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Removes Racist Music

In a statement on Wednesday, Spotify blamed the labels and distributors that supply music to its database but said “material that favors hatred or incites violence against race, religion, sexuality or the like is not tolerated by us. Spotify takes immediate action to remove any such material as soon as it has been brought to our attention.”

Tidal, the streaming service partially owned by Jay-Z, seems to be following suit. Two “hate bands” NPR found on the platform on Tuesday had been removed as of Thursday morning.

The existence of racist music on music platforms isn’t a new phenomenon. Nearly three years ago, the Southern Poverty Law Center pointed out to Apple and the iTunes Store that they were selling, and thereby profiting from, openly racist, neo-fascist musicians, like the hardcore band Skrewdriver.

In March 2015, the SPLC published a follow-up to its iTunes report that specifically addressed the fact that other digital platforms — most notably, Spotify and Amazon — were continuing to sell such music.

Matt Alpert, the website’s managing editor, wrote, “I want to make something very clear to everyone who follows us and reads this site: Wide Open Country vehemently opposes any form of racism. We stand firmly against any type of hatred, bigotry and especially any Nazi scum.”

“I felt compelled to say something,” Alpert told NPR. “With this particular thing that happened in Charlottesville, we wanted to be clear about how we felt about that and where we stand. Seeing those comments, and seeing them rise to the top [of the post] … it felt like we needed to say something.”

Writing on Facebook Wednesday, country music royalty Rosanne Cash took aim at a “self-proclaimed neo-Nazi” who was photographed wearing a T-shirt with Johnny Cash’s face on it. “We were sickened by the association,” she wrote, going on to point out that her father’s “pacifism and inclusive patriotism were two of his most defining characteristics.”

Facebook’s terms prohibit posting content it classifies as “hate speech, threatening, or pornographic; incites violence; or contains nudity or graphic or gratuitous violence.” The dominance of Facebook’s platform helped to legitimize voices like Cantwell’s through proximity to more legitimate news sources within people’s feeds, a problem it says it is working to fix.

In a memo to his staff yesterday, Apple CEO Tim Cook announced his company would donate $2 million and double its employees’ donations to human rights groups through Sept. 30. “As a company, through our actions, our products and our voice, we will always work to ensure that everyone is treated equally and with respect,” Cook wrote.

Houston’s Jazz Envoys Describe

Kendrick Scott Oracle, is stocked with serious talent, each musician a distinguished leader in his own right. Among them is guitarist Mike Moreno who, like Scott, originally hails from Houston, and has been keeping an anxious watch on the events of the past week.

The catastrophic wake of Hurricane Harvey has stretched across East Texas and into Louisiana, taking lives and uprooting tens of thousands of others, while causing billions of dollars in damage and disruption. But the flooding in Houston has been a specific worry for that city’s jazz diaspora, which includes some of the most important artists of the present era.

Those musicians all have families back home, and in the days since Harvey made landfall last week, a lot of energy has been devoted to checking up on them, and on each other. Glasper’s father, who lives in Beaumont, lost a friend to floodwaters there. But Glasper, like the half-dozen other musicians I spoke with, considers his family fortunate. “We’ve been on a thread of text messages making sure everybody is cool,” he said, “me and Jamire Williams, Eric Harland, Chris Dave, Kendrick, Jason Moran.”

Brenda Harland, the mother of Eric Harland, took this photo from her porch in the Pleasantville neighborhood of Houston.

Brenda Harlan

Notwithstanding Moran, another pianist, every name Glasper lists is an esteemed drummer-bandleader who has helped evolve the pulse of the music. Harland, the big brother of the bunch, was alarmed to see pictures taken by his mother on Saturday, as water was rising around his childhood home.

“There was a moment when I realized I couldn’t get back there,” he said on Wednesday night, after his efforts to travel to Houston from New York were forestalled. (He made it as far as Dallas-Fort Worth.) “You just want to cry, but you can’t. I’m not the one going through it; if anybody should be crying, it’s them.”

Harland’s mother was evacuated by FEMA before the flooding worsened, and she’ll be assessing the damage in the coming days. She resides in the Pleasantville neighborhood of northeast Houston, which is also where Moran’s grandfather lives. (He made it out safely too.)

