Saturday, May 28, 2011

Bookmarks: Internet stuff - Stephen Fry meets Lady GaGa

It's a lovely piece, although written from a fan's perspective - so difficult questions either get dropped altogether or satisfied with an unsatisfactory answer. It's the FT who have brought the pair of them together:

Please respect's ts&cs and copyright policy which allow you to: share links; copy content for personal use; & redistribute limited extracts. Email to buy additional rights or use this link to reference the article -

That message, “Find out who you are and be it,” clearly means a great deal to her. Like any simple aphorism it can be made to sound naive or profound according to one’s point of view. I think I’m old enough to know when I’m being fobbed off, bullshitted, lied to or deceived. There was in Lady Gaga’s eyes and voice enough to tell me that whatever else she is, she is no fraud. The “messages” in her songs and albums, the calls to freedom and self-actualisation, the addresses she has made to the American military on the subject of their fatuous and hypocritical “Don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, the support she has shown for the dispossessed and marginalised in society may cause many to roll their eyes and make the obvious cynical observation that being a friend to the friendless is damned good business. Just look at the figures. Number one after number one, record-breaking releases of singles and albums, record-breaking YouTube visits, record-breaking numbers of Twitter followers. Oh, sure, this is one smart cookie. There’s money to be had in self-publicity and the championing of the lonely ones out there.

Well, of course, all that can be said. But against such arid ­cynicism it should be pointed out that Lady Gaga did herself few financial favours during her last major world tour, The Monster Ball, which she began in 2009 to promote her album The Fame Monster. One of the most successful promotional tours ever, it quite literally bankrupted her.

Gordon in the morning: Guess who got the Take That tickets?

In what he's billed rather grandly as a Bizarre Special, Gordon Smart files a review from the first night of the Take That tour:

GARY BARLOW, 40, MARK OWEN, 38, JASON ORANGE, 40 and HOWARD DONALD, 42, set the bar extremely high two years ago with their epic Circus show.

Progress is not as good, folks... it is even better.
To be fair to Gordon, you can actually read that out loud in a way that works. In fact, inserting a "just" or a "simply" might have helped out.

Really, though, that's about as good as the review - a mix of phrases that were cliches when The Beatles were kids and some lists of what he saw - ever gets. The band have "delivered the goods". Expenses? None of those have been shared. The crowd's roar would have been heard, of course, for miles around.

Gordon's not actually filed a review; it reads more like an MOT of the gig. It seems like he enjoyed himself - why, his spine tingled - but there's no real sense that he was in any way emotionally involved. Perhaps he should have sent a writer along in his place.

Herobit: Gil Scott-Heron

Some rotten news to wake up to this morning, as Gil Scott-Heron has died.

Born in 1949, Scott-Heron's habit of doing things that hadn't yet been invented, and doing many things at once, made him a nightmare to pigeonhole. Jazz poet? Inventor of hip hop? He was known for his political work, but hoped that he'd be remembered for more than that. You know what? I think he might well be.

But even if he isn't, who wouldn't want something this great as their epitaph?

His death was announced by his publisher; apparently he'd been unwell since returning from Europe. He was 62.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Gennaro Castaldo Watch: Lady GaGa sells some records

Lady GaGa's album is selling so well, there are rumours that even HMV has sold a few copies. Gennaro Castaldo, spokesperson for the downward spiral, has something to say:

HMV’s Gennaro Castaldo said sales reflected her position as “undoubtedly the biggest pop star on the planet right now”.

He said: “HMV expects her new album to shift well over a million copies during the course of the year – making it potentially her biggest and fastest-selling release to date.”
You mean, in other words, "her second album is selling more than her first one", Gennaro?

Gordon in the morning: Winehouse vodka shops

Enlivened by a blurry CCTV image, Gordon reports Amy Winehouse having a quick one:

TROUBLED AMY WINEHOUSE dropped into a cornershop and necked a bottle of vodka - while on her way to REHAB.
Is that actually surprising? Isn't "going to rehab" the sort of thing you do if you're drinking neat vodka a likely thing to be doing if you needed to check in to the Priory? It's like saying someone was bleeding everywhere before heading off to A&E.

