Saturday, March 08, 2008

SXSW 2008: It's all about the, erm, hairgel commercials

An interesting take on SXSW from the Wall Street Journal. Sure, it's where exciting new bands gather to preen and show off... and then get co-opted to appear on a mobile phone ad:

Over its 22 years, South by Southwest has become the nation's biggest showcase for emerging music talent, speeding the ascent of stars like Amy Winehouse and the Strokes. The festival still plays host to edgy acts, from blistering heavy-metal bands to rock groups with unprintable names, all striving to impress critics, record labels and concert bookers. But increasingly the tone in Austin is being set by a new guard of talent scouts, especially those from industries like television and advertising who can score licensing deals for new music acts.

Yes, yes, we know: bands have got to eat. But it's a little disappointing that SXSW is turning into a barrel where they can be hoovered up like so many fish. It'd be nice to think that bands turn up on advertisements because someone has made an emotional connection between track and product; this is more akin to a ad-track Amsterdam, where bands sit in the windows hoping for passing trade.

Beth Orton weekend: Where Do I Begin?

Beth Orton joins The Chemical Brothers for Where Do I Begin at the Electric Proms:

[Part of the Beth Orton weekend]

Evening Standard rages over 2005 speech

Some excellent work by Andrew Collins on an Evening Standard report that a Lib Dem MP is slipping references to Shed Seven into a speech.

The Standard claims that Lewes MP Norman Baker deliberately inserted Shed Seven song titles into a speech in the Commons. Perhaps wisely, it chooses to not publish the article on its website, as it also claims that it was a "recent" speech when it actually dates back to 2005.

Baker denies doing this, calling it a coincidence - which we could accept, given how hackneyed so many Shed Seven songtitles are, it's virtually impossible to have a conversation without inadvetently throwing in a Witterism, like you're dropping cod into some sort of Ocean Pie. We could believe him, but for this last line:

On energy efficiency we are still chasing rainbows. Going for gold we are not.

That's got to be deliberate.

Naturally, rather than enjoy a little giggle at such life-enhancing silliness, the Standard rages (must be for a bet, throws doubt on his probity). The paper doesn't, though, indicate who might be hurt by the joke.

Ringo: There's more to me than The Beatles

Former Beatle Ringo Starr, who was in The Beatles, has used an interview with people interested in his time in The Beatles to complain that people only want to talk to him about one thing. The ex-Beatle raged:

"Some days I'm just fed up with The Beatles," Starr explained. "I think that when when I die, the message on my tombstone will be 'Ex-Beatle'. Like I've done nothing else."

It's a fair point, isn't it? Nobody ever mentions Back Off Boogaloo when they talk about him, do they? Or... um... all the other things he's done. Which is plenty. Loads and loads of stuff. Like Wings...

Oh, no. That was Paul, wasn't it?

But he did all that meditation stuff and the concert for Bang...

Oh, hang on. George, that, wasn't it?

Let's remember Imagine and...

Oh, yes. John.

What did Ringo do that wasn't the Beatles? What is his contribution to popular culture that is going to outweigh that?

Aha! He must want his gravestone to read 'Here lies Ringo Starr: Voice of Thomas The Tank Engine until he got bored and Michael Angelis took over'.

Well done, journalism

It's a comedy staple: hapless hero smiles at a woman of stature and asks "when's it due?" only to be hit by an umbrella as the woman indignantly rages that she's not pregnant.

Now, gossip journalism has sunk to a point where the gag has been reversed: Lisa Marie Presley has been forced to announce that, actually, she isn't fat, she's pregnant:

"Once they got a glimpse of my expanding physique a few days ago, they have been like a pack of coyotes circling their prey whilst eerily howling with delight," said Presley.

"I have had to show my cards and announce under the gun and under vicious personal attack that I am in fact pregnant," she said.

Presley said the press had been "irresponsible and disgusting".

There's the additional question of how dumb a readership has to be judged before it takes a writer to be required to point out that, say, the woman in the picture above has a greater weight than she did in a photo taken in the past.

Embed and breakfast man: Beth Orton

Beth Orton is one of the voices who's taking part on Annie Lennox's campaigning-and-fundraising HIV in Africa Sing project, which is as slim a hook as we need for spending the weekend looking at Beth Orton videos.

Let's kick off with She Cries Your Name, shall we?

More videos over the weekend - they'll be listed here
Where Do I Begin - live at the Electric Proms with the Chemical Brothers
Central Reservation - live at West 54th
Dolphins - live on Jools Holland with Terry Callier
Pass In Time - live at Webster Hall

Trailer Park
Pass In Time - a two-disc best of from 2003
Southlander - 'struggling rock musician' movie which features a Beth cameo

Darkness at 3AM: Shocked!

The 3AM Girls report on an Amy Winehouse night out:

Amy Winehouse shocks friends by snorting vodka shots

Really? Amy Winehouse's friends were shocked by that? What, were they surprised she wasn't just mainlining it?

Gordon in the morning: Not such a breast expert

Given that he spends so much time talking about breasts, you'd expect Gordon to know something about them. Apparently not, as he responds to a picture of Cheryl Cole wearing a Fashion Targets Breast Cancer shirt without apparently realising what it is:

THINGS look brighter for CHERYL COLE as she steps out in a garish yellow top.

It might be considered a little tacky to describe something worn to promote a charitable end as "garish" without at least acknowledging that there's more to the garment than just being a tshirt. Let's hope one of the journalists at the Sun can brief him properly before poppy day.

Gordon is delighted that Cheryl looks happy in the shot:
I reckon Cheryl is looking much happier now that she’s sorted out her marriage.

That'd be the one you've spent the last month telling her she can only be happy if she walks out on, wouldn't it, Gordon? The one where the trouble started not only because her husband behaved like an arse, but because you made the humiliation very public indeed?

Gordon also carries news of Robbie Williams' claims that he's seen three UFOs and that
He says he also believes cult Scientology “exists”

Uh... Gordon, the cult Scientology does exist. You want to get yourself up Tottenham Court Road, you'll get yourself a scoop. Perhaps what you mean is that Williams believes the fairy-story at the heart of the money-making cult, which would confirm that he's got no judgement worth considering.

Friday, March 07, 2008

A quarter century of Blue Mondays

As DJ Martian points out, today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of this song's first, losing-money-on-every-copy release:

Happy birthday, Blue Monday.

To put this into too much context, we're now as far away from the release of Blue Monday as the release of Blue Monday was from this:

Daily Mail tries to get to grips with downloads

The procession of the Beatles catalogue to the download market has been a long one, taking a tortuous route that included going twice round the Apple Records/Apple computers name. The one thing that hasn't been influencing the timing of when the songs appear online, though, is the financial status of the band and their surviving relatives.

And yet, readers of the Daily Mail are being told, confidently:

Sir Paul puts Beatles £200m back catalogue online to pay for his costly divorce

Yes, according to the Mail, the only reason The Beatles are finally making it online is because Paul is short of a few quid to pay off Heather.

But if Paul was short of cash, wouldn't that be to his advantage, as he could show the courts that he's down to his last ten quid, and so Heather couldn't expect more than a fiver? Wouldn't it be foolish to flog the online catalogue before the settlement?

And would Yoko really take a call from Paul saying 'can we flog Love Me Do on the iTunes so I can get shot of the Mills?' and happily agree?

The Mail does seem to have at least thought of the first possible objection:
This could lift Ms Mills's expectation of the divorce settlement to beyond £30 million, on the basis that Sir Paul's future income should be taken into account.

It raises the prospect she could appeal if she feels the judge has not considered the online deal properly.

But then the Mail doesn't really know what it's talking about:
Containing albums such as Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the White Album and Help!, it will be by far the most prized music catalogue released via the internet, worth up to £200 million, according to some estimates.

It is expected to dominate the download charts for many months.

Worth 200 million quid? That would imply somewhere in the region of 253 million downloads - that would certainly "dominate" the download charts, it's true. But is that really likely? Where is the massive demand for Beatles tracks going to come from - from people who really, really like them, but haven't quite got round to downloading them off the peer-to-peer or ripping them from their own CDs? Is that such a large group, Daily Mail?

Beatles bought by the Bus body

In a move which is either an act of genius or a dispiriting move on the part of a public body, Merseytravel has bought The Beatles. Or at least The Beatles Story.

BBC Merseyside describes The Beatles Story as

"[t]he world's only permanent Beatles attraction"

as if you'd expect there to be seven or eight scattered across the globe.

Although having said that, you might wonder what the reconstructed Cavern Club is. Or McCartney and Lennon's houses, which are run by the National Trust.

Merseytravel's rationale for buying the exhibition seems to be that as they are charged with moving people round Merseyside, they need to make sure there's some reason for people to come there in the first place. In effect, the Beatles are like the ferries:
"Ten years ago, faced with falling passenger numbers, we took the strategic decision to reposition the Mersey Ferries as a major tourist attraction, while maintaining a commuter service."

