27 August 2017

Psycho

Psycho
Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho has been available in multiple formats since its original theatrical release in 1960. I've seen it on 35mm, DCP, laserdisc, DVD, blu-ray, VHS (open matte), as an in-flight movie, and on television (in an extended version). The film's script has been published, as part of The Film Classics Library. Hitchcock wrote a publicity booklet, The Care & Handling Of Psycho. There are plenty of books about it, including Alfred Hitchcock & The Making Of Psycho (which inspired the film Hitchcock), The Moment Of Psycho, and Psycho In The Shower.

But Psycho's soundtrack has never had an official release. There have been albums of orchestral performances of the score, some even conducted by composer Bernard Herrmann, though these were recorded many years after the film was made. There are also recordings claiming to be from the original master tapes, though these are poor-quality bootlegs. The closest to a legitimate release of the original soundtrack was Universal's Signature Collection laserdisc, which featured an isolated music track as a bonus feature.

Psycho, a new 7" single from Stylotone, is the first Psycho soundtrack released under licence from Universal. It contains only two tracks (the opening titles music, Prelude; and The Murder, from the shower sequence), though they are sourced directly from the original master tapes. The record was produced in collaboration with the Hitchcock and Herrmann estates, making it as official as they come. It is limited to 1,960 copies, and comes with a postcard featuring a still from the film.

25 August 2017

Flowers in the Rain


Flowers in the Rain New Statesman

Today is the fiftieth anniversary of the release of The Move’s single Flowers in the Rain. To promote the song, the band’s manager Tony Secunda commissioned Neil Smith to draw a caricature of a nude Harold Wilson—Prime Minister at the time—in bed with his secretary, Marcia Williams. Secunda sent copies of the drawing on 500 postcards to newspapers, magazines, and radio stations, though the stunt quickly backfired after Wilson sued for defamation. The PM won the libel case, and was awarded all royalties from the single, in perpetuity (which he donated to charity). Coincidentally, Flowers in the Rain was the very first song played on BBC Radio 1, and the postcard was reproduced in the very first issue of Rolling Stone magazine. (BBC4 broadcast The Lavender List, a drama implying an affair between Wilson and Williams, on 1st March 2006, and Williams successfully sued for libel.)

It is almost unheard of for a British PM to sue for defamation. The only comparable case is that of John Major, who sued the New Statesman and Scallywag magazines in 1993 after they reported allegations of his affair with his caterer, Clare Latimer. The New Statesman’s cover of 29th January that year, a photomontage of Major and Latimer, was a less salacious version of the Wilson postcard. Scallywag’s coverage of the rumoured affair, in issue number 12, was more sensationalist and satirical. Major won damages from both magazines, as the allegation of an affair with Latimer was false, though unbeknown to either publication, he was actually having an affair with one of his ministers, Edwina Currie, at the time.

17 August 2017

Rebel Heart Tour

Rebel Heart Tour
Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour will be released on video and CD next month. The concert, promoting her Rebel Heart album, was broadcast on Showtime last December.

The DVD and blu-ray versions feature the following songs: Iconic, Bitch I'm Madonna, Burning Up, a medley of Holy Water and Vogue, Devil Pray, Messiah, Body Shop, True Blue, Deeper & Deeper, HeartBreakCity, Like A Virgin, S.E.X., Living For Love, La Isla Bonita, a medley of Dress You Up and Into The Groove, Rebel Heart, Illuminati, Music, Candy Shop, Material Girl, La Vie En Rose, Unapologetic Bitch, Holiday, and Like A Prayer. (Take A Bow is included as a bonus in Japan.)

A CD double-album features all tracks except Messiah, S.E.X., and Illuminati. A single-disc CD version features thirteen songs: Iconic, Bitch I'm Madonna, Burning Up, a medley of Holy Water and Vogue, Devil Pray, Deeper & Deeper, HeartBreakCity, Living For Love, La Isla Bonita, Rebel Heart, Candy Shop, Unapologetic Bitch, and Holiday.

The DVD and blu-ray releases will also include extracts from the Tears Of A Clown cabaret show, though unfortunately it's the rather shambolic Melbourne debut rather than the more polished Miami performance. The black-and-white extracts include performances of Borderline, Don't Tell Me (with an a cappella section), and a few lines of Holiday.

04 April 2017

Orbit Festival

A nightclub manager has been arrested in Tunisia after a DJ included a sample of the Islamic call to prayer as part of his set at the Orbit Festival. The nightclub, El Guitoune in the town of Hammamet, has been closed down by the local authorities.