“I have maybe hundreds of family members in Houston,” said Moran, who among other things is the artistic director for jazz at the Kennedy Center. “Nearly all of them are, miraculously, OK. But I have so much concern about how the city rebuilds after this. And it’s not only physically, but psychologically — the trauma of having all this water inundate a livelihood. Kind of like what we saw happen with Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. These are bastions of southern creativity that could, all of a sudden, be washed away.”

That fretful focus on the near-future is a prevailing theme now. “What concerns me is the aftermath,” said pianist Helen Sung. She grew up in southwest Houston, which saw considerable flooding from Brays Bayou. (Her parents, first-generation immigrants, are safe.)

Kendrick Scott was raised partly in Meyerland, another area that experienced devastating flooding. (He said his father, in Missouri City, had been shut in by water but was well-provisioned.) Scott has a unique perspective on the cultural implications of the storm, as a longtime associate of New Orleans-born trumpeter and composer Terence Blanchard.

On the 2007 Blue Note album A Tale of God’s Will (A Requiem for Katrina), Scott helped Blanchard create a poignant reflection on the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. And before his set at the Jazz Standard, 12 years to the day after the breach of levees in New Orleans, Scott voiced wariness about any comparison between that moment and this one.

“I’m actually searching my feelings to see how I feel,” he said. “I need more information. It’s been so dark that I’ve just been talking to my family, instead of looking at the news.”

Houston’s jazz infrastructure is a curious thing, at once diffuse and deeply entrenched. There are a handful of clubs that feature jazz, with a focus on local talent. Cezanne, on the second floor of a building in the Montrose neighborhood, plans to reopen this Friday with the Bruce Saunders Quartet. Also back in business are Café 4212 and Phil & Derek’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar. But assessing the recovery of the scene isn’t as simple as ticking off a list of venues.

“Jazz musicians in the city play everywhere,” said Moran. “They play at the restaurant, they play at the church, they play at the bar. Or the theaters downtown, like the Wortham. And people live all over the city.

A Master Of Musical Understatement

Walter Becker on those endless (ridiculous) listicles ranking the “Guitar Gods of the 1970s.” He’s rarely mentioned in the same breath as major dudes like Eric Clapton, or Jimmy Page, or Duane Allman, or Carlos Santana, or Billy Gibbons, or Frank Zappa.

Becker, who died Sunday at the age of 67, stands apart from that class, off in a semi-neglected dark corner, his contribution to the rock canon less clearly defined. He had technical dexterity on the guitar, but was hardly a shredder. Or a flamethrower. He didn’t grandstand. Sometimes he didn’t even play the big solos — he regularly hired studio hotshots to provide firepower on the Steely Dan hits he cowrote with keyboardist and singer Donald Fagen.

If pop music is a constant tug of war between the reassuringly familiar and the jolt of the modernist new, Becker’s gift was the ability to hit both extremes at once. What Becker added to Steely Dan was an elusive strain of magic — the terse little melodic thing that turned out to be exactly what the music needed. And nothing more.

Becker and Fagen were also known jazzheads, and the music of Steely Dan embraces some verities of Sinatra-era song — the bridge sections and tricky chord progressions — while rejecting the smoother happily-ever-after storybook narratives. The duo worked on the lyrics and every other aspect of the songs together, and though Fagen was the “voice” of Steely Dan, his edge-of-sarcasm tinge needed softening.

Becker was a conjurer, sly and tactical. His lines could be weird and skronky while also accessible and melodic. He used strange configurations of notes and chords that at first seem odd, but later register as devastatingly apt. He had the basic guitaristic things covered — the Malibu singer-songwriter strumming and the greasy Memphis R&B rhythm, the arena-rock pitchbending caterwaul and the precision-minded Wes Montgomery octaves — yet rarely deployed them in conventional ways.

And though he took his share of solos (for ear-stretching delirium in a blues context, check out his romp on “Black Friday” from 1975’s Katy Lied), some of his most intriguing work is embedded in the background – the architectural arpeggios of “Aja,” or the wry, blues-tinged asides that dot the margins of “Hey Nineteen.”