We're not sure the ferries are a major tourist attraction - aren't they the sort of thing you'd do if you were in Liverpool anyway rather than a draw in their own right?

Still, we're sure this sign that Merseytravel has so much money bus and train fares have surely been abolished in the county will be welcome by locals. Right?

Whatever happened to Tim Kash?

You and I might remember Tim Kash as one of the very worst of the run of bad presenters that Top Of The Pops suffered in its declining years. Nowadays, though, he's working for MTV delivering sub-Newsround "it's exciting behind the scenes" stories about Fox News for MTV.

Creamfields: Let's just say it's mutated

In a way, the continued, brave battering forward of the Creamfields events long, long, after the shuttering of the Cream club is inspiring. Having once been conceived as a dance riposte to the rock festivals, Creamfields has now mutated into the thing that it was once set against.

This year, the tenth year, Kasabian are headlining. So now, it's just like Reading. Only much, much smaller.

Merge emerges

Although the large online music retailers are handy for the breadth of their content, there's still much to be said for the inhouse operations, too. Obviously, depending on the label.

Merge Record's store is a case in point - alongside the current catalogue, they're taking the chance to make rarities, deletions and other delights available, starting with a Superchunk live compilation (The Clambakes Series Vol. 1: Acoustic In-Stores East & West, in case you're wondering.) There are promises of free stuff in the future, too. It's less a retail branding solution, more an act of love.

Happy 56th birthday, NME

Perhaps the most encouraging thing for IPC as they read Stephen Dalton's Times piece on the NME is that, while it's not an entirely encouraging read, there aren't many magazines whose 56th birthday (or, come to that, future direction) would be considered worthy of an editorial piece in the heavyweight papers.

Dalton lands a couple of blows on the current magazine - calling it like a "training-bra version of Heat" - but is generous to current and former staffer's contention that the NME is always haunted by its past:

“Generations of them, all moaning about how NME stopped being good at the exact moment they stopped buying it,” complains Steven Wells, one of the magazine's star writers in the 1980s and early 1990s. “It must really suck to be an NME writer these days with this bloated Greek chorus of balding middle-aged naysayers on your back.”

It's true, of course, but what might be more alarming is that (unless we're missing something) there aren't many people who read the magazine five years ago who insist that it's gone downhill. The 'not as good as in my day' crowd are paying the brand a tremendous complement by stressing how important the NME was to their musical development. That people are harking back to the early 2000s version suggests that - for about a decade - it's not really held that position. The challenge for the NME is not the crowd of old gits complaining that it's changed, but that their ranks aren't being swollen any more.

Steve Sutherland (former editor, now heading up the division of Time Warner which publishes the magazine) tells Dalton that paper version has a future, but even if it doesn't, it doesn't really matter:
Sutherland dismisses speculation about closing the weekly magazine, at least for now. “Am I married to print on paper?” he asks. “Would I weep buckets if, in 20 years, NME was talking on a minute-by-minute basis with millions of music fans all over the world but the magazine had passed on? Personally, no. Do I believe that will happen? No again.”

It's perhaps unfortunate that Dalton spends most of the piece detailing why it wouldn't matter if the magazine folded - it's online, it's possible to read the NME without buying the magazine, there's a lot of similar stuff around - without actually managing to offer an argument of why it might matter if it did go. There's a space for an intelligent, passionate, popular-ish publication which writes about music like it's important, that realises some music can be more like an initiation than a pastime which presents its world as a clique that you could be part of. The NME isn't that publication at the moment, but it's the only hope we've got of getting one, as nobody would be able to start from scratch to fill that void. You need a friend who likes what you like if you're to trust someone when they tempt you to try something new, and there's no reason why the NME can't be that again, for a new generation. Of course, the brand can make money hosting awards bashes at the Millennium Dome and serving up news gobbets about Pete Doherty, but without rediscovering some heart and passion for the core magazine, it's going to be a brand supported only by its receding heritage.

That 90th birthday, then...

So, does the 90th Birthday party for Nelson Mandela demand closer attention?

Brits RAZORLIGHT and KEANE have signed up to join QUEEN and ANNIE LENNOX on the bill.

U2, the SPICE GIRLS and SIR PAUL McCARTNEY have also been approached to perform.

That'd be a no, then.

Gordon in the morning: Location, location, location

Although his predictions of divorce and broken homes came to nothing, Gordon Smart has decided to continue banging away at the story, reporting this morning that, oh, anything really. Let's say she's insisting on moving house:

FURIOUS CHERYL COLE is insisting love-rat hubby ASHLEY buys them a new house — because she suspects he cheated on her in their marital bed.

There is something charmingly old-fashioned sounding about the phrase "marital bed" turning up in a trashy gossip column, isn't there?

But hang about a moment... those of us who have followed this story through Gordon's eyes will recall (as he keeps telling us) that Ashley is supposed to have had whatever sex he could manage between bouts of spewing in some sort of hotel, didn't he?

Didn't you say that, Gordon?
The Sun revealed in January how 27-year-old Ashley romped with blonde hairdresser Aimee Walton at a pal’s flat in North London.

But the source said Cheryl, 24, still feared he had cheated in their mansion in Oxshott, Surrey — and “ruined it forever”.

Really, Gordon? Or - if they are actually moving - could it just be that they want a new start?

Elsewhere, Gordon's turned in one of those I have read a magazine, I shall tell you what is in the magazine pieces, picking up Victoria Beckham's Vogue cover:
VICTORIA BECKHAM blows ’em away as she recreates the glamour of VIVIEN LEIGH in Gone With The Wind.

I'll be honest. I spent thirty seconds thinking that Gordon was confusing Dirty Harry with Gone With The Wind before I got the wind/blew pun. You might have thought something along the lines of "It's not just Atlanta that'll be set alight by Posh's new look" would have been sharper, but it turns out Gordon's not assuming his readership will have heard of the movie. He tries to prompt them:
The classic film is famed for the line: “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

But having thrown the damn into the pot, Gordon flounders slightly trying to take the thought on:
But Posh obviously does.

Um... yes. She clearly gives a damn about... um... anyhoo...

The announcement of Nelson Mandela's 90th birthday party for Hyde Park generates the headline
It's Nelson Bandela in Hyde Park

We read the story through, trying to work out what was going to be banned. Then we realised it was meant to be Band-ela. I can't decide if Gordon's working on a level too intellectually demanding for me, or if the puns are really so weak they're turning into something like a suduko puzzle when you try to work them out.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Walk to the hills/ walk for your life

Brazilian metal fans are delighted by the first-ever visit of Iron Maiden to their nation. How delighted? They organised a massive walk event to celebrate.

Go on girl (and boys)

It's quite sobering that hip hop has been going so long now that it's got a second generation of elder statesmen. And now there's to be a reunion - The Juice Crew are gathering for an Atlanta festival, the A3C. Signed on so far are Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Marley Marl, MC Shan, Craig G, and Roxanne Shante. Let's hope there's someone there for the YouTubery.

Xfm decides to bring back the DJs

Less than a year after introducing the dj-less daytime schedule, Xfm are climbing down and bringing back presenter-led programming during daylight hours.

It's almost as if they realised that if their audience wanted to listen to music on shuffle without interruptions, they could put on a CD. Or play their iPod. Or go to

In tandem with the announcement of the dropping of an idea which should have been killed stone dead at the brainstorming session from which it emerged, they've also announced that Dave Berry (aka Ray Cokes in HD) is going to be moved to the drivetime slot.

Yes, Dave Berry. We're actually starting to think that shows without presenters might be the best move for Xfm after all.

Watch out for the umbrella, fella, hell... arrrgh

In a move not seen since Stand And Deliver Antpeople were stopped from taking duelling pistols into Adam And The Ants gigs, security is cracking down on people turning up with umbrellas to watch Rhianna:

Security guard Andy McDonald, said: "We don’t normally ask people to leave an umbrella outside. But we were taking precautions over a potential accident.

"We were told that Rihanna’s song features dancing with umbrellas on stage. We didn’t want the crowd following her actions and someone getting their eye poked out."

Now, this has, of course, been dressed up as a 'health and safety gone mad' story by the Daily Star:
A fan told the Daily Star: "I always carry an umbrella with me as the weather is dodgy and snow was predicted to fall.

"I couldn’t believe it when I had mine taken off me during a bag search on my way inside the venue."

But, to be honest, we're more surprised that venues are normally okay with people turning up to watch bands and taking their brollies into the auditorium. Surely, if ever there was an object which you don't need during the set, it'd be an umbrella?

Okay, with the possible exception of the Liverpool venue which, prior to a building upgrade, did have a problem with maggots growing in the pigeon carcasses on the abandoned top floor sometimes dropping through the ceiling onto people enjoying themselves. You might need an umbrella then.