But, oh, it gets worse. There's a stunned onlooker:
"I was shocked to see her buy vodka so early in the day, and even more shocked to see her knock it straight back."
Really, stunned onlooker? You were shocked simply by her buying a small bottle of vodka - not as shocked as when she drank it, but shocked that she simply bought a bottle at that time of the day?

Now, if she'd been buying lots and lots of bottles of vodka, maybe that might be shocking, although the time of day wouldn't seem to matter under those circumstances.

And just how early was it?

Happily, Gordon has an answer to that, as she went to the shop after she'd been in to a hairdressers:
The Back to Black singer, 27, had stormed in to use the toilet at 12.30pm on Wednesday.
So she'd have been buying this vodka at just before one in the afternoon. Is that really shockingly early in the day for someone to have a quick wee drink?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Courtney Love overshares again

Nobody would wish Courtney had remained in thrall to her appetites, but unfortunately getting herself straight hasn't stopped her from telling us things we don't, really, wish to know:

After I stopped doing drugs I started to fuck like a bunny! Before that I suffered from years of celibacy. I was on this whole Morrissey kick, no masturbation, no romance, no nothing! The store was completely closed. My self-imposed chastity was only scheduled to last for two years, but it went on for three years, eight months and six days.

If you're interested in getting to know Courtney a little better, you might want to check your bank balance:
Actually, these days I’m only interested in plutocrats. Like really, really rich guys. I’m determined to land one sooner or later. My favorite book these days is something called The Official Filthy Rich Handbook, which I study like the Talmud. The thing is, I think I can be a real asset to a wealthy man. I’ve always been a great girlfriend, but until recently I’ve struggled to stay single, because I had never been without a boyfriend before. It’s just my nature to couple up.
You know, I never was so thankful that I don't have a whole lot of money.

Gordon in the morning: Reliable

It's easy to poke holes in Gordon's approach - it's almost too easy. In fact, it is too easy, and most mornings this post is written by one of the cats.

But to be fair to Gordon, he does have some positive qualities, and one of those is a fierce loyalty to those who show him kindness.

So it is that, tucked between guff about Cheryl Cole quitting the US X Factor and Angelina Jolie being thin, Smart finds himself recommending his readers pop down to the National Theatre to see an English adaptation of an 18th Century Italian Commedia dell'arte work.

Because it's got James Corden in it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gordon in the morning: Capes cod

For some reason, Gordon Smart appears to have churned out a press release about the scale of the Take That tour this morning:

Twenty-two tons of electrical cable will be used for every gig. It takes 48 hours to build the stage and set and another 19 to take it all down again.

At least they've got plenty of bodies on the job - 287 to be exact, plus another 160 crew in each city.

Just the 104 trucks will be on the tour, which heads to Europe for another seven dates after the UK leg.
It's actually a sweet, big-eyed piece that reads like something from The Blue Peter Book rather than a Fleet Street sewer.

There's this bit, though, which is a bit odd:
[S]pare a thought for the roadies. Even GEOFF CAPES and NIGHTSHADE from Gladiators would struggle to lug around the equipment.
Eh? But you acknowledge that there's about 450 people doing the carrying and rigging. Unless you're implying that, say, a Take That sound rig weighs more than any other sound rig.

Still, I'm sure the young Sun readership will be delighted by those modern cultural reference points.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lady GaGa: Record breaker

With all the coverage of Lady GaGa, her album launch is going to set a few tills alight, right?

DigitalSpy is doing the numbers:

Lady GaGa is on course to achieve the biggest first week album sales of ...
Yes? All time? The century?

The decade?
Lady GaGa is on course to achieve the biggest first week album sales of 2011
Oh. The best selling first week of the year.
So far.
Well, I suppose we are nearly five months through the year. That's an achievement almost worth mentioning, right?

Macca convinces himself the Stones were jealous

Really, Paul?

"I talked to Keith Richards a couple of years ago, and his take on it was: 'Man, you were lucky, you guys, you had four lead singers,' whereas The Rolling Stones only had one," McCartney told the Radio Times.

