Saturday, December 22, 2007

BPI panic as EMI rattles sabres

A few weeks ago, EMI warned the RIAA it was thinking of spending less on membership of industry bodies, and that perhaps there wasn't a need for a BPI and a IPFI. If this was a bargaining tactic, it might have worked: Music Week is reporting that the BPI is slashing subscription fees for major labels.

Only the majors, mind. Smaller labels will continue having to pay at their current levels, effectively subsidising the major's war on music customers.

Meanwhile, how bad are things for the music industry? Not that bad, according to an upbeat report from the BPI:

Figures from the Official UK Charts Company - released today by UK record companies' body the BPI - show that album sales last week soared to 6.3m, 162% above 2007's weekly average.

Despite the recent boom in digital music sales, CD albums remain hugely popular with around 95% of albums bought on physical formats. This ratio is expected to be even higher this week with shoppers buying CDs as Christmas gifts.

The final week before Christmas is the biggest by far for UK music sales, and early sales reports suggest that as people hit the shops to finish off their Christmas shopping this weekend, the week’s CD album sales could beat last week's tally and top the 8 million mark - a feat that has only been achieved a handful of times before.

In other words - people still go out and buy records. When something makes them want to - in this case Leona Lewis and a desire for cheaper gifts than last Christmas. Which would suggest that the decline in sales we've seen has been more about the record industry misjudging the market than evil digital ne'erdowells.

Here is the news... and this is the RIAA reading it

In the latest attempt to spend cash on doomed attempts to fight filesharing, the RIAA has apparently been sending TV stations in America a "video press release" which, unsurprisingly, offers an RIAA tinted view of music piracy. Some channels are running it as if it's impartial news.

Bah, humbug...

Noel Gallagher doesn't like Christmas overmuch:

“I really hate Christmas,” he grumbles. “I hate the silly music, the adverts, the mince pies and turkey."

Bit rich Oasis man complaining about silly... music... christmas... he likes trees... treetops... who would you put on top of a tree...

Christmas in 1987: Top Ten Promo videos

As voted by Sounds readers

10. Satelitte - The Hooters

9. Blue Water - Fields Of The Nephilim

8. Baby Turpentine - Crazyhead

7. Incommunicado - Marillion

6. Big Time - Peter Gabriel

5. You Gotta Fight For Your Right To Party - Beastie Boys
Universal Records requests embedding be disabled

4. Where The Streets Have No Name - U2

3. True Faith - New Order

2. This Corrosion - Sisters Of Mercy

1. Prime Mover - Zodiac Mindwarp & The Love Reaction

Perhaps, now, we're starting to understand why Sounds had to close. Their taste was somewhat... not bad so much, it was more like they were choosing records on a jukebox in a pub where you don't feel quite comfortable drinking. Still, who'd have thought all but one of their choices would be viewable around the world, on demand, twenty years in the future?

[Part of Christmas in 1987]

Christmas in 1987: The Sounds Readers Poll

As a special treat - and we're using the words "special" and "treat" in slightly nervous ways - we're going to be spending some of the festive season back twenty years ago, with illustrated results to the Sounds Readers Poll from 1987, as originally published in the January 2nd, 1988 edition of the now defunct magazine. As the endeavour unfolds over the next few days, we'll build a mini-list of the various polls here:

Top ten promo videos
Top ten cover versions
Singles: 20-11

Antigua wins right to violate Americans

The World Trade Organisation has granted Antigua the right to ignore American copyrights, up to a value of USD21million.

The smaller nation had been seeking recompense after claiming unfair treatment when American barred its citizens from using their online gambling services. They'd been claiming rather more - three billions worth of opt-outs - but the precedent is more alarming for US intellectual property holders than the amounts.

The details of the settlement are going to be as controversial as the judgement itself:

“Even if Antigua goes ahead with an act of piracy or the refusal to allow the registration of a trademark, the question still remains of how much that act is worth,” said Brendan McGivern, a trade lawyer with White & Case in Geneva.

“The Antiguans could say that’s worth $50,000, and then the U.S. might say that’s worth $5 million.” He predicted that “the U.S. is going to dog them on every step of the way.”

Maybe, but it cuts both ways - how, exactly, can the US police this effectively? The supposed cut-off figure is one thing, but if every shop in Antigua suddenly starts flogging DVDs of I Am Legend and CDs of John Legend, how can the MPAA and RIAA hope to prove that any one disc is outside the terms of the judgement, without spending even more cash?

Meanwhile - and as it's Christmas - feel a little bit of sympathy for the music and movie industries. They're not to blame for the blocking of the American access to online casinos, and yet it's they who are taking the punishment. If we were them, we'd be thinking it might be time to stop pumping cash into the two political parties - seeing as it's not exactly helping them...

ALL the cover stars?

In a bid to tie closer together NME TV and NME, the magazine, the channel is promising a 'special' programme which features NME cover stars from the year.

We're a little at a loss to how this is special, by the way - surely a channel branded NME would naturally be playing the sort of acts that the magazine thinks its readership likes? - but we're more fascinated to discover if all the paper's cover stars will show up. National Front Disco on NME TV, anybody?

Reverend and the music industry remakers

How huge would you say Reverend and The Makers are? Big enough for their poster to hover in the background of some scenes of Corrie; had the Melody Maker still been going, they'd have been in with a shout of a Christmas double issue cover shoot (some sort of pun on Reverend/Nativity, we'd guess). But they're hardly a global-straddling brand, like Prince or Radiohead. They're not even as big as Bush when Bush turned their back on traditional labels.

Which makes the band's decision to release an album for free, without bothering to get their label involved, or to charge for it, all the more interesting. Big labels are getting used to established acts telling them the balance of power has changed; now smaller labels are getting the same treatment from smaller bands. And, naturally, they're not happy.

Mark Jones, boss of R&TM's label, Wall Of Sound, is upset:

: “There’s a validity in that [releasing the songs acoustically, free, before doing a full album], but maybe he should have discussed it first, have a plan!

“I’ve come so far with this [working with McClure] that I feel like it’s been taken away from me. I’m passionate about his music.

“An artist like Jon McClure needs the right platform to deliver what he needs to do to the public and I think we ddi that really well. He’s got to be one of the most important artists in the country, but I feel hugely let down. I had no idea he wanted to do this.”

It's perhaps bad form on McClure's part to not have talked it through first, but it's probable that Jones is being overly pessimistic. As soon as McClure played those songs as works-in-progress live, they'd have been bootlegged and digitally packaged and passed amongst the interested in an instant - this is just a smarter way of making your fans feel valued (and, importantly, trusted) while keeping some degree of control. It's unlikely to have an impact on sales of the finished product, and certainly not a negative effect.

Still, there is much else for Jones to feel worried about. Clearly, the days of seven or eight album contracts are vanishing, and the terms of the deal between label and band are shifting: effectively, if a label believes that they're making an investment in a band's career rather than simply putting up the cash for an album, they're going to be in for a bit of a shock.