[Thanks again to the tireless James P for the link]

Lily Allen: Heart and glass

James P draws our attention to Lily Allen's blog entry detailing the recent smashing of her car window:


If you see photos in the press or online of my car window being "smashed by vandals", I just want you to know that it was one of the many paparazzi who were following us who did it. There were so many of them hassling us that it is difficult to say which one of them did it but i had to leap in a taxi to get away from them, my friend Emily had to get into the car which was covered in broken glass and drive it away. It was a scary situation and i want people to know that it was totally their fault and that the whole situation has angered and upset me. Emily got cut from sitting on the broken glass and we are both horrified that people could behave in this way and get away with it.

As James points out, surely what's more horrifying than the idea of a photographer smashing a car window is Allen's reaction - "I'm going to get a cab; Emily, you drive my BMW home. Even if you have to sit on some broken glass for a bit."

We're not sure we quite follow how Allen "had to" leap in a taxi to get away anyway - "I'm being hounded; I'm sat in a high-performance car. To make my escape, I shall exit the car, hail a taxi and chug off diesel-style down the street."

Still, it should be easy for Lily to find the culprits - if the car was surrounded by people taking photographs, someone must have caught the incident on camera?

Any more slicethepie?

We were slightly surprised that CNN devoted news space to Jill Souble's fan-funded album, for, charming though Jill clearly is, it's hardly a new way of working. Marillion were doing fan-funded album releases back when, well, Marillion had enough fans to fund an album.

Arguably, of course, the whole point of the record business has always been that fans will fund the costs of making albums - EMI has never set out with a business plan that included a line "hopefully flogging a few might add a bit of money to the funding"; now, the idea of fans having to pony up before the artists have even started work is so commonplace there's even a service. Slicethepie, which exists to take the pain out the process.

Hypebot isn't that impressed by their offering:

Fundamentally, Slicethepie believes it offers "proof that Radiohead’s hugely successful self-release experiment can be replicated even by smaller artists, just so long as they have an established and dedicated fanbase." But how do they get that fan base? It's true that by connecting artists directly to fans, Slicethepie cuts out much of the value chain and give artists higher returns.

Even with cash in hand, can a band without infrastructure actually break through the clutter to reach any level of success? And while the wisdom of the crowd would seem greater than that found in the boardroom, its unclear that voting by PayPal is a better measure of fan commitment than fists in the air at a live performance.

It's true that for a band to fan-fund their debut album, it's going to be difficult to generate a budget that's going to spring Phil Spector from prison, secure his services, draft in The Real People to play all the guitars and then fund a lavish advertising campaign, but that's trying to apply the rules of debut albums from the past to a new model.

When bands first play live, their audiences tend to consist of their immediate family; a couple of ex-sexual partners of the bassist who the bassist hopes will not meet and compare notes; three work colleagues; the uncle of the gig promoter and two bemused Swedish tourists who misread the poster as advertising non-stop nude dancing. A small, friendly audience who come along for goodwill and to - hopefully - kickstart a bigger audience. There's no reason why that same network couldn't be passive-aggressively bullied into lobbing a tenner into the hat to produce a cheap record. Think of a demo tape, but with a wider potential audience. If the band finds a wider fanbase, next time round they can raise a bit more cash, and either do some new songs or tart up the first recordings. Bands have actually been raising the cash for demos this way on an adhoc basis - and without paypal - for years.

We have no idea about slicethepie as an entity, but we can certainly see there's potential for something along the lines of a clearing house that can cope with baby-stepping artists.

Darkness at 3AM: Noel gets guns

Noel Gallagher's a working class lad, right, he's a man of the people, yeah?

Only, according to Tom Meighan (apparently Kasabian have become so successful at channeling Oasis they're now acting as the Gallagher's spokesmen) via 3AM, he's taken up country sports:

"He sent me a text about going shooting in America, and about how scared he was of shooting himself.

"I've not heard from Noel in a while, so as soon as he's finished recording in LA it would be nice to meet up and find out what happened. He was going to get some guns and rifles I think. It was supposed to be a leisurely day out or hobby to get stuck into."

Now, we know that getting hold of shooters isn't unknown in some of the suburbs of Manchester, but it'll be interesting to see if Noel attempts to balance his claims to be the same man he was when he was growing up with his new-found desire to bag a brace of grouse for fun.

Elsewhere, the 3AM Girls are puzzled at not being loved by the people whose lives they rifle:
Ok, we'll try to put it down to a bad case of PMT - but WTF is up with the Sugababes? Keisha Buchanan led her boyfriend Dean, along with bandmate Amelle Berrabah and her fella Freddie Fuller, in a chorus of childish hisses at us as we left the 27 Dresses premiere.

Fairly strange considering we've been nothing but supportive of the girls ... but we can go off people you know, Keisha.

You've got to love columnists whose job involves sniping at people calling other's behaviour "childish", and the little bit of threat.

As if to illustrate the point, the 3AMies then call Keisha fat:
Perhaps the girls were just tired after their gruelling work schedule - or perhaps Keisha's more annoyed about piling on the pounds.

Not that they'd ever be accused of being childish or anything.

Gordon in the morning: Swayze and means

Well, it could have been worse. We were worried that this morning's Bizarre would have attempted to crowbar in a reference to how he was once a ghost, but the coverage of Patrick Swayze's cancer isn't quite that cloying. Not quite, anyway. With Emily Smith covering the story, and Emma Morton (the Sun's health and science editor) explaining what cancer is, Gordon is left with little to do but invite people to send messages of support:

Now, the 55-year-old could be spending his last few precious weeks with his family as pancreatic cancer takes hold.

Leave your messages of support by using the MySun link below.

If you did have weeks to live, it's not clear how much of that "precious time" you'd want to spend wading through heartfelt but poorly constructed messages from Sun readers.

Gordon and Emily have a difference of opinion over exactly what Patrick is like. For Gordon, he's:
DIRTY Dancing heart throb PATRICK SWAYZE

but for Emily, he's:

Presumably Gordo was worried that calling a man a hunk makes it sound like it's your opinion, whereas "heart throb" is an observation of other people's reactions.

There's something heartwarming about Emma Morton's attempts to explain pancreatic cancer to the Bizarre readership:
THE pancreas is a gland that secretes digestive enzymes and produces important hormones like insulin, writes The Sun’s Health and Science Editor Emma Morton.

Pancreatic cancer is notoriously difficult to treat. And it is hard to diagnose, because of its location at the back of the abdomen.

Emma's faith that "abdomen", "enzyme" and "insulin" are going to illuminate the matter for Gordon's readers is touching. Perhaps she should have seen how Gordon handles pregnancy before deciding where to pitch her piece. Angelina Jolie, we're told by the HTML page title, is
Busty and pregnant

Super-fit NICOLE KIDMAN also looks swell as her baby bump begins to bulge.

There's not much sign that Gordon thinks his readers did more human biology than giggling over page 72 in the text book.

Bertelsmann thinks the game's up for major labels

Oh, that noise? That's the sound of another chill running through the offices of the RIAA: the German edition of the FT is reporting that Bertelsmann is having serious talks about dumping its share of Sony BMG. No decisions taken as yet, but even considering the idea is a sign that there's not much faith in the label's ability to deliver much in the way of the "organic growth" that new Bertelesmann chief executive Hartmut Ostrowski is demanding. That, though, will make finding a buyer prepared to pay a decent price quite tricky.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Rachel Ray: at least it's not Toploader

Rachel Ray's decision to hold an indie-meets-food event as part of SXSW hasn't exactly delighted all the world's music bloggers: there's a sense that a daytime TV celebrity cook shouldn't be turning up on the fringes of alt-rockery holding gigs.

Ray says she's not bothered:

I'm not aware about what blogs were saying about me," Ray told MTV News on Tuesday. "To be honest, I have five jobs, so I'm aware of what I have to do for them when we get up in the morning. But I don't see why we'd be out of place down there, when we're just fans of music who decided to put on a show. I guess if they don't like good music, and they don't like good food, they don't have to go."

To be fair to Ray, she's got a point - it's not like SXSW is exactly free from commercial influence anyway, and the appearance of Holy Fuck on the bill suggests that someone in the Ray organisation is happy to embrace something more than just the most Jay-Leno-friendly bands for the event.

We suspect, though, it's not Ray's personal choice, as her "I love indie, honestly" defence sounds a little like your younger brother trying to impress a girl rather than heartfelt love of Holy Fuck:
"My husband and I listened to a bunch of discs and picked our favorites," Ray explained. "We also have Sirius, so we're always listening to the Left of Center program, which is how we heard the Raveonettes. With a band like [Holy F---], I have to say that it was the name that got us listening. But we're glad we did. They're pretty good.

"And I don't understand why that's so surprising. I find it weird that they find it weird. People think I'm like this food robot or something, but music is a huge part of my life," she continued. "I'm a huge fan of rock music in general — all kinds. I like indie stuff, my favorite band is the Foo Fighters. When I first met my husband, he told me what he made for dinner the night before, and I thought, 'OK, well, he can cook.' And then he told me he had a band and I was like, 'Aw, jeez. I hope they're good,' because I couldn't deal with someone who didn't play good music."