Becker approached his guitar and bass playing (and, really, the entire production) as part of the songwriting process, an extension of it. He and Fagen were both obsessed with tone; there are countless stories of the duo chasing a particular snare drum sound for days on end in the studio. As a guitarist, Becker understood the ways distortion and other textural effects could change the atmospheric pressure of a track, and he used these devices to more musical ends than most guitarists. Becker’s rhythm-guitar accompaniments had a spiky, almost confrontational air. His bass playing was devastatingly simple, a smack to the gut. His leads could be brainy or spooky or confounding or obtuse — whatever would best enhance the vibe of the song.

Where most guitar heroes of his era charged into the center ring with fistfuls of notes and blazing chords, Becker preferred to sneak in through the back door, and in just a few measures and fewer notes, rearrange all the furniture. The result was something instantly riveting that you’d want to hear again and again — even if (especially if) you were not even paying attention to what the guitar was doing. Forget about the moment of solo glory; Becker wanted — and attained, with astounding consistency — the thick and undeniable vibe that made a piece of music magnetic.

And when Becker couldn’t conjure the mojo he heard in his head, he’d bring in a sharpshooter for the job. From one perspective, Becker managed the Steely Dan records as guitar salons, gatherings of prodigiously talented musicians who were tapped for strategic vibe infusions as Becker and Fagen’s vision evolved. Among the highlights: Larry Carlton’s searing “Kid Charlemagne” from The Royal Scam, Denny Dias playing electric sitar on “Do It Again” and guitar in a post-bop jazz mood on “Your Gold Teeth II.” The list goes on, and extends to “Lucky Henry” from Becker’s underappreciated 1994 solo effort 11 Tracks of Whack, which features brain-melting turns by Dean Parks and Adam Rogers.

All of those moments are improvisational, and reveal unique traits of each contributing instrumentalist. Yet they’re also the deliberate product of the duo’s refined aesthetic — if Becker is somewhat invisible from note to note on the records, he and Fagen are inescapable as creators and refiners of a instantly identifiable sound. Very few rock-era acts evolved the way Steely Dan did — from a modest live unit into architects of a high-gloss, impossible-to-replicate studio signature that sprouted new atmospheres with each album.

 

Music festivals

Man-bags

In 2015, Manchester’s Parklife risked alienating some of its style-conscious male punters by banning man-bags from the festival – a move that proved controversial, with some even branding it discriminatory against gay men, as reported by The Independent. Others wondered how they were expected to carry their belongings. Were satchels allowed? Bum bags? Stripey corner shop carrier bags? Utility gilets? What about men carrying women’s handbags?

Initially the reasons for the ban were unclear. Were the festival attempting to dictate male fashions? In a way, yes. In an interview last year with Complex, festival founder Sacha Lord-Marchionne explained why he’d banned man-bags from club series The Warehouse Project, which he also runs: “I noticed about three years ago… there was a certain genre of music that was attracting a crowd that I didn’t particularly like because they were quite moody… It became a little bit intimidating because there were in these big groups of lads and I looked at them and thought, ‘What have they got in common?’ They all wore man-bags… So I decided we were going to ban man-bags, and in the space of four weeks, we got rid of those bad elements.” Hence the ban was extended to Parklife, and remains in place today.

Hula hoops

Although they remain popular in Glastonbury’s Healing Fields, the humble hula hoop is another item to be banned from Coachella. It’s probably for the best – anyone hula-ing at a festival is wasting precious energy required for moshing, toilet-queuing and pushing their car out of the mud at the end.

Presumably, though, they’d make an exception for Grace Jones…

Show times

V Festival blundered this year when the Birmingham Mail noticed that “show times” appeared on their list of prohibited items. This raised the spectre of security confiscating clashfinder printouts, thus forcing people to purchase the official programme in order to find out when Jonas Blue is on. Thankfully, organisers quickly saw sense and amended the list to read “unofficial merchandise or lanyards”, emphasising that all show times would be available on their free app.

