Life as a Publishing MA student and Carlton Books intern

This week, we asked one of our lovely interns, Elizabeth Preske to write us a post about what it’s like to do a Publishing MA and also what it has been like working at Carlton…

Upon entering UCL’s MA Publishing course, I wasn’t really sure which area of publishing I most wanted to pursue. I just knew that I loved books and wanted a career that allowed me to immerse myself in their existence and surround myself with like-minded individuals. I thought Editorial might be a good career option for me as I do tend to obnoxiously correct other people’s grammar and I have what I can only describe as a ‘hipsteresque’ love for discovering books before the inevitable craze (I’m looking at you, The Hunger Games).

I was – and still am – interested in Editorial, but two months ago I didn’t know what else I could do in the publishing industry. The first week of the course we were given a crash course in its various departments – Editorial, yes, along with Sales, Marketing, Rights and Production. We learned how they work and how they cooperate and coordinate together to create the beautiful masterpiece that is a book. Since then, my course has met twice a week. Our instructors bring in professionals from the industry to speak to us and give us insight into their careers, providing us insider information and fuelling even more passion for the industry as they do. Among the numerous topics we’ve learnt this term, my course has been taught how to work with authors, draw up contracts, use InDesign and develop a marketing plan.

It’s one thing to spend 3 hours discussing contracts, but it’s another to actually work with them. I will get a work placement come spring, but I knew that it was important for me to get an internship before then in order to bolster my studies and get as much work experience as possible.

Several weeks ago one of my course instructors forwarded us an internship opportunity from Carlton Books. I applied, interviewed and got an offer to intern in the International Sales department within a few short days. Although I had never previously considered a career in International Sales, the placement could not have been more fitting. I work primarily with U.S. sales and since I am an American, I feel like the perfect candidate for this position. I also thrive on international relations and love to see how much better my culture is compared to everyone else’s (I’m kidding, seriously!). Really, I couldn’t wait to get experience in international business, and was beginning to see International Sales as a viable career path for me.

I work three days a week, on the days when I don’t have class. It is a lot of work and can be exhausting, but it is incredibly rewarding and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The first couple of weeks I helped out in the aftermath of the Frankfurt Book Fair, and so sent physical books and electronic materials to Carlton’s customers in the U.S. My duties have included logging in contracts, conducting market research on U.S. publishing houses, filing and updating Carlton’s catalogue. I’m getting a better understanding of the U.S. market and how publishing houses operate there, which will really come in handy should (or, as my parents like to think, when) I return home.

I also have had the opportunity to meet with people in the other departments. I’ve met with people in Production, Marketing, Editorial and Rights, and they tell the other interns and I what their jobs entail. It’s almost like the ‘Publishing Book Camp’ UCL gave us, but with added understanding on my part because they tell me what they do and I can see it and ask them how it all fits in with Carlton’s mission.

Another thing I love is how my co-workers come from all over the world. Again, it’s like the MA Publishing course but on a smaller scale. And I love all of it. Everyone comes from a different background and can offer a unique perspective to the work environment.

Do I see myself pursuing a career in International Sales? Potentially. What I’m coming to find is that I’m interested in so many different areas in publishing. I could really work anywhere and be content, so I guess that’s a great thing to learn because it means I’m in the right place.

About India’s Disappearing Railways – by Catherine Anderson

On Thursday 20th November, we published India’s Disappearing Railwaysa stunning, photographic journey by Angus McDonald. Angus died suddenly whilst travelling in Burma in 2013 and the book was put together by his partner Catherine, who has also established a charity in his memory, The Angus McDonald Trust, to fund healthcare projects in remote corners of Asia. Catherine has been kind enough to write us a piece for our blog. 

It’s a curious fact of life that when someone dies, their stock increases. Such was the case when my fiancé, the Australian photojournalist Angus McDonald, died early last year – in February 2013 – when we were travelling together in Myanmar. Less than one year previously he had been diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. Six months before that, he asked me to marry him on a windswept monsoon beach on the Krabi peninsula of Thailand. As Joan Didion said in her searing memoir of love and grief,

Life changes fast. Life changes in the instant.

