Archive for March, 2011

BUY A BED APPEAL – Saturday, takes place at Highworth Methodist Church at 6pm. Tickets cost £6 and are available from Denise or Sue on 01793 762365 – Gloucester House Addictions Rehabilitation

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011













in Aid of
At: Highworth Methodist Church
Lechlade Road, Highworth, Swindon, SN6 7HG
Doors Open 6.00 pm.
With Special Guest John “Rabbit” Bundrick from The Who
With Phil Spalding
A Sweetheart with a Sweet Voice
Refreshments Included and ‘Meet & Greet’ the performers after the show.
TICKETS £6.00 from Denise or Sue 01793 762365 Office Hours
OR from Gloucester House, High St, Highworth
4 Lads From Liverpool
From London
From Liverpool



Pop druggie in Swindon charity concert
8:00am Monday 4th April 2011

THERE was not a spare seat in the room when rocker Phil Spalding took to his guitar to raise money for the charity that saved his life.
Phil, 53, of Rodbourne, held a charity concert in Highworth on Saturday night to raise money for Gloucester House Rehabilitation Centre, where he turned in 2005 to kick his heroin addiction.
The crowd was also treated to a performance by Phil’s long-term friend The Who keyboardist John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick.
About 200 people attended the concert in aid of Gloucester House’s Buy a Bed, Save a Life campaign.
Phil said afterwards: “I used to do this when I was stoned or drunk and doing this clean and sober is a really scary feeling.”
“The centre was able to help me get a new life. I was dying when I went there. I have just about become brave enough now to start doing something like this. Many people who know me were very happy to help because they knew how messed up I was.”
He performed well-known favourites including True Colours and Hallelujah, alongside pianist and singer Anna Corcoran, as well as songs she has written.
John Bundrick, who has been part of The Who since 1979, played alongside Liverpool band Night Parade.
He said: “I am proud to have been asked to do this. I went to Alcoholics Anonymous, one day I saw a hand switch off a light switch and I haven’t drunk since. I have been sober now for around 15 years.
“Pete (Townshend) has been my saving grace, we are very close in an odd sort of way. We know when we look at each other when we know we are connecting.”
There was also a performance from Hannah Clive at the concert, which was held at Highworth Methodist Church.
Susan Tollington, centre manager at Gloucester House who helped and counselled Phil from the day he arrived at the centre, was watching the performance.
“More than £1,000 has been raised today which means we can sponsor some more clients through Gloucester House,” she said.
“We can give somebody a chance to get a new life.”
For more information about Gloucester House call 01793 762365.


Thanks to all who supported our special concert which was promoted by a former resident.
The fund raising event took the form of a Mini festival at Warneford School, Highworth, on Sunday 5 December 2010.
Internationally renowned bass guitarist Phil Spalding has played on recordings by Elton John, Robbie Williams, Mick Jagger, Kylie Minogue, Jo Cocker and Seal. He has also worked with The Who’s Roger Daltrey and has persuaded a couple of mates, John Bundrick and Simon Townshend, from the iconic rock band to give up their time to join him performing at a mini music festival at Warneford School Highworth,
Phil is a recovering addict who, five years ago, undertook a course of rehabilitation at Gloucester House. He is an enthusiastic supporter of the centre’s ‘Buy a bed … save a life’ appeal set up to attract funds to cover the cost of rehabilitation for those who do not have recourse to public funds and in appreciation of the help he received he now wants to use his contacts to help swell the coffers.

On the advice of Roger Daltrey Phil arranged for a small scale concert to be performed and promoted free of charge by some of his friends in the professional music business. These include ‘Night Parade’, an emerging band from Liverpool being promoted by former ‘The Who’ keyboard player John ‘Rabbit’ Bundrick who also performed with them on the night. Other artistes were Simon Townshend (brother of ‘The Who’s Pete Townshend), Anna Corcoran and a collection of older musicians who perform by the name of ‘Space Odic Samurai’.
Phil successfully negotiated the recovery programme at Gloucester House. He is fully committed to a new life of abstinence from drink and drugs.
“It is possible to live today without recourse to the use of drink and drugs to solve problems,” says Phil. “My five years of abstinence have been nothing short of amazing.”
“The people at Gloucester House do amazing work and without them I wouldn’t be here today. Everyone deserves a chance in the eyes of God.”
“Gloucester House provides a service for a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise get the opportunity to turn their life around. I’m talking about people from the street, prison, hostels and other such places which result in dissolution and despair. This is a matter of life and death and nothing is more serious than that. It’s about inclusion not exclusion. We’re hoping that through our concert the ‘Buy and bed … save a life’ appeal will garner the attention that it undoubtedly deserves.”
Last month Phil celebrated five years of abstinence through the support given by Gloucester House and his on-going membership of 12 step fellowships.

Steven Slate Digital – John Rabbit Bundrick

Saturday, March 26th, 2011

Rabbit - The Who

“I love the FG-X. It’s fabulous. I take my studio on my tours with the Who, and I need this product to help with my songwriting on the ‘road’ and in the ‘Studio’ at home. It’s an essential piece of kit. You might as well add the VCC virtual console collection to go with it. Both Fabulous gear.

John Rabbit Bundrick – Keyboardist
(The Who, Bob Marley, Jethro Tull, Free, Johnny Nash, Crawler, the list goes on.

Steven Slate


Wednesday, March 16th, 2011
























Ladies and gentlemen… this… really is… the very first Hidden Master we found… Song 3… by Jess Roden.

Friday, March 11th, 2011

jess-roden-neil-storey-storeys-neil-storey2jess-roden-neil-storey-storeys-neil-storey-posterTUESDAY, MARCH 8, 2011
Jess Roden : Song 3
The room to the back of the anonymous back-street building in which I’ve been placed is, at best, serviceable; it is approximately fifteen feet square with walls painted a uniform, hint of a tint (but now-fading), Magnolia. Truth to tell, the colour scheme is actually more off-white with no tinted hint at all.

There is just the one, metal-framed window. It is set annoyingly high on the far wall – presumably so as to preclude any view other than that of the gun-metal grey, rain-bearing clouds, scudding past on this dreary, mid-February, afternoon.

Beneath the window is an oversized, malt-brown melamine-topped desk – more junior accountant than office manager. The right-hand border is scored with blackened cigarette burns that spread along its edge like so many decaying woodlice; I’ve seen fag-end burns like this many times before – most often on old B3 Hammond Organs played by the likes of Steve Winwood.

On the desk and in a mug that’s known better days, there’s a half-drunk cup of coffee. It has been poured from a machine down-along the frayed-brown-carpeted hallway. Even behind the now-closed door, the percolator gives off its own signature odour of stale dregs at twenty paces.

The entire place reeks of early-Seventies, Habitat-inspired, office functionality.

My Moleskin notebook lays bare and untroubled (yet) by note-taking on the desk; my coat is hanging on a hanger that, itself, is suspended from the single hook on the back of the plywood door. My brown-leather briefcase is huddled against one of the desk-legs; much like a cat, hungry for its master’s affection.

Spread across the stone-carpeted floor are plastic crates – some are green, others are Air Force grey while a few began life as shout-out-loud iridescent orange.

Some are stacked, one upon another while others have been spaced apart in random order; all are heavily pock-marked – as if suffering from crate-acne – and scratched from being thrown into and around the back of Transit vans; their heavy contents man-handled with ease by burly men with muscles to match.

Functional boxes which, in their own simple way, are simply that – since there is no other requirement… strong but serviceable; sturdy and utilitarian.

And each of these containers that are approximately three foot long by eighteen inches by another eighteen or so in depth hold innumerable smaller boxes.

Most of these are twelve-inches square; some are over two inches deep, some are slimmer volumes. All are stacked vertically and… sprinkled amongst them are a handful of smaller boxes – a mere seven inches square and slender in width too.

All of them have been labeled at some long-past time or other; the labels themselves have been stuck on the actual box fronts – some have been scrawled on, some have a good deal of writing that’s been crossed out and replaced by other, almost-as-old, scribbles; some have a doodles and drawings while some of the labels have been neatly typed out.

Like ancient hieroglyphics high on a wall on the inside of a Pharaoh’s tomb, they offer their own clues… hints that these boxes contain the treasure which, Indiana Jones-like I’ve been hoping to find for many months.

Fast backwards: a restaurant from the Indian sub-continent on the main drag that connect Chiswick to Hammersmith; Popadum frenzy, Chapatti heaven and Korma bliss. Two Kingfisher beers have been part-supped yet we’re not quite ready for the next infill; the singer and writer of songs and I sit opposite one another.

“Sometimes,” he muses, “I do wonder what still exists… Me and my bands, y’know… over the years… we recorded a lot; over at Basing Street and just down the road at the back of St Peters Square… And… now that I come to think about it, I do wonder what… might have survived.”

“There was a lot that never got released… but… I suppose all that stuff probably got wiped… or, maybe recorded over… or, perhaps those tapes just got chucked out. I dunno… but… yes, absolutely, if you wanted to do your Sherlock Holmes thing and… see what really is there… then… yeah, I’d be up for that…”

He sits quietly for a moment or two; a sliver of Naan bread held lightly in his fingers, hovering just above his side-plate. “Y’know… there was some really good stuff that we did… so yes… it’d be interesting to see what they have… but, honestly, I don’t suppose there’s very much. Another beer..?”

Fast forwards a few months… the singer and writer of songs wanders back into his sitting room with two large glasses, each having been re-charged from the bottle of well-chilled in the fridge; a couple of reserves are laying in wait in the garage that’s attached to the house… just in case.

A real-fire hisses and pops in the grate… the gentle scent of top-notch Welsh lamb being oven-roasted in the kitchen across the hall mixes with the wood-smoke to permeate the air. A cat trails in after him and struts past the small, elderly dog curled up on the hearth.

The singer of songs settles into the depths of the sofa as I sit on the floor, just in front of the drawn curtains in the bay window. There’s a MacBook attached to the stereo-system; speakers placed either side of the fireplace.

A portrait of him, his young son and his wife taken at the time of the photosession for his first solo-album hangs, ever so slightly off kilter, above and to the side of the left-hand speaker. Books of eclectic persuasion stand to attention like so many soldiers line abreast on their parade-ground shelves. The lights are low with music in the air.

“Y’know… I’m amazed at what you’ve found…already… and you say there’s lots more?” His trademark eyes are lined by no regrets as he leafs through the box-front scans from today’s work-in-progress for project-X.

