brookside when halfwitted Katy got sucked deeper and deeper into evil Simon's cult, isn't it?), The Sun has one of its trademark non-stories:

PLAYBOY founder Hugh Hefner has made a cheeky bid to land Victoria Beckham for a saucy Playboy shoot.

Really? Does Playboy now carry a rake-porn centrefold?

Actually, it turns out that Hugh Hefner hasn't done anything, but two of his, erm, employees muttered something during a video shoot:

Hugh's Playmate 'girlfriends' Bridget Marquardt and Holly Madison immediately offered the former Spice Girl the chance to join them on a photoshoot in LA.

Bridget said: "She should do a pictorial with us. We've got big plans for her.

"I think she's going to fit in fine - they're both gorgeous."

Hugh said: "I think Hollywood is gonna love David. The girls at the mansion have been talking about it and want to be sure that we put him on the party list."

So, rather than Hugh Hefner wanting Victoria to sit naked typing on top of a car, some girls actually want David to turn up and drink champagne with them. Not quite the same thing.

It's not the money, it's the cults

As David Beckham announces that it was Tom Cruise who told him to go to LA (it's really like that bit in Brookside when halfwitted Katy got sucked deeper and deeper into evil Simon's cult, isn't it?), The Sun has one of its trademark non-stories:

PLAYBOY founder Hugh Hefner has made a cheeky bid to land Victoria Beckham for a saucy Playboy shoot.

Really? Does Playboy now carry a rake-porn centrefold?

Actually, it turns out that Hugh Hefner hasn't done anything, but two of his, erm, employees muttered something during a video shoot:

Hugh's Playmate 'girlfriends' Bridget Marquardt and Holly Madison immediately offered the former Spice Girl the chance to join them on a photoshoot in LA.

Bridget said: "She should do a pictorial with us. We've got big plans for her.

"I think she's going to fit in fine - they're both gorgeous."

Hugh said: "I think Hollywood is gonna love David. The girls at the mansion have been talking about it and want to be sure that we put him on the party list."

So, rather than Hugh Hefner wanting Victoria to sit naked typing on top of a car, some girls actually want David to turn up and drink champagne with them. Not quite the same thing.

The Jarvis jaunt

Console yourself over those Arcade Fire tickets you missed out on with the just-announced Jarvis Cocker tour dates:

16 Feb Sheffield Plug
17 London Astoria NME Show
19 Manchester Academy
20 Glasgow ABC

Wilson's kidney was bad, so it goes

Well, this is a surprise for those of us who assumed that Tony Wilson was, inside, made of a mixture of stone and steel: Tony Wilson's had a kidney removed.

Apparently he'd been feeling ill for a while, and doctors discovered a problem:

"I spent November and December working very hard and thinking I had flu.

"Eventually my partner, Yvette Livesey, forced me to go to the doctor, who spotted the problem and sent me to hospital.

"The staff here have all been wonderful. I am feeling much better and hope to be released in about a week.

"I will then need about a month to recuperate."

He might expect a release in a week, but we expect that to be pushed back to late summer while they argue about the cover design.

Friday, January 12, 2007

EMI: We've had a terrible Christmas

The risk of placing your faith in Robbie Williams is, well, he's slightly patchy. EMI had hoped to try and make up for a fairly rubbish 2006 by flogging loads of Williams albums in the run-up to Christmas, along with stuff from Norah Jones and Keith Urban. We know that Rudebox scuppered the Williams plans, and to be honest, if Jones and Urban released records at all, nobody told us.

So, it's no surprise that this morning that EMI have announced their festive period was somewhat glum: they managed a drop in sales. The knock-on effect? Their shares have fallen 10% this morning. And the knock on from that? Alan Levy and his deputy David Munns are out.

This isn't a side effect of piracy: this is the side effect a label who think Keith Urban is going to be a big seller for an English Christmas.

Cheeky Girls get time to pay

The thought of the Cheeky Girls homeless and sleeping on a park bench somewhere is something you can put out of your mind - unless it amuses you, of course - as the video company seeking £3500 owed from the making of Boys and Girls Christmas Fun clip have been told to give them more time to pay the courts.

The Girls had been trying to avoid paying by saying that the finished product was "poor", something rejected by the judge (A Cheeky Girls video which isn't rubbish? Is such a thing legally possible?) but said they could have until the end of the month to find the rest of the money.

Meanwhile, Lembit Opik has made his first appearance in the House of Commons since it became common knowledge he dumped the nice weather presenter to take up with one of the Cheeky Girls - which one need not detain us now. Seemingly at a stroke (or, we fear, several), Lembit has turned from being one of the geekier members of parliament to... well, "mid-life crisis man incarnate" is what we wrote in our notes:

So when he stood up at the end of Northern Ireland questions there was a great ironic - possibly envious - cheer from Labour MPs.

Mr Lembit, who had had several weeks to work out his response to this inevitable moment, merely said: "I think that hon members should leave the cheeky business entirely to me."

He wasn't done - perhaps the Speaker was confused and seeking clarification ("can this really be Lembit Opik effectively chanting 'I've done it with a minor pop star lady?") or maybe, just as the Cheeky Girls do everything in pairs, Lembit now does, too - but he got called a second time:

He rose to an even bigger cheer. We waited excitedly to discover if his next gag would match Oscar Wilde or La Rochefoucauld. It didn't.

"Not wishing to be cheeky, Mr Speaker," he said, just in case we might have forgotten that he was sleeping with one of the Cheeky Girls, "I thank the house for being so happy that I am so very, very lucky. And I should point out that the other sister is single."

You begin to see why Ted Heath remained a doughty bachelor throughout his time in the Commons.

Papers, citizen

The "let's make Glastonbury impregnable" scheme for 2007 has been announced, and it's crazier than ever. Last time round, you'll recall, you could buy a ticket but then have to establish your bona fides by taking a gas bill or something to the gates. (You could, of course, buy a gas bill or something at the same time as you picked up a ticket on eBay.)

This year's scheme? You'll have to pre-register if you want to buy tickets, providing a photograph. Then, if you are able to buy tickets, when they come, they'll have your face on them.

The attempts to make the festival tout proof, then, seem to be really leading the organisers up an increasingly blinkered lane. Okay, this might be uncrackable, but it's also highly questionable. We've raised before the questions about why, exactly, someone should be barred from selling a ticket to somebody else for legitimate, non-touty reasons - this obsession with introducing an element of ID even means you can't surprise your brother with Glasto tickets as a birthday gift.

But this year, there's a much wider question of "who the hell are you making me upload passport-cum-ID style ID card information before I even know if I'm going to be able to buy a ticket" - just leaving aside the question of how securely this information is going to be in the hands of a company spun off from Clear Channel and a Somerset farmer's hands, isn't it a bit of a cheek to make people spend time and effort filling out what is, in effect, an application form for the right to apply for tickets?

Yes, it must be galling for Glastonbury to see tickets offered for one price to sell for much, much more later on. But surely it's their job to prove that ticket holders aren't entitled to their tickets, rather than for everyone to prove to them that they are who they say they are. For a once idealistic organisation to be doing dry runs of the national ID card scheme sits uneasily, to say the least.