Best of updated

Amongst the latest additions to the 2007 Best Of Lists is the run-down of best gigs by the Daily Telegraph; their feature is worth special mention for new heights of hyperbole:

Nothing in British music history has come close to Prince's run of 21 live shows at the O2 arena.

Nothing? Ever? In the entire history of British music? Not even the release party for Neil McCormick's People I Don't Know Are Trying to Kill Me, for example?

Gordon in the morning: Hot Bros gossip

Gordon really has outdone himself this morning, with a large splash about a pair out on a date. In much the same way that Nigel Dempster's column used to fill itself up with features about people nobody much cared about, Gordon is excited about, erm, Ken from Bros and Cat Deeley being seen together.

Oddly, there isn't even a photo of the pair of them together, which means that Gordon is able to fill a lot of space reminding everyone who they were, and why we should care. Even that, though, isn't enough to stop a very slight story floating away, so he tries to hold it down by listing some of the couple's previous dating history.

Still space to roam? In a move which might be unprecedented for a make-it-up gossip column, Gordon makes up a denial for his own story on the subject's behalf, and then knocks down his own fictional denial:

I reckon that in Craig she could have found her match.

The former model could duck out of it by claiming she wasn’t on a date for romantic reasons.

But unless she is planning to launch a career as a pop star, I suspect she would be telling porkies.

So, yes, Cat might be lying if she says the words that you've made up for it. Well done, Gordon. Gordon could be telling people he's going to win next What The Papers Say award for biggest scoop, but unless he's got something better up his sleeve, I suspec he would be fibbing.

Friday, December 21, 2007

And away we go. A-bloody-gain.

It's hard to believe there's a media outlet - with the possible exception of The Tablet - that hasn't run some quasi-exclusive based on the slight Alesha-Harvey-Javine love-muddle, but the Mail reckons there's still more revelation to be had. It's MC Harvey who's walked off with a big cheque this morning.

Of course, with Alesha now one Strictly from being an official National Treasure, Harvey's in an awkward position. He doesn't want to look too bad, but he did dump her:

'Why I walked out on Strictly's Alesha,' by her unfaithful husband

The reason, of course, was that at the time she was pop-dumper's Alesha rather than Strictly's Alesha, and Harvey had wedding vows that ended " long as we both shall appear in Heat."

Harvey tries to act like he's abashed:
"What I did was 100 per cent wrong," Harvey says. "But I'm not perfect - no one is.

"Before I met Javine, no matter how many beautiful girls there were, not one of them meant anything to me as much as Alesha did."

As working definitions of "not being perfect" go, being "100% wrong" would be a useful one. But who couldn't fail to warm to Harvey's solid commitment to his wife, refusing to look at anyone else besides his wife. Apart from Javine. Who he dumped his wife for, of course.
"Our wedding was fantastic. I've still got a DVD that I watch by myself.

"Alesha looks amazing. When I saw her walking down the aisle I was gone. I cried my eyes out and my best man, Premiership footballer Sean Davis, was crying too.

"It hurts when I watch it. I'm not going to lie to you. Naturally it hurts, because I've got a lot of feelings."

One of them being: Alesha is now more famous than Javine again.

We imagine, by the way, that it must delight the seven-months gone Javine that Harvey sits watching his marriage to another woman over, and over, and over, and over.
"Last time I watched it I was looking at the DVD going: 'Flipping hell, from that to me now going to be a father with another woman.'

"I didn't see my life going that way."

Funny that - at the wedding ceremony, Harvey didn't expect to be dumping the woman he was marrying and run off with someone else.

Harvey is eager - desperate, even - to set the ever-increasing record straight:
Javine and Alesha were never friends and I never got caught in bed by Javine's boyfriend.

"It's utter bullshit. That's the thing that's got to me, all these lies."

Yes. Let's get totally clear why Harvey is a self-serving, hounding shitbag. There's plenty of reasons without the need to make stuff up.
"Javine's ex decided to make a quick buck and he never loved her because you don't make money against your girlfriend."

Your ex-wife, she's fair game to sell stories about for cash. But selling your girlfriend? Why, could a man drop any lower?
It's true our relationship was physical before I discussed it with Alesha and that's where I was wrong.

"It was physical once - not three times or five times. It wasn't an on-going affair.

It must be terrible for Harvey to be thought of as someone who shags another woman behind his wife's back repeatedly.
"I thought: 'What have I done?' The real story is that Javine's ex saw my car outside the house and told Alesha I was seeing Javine.

"Alesha asked me when I got home.

"I could have lied, but I didn't want to be in the marriage anymore."

We love the way that Harvey can't quite decide if the marriage was dead and his heart was with Javine - his wife, presumably, not understanding him - or if it was a one-off with Javine that he couldn't do any more.

Not to mention the bold claim that he "could have lied" - although, what with Javine's recently ex-boyfriend having told his wife what was going on, it's not entirely clear how.

Harvey, though, didn't find it easy, bless him:
"I knew I loved someone else and my heart was gone from my home. So I told her the truth. It's the hardest thing I've ever done in my life.

"I've performed in front of hundreds of thousands of people, presented national television, I've done films with Hollywood actors, but this was ten times worse, telling her I'd slept with another woman."

There's a handy rule of thumb: it's ten-times more difficult to confess to adultery than it is to be a guest panelist on The Wright Stuff, or to play "King" in the 2003 movie Out For A Kill (a role that got star billing, or at least billing one slot above "DEA Agent".)

After running through the "life in a Ghetto in Battersea" stuff, and the wedding - he knows a lot about it, what with the having watched the DVD repeatedly and all - Harvey stresses to the Mail readership how important his relationship was:
At the end of the day, with celebrity comes responsibility.

"Our relationship was iconic. Black people had never had somebody they could call their own."

Yes. That's what did it for Harvey - being the Queen and Philip and Posh and Becks for the black community all rolled into one. How could mere humans cope with so much pressure?

Harvey - like the Rabbi Lionel Blue - ends with a story to illustrate his point:
"I was standing outside a nightclub and two 16-year-old boys came up to me and said: 'You're so lucky. You've gone out with the two most beautiful girls in the industry.'

"Then one said: 'I think Alesha's fitter.' The other one goes: 'I like Javine.' They're 16. They don't get it. They just see beauty. They don't see the person."

Sixteen year old boys saying "the most beautiful girls in the industry"? Even without the self-aggrandising angle, there's something there that doesn't ring true. Like the whole of Harvey's proud grandstanding, come to think of it.

Simon Webbe: "Did I mention I was rock?"

The 3AM Girls are all a twitter this morning as Simon Webbe re-emerges:

When we caught up with the former Blue boy at the I Am Legend premiere after-party, he hinted at a bold new musical direction.

Ah, it's nice to hear he picked up a small waiting job at a film party to keep going just before Christmas, isn't it?