“This… y’know what it is..? It’s pretty much the whole album I did with Rabbit who nowadays plays keyboards with The Who… the one that CB (Chris Blackwell – owner / founder of Island) kinda rejected… I mean, we kept one track… but… really, it’s quite incredible that you’ve found this.”

“I mean, some of it is a bit… y’know… but… this one still stands up, don’t you think..? I have to be perfectly honest, though… I can’t really remember writing this let alone recording it… Let’s have a bit of a memory-jog.” He presses play on the MacBook and the unedited song is counted in by an unknown voice and then sparks into life.

Three minutes or so later, the tune gradually fades into the distance… the singer and writer assumes a far-away stare. Abruptly he says, “Heaven’s, what kind of compression did we use on that piano..! That’s Mike Kellie from Spooky Tooth on drums… Pat Donaldson who played with The Fairports as well as lots of others is playing bass… that’s Rabbit on keyboards… and me strumming away on an acoustic guitar…”

“Why is it listed like that on the box? Well… I never came up with a title for the song. I think… maybe… I was planning to call it Hallelujah or something like that… but… ‘cos it was the third song on the tape and had no proper title, the engineer or the tape-op would have written it up as that.”

“I think we can stick this on the list as a definite for inclusion… don’t you..?”

Ladies and gentlemen… this… really is… the very first Hidden Master we found… Song 3… by Jess Roden.

(nb, this is an edited clip – there being very real reasons why the full track isn’t being posted… a) this song has yet to be re-mastered (this is a lo-res MP3 audio) and b) to make it less attractive to the pirates – copyright must be respected. In time, however, this track – as well as the original non-vocal demo – will be part of the Hidden Masters : The Jess Roden Anthology set that is in preparation currently).
The Party’s Over
So, it’s the morning after the night before: The BRITS has been, gone and put back in its cupboard for another year.

Collectively, the UK business of music is nursing a monumental hangover; drinks were drunk, little black dresses got crushed and without a shadow of a doubt, some woke up this morning with an unfamiliar person next to them – its not always that the best fun is had in the kitchen at after-show parties.

Yet, while this is the British equivalent to The Grammys, it strikes me as being extraordinary that neither organising ‘committee’ on either side of the pond can get their own flagship ‘awards show’ anywhere near right.

The Grammy’s, for example, have in excess of one hundred categories… that’s a bit like awarding a child at school a prize for attending class; you know – the modern ‘no one is a loser’ ethic which, actually, stifles competitiveness.

It’s also a way (they would argue) of covering all the bases… when the reality is that they (the Grammy organising wallahs) are simply finding more and more genre boxes into which they can conveniently put ‘music’.

Have a look at category 108 and tell me about its relevance… please. It is: Best Long Form Music Video and subtitled (presumably for the hard of understanding) as follows – For video album packages consisting of more than one song or track. Award to the Artist and to the Video Director/Producer of at least 51% of the total playing time.

This little Voltaire out there on its windswept knoll would argue strenuously that there are only two of these cardboard boxes… one is marked good… the other is labeled bad. End.

Anyhow, as a consequence of this boxing-off of genres, The Grammys go on for… hours… really they do; quite literally from mid-afternoon to lateish in the evening. How those attending get through that without resorting to the intake of advanced pharmaceuticals to stave off the boredom of all those acceptance speeches (Mum, Dad, my Record Company, Juan Pelota my underwear stylist, my managers, the person tending my Cairn Terrier, Auntie Joan, God and, before I forget… you – the fans!!! And, Mum – this if for YOU… etc etc) is entirely beyond me.

Besides which, there are – in reality – almost two shows… the first (lengthy) segment isn’t televised… that’s when the boxes labeled ‘Best Sleeve Notes’ or Best Traditional World Music Album / Vocal or Instrumental – that being category 72 of the 108) are ticked and the (doubtless) worthy winner steps forward to thank God, his / her Mum and Dad, Lover, Dog (again), MTV, the Fans etc etc).

To underline the absurdity of all the categories, back in 1996 Eddie Veeder said, when accepting Pearl Jam’s Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, ‘I don’t know what this means, I don’t think it means anything.’

The second part begins with the televising of the (ridiculous) parade down the blood red carpet when the interviewers ask, in the main, ‘Who are you wearing’ to each of the freshly-coiffed contestants. The answers that spill from between their professionally whitened teeth seem to (somehow) add up to enough product placement-endorsement to satisfy the likes of Armani, Malandrino, J-P Gaultier, Pucci, Cavalli, Givenchy and D&G as worn by the Beiber-ling.

After which, the main show begins with a mere twenty or so Awards… yet, this is so muddled as to make no sense… Best Recording is up against Best Song…? Errr. Hello?

The BRITS, on the other hand, only had – by comparison – a handful of trophies to give out… in which were categories described as… Best Male… Best Female… yes, but Best Male or Female what exactly…?

Well, in the former we had the likes of Paul Weller up against Robert Plant, Tiny Temper, Mark Ronson yet someone called Plan B won… other than observing that the ‘list’ is horribly mismatched, I find it hard to understand how someone like the constantly reinventing-himself Robert Plant isn’t recognised as being… the best.

As to the other ‘best’s of the evening… Adele is being lauded by the ‘real commentators’ for her performance of Someone Like You – sparse and real, just piano and vocal. Sure, it is a great song but, I couldn’t help feeling that – while great – that greatness could have been embellished with strings to turn her performance into something quite remarkable.

Money on a big string section that would, quite frankly, have been better spent by the organisers than on the horrid troops (sic) of totally unnecessary ‘dancers’ dressed up as quasi-Fascist riot police for Take That and… the aforementioned Plan B who reenacted some kind of eccentric court scene while strangling his lyrical language by rapping it at us in pure, unadulterated, estuary.

Best hair on the night belonged to uber-puppet Beiber – he turned up, looking far to fresh-faced from a transatlantic flight to be real – no dark glasses for him unlike Cee-Lo who swung very low in his.

Chaps – dark glasses indoors are a sign… a signal… of utter affectation; they’re not cool… not funny… not glamorous… they just make you look plain stupid.

And, of the acceptance speeches… Laura Marling’s was – without doubt – the most real, most normal. I admit I was rooting for Rumer in this category but, Ms Marling – who looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights – was head and shoulders (sic) over the likes of Jessie J whose crocodile tears were as false as her eyelashes. Critics’ Choice..? Well, in that respect, those critics should be lined up against a wall and… because time will out on this, as I guarantee that, in five years time, people will be asking… Jessie who? And, the song was… Do It Like A Prude..? Nah, don’t remember that one.

And… the best album… the BEST British album of the last year was… really… honestly… you’re telling me that Mumford & Sons’ record was THE BEST British album of last year… ok, I’ll accept it was better than Take T’at – who’re collectively fast becoming the Queen Mother of The Brits… I mean, they’re like a standard fixture aren’t they, rather like that bloke seen at every Rugby match, wearing a Union Jack coat and a top hat being the epitome of a British Bulldog by the touchline.

And, James Corden… well, he looked (and acted) more like a safe Vicar who’d had one too few glasses of Sherry at Christmas… bumbling and smiling inanely. Time, if ever there was, to bring back a proper presenter or to say sorry to Jarvis Cocker and acknowledge that his stage invasion whilst wacko-Jacko was acting out his Christ-like tendencies surrounded by children was a genuine act that everyone in the hall that night (including self) wished they’d have been nearer the stage and been able to protest in like manner.

Oh… and its about time that the background TV presenter stopped using the word Platinum… honestly, luv… no one out their watching from the comfort of their sofa knows what it means… neither is it impressive.

But, hey, this was all about the ‘live’ music… wasn’t it…? Maybe so – and Adele and the rather loud Arcade Fire certainly showed how it could be done… However, the Mumblefords, scored a spectacular own goal by playing like a bunch of subway-buskers who are so ordinary that one hurries by without dipping the hand in the trouser pocket.

And Rihanna… I’m told that was a medley of her hit… hmmm… clearly lip-synching, it was not far short of a total travesty; guileless style over minimal content… and with choreography (was that what it really was?) that was about as exciting as watching a parody of all those old Top Of The Pops routines. Grabbing your crotch while wearing a ?dress? that shows all and sundry that your bottom is the size of Trindad isn’t raunchy, its just plain sad.

And so… the morning after… and as much-heralded 24 hours previously, up on iTunes are the live performances from last night to download and enjoy… for as long as one likes…

Well, actually, that’s not quite correct – not all of the performances are there due to technical hitches (according to my mole); hitches like auto-tuning and lip-synching… ha ha!

Be that as it may, some are… go to The Brits site and up there on the top right hand corner a graphic shows that the Cee Lo performance with Paloma Faith is available via iTunes…

Except, its not… it is geographically challenged… meaning that if (for example) one is logging on from the US or Australia… its not available.

Brilliant… how utterly fxxxxxg dumb is that? Someone in (say, Detroit or Adelaide) wants that recording and so how do they get it..?

Here’s what they’ll do: they’ll go to YouTube, engage a gadget called AudioHiJack (a free download – about which I’ve written and emphasised the dangers thereof in relation to pircay before) and… press record… Four minutes and thirty-two seconds later and it’ll nestle happily within their iTunes folder.

For free… that’s zilch… nada… nothing… FREE…

Fuck me, but record companies are about as stupid as they get… one day, those that forge these licensing arrangements will actually understand that the web is a global entity… global equals worldwide…

Is it any wonder that the ‘record companies’ are losing money / the war against piracy?

And, as a final comment on the success of this year’s BRIT Awards… we need look no further than Music Week who have just announced that the 2011 awards had the lowest viewing figures for five years and was outstripped by not only the film, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (6.5 million viewers against 4.7 for the BRITS) but also Holby City which attracted 5.6 million.

Re-make / re-model..? Yes, please.
One Moment In Time
Today, via the auspices of Music Week – Britain’s one and only trade magazine for the business of music – came the news that tonight’s BRIT Award performances will be available online via a dedicated BRITS page on iTunes. All proceeds from said recordings will go to the BRITS Trust.

This follows last year’s ‘experiment’ of the same which saw the collaboration between Dizzee Rascal and Florence of Florence + The Machine sell over three hundred thousand copies of their mid-February BRIT Awards’ on-stage mash-up.

Not much to concern ourselves about here… is there?

Not really… so long as those involved (the artists / their management / the musicians involved / relevant record companies etc etc) are all totally cool flying by the seat of their proverbials.

And, so long as those who purchase said artefact of the night, fully understand what they’re shelling out their money for – ‘cos what the public will be offered to acquire will be nothing more than an officially sanctioned bootleg of song X / onstage collaboration Y.

