Thursday, October 27, 2011

Jess Roden / Sudden St / Hidden Masters

Ok, Ok... I know, its been a long time but, honest injun, busy as busy is in the background... with masses going on down in the über-shed otherwise known as #HiddenMasters HQ.

So... here's a little something that's only just been finished off. Its a short clip of Bronco's Sudden St from the forthcoming Anthology.

It features ultra-rare footage of the band recording at Basing St during the Summer of 1971 (and a massive hat-tip to DJ Demitri who found this gathering acres of dust in the back of a darkened cupboard).

The original sound-bed was, to all intents and purposes pretty much fucked as was some of the grainy black 'n white imagery too, so I've married the surviving video to one or two stills and under-laid it all with this never-heard-before version of Sudden St.

Ok, so what news on the Boxed Set... the Anthology?

Right – annoyingly, we are a teensy-weensy bit behind where we’d hoped to be right now but this is purely due to the fact that the Anthology involves a number of masters’ owners – meaning that preparation of the documentation (which has to be completed before we move to the final steps) is a bit more complex for all concerned.

Nonetheless, the legal eagles and business affairs bods on all sides of the fence(s) have locked horns in the last two or three weeks and are now at it like rutting stags because there are innumerable Is to be dotted and just about as many Ts to be crossed.

And so, once all parties have signed off (doubtless employing judicious usage of their lucky pens), we’ll be pushing the final three buttons.

The first bit being the re-mastering of all the UK-based analog masters that we’re including. These'll be worked on by Richard Whittaker @ FX who's just become a dad for the first time to lil' Ed (so, thats caused a bit of a natural break as it is). The 7Windows tracks being included have already been re-mastered by Michael MacDonald in New York – so, we're somewhat ahead of the game there.

And, at that point, we can finally reveal the full track-listing!

So, after all the knob-twiddling, its the fine-tuning of all the artwork and then straight to manufacture.

In the meantime… what can be confirmed is: The Anthology will be issued as an initial limited edition of 950 copies – all of which will be hand-numbered.

And... within this run, there will be a number of really special (and very limited) editions.

We’re working out all the details right now (see, I said its been busy as... down in the über-shed) but, just as soon as these particular Ts have been crossed and Is dotted, we’ll be announcing what we have planned – here... on the JR FaceBook page as well as on the main JR website.

Further to all of that, the singer of songs and self are formulating something else that we reckon to be a bit special and as a way of saying thanks to everyone who’s shown so much patience while we’ve been putting all this together.

So... here's the vid – and if anyone's wondering why it appears out of sync... it is..! 'cos the original sound-bed was a different toon.

IF, by any chance, your browser starts to buffer and the vid goes a bit wonky - try it on YouTube - link is: http://youtu.be/vVO2y2rU90s

video

Friday, April 22, 2011

Jess Roden | For Granted #3 (I’m On Your Side)

The blossom is on the trees, luminescent Cherry-Vanilla at its best.

Yet the studio in which we’re ensconced during this period of self-imposed confinement hides behind a couple of struggling trees of uncertain genesis. Neither of which appear to have known blossom once.

They stand like a pair of forlorn, Kevin-The-Teenager saplings; their leggy, Eyeball Paul, branches windswept by the diesel-breeze-rush of a speeding bus every twenty minutes of so.

It’s a surreal yet short walk from the bus-stop; past where Reginald Iolanthe Perrin hastened the demise of CJ and Sunshine Deserts, along the crumbling pavement to the studio door – tucked away in this downtrodden backwater of a demoralised north-west London trading estate

While the setting may be unlikely – neither does this place much look like what one’d imagine a studio to appear as.

The facade is about as far removed from the Fab-Four graffiti-scrawl of Abbey Road or the Edwardian splendour of Olympic in Barnes where Procul Harum recorded A Whiter Shade Of Pale; in which Jimi Hendrix reconstructed All Along The Watchtower to turn a Dylan masterpiece into his own magnum opus or where The Rolling Stones laid down six consecutive albums between 1968 and ’72 as is possible to get.

This space – our space for the duration – is decidedly more warehouse-veneer and on the utilitarian side of functional. It is what it is and does not pretend otherwise.

Inside is what counts and progress is such that we’re heading toward the sharp end. Upstairs is where we completed all the digital work on the ¼” tapes… now we’re downstairs and starting to delve in to all the crates that contain the 2” multi-tracks.

These, unlike their country-cousins, the ¼” tapes, come in a variety of configurations – many are 24 track but we’re also encountering their step-brothers – the 16 and 8 track variants.

And, in the middle of that lot, we’ll be returning to those tapes that are currently sitting in a temperature-controlled oven a little way down the corridor… baking away ever so contentedly in a Julia Childs’ styleee.

Baking..? Yes indeed – because they’re elderly (in tape-terms that’s 30+years old) and, frankly, they’re in pretty dodgy shape.

And, the only way to remedy this level of tape-degradation and all round dodginess is to bake the blighters for between 24 and 72 hours.

Crikey – am I starting to sound like a bit too Gordon Ramsay here..? I sincerely hope not, because, trust me, I’m no expert – but I do have a very good teacher.

Ladies and Gentlemen… may I introduce my newest best friend; a raven-haired Goth, who sits in front of rows of blinking lights, manipulating computers, software and ten dozen other gadgets all of which require an advanced degree in pure Einstein before they’ll even spark into life.

He can tell a tape’s age just by looking at it and can hear things coming through the mix that are inaudible to mere mortals – hmmm, that sounds about 2db out to me…

It does?
I look over his shoulder at a bank of intermittently blinking lights, our very own studio aurora borealis. The lights appear – to me – to be lined up in a pretty satisfactory line but equally I’ve learned to trust the set of ears beside me. If he says its out, chances are that it is – and very probably by exactly 2db, whatever that actually means in plain English.

Yeah, I’ll just check via this gadget. He peers shortsightedly at yet another set of entirely mystifying flickering lights (obviously I’d been looking at totally the wrong set)… and, flicking his pony-tail out of the way, he leans over and makes a microscopic adjustment with an equally minute screw-driver and… sure as eggs are eggs, the lights (that he’s been studying) all line-up as they should… he’s correct.

Me – I heard nothing wrong at all. Matron – the earwax candles, please.

I stand and stare in constant admiration as one would at anyone at the top of their game. Occasionally, I am allowed to make the coffee… but only after having to be shown how that machine worked three times.

The advanced being-Delia stage in this entire process has been critical.

Because, without this tape-baking exercise, what’d happen is this: when the tapes roll through long-out-of-date (tho’ state of the art in the sixties and seventies) Studer machines, the tape would start to shed a very fine layer of oxide… meaning the play-back-heads would (in layman’s terms) eventually clog up. And eventually there would be a tragic outcome – what was recorded long ago would be lost forever.

This, therefore, is last-chance saloon for these tapes… fuck it up and… that’s it, gone for all time. Which is why, when the mane of hair in front of me nods sagely and says, off to the oven with you my boy… there’s no argument brokered.

These are precious commodities found in amongst a myriad of other jewels hidden away in dusty boxes in a dirty warehouse presided over by youngsters who simply have no idea what they’re custodians of.

