Leaving On A Jet Plane…Part Er, Pass

I’m heading to Atlanta tomorrow, then, Portland, Oregon on Sunday, and I’ll be in Chapel Hill, next Wednesday. Now, normally, this is where the blog becomes something more than me taking random potshots at music and politics from the safety of my armchair, but this time might be a little different.

I’m not going to have reliable access to an Internet connection, so updates will be less frequent, although I still intend to make them (I know a few places in Chapel Hill that offer free wi-fi, so I won’t be completely cut off). This also means that if you’re emailing me, I may be a little slow to respond.

Anyway, off to America again. Take care of Rachel Steven’s gloves while I’m gone…

currently playing: New Order – Turn

Pandas are Cute!

Baby Pandas…eh, not so much…

currently playing: Kylie Minogue – Made Of Glass

RIP TOTP

And in the end, it never even got to go out in the slot it has occupied for the last few years; instead, Top of The Pops was tonight quietly taken out behind Television Centre, and shot through the head.

You could argue that it went out fighting, with a strong final line-up. But the top draws were Crazy Frog and James Blunt, so we’ll discount that, shall we?

Excuse me, Pan’s People are dancing to the Crazy Frog’s new single. I’ll be out back with my shotgun. Oh, and Pan’s People 2000 don’t seem to like clothes. Skirts and tops in particular…

I wonder part of the decline in TOTP over the past how many years (10? 15?) is due to the other crisis in Pop that reared its head in yesterday’s chart. Yes, I’m talking about how Rachel Steven’s So Good only managed to make it to Number 10 this week. Both Popjustice and Sweeping The Nation have covered the issue in greater depth than I will, but to sum up: there are very few pop stars that sell records. And that led me to think - the most recent UK female pop star who can still have guaranteed hits is Kylie Minogue (yeah, yeah, I know, but despite not actually being British, she is a British-made act). Which is a little depressing. For the men, you have Robbie Williams; but having little to no new stars with staying power in the past ten years is very worrying.

But what can be done? Some might say that the internet can come to our rescue, by building up new acts and fulfilling a role previously occupied by the music press (c.f. the last post on the NME, and Smash Hits). And to be fair, people are giving that a shot. Unfortunately, the internet is all hype and no trousers itself at the moment (ask the eight people who bought Annie’s Anniemal, for example).

I might be a music fascist, but there is no place in any just world for Heather Small.

Popjustice is heartened by the departure of Radio 1’s music head, Alex Jones-Donelly, but I wonder whether how much power Radio 1 has anymore, with the rise of Radio 2 and the increasing power of the music channels on digital satellite. I don’t think one station, channel, or paper is as important as it used to be, and perhaps the big fads and followings of the past will never happen again.

TOTP is dead. And maybe it’s just as well.

currently playing: Dexy’s Midnight Runners — Come On Eileen

Penman/Morley Is Where I Want To Be

The most telling thing about BBC4’s Inky Fingers and its look back on the past 50 years of the NME, is how little they dwelled on the present. Conor McNicholas was given two minutes to dismiss critics of the current era as ‘granddads’, and the Steve Sutherland era of the 1990s wasn’t even mentioned. A shame really, as Andrew Collins’ recollection of Sutherland’s appointment is fairly amusing:

1992. Popular, rotund, football loving NME editor Danny Kelly leaves for pastures Q. Various NME staffers publicly apply for job - in name of continuity at what was a great time for the NME - Steve Lamacq, Stuart Maconie, Andrew Collins, Gavin Martin, James Brown and Brendan Fitzgerald (the people’s choice, non-nonsense Antipodean Deputy Ed). None of whom even got the courtesy of a second interview - instead we were all shocked to find that MM deputy ed Steve Sutherland would be “crossing the floor” from Melody Maker to be our new boss - just weeks after a pathetic live review in MM which he wrote saying that Suede were all that MM stood for (grace, glamour, originality) and Kingmaker were all that NME stood for (lumpen, crappy stude rock). It was typical of his useless writing style and his imagined “feud” between the papers - both owned by IPC and one floor apart in the same building. We at NME did hate the MM, but mainly because they all crossed an NUJ picket line that very year, despite our pleading of solidarity. So we were going to be run by a scab who’d tried to turn NME vs MM into column inches for cheap effect. And we’d heard he was a tosser.

For an hour-long documentary, it did its job fairly well, although as expected, events had to be compressed and details left out; the programme covered the ‘hip-hop’ wars of the 1980s in a rather jaunty tone, neglecting to just how serious it was - rumour has it that the police got involved over anti-editorial graffiti sprayed onto the office building.

As expected, it left me nostalgic for a time I never really knew. Danny Baker says that the best era of the NME is whenever you started reading, but I know that’s not true for me. During the 1980s, IPC found itself publishing a music paper that reviewed music from a philosophical point of view, a New Pop point of view, and all the others it could find, never compromising in the face of label pressure. When I was reading the NME, Be Here Now was passed around the office; the requirement of taking the album was that you had to write a positive review.