Catherine and Angus

By contrast, the astonishingly beautiful landscapes and placid humanity of the rare and remote narrow-gauge railway lines of Angus’s book India’s Disappearing Railways, published yesterday by Goodman Fiell (Carlton Books) and his last major work, are steeped in timelessness. There is little that is fast or sleek about these lines. There is nothing instantaneous about them. From the 150-year-old Dabhoi Railways of Gujarat to the relatively spritely 90-year-old Kangra Valley Railway, each has evolved as a unique being, as self-sufficient microcosms of life shaped by landscape, history and community. Angus spent over five years, on and off, documenting these gems when he could manage to get away from the photographic assignments that took him all over central and south-east Asia, building a vast archive of images in the process. Whether it was trekking the Great Wall of China for National Geographic, or climbing Mount Everest as official photographer on a fatal Indian civil expedition, or picking his way through the debris of the decimated south-Indian coastlines following the tsunami of 2004, Angus documented all he encountered with grace and humility. India’s Disappearing Railways is no exception: from the Western Ghats of Maharashtra to the fertile alluvial plains of Madhya Pradesh, from the Blue Mountains of Tamil Nadu to the foothills of his beloved Himalayas, via conflict-riven Assam, this is a tribute to the country he loved. Not only have Carlton produced an incredibly sophisticated publication, but you will be able to see the images exhibited at the Royal Geographical Society’s Pavilion Gallery in London, from December 1st 2014 right through to January 9th 2015.

When people ask me whether it was difficult, to edit the book and to bring to life the work of my late fiancé, I answer that it was a complete joy. Not only have I now been able to travel these lines with Angus, and to share with him the experience of their meandering serenity, but I have been able to bring to the widest audience possible the sheer wonder of his work. That Angus is not alive to see this magnificent project receive the recognition it so deserves will be an endless source of sadness to me, yet I take solace in the fact that – in these images – he lives on and touches more lives than he could have imagined. All author proceeds from the book will go directly to The Angus McDonald Trust, the grant-making charity I have established in his name to donate to grassroots healthcare projects in Myanmar, the country he both loved and died in. We plan exhibitions in both Sydney and New York next year to coincide with the publication of the book in those territories, and a UK tour planned for 2016 will begin with a revival at the Nehru Centre next Autumn. The Guardian, the Daily Telegraph, the Observer, the BBC, the Evening Standard, Sky News, ITV, Geographical magazine, and many many more have either covered, or are planning to cover, the work. And as the days shorten and the temperature drops, these images in book and exhibition form will transport readers and viewers to incredible feats of engineering in some of the farthest-flung corners of the sub-continent.

A friend, who shall remain anonymous, compared Angus to the late Indian photographer Raghubir Singh – who also died at a very early age and whose small format street-photography and use of colour in the ‘70s was pioneering – and declared Angus the better photographer ‘…because of his human empathy’. In the small details of human life along these historic railways Angus finds exuberance and sadness, solitude and clamour, heritage and modernity. Never does he impose his presence, and the result is the work of a true great.


India's Disappearing Railways

India’s Disappearing Railways | Published by Goodman Fiell | 9781783130115

For more information about The Angus McDonald Trust, please click here.

A fundraiser for the Trust is being held at the RGS’s 700-seat Ondaatje Theatre on 17th December at 7pm, when historian and broadcaster Michael Wood will deliver an illustrated lecture entitled Travels in India – tickets on sale here.
For more information about the Royal Geographical Society’s exhibition, click here.

How I met Squadron Leader Tony Iveson, by Brian Milton

This week, Brian Milton, author of The Lancaster and the Tirpitz tells us how he met Squadron Leader, Tony Iveson and how they came to work together on the book.

The Lancaster and the Tirpitz

In 1986 I was in a meeting of the National Union of Journalists in TV-am, where we were pondering the launch of the ITV breakfast TV station on the Stock Market and wondering how many share options we should ask for, even demand; trade unions were powerful back then. I had spent much of the previous two years in cold and windy mining villages as TV-am’s Industrial Reporter watching Maggie Thatcher destroy the NUM. Then there was a summons from upstairs.