"We were an entity. Mick [Jagger] used to call us the four-headed monster. We would show up at places all dressed the same."
So the Stones were not only jealous of Ringo's singing - a bit of a stretch - but the way the Beatles all dressed the same?

Really, Paul? The Stones would rather have been this?
I'm having trouble believing that, Old Man. I'd like to believe it, Paul, really I would.

Ringo: The Beatles were lucky to have me

Even with the benefit of hindsight, Ringo is insisting it was the other three who got lucky:

"Within Liverpool, I was a lot more well know than them. Rory and the Hurricanes were big shots in the city. We had the suits. That was our claim to fame. The Beatles were lucky to get me. It wasn't just that I was a big shot; I was a cool drummer."
This is all in an interview with Live magazine, and to be fair, Starr sounds like he was attempting to be playful. But, oh, it falls flat on the page:
We're the only two remaining Beatles, although he likes to think he's the only one. I actually think it's people on the outside who perceive Paul as thinking he's the only member left, when actually it's me. I am the last remaining Beatle.
You know he must have been grinning when he said this, and yet written down it's impossible to imagine anything other than Starr clambering up the side of the Cunard Building, chest exposed, bellowing "I AM BEATLE".

Gordon in the morning: Gordon reads Q, misses story

Adele's interviewed in Q this month, and Gordon dutifully copies it out and slaps a headline on it:

ADELE has snubbed big-money arena tours and festival gigs this summer - in favour of drinking bottles of Diamond White down the park.
Gordon seems to have taken her a little over-literally when she says she turned down three nights at the O2 to spend time with her friends instead:
"That's all I'll be doing - sitting in Brockwell Park with my friends, drinking cider."
Adele comes across as lovely in the interview but Gordon seems to miss the obvious hook for a shit-stirring headline:
She told Q Magazine, out today: "I like things now I've got it but I'd still be alive and healthy and a good person if I didn't have money. But if I was money-driven, I'd be very excited by the money coming in. I'd be the face of full-fat Coke. Get another million in the bank!"
Oddly, Gordon doesn't have anything to make of what is clearly a well-aimed dig at Duffy's toe-curling Coke ad cash grab. Given that he was trying to turn a comment about crisps into a focus for the piece, that seems a bit of an oversight.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Lady GaGa brings Amazon to its knees

Today was the launch date for Born This Way, and Amazon in the US came up with a wicked ruse - why not sell the download for 99cents?

(I'll bet that made the RIAA delighted; the biggest release of the year and Amazon effectively gave it away.)

It's not worked out well for Amazon, either, according to Hypebot. So many people tried to get GaGa for pennies that its servers struggled, making what was supposed to be a showcase for Amazon's cloud music services into a bit of disaster.

Oh, and as people get pissed at Amazon, their negative reviews are hitting GaGa's rating, too:

Dozens of Gaga fans have chosen to show their displeasure by rating the experience on Amazon - and thus the new album's has dropped from 5 to 3 stars. "Either Cloudplayer is buggy for this download or is just unstable and pointless. I had to send an email to customer Service to get help downloading. And they'll get back to me within 12 hours?!? Its a download service and you can't get back to me any sooner than twelve hours?," wrote one two star reviewer.
Another user cited by Hypebot reported a three and a half hour struggle which resulted in just the booklet being downloaded.

It's early days for the Amazon cloudplayer, but not having calculated the likely demand and made sure it could cope seems a bit of a fumble. Unable to cope with the numbers? The cloudplayer was born this way.

Gordon in the morning: Cap that

Righto, need to fill the page, need to fill the page... what have we got? Nothing, nothing... oh, here's a picture of Cheryl Cole... in an airport... hmmm... Chairport Cole? Charrival Colounge? Hmm... what else? She's wearing shorts. Shortyl Cole? Cheryl Culotte? No, none of my readers will know what a culotte is. What else? She's got a hat on... no, hang on, it's a cap, isn't it?