Anyway... tell us more about this bold musical direction, then:
"I'm going to be taking a few more risks," teased Simon, 28, before naming Foo Fighters, The Enemy and Arctic Monkeys as his fave bands.

How funny - Webbe's been on the music scene for six years, making solo records for nearly half of that, and yet all of a sudden we discover that he doesn't even like the stuff he's been producing. (In common, it's fair to say, with the rest of the record-buying public.)

Still, it's true that it's going to be something of a risk for him to suddenly try and reinvent himself as Dave Grohl - it's an aspiration on a par with a vol-au-vent hoping to turn itself into a steak and kidney pudding.

Gordon in the morning: B-list, b-row

Yes, it's great for the Bizarre team that their however unlikely Winehouse story is considered by the Sun to be the second lead this morning.

Surprisingly, though, it only makes first of the rest-of-the-stuff on the Bizarre page itself. Perhaps because, once again, it's Pete Samson who's turned in the eye-catching story while - yes - Gordon churns out another Spice Girls lead. This time, it's the "news" that Victoria has, supposedly, block-booked the B-row at the Millennium Dome (formerly The BT Cellnet Arena) for her showbiz friends:

A source said: “Victoria got in first and made sure her nearest and dearest would have the best seats in the house to see the Spice comeback.

“She booked up a whole row just for her family so they had the best view of the stage.

“The girls’ jaws dropped when they found out they had been beaten to the punch by Victoria.”

Not, we imagine, as far as Beckham's family's jaws dropped when they found out they were going to have to be in seats where Victoria would notice if they snuck out to the bar.

Smart, of course, realises this is pretty thin fare, and is forced to pad it out by reporting, erm, all the gigs they've played so far:
The girls have gone down a storm with their comeback tour. It has been a complete sellout - despite nonsense reported elsewhere.

They kicked off in Vancouver, played San Jose, two dates in LA, three in Las Vegas and another three in London.

It's nice to see Gordon sticking up for some multimillionaires, although as he surely knows, the Mirror was careful not to claim that Las Vegas wasn't a sell-out - just that a large number of ticket-holders never turned up. The implication is that the tickets are selling well, but not finding a market in the resale arena.

First Mel C - now Amy Winehouse

Good news for the Bizarre team this morning - they've landed a story in the second slot on the Sun website, with the arrant wasp toss that Amy Winehouse "might" spend Christmas with Bryan Adams. Oh, and Mick Jagger.

Apparently Adams - who had a thing for Diana Spencer, we recall, and look how that turned out - has suggested a trip to Mustique. And when the paper says Mick will be there too, that turns out to be an extrapolation from Jagger having a hiding from the taxman in a house on the island.

The whole thing is sourced to a "friend" of Amy Winehouse, who may well have heard from Amy that she's off to spend Christmas with Bryan Adams. But the state Winehouse is in now she may also believe she's going to fly to The Philippines with Victoria Adams. Or the moon with Grizzly Adams.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Daily Mail points and laughs

We're not entirely sure if we've read it correctly, but it does seem that todya's Cher and Chastity Bono story in today's Mail consists of nothing other than the observation that "Cher is thin, but her daughter isn't."

They try to dress it up with a quote from an "onlooker":

Cher and Chastity shared a really relaxed meal and both seemed on excellent form. Mother and daughter are clearly very close as they spent most of the hour laughing and chatting away like there was no tomorrow.

Doesn't "like there's no tomorrow" usually mean something along the lines of "relentlessly, as if time to complete against an immovable deadline"? Can you actually have a relaxed lunch like there's no tomorrow?

It makes a certain degree of sense

The Sick Puppies are playing a benefit this Saturday, at the Von Dutch Headquarters in West Hollywood. It's for an animal welfare charity, DAWGS.

We like the idea of bands helping out apt charities. We wonder if Jim Thirwell is fielding calls from antenatal clincis?

Fergie: Less like Fergie, more like Di

The 3AM Girls have read Fergie's interview in Blender and were taken with this:

"People put celebrities on a pedestal and act like they're perfect. But I'm more like the people's artist - the same way Diana was the people's princess."

Actually, you're more like The People's Post Office, Fergie.

Gordon in the morning: Just about managing

It's hard to believe, but it seems that Gordon Smart is still spending every waking hour hanging out backstage at the Spice Girls gigs. And it's paying off.

Admittedly, it's only paying off for the other writers on the Sun, who are getting to file the more eyecatching stories - like Michael Jackson's post-it note face - while Smart is churning out Spice non-stories like today's 'Victoria Beckham approves of the new England manager'.

Beckham's vague "I think it’s great that Capello is the new England manager" sends Smart reeling off on a long piece about Fabio Capello, his supporters and his habits, for all the world as if he's the Prime Minister of Football rather than writing about Showbusiness. So we're treated to, erm, Gordon Brown's view of Capello (every bit as vague as Posh Spice's) before a long riff inspired by Capello's brief mentioning of Fawlty Towers. From this, Smart surmises that he must be "learning English" by watching reruns of the sitcom, which doesn't make sense - surely he'd be better off with Jossy's Giants? - and has precious little to do with showbiz.

We've not checked the sports pages yet, but we're fairly certain they're not writing about Girls Aloud.

Joss Stone flakes off secret gig

Not so long ago, Joss Stone was complaining that nobody in Britain appeared to like her. Now, she's pulled out of a gig because, erm, people wanted to see her.

To be fair, the gig had been supposed to be a secret appearance with Yes Sir Boss at a pub in Topsham; humps were had when Stone discovered that tickets were being sold on her name rather than that of Yes Sir Boss. (Funny that, eh?)

Stone's spokesperson said she felt "compromised" - yes, compromised - by the sale of tickets. And you wouldn't want to be compromised by ugly commerce, would you? Unless you're flogging Cadburys chocolate.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet

David Byrne meets Thom Yorke and Wired records their conversation about the In Rainbows experiment and what it means for the music industry:

Byrne: What about bands that are just getting started?

Yorke: Well, first and foremost, you don't sign a huge record contract that strips you of all your digital rights, so that when you do sell something on iTunes you get absolutely zero. That would be the first priority. If you're an emerging artist, it must be frightening at the moment. Then again, I don't see a downside at all to big record companies not having access to new artists, because they have no idea what to do with them now anyway.

Byrne: It should be a load off their minds.

Yorke: Exactly.

Byrne: I've been asking myself: Why put together these things — CDs, albums? The answer I came up with is, well, sometimes it's artistically viable. It's not just a random collection of songs. Sometimes the songs have a common thread, even if it's not obvious or even conscious on the artists' part. Maybe it's just because everybody's thinking musically in the same way for those couple of months.

Snow show for Kelly

R Kelly didn't make it to Cook County for today's hearing into the child porn charges: he blamed the harsh winter in America, although the real reason was Utah police discovering his driver hadn't been recording details of his driving hours and enforcing an eight-hour delay before letting the Kelly tour bus out of the state.

It's not entirely clear why Kelly couldn't have found another way out of Utah - it's almost as if he wasn't that keen to turn up in court.

