Tonight we learnt that HMV, a mainstay of the UK high street has gone into administration. I am not someone who usually takes an interest in business, and I try as much as possible to steer clear of economics, because I know very little on the subject. This one has actually filled me with sorrow and raised my blood pressure in the process.
I am sad partly because it means I cannot just browse the shelves and pick up a CD, DVD or video game on a whim anymore. Remember that feeling you used to get after buying something new and the anguish of having to wait half an hour before you could get home, rip off the cellophane, get a whiff of that ‘new thing’ smell and stick in in the appropriate device? The next generation will never have that if HMV goes under.
Whilst I recognise that HMV led to the downfall of the independent record store, the fact that it is now on the brink itself represents a far bigger tragedy. The internet has finally succeeded in ruining music. In recent years, the lack of interest in physical copies of records has helped destroy the concept of the ‘album’. This has been enforced by the internet’s constant reminder that music should come in 3 minute, instantly downloaded, 79p (or free if you know where to look), streaming, easily digestible chunks. People only release albums so that they can later re-release it with 3 extra tracks tacked on the back of it, each featuring Nicki Minaj, Kanye West or Skrillex remixes. We live in a world obsessed with fast food, and whoever calls the shots in the music business has decided that music needs to go the way of the hamburger. When was the last time somebody released a concept album, or an album that contained 4 tracks, each clocking in at ten minutes long? If you did that now iTunes would laugh at you all the way to the bank as they paid you about 90p.
The internet was the death knell for the record store, where people could discover something new or something old and obscure without having it forced down their throats. I understand that HMV didn’t exactly help, but the fall of HMV marks the end of the final stand of the high street record store, and that is a very sad thing indeed. The internet is the only option.
We are now hapless to the designs of Apple, Amazon and the other faceless online conglomerates. Before you accuse me of being anti-capitalist or anti-consumerist; I have no qualms with these companies making money. I have a problem with the way they devalue art. People forget that music is an art form. Commercialisation of music has got progressively worse since the 1950s, but we’ve always had the option of ignoring the promotions thrust before our eyes of who they want us to buy, and just picking up a record and saying ‘cool, only David Byrne would think of putting that on an album cover’.
Of course, people still have a choice. Independent artists actually have a lot more exposure due to things like Soundcloud and Youtube. There is potential there. The problem is, the executives know this too. That’s why they’ve bought out these sites.That’s why the biggest videos on there are childish showers of faecal matter like ‘Gangnam Style’ and ‘Baby’ by the iTunes poster-child, Justin Bieber. They’ve found ways to manipulate everything.
I love pop music. I’m not afraid to say that I am a sucker for a catchy hook as much as the next person. I don’t only own albums of one genre or one era, or only listen to music that failed to reach the top 40. There has always been commercial pop music. But now, it is not even written for the passion of music. It is written purely as a means to an end; the almighty dollar. It speaks volumes that the biggest paid ‘musician’ of 2012 was Dr Dre. How did he make his money? I don’t remember him finally dropping the follow-up to ‘2001’. He made his money by endorsing headphones. Where is the real music? It’s out there, but it’s becoming harder and harder to find.
Sure, we have social media for people to use to promote their bands but all the internet has really done is make it easy to steal people’s work. Why should artists bust a gut to make a great piece of music when it just gets put on a torrent site somewhere or buried under all the crap that Apple wants us to buy?
People may call me old-fashioned, but it is no coincidence that album and single sales have deteriorated rapidly since the advent of the online music retailer. The online music retailer that only cares to line its own pockets, rather than promote or pay the artist. Tonight, the music industry was dealt a massive blow. I don’t propose to know the solution, but somebody is going to have to rethink the way music is distributed digitally if we are ever going to restore some pride to the lost art of music.
I’m off to smell some vinyl.
Well here we are, the 2012 Whitell Awards. The night with all the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, but without the people attending. Winning a ‘Whitell’ is seen by some as the most coveted of awards, akin to winning an Oscar, having your first child, or discovering that there are in fact sixteen mini kievs in your traditionally fifteen-full bag.