There is no real criticism implied there, it’s simply that they don’t – by and large – have a clue about The Hidden Masters that they’re looking after.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Jess Roden | In A Circle

Give or take a month or so, it’s taken nearly two years to get from there to where we are now. And, within that journey, suitcase life became very much part and parcel of the whole.

So, at this particular point in the burgeoning process of pulling the Project-X rabbit out of the hat and while being of budget-conscious frame of mind, I’ve checked into modest accommodation not too far from the studio.

Indeed, it’s no more than a couple of miles away from where the singer of songs and I munched happily away on a pile of popadums while concocting what we reckoned might be… a… bit of… a… plan.

Besides, I figured a quiet night would give me a few hours to get my head around some more of the music that we’ve been digitising before trotting westward chez JR for post-lunch discussions; we’re slowly arriving at the point where we’ll be shortlisting those that have made the grade and confining those not worthy back to the cupboard.

However, I’d only been inside the Hotel Splendide long enough to unpack, uncork a glass of the well-chilled and spread my spreadsheets (detailing all the work we’d been doing in the studio) over the bed before another visit to reception was rendered necessary. Or, rather, what passed for it – this splendid hostelry being on the unassuming side of wallet-threatening in terms of a home from home for the night.

Uber-drat… my carefully planned evening of reviewing work thus far was not running to plan… at all.

It took a while to attract the manager of this emporium’s attention – his gaze being fixed to the PlayStation machine that’d been hooked up to an oversized tv-screen on the other side of what served as his office.

He was playing carton golf.

Eventually, a little louder-than-discreet cough was enough to put him off his stroke whereby his ball landed ever so satisfyingly in a digital bunker. Hello, I grin (reckoning that his position in the pixelated sand looked frightfully tricky), My room is flooding.

He stared at me with a mix of disbelief and annoyance criss-crossing his face, his jaw opening and closing soundlessly much like an out of fresh-water-Salmon would.

Nevertheless, digital Phil Mickelson put his machine on pause and, blowing air like a beached whale, grudgingly trudged after me – all the way back to my room. There we halted as I struggled through various jacket pockets, searching for the key while the audible drip, drip, drip of water splashing happily away could be clearly heard behind the door.

There was enough water pouring through the extractor fan, right above the lavatory, to render needless any thought of pulling the chain should I require the use of said appliance – it’d be like peeing in a heavy rain storm. Ahh yes… the beached whale exhaled loudly… that would be the people in Number 5 taking a shower. Would you like another room?

We trudged back up stairs, down a few steps and up some more before suitcase, self, spreadsheets and the well-chilled were finally installed overlooking the rumbling thunder of mid-summer traffic below. With no air-conditioning and the nonadjustable heater set to maximum, the only thing for it was to open as many windows as possible. The thunderous rumble immediately turned to a Niagara-roar – time to take spreadsheets, headphones and self off to get something to eat .

But, not before perusing the book of words pinned to the back of the door – from which I gleaned that da-management weren’t much bothered if anything was stolen from one’s room. Paragraph eight stated that they’d not be liable for anything nicked that was valued at over fifty notes and nor were they insured for the contents of cars or horses.

I look about me and, before shutting the door firmly and trousering the key, confirm a Shetland Pony wasn't hiding in the shower cubicle.

A police car wailed in the background as I crossed the road that was nearly obliterated from view by a passing cloud of high-grade ganja; safely over to the sunny side of the street, it took but moments to size up the local culinary delights. It was a choice of one from one.

Settled beneath an abstract Himalayan scene that had somehow been stenciled onto cheap hardboard, it took mere seconds before two grinning waiters brandishing identical menus quickstepped across the shagpile that only a visually impaired person would have chosen.

There was a gay couple to my far left, both busy with their mobile ‘phones – perhaps searching out alternate dates since it quickly transpired (via the one with the restaurant-carrying voice and fringe of over-floppy hair) that he wasn’t planning on going home with his companion.

The later-than-me influx of customers included an all-girl group who brandished their ‘phones with aplomb taking picture upon picture of each other studying the menu. With fingers and thumbs set to dexterous, multiple Facebook profiles were being updated long before their starters arrived.

To my right another couple settled in – and, it was immediately clear from their touchy-feely, stroke me / stroking you / sit on the same side of the bench that they would place the Greek island of Lesbos fairly high on their summer holiday shopping list.

Given that they were on the next again table and I’m dining alone while being studious with my spreadsheets, it’s wasn’t hard to overhear their conversation. Within three minutes they’re discussing particularly intimate and very recent… errrr… occurrences… that… occurred… in a shower… Ah yes… they’ll be the occupants of Number 5.

The next afternoon, JR and I are seated at a table at the top end of the garden; there is a bit of a breeze getting up that’s rustling the tops of the Silver Birch trees that line the far end of the greensward.

As much as we’re starting to narrow the choices down now there has also been a mutually agreed consensus, a rationale behind that making of choices in place from day one. The tune, the song, the performance – whichever it may be – has to stand up in its own right all these years later.

In effect, that means making choices on the basis of fast-forwarding ourselves further into the future and being able to collectively look back and say; Y’know what… that’s actually not bad at all.

And, right now, we’re back in amongst those tapes that emanated from those sessions at The Fallout Shelter, the studio deep down in the basement at the back of Island’s London HQ in St Peters Square.

I have to say, that I don’t remember – until I heard them recently – that we’d actually finished many of these tunes. I thought they were still awaiting final vocal or finished mixes…

Attention is diverted for a moment. Perched on the fence is a pair of Squirrels intently studying the bird-feeder that’s suspended from the about-to-be-shorn Cherry Tree. They’re trying to figure out a way of bypassing the latest Roden-anti-squirrel device that has been deployed in the ongoing battle to defeat the enemy’s attempts at extricating food that’s not been left out for them. Bloody rascals… Y’know, they’re a lot more intelligent than you’d give ‘em credit for. This latest gadget we have looks like it could be the one tho’; its kept them out for a good couple of weeks but, you never know, they’ll probably figure it out. Another coffee before we get back in to it?

Two more cups of the well-frothed are placed on the table and we return to the subject of some of the songs that I’ve unearthed that would – had it not been scrapped – have constituted the first JRB album. The breeze has notched up a bit, rattling the sunshade against the table centre… or is my leg involuntarily twitching; much more of JR’s super-strength coffee and I’ll start to astral-project.

The Steve Smith album wasn’t finished – there was probably more material to add to it, but I think there was probably a sort of… a kind of impatience starting to develop in that I wasn’t having hits… and the band had been in the studio for a couple of months and there was a feeling of… ‘this ain’t gonna get him a hit either…’ which was, probably, a fair judgment on a musical level.

The entrance to that particular studio was to the side of the canteen – oft-presided over by Lucky Gordon, one time pimp to one of the Profumo Affair’s central characters, Christine Keeler – and where many of Island’s acts of the time recorded including Bob Marley, Aswad (who were almost fixtures there), Eddie & The Hot Rods, Steel Pulse, U2 (recorded a number of B sides with Steve Lilywhite who began his career there), Rico, King Sunny Adé, The Snivelin’ Shits, Rebop Kwaku Baah, as well as non-Island acts such as The Smiths (Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now was recorded with the then in-house engineer Stephen Street), Shriekback and countless dozens more.