Perhaps I should set my stall out here and state that I believe live recordings contain some of my most favourite moments within all music: this is when it really is down to those four fundamental chords and the truth. Its when the magic of a band at the top of their game can send shivers down the spine; moments that can never be replicated – it is, for the moment and of the moment – a true snapshot in time.

And, something that’s incredibly rare to capture since every single star has to be perfectly in alignment for it – the magic – to happen.

Come with me, if you will and we’ll head off to Hammersmith Palais on the night of September 29th, 1980.

This venerable building began life in 1919 as The Hammersmith Palais de Danse and, besides being a ballroom it hosted an ice rink and was also where tanks were constructed during the war besides doubling as a tram shed. It was also one of the greatest music venues in all of London… and I saw countless bands there… U2 supporting Talking Heads (standing next to Bruce Springsteen on the balcony and later helping smuggle his Broooceness into the dressing room so that Bono and Bruce’s first meeting could be committed to celluloid by (our) photographer who, himself, gained access to the inner sanctum through an open window); OMD, The Clash, the B52s, Nils Lofgren, The Cramps, The Alarm, King Sunny Adé , Orange Juice, The Waterboys and literally dozens of others.

Its a warm, balmy early autumn evening… outside and inside some three thousand or so punters are gathered – John Curd the promoter of many Palais gigs was never that fussed with fire regulations that called for specified maximum numbers of an audience to be adhered to.

Edged up onto the pavement is a big truck; a mobile studio… cables spill from its innards like so much spaghetti, trailing into the venue via side doors. Inside this state of the art (for its time) articulated lorry are slightly-bearded sound engineer Godwin Logie, a veteran from Island Hammersmith studios, The FallOut Shelter and the ever-suave Alex Sadkin, imported over from Compass Point in The Bahamas to produce the recording.

A large spliff smolders on the edge of the desk, the air is fetid with the reek of high quality grass. Marianne Faithfull and her then husband, The Vibrators’ Ben Brierly are hovering in the background. Richard ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson – more regularly employed as front-of-house sound engineer for The Jess Roden Band – meanders back and forth between his desk in the hall and the truck, checking and double-checking.

Inside, it’s a cauldron of noise, heat and anticipation – the latter most keenly felt by those at the sharp end of proceedings. A little over a week previously, a bit of a plan had been hatched… we’re going to create a bit of history here by putting out the fastest live recording in history; the Guinness Book Of Records are in our collective sights.

As near as dammit to the appointed hour, at nine pm, Toots and The Maytals bound on stage… theirs is high-energy reggae, not for them the languid build of a set… it kicks off in the overtaking lane with Pressure Drop (covered by label-mate Robert Palmer) and morphs along the central-reservation barriers almost seamlessly through classic Toots tracks such as Monkey Man, Funky Kingston, Time Tough and his timeless 54-46 That’s My Number… the crowd, predictably, go nuts… and, ninety or so minutes later… this one night of music is all there, committed to reels of two-inch, 24-track, analog tape.

The guys in the truck have been mixing on the hoof; they have time for one more pass of the entire show to readjust levels before filtering out the songs that – for whatever reason – are deemed (in those pre-ProTools days) as being sub-standard… thankfully, the key Toots songs have made it… Crowd noise is edited… the song sequence is chosen… before that is run off as a final, quarter inch, stereo mix.

A fast car is waiting… the stereo mixes – accompanied by Alex Sadkin – head to the mastering suite where the two sides of vinyl will start to take shape. The tapes are run through, levels are once again tweaked and the alchemy of mastering is underway; memory at a distance (in this instance) is hazy but, I’m pretty sure the knob-twiddler in chief would have been John Dent, one of the masters of this alchemic artform. In general terms, a good couple of hours would have been allowed for each track… but, on this particular night where time was of the essence, this vital process would have been cut to maybe two or, at a pinch, three hours max.

In the background – and only once the final album running order had been confirmed – the artwork was being completed… and sent straight to the printers, bypassing the usual colour checking processes.

Once the finished album had been mastered, the fast car was employed yet again – this time, destination EMI’s pressing plant at Hayes… the master became the laquer… the lacquer became the stamper that would produce the vinyl. The presses rolled early in the morning and each album was hand-sleeved… more fast cars stood by and, as record stores in London opened for business, the album was there to buy… recorded and in the shops in under twenty-four hours and yes… a few weeks later, the letter from the Guinness Book Of records people duly arrived.

So… how does all that relate to this evening’s little BRITS exercise…?

I’d say it was more down to the performance than anything… IF – and this a huge ask – IF everything goes according to plan for song X or Y then the sheer logistical exercise of putting that performance up on iTunes isn’t that much of a difficulty.

That IF, however, should be written in sky-high letters. For example – and lets take as one example the Grammys from the other night… in which Bruno Mars’ (sort-of) tribute to James Brown, a song called Grenade went horribly, horribly wrong.

For why…? Master Mars’ vocals were as flat as a pancake throughout much of the song… ooopsy, should’ve used the old auto-tune gadget, son… fixable after the fact in ProTools… yes, undoubtedly but… its time consuming.

So, lets imagine that there is a cock-up with an instrument… violas are notorious but lets think about something more fundamental, the bass drum pedal is at the root of most songs isn’t it?

So, consider what happens IF the mic isn’t securely-enough attached to the floor and, throughout performance Z… it moves… just a few centimeters but, trust me, that’s enough to matter. Why? Sonically (and noticeably) the song is out of kilter. Is it fixable… of course… ProTools to the rescue yet again. However… this, and trust me here, really can be time-consuming.

It’s a process I watched unfold during one of the archive projects I’m engrossed in currently – we wanted to use a particular live recording (from The Marquee since you’re wondering) and an absolute belter of a performance it is too.

However, during initial playback of the two inch multitracks something sounded… out… we couldn’t quite figure it out but, definitely something was wrong. My lankily-haired, cup-cake-eating, engineer cocked his head on one side… listened intently again and again then, one by one, started to ‘solo’ every single mic-input.

‘Aha… found it… the bass-drum mic moved.’ he pronounced after an hour of twiddling. ‘And the solution is…?’ I asked – worrying that this might be a problem too far even for his skill-set.

‘Well…’ he said, scratching what passes for a beard… ‘I could take one bass-drum beat right at the start where everything is aligned properly and use that and put it back on every beat in the song… that should, in theory, do the trick… you might want to go and make a big pot of coffee, though… we’re in for the long haul… it’ll probably take the rest of the day.’

The song was nine minutes long and… it did take the rest of the day. Ultimately, it did get fixed but the point is, it would have been unusable without that fix.

With the BRITS tonight… how will they do this; make sure that that we, the end-users – the iTunes purchasers, are on the receiving end of performances that are as good as they can be in every single way?

Well, if they’re heading down the sheer speed route, I’d imagine its highly unlikely that they’ll use the actual performance from the televised show – there will be a safety net in place whereby the run throughs, the sound-checks will have been recorded and those performances will act as audio-security… perhaps with a live (auto-tuned) vocal laid on top.

Why..? Well, I can’t imagine any of tonight’s scheduled performing (loosely applied adjective as that is) acts such as Take That, Plan B, Rihanna, Cee Lo or Tinie Tempah) comfortable enough with their own – raw – performances to allow anything sub-standard out there.

Arcade Fire or The Mumfords… perhaps… but then again and in the cold light of day, would one want to really head over to iTunes and pay to download a copy of The Mumfords backing His Bobness, growling out a dirge-like Maggies Farm from the recent Grammys?

You know what… quite honestly, I reckon its far better to leave everything as is… don’t bother with the kerfuffle and uncertainty (and undoubted pressure) of recording to release from a show like this… leave it as a moment in time that can be found on YouTube in time to come, just like so many great performances where the visual combines with the audio – and its that which makes it work as well as it does – as a final example, Mick Jagger’s solo Grammys performance of Everybody Needs Somebody To Love was hardly perfect but, the visual of Mick as man in motorway service station caught out by an over-hot hand-drier in the men’s lavaotories, belting it out made it work.
Celluloid Heroes #1 John Barry (The Beyondness Of Things)
There is an inescapable quietness, an unavoidable sadness that underpins today: the world is collectively mourning one of the compositional giants of modern music – John Barry.

There will, no doubt, be acres of prose written in the next however long in praise of his lush melodies and remarkable prowess with minor and major chords as well as his skill at letting notes just hang in the air like so much honeysuckle-scent on an evening breeze.

Yet – more often than not, it wasn’t (as I believe Miles Davis once said) the notes that were played that counted, but those that weren’t – JB created spaces within music in which one’s imagination was left to roam.

Above all, though, it is the sheer elegance of his music; exemplified by a series of unmatched film scores that were… still are… (and crucially) remain to be discovered by generations to come… his remarkable legacy.

Quite a few years ago (in 1999 to be exact), when a project involved a close working relationship with The English Chamber Orchestra, they played a couple of nights under JB’s baton at The Royal Albert Hall. This was a year of so after JB had signed to Decca and released his first non-soundtrack album for a quarter of a century, the timeless The Beyondness Of Things.

Not being on the ball as rapidly as I should have been, I missed out at the box-office. The shows were beyond sold-out; tickets were as hard to find as hen’s teeth – this being only the second time in many, many, years that JB had played a UK show and coming on the back of the critical acclaim that his Beyondness album had received. Thus, it was all about cadging a gigantic favour. So, it was after much grovelling and begging on bended knee, that a pair of guest tickets arrived in the post.

In the hall that night, as my pal Honest John (the financial adviser) and I settled in the side-stalls, the air was thick with expectation… could the maestro deliver; would these themes of his, these glorious and magnificent melodies translate to a space like this without the visual benefit of being set to celluloid?

The players took their seats, tuned up as they do – taking their cue from number one fiddler – then the lights dimmed. Smaller than imagined, a gaunt, somewhat insignificant-looking, grey-haired figure took to the platform…

He tapped his baton a couple of times and then… the distant thunder of kettle drums cracked the air; the strident shout of trombones marched to the beat as swelling strings added their own counterpoint to… the opening title-music to Zulu.

Three or so minutes later, as the final chords washed away, there was absolute silence for maybe five or six seconds (although it felt longer). Then the audience, as one, stood as an explosion of applause detonated throughout the hall.

Two and a bit hours later, the man who conducted by using his shoulders as much as his baton had satiated the five or so thousand people in the hall with music. As much as we’d been beguiled by the lushness of the Beyondness album, we’d been treated to a voyage through his soundtracks by way of symphonic sadness within the likes of Out Of Africa and Mary Queen Of Scots and the evergreen branches of enticement of a near-thirty minute James Bond medley.

