Saturday, May 12, 2012

Altrockobit: Celso Chavez

Celso Chavez, guitarist with second-wave grunge-lite band Possum Dixon, has died.

Possum Dixon made a leap from big fish on the LA indie circuit to slightly less noticeable fish in the scramble for a post-Nirvana act when they signed to Interscope.

It wasn't to be a happy partnership - although the first track from their self-titled debut did well, Interscope refused to fund a second single, which caused the impetus the band had built to vanish.

Their second album, Star Maps, was overshadowed by the death of singer Rob Zachery's wife and drug-use; they got as a far as a third but production by Ric Ocasek turned out to make a record which sounded more like a Cars cast-off than a Possum Dixon record. The cool reaction partly led to the band splitting, but it was mainly recreational differences, as Zachery explained to the LA Times:

"Drugs had a lot to do with," Zabrecky said. "I got sober in 1996. I gave up that lifestyle that I had fallen into. I was using a lot of intravenous drugs, and I hit bottom. I cleaned up, and I don't think Celso was ready to make that commitment at that point, and we parted."
Celso Chavez was 44; he was killed by a staph infection and pneumonia.

I collect, I reject: Cobain Mickey

It looks like the Magic Kingdom has finally reached the early 90s:

Yes, that's Grunge Mickey.

[via Stereogum]

Bluegrassobit: Everett Lilly

Bluegrass icon Everett Lilly has died.

Lilly had stints as mandolin player with Flatt & Scruggs, but was best known as part of a band the Lilly Brothers. Although it did feature his brother, Bea, it also included Tex Logan and Don Stover. Might not have taken much care with their naming, but they knew what they doing musically:

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, they built a large fanbase in Japan - a long way from their West Virgina routes - and remained active until Bea Lilly's death in 2005; subsequently, Everett had been playing in a band with his children.

Everett Lilly died on Tuesday; he was 87.

Whitney Houston's family continues with dignity for which she was known

You know what? The size of estates left by megastars doesn't really stretch in these times of austerity, so try not to think of the reality TV show featuring Whitney's family as a soulless, cash-grabbing shakedown of a corpse.

No, no, just think of it as the sort of tough decision we all have to make in these difficult days.

Stevie Wonder sting stopped

Two people were, apparently, trying to blackmail Stevie Wonder. They've been arrested and charged, but Reuters points out some details are missing from the story:

The District Attorney's spokeswoman declined to comment on the nature or details of the alleged extortion plot.
Yeah, generally, if you've gone to the trouble of stopping someone being blackmailed, it'd be unlikely you'd go 'they were going to tell people that he wasn't really blind' or whatever, are you?

Gordon in the morning: Mexican wave

Paul McCartney did a massive free gig in Mexico - quarter of a million turned up, which is quite a thing. Gordon was inspired:

Macca’s massive Mexican...
You can see at this point in the headline there was a scramble for the dictionary - "what's a word for 'gig' that starts with m?". After what was probably ten minutes or so of going "Mexican mmmm... mumble? merriment?", this was the result:
Macca’s massive Mexican mash-up

Still, I guess we should be thankful there wasn't any lazy Mexican stereotyping.
Sir Paul said: “It was quite emotional and exciting that people who might not be able to afford to come to our shows could come to this. It was like Beatlemania all over again.”

Except with a few sombreros and tortillas thrown in.
No stereotypes until the copy kicked in, that is.

Friday, May 11, 2012

MP3tunes driven into bankruptcy by EMI

Remember mp3tunes? It was an early online music locker of the sort that are becoming increasingly common these days. But it never took off, mainly because EMI spent a long time calling for them to be closed down, even after they'd been given an OK from the courts.

EMI will be happy now, though, as they've won their war of attrition. Mp3tunes have filed for protective bankruptcy.

Mp3tunes aren't happy:

"EMI spent an estimated $10 million dollars with multiple law firms to arm their attack against MP3tunes in an attempt to thwart unlicensed personal lockers," according to Robertson. "They know it's difficult if not impossible for startups to fight long costly legal battles... This happened with the music search engine Seeqpod, Muxtape, Favtape and many others that have quietly faded away."
EMI, naturally, are indicating they'd like to kick the corpse around a bit longer, and will pursue the lawsuit to prove something or other. Probably that EMI have no idea when to stop.

Firm denial

The ghost of Jimi Hendrix makes it clear to the NME: No plans to work on a film about Andre 3000; currently spending all its efforts on developing a musical about the rise of Gnarls Barkley.

Freddie Mercury returns to the stage

Because we can't leave the dead alone anymore, of course Freddie Mercury is going to be dragged on stage for the 10th anniversary of We Will Rock You.

