Vinyl, cassettes, CDs, MP3s, streaming… and back to vinyl!

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Music is changing. I don’t often buy albums anymore. When I do it’s a special treat. It’s become like a visit to the cinema – overpriced and you only expect to enjoy half the experience. And if you can stream music, why buy it?

I just read that digital music sales dropped for the first time since iTunes was born. But vinyl is coming back! (Slowly!)

Streaming cannibalising sales is, apparently, not such bad news for musicians. Execs say the growth in streaming revenue has been offsetting the decline in digital sales revenue.

Some stats:
• In 2013, digital track sales fell 5.7%.
• Album sales suffered an 8.4% decline.
• The CD declined 14.5%.
• Vinyl continued its ascension and is now 2% of album sales in the U.S; digital albums comprise 40.6% and the CD is 57.2% and cassettes and DVDs 0.2%.

In 2013, only one album sold more than one million units, Justin Timberlake’s 20/20 Experience, with 2.4 million units. By comparison, ten songs hit the million mark in 2012.

I’ll be sorry to see CDs disappear, if they eventually do. But if vinyl can survive, I will keep buying LPs, keep replacing those pesky needles and wiping the dust out of the grooves even if it has no effect.

Read more on the stats at Billboard.

And here is evidence DVDs are also in decline. Better buy that Blu-Ray player quick smart.

Photo from hankblog.wordpress.com

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U2’s latest song? It’s made up of old U2 songs

I am watching closely to see what U2 produces next. It’s my prediction that this will be their make or break album.
With this in mind I have been eagerly awaiting the song they have written for the forthcoming film based on the life of Nelson Mandela. It should be a precursor to the direction their next album is headed.

The good news is the film looks great. The bad news is, if this song is any indication, the band’s next album will sound like  a rehash of U2’s greatest hits.

Here is the start of the new U2 song, Ordinary Love

Listen to the intro of 2002’s Electrical Storm

Now, listen to the intro of Saints are Coming (recorded in 2006 with GreenDay)

For a band that has been around for decades and is well capable of reinvention,  the similarities are embarrassing.  As the song continues, it bounces along optimistically but never emerges from a samey traditional U2ishness, falling back on Edge’s guitars and Bono’s non sequiturs.

On a side note, U2’s track record for releasing quality songs that never appear on an album remains intact.

For example:

  1. Lady With The Spinning Head (1992)
  2. The Sweetest Thing (1987)
  3. Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad (for Frank Sinatra – 1997)
  4. North and South of The River (1997)
  5. Electrical Storm (2002)
  6. Window In The Skies (2006)

I guess I’ll just spend my years listening to the 90s version of U2. God knows there was a lot of good stuff.

It’s not me, it’s U2

Funny short legs don't you think?

The poster on my wall from the age of 12 through 16

U2, the band I grew up with, collecting their limited edition vinyl and attending every concert, are done. It’s over. They haven’t quit yet but I am confident they should, right after their next album.

In the same way it’s important to leave a party when it’s still going well – it’s time for my favourite band to die now. And I hope they do while they are still linked with the joy of their most profound musical moments.

I know the Rolling Stones announced this month that they’ll be quitting the stage, but that’s not reason enough for U2 to step down.

Oddly, my earliest memory of U2 is of knowing people wanted Bono to go away.

And those KILL BONO T-shirts I spotted 25 years ago are still on sale (Thankyou Internet)

To the point. Unlike Bono.

I’ve never hated the man. I have, at times, loved him. Now, a few things convince me their next album should be their last.

Bono has said that the band will quit when they release two crap albums in a row. Based on that theory, and following their last album No Line On The Horizon, their next album will be their final production.

The end began when U2 became stuck in a rut following the album Pop. Pop was dazzling, bringing together the inventiveness of Zooropa and the courage of Achtung! Baby, and drawing on every musical trick they had in the bag. Problem was, their creative energy was exhausted just as their core of fans began to lose faith.

As a songwriter, Bono has mined the poetry and narratives of the Bible better than any other pop star. His decision to stop this brought him to a personal crisis. Could he really hide the part of himself that paraded his Christianity throughout their early albums? (Could anyone expect to hide a messianic complex?)

We broke the bread, we drank the wine, everybody having a good time… Except you. You were still talking about the end of the world.