The judge has warned he'll be issuing a warrant for Kelly if he doesn't turn up tomorrow.

A quick dash round the Clinic

Clinic are going to do a very, very brief UK tour in 2008:

April 8 Bristol - Thekla
9 London - 229
10 Brighton - Audio
11 Leeds - Brudenell
12 Manchester - Academy 3

... and that's where babies come from

To be fair, though, Lily should have sorted herself out at some point since then...

Capital of Culture year: turmoil kicks in before it even starts

The omens for Liverpool's year as the European Capital of Culture aren't looking good.

The worries that visitors would be greeted by an enormous building site - rejected as scaremongering back when the planning was underway - have been borne out by experience; last week, plans were announced to cover some derelict buildings, like teenagers hiding unwashed pants behind the curtains; unfortunately, little can be done about the numerous building sites cluttering the city centre - especially with four sites being closed down following the collapse of the Livesey Building Company.

Meanwhile, funding for the year has turned into a nightmare, with the council suddenly realising it's about twenty million quid short for its plans. Before the year even begins. Like a drunk flogging his kidney for a bottle of booze, the council is now considering flogging off property owned by the people of the city to try and avoid the place going all Northern Rock.

They might wind up having to flog the Town Hall at the rate they're burning through the cash: Jason Harbarrow is due to be canned from his role running the year (and what better time to lose your pilot than, erm, nine days from the start?); he could be due up to a quarter of a million quid in severance pay, to say nothing of the costs of recruiting a replacement at short notice.

There's still the question of what exactly happened with the late cancellation of the Mathew Street Festival, as well: "Independent" council appointee Standards Board chairman Howard Winik has compared the two versions of the report on the event - one produced by the non-independent-at-all internal enquiry and one after it had been revised by council leader Warren Bradley, and declared there was no funny business:

“I have read and compared the report in the form originally handed to the leader of the council with the published report.

“I have ascertained and read each amendment. A few of the amendments were corrections of factual errors and some were typographical and grammatical corrections.

“Some amendments went to the emphasis put on certain matters by the interpretation of the investigating officers.

“I am satisfied that none of the amendments affect the substance of the findings. The recommendations of the two reports remained the same.”

Which makes you wonder why Bradley was so terse about anyone not from his team looking at the original version: are we really expected to believe that a document was considered so sensitive it could only be read by a Labour councillor under supervision and on the strict understanding that he not divulge the contents to a living soul simply because it contained a smattering of typos?

Oh, and Bradley and Mike Storey are to be investigated by the nation standards board for England and Wales over claims relating to the treatment of Jason Harborow. Storey has previously been censured by the board for bringing the council into disrepute over his struggles with David Henshaw, former Liverpool City Council Chief Executive.

Strangely, none of this found its way into the Liverpool nativity/

Keith Allen to be a grandfather

It's going to be busy year for Lily Allen next year, what with the BBC Three series, and the new album, oh, and the baby and all.

Yes, Lily and Ed Simons are to be parents - although it's not immediately obvious that she intends to use this as the trigger for her oft-quoted plans to quit music and raise a family in the country, but we can but hope.

We wonder if Lily has any plans for keeping her energy up during pregnancy?

A Dogg named Snoop

Snoop Dogg wants to cover Johnny Cash:

"I'm still trying to find a Johnny Cash (song) I can have fun with. To me, Johnny Cash is a rapper. His shitt was dope, a lot of rappers don't know that. A Boy Named Sue sounds gangster."

Except, of course, it doesn't. As Michael M pointed out when he served the link to us, it's interesting that Snoop is such a big fan of Cash, and yet doesn't know any of his songs.

Still, we'd quite like to hear 'I've Been Everywhere' done Doggy style.

Steve Brookstein: A warning from history

Remember Steve Brookstein? He was the winner of the first X Factor. Now, though, he's doing pizza restaurants in Kent. Although fifty people turned out, which isn't bad for a bloke who was briefly famous in 2004. We don't know how good the pizza is, though - it could be that it's very good and will bring out a crowd even if you have to listen to Steve Brookstein singing while you eat it.

We suspect that Steve's jokes about the X Factor that pepper his set are designed to show he's not a sore loser, but the obsession with the show and does tend to make him sound a little... well, bitter.

The kick:

"I'm sure he's [Leon Jackson] a nice guy but there are so many talented people out there who don't get a chance."

... says the man who got a huge chance, despite limited talents, and blew it.

Gordon in the morning

In his quest for showbiz, erm, Prime Ministery, Gordon Smart has tripped out to meet Leon Jackson, the voting irregularity who won X Factor. The resulting article is largely about how Jackson intends to drink overmuch:

He said: “I’m not shy of nipping to the corner shop to get myself a cheeky half bottle of Buckfast.

“I like to drink my beer but if it’s not going down well I like some vodka Red Bull. It gets me steaming then keeps me going through the rest of the night.”

Gordon is approving:
LEON JACKSON has set his sights on being crowned Bizarre Caner of the Year 2008.

The X Factor winner is barely old enough to drink but happily confessed that he is a lager monster with a taste for vodka Red Bull.

The Scot has even sampled the devil’s brew, Buckfast - the drink of choice for an army of Scottish troublemakers.

Only Smart could call Buckfast - made by monks - "the devil's brew", of course. But we're a little alarmed at this snickering about heavy drinking. Let's hope that Gordon doesn't upset that newspaper which thundered earlier this year:
... as a society we accept alcopops, booze marketed specifically at kids, and we regard binge-drinking as a bit of a joke.

Which paper was that again? Oh, yes: Gordon's own.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Venuewatch: Seattle Croc croaks

Grunge-hub The Crocodile Club in Seattle has gone under; owner Stephanie Dorgan called up employees and told them the money had run out, so it wasn't worth turning up for work any more.

How it once was: This is Dawntreader playing the venue earlier in the year:

You scumbag, you maggot...

Interesting piece just popped up on the 10 O'Clock News as it trailed the story about Radio One first banning, then unbanning the word "faggot" on Fairytale Of New York. Huw Edwards read something along the lines of "how the BBC failed to clean up this song" over an appearance by Kirsty MacColl and The Pogues on Top of the Pops.

Trouble is, they showed the performance where MacColl had been forced to sing "Merry Christmas you ass" instead of "arse".

They've actually just shown in again in the report itself, claiming it was the "classic" version rather than an bowlderised version, even though it, erm, was a version which had been edited on the instructions of the BBC. Albeit twenty years ago.

Kosovo gets a visit

50 Cent has popped up in Kosovo, unfazed by the potential Balkan-igniting split of the province from Serbia. His main duty was to ensure that the good people of Kosovo got a new telephone network, properly promoted, and gazed lovingly on the thousands who came out to see him:

"I'm from Jamaica, Queens," said 50 Cent. "So for me to come out here and see 25,000 tickets sell out in eight hours is amazing. I'm probably more excited than the average fan."

