Saturday, November 17, 2007

And people think Shane Filan knows nothing about music

Shane from Westlife has decided that their single wasn't as good as Leona Lewis':

"At the end of the day, I think Leona had the better song - it's more exciting and she deserves to be number one. Maybe Take That had a better song, too."

Yes. And you know what else was better and more exciting than the Westlife single? Every other thing that's ever been put on a record. Even the theme from the Apple Dumpling Gang. Especially the theme from the Apple Dumpling Gang.

R Kelly's PR: I Believe I Can Say Bye

R Kelly has had good PR representation. Someone who's stood by him during nearly a decade and a half and managed to make a person who - by most common measures - would normally be a number one target retain a surprising amount of good press.

Up until now, anyway, as Regina Daniels has quit after 14 years:

, "I have prided myself on loyalty, respect and professionalism. It saddens me that I was not always shown those same courtesies during my 14-year tenure as Mr. Kelly's publicist ... There are some lines that should never be crossed professionally or personally. Mr. Kelly crossed a line that forever altered the scope of our relationship. For this reason I made the decision to resign."

Good god - fourteen years. That's nearly as long as the girl in the alleged sex tape had been alive. We don't know what Kelly did that has finally pissed Daniels off, but we'd be rather nervous - the one person you don't want to annoy is the one who's kept the lid on your boiling pot, Kelly.

It's yet another new take on selling music online

We're trying hard to not just be totally cynical, but when someone pitches up promising “fresh take on the distribution structure of music, offering all-digital, all-free music for streaming or download without DRM", we tend to think "oh, this is just going to be yet another website that attempts to make money from advertising" rather than "really? what's the totally new take, then?"

And so it is. RCRDLBL wouldn't even be worth a second breath were it not for the involvement of Engadget founder Peter Rojas, but it's really just another Spiralfrog in a long line of Spiralfrogs.

The New York Post reports:

One source familiar with the project described it as a "curated YouTube or MySpace for music with an editorially driven filter."

You know what? Most of the business MySpace and YouTube does is, erm, music-related. It's like setting up a service promising to be the Amazon of online DVD sales.

"I am a sell-out" proclaim of Montreal

Of Montreal's Kevin Barnes has written an interesting think-piece for Stereogum which, effectively, attempts to contextualise the band's signing-up to do ads for T-Mobile.

To an extent, his justifications make a certain amount of sense:

The only way to avoid selling out is to live like a savage all alone in the wilderness. The moment you attempt to live within the confines of a social order, you become a sell out. Once you attempt to coexist you sell out. If that's true, then selling out is a good thing. It is an important thing. If we didn't do it, we'd be fucked, quite literally, by everyone bigger than us physically who found us fuckable.

And then becomes something of a hymn to capitalism:
The thing is, I like capitalism. I think it's an interesting challenge. It's a system that rewards the imaginative and ambitious adults and punishes the lazy adults.

Now, clearly there's a degree to which Barnes is setting up a cartoon version of the alternative, presumably a welfare state/socialism that he doesn't understand. But even so, it's surprising to hear Barnes offering such a far-right viewpoint. The implication that anyone left out of the capitalist free-for-all must be lazy could have come from a Tory party conference platform in the 1980s.

Even if you're comfortable with a political-economic system in which punsihment - by which Barnes means homelessness, starvation and poor health, remember, rather than a gentle chiding and being given a detention - is at the heart of the model, you might baulk a little at the suggestion that those who don't thrive under the model are "lazy".

What about those who've been born without the skills to do well in the red-toothed capitalist world? What about those who fall sick, or who have the misfortune to be born in an area where the schools are poorly run? Those whose parents are unable to support their study, who leave school early, who just happen to be born into poor families in bad neighbourhoods? Capitalism might reward the "imaginative and ambitious" (although softcore porn sells better than novels of ideas, so the first half of that contention seems unlikely), but it rewards better those born with means to buy and sell. If your political system commodifies everything, those who thrive will be those with access to money, not necessarily those who can earn it.
I like producing and purchasing things. I'd much rather go to IKEA than to stand in some bread line. That's because I don't have to stand in a bread line.

Had we the time, we'd work up an essay suggesting that queuing to purchase a Zavkilli chair in Ikea on a Saturday afternoon is little different from queuing to get bread in some broken Stalinist state. Instead, we'll just raise a curious eyebrow that Barnes seems to be suggesting that not selling your music to T-Mobile is somehow akin to being caught in Ceausescu's Romania.
Obviously, I've struggled with the concept. I've struggled because of the backlash following my songs placement in TV commercials. That is, until I realized that the negative energy that was being directed towards me really began to inspire my creativity. It has given me a sense of, "well, I'll show them who is a sellout, I'm going to make the freakiest, most interesting, record ever!!!" ... "I'm going to prove to them that my shit is wild and unpolluted by the reach of some absurd connection to mainstream corporate America."

It's an interesting suggestion - that flogging his music to a mobile phone company has driven him to make more extreme music. But if Barnes' suggestion - that not selling his music to companies would leave him starving and, literally, on the breadlines - then why would he do this? Isn't that a bit of an odd thing to do?

Barnes concludes that we should view advertising a good thing:
Next time you see a commercial with one of your favorite bands songs in it, just tell yourself, "cool, a band I really like made some money and now I can probably look forward to a few more records from them." It's as simple as that. We all have to do certain things, from time to time, that we might not be completely psyched about, in order to pay the bills. To me, the TV is the world's asshole boss and if anyone can earn some extra bucks from it and they're not Bill O'Reilly, it's a good thing.

And, of course, that's true. All art needs a patron; even musicians got to eat.

What's missing, though, is any indication from him that besides providing a soundtrack, he's also providing an endorsement. There's nothing that suggests he's considered if T-Mobile is a brand that he wants to get behind, that he's comfortable with flogging mobile phones. Which is where his argument falls apart. Sure, he's making money, but if he's just allowing anyone to take his music and slap it on their advert, then he's really reduced his art to the most brutal of transactions. He's not participating in a noble capitalist transaction, he's just prostituting himself.

Japan recoils from Revolver

Velvet Revolver are upset and hurt that they're having to having to cancel their Japan tour after getting knocked back at the visa stage:

"We want to apologize to our fans in Japan that we won't be able to perform our scheduled concerts.

"We don't understand why the authorities won't give us visas, when they granted them for us in 2005 for what was a successful tour and a great experience. We love Japan and look forward to our return there."

We'd imagine there's a very, very good reason why - having had them play there once - Japan suddenly realise they don't want them back again.

Canada plans copyright reform

The Canadian government looks set to bring forward "copyright protection" measures in the next few weeks designed to try and shore up unsustainable business models.

The Industry Canada spokesperson outlined the intentions:

"Canada's Copyright Act needs to be reformed to respond to the challenges of the digital age," said [Caroline Grondin]. "New protections proposed for the benefit of rights holders will seek to address online infringement as well as create a legal framework that encourages the rollout, by rights holders, of new business models."

You might wonder why copyright protection should be in the realm of the industry ministry rather than the department which deals with culture; you might also spot that Grondin talks about rights holders and business models rather than artists and art.

The RIAA client organistaion north of the border at least remembers to pay lip service to the people who actually make the music:
Graham Henderson, president of labels body the Canadian Recording Industry Assn. (CRIA), said the legislation will demonstrate the country's commitment to protecting its songwriters and musicians.

"Is it going to replace our lost revenue every year? Of course not," Henderson said. "But it is a start. Right now, our big problem is that digital sales aren't replacing lost physical sales. A new Copyright Act would help foster new digital business models that haven't appeared in Canada because of piracy."

It's not entirely clear why Henderson believes that simply because companies are no longer able to sell product in a changed market that the correct response would be to alter the law. Nor can he point to any songs which haven't been written because Canadian musicians are worried about piracy.

Of course, the CRIA points to all its losses:
The music industry has long blamed the existing Copyright Act for the proliferation of file sharing and the long-term decline in CD sales, with shipments dropping a further 19 percent year on year in 2007 through August (the most recent figures available), according to the CRIA.

Leaving aside the question of how far that fall can be put down to shifts in consumer spending patterns not related to the availability of music online - such as, for example, the rising interest rate in Canada and having to spend more cash on food and heating leaving less money for entertainment purchases - will new laws actually help? After all, in the US, there's the DCMA and yet, despite the legislation, CD sales fell even faster than they did in Canada.

The only difference the new legislation will make is that it'll criminalise some behaviour with laws that are virtually unenforceable. It's not going to "replace lost revenue" because nothing is going to. The CRIA should be helping its members adjust to a new world, not try to protect the old one.

Mozzer in the capital's future

Morrissey is going to do a six-night residency at the Camden Roundhouse next January.

The Daily Winehouse

Yesterday, the Telegraph carried an article attacking the audiences who complained about the Winehouse Birmingham show.

Today, they've run another, almost identical piece, this time filed by Andrew Pierce:

The whingers are lucky she even turned up. Don't they read the newspapers? Or listen to the Today programme, which has also referred to this talented but deeply flawed diva's personal problems?