Yes… that’s Steve (Winwood) on In A Circle. I’ve known him for years and… he must’ve been hanging about or whatever and y’know, we just wanted a keyboard player and, in some ways, it would have been very nervous for the band approaching him, I’m sure because he was a very busy guy – but, anyway, we’d got to a stage where we had a whole bunch of material but there was something lacking… so we asked Steve to come down… and he said, yeah.

He was just magnificent. There was a couple of passes and, basically, that was it… he just knows what to do, especially when it comes to Hammond.


Some days later we’re sitting at his dining room table – its boys night in and the hour is late; the remnants of our meal has been cleared away to the kitchen, two glasses of the well-chilled are before us as are two computers. Their respective cables stretch across the bare wood before trailing along the floor boards while various lists adorn random scraps of paper, post-it notes struggle to adhere to screen-edges and, in my open notebook track-listings are starting to take shape. Song titles have either been scratched through or have a tick beside them; other lists are emerging – the whole is slowly starting to take shape… So, which version of In A Circle do we go with?

JR looks back to the bigger of the two machines and scrolls down a bit and presses play. As the song moves from the extended chorus to where the Sax and Hammond start to interweave, he says, Has to be the one with Steve… don’t you think? For me, there’s something really special here.

Absolutely… Don't think anyone's heard it before either 'cos I'm pretty sure that it wasn't part of the cassette that Webbo had up on his site for a bit… I’d say, it’s a better version too… I pause. I mean… just listen to that, it’s just… floating… So, that’s a tick to that one…?

Yep… He agrees, That, Holmes, is a definite tick… So… moving on… what do we reckon for track four then..?


video

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Gimme’ Some Truth

According to the BBC’s web site (from a story – www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-12701664 – posted on Monday, March 14th ), Cory Doctorow is not just an author. He’s also a blogger and a journalist… and… stand by your beds, Matron’s on her way… he’s an activist too.

And, according to Auntie’s on-line presence, he’s passionately opposed to DRM (Digital Rights Management). Indeed it appears he’s pretty opinionated on the subject too since, in among many other quotes on that website within the self-same article, Mr and Mrs Doctorow’s son states: "The one thing that everyone should have uppermost in your mind when you're designing your business is that computers are never going to get worse at copying things."

Wow… Cory, that really is revelatory stuff… and not just because of your grammar.

Now then, that’ll be… Command (or Control) C for copy… and Control (or Command) V for paste… and, its been that way since… ohhhh… how long now..? Well, the Mac was introduced to the world on January 24th, 1984 and PC’s also use that same shortcut structure…… Ohhhh no… wait a sec, that’s not what he’s on about… oh heavens… nooooooo…

Goodness gracious, Mr and Mrs Doctorow’s grammatically challenged offspring is banging on about something much more important…

What’s that then? Well…. He – Cory D (lest we forget) – believes ‘digital content should be shared freely and that copyright laws should be liberalised to reflect this.’

Blimey… who is this radical thinker who’s discovered the road-map to Utopia?

Well, according to the BBC, he’s a Canadian who lives in London, he writes best selling science fiction novels and co-edits a blog called Boing Boing… He also (apparently) contributes to the Guardian (online) and was, in 2007, named as a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum. Crikey…

But wait… there is more… He is also a former director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation and (golly, how does he find the time) a co-founder of the UK Open Rights Group as well as being a leading proponent of Creative Commons. Errrm… yes… and that is..?

In short, with a Creative Commons license, you keep your copyright but allow people to copy and distribute your ‘work’ provided they give you… a proper credit for so-doing.

So… what kind of ‘work’ falls into this category? Well, according to a Google search with that very phrase in the title, Creative Commons licenses can be applied to all works that would normally fall under copyright, including: books, plays, movies, music, articles, photographs, blogs, and websites.

I see… so… one get to keep one’s copyright… however… it’s also cool (maaaan) for others to copy the work that you have copyrighted (as your own) freely. How splendid, how very forward thinking: that’s a bit like allowing free run with the photocopier in the nearest Public Library.

I think those who read this little Voltaire out on its windswept knoll can safely assume that our newest Canadian pal, Mr Doctorow gets paid (ie, earns money with which he pays his bills) to write for the Guardian (online)… to co-edit Boing Boing… or… write his sci-fi novels… or sit on the Creative Commons committee.

If not, then he either has very understanding backers or is someone of independent means who doesn’t need to work for a living.

Either which way, the viewpoints he’s presented and as outlined within this BBC article are about as lop-sided as the Titanic was about ninety minutes after striking the ‘berg.

The fact of the matter is… IF creatives do not earn (and copyright is rendered worthless – as described above) then those ‘things’ that we all enjoy (music / books / films etc) are gradually (no… make that rapidly) going to dry up.

This Utopian idea as purported by Mr Doctorow of… oh, everything should be, like, free maaaan… is as misguidedly imbecilic.

Any internet economy based on that model or ethic will collapse like a pack of cards disturbed by the breeze when the door is opened.

Consider – if you will – how newspapers are facing meltdown right now… For why? Well… you don’t need to buy one… do you? They’ve been giving away all their 'content' for nothing on the wibbly wobbly web for aeons… and all of ‘em (save Murdoch behind his pay-wall) are wondering why they’re hemorrhaging money.

Duh… it's simple… you cannot give away your ‘goods’ for free and expect to break even let alone make a profit with which to invest in the future. Or, pay the bills. Or eat.

If MC Doctorow wants to give all his work away for nothing… fine, that’s his choice.

But, it is entirely wrong to purport the theory that it is the right way forward. It is absolutely not because that juvenile attitude is simply promoting the rape of creativity.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jess Roden | Song 3

The room to the back of the anonymous back-street building in which I’ve been placed is, at best, serviceable; it is approximately fifteen feet square with walls painted a uniform, hint of a tint (but now-fading), Magnolia. Truth to tell, the colour scheme is actually more off-white with no tinted hint at all.

There is just the one, metal-framed window. It is set annoyingly high on the far wall – presumably so as to preclude any view other than that of the gun-metal grey, rain-bearing clouds, scudding past on this dreary, mid-February, afternoon.

Beneath the window is an oversized, malt-brown melamine-topped desk – more junior accountant than office manager. The right-hand border is scored with blackened cigarette burns that spread along its edge like so many decaying woodlice; I’ve seen fag-end burns like this many times before – most often on old B3 Hammond Organs played by the likes of Steve Winwood.

On the desk and in a mug that’s known better days, there’s a half-drunk cup of coffee. It has been poured from a machine down-along the frayed-brown-carpeted hallway. Even behind the now-closed door, the percolator gives off its own signature odour of stale dregs at twenty paces.

The entire place reeks of early-Seventies, Habitat-inspired, office functionality.

My Moleskin notebook lays bare and untroubled (yet) by note-taking on the desk; my coat is hanging on a hanger that, itself, is suspended from the single hook on the back of the plywood door. My brown-leather briefcase is huddled against one of the desk-legs; much like a cat, hungry for its master’s affection.

Spread across the stone-carpeted floor are plastic crates – some are green, others are Air Force grey while a few began life as shout-out-loud iridescent orange.

Some are stacked, one upon another while others have been spaced apart in random order; all are heavily pock-marked – as if suffering from crate-acne – and scratched from being thrown into and around the back of Transit vans; their heavy contents man-handled with ease by burly men with muscles to match.

