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By Mary Chang
on Wednesday, 9th May 2012 at 11:00 am
‘You Are the Quarry’ had been called Morrissey‘s comeback album in May 2004 after the much-maligned ‘Maladjusted’ released in 1997. Things were looking good for the Mozzer; the album was his highest charting album ever in America. Fast forward a couple months and I’m flipping through cable channels to find something interesting to watch and I hear a couple bars of something familiar. I look more closely at the television. It’s the new MTV teen reality show Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, and during what I’m guessing was supposed to be a tender moment, what do I hear in the background but ‘First of the Gang to Die’.
Sadly, I don’t have a YouTube video to go along with this; the video above is taken from the film for Who Put the M in Manchester?, filmed live at the MEN in 2004 (I’ve played my DVD of this so many times, my DVD skips, I think I broke it). But in my research for this piece, I also learned it was used in an episode of Date My Mom, such that a boy and the coed his mother chose as his date can disappear into the sunset. By limo. We have no way of knowing if Steven Patrick Morrissey himself approved the usage of this song, but it’s hard to believe he would allow the song, about a kid in a Latino gang who becomes a martyr by being the first in his group of friends to die, to be used in either context. While it is a pop song, it’s not really a song about sunny days and going out on dates.
It seems not surprising that the E4 reality drama Made in Chelsea, essentially the UK’s answer to Laguna Beach with well-heeled rich kids from a posh area of London, also uses current ‘hot’ songs in their shows. I won’t list every artist, but a quick glance at the tracklisting for the first episode of the first series for Made in Chelsea lists tunes form some pretty impressive stars that we’ve written about before: Adele, Dragonette, Morning Parade, Muse, the Script, Tinie Tempah (erroneously credited as ‘Tinie T’) and Two Door Cinema Club (twice!). Either the producers have been reading up on the music blogosphere or consulting with people in the know on ‘what’s hot’ (more likely the latter).
That said, what role – or what rights – do artists have in permitting (or not permitting) the use of their songs on television. The use of Noz’s ‘First of the Gang to Die’ and the Made in Chelsea soundtracks came into my mind when I read that Australian singer/songwriter Gotye, recent Saturday Night Live performer and pretty much world pop sensation, was complaining that his mega hit ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ was no longer his. Specifically, this had to do with its usage in the American pop tv sensation Glee. You know, that show where famous songs are redone by teen actors and generally speaking, the original versions of the song gain quite a lot of publicity, while the young people of the world get confused about music history. Goyte’s quandary? “I wasn’t sure whether something so mainstream was right for my music and whether it reflected on my music in my bad way. But I think I realised that the song’s so popular, it’s kind of out of my hands, so when something like Glee comes along, why would I say no?”
The man subsequently whinged on the success of the song, saying, “sometimes I feel like I’m a bit sick of it. My inbox, on any given day, has at least five covers or parodies or remixes of it and there’s only so many times you can listen to the one song.” I don’t know about you, but I can’t even begin to count on both hands how many bands I’ve met over the last 3 years that would love to be a similar position of ‘discomfort’. I guess success – and the happiness you get from success – is a fickle thing; maybe when you have it and realise it’s not so great, you want to bash it and everything that comes with it. Careful though: Goyte had to give his permission to the producers of Glee to use ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ in one of their episodes. He could have easily put the kibosh on the matter entirely by blocking its use on the popular American tv show; there are probably others, but most notably Kings of Leon and Foo Fighters have refused the Fox tv programme permission. Dave Grohl’s response to the invitation: “It’s every band’s right, you shouldn’t have to do fucking Glee. And then the guy who created Glee is so offended that we’re not, like, begging to be on his f**king show… f**k that guy for thinking anybody and everybody should want to do Glee.”
While I agree with Grohl on this – I personally can’t stand the show and how it repurposes already great music, only to redo them in charmless, overblown, unworthy imitations – there seems to be no right or wrong answer for an artist or band considering allowing commercial use of their songs. Some bands still and will always feel that allowing such permission debases the artistic value of their hard work and inspiration. However, maybe the gold standard yet groan worthy rule of PR applies here: “there is no such thing as bad publicity.” As much as Goyte might complain that the song he wrote no longer belongs to him, ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ is still #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the third week running. Suffering for one’s art? Maybe not so much.
By Mary Chang
on Thursday, 8th March 2012 at 11:00 am
Reissue! Repackage! Repackage!
Re-evaluate the songs
Double-pack with a photograph
Extra track, and a tacky badge
“Best of!” “Most of!”
Satiate the need
Slip them into different sleeves!