Imagine how the Telegraph would react if, instead of being a musician, she was a plumber who turned up late, botched the job, spat and threatened the customers before leaving with task still unfinished. It's odd they're so relaxed about Winehouse doing it.

Pierce attempts to suggest that she's in the tradition of Joplin, Piaf and Hendrix, before adding another name to her forebears:
Needless to say the tabloids, typically, have chronicled every disaster in her relentlessly downward spiral. We have seen it all before. They build them up - think Paul Gascoigne - and stick the boot in when they are on the way down.

Probably the first time Winehouse and Gascoigne have been compared - although, of course, Gascoigne himself made his own visit to the charts - and the mention is interesting.

It's true that the tabloids did build Gazza up, when he was playing well. And, yes, when he slipped, they gleefully detailed his decline. But it's just fantasy to lay the blame for his fall from grace on the papers: he enjoyed a drink - too much; he enjoyed his food - too much, for an athlete. He was the architect of his own misfortune and while you might find the red tops' delight in sharing his decline callous, he'd have still been eating the kebabs and drinking the booze. Just without the attention. The same, you feel, would be true of Winehouse. However reprehensible you might find the behaviour of Fleet Street, it's not like they're forcing Blake to (allegedly) conspire to pervert the course of justice after (again allegedly) beating the shit out of someone, or making Amy sit in the toilets puffing away on fags. For a paper which supposedly believes in personal responsibility, it's interesting how quickly they are to remove that responsibility from Winehouse's shoulders.

Spice Girls split

Ladbrokes have, apparently, opened a book on which of the Spice Girls are most likely to quit the band first: Geri at Evens, apparently. Beckham is on at fives which - judging by the bemused "I don't have to be here, why am I doing this" look which didn't leave her face all evening yesterday - has got to be good value.

Winehouse hair storage

From the looks of a video that's currently circulating on the internet, Amy Winehouse uses her beehive like Marge Simpson uses hers. Only while Marge keeps the family's saving money jar in her hair, Amy appears to keep some her Vicks inhaler in there; rummaging about and then snorting to clear her passages. It's horrible being congested, isn't it?

Meanwhile, she's been winning friends by locking herself in the toilets for a crafty fag. Unfortunately, she's been doing it on a plane:

Finally a fed-up female crew member announced on the Tannoy: “Our famous little friend is smoking in the toilet. It’s just that the smoke alarm hasn’t gone off yet.”

A 23-year-old girl passenger said: “It’s one rule for her and another one for us.

“I’d have been arrested if I was caught smoking in the toilet and rightly so.

“Fair enough she’s stressed out but it’s not exactly a long-haul flight.”

British Airways have denied the cabin announcement was made and have promised an "investigation" - it's not clear if they're investigating the announcement or the smoking, or indeed why; but given British Airways ability to cock things up on a grand scale, we don't imagine we'll ever hear of the investigation ever again.

Five years ago today

Emboldened by proposed changes to broadcasting legislation, Clear Channel admitted it was interested in adding UK radio stations to its empire;
The UK charts celebrated their 50th birthday with Christina Aguilera's porn wet-dream Dirrrrrrrty
and, surprisingly, Craig David was something of a hero, refusing demands from his American handlers that he dump his white guitarist to avoid 'confusing' US consumers.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Children In Need 2007

The strongest argument for strengthening the welfare state is, surely, that if we remove all children from lives of want, we can stop asking Terry Wogan to struggle through seven hours of live television.

They're claiming that Boyzone are back together "just for Children In Need"; a one-off super special that might be more special if they'd not already released the tour dates for the ongoing comeback. And if it wasn't Boyzone.

Also back in room have been the Spice Girls, playing together for the first time in over eighteen hours. Their lucrative actual comeback for Victoria's Secrets means that time and money which could have been put to charitable uses (or perhaps retaining a couple of newsroom jobs) has gone on a satellite link-up.

The Spices were sat in the Dancing With The Stars studio behind the judges' desk - it looked a little like those sci-fi movies where aliens land and announce plans for crushing our puny race during a hastily-convened press conference. Except no alien invasion squad would have been quite as shambolic as the Spices: talking over each, getting lost in sexual innuendo with Terry Wogan (you wouldn't, would you?) and, at the middle, Victoria Beckham looking as confused as Peter Davison would on meeting David Tennent's doctor.

By the time they came to actually do a song - that ballad which they've given away to the charity - Mel C had changed her costume, the better to resemble a Victorian undertaker. Complete with a big black top hat. We're seeing it as a cry for help.

We're not totally sure, either, but we think they might have recast Scary Spice.

Other musical highlights so far has been the discovery that that woman off Holby City has a pretty good soul voice and that John Barrowman might have excellent delivery for show tunes, but can't actually sing properly. This is a bit of a problem when he's doing Your Song, although if it means that his "songs for your mother" Christmas album turns out to be a one-off, we'll feel a lot more comfortable watching the next series of Torchwood. Jason Donovan, surprisingly, is now a dead ringer for Tony Blair.

They also had a duo called Sam & Mark on in the first fifteen minutes - it's not exactly A Night Of A Thousand Stars stuff when you have to hit Google to remind yourself who they hell it is you're watching. Apparently, they lost on Pop Idol; they still sing like they're hoping there might be a telephone vote to save them.

Steve Harley is currently on, doing a regional opt-out for the East. He usually turns up doing Come Up And See Me whenever people are raising money anywhere in Anglia; he probably earns more for charity than he does for himself these days.

It's all in a good cause, of course: to donate online.

Led Zep eBay mixed messages

Jimmy Page has helped organise a charity auction through eBay designed to raise money for Brazilian street kids. It's a good cause, and a lovely gesture.

Hang on, though... isn't eBay evil? Wasn't it just last month that charming Harvey Goldsmith railed at them:

"I wish eBay would drop dead and die... I have begged them to take [the tickets] off and they have basically told us to fuck off. So I will do everything I possibly can to ruin their lives."

(We're not entirely sure, inter alia, how one ruins the 'lives' of a corporation and makes it drop dead.)

Do you suppose Harvey was aware the key draw of the night would be using eBay for a legit auction?

Courtney Love will give it away

Courtney Love has been back on the MySpace, sharing her top financial tips:

FICA score is that credit score you get for FREE ( but really its 30s bucks) if your 750 or aBOVE great but they willSTILL hold against you all the things on there that you didnt do - a very serious fincnailsp[erson told me the best way to deal with the "mistaKES" listed on thiers is to actually break the law, get the amex letterhead write to ine if the three agencies wichever has your "mistakes " on it, and just state the mistakes never happebned and itw as a typo= cos even if you have 800- any mistak eron there theyre going to consider that despite your score- if theres stuff on there due to id theft or mistakes ( i took 2 hours to do my amex yesterday and noted that my driver was apparently flying to the uk 4 times on amex and 2 times to the3 uk on the same flight on visa with the attentand 9.85 automatic insurances, for baggage transctions and each person had a "greeter" at 350 dollars when the flights a,d idnt occur cos every flight was not only multiple and all the add ons the sneaky amex tried to stick on there- 995 a transtactiomn? eat me and get me a new card ! the band had no Greeter yet each of the greeters was 350 dollars and there was no dammed greeter , also i hjave a platinum card that i never applied for and refuse to pay a dime on since ve never applied for it last month theres a mysterious 30,000 ollars someone threw on there- and then i asked my banker why ididnt have a check book she stated that so and so told her not to give one to me- WHAT? am i 12! whats the prupose of that to make me more hel[less? so that i cant negotiate and deal withthings i dont wanna use the ccs for myself?
also rem,emeber of the three fica scores the LOWEST is the one that all the cards use as your interest rate

You've been listening to MoneyBox live. It sounds like Courtney's having trouble getting credit, but it could just be that she's realised it's ruinously expensive to fly your bloody chauffeur over to the UK. We do have people who are able to drive here, you know, Love.

But it's not just American Express who is causing Courtney headaches. She's also convinced that CitiBank is conspiring against her:
im sick of this bank violating my rights legally = allowing signatures other than mine for checks allowing the "honest but stupid" b usiness manager tp p[ay himself whatever he was in the mood for monthly and will be getting a lawyer to deal with my insirance letting an embezzler open up 9 accounts there in may 03 while we lived like dogs and do a frauds refinance on my sisiter in laws home 4 x in one day- you heard me 4x in one day- and they made one stick and it had to go up on sherrifs auction 3 years ago this home i bought kurts sister for cash outright- for 190k cash they refinanced it 4x in the same day and used the SAME notary on each of these phone refis nsd phone appraisers- and the SAME notary on each of the phony signature cards i have banking insuirance covering me for 100,000 for each account so it comes to quite a pretty penny=you have it too! if someone touc hes your dammed account dont think all those Citi ads about ID THeft meajn shit-= they will tell you to get the law and get a supeona - yeah thats so easy- Chase is even worse- they justhang up on you sand Visa is NOT CENTRALISED so they camn fuck you on e ibn every state atr evruy bank and theres zero you can do about it-= peopel can get arrested in yopur name etc etc- i mean how many Courtney Loves are there( actuallytheres 5 in the USA that ii know if one is a football player African American male wghose a hot player- i feel bad for him!) now findingthe lawyer to go get them- thats gonna be the hard part cos if i hear "call teh authorities:" one more time illscream-= ther eis NO authorities for this sort of fraud- noone listens to you and all these citis and wamus whoa dvertise that they willnever l;et you have id theft-= theyre so fullof shit youcan get your most info by sweettAlking whomever answers the phone and by the time she he sends you t o fraud they shut you down= all i asked for was the expenditures on the two chase platinum cards"geta supeona" well my daddy aint a judge so you tell me how to do that, ? my fbi dont care, who cares is the irs in my case and they are so volatile i could end up owing what i cant prove = but i can prove a ton- why else would i call the irs in the midst of an audit when NOONE wopuld give me myauditors name? cos that ts the only govt agency willing to get theier money and go afte rthe bad guys this may not be alpplicable to most of you but im sure a ferw of you have expirienced idnetity fraud its 3 out of 10 presently,,,,,,,,more financial advice to come.......