2012 has been an eventful year for yours truly. The ending of a long term relationship was one of the low points of the year, but I really think I’ve learnt a lot about myself. It was not as good as 2010 (my favourite ever year) or even last year, but it was action-packed, eventful and emotional. I am writing this earlier than I anticipated, as I wanted to make sure you get the chance to read it just in case the four horsemen arrive this Friday. More on that later. On with the awards.
Discovery of the Year:
Jacket Potatoes – 2012 was the year I finally discovered the value of the jacket potato. In previous years I have considered Jacket to be the older, uglier sister of the potato family. Nothing compared to the consistently beautiful Mash, and not a patch on the filthy, dirty, little slut that is Roast. Even Hash Brown, the fried cousin has enjoyed many a romp with my tastebuds. But not Jacket. So this year I decided to get drunk and experiment with the shy, frumpy one in the family. I was not disappointed. Cover her in cheese, massage oil into her skin and she’ll purr like a motherfucker. Jacket potato, I salute you.
Moment of the Year:
Surviving a Quad Biking Accident – Back in March I went to the sunny land of Egypt and became a hit with foreign children. Not in a Jimmy Savile way. In a ‘Mutter, who ist das Englisch man with the white trousers and cornrows who knows all the dance routines’ kind of way. During this holiday, I decided to be adventurous and go quad biking. I’m not a man who can drive, or a man who has even attempted to learn how to do so. After an hour of quad biking, I decided I was getting the hang of it. Then I realised that I was going too fast and didn’t have any instinct for braking. So I flipped the entire quad bike over after crashing into the bike in front. I actually thought I was going to die. The quad bike landed on top of me, and all I could think of is ‘shit, those are designer prescription sunglasses’ and emerged from the crash to rescue my visual aids. They were fine. At that point I realised I still had all my limbs and that I should never be in charge of a vehicle again. I then walked away like a badass with only minor injuries. And cornrows. Did I mention the cornrows?
Night Out of the Year:
25th Birthday Icon Fancy Dress Pub Crawl – This night had it all. Fancy dress, an early start, appearances from all my favourite people, a moment where I fell asleep in Cuba only to find my second wind and carry on, and a massive cigar. All this, whilst covered in fake tan, wearing clip-on earrings and with a truly iconic T-Shirt. I would like to thank everyone who made it out on that night and allowed it be Night of the Year 2012, with no nights in the subsequent 11 months able to usurp it from its throne.
Photo of the Year:
Self-explanatory really. In fact this leads me to…
Villain of the Year:
Thomas Stembridge – Fresh out of the studio having recorded the above abomination, Tom Stembridge made himself a recluse for 2012. Cooking, yes, cooking his phone on what must have been the only sunny day we have had this year, he made it his mission to become absolutely isolated from the world of social interaction. John Donne said ‘no man is an island’, but Donne clearly hadn’t met Tom. Tom is the human equivalent of Greenland. Remote, isolated and an autonomous region of Denmark. Worse still, when Stembridge does actually turn up, he wreaks havoc; introducing ridiculous topics from discussion, drinking until you can’t see your fingers and then disappears into nothingness, not to be heard from until his liver has recharged. Thomas Elizabeth Stembridge, as Villain of the Year I salute you, and I expect nothing less in 2013.
Rear of the Year:
Des Bennett – All I can say is if you had seen her on Saturday night you’d agree this was a pretty easy decision to make. Des, congratulations for managing to be so consistently gorgeous for the entirety of 2012, and long may it continue.
Hero of the Year:
Martyn Ley: This was a tough one. There have been some true heroes in my life this year but in the end I’ve opted for the perennially understanding Martyn Ley. Whether it has been through music, a brief chat in the corridor at work, some sound advice through the medium of text messaging or any other interaction, Mart has been there. He’s had his own stuff to deal with, but he’s always made time for his friends, and that’s why he deserves this award. Plus, he has impeccable taste in fashion, a killer guitar solo and an interest in Gillian Anderson that led us into a very rum-filled evening. I’d like to personally thank Mart for his help in 2012, and wish him the best for 2013.