Of course, the real outrage should be reserved for this bit of Eavis' announcement:

The £150 tickets go on sale on 1 April but everyone will have to pre-register during February. An extra 25,000 tickets will be available this year.

Organiser Michael Eavis said he was "determined to wipe out ticket touts".

"At the last festival, official tickets were on sale for £125 but there were instances of them changing hands for up to £700."

Hang about... tickets have gone from £120 to £150... isn't that a whopping 20% price rise? And that can't be to cover the costs of the "extra security" because isn't that why the capacity has been expanded?

Eavis says that the fight against eBay is important because high online prices " is just not fair for the people who want to come along and enjoy the music." They should only, it seems, be officially gouged.

The international front disco

The news, or hint of news, or suggestion of a hint that Morrissey might write, or possibly perform in a Song For Europe this year has hit the sleepy year-start blogs like discovering your mother had links to Oswald Mosley.

Lipstick Vogue sees the discussions as a Moztastic masterstroke rather than a career-slump kick-start stunt:

La Moz has already been back in the public eye with his last two longplayers and also extensive tours around the world. It's not as if his star is diminished or falling from the sky. Some might say quite the opposite, what with the quality and success of You Are The Quarry etc. So one can assume that this current project is for more personal reasons.

Mark Simpson also suggests that this reflects well on Morrissey:

Like Tory leader David Cameron’s incessant Moz-mentioning last year, it’s the perfect way to rebrand. Tired? Boring? Totally lacking in credibility? Call Morrissey! It can’t be long before Prince Charles beats a path to Morrissey’s door pleading to use Irish Blood English Heart as the new national anthem.

Why is Morrissey’s star riding so high? Why is the man once so reviled and mocked, banned from daytime Radio 1 and pilloried in the tabloids, now so vaunted he was recently voted Britain’s Greatest Living Cultural Icon That Doesn’t Work With Small Furry Animals? (He came second after David Attenborough in the BBC’s “cultural icons” poll.)

But isn't the idea of Morrissey supposed to be on the other side, with the underdogs, the difficult buggers and the awkward squad? If he's being embraced and waved by Tory party leaders, isn't that a sign that Morrissey has lost his Morrisseyness rather than the Conservatives having caught up with 1985?

Belly calls for a glorious, flame-crashing failure:

Also, let's face it - the Eurovision Song Contest is really a politically motivated popularity contest. And when you're bombing third world countries as dear old Blighty currently is, you don't have a hope in Iraq of winning. So why play it safe? Why stick to formulas? We might as well take a risk, cause we're headed for nil point whatever we do. Or are we... what the world hates about Britain, most fair minded Brits hate to. One such fair minded Brit is Morrissey. He is very outspoken about the evils of the war in Iraq and Tony Blair's government in general. He's even had a dig at Cherie. But at the same time, he holds dear to him what England is really about, what everyone loves about it.

Charles Arthur assures us national pride would be in good hands:

Morrissey can name not just the winner, but also the second- and third-placed acts from its beginning.

Handy in a pub quiz, but does that really suggest a chance of victory in the actual contest? I doubt if Lordi could name the winner from the year before; Tatu managed to scrape second and we reckon they'd have trouble spotting Dana International in a line-up of hamsters.

World Of Chig wonders if this means there's going to be a flight from democracy at the national stage:

The BBC's announcement a few weeks ago that the UK's song would be chosen in March surprised nobody, but it was telling that it didn't mention Making Your Mind Up, leading to inevitable speculation that the process might be changed. The BBC doesn't have to have a contest at all. The UK could just do what some other countries do and select the artist and song internally, or pick the artist and allow the public to choose the song (as we have done before).

No public vote? But then again, we've always suspected Mozzer has a love of the dictatorship.

But its This Is The Siths who provide clearest evidence that we're currently orbiting off somewhere far, far away:

this is not the eurovision song entry you are looking for... this is our most desperate hour. help us, steven patrick morrissey; you're our only hope.

Actually, Betty Boo would probably be a better bet, but who asks us, eh?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Superstar Trouper

Blimey: Meryl Streep is being lined up to play the titular Mamma in the Mama Mia movie.

Yes, the Abba-song driven musical entertainment.

This means when We Will Rock You comes to the screen, there's every chance Helen Mirren will take on the role of the Killer Queen.

Well... they said it, not us...

Radio 2 finally reaches the end of 100 Best Tunes

The incredibly long-running Your Hundred Best Tunes, a staple of Sunday nights on Radio 2 since 1959, has been axed to make way for Melodies For You. Whose presenter, meanwhile, has been axed to make way for Alan Titchmarsh. Titchmarsh replaces current Melodies host Sheridan Morley, as part of the current plan by the BBC which will see Alan presenting every programme by 2013 ("a vital part of making the licence fee settlement work" explains Mark Thompson from his new White City ziggurat.)

Morley is promised other jobs at Radio 2 - nothing concrete, but we do hear that Jeremy Vine's office has got a pile of dirty mugs waiting to be washed - while current 100 Best Tunes presenter Richard Baker is leaving with only a "we wish him well" from Controller Lesley Douglas to keep him warm.

When we were childrens, we always seemed to hear a lot of 100 Best Tunes, but never enough to quite get to grips with what was going on - who was the "you"? How did they judge "best"? Did they have a fixed list? Did they start at the top, play it all the way through over a number of programmes, and then go to the start again? Or was there some bingo machine, popping out numbers and leading them to cue up track 73? And if the list wasn't fixed, how did you go about changing it? We suspect these mysteries may now never be solved.

Hold the presses!

Victoria Newton has read this week's Grazia, and made a discovery so astonishing, she's decided "something I read in a magazine yesterday" is news:

KELLY OSBOURNE has revealed that mum SHARON used to send her poo to journalists.

Kelly admitted: "Mum used to make me and JACK shit in a box, then she’d wrap it up and send it to journalists she was angry with.

Goodness. You can see why Victoria would want this shocking revelation to get to a bigger audience. After all, it's not appeared in the Sun since, erm, last month, when another Sun journo read it in another magazine:

SHARON Osbourne has revealed her own unique way of taking revenge on critics — sending them boxes of her POO. The X Factor judge admits she parcels it up in a Tiffany box to send to enemies.

Sharon told a magazine: “I’ve done it for an awfully long time.

“I find it funny. I don’t just do it to anybody. They have to have done something really bad.”

We look forward to Victoria running the story again on February 13th.

Can you please crawl out your window?

Seemingly tiring of hurling hackneyed abuse at people who want to sing, Simon Cowell has moved on to treating the vast bulk of Western popular culture as if it was part of the shambling Pop Idol audition queue. He believes Kelly Clarkson has more talent than Bob Dylan:

“I’ve never bought a Dylan record. A singing poet? It just bores me to tears.”

Now, we're the first to admit that Bob Dylan is not without his faults. But for the bloke who launched both Robson and Jerome and Gareth Gates (with the same bloody song each time) to feel comfortable about criticising music which strives to do more than seek a window display in Woolworths seems a little rich. You've never bought a Dylan record, Simes? Have you ever even listened to one?