Dax J, a techno DJ based in Berlin, was one of the headliners on 31st March, the opening night of the two-day event. The call to prayer, which begins with the expression "Allahu akbar" ("God is great"), was also featured on the single Metal Hammer (1990) by And One.

[Quotations from the Koran have previously caused controversy when they have appeared out of context in non-Islamic songs. Tapha Niang by Toumani Diabate; Arab Money by Busta Rhymes; Maya by Joey Boy; Ana Yousef, Ya Abi by Marcel Khalife; and Noor-Un-Ala by MF Hussain all feature extracts from the Koran.]

01 March 2017

Visions Of Music

Visions Of Music
While there are numerous histories of album covers (including Album: Classic Sleeve Designs, The Art Of The Album Cover, and Art Record Covers), sheet music design is a relatively niche field of interest. Visions Of Music, by Tony Walas, is a history of sheet music covers.

Despite its subtitle (Sheet Music In The Twentieth Century), the book includes examples from the Victorian era onwards, demonstrating that illustrated sheet music covers existed long before Alex Steinweiss designed the first pictorial record sleeves. The covers in the book are only from the author's collection, though it's the first survey of the subject to feature covers from all genres.

16 February 2017

Art Record Covers

Art Record Covers
Art Record Covers, written by Francesco Spampinato and edited by Julius Wiedemann, features over 500 album covers designed since 1955. Rather than a guide to the greatest album covers (such as The Art Of The Album Cover by Richard Evans, or Album: Classic Sleeve Designs by Nick de Ville), it's the first survey of covers created by artists as opposed to graphic designers. Appropriately, this lavish and comprehensive book is almost the same size as a 12" LP.

13 December 2016

Madonna: Rebel Heart

Madonna: Rebel Heart
Madonna's Rebel Heart Tour was broadcast on Showtime on 9th December. The concert film, Madonna: Rebel Heart, was directed by Danny Tull and Nathan Rissman. (Tull has edited three previous Madonna tour videos: The Confessions Tour, Sticky & Sweet Tour, and MDNA World Tour.)

Unapologetic Bitch included a montage of the special guests who appeared at each venue, though the entire film felt like a mosaic of shots from different concerts: footage of Madonna wearing different costumes was intercut without continuity. The end credits featured brief backstage footage (and Madonna performing If I Had A Hammer).

03 December 2016

Tears Of A Clown

Tears Of A Clown
Madonna's Tears Of A Clown cabaret show debuted in Melbourne earlier this year, and she performed her second Tears Of A Clown concert (wearing a less gothic clown costume) yesterday in Miami. (It was also streamed online via Facebook Live.) Both shows began with a cover version of Send In The Clowns and ended with a ukulele version of Holiday, her traditional encore, though in other respects the two performances were entirely different.

The first show was rather maudlin, while the second was much more upbeat. A revised set list, with ballads replaced by Beautiful Stranger, American Life, and Express Yourself, gave the second show much more energy than the first. Despite the Tears Of A Clown title, the second version was more angry than sad, and the melancholic introspection of the first show was gone. Instead, Madonna admonished the audience (for crowding the stage) and criticised Donald Trump (during a cover version of Britney Spears' Toxic).

Yesterday's show also seemed more rehearsed and choreographed than the first. The clown jokes were as corny as before, though there was some comic timing instead of the first show's awkward silences. The only misfire came when Madonna gave $100 bills to members of the crowd, seemingly for no reason. The audience (who had paid $5,000 each for this charity event) was fairly quiet, and Madonna complained: "There's no excitement in this room!" The set list was: Send In The Clowns, Like It Or Not, Toxic, I'm So Stupid, Beautiful Stranger, Easy Ride, American Life, Don't Tell Me, Express Yourself, and Holiday.

01 October 2016

Alex Steinweiss

Alex Steinweiss
Alex Steinweiss
Piano Concerto No. 5
The Dark Side Of The Moon
Alex Steinweiss, written by Kevin Reagan and published by Taschen, is a comprehensive monograph devoted to the man who was, as the subtitle puts it, The Inventor Of The Modern Album Cover. The book (whose cover and endpapers resemble a 78rpm record sleeve) was written with Steinweiss' full collaboration, and it was published just a few months before he died.

Steinweiss was working for Columbia Records when he designed an illustrated cover for their 1940 Richard Rogers album Smash Song Hits. In The Art Of The Album Cover, Richard Evans calls Steinweiss "the inventor of the individual album cover," and Nick de Ville's more comprehensive book on the same subject, Album, notes that the 1940 Steinweiss sleeve "resulted in the launch of illustrated covers for albums".