Speaking to the BBC, [Brian] May said the anniversary performance of the popular West End show, on May 14 at the Dominion Theatre, will be celebrated with an "an optical illusion of sorts" that will leave the audience saying "'did we actually see Freddie?'"
No, I don't think they will. If Freddie Mercury really was on the stage, I don't think anyone would be in any doubt, would they?

And, seriously, who'd go to all the trouble of reanimating a corpse unless people were going to notice?

May is quite clear what this won't be:
He added that the effect would be similar to the one created for the late rapper Tupac, who 'appeared' onstage at last month's Coachella Festival in California as a hologram. May explained: "It's a little unfortunate they did that thing with Tupac as we've been trying to make Freddie appear on the stage for quite a while."

May went on to say that they would not, however, be using the same technique to bring back Mercury, who passed away in 1991, saying the hologram technology "is something we've looked at ourselves but I think probably for a show that runs eight shows a week it's not really quite practical."
In other words it's too expensive, then.

Not clear exactly what the "optical illusion" will be, then: perhaps it'll be a drawing that's a duck when you look at it one way, but then is a still from Crazy Little Thing Called Love when you look at it another? Or maybe the programme will have a little flicker book of Mercury in the corner, and the audience will be told to thumb through their pages in tune to Radio GaGa?

Lady GaGa, Simpsons pool lack of ideas

There's something so crushingly inevitable about Lady GaGa trumpeting into the Simpsons it's hard to even gather your thoughts against the sound of the bottom of two barrels being scraped simultaneously.

The teaser, which she posted on Wednesday, shows Gaga mania spreading through the Simpson's hometown of Springfield and features clips of the pop star in some of her trademark outfits, including a flame-spitting bra and her meat dress.

Baby Maggie Simpson gets dressed up in platform heels to mimic the music superstar.
Sigh. Of course she does.

And I bet Moe wears a meat dress, and gets attacked by racoons. Or it might be Barney, and it might be bears; or Edna and crows. And Homer will sing one of the songs but get the words hilariously wrong - maybe he'll make one of the songs about donuts or beer.

If anyone needs me, I'm going to be dragging the satellite dish off the wall.

Streaming piles

I'm struggling to grasp what the point of a a chart of streaming music is meant to do. Besides, perhaps, drawing some brief attention to the existence of streaming services?

One chart - the chart, the Sunday one that used to be the Tuesday lunchtime one - is fair enough, although given the instant feedback and constant monitoring you get online its now more about confirming what you already know; a moment to freeze the data rather than a revelation.

And that should contain a details of all music consumption that implies a transaction has taken place.

But is anyone - outside, perhaps, the people who run the servers and collect the royalties - that worried about the granularity of the detail?

Here, from the Official Charts Company, are the streaming and sales charts of the year so far:

Which is which? Does it matter overmuch? (The streaming chart is the one on the left, the singles chart on the right).

I'm not against the idea of sharing the data; I just don't see that what we're getting requires the hoopla of pretending it's a useful chart.

Ola Ray finally gets paid for Thriller

Ola Ray screamed her heart out in the Thriller video when she discovered her boyfriend, Michael Jackson, was a zombie.

She then screamed again when she realised she'd not been paid for all the sales of the video.

It's taken a while, and a lot of lawyer time, but the estate of Jackson has finally given her a payment.

John Landis, the man who made the video, is still trying to get his share.

Gordon in the morning: Use your body or hand or an object to shield the ATM keyboard when you enter your PIN

Gordon's got some tatty story about Emma Watson taking up pole-dancing this morning - obviously it's the keep-fit version, but you can imagine the angle he takes.

What's notable, though, is this image:

Yeah, that's a paparazzi peering over the back of a young woman as she puts her PIN code into a cashpoint.

That might look like a really shitty invasion of privacy to most people, but without it, we'd not have a picture of the back of someone's head which may or may not be Emma Watson.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Steven Tyler: toy story

Steven Tyler has written a theme song for a forthcoming movie, and is proud of his work:

The band's frontman thinks their track, 'Legendary Child', is the perfect song to accompany the forthcoming [...] movie [...] because its theme of the group struggling to overcome adversity in the music industry is reflected in the film characters' onscreen battles.
And what is this titanic onscreen battle?

It's, erm GI Joe: Retaliation. Surely the only way to really capture that film in music is by using a toy piano?

Gordon in the morning: A day off

There isn't a Gordon Smart column today; there's just a big advertorial puff for yet another film in which Sacha Baron Cohen pretends to be foreign.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Label suing Beasties offers crocodile tears

The day before Adam Yauch died, Tuf America had served papers on the Beastie Boys. That's a little awkward, isn't it?