It was from Bruce Gyngell, a large Australian who habitually wore pink shirts and had dispensed with three wives and was in the process of acquiring a fourth, Kathy Rowan, one of TV-am producers and a friend. Bruce had four or five men in his office plotting a wheeze. They were managing the ‘float’  of TV-am on the stock market to pay back some of the money put up by Gyngell’s patron, the legendary investor and gambler Kerry Packer. Their problem was that no one in the City knew anything about TV-am except Anna Ford had thrown a glass of wine over Jonathan Aitken. It was the wrong wine, white instead of red, and the wrong Aitken.  It should have been Jonathan’s cousin Tim (‘I just love sacking people’) Aitken, who had dispensed with a number of Ms Ford’s friends, the Famous Five + One. The ‘Famous Five’ were David Frost, Robert Key, Michael Parkinson, Angela Rippon and Ms Ford herself, all founders of TV-am. The ‘One’ was Britain’s former ambassador to Washington, Peter Jay, and that may have been the last straw to break the camel’s back that was Ms Ford’s fiery and feminist temper.

It was hardly the basis to sell a company to the public, or the City.

Bruce Gyngell had been advised that the best way of getting known to City investors, and thereby get TV-am shares away in a successful float and trouser a pile of money, was to make a daily programme about the City itself.

What sort of a programme it was to be, no one knew, because there had been no regular City slot in Britain back in 1986 – they are all the rage in the 21st century, but back then I had some difficulty getting an agreed spelling for Nikkei, as in ‘Nikkei Dow’, a measure of the strength of the Japanese stock market

Gyngell roared in his distinctive Australian, ‘Brian, you’re going to set up a financial slot, you’ve got two weeks, if you were an Australian you could do it in two days but you Poms take longer.’

Looking on with approval was one of the men who had come up with this wheeze, a tall, quiet man with a benign smile. I hardly knew who he was, it was Gyngell to mattered to me at that time. It was, though, Tony Iveson, who probably knew more than most PR men where ‘all the bodies were buried’, which may have been why Gyngell hired him and two others like him. In any case, it was Tony’s idea, and I had to make it work.

Two years later, during which time I chose an intemperate moment to have a row with Bruce and resigned, and TV-am had broken the power of the trade unions and was coining money. I went off to fly a microlight aircraft to Australia to celebrate its bicentenary. This was, for ten years, the longest fastest microlight flight in the world. Adventures included being turned upside down and wrecked on a Greek island and gluing it together, and falling into the Persian Gulf with a fuel blockage on Christmas Day in the middle of the Iran/Iraq War. The Iranians attacked two nearby tankers killing seven crewmen during the six hours before I got the microlight out of the water again, but they did not see me.

After other adventures I reached Sydney – only Brisbane by the time of the Bicentenary, sadly – and after touring the Outback to write a book, I returned to England to see how I was going to make a living again for my wife and two young children down in Bristol.

I was in the middle of helping produce a pub quiz programme for Yorkshire TV when, one day, I was phoned, and a smooth voice introduced himself as Tony Iveson. He explained how we had (briefly) met at TV-am, and asked if I would come and talk to his squadron about the Australia flight?

‘I would love to,’ I replied.

No one in British microlighting had asked me to speak about my flight, then being dismissed by Norman Burr, Editor of the official magazine, as ‘the world’s longest ego trip.’

‘What is your squadron?’

‘617,’ he said.

I nearly fell off the chair!

I cannot remember how many times I have seen ‘The Dambusters’ film but it was a lot. I am sure it affected the way I speak, in clipped tones – my father was in the RAF, we were posted every two years, I am a service brat with no regional accent – so I learned to talk by emulating Richard Todd and all those wartime cinema heroes. Now I was going to speak to them. The real thing!

On that night, November 12, 1988, it was the 44th anniversary of 617 Squadron’s sinking of the Tirpitz, and Tony was a kind host to me and my then wife, Fiona Campbell. It was all a bit of a blur. I know so much more about them now than then, but the fact that I was in the same room as the surviving men who broke the Mohne and Eder dams, and sank the Tirpitz, was just astonishing. My talk was too long, and while no one said anything, I still cringe at the thought.

What right had I to go and talk of my ‘adventure’ to such men?