Admittedly, there was still interesting bits and pieces throughout the 1990s, as issue-based features crept back into the paper, and yes, I used to find Steven Wells entertaining at times (far too in love with Hunter S. Thompson, but his review of Sleater-Kinney’s The Hot Rock made me rush out to a Manchester record shop and buy the album, so I do have a little soft spot for him, although I imagine he wouldn’t approve).

As for ‘granddads’, well, sure Conor, if you say so. It’s not that we’ve too old for your paper. It’s that the NME is now little more than a multimedia brand, designed only to cosy up to record labels and rubberstamp their new acts (while at the same time, blackmailing the labels not to talk to any magazines). The quality of the writing has plummeted, with the reviews section in particular being a pale shadow of even its 1990s self. It was better; even accounting for the most rosiest of lenses.

One final note: Charles Shaar Murray’s TEETH! MY GOD!

currently playing: Orange Juice – Rip It Up

The Greatest Briton

Tim Westwood on Pimp My Ride, taking the mickey out of somebody for their use of slang.

Tim then went on to use the phrase “you’re packing crazy heat”. The man is a national treasure…

currently playing: Goldfrapp – Ooh La La

Fox News: Fair, Balanced, Accurate!

A Sky News feed of Michael Howard is playing. Then, a cut back to the Fox & Friends studio:

“That was Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, looking more depressed, obviously, than he was yesterday in Singapore”

Also, earlier: “Well, the English don’t have any experience with terrorism…“

And…

KILMEADE: And he [British Prime Minister Tony Blair] made the statement, clearly shaken, but clearly determined. This is his second address in the last hour. First to the people of London, and now at the G8 summit, where their topic Number 1 –believe it or not– was global warming, the second was African aid. And that was the first time since 9-11 when they should know, and they do know now, that terrorism should be Number 1. But it’s important for them all to be together. I think that works to our advantage, in the Western world’s advantage, for people to experience something like this together, just 500 miles from where the attacks have happened.

currently playing: The Clash: White Riot

Oooh!

Archery in Bow Street, anybody?

(I’m so, so sorry)

currently playing: Vitalic – No Fun

Last Night I Dreamt That Neil Tennant Married Dusty Springfield…

…but then I looked again, and it was Paul Morley.

(I may have a problem concerning music journalists from the 1980s. Perhaps)

Live 8 wrap-up!

Looking at the audience figures for last Saturday here in the UK, it seems that Live 8 wasn’t quite the crowd-puller that we all thought it would be. A peak of 9.6 million people pales into comparison with important footballing events, Diana’s funeral, and probably the original Live Aid concert (I can’t find real figures, but I’ll be amazed if the peak audience in 1985 was anything less than 15 million). This can be partly explained by the decline in TV watching generally (and the effect of multi-channels on the terrestrial five), but it only just beat the first episode of Doctor Who!

Meanwhile, HMV is rubbing its hands together as the acts that played Live 8 experience a huge sales increase (except for Mr. Doherty, who gets sent home with a “Must Do Better” note). Hurrah for Dave Gilmour, then, who throws a Geldof-like spanner in the works. I’ve also heard a rumour that Pink Floyd have turned down a $150m offer to tour America…

Also, the concert organisers are trying to clamp down on people selling bootlegs of the concert. As ever, I have a few semantic games to play with this: I take it that giving bootlegs away is okay? Seeing as how no money is lost (as the performers weren’t compensated for their time), and all it could possibly do is raise awareness about Live 8? Hmm? Also, if Universal ever stop giving the proceeds of their digital download of U2 and Paul McCartney to Live 8, I trust that they will be branded as scum too (also, why is Universal credited with the copyright? Sure, U2 are on Universal, but Apple Records/Northern Music/Sony Music/Michael Jackson should also share the credit, right?)

And finally, Lexicon of Love by ABC is £2.99 in HMV. If you don’t have a copy of this, beg forgiveness from the gods, and get to your local music emporium post-haste…

currently playing: ABC – Tears Are Not Enough (12” Mix)

I Meet You In Links

George Bush: My scientists tell me that global warming is actually caused by a concentration of midichlorians!

Sail 8! Umm, well, yes, Bob, it was a dumb idea…

New Top of The Pops being engineered to be the worst chart show since The Roxy, complete with Jeremy Clarkson guest presenting.

Woohoo! Aren’t you looking forward to EDS building the ID Card system?

Jackanory is coming back! Plus a call for more drama on CBBC! Excellent! (And moving to Manchester too!) Time to try and come up with another proposal, I think…

currently playing: ABC – Many Happy Returns

You Don't Really Need To Read The Previous Entry. It's OK.

Simon Sweeping The Nation (apologies, but I’m adopting the Smash Hits naming technique, which appears to be a little unwieldy for blogs, I’ll admit, but a running gag is a running gag) sums up Live 8 in a more concise and correct manner than my ramblings yesterday. (Number 2 is so true…)

currently playing: The Dresden Dolls – Missed Me