We genuinely can't wait. It's possible that people are ripping Courtney off left, right and round the back, but if her approach to "teh authorities" is made in the same way she approaches MySpace blogging, it's perhaps not a little surprising they don't take her seriously. Or understand a bloody word she's saying.

Still, it's nice to be getting all this top-hole financial advice from a woman who can't apparently open the front door without having internet fraudsters buying a street of houses on Amex cards she doesn't even own. It's like getting healthy eating tips from Mr. Mangetout.

So, having sorted out our money, Courtney then turns to Radiohead. She's impressed:
as for radiohead= they didnt jump off a REAL clifff, they bungee jumped you KNOW the kamikaze pilot in me wants to do the same damm thing except with the best material not live material and not what people have heard except as few pieces that people havebnrt heard mixed and recorded properly-= i also wanna mAke my Lachapelle videos as i woukldnt wantot owork with anyone else for Videos or anything- hes my bff and i love working with him he knows excactly how to pull me out of myself or any rut, with the real thing- theyve made 9.7 m,illion in 3 weeks this way and its live-= not junk as radiohead doesnt make JUNK but its live - most of it heard before( wich youve all heard liveversions of things veryvery different than non live versions of things) i really think it couldf work do all my magazine covers in january - so the lead time in there kamikaze through my junket my tv shit n the 2 week lead up and just jump of f that cliff i love doing things really risky /first

Yes, doing things risky/first. Like providing tracks for rotten sports movies and recording albums for major labels. It's like you're, ooh, Finally Punk or something.

We love the way she's slagging off In Rainbows' quality while still fingering the pile of cash they made.
im greatful for radiohead for making the first move- id do it differentlyt -= thats why b sides are no longer b sides but have to be a sides to an extent-= cos theyre EXTRA TRACKS now wich can mean up to ALOT to such and such sponsor .... etc.
and since the art is amzing thius far ( taZke a look at m/m paris and google thier images.......ive always done my own graphics but they are really inspiring BRILLIANT)
i have alot of fast rock songs to wrote ina hurry- and were on a gold streak- were making new riffs everynight- if people already KNOW me they love me or like me- if they dont KNOW me due to the whole guinea pig female celebrity witchtrial, ( and cmon i had all charges EXPUNGED eg THEY DONT EXIST my punishment was going to court 37 times)

and the house arrest and court-mandated rehab, surely?

Hang about, she's back onto money again:
am going to see the bank another banker today and see if we connect- i dont need my business managers realtionship with the bank i need my OWN relaTIONSHIP WITH M Y BANKER=
i know someone dead poor= she went into her loc al citi= and she stated simply-= " im going to be very very welathy and if youd like to come with me let me know it or illtake my business erlsewhere" she then pulled out a detailed down to the wire business plan ( in the field of marketing) im not suggesting loans are a good thing - advances and loans bother me personally- but when i return from europe and amex has been paid 1/3rd too much money for repetitive tickets charged to amex visa and platinum amex- im NOT a happy girl- in fact ive hired a consultant on a hourly basis whose british and posh and verrrry organised witha way about her in terms of marketing etc, that will deal with the 1-800 amex lady that i used to have was told died in 9/11, wic h turns out to be a morbid and vile lie just to diconnect me with my amex lady= so that they could go hogwild and create phony amex after phon y amex- leaving my c redit at 130 or however low you can go and forcing me ( astupidely since i couldve sued them i now realise) to take out a loanshark style loan to pAy these amexes that were not mine off- but i plan on writing out everyone of these whiners and complainers on my fica and let them know i was a victim of id fraud and have a govt agency investigating this- and would be appreciative in fact i will write" you need to immediatly write to experian and take off these charges please as that has appeared on my fica score"
what ya all think of the in rainbows thing? no business model but how about content? was it karma police? did any of you pay?
im very curuous about this.......if was done with my pr first ----perhaps its doable- but i do have great artwork and accumalating so many extra tracks- i have a major i could use but im so interested in being free to do what i want- i dont wanna COPY radiohead- hmmmmm- well ill fix it all in the mix as they say and see what i wanna do as for release dates not too much longer there at least IS one- tp pull this off would take such an accurate lethal run for it......sorry about my spelling

Courtney, it's not the spelling. We can follow the spelling. It's the, you know, complete lack of any logical content that puzzles us.

Doherty: the curses of print lead time

The NME was lucky enough to get away with running Pete Doherty's "I'm clean" interview before it was widely known he was back on the drucks; Rolling Stone is not so lucky. The magazine is reduced to trying to recast the interview as a warning of what was to come:

Pete Doherty: “I’d Be a Liar If I Said I’d Never Do Drugs Again”

Of course, since he was already doing drugs again, he knew he was on fairly solid ground.

Wonderfully, the interview was done by Austin Scaggs.

Fatboy whim: Norman Cook to tweak the music industry's tail

Emboldened by Radiohead, Norman Cook is drawing inspiration for his next record. He doesn't, however, quite say what he intends to do:

"Artists are beginning to realise they don't need record companies any more, before we were their bitches and they got the lion's share of the money.

“It might be the death toll for traditional record companies as we know them, but I'm not shedding a tear."

Cook knows a thing or two about shabby treatment from record labels - not least the shabby and pointless welding together of the Housemartins back catalogue with stuff from the Beautiful South to create a tenuously connected best-of.

Madonna, Gucci team up to raise funds for indoctinurseries

Madonna and Gucci are coming together to throw a massive charity fundraising bash. They're set to raise a million quid, half of which will go to UNICEF. We're sure they'll be delighted with the gift, although whoever turns up to accept the cheque might have to bite their tongue not to blurt out anything about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, article 21.

The downside is that the other half of the cash will go to Raising Malawi, the Michael Berg/Madge charity which balances its lot-of-good-work-for-orphans with hammering the Kabbalah cult's Spirituality for Kids message into their heads.

Babyshambles hoped for Barat back-up

Drew McConnell has told the NME that the Babyshambles team had hoped Carl Barat would have gone on tour with them. To play guitar on one song:

[H]e and his bandmates wanted Barat to play guitar when they play the Libertines song 'Time For Heroes'.

"I suggested getting Carl," McConnell explained. "But he's not going to be around. I bump into him quite a lot and he's a good lad.

You can see why they might have wanted someone around who can keep a bit of a hand on Doherty, but did they really think offering the chance to grind around the country in a glorified session musician role was an attractive approach?

They also gave him a chance to appear on their record, too. We wonder if the constant demands to make up polite excuses is starting to wear a little on Mr. Barat.

Victoria Newton: Moving on up

It is, in a very real sense, the end of an era. Yes, having successfully, erm, done something or other, Victoria Newton is no more in charge of Bizarre.

In a working demonstration of the Peter Principle, she's been shuffled upwards to take on a whole new role:

In a major promotion, Newton will leave the Bizarre column and join the editing rota.

"Victoria Newton, who has run Bizarre so superbly and with such style, is promoted to the new post of head of features and entertainment. She will supervise the whole features and showbiz operation both in the paper and online," [Rebekah] Wade wrote.

This, of course, leaves a howling vacuum at the top of the Bizarre page - one that's been there since Newton took over, in fact - and into that hole steps Gordon Smart.

Despite sounding like a made-up pop-star from a 1980s British sitcom, Smart is considered something of a rising star at The Sun. He's clearly enjoying rewards for his quality reporting on stories such as the axing of Doctor Who after next year's series, a story none of the other papers got. That it wasn't true is neither here not there, of course.

This week, Gordon has "exclusively" revealed Russell Brand was abused as child, an exclusive he got through the journalist skill of, erm, reading a review copy of Brand's autobiography.

Some might be surprised by Smart's elevation, but he's clearly got what it takes, as demonstrated by the "news" report he filed suggesting that McCartney was a bit fed up by the divorce and was - be prepared to be shocked - relaxing by talking to his kids. Of course, it did actually take three people to file the 100 word piece, but Gordon's name came first which suggests he must have done most of the work.

We look forward to the exciting new era of the Super-Smart Bizarre with a tingling sense of anticipation.

