Archive for March, 2013

To celebrate QT’s 50th birthday, Ali Gray from countdown his greatest characters. Oscar-winning screenwriter, foot fetishist and shutter-down of buttsQuentin Tarantinoturns 50 this week; a birthday that ages all who remember him being labelled “the hottest young director in Hollywood”. Tarantino has gifted cinema dozens of classic characters in his half century, from Reservoir Dogs through Django Unchained – plus, of course, via movies he wrote, like True Romance and Natural Born Killers. It’s easy to forget the wealth of talent that has at some point agreed to be QT’s mouthpiece – Pitt! Clooney! Willis! De Niro! Oldman! – so whether or not the quality of Quentin’s output decreases as he begins the backslide into old age as he predicted, let’s just be grateful that for now, the Tarantino universe boasts an unforgettable cast of heroes, villains and everyone in between.


50. Captain Koons (Christopher Walken) – Pulp Fiction

First we have a quintessential single-serving Tarantino character: one scene, four minutes of dialogue and buckets of charisma. Koons, a decorated Vietnam vet, tells little Butch the story of how he and the young man’s father hid a watch up their asses for seven years. It could come off as crude, but Walken sells the scene with laser-beam intensity.

49. Bridget von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger) – Inglourious Basterds

Impossibly glamorous with charm to spare, German film star Bridget is actually on the side of the good guys. A double agent working with British intelligence and the Basterds, von Hammersmark escapes with her life from the bloodbath at the La Louisianne tavern, but later dies at the hands of Hans Landa (technically the hands of Tarantino himself).

48. Gogo Yubari (Chiaki Kuriyama) – Kill Bill

A cartoon character villain in essence, complete with her own unique weapon (a chain whip-cum-rope dart), O-Ren’s bodyguard Gogo makes a brief but memorable appearance in Kill Bill. First she disembowels a guy for making a drunken pass – her being 17 and all – then she engages in a scrap with The Bride, losing her life to a chair leg.

47. Floyd (Brad Pitt) – True Romance

Permanently stoned and probably fused to his dirt-encrusted sofa, Dick’s horizontal roommate in True Romance is none other than mega star Brad Pitt in an early role. He might look like a useless, unkempt waste of space, but… well, he is. But once you’re out of earshot, he’ll tear you a new one: “Fuckin’ condescend me, man… I’ll fuckin’ kill you, man.”

46. The Gimp (Stephen Hibbert) – Pulp Fiction

A mystery wrapped in a riddle wrapped in studded tight leather, The Gimp resides in pawn shop owner Maynard’s basement – and we’re guessing he’s not dusting down there. Killed by his own kink, he’s hung out to dry when Bruce Willis‘ Butch wriggles free and cold-cocks him, leaving him hanging by his own leash. We bet he loved every second of it.

45. Max Cherry (Robert Forster) – Jackie Brown

Frosty cool with an unflappable demeanour, Jackie Brown’s bail bondsman is that rare Tarantino creation: a quiet, reserved man who’ll use one word where most others use ten. That said, he’s still a textbook QT badass, teaming with Pam Grier‘s drug smuggler for the mother of all double-crosses. Also, he likes big butts.

44. Hugo Stiglitz (Til Schweiger) – Inglourious Basterds

Til Schweiger truly puts the ‘glorious’ in his Basterd as a defected German sergeant with a penchant for murdering Nazis in the sickest ways possible. Quickly recruited to the Basterds’ cause, Stiglitz is most notable for mercifully ending the epic La Louisianne face-off, giving Dieter Hellstrom a killer kiss-off: “Say auf Wiedersehn to your Nazi balls!”

43. Vernita Green (Vivica A Fox) – Kill Bill

One of five assassins on The Bride’s hitlist, the woman otherwise known as Copperhead is living a quaint suburban lifestyle when Beatrix Kiddo comes calling for revenge. The domestic scuffle between the two women sets the tone for the two volumes to come: bloody, brutal, backstabby and bitchy: “I should have been motherfucking Black Mamba!”

