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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

 Thriller

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.

Interview with the UK’s leading addiction specialist, Dr Robert Lefever – “It’s not just celebrities…”

Carlton’s Head of Comms, Nicole Ettinger, interviews author of Kick Your Habit, Dr. Robert Lefever, after the tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman

 

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The press have recently called upon you to discuss the tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman – What insight can you offer?

His death was an avoidable tragedy that indicates two things: Mood altering prescription drugs (antidepressants, tranquillisers, sleeping tablets and some pain killers) are addictive to people who have an addictive nature. Addicts are never free from the risk of relapse. He had been free from addictive substances for 22 years but was then given mood altering prescription drugs, which I believe triggered his relapse back to using other drugs. Mood altering prescription drugs (antidepressants, tranquillisers, sleeping tablets and some pain killers) are addictive to people who have an addictive nature.

You have treated thousands of people in the UK with addiction problems, including celebrities – What could you have done to help Philip Seymour Hoffman?

Help him to see that he has the same risks that any addict has. Addiction is no respecter of persons. An addict is an addict by nature, irrespective of background or profession, wealth or trauma.

Why is addiction and overdose so common among celebrities?

It isn’t. Neither one is any more common among celebrities than it is among the general population. If it seems so it is because celebrities make the news.

What can be done to help the younger celebrity generation from heading in the same direction? 

They have to differentiate – through the questionnaires on my website – www.doctor-robert.com – between stupidity (which they can grow out of) and an addictive nature (which is probably genetically inherited). They can do so through the questionnaires on my website www.doctor-robert.com

You are very open about your own experience as an addict – How do you deal with your addictive nature?

I do five things on a regular basis

  1. I work the Twelve Step programme (first formulated by Alcoholics Anonymous) every       day.
  2. I attend regular meetings of Anonymous Fellowships in order to counter my ‘denial’ and remind myself that I really am an addict.
  3. I remain abstinent from all mood-altering substances and processes each day. I do many positive and enjoyable things.
  4. I read Fellowship literature every day.
  5. I am in regular contact with my sponsor (Fellowship guide) and sponsees.

What advice would you offer to anyone who thinks they may be addicted to something harmful?

Do the things that I do (as above). Sometimes therapy may be helpful in dealing with past trauma – but without descending into blame and self-pity

Is addiction genetic?

I believe the antecedent cause is genetic. This is treated (kept in remission) by working the Twelve Step programme each day.

The contributory cause is emotional trauma. This is treated appropriately with an emotional therapy such as psychodrama, EMDR or NLP.

The precipitant cause is exposure to mood altering substances or processes. The treatment is abstinence.

 

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The Story of Design – Charlotte and Peter Fiell

The Story of Design is ultimately a story about us, and how we got where we are today through the power of design. As an omnipresent feature of daily life and an integral aspect of human existence, design has throughout the centuries quite literally shaped our manmade world. The Story of Design tells for the very first time the incredibly rich and multi-stranded story of how people over the centuries have harnessed design to convert raw materials into useful things and how these designs have transformed human civilization.

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The Story of Design not only reveals how the act of designing has since the earliest times been at the very core of human activity, but also explains why it will continue to remain so. By tracing the progressive development of design from prehistoric stone tools to today’s latest products through the introduction of themes, styles, movements and, of course, key pioneering designers, The Story of Design is the tale of how our material culture has evolved over the millennia. It is a story of innovation and ingenuity, of big business and personal creativity, of new materials and cutting-edge technologies – all being used in the pursuit of the better designed thing, whether it is a humble, handcrafted cooking pot or a mass-produced high-tech smart phone. The Story of Design is quite simply the story of stuff, for every manmade object has to a greater or lesser extent been designed and it is these objects of design that have made us what we are today and continue to define how we relate to the world around us.

“Design” is a slippery word, being both a verb and a noun – an action and its result. Its scope also spans the whole spectrum of human creative problem-solving, from pure, process-driven engineering to more creative craft-based approaches that can be artistic, poetic, symbolic or polemical. Design activities might include an engineer using technical procedures to create new mechanisms, a games designer developing new immersive environments, a graphic designer laying out a poster, a textile designer creating fabric patterns or a ceramicist moulding clay into studio pottery. Ultimately, though, whether a designer works for a large company creating industrially manufactured universal products or as an individual designer-maker crafting bespoke solutions, he or she is using design as a means of communication, and the work they produce embodies their different ideologies, philosophies and methodologies.

It is the unique ability of designed artefacts to tell both individual and shared stories that prompted us to write The Story of Design, for studying the development of design is a way of making sense of human history – its motivations, its triumphs, its failures, its contradictions. It is also a study of avant-garde pioneers, of visionary practitioners, risk-taking design-entrepreneurs, enlightened design-led manufacturers, revolutionary design schools and forward-looking stylistic movements, all striving to find better design solutions, which they believed would shape a better future – even if their instincts were sometimes misguided. The Story of Design is quite simply the story of how human civilization came into being – there is no bigger story, nor one that is more relevant to our own existence, for it is our own shared story.

What the Hell are DIABLERIES? – posted by Dr Brian May

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You might well ask.  NOBODY in the 21st Century, bar a handful of dedicated collectors of the arcane, has ever seen these extraordinary treasures – until now.  They are, as the title of our book suggests, Stereoscopic Adventures in Hell.  And the closest word in the English language we have to describe them is ‘DEVILMENTS’.  Created in France by a small band of artistic geniuses, they started a huge craze in France and England in Victorian times – from about 1860 until the turn of the century.  Over 150 years later, they are now making a return appearance, in our fiendishly stereoscopically enabled book  – DIABLERIES.