Quick! There's a market developing for diamond-encrusted gold knuckle-dusters in the shape of Euros

More bad news for the US economy: the dollar is now so weak, Jay Z is waving Euros in his new video:

He is seen cruising the streets of New York in Bentleys and Rolls Royces (now owned by Germany's Volkswagen and BMW) with a briefcase of 500 euro notes.

Apparently, Russian plutocrats are now touring the US swapping back the jeans they'd got when Americans used them as currency behind the Communist-era Iron Curtain.

Winehouse's brother appeals for calm

Alex Winehouse, brother of the more infamous Amy, has appeared on the radio to ask for the "media to cut her some slack":

“Through all this battering she’s getting from the press, no one seems to bear in mind that she’s a human being just like anyone and she has feelings and she’s been through a really tough couple of months.

“She really wanted to do [Birmingham] because she felt she owed it to the fans, and she did her best to get through it.

“But come one, she’s been through so much in the last few months and weeks and I guess it really got to her, I think she should be cut some slack.”

It's a curious approach: rather than suggesting to the people pumping her money-making arm that she not be constantly forced onto stage, Alex instead asks that people not point and shout when she's there. But, really, when you're suggesting that someone should be given bonus points for actually bothering to turn up and play a gig that they've already banked the ticket money for, you should probably be asking if 'media coverage' is actually the root of the problem.

Alex then goes on to reveal that, probably, it doesn't matter if the media cut her slack or not:
Asked whether the negative press upsets the troubled star, Winehouse continued: “I don’t think she really pays any attention at all."

Ah. So this is less about worrying about the human Amy Winehouse, and more about trying to protect the public perception of the Winehouse brand, then?

Buddy, can you spare Britney a dime?

Catching the mood of America as the economy slowly erodes, Fox News worries that even celebrities are going broke:

Michael Jackson knows this story all too well. He's defaulted on a $23 million loan, and if he doesn't pay the full amount — plus $212,963.83 in interest — by the end of January, he could lose his beloved Neverland Ranch.

Twelve years ago, the female R&B group TLC was also forced to file for bankruptcy, despite selling a staggering 23 million records.

Britney may not be far behind. Court papers show that she spends $102,000 each month on entertainment, gifts and vacations. Her monthly clothing bill is a whopping $16,000 — $1,000 more than she forks over for child support.

On the other hand, every time someone drops a bit of one of her songs into a news report on Britney's troubles, it helps her make the rent for the month. Indeed, she's probably making money off the reports of how broke she is. You've got to love capitalism, haven't you?

One question remains: How much would the clothing bill be if she was buying underwear as well?

The Telegraph comes out for Amy

Helen Brown, who reviewed the Winehouse gig for the Telegraph, is so outraged that people have criticised her show, she's filed a second column about it.

The Braclay brothers will, of course, be delighted that train ticket to the West Midlands is turning up so much copy.

Brown suggests that people who paid to go have no right to complain:

If the "appalled fans" had bought their £20 tickets to see a slick, wholesome pop show, they'd have had cause for complaint. But they can't pretend that was the case.

Whatever else Winehouse might be accused of, the self-proclaimed "ugly drunk" can't be charged with mis-selling herself. She lives a life of high drama. And she has used that troubled experience to create an excellent album's worth of highly dramatic songs about desperate love, alcohol addiction and drug smoking. Her "appalled fans" must have heard them or they wouldn't have paid for tickets.

She has a point - you probably do know that there's a chance Winehouse might not be any good when you buy the tickets, but is it fair to assume that the audience were there merely to watch the sideshow rather than hear the music?

It's probably analogous to Mark E Smith. If you buy Fall tickets, you know there's a chance that Mark E Smith might turn up in no real state to do a show and turn in a bit of a stunker. And when that happens, you don't think "aha - what a night of high drama", you go home grumbling because you could have seen one of the truly sublime bands but instead got a honking drunk. I suspect the same would be true of the people who bought Winehouse tickets - whereas Brown assumes they went in the hope of seeing a stumbling freakshow, I imagine most people hoped they'd get the woman who, from time to time, turns in a decent performance.

It's curious that Brown is angry that the press turned up expecting a dreadful performance - which is bad of them - while she's apparently okay with the audience buying tickets for the same reason.

Brown suggests they should count their blessings:
[The night] even for the "appalled", surely unforgettable.

Well, yes. It's unforgettable if you go on a date and the person you're with is sick all over your shoes. It doesn't mean it's good for the relationship.

Brown also appears to be quite selective in her account of the gig:
So now we come to the "crazed rant". When a group of young men booed, Winehouse pointed out that if they didn't like her music they were "muggy ****s" for buying tickets. While indecorously phrased, she had a point.

Surely the nub of her slagging of the crowd wasn't the calling them cunts, more the threat that people booing would be beaten up when her husband is released from prison? And were the "young men" booing Winehouse's music, or her performance? Because if you've paid to see someone who can't do the show, booing - while indecorously phrased, might be to the point.

Ultimately, Brown is doing Winehouse no favours. By suggesting that a mentally-fragile woman is a thrilling show, (like "Holiday or Simone"), she's validating the backstage team who forced her on despite the mini-breakdown minutes before taking the stage [reported in this morning's Mirror].

There's nothing artistic in seeing someone crumble before your eyes. Ultimately, the audience who effectively called out "get her off the stage" were being kinder to Winehouse than people like Brown insisting "the show must go on". She's clearly vulnerable, and rather than excitedly trilling about how thrilling it is to watch, the humane thing to do is look away.

Sex Pistols: at 1977 prices

The great Sex Pistols comeback hasn't exactly seen them lifted onto shoulders as heroes. Indeed, the Mirror has peeked at eBay and found a somewhat cold reception:

Tickets for the Sex Pistols' latest comeback show are being desperately auctioned for as little as 1p.

To be fair, the penny tickets are merely being offered without a minimum bid rather than having actually attracted a bid of a penny; nevertheless, there are quite a few pairs of tickets for Manchester which haven't found any interest at all.

Lloyd-Webber hails Winehouse

Not everyone is ripping strips off Amy's Birmingham date. She finds support from Andrew Lloyd-Webber, who took David Frost to see the gig.

You might consider that having Frost and Webber in your audience is as much a setback as turning up late, slurring your way through the songs and getting booed, but let's be fair.

Lloyd-Webber (and Frost) apparently had trouble understanding why the show went down so badly:

I thought there were moments when she was absolutely magnificent.

The original curate's egg, in other words.
It was strange what happened last night. Suddenly, way into the show, the audience suddenly turned on her and she wasn’t equipped to handle it.

"She made the mistake of haranguing the audience instead of letting it go."

Lloyd-Webber seems to put the blame for the show going wrong, you'll note, on the audience - as if people would have paid all this cash and come along simply to boo for no reason.
"There were moments during the show where she was up there with the A-list. Amy showed flashes of genius."

You don't think, Andrew, that this might be the problem? That people had paid A-list prices for an A-list show from an A-list performer and instead got just "occasional flashes" of what they'd come to see?

Winehouse: health risk

Amy Winehouse and Blake Empty-Suit aren't just slowly whittling their own lives away; it turns out they're health risks to just be around. Tour manager Thom Stone quit after doctors found heroin in bis bloodstream. As the Sun points out, he was suffering from passive smacking.

Naturally, there's someone in the Winehouse camp who tries to spin this, too, to make it sound like a positive:

[A] pal of Amy’s said: “When he produced this note Blake and Amy thought it was a joke.

“They didn’t get on with Thom and were taking the piss when he tried to pull that excuse to leave. They wanted rid of him anyway.”

Stone's probably lucky they didn't try and make him pay for his share of the heroin.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bronfman: Maybe, just maybe, we screwed up

Like a man found in a burned-out building muttering "maybe you did smell gas, honey", Warner's Edgar Bronfman has suggested that perhaps the music industry has done much to bring its woes upon itself:

We used to think our content was perfect just exactly as it was. We expected our business would remain blissfully unaffected even as the world of interactivity, constant connection and file sharing was exploding. And of course we were wrong. How were we wrong? By standing still or moving at a glacial pace, we inadvertently went to war with consumers by denying them what they wanted and could otherwise find and as a result of course, consumers won."

The key word, of course, is inadvertently - as in 'we seem to have pursued ruinously expensive legal actions against our best consumers for a number of years by accident.'

We'll see in the months to come if this is anything more than crocodile tears being sobbed by a man in charge of a company whose stock is tanking trying to convince the market that he's got a vision for the future.

Pipettes set Boston on fire

The Pipettes barely made it out alive (okay, had to cut short their set) in Boston last night when a monitor burst into flames. It was a charity gig, apparently. If only something half as interesting happens during the Woganthon tomorrow night...

Led Zep to play Glasto. Or maybe not.

Depending on who you believe, either Led Zeppelin is going to headline Glastonbury, or they've demanded too much money and won't be. Can you really put a price on making it clear that The Verve aren't the headline act?

Regina Spektor felled by ears

We understand she's going to be alright, but nasty for a moment: Regina Spektor collapsed minutes before last night's Nashville gig. An infection of the inner ear gave her megavertigo, and down she went. The gig, of course, was cancelled; it's now been shuffled off to next month.

