Posts Tagged ‘Entertainment’

Back in early February, American singer Lennon Murphy, who promotes herself simply as ‘Lennon’, posted a notice on her website declaring that Yoko Ono had filed a lawsuit against her. The reason, she said, was that she had trademarked the name and the former Beatles’ widow was contesting her right to it. In her online announcement Murphy stated she was worried that it could “very well mean the career that I have worked so hard at… may come to an end.”

Newspapers around the world immediately picked up on the story. Online forums and blogs were inundated with vitriolic posts decrying Ono’s heavy-handed tactics with someone who was only trying to protect their own name. Murphy appeared on the Howard Stern Show to highlight her plight and even gained support from Julian Lennon.

I was tempted to post a blog entry at the time but decided against it. Instead I held off so I could digest the story fully and take a look at the US trademark laws that could play a major factor in deciding the outcome of any potential lawsuit. It was probably a good decision, as within days Ono issued the following statement to Xeni Jardin of BoingBoing:

Dear Xeni

A musician named Lennon Murphy is claiming that Yoko Ono has sued her and that Yoko is seeking to stop Lennon Murphy from performing under her name, Lennon Murphy. Both of these claims are untrue.

Several years ago, Lennon Murphy sought Yoko’s permission to do her performances under her name, Lennon Murphy. Yoko, of course, did not object to her request. Subsequently, without Yoko’s knowledge, Lennon Murphy filed an application in the United States trademark Office requesting the exclusive right to utilize the name “Lennon” for musical performances. Yoko’s attorneys asked Lennon Murphy’s attorneys and manager to withdraw her registration of exclusivity to the name LENNON for the trademark. Yoko also offered to cover all costs Lennon Murphy had incurred in filing for the trademark. But Lennon Murphy went ahead to register.

Yoko did not sue Lennon Murphy, but sought to stop her from getting the exclusive right to the name Lennon for performance purposes. For that, Yoko’s attorneys, simply notified the Trademark office that Yoko did not believe it was fair that Ms. Murphy be granted the exclusive right to the “Lennon” trademark in relation to musical and entertainment services. As you can see, this is a very important issue for Yoko and the Lennon family.

Yoko says: “I am really hurt if people thought that I told a young artist to not use her own name in her performances and had sought to sue her. I did no such thing. I hope this allegation will be cleared.”

Thank you for your kind attention.

 Yoko 

So it would appear Lennon Murphy was being somewhat economical with the truth! Far from suing her, Ono was merely filing an objection with the trademarks office because the nature of Murphy’s trademark could have implications for the John Lennon estate, as well as for the rights of his two sons (yes that includes Julian, although I think we can presume Yoko was thinking more about Sean).

The big question now is why did Murphy attempt to trademark the name in the first place? She could have continued performing under the name ‘Lennon’ without it and it would be perfectly legal, since that’s her real name.  I don’t buy into any excuses that she could have done it in ignorance either. She’s been performing full-time for around eight years and any professional musician starts to learn about the business in that time, no matter how naïve they are when they start out. Add that to the fact that Arista Records, her label at the time she applied for the trademark, have a good legal team who would have strongly advised Murphy against taking such a step. It’s more likely that Lennon Murphy knew exactly what she was doing and that she did it for a reason other than just protecting her name.

And the reason? Publicity, of course!

You don’t have to be a law graduate to realise that Yoko Ono will take action if you try and infringe on the John Lennon name. And when she does, you can bet it will be in the glare of the media. As it turned out Ono’s response was quite measured, so the situation had to be ‘spiced-up’ a little bit in order to gain attention. It worked and journalists willingly latched onto the story without questioning it. After all, wasn’t Yoko Ono the evil witch responsible for the Beatles splitting up and denying Julian Lennon his share of his father’s estate?

Just look at all the exposure Murphy has had since the story broke… money couldn’t buy it! Murphy has done everything from gigging non-stop for eight years to becoming a Suicide Girl in order to gain exposure and none of that has come close to the amount of press she’s received from simply portraying herself as a victim. In a way, I have to admire her for devising a means of free publicity on such a grand scale.