Robbie Williams is not worth it

We've already decided what he is. Now, we're just haggling over the price: Robbie Williams pays himself £25,000 a day.

He's looking happy on it, isn't he?

Robbie Williams day - up until roughly Deal Or No Deal comes on - is thus seen as being of the same value as an entire year of a newly qualified nurse.

A here today, gone tomorrow indie frontman

In a way, we're proud of Preston, who's walked off Never Mind The Buzzcocks in protest at Simon Amstell taking the rise out of Chantelle.

It's quite chivalrous to take this stand when your wife is being ridiculed.

On the other hand... Amstell was only reading out segments of Chantelle's own book:

An audience member said: “Simon sarcastically read out where she talks of wearing Marks & Spencer clothes for a photoshoot saying, ‘I’ve always loved M&S, but it was always too expensive. The photoshoot made me feel very posh and upmarket’.

It might have been more chivalrous to have defended Mrs. Preston instead of just crumbling and walking off. Indeed, the better part of valour might have been to have advised discretion when her publishers asked her to put her name to a book which treats her as a cartoon character.

At the weekend, we heard Preston on the radio observing how odd his Big Brother celebrity was - "it'll probably be in my obituary" he said, as if surprised at the thought The Times would slip a mention of the show into a three-thousand consideration of how The Ordinary Boys changed the face of popular music in 2006. Preston hadn't seemed to notice he was only on the radio because of Donny Tourette's BB breakout. It'll be more surprising if any obituarist mentions his band.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Countryrockobit: Sneaky Pete Kleinow

After a period in a nursing home with Alzheimer's Disease, Sneaky Pete Kleinow, Flying Burrito Brother, has died.

Born in South Bend, Indiana, in 1934, Pete's original career was working as a visual effects artist - he had a lot of input to Christian kid-and-dog cartoon Davey and Goliath in the 1960s. But while he spent his days helping animate the "I don't know, Davey" hound, at night he would play steel guitar with various bands in the developing country-rock scene.

It was his evening escapades that led him to a meeting with Chris Hillman and Gram Parsons from The Byrds; he provided a vital service helping them recreate their recorded sound in a live environment and, following the demise of band, the pair invited him to be a full-time member of their new group. So started his time as a key part of the Flying Burrito Brothers and a thirteen year long career in music.

He never completely gave up the day job, though - and while you can understand the attraction of an offer from Industrial Light and Magic to help out with the effects on The Empire Strikes Back, you do wonder why he decided to also take small jobs, such as animating the scary glove-with-a-face in the Hamburger Helper ads in the 1970s.

1969's The Gilded Palace of Sin was more influential than a big seller, and after various departures (most notably that of Parsons after the second album) Kleinow quit the Burrito Brothers in 1971. He kept going back for various reunions, regroupings and resurrections, while taking lucrative session jobs with everyone from Joni Mitchell to The Knack.

As the 80s progressed, he started to concentrate more and more on animation work - he provided the robot which built itself from scrap for ZZ Top videos and in 1999 worked on the Master P & Silkk clip for Ghetto Rain. But much of his time was given over to movies, including the Terminator and Robocop franchises.

Pete Kleinow was 72. He died in California.

Because we want two! Because we want two! (Or zero, if you can manage it)

Billie Piper has upset the grande dame of stage schools, Sylvia Young over claims in her autobiography that alongside tap and diction, the school trains you in self-image problems and eating disorders 101.

Piper remembers her time at the school:

"My nonchalance for my own appearance soon changed. I noticed after about a week of being there that the girls just didn't eat.

"In fact they'd go to the toilet to escape the smell of food wafting out of the canteen. There were kids walking around with ankle weights strapped to their legs and no-one would say anything."

The former singer said she was stifled by the school, where parents told their children to eat carrot sticks at lunch and where many pupils had super-rich parents who were living vicariously through their children.

Young has hit back through that most serious-minded of mediums, Heat:

"I am very worried about Billie. I really wonder if there's something wrong, because to me, my staff and even Billie's former classmates, this sounds nothing like the girl we knew, nor the experiences we know she had here."

She adds: "She made references to being a poor girl among lots of 'stinking rich' kids, but 80% of the pupils in her class were given assistance from us to attend."

She says: "Most of them had cockney or northern accents, especially in her class. Besides, Billie herself was quite middle-class, with excellent diction. Any suggestion that she was working class is pure fantasy."

She tells Closer: "I know a teacher suggested ankle weights for a specific ballet exercise, but they were never walking around the school as she describes.

"There was one girl who had a thing about carrot sticks, and we actually used to feed her up.

"Billie writes that she was constantly told she should be lighter, smaller, thinner'. I don't believe it. The size of our pupils have never been important".

Yes, since amongst the other graduates of the school are Denise Van Outen, Emma Bunton and Nicole and Natalie Appleton.

Of course, it says a lot about Sylvia that her placing on Billie on the social scale is down to her accent rather than what her parents did. Her Dad was a labourer, albeit one who worked his way into owning his own business. Which would seem to disprove Sylvia's assertion that "any suggestion she was working class is pure fantasy".

It's not entirely clear how true it is, but sources claim Piper has reported hearing the gathering sounds of tiny tap-shoes tip-tapping outside her front window at night.

Blonde highlights

The lovely people at Soundgenerator are spewing out the video for The Long Blondes' Giddy Stratospheres single, due out next month. It warns it includes "strobe... and 70s interiors" and indeed, it does.

Vinyl copies of the 2004 version of the track are changing hands on Amazon for £22 right now.

Dave Matthews is a talented musician

No, of course he isn't, but he's going to play one on TV: indeed, on House, in fact. His part features a talented pianist who has some sort of medical problem, solving which would wipe out his skills.

It could be based on the old music hall joke:
- Doctor, will I be able to play the piano after my operation?
- Yes, sir, you will be able to play pefectly well
- It's a miracle... I never could before

So, we'll have Hugh Laurie pretending to be an American with medical skills and constant physical pain, and Dave Matthews pretending to be a musician. We wonder who'll stretch credulity the furthest.

The NME seems to have House confused with something else - Medium, perhaps? There's no ghost in the house, you know.

Heather Mills on a slippery slope

The Sun really needs to make up whatever it has as a corporate mind. Is Heather Mills a cash-hungry squaderbug, or is she as tight as a TT Race hairpin?

Today's paper calls her a cheapskate:

LADY Mucca has sloped off on a cheapie skiing holiday — despite being offered a £30million divorce payout.

The estranged wife of ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, 64, is staying at a £27-a-night no-frills hotel in Slovenia with friends and family.

(Yes, they're still trying with the Lady Mucca thing - they've even paid for Google adwords on the phrase.)

Now, we find it hard to work up sympathy for Heather, but this is a little unfair: firstly, why would a possible payout in the future influence her decisions today? We know the paper fills its pages with ads for usurious loan companies, but it's not become illegal to not spend money before you've got it, has it? Especially when that money may or may not have been offered and may or may not materialise as part of a divorce settlement?