The horror done in the name of Skid Row

Sebastian Bach who, back in the 80s, was the traditional ending to the phrase "okay, if I really couldn't just shoot myself, and had to have sex with one of Skid Row, it would probably be...", is worried that the band's name is being traduced by the current version of the group. He frets:

. The Skid Row of 2007 doesn't help matters at all by what they are doing. They are wrecking the name worse than can ever be wrecked. So they make my job harder when I am trying to do something cool and new, and they are just touring the world two out of five original members, playing with all the bands that we would never have toured with me in the band. So they make it hard.

Yes, it's simply because of the rump-leftovers of Skid Row touring that people find it hard to take you seriously when you do something "cool and new", Mr. Bach.

And what is the "cool and new" thing that you're doing that being linked with 80s pop metal makes it hard to pull off? Ballet? Grime? Crunk?
Angel Down is more of what you would expect from me and what I expect of myself, which is ass kickin' rock n' roll! I am really happy with the songs, the playing, the production, the artwork and, oh yeah, I have a guest star on the album, too!

Yes, he's made a rock record with Axl Rose. And yet Skid Row keep trying to suggest that he's nothing more than a pantomime rock horse stuck in the 1980s, trading off faded glories. That really must suck.

[Via Idolator]

Freebase away from the base

Let's try and pretend it's not just a bunch of former Premiership players in a Sunday league side, and feign enthusiasm for the possibility that the Hook/Mani/Rourke project Freebase is gearing up to tour. Apparently the plan is "summer festivals", where you don't have to directly ask people to pay to see you.

Jacksons reunite?

With band reunions happening every thirteen seconds, you might as well just pluck names out the air since, mostly, sooner or later any band will recoalesce. That's probably why Yahoo is happy to report there might be a Jackson 5 reunion.

We, however, have our doubts:

Leonard Rowe promoted Michael Jackson's Off The Wall tour the late '70s/early '80s. He has now met with the Jacksons to discuss the possibility of a reunion tour in 2008.

Rowe told Access Atlanta: "His brothers are ready. Janet is ready. But the motor of that car that makes the car run, isn't just yet."

Leaving aside the clunking automobile metaphor - Randy and Tito, presumably, are the running boards and Jermaine would be the sunroof? - why would Janet be involved in a Jackson 5 reunion, given that it was a boys-only sort of band?

Mouse, Spill, Laughter mix-up

Coming sometime next year, according to Pitchfork(who themselves read it in Billboard): an album where Modest Mouse, Built To Spill and Love As Laughter cover each other's tracks.

A Mouse spokesperson (we suspect they might be the only band in the project grand enough to have a spokesperson) says that's it's still mooted rather than definite; nobody Pitchfork spoke to in the BTS camp seemed to have heard about it. But it might still happen.

Five years ago today

Rod Stewart suggested Robbie Williams was like a younger version of himself - and that's before Williams started bloating out in California playing football with any expats he can scare up;
Liverpool City Council declared war on flyposters, eventually deciding to try knocking down every wall instead to foil them;
and Huey Morgan made a surprise appearance on BBC Choice suggesting Michael Jackson might not be welcome at the local playgroup.

Appleton hit the smallest of small screens

Nearly two years ago, ITV invested in a pilot chat show featuring Nicole Appleton interviewing her "famous pals". Surprisingly, they've finally commissioned a series - with Natalie also on board.

Only not for TV. Not even for the web. It's a mobile-aimed product. Oh, and you'll never guess who the first interviewee is?

Why, yes, Liam Gallagher. Must have been quite a dig through the contact book for that one, eh?

My Bloody Valentine: Now we knows when

My Bloody Valentine dates! MBV tour dates! Dates for a My Bloody Valentine tour. When the band will be on stage and playing music together:

June 2008

20 London Roundhouse
28 Manchester Apollo


02 Glasgow Barrowlands

Boo-hoo: Prince sends legal notices to the nasty men

Having made himself something of target by declaring war on his own fans, Prince is now finding that the internet can bit back. Indeed, b3ta launched a Prince image challenge in celebration of his stupidity.

For their efforts, they got a DCMA take-down notice, despite - erm - not being in the US. They've complied with the purple-pissy prissy one's wishes:

Under threat of legal action from Princes legal team of "potential closure of your web site" - We have removed the Prince image challenge and B3ta apologises unreservedly to AEG / NPG and Prince for any offence caused. We also ask our members to avoid photoshoping Prince and posting them on our boards.

Prince's giffinder general, John Gaicobbi of Web Sheriff did his best to try and not make his client sound like a humourless, heavy-handed, technophobic cry-baby:
"I don't think the people who posted them would like to be on receiving end of that kind of treatment.

"There's poking fun and there's poking fun and people are clearly taking it too far and crossing over the boundaries of what is acceptable."

Perhaps these people wouldn't want to be on the end of caricatures depicting them in an unpleasant way, but then since they haven't been sending legal letters demanding - god help us all - that websites remove pictures of people with Prince tattoos - it's unlikely they'd find themselves in such an unpleasant position in the first place.

We've had a quick Google and apparently the Prince-mandated shades of acceptable fun-poking have yet to be made public. Perhaps Prince could let us know exactly what degree of "poking fun" is acceptable to him: can we, for example, draw a small cartoon of him screeching "listen, Charles Windsor, either you take the word 'Prince' off your business cards, or I'll send my WebSherriff round"? Would a photoshopped image of him trying to whitewash a computer monitor be okay? How about if we morphed his head onto an etching of King Cantue? It would be handy to know.

[Thanks to Karl and David Scott who both sent the link]

Ricky Gervais' clean break

The news that Doherty has slipped - again - won't impress Ricky Gervais, who's been snorting derisively at the praise the Lohans and Spears get for kicking addictions:

"I feel sorry for those people who don't know any better, have these addictions and go off the rails (but) it makes me laugh when someone says, 'I haven't taken drugs for three years,' and they get a round of applause.

"Most people haven't taken drugs their whole life! It's like, 'I haven't murdered for a week - way to go!' I'm one of those people who think, 'Pull yourself together!'"

Yes, it's true that, Ricky. It's almost like they're glamourising drugs by turning the struggle against them into something noble. You know, like making a video game about drug dealers might be thought of as doing.

[Thanks to Michael M for the link to the quote]

Pete Doherty: rehab by day

News this morning from Pete Doherty's ongoing struggle with demons, etc. You'll recall the last time we saw him, he was issuing abashed statements about heading straight back to rehab having fallen off the wagon.

It turns out he's only doing day rehab, which is leaving his night free for other things. Like, according to the 3AM Girls, getting busy in the kitchen:

In our pictures the tracksuit-clad addict calmly chops up five massive lines of the drug on a silver tray perched on a kitchen counter, snorts them through a rolled-up piece of paper then stares glassily at the camera.

That's horrifying. Doherty in a tracksuit?

Mel C: Thanks, but no thanks

Interesting little detail from the small print on the new Spice Girls album: Mel C, alone, hasn't thanked Simon Fuller. Victoria Newton interprets this as "churlishness".

Meanwhile, Victoria Poshspice has been talking about the dance routines:

“We’re including some old ones but bringing them up to date a bit.”

"Up to date" meaning, we suspect, they've been redrafted to reflect the band's slightly older, sometimes artificially-altered bodies.

First night: Amy's on the road again

Last night was the first night of Amy Winehouse's UK tour at the NIA in Birmingham. So, how did it go?

Stephen Dalton, in The Times, reported the show was alright, but misfired:

For all these churning emotions, this was not a classic show. Clearly the troubled chanteuse has other things on her mind, but the size of the venue also appeared to overwhelm her at times. The fetchingly sloppy, intimate delivery that works a treat in smaller clubs does not translate well to arenas, and some of her bouncy retro-soul hits fell a little flat.

However, The Sun's unnamed reviewer suggests the audience felt it was more than "a little flat":
AMY WINEHOUSE went into meltdown on stage last night hours after visiting her husband in jail.

The star appeared drunk and turned her gig into a crazed tribute to hubby BLAKE FIELDER-CIVIL, which had fans booing and walking out.

Hundreds left Birmingham’s NIA on the first night of her 17-date UK tour.

Now, we know when the Sun reports 'hundreds' walking out, it usually means a few, but the boos appear to have been genuine, as Amy, erm, threatened the people who expressed their disapproval:
And as fans tired of the mumbling star and began booing, Amy turned on her audience.

She said: “Let me tell you something. First of all, if you’re booing you’re a mug for buying a ticket.

“Second to all the people booing — just wait till my husband gets out.”

That's the best thing you can possibly say about a bloke who's soon to go on trial accused of beating the crap out of someone, we'd imagine.

And what of the stage outfit? Stephen Dalton in The Times was impressed:
She was dressed in a skimpy, shiny top and tight black skirt and her magnificent beehive squatted on top of her tiny head like a huge dead octopus.

The Sun, however, suggested someone should have told her she wasn't going out dressed like that:
Dressed in a tight black miniskirt and with her see-through top showing off her black bra, at one point her boobs almost popped out after she lost her balance.