Though it’s said there’s no such thing as bad publicity, there may be a sting in the tail for Murphy in all this. Since the full details of the case became apparent there’s been something of a public backlash and it’s quite possible this negativity may irreparably damage her reputation and integrity as a performer. In fact, I’ve yet to read a supportive comment about her since the entire truth was revealed. People could think twice now before buying her music, resulting in promoters, distribution companies, and record labels becoming reluctant to do business with her for fear they will lose money. The media also appear to be shying away from providing her with any further coverage (in case they end up with more egg on their face, I presume). And to top it all off Julian Lennon – who’s likely to use any opportunity to get at Yoko Ono – has seemingly withdrawn his support for Murphy, having deleted all reference to her in his online blog.

All in all, Lennon Murphy has made one hell of a mess for herself. And even if she manages to overcome all this there’s still one problem. Her music sucks:

Lennon: Brake of Your Car

Believe me when I say that’s her best song!

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Hotpress will have a new competitor when State Magazine launches in March

State magazine, which describes itself as ‘Ireland’s New Music Payload’, is due to hit the newstands in early March and looks set to end the virtual monopoly enjoyed by Hot Press on the Irish market. The new periodical, whose founders include photographer Roger Woolman and ex-Hotpress contributors Phil Udell and John Walsh, will be published on a monthly basis. It is claimed that State will have a style similar to UK publications such as Mojo and Uncut.

Debate has raged over whether there is place for two seperate music publications, with some voices writing-off State before it has even gone to print. This may be premature, however, as there will be a noticeable difference between the magazine and its rival: Hotpress divides its content between music, cinema, politics, current affairs and culture; State will be almost exclusively music-based. They have also recruited a bunch of talented and respected Irish music writers, including Stephen Robinson, Sinead Gleeson, Tanya Sweeney, and renowned blogger Nialler9. The editors have even drafted in Rolling Stone journalist Kara Manning to write State’s first cover story.

Meanwhile Hot Press has undergone a facelift in anticipation of the forthcoming competition. For the most part the content remains unchanged but the physical appearance has been transformed and now features a new logo, a glossy A4 format, and an improved typeface. One complaint about Hot Press in recent years is that it has become somewhat jaded, so it will be interesting to see if its writers up their game now that there’s a new kid in town.

Whatever way you look at it, it’s going to be an interesting year for music journalism in Ireland as this story pans out.

 

 

State: www.state.ie
Hot Press: www.hotpress.com

Podcast: Phantom’s Nadine O’Regan talks to Phil Udell from State Magazine and Hot Press journalist Peter Murphy.

The Chalets

After many months of noticeable inactivity, Dublin band The Chalets have confirmed that they have split. A short announcement on their MySpace blog reads: “Hi Chalet stalkers. We just wanted to let y’all know that we won’t be releasing any more records or playing any more gigs. We had loads of fun!” It had been anticipated that the band would release a follow up to their successful debut LP, ‘Check In’, in the coming months, but presumably it has now been shelved.

The group achieved international recognition in recent years, with several songs being featured on the American TV series ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and the ‘Outlaw Tennis’ video game. MTV Ireland also used their tune ‘Sexy Mistake’ as part of a branding campaign. A European tour in 2006 underlined The Chalets’ popularity beyond Irish shores as the band played to numerous capacity crowds.

 

 

The Chalets: ‘Feel the Machine’

This is a show I thought I’d never get to see. Back in 2000, when the Smashing Pumpkins originally broke up, I was a poor student and couldn’t afford a ticket for their concert in the Olympia. And even if I could have, the concert sold out so quickly that I probably wouldn’t have bagged a ticket anyway. So when I heard they had re-formed and were headed for Dublin I made sure I was going to be there. This may or may not have involved blackmail, sexual favours, and the issuing of death threats.

Procrastination and the need to order beer means I’m too late to catch support act Concerto For Constantine. But, seeing as they’re a local band, I’m sure I’ll cross paths with them again. I do, however, manage to get a pit pass at the last minute so I get myself into a good position in front of the stage and wait anxiously for the main event.

The lights go out and Messrs Corgan and Chamberlain stroll out, with Jeff Schroeder, Ginger Reyes, and Lisa Harriton in tow. Without saying a word they launch into ‘Porcelina’. An odd choice for an opening song, I think to myself, but pleasant nonetheless. At the same time, though, I have my suspicions and it soon becomes clear that they are warranted.