Functional boxes which, in their own simple way, are simply that – since there is no other requirement… strong but serviceable; sturdy and utilitarian.

And each of these containers that are approximately three foot long by eighteen inches by another eighteen or so in depth hold innumerable smaller boxes.

Most of these are twelve-inches square; some are over two inches deep, some are slimmer volumes. All are stacked vertically and… sprinkled amongst them are a handful of smaller boxes – a mere seven inches square and slender in width too.

All of them have been labeled at some long-past time or other; the labels themselves have been stuck on the actual box fronts – some have been scrawled on, some have a good deal of writing that’s been crossed out and replaced by other, almost-as-old, scribbles; some have a doodles and drawings while some of the labels have been neatly typed out.

Like ancient hieroglyphics high on a wall on the inside of a Pharaoh’s tomb, they offer their own clues… hints that these boxes contain the treasure which, Indiana Jones-like I’ve been hoping to find for many months.

Fast backwards: a restaurant from the Indian sub-continent on the main drag that connect Chiswick to Hammersmith; Popadum frenzy, Chapatti heaven and Korma bliss. Two Kingfisher beers have been part-supped yet we’re not quite ready for the next infill; the singer and writer of songs and I sit opposite one another.

“Sometimes,” he muses, “I do wonder what still exists… Me and my bands, y’know… over the years… we recorded a lot; over at Basing Street and just down the road at the back of St Peters Square… And… now that I come to think about it, I do wonder what… might have survived.”

“There was a lot that never got released… but… I suppose all that stuff probably got wiped… or, maybe recorded over… or, perhaps those tapes just got chucked out. I dunno… but… yes, absolutely, if you wanted to do your Sherlock Holmes thing and… see what really is there… then… yeah, I’d be up for that…”


He sits quietly for a moment or two; a sliver of Naan bread held lightly in his fingers, hovering just above his side-plate. “Y’know… there was some really good stuff that we did… so yes… it’d be interesting to see what they have… but, honestly, I don’t suppose there’s very much. Another beer..?”

Fast forwards a few months… the singer and writer of songs wanders back into his sitting room with two large glasses, each having been re-charged from the bottle of well-chilled in the fridge; a couple of reserves are laying in wait in the garage that's attached to the house... just in case.

A real-fire hisses and pops in the grate… the gentle scent of top-notch Welsh lamb being oven-roasted in the kitchen across the hall mixes with the wood-smoke to permeate the air. A cat trails in after him and struts past the small, elderly dog curled up on the hearth.

The singer of songs settles into the depths of the sofa as I sit on the floor, just in front of the drawn curtains in the bay window. There’s a MacBook attached to the stereo-system; speakers placed either side of the fireplace.

A portrait of him, his young son and his wife taken at the time of the photosession for his first solo-album hangs, ever so slightly off kilter, above and to the side of the left-hand speaker. Books of eclectic persuasion stand to attention like so many soldiers line abreast on their parade-ground shelves. The lights are low with music in the air.

“Y’know… I’m amazed at what you’ve found…already… and you say there’s lots more?” His trademark eyes are lined by no regrets as he leafs through the box-front scans from today’s work-in-progress for project-X.

“This… y’know what it is..? It’s pretty much the whole album I did with Rabbit who nowadays plays keyboards with The Who… the one that CB (Chris Blackwell – owner / founder of Island) kinda rejected… I mean, we kept one track… but… really, it’s quite incredible that you’ve found this.”

“I mean, some of it is a bit… y’know… but… this one still stands up, don’t you think..? I have to be perfectly honest, though… I can’t really remember writing this let alone recording it… Let’s have a bit of a memory-jog.”
He presses play on the MacBook and the unedited song is counted in by an unknown voice and then sparks into life.

Three minutes or so later, the tune gradually fades into the distance… the singer and writer assumes a far-away stare. Abruptly he says, “Heaven's, what kind of compression did we use on that piano..! That’s Mike Kellie from Spooky Tooth on drums… Pat Donaldson who played with The Fairports as well as lots of others is playing bass… that’s Rabbit on keyboards… and me strumming away on an acoustic guitar…”

“Why is it listed like that on the box? Well… I never came up with a title for the song. I think… maybe… I was planning to call it Hallelujah or something like that… but… ‘cos it was the third song on the tape and had no proper title, the engineer or the tape-op would have written it up as that.”

“I think we can stick this on the list as a definite for inclusion… don’t you..?”


Ladies and gentlemen… this… really is… the very first Hidden Master we found… Song 3… by Jess Roden.

video

(nb, this is an edited clip – there being very real reasons why the full track isn’t being posted… a) this song has yet to be re-mastered (this is a lo-res MP3 audio) and b) to make it less attractive to the pirates - copyright must be respected. In time, however, this track – as well as the original non-vocal demo – will be part of the Hidden Masters : The Jess Roden Anthology set that is in preparation currently).

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Party’s Over

So, it’s the morning after the night before: The BRITS has been, gone and put back in its cupboard for another year.

Collectively, the UK business of music is nursing a monumental hangover; drinks were drunk, little black dresses got crushed and without a shadow of a doubt, some woke up this morning with an unfamiliar person next to them – its not always that the best fun is had in the kitchen at after-show parties.

Yet, while this is the British equivalent to The Grammys, it strikes me as being extraordinary that neither organising ‘committee’ on either side of the pond can get their own flagship ‘awards show’ anywhere near right.

The Grammy’s, for example, have in excess of one hundred categories… that’s a bit like awarding a child at school a prize for attending class; you know – the modern ‘no one is a loser’ ethic which, actually, stifles competitiveness.

It’s also a way (they would argue) of covering all the bases… when the reality is that they (the Grammy organising wallahs) are simply finding more and more genre boxes into which they can conveniently put ‘music’.

Have a look at category 108 and tell me about its relevance… please. It is: Best Long Form Music Video and subtitled (presumably for the hard of understanding) as follows – For video album packages consisting of more than one song or track. Award to the Artist and to the Video Director/Producer of at least 51% of the total playing time.

This little Voltaire out there on its windswept knoll would argue strenuously that there are only two of these cardboard boxes… one is marked good… the other is labeled bad. End.

Anyhow, as a consequence of this boxing-off of genres, The Grammys go on for… hours… really they do; quite literally from mid-afternoon to lateish in the evening. How those attending get through that without resorting to the intake of advanced pharmaceuticals to stave off the boredom of all those acceptance speeches (Mum, Dad, my Record Company, Juan Pelota my underwear stylist, my managers, the person tending my Cairn Terrier, Auntie Joan, God and, before I forget… you – the fans!!! And, Mum – this if for YOU… etc etc) is entirely beyond me.

Besides which, there are – in reality – almost two shows… the first (lengthy) segment isn’t televised… that’s when the boxes labeled ‘Best Sleeve Notes’ or Best Traditional World Music Album / Vocal or Instrumental – that being category 72 of the 108) are ticked and the (doubtless) worthy winner steps forward to thank God, his / her Mum and Dad, Lover, Dog (again), MTV, the Fans etc etc).

To underline the absurdity of all the categories, back in 1996 Eddie Veeder said, when accepting Pearl Jam’s Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, ‘I don’t know what this means, I don’t think it means anything.’