The label's attorney, Kelly Talcott, has now addressed the "unfortunate" timing of the legal filing, and sent her condolences to Yauch's loved ones on behalf of the music bosses.
Talcott tells E! News, "I was very sorry to hear of Adam Yauch's untimely passing, and can assure you that the unfortunate timing of the filing of TufAmerica's complaint had nothing to do with his health. On behalf of myself and TufAmerica, I offer our condolences to Adam's family, friends, and fans."
Especially the family. Or "the estate of", as Talcott will now be thinking of them.

The timing isn't just unfortunate - it's inexplicable.
Bosses at music label Tuf America launched a legal battle against the Intergalactic hitmakers, alleging the band illegally sampled Trouble Funk's Say What and Drop The Bomb on four of its early tunes - The New Style, Car Thief, Shadrach, and Hold It, Now Hit It.
Hold It Now Hit It dates from 1986. They've had a quarter century to bring a lawsuit. Unfortunate timing indeed.

Gordon in the morning: In the Company of Jessie J

Is it News Corp's kneejerk damning of the BBC, whatever it does, or simply The Sun's fawning over Simon Cowell that is leading to the daily churning of stories attacking The Voice?

Today, they've cut a piece out of a Jessie J interview in Company and twisted it:

JESSIE J strikes a moody pose as she slams The Voice – telling how she wishes she’d known the line-up of fellow judges before signing her BBC contract.
Now, that standfirst gives the impression that she's, well, slamming the programme.

Except, the paper is a bit clearer when it gets down to it:
Jessie said: “I was first to sign up (as a judge) because I was totally up for it. But when Tom Jones said he waited until he knew the line-up, I thought I should have, too.

“It’s been scary at times but it’s one thing in my life, not the only thing. My second album is my focus.”
So it's not that she's actually "slamming" anything, just suggesting that she was too quick to sign up before knowing who else was going to be on - that's about her method, rather than the results, isn't it?

This follows on yesterday's piece about The Voice ratings, which manages to neglect the important detail that this week's programme clashed with the FA Cup Final.

Perhaps The Sun has figured that if News Corp drops its UK papers, Cowell might be one of the few people with enough cash to pick them up...

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

George Michael:Not much faith in Leveson

George Michael has swung a Twitter bat at David Cameron and the Tories, and Rupert Murdoch, and... oh, everyone:

The singer made his remarks in a series of tweets on Tuesday morning, ranting about Rupert Murdoch, David Cameron, phone hacking, the Daily Mail and the allegedly "sham" system that he claims has failed to jail any journalist for criminal activities apart from the royal editor of the News of the World, five years ago.

Michael started his tweets 10am by criticising the Daily Mail for not covering remarks he made in defence of gay teenagers.

He then moved to Murdoch: "who btw, has been called 'unfit' to run a major media company by MPs. Understatement of the year?".

Then Michael laid into the Tories over two sequential tweets: "And it's so funny that the Conservatives in government are defending him! Trying to cover their arses when those lily white buttocks of theirs are already on display for the whole world to see. Cameron must be the most cowardly PM we've seen for decades."
To finish off, Michael claims that he'd been asked to appear at the Leveson enquiry but had turned them down.

It turns out this might have all the truth of Andre Ridgeley saying that he was invited to do his thing on Listen Without Prejudice - Volume One, but was too busy.

If you're asked to appear at Leveson, you have no choice but to appear; it's possible that Michael was given the opportunity to appear as a volunteer, but didn't; even so, that wouldn't have come from the Enquiry team.

Gordon in the morning: People get older but some don't grow up

There's a charmless piece by Gordon this morning which gives the impression he's auditioning for the Daily Mail. Perhaps he doesn't think there's much of a future at The Sun.

Anyway, Gordon has noticed that Carrie Fisher is no longer the same age she was when she made Star Wars:

Carrie Fisher’s bod is far, far away from Star Wars heyday
I think it’s safe to say the gold bikini is tucked away for good now.
It's not just gratuitous, spiteful bile aimed at a woman for having the bad manners to get older, though. Gordon then starts to mumble about other women he fancied when he was a kid:
Who were your top three? Tweet @gordonsmart, text or email me.
That's right, the showbiz editor of Britain's biggest selling publication is now struggling to fill space so badly he's asking 'who did you think about when you dry-humped your pillow'? Clearly that extra day of operations is causing some strain.

Monday, May 07, 2012

School not L its FAO

A six year old kid sang a snatch of a popular song to a classmate. Which could just be a cute moment, right?