It was one of the greatest shows (among countless hundreds) I’ve been luck enough to witness.

Was he a composer as important as (say) Puccini or Beethoven? Should he be revered as painter of musical sound-scapes as important as (say) Monet or Kandinsky?

Yes, I would argue that JB rightly occupies a pedestal alongside those who are rightly regarded as colossuses within their own field.

The world is a richer place for his music and a sadder one for his untimely passing.

Fare thee well then, JB… a lion of Africa sleeps tonight.
Thieves Like Us
Woke up…
Dragged a comb across my head…

Yeah, you know how that song goes… part of the soundtrack to my youth as much as it is to this and every other generation that’ll follow.

And, this morning, I did exactly that… well, not really – took a bit of a squint in the mirror whilst gargling with the old Listerine Total Care (Cinnamint flavour since you’re wondering – I’ve become a bit bored with the mint only of late) and thought… hmm, ok, that’ll have to do… the bags under the eyes (which I thought’d look cool / make me look a bit lived in when I was younger than today but which, actually, are now permanent fixtures) aren’t gonna go away… time to get on with my day.

Then… the unmistakable sound of the Inner Terrier barking ferociously, straining at its leash from within its kennel.

Damn, whats got him so worked up… I’ve a load of research to complete, Skype calls with my lawyer later, masses of writing to do, dozens of emails to answer, designs to be getting on with as well as new designs to start and… just a whole shedload of… stuff… to be getting on with.

But the Inner Terrier is barking louder than before… interspersed with a strange kind of yowling sound. OK, best go see what’s up.

Aha… The headline (via was enough… RapidShare Accuses ‘Piracy Report’ Publisher of Defamation; Might Sue.

Ok… no wonder the Inner Terrier was way beyond just apoplectic yapping. This relates to the widely published story that was picked up by the likes of the BBC yesterday when RapidShare were ‘branded’ as being the leading digital piracy site.

RapidShare – for their part – have responded by emphasising that they are a legitimate company.

Well… it is clear that with such opposing viewpoints that one side or the other are trolling out Porky Pies.

And, this little Voltaire out on its windswept knoll would like to tell you who, precisely, is being untruthful. Yes, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen – readers of this little Voltaire as far flung around the globe as you truly are… it is RapidShare who are about as illegitimate a company as trades as makes no difference.

Indeed… of late, courts in Germany have ruled (that’s confirmed legally to the likes of you and me) that RapidShare runs a perfectly legal business.

However… that is absolute and utter CRAP. They don’t.

For the hard of hearing, I’ll repeat that… the people who runs these sites are deluded at best – they’re simply offering a service that rips off creatives.

Because… RapidShare (along with MegaUpload) are the leading conduits for any piece of music that you care to think of… the channel or means or… route (however you care to term it) … to download whatever you feel like listening to (or viewing) FOR FREE.

Which, basically, means that creative person X does not get paid.

Please, therefore could someone explain how that is legal?

Its not… is it?

Nevertheless, apparently RapidShare’s big-wigs are so incensed at being labeled the world’s largest ‘digital piracy site’ that they’re considering legal action on the grounds that this ‘statement’ by MarkMonitor – culled from a report via the RIAA and others – is defamatory.

Indeed, RapidShare have gone so far as to offer up their own statement… “This defamation of RapidShare as a digital piracy site is absurd and we reserve the right to take legal action against MarkMonitor. RapidShare is a legitimate company that offers its customers fast, simple and secure storage and management of large amounts of data via our servers.”

Defamatory… my arse… its not! It’s the truth…

And, for the disbelievers (and I fail to see who could fail to grasp this)… here’s how it works. This is how easy it is to download any piece of music you like / fancy – FOR FREE – via the likes of RapidShare or MegaUpload.

Step 1… Log on to your favoured internet browser… type in (for example) the album title you’re looking for and search for it using the ‘image search’ function.

Step 2… Scroll down a bit – past all the links to the likes of iTunes and HMV digital and so forth… down a bit further and you’ll find the blogspots that ‘purport’ to ‘write’ about particular Album X.

Step 3… Click on the image link and that’ll (generally) take you to the blog page so illustrated. Scroll down a bit, past the album cover… and you’ll find the track-listing and, more often than not, a box marked links.

Step 4… Hit the link – sometimes it’s not even hidden away in a box but there, in plain sight for anyone to see… and, that link will open up a new page.

Step 5… That new page will offer you your download and more often than not, you’ll find that page hosted by… yes, you’ve guessed it… either RapidShare or MegaUpload.

Step 6… Click on ‘download this file’ and, depending on the speed of your connection, you can be listening to your own copy of Album X – FOR FREE – within five minutes or so.

(for exactness, this isn’t a precise science… from time to time you have to kiss a few internet frogs along the way… but, ultimately, it shouldn’t take much more than ten minutes of searching to provide the link you’re looking for).

And… that is legal?

Nope… I don’t think so…

And… can it be stopped? On balance I’d say no… it cannot. The likes of RapidShare will not be shutting the doors to their zillion-times terabyte servers any time soon – after all, they’re making a small fortune acting as conduits.

Equals, this form of filesharing ain’t gonna go away.

So… is there a solution?

Fuck yeah… With the technology available, how hard would it be to enforce a methodology that makes this new form of distribution a legal way to dole out music (and film / games etc etc)?

And… via that methodology – which would mean the likes of RapidShare / MegaUpload etc paying a form of royalty based on downloads – it would mean that the creatives – the song-writers… the copyright holders… the people who invent games… the authors… the film-makers… are FAIRLY PAID.

Enough… I need to take the Inner Terrier out for his walk; he’s howling like a banshee. However, I’ll end this by appending a few pithy sentences from the noted author, David Thomas (aka Tom Cain). Not much more needs to be added (other than to state he granted permission for his words to be used here).

One of these days, the entertainment industry will find the form of words that explains a few very simple ideas to the people who steal copyright material and the theorists who dispute the very meaning of copyright itself.

Such as, for example … when you rip off a music file you steal the musician’s work and deny them the means of earning a living … no one would expect a plumber to work for free, why should a pianist, an actor or an author? … if you larcenous fuckwits keep stealing stuff, then eventually no one will be able to afford to spend the tens or even hundreds of millions it costs to make a movie, or the months and years it takes to write a novel, and then where will you be?
Broken English
It is the time of the year when those who’ve made their New Year resolutions start to break ‘em: you know the kind of thing… awash with Champagne on New Year’s Eve, gazing unsteadily into the eyes of the one you love, you pledge daily visits to the gym, self-discipline that equates to a pumping iron regime that’ll make you all the more attractive by… oh, Valentine’s Day latest.

Did I make one of these resolutions..? Well, not really – I certainly didn’t make futile promises to dust down my running shoes in a vague attempt at getting fitter.

Nevertheless, I did think to myself whilst quaffing a rather pleasing item from the Veuve Clicquot stable and watching the fireworks that perhaps 2011 would be the year when I became less of a perennial grump.

So, in between sips from the sippy-cup and as the clock turned, I decided that I’d let my Jack Russell tendencies off the leash.

And… you know what..? All was going swimmingly until… the inner Terrier bounded up and started snapping ferociously earlier today.

It had spied such utter hypocrisy it couldn’t be ignored.

Sadly, however, I can’t imagine that the little news item that the inner Terrier spotted will be among the front-runner on News At Ten tonight, nor would it fight for a place in the headlines on ABC News or France Soir or whatever the German equivalent is. Will it make the Antipodean equivalent of TVN 24 Horas in Chile…? I rather doubt it. Where will it be placed on RTPN in Portugal or will they ignore it just as much as CBC in Canada undoubtedly will? That, too, is highly probable.

So… what is this duplicity and double standards that have so incensed; what has raised the inner Terrier’s hackles to vertical?

OK… here is the full quote from Daniel Raimer who is RapidShare AG’s lawyer (and spokesman). RapidShare have just overturned a court ruling where, originally, Atari (the gaming company) had said RapidShare did not take sufficient measures against copyright infringement.

“The ruling demonstrates once again that RapidShare is operating a fully legal range and has taken measures against the misuse of its service which go beyond the level that is legally required. We are confident that copyright holders will gradually come to accept this conclusion.“

This is absolute, total… BOLLOX.

This little Voltaire out on its grassy knoll has expounded on this before but, this latest court ruling – and the utterly contemptible accompanying quote – has started the inner Terrier growling as well as barking loudly.

Because… the simple fact of the matter is that RapidShare (and dozens of other similar ‘sites’) host files that are shared by ‘consumers’ from which the rights owners do not earn.

There is so much proof of the above being absolute FACT out there in wibbly-wobbly-web land that there is no requirement for further expansion or examples here.

File-sharing (in this manner) is, to all intents and purposes, the new distribution of music… (and film, tv, video and so forth).

And, no matter what all the worthy people at the tops of those respective industries say they’re going to do to stop it, they’re ignoring the incontrovertible fact that the stable door got left open long ago and… the horse went that-a-way.

So… while it is entirely galling to read the complete pack of lies that Daniel Raimer spouted earlier – and, being a lawyer he should know a lot better – isn’t it better to accept that Shanks’ pony has bolted over the near horizon and implement a practical solution whereby rights holders are paid?

I mean… its not difficult… is it?

IF music is to be freely available – and all the recently published figures detailing sales downturns point to that as an inevitable conclusion (cf recent editions of Billboard etc) – then these *new distribution channels* are going to have to contribute – otherwise the creators’ creativity will simply dry up… they’ll starve.

RapidShare (so it proudly notes) is one of the 100 most visited websites on the planet. It estimates that over 400,000 files are uploaded to its servers every single day. In any calendar year, that equates to more than 14.5 million. The company has over 1,000 servers with combined storage capacity measured in Petabytes (one unit being I million gigabytes). The bandwidth that their millions of visitors a day occupy means that the income they are generating is colossal. Oh, and lets not forget the subscription services they offer as well.

In other words, RapidShare are generating seriously huge sums of money and yet… as things stand… they do NOT make any payments to ‘rights holders’ for distributing those ‘rights’ as they do.

Hypocritical – yes, I would argue so… wouldn’t you?

Limetorrents is another in a similar vein. However (and rather cleverly) on their web site they state that they are: a torrent search engine and directory which do NOT host torrent files but links to torrents hosted on other websites. We do NOT have any copyrighted or illegal content on Limetorrents, and we do NOT host torrent files on our servers.