42. Pumpkin & Honeybunny (Tim Roth & Amanda Plummer) – Pulp Fiction

Opening Pulp Fiction with – you guessed it – a lengthy diatribe, this one about the relative safety of robbing banks over liquor stores, petty thieves Pumpkin and Honey Bunny (aka Ringo and Yolanda) eventually kick off the action by pulling out their guns and yelling: “Everybody be cool!” The rest of the movie duly complies.

41. Clifford Worley (Dennis Hopper) – True Romance

It’s not difficult to see where Christian Slater‘s chancer Clarence gets his big clanging balls: his old man Clifford laughs in the face of death. With gangster Vincenzo Coccottinursing a bullet with his name on it, Worley Sr at least exits this life with a smile, spending his last minutes on Earth insulting his killer’s DNA: “You’re part eggplant!”

40. Louis Gara (Robert De Niro) – Jackie Brown

Feckless criminal Louis is the antithesis of the gangsters Robert De Niro usually plays. Slow-witted but quick to anger after Bridget Fonda‘s sun-worshipper mocks his manhood, Louis shoots his partner in crime in a parking lot and ends up suffering the same fate at the hands of Sam Jackson’s heavy. De Niro bad at crime? Who’d have thought it!

39. Mr Brown (Quentin Tarantino) – Reservoir Dogs

Tarantino’s token cameos in his own movies tend to draw focus, given that they’re usually awful, but we’ll forgive him his turn in Reservoir Dogs. Mr Brown opens the film, and indeed Quentin’s entire career, with a discussion on the meaning of Madonna‘s ‘Like A Virgin’; apparently it’s a metaphor for large penises. So now you know.

38. Lt Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) – Inglourious Basterds

Fassbender’s Basterd is perhaps the coolest of the bunch, thanks mostly to his cut-glass English accent and his love of good scotch. He’s also handy with white lies, spinning a convincing yarn about his upbringing to throw off a nosey Nazi – alas, he was three fingers away from avoiding the stickiest of pickles. Nonetheless: damn good stuff, Sir.

37. The Wolf (Harvey Keitel) – Pulp Fiction

“I’m Winston Wolf. I solve problems.” Not only does Pulp Fiction’s fixer possess the unnerving ability to bend space and time, travelling a distance that should take 30 minutes in ten, The Wolf is a man capable of un-screwing any situation, lickety split. He also dresses like he’s en route to his own wedding.

36. Pai Mei (Gordon Liu) – Kill Bill

“Your so-called Kung fu is really quite pathetic!” Pai Mei is a stern teacher indeed, but he’s earned the right to insult his students, what with being able to use his beard and his crotch as a weapon. Creator of the infamous Five Point Palm Exploding Heart Technique, Pai Mei will have you writhing in agony while he’s stroking his moustache and laughing.

35. Ray Nicolette (Michael Keaton) – Jackie Brown

ATF agent Ray Nicolette is one of Elmore Leonard’s good guys, later popping up in Out Of Sight – one of those rare occasions in which the same character appears in two separate movies. Ray shines brightest in Jackie Brown, turning Pam Grier‘s stewardess onto Sam Jackson’s villain Ordell. Few men can wear black leather as effectively asMichael Keaton.

34. Mickey & Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson & Juliette Lewis) – Natural Born Killers

In the media circus of life, they were the main attraction: lovers Mickey and Mallory knew the value of a good killing spree, and milked the attention for everything it was worth. Two of Tarantino’s most despicably heartless characters, you still find yourself rooting for them – that’s the strength of Quentin’s writing in action.

33. Drexl Spivey (Gary Oldman) – True Romance

Gary Oldman pulled off his chameleon act once more in his role as True Romance’s racially-befuddled pimp, rocking dreads, gold teeth, a cloudy eye and a stormy temper. “It ain’t white boy day, is it?” he asks, unaware that every day is white boy day for him. Still,  perhaps Drexl can take solace in the fact his name is worth a hundred points in Scrabble.