Perhaps it’s the venue’s infamously dire acoustics – or perhaps it’s Billy Corgan’s desire to perform re-hashed versions of certain songs – but whatever is going on is making many tunes almost impossible to interpret. ‘Try, Try, Try’ is the only track I can positively identify, although I think ‘Behold! The Nightmare’ may have followed the opener. Thankfully, they’ve decided not to tamper with ‘Tonight, Tonight’ or ‘Mayonaise’ and the audience finally gets a taste of what the Smashing Pumpkins should sound like.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t last and the fans are soon subjected to an undecipherable mix of riffs, solos, and Corgan’s combination of crooning and screaming. It’s almost the halfway point in the gig before the familiar opening notes of ‘Today’ send the crowd into raptures. Acoustic versions of ‘Perfect’ and ‘1979’ provide a welcome break from the constant drone, whilst ‘Bullet With Butterfly Wings’, ‘Lily’, ‘The Everlasting Gaze’, and recent single ‘Tarantula’ are wedged into gaps in what can only be described as a horrible wall of sound. Even ‘Ava Adore’ – one of the band’s finer works – is butchered mercilessly as part of the Pumpkins’ gratuitous reinvention of their back catalogue.

The whole affair is getting tiresome and more than a few people are sneaking a peek at their watches when the band finally leave the stage. Some glance ernestly at the exits and wonder how long the encore will last. Mercifully, it’s short. The finale is actually a superb rendition of ‘Cherub Rock’, which, for a split second, could almost make you forgive them for the mediocrity that preceeded it. Alas, the reality is too bitterly disappointing to ignore.

The performance clocks in at just under two and a half hours in length, leaving some to argue that at least the audience got value for money. I, on the other hand, feel robbed. This could have been – and should have been – so much more. Most fans at tonight’s concert had never seen the Smashing Pumpkins before and this was their chance to hear live versions of songs they hold dear to their hearts. Instead, all they got was a deluge of mostly obscure, reworked compositions with a few token crowd-pleasers thrown in. The worst part is that Billy Corgan & Co still show flickers of true genius on stage… if only they’d lose that middle-age spread!

Dublin-bound - Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds (left) and Radio Soulwax.

The line-up for the annual Heineken Green Energy festival in Dublin is starting to take shape nicely. Acts confirmed so far to appear at the Dublin Castle include Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Radio Soulwax, and the Kooks.

Nick Cave whisks his band into Dublin on May 3 to promote his forthcoming album ‘Dig Lazarus, Dig’. It will be the Australian blues-monger’s first visit to these shores for more than four years and tickets for his live show are expected to be snapped up faster than you can curse Ticketmaster’s online booking system. According to Cave, the band’s new material features a garage rock sound similar to his recent Grinderman side project. If he’s telling the truth, the audience is in for a special treat.

Meanwhile, Belgian brothers David and Stephen Dewaele take to the stage on May 4 to rock the masses with Radio Soulwax. The duo (who also perform as 2 Many DJs) have been a mainstay of the European club circuit for the past number of years, with their ever-popular DJ mixes finding their way into the charts on numerous occasions. The show will also incorporate a screening of their new film, ‘Part of the Weekend Never Dies’.

On May 5 the Kooks swagger into town as they prepare to release their new LP, ‘Konk’. The indie favourites enjoyed immense success with their debut effort ‘Inside In/Inside Out’, which spawned the hit singles ‘She Moves in Her Own Way’ and ‘Naïve’.

Tickets for Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds go on sale this Friday, while tickets for Radio Soulwax and the Kooks will be available from next Tuesday.

Blood Red Shoes - Laura-Mary Carter and Steven Ansell

According to themselves, “Blood Red Shoes is two punk kids from the south of England just trying to be in a decent band.” And decent they are. The Brighton-based duo, comprising of Laura-Mary Carter on guitar and Steven Ansell on drums, formed from the ashes of Cat On Form and Lady Muck in 2004 after the pair decided to have a jam and see what happened. Having firstly issued a number of independent releases, they delivered their first single for V2 Records last October. The critics immediately sat up and took notice.

Whilst their musical style isn’t particularly groundbreaking, Blood Red Shoes do hold an ace card that sets them apart from the legions of faceless indie rock bands currently clogging up the airwaves: they’re bloody good.