I knew Tony had been on all three raids against the Tirpitz, the more so because his beloved wife Margery told me about the individual bomb plots that night. I also learned that he was one of the 2,946 pilots who fought in the Battle of Britain. Tony had been a 21-year old RAFVR Sergeant flying a Spitfire in 616 Squadron when he was shot down chasing a Ju88 over the North Sea. He was rescued by a passing convoy.

From time to time thereafter, I came across Tony. I learned that he and Margery sold up and went to France, I had their address and phone number, but we were not then in regular contact. After TV-am I never again had a ‘proper job’ with a pension. It was always contracts and freelance work.

In 1997 I found the sponsorship to make the first flight around the world in a flexwing microlight, like a large hang glider with a motorbike underneath, and chose a flying companion called Keith Reynolds, who had asked to join me. We wanted a lot of time together before the flight itself, and proposed trips to Corsica, Liechtenstein – our sponsor was Prince Philipp of Liechtenstein – and Berlin. On the flight to Corsica we stopped in Villefranche du Perigord where I have a house, and I found Tony’s phone number and called him. I wanted to visit him the following day and give him a ride in my microlight; I remember him saying dubiously, ‘four engines good, one engine bad’.

Tony told me Margery had died not long before, after having fought cancer for two years. He had sold the French house, and was packing up to go back to England, but I persuaded him to meet us next day at an airfield near Montpelier, west of Marseilles. He gave us lunch, I gave us dinner, we slept in packed-up rooms and the following day I took him up in my beautiful fragile aircraft  in clear blue skies. We soared over his local village church at 1,000 feet, circling slowly while he paid his last respects to the wife he had loved for so long.

It was moving to him and I was conscious of the moment. I was the younger man, setting out on a hazardous journey, washing my shield as it were, and  sharpening my sword, while Tony, a genuine warrior veteran was saying goodbye to one life, and at 79, preparing for another.

Tony went back to England and some months later met a girl he had once taken to a cricket match when she was a beautiful 14 year-old schoolgirl and he was a BOAC Captain. Mary was the stepdaughter to Tony’s great wartime flying friend ‘Slinky’, and was now a widow. Each had gone on to different lives after that cricket match, but when they met again in Bath, Tony said later, ‘as she walked the few yards across the room to greet me I realised I was, once more, in love.’

I did set off around the world with Keith Reynolds and had numerous adventures. These included being bounced by a Syrian MIG-21, and seven out-landings and an engine change in the Saudi Desert. But Keith abandoned the flight in Siberia and I came back alone. It was during the fifteen minutes of fame afterwards that I was drawn into Tony Iveson’s aviation world – I know he had something to do with it – and it may have been because I was a flyer myself that, when the Lancaster Project came up, I was a name that Tony thought of.

I have learned a lot about his world and that of the other ‘Last Witnesses’ of Bomber Command, and discovered that whatever adventures I aspired to, it was not a big deal compared to what they went through.

The Lancaster and the Tirpitz is out now and available to buy here.

Carlton Kids go backstage at The Royal Ballet!

In October, we published Ballet Spectacular, produced in association with The Royal Ballet. The book is a lavish guide to all things ballet, covering the history of the ballet, ballet school, famous ballets, ballet production and what it takes to become a professional ballet dancer.
Ballet Spectacular
Last month, the team at Carlton Kids were lucky enough to be invited to The Royal Opera House for a private backstage tour of The Royal Ballet and to say we were excited would be a huge understatement!
For anyone that hasn’t been to see a ballet at The Royal Opera House – you really must! Everything about the building is so lavish and beautiful that it feels truly magical.
As we were shown around the Opera House we were told all about the history of the building. As it stands today, The Royal Opera House is the third theatre built on the Covent Garden site as both were previously destroyed by fire. In the days before electricity, the giant chandelier that hangs in the middle of the theatre would have been filled with candles that had to be individually lit in the evening.
As the Royal Opera House is a fully working theatre, we were lucky enough to witness some of the work that goes into The Royal Ballet productions. Ever wondered why you never see massive lorries in Covent Garden unloading props and set pieces on the street? That’s because there is a lift inside the Opera House that carries the lorry backstage!
The most amazing part of the day was being able to watch ballet dancers warming up in class. This is an experience I will never forget. Watching them perform so gracefully in unison was incredible soothing and relaxing – I wish I could start every morning this way.
We were also taken to the costume department where we saw the beautiful, intricately detailed dresses with the dancers names written on the inside. As a huge fan of Sarah Lamb, principal dancer of The Royal Ballet, it was lovely to be able to see one of her dresses in the flesh. What was interesting about the dresses was how heavy the costumes were making us realise just how strong the dancers are.
Ballet tour
It was an incredible opportunity to have a backstage tour of The Royal Ballet, I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in ballet. It was a truly unique and amazing experience and by far the best working day I’ve ever had! If you want to find out more about the backstage tours, click here.
In fact we were so inspired that the minute we got back to the office, we all booked tickets to see Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in December and we cannot wait!