I had my first demonic experience early one icy Saturday morning in Portobello Road Market  around 1969.  I was hoping, as always, that I’d get lucky and find a stereo viewer or some stereo cards.  Among a pile of cards for sale by one street trader, I spied something which would trigger a lifetime’s fascination – a French tissue card, depicting lifelike skeletons, devils, ghouls and even Satan himself, in a place where they seemed to be raising the roof.  The two quite similar images printed side by side on a stereo card always look quite flat, unless you can ‘free-view’ them to make the 3-D magic happen – or you have a suitable Stereoscope at hand, to view the card in 3-D.   I acquired the habit of free-viewing as a kid, collecting 3-D Vistascreen cards from Weetabix packets, so I was instantly able to see the skeletal inmates of this parallel universe in glorious solid relief – it was as if I could reach through the stereo window and touch them.

That’s the experience that, for over 40 years, I’ve dreamed of sharing with the modern world.   It’s not been easy.  Diablerie cards are hard to find, and, being tissues, by their very nature very delicate, so even if one is lucky enough to find them, they’re almost always in bad condition.  I’ve personally spent thousands of hours digitally restoring them for our book; and, using my unique OWL stereo viewer (moulded in Sunbury-upon Thames and supplied with the book), they can be enjoyed in glorious 3-D just the way they were intended.  My co-author Denis Pellerin, the world’s leading expert on the history of stereo photography in France, has for the very first time discovered the hidden meanings of these scenes, and what is revealed in this book about France under Napoleon III is funny, dangerous, and at times quite shocking.

We’ve all seen the splendid 3-D of Avatar – but this is 3-D the way Victorians knew it … still the most perfect way to experience the phenomenon, and when I hear the first ‘Wow!” as people suddenly see the images in our book in 3-D, I know we achieved our mission: the old devilish magic still works!

50 Years of Rock and Roll Photography

Gered Mankowitz 50 Years of RnR-1

2013 marks 50 years of rock and roll photography for Gered Mankowitz, whose lens captured era-defining images of the world’s greatest rock stars including Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones, The Eurythmics, Phil Collins, Kate Bush… We caught five minutes with Gered whilst on his busy promotional tour for his new book, Gered Mankowitz: 50 Years of Rock and Roll Photography, to ask him a few questions about his star-studded career, touring with The Stones and just who was responsible for him reaching for the camera in the first place…

  1. What inspired you to take up photography as a career?

Actually it was who rather than what – the great comic actor Peter Sellers was a friend of my father’s and an enormously enthusiastic amateur photographer. On a Sunday lunch visit to our home in the late 50s he brought along a complete Hasselblad camera kit and proceeded to explain all about it in a mad and goonish Swedish type voice, which, being a big Goon Show fan, had me in hysterics and completely hooked on the idea of being a photographer!

  1. What was the first photograph you ever took?

The first serious photographs I took were on a school holiday to Delft in Holland with a camera my granny had given me for my 14th birthday, where I took some photos of the famous cathedral, which were seen by Tom Blau who offered me an apprenticeship at his agency Camera Press.

  1. Were there ever times when you considered an alternative career to music photography?

In the last couple of years at school I was very keen on acting and took several roles in school productions, but my Dad talked me out of taking it up professionally. Throughout my career as a photographer I worked in different genres including editorial and advertising but music photography was always a constant across the 50 years.

  1. You toured America with the Rolling Stones in 1965 what was that like? Do you have any stories you can share? 

Actually it was everything a 19-year-old North London boy could imagine plus a lot of hard work! There were moments of complete insanity – setting fire to my room at the Lincoln Square Motor Inn in New York during the infamous East Coast power blackout was one highlight! There were some amazing concerts and being on stage with the band every night was exhilarating and touring would never be the same again for me. There were brief moments of pretty wild sex and a few drugs, but generally it was a grueling experience and after 48 cities I was pleased to get home.

  1. You’re particularly famous for your work on the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix, but what is your favourite portrait?

After 50 years it is almost impossible to select just one but working with the Stones and Hendrix were obvious highlights and I loved working with Kate Bush, Annie Lennox, Marianne Faithfull and many others as well. If I had to choose just one I suppose it would have to be my Classic portrait of Jimi in his military jacket as it has become such a global icon and has a life all of its own!

  1. Were there any artists that you photographed in your career that surprised you or were not what you expected? 

Bing Crosby was unexpectedly grumpy and unhelpful, George Harrison was remarkably normal and supportive, Elton John was less confident than I expected, Annie Lennox looked wonderful whatever she did…………………………

  1. 7.     What’s the most unusual location you’ve ever shot in? 

Photographing the supposed supergroup Thieves in a brothel in the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico was pretty weird!

  1. Who do you regret not shooting for a portrait?

So many people – the young Elvis Presley, Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Ry Cooder and many more.

  1. Do you listen to music whilst you photograph? 

I had a pretty insane sound system in my studio – four, huge, round Grundig speakers hanging in each corner of the room and music was always playing, usually pretty loudly as well!

10. Do you have a top five favourite tracks of all time? 

I couldn’t begin to limit myself – but the Stones, Dylan, Marley, Cooder, Motown, soul & blues would all be in there somewhere!

11. What are your thoughts on social sites such as Instagram that make it easy for people to upload and share their photos quickly? Is this devaluing professional photography in any way?

Digital technology has been chipping away at the profession for many years now and the ease with which people today can take and share their images has compounded the problem. I am greatly relieved that my career is over and I am no longer competing in the business anymore, because it is really tough out there!

12. Why did you decide to publish this book at this time?

50 years in the business seemed like a pretty good reason to celebrate with a beautiful book and I couldn’t be more delighted with the result.