"I've got quite eclectic taste, I have a satellite radio and a Foo Fighters album." So, maybe she'd have been more at home backstage at the Brits than down in Austin for SXSW, but still: indie survived Cookin: Jamie Oliver's Music To Cook By; it'll survive 30 minutes with Rachel Ray.

Dress like Avril. Or maybe undress.

We're presuming that the Avril Lavigne fashion range is going to draw inspiration from the clothes she wears when she's pretending to be a teenage girl on stage, rather than the stuff she wears when she's trying to interest a more mature ("masturbating") audience - so it's going to be stripey tights rather than Hooters t-shirts.

Let's hope so anyway, as she's pitching it as a "back to school" range:

The 2008 back-to-school collection is created from Lavigne’s own closet and will feature two key fashion collections at launch. The first features a combination of feminine sophistication and rock-and-roll attitude, which includes bold colors and mix-and-match iconic prints; and the second features a fusion of ska, reggae and skater with a balance of traditional tartan plaids, checks and stripes.

Stripey tights then, like if Rico borrowed clothes from Bob Marley, apparently.

Robbie Williams is not that different from a giant space manatee slowly being cut up for food

At long last, America has finally found a use for Robbie Williams.

Unfortunately, it's just as a way of locating Torchwood in relation to the rest of the world for readers of Entertainment Weekly:

And apparently in the U.K., it is inherently amusing to locate Torchwood HQ and the time-space rift that sets loose so many alien subplots in the bleak-looking town of Cardiff, Wales; I gather this is comparable to, say, locating Lost in a Paramus, N.J., park. As with P.G. Wodehouse novels and Robbie Williams songs, you have to be either British or adolescent to commit to this stuff; for the rest of us, it's a head-scratching lark.

Except, of course, for Williams songs you have to be both British and adolescent.

[Thanks to Gibbo for the link]

Let's Notwist again

The Notwist are back, after some six years of inactivity, with a album and tour plan. Pitchfork is spooling out a sample of their new sound, an MP3 of Good Lies.

Lily Allen and Friends... well, friend, perhaps

We actually feel a little bad now. We really meant to mention that last week's Lily Allen and Friends got its largest audience of the run - a record busting third of a million - but didn't get round to it; now, we're mentioning last night's ratings and it'll look like we're only counting the flatline figures and ignoring the ones that are slightly less bad.

But we're not. It just happens that last night's audience averaged 173,000 - although by the end, the figures had dipped to 148,000. The good news for Lily, though, is that this figure is so small, it can't really be counted accurately by the ratings systems.

The BBC has been suggesting that the series was doing well on the iPlayer - perhaps that's where all the viewers are.

Madonna: No pub after all

As Olive points out in the comments section down there, The Publican carries a denial about the 'Madonna buys the pub' story:

The singer’s UK publicist told reports that the couple had spent around £2.5m on the Punchbowl in Mayfair were “not true at all”.

Spokeswoman Barbara Charone said: “There’s no truth in it at all. I told the papers that on Friday but they decided to run it anyway. That's the tabloids for you.”

Well, yes, but as Madonna's spokespeople denied she was in Malawi to adopt a baby seconds before she scooped David Banda up and made off with him, it's perhaps unsurprising that a "denial from a spokesperson" doesn't cut much ice with the tabloids. Certainly not to the extent that they'd get in the way of a good story.

Still, reassuring that there might be one building left in the neighbourhood she doesn't buy up.

Madonna amongst the dinosaurs

Madonna has been slowly coming to terms with her rock and roll hall of fame nomination:

"I heard about it and I kind of felt ambivalent, like, 'What is that, the place they put musical dinosaurs?' said Madonna.

"I didn't really know what to think of it. But then lots of people explained to me that it's an acknowledgement of singers and songwriters who have made a contribution in the world of music for 25 years, and so eventually I came around to the idea that it was flattering."

Aha. You needed someone to explain the concept of the hall of fame before, reluctant as Jim Hacker accepting nomination for party leader, allowing your name to go forward, huh?

Presumably it's a different Madonna who donated all those stage costumes to the Hall a few years back, then?

[See also: No Rock and Roll Fun visits the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame]

Chad Kroeger: A little bit hissy

Splendid bloggage fun on the Guardian this morning, with Ian Winwood detailing Chad Kroeger's inability to calm down, at all, ever:

In 2003 Kroeger challenged me to a fight - by name, and from the stage at every show Nickelback performed on their UK arena tour. He wanted us to duel, for charity, in a boxing ring. Make no mistake, he harboured - and possibly still harbours - enough anger toward me that was he to see me, he'd end me. Noticeably short on breath, I accepted Chad's challenge.

The nicest detail of the story is that Kroeger attempted to wrap his pre-evolutionary violent response in with a donation to charity, as if a cheque to some good cause made his macho petulance somehow honourable.

In the end, he wins a fast-evaporating career

Desperate to squeeze every ounce of coin from the Britain's Got Talent And Yet Somehow Feels Piers Morgan To Be The Arbiter Of It franchise, Simon Cowell is trying to talk up interest in a movie about Paul Potts:

The music mogul was contacted by bosses at Hollywood's Paramount Pictures suggesting the idea. "This company got that it's another Billy Elliot, a story anyone in the world can understand," said Simon.

Well, yes: it's a story anyone in the world can understand because it's so bloody simple. Man enters contest. Will he win, although naturally he will because otherwise they wouldn't have made a movie about him, would they?

Does Cowell really think is Billy Elliott II? Does this man with the supposed ability to stimulate the entertainment g-spot of the two nations really have trouble telling the difference between 'cute boy dances against the odds' and 'slightly tubby bloke sings opera and wins TV gameshow'?

But then, what would we know? We thought that 'Bob's Full House: The Movie' would be a disaster until we saw the CGI used when it was time to mix the six.

The crumbliest, flakiest

The 'gorilla playing drums' advert for Cadbury's has been hailed as some sort of success, being credited with a rise in sales of unpleasant chocolate in 2007. Less over-excited observers might conclude that getting through a year without having to recall tons and tons of chocolate because a dirty factory had led to a salmonella problem might have explained the rise more satisfactorily, but no matter.

Buoyed from the success of linking one chocolate product with an unlikely musician, they're trying it again with the Joss Stone advert for Flake.

It's horrible. It's really horrible. Joss is seen working hard in the studio - laying down some tracks, maaan - when an unscheduled break gives her the chance to have a chocolate bar. No finger of fudge for Joss, though - she has the Flake, sings the theme tune to herself and picks some crumbs off her breasts.

It's quite inspiring the way the advertisers have managed to combine the supposed unique selling point of the product (that it's sexy - look, I'm patting my breasts) with the reason why it makes sense to steer clear from eating Flakes in the first place (the go everywhere, falling in a shower of vegetable oil chocolate one piece of which, no matter how much you brush, will remain on your clothes, melting and looking like a poo fleck.)

Adding to the supposed 'sexiness' of the brand, the advertisers have inserted a shot which, we suspect, is purely there to let us peek up Stone's neckline.

If the advertising agency really knows what it's doing, it will have filmed a version of this with an alternate ending, for release online, where Joss' moment enjoying her chcolate is interrupted by a rimshot, whereupon she and the camera swing round to reveal the Dairy Milk gorilla is playing drums on her new record.

Facebook wants to be iTunes, too

We're filing this one under 'inevitable': Facebook is aping MySpace and talking to the majors about some sort of music service.

Noel Gallagher threatened by Kenickie

3AM actually has a decent story this morning, as Noel Gallagher reveals Kenickie waved a knife at him.

Not the band, sadly. Jeff Conaway. Noel recalls:

"Kenickie shouted, 'I've had four back operations, you know.' "So I said, 'So get yourself out of that wheelchair then!' "He said, 'I've had four operations but I can still pull a knife on you.' And he pulled out a big blade.

We thought: 'You're going down, Kenickie.'"

Ah, yes. That would be Noel telling a chronic alcoholic to get out of his wheelchair. Perhaps he thinks he's got healing powers... like god... glowing god... going... going

Darkness at 3AM: Kate Mosses' skeleton

Goodness - the 3AM column online before lunchtime. And with an eyecatching headline, too:

Kate's X-ray SEX!

What can that possibly mean?
Her new home has bonking skeletons

Her new house has what?

The truth, as ever, turns out to be quite dull:
The supermodel is terrifying visitors to her North London pad, thanks to the two life-size skeletons on display in the corridor.

And it gets worse. They are arranged in a horizontal missionary position... Yep, bonking bones! We're spooked too.

But arranging skeletons as if they were having sex (the sort of thing that most people get out their system by about the age of 15) isn't anything to do with an X-Ray, is it?

Still, it gives Kate's guest the collywobbles:
"Kate was given the skeletons by a friend," says our well-placed source. "She absolutely loves them and finds it hysterical when visitors get freaked out."