What a great day to be a Carlton Kid!

A couple of weeks ago, the Carlton Kids team went to the Science Museum and they kindly opened their doors early for us to visit their Who am I? exhibition.

Who Am I 1

In September, we published The Ultimate Book About Me by Richard Platt, in partnership with the Science Museum to compliment the permanent exhibition Who am I?

The Ultimate Book About Me

This exhibition marks the 10th anniversary of the completion of the Human Genome Project, inviting us to explore the science of who we are through hands-on object displays. The exhibition helped us discover some of the characteristics that build our personality, intelligence and language.

Who Am I 2

Who Am I 3

Who Am I 4

Who Am I 5

Who Am I 6

There are five distinct areas exploring what makes us unique:

  • My Genes
  • My Body
  • My Brain
  • My Face
  • My Memory.

A highlight for us was What Am I Afraid Of? as there was a projection of a gigantic walking spider, evoking a reaction to one of the most common phobias.

I learnt a lot about my phobias and realised that I have a fear of things that are usually harmless. Most people with phobias cope with them by avoiding everything that evokes them. When we are afraid, reactions are triggered in our body that allow for fight or flight.

My phobia of spiders came from my parents who taught me that spiders in South America are poisonous and that has stayed with me ever since, even though I have lived in the UK for years now. Did you know that about one person in every eight people in UK has a phobia, yet it is said we are only born with two fears: falling and loud noises, the rest we learn along the way, be it rational or less so!

Another highlight was the window display Why Do You Look Like That? which showcased different faces and expressions for us to analyze. It also explained how other people recognize us. Even if you can’t remember someone’s name, there’s a good chance that their face is familiar to you. That’s because our brains are ‘wired’ to deal with faces in a special way. I learned that a region of the brain called the fusiform face area works especially hard when we see a face and try to remember who we are looking at.

It was such a privilege visiting this amazing facility and learning about the science behind who we are. There is no question that it was a fantastic day to be a Carlton Kid!

We made a film about our trip too!

Who am I? is a permanent free exhibition at the Science Museum and we think you should definitely check it out. Click here to find out more.

The Ultimate Book About Me is out now, priced £9.99 and you can order it from our website here.

Rave Art – Book Launch

“This new book collects vintage rave flyers, membership cards and other ephemera. Heaven in other words” – @FACTmag

On Thursday 16th October, we celebrated the launch of Chelsea Louise Berlin’s brilliant book, Rave Art at West End Lane Bookshop, West Hampstead. If you haven’t been there before, it’s a really lovely shop and the staff are so friendly – we recommend!

Rave Art

Rave culture originated in small, sweaty clubs and grew into enormous events with tens of thousands of people. Acid House music and ecstasy were the driving forces behind a global phenomenon that still reverberates today in music, fashion and art. Chelsea was there from the start of the London rave scene, attending many of the now legendary events. Rave Art documents that movement through the flyers, membership cards and promotional material that was handed out freely (often privately) to inform partygoers of the next venue and around 100 of the most significant and rare examples from Chelsea’s huge collection are reproduced in the book.

Rave Art 2

Rave Art 3

Rave Art

Rave Art 4

“Through these flyers, Chelsea actually tells the story of a generation who witnessed the birth, the heyday and then the decline of an entire subculture” – It’s Nice That

There was a great turnout for the evening with a real mix of people, including other rave memorabilia collectors, people who were there with Chelsea, partying hard and people who weren’t even born during what is probably the last significant youth culture of modern times. If you were there, wish you had been or are into rave culture now, this is a must-have book.