So there we have it, the 2012 Whitell Awards. Thanks for reading, and a big congratulations to the winners. I wish all of you the very best in 2013, but make sure you have too much fun over the festive period first. Stand by for a very special recorded apocalypse message from me, very soon…
Missing: A leap year that was supposed to follow 2011. Claims to be the bringer of doom.
Seriously, what happened to this year? Before I even got the chance to practise writing the date with a twelve at the end (we all practise this, right?) I look up and it’s November. The only reason I know this is because everyone has a moustache. If they didn’t it would just fade into the blurred obscurity of the other ten months we’ve had so far. Maybe that’s why Movember was invented. To preserve the identity of the eleventh month of the year. That’s right cancer, you’re just a cover story.
I know that time is perceived to be quicker as we get older but this is god-damn ridiculous! When I’m 55 (I’ll never make it) I don’t want to turn around and say ‘Jesus Christ, that was a bloody good one night stand’ and be referring to a three month relationship. Sex is short enough as it is. When people in their 70s get busy, it must be about as meaningful as licking a stamp. No wonder they have problems with erections. I’m going to stop here.
This has all left we wondering if we ever get our time back? When we die do we get a chance to revisit the moments in our lives that went by too quickly? Like some kind of kickass level select feature. I know where I’m going. I’ve written down important dates just in case. If you see me looking for a pen you know I’m having a good time. If I’m not, you should probably raise your game a bit, Tom Stembridge. It’s nice to think that there is something after death. The amount of chemical and electrical energy released by the brain at the point of death suggests something might happen. I don’t want to just think of me hanging there in my socks with only the Dyson for company for the rest of eternity. There must be something more. Wait, am I getting deep? On the internet? No, can’t be!
So, just to sum up, this year has gone by really quickly, and I am not an asphyxiophile. I’m off to listen to INXS. Here’s a picture of a horse!
Dear Mr Lewis,
I have never frequented one of your retail establishments. I’m sure you do nice stuff. However, I’m not what you would call a ‘normal’ dresser, so I have no need for things like jumpers. I hear you sell things like furniture and I think that’s really swell. People always need chairs.
However, this is not the subject of my letter. No, I am writing to you because of this man:
This man was born in around 4BC (talk about a slight oversight in the calendar department). His birthday, despite nobody knowing when it actually was, has become an annual celebration called ‘Christmas’. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It takes place on December 25th.
That’s right. December 25th. Christmas Day. Not November. Christmas DAY.
I know I should be writing a stern letter to Mr Cola, as I realise you were not the first to capitalise on the commercial appeal of the most magic time of the year. But do you know why I’m writing to you? Not only do I love Christmas, but I happen to love music too.
I take it you’re not a fan of music. If you were, why on Earth would you make it a habit of over-extending the Christmas period and destroying good music in the process in your advertising?
Last year you basically raped Morrissey. Nobody knows if Morrissey would have actually enjoyed the shafting you gave him or not, maybe you told him you’d stop world sausages and he went along with it; I didn’t enjoy being exposed to it. This year you are going to be cornering Holly Johnson of Frankie Goes to Hollywood fame in an alley and showing him a different Power of Love.
I’m here to beg you to stop this. Stop it now. I cry every time Christmas spills out of December, for too much Christmas ruins the magic. But then when I’m forced to hear you and your overwrought covers of classic songs sung by some waifer-thinly voiced folk singer that are designed to make housewives and general saddos cry and then go out and buy three more tins of Roses; it makes me feel physically sick. And the only time I should feel sick at Christmas is when I’ve devoured an entire pyramid of Ferrero Rochers.
By all means advertise. By all means advertise for Christmas. In December. But for the love of God please don’t subject us to songs that are only there to serve as a reminder that we live in a world where consumerism ruins everything and good music is hard to find. It’s a sad enough place that we live in. My Mum won’t even buy me a fur coat for Christmas. Actually, do you do fur coats?
Dan Whitell (not a 16-year old female singer doing a shit Dan Whitell cover)