Who would be freaked out by discovering skeletons in a hallway? Unless you were off your tree on drugs of some sort, wouldn't you... oh, hang on.

Apparently it gets worse - although, to be honest, this sounds like the sort of thing that a newspaper might make up to fill out a story:
Let's hope the freaky floorshow doesn't faze 34-year-old Kate's fella, Kills guitarist Jamie Hince - because his face is going on one of them.

"Kate's so chuffed with them she's asked her PA to get her another couple to go in her Cotswolds retreat," adds our source.

"She wants to paint one set with her face beaming down and the other with Jamie's mug. It'll look hilarious."

Can you imagine Kate Moss' head perched on top of body with absolutely no flesh on it whatsoever?

Gordon in the morning: Betrayed by Cheryl Cole

Gordon Cole has invested a lot in break-down of the Cole-Tweedy marriage, having revealed Ashley Cole's philandering, pushing Cheryl to dump him and predicting it was only a short while before the divorce. On Monday, Gordon claimed Cheryl was so angry she was singing songs about him, and insisting on the 19th last month that Cheryl was about to give Ashley the old heave-ho.

Oddly, though, none of this seems to be present in his story this morning, which confirms that The Coles are going to give it another go. With each other.

While not mentioning that he's spent a couple of months campaigning and cajoling for the opposite outcome, Smart tries to suggest that - in some way - Cheryl has humilated herself:

Last night Cheryl was STILL refusing to wear her wedding ring “until she feels ready to put it back on”, according to a pal.

One reason is that she is so red-faced at having to swallow her pride by forgiving her love rat husband.

The friend said: “She is worried how people will react to her taking him back.

“It has been embarrassing for her because she was so vocal before the marriage about what she would do if he cheated on her.”

Not half as vocal as Gordo has been, mind.

Lily Allen has had a rough time recently; wisely, she's chosen to take some time to talk to people about how she's feeling and what she's going through. If you thought, though, that consulting a health professional instead of self-medicating with booze and drugs would be treated as a sensible option by The Sun, you'd be wrong, of course. Gordon's column gives the story a headline:
Lily seeing a shrink

It's not even clear why this is considered to be any of our business in the first place, but to report someone talking to a psychiatrist in terms that recall Gripper writing 'Roland is a headcase - he goes to see a shrink' on the Grange Hill blackboard is astonishing. I know, we shouldn't be surprised that Smart edits his page like a comprhensive school bully, but just when you think you've got the measure of the man it turns out he's actually even smaller than you thought.

Smart is expected to make Allen roll along the ground after stealing her pocket money this lunchtime.

Elsewhere, watching Pete Doherty's video of crack smoking through a chicken's bottom, Gordon observes:
[his] drug habits have been reported in detail in the past

before, erm, going on to repeat the stories so far anyway.

Oh, apparently the video is an old one of Doherty using a pot chicken - made of clay type pot. The Sun has taken it off YouTube and slapped it into its pisspoor RooMedia video player - we're sure they've sorted the copyright out on that.

Andy Kershaw: Released into mother's custody

High Bailiff Michael Moyle, The judge who heard Andy Kershaw's case yesterday has cut him some slack, granting him a suspended sentence for the latest bout of harassment of his former partner, and strongly advising he moves in with his mother.

Kershaw's brief told the court that he'd suffered an "emotional meltdown" at the weekend. Moyle accepted the defence and told Kershaw:

Look at you, you look awful. I would encourage you to look at yourself long and hard. You must be breaking the heart of your mother and sister.

"You drink to excess and you can't accept that Mr Imrie is the man of Miss Banner's choice, not you.

"On the clear understanding you will leave the Isle of Man forthwith, I'm prepared to give you one final chance.

"I'm not banning you from the island, I merely suggest you take a considerable break in the company of your family."

Simply relocating to Manchester might not be enough, of course, but it might be a step in the right direction.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

ContactMusic attempts to get Sting a little fatwah

While I have very little time for Sting, his lutes and his enormous self-regard, I don't think I'd want to treat him as badly as ContactMusic has. Reporting plans for Geert
Wilders to push ahead with his film attacking the Koran
, ContactMusic choose for no discernable reason to file this story under Sting, scattering pictures of Sting around the report and providing links to more stories about Sting.

There are two explanations: either the automated system used to publish by the site has found the word "posting" in the report and decided that this must mean it's got something to do with the singer from The Police; or someone who works for ContactMusic really, really hates Sting and wants to plant the seed in extremist minds that Sting is somehow associated with insulting the prophet. Either way, if I was Sting, I'd be a little unsettled.

Daily Mail confused by DRM-free tracks

Reporting that Warners are making DRM-free albums available for a fiver, the Mail gets a little confused, suggesting that the label is looking for a "price war" with Apple.

Even although the majors have been trying to get Apple to charge more, not less, and the idea is not to start a price war but to try and loosen Apple's dominance in the marketplace.

And that the lower price is only going to apply to 150 albums, and nobody buys whole albums as downloads anyway, it's not likely Steve Jobs is going to be that worried.

Oh, and as the Mail recognises:

But the new files can be played on everything from iPods to mobile phones.

So there's more places to buy songs which play on iPods - which are the main focus of Apple's efforts. It's not like Warners are locking their stuff into PlaysForSure only devices.

I am tired; you are loose; he is drunk

Ashlee Simpson's performance on a Washington Radio Station this morning has generated suggestions she might have turned up drunk. And why not, eh? It's not like it's a breakfast show she was on. Oh.

With mp3s of the interview popping all over the web, you're free to judge for yourself.

Just in case you need some help in judging for yourself, her people have rustled up an explanation for her performance:

"Ashlee was absolutely not intoxicated this morning on Hot 99.5. She has been working extremely hard traveling across the country to promote her upcoming new album by performing at night and waking up very early the next day to do radio interviews in the morning, like any of us would be, she was simply just tired."

Everyone, then, agrees she needs to sleep something off, even if there's some disagreement about precisely what.

The cost of digital distribution

As part of the general answering-questions-without-answering-them policy being used these days by the record company, Matt Phillips of the BPI turned up on last week's Guardian Tech Weekly podcast. When challenged why digital download albums cost roughly the same as physical albums, when there are no costs of bits of plastic, or driving things about in trucks, or warehousing , Philips answered a different question, saying that he was sure that customers would much rather pay 50pence an album or nothing an album, but that there are costs for distributing content. (I'm paraphrasing slightly).

Well, yes: there's not a zero cost in selling online, and now we're getting a glimpse at exactly how much the record companies are having to find to get their stuff to digital customers. It costs about a dollar to get a track onto Amazon's MP3 service. Obviously, there are other services which need to be loaded, but it's hard to see there'd be very much more cash for the labels to find. We're still having trouble seeing why online music is so bloody expensive.

Keith Richards hawks stuff

When not telling kids to not take drugs and slagging off any band that's come along since 1973, Keith Richards spends his time avoiding tax and falling out of trees.

Oh, and now: also appearing in adverts for Louis Vuitton luggage. It's impossible to imagine why Richards has been approached to push leather-faced, rugged old cases.

Richards is going to give some - some - of his fee to Al Gore's environmental charity, which means he's only mostly a money-grubbing corporate shill. He does retain a small portion of his dignity.

Preposterous tales

We're excited by the news that Dave Rippingale out of I, Ludicrous is not only supporting The Fall, but blogging the tour for the Guardian's music site. Really, really excited.

Kasabian LP: can you wait?

If you'd been expecting Kasabian album three to be pretty much like the first two, think again. To judge by Serge's latest insight, it could actual be more akin to The Second Coming. As in a wee bit overblown:

"In a way it's a concept album, like a soundtrack to some mad film. It's like a really good road movie, yeah a road movie...that's what I'd say."

That would be a mad road movie, then. But a good one. Is there something odd about a man talking about a concept album without being able to define what the concept actually is?

There's more:
"We built our own studio which has freed us up massively. We've really been experimenting on this album. The first three tracks we've done are twenty minutes long!

"Music's stuck in a reality at the moment and we're going the other way, back into experimentation without structure which is hypnotic and sends you into a trance. It's very psychadelic, real head music that bends you around."

If anyone can send you drifting off, it's certainly Kasabian. We've nodded off during their music more than once. But we're going to pay attention to this - we're looking forward to someone playing music that is simultaneously hypnotic and without structure.

Pitchfork goes televisual

Can't people leave their brands unextended for five bloody minutes these days? Pitchfork has just announced it's getting into television, if you can call an online channel television. (We've read that supplement from the Guardian yesterday twice, and we're still not sure.)

The idea is a little more high concept than NME TV:

As a visual extension of the music coverage Pitchfork has provided for more than a decade, and a means of updating and advancing the music television format, the online channel will bring you closer to the artists you love: through original mini-documentaries, secret rooftop and basement sessions, full concerts, exclusive interviews, and the most carefully curated selection of music videos online.