More to the point, if anyone on the staff had an interest in current affairs, they'd know that the snowfall in the alps this year has been pretty poor, and committed skiers are heading east looking for snow - even if it means staying in cheaper accommodation than that which they'd usually take. Mills isn't being tightfisted. She just wants to ski.

Of course, had she been at an expensive resort, the story would have been about her guzzling cash...

Great White forget victims, help seals

Normally, there'd not be a problem with a band doing a benefit gig to help seals. But when the band is Great White, and the fund trying to raise funds for families affected by the nightclub fire their fireworks started has run out of cash, the choice of charity looks a little odd, if not callous.

A year or so ago, Jack Russell was saying how it was only the Station Family fund which kept him going:

In a 2005 interview with The Desert Sun, a California newspaper, Great White vocalist Jack Russell said raising money for the fund was “the only reason” he woke up each day.

“If not for the Station Family Fund, I don’t know if this band would ever tour again,” he said.

The Station Family Fund, however, say they've not had any payment from the band since 2003.

The Rhode Island fire

The return of Flo Clucas and the disappearance of Ringo's house

Almost a year after we got an response from Flo Clucas, Liverpool councillor, to questions we'd asked months before about Ringo Starr's house, we actually have finally heard some answers to a couple of the questions we'd asked.

The Mirror reports Flo as announcing the sort-of house will appear in the expensive and pointless Museum of Liverpool the city council is proposing to blight its own waterfront with:

The ageing two-up two-down terraced house is among 427 to be flattened in Toxteth, Liverpool.

The one where the former Beatles drummer lived at 9 Madryn Street will be kept and rebuilt in the Museum of Liverpool when it opens in 2010.

City Cllr Flo Clucas said: "It will have the same bricks and much of the original materials."

The question of if a house with only some of its original materials and in another place entirely is actually the same historical building is something worthy of The Pig That Wants To Be Eaten, and we'd love it if The Mirror could point to a building anywhere on the planet that isn't ageing.

More importantly, why has this story suddenly bubbled up in the press again? After all, it was back in September 2005 when Flo originally tried to split the Beatles fans out of the enormous lobby of people asking why 400 perfectly workable houses in the Dingle were being torn down and rebuilt when it would have been cheaper and more ecologically friendly to just restore the terraces to their original glory. Saving Ringo's house in some way seemed to remove any quasi-historical objections to flattening the land and handing it over to developers.

It seems to be in the nationals again today because of a report in the Liverpool Echo which actually said the opposite to the Mirror story - nothing has actually been agreed on yet, as, erm, someone else owns the house:

A spokesman for National Museums Liverpool said: “We are hopeful that we will be able to give a home to Ringo’s childhood house.”

He added: “Negotiations are under way with all parties involved with the house and there are still many details to be worked out, but it would make a fantastic feature in the museum and we are hugely popular with visitors[sic].”

Flo, meanwhile, seems like she's starting to distance herself slightly from the scheme:

Cllr Flo Clucas, who originally suggested the idea, said: “It would form part of Liverpool’s Beatles trail and people could see the house where Ringo lived when he was very little.

“I also think it is a brilliant way of preserving the lifestyle of people who lived in the Welsh Streets.

“But until the house is bought up, we cannot do anything.

“It remains a suggestion and is out of my hands at the moment.”

Hmmm. All of this is slightly odd, as in her email almost a year ago to me, Flo told No Rock that the organisation of a new home for Ringo's home was a done deal:

Number 9 Madryn Street does , however, have a cultural significance, Although that the house where Ringo spent most of his life in Liverpool is only a few minutes distance from Madryn Street, is still occupied and will remain so for many years yet, we have endeavoured to find a new home for this, his early years home. This has been done.

"This has been done" on the 30th January 2006 translates into "we cannot do anything... it remains a suggestion... out of my hands" on 10th January 2007. Curious.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Their pens and their pads I'll snatch

Whoever would have thought that Chuck D isn't such a big fan of the internet, and blogs in particular? It would have seemed that a democratic media would have been cherished by D, but - just as Flavor Flav seems to shifted his politics, D has decided that the internet is so full of wrong things, the best use of his time is emailing bloggers to put them right:

Hey Laron Cue, misinformation is a terrible thing... all the original members drifted away where? I started in 1998 , the first of a rap kind. [The website] would be so no info would be lost in hype.

We just completed our 56th tour, Flav only missed LA in 2002 because he was locked fulla traffic violations and we were contracted.

I guess this is the problem with blogs, they're illegitimate news sources that spread. Today's my web day and I check spread misinfos like these... lets get it right... TX and 2 S1WS Brother James Norman and Roger Chillious are the only ones that retired...

There's nothing wrong with dropping an email to point out a factual error, but how disappointing is it that Chuck D whines about the "illegitimate news sources" - have we gone from Fighting The Power to shoring up News International?

Ever since that day

This month, it's ten years since The Associates' Billy McKenzie took his own life. As a tribute and celebration of his work, there's to be a special gig at the Shepherds Bush Empire on Wednesday 28th March - the day after he would have been fifty.

Amongst the highlights is the first-ever live appearance of British Electric Foundation with their music of quality and distinction; Electric Soft Parade; Subterraneans, featuring a guest appearance from Paul Haig. Haig's not been on stage since 1989, which makes it even more than a rare appearance by the Josef K man. More acts to follow; tickets out now; all profits going to a charity, Sound Seekers, which works with deaf children in the developing nations.

Project crabwalk

When Liz Hurley jumped ship from Project Catwalk, she left a hole for a glamorous, compelling front person for Sky One's rags-to-stiches gameshow. The hole still needs to be filled, but for this season they've got Kelly Osbourne in to supposedly anchor the affair. Cruelly, they've made her recreate Liz's opening credits, which has resulted in a British version of the bit in Ugly Betty where she's made to stand in for a supermodel in a photoshoot. Even more cruel, the presentation team at Sky have chosen to not include Kelly on the break bumpers - instead, the face of Project Catwalk is a soggy, confused dog making curious little noises and spraying paint randomly about. It's hard to not believe this is some sort of sideways joke at the expense of the woman trying to host the programme.

Hurley was never a great presenter - she was cold and wooden, but did at least manage to deliver her lines in a way which suggested that someone had at least told her what the programme was going to be about. Osbourne's hosting style is like someone in a Knightsbridge library attempting to read the Wall Street Journal despite having forgotten their glasses: an accent that would just-about have passed elocution classes at a minor finishing school stepping gingerly across someone else's words. That Tara Palmer-Tompkinson seemed more in command of the brief (or so it seemed, the audio track on our TV kept shounding shlightly shtrange whenever she appeared) was, perhaps, the final insult. Sky's magazine suggested that Osbourne would be bringing her "wit" to the show. On the strength of the first programme, it doesn't seem like she's even got her wits about her.

As punk rock as, erm, a tabloid gossip column

Who, we found ourselves wondering - looking at the Towers of London a year or so back - would find this sort of thing in any way compelling or fresh? Perhaps the tourists who pay the part-time plastic punks for photos on Westminster Bridge might affect to be thrilled by them, but it's hard to see anyone who has got out much in the last thirty years confusing the Brothers Tourette with anti-authority music or radicalism.