Apparently, she trumped off stage before the gig was even properly finished as well - perhaps she went to join the small throng demanding their money back:
Fan James Dyas was one of those who walked out demanding his money back.

He said: “She came on stage half an hour late. She managed four songs but was slurring her words and swaying all over the place.

“She fell into the guitar stand and dropped the microphone — it was atrocious."

You could argue, though, that if you've bought a ticket to a Winehouse gig in the last six months or so, you do so on the understanding that you're not really to expect her to turn up, never mind stand up.

On the BBC News site, monkfish-faced jazz criminal Jamie Cullum pops up to offer his 'support' for Amy's professionalism:
"I don't think she'd want to miss a tour because she likes playing too much," he said.

Which is an optimistic viewpoint, but even that pales into the official response from the Winehouse camp to the wobbly show, which attempts to spin the thing:
A spokesman for Amy said last night: “It’s been a really emotional time for Amy but she was determined to do the gig.

“She broke down on stage a couple of times with real tears. That real emotion is why people love her, but it’s just really heightened at the moment."

Yes, people love being threatened with being beaten up by a thug by the person they've paid money to see. That'd be "heightened emotion", then.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Radio: Two becomes one

Shareholders in Sirius and XM have spearately agreed to the two companies merging; now, the only thing stopping America getting a single, unified satellite radio service is legislative overview.

Gorillaz drawing to a close

Wasn't Gorillaz meant to be all over? Apparently not, as there's talk now of a movie based on the cartoon band called - no, really, Bananaz.

It's a behind-the-scenes documentary, according to the NME, which we really hope is wrong - after all, what could be more fascinating than some people drawing, cut to some people recording in a studio, cut to some more people drawing - and maybe doing a bit of colouring?

It's the Capital of Culture, don'tcha know?

Liverpool's Christmas this year is a big one: marking the end of the city's birthday celebrations, and the start of a year as Europe's Capital of Culture.

So, who's turning on the Christmas lights on such a major occasion?

Natasha Hamilton. Oh, and Eton Road:

Natasha Hamilton will sing two songs and Eton Road, who with former band member Anthony Hannah also starred at the switch-on last year, will sing their own composition Wishing and Mika’s hit Grace Kelly.

Presumably Sonia was already booked up?

Beck and Jack White: together at last

There's something strangely inevitable about the news that The White Stripes and Beck are coming together on a B-sides project - Mr White and Mr Hansen share that "we're going to have wild fun, but not until I say so" air which made them seem quite alluring at first but quickly just became wearing. Pitchfork's explanation of the the planned delivery method for these tracks underlines just how irritating that self-conscious quirkiness becomes:

The Stripes recently recorded a mess of B-sides with Mr. Beck Hansen in his living room, which they'll splay over a trio of 7" "Conquest" discs and an all-encompassing U.S.-only digital download. In addition to co-producing the sessions, Beck contributed vocals and piano to "It's My Fault for Being Famous" and played a little slide guitar on "Honey, We Can't Afford to Look Cheap". One black, one red, and one white 7" will be issued, each with "Conquest" on the front and a different B-side on the back, due in the U.S. December 18 from Third Man/Warner Bros. and in the UK December 31 on XL.

Oh, good lord, you can't just put 'em onto Amazon and have done with, can you?

No Rock and Roll Fun is 20,000

This post really is to warn you that, in another 4,999 post, we'll be doing something to "celebrate" the 25,000th post on No Rock.

To stop this being totally redundant, a few quick pieces of housekeeping.

First, I'm slowly working through the older archive posts to try and get them into some sort of housestyle, properly tagged, more easy to search and so on; it's going to take time, but that's why some old posts look like they were posted yesterday and some are laid out completely differently. I'm not changing any of the content of the posts - although some of the more egregious spelling mistakes might be corrected - so, if the story points through to a page that has, in the last few years, vanished from the internet, it'll still be there and - however tempting it might be - I'm not going to change posts to benefit from hindsight. ("How splendid a choice Billie Piper is to accompany Doctor Who...")

Second, some other ways you can 'enjoy' No Rock: we're flattered to be part of The Word magazine's News Aggregator, although having our posts rubbing up against shoulders with the likes of Andrew Collins and Rob Fitzpatrick makes us feel like a caravan parked in Park Lane.

You can actually have posts delivered the moment they happen (sort-of) via email, which is an almost-secret; we've been routinely getting Blogger to post entries to a GoogleGroup for the last - blimey - 13,000 messages or so, to develop a separate archive in case anything bad ever happens. 13,000 messages suggests it's quite a robust service, so if you prefer that method of getting stuff, sign up at GoogleGroups.

You'll probably have spotted down there on the left there's been a Tumblr feed which churns out bits and pieces of non-No Rock stuff that grabs me as I wander about the internet; it also pulls in stuff from my Twitter feed, which you can follow - should you wish - directly. It's the microblogging revolution.

Five years ago today

EMI announced plans to make £100million in savings (yes, just like they did yesterday);
the RIAA was warned a battle on peer-to-peer networks was one they were doomed to lose;
and EMI announced plans to trial selling music online. Limited, carefully controlled plans.

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet

The Creative Review Blog transcribes a conversation between Peter Saville and Dan Fox:

DF: But in a sense you had the autonomous space of an artist for ten years – a degree of liberty that is very similar to that of an artist.

PS: Complete liberty… Strangely out of disinterest. It was New Order’s disinterest and agreed policy of disagreement that allowed it. When Ian died, the natural hierarchy which would have naturally formed in Joy Division… because that’s what happens in bands, at the beginning everyone’s equal, y‘know, if you’ve got a van you can be the manager… that’s how it is. But once they enter the music business, a proper manager is put in place and it’s, “The drummer’s not very good, is he?” and “We’ve got someone else with a drum kit…” The natural hierarchy crystallises around the central figure which is usually the writer/singer and that’s what would have happened had Joy Division signed to a record label or a proper record company, and had Ian survived. He would have gradually, even against his own free will, turned into a Jim Morrison-type character and that’s who you would be working for if you were doing a sleeve or taking a photo or whatever… you’d be working for that person.

Wired's Listening Post carries a lengthy email from MP3Tune's Michael Robertson, placing the lawsuit against his service in the context of the RIAA battle:
While the lawsuit says "EMI" I think the RIAA is advocating this legal fight
as much as any individual label or entity. The RIAA is the music industry's
association with a focus honed on suing seemingly every new technology that
comes along (this last decade at least) . This is what happens when you have
a staff of attorneys -- they want big, long legal fights so they can bill
their clients. The problem with suing every new technology and/or company is
the opportunity to use that new technology in a positive manner is lost. For
example the RIAA sued the first portable MP3 players. The RIAA lost -- not
just the lawsuits, but the chance to leverage an exciting new technology
(MP3 players). It also lost the ability to partner with innovative companies
for increased sales and revenues. By suing every new technology, the music
industry is missing the opportunity to use innovation to dramatically grow
its business in exciting new ways.

... while the Lefsetz Letter responds to Jay-Z's insistence that iTunes doesn't sell his album because he's selling albums, not tracks:
Why does the music industry want to exclude the casual user? We need the people scared away from trading to consume. We need the people who want legal files to be able to pay for them.

Instead of this hissy fit.

Where IS your album available Jay? We’ve got to go to our nearest physical retailer? Where exactly is that? There’s no record store in my neighborhood. And I’m not going to Best Buy for one disc, my life’s too short and I don’t need a refrigerator.

Oh, I get it, I’m supposed to go on Amazon, where you’re breaking Apple’s monopoly. By selling unprotected MP3s.

Is this about money or art? Is this about the whole album or getting people to pay for the entire album?

Donda's doc: Sorry, but it wasn't my fault

The very-public death of Donda West continues, with Dr. Jan Adams, the cosmetic surgeon whose had been reducing breasts and tummy-tucking prior to her death issuing a statement:

"I first want to express my deepest condolences to the West family at a very difficult time," Adams said Tuesday in a statement read by Williams. "Out of respect for the West family and in the absence of other verifiable information, any comment from me without first discussing that information with the family would be unprofessional."

Happily, it appears that it's not unprofessional to chat with TMZ:
Adams, 53, told celebrity Web site that West's death was not caused by the surgery, but could have been caused by a heart attack, a pulmonary embolism or vomiting.

Adams has, so far, paid out nearly half a million dollars to settle malpractice lawsuits.

Shrinking floorspace sends Warners through the floor

Troubled times for stockholders of Warner Music Group: Market expert Rich Greenfield has rubbished their shares for the second time in a week. He now reckons they're worth five dollars a piece; the markets are working hard to make his prediction come true.

His main reason for the gloom - besides, obviously, looking at the artists they're working with - is rumours that US chains are looking to cut back the shelf room they give to CDs, possibly by as much as 30%, in order to use the space for something a little more profitable. Like customer washrooms or something.

Oasis pledge never to 'do a Radiohead'

Liam Gallagher - who also seems to think that Radiohead 'gave their record away for free' - has, somewhat unsurprisingly, insisted that Oasis wouldn't follow them:

Specifically, he said he would allow it to happen "over my dead body".