In addition, will become the first online video channel to screen full-length feature films, vintage concerts, and music DVDs free of charge. From the Pixies' 2004 reunion tour film LoudQuietLoud and Todd Phillips' notorious GG Allin documentary Hated, to Jimmy Joe Roche & Dan Deacon's acid-drenched visual art piece Ultimate Reality, will highlight a different film each week in its entirety.

In other words, it's going to be an attempt to actually transfer the Pitchfork ethos into a video channel, rather than just choosing one or two of its most popular bands, playing their videos over and over, and slapping on a logo.

Weekend cancels plans for Saturday

We can see why Vampire Weekend would drop everything to answer a call to appear on Saturday Night Live - getting your music in front of lots of people can give your career a fillip. Even if the people are those with an astonishingly high tolerance for overlong comedy sketches.

But it's a bit of a shame their big chance has come at the cost of actual, paying fans in Orlando and St Augstine. There's room for someone to work out the economics of this - is it better for a band with limited mainstream appeal to drop paying, current fans and risk losing them in favour of potential, half-hearted fans? It's not so clear that the big audience is always the one to chase.

Jacko misses out on millions

With so much outstanding on his mortgages, Michael Jackson could use some of the USD20 million the owners of Xtrajet are having to pay in damages for taping him and his lawyer talking while they flew up to turn Jackson in on those child abuse charges.

Trouble is, Jackson has subsequently sacked the lawyer Mark Geragos and had pulled himself off the lawsuit, so won't get a penny. And since the jet service has gone bankrupt, it's possible owner Jeffrey Borer won't be writing a cheque for twenty million out anytime soon, either.

Helsinki, oh lord: It's not exactly a supergroup

Drew McConnell, Albert Hammond Jr and - oh, my - Fionn Regan have been working together on a side-project badged as Helsinki. Drew explains:

"I did four tracks a couple of months back with Albert Hammond, Jr. from The Strokes and Fionn Regan.

"I've had a few labels talking to me about the possibility of releasing it.

"We all needed it, Albert had been on tour with his solo thing and he was a little tired.

"It was good for everyone to get in the studio for a few days and have some beers and make some good music.

"When I play with Helsinki, it's more for fun. Not that Babyshambles isn't fun, but I take it more seriously."

"Not worrying if a label was going to be happy with it or whether an A&R man was gonna check if the chorus came in, in the first 40 seconds."

We wonder if Drew would like to add some sort of disclaimer lest we all get the impression that Doherty's muse actually plays second fiddle in shaping the Babyshambles sound to what the A&R think about the chorus. He doesn't, mind.

A meeting of minds

Akon: best known for dry-humping a child onstage before then giving kids vouchers to use in their local sex shop.

Michael Jackson: arguably, best known for having other people's kids over for sleepovers.

No wonder Akon thinks they should be working together.

Cop Shoot Cop man attempts to shoot shopkeeper with perfume

Michael Kaminski, who used to be in Cop Shoot Cop ("perennial Peel favourites", of course) has got himself in some bother: He tried to rob a store in Ohio using, erm, a bottle of perfume shaped like a gun.

Even more oddly, he was trying to rob a video shop. In 2008. With some perfume.

It all went wrong when he himself got beaten up by someone from the tanning salon next door. You could almost feel sorry for him.

Here, in happier times, then, is Kaminski with CSC doing Burn Your Bridges:

Kershaw: Not so good

After the positive-sounding piece in the Mail, things seemed to be on the up for Andy Kershaw.

Then we read the interview in the Mirror, where he still sounded incredibly angry and life-tainting bitter about his experiences.

This morning, he's back in jail after another suspected breach of his restraining order.

Terrible news.

Bjork's year of living dangerously

Having upset Serbia by dedicating the song Declare Independence to Kosovo last week, this week, Bjork's now done the song in Shanghai and yelled 'Tibet, Tibet' over the end of the song.

It's not gone down well:

"If she really did this, then this woman really makes people throw up," one comment on popular Chinese Web site said.

It's nice that the commenter decided to withold his politically-motivated puking until he's had it confirmed that she really did it. Too often the quality of political debate is sullied by people spewing before they're certain of all the facts.

Apparently, people who were there were a bit underwhelmed, too:
"The atmosphere was very strange, uncomfortable compared to the rest of the concert," said audience member Stephen Gow, a British teacher who lives in Shanghai. People didn't boo, Gow said, but they left the Shanghai International Gymnastic Center hurriedly.

It's wonderful that Bjork showed her disgust at Chinese official policy by ensuring that when she did a gig in the country she didn't cash the cheque before muttering something about Tibet.

Channel 4 Radio: Waning enthusiasm?

According to "executive sources" quoted in MediaGuardian, Channel 4's management is getting slightly cold feet about the expense being lavished on the yet-to-launch radio wing:

Senior channel executives accordingly held a meeting on Friday to consider options and the board, chaired by Luke Johnson, is to take a hard look at the policy decision to invest in digital radio at its April meeting.

Substantial doubts within the channel about the wisdom of pressing ahead have emerged among programme commissioners, who are worried about the march into a new content sector, while two senior sources at the company say the advertising department are concerned about their lack of expertise in the area.

It's hard to see how DAB could withstand a further blow to its dignity if Channel 4 decided to abandon its recently acquired multiplex. The official line is still upbeat, but Horseferry Road is starting to drop hints that it'd quite like some sort of "cross-industry" approach if it's going to press ahead with DAB. More of the licence fee, then, Luke?

Gordon in the morning: It sucks

Back during the Victoria Newton era, one of her greatest moments was running Russell Brand's joke about getting pleasured by Henry The Hoover as if it really happened.

Somewhat surprisingly, Gordon again reports a comedy routine as fact, in response the man supposedly found with his cock in a vacuum cleaner in London:

[W]hen Russell was a curious 14-year-old, he once found himself in the same sticky position, while working in a double-glazing factory.

Brand has teased Smart by sending a letter in support of a man's right to copulate with domestic gadgets (although, to be honest, it just regurgitates much of the his routine on the theme.)

Perhaps Smart does know it's all a joke, and just doesn't want to spoil it by showing that he knows. Perhaps he's not so idiotic as to believe either story and just doesn't know how to deliver a gag with a wink. Yes, we expect that's it.

Personally, we blame Danny Baker and Amy Lame. If they'd not been discussing Henry and his family in such salacious detail on the radio last week, none of this would have happened.

Elsewhere, a sober - in both senses - interview with Lily Allen that Gordon's read in Glamour magazine, in which she talks quietly about having changed her life and her lifestyle, gets a clunking Gordon headline:
Lil removed from caners’ league

Allen says she's staying in these days, as it's not much fun going out straight when everyone else is snorting, chugging and carousing. Gordon, though, translates this as:
LILY ALLEN has locked herself away in fear of tumbling into drink and drug addiction.

Which sounds more like she's got crazy and had to bolt herself in her living-room in case one foot outside would see her turn into Britney Spears.

Monday, March 03, 2008

NME Awards: Now in two largely indifferent nations

The excitement of the NME Awards, crossed with the excitement of the Grammys. Yes: this year, for the first time ever (and possibly last time ever), there's a US leg of the NME Awards. Although since there's nothing to stop Brits voting in it, or indeed to have prevented Americans from voting in the UK awards, we're a little lost as to what the distinction is.

Something to listen to: ... Trail Of Dead

The wonderful Daytrotter sessions continue with a visit from And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead.

Blake Sennett engaged

Rilo Kiley's Blake has got himself engaged to some actor or other. Congratulations all round.

The music cartel has sent lots of letters

On both sides of the Atlantic, the RIAA has been busy trying to make people stop being mean to them.

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review gets a letter from Cara Duckworth, stung that the paper criticised the music industry. In particular:

To set the record straight on a recycled error, The Washington Post inaccurately reported that we claimed in a lawsuit that it was illegal to make personal-use copies of music that fans lawfully purchased. We made no such claim, and the newspaper has since issued a retraction for its inaccurate story.

Well, up to a point that's true - the Post did retract a story:
A Dec. 30 Style & Arts column incorrectly said that the recording industry "maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer." In a copyright-infringement lawsuit, the industry's lawyer argued that the actions of an Arizona man, the defendant, were illegal because the songs were located in a "shared folder" on his computer for distribution on a peer-to-peer network.

However, Recording Industry Vs The People has an interesting take on that particular case. But, more to the point, what about Jennifer Pariser, head lawyer of Sony BMG and her claim in court:
[In her] opinion that making copies of purchased music is just "a nice way of saying 'steals just one copy.'"

Maybe the Post should retract its retraction?

Duckworth then goes on to teach us that we've got a lot to be thankful to the RIAA for:
During the past decade, the music industry has dramatically reinvented itself. Fans today enjoy access to an unprecedented array of high-value, enhanced physical products and industry-licensed distribution platforms that include satellite radio, multiple Internet radio models, download sites and a variety of existing and emerging mobile phone models.