Now, post Big Brother, it's become clearer: just as Paris Hilton is treated as if she was glamorous and fascinating because she's incredibly easy for the tabloids to write about, so Towers of London are like Babyshambles with press-releases ready to cut and paste. Taking the soft option to its logical conclusions, Donny Tourette has taken over 3AM in the Mirror. He doesn't really have a clue about music, can't string a sentence together and hangs about the extreme edge of celebrity, always desperate to be liked, so if they'd edited out the "fuckings" nobody would have noticed any difference, really. Here's a taste of his "insights":

The Arctic Monkeys have no sense of humour, they take themselves so seriously. They're drab, man.They try and be like Liam Gallagher, giving it all the mouth. But I love Liam, although he can be a moany old git at least he is funny. The Arctics claim to be all witty but they they're just fucking bland, in their songs and in person. They're not exactly rock and roll. Not like the Towers.

Lily Allen. She had a beef with Peaches Geldof, and did stuff behind her back.

I love Amy [Winehouse]. She's brilliant - she can really drink. A night out on the piss with her is a fun one. Me, Amy, the Gallaghers, and Pete Doherty should all head out on the town. That would be ace. Or pandemonium more like!

Pandemonium? What larks, Pip, what larks. Donny Tourette, given a platform, decides that the most important thing he has to say is that Lily Allen has had a row with Peaches Geldof. It's fine having a go at the Arctics for being "not exactly rock and roll", but choosing sides in a spat between two walking trust funds doesn't exactly make you Iggy, does it?

Next, he challenges Russell Brand to a "who can piss the highest" contest:

SHARPEN your sword Russell Brand because I'm challenging you to a pulling contest.

It will be a good match because I've lost count of how many women I've slept with since I hit 300 - and Russ has probably done the same.

Now, it's a while since we left high school, but we do remember the rule of thumb about how much credence you give to the boy who claims to have shagged loads of women. It's unlikely that even Tourette is still a virgin, but we don't really believe that he can count to 300 unaided, much less claim such experience.

Not to mention what sort of an idiot judges his sex life by quantity rather than quality.

YEAH, I know all about those rumours about me and Joss Stone.

Curiously, if you run a Google on "Danny Tourette" "Joss Stone", there don't seem to be any rumours... indeed, just two quality websites are returned, and I know for a fact one of them has never suggested anything between the pair.

Of course, you can't really be a tabloid gossip columnist without a story about Pete Doherty:

I'VE only done crack once, and it was with Pete Doherty after a Babyshambles gig.

We toured together a little bit and it was totally fucked up.

He's a fucking legend and is totally for real - so don't diss him.

A testimonal of veracity from Danny Tourette. It's like a certificate of authenticity from Arthur Daley.

There's just time for some "questions" from "readers" - although since none of them are "who the fuck are you" and "this is a joke, right", we're guessing they're just made up:


Jack Murphy, 18, Liverpool

ME: There's a new band called The Twang who will be fucking huge this year. It's fucking real lads' music, none of this manufactured shit like S Club fucking 7.

Nice to see Danny is so passionate about music all he can think to say in support of a band is "they're not like a pop group which split up four years ago."

Whoever thought you'd want to see the 3AM Girls hurry back to the office?

Jack off into Oxford

The slightly bemusing Jack radio format, which is often described as "whatever radio" or "like an iPod shuffle but on radio" is coming to Britain this month. Oxford, in fact, which means Morse will be turning in his grave.

The basic idea of Jack, a station with revolving music instead of fixed playlist, sounds appealing. But the trouble with an iPod shuffle is its attractiveness depends on who's filled the device, and it's clear that the people suggesting the Jack playlist are the same people who produce more standard radio playlists. After all, this is what the BBC says Jack in New York played one hour:

Queen - Fat Bottomed Girls
Adam Ant - Goody Two Shoes
The Killers - Somebody Told Me
Fleetwood Mac - You Make Lovin' Fun
Van Halen - Jump
Hootie and the Blowfish - Good Times Roll
Cars - Good Times Roll
Gary Numan - Cars
Billy Idol - Eyes Without A Face
Blondie - Heart of Glass
Guns 'n' Roses - November Rain
Boston - Peace of Mind
The Police - Every Breath You Take
U2 - Vertigo

(BBC News points out that "in the end, it will be the listeners who decide if they'd rather Jack - even if it does play Fleetwood Mac.")

This might look like a radical playlist if you've spent a month with your head trapped in a box with Magic for a month, but a load of mostly MOR light-rock isn't really risk taking. And if the attraction of a station is it's like putting your iPod on random... wouldn't you be better off putting your iPod on random and avoiding the adverts?

Video Exies

Pouring from a distant server, through the computers and into your eyes: the video for Different Than You, a song which sees the Exies getting in touch with their spiritual sides:

Scott Stevens says "The song is about how the world segregates itself and how some of us find our way from naïve arrogance to humility, a spiritual growth, and the belief that we are no different from each other."

A fine sentiment, and in no way undermined by the note their PR adds:

Go to The Exies official myspace page to preview music from the forthcoming album, including the song "Different Than You" which is included on the soundtrack for National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj (in stores now!)

We imagine that Van Wilder is also exploring the naive arrogance and the spirtual growths.

The return of the Cold War

Something of interest to Americans, people with airmiles and personal helicopters: Cold War Kids tour dates for the US and Canada:
January 10 New York, NY Pianos
12 Los Angeles, CA The Fold in Silverlake Lounge
17 New York, NY Union Hall
19 Los Angeles, CA The Fold in Silverlake Lounge
24 New York, NY Mercury Lounge
26 Los Angeles, CA Spaceland
February 20 San Diego, CA The Casbah
22 West Hollywood, CA Troubadour
23 San Francisco, CA Great American Music Hall
24 Santa Cruz The Attic
March 02 Denver, CO Hi-Dive
03 Omaha, NE Sokol Underground
04 Lawrence, KS The Bottleneck
06 Minneapolis, MN Varsity Theater
07 Milwaukee, WI The Rave at the Eagles Club
08 Madison, WI The Annex
09 Chicago, IL Subterranean
10 Columbia, MI Mojo's
12 Little Rock, AR Juanita's
14 Dallas, TX Gypsy Tea Room & Ballroom
19 New Orleans, LA The Republic
20 Tallahassee, FL Club Downunder
21 Orlando, FL The Social
22 St. Augustine, FL Cafe 11
23 Atlanta, GA Vinyl
24 Nashville, TN Mercy Lounge
26 Mt. Pleasant, SC Village Tavern
27 Chapel Hill, NC Local 506
28 Washington D.C. Nightclub 9:30
29 Philadelphia, PA First Unitarian Church
30 Cambridge, MA Middle East Downstairs
31 Northampton, MA Pearl Street Night Club
02 April - Montreal, Quebec La Sala Rossa
03 Ottawa, Ontario Zaphod Beeblebrox
04 Toronto, Ontario The Mod Club
06 & 07 New York, NY Bowery Ballroom

Gennaro Castaldo watch: HMV junks the singles charts

It's been a while since Woolworths displayed the singles chart; WH Smith do apparently still consider themselves CD retailers but it's hard to see where they are; and the mighty Boots Audio has long since been replaced with extra soaps and one of the most depressing gift stores on the British high street. HMV was one of the few retailers to keep faith with the Top 40 but now they, too, are junking the only chart what counts. Gennaro, of course, rushes to explain:

"Whilst we signed up to a change," said HMV spokesman Genarro Castaldo, "it was always on the understanding that retailers would be free to do what was most practical in stores. The new chart is not appropriate for the purpose of merchandising singles."