The second part begins with the televising of the (ridiculous) parade down the blood red carpet when the interviewers ask, in the main, ‘Who are you wearing’ to each of the freshly-coiffed contestants. The answers that spill from between their professionally whitened teeth seem to (somehow) add up to enough product placement-endorsement to satisfy the likes of Armani, Malandrino, J-P Gaultier, Pucci, Cavalli, Givenchy and D&G as worn by the Beiber-ling.

After which, the main show begins with a mere twenty or so Awards… yet, this is so muddled as to make no sense… Best Recording is up against Best Song…? Errr. Hello?

The BRITS, on the other hand, only had – by comparison – a handful of trophies to give out… in which were categories described as… Best Male… Best Female… yes, but Best Male or Female what exactly…?

Well, in the former we had the likes of Paul Weller up against Robert Plant, Tiny Temper, Mark Ronson yet someone called Plan B won… other than observing that the ‘list’ is horribly mismatched, I find it hard to understand how someone like the constantly reinventing-himself Robert Plant isn’t recognised as being… the best.

As to the other ‘best’s of the evening… Adele is being lauded by the ‘real commentators’ for her performance of Someone Like You – sparse and real, just piano and vocal. Sure, it is a great song but, I couldn’t help feeling that – while great – that greatness could have been embellished with strings to turn her performance into something quite remarkable.

Money on a big string section that would, quite frankly, have been better spent by the organisers than on the horrid troops (sic) of totally unnecessary ‘dancers’ dressed up as quasi-Fascist riot police for Take That and… the aforementioned Plan B who reenacted some kind of eccentric court scene while strangling his lyrical language by rapping it at us in pure, unadulterated, estuary.

Best hair on the night belonged to uber-puppet Beiber – he turned up, looking far to fresh-faced from a transatlantic flight to be real – no dark glasses for him unlike Cee-Lo who swung very low in his.

Chaps – dark glasses indoors are a sign… a signal… of utter affectation; they’re not cool… not funny… not glamorous… they just make you look plain stupid.

And, of the acceptance speeches… Laura Marling’s was – without doubt – the most real, most normal. I admit I was rooting for Rumer in this category but, Ms Marling – who looked like a rabbit caught in the headlights – was head and shoulders (sic) over the likes of Jessie J whose crocodile tears were as false as her eyelashes. Critics’ Choice..? Well, in that respect, those critics should be lined up against a wall and… because time will out on this, as I guarantee that, in five years time, people will be asking… Jessie who? And, the song was… Do It Like A Prude..? Nah, don’t remember that one.

And… the best album… the BEST British album of the last year was… really… honestly… you’re telling me that Mumford & Sons’ record was THE BEST British album of last year… ok, I’ll accept it was better than Take T’at – who’re collectively fast becoming the Queen Mother of The Brits… I mean, they’re like a standard fixture aren’t they, rather like that bloke seen at every Rugby match, wearing a Union Jack coat and a top hat being the epitome of a British Bulldog by the touchline.

And, James Corden… well, he looked (and acted) more like a safe Vicar who’d had one too few glasses of Sherry at Christmas… bumbling and smiling inanely. Time, if ever there was, to bring back a proper presenter or to say sorry to Jarvis Cocker and acknowledge that his stage invasion whilst wacko-Jacko was acting out his Christ-like tendencies surrounded by children was a genuine act that everyone in the hall that night (including self) wished they’d have been nearer the stage and been able to protest in like manner.

Oh… and its about time that the background TV presenter stopped using the word Platinum… honestly, luv… no one out their watching from the comfort of their sofa knows what it means… neither is it impressive.

But, hey, this was all about the ‘live’ music… wasn’t it…? Maybe so – and Adele and the rather loud Arcade Fire certainly showed how it could be done… However, the Mumblefords, scored a spectacular own goal by playing like a bunch of subway-buskers who are so ordinary that one hurries by without dipping the hand in the trouser pocket.

And Rihanna… I’m told that was a medley of her hit… hmmm… clearly lip-synching, it was not far short of a total travesty; guileless style over minimal content… and with choreography (was that what it really was?) that was about as exciting as watching a parody of all those old Top Of The Pops routines. Grabbing your crotch while wearing a ?dress? that shows all and sundry that your bottom is the size of Trindad isn’t raunchy, its just plain sad.

And so… the morning after… and as much-heralded 24 hours previously, up on iTunes are the live performances from last night to download and enjoy… for as long as one likes…

Well, actually, that’s not quite correct – not all of the performances are there due to technical hitches (according to my mole); hitches like auto-tuning and lip-synching... ha ha!

Be that as it may, some are... go to The Brits site and up there on the top right hand corner a graphic shows that the Cee Lo performance with Paloma Faith is available via iTunes…

Except, its not… it is geographically challenged… meaning that if (for example) one is logging on from the US or Australia… its not available.

Brilliant… how utterly fxxxxxg dumb is that? Someone in (say, Detroit or Adelaide) wants that recording and so how do they get it..?

Here’s what they’ll do: they’ll go to YouTube, engage a gadget called AudioHiJack (a free download - about which I've written and emphasised the dangers thereof in relation to pircay before) and… press record… Four minutes and thirty-two seconds later and it’ll nestle happily within their iTunes folder.

For free… that’s zilch… nada… nothing… FREE…

Fuck me, but record companies are about as stupid as they get… one day, those that forge these licensing arrangements will actually understand that the web is a global entity… global equals worldwide…

Is it any wonder that the ‘record companies’ are losing money / the war against piracy?

And, as a final comment on the success of this year’s BRIT Awards… we need look no further than Music Week who have just announced that the 2011 awards had the lowest viewing figures for five years and was outstripped by not only the film, My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding (6.5 million viewers against 4.7 for the BRITS) but also Holby City which attracted 5.6 million.

Re-make / re-model..? Yes, please.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

One Moment In Time

Today, via the auspices of Music Week – Britain’s one and only trade magazine for the business of music – came the news that tonight’s BRIT Award performances will be available online via a dedicated BRITS page on iTunes. All proceeds from said recordings will go to the BRITS Trust.

This follows last year’s ‘experiment’ of the same which saw the collaboration between Dizzee Rascal and Florence of Florence + The Machine sell over three hundred thousand copies of their mid-February BRIT Awards’ on-stage mash-up.

Not much to concern ourselves about here… is there?

Not really… so long as those involved (the artists / their management / the musicians involved / relevant record companies etc etc) are all totally cool flying by the seat of their proverbials.

And, so long as those who purchase said artefact of the night, fully understand what they’re shelling out their money for – ‘cos what the public will be offered to acquire will be nothing more than an officially sanctioned bootleg of song X / onstage collaboration Y.

Perhaps I should set my stall out here and state that I believe live recordings contain some of my most favourite moments within all music: this is when it really is down to those four fundamental chords and the truth. Its when the magic of a band at the top of their game can send shivers down the spine; moments that can never be replicated – it is, for the moment and of the moment – a true snapshot in time.

And, something that’s incredibly rare to capture since every single star has to be perfectly in alignment for it – the magic – to happen.

Come with me, if you will and we’ll head off to Hammersmith Palais on the night of September 29th, 1980.