Ah, yes, where would we be without all that innovation? Except, of course, none of the innovation has come from the RIAA, and all the licensed content has been signed over, reluctantly, expensively, eventually, grudgingly by the labels after they realised they had no choice.

Funnily enough, Matt Philips was trying to pull a similar trick over in the Technology Guardian:
The internet has allowed the music business to develop new models that provide immediate low-cost access to millions of songs at the click of a button.

Clearly, the RIAA and its clients are trying to rewrite history, their scowling faces as they jabbed pitchforks at the new media gathering online being replaced with welcoming twinkles. The internet has allowed the labels to do this? As if in 1995 they were sat around backstage at the Brit Awards wishing there was a way they could make available their back catalogue in a way that was almost impossible to prevent replication. How about "The internet has forced us", Matt. It's great that some of you are finally turning up at the front, but let's not pretend you were in the vanguard.

Philips, of course, was writing in defence of the plans to force ISPs to disconnect users from the internet at the request of the record labels; like Duckworth, he managed to deliver a straight fact without bothering to engage with what might lay beyond it:
Illegal downloading and freedom of speech are unrelated topics, and it is misleading to draw parallels between the two. The music business has no wish to restrict free comment, but it does want to protect creators and there is no human right to enjoy creators' work for nothing.

Well, no, the BPI doesn't say it wants to shut people's free speech up (in just the same way that nobody who opposes their proposals has ever suggested there is a human right to not pay creators a fair wage for their work). But leaving aside the awkward fact that most creators have no stake in the fruits of their inspiration - the BPI wouldn't give a hoot if it wasn't its members labels who owned the bulk of these copyrights - in an age where much of government is being taken online, with eVoting, Downing Street and other consultations publishing documents electronically rather than physically; planning applications being listed on council websites and on and on, it's hard to see how someone could have their internet connection withdrawn on the say-so of EMI or Sony and not have their ability to participate in democracy seriously undermined.

KMFDM - doing it 24/7

To mark the, erm, all-important 24th anniversary of KMFDM, the band have announced a series of (of course) 24 seven inch singles: 24/7, you see. The singles will be released, one at a time, at the start of each month, meaning the 24th birthday anniversary will stretch out into 2010. The release is limited to 250 copies each. Which doesn't have 24 in it.

Torture yourself

Mother Jones has put together an Imeem Playlist featuring songs used by American troops to... they don't call it "torture", do they? Is the current euphemism 'depleasantise' or something?

It's led off by Fuck Your God by Deicide, which shows exactly the sort of subtle message that explains why American foreign policy wins friends and supporters around the world.

In related news, new Deicide tracks on MySpace are getting about 20,000 listens a day, presumably mostly from people not locked in container crates before the play button is pressed. We think that must be self-harm, then.

Exit exit a Kosovo no-no?

Bjork seems convinced she's been dumped by Serbian Exit Festival because she'd dedicated a song to Kosovo while playing in Tokyo:

"Maybe a Serb attended my concert [in Tokyo] and called home, and therefore the concert in Novi Sad was cancelled."

The organisers deny this, but are a bit vague about what might actually have happened:
According to EXIT's general manager Bojan Boskovic, "These stories are quite bizarre and untrue. EXIT Festival has never cancelled any artist's performance because of their political point-of-view or statements. We'd like to clarify that the festival is right on track and festival preparations are our best ever, we're really looking forward to announcing our program and, moreover, seeing everybody again at the event in July."

Boskovic continues, "EXIT was the first forum in the Balkans to gather people from all the former Yugoslavian countries after the civil wars. Started nine years ago as a student-initiated protest against the Milosevic regime, EXIT has become a symbol of togetherness and cultural diversity and is a social force that every year brings together more and more people, from every background and culture of the region."

Boskovic doesn't say if Bjork had been asked to play, or if she had been dropped, and if she had been, why. The attempt to focus on anything other than the question of what happened to Bjork looks a little like avoidance, if nothing else.

Charlatans: Free at last

If Thor felt annoyed when his thunder was stolen, you can imagine how The Charlatans must have felt when their announcement of 'free album' was eclipsed by Radiohead's 'pay what you feel' plan.

But while In Rainbows has been and gone, and come out in a conventional form, the world has still been waiting for the Charlatans' You Cross My Path. Until now - XFM are hosting the free download of the whole thing; you can also pick and choose individual tracks (on a try-before-you-don't-buy basis, we suppose) including A Day For Letting Go and Missing Beats (of A Generation).

Let's just hope nobody like, ooh, Trent Reznor launches any high-profile free album round about now, eh?

Kershaw out of jail; in the Mail

Andy Kershaw's release from jail was heralded in the Daily Mail, somewhat surprisingly:

How I survived force-nine gales, vermin and spaghetti hoops in prison, by Andy Kershaw

By Andy Kershaw? Really?

Erm... not quite - let's look at that headline again, but this time with byline attached:
How I survived force-nine gales, vermin and spaghetti hoops in prison, by Andy Kershaw

Although, to be fair, once you get past Liz's preamble, there is a lengthy extract of Andy's prison's diaries; they sound positive and good-humoured:
I also had a letter from Terry Waite, whom I've never met, offering his "every assistance, if it's not too impertinent to say so".

A very kind officer then lent me the Archbishop of Canterbury's special envoy's autobiography and it put into perspective the triviality of my own situation.

I wrote back to thank him and pointed out that at some point I was tramping the streets of Beirut while he was chained to a radiator.

The bugger didn't walk the streets of Douglas for me.

Andy expresses the hope that he'll be back on Radio 3 soon - let's hope that's the case; we've been missing him.

AbbeyRoadobit: Paul Cole

Paul Cole, who died last month, had a position as a footnote in rock history: He was avoiding seeing a museum with his wife when his photo was taken. Sort of taken, anyway: He was in Abbey Road, and the shot was the cover of the album.

In the end, he got tired of the interest, but was delighted that he got photographed wearing a new coat and glasses.

[Thanks to Karl T for the tip]

Bluesobit: Jeff Healey

Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey has died of cancer at the age of 41.

Healey was left blind after retinoblastoma claimed both his eyes at eight months old; his adopted parents encouraged his interest in music - his first gig was when he was six years old, but he'd been playing since he was three. His distinctive style of guitar-across-lap was partly because he was self-taught, and partly because a guitar is a hefty instrument for a toddler to cope with.

His first record, See The Light, came in 1988, closely followed by a role opposite Patrick Swayze in Road House; after a couple more albums, Healey gave his career a shake-up, picking up the trumpet and recording some jazz. Oh, and he did the valve trombone, too.

At the same time, he was running a club - Healey's in Toronto - which quickly built a reputation for promoting a range of local and international acts. He also created a jazz programme for Canadian radio, presenting for many years.

Healey continued to tour, but only as far as he wanted to, choosing to spend more time at home with his family - and to avoid airports:

“A tour is a nasty four-letter word in my vocabulary,” he said. “It’s something that I did for many, many years and I hate travelling. I love to play and I love to entertain, so to sort of balance things, get the best of both worlds, I’ll travel away for two or three days or something like that.”

Healey had recently made his first blues rock album since the end of the last century and had been due to tour in support of it this Spring.

It was only in 2005 that Healey discovered that the cancer which had taken his sight continued to threaten his life; last year, he fell very ill indeed. His family and friends expected him to bounce back but, sadly, it wasn't to be.

Healey died in Toronto's St Joseph's hospital yesterday evening. He's survived by his wife, a son, Derek, and a daughter, Rachel.

A musical Joke

It seems like days since a seminal 80s band got back together, so it's timely that Killing Joke have resurrected their 1987 model for a world tour and - with an eye on that Bauhaus record, we suspect - plans for a new album in the summer.

Reznor launches new album on Pirate Bay

Trent Reznor's new, label-free career has launched, with a nine-track sampler from his new record popping up on Pirate Bay and other places that, if you visited, would make the BPI want to steal your computer.

Yes, a nine-track sampler. The new album, Ghosts, actually has thirty-six tracks. Which is more than you'd get on a normal, RIAA brand album, too.

Reznor says:

Now that we're no longer constrained by a record label, we've decided to personally upload Ghosts I, the first of the four volumes, to various torrent sites, because we believe BitTorrent is a revolutionary digital distribution method, and we believe in finding ways to utilize new technologies instead of fighting them.

We encourage you to share the music of Ghosts I with your friends, post it on your website, play it on your podcast, use it for video projects, etc. It's licensed for all non-commercial use under Creative Commons.

We've also made a 40 page PDF book to accompany the album. If you'd like to download it for free...

...Undoubtedly you'll be able to find the complete collection on the same torrent network you found this file...