32. Stephen (Samuel L Jackson) – Django Unchained

Leo DiCaprio’s cackling madman Calvin Candie is the obvious villain in Django Unchained, but there’s something even more insidious about his house slave Stephen; a man who’s seemingly turned his back on his entire race. He won’t take his eyes off Django and Broomhilda, and in turn, you can’t take your eyes off him.

Every QT cameo has an element of wish fulfilment, but none moreso than in Tarantino’s vampire thriller. Quentin’s serial killer Richie drinks tequila from the long leg of snake-fondling exotic dancer Santanico, right before she morphs into a hellbeast and kills him. Totally worth it, as brother George Clooney yells: “Now that’s what I call a fuckin’ show!”

30. Donny Donowitz (Eli Roth) – Inglourious Basterds

Possessor of possibly the coolest entrance scene in all of Tarantinoland, you hear The Bear Jew before you see him, bashing his baseball bat off the underpass walls to intimidate his prey. Eventually he emerges, grinning, knowing full well he’s going to hit a home run and spray the rest of the Basterds with Nazi brain. And the crowd go wild!

29. O-Ren Ishii (Lucy Liu) – Kill Bill

Another Deadly Viper on The Bride’s to-do list, O-Ren gets the most fleshed out of Kill Bill’s back-stories: orphaned by the Yakuza, she exacts revenge, becomes a master assassin and heads a Tokyo crime syndicate, complete with her own Crazy 88 army. Alas, she can’t best The Bride in blade-to-blade combat, tasting the steel of her Hanzo sword.

28. Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames) – Pulp Fiction

We’re first introduced to the back of crime boss Marsellus’ head as he gives boxer Butch his orders. The front is no less intimidating; Rhames gives Pulp Fiction its greatest presence with his gargantuan frame and deep voice. When he threatens to “get medieval” on the asses of the men that raped him, you’re grateful he spares the grislier details.

27. Alabama Whitman (Patricia Arquette) – True Romance

This hooker gives True Romance its heart of gold. Call girl by trade, she packs in the prostitution after meeting devoted Elvis fan Clarence, marrying him the very next day. The wrath they face from assorted pimps, gangsters and hitmen is horrendous, but Alabama makes it all worthwhile. Who wouldn’t snap up a girl who loves Kung fu movies?

26. ‘Nice Guy Eddie’ Cabot (Chris Penn) – Reservoir Dogs

Perennially decked out in the finest casual tracksuits the 90s could offer, Nice Guy Eddie is the only Reservoir Dog not to be given a coloured codename, given that he’s the son of the heist organiser, Joe. That family connection is the reason he’s so cocksure of himself, but daddy can’t protect him in the Mexican stand-off to end all Mexican stand-offs.

25. Zoe (Zoe Bell) – Death Proof

Tarantino gave stuntwoman Zoe Bell her first big break – as herself. Quentin’s half of Grindhouse saw Bell prove that she was the one who was Death Proof as she shackled herself to the bonnet of her girlfriends’ car for shits and giggles. Stuntman Mike attempted to make her death-wish a reality, but you can’t frighten a girl with no fear of dying.

24. Earl McGraw (Michael Parks) – Assorted

Along with Mr Wolf, Earl McGraw and his son Edgar are the only characters that can traverse between Tarantino’s ‘Realer than real’ universe and his ‘Movie movie’ universe – that’s why you’ll see him pop up in Death Proof, From Dusk Till Dawn and Kill Bill. Each time, Parks’ sheriff brings the same tobacco-chewing grit to the role: he is the law.

23. Vincenzo Coccotti (Christopher Walken) – True Romance

The real big bad in True Romance, Coccotti is the most charismatic of criminals. Fully aware his reputation precedes him, Sicilian sleaze Vincenzo introduces himself as “the anti-Christ” and gets more intimidating from there on in. Catch him in a vendetta kinda mood and he’ll waste you, but not without sharing a Walken-esque laugh with you first.

22. Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio) – Django Unchained

Sporting a gob of yellow teeth and a wardrobe of the best duds 19th century Mississippi affords, Candie is a chilling villain indeed. The plantation owner makes his slaves fight to the death for fun, like a child playing with his toys – those that escape, he hunts down with dogs. Django learns the hard way: you never take away a spoilt child’s toys.

21. Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) – Pulp Fiction

“In the fifth, your ass goes down.” Except boxer Butch ain’t nobody’s bitch. Fleeing from the scene after accidentally killing his opponent in the ring, Coolidge is still the closest thing Pulp Fiction has to a good guy. Butch later embraces his bloodlust by slicing and dicing his would-be rapists, who couldn’t have picked a worse guy to screw with.

20. Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi) – Reservoir Dogs

Mr Pink is a quibbler. He’s not happy with his codename; he’s insecure enough to suggest ‘Mr Purple’. He doesn’t tip; apparently “the words ‘too fucking busy’ shouldn’t be in a waitress’ vocabulary’”. He is, however, an utmost professional, and come Reservoir Dogs’ cordite-scented climax, Mr Pink is the only man smart enough to escape with his life.

19. Ordell Robbie (Samuel L Jackson) – Jackie Brown

When you absolutely positively have to kill every mother in the room? Ordell Robbie is your villain. A gun-runner extraordinaire and a devious bastard to boot, he’s also the owner of Sam Jackson’s funkiest facial hair to date; a braided goatee which you suspect no one has ever survived mocking. Bad to the bone.

18. Clarence Worley (Christian Slater) – True Romance

There’s more than a hint of Tarantino about hero Clarence, the fast-talking, Elvis-imagining lover of Kung fu flicks. Upon meeting love-of-his-life Alabama in a movie theatre, Worley moves heaven and earth to ensure their union – drug deals, shoot-outs and a room full of pimp corpses are a small price to pay for true romance. It’s what The King wanted after all.

17. Richie Gecko (Quentin Tarantino) – From Dusk Till Dawn

Of all Tarantino’s movie cameos, Richie Gecko is the most significant, and the weirdest by quite a long margin. The sick and twisted brother to George Clooney‘s tattooed outlaw, little Richie can’t even be trusted to look after a hostage without splaying her guts all over the bedsheets. This is as creepy and perverse as Tarantino gets.

16. Shosanna (Mélanie Laurent) – Inglourious Basterds

Revenge is a dish best served cold, or if you’re war survivor Shosanna, a dish best served roasted and marinaded in Nazi blood. Narrowly avoiding being massacred, she sets her sights high and with the help of the Basterds, brings down Hitler and his Third Reich with a fiery massacre of her own, set – where else? – in a movie theatre.

15. Mr White (Harvey Keitel) – Reservoir Dogs

His name is White, but even he can’t make a clean getaway. A white knight of sorts to the fatally-wounded Mr Orange after their diamond heist went pear-shaped, White shows himself to be loyal to a fault. Stoic and composed, Keitel’s criminal displays chinks of humanity that the rest of the Reservoir Dogs fill with greed.

14. Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) – Pulp Fiction

With a wit only as sharp as her bob, Mrs Mia Wallace is a very modern gangster’s moll: a livewire thrill-seeker whose actions are even more irresponsible than her husband’s. If you ignore the overdose, she’s a delightful dinner companion, able to alleviate any awkward silences and capable of tearing up the dance floor. Just remember: look but don’t touch.

13. Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) – Kill Bill

The coolest of Bill’s hit squad, Elle Driver also has the nattiest accessory: a patch covering the gaping socket from whence Pai Mei pulled her eye. A direct rival with The Bride for the affections of their master, the trailer tussle between them is a super-charged cat-fight. Alas, she loses and ends up another eye down, but out? We wouldn’t count on it.

12. Lt Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) – Inglourious Basterds

Head Basterd and Apache descendant Aldo is in the killing Nazi business, and friend, business is booming. Each and every man under his command owes him one hundred Nazi scalps, and they duly deliver: Lt Raine’s campaign of fear ends up helping turn the tide in Tarantino’s alternate take on World War II. Long may Aldo reign.