Until the End of the World

The band claimed that the mega-hit LP Achtung! Baby was the sound of four men chopping down the Joshua Tree, yet lyrically, the album was as full of biblical metaphors, just as any previous album. It did, of course, add industrial rhythms and spunk that had been missing and it stands out to most people as their best.

For me, the turning point came in the disappointing album All That You Can’t Leave Behind, which lacked sincerity, depth, and left us with the most radio-friendly/nauseating song of its time, Beautiful Day.

Elevation was the height of the nonsense…

A mole, living in a hole
Digging up my soul now
Going down, excavation

Elevation

The magazine Uncut said it best in their review, pointing out that U2 appear unable to write a song without an explosive chorus — think about it, it’s in nearly all their songs … and once the build up and climax is identified, it’s painful inevitability proves it a predictable, manipulative tool.

To be fair, songs like One and With or Without You are the exception.

There were reports around 1995, that the band had thrown out an entire album of songs only to start again from scratch – something they have a history of doing. They repeated it before the last album they released, No Line On The Horizon, when they not only sacked their producer but trashed an entire series of songs said to be taking them in a new direction. Instead, what we got was an album that avoided explosive choruses yet delivered confused tunes, some of which, I believe, lack a chorus altogether.

Mediocre reviews were only the half of it. When the band launched their latest hugely successful ‘360 Tour’, Bono’s voice was dead on arrival. I’ve just watched their DVD concert recorded at the famous Rose Bowl stadium. The stadium is packed and the stage looks phenomenal, but if this was the performance they thought deserved to be captured forever on film, I’ve got a feeling it is also the last one they’ll capture on film.

Dutifully, I went to the Sydney concert for the 360 Tour, and like the Vertigo Tour before it (pictured) the stage was an engineering marvel.

Childhood dream – tick.

Like many U2 fans still gripping on from the 80s and 90s, I continue to buy every album and attend every tour — a loyalty which puts enough money in their bulging pockets to make anything the band do look like a success.

But this loyalty conveniently disguises the fact their concerts are increasingly reliant on their greatest hits. At the last two concerts, I’ve been embarrassed to find, even a few rows from the stage, that no one is singing any of the new songs.

When the night takes a deep breath,
And the daylight has no air,
If I crawl, if I come crawling home
Will you be there?

In a Little While

I’ve read a few books on the band, and one early biography had great insights into U2’s belief in the power of a song. They don’t ever underestimate the ability of one pop song or one performance to transport people into a different mindset and a better life (if only for a few minutes). What’s even more powerful, Bono said, is that a rock song can change people’s minds and have them believe they can change the world.

He’s right, this time. I do think U2 have changed the world outlook of many people.

But that was years ago. I have been more loyal than most but now, even I must acknowledge that the exhilarating moments U2 brought me, the times I felt no other group could reflect my thoughts so well, were back in the 1990s – 15 years ago.

What’s left for U2, except to taint their legacy and possibly undo all the joy with crap pop songs in search of a chorus?

I don’t want to KILL BONO, but I do hope U2 die.

Best tweets from #BDO (#BigDayOut 2012) so far….

The Big Day Out is, for many youths and music fans, an unrivalled day of Australianising – a chance to yell things only Aussies understand loudly and in any direction. The event appeals, primarily, to bronzed, boozed, southern-cross-tattooed teenagers.

And now, Twitter has given this much-maligned but witty bunch the perfect platform for their straight talking.

I promise to update this as #BigDayOut heads around the country…
(Well, I might.)

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ARIAs cement their irrelevance by ignoring social media

Last night’s entire event played out like one of those prolonged montages – a chance to pay our respects and remember the late Australian Music industry.

The Arias are traditionally lame. It’s just the Logies with more tattoos, isn’t it?

I was especially appalled by its use as a vehicle for music acts with new albums coming out. I used to have a crush on Missy Higgins, but she has been completely off the musical radar for about four years so her appearance was largely based on nostalgia and because she has a new album pending. The nostalgia continued with extended Billy Thorpe tributes, The Wiggles reaching the Hall of Fame, and then it got truly bizarre when Delta serenaded every music artist who has ever died – right back to Dame Joan Sutherland!

WHAT WAS THAT?

Dame Joan Sutherland - a posterchild for the forward-thinking ARIAs

Twitter had no presence on the night, and so, with the broadcast failing to lead the conversation, the #Arias feed became an entertaining sideline of barbs and witticisms. It becomes a real problem when tweets taking the piss are undeniably more entertaining than the actual on-air event.