Technically correct and very much holier than thou… But, straight out of the school of ‘nuttin’ to do with me guv’…

One wonders how they manage to keep a straight face (other than laughing all the way to the bank) when simple random searches show them to be offering links to literally any film, game or piece of music one cares to think of.

And… for taking their place within this new distribution egg and spoon race, what do LimeWire contribute to the creatives? Jack shit.

With the kind of numbers that companies such as these two (of very many similar) reporting, it would be impractical to try to instigate internal systems whereby ever single file uploaded was pre-screened.

Nevertheless, since this method of distribution is gradually becoming the norm and to stop it becoming what it now is – the unacceptable – then methodology has to be put in place whereby these distributors of ‘rights’ contribute.

This Voltaire on its grassy, windswept knoll, therefore wonders what on earth organisations such as PRS are actually doing to protect their members from the rape and pillage being meted out by companies such RapidShare who are contentedly boating down the middle of the fast-flowing river of pure profit?
Picture This
Dunno about you but, I’m a bit of an information junkie… For instance, I devour sleeve notes; call me a train-spotter but I really do like to know the inner bits and bobs behind the recording of the record I’m listening to… and, I don’t believe I’m alone in that enjoyment.

Same goes for art galleries… as much as I like to go and gaze at painting X or Y by great-master A or B, the same goes for the captioning thereof. To me, its all part of the learning; the acquisition of knowledge if you like – the tale behind the painting adds immeasurably to the pleasure in looking at what the exhibit’s curator has hung on the wall.

The upper space in this particular gallery is all whitewashed walls and rectangular shapes. The floors are anonymous pine planks; Norwegian blonde – each footfall echo bounces back in an area otherwise bereft of meaningful life. It reeks of uninviting post-industrial chic.

And, this scrupulously scrubbed room into which I have wandered through a wide white opening is perhaps forty feet wide by maybe thirty deep and about fifteen or so in height.

And there, hanging artistically off-centre and suspended from the ceiling, occupying some (but not all) of the white space in this white box-lozenge that has no door, is a huge jumble of autumnal-hued… string.

The string – so I’m reliably informed by the caption that’s been stuck at eye-level on the white wall – entitled ‘Untitled Number One’.

The first line of this ‘caption’ reads as follows: You may imagine that this is unfinished.

Taking my cue from the caption – bible-black, 14 point, Times Roman on the scrubbed-white wall – I extend my imagination.

However, much like an engine running low on diesel, it only travels so far: it splutters to a halt at the point when I’ve decided the dangling mess of twine resembles nothing other than a poorly assembled squirrel’s dray that has recently been savaged by a hungry feline on its quest for hatchling breakfast.

Looking for clues, I re-examine the caption again, the one that solemnly informs me: You may imagine this is unfinished. Sorry pal, I don’t imagine anything of the kind actually… What I clearly see – and right before my eyes – is a heap of total bollox… full-throttle pretentious, art-installation, crap. The person who ‘assembled it’, the people who commissioned this thing… AND the person who wrote this ‘caption’ – all of ‘em should be ashamed of themselves.

But… why are you here Neil… especially when you know this sort of thing irritates the be-jaysus out of you? Ahh… I’m here because… but, you know what, I really wish I hadn’t bothered. Where, why, what, how, when… then?

Just the other day actually – when it seemed like a beezer idea to avoid Christmas shopping by nipping in to have a squint around an Exhibition that advertised itself as displaying loads of Edward Hopper pictures.

And, since I’ve been a bit of a sucker for Hopper’s art since my mid-teens… off I toddled. The only problem was that the advertising exaggerated somewhat… there were only a very few of Hopper’s work on display and very few had any meaningful captioning either. Plus, since the gallery’s coffee-emporium was closed and they’d indulged in daylight robbery to actually get in to said gallery, exploration of the other floors seemed in order. Hence the reasons for the irritating ball of string encounter.

Anyway, Hopper’s art and I first became acquainted by way of another artist – Edward Kasper who I imagine, (tho’ honestly don’t know for sure), probably drank deep from the well of Hopper’s realism-inspired-inspiration. Edward Kasper… who’s he?

He’s the bloke responsible for this – the wrap-around poster-like sleeve to the original inner for The Band’s Moondog Matinee.

Not, frankly, the greatest album they ever delivered but it’s contained within one of my favourite covers. And, it’s not too far a throw of the imagination to see Kasper’s sleeve-art with its own antecedence in Hopper’s own Nighthawk’s masterpiece of 1942.

Which, led me to thinking… album art is not what once it was… is it?

Growing up musically (before) and during time spent at the coal-face of Island Records, one of CB’s (Chris Blackwell – founder of) firm beliefs that was imbued within us was… and I’m quoting him here; “If you felt that the artwork was intriguing then there must be something going on inside; there’s some thought, there’s some creativity. Artwork was very important to Island’s life”.

And it was… oh but it really was. Yet, as we moved from the 12 square inches – a format that gave designers space within and on which to create – through cassettes and in to CDs, the size came to matter. Why? ‘cos the combination of the art and the information became almost a by-product of the whole. It was as if… look, you’ve got the music, what more do you want?

And now, the art that comes with our music has been reduced to the size of a postage-stamp since that is what iTunes downloads dictate.

Time was when new-release record X or Y would appear in one’s local Diskery; the hard-earned would be handed over and one’d hop back on the bus and then it was either back home or to a mate’s house full of eager anticipation not just for the needle to make its first drop onto pristine vinyl but… to examine – in detail – the sleeve in which said new release resided. Why?

Because these sleeves were not only (in general terms) works of art in their own right but one also elicited a heap of information: who played what and with whom… who produced this or that… which studios were used… who engineered this or that… who was this or that person thanked and what role did they play in the overall proceedings? One stored this information up in one’s head and applied it to other albums, thereby drawing up a form of knowledge database.

Download your ‘product’ off of iTunes and none of this is contained within your download… you get the music (of course) plus the pea-sized replica of the sleeve. And that’s it.

The other day, I finally – and I’ll be beating myself for being late to the ball here – for some time to come… but, anyway, I managed to cotton on to what is rapidly becoming my album of the year. Seasons Of My Soul by the chanteuse otherwise known as Rumer.

And yes, the album art – a nice black and white image of the young lady – nestles quite comfortably in my iTunes folder. And (or should that be but) as much as I really like the music, there is nothing much – other than that nice black and white image – to look at. No real ‘information’ to acquire.

Big pity really… that the digital generation are cheated of this pleasure. I understand its not for everyone… but, I tend to think its for more than maybe people realise.

Perhaps that’s why there is a very real rise in vinyl sale… not just because of the (well-known) warmth of the musical-listening experience but equally because the sleeve designers can create better than is possible with a palette the size of a stamp.
You’re Not Going Out Dressed Like That
It really has been a long old journey.

Ambling on stage is a five-piece band: first up is the boy-girl-boy bass player who sports short-cropped hair in a style that kd lang would ultimately confiscate as her own.

The lanky, shaggy-haired, drummer steps up to his mark: he wears an un-ironed Hawaiian shirt that could well have begun life by being drenched in the rabid colour scheme much-admired by Axminster carpet designers in the Fifties. The shirt has clearly lived a life of its own and looks as if it was lifted from a Salvation Army thrift store; impatiently, he raps out paradiddles on his snare-drum, waiting for the twin-guitarists to tune up.

The rangy axe-meister stage right – the one wearing the pencil thin tie, stands motionless; staring darkly into the middle distance, clutching the neck of his guitar so firmly that the veins on his stick-thin arms stand out.

The other tremolo-bender is raw-boned and facially angular as if chipped from the same block that carved Ian Curtis; un-smiling, he stares down at the assembled as if sizing up the length of a dole queue on Giro-collection day.

The singer who fronts this beat-combo is last to take his place.

Be-spectacled, possessed of thinning hair, he is anything but angular and more resembles a genial bookmaker or someone from accounts that you only see at Christmas parties – being violently sick into a potted palm in the corner after three too many Babychams.

It would not be unreasonable to say he looks entirely out of place in this place – he is sporting a slightly grubby, known-better-days, tartan dinner jacket above highly polished brogues and a quizzical grin.

Dateline: May 17th, 1980. Outside the University of Newcastle, the moon waxed in a perfect crescent.

If any of the History students attending to the bottom of their pints of Lager-top were thinking about it, they could well have been contemplating the 459th anniversary of the 3rd Duke Of Buckingham losing his head via a well-sharpened blow on Tower Hill. If that seemed unlikely, one couldn’t help but wonder if they were transfixed to the side of the Students Union bar by discussion of that very day being the 180th anniversary of the Relief Of Mafeking.

Maybe, however, their minds were further afield – contemplating the fact that martial law had, that very day, been imposed by General Chun Doo-hwan in South Korea in order to quell the student demonstrations that had broken out on the far side of their world. Maybe not.

In any event, the atmosphere that night was as sterile as a vasectomy, the room as welcoming as an under warmed oven; the only sound being the shuffling of feet wrapped up in a puzzled collective gaze at this bunch of misfits taking the stage.


The lights go down and the group’s first tune chugs into motion as the singer begins to sing songs drawn deep from the well of pure pop; collectively, they’ve reached deep down into the urn of angst where the shimmering light of soul meets the touch-point of dance. Collective heads, as one, turn…

Looking back, it was hardly a shock that uber-critics of the day (such as the NME’s David Quantick, Paul Morley and Sounds’ Dave McCullough) lauded this band from high in their marbled-towers as they did. The real bolt from the blue was that the great British public almost unanimously refused to catch on. The group were unceremoniously booted out by their record label and, after a period of time in the outer limits, fizzled out like a beautiful shooting star dropping over the far horizon.

Fast-forward thirty years and a little bit.

In the postbox are two card-sleeved CDs which, to be totally honest, I’d entirely forgotten were being sent. Yes, I’d been told that they were being mailed but, in this digital day and age, one is more used to ‘I’ll send them in the post’ meaning having one’s email in-box clogged with file-attachments that nestle up to solicitations suggesting I’d benefit from penis-enlargement than actually getting hold of the actual, physical… real thing… itself.

So… here they were, these two CDs – staring up at me from inside their dirt-brown Jiffy bag – that represented this group’s first new recordings in… twenty-five years or so. I gazed at the two sleeves – perfect little works of art in themselves – suddenly realising that I’d become just a little nervous for the music they contained.

Yes, the seed of doubt had taken hold – would these match up?