11. Dr King Schultz (Christoph Waltz) – Django Unchained

A bounty hunter par excellence, Tarantino’s Dr King is also a righteous campaigner for racial equality, teaming up with ex-slave Django to free his wife from tyrannical rule. A man of tall tales and multiple coats, Schultz is a sharp-shooter but a sharper dresser. Above all, King is a man of principle, even when it costs him the ultimate price.

10. Stuntman Mike (Kurt Russell) – Death ProofTarantino has amassed quite the rogue’s gallery of wrong-un’s over the years, but few feel as downright depraved as Kurt Russell‘s Stuntman Mike. A psychopath hard-wired on murdering innocent female passengers by crashing his ‘death proof’ stunt car, kinky killer Mike is even madder than Max when it comes to disrespecting the rules of the road.

9. Mr Orange (Tim Roth) – Reservoir Dogs

Tim Roth spent half the filming of Reservoir Dogs covered in blood and making wailing guttural noises, but it was worth it to convey the damage and suffering a single bullet can cause. An undercover cop all along, he was a wolf in Dog’s clothing, but he should have known better: as in The Godfather, the colour orange was to be the death of him.

8. Bill (David Carradine) – Kill Bill

Kung fu master, expert swordsman and excellent sandwich maker, Bill was nonetheless destined to be killed the moment he pulled the trigger on his pregnant Bride. “Do you find me sadistic?” he asks, proving over the course of two movies that he’s no Samaritan. Climatically, he dies a fitting death: The Bride explodes his black heart.

7. Vincent Vega (John Travolta) – Pulp Fiction

John Travolta pulled a dramatic career U-turn as Vincent Vega, the icy calm at the centre of Pulp Fiction’s manic universe. Whether shooting up or shooting perps, Vincent remains the picture of coolness, even when he’s on brain detail or administering a shot of adrenaline to a prone Mia’s chest. Travolta’s career would recover almost as swiftly.

6. Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) – Jackie Brown

Nowhere is Tarantino’s love of blaxploitation cinema more evident than in Jackie Brown. His heroine, Pam Grier, is a blaxpolitation legend in her own right (Foxy Brown, Coffy etc), and her stewardess/smuggler checks in that baggage to her advantage. Expertly playing off the cops and the criminals, Jackie is one of the baddest asses in Tarantino’s oeuvre.

5. Django (Jamie Foxx) – Django Unchained

The ‘D’ is silent, but Django’s payback was anything but quiet: off the freakin’ chain thanks to Dr King Schultz, Jamie Foxx’s slave-turned-slayer was a man on a mission. Crucially though, it wasn’t pure vengeance driving him but the love of his woman, making Django one of the most well-rounded and sympathetic Tarantino characters yet.

4. Col Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz) – Inglourious Basterds

The role that introduced Christoph Waltz to Hollywood – and to Oscar – Hans Landa is a once-in-a-lifetime part: a comic-book bad guy with a silver tongue and a nasty streak a mile wide – a bastard among Basterds. Waltz gave him character to spare, plus a childlike outlook on some very adult situations. As Landa himself would say: “That’s a bingo!”

3. Mr Blonde (Michael Madsen) – Reservoir Dogs

“Are you gonna bark all day, little doggie? Or are you gonna bite?” Of all the Reservoir Dogs – none of whom are remotely puppy-like – Blonde is the blackest of the black: a man for whom torture is an activity to be set to music. Madsen nails the queasy tone, adding style and swagger to ear-slicing sadism, becoming Tarantino’s most vicious villain to date.

2. Jules Winnfield (Samuel L Jackson) – Pulp Fiction

It’s tough to define cool, particularly in a Tarantino movie that’s cooler than a deep freeze, but hear this: Jules Winnfield is the coolest cat of all. A Bible-spouting, burger-eating, jheri-curled hitman, every syllable the man utters is quotable and every look he gives could stop you in your tracks. Sam Jackson’s sparkling performance makes Jules a cinematic gem.