Taschen's book is the definitive study of Steinweiss and his work, with many full-page reproductions of his record covers and other examples of graphic design. (His 1942 Beethoven's Emperor concerto cover "may well have inspired" Pink Floyd's The Dark Side Of The Moon.) It also includes a lengthy essay by Steven Heller, Visualizing Music. (An earlier book on Steinweiss, For The Record by Jennifer McKnight-Trontz, also has an introduction by Heller.)

12 August 2016

Still Brazy

Still Brazy
Still Brazy, the latest album by rapper YG, has been censored by its distributor, Def Jam. The tracks FDT (Fuck Donald Trump, featuring Nipsey Hussle) and Blacks & Browns (featuring Sad Boy) both contained lyrics suggesting that Donald Trump could (or should) be shot, and those lines were removed before the album was released.

There were two deletions from FDT: YG's line "Surprised El Chapo ain't tried to snipe you" and Nipsey Hussle's "you gone prolly get smoked" were removed. One of Sad Boy's lines from Blacks & Browns was replaced by white noise, to highlight the censorship.

YG and Nipsey Hussle performed a clean version of FDT on the Comedy Central programme The Nightly Show on 22nd July, without any swear words, though ironically they did include the lines censored from the album. Also, when YG and Nipsey Hussle perform the song in concert, they play the uncensored version.

The uncensored version of FDT was released online in April, in advance of the album. According to YG, the Secret Service then contacted Def Jam's parent company, Universal, requesting a copy of the album's lyrics. YG says that the references to shooting Trump were removed by the record company at the request of the Secret Service.

The record company has not commented on the issue, and by definition the Secret Service is also unlikely to make any public comment. Thus, there is no way to verify YG's version of events. The album was certainly censored prior to its release, though YG's explanation about the Secret Service seems exaggerated.

The only album to be declared illegal in America was The 2 Live Crew's As Nasty As They Wanna Be (1989), which was convicted of obscenity in Florida. Ironically, when the band released a self-censored version of the album, As Clean As They Wanna Be, they were taken to court again, this time for copyright infringement over an unauthorised sample of Roy Orbison’s Oh, Pretty Woman. The case set a legal precedent, with the Supreme Court ruling that parody constituted fair use.

In the UK, there have been a handful of police investigations into albums and singles. Thousands of copies of NWA's album Efil4zaggin were seized by customs and released several months later after a failed obscenity prosecution. The same fate befell Dismember's album Like an Everflowing Stream, 800 copies of which—en route from Germany—were also seized by customs. (In both cases, the albums were confiscated under the Customs Consolidation Act, a Victorian statute prohibiting the importation of obscene or indecent material.) Bata Motel, a track on the Crass album Penis Envy, was convicted under the Obscene Publications Act after a raid by Greater Manchester Police. So What?, the B-side to the Anti-Nowhere League's single Streets Of London, was also convicted of obscenity.

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28 June 2016

St. Kitts Music Festival

50 Cent was arrested after appearing at the St. Kitts Music Festival on Saturday night. Performances containing profanity are illegal in St. Kitts, though 50 Cent sang P.I.M.P., which includes lyrics such as "I'm a motherfuckin' P.I.M.P."

The concert was held at Warner Park in the St. Kitts capital, Basseterre. 50 Cent was briefly held in custody, and left the country on Sunday after paying a fine.

11 March 2016

Tears Of A Clown

Tears Of A Clown
Tears Of A Clown, the cabaret show Madonna performed last night at the Forum theatre in Melbourne, was the complete antithesis of a Madonna concert. Usually, every second of her live performances is meticulously choreographed, resulting in theatrical events with plenty of spectacle but little spontaneity. In contrast, Tears Of A Clown had no dance routines, costume changes, or choreography, and Madonna described it as "this work in progress, this rough rehearsal".

Madonna made her entrance on a child's tricycle, wearing a pink wig (like the one she wore while performing Like A Virgin on Top Of The Pops in 1984) and a clown costume. She began by announcing: "First of all, I wanna make a disclaimer, because if anyone thinks they came here to see a finished, final show, there's the door." (The audience - 1,500 Australian members of her fan club - had been waiting outside the theatre for four hours, so they were unlikely to leave.)

The show was an incongruous combination of corny jokes and melancholy. One song, Intervention, was dedicated to her son, over whom she's currently fighting a custody battle: "Everybody knows the saga of me and my son Rocco. It's not a fun story to tell or think about." Introspective moments like this felt awkward, with the crowd regularly shouting reassurance, and the concert was intimate though fairly shambolic.