Pacifiers

Surely festivals are scary enough for babies without over-zealous security guards confiscating their dummies? Hang on… it seems this rule is aimed strictly at the over-18s, who are the only people allowed to attend Ultra festival, where pacifiers are banned. In which case, fair enough. Nobody wants to turn around in the techno tent at 3am to see a fellow raver dressed like an adult baby.

Feather boas

As festivals have introduced more glam and burlesque elements on top of the traditional rock’n’rave fare, so feather boas have become a common sight. But American festivals such as Shambhala have cracked down on this trend, arguing – reasonably – that they are an environmental hazard. “These items tend to fall apart very easily and the synthetic feathers are very difficult to clean up,” explains Shambhala’s FAQ page. “Any garbage that can’t be picked up by us is usually eaten by the cows, so please leave your feather boas at home.” Shirley Bassey wasn’t likely to play anyway.

Film as pop stars

Dennis Quaid as Jerry Lee Lewis

Fans remain divided about the merits of the film to this day. Brad Shade, commenting on the passing of another rock legend, said: “RIP Chuck Berry. Jerry Lee Lewis will be the last man standing. He’s survived everything, even the biopic with Dennis Quaid.”

Angela Bassett as Tina Turner

Fans are so devoted to the film that several claimed not to know Angela Bassett wasn’t actually Tina Turner until years later. Chelsea Sims said, “Angela Bassett as Tina Turner is one of the greatest biopics ever”, while LeToya Henry noted, “For years Angela Bassett & Laurence Fishburne were Ike & Tina Turner because they acted so well in those parts & they don’t resemble at all!”

 Zoe Saldana as Nina Simone

Typical comments range from the considerate to the downright livid. Urban Fervorsummed up the views of those who felt she was never right for the role, saying, “Still mad at Zoe Saldana for that Nina Simone biopic. The blame isn’t solely on her shoulders of course. It was a good gig to win. But…” While Baenerys didn’t even think she did a good job: “What insulted me so much about Zoe Saldana playing Nina Simone like more than not looking a thing like her, she didn’t embody her!”

Joaquin Phoenix as Johnny Cash

In Walk the Line, Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon tell the story of Johnny Cash’s ascent to stardom, the decline of his first marriage and his near-ruinous addictions. Unlike Val Kilmer or Jamie Foxx, Joaquin does not bear a strong facial resemblance to his subject, although his singing voice was good enough to pass muster, so he sang live versions of Cash songs where needed.

The real key to his performance is in the eyes. Flitting between haughty and haunted, Phoenix played Cash as a man trying to better himself despite his demons, a performance that fits with the public perception the great man. Or as Dave Reed on Twitter recently wrote: “Ever since I watched Walk the Line I just imagine Johnny Cash as Joaquin Phoenix, no matter how many pictures I see of the real Johnny Cash.”

John Cusack as Brian Wilson

Love & Mercy is an odd film. It depicts Brian Wilson in two important stages of his life. There’s the 1960s boy genius (played hauntingly by Paul Dano) – composing Good Vibrations and God Only Knows in the studio for The Beach Boys and being tormented by his father Murray – and there’s the eccentric 1980s former rock star, attempting to regain his mental health while under the controlling influence of his therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy.

John Cusack plays Wilson in his later years, and the disconnect between his version of Brian and Paul Dano’s is one that fans have struggled with, especially since the 1960s scenes of Brian in the studio are vivid and exciting. Sam Hill said, “Watching Love and Mercy. A film of two halves. Paul Dano utterly convincing as Brian Wilson. John Cusack utterly unconvincing”, while Joel Carrol added, “Watched that Brian Wilson movie where there were cool flashbacks, and then he turned into John Cusack for some reason…”

Love messages hidden in pop songs

Taylor Swift – We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Renowned as something of a serial kiss-and-not-quite-teller, Taylor Swift has many songs rumoured to be about old flames. One of the best, though, is this love-hate number, believed by fans to be about her relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal (telltale clues in the video, they claim, include a scene in which the actor playing Taylor’s ex gives her his scarf to wear – Swift had been pictured wearing Gyllenhaal’s scarf in public – and a bracelet similar to one gifted to her by Gyllenhaal).