Ansell and Carter have obviously mastered the art of writing no-nonsense rock tunes, as forthcoming single ‘You Bring Me Down’ testifies. This little ditty sees both members doubling up on vocal duties (as they do on most of their songs) and unleashing an angsty, catchy, and altogether tasty slice of garage rock. Laura-Mary’s voice is almost riot grrrl-esque as she shouts her way through the chorus, while Steven Ansell’s speedy disco beats provide the necessary drive to accompany her cool, abrasive guitar riffs. It all makes for a product brimming with intelligence, disquiet, and that all-essential punk attitude.

‘You Bring Me Down’ will be released in the UK on Monday, while the forthcoming long-player ‘Box of Secrets’ is pencilled in for an April launch. Blood Red Shoes are currently working overtime on the live circuit to promote the new single; right now they’re thumping their way through Britain before heading off around Europe and Japan in the coming months.

 

Video for ‘You Bring Me Down’ by Blood Red Shoes:

The single ‘You Bring Me Down’ is released on February 4th in the UK through V2/Mercury Records.

The album ‘Box of Secrets’ is scheduled for an April release in the UK through V2/Mercury Records.

God Is an Astronaut - Lloyd Hanney, Niels Kinsella, and Torsten Kinsella

God Is an Astronaut are about to embark on a tour of the USA before trekking across Europe this summer, so tonight’s performance will be their only Irish show of the year. It comes as no surprise then that their fans have turned out in force, with the crowd packed snugly into the recently renovated Button Factory.

I arrive just as support act Saints of Descent are taking to the stage. I’ve heard a lot about these guys and I’m interested to see what all the fuss is about. But to be honest, they’re something of a disappointment. Their publicity material describes them as ‘rock/industrial’ but on hearing them it’s evident that they’re too slick and commercial to be truthfully labelled as such. The only industrial link I can imagine is that one of the guys must have a Nine Inch Nails record lurking somewhere at the back of his CD collection. On a positive note, the trio are adept musicians who obviously enjoy playing together, but right now their material is just too ‘safe’ and predictable for them to fulfil their potential.

It’s not often that you see headline acts helping their roadies set up but that’s exactly what God Is an Astronaut do. And after stepping offstage briefly to let the lights go out for their ‘official’ entrance they reappear, strolling coolly to their respective instruments, whilst the band’s name shines brightly on the large projection screen behind the drum kit. They promptly launch into ‘The End of the Beginning’ – the title track from their first album – and with accompanying film footage on the screen it makes for an impressive audio-visual experience.

For me, only two bands have really perfected the art of combining visuals with music in a live situation; one is Tool and the other is playing right here before me tonight. Even groundbreaking acts such as Neurosis fail to make the grade in an area where the addition of an extra sensory element often serves to distract, rather than compliment the experience. The audience has become so engrossed that they just stand still and watch in awe, only coming to life to shout and yell their appreciation at the conclusion of each song.

‘Fragile’, ‘Radau’, ‘Suicide by Star’, ‘From Dust to the Beyond’, ‘Sunrise in Aries’, and recently released stand-alone single ‘No Return’, are all performed with a flawless consistency that I’ve rarely witnessed from any band before. Before playing the opening notes to ‘Fire Flies and Empty Skies’, Torsten Kinsella breaks his silence to thank the crowd and urges them to keep up-to-date with the band’s progress via their website and MySpace page because, as he says, “you’re not going to hear about it in the media.” Which is sad but true; with the exception of a couple of radio stations, God Is an Astronaut have been criminally overlooked by the Irish music press despite their rapidly-growing profile abroad.

The band departs the stage but return soon after, much to the delight of the audience. And there’s an extra treat in store, too, as the threesome perform ‘A Deafening Distance’ – a song that has been absent from their set for a couple of years. Once the music’s over, the guys hang around to shake hands and talk with the fans, which is a refreshing sight. And, when posed with the question, they admit that they’ll be returning to the studio once their summer tour is concluded. Fantastic news indeed!

It may only be January, and therefore any talk of ‘gig of the year’ is premature, but it’s going to take something very special to outdo God Is an Astronaut on the strength of tonight’s performance.