Not all the fans, you'll note, just the average ones.

Kosovo hasn't exactly seen a lot of large tours recently - somehow Bono has never managed to get U2 to Pristina - so it could be that it's less the pull of Fifty Cent than the glitter of any international celebrity that filled the stadium.

Cent, though, is convinced it's his scars which have them packed in:
"They live in the same type of environment that on a smaller level we are subjected to where I'm from. I know exactly what happens when the guns come out. Maybe that's why they (identify) with me," he said.

We must have missed the ethnic cleansing of Queens, then, and we're pretty certain we didn't hear very much of the NATO and UN interventions in New York to try and keep peace. Thank god we've got 50 Cent to keep us up to date on world politics.

... but can we at least pretend we're surprised when it happens?

The seemingly inevitable Led Zep tour is starting to take on an unstoppable inevitability, with the Millennium Stadium coyly trying to catch Harvey Goldsmith's eye:

"Initially Harvey said they were only going to do a one-off gig, but now they are considering a tour," [Roger] Lewis explained.

"We [the Millennium Stadium] are the only stadium in Britain with a retractable roof and we can guarantee a perfect event for 70,000 people. There's nowhere else in the country that can do that."

That does, of course, assume that your sole definition of a "perfect event" is one where you don't get rained on. And not, say, "not being crammed in with 69,999 other people having to watch pinpricks in the distance" as your key criterion.

Universal add XM to its shake-down

Having persuaded Microsoft to count out a dollar for every Zune it manages to sell, Universal has now added a protection payment from XM Radio to its increasing pile of money for nothing.

In return for dropping a threatened court action, Universal has generously agreed to accept a - shall we call it a tax? - from XM to cover the possibility that people might record some of its product on XM's Inno players.

Doug Morris of Universal is, of course, delighted at being given cash for doing nothing more strenuous than sending a few solicitor's letters and observing how it would sad if something nasty happened:

"We are pleased to have resolved this situation in an amicable manner. We pride ourselves on empowering new technology and expanding consumer choice. And XM is providing a new and exciting opportunity for music lovers around the world to discover and enjoy our content, while at the same time recognizing the intrinsic value of music to their business and the need to respect the rights of content owners."

Universal pride themselves on "empowering new technology", do they? In pretty much the same way that Bernard Matthews empowers turkeys.

Winehouse adds a bit of arrest to her story

Let's hope that nobody had wrapped their 'Amy Winehouse: Year In Review' features, as she's been arrested. The by appointment arrest resulted in a release on bail, without charge, until March. It's part of the ongoing investigation into claims that Blake Fielder-Civil was involved in a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

MIA video MIA from MTV

MIA is unhappy. The reason? Why, bullshit, of course. It's always bullshit. Bullshit and haters.

On her blog, she fumes that MTV have rejected her self-revised version of the Paper Planes video and made it even more MTV-audience friendly (although judging by the average MTV show, to really fit the needs of their audience it would have to feature a former America's Next Top Model contestant driving a car with a superwoofer the size of Kansas into a shopping trolley full of dwarves). MIA sticks the caps lock on:





The impartial observer might decide that MIA's more than able to mangle a message without the intercession of the good offices of MTV, but that could be besides the point.

She also claims she was "bullied" by David Letterman:

The sneaking suspicion, of course, is that if MIA really was an artist whose message was so offensive to mainstream American culture, she wouldn't have been on David Letterman's show in the first place, regardless of where the sound balance was set.

Bookmarks: Some stuff to read on the internet

In The Times this morning, Glenn Thompson, the Go-Betweens drummer, reveals his secret:

“I have been writing sort of in secret for seven years,” admits Thompson, a laid-back, curly-haired, casually handsome chap.

“I started because I was trying to teach myself how to produce. We moved to a house with a spare bedroom, so I built a little studio in there and made some demos. I was still recording with other bands, but they were a closed shop when it came to songwriting. There’s something about being a drummer with ideas that puts other musicians off. Whenever I suggested we try one of my songs, the room would suddenly empty.”

Winehouse: witness, not suspect

The Mirror is so keen to detail Amy Winehouse's yet-another-booze-marathon that it almost forgets to find space to blow a couple of big holes in the News of the World's 'Amy in jail killing herself' story:

A Scotland Yard source said last night: "We have no evidence against Amy being involved in any crime.

"If we had she would have been arrested straight away. But we do want to talk to her about matters, particularly financial ones, which may be important in this case. It seems that in her marriage she has been the breadwinner and has kept her husband in pocket money.

"We've looked at their financial affairs and there are questions we'd like to ask her."

Now, this could be a quote made up in the Mirror offices, but the "it seems she's the breadwinner" comment does sound like the sort of top-grade sleuthing that's coming out of Ian Blair's force these days, and it's a very good point that if the cops thought Winehouse had committed a crime which would see her go to prison for life, it's less-than-likely they'd be sending invitations to pop over for a chat when she gets a moment.

Gordon in the morning

The big story in Gordon's kingdom this morning - that Coleen Asdaadvert and Wayne Potatofootballer are getting married next summer - would be a tribute to Gordon's Prime Ministering showbiz skills. Were it not bylined


who isn't even part of Gordon's team. And was it not merely something that he's read in the latest Hello!

Still, handing over the main part of Bizarre to someone else has freed Smart up to concentrate on what he's good at - yet another slideshow of Paris Hilton not wearing much; the "news" that you could see Danielle Lloyd's arse peeking through her skirt (the closest thing we've yet seen to James Burke's fictional 'Albert Memorial Still There' headline yet); another bemusing photo of Brooke 'daughter of the barely more famous Hulk' Hogan in her bra and a somewhat surprising report on Heath Ledger taking the role of the Joker. In much the same way that Smart seem fixated on the very idea of Jesse Metcalfe going to GAY, it seems that Gordon can't get over Brokeback Mountain, headlining the piece:
Heath's gay old time as Joker

- not that he's playing the Joker as gay, of course. But since he once played a homosexual onscreen, everything Ledger does now must be gay, of course. Let's hope Gordon doesn't have to write about Dustin Hoffman anytime soon.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Talent shows are sources of discontent

It's bad - by which we mean amusing - enough that The X Factor result has already been called into question by claims that the phone system collapsed allowing Leon Jackson to edge out Leland Palmer (Rhydian Roberts) and claim the right to ruin the Christmas charts. Ofcom is looking into it - although, surely anyone stupid enough to trust ITV to run a properly managed phone-vote after the year they've had probably deserves to be fleeced - and some Welsh radio stations are going to boycott Jackson's single until there's a recount.

A gathering conspiracy base is suggesting that Welsh voters were more likely to encounter an engaged tone than voters elsewhere, doing down the boy from the valleys. Talkback Thames have denied any such thing would have happened, pledging that, erm, actually, they're just incapable of putting a system in place which would count all the votes.