There's probably a very good reason why Oasis would choose not to sell their albums for what people felt them to be worth, as the administration in ensuring all downloaders got given five pounds would be a nightmare.

Liam also enthused over how the recording sessions for the 79th Oasis album - the 78th pale imitation of the first one - is going:
"There's lots of cool parts," he told Reuters. "Really, we're throwing everything at it.

"Hopefully our kid's [Noel Gallagher] learned his lesson [about over-tweaking things in the studio]. It shouldn't be hard making music. We've been doing it long enough."

Yes, Liam, you certainly have been making for music for quite, quite long enough.

Lily Allen insists Radiohead isn't laying eggs

The current music industry has been good to Lily Allen, designed, as it is, to promote personality above talent, so it's understandable that anything which challenges the status quo is going to cause her some mild alarm. So it is she's attacked Radiohead for their variable pricing experiment:

"It's arrogant for them to give their music away for free - they've got millions of pounds. It sends a weird message to younger bands who haven't done as well.”

Except they didn't 'give their music away for free' - they invited people to pay what they felt it was worth. And younger bands might consider that the two and a half million the band apparently trousered could be a good start towards 'doing well'.
“You don't choose how much to pay for eggs. Why should it be different for music?"

Actually, Lily, in some places you do choose how much to pay for eggs - on country lanes you find a basket of eggs and an honest box with an invitation to pay what you feel they're worth.

And it's not as if the concept of paying someone according to how well they've pleased you is totally alien, is it? Unless Lily tips waiters and cabbies a fixed amount, delineated in advance. Paying someone according to the quality of service - why should it be different for music, Lily?

Woman's valiant struggle

At long last, someone has stepped forward to break the duopoly on celebrity weddings. Jackie Hatton, editor of Woman, pants to the UK Press Gazette of her vital blow for the freedom of the press:

“As far as I’m aware it’s a first for the mainstream woman’s market. Weddings have been the province of the Hellos and OKs of this world, and we relaunched last year to bring the title bang up-to-date and embrace the market trends. Once you start looking at celebrity and the ways that celebrity is covered across the media, the big attention grabbers are the big events – the births, the weddings, and the engagement parties.”

She's put her entire operation on standby to turnaround the vital story as quickly as is possible:
A team of 10 editorial staff worked to produce the coverage within 24 hours of the ceremony.

And who is the latter-day Princess Grace whose nuptials have been snatched from under the very nose of OK and Hello!?

Erm, Colleen Nolan.

Still, Hello must be annoyed at losing a perfectly serviceable story it could have used on a half-page somewhere near the back. And how, exactly, did Woman secure this scoop?

Erm, Colleen is a columnist for the magazine.


Kershaw "breaches restraining order again"

Andy Kershaw has appeared in court again, following claims that he breached terms of a restraining order preventing him from making contact with his former partner.

He's been bailed to appear again on December 4th; he's currently under a three-month suspended sentence following charges arising from an earlier breach of the order.

Stoned at home

If you have tears, prepare to shed them now, as Joss Stone snuffles about the reception for her second album:

"I felt kind of sad about it actually.

It's funny because the only country that hasn't liked it is my own.

"It's just like, well, thanks guys! It's like coming home and having them be like, 'Go away, we don't like you!'

"It's the whole country and it's like they're mad at me for being in the US.

"Maybe it's because I dye my hair, maybe because my accent is messed up. But I've got to let it go and get on with my music."

Or... and here's a though, Joss... maybe it's because your last album was aimed at a sludgy, AOR market which doesn't exist in large enough numbers in the UK to make it as lucrative. But, still, not to worry - you carry on counting your money. Sorry, getting on with your music.

George Michael unspiced

Apparently, George Michael had been supposed to write a song for the Spice Girls comeback, part of the spectacular misunderstanding that anyone wants the band to do anything other than the first two albums.

However, he took so long he's been dumped, which has led to some bad blood between him and former friend Geri Halliwell.

None of which is remarkable, but it's worth taking a look at the - well, 'pun' would be wrong - that Newton has hammered into the last piece of her article:

Oh dear, showbiz pals eh?

One minute they are your best mate, but it can take one Careless Whisper and Wham! can’t stand the sight of each other any more.

Yes, more than a little lame, but it doesn't make any bloody sense, either: in what way is 'taking too long to write a song so services no longer needed' a "Careless Whisper"? It's like she was going to write a story about George gossiping and getting the poke, but when that turned out not to be the case, she thought she'd use the gag anyway. Bemusing.

A husband inside

The family of Blake Fielder-Civil and Amy Winehouse are rallying round with Blake inside. Just not round each other, according to The Sun.

Victoria Newton is, you know, concerned about Amy's well-being:

Amy looked pale and painfully thin as she arrived at the prison with a pal yesterday.

Her lips were horribly cracked — a symptom sometimes associated with crack cocaine abuse — as she stormed erratically around the streets.

Mmm. Cracked lips can be a symptom of doing crack; on the other hand, it can also be a symptom of not wearing lipbalm and going out in the wind.

The Sun isn't impressed with Heather Mills website

A couple of weeks after Heather Mills launched her online campaign against The Sun, the paper is sniffy about her success:

Figures released by internet monitors Alexa, reveal her site was only the 242,174th most viewed in the UK – around the same as specialist

That does sound pretty poor. If you don't know anything about the internet or the UK. Fishing is the most popular sport in the UK, so turning in a performance like the mighty isn't actually that bad.

And 242,174th might sound low-placed, but since Netcraft have counted 142,805,398 websites on the net at the moment, that isn't actually too bad a placing.

The paper tries again:
Mucca’s offering was 167,092 places below the official Beatles website.

Really? All this shows is that the Beatles - who are a pretty well established brand with a wide, international fanbase - are only the 75,000th most popular website in the UK, demonstrating how a rather lowly-sounding position in the chart isn't a sign of being shunned by the public.

But the paper isn't finished:
More than a third of visitors – 36 per cent – were not even based in the UK.

Heavens! Foreign people! Perhaps, though, those readers "not based in the UK" include, erm, the owner of The Sun? And - according to Comscore research - 42% of's readers are, themselves, based overseas.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

EMI plans: stage three - profit

We're half-impressed by Terra Firma's steering of EMI; it's still getting a lot wrong, but does at least seem to have accepted that things can't go on like there was no internet.

However, the long-term prospects for the company still don't look all that rosy. TF is seeking other partners to share the risk - a common move in the private equity world - and, in order to tempt them, is circulating half-business plans. One has (apparently) wound up in the hands of the New York Post.

They pledge that they're going to be making loads of money by 2012:

Terra Firma plans on increasing cash flow at its recorded music unit from $43 million to $1.1 billion in 2012

Blimey, that sounds like a lot. How will it do that?

Well, like the Tories, they're pledging to cut costs without actually being sure if the costs are cutable:
Terra Firma thinks it can cut another $223 million in fixed costs at EMI

This is cutting everything, across the board. So how will the record label function?
The firm also wants to reduce costs in artist-and-repertoire and marketing by $58 million by using social networks and user-generated Web sites like MySpace to discover and promote talent.

[The NYP fails to mention that it shares a parent company with MySpace.]

It's a nice idea, but what TF doesn't apparently reveal is why artists would choose to go with EMI if they're able to market themselves online without the company's help. It's a little bit like Marks and Spencer promising to cut its costs by sourcing its food from soup kitchens. Terra Firma needs to do more work on what it is that EMI intends to offer the artists it finds on MySpace; presumably, having dismantled its distribution network and cut its A&R department to save money, it's not going to be the size of its operation. So, what would an eEMI have, exactly?

Led on? Page hints at Zep tour

The Led Zep reunion - and, ready yourself to look surprised, okay? - might be more than that strictly one-off, no-more, that's it show. Jimmy Page slipped the word to Guitar World magazine:

"It's a bit silly not to because there is such massive demand.

"It's a bit selfish to do just one show. If that's it, we probably shouldn't have taken the genie out of the bottle."

Aha. Public demand. At least unlike the "public demand" which has resurrected Boyzone, this probably does have some routes in the actual public.

Of hamsters and metre: Neko Case on poetry

Neko Case has contributed to the current number of Poetry magazine, although not without some misgivings:

About twenty minutes after sending my e-mail of acceptance I paused to triumphantly sharpen my claws on the bookcase when I noticed the blazing, neon writing on the wall. It said: YOU'VE NEVER EVEN PASSED ENGLISH 101 AND EVERYONE WHO READS THIS MAGAZINE WILL KNOW IT.

We're sure there's room for a sister article in Psychology magazine.

The end of the Music World as we know it

The last Canadian-based record store chain standing, Music World, has collapsed. All 72 of its stores are to be shuttered after a couple of months flogging off inventory; there's some chance that HMV might save a few branches.

You can rent Cheryl Baker

It's all for charity: To raise funds for a brain tumor charity, you can buy a date with Cheryl Baker (and others) online and enjoy a night with Cheryl. Ms Baker promises these delights:

Well, you'll be guaranteed to get wine spilt over you, crumbs sprayed in your face and have your shins kicked - and that's before we enter the restaurant!

So, if you're an 80s enthusiast with a taste for a spot of mild S&M, dig deep...