Except, unfortunately, the song was Sexy And I Know It by LMFAO. Even more unfortunately, the six year old was a pupil at Sable Elementary School in Aurora, apparently home of the Colorado Fighting Over-reactors.

The child has now been suspended, accused of sexual harassment and disrupting other students. Sexual harassment. Really.

Like Maximo Park? In Newcastle? Reading this now?

Maximo Park are playing a short-notice gig at the Cluny tonight.

Downloadable: Teenagers

Bloody teenagers, coming round here making dreamy-lovely-lo-fi sounds and giving them away for nothing:

I don't know very much about them - Daria is doing guitars and vocals; Karol is doing drums; they're from Warsaw and... I don't know, you can make up the rest for yourself, probably, and it'd be as correct as anything I could tell you.

Sainsburys hopes Nectar will prove sweeter than Apple

It makes sense, right? Sainsburys sells apples, so it can be like Apple. Or, at least, it's going to offer downloads through its website.

But wait, it's not just another download site in an already overcrowded market:

To differentiate the service from Apple iTunes and other music download stores, Sainsbury's said that each download...
... will earn customers Nectar Card loyalty points.
Except that isn't actually true, as individual tracks cost 89p, and - if you spend a very long time searching through the site, eventually you'll find this:
Nectar points are awarded at 2 points per full £1 spent on the site. Therefore, if your item costs £4.99, you will be awarded 8 nectar points.
It doesn't make explicit, but, equally therefore, if you buy twenty single tracks in twenty transactions, you'll earn, erm, no Nectar points whatsoever.

Still, you might get a little shiver of delight buying the Gonad's Tesco Lorry from Sainsburys.

Gordon in the morning: Man in a mansion

Apart from the unsurprised disappointment at The Wanted trooping off to soft porn theme park Playboy Mansion, what is to be said?

Jay McGuiness has gone a long way to shaking off that image after achieving every bloke’s dream — pulling a Playboy bunny.
Not "every bloke's dream", not by quite a distance.
The Wanted singer managed to snog one of the models when the group were invited round to Hugh Hefner’s famous Los Angeles mansion to celebrate bandmate Nathan Sykes’ birthday.

Proud Jay said: “I did actually manage to pull — I kissed a bunny — Katy Perry-style."
If I'm reading this correctly, Jay seems to think that Katy Perry's I Kissed A Girl had the emphasis on the kissing rather than the girl, which is actually rather sweet when you think about it.

Although the rather sweetness doesn't really wash away the creaking image of The Wanted shuffling round the Playboy empire.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Bookmarks: Fearne Cotton

As John Peel's record collection (or a tiny slice thereof) goes online, Newsbiscuit announces a similar project:

The record collection of legendary disc jockey Fearne Cotton is now available for fans to peruse online. Uploaded by ‘The Void’, an Arts Council funded pop-up site, from today music fans will be able to browse Cotton’s overwhelming collection of over seven records.

Depeche Mode proceed in an unhurried fashion

So it's looking like we're going to have a new Depeche Mode album, which is good. But not this side of Christmas. Possibly not this side of Easter:

“We’ve probably got 20 songs demoed,” Gahan told Spin. “Some of the songs are in really good shape, some need some work, but we’re definitely on track. We have a deadline of the end of November, and there’s no reason we why we won’t meet that at the rate we’re going.”
Not entirely clear what the November deadline is for - hopefully not finishing the album as that would give months of leak-time before the vague "early 2013" release date. If the record turns out to be on everyone's phones before you start the promo tours, you'll only have yourselves to blame.

Bookmarks: Gram Parsons

Excellent piece on Gram Parsons from American Songwriter; one part start-here primer to one part new interviews from people who worked with him:

In 1973, Gram put together a road band he dubbed the Fallen Angels, including Emmylou Harris on acoustic guitar and vocals. They played shows throughout the Midwest, Texas, South, and East Coast. “People who saw that tour I think would remember it as a magical experience. It certainly was for me,” says Harris.

Harris remembers the early days as being more like jam sessions led by Gram. “He knew every country song. When we were rehearsing for the tour, we never worked up a single song. Gram would just go on to another song. We kinda of touched on songs on the record, but he was always playing other things and always moving on to the next thing. We actually got fired from our first gig because we didn’t have any beginnings, middles, or endings to any of the songs. After that, it was a wakeup call. So we had what is known as a rehearsal and worked up arrangements of the songs. Then it was amazing from there."

Marilyn Manson only wanted to confuse you

Marilyn Manson has told the NME that he never wanted to be shocking.