Madonna seemed relaxed during the show, drinking cocktails between songs (most of which were ballads). She performed two cover versions (Send In The Clowns and Between The Bars), and the only song from the current Rebel Heart Tour was her traditional encore, Holiday. The full set list was: Send In The Clowns, Drowned World/Substitute For Love, X-Static Process, Between The Bars, Nobody's Perfect, Easy Ride, Intervention, I'm So Stupid, Paradise (Not For Me), Joan Of Arc, Don't Tell me, Mer Girl, Borderline, Take A Bow, and Holiday.

11 September 2015

Rebel Heart Tour

Rebel Heart Tour
Rebel Heart Tour
Madonna's latest world tour began on 9th September in Montreal. The Rebel Heart Tour, featuring material from the album Rebel Heart, will continue to America and Europe until the end of this year, moving to Asia and Australasia next year. She will perform in Thailand on 9th and 10th February, at Impact Arena, Muang Thong Thani.

The show contains no tracks from her previous MDNA album, though it does feature songs such as Who's That Girl, True Blue, and Love Don't Live Here Anymore that she hasn't performed for more than twenty-five years. Holiday returns to its traditional position as the encore. Madonna's previous tours are: The MDNA Tour, the Sticky & Sweet Tour, the Confessions Tour, the Reinvention World Tour, the Drowned World Tour, The Girlie Show, the Blond Ambition World Tour, the Who's That Girl World Tour, and The Virgin Tour.

The set list is: Iconic; Bitch I'm Madonna; Burning Up; Holy Water; Vogue; Devil Pray; Messiah (accompanied by the Ghosttown video); Body Shop; True Blue; Deeper & Deeper; HeartBreakCity; Love Don't Live Here Anymore; Like A Virgin; S.E.X. (preceded by lines from Justify My Love, and accompanied by the Erotica video); Living For Love; La Isla Bonita; a medley of Into The Groove, Everybody, Lucky Star, and Dress You Up; Who's That Girl; Rebel Heart; Illuminati; Music; Candy Shop; Material Girl; La Vie En Rose (performed in French); Unapologetic Bitch; and Holiday. Ghosttown was added to the set list after the first few shows, and she also performed Frozen, Fever, Secret, Take A Bow, Crazy For You, and Like A Prayer at some concerts.

The Art Of The Album Cover

The Art Of The Album Cover
Elvis Presley
Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
The Dark Side Of The Moon
The Art Of The Album Cover (subtitled A History & A How To on the dust jacket), by Richard Evans, is a guide to the design of vinyl album sleeves. Classics such as Elvis Presley's eponymous first record are included, though Evans singles out two covers in particular: "The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band ranks alongside Pink Floyd's The Dark Side of the Moon as the best-known album cover of all time."

Though it's less than 200 pages long, the book is almost unique in its coverage of early album covers from the 1940s. Organised chronologically by decade, it covers seventy years of cover art, starting with the very first illustrated sleeve, Smash Song Hits, released in 1940: "a collection of four, ten-inch 78rpm singles in a book-format package with its own unique design on the front." Nick de Ville's Album: Classic Sleeve Designs is less glossy, though it covers album artwork since 1878.

28 July 2015

Craze Fest

Police pulled the plug on a concert at Wolf Lake Pavilion in Hammond, Indiana on Saturday night, during a performance by Chief Keef. Several arrest warrants have been issued for the singer in the neighboring state of Illinois, thus planned appearances in Chicago were cancelled, and his performance at Craze Fest was transmitted via hologram from Beverley Hills, California.

Chief Keef's set began with a pre-recorded introduction: "Everybody in Chicago. All the kids. If you got goals, achieve 'em. If you got dreams, believe 'em. Stop the violence. Stop the killing. Let the kids grow up. Now, Chicago, are you ready for a show? Let's go!" He then performed his debut single I Don't Like, though police cancelled the show a few minutes later.

26 February 2015

Rebel Heart

Rebel Heart
Rebel Heart
Rebel Heart
Last December, Madonna digitally released six tracks from her forthcoming album, Rebel Heart: Living For Love, Devil Pray, Ghosttown, Unapologetic Bitch, Illuminati, and Bitch I'm Madonna. A further three tracks were digitally released earlier this month: Joan Of Arc, Hold Tight, and Iconic. The full album will be available next month.

Rebel Heart will be released three years after Madonna's last studio album, MDNA. (That album inspired The MDNA Tour and the live album MDNA World Tour; Madonna also released the promo single Broken in 2012, and produced the short film secretprojectrevolution in 2013.)

