Posts from 27th April 2004

27
Apr 04

ANTHONY NEWLEY – “Why?”

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#96, 5th February 1960

Hello Britpop. When I was a teenage Bowie fan all the biographies mentioned how David’s early vocal style was indebted to Anthony Newley’s, but I’d never heard of or heard Newley before and didn’t get round to tracking his stuff down. Now of course I realise that the biogs could have said “Bowie kidnapped Newley, cut his larynx out from his still-pulsing throat and had it transplanted in a secret Crowleyan ceremony” and they’d not have been exaggerating. The resemblance is almost grotesque, and of course having grown up with Bowie it takes a big effort to remember that it’s Newley who minted the style.

In a way it’s fitting that I can’t separate Newley from his pastiche – Newley’s fame as a pop singer was founded on a pastiche of his own. Jeep Jackson, a British rock star forced topically into the army, was the lead character in a proto-Carry On romp called Idle On Parade. Alongside Sid James and Bernie Winters was Newley, playing Jackson and winding up in the charts himself with songs from the film, helping to fill the Presley-shaped gap created by the great man’s real army career. Bowie would have adored such an onionish origin.

As a song “Why?” is almost too saccharine to take seriously. “I’ll always love you so / Why? Because you love me / No broken hearts for us because we love each other” and on and on like a Cockney Care Bear. The glassy, plinksome arrangement is all too appropriate. As a performance, though, this is cutting-edge, another exercise in selling Britain its own speaking voice – Newley’s London edge is weirdly offset by his backing cherubs’ Transatlantic tint. Newley’s singing sounds more natural and emotive than Adam Faith – not that he’s given much to emote with here – the experiment fails only because the song is so rotten.

Why Doesn’t Sean Paul Release More Singles?

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Why Doesn’t Sean Paul Release More Singles?

One of the many scenarios thrown out by MP3 optimists (within and without the record companies) is a future in which artists drip-feed their work to the public, putting new tracks up for sale and download pretty much as they’re completed. Something like this already happens in dancehall, of course.* Despite being a massive international artist, Sean Paul keeps doing new tracks over recent riddims. Even someone as dilettante-ish as me when it comes to Jamaican stuff has heard at least two non-album pearls by him (“Head Fi Toe” and “Bounce It Right There”) and I’m sure there are a few more floating around. It’s good for listeners and good for Sean P too – keeps him up to date. Could it be good for the record companies as well?

Dancehall artists surely provide excellent test cases for the drip-feed model. It’s how they’re used to working; they’re recording the tracks anyway; why not use them to move away from total reliance on the album format and start trying to shift new tracks quickly? Of course the unit profit is much higher on an album than on a single but it’s not as if these tracks are likely to end up on the next Sean Paul album anyway. For artists with shorter commercial lifespans (most pop acts, for instance), track-at-a-time release schedules make even more sense. Currently a pop group has three albums at most in them before the furore dies down – a three year window of opportunity for their record company. Why not make the most of those three years by planning thirty-six smaller sales points not three larger ones?

I’m not saying this because I want the record labels to make lots of money: I’m saying it because I think it would be good for pop. I think we’ve reached a stage where pop-cultural info transmits so fast, and where the desire for novelty is so great, and the micro-evolutions in sounds and styles so rapid, that the album format is actually holding creativity back.

*Hip-hop too via mixtapes, but that’s a slightly different set-up.

It’s Just Like Watching…Hold On!

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It’s Just Like Watching…Hold On!: a link to welcome Tim back from his stateside holiday!

IHM POP CHAMELEON WATCH

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IHM POP CHAMELEON WATCH

Bowie Invites Fans To “Mash Him Up” – this is the sort of headline I dream of, but on this occasion my dream turns quickly into nightmare. The “mash-ups” Bowie is talking about are actually ‘mixes’ of two songs – ‘bootlegs’ in other words, which older readers may remember from late 2001. One lucky punter will recoup part of his colossal BowieNet fees by winning a car (hopefully not the same one David is always crashing in). My views on mash-ups are well-known – two songs in one mean double the pain. My views on mash-ups involving not one but two David Bowie songs are unprintable.

Bowie claims he has already been the subject of many such mash-ups. I asked DJ Monkey Typewriter, my contact in the shady bootleg underworld, if this was really the case. He laughed like a diamond dog. “Listen Tanya, mash-ups use hot, new, fresh artists, like…well, OK, like The Strokes. And, um, Nirvana. But Bowie? Nowie.”

Besides which, there’s a basic conceptual problem with Bowie’s scheme. The idea of mash-ups is that the witty juxtaposition of one artist’s song with another artist’s song creates something marvellous and new, a fresh perspective on familiar sounds. I don’t believe that for a moment, but even I will admit that alchemical sparks are more likely when the basic principle of using two songs by different artists is adhered to. Not, in other words, two David Bowie songs. One of which has to be from his horse-frightening latest album. (“But Tin Machine and David Bowie are diff-” no, JUST STOP. Think about what you’re suggesting. Thankyou.). Bowie is making a rod for his own back here – the only fresh perspective likely for the diehard fan is “Blimey, Bowie’s new songs really ARE worse than his old stuff.” And for the rest of us, that perspective is about as fresh as, well, a mash-up.

PopNose12

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PopNose12 (1.5M) Today’s PopNose is unique in that I’ve not actually even heard it! It was picked by Nathalie and then prepared by me. The one slight drawback is that if I’ve got a shonky file I won’t know about it. Meanwhile, SHOWER IT WITH COMMENTS! (Now revealed – scroll up for details!)

Meanwhile here is the reveal for PopNose10.

(Oh, also, HELLO FLUXBLOG READERS (again!). If you’re coming here because of that tempting asterisk next to NYLPM on the sidebar and want MP3s – here they are. We put up 3 or 4 a week, zipped and anonymised under the name ‘PopNose’. We then reveal them after a few days and take the file down. If you know what the track is, please don’t reveal it early in the comments box!)

An interview with me

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An interview with me about blogging. It’s a bit dry and grumpy because I did it in a rush at the end of work. There are interviews with other people too, all of whom write in Swedish: BIG UP THE SWEDISH BLOGOSPHERE! And of course the week after I say pffft, blogs aren’t much good for lengthy analysis Mark S posts his great Treasure Island stuff on this very site (the Brown Wedge if you haven’t read it yet). Shows how much I know.

On a vaguely related topic, a qn for regular readers – would you prefer it if FT was available in a more integrated format, i.e. if all the various blogs were ‘bundled together’ so to speak?