Chelsea will be speaking at Salon London‘s ‘Acid House’ event on Wednesday 26th November, tickets are £12 and available here.

Rave Art

Rave Art | Published by Carlton Books | 9781780975955

Brian May’s Red Special – The Launch

“My dad and I decided to make an electric guitar. I designed an instrument from scratch, with the intention that it would have a capability beyond anything that was out there, more tunable, with a greater range of pitches and sounds, with a better tremolo, and with a capability of feeding back through the air in a ‘good’ way”  Brian May

In 1963, Brian May and his father Harold, started to hand-build an electric guitar. On Wednesday 1st October, we published a book to celebrate the 50th birthday of this iconic guitar. Brian May © Paul Harmer Written by Brian May and Simon Bradley, Brian May’s Red Special tells the story of this incredible guitar that has been used on every Queen album and played at every live show around the world! In the book, Brian talks about every aspect of this glorious guitar from his original design and sourcing materials around the house to his reasons for wanting a certain type of sound and how he and his father went about creating this extraordinary instrument. Now, it wouldn’t be a launch party for one of the most iconic guitars in the world, owned by own of the world’s greatest guitarists without a demonstration. Brian began by showing us his acoustic guitar, which he was given for his seventh birthday, before explaining why he was inspired to build the Red Special and how they actually went about it. Brian May © Paul Harmer Then he picked up the glorious Red Special, which he described as an extension of himself. I was amazed at all of the bits and pieces that Brian and his father used to make the guitar including buttons, knitting needles, a 100 year-old fireplace and an oak table! We were well and truly spoilt as Brian showed us what the guitar could do! Brian May © Paul Harmer I never had any idea about the complexities of a guitar before but they’re incredible instruments and the Red Special certainly is one of the most iconic in the world. Brian May's Red Special

Brian May’s Red Special | Published by Carlton Books | 978 1 78097 2763 | £19.99

Headline News at Glastonbury

Once a year, in the mystical depths of Somerset, a city rises from the dewy fields. For five hazy days, a sprawling settlement with a population larger than that of York or Portsmouth eats, drinks and lives music. Glastonbury Festival has, over the past fifteen years or so, taken on a life beyond even that of its hedonistic pre-millennial era. Now, the festival is a cultural landmark. It is a point in the year around which many lives are scheduled, and has to some extent been fetishized by the media, who treat it as the most important icon on the musical landscape.


So, with all that in mind, it’s perhaps understandable that such attention is paid to the acts who are chosen to headline each festival. This year, the decisions of the Eavis family are attracting the sort of debate unseen since Jay-Z’s booking in 2008 almost bankrupted the festival.

After the all-conquering Arcade Fire and indie rockers Kasabian have topped the bill on Friday and Saturday, the crowd will be treated to a festival-closing set by metal legends Metallica. To say that the reception to the Metallica announcement was cool would be an understatement – this week a survey suggested a massive 80% of punters would have returned their ticket if they could have after finding out about the set. Thankfully for Glastonbury, the festival’s tickets feature each individual’s face so as to discourage touting.

But we shouldn’t take this survey at face-value, if you’ll excuse the pun. For a start, it was undertaken by ticket exchange website ViaGoGo – a place that benefits immensely from precisely the sort of touting Glastonbury’s tickets discourage. Whether the survey results are tinted by bias or not, the message they are sending is clear: they want Glastonbury to allow people to sell on their tickets when an act they don’t like is headlining (and presumably they want those people to sell it on through their website).

Regardless of Viagogo’s message, the idea of selling your Glastonbury ticket because one act doesn’t fit your tastes doesn’t make much sense. The beauty of Glastonbury, above that of any other festival, is its sprawling scope. If the act on one stage doesn’t suit your taste there are literally dozens of other stages to choose from. Beyond the music, there are hectares and hectares of other entertainments. Whether you choose the shambolic crafts of the Greenfields, the fiery schlock of Arcadia or the hidden charms of the legendary Underground Piano Bar, Glastonbury is more than just a Sunday night headliner. It is, as its population suggests, a tented city of eclectic wonders.