In other words, it was going to prove tricky to display the top 20 singles when, for example, numbers nine, thirteen and sixteen hadn't been released as singles.

Now, of course, HMV will be free to make up its own chart, which will be every bit as exciting as Tescos and Woolworths album charts - i.e. free to magically include whatever HMV is interested in flogging this week. It'll be just a little bit harder to find the few interesting singles which trouble the top end of the charts in HMV shops, and it's another reason to not bother shopping at HMV.

How do you gift wrap divorce papers?

How delightful that Kerry Katona is treating her legal uncoupling from Brian McFadden as a "late Christmas present":

"It was the best present I could have ever wished for," she said. "Now I'm looking forward to this year, my new baby and planning our wedding."

Apparently, though, her new husband-to-be (let's hope he doesn't get the idea that Kerry loves nothing more than divorces for Christmas) is going to handle all the wedding planning himself. Almost as if he's afraid that, left to Kerry, it'd be like My Little Pony gone wild at a taffeta showroom.

Jewel screen sparkle drops

Don't expect to see Jewel reprising her fling with acting soon. Or anytime much, come to that:

"After I did Ride With The Devil, I started doing auditions and realised I am definitely too lazy to have a second career in acting," she says.

"I got scared to tell you the truth. A lot of my heroes did their best work and their best writing in their 40s and 50s, but most of them died really estranged from their families and alone.

"I'm not totally sure I've got another shot at acting in me, so I just decided I'd rather be home on my days off than go and audition for a movie."

Well, at least she's not pretending she's waiting for the right project, although we're not entirely clear how turning down parts in Deuce Bigelow III: Gigolo In Space will somehow save her from dying in her forties, alone and unmourned. It might prevent people dancing on her grave, though.

William, it was really nul points

Can it really be true that Morrissey is talking with the BBC about providing an entry into Eurovision this year? Victoria Newton believes so, although she also describes the Song Contest as "the most cheesy, tongue-in-cheek music show around." No, Victoria - just because the British have an ironic Terry Wogan commentary doesn't obscure the fact that the other competing countries tend to take the show quite seriously.

Victoria's report is heavy on her unique brand of flat puns and speculation, and rather low on any actual facts. According to her:

Last night a BBC spokesman said: “I can confirm we are in talks with Morrissey about a Eurovision song.”

But it seems that all that has happened is that someone has sent a note to his label asking if he was serious when he said they should have asked him to write a song last year. Which is quite a distance from My Lovely Horse In A Coma being on the starting blocks, but that hasn't stopped Victoria from making some of her trademark guesses:

He has to be a favourite to win through to the shortlist of the selection programme.

I can’t imagine Morrissey would consider performing the tune himself — no doubt someone else will sing it.

But then she seems to suggest that, actually, he would:

It would be great to see The Mozfather rocking up for the grand final in Helsinki on May 12.

I would say he has a big chance of bringing back the bacon, but then Meat Is Murder according to Mozza . . .

Do you see what she did there? We do apologise for any damage that might have done to your sides.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Whatever happened to Samantha Mumba?

Five years ago, she waved goodbye to music with the intention of a juicy Hollywood career. She'd landed a part in The Time Machine, playing alongside Guy Pearce and getting a plum position in the credits only nine slots below "Central Park Carriage Driver". The film was about as successful as the Time Machine itself, and since then, erm, Sam's popped up in Boy Eats Girl ("brainless, lowbrow entertainment" says IMDB), Nailed (nope, us neither) and Johnny Was - a movie more notable for Lennox Lewis' role as a dj.

In the meantime, she's been setting up stage schools in Ireland, partly with the aim of finding people to be her back-up dancers onstage and in videos. In videos? Oh, yes. For Sam is about to make her musical comeback.

What sort of musical comeback will it be? She's not saying, but there's a broad hint that we're looking at something populist:

The Dublin beauty is also currently taking part in a Channel 4 reality show, filming her behind-the-scenes attempts to storm the charts.

Another TV series about a faded popstar slogging round trying to recapture earlier glories? Why, it's not like it's a new year at all.

Further gathering of the year

We've just embarked on a large update to the 2006 collection of lists and charts, including a link to an overview of Swiss music, worldwide best-selling records for week of release, what an Amsterdam clothes seller thinks, and the least essential albums of the year...

Someone to drive your audience home

Wasted as a warm-up, we believe, but The Long Blondes are going to be delighting Kaiser Chief fans as openers for the tour:

21st February - Manchester Manchester Apollo
23rd - Wolverhampton Civic
26th - Newcastle Newcastle Academy
3rd March - London Shepherds Bush Empire
6th - Glasgow Academy
9th - Cardiff Cardiff University

This is all dovetailed with the Long Blondes' own headline dates:

9th February - London Scala
10th - Brighton Old Market
12th - Leeds Met Uni
13th - Hull The Weely
14th - Edinburgh Liquid Room
16th - Preston 53 Degrees
17th - Middlesbrough Empire
18th - Manchester Academy 2
19th - Birmingham Irish Centre
20th - London Astoria
24th - Nottingham Rock City
27th - Norwich Waterfront
28th - Portsmouth Wedgewood Rooms

The prospect of Ricky Wilson after Kate Jackson is a little like having the sprouts after the tiramisu.

Madonna and the man from the ministry

With all the TV appearances she's been doing to try and shore up her image following the rule-bending adoption, it's curious that Madonna didn't take the opportunity to demonstrate her commitment to other good causes in Malawi. For example, she never mentioned her sponsorship of Willard Manjolo's social work degree at Swansea.

Perhaps she was slightly concerned that having made a large cash commitment to a programme officer at the Ministry of Youth, Gender and Community Services in Malawi shortly before the ministry suddenly abandoned their rules and ignored the law to allow her to adopt David might have looked a little murky.

Manjolo says that he had no direct input into David's case, and from the ministry's point of view, Madonna was just trying to help:

Adrina Mchiela, principal secretary at the country's Ministry for Gender and Child Welfare, said: "Madonna is paying for everything and we are extremely grateful.

"We had talks with her in June about adopting a child. She asked us whether we had any problems and we saw a chance. We told her the ministry lacked trained personnel and asked if she could help. We told her about Manjolo, who is a social welfare officer, and she immediately responded.

"Madonna indicated a willingness to sponsor more officers. We just have to inform her of our need."

A very generous offer indeed. And, we're sure, well meant. After all, if this was about, say, aeroplane contracts, and a defence ministry, and someone looking to sell aeroplanes offering to pick up the defence ministry's training costs, we wouldn't think that looked odd, would we?