This venerable building began life in 1919 as The Hammersmith Palais de Danse and, besides being a ballroom it hosted an ice rink and was also where tanks were constructed during the war besides doubling as a tram shed. It was also one of the greatest music venues in all of London… and I saw countless bands there… U2 supporting Talking Heads (standing next to Bruce Springsteen on the balcony and later helping smuggle his Broooceness into the dressing room so that Bono and Bruce’s first meeting could be committed to celluloid by (our) photographer who, himself, gained access to the inner sanctum through an open window); OMD, The Clash, the B52s, Nils Lofgren, The Cramps, The Alarm, King Sunny Adé , Orange Juice, The Waterboys and literally dozens of others.

Its a warm, balmy early autumn evening… outside and inside some three thousand or so punters are gathered – John Curd the promoter of many Palais gigs was never that fussed with fire regulations that called for specified maximum numbers of an audience to be adhered to.

Edged up onto the pavement is a big truck; a mobile studio… cables spill from its innards like so much spaghetti, trailing into the venue via side doors. Inside this state of the art (for its time) articulated lorry are slightly-bearded sound engineer Godwin Logie, a veteran from Island Hammersmith studios, The FallOut Shelter and the ever-suave Alex Sadkin, imported over from Compass Point in The Bahamas to produce the recording.

A large spliff smolders on the edge of the desk, the air is fetid with the reek of high quality grass. Marianne Faithfull and her then husband, The Vibrators’ Ben Brierly are hovering in the background. Richard ‘Hutch’ Hutchinson – more regularly employed as front-of-house sound engineer for The Jess Roden Band – meanders back and forth between his desk in the hall and the truck, checking and double-checking.

Inside, it’s a cauldron of noise, heat and anticipation – the latter most keenly felt by those at the sharp end of proceedings. A little over a week previously, a bit of a plan had been hatched… we’re going to create a bit of history here by putting out the fastest live recording in history; the Guinness Book Of Records are in our collective sights.

As near as dammit to the appointed hour, at nine pm, Toots and The Maytals bound on stage… theirs is high-energy reggae, not for them the languid build of a set… it kicks off in the overtaking lane with Pressure Drop (covered by label-mate Robert Palmer) and morphs along the central-reservation barriers almost seamlessly through classic Toots tracks such as Monkey Man, Funky Kingston, Time Tough and his timeless 54-46 That’s My Number… the crowd, predictably, go nuts… and, ninety or so minutes later… this one night of music is all there, committed to reels of two-inch, 24-track, analog tape.

The guys in the truck have been mixing on the hoof; they have time for one more pass of the entire show to readjust levels before filtering out the songs that – for whatever reason – are deemed (in those pre-ProTools days) as being sub-standard… thankfully, the key Toots songs have made it… Crowd noise is edited… the song sequence is chosen… before that is run off as a final, quarter inch, stereo mix.

A fast car is waiting… the stereo mixes – accompanied by Alex Sadkin – head to the mastering suite where the two sides of vinyl will start to take shape. The tapes are run through, levels are once again tweaked and the alchemy of mastering is underway; memory at a distance (in this instance) is hazy but, I’m pretty sure the knob-twiddler in chief would have been John Dent, one of the masters of this alchemic artform. In general terms, a good couple of hours would have been allowed for each track… but, on this particular night where time was of the essence, this vital process would have been cut to maybe two or, at a pinch, three hours max.

In the background – and only once the final album running order had been confirmed – the artwork was being completed… and sent straight to the printers, bypassing the usual colour checking processes.

Once the finished album had been mastered, the fast car was employed yet again – this time, destination EMI’s pressing plant at Hayes… the master became the laquer… the lacquer became the stamper that would produce the vinyl. The presses rolled early in the morning and each album was hand-sleeved… more fast cars stood by and, as record stores in London opened for business, the album was there to buy… recorded and in the shops in under twenty-four hours and yes… a few weeks later, the letter from the Guinness Book Of records people duly arrived.

So… how does all that relate to this evening’s little BRITS exercise…?

I’d say it was more down to the performance than anything… IF – and this a huge ask – IF everything goes according to plan for song X or Y then the sheer logistical exercise of putting that performance up on iTunes isn’t that much of a difficulty.

That IF, however, should be written in sky-high letters. For example – and lets take as one example the Grammys from the other night… in which Bruno Mars’ (sort-of) tribute to James Brown, a song called Grenade went horribly, horribly wrong.

For why…? Master Mars’ vocals were as flat as a pancake throughout much of the song… ooopsy, should’ve used the old auto-tune gadget, son… fixable after the fact in ProTools… yes, undoubtedly but… its time consuming.

So, lets imagine that there is a cock-up with an instrument… violas are notorious but lets think about something more fundamental, the bass drum pedal is at the root of most songs isn’t it?

So, consider what happens IF the mic isn’t securely-enough attached to the floor and, throughout performance Z… it moves… just a few centimeters but, trust me, that’s enough to matter. Why? Sonically (and noticeably) the song is out of kilter. Is it fixable… of course… ProTools to the rescue yet again. However… this, and trust me here, really can be time-consuming.

It’s a process I watched unfold during one of the archive projects I’m engrossed in currently – we wanted to use a particular live recording (from The Marquee since you’re wondering) and an absolute belter of a performance it is too.

However, during initial playback of the two inch multitracks something sounded… out… we couldn’t quite figure it out but, definitely something was wrong. My lankily-haired, cup-cake-eating, engineer cocked his head on one side… listened intently again and again then, one by one, started to ‘solo’ every single mic-input.

‘Aha… found it… the bass-drum mic moved.’
he pronounced after an hour of twiddling. ‘And the solution is…?’ I asked – worrying that this might be a problem too far even for his skill-set.

‘Well…’ he said, scratching what passes for a beard… ‘I could take one bass-drum beat right at the start where everything is aligned properly and use that and put it back on every beat in the song… that should, in theory, do the trick… you might want to go and make a big pot of coffee, though… we’re in for the long haul… it’ll probably take the rest of the day.’

The song was nine minutes long and… it did take the rest of the day. Ultimately, it did get fixed but the point is, it would have been unusable without that fix.

With the BRITS tonight… how will they do this; make sure that that we, the end-users – the iTunes purchasers, are on the receiving end of performances that are as good as they can be in every single way?

Well, if they’re heading down the sheer speed route, I’d imagine its highly unlikely that they’ll use the actual performance from the televised show – there will be a safety net in place whereby the run throughs, the sound-checks will have been recorded and those performances will act as audio-security… perhaps with a live (auto-tuned) vocal laid on top.

Why..? Well, I can’t imagine any of tonight’s scheduled performing (loosely applied adjective as that is) acts such as Take That, Plan B, Rihanna, Cee Lo or Tinie Tempah) comfortable enough with their own – raw – performances to allow anything sub-standard out there.

Arcade Fire or The Mumfords… perhaps… but then again and in the cold light of day, would one want to really head over to iTunes and pay to download a copy of The Mumfords backing His Bobness, growling out a dirge-like Maggies Farm from the recent Grammys?