It’s all very well to hope, to hark back to those original recordings that remain as fresh today as when first laid down. But… would this just be a case of the two key components of a band giving it one last forlorn shot when really, they shouldn’t have bothered with booking the studio time? Only one way to find out…

That first moment of jangling guitar should have told me… the first moment of that voice certainly did. It has matured – and is now a subtle mix of summer sunshine honeydew melon infused with rich molasses; perhaps (quite possibly) a smattering of Smokey Robinson by way of Darryl Hall in there too… embracing yet not overtaking the space within the chord progressions. Here it was: three chords and the truth – alchemy within a melody pool.

But, above all… it’s all about the songs; and there are tunes here that are absolute, stone-ground, classics.

Yes, I know very well that that is a ridiculously over-used adjective, especially when used in a descriptive manner, nestled up alongside songs. But… you’ll have to trust me here. Really… you will.

Still unsure? OK… for the hard of accepting, lets put it this way: IF Jarvis Cocker had penned either Lost or Nicole, then the world of critics (swiftly followed by the public) would be all over ‘em like a cheap suit, claiming they were two of the great – lost – British pop songs.

Let us celebrate then: the globe’s most unlikely pop stars are back and… within the all-pervasive X-Tractor climate, my iPod is thankful that Father Christmas has dropped down the chimney a little bit early. So… why don’t you make yours a happy digital-download-device… put aside the mince pies for just a few moments and do the right thing… OK?

Because… my Lords, Ladies, Gentlemen and other readers of this little Voltaire out on its windswept grassy knoll on the world-wide-Prairie … please charge your glasses and welcome back… The Distractions.

The Sound Of The Suburbs
The other night, while watching a favourite TV programme, a new (well, to my eyes anyway) level of advertiser’s intrusiveness was laid in front of us; the consumers curled up on the comfy sofa.

The commercial break was, as usual, annoying enough since it – again, as usual – interrupted the programme’s flow. But, it was what followed said commercial break that proved so aggravating because it appears that advertisers now feel we – the viewers / the consumers – can be devalued by a new treat from their bag of tricks.

And this new indulgence of theirs is..?

Well, the programme in question kicked off again… but… placed at the bottom left of the screen occupying (at a rough guess) approximately ten percent of the physical screen-space… was a run-on of one of the previous advertisements.

And, this animated mini-ad remained in situ for the entire duration of that segment of the programme.

With its’ positioning, one’s eye cannot help but be drawn to what is going on at the bottom left-hand-corner of the screen. Clever in one respect but exasperating and deeply annoying in another since this particular ad takes up just enough screen-room to intrude into what is actually going on in the programme one has tuned in to view.

Did it work, did this advert communicate its message? Did it bollox.

Lets take another quick example – which, according to Steve Purdham (CEO of an internet music streaming service in the UK called We7) is tied up in something he likes to call ‘dwell-time’. This (apparently – yeah, I know, it’s a laughable phrase, isn’t it) is the time one spends on site X or Y ‘engaging’ or ‘interacting’ with what they – the provider – have to offer.

Bypassing the corporate bullshit speak, it links into how they – the advertisers – can specifically target their audience. This is done via all the ‘bots’ out there that track one’s movements on the web (and there are more than anyone even imagines – hence new legislation in progress to combat big brother’s snooping tactics).

Clever… for sure it is. But… what actually happens is that one is continually being bombarded with advertisements that, because of their intrusive nature, are now having very little effect.

The other day, I was prowling about on the wibbly-wobbly after information and eventually linked in to an instructional video for a particular PhotoShop CS5 element I was having trouble grasping. But, before my cyber-teacher and I could ‘engage’, I was subjected to a thirty second advert.

The same goes for (herewith just another random example) tuning in to view a BBC video news feed off their site. Sorry chaps… I do NOT want to watch thirty or even fifteen seconds of advertising before I get to the news item in question.

So, all you advertising wallahs out there… know what happens…? I’ll go and stick the kettle on while your beastly advert plays out. And, quite honestly, I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Y’see, this little Voltaire out there on its grassy knoll in the windswept prairie reckons this (new) level of intrusive advertising is completely counter-productive. And, it ain’t the way forward for this medium.

Advertising is and has – for as long as anyone who reads this can remember – been part of the daily function of our lives. No big deal… it’s just a part of modern life.

However… with the economic world still grappling with being part of the new Millennium, the advertising agencies are trawling the depths of the barrel marked ‘new ideas’ as to how to get their messages across.

Some – indubitably – work brilliantly; lets take the Nike ‘swoosh’ logo as one example… its just an image, a graphic, an emblem and yet… gradually its seeped into the public consciousness and its now known the world over for what it is. No need for ramming the word Nike down anyone’s throat; no need for copyrighters’ silly tag-lines… just the graphic unobtrusively positioned. Very clever

Rapha (purveyors of top-of-the-line cycling clothing) are another such. It’s a brand created by Simon Mottram and he’s very cleverly positioned his company as much by subliminal advertising as by generating high-quality apparel that is and yet doesn’t appear to be branded (much like Nike).

One’d have thought that the market for cycling and accessories (clothing being a key component) would be limited. Not so. Mintel (as quoted in The Independent on November 4th) have stated it is worth 700 million (yes… million) squiddlys in the UK alone. And, in 2011 it’ll be even higher.

Among the (many) component factors that have clearly helped are the Manx Missile’s exploits in the Tour making front page news to the Boris-bikes initiative; from Briton’s winning a sack-full of medals at the last Olympics to people in general getting the message that getting out and about on your bike is a good step forward to being healthy.

And Mottram and his Rapha brand are not just riding the crest of that wave but expanding step by step internationally. And doing so exceedingly cleverly; while the US is now their biggest market he’s recently brought in a chap previously at Adidas to spearhead their forays into Europe.

The other day, I was out and about in a bit of a shopping frame of mind – perusing the wares on offer in a sports emporium; a shop that offered (across its four floors) everything one’d require if one was a real back-packer to gadgets designed to get the very best out of a snorkeling experience; from football strips in one’s favourite team colours to hiking boots and biking gear; from tennis racquets to rugby balls.

And… ploughing along the rails of replica cycling team-jerseys one stood out from the rest. It was off-white with the maker’s (team) logo discreetly positioned over the left breast in a silvery-white. From a distance, it looked like a simple off-white cycling jersey. Close up, the cleverness of the design became apparent.

How can white on white work..? Well… let me assure you, this did… it was exceedingly cool… and, not to put too fine a point on it, this Rapha jersey was the absolute puppy’s privates. Had I the spare wherewithal, I’d have had the plastic swiped and the item in a carrier bag with no hesitation.

In design terms, retro-chic is, I believe, the adjectival expression.

And, retro-chic that’s classy as opposed to the shoddy stab at the same genre by the designers of Team Sky’s dreadful 2010 outfit which, incidentally, hung alongside the Rapha jersey on the same clothing rail.

In 1930, Jose Ortega was quoted saying, “We live at a time when man believes himself fabulously capable of creation but he does not know what to create.”

The same rings true today. We’re in the middle of a(nother) industrial revolution… and, just because there are different variants on advertising delivery / brand-awareness now available, it doesn’t follow that the model of twenty or thirty years ago will work.

While those that do embrace it will succeed, equally, its time that advertisers (in general) woke up and got smart to the fact that they’re simply pissing off potential customers – otherwise and before too long, someone smart will set up a pay-wall behind which people who don’t want to be intruded upon can retreat and not be subjected to what is, nowadays, advertising harassment.
Remake Remodel
So… to use (loathsome) modern music-biz parlance, Michael Jackson’s ‘new single’ Breaking News has… dropped.

And, dear reader, I have to inform you that… to all intents and purposes, it’s a bonafide turd.

It opens with 35 seconds of, poorly cobbled-together, spoken ‘news reporting headlines’ (eg: More allegations against the King Of Pop; Another lawsuit against Michael Jackson etc etc) played through static as if the listener was twisting the dial on an old fashioned radio.

Tellingly… the word unauthorised is used repeatedly.

Then, Jackson himself – so we’re led to believe – steps up the plate at 54 seconds in over a piss-poor breaking news (sic) shufflebeat accompanied by sampled violins with the opening line of: “Everybody wanting a piece of Michael Jackson; Every reporter stalking the moves of Michael Jackson; Just when you thought he was done; He comes to give it again,” And, in the next line the singer mentions his (own) obituary.

And, it may well be – although probably not the one that he’d have liked.

Because… to the ears of this Voltaire out on its grassy knoll on the world-wide-windswept prairie, this doesn’t much sound like Michael Jackson singing before he entered or from beyond the grave.

It actually sounds like one of two things: either a very average MJ impersonator – you know the ones… young lads who appear of programmes like X-Factor and other rubbish TV like that. They’re all dressed up, their hair is done just so, they’ve practiced the moves, privately, in front of a bedroom mirror for months using a hairbrush as a microphone and someone, somewhere has said… ‘hey son, for you… Opportunity Knocks’.

Generally speaking, they disappear into the oblivion from whence they came.

Either that or this is conceivably a rough demo containing (probably) a guide vocal together with a ‘rough arrangement’ that a ‘producer’ has gotten a hold of and… ‘produced’.

According to Michael Jackson dot com, the song was cut during 2007 by someone called Eddie Cascio at his home in Franklin Lakes, New Jersey; ma and pa Cascio are, apparently, restaurant owners who specialize in Italian cuisine and gave their son his start in music by funding his piano lessons. Beats beating out pizza dough.

Graduating from Drew University, Cascio – via family connections – started writing for the New York based publishing company Sony / ATV Music before founding his own production company Angelikson Music and going on to work with the likes of Luther Vandross, Usher and NSYNC. And, apparently, Jacko tipped up in late ’07 chez Cascio and… laid down a few tunes.

However… and I confess to finding this pretty extraordinary, these ‘tracks’ that Cascio allegedly ‘produced’ of Jacko’s lay dormant (undiscovered / un-talked of) when Jackson’s estate recently concluded a deal with Sony – reportedly for 200 million dollars.

Hmmm… the woodwork squeaks and out come the freaks.

Sony have issued a press-statement that contains one or two interesting ‘wordings’ together with committing the cardinal sin within any media-release – that of using adjectival language. For example they state that this posthumous album (entitled Michael) is ‘much anticipated’. Is it…? That should be down to the public to decide, should it not?

Be that as it may, they also state that the album will be released by Epic in conjunction with the Estate Of Michael Jackson. Frankly as it should be but… how do they now quantify Jackson’s mother (Katherine) using the word fake (according to news sources) when discussing this posthumous album project (from which this track is culled) with… yes, you guessed – and who else but… Oprah Winfrey.