[via DigiCreamTimes]

Luke Haines goes to Argos for Christmas

That sound? That's Malcolm Middleton getting some competition in the least-likely Christmas number one stakes, as Black Arts announces its Christmas Number One contender, called, erm, Christmas Number One.

Black Arts? Oh, yes: a combination of the fire power of Black Box Recorder and Eddie Argos. It's coming out on December 3rd.

Thom Yorke lets down Macca gently

Paul McCartney apparently asked Thom Yorke to do some work with him. Thom said 'no':

“My daughter was putting an album together and she put us in touch. I asked Thom to do a duet, but he said he couldn’t because he only felt happy working on his own and Radiohead’s material.”

Yes, that's true, that, Paul.

Here's Thom not feeling happy working with UNKLE:

Here's Mr. Yorke clearly uncomfortably collaborating with Bjork:

Thom Yorke obviously wasn't happy working with Drugstore, either:

There was no frisson of joy when Thom worked with REM:

Perhaps, Paul, it could just be that he didn't want to work with, well... you?

Five years ago today

A copy-protection company revealed that record labels were happy if one in ten of the CDs they sold didn't work;
"Pete from the Libertines" chose such a charming selection of records we wondered if he'd come to tea at our house;
the National Music Council reported that falling revenues from recorded music owed more to falling prices than dropping sales;
and Australia introduced a music ratings system to warn parents if their kids were listening to black - sorry, bad - music

We're Going Places: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

A proud Ohioan told me - on discovering my plans to visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland - that there are more Halls of Fame in Ohio than any other state, as if they were some natural phenomenon. He, it should be noted, lived in the shadow of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, which rises out of the trees at the side of the Interstate like an enormous lemon squeezer, so it's prossible he does think of them in that way. Perhaps it just makes it easier to live in a state which is carving a niche as a nostalgia landfill if you pretend.

Cleveland, for those of you who've never had the pleasure, is America's Hull: gorgeous turn-of-the-last-century architecture as testament to a glorious, wealthy past housing store proclaiming their willingness to take welfare cheques as a reminder of a more recent hard times; a vibrant downtown and signs of gentrification trickling outwards to the suburbs.

The Hall of Fame is part of a manifestation of the familiar arts-as-motor-of-regeneration approach that councils all over the Western world reach for; Cleveland is keen to brand itself as the birthplace of rock and roll on the basis that Alan Freed (supposedly) coined the phrase on radio in the city. Presumably other cities - Memphis, Detroit, perhaps - would beg to differ over this qualification if they didn't have other claims on which to base their musical history.

It's a brave city which builds its economy on something which a former dj said - as that place which lost all the money on Noel Edmond's Mr Blobbyland found out to its cost - but Cleveland has thrown its heart into the rock thing, inviting businesses to sponsor enormous guitars which fan out from the front of the museum into the city proper. That it's corporate sponsored pretty much says it all - it's that sort of rock.

The Hall itself is a pretty impressive building, like something from the early days of a computer-generated pop video; all angles and reflection.

Parked outside is Johnny Cash's tour bus; sadly, though, this has closed for the season and all you can do is peer through the window. Pretty much as if Cash was still using it.

As you go in, there's a blunt warning that - besides not taking guns in, lest you try and recreate a Phil Spector moment, presumably - you musn't take photos. To protect the artists, naturally. Somehow, sneaking a snap of Madonna's old shoes would deprive her of something.

You're also given a wristband - like you're at a rockfestival. There seems to be no reason for this; it's presumably considered to offer a vital part of the rock experience. Of course, if they really wanted to make it authentically like going to see a gig, you'd swap your coat for a raffle ticket with a bored-looking girl who - as soon as your back was turned - would go through the pockets, have sex with a support band's bassist on top of it, splash some lager over the pockets before managing to mislay it altogether.

Of course, the whole basis of the Hall of The Fame is rooted in the belief that there's a pantheon of artists in the first place - something we have fundamental problems with - but even if you accept that there is a hierarchy to be celebrated, there's still a question of who would be in, and who would be out.

The main displays don't stick strictly to inductees of the Hall, which means - perhaps surprisingly - New Order and Joy Division get a case dedicated to them; the knock-on effect of this is that there are more pictures of John Barnes in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame than there are of Hank Williams Jr.

Some of the bigger acts come off surprisingly badly, too - the Elvis collection is clearly made up of 'stuff serious collectors haven't an interest in' and, if sheer weight of stuff is a guide, The Beatles are less significant than the Sex Pistols.

The most noticeable thing, for a museum supposedly celebrating music, is how poorly the music is treated: dozens of loudspeakers blare out from different corners, creating an unpleasant cacophony in which it's virtually impossible to discern any single tune at all, much less get a feel for what was important, different, life-changing about the music. You wonder why they haven't followed the example of almost every museum ever and started giving visitors headseats that they could use to actually listen to the music on as they go round.

There is a small collection of headphones fixed on the wall near the entrance with a kind of jukebox choice of tracks, but there's nothing like enough headphones, nor anything like enough songs to choose from, and they're completely divorced from the displays themselves.

But then, the overwhelming sense of the place is that its totally divorced from music. Even the parts which work - a collection of photos by Lynn Goldsmith, stage and video costumes (including Madonna's pointy bras and Bowie's clown outfit) - seem to celebrate artforms incidental to music, rather than the music itself.

Upstairs, there's a "recreation" of the Sun Studios and the sort of "evolution of recording equipment" display the Science Museum used to have in the 1980s. The whole thing is yearing to be made over: why can't I record a single in the Sun studio? You know, knock out a one-off track like Elvis did all those years ago when he got discovered? Even the CNN shop in New York lets kids have a chance at reading the news; couldn't the R&R Hall of Fame create something a little hands on?

Then you find yourself in a room that supposedly celebrates the pop video - which it confuses with celebrating MTV, so much so that one of the key events in the evolution of the artform is, we discover, the day MTV signed a cable carriage agreement in Kenya. The bitty corporate video show is made even more pointless because it dates from the year the building opened - 1996. So not only does it miss out YouTube, it makes no mention of the internet at all.

It's all well-meaning, but very, very tame and predictable: the Sex Pistols exhibit features video of the Bill Grundy interview - but it beeps out the "fucking", which removes the whole point of having the clip, you'd have thought. But you'd have to be thoroughly cussed to not find something in all the piles of stuff which makes you go "wow..." - for me, the sight of Chrissie Hynde's jacket from the Pretenders sleeve would have made it worth the entry fee. Although we got the tickets for free with our hotel room, so that wasn't entirely difficult.

A telling detail: as you go into the exhibition space, you're greeted with an enormous, wall-high picture of Tipper Gore, apparently celebrating the PRMC's war on free expression in rock. It might seem odd for a rock museum to give such prominence to Tipper, but really they were on the same side: making rock a tidy, nonthreatening, family-friendly part of the capitalist economy.

Cleveland is well-worth a detour. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is worth seeing if you're there anyway. But be prepared for something more Old Record Club than Rock Valhalla.

[You might also enjoy: Visiting the National Trust's Beatles houses]

Idlewild: Like Lazarus

The death of Idlewild, it seems, may have been reported long before due.

In news which comes as something of a shock, what with us having buried them in wasteland just off the M1 a couple of days ago, Idlewild have issued a bloggage revealing their hearts will go on:

There's been some talk and worry amongst Idlewild fans about us calling it a day after this 'best of' album and tour. The reality is that there's nothing the five of us like doing more than writing songs together and performing them. Our records might not sell as many copies as they used to (although they do sell well still) but I don't think that's because they aren't as good. I'm of the opinion that we're getting better at describing ourselves, and writing more interesting songs the longer we go on. So no, we're not 'splitting up', the opposite in fact, we're playing Edinburgh's Hogmanay in December then getting to work on our seventh album.

The opposite of splitting up would, presumably, be moving closer together - we're taking this as a warning that Roddy Woomble has gone supernova and is starting to suck everything for miles around into his collapsing plasma. But then the doctors did say we were prone to panic.

Ashcroft throws his hat onto the Pyramid Stage

Richard Ashcroft has heard the rumours about The Verve headlining Glastonbury next year. In fact, he probably started them:

"I think it would be a travesty if we didn’t," he laughed. "Because I think what’s missing from a lot of the headliners is we’re one of the few bands that can jam without sounding like Lynyrd Skynyrd on a bad night, so we can actually take people on a proper journey, rock n roll wise.

"I think that’s what’s great", he continued. "If you can do that on the big stage the big tunes can get 60,000 people singing, but you’ve also got the capacity to change a standard rock gig into something else. I suppose that’s what's been exciting about playing and we’ll be excited about playing then."

Actually, Richard, Glastonbury isn't a "standard rock gig" by any measure, and some might argue that - if any of the spirit of the festival has survived intact - it's the surroundings that supply the transcendence while all the headline band is asked to do is turn up and play some songs for the Mums and Dads to remember their courting days to. The Verve, admittedly, could do that well, but there's still a sense that if the best Eavis can do is Ashcroft and his team to provide the defining, closing moment, it might be better to take another fallow year.