The ARIAs facebook page also failed to make a real dent. It has just 17,000 fans and most comments (85) came for a pic of Altiyan Childs.

How unsurprising that the producers didn’t care about social media. The night has always been a few years behind whatever is cool.

The Telegraph painted an even uglier picture back in October, saying

“The dwindling ARIAs are a microcosm of Australian music as a whole. The glitter has gone. Once, the charismatic superstar power of a key group of stellar artists kept the whole industry revolving – but today, there is a distinct staleness at the top of the charts and a general malaise across the genres, from pop to hip-hop.” Read more…

In the same article, Sarah ‘Superjesus’ McLeod says

“We are definitely in a pickle, it sucks being a musician right now.”

Indeed, the Arias’ national irrelevance is confirmed each year in the following day’s ratings report.

@MJGAL: #ARIAs ratings are in. 369,000 tuned in. (almost half last years audience)

The industry is in a different kind of pickle. Record sales continue to plummet. The labels keep dumping staff…

So, where did it all go wrong?

    • Was it the moment Guy Sebastian shaved his afro? (Does anyone like his head better how it is now?)
    • Was it the removal of the A4-size ARIA charts from record store counters? (What gives? No one starts up iTunes just to check the charts, guys.)
    • Was it the astronomic rise of concert ticket prices thanks to a few large promoters running an oligopoly? (I paid $100 for U2 to bring me a spaceship. I shouldn’t pay that for Roxette at the Entertainment Centre.)
    • Was it the disappearance of our most lovable music presenter, Jabba, from Channel V? (It’s not too late to go back, Jabba.)
    • Was it Australian Idol? (You can’t beat the emptiness of realising all those singers you thought would make it are now back on the scrapheap… )

Anyone have any other ideas?

Best and Worst of John Farnham’s Hair

The first ever concert I went to was to see John Farnham at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. I was twelve. It was the Age of Reason Tour and what I learned most from that night was that the more you call your audience "mongrels" the more they love you.

Plus, I learned that my dad was my hero. Sitting through Touch of Paradise, Two Strong Hearts and all those other great songs Johnny didn’t write was the most sacrificial thing my father ever did for me and as my music tastes changed over time I have come to admire his sacrifice more and more.

As Johnny Farnham gears up for yet another tour – this one features a performance of the entire Whispering Jack album – I find myself contemplating my teenage love of Farnsey once again…

Now, if I’m not mistaken, no other part of John Farnham’s appearance has always captured his enthusiasm, his stage persona, and made him so darn likeable, than his hair.

But, as these pictures show, his hair hasn’t always been Playing To Win, if you know what I mean.

The Denis Walter look. So young, Such Agro eyebrows.(1968)

1974 brought Johnny a new optimism, a new tailored look, and the head of a neatly brushed badger.

Farnsey at his best – windswept and wearing what appears to be lippy. Does anyone actually know why Jack was whispering? (1986)

Flamboyant Rock God! He looked as if could have been in Def Leppard, when actually he was singing about flamingoes. (1988)

Ha! What a felon! This hair is akin to a tufty guinea pig – given a quick perm. Ace! (1990)

This is Johnny in Jesus Christ Superstar (1992) I hope he’s playing Jesus because if not, his hair looks stolen from Goldie Hawn.

Business on top, poodle at the sides and who knows what’s happening at the back. (1995)

What’s this? Why sport the hair of an author? Especially an unpublished one. (1998)

In 2003, he reached his follicular peak. THE ASLAN.

Heinous! It’s an albino Gary Who hairstyle in a jacket that looks more like Tinman from Wizard of Oz than the Age of Grease’n (2005).

Let’s be honest. This is the hair of an old bloke on the pokies at your local RSL. (2009)

2011 – Uhoh, Dye job. It’s Barry Gibb meets Donald Trump. Let’s hope the new tour doesn’t sacrifice any more of his self esteem than this photo must have.

John Farnham

So, to see the hair up close.. who’s coming with me and my dad to the next concert!!??

Related links
Tour info – JohnFarnham.com.au | Official website
John Farnham is 62 and not out | Herald Sun
Farnsey Is Back… For The Last Time! | Defamer Australia

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