Buy both, and feel deceived…
(excerpts from the Smiths – ‘Paint a Vulgar Picture’, 1987)
Rather conveniently, the day after Blur performed on the 2012 BRIT Awards last week, we heard the news from the Guardian that producer Stephen Street is in the midst of remastering the Britpop giants’ entire back catalogue for the band’s intention to reissue all of the albums sometime in the future. Of course, reissuing and remastering is not a new idea at all in rock. Let’s take for example two of the biggest names in rock ‘n’ roll of all time. Jimmy Page famously went to task on overseeing the remastering Led Zeppelin’s master tapes in order to provide higher fidelity sound quality in the early years of the CD for the ‘Remasters’ release in 1990. The Beatles Anthology released in 1995-1996 were three CD sets that culled supposedly rare early recordings, outtakes and live versions of songs from the Fabs’ musical history. So what’s the issue with reissues?
As you’ve read in perfect clarity at the very top of this article two excerpts from Morrissey’s lyrics in the Smiths’ ‘Paint a Vulgar Picture’, most times the purpose of reissues is crass commercialism. For myself, I know I’ve bought doubles of and/or different versions of albums or unusual and rare singles simply because being a fan, I wanted to have them in my collection. (This explains how I have UK, Australian, Japanese, and Taiwanese versions of albums I already own in US formats and why I am rapidly running out of storage space. Yeah…)
Surely, the only limit to your music shopping habits is your own wallet. I’ve drooled in private at Talking Heads’ ‘Brick’, all eight of the band’s studio albums remastered in Dual-Disc format and available at a price out of my budget, just like I’ve balked at the price for a leather bound, signed copy of George Harrison’s I Me Mine. Luckily, I have some willpower…and definitely some prudence.
But I’m not a completist by any means. So when reissues or remasters are announced, I rarely jump out of my seat, unless there’s something new and really great on the new versions. Do record companies really expect long-time fans of a band to fork over change on an album that already own and know by heart? And they think old skool types who still favours physical releases will buy these in droves? Are they anticipating young people to suddenly think to themselves, “ah yes. Blur. That band in the ‘90s that the bloke who fronts Gorillaz used to be in. I should buy these!”
While I concede that record companies are trying every way possible to combat illegal file-sharing by trying to put out releases like reissues that they think are going to move by the thousands, they appear to be barking up the wrong tree in most of these cases. There is no easy solution to this problem; illegal file-sharing will continue as long as there’s an Internet. But surely there has got to be other creative ways to promote an artist’s work than simply rereleasing something that’s already been out before.
Interestingly enough, Stephen Street also has a hand in the reissue of Morrissey’s first solo album, ‘Viva Hate’, which will be reissued on the 26 of March. Moz has chosen to delete ‘The Ordinary Boys’ and replace it with an outtake from that era, ‘Treat Me Like a Human Being’. Which has already been released as a B-side to ‘Glamorous Glue’ when that single was reissued by EMI last year. Follow all that? Street is not happy about the tracklisting change, but I’m not paying attention to that. I‘m a Morrissey fan and I own ‘Viva Hate’ on CD and vinyl. Will I be buying the reissued version of ‘Viva Hate’? Not likely.
Header photo of Blur’s performance at the 2012 BRITs from Who’s Jack
By Mary Chang
on Monday, 19th December 2011 at 2:00 pm
Morrissey holds a special place in my heart; let’s just say the first boy that really turned my head wooed me with a CD that began with ‘Everyday is Like Sunday’. The Chapman Family have taken on the challenge of covering the song that is so linked to Morrissey and his views on ‘Englishness’ and seaside towns that are forgotten in the off season; watch the video of Kingsley performing it below. Were they successful? Let us know in the comments.
Our Northeast writer Martin traded verbal barbs with the band while on tour in Sunderland in early November; read his insightful and politically charged piece here.
My day at Glastonbury started with a river of mud flowing through and soaking my tent, so as you can imagine, I wanted satisfaction straight off. No testing the water with new talent, I wanted something that would hit the mark from the word go. The Pyramid Stage was the place to go then for TGTF favourites Two Door Cinema Club. who are still riding on the successes of their debut album ‘Tourist History,’ a record which has seen them go from unknowns to a band worthy of appearing third on the biggest stage at Glasto. Two Door’s set started slowly, but as the band grew on confidence the crowd warmed to them. They weren’t helped by the fact that the weather didn’t seem to know which way it was going. However, with great sing-alongs such as ‘Undercover Martyn’, ‘Something Good Can Work’ and ‘What You Know’ they were bound to be a Pyramid Stage hit. And they were.
Moving swiftly on towards the Other Stage to see the Vaccines in their first show of the weekend seemed like the best idea, just as the rain started to pour down. After listening to their debut album ‘What Did You Expect From The Vaccines?’ (my review of the album here) and enjoying it, I was sure that their set would be a winner. How right I was, from the first notes to their final baritone roar, the Vaccines showed the sizable crowd that had formed why such big things are expected of them. Every song was perfect to the tone, with ‘Wetsuit’ being a particular highlight and adding a real sing-along element to a fantastic set. First single ‘Wrecking Bar (Ra Ra Ra)’ got the crowd shaking in a way that you don’t really expect from a band that only came on at half past 2 in the afternoon. All in all, it was a set that I didn’t really expect to be fantastic but which turned out to be a real highlight.