Although the power of the on-off infatuation is clear, it doesn’t paint a flattering picture: “I’m really gonna miss you picking fights and me / Falling for it screaming that I’m right and you / Would hide away and find your piece of mind / With some indie record that’s much cooler than mine.”

Swift told USA Today that the song was about an ex who “made me feel like I wasn’t as good or as relevant as these hipster bands he listened to… So I made a song that I knew would absolutely drive him crazy when he heard it on the radio. Not only would it hopefully be played a lot, so that he’d have to hear it, but it’s the opposite of the kind of music that he was trying to make me feel inferior to.”

Rick Springfield – Jessie’s Girl

Highlight of a hundred 80s teen movie nostalgia playlists, Rick Springfield’s air-punching anthem actually takes inspiration from a real-life forbidden crush, only the friend in question was named Gary, not Jessie. In fact, he wasn’t much of a friend – he was an acquaintance that Springfield briefly met while they were both, along with Gary’s girlfriend, taking a stained-glass-making class in Pasadena, California.

“I was completely turned on to his girlfriend, but she was just not interested,” Springfield told Songfacts. “So I had a lot of sexual angst, and I went home and wrote a song about it… He was getting it and I wasn’t, and it was really tearing me up. And sexual angst is an amazing motivator to write a song.”

All that pent-up frustration gave Springfield a global hit. After a few weeks the couple moved out of his life, never to be heard of again, despite his subsequent attempts to contact them.

Feargal Sharkey – A Good Heart

Some of the most intriguing secret declarations come in songs written for another artist to sing. So it is with Feargal Sharkey’s 80s monster hit, which was written by Lone Justice singer Maria McKee (of Show Me Heaven fame). The soul-tinged, synthy number, full of gentle naivety, was written about the then-19-year-old McKee’s relationship with Benmont Tench, keyboard player with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Tench also wrote a song for Sharkey’s debut album, which follows directly on from A Good Heart, striking a slightly less warm note, to say the least: “How does it feel / To make a grown man wanna die?” It was a persistent rumour that Tench’s song detailed his side of the story, but he’s since denied it was about his relationship with McKee.

Crosby, Stills & Nash – Guinnevere / Lady of the Island

The 70s LA singer-songwriter scene was notoriously incestuous and self-referential. There are particularly juicy examples on the debut album by folk-rock supergroup Crosby, Stills & Nash, which opens with Stephen Stills’s Judy Blue Eyes, a suite of songs dedicated to his soon to be ex-girlfriend, folk singer Judy Collins. Even more interesting, though, are Guinnevere and Lady of the Island, sung by David Crosbyand Graham Nash respectively about the same woman – Joni Mitchell. Mitchell had dated Crosby for a while in 1967, but when ex-Hollie Graham Nash moved to the US in 1969, she moved him into her house almost immediately. As such, Crosby’s song is more elegiac, a reflection on loves lost (“She turns her gaze down the slope to the harbour where I lay anchored / Turned out to be such a short day”), whereas Nash’s song reflects intensely on new intimacy: “The brownness of your body in the fire glow / Except the places where the sun refused to go / Our bodies were a perfect fit in afterglow we lay.”

 

The weirdest excuses for gig cancellations

Pigeon strike

A large venue, of the sort that plays host to rock concerts, is apparently a haven for pigeons, who will often roost in the upper scaffolding, and then fly around while the band performs. And where there are pigeons, there will undoubtedly be pigeon droppings. Often venues will bring in specialist pest controllers to deal with their infestation, but clearly this was not the case in St Louis in 2010, when Kings of Leonbassist Jared Followill found himself the target of a particular flock of feathered menaces.

After a couple of splatters landed on his clothes during the first two songs, he was hit on the face, close to his mouth, and the band elected to call a halt to their set for health and hygiene reasons.

 Getting bored of your own music

Highlights of Iggy Azalea’s set at 1Xtra Live 2013

There must come a point for any performer when it feels like they need to change gear a bit, take a break, refresh their sound and absorb a few different influences. Perhaps the worst time to make that decision is just before a major US tour, as Iggy Azalea did in 2015, cancelling the entire jaunt and claiming she wanted to stop “singing the same songs”.

