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Saturday, January 14, 2017

So is this why Americans drink before meals

These are just four of the scores of different covers that Frederick Allen's "Only Yesterday" has had since it was first published in 1931, which gives you an idea of how it's maintained its popularity.

It was a massive best-seller back then, and that was richly deserved. It's a brilliantly written account of the America of prohibition, red scares, irrational economic boom, dramatic changes in the relationships within the family, the transforming power of the motor car and the advent of radio, all written while the decade's paint was still wet.

Now I understand why Americans would still rather have two or three strong cocktails before a meal than wine with it. This habit dates from Prohibition, when people would meet their friends in a hotel room where they could serve each other a few illicit drinks in seclusion before going down to eat in the hotel dining room.

Can't recommend this book too highly.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Books have replaced records under the Christmas tree

I was in a few West End bookshops in the week before Christmas and they were busy, as busy as I remember record shops used to be in the week before Christmas.

Albums were formerly the ideal Christmas present. They were the right price and they were always appreciated. Tens of thousands of people would buy albums at Christmas who hardly bought them the rest of the year.

Now all that's gone. The people who used to give albums now give books.

The record business's loss seems to have been the book business's gain.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Why acts might tout their own tickets

I've no idea whether Robbie Williams' management really did sell marked-up tickets to his shows via resale sites as the BBC are claiming.

This I do know. If you're managing a hot act you know that there's a big difference between the price your artist is comfortable with charging and the amount the market will pay. It might be twice as much.

If people are going to pay double the standard price for tickets you can either watch that money go to wicked scalpers (or averagely shrewd members of the public who buy two lots and sell one in order to pay for their evening out); or you can get some of it for your artist.

I'm not saying it's right or desirable but I can understand it.

Monday, January 09, 2017

The reason pop star deaths always make the news

We were out at lunch with old friends yesterday when we got the news Peter Sarstedt had died.

I asked my friends whether the news of his death would make the BBC Six o'clock News. The consensus of the table was it was unlikely. One hit and such a long time ago. It wouldn't be enough.

I said I thought he would be.

We were driving back when I got a text from one of the friends from the lunch. They had the radio on and, sure enough, the news of Peter Sarstedt's death was on the Six O'Clock.

With pop star deaths the question of news values becomes muddied by the desire of a radio producer to interrupt their diet of hard news with a little bit of music.

The one hasn't been born who can resist.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

The Mariah Carey cock-up was my favourite TV of the year.

I didn't watch any TV on New Year's Eve but I can't get enough of the Mariah Carey story that emerged the following day.

There's nothing I like more than seeing a self important pop star and an over-inflated TV show caught at it. The only thing more fun than watching the disaster unfold is following the fall out as everybody in earpiece land tries to pin the blame on everyone else.

Mariah Carey was supposed to do three songs for Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve With Ryan Seacrest, which sounds like a heartwarmingly modest little do, doesn't it?

Something went wrong in the second one. Either the wrong track played or the right track played but she couldn't hear it. So she ambled around looking tight-lipped while her dancers carried on like the troupers they no doubt are.

There's a round-up of the latest state of the blame game here. On one side you've got the TV producers. On the other you've got Carey's manager. These things are usually six of one and half a dozen of the other so I'm not taking sides.

However it does cause you to reflect on the panic of the traditional gatekeepers of entertainment - the TV networks and the record companies - when confronted with the challenges of the wild world of today. Certain aspects are particularly interesting to me.

* By the look and sound of things she was going to sing most of the song live with only the difficult bits flown in from a hard drive. This is presumably how these things are increasingly done. Technology is now flexible enough to provide lots of such halfway house solutions, which would lead you to suspect that anything which sounds incredible is precisely that.
* The dancers don't appear to be thrown by not being able to hear the track because they're dancing by numbers. As long as they all start together they're likely to finish together.
* Is it possible that the producers were more interested in seeing it go wrong than seeing it go right because three days of speculation on the web is worth more than a massive audience on the night?
* If that's not true, isn't it interesting that Mariah Carey thinks it is?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

You can't make your children happy - particularly at Christmas

This is the only thing I learned from my experience of bringing up our kids, all of whom are adults now.

You can't make your children happy.

You can't force it upon them.

And Christmas is the time of year when you try hardest to do just that.

It's at its worst when they're little. That's when you want them to be excited but not too excited. This is an emotional state they're not equipped for. All that pent-up anticipation all too easily spills over into tantrums, even tears, which then upsets the adults.

This didn't happen all the time but I well remember the times that it did. It was always when we were trying to make it perfect.

So, have yourself the kind of Christmas you want.

Friday, December 16, 2016

All famous people think they know each other

Vanity Fair have tried to find out the truth about Donald Trump's claim that he and Kanye West are "old friends". 

One of the first things that fame teaches the newly famous is to treat everybody as though they've already met. This always works because once they're famous everybody they do meet will mention the time they met before. The famous person won't remember this because the famous person meets hundreds of new people every day and if it makes these people happy to have them believe that you remember meeting them before then why mess up something that makes them happy? The famous person will have forgotten all about the civilian within minutes of meeting them so it's no skin off their famous nose.

If you're major league famous, like, say, Madonna or David Beckham, all social interactions will be instigated by somebody else. You never have to go "hello, I'm Madonna". It's a given that you're Madonna and therefore everybody is naturally drawn to you and will defer to you. You never have to explain your presence.

The best bit in the first series of "Episodes" is when Matt Le Blanc has lunch with writers Tamsin Greig and Stephen Mangan. His opening line is "I'm here....why?" He simply can't be caught admitting he's there because he wanted to be. Somebody else must have made this happen.

I'm told the Queen never says hello or goodbye. This makes perfect sense to me. For everybody she deals with life begins when she arrives and ceases when she departs. The only scene that matters is the one featuring the Queen and by definition this is over when she leaves.

And here we have Kanye West and Donald Trump. At the time they met they were the two most famous and controversial figures in the New York area. Therefore it stood to reason that they should meet and have their picture taken.

Do they know each other? They're famous. That's all they need to know about each other.