Which is good news all round, as he never was.

But it might have looked to the casual observer as if he was trying to outrage the world with nipples on view and rubber clothes and eyeliner, just a good twenty years after that sort of thing had finally relinquished any power to surprise all but the staunchest Republican Presidential Candidate.

So, if he wasn't trying to shock, what was all that tiresome jumping up and down for?

"I've never tried to be shocking. The only thing you can do is confuse people, because it makes them think. And the art of confusion and chaos is the way to make people think, the way to create a catalyst of change."
I think the only confusion ever generated around Manson was that time everyone thought he was the kid off the Wonder Years - and that wasn't even of his doing.

It's a beautiful thing when you watch someone who just marched a bunch of clones up to the top of the hill, and marched them down again, explaining earnestly that in his mind he was shaking up society:
I had to remind myself that I've never wanted good reviews. I just want people to fear – and through that fear may come respect.
Fear? Who did Manson think he was scaring? Even the Mystery Machine would have rolled on by with a shrug.

I'm picturing Manson, stood by the KEEP OUT sign on the closed fairground, desperately yelling "surely Shaggy? Shaggy must be quaking? A little? Please?"

Amanda Palmer: Who needs a label when you have fans?

Of course, not every four piece of denim-and-lager-lads from Oswestry can pull off Kickstarter to quite this extent, but Amanda Palmer has generated nearly half a million dollars to fan-fund an album, book and tour.

A further example of why trying to block torrent search engines will do nothing to stop the collapse of the major labels.

Rockobit: Rob Doherty

Rob Doherty, former guitarist with Into Eternity and leader of Final Darkness, has died.

Doherty was with Into Eternity between 2003 and 2006, appearing on the Buried In Oblivion album. His departure from the band wasn't, it should be noted, by mutual consent, as he revealed at the time:

"I have moved from Regina after our last tour 'cause I needed to work. I had three songs written for the next disc and a bunch of riffs Tim [Roth, guitar/vocals] and I worked out. I had been waiting for these shows and for some sort of solid confirmation. This never happened. I flew home and gave the band the gear from my house and all seemed fine. The next thing I know the band has a replacement for me...

"I have given all to this band for two years with the promise of becoming a full-time member business-wise. I guess what I'm sayin' is if I am to be a hired gun then I need to be paid. I cannot pay my bills on the hopes that everything will just work out. I cannot rely on 'IF we sell merch' as a form of payment....

"I did this for two years and proved that I am into it. I play my ass off every night as hard as I can and love it!!! But the fact is we are on the road a lot and if we are gonna be out that much, there needs to be a buisness plan to look after shit back home."
Doherty's own band, Final Darkness, released their debut album towards the end of 2011.

No details on his death - beyond its suddenness, and unexpectedness - have been made public; fans are being invited to share memories on the band's Facebook site.

HMV scents victory in blood of its rival

HMV's Simon Fox is pretty upbeat, despite having told the city that it's been selling "dire" numbers of CDs and DVDs in recent weeks.

How come? He's convinced the collapse of Game will help his store.

Righto, Simon. Although the total disappearance of Borders, Woolworths, and Zavvi hasn't noticeably helped your company, you think the closure of just half the Game chain will?

He does have some sort of convoluted logic:

"We've lived through a number of collapses of rivals – Zavvi, Woolies, Game – and when they are struggling they flood the market with distressed stock, which causes great disruption. They have now gone from 600 stores to 300 and that means that our position on the high street as strengthened."
The last big high street rival in music sales - Borders - closed in 2009, so if the echo of its closing down sales are to blame for the poor sales of recorded music in your stores now, you've got serious ghost problems.

More to the point, Game isn't shutting half its stores because it's getting more business than it can handle. There's not much to pick up there, surely?

This week just gone

Top ten most-used mobile devices by this month's visitors:

1. iPad
2. iPhone
3. Unidentified device
4. HTC Sensation 4G
5. HTC Mozart 7
6. Nokia X6-00
7. SonyEricsson LT15i Xperia Arc
8. Nokia X6
9. BlackBerry 8520 Curve
10. Opera Tablet on Android

These were this week's interesting releases:

Cate Le Bon - Cyrk

Download Cyrk

The Nightingales - No Love Lost

Download No Love Lost

Brian Jonestown Massacre - Aufheben

Download Aufheben

The Primitives - Echoes And Rhymes

Download Echoes And Rhymes

Polica - Give You The Ghost

Download Give You The Ghost

Sweet Billy Pilgrim - Crown And Treaty

Download Crown And Treaty

North Atlantic Oscillation - Fog Electric

Download Fog Electric