After apologising to fans on social media, she later gave an interview with Seventeen magazine, saying: “I feel like I’m at the end of an era now. To go on a tour in late September and to stay in that mindset of what I’d envisioned for that tour, I feel like that would stifle me…

“It’s not easy to decide that the best thing to do is cancel a tour, but that’s the best thing for me. I don’t want to disappoint my fans. I feel really bad. It was a tough decision to make, but it was the best thing.”

 Kissing Alex Jones

Lionel Richie on surviving the music industry

There’s a cautionary tale here for all celebrities who push their luck. The One Show’s Alex Jones recalled how a meeting with Lionel Richie ended badly for him, thanks to a bug she’d picked up shortly before his arrival. She explained to the Sun: “I’m not ill very often but I remember the norovirus was rife at the time and I started to feel very dodgy.

“I had a day off but then I probably went back into work a day too early so I was still infectious. After Lionel and I had just finished our chat on the show, I went to give him a kiss on the cheek and he went in for the lips. He caught the norovirus off me and had to cancel two of his tour dates. I did feel a bit guilty but, essentially, don’t be so forward Lionel! If he’d gone for the cheek, he would have been fine.”

Wishing the Dalai Lama a happy birthday

Maroon 5 had been booked to play two shows in Shanghai and Beijing in 2015, but found that both concerts had been cancelled suddenly, with no clear reason as to why. On further investigation, a (since deleted) tweet by the band’s keyboard player Jesse Carmichael appears to have angered both Chinese fans and the authorities, after he said that he “sang happy birthday to his holiness” the Dalai Lama.

This was interpreted as a political act, as the religious leader has been exiled from his native Tibet since 1959. And it’s not the first time musicians have found their invites to perform in China rescinded on similar grounds. Noel Gallagher and Linkin Parkboth had prospective Chinese concerts cancelled after showing their support for the Free Tibet movement.

The future of music that were completely wrong

Groups of guitars are on the way out

[LISTEN] The Beatles talk to Brian Matthew about being famous
This is perhaps the most famous quote about the early years of The Beatles, and while it’s definitely based on real events, it has perhaps been distorted by what happened next to such an extent that it looks far worse than it was intended to be.

The source of the quote is Beatles manager Brian Epstein, relaying the message he was given by Dick Rowe, head of Decca Records, on why they were not interested in signing the band in 1962. In Hunter Davies’ authorised biography, The Beatles, Epstein remembered: “He told me they didn’t like the sound. Groups of guitars were on the way out. I told him I was completely confident that these boys were going to be bigger than Elvis Presley.”

To be fair to Mr Rowe, in 1962’s pop charts “groups of guitars” meant The Shadows. No record label was interested in signing The Beatles at that time. The fact that his was the sole quote attributed to this fairly enormous misjudgment of the band’s commercial potential by all the major London labels seems unfair. Then again, he did turn down the biggest group of all time.
No one will ever buy your stuff on CD

Not that EMI, the company that did eventually secure The Beatles’ signatures, has anything to crow about. In 1982, as the music industry was about receive a colossal shot in the arm from the development and delivery of the compact disc, EMI, who hadn’t exactly been spry off the mark with the arrival of the 12″ long-playing album in 1949, decided that these digital discs were not the way forward. They reasoned that the three-cent royalty per disc payable to Philips, who developed the format, was unacceptable. A Guardian feature on the CD’s early days even has an unnamed EMI executive telling Frank Zappa not to bother reissuing his work on the new format because, “No one will ever buy your stuff on CD.”

The scale to which they were wrong about that dwarfs Decca’s decision not to sign The Beatles by several decimal points. Music fans not only bought new albums as they came out, they went out and replaced their old vinyl albums with CD copies. EMI, being the largest British record company of the time, stood to reap a colossal fortune, and of course eventually they did, but not before everyone else got there first.
Kids in Beijing will listen to futura-rock”

[WATCH] Robot band rocks Hong Kong arts festival, 2016
In 1988, the Los Angeles Times magazine imagined what family life would look like in the year 2013. Writer Nicole Yorkin’s predictions said more about life in the late-80s than the early-10s, but some are eerily close, given this pre-dates the internet: “The Morrows entertain their company in the rec room by calling up the local digital music cable company and asking to sample a few classical collections. Music pours out of the speakers attached to the side of an ultra-thin, high-resolution video screen hanging on the wall.”