1. Beatrix Kiddo aka The Bride (Uma Thurman) – Kill Bill

Introduced via the dulcet tones of Nancy Sinatra’s ‘Bang Bang’, we first meet Beatrix Kiddo at her most vulnerable: pregnant, beaten, shivering and at the mercy of her former lover, she’s staring down the barrel of a gun that’s about to go off. Thus begins the epic journey of The Bride, who never made it down the aisle: left for dead by Bill, she miraculously survives – her unborn baby too – purely so she can embark on what Tarantino calls “a rip-roaring rampage of revenge”.

Beatrix Kiddo is unlike any other Quentin character, in that her arc spans two movies – room enough for Uma Thurman to create Tarantino’s most relatable hero yet. Showing a much broader range than we might have expected from the star of Even Cowgirls Get The Blues, Thurman – whom her director called “my Dietrich” – is astounding in the central role. Tarantino’s zig-zag narrative throws The Bride all over the emotional map, tossing her from heartbreaking loss to heart-racing action in a matter of minutes, but Uma is more than up to matching the colossal task at hand.

Volume 1 sees her channel Bruce Lee via his yellow jumpsuit and his ‘take on all comers’ attitude, memorably cutting the Crazy 88s into eighths. If the first movie had an Eastern vibe, Volume 2 cast Kiddo as a gunslinger in her very own Western, tasting the bitter dirt like every outlaw should as she escapes being buried alive. It’s The Bride’s second resurrection and typical of a character who doesn’t know when to die – a vengeance-seeking, justice-dealing, Bill-killing girl who just wants to live the life that was so savagely taken from her. That she succeeds is no surprise – the clue’s in the title after all – but The Bride remains Quentin Tarantino‘s greatest character to date. Great work, Kiddo.

justin timberlake 20 20 experience

Justin Timberlake’s comeback album, The 20/20 Experience, just shattered all sorts of sales records. According to Billboard, the album moved 968,000 copies in its first week, making for the biggest opening week of 2013. Taylor Swift’s 2012 album Red was the last record to sell as many copies in its opening week.

Not since Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III in June 2008 has a male artist debuted with such numbers. In fact, The 20/20 Experience had the third-biggest debut for a solo male singer ever (!), behind only Usher’s Confessions (2004) and Garth Brooks’ Double Live(1998).

The 20/20 Experience also set an iTunes record for the fattest-selling album worldwide. Read more here:

Yet for all the accolades, Timberlake’s sales number still fell well short of *NSYNC’s album No Strings Attached, which sold nearly 2.5 million copies during its opening week in April 2000.

(Chris McGrath/Getty Images) and (Danny Martindale/Getty Images)

(Chris McGrath/Getty Images) and (Danny Martindale/Getty Images)

On Saturday, March 23, 2013 at London’s Royal Albert Hall, the Britpop wars were finally put to rest when Noel Gallagher, Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon (with modfather Paul Weller on drums) performed Blur’s “Tender” together at the fourth night of the Teenage Cancer Trust benefit concerts, as curated by Gallagher. The event has generated a much-shared photo that is making the Facebook rounds on the pages of people of a certain age, who are reacting with what could only be called glee that is tempered with at least a dash of disbelief. For those not initiated into or too young to remember the halcyon days of Britpop, here’s why it matters just like reported by Courtney E. Smith for wrote:

To put it in context, Oasis singer/songwriter Noel Gallagher asking Albarn and Coxon to join him on stage for a song is the musical-world’s equivalent of signing a Middle East peace accord. Theirs was the last great feud in the history of British music — unless One Direction and The Wanted agree to really have a go at it, like proper rock stars, for their next promotional cycle. Things went to such extremes in the darkest days of their ‘90s press-driven rivalry that Noel Gallagher told a reporter he hoped Damon Albarn and Blur guitarist Alex James would “catch AIDS and die.” Retracting that comment in 2006 didn’t quite settle the Blur vs. Oasis feud for the media but this single song, or more accurately a single happy face photo during a charity gig, seems to have finally done the trick, a mere 20 years later.