Our advice is never to miss out on the controversial choices. Jay-Z, whose headline set in 2008 was maligned before the festival had even began for putting a rapper on top of the bill, is widely regarded as one of Glastonbury’s most iconic moments. Headliners are chosen for a reason, and Glastonbury founder Michael Eavis often opts for the act he knows an audience will enjoy over the one he knows they want. In recent years, Sunday night has seen many of the festival’s most famous sets, with The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Blur and The Who all providing defining moments. Metallica, a incredible act that is unlike anything Sunday night has seen before, are likely to add themselves to this prestigious list. If you ask us, the fuss has been placed upon the wrong headliner – Metallica are a bold choice we won’t be missing. Kasabian? They sound a little less brave a headline choice to us!

Michael Jackson – Five Years On

It seems strange, given that Michael Jackson was, ultimately, a man who sang songs for a living, but we remember exactly where we were when the news broke that he had died. Isn’t that the sort of thing usually reserved for major disasters, horrific events that can change the course of history? Of course, there were dozens of factors that made Jackson’s passing so instantly notable. The lives he had touched with his music. The controversy that had surrounded him in recent years. His relatively young age, and the circumstances in which he had passed away. And, of course, the fifty shows he was due to play at London’s O2 just weeks later.

Michael Jackson_JoffreyMshutterstock_67153027

Five years have now passed since Michael Jackson died, and in tribute to his extraordinary talent, we thought we’d take a new approach: what better way to consider a musician’s legacy than by looking at the musicians he influenced? We’ve put together a playlist of our favourite Michael Jackson covers – you can listen to it here and read about the tracks below:

Got To Be There

One of Michael Jackson’s earliest solo singles, ‘Got To Be There’ came out when he was just thirteen years old. The song has been covered numerous times, but Diana Ross’, released two years later (and already marking Ross’ fourteenth year in the industry!) is our favourite. There’s an eerie similarity between the two artists’ voices, and Ross surrounds herself with lush strings and an easy vibe.

Black or White

There are only two raps that we are capable of doing off by heart. Rather embarrassingly, they’re from Robbie Williams’ ‘Kids’ and Michael Jackson’s ‘Black or White’. We’d go so far as to say that this is Jackson’s best song; an irresistible little number that begs to be danced to. A bossa nova touch makes perfect sense. Joana Duah’s version is summery sweet, and best listened to as the late evening sun sets over a picnic in the park.

Human Nature

There aren’t as many good Michael Jackson covers as you might think – but those that do exist stretch across genres and attract the work of some of the most famous musicians the world has seen. Miles Davis, arguably the coolest man ever to have lived, delivers an ice-cold (and incredibly 80s) take on ‘Human Nature’ here.

She’s Out Of My Life

Here’s another music legend, albeit from a completely different side of the musical tracks. Willie Nelson’s cover of ‘She’s Out Of My Life’ is every bit as a delicate as Jackson’s original, though it somehow picks up a certain similarity to Kermit the Frog’s ‘Rainbow Connection’. Don’t ask us why, it just does.

Man In The Mirror

Given that ‘Man In The Mirror’ took on a whole new level of meaning in the weeks after Jackson’s death, when fans re-christened it as the anthem of the artist’s life and took it to number two in the UK charts, there aren’t very many covers of the song. James ‘Don’t Mistake Me With Blunt’ Morrison recorded the most convincing of the lot, with a satisfying rasp and plenty of reverence for the original track lingering in his acoustic approach.

I Want You Back

The Civil Wars are an underrated act that are to American folk music as The White Stripes were to blues. They clearly love Michael Jackson, too – they’ve also paid tribute to Billie Jean in the past. We’re usually adverse to the trend for soft, almost delicate covers of classic pop hits, but their take on The Jackson 5’s best known single plays out like some sort of audible duvet. A pretty cosy one, too. As songs go, this is 13.5 togs.

Billie Jean

Not enough attention is paid to the origins of ‘Billie Jean’. We all know that the song was supposedly written about a woman who claimed Michael Jackson was the father of her child, but what often is escapes the telling is that ‘Billie Jean’ had two children. Jackson was only accused of paternity for one of the children, which would be fine were the two children not twins. Chris Cornell, best known in the UK for singing the Bond theme for Daniel Craig’s debut ‘Casino Royale’ puts an almost apocalyptic roar into his vocals on this intense, raw cover.