However, other elements miss the mark, either by underestimating the rate of technological change by 2013 – “Ito likes one symphony so much that Bill records the whole piece onto a laser disc,” which feels more like 2003 – or simply guessing at where music will go, using 1988 reference points. There’s a robot butler that sings Your Cheatin’ Heart by Hank Williams, and the family’s young son Zach is still sketching guitars on his schoolbooks: “Zach hurriedly signs off without hearing the answer to whether kids in Beijing listen to futura-rock too.”

Answer: they don’t. They’re all listening to ultra-neo-futura-rock now, grandad.
Copyright will no longer exist

[LISTEN] David Bowie interviewed in 2002
David Bowie has a reputation for being good at spotting where music was headed. And his conversion to the cyberworld happened long before many of his peers had even considered the possibilities that the internet may hold. But he wasn’t right about everything. Take the New York Times interview he gave in 2002 where he essentially foretold the arrival of music streaming services three years before even YouTube had launched. This bit is good: “Music itself is going to become like running water or electricity. So it’s like, just take advantage of these last few years because none of this is ever going to happen again.”

But he also said this: “I’m fully confident that copyright, for instance, will no longer exist in 10 years, and authorship and intellectual property is in for such a bashing.”

Leaving aside the thorny question of revenue streams for artists from streaming media, 15 years since that interview, copyright is still being firmly administered across the internet, which is one of the reasons streaming sites for music grew in popularity, as an alternative to the illegal peer-to-peer sharing of songs and albums. So the second prediction being wrong is part of the reason the first one is right.

These music’s most outlandish

Rammstein’s fiery cauldron

German industrial metallers Rammstein have become world-infamous for their pyrotechnic-fuelled, provocative stage props. For their earliest shows, the band would just pour petrol around the stage and set it ablaze, but their budgets and prop quality had rocketed by the time of their 2004-5 Ahoi tour. Sharpest prop of this set was the onstage cooking pot, in which mic/knife-wielding frontman Til Lindemann appeared to flambé keyboardist Flake Lorenz with a flame-thrower – while singing their cannibal-themed ‘love song’ Mein Teil, naturally.

Pink Floyd’s flying pig

Pink Floyd arguably set the benchmark for theatrical stage props; their helium-filled porcine icon was originally created in 1976 (with the help of artist-designers Jeffrey Shaw and Hipgnosis) for the band’s Animals album cover art. Since 1977, the flying pig prop has been a staple of Floyd live shows, and it continues to appear in various incarnations (and scrawled with different slogans) at modern gigs by both the David Gilmour-fronted Pink Floyd and estranged former bandmate Roger Waters. The giant flying piggy has made a break for freedom on more than one occasion – in 2008, it floated into the Cali desert during Waters’s Coachella set and festival organisers offered a $10,000 reward for its safe return.

The P-Funk Mothership

Way-out funk/soul/rock pioneer George Clinton and his legendary collective Parliament-Funkadelic first launched their full-scale UFO prop during concerts to promote their 1975 album, Mothership Connection. The lavish live Mothership, replete with flashing lights and sci-fi sounds, would land on stage to deliver Dr Funkenstein, aka Clinton, to the masses. Soaring costs meant that the original P-Funk Mothership was retired from service (apparently it was dumped in a Maryland junkyard) but in 2011, a 1,200lb aluminium replica was acquired for the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture.

Madonna’s levitating hobby horse

By the 21st century, Madonna had sealed her rep as a show-stopping performer, but she could still spring some surprises. Her 2006 Confessions tour featured a massive discoball pod, parkour dancers and a mirrored crucifix – but perhaps the most impressive prop of all was Madge’s one-woman carousel/hobby horse, which she rode while singing Like a Virgin and performing yoga and pole-dancing moves above the crowd. Good going for anyone, especially a star approaching her 50th year.