Meanwhile, in America, Light of Doom are claiming they've been kicked off The Next Great American Band because the organisers more-or-less bounced them in to having big drums on a cover version of We Will Rock You. They don't seem to have thought that, perhaps, the problem would be covering Queen rather than the nature of the cover.

Actually, they have thought of that, claiming they didn't want to do it in the first place. It's a pity, actually: a bunch of guys who are happy to be pushed around so much would have been a delight for the major labels to mould.

Singersongwriterobit: Dan Fogelberg

The death of songwriter, singer and instrumentalist Dan Fogelberg has been announced.

Growing up in 1950s Peoria, Illinois, the young Fogelberg nearly dodged his destiny by trying to get out of piano classes:

"I used to fake injuries, even taping up my finger and saying I jammed it playing baseball. But it wasn't a trick you could use a lot."

While not keen on the learning, the music he did enjoy, and it was that which led him to persevere - that, and the influence of his father, Lawrence. He was a High School band leader, and it was his support and inspiration that Dan would acknowledge in the hit Leader of the Band.

A further inspiration would be the Beatles. He claims that it was hearing Beatles songs that made him realise that songs were constructs, something written rather than that arrive fully-formed. It seemed to be natural, then, to have a go at creating his own songs.

As the focus of American music turned away from Merseyside to the West Coast, Fogelberg followed, developing a love of The Byrds and others. Having performed music all the way through High School, at University he would flirt with other forms of expression, acting and the visual arts, before finding his way back to music through radical politics and the Red Herring Club.

His big break came when he was discovered by Irving Azoff. Azoff had already taken to REO Speedwagon to Epic, and he saw even more promise in the young Fogelberg. Dan quit school, against his father's advice but with his support ("thank you for the freedom when it was time to go", as Leader of the Band put it), and set out to follow Azoff to Hollywood.

Unfortunately - or, perhaps, fortunately - Dan's travel money could only take him as far as the supremely beautiful Estes Park in Colorado, where he passed a week with free lodging from a hotel owner. Azoff rescued him, and after a period of shipping demos around the labels, Fogelberg signed with Columbia, during a period when Clive Davis was building a powerbase also featuring Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen and Billy Joel.

He set about - somewhat slowly - making his debut, Home Free, and setting off on a career which would see him swap labels, release a slew of hit albums, and play Carnegie Hall in front of an audience including his parents - his proudest moment, he would say.

The early trip to Estes Park and Colorado left an impression on Fogelberg as deep as that on John Denver; he moved to Pagosa Springs in 1982 and remained there until shortly after his diagnosis with prostate cancer in 2004. Colorado loved him back - he was one of the first ten artists added to the Red Rocks Performers Hall of Fame.

Although Fogelberg declared himself free of cancer in 2005, it was the disease which claimed his life this weekend. He died in Maine; he was 56 years old.

Birthday special

The Liverpool Nativity, then: the greatest story ever mistold?

BBC Three's retelling of the birth of Jesus last night (and for the next seven days on iPlayer) was a bit of a botch. Of course, there's a built-in problem with a nativity story, in that you know how its going to end, but you'd have thought the intertwining of Great Scouse Pop moments would have at least offered something fresh for the tale.

Trouble was - like the host city - the Liverpool Nativity got too fixated on the Beatles. The idea was to set the scene for the Capital of Culture year, and on this evidence, Merseysiders can expect twelve months of not thinking much further than 'what would John Lennon do now'? So the hackneyed end is a singalong to All You Need Is Love, rather than the slightly more fitting Power Of Love, for example, although it was interesting to see Get Back given to the racists, what with the unfortunate alternative version of the song.

There were some non-Beatles track allowed in, some working (Wah Heat's Seven Minutes To Midnight and the Bunnymen's Breaking The Back of Love), most feeling just badly wedged in. There She Goes doesn't have to be a song about heroin, but I'm not convinced it can be a song about how it feels when your virgin girlfriend tells you she's been knocked up by God. And Bouncing Babies and You Spin Me Right Round Like A Record for the slaughter of the innocents felt ill-judged.

The plot - or at least the updating of it - didn't make any sense. The drama was set in a 'fictional state', which was fair enough, but then how could it be that Joseph was coming to register as an asylum seeker in Liverpool? And why did Cathy Tyson - the "minister of the interior" of the fictional state - tell the Magi she was "in town for Capital of Culture year"? You don't get the culture secretary of the actual nation turning up to live in Liverpool for twelve months, much less the minister of the interior of a different state.

Even more confusingly, despite having been told that Mary was a "Liverpool girl", she and Joseph were wandering the streets of the city because they couldn't afford a hotel room. Why not go to your house, then?

And how come Cathy Tyson's Herodia was slaughtering innocents before Mary's waters had broken? (Presumably because the three wise men - or rather, Mick from Brookside, Michael from Brookside, and the bloke who was Jaah-whey in Bread when Peter Howitt had quit - turned up too early.)

Tyson, surprisingly, was terrible - playing her part like a stage performance, and a Saturday Pantomime Matinee at that. To pull off the idea of a psychopath at the Home Office - sorry, Ministry of the Interior - called for understatement rather than gurning and spinning eyes.

Equally surprising was Jennifer Ellison wasn't all that bad - perhaps because her role as Guiding Star angel was somewhat brief.

It wasn't a bad try, all told, but the ending - the crowd parting to allow Mary and Joseph to hide - fell a little short of triumphant; Hughes' "I don't have to ask in this town" a little too self-congratulatory for an ending about a character who was meant to live humbly.

[Similar, but different: The Manchester Passion]

Robbie Williams is not married to EMI

We're not sure how Guy Hands and the EMI team will feel reading that Robbie Williams is considering quitting the label. Sure, when he signed to EMI a few years back, the deal was seen as a major one - EMI got a slice of tour and tat revenues; Williams was showered with cash in a manner unseen since the days when referees were pelted with coins at soccer matches.

Since then, though, EMI has changed hands and Williams has delivered a clunker of an album. Before his fans rush to the comment box to point out that it sold a lot of copies, the number it sold was nowhere near the level EMI would have been hoping for; the American market has shunned Williams and he's slipping them another collection of murdered swing classics as his contract-fulfilment album.

manager Tim Clark, co-founder of IE Music, told The Daily Telegraph: ''I would be very wary about signing him to any major at the moment."

Clark refused to comment on the star's current contract terms but said "all options" were open once he has completed his obligations.

We would hope that amongst the options would be 'retraining as a plumber or something'.

A Galaxy of swearing

Ofcom has ticked off Galaxy in Manchester after presenter Rob Ellis got sweary against the disabled [pdf link; page 9] on-air and said:

“...I reckon every spacker in Manchester could go to Toys R
Us…meanwhile I am having to walk fucking miles with me kids in the rain...”

Of course, this is the sort of thing which can happen on live radio.

Unfortunately, the programme wasn't live; it had been pre-recorded which compounded the error. Surprisingly, though, Ofcom seems more worried about a presenter having trouble operating the recording software than the idea that people who think "spacker" is acceptable for use whether on or off air are getting access to microphones.