Indeed, TMZ are also reporting Prince and Paris (two of Jackson’s children) stating that they do not believe the vocals on parts of the album are their father’s.

Reading a bit further into Sony / Epic’s mdia-release we learn that: “Breaking News,” a never heard before song by Michael that appears on the new album was recorded in New Jersey in 2007 and recently brought to completion (my italics).

Aha… and therein lies the rub, the nub of the whole matter.

Clearly, even Sony / Epic are admitting that a producer has gotten a hold of this and… produced it.

Poorly at that.

IF it had the kudos of (say) someone with credentials such as Quincy Jones or even Will.I.Am then I should imagine people would take this posthumous offering a lot more seriously.

Do I have any authority to offer that as an opinion? Actually, yes I do.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been working on a number of tracks exactly as that – the only difference being that the artist with whom I’ve been working is very much alive.

Nevertheless, his view – to which I heartily subscribe – is as follows: while previously unheard track X or Y has value to the consumer within the context of an artist’s full body of work and therefore should be cleaned up and brought to the sonic standards people expect to hear in 2010; demos and especially those with guide vocals are best left as they were actually recorded. They are snapshots in time – and therefore should be left as exactly that.

Plus – although this was many years ago, I did have the singular pleasure of meeting the King Of Pop. We stood side by side in the gentleman’s urinals at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London when the annual BRIT Awards were hosted there. As his Giant Haystacks-sized minder guarded the door, we acknowledged the other’s presence by a simple nod of the head and got on the with business in hand (sic), staring at the white marble straight ahead, as gentlemen are won’t to do in such circumstances.

IF it began life as that, Breaking News probably sounded pretty interesting as a work-in-progress demo but now its been produced (with or without his own vocals) it sounds like extraneous matter within the largely formidable cannon of Jacko’s main body of work.

As it has been presented, “Breaking News” is the audio equivalent of a badly photoshopped picture.

And the thing is with turds… no matter how hard one tries, they cannot be polished.
Don’t Bang The Drum
A few days ago, dear old Auntie BBC broadcast the first in their series of Electric Proms performances – the mighty Leon Russell musically re-united with Sir Reg of Pinner – live and direct from The Roundhouse.

Not only was one able to view Sir Reg’s hair-extensions as well as LR’s monumental white beard in High Definition but, one could – if one chose to – listen along in equally HD sound via the BBC’s I-Player.

And I most certainly did. Not once but quite a few times – perfect music-while-you-work fodder. A few bits, frankly, didn’t bear repeated listens but… most certainly some of the stuff that featured more LR than EJ did.

And… it got me thinking… wouldn’t it be great to have an audio souvenir of that evening at The Roundhouse. Not least, as I know that stuff up on the old I-Player gadget is only available for a while, ie its time specific.

So… how would I listen to my favourite bits in, say, a couple of months time?

One phone call to the audio-equivalent of Dr Watson, located a couple of parishes away, three emails later and a bit more Holmes-like investigation on the wibbly-wobbly, and… a rather splendid solution presented itself.

Its a gadget called Audio Hijack.

And, while its perfectly legal, its one of the scariest things I’ve seen on the web.

In brief, no audio recording out there available to listen to via wibbly-wobbly land is safe.

Audio Hijack takes but a few moments to download… Since I was in pure research mode I went for the freebie variant but, if you want all the bells and whistles, it comes at a price (about 20 squiddlys).

Installation is a doddle… a simple case of dragging the App into one’s App folder and the regulation double-click and bingo… you’re ready to go. Obviously I didn’t read the help-file or on-line manual… that’s a bit like reading the instructions on an Ikea shelving unit… hardly manly, is it? Plus, that’s why hammers were invented.

Anyway… I figured I’d try it out…

I called up Sir Reg and Mister White Beard via the BBC’s I-Player thingie, set the slide-control to a particular track I like and… pressed the button marked record. Music, maestro please… but, to be honest, I wasn’t quite sure if I was listening (again) to the tune I’d chosen or if I was listening to it as being recorded by this gadget.

Pressed stop at the end as gales of applause from The Roundhouse hit the headphones and… drat, nope, must have fucked up somewhere as no MP3 file was in sight. Hmmm… maybe I should have squinted (however briefly) at the manual. Thirty seconds later, I’d found the object in question, did the old double-click fandango and… bloody hell, there it was playing away perfectly out of I-Tunes.

Eeeek… I’ve hacked the BBC.

But… and, I promise you, this is quite serious… over the past few weeks while I’ve been re-designing Website X, I’ve also been planning on integrating music into said re-design.

And so, I have been studying the whole SoundCloud scenario which, on the face of it, was starting to look like the way to go.

Because, from what I had worked out, SC gave out great quality (ie you can stream .FLAC files – ie, lossless quality). Plus, various friends of mine from a variety of (name) bands had started to use it as a way of streaming their music… so, if it was good enough for them, then certainly good enough for my purposes. And, most importantly, from what I could work out, it didn’t appear hackable…


I’ve hacked SoundCloud as well.

Which basically means, if I can, then anyone can.

After a bit of a prowl around the wibbly wobbly again, I selected a juicy nugget posted on SoundCloud and… oh, shit, within five minutes I’ve acquired a track that was bonafide posted there as one of two things: (a) for anyone’s listening pleasure or… (b)if you paid X, then you were able to download it.

(a) is a great method of letting one’s ‘fans’ listen to (say) early demos or otherwise unreleased tracks, perhaps rough mixes from an album in progress or finished tracks… all manner of things really. But, most importantly, since the internal SoundCloud gadget is set to non-download… thats the way it is – the listener can listen only and the creative isn’t ripped off… Splendid… IF it works.

(b) is equally perfect since it means that creative person Y is PAID for their creativity on tunes that they are quite comfy to have downloaded.

Only problem is – as I proved earlier… it doesn’t work.

So.. the solution to my own web-streaming-of-music conundrum?… Well, I guess it’’ll have to be a case of just doing what Apple are about to do on I-Tunes… and that’s plonk up only 90seconds of music.

And… streaming music as being the ‘solution’ via ‘sound clouds’ for creatives being paid as they should be… errr… nope… I wish it was, but today’s little exercise proves worryingly otherwise.
Take The Cash (K.A.S.H.)
It´s a secret operation, don´t want this getting out,
So watch it, watch it, watch it, if the payment doesn´t bounce,
It´s the sweetness of the readies, makes the bell ring on the till,
And if they say they’ll pay next week, you know they never will.

Take the cash, don´t let them pay you in kind,
Take the cash, before they change their minds,
And let´s see the colour of their money – take the cash

(words and music / E. Goulden)

Ladies and Gentlemen, please be upstanding for the downright brilliant songs of Mr. and Mrs Goulden’s lad, Eric – better known throughout the whole wide world (sic) as Wreckless Eric – whose songwriting, according to this little Voltaire out there on its grassy knoll on the windswept prairie, deserves far wider acknowledgement than it presently has or, indeed, has accumulated over the years.

Nevertheless, in this relative world, its probable that young Eric doesn’t do all that badly out of his songwriting royalties… even despite the fact that he (probably) signed a piss-poor publishing deal back in the day with his pay-meister’s at Stiff; the World’s most flexible record label that was started up by Jake Riviera and Dave Robinson (Robbo) via a four-hundred quid loan from Dr. Feelgood’s Lee Brilleaux and which offered for our delectation some of the very finest (and also some of the most horrible) records issued in the Seventies and Eighties.

Amongst which, (the former that is), any discerning individual would list a high quantity of W. Eric’s tunes – lyrically as astute as it gets with a fine turn for a belter of a melody; consider the rhyming couplet delights within his second Stiff single (and, sadly, it was a stiff), Reconnez Cherie – On a convenient seat by the lavatories in the sodium glare; We used to wait for the bus in a passionate clutch and go as far as we dared; Do you remember when I passed my driving test; Took you to the pictures, forget the rest; Do you remember all those nights in my Zodiac; Playing with your dress underneath your Pac-a-Mac. And, on it goes into an entirely memorable chorus. I mean – c’mon… Cole Porter, eat your heart out.

And Eric… well, he’s been plodding along, ploughing his own, entirely unique, furrow these many years and, in an unlikely twist of circumstance, has returned to (some would say) his spiritual home by licensing his new record (with his wife, Amy Rigby) to the label – Stiff having risen once again, phoenix-like from its own ashes.

Aha… the key word here is licensed… as it looks as if our hero has his act together. And, is nowadays a lot more in control of his own work than (maybe) once he was.

Back in 1977, when his first record – Whole Wide World – hit the stores, young Eric was (quite possibly) relieved to have found an outlet for his music and (probably) never once thought about the long-term… At 32 Alexander St (Stiff HQ) it was all about madcap schemes hatched in any one of numerous nearby pubs with (probably) no real thought to how the label’s output would be considered (say) a quarter of a century later. At that point, the powers that be at Stiff were more concerned with what might happen next week.

Nevertheless, a true gem such as that (aforementioned) record was listed not so very long ago in Mojo Magazine’s ‘best punk singles of all time’ while also being acclaimed as one of the top-40 ‘alternative era’ singles between 1975 / 2000.

And, while written in its entirety by E. Goulden, the copyright would be shared (possibly at something of a disadvantageous rate) with his publishers. And, given the copyright laws in existence at that point, that’d be the case until the year of our Lord, 2033. Meaning – if my arithmetic is on song – that Eric wouldn’t have full control of his own song until he was 79 years old.

Quite a sobering thought that.

But, of course, more or less the same situation that any songwriter (unless they’ve either had exceedingly clever management or have been exceptionally astute themselves) will find themselves in for works (songs) registered before 1978. After that, the situation changes – and will do so radically – in 2013 when the 35-year-law comes into force… in other words, a fore-shortening of the length of time before copyright reverts. Yes, I realize this is all a bit publishing 101 but it’s for illustrative purposes.

This ownership and being able to work and properly earn from your own copyrights point being vividly brought home by a snippet spotted in today’s Guardian.

In which, we learn that Producers working at Channel 5 TV have been asked to ‘avoid’ using commercial music in their programmes as a method to bring down royalty ‘payments’.

And, those ‘payments’ are songwriting Royalties which are collected by the PRS and then distributed to the Publishing Companies and then, eventually, paid – on a percentage rate – to the actual writer(s) are accrued from any public performance of said music be that on-stage, recorded, on the radio, on the telly, within a movie or… online.

Apparently this is all part of a cost-cutting drive to make C5TV more profitable.