Amy Winehouse chucks up, and in the towel

There's nothing that could be well prepared for by spending the day with Kelly Osbourne - although, possibly, it might make root canal work seem pleasant by comparison. As a way of getting ready for a gig, though, it sucks. Or rather, chucks: Amy Winehouse managed one song at GAY before thundering offstage to go chundering.

Fans were angry and booing, demanding their money back, but it's possible they were split fifty-fifty between those who were annoyed that Amy only did one song, and those who thought that was a little too much to bear.

Why isn't Noel driven to write great music any more?

Noel Gallagher relaxes in the Be Here Now poolThe whole "buying Mike Oldfield's house and yacht" was probably enough to demonstrate that Noel Gallagher's creative slump has been created by a life of plenty, but now we know exactly how much plenty is: fourteen million quid:

Asked whether he is losing interest in the music business, Noel admitted: “Yeah. But at the last count, I’ve got 14million quid in the bank account — that keeps me interested.”

Then, regretting the slip, he hastily joked: “By the way, if anyone’s reading this — particularly the Inland Revenue — I haven’t got 14million in the bank . . . not in cash anyway.”

Oasis are mulling the idea of releasing their own records in the future (for real, rather than the pretend Big Brother "own" label) to get even more money:

“We could stay independent and instead of getting one Pound for every record sold we could get 15, or whatever.

“We’ll see what happens. LIAM is one of those guys who’d want the £80million advance, though, and to prance around like ROBBIE WILLIAMS in a furry Rolls-Royce.”

... whereas, of course, Noel happily accepted a brown Rolls-Royce from Creation. If we remember correctly.

Mel B calls police to talk to the animals; they could do little

In a twisty tale that's rapidly escalating out of both control and any resemblance to normalcy, Mel B has called in police to see if they can do anything to make a group of Eddie Murphy fans go away.

If Nutty Professor II: The Klumps didn't make them go away, what could the police do?

Apparently, Mel has had her life made a misery since the break-up with Murphy, with the fans camping outside her house shouting abuse. It's unknown if any Spice Girls fans are sitting outside Eddie's pad on her behalf, but... well, that does seem unlikely, doesn't it?

Ping pong/ding dong

Oddly, despite yesterday's fairly blunt dismissal of his claims, Donny Tourette is in this morning's Sun to tell of his tales tupping the wife of Leo Sayer:

We were always getting invited around there for drinks and stuff. Leo had a ping pong table we enjoyed playing on from time to time. It was obvious there was a bit of attraction between his missus and me, and one thing led to the other.

“One time my brother Dirk was playing Leo at a game of table tennis when I was upstairs in the bedroom giving his lady a seeing to.

“She was enjoying it so much she started suddenly screaming out in pleasure.

“My brother says it was so loud Leo completely missed his shot and just gave him this sort of quizzical look. I think it was a pretty vital point in the game as well. They just continued playing afterwards as if nothing had happened.”

Oddly, this richly-detailed memoir is described as being sourced by Tourette "speaking to a pal" - surely this isn't some convoluted form of words trying to make it look less like a self-proclaimed punk has flogged a shabby story to The Sun, has it?

Still, you can pay your own money and make your own choice. Donny reckons there was lots of sex, including screams so loud it put Leo off his table-tennis. Donatella, however, suggests a single instance of sharing a bed with an irritating twonk and falling asleep before anything happened. Which story sounds more plausible?

Sunday, January 07, 2007

For those of you who love Victoria Newton as much as we do

Thanks to Roy Greenslade's MediaGuardian blog, we've come across VickyWatch, a blog dedicated to sifting through the Sun's Bizarre column in order to discover the uncanny similarity between Victoria's pieces and stories which appear elsewhere, point out simple errors of fact and celebrating Victoria's powers of prediction.

It's all quite splendid.

Jay-Z and GM: FU, UN

Who could fail to be touched by the little tour of Africa Jay-Z took round Africa - MTV camera crew in tow - to promote the lack of potable water and the threat to life in parts of the Continent:

Last night [16th November 2006] at the United Nations, American rap star Jay-Z premiered his new video diary, ‘Water For Life’, which captures his journey into areas affected by the ongoing global water crisis.

In a partnership with MTV and the UN, Jay-Z toured several developing countries, meeting with young people who do not have access to safe water. He travelled with some of these children along the same roads they take every day to fetch water for their families and schools.

“It is unbelievable that someone so young could be doing that every single day,” he said.

It is, indeed, terrible.

The problems of infrastructure are being exacerbated, of course, by the impact of rising global temperature. So it's somewhat odd to find Jay-Z has managed to wipe away his tears so quickly that, two months after lecturing the UN about the global water crisis, he's popped up "to bring a stylish hue to a rugged sport-utility vehicle" on behalf of General Motors.

Yes, the best way to ensure everyone has access to clean water is, erm, by driving cars which have a greater-than-average carbon footprint.

Of course, Jay-Z isn't the only celeb to be on board. Christian Slater also turned up to help promote the ambulance-sized vehicle, a strange stance for one of the spokespeople for Explore Your Environment. It'll be tricky finding a place to park your big gas-guzzling resource hog when you nip down to your organic supermarket, Christian.

Gennaro Castaldo watch: Guardian of the bold new world

Captain Jack pointed out that the 21st Century is when everything changes, and that you've got to be ready. He was right: today, the link between physical product and singles was cut, and who was ready to welcome the first chart that allowed download-only downloads?

Gennaro Castaldo, of course:

"Under the new rules, anything and everything is eligible," said HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo.

"The charts will now offer a much broader representation of the nation's music tastes," he added.

Aha. And, so, what does this new, broader nation's music tastes look like?

This was last week's, physical presence required, chart:

1. A Moment Like This - Leona Lewis
2. Patience - Take That
3. Different World - Iron Maiden
4. Smack That - Akon ft Eminem
5. Truly Madly Deeply - Cascada

This week, everything's different:

1. A Moment Like This - Leona Lewis
2. Proper Education - Eric Prydz vs Floyd
3. Patience - Take That
4. Window in the Skies - U2
5. Smack That - Akon ft. Eminem

It's like we've suddenly adopted French as our official language and started driving on the underside of the tarmac, isn't it?

Indeed, rather than delivering a shake-up, what seems to have happened is a little more like a gently wobble - Crazy has re-entered the chart at number 30, Nelly Furtado's Maneater has slunk back up to 38 and Chasing Cars has plodded back into the Top 10 - probably assisted by the shots of David Platt brooding to it during Corrie's Christmas episodes.

The move will change the chart, but not for a while - and when it does, it won't be noticeable as it'll follow the gradual shift of purchase from shops to mouses.

Castaldo, though, sticks his neck out:

It is rumoured that EMI are considering to release the Beatle's back catalogue as downloads for the first time.

Castaldo thinks if that does happen then a "top 10 made up entirely of their music would be almost guaranteed".

Really? Why would Beatles fans - who, presumably, own the CDs and could rip them onto their PC should they wish - rush out in large numbers to download tracks they don't need to buy? Of course, it's possible someone might want to rig the charts that week as a PR stunt, but it's unlikely to happen organically.