The Way You Make Me Feel

Another cover demonstrating the versatility of Jackson’s back catalogue, Paul Anka delivered this smooth-as-silk swing tune. The album this is from, ‘Rock Swings’ is generally pretty terrible (though never quite as bad as its title), but there’s a simplicity to the lyrics that makes ‘The Way You Make Me Feel’ a natural swing song. Just a shame the drummer was being paid by the decibel.

Beat It

Not so suited to the genre is ‘Beat It’, which lounge artist/comedian Richard Cheese still takes a valiant swing at. With tongue firmly in cheek, Cheese sounds like he might kick off into a camp Spandau Ballet song at any second. When the chorus finally kicks in, it’s so (briefly) catchy that it’s easy to lose any sense of irony.


The Easy Star All-Stars are a collective of musicians that specialise in releasing classic albums entirely reimagined in the reggae genre. Which, we know, sounds about as tempting as Miley Cyrus releasing an album of Nickelback covers. But bear with us – this jaunty new ‘Thriller’ (from an album spelled, distressingly, as ‘Thrilla’) is cool, under-played and enough to almost convince you of the dodgy premise.

I Wanna Be Where You Are

This brief Marvin Gaye song brings our playlist full circle – not only does the original song feature on Jackson’s ‘Got To Be There’ album, but it was co-written by Diana Ross’ little brother. What Gaye’s version lacks in length it more than makes up for in easy soul.

You can hear the mix in full here, and buy Carlton’s book ‘Michael Jackson: The King Of Pop‘ here.

The Official UK Singles Chart vs Arctic Monkey

Arctic Monkeys

Nine years ago, sitting in a student bar in Nottingham, my friends and I considered with some growing excitement the musical state of the nation. Arctic Monkeys were about to top the charts with their debut single ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ – an incredible feat for an indie-rock outfit, helped no end by the British charts recent inclusion of digital downloads to their count.

It felt like a brave new world for independent music, and it felt like the charts were finally breathing new life into their archaic structures. Structures which had sat by, watching helplessly as sales faltered and illegal downloads grew more and more rampant every week.

Of course, times change. In the nine years since the charts last modernised the music world has moved on once more. iPods have been swapped out for smartphones, meaning people have even more access to music than ever before. Streaming services such as Spotify have made a decisive move against pirated music, and provide us with the means to listen to whatever we want, whenever we want. Often we don’t even have to pay a penny to do this.

The new considerations attached to the UK music charts pay heed to these developments – streamed songs will now count towards an artist’s chart position too (although the relative value of stream to a song in terms of artist’s pay means that a song will have to be heard a hundred times in order to have the same effect on the chart as one purchase).

It’s a move that has both its strengths and its weaknesses. Certainly the decision keeps up with the changing ways of commercial music, and shows a respect for new technology that the industry is often far too slow to adopt. But it also highlights the issues faced by independent musicians trying to break the market in the same way Arctic Monkeys did almost a decade ago.

It’s already incredibly difficult for independent artists to break into the charts – there’s currently less than five in this week’s Top 40. But streaming remains dominated by the push-click votes of mainstream music fans (the only independent artist in Spotify’s 40 most-played tracks last week is, funnily enough, Arctic Monkeys, at number 38). On top of this existing bias, it was announced last week that Youtube, the world’s biggest source of streamed music is threatening to delete the music videos of independent artists unless their labels (usually small and already buckling under financial restraints) accept new, non-negotiable royalties from a new subscription-only service.

A move like this won’t affect the new charts (Youtube is not amongst the sources providing data for chart consideration), but would affect hundreds of small bands – indie rock groups that might be the next Rolling Stones, burgeoning pop acts who could have been their generation’s Madonna or Michael Jackson. And it won’t be just the small, unknown artists that suffer – still signed to the same independent label that discovered them, Arctic Monkeys themselves would disappear from one of their most effective ways of consumer outreach. Though Youtube is out of reach of the official singles charts, this move is telling of the power this new system gives the streaming services.


There’s change afoot in the charts, and for the most part it offers a new future that echoes the changing tides in the music industry – but we must keep our eyes on the newest sources of data so that we don’t lose the fresh voices that keep the industry moving forward in the first place.