But, what is not mentioned is the heinous manner in which they (and, it should be noted, most other TV as well as Film Production Companies) actually deal with the creatives – in this instance, those who write music which may or may not be included within said TV Programmes or Films and so forth.

The C5TV spokeswoman is quoted in today’s Guardian saying “Channel 5 plan to commission more original music as they have excellent contacts in the creative industry.”

Well… on the face of it, that’s great – more opportunities for creative folk.

But, here’s the rub… C5TV (as above) are clearly wanting to pay as little as they can by way of Royalties but, at the same time, they’re also demanding their cut as a Publisher because, as the source said (and this was also quoted in The Guardian) “All publishing rights have to be assigned to Channel 5.”

In other words, they not only want to cough up little as they can get away with or grab just a little slice of that nice (lucrative) publishing steak and kidney… oh no, they want the entire bloody pie, crust and all.

And, if you – writer X – do not kow-tow to their demands… then, like as not your music will not be used. Same applies if you’re already signed to a Publishing Company. If your Publisher doesn’t (or won’t) play ball then… that’s it, your music won’t be used.

And, either which way, you’ll not earn as much as you should.

Double-edged sword or what?
All The Boys Love Carrie
And so… and finally… a little cause for celebration – LimeWire is no more. Or, to put that into its proper context, the illegal part of LimeWire’s file-sharing activities has been closed down. At last, a little bit of action that will (hopefully) see the copyright holders reap their just rewards… as they should.

Mind you, its taken four years of legal wrangling for the RIAA to bring about this injunction that ‘compels the Lime Group to disable its searching, downloading, uploading and file trading features.’

If you link across to the LimeWire site, you’ll find a notice posted that says ‘This is an official notice that LimeWire is under a court ordered injunction to stop distributing and supporting its file-sharing software.’ Scroll on a bit and you’ll discover this nugget, ‘downloading or sharing copyrighted content without authorisation is illegal.’

Well well well… that’s big of them, isn’t it?

Unfortunately, LimeWire don’t – yet – appear to have been hit with the colossal fine that they so richly deserve; a fine that once imposed – and paid – should be plonked into the RIAA coffers and re-distributed amongst all those artists and writers (the creatives) who LimeWire have knowingly ripped off.

Meantime and besides striking (something the French are particularly adept at), their ISP’s are acting on that Government’s ‘three-strikes’ legislation. They are sending out an average of 25,000 letters a day to suspected illegal filesharers. Now, the French love paperwork and compiling what they call le dossier – I know this first hand since I used to live there.

But… sorry fellas… it won’t work… because you’re targeting the wrong people.

And, if I still lived there I’m wondering if I’d be on their radar for illegally sharing a (music) file?

Lets take a very recent example. A pal of mine (a highly respected musician for what its worth) recently got in touch asking if I had a copy of album X by artist Y. Frankly, while reading his email, I couldn’t remember – this being a pretty obscure record that I knew had never been digitally released.

Anyhow, a quick fizz through my bulging I-Tunes folder and… lo and behold… there it was; way back when I did live in France, I must’ve digitised this album myself by transferring the vinyl version across to my computer. Actually, it’s a fairly easy process to do that using gadgets (programs) like Audacity… and, even easier nowadays ‘cos one simply buys a turntable that connects to one’s computer via a USB cable.

So… I loaded it all up and, via a file-sharing program I subscribe to (regularly sending large graphics images and so forth) I fizzed the individual music files that comprised the full album over to my buddy in Ireland. Next again day, he writes back saying thanks (like you do) and… he’s happy that he can listen to something he’d been trying to find for some time and I’m happy ‘cos I helped an old friend out.

Does anyone have a problem with that..?

I should hope not – after all, the album in question was purchased – albeit many moons ago – legally.

In fact, now that I come to think about it, I probably paid 32 and 6 for it (which, in old money / pre-decimalisation equates to one pound sixty or so) thereby demonstrating just how elderly a recording it was.

However… IF I still lived in the semi-remote region of France that I once did, then chances are the cyber-authorities would have me ear-marked as a criminal. Indeed, how soon would the knock on the front door come… and would I face the prospect of being collared by the local Gendarmerie? Very probably.

And… this is why it (this three-strikes initiative) won’t work.

Because, while I freely admit (guilty as charged m’lud) that I sent a music file – files plural to be precise – to my pal, I’d have contravened legislation that says what I did wasn’t legal (based on the fact that the recipient didn’t pay for said files).

And, this is where it is going to go horribly wrong for the French. They get many things right – such as Confit du Canard in amongst some very fine wines indeed as well as more spectacular cheeses than there are days in the year – but… this clamp-down isn’t one of ‘em.

As with LimeWire, it’s the upload and download companies that have to be targeted – MegaUpload, Rapidshare, HotFile and all of those companies (there are dozens). These are the people who distribute the goods; these are the people who’re making zillions via subscription charges that allow ordinary folk to post links to albums / singles / 12” mixes (whatever you want) for others to download.

The other day, Q Magazine awarded its album of the year to The National – pretty sound choice in my view; it’s a cracking record but I’d hazard a guess that it wouldn’t take more than five minutes of searching to find it as an illegal download via either Rapidshare or MegaUpload.

This little Voltaire out there on its grassy knoll of the windswept www prairie reckons that’s serious food for thought.
Reasons To Be Cheerful (Part 3)
No, I don’t have a hangover tho’ by all accounts, I probably should – having enjoyed a bit of a stonking evening at the Liberal Arse last night. Mellow Johnny was in charge of slapping the Martini’s down, Mother Mary having taken an early bath from her usual duties.

In any event, by the time I’m awash with the third cup of coffee (meaning some sense of order had replaced that merest hint of morning fuzziness – brought about by the fellas wielding a large hammer and cordless drill in diabolical harmony upstairs at the hour designated as ‘how best to really annoy anyone within earshot’) – a small news item posted on the Music Week site via CNet had grabbed the weary eye.

It’s a leaked letter from a chap called James Pond… and Master Pond, so it appears, is one of the top dogs at Google… Splendid, we do love leaks don’t we?

And… a quick ‘Google’ of Master Pond – there’s no hiding place on the wibbly wobbly web, is there – reveals his ‘job title’ at Google is Product Counsel… no idea what that actually means but that’s how he has listed himself on LinkedIn.

And, after a bit more Google-fed prowling, its quite easy to discover he was previously a media lawyer at Osborne Clarke, a paralegal at both Freehill and Freshfields… having been ‘educated’ at both Oxford and Cambridge as well as at the Inns Of Court Law School… Marvelous – that’ll mean he’s one of their legal eagles.

So, doubtless he’ll be a bit cross that a letter of his has been leaked but… hey, its out there now. Besides, given that what he’s had leaked is – or should be – really important, equals… so much the better.

Because, it appears that Google might just be about to step up to the plate and… just might… get involved in stemming online piracy as well as helping copyright holders track down material that’s being put up and out there as ‘free’.

And this little grassy knoll out there on the windswept world wide praire says… about fuckin’ time too.

Google have a moral obligation to do this – not least, because theirs is the biggest search-engine this side of Mars.

CNet reports that Google will charge a fee for this service… yeah and they should ‘cos, after all, they’ll be offering a service… they have a ‘product’ (hateful word as it is) and… ‘products’ should be charged for in order that the person / people who have created said ‘product’ earn a living.

Don’t think anyone’s got an issue with that… have they?

I mean… c’mon… we all have to make a living… you go to work, do whatever it is you do… and, at the end of the week or month, you get paid… from that wodge of dosh, you pay your bills, put food on the table and… so on and so forth…

And, if you’re a creative kind of cove who… lets say… writes songs from which you make a living… then, you’d expect to be paid for that… wouldn’t you?

But, of course, the vast majority – and, especially those who’s careers are in their twilight years – most often do not get paid.

For why?

Ahh… and here’s the rub… and this is a critical aspect of all of this file-sharing that’s going on – and a part that doesn’t affect the successful artists out there at all (they have their own issues).

Lets take artist X who, in his (or her) career, has recorded – lets say ten albums.

Those records, in their time, gathered a certain degree of caché and sold pretty well on vinyl but have lain dormant for the last however many years. And, now that we’re well into digital middle age, most of those recordings in our example aren’t available via the modern medium. Why is that then?

It is because the Record Companies don’t consider the cost-effective equation viable.

Cost-effective means them (the Record Companies – who are the copyright holders) not making a decent return on the cost of actually digitizing and re-mastering those old recordings because they reckon they’ll only sell a handful.

Which, essentially, is food on the table for the companies that host the files – that the fans and collectors want – that, in turn, are put up by fans of the music in the first place. They – the fans / music bloggers – aren’t making any money out of this… if anything, they’re paying to put records up on the internet (‘cos, to upload X amount of music files via MegaUpLoad or RapidShare or any other Upload service you care to name costs).

They (the fans and bloggers) like the records and feel like sharing what they like.

Any examples? Hell yeah, as many as you like actually… but just one should suffice.

There’s one particular album I like rather a lot from the Seventies (ok, so it proves I’m quite old – get used to it) that I spotted the other day freely available to download.

And this came with a really interesting statistic attached to said download… it had one of those counter thingies attached… which showed that particular full album download had been accessed a smidge more than 29THOUSAND times.

And that was on one site among dozens offering the same full album download of an album that has (I know for a fact) never been digitized.

Oh – and do I have a copy? Sure I do – quite some time ago and when the technology first became available, I digitized my own vinyl copy… its not great quality but, it suffices.

By and large – and if one really wanted to – I reckon old fogies like me could not only replace their old vinyl collection for nothing other than an internet connection charge but also top up on all those old vinyl recordings that one never quite got around to purchasing.

In a sense, the fans who post these recordings are offering a service of their own yet it is highly probable that they’re the people who are going to get their teeth kicked in when the outraged might of Google comes a-knockin’

When in actual fact, its is Companies such as those named above who should be taken to the cleaners…

And, by that I mean, they should have the bejaysus audited out of ‘em – and yeah, I know it’ll take a long long time – and the money they have earned from those who have paid to upload files should be re-distributed to those who have lost out who are… the creatives.

Google helping out with the file-sharing issue – yeah, I’ll go for that BUT ONLY if they deal with the companies who are making millions out of it and feed that cash back to where it should, rightfully, be.

The other solution would be to bring in some form of legislation that would mean that the companies (as above but there are loads of ‘em) have to pay a royalty / percentage of their income to a central fund from which the creatives who are missing out would be paid.

File-sharing is a bit like prostitution, it’ll never go away. But, it can be harnessed and, if done correctly, then those whose work is being prostituted can, rightfully, earn.
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