You know what... quite honestly, I reckon its far better to leave everything as is... don't bother with the kerfuffle and uncertainty (and undoubted pressure) of recording to release from a show like this... leave it as a moment in time that can be found on YouTube in time to come, just like so many great performances where the visual combines with the audio - and its that which makes it work as well as it does - as a final example, Mick Jagger's solo Grammys performance of Everybody Needs Somebody To Love was hardly perfect but, the visual of Mick as man in motorway service station caught out by an over-hot hand-drier in the men's lavaotories, belting it out made it work.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Celluloid Heroes #1 John Barry (The Beyondness Of Things)

There is an inescapable quietness, an unavoidable sadness that underpins today: the world is collectively mourning one of the compositional giants of modern music – John Barry.

There will, no doubt, be acres of prose written in the next however long in praise of his lush melodies and remarkable prowess with minor and major chords as well as his skill at letting notes just hang in the air like so much honeysuckle-scent on an evening breeze.

Yet – more often than not, it wasn’t (as I believe Miles Davis once said) the notes that were played that counted, but those that weren’t – JB created spaces within music in which one’s imagination was left to roam.

Above all, though, it is the sheer elegance of his music; exemplified by a series of unmatched film scores that were… still are… (and crucially) remain to be discovered by generations to come... his remarkable legacy.

Quite a few years ago (in 1999 to be exact), when a project involved a close working relationship with The English Chamber Orchestra, they played a couple of nights under JB’s baton at The Royal Albert Hall. This was a year of so after JB had signed to Decca and released his first non-soundtrack album for a quarter of a century, the timeless The Beyondness Of Things.

Not being on the ball as rapidly as I should have been, I missed out at the box-office. The shows were beyond sold-out; tickets were as hard to find as hen’s teeth – this being only the second time in many, many, years that JB had played a UK show and coming on the back of the critical acclaim that his Beyondness album had received. Thus, it was all about cadging a gigantic favour. So, it was after much grovelling and begging on bended knee, that a pair of guest tickets arrived in the post.


In the hall that night, as my pal Honest John (the financial adviser) and I settled in the side-stalls, the air was thick with expectation… could the maestro deliver; would these themes of his, these glorious and magnificent melodies translate to a space like this without the visual benefit of being set to celluloid?

The players took their seats, tuned up as they do – taking their cue from number one fiddler – then the lights dimmed. Smaller than imagined, a gaunt, somewhat insignificant-looking, grey-haired figure took to the platform…

He tapped his baton a couple of times and then… the distant thunder of kettle drums cracked the air; the strident shout of trombones marched to the beat as swelling strings added their own counterpoint to… the opening title-music to Zulu.

Three or so minutes later, as the final chords washed away, there was absolute silence for maybe five or six seconds (although it felt longer). Then the audience, as one, stood as an explosion of applause detonated throughout the hall.

Two and a bit hours later, the man who conducted by using his shoulders as much as his baton had satiated the five or so thousand people in the hall with music. As much as we’d been beguiled by the lushness of the Beyondness album, we’d been treated to a voyage through his soundtracks by way of symphonic sadness within the likes of Out Of Africa and Mary Queen Of Scots and the evergreen branches of enticement of a near-thirty minute James Bond medley.

It was one of the greatest shows (among countless hundreds) I’ve been luck enough to witness.

Was he a composer as important as (say) Puccini or Beethoven? Should he be revered as painter of musical sound-scapes as important as (say) Monet or Kandinsky?

Yes, I would argue that JB rightly occupies a pedestal alongside those who are rightly regarded as colossuses within their own field.

The world is a richer place for his music and a sadder one for his untimely passing.

Fare thee well then, JB… a lion of Africa sleeps tonight.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Thieves Like Us

Woke up…
Dragged a comb across my head...


Yeah, you know how that song goes… part of the soundtrack to my youth as much as it is to this and every other generation that’ll follow.

And, this morning, I did exactly that… well, not really – took a bit of a squint in the mirror whilst gargling with the old Listerine Total Care (Cinnamint flavour since you’re wondering – I’ve become a bit bored with the mint only of late) and thought… hmm, ok, that’ll have to do… the bags under the eyes (which I thought’d look cool / make me look a bit lived in when I was younger than today but which, actually, are now permanent fixtures) aren’t gonna go away… time to get on with my day.

Then… the unmistakable sound of the Inner Terrier barking ferociously, straining at its leash from within its kennel.

Damn, whats got him so worked up… I’ve a load of research to complete, Skype calls with my lawyer later, masses of writing to do, dozens of emails to answer, designs to be getting on with as well as new designs to start and… just a whole shedload of… stuff… to be getting on with.

But the Inner Terrier is barking louder than before… interspersed with a strange kind of yowling sound. OK, best go see what’s up.

Aha… The headline (via TorrentFreak.com) was enough… RapidShare Accuses ‘Piracy Report’ Publisher of Defamation; Might Sue.

Ok… no wonder the Inner Terrier was way beyond just apoplectic yapping. This relates to the widely published story that was picked up by the likes of the BBC yesterday when RapidShare were ‘branded’ as being the leading digital piracy site.

RapidShare – for their part – have responded by emphasising that they are a legitimate company.

Well… it is clear that with such opposing viewpoints that one side or the other are trolling out Porky Pies.

And, this little Voltaire out on its windswept knoll would like to tell you who, precisely, is being untruthful. Yes, my Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen – readers of this little Voltaire as far flung around the globe as you truly are… it is RapidShare who are about as illegitimate a company as trades as makes no difference.

Indeed… of late, courts in Germany have ruled (that’s confirmed legally to the likes of you and me) that RapidShare runs a perfectly legal business.

However… that is absolute and utter CRAP. They don’t.

For the hard of hearing, I’ll repeat that… the people who runs these sites are deluded at best – they’re simply offering a service that rips off creatives.

Because… RapidShare (along with MegaUpload) are the leading conduits for any piece of music that you care to think of… the channel or means or… route (however you care to term it) … to download whatever you feel like listening to (or viewing) FOR FREE.

Which, basically, means that creative person X does not get paid.

Please, therefore could someone explain how that is legal?

Its not… is it?

Nevertheless, apparently RapidShare’s big-wigs are so incensed at being labeled the world’s largest ‘digital piracy site’ that they’re considering legal action on the grounds that this ‘statement’ by MarkMonitor – culled from a report via the RIAA and others – is defamatory.

Indeed, RapidShare have gone so far as to offer up their own statement… “This defamation of RapidShare as a digital piracy site is absurd and we reserve the right to take legal action against MarkMonitor. RapidShare is a legitimate company that offers its customers fast, simple and secure storage and management of large amounts of data via our servers.”

Defamatory… my arse… its not! It’s the truth…

And, for the disbelievers (and I fail to see who could fail to grasp this)… here’s how it works. This is how easy it is to download any piece of music you like / fancy – FOR FREE – via the likes of RapidShare or MegaUpload.

Step 1… Log on to your favoured internet browser… type in (for example) the album title you’re looking for and search for it using the ‘image search’ function.

Step 2… Scroll down a bit – past all the links to the likes of iTunes and HMV digital and so forth… down a bit further and you’ll find the blogspots that ‘purport’ to ‘write’ about particular Album X.

Step 3… Click on the image link and that’ll (generally) take you to the blog page so illustrated. Scroll down a bit, past the album cover… and you’ll find the track-listing and, more often than not, a box marked links.