The catchy Living For Love and Unapologetic Bitch are among the album's strongest tracks, as are the powerful Ghosttown and the autobiographical Rebel Heart. The least successful tracks are those featuring other artists: Nicki Minaj reappears on Bitch I'm Madonna, and Iconic opens with convicted rapist Mike Tyson. (Curiously, the album does not include any liner notes; guest vocalists are credited, though producers and other collaborators are not listed.)

The self-referential Bitch I'm Madonna echoes the final line of MDNA's I Don't Give A ("There's only one queen, and that's Madonna. Bitch!"). S.E.X. clearly evokes the infamous 1992 book Sex, though it feels too much like self-parody. Veni Vidi Vici's lyrics are a collage of titles from previous Madonna tracks ("I expressed myself, came like a virgin down the aisle..."). Holy Water, like 1993's Deeper & Deeper, quotes several lines from Vogue ("Ladies with an attitude...").

Rebel Heart will be available in three versions, each with a different cover: the 'standard' edition (featuring Madonna wearing a red sweater), the 'deluxe' edition (featuring Madonna's face bound with chord), and the 'super deluxe' edition (featuring a red-tinted cover). The standard version contains fourteen tracks: Living For Love, Devil Pray, Ghosttown, Unapologetic Bitch, Illuminati, Bitch I'm Madonna, Hold Tight, Joan Of Arc, Iconic, HeartBreakCity, Body Shop, Holy Water, Inside Out, and Wash All Over Me. (Strangely, this version doesn't include the title track, Rebel Heart.) The standard version is also available in a censored 'clean' edition.

The deluxe version adds five more tracks to the original fourteen: Best Night, Veni Vedi Vici, S.E.X., Messiah, and Rebel Heart. (This is the version released on vinyl.) The super deluxe version contains the original fourteen tracks, the five deluxe tracks, and a further four tracks: Beautiful Scars, Borrowed Time, Addicted, and Graffiti Heart. A bonus track, Auto-Tune Baby, is available in Germany.

01 January 2015

Broken

Broken
In 2012, Madonna released a limited edition gatefold 12" single, Broken, which is available only to members of her Icon fan club. The pink vinyl record features an extended remix of Broken, which is a previously unreleased non-album track. Previously, Icon members were able to download the exclusive Confessions On A Dance Floor bonus track Superpop.

23 November 2013

Dark Side Of The Rainbow

Dark Side Of The Rainbow
This Wednesday, Bangkok's Jam Cafe will host screenings of two classic films set to the music of Pink Floyd. The event, Dark Side Of The Rainbow, will begin with an extract from Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (the final 'Jupiter & Beyond The Infinite' sequence), accompanied by Pink Floyd's track Echoes. This will be followed by a screening of The Wizard Of Oz, accompanied by the Pink Floyd album The Dark Side Of The Moon.

Both films were screened recently in Thailand. 2001 was shown at the Thai Film Archive last month, and The Wizard Of Oz was shown at the Bangkok Community Theatre in September.

29 September 2013

Бей чертей

Языческие боги
Бей чертей, a song by the Russian band Corrosia Metalla, has been banned by the Russian Ministry of Justice. The Gagarinsky District Court in Moscow ruled on 22nd May that the song was 'extremist' and thus illegal, and the judgement was upheld by the Ministry of Justice on 27th September. Бей чертей was included on the band's album Языческие боги, released in 2002.

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20 September 2013

MDNA World Tour

MDNA World Tour MDNA World Tour
Madonna's MDNA Tour has been released on video and as a double-album, both titled MDNA World Tour. DVD and blu-ray editions both feature the entire concert, filmed last year in Miami, Florida (and broadcast by Epix on 22nd June). For the first time, the live album version also includes the full concert. (Previous live CDs, Sticky & Sweet Tour, The Confessions Tour, and I'm Going To Tell You A Secret, featured only selected highlights.) The album has been released on CD in Europe and Asia - though not in America - and is also available in a dual-format edition (DVD and double CD).

The track-list is: Virgin Mary, Girl Gone Wild, Revolver, Gang Bang, Papa Don't Preach, Hung Up, I Don't Give A, Best Friend, Express Yourself, Give Me All Your Luvin', Turn Up The Radio, Open Your Heart, Masterpiece, Justify My Love, Vogue, Erotic Candy Shop, Human Nature, Like A Virgin Waltz, Love Spent, Nobody Knows Me, I'm Addicted, I'm A Sinner, Like A Prayer, and Celebration. (Erotic Candy Shop is a medley of Erotica and Candy Shop; Erotica also featured on the soundtrack of Madonna's directorial debut, Filth & Wisdom, in 2008.)