It didn't help that Galaxy waited a week before apologising, and then didn't bother to explain what they were sorry about.

In light of all this, Ofcom had no choice but to... erm, say it wasn't right.

Curiously, the last North Western radio presenter to inadvertently appear on air saying "fuck" - Simon O'Brien, who had the decency to resign - has resurfaced: He's joining the resurrected City Talk in the New Year.

God, I could murder a Cadbury's Flake but then you probably wouldn't let me into heaven

What with Cadbury's somewhat blase attitude to public health - demonstrated by the way they flogged salmonella-laced chocolates from a filthy factory - you might wonder who on earth would want to link their career to their products.

Step forward Joss Stone, whose career has now stalled so badly she's going to take the job advertising Flake. Like Anthea Turner did in her twilight years.

A Cadbury spokesman said the company has chosen Miss Stone because "she reflects the Flake girl's attitude to life".

We're not quite sure what that attitude would be - moaning on about how people don't like her in Britain?

Presumably Cadburys are hoping that the launch of the Stone ads might stop people noticing that their prices are going up in January. And not just because of Stone's fee.

Gordon in the morning

Gordon has a bit of a struggle filling the page today, having to run with a story about Liam Gallagher. Although there's something almost cute about the thought of Liam Gallagher sometimes having a kickabout with his son before classes start, can it be the best the Prime Minister Of Showbiz can muster for a lead is a "man takes his kid to school" story?

We hear Ray Quinn is thinking of nipping to Morrisons later today, Gordon - you might have a 'man buys sprouts' story to lead with tomorrow.

Of course, Smart's fawning over the Spice Girls, despite the lack of anything much happening beside routines being worked through and cash being counted, means that he's got to run some sort of story about them today. And it's:

Gordon gets Spicy at gig

Ha! But you thought it was going to be Gordon Smart, didn't you? Ha!
CHEF GORDON RAMSAY Spiced Up His Life with a trip to see the SPICE GIRLS.

He took his family to the girls’ big, bold, brash show at the O2 arena in London.

So, alongside 'bloke takes kid to school', it's 'man off telly takes family to see pop concert'.

Gordon does have some of his usual schtick, too: the vague possibility that Russell Brand might be making a Hollywood film results in a bit of lazy Rusell/Marlon Brand-o photoshoppery. And there's a thing about Dannii Minogue's breasts, too.

George Michael - vindicated

Karl T brings the toe-curling appearance of Tony Blair in George Bush's video about his dog, with the following observation:

You might remember the hissy fits thrown in certain circles when George Michael's video for 'Wag the Dog' cast Tony Blair as George Bush's pet dog.

This was of course, totally untrue. Tony Blair is in fact George Bush's pet dog's confidant/mentor. I know it's Christmas and everything, but for fuck's sake...

Whoever knew that Michael was over-estimating the importance of Blair to the Bush government? It is just one step away from being held in a cage dangling from the ceiling of a psychopath's sky-boat, isn't it?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Weller living on an Island

Paul Weller popped up on Desert Island Discs this week, choosing The Small Faces above all else, and - unsurprisingly - going with Absolute Beginners as his book. The Daily Mail has jumped on his claim that he enjoyed every minute of his lost drug years, although more notable is their description of his resurrection:

The iconic lead singer of The Jam and The Style Council had been dropped by his record label in 1990, but his career revived soon after forging close links with notorious Britpop bands Oasis and Blur.


For reasons which we've never had convincingly explained to us, despite the annoying inability of the programme to play any track in full, the show is still not even available on Listen Again, much less a podcast, but you can catch it on Radio 4 next Friday. Meanwhile, here's Weller's choices in full:

1. Tin Soldier
Performer The Small Faces
Composer Marriott, Lane
Track CD2 trk 25
Rec No CMEDD707

2. September in the Rain
Performer Dinah Washington
Composer Dubin, Warren
CD Title The Best of Dinah Washington: Mad About the Boy
Track 6
Rec No 5122142

3. Better Get Hit in Yo’ Soul
Performer Charles Mingus
Composer Charles Mingus
CD Title Mingus, Mingus, Mingus, Mingus Impulse
Track 5
Label MCA
Rec No MCAD 39119

4. Don’t Be a Drop Out
Performer James Brown
Composer Brown, Jones
CD Title Don’t Be a Drop Out/Tell Me That You Love Me
Track Side 1, Trk 1
Label PYE
Rec No 7N 25394

5. Arabesque No 1
Performer Branford Marsalis with the English Chamber Orchestra
Composer Debussy
CD Title Romances for Saxophone: Branford Marsalis
Track 3
Label CBS
Rec No CD42122

6. Galileo (Someone Like You)
Performer Declan O’Rourke
Composer Declan O’Rourke
CD Title Since Kyabram
Track 3
Label V2 MUSIC
Rec No VVR1036392

7. River Man
Performer Nick Drake
Composer Nick Drake
CD Title Nick Drake: Five Leaves Left
Track 2
Rec No IMCD8

8. That’s Enough
Performer Roscoe
Composer Wildroot
CD Title That’s Enough/One More time
Track 1
Label Wand
Rec No WN 27

Record: Tin Soldier
Book: Absolute Beginners by Colin MacInnes
Luxury: A settee to sit on

Dion wraps Vegas gig

Celine Dion's Las Vegas residency has reached an end after five years. Dion has now played her last gig at Caeser's Palace, and only slightly over-exaggerated the importance of what was, to be honest, just another gambler's sop alongside the free lobster and comped rooms:

During the farewell show, she disclosed that poor reviews and a pregnancy early on nearly sank the project. But she said it's been worth it.

Adoring fans cheered, stood and clapped throughout the show, as Dion interspersed her usual numbers with emotion-filled monologues.

She said of the early going, "At one point, it was like feeling like the Titanic was about to sink again."

Ah yes, because the collapse of a cabaret show would be on the par with the drowning of one and half thousand people in ice-cold waters.

Chip off for old Bloc

Bloc Party have, they reckon, tried the dance thing on their recent tracks, but are now heading off in a backwards direction:

They both agreed that their latest single Flux has taken them off in a new direction, Matt admitted: "I think one crucial thing about that song was it was radically different from anything we attempted before and I think it was important in terms of opening up... broadening our horizons".

Kele added: "Flux isn't an indication at all about the next record... The important thing about this record for me was that it showed we could do anything we wanted, we weren't going to settle for being any other guitar band of 2007. Luckily it was successful."

Having found they can do anything, it sounds like they might not bother using these newly-developed powers:
Matt was quite pointed about what he would like to see happen in 2008: "I want to have more songs like Banquet..."

Once around the Bloc again, then.

Anthrax hire personal trainer

Anthrax had been planning to reunite with their original singer for a tour next year, but - let's put this tactfully - things didn't work out. So, instead, they've hired a cheap alternative ("given a newcomer a big break"), picking up Dan Nelson, who had been a personal trainer prior to getting the job.