You look cap, Cheryl
Because 'cap' sounds a bit like 'crap', right? You've still got it, Gordon. Trouble is, she doesn't really look crap. Must pour scorn on the hat in order to stand up my story. How about sources? "Sources close to the cap revealed..." um, no, that won't work. Think, Gordon, think. Oh, how about describing the hat as a tea cosy? That'll work...
CHERYL COLE must be missing home - she's taken to wearing a daft tea cosy on her head.

The Geordie and self-proclaimed brew lover arrived at Chicago O'Hare airport after filming for US X Factor.
Oh, yes, that'll do it - does she love tea? She must do, she's from England. Does the hat look anything like a tea cosy? Hmm. Dunno. How lucky I've had my capacity for self-doubt removed. Now, what about this photo of Lindsay Lohan?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

So, where now for HMV?

Now that - subject to paperwork - HMV has offloaded the slightly less unhealthy part of its business, what now for Nipper, Gennaro and the gang?

There's a strategy. Simon Fox is a man with a plan:

Fox said HMV's new strategy was to focus on building technology sales, including headphones, iPods and tablet computers such as the iPad. He said six stores using a new technology-led format had outperformed, and he wants another 150 shops to adopt the "new focus" by the autumn.
Yes, this is a totally different strategy from the one which saw stores being turned into glorified Youth Clubs. It's a different strategy from the one which saw them putting their name up outside live music venues. It's a different strategy from opening cinemas upstairs in HMV shops.

The man has had more cunning plans that a pile of deeply-discounted, unsold Blackadder boxsets.

So, how will this one work out? HMV isn't the most obvious place to go to buy an iPad, especially with Apple Stores all over the place. And iPads being flogged in Tesco to the other end of the market. And Dixons, Comet and Currys aren't exactly doing that well. And BestBuy is struggling to establish a toehold in the market.

But who knows - it might just work. And it's not like there won't be another sweat-soaked, panic-driven strategy coming along in a few months.

Mind you, it's not surprising that Fox is finding it hard to concentrate on giving HMV a point; he's got lots of other worries. Talking to Sky News after the Waterstones sale, Fox conceded that although the Waterstones sale will help him pay down HMV debt, the lack of Waterstones in the company will make borrowing more expensive for him. In fact, the increased rates of interest could be so high as to allow HMV to axe the deal to sell Waterstones, leaving it even further in a hole.

But maybe flogging a few iPads will help solve everything.

In case you read this elsewhere...

I think this comment about Domino Records is worth a quick promote above the line.

This week just gone

Gennaro Castaldo's top ten hits:

1. On Michael Jackson hooking up with the Crazy Frog producer ("If anyone can turn it round for Michael, it's him")
2. On treating file sharing like drink driving ("They're engaging with the customer for the first time")
3. On the death of the VHS ("Later in 2006, videos will be 99.9% dead")
4. On disappointing U2 sales ("The key thing is is will sell throughout the year")
5. On the BBC's Mozart season ("You're not going to have a 250th anniversary of Mozart every year")
6. On an Oasis-U2 chart battle ("It will look like a proper face-off")
7. On the Arctic Monkeys ("We might be entering the Chinese Year of the dog, but as far as the Music Industry is concerned 2006 is very much the 'year of the monkey'")
8. On download-only singles being eligible for the chart ("Anything and everything is eligible")
9. On HMV's selling of tickets turning into a miniriot ("On behalf of HMV, I offer our most sincere apologies")
10. On Leo Sayer's return ("The record will certainly be top three")

This week, these were the interesting new releases:

Kate Bush - Director's Cut

Download Director's Cut

Devon Sproule - I Love You, Go Easy

Download I Love You, Go Easy

Damon & Naomi - False Beats & True Hearts

Sloan - The Double Cross

Download The Double Cross

Friendly Fires - Pala

Download Pala

Let's Wrestle - Nursing Home

Download Nursing Home

Michael Franti & Spearhead - The Sound Of Sunshine

Download The Sound Of Sunshine

Eliza Gilkyson - Roses At The End Of Time

Download Pala

Dreadzone - The Best Of Dreadzone

Download Second Light