Posts from April 2004

28
Apr 04

Maradona

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It was interesting to hear opinions on Maradona’s heart attack. There is an e-mail doing the rounds with a distorted photo and something along the lines of ‘Get well soon, you cheating fat midget’. Eighteen years on from that goal and it still rankles with us.

On one hand, there is the footballer who scored one of the greatest goals in world cup history and the other hand? Well its five fingers are clenched into a small fist as it punches the ball over Peter Shilton. There is the innocent 10 year old doing ball tricks at half-time during Argentine league games and there is the wild-eyed 34 year old running to the camera after scoring against Greece, his muscles taut and his face snarling (and his body full of drugs of course).

If any footballer has had more impact on the game in a single season than Maradona did in 1981 I’ve never seen the footage. He took Boca Juniors to the title, scoring 20 goals along the way and creating countless more. It is an absolute joy to watch, the way he spins off defenders, those perfect passes. His European career was sweet and sour, he never really took off at Barcelona or Seville, but in Italy he was integral to Napoli’s renaissance.

So, what is his legacy? In his homeland he is up there with Eva Peron and Carlos Gardel. In Naples he’s part of the folklore, Here, he’s a pariah. OK, so he’s now a bloated disagreeable character and he’s never going to wear Pele’s ambassadorial shoes, but to appreciate football, well, you must appreciate Maradona too.

Thank Me For The Music

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Thank Me For The Music: new MP3 blog! Very pop! Lead track currently is the stupendous “Never Felt As Good” by Belvedere Kane. If everyone goes there and hears it maybe I can play it at the next FT night and people will know what it is and actually dance – go on, make an old man’s dream come true…

Michael Hann on Gastropubs

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Michael Hann on Gastropubs: I started reading with scepticism but gradually this turned to head-nodding and by the time he finished I was ready to march behind him shouting his noble message Tango Blackcurrant Ad style. My only quibble really is that I bet a lot of his scary pubs aren’t actually THAT scary – otherwise HEAR HEAR!

Eamon’s on the radio!

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Eamon’s on the radio! Good old Eamon with his novelty swearing. Of course it’s the ‘radio edit’, which reduces Eamon’s foul mouth to an impotent stutter – but it does make me think of how the technology of swear-removal has had to change (and fast!) over recent years as the amount of bad language has spiralled upwards. There seem to be four main ways for getting round the problem:

1/ Bleeping – almost never used any more, I think it would have a kind of retro charm to it now to be honest. Its heir is the dead-air solution: just remove the word from the vocal track. This never sounds good, it totally disrupts the rhythm of the song and in some cases you can’t even tell there’s meant to be a word there. Eminem radio edits are often rotten for this reason.

2/ Putting in different words – effective if a bit lame (key text here: There Is No Swearing In “I Swear” By All-4-One). The problem is you need to get the act in to re-record – OR DO YOU? Case in point, Pink’s classically rubbish radio edit of “Get The Party Started”, which replaces the word “ass” with a shitly-spliced “Benz” from two lines back in the song to baffling effect.

3/ Putting in funny noises – as used on “Work It” by Missy; in fact I think only Missy does it. This is GREAT – only problem is it’s a lot of work. The elephant noise on “Work It” is so much better and funnier than a word would be (actually IS there even a ‘dirty’ edit of this song? My point stands though – USE NOISES!)

4/ Almost swearing – Eamon’s tune may look like it’s using dead-air but this isn’t the case – what he’s actually doing is saying “f’ck” and “shh’t”, in a sort of PRML SCRM style but very quietly. This kind of radio edit is pretty contemptuous of the whole notion of radio edits and is becoming more common. The next step is surely just whispering the swears and then the barbarians really will be at the gates.

Better Late Than Never

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Better Late Than Never: Stereophonics ex-drummer says they were “a little bland”. Very perceptive of him.

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!)