Apparently, Anthrax are now heading for the Glen Miller audience:

"The new songs are the real deal, they're really looking to recreate Anthrax," Nelson said. "They are looking to do something timeless."

Who wouldn't want to hear what an Anthrax for the ages sounds like, eh?

War On Terror meets Waterloo

We're not entirely sure it's the sort of revelation that really justifies the Mail On Sunday's excitement - possibly, Sir Alan West, Gordon Brown's anti-terrorist chief, is having an affair. And if he is, it isn't with one of Abba. But he does know Anni-Frid Lyngstad, which is enough for the paper to insist she's been "dragged into" a sex-scandal. Or, as the paper puts it:

The anti-terror chief, the girl from Abba, and his secret love affair

Quite why it's such a scandal that a grown-up is having sex with someone who isn't their wife - regardless of what job he does - is a bit of a mystery. If he was in charge of a sexual probity for the government, maybe. Or if he was having sex with Osama Bin Laden, maybe then.

Beyond the non-story in itself, though, we're not sure how simply being friends with someone constitutes being "dragged in" to a scandal that isn't actually scandalous.

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: It's Christmas

Poor Gennaro Castaldo - not only is HMV increasingly deciding to shift its business from making losses on CDs to making losses on computer games meaning he's going to have to struggle with the Wii versus PS3 battles, but his area of expertise isn't as simple as it used to be. Ireland Online asks him for a comment on the possibility that Fairytale of New York could be the Christmas number one. Because there's, you know, a Facebook campaign to make it happen.

What's Gennaro going to say? There's about sixteen thousand bloody online campaigns to get different songs to number one next Sunday. How the hell is he meant to predict which will win, or if they'll all cancel themselves out and wind up letting Leon X Factor winner bloke through? It's all on download sales, isn't it? He's not got a bloody batphone through to Apple to find out what's selling. He can only ring up HMV shops to find out what's selling, but the bloody X Factor single hasn't even been released yet, has it?

Wearily, he mumbles:

HMV spokesman Gennaro Castaldo said: "It might well be close this Christmas. A lot of people are downloading old favourites for their Christmas parties.

"If the campaigning takes off Kirsty MacColl could be number one. 'Fairytale of New York' never made it the first time, so it would be amazing if it could do it 20 years on."

Leave the man alone. He doesn't know. Stop poking him, making him dance to your "fill a few columns with a bit about the Christmas number one" desires, people.

Lily Allen collapses in on herself

Lily Allen is set to implode in early 2008, as her constant slew of contradictions are starting to fold-in on each other. Like at the end of the Heroes, when all the people with the magic powers come together in the same place to help blow up the city.

Her GQ shoot has managed to line-up her pointless semilebrity feud with Cheryl Tweed Cole, and her modish self-hatred:

The 22-year-old called Girls Aloud star Cheryl Cole a "stupid bitch" for taking part in a sexy photoshoot, but has appeared in men's magazine GQ herself since shedding 21 pounds.

She said: "This shoot was a big thing for me. A lot of the stuff I said before was probably because I didn't feel confident enough to do this.

"I felt like, 'Oh, God, I'm short, fat, ugly... and I hate all those people that flaunt their beauty'. But I feel great at the moment. It's nice to do this for once."

We're a little confused, though: surely the point of her attack on Cole was not that she was a stupid bitch as such, but that the flaunting made other, normal-sized women feel terrible about themselves. So even if Lily is feeling good about herself at the moment - a good thing in itself - isn't then flaunting it on the cover of GQ still going to make normal-sized women feel bad about themselves? So in what way is it "nice" to do that?

Of course, if this was Heroes, there'd need to be a relative who'd turn up and fly off with her. Funnily enough, the People is reporting that Keith Allen is going to take Lily off to Hungary when he films the next series of Robin Hood.

(Although we're not entirely sure how a grown woman would tell the various entertainment companies who have a stake in her that she's going to live in Eastern Europe for five months.)

[Thanks to James P for the link and the collapsing world imagery]

Heather's secret tapes trotted out again

The seemingly never-ending stream of tapes that Heather Mills may or may not have continues to unspool, with the News of the World claiming that in the middle of them, Paul "wishes Heather dead":

In a phone call to his daughter Stella, Macca allegedly says: "If we turn up the pressure on Heather, with a bit of luck she will top herself and then we won't have to pay her a penny."

Which seems a little unlikely, and - even if he did - it's not entirely clear how this is supposed to help her case, as the paper suggests:
And it is expected to form a major part of Mucca's case for a multi-million-pound divorce settlement.

A close source said: "Her legal team feel that if the tape is genuine it is one of the most damning things Paul has ever said."

So, an unsourced source suggests that even the legal team have doubts about the tape, if it exists, and if it is genuine.

The problem, surely, is that for the conversation to have any real value, it would need to have been followed up with a long stream of leaks from the McCartney camp to the press showing Mills in a bad light which - as far as its possible to tell - hasn't happened. Sure, the tabloids have been unkind to her, but it's not the tabloids that Mills is divorcing.

Winehouse in the big house, so she is... maybe

The News of the World is excited this morning. Slapped all over the front page, in war-breaks-out sized type:

Amy Jail Hell

Oddly, with a large showbiz story like this, rather than "Britain's hottest showbiz reporter", the tale goes to Douglas Wight and Phil Taylor.

So, Amy's jail hell? Is she going down?

Well... not quite. Not only has Amy not been charged with anything, she hasn't actually been interviewed yet, either:
POLICE are to quiz troubled rock star Amy Winehouse over an alleged trial-rigging plot.

The 24-year-old singer must give fingerprints and DNA samples and will be questioned under caution.

Which is a sticky moment, but perhaps not calling for the wilder extrapolations of the paper:
She could face LIFE in jail if cops link her to the suspected conspiracy to clear husband Blake Fielder-Civil on a GBH charge.

So, if police believe she had done something, and if the CPS send her to trial, and if the jury find her guilty, a judge could sentence her to life. Which, yes, that would be jail hell, we guess, but is a purely hypothetical jail hell, surely?

The honest headline: "Amy's possible jail hell".

But the NOTW hasn't stopped screwing up the tension:
Frightened Amy has vowed to commit SUICIDE if she is sentenced to a long term in prison.

Blimey, so it's not just there's a slim chance of her spending the rest of her life in prison, but there's an equally vague possibility she might act on a reported off-the-cuff remark about killing herself, too. Interestingly, neither Wight nor Taylor set a figure for the length of jail term which trigger this suicide: four years? twelve years? eight, but with no hope of parole?

The News of the World still has more speculation left in it, though:
If she fails to show up [for questioning] she faces the humiliation of a raid on her new home in Bow, east London, and formal arrest.

So, in summary, then, the police want to question Amy Winehouse. From this, the paper has spun a story which sees her humiliated, sent down and dead. It's The Wall Street Journal's sister paper, don't you know?