...but if you're interested in the release, we encourage you to check it out at, where the complete Ghosts I-IV is available directly from us in a variety of DRM-free digital formats, including FLAC lossless, for only $5. You can also order it on CD, or as a deluxe package with multitrack audio files, high definition audio on Blu-ray disc, and a large hard-bound boo

For five bucks? Blimey, that's cheaper than Wal-Mart

Dead dead

The Dead 60s split up just after Christmas, but since nobody noticed, they've issued an official announcement:

Well, some of you may have heard the news by now.....The Dead 60s are no more. We decided to call it a day just after Christmas. There's no big story, no falling out between us. We just felt like the band had run its course, time for us all to branch out & try other things.

A big thanks to everyone who has been partial to the success that we had and to all the amazing gigs/tours/nights out that we experienced along the way.

And so, on to new things and new music. We will keep you posted of our new projects & hope to see you all soon.

Feri bhetaula,

Matt, Charlie, Ben & Bryan.

It's unclear if they actually had to reunite, briefly, to issue the official split notice.

Simon Cowell attempts to make 'not winning a Brit' a good thing

Leona Lewis' failure to win anything at the Brit awards was a good thing, Simon Cowell has decided:

"I was glad Leona didn't win at the Brits. It was the best thing that could have happened.

"She's had a lot of things going her way so it shows her that things can be unfair at times. She had the biggest selling [UK] single of last year so it's a mockery that she never won a Brit. This knockback will make her stronger."

Why would it be a "mockery" that she didn't win a Brit just because she outsold other singles? The prize is judged on quality rather than quantity, supposedly. And if it's such a "mockery" then how can it be a good thing?

This reminds me somewhat of the old Spitting Image Call My Bluff spoof which featured party leaders trying to redefine 'Second place in a by-election' to mean some sort of victory.

Warners hire Napster exec

Warners have snapped up former Napster executive Leanne Sharman to develop their digital services across Europe, the Middle East and Africa. It's important to get your digital strategy right, and to have the right people in place:

Sharman will report in to Eric Daugan, Warner's vice president of digital business for EMEA.

"The breadth of her experience will be invaluable as we evaluate opportunities in music, music-related and wider entertainment sectors, and her proven ability as a dealmaker, coupled with her high-level understanding of new technologies and business models, makes her a great fit for the team," said Daugan.

Sharman's skills are such that she's been kicking her heels for almost a year after Napster, erm, scaled back its UK operations so much it no longer needed a UK office or executive. Before that, she was with Vivendi's Europe. That, of course, got closed down back in 2003.

Keith Richards: music stopped in 1973

He's off again, like Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses. Keith Richards doesn't like any music since, ooh, roughly the time The Stones started going bad:

"I don't like CDs, quite honestly. They sound tinny to me."

The possibility that, just maybe, the problem might be with his ears rather than the CDs doesn't seem to have occurred to Keith. Not that it matters; he wouldn't buy any bloody records anyway:
"I've not even heard the Arctic Monkeys. I know of them but I don't know anything they've done. I didn't like Oasis, I didn't like the Sex Pistols, I don't like any of those English rock n' roll bands. They're all crap."

... says the godfather of English rock and roll bands. Still, its nice that he's actually bothered to listen to Oasis before dismissing them.

ITV's Guilt

We've said before that we don't feel comfortable with the concept of Guilty Pleasures, simultaneously patronising some great songs while suggesting that you should be ashamed of some music you like - that your taste can be, somehow, wrong.

Obviously, your taste can be wrong, judged from another perspective, but if you like that Dido song about being a hunter, why shouldn't you like it without feeling guilty? There are more than enough reasons for shame without making songs that make you happy part of them.

ITV's crack at turning Guilty Pleasures into a TV property is on this coming Sunday, and makes the idea even more confused. It's got KT Tunstall on it, for a start:

KT and fellow Scot Amy Macdonald are among eight acts who perform the songs they normally only sing in the shower on the show.

Amy, 20, who the Sunday Mail recently revealed is dating Aberdeen footballer Steve Lovell, performs Neil Diamond's 1971 hit Sweet Caroline.

It's perhaps only ITV who could conclude there's something more credible about Amy Macdonald than about Neil Diamond.

Gordon in the morning: Running on empty

It's a day of nothing stretched very, very thin for Gordon this morning - Emily Smith files news from the US of Britney dumping that paparazzi bloke she was supposedly seeing, although we didn't know that they were back "together", to be honest and, since she's clearly not accountable for her actions at the moment, it's hardly surprising, is it?

The Sun tries its hand at a little Sylvie Krin action:

IT was a heart-warming love story for our time.
Adnan fell for pop princess Britney the moment he set eyes on her through his long lens - then charmed his way into her life.
But The Sun says she is better off without him. Adnan was one low-life frog who was never going to turn into a prince.

Of course, if you click on the link it brings up an empty page - we suspect they're busily arguing if a Mills and Boon romance would end with the person who sent the evil character to spy on the heroine advising her to drop the evil one. Or perhaps they just couldn't be arsed.

Still, the claim that Britney threw Adnan's phone into a pool does generate the wonderful picture caption:
Wet: iPhone

Jordan is, apparently, changing the money she's got for showing her tits to people into a private jet, which sets Gordon punning:
It has already been dubbed bmi Booby — after the British airline bmi Baby.

Clearly, the only person who has ever called it that is Smart himself, but even he knows that's a clunker so he's trying to suggest it's something he's overheard.

He also tries a gag based on the phrase "landing strip", what with Jordan being a stripper, more or less:
GLAMOUR girl JORDAN is heading for a landing strip — in her own private JET.

No, we're fairly sure that is supposed to be a pun. We'd have gone with something about how she might have been a glamour model, but she's now heading for the runway or something like that.

And, trying desperately to find a new angle to keep the Cheryl Cole story alive, Gordon decides that the song she's recording with Will.I.Am is probably some sort of message for Ashley:
CHERYL COLE has found the perfect way to get her message across to numbnuts husband Ashley — with a four-letter rant in a new song.

Part of her vocals go: “You’ve been a f****** jerk!”

That doesn't seem to be a rant. Or, erm, four letters.

Meanwhile, Gordon has uncovered a new rich stream of humour:
And if you thought she was angry when she chinned that nightclub toilet attendant a few years ago, this lyric lashes out with even more venom.

Ha, ha, ha. A violent assault on a poorly paid woman. Let's all have a laugh at the rich woman beating the shit out of a toilet attendant, shall we, Gordon? Hilarious.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Wal-Mart to RIAA companies: We'll cut prices, you pay

CDs. The music industry loves CDs. Not like nasty download products, the CD has been good to the RIAA companies.

Up until now: The decline in physical sales has reached a point where WalMart has told the labels that the only way it's going to continue to flog CDs is if they can cut prices quite substantially. Oh, and it wants the labels to bear the weight of the price cut:

Executives at the Bentonville, Arkansas-based discounting giant wouldn't comment on the specifics of their promotion, but Wal-Mart divisional merchandise manager for home entertainment Jeff Maas acknowledged the proposal. "When you look at sales declines with physical product, and you have a category declining like it is, you have to make decisions about what the future looks like," he said. "If you have a business that is declining and you want to turn it around, it really takes looking at it from all angles."

The WalMart proposals - according to those who know - will shift prices from just over £5 or just under £7 to a five-tier pricing system with a bottom line of £2.50 and a top price of £6. It's unlikely the labels will be thrilled at the suggestion, but as the biggest retailer of music in the US, there's not going to be much they can do about it.

Why media managers love Hello!

The happy, smiley world of Hello! recreates something a bit like the relationship between the media and celebrities in the 1950s - closet doors firmly shuttered, skeletons unremarked. Take, for example, the report on Amy Winehouse's appearance at Paris Fashion Week. Possibly the only thing written about her in the last six months NOT to mention drugs, crack or unsuitable husbands in chokey.

[Edited to add in the all-important "not" - thanks, Robin]

Malcolm sends his Mum wishes

If we didn't know better, we'd guess that Malcolm Middleton is using his Guardian Music blog to wish his mother happy Mothering Sunday wishes because he forgot to get a card in the post.


I stand firm though, and at least I can look my own Mum in the eyes, unlike James Blunt or Craig David, I imagine. Happy Mother's Day Mum! Enjoy the carrot cake!

He's got a point, hasn't he?

Madonna continues to morph into Babs Windsor

As part of her ongoing attempt to buy every building in London, Madonna has bought her local pub, The Punchbowl in Mayfair.

Apparently they bought the pub because they loved it so much. Although, oddly, it seems they don't really love it that much at all:

After clinching the deal last week, the couple are now looking at plans to turn The Punchbowl into a gastro pub or private members club.

Only by buying it can they preserve the pub they love by changing it totally.

Naturally, being Madge and Guy, there's some tiresome connection to the underworld, as the place was owned by the son of Freddie Foreman. The Sunday People reports Foreman is delighted that Madonna is the new landlord:
Freddie Foreman said: "It's great news. Madonna and Guy are a lovely couple and I've met them a few times at the pub. It's a gorgeous place. Guy likes to have a pint and watch Arsenal"

How delightful to be endorsed by someone who used to make a living shoving a gun into security guards' faces and threatening to kill them if they didn't hand over the money.