Step 4… Hit the link – sometimes it’s not even hidden away in a box but there, in plain sight for anyone to see… and, that link will open up a new page.

Step 5… That new page will offer you your download and more often than not, you’ll find that page hosted by… yes, you’ve guessed it… either RapidShare or MegaUpload.

Step 6… Click on ‘download this file’ and, depending on the speed of your connection, you can be listening to your own copy of Album X – FOR FREE – within five minutes or so.

(for exactness, this isn’t a precise science… from time to time you have to kiss a few internet frogs along the way… but, ultimately, it shouldn’t take much more than ten minutes of searching to provide the link you’re looking for).

And… that is legal?

Nope… I don’t think so…

And… can it be stopped? On balance I’d say no… it cannot. The likes of RapidShare will not be shutting the doors to their zillion-times terabyte servers any time soon – after all, they’re making a small fortune acting as conduits.

Equals, this form of filesharing ain’t gonna go away.

So... is there a solution?

Fuck yeah… With the technology available, how hard would it be to enforce a methodology that makes this new form of distribution a legal way to dole out music (and film / games etc etc)?

And… via that methodology – which would mean the likes of RapidShare / MegaUpload etc paying a form of royalty based on downloads – it would mean that the creatives – the song-writers… the copyright holders… the people who invent games… the authors... the film-makers… are FAIRLY PAID.

Enough… I need to take the Inner Terrier out for his walk; he's howling like a banshee. However, I’ll end this by appending a few pithy sentences from the noted author, David Thomas (aka Tom Cain). Not much more needs to be added (other than to state he granted permission for his words to be used here).

One of these days, the entertainment industry will find the form of words that explains a few very simple ideas to the people who steal copyright material and the theorists who dispute the very meaning of copyright itself.

Such as, for example ... when you rip off a music file you steal the musician's work and deny them the means of earning a living ... no one would expect a plumber to work for free, why should a pianist, an actor or an author? ... if you larcenous fuckwits keep stealing stuff, then eventually no one will be able to afford to spend the tens or even hundreds of millions it costs to make a movie, or the months and years it takes to write a novel, and then where will you be?

Friday, January 7, 2011

Broken English

It is the time of the year when those who’ve made their New Year resolutions start to break ‘em: you know the kind of thing… awash with Champagne on New Year’s Eve, gazing unsteadily into the eyes of the one you love, you pledge daily visits to the gym, self-discipline that equates to a pumping iron regime that’ll make you all the more attractive by… oh, Valentine’s Day latest.

Did I make one of these resolutions..? Well, not really – I certainly didn’t make futile promises to dust down my running shoes in a vague attempt at getting fitter.

Nevertheless, I did think to myself whilst quaffing a rather pleasing item from the Veuve Clicquot stable and watching the fireworks that perhaps 2011 would be the year when I became less of a perennial grump.

So, in between sips from the sippy-cup and as the clock turned, I decided that I’d let my Jack Russell tendencies off the leash.

And… you know what..? All was going swimmingly until… the inner Terrier bounded up and started snapping ferociously earlier today.

It had spied such utter hypocrisy it couldn’t be ignored.

Sadly, however, I can’t imagine that the little news item that the inner Terrier spotted will be among the front-runner on News At Ten tonight, nor would it fight for a place in the headlines on ABC News or France Soir or whatever the German equivalent is. Will it make the Antipodean equivalent of TVN 24 Horas in Chile…? I rather doubt it. Where will it be placed on RTPN in Portugal or will they ignore it just as much as CBC in Canada undoubtedly will? That, too, is highly probable.

So… what is this duplicity and double standards that have so incensed; what has raised the inner Terrier's hackles to vertical?

OK… here is the full quote from Daniel Raimer who is RapidShare AG’s lawyer (and spokesman). RapidShare have just overturned a court ruling where, originally, Atari (the gaming company) had said RapidShare did not take sufficient measures against copyright infringement.

“The ruling demonstrates once again that RapidShare is operating a fully legal range and has taken measures against the misuse of its service which go beyond the level that is legally required. We are confident that copyright holders will gradually come to accept this conclusion.“

This is absolute, total… BOLLOX.

This little Voltaire out on its grassy knoll has expounded on this before but, this latest court ruling – and the utterly contemptible accompanying quote - has started the inner Terrier growling as well as barking loudly.

Because… the simple fact of the matter is that RapidShare (and dozens of other similar ‘sites’) host files that are shared by ‘consumers’ from which the rights owners do not earn.

There is so much proof of the above being absolute FACT out there in wibbly-wobbly-web land that there is no requirement for further expansion or examples here.

File-sharing (in this manner) is, to all intents and purposes, the new distribution of music… (and film, tv, video and so forth).

And, no matter what all the worthy people at the tops of those respective industries say they’re going to do to stop it, they’re ignoring the incontrovertible fact that the stable door got left open long ago and… the horse went that-a-way.

So… while it is entirely galling to read the complete pack of lies that Daniel Raimer spouted earlier – and, being a lawyer he should know a lot better – isn’t it better to accept that Shanks’ pony has bolted over the near horizon and implement a practical solution whereby rights holders are paid?

I mean… its not difficult… is it?

IF music is to be freely available – and all the recently published figures detailing sales downturns point to that as an inevitable conclusion (cf recent editions of Billboard etc) – then these *new distribution channels* are going to have to contribute – otherwise the creators’ creativity will simply dry up… they’ll starve.

RapidShare (so it proudly notes) is one of the 100 most visited websites on the planet. It estimates that over 400,000 files are uploaded to its servers every single day. In any calendar year, that equates to more than 14.5 million. The company has over 1,000 servers with combined storage capacity measured in Petabytes (one unit being I million gigabytes). The bandwidth that their millions of visitors a day occupy means that the income they are generating is colossal. Oh, and lets not forget the subscription services they offer as well.

In other words, RapidShare are generating seriously huge sums of money and yet… as things stand… they do NOT make any payments to 'rights holders' for distributing those 'rights' as they do.

Hypocritical - yes, I would argue so... wouldn't you?

Limetorrents is another in a similar vein. However (and rather cleverly) on their web site they state that they are: a torrent search engine and directory which do NOT host torrent files but links to torrents hosted on other websites. We do NOT have any copyrighted or illegal content on Limetorrents, and we do NOT host torrent files on our servers.

Technically correct and very much holier than thou… But, straight out of the school of ‘nuttin’ to do with me guv’

One wonders how they manage to keep a straight face (other than laughing all the way to the bank) when simple random searches show them to be offering links to literally any film, game or piece of music one cares to think of.

And… for taking their place within this new distribution egg and spoon race, what do LimeWire contribute to the creatives? Jack shit.

With the kind of numbers that companies such as these two (of very many similar) reporting, it would be impractical to try to instigate internal systems whereby ever single file uploaded was pre-screened.

Nevertheless, since this method of distribution is gradually becoming the norm and to stop it becoming what it now is – the unacceptable – then methodology has to be put in place whereby these distributors of ‘rights’ contribute.

This Voltaire on its grassy, windswept knoll, therefore wonders what on earth organisations such as PRS are actually doing to protect their members from the rape and pillage being meted out by companies such RapidShare who are contentedly boating down the middle of the fast-flowing river of pure profit?