The Wombats charged onstage resplendent in white suits and ready for one of the best set of sing-alongs the weekend had to offer. Their new record ‘This Modern Glitch’ (review here) is absolutely dripping with summery tunes so the Other Stage at Glastonbury was just calling for them. Opener ‘Our Perfect Disease’ set the tone for a gig which was my personal favourite of the day: the energy was infectious, Norwegian-born bassist Tord Øverland-Knudsen charged around the stage like a man possessed. They looked like they were having the time of their lives, even during the sombre ‘Anti-D’ (single review and video here). A lot of the crowd were obviously just waiting for ‘Let’s Dance to Joy Division’ but were obviously surprised by a set that included some of the catchiest songs around at the moment, I mean who can resist singing along to ‘Tokyo (Vampires and Wolves)’ when it comes on the radio? I know I can’t!
It was back to the main stage then, to watch the formidable Biffy Clyro (pictured top) in their third from top slot. It seems like Biffy have been touring the Mercury Prize-nominated ‘Only Revolutions’ for a long time now, almost too long. So it was no surprise that the boys from Scotland were not at their best on the Pyramid Stage. What was lacking was hard to pinpoint, but there was an energy that is so integral to them normally that was just missing from the performance. The tunes were there: ‘Mountains’ was epic, ‘Many of Horror’ even more so, yet still it just didn’t feel like the Biffy that I was used to. Whether it is tour fatigue I don’t know, but they just weren’t themselves. The crowd knew it and looked almost confused when Mister Neil and the Johnson brothers pulled out ‘Glitter and Trauma’. It seemed most of the crowd had only really heard ‘Only Revolutions’ and ‘Puzzle.’ A shame…but hey, on their day Biffy are a force. Just not that day.
What could be expected from sub-headliner Morrissey then? An exciting stage show filled with Smiths classics, a touching run through some heartfelt ballads? No, a man past his best crooning all over stage and making hand gestures that make Jack Sparrow look positively sober. What can you say about the ex-Smiths man that hasn’t already been said? He is a legend in his own right but well, it just wasn’t the day for him. His songs sounded lazy and laboured for the most part; he was self-deprecating to the point of telling the audience that he knew nobody cared about him and were just waiting for U2. Who could blame the audience if they were, Morrissey wasn’t just bad on the Pyramid, he was so bad it hurt.
Then came the moment that Glastonbury goers and music fans around the world had been waiting for almost a year and a half: U2’s headline slot on the Pyramid Stage. The mainstream media billed Bono as looking nervous and timid in his performance on the Pyramid Stage. How wrong they were. From the moment Bono, the Edge and co. hit the stage, there was no stopping the great rock ‘n’ roll behemoth that areU2. Only two songs from ‘No Line on the Horizon’ meant a set full of classics where the Irish superstars could afford to skip tunes like ‘City of Blinding Lights’. The show from start to finish was nothing short of fantastic, a band playing one of the best sets of their lives in front of a packed audience. They pulled all the stops out for this one – the most spectacular of all, a live link with the International Space Station. Awe-inspiring, classic U2.
By Mary Chang
on Tuesday, 15th March 2011 at 9:30 am
The legend that is Morrissey will be touring the UK in June. Tickets go on sale for this tour on Friday (the 18th of March) at 9 AM.
Wednesday 15th June 2011 – Perth City Hall
Friday 17th June 2011 – Inverness Ironworks
Saturday 18th June 2011 – Dunoon Queens Hall
Monday 20th June 2011 – Dunfermline Alhambra Theatre
Tuesday 21st June 2011 – Hawick Town Hall
Friday 24th June 2011 – Grimsby Auditorium
Saturday 25th June 2011 – York Barbican Centre
Monday 27th June 2011 – Bradford St. Georges Hall
Thursday 30th June 2011 – Plymouth Pavilions
By Mary Chang
on Sunday, 23rd August 2009 at 6:00 pm
Girl in a Coma is made up of three girls from Texas. As their name suggests, they are Smiths fans (but then again, who isn’t?) and the first time I saw them was as the support act for Morrissey’s American tour in late 2007. It must be intimidating for a band to do a support slot, and even more so if you’re opening for El Moz, but they held their own, rocking Constitution Hall satisfyingly with their brand of girl punk.
Their new video for the not-so-punk song ‘El Monte’ feels like a nod to the film version of ‘Grease’ – watch it below and see if you agree. If you’re a girl, I’m sure you can relate to the song’s sentiment.The band’s singer Nina Diaz, with her big brown eyes, will mesmerize you. Check out their new album, ‘Trio B.C.’, now out on Blackheart Records.