Gennaro also popped up, by the way, in Starpulse, comparing The Arctic Monkeys to... well:

A spokesman for musical retailer HMV commented: “In terms of sheer impact we haven’t seen anything quite like this since the Beatles.”

Really? What about Oasis? Or when Suede commanded front-page stories in the broadsheet press? Or Madonna when she broke through? Or Lily Allen, come to that. The Arctic Monkeys were talked about in 2006, it's true... but there was more said about their story than about them in particular. Like bird flu, they filled more column inches than they knocked people off their feet.

To suggest that Britain spent the last twelve months in the grips of a Beatlemania style frenzy with a straight face could only mean that Castaldo lives in Portugal and is relying on MySpace press releases to keep in touch.

You've got to know when to hold 'em

Who would have guessed that living next to Kenny Rogers would be a nightmare? It turns out that he's been busily redeveloping a plot of land with all the daintyness of a drunken hippo with a chainsaw:

Cathy and Alan Gottlieb, whose house is behind Rogers' property, said the months of demolition, tree-cutting and groundshaking granite blasting was irritating enough.

But worse, they say, the work has transformed the view from their back deck from dense woods to a dirt mound.

“We all understand people have to develop lots, but to strip the land like this is crazy,” Alan Gottlieb said. “He had a landscape plan that if he would've followed, would've been great. But he just decided to abandon it.”

Kenny Rogers suggests that he really couldn't give a hoot, but doesn't want to sound rude:

“I'm sorry for any inconvenience I might've caused them,” he said. “I tried desperately to be considerate to everyone out there, but you can't live your life for other people.”

Rogers had planned to live in the house, rather than rip the place to pieces and sell at a massive profit, but apparently decided to flog the house after realising that it'd be too large for his family to cope with "if anything happened to him." Which seems an odd basis for a decision about where to live - taken to an extreme, you'd only need a one-bedroom flat with space for a single divan as what's the point in having room you won't need if the husband falls into a threshing machine?

Donny, Donatella and Leo

So, that's what Donny Tourette meant when he was talking about having been in Leo Sayer's house. If you recall the episodes of Soap when Burt returned after having been replaced by an alien double, Burt's problem was adjusting to the idea that "he'd been in my house... in my bed... in my pyjamas... in my... [meaningful look at Mary]" - and that seems to have been the feeling Donny was trying to stir up in Leo's bubble-wrapped head:

Bed-hopping Donny, 25, romped naked with Italian-born Donatella after a party at the Seventies pop star's luxury home while Leo was away.

But, just as Donny couldn't manage to make it to the end of Celeb Big Brother:

Donatella says she can't even remember if their romp went all the way.

She admits frankly: "I really don't remember having full sex with Donny or anything like it. But I can't deny it because, truly, I really don't remember."

She went on: "I don't know about having intercourse. I was in a deep sleep. He was definitely after sex, but my response was, 'OK Donny, if you want to sleep here, then sleep here'. It was a very big bed..."

Donny, however, doesn't seem to let the lack of any witnesses (even the person he supposedly slept with) stand in his way:

A close pal of Donny's said: "Leo used to invite Donny and his mates round to his house for after show parties. They were all pretty wild.

"Donny bragged to his close group of friends that he'd had sex with Leo's lady. It was Donny's biggest secret and he only told his closest mates, including his brother."

A gentleman only reveals to a wide circle of vague chums the details of his perhaps conquests, of course.

The real interest in the story, of course, is that Towers of London used to wind down after their gigs by going to Leo's for a cup of Babycham.

Diaz dumped

One of the more interesting sights of 2006 was the Justin Timberlake return, which kind of blew it for him: oh, sure, he sold loads, but the actual quality was lacking more than a little bit. In fact, watching him in George Michael stubble and Ted Moult's hat trilling on about how he and he alone was bringing "sexy" in some way "back" we did wonder if he'd decided his new direction was some sort of stab at a Russ Abbot comedy character. Clearly, Timbo wasn't quite as cool as we'd all hoped he would be.

Likewise, watching the adverts she did for Nestle's L'Oreal make-up outfit, her smug and charmless demonstration of "I am earning a fortune here, look at me" suggested that Scarlett Johansson might not be quite as cool as we'd all been led to believe.

It's perhaps inevitable, then, that Cameron Diaz has been dumped to allow Timberlake and Johansson to get together and compare their latest contracts.

The empire's outposts at war

Rupert is delightedThe Sun and the News of the World are sister papers. But then, so were Jane and Blanche Hudson. Following on from an exciting year where the News was accused of pinching Sun stories and one of their journalists was apparently eavesdropping on Sun editor Rebekah Wade's mobile phone calls (the horror of hearing Grant from Eastenders grunting sweet nothings can only be imagined), the NOTW is now doing our job and snorting with disdain at the blotchy job done by the Sun's writers.

Earlier in the week, you'll recall, The Sun reported that Pete and Kate had got married in a "bizarre Buddhist ceremony."

Today, The News of the World knocks down the story:

Phuket locals are convinced they have the answer.

One explained: "There's a custom to hold a beachside blessing for soulmates — a spiritual bonding, with scattered flowers and incense."

Perhaps the Sunday paper sees itself as the daily's Corrections and Clarifications column.

This week just gone

The week on No Rock & Roll Fun.

The ten most-read stories of the week:

1. The Heather Mills McCartney naked past
2. KT Tunstall's secret lesbian signals
3. The Heather Mills McCartney naked present
4. NME's 2005 Cool List
5. McFly show their balls
6. Whitney Houston's distress sale confuses The Sun
7. 2006 year-end lists and reviews
8. Lily Allen swaps her clothes on a train
9. The first post of the year
10. Russell Brand hosts the 2006 NME awards

The whole week on one page
Or dip into our full 2006 coverage:
Our review of 2006

Charts, lists & reviews

Our music choices

Valette 2006

and we suggested these as stocking-stuffer shaped best music books of 2006:

Handy picks of ver imperial-phase Hits - useful if your collection is locked in a storage unit

Your OED of the chart world, even essential in its post-Tim Rice era

Alex Kapranos collects his foodie columns from the Guardian

Outside, Courtney's arse. Inside, pretty much that, too, as the Widow Cobain issues her never-apologia

Caught between the legend and facts of Kurt's life, Everett True elects to print the bits about himself instead

Definitive Libertines book produced through first-hand observation rather than cutting up a few back issues of the Mirror

We're probably a good five years from a balanced consideration of Joe Strummer, but for now, affectionate attention to detail feels right

Still think Alan Ant should have called his autobiog 'Didley qua qua', mind

Pet Shop Boys "visual retrospective" (i.e. picture book)

... and the slightly more wordy Crass history

Tim Moore goes in search of those who failed to scrape even a single, block-voted point in Eurovision

Collected Tom Waits interviews, also serving as a tribute to the great days of rock journalism on expense accounts

The PopJustice take on, erm, That

Johnny Rogan fails to die on M62, returns to Mozzography

Gary Mullholland attempts to list the 261 best post-punk albums. His errors and omissions are, of course, where the fun is