Wednesday, January 31, 2007

(Flooded) Room With A View

The View were in the news last week for being banned from every Travelodge in the UK. A few things cross the mind when reading this. One is the timing of the news (the incident happened in November; their album was released in the same week the news broke...hmmm...), and the thought that this is all a PR stunt anyway. Another is the limited horizons of today's pop stars; leaving a bath running doesn't really compare with throwing a TV out of the the window, does it? Clearly, they've never read Hammer Of The Gods.

However, the bit that really gave cause for concern came up in at least one report on the incident. One group member professed ignorance of who was going to pick up the bill for the damage caused to the hotel. He then guessed that the record company would pick up the tab. Well, this shouldn't really be news in this day and age, sunshine, but I'm afraid you're wrong. The record company won't be picking up the tab. True, they may actually pay the bill, but they will then recoup the money from someone else. Just in case The View are reading this (hey, it might happen!), I'll provide a clue as to who is going to be paying the bill ultimately. Just rearrange the following words into the name of a four-piece Dundee beat combo: View. The.

The band would have known this had they read Ed Jones' terrific This Is Pop. Most books about pop music are told from the point of view of, or about, the winners. Your U2s, your Rolling Stones, your Beatles. It stands to reason really; if a group is successful, there's a ready-made market for a book about them, no matter how crappy the book (usually) is. This Is Pop is different. Suntitled "The Life and Times of a Failed Rock Star", it's defiantly the story of "the others", as the back cover says. "The ones that don't make it, where there are no stars and no pat Hollywood endings...this is reality. THIS IS POP."

Ed Jones was the bassist for Wigan early 90s hopefuls, The Tansads. I'd never heard a note of their music before buying the book, and that situation remains unchanged today. In fact, I'll go further and admit that I'd never even heard of The Tansads, despite the company they kept in their brief career. Pulp, Dodgy, Kula Shaker, Cast and The Verve all supported The Tansads before accelerating past them towards chart success. The Tansads themselves released a couple of CDs through medium-sized labels, appeared at Glastonbury, appeared on magazine covers (well, cover to be precise- the June 1993 issue of Folk Roots) and regularly plyed their brand of anarcho-Celt folk rock at sold-out venues up and down the UK. I'm guessing at the sound, of course, because as stated earlier I still haven't actually heard The Tansads, but from Jones' own description, I don't think "anarcho-Celt folk rock" is wide of the mark.

Many rock books contain tales about bedsits, transit vans and service station food, but these are usually confined to the opening chapters, to be quickly replaced by limos and coke once the band hits the big time. This Is Pop, on the other hand, is all bedsits, transit vans and service station food. The Tansads, seemingly, lurched from one piece of bad luck to another, the interminable misery of living on £30 a week tempered only by occasional triumphs, until Jones finally bailed out in 1995. Throughout the book, the prose is lucid, clear-eyed, and tinged with palapable bitterness towards some of his ex-bandmates. Much of the arse-end of the music biz is described in chilling, unblinking detail: the fact that support bands often have to buy their way onto a tour, as The Tansads did with Stiff Little Fingers: that an advance is not free money: that record companies are not in the habit of paying for things without billing you later: the rule about not signing your publishing to the same company that's putting out the recording: the eye-watering rapaciousness of the recording contract: and the fact that bands get screwed royally at all turns. All lessons that The View (and countless others before them--hello, Bros) have failed to heed. That Jones is also able to inject humour, pathos and emotion into the narrative is little short of remarkable. It's the best book about pop ever written, edging out such titles as Nik Cohn's Awopbopaloobopalopbamboom, John Savage's England's Dreaming, David Cavanagh's My Magpie Eyes Are Hungry For The Prize, and Greil Marcus' Lipstick Traces. Yes, it really is that good. Not as sociologically important, I'll grant you, but Ed Jones really knows how to write (his stint at The Wigan Reporter can't have hurt).

Now out of print, sadly, the book should be required reading for all new and aspiring pop stars, just as Alan McGee claims in his foreword. McGee would probably applaud The View's decision to leave the taps running in their hotel. And reading this book might not have stopped them doing it. But at least if they'd read This Is Pop, they'd have been in no doubt that they, and not the likes of McGee, would be footing Travelodge's repair bill.

Buy a second hand copy of This Is Pop

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Auteur! Auteur!

Sorry: is it nearly February already? Well, the tax returns are out of the way, dissertations are on hold and blogging can resume.

A quick aside first of all. Our six-year-old is developing quite an interest in the tunes he hears on the radio (usually Radio 6, interspersed with Radio 2, with the occasional foray into the XFM Scotland playlists). He particularly likes The Automatic, though, and has shown approval of The Zutons among others.

A couple of days ago, a song played on the radio in our kitchen. The six-year-old piped up: "Hey, they played this at Time Twisters [a curious, Egyptian-themed children's party venue, where he'd been recently for a friend's birthday]!"

As the song in question was Lenny Valentino by The (notoriously misanthropic) Auteurs, this was doubtful. However, because he has a keen ear (he recently identified Morrissey's new single because it sounded like You Have Killed Me, a previous Moz effort), it can't entirely be ruled out, either.

"Really?" I enquired, not quite believing him. "This is an old group called the Auteurs.."

He returned to colouring in his Power Ranger picture. But a minute later, sotto voce, declared to no one in particular, "I love The Auteurs..."

Luke Haines' current whereabouts