U2’s lemon

Bono’s stadium rockers paid homage to the P-Funk Mothership while creating their own consumer satire for the Popmart world tour in 1997-8. Its elaborate stage set, created with Willie Williams and Mark Fisher, included a 40ft mirrorball lemon (with a nod to their track of the same title), designed to split open and reveal the band for their encore. Unfortunately this occasionally malfunctioned, trapping the quartet inside the giant fruit while the baffled crowds waited – less of a grand finale, more of a sour note.

Mötley Crüe’s drum rollercoaster

Pop stars who donated unbelievable amounts monay

Prince

After Prince’s death, stories of his quiet, behind-the-scenes charity started to come out. Civil rights leader Rev Al Sharpton took to Twitter to describe him as a “sincere humanitarian” and told how Prince would give him money to convey quietly to people such as the family of Trayvon Martin. He also donated a quarter of a million to solar power startups, another quarter to an organisation helping struggling families in South Carolina, and another quarter to a dance academy in New York. An entire million dollars went to a Harlem-based non-profit organisation for inner-city children living in poverty.

Bruno Mars

In 2014, the main water source for the city of Flint in Michigan was shifted from Lake Huron to the Flint River. A year on, locals raised alarms about lead poisoning, but as lead testing for children is not mandatory in Michigan, the dangerous levels weren’t picked up until scientists broke ranks and published their findings. Barack Obama declared a crisis in Flint in January 2016. Such disasters, sadly, are soon succeeded by others in the public mind, but not in the mind of Bruno Mars, who donated $1m of his profits from an Auburn Hills, Michigan show on his 24K Magic World Tour to the cause. “Ongoing challenges remain years later for Flint residents, and it’s important that we don’t forget our brothers and sisters affected by this disaster,” he said in a statement. “As people, especially as Americans, we need to stand together to make sure something like this never happens in any community ever again.” What a guy.

Chance the Rapper

Chancellor Bennett AKA Chance the Rapper has always been a keen defender of his home city, even taking on Spike Lee when he felt his portrayal of Chicago in Chi-Raq rang false. But Chance’s love of Chicago goes much deeper than words. The city’s schools are suffering a funding crisis, with some even being forced to end their terms early. Chance demanded a meeting with state governor Bruce Rauner to discuss school funding, but the chat didn’t go well, and Chance was inspired to take things into his own hands. “The governor gave me a lot of vague answers in our meeting,” Chance said at a press conference where he announced the donation of $1m (in classic giant novelty cheque form) to Chicago schools, challenging local businesses to follow his lead.

Taylor Swift

In August 2016, 13 people died and 146,000 homes were destroyed in some of the worst flooding ever seen in the state of Lousiana. Taylor Swift had begun her 1989 World Tour in the state, and moved quickly to donate $1m to those affected by the flood, and a further $50,000 to a food bank in Baton Rouge. In the same year, she also donated $100,000 to those affected by Tennessee wildfires, $5,000 to a fan who’d lost her sister in a car accident, and a large undisclosed amount to an African parks charity on World Elephant Day. In 2015, she gave $50,000 to a fan suffering from leukemia who’d been unable to attend one of her gigs. Donating the money to a fund set up by the girl’s parents, Swift wrote: “To the beautiful and brave Naomi, I’m sorry you have to miss it, but there will always be more concerts. Let’s focus on getting you feeling better. I’m sending the biggest hugs to you and your family.”

Ray Charles

In 2003, the revered blues, R&B and soul musician Ray Charles donated $1m to Dillard University, New Orleans, to create a new course about black culture, covering music, food, art, literature and more. And it wasn’t a one-off: the previous year, he’d donated $2m to Albany State University in his hometown of Albany, Georgia, and in 2000, $2m to Wilberforce University, Ohio – both historically black universities. As you might imagine, when he died in 2004, it was with a fine collection of honorary degrees.

Rihanna

Rihanna has taken many under her umbrella since hitting the big time. In 2012, she set up a foundation in honour of her grandparents, which hands out grants in support of health, education and culture. She has also fronted campaigns for fashion and cosmetic brands, raising millions for HIV and donated $100,000 to a food bank in New York after Hurricane Sandy, as well as another $100,000 for those hit by Super Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. After her grandmother’s death from cancer, she donated $1.75m to the radiotherapy department of a hospital in Bridgetown, Barbados