While America in the ‘90s was in the throes of grunge adoration, with the media pitting Nirvana against Pearl Jam in a grudge match that didn’t actually exist (Nirvana vs. Guns N Roses was the real hatefest), across the pond they were celebrating Oasis vs. Blur. The outspoken Gallagaher brothers formed Oasis, which was more of the working man’s band who were devotees to the sound of the Beatles and the hedonistic swagger of the Rolling Stones. They were music industry outsiders, hailing from Manchester in the North of England. In a country where class and caste still matter, the Gallagher brothers are from a family of plumbers with a mother who worked as a lunchlady in the school cafeteria. Noel started in music as a roadie for Inspiral Carpets. Not long after Oasis formed they signed to the indie label Creation, backed by Alan McGee. He was the A&R man behind beloved bands like the Jesus and Mary ChainPrimal Scream and My Bloody Valentine. But the Gallaghers had, and constantly stated, bigger ambitions that were immediately realized when their first album,Definitely Maybe, entered the UK charts at No. 1.

Speaking to MTV in an undated (but clearly shot in the ‘90s) red carpet interview, Gallagher said, “Are you asking me if I’m happy? Listen, I’ve got 87 million pounds in the bank. I’ve got a Rolls Royce. I’ve got three stalkers. I’m about to go on the board at Manchester City [Football Club]. I’m part of the greatest band in the world. Am I happy with that?” Gallagher pauses to creep closer to the lens and begins screaming, “No I’m not! I want more!”

It’s the kind of bloviating the Gallagher brothers were known for the the ‘90s. An interview with Oasis would always generate an off-the-cuff comment about something – be it another band, ill-advised weigh-ins on politics, the Gallagher brother’s mutual hatred, or the Gallagher brothers mutual agreement that they are geniuses and Oasis are the greatest band ever. Their quotes make up dozens of web slide shows. They’re so numerous and free-floating that Wikipedia has a page made up entirely of unattributed things Noel Gallagher is reported to have said, including the underrated gem: “We are the biggest band in Britain of all time, ever. The funny thing is, that f****** mouthing off three years ago about how we were gonna be the biggest band in the world, we actually went and done it.”

But before Oasis, there was Blur. Read more here: Don’t Look Back In Anger: Why The Oasis/Blur Feud Mattered « News.

Blur were the polar opposite to Oasis: they were art school students from the University of London who  had been childhood friends, they were all from middle class families and concocted a clever sort of music and lyricism that was more in line with the pretty boy faces of the Kinks but appropriated mod imagery from the Who and they were very, very proud of being clever. They’re the band who refused to recut their second record with Nirvana and Sonic Youth producer Butch Vig to make it appeal more to American audiences in 1993. Their breakthrough 1994 album, Parklife, is widely credited with opening the door to alternative rock radio and press in America for a generation of British indie bands. Albarn himself was never one to shy away from giving a wry media quote, which came in handy when the press-fueled rivalry between Oasis and Blur kicked off.

There was plenty of room on the UK charts for both Blur and Oasis, along with a boatload of other guitar bands, in the ‘90s as the public’s appetite was whetted by their sounds. But the mercurial, mercenary British press couldn’t help setting the two top-selling groups in opposition to each other. But unlike the days of Beatles vs. Stones, these weren’t two groups who socialized together and could make a joke of the black & white roles the press cast them in. If they were on good terms from the start, the so-called “Battle of Britpop” might never have happened.

While most of the NME buying public had already proclaimed themselves to be a fan of either Oasis or Blur, Blur’s camp decided  (in a move that the 2010 documentary No Distance Left To Run would make clear was entirely Albarn’s idea) to take advantage of the media circus, moving the band’s release date for “Country House” to August 14, 1995 – the same day as Oasis’s “Roll With It” was scheduled for stores. With music magazines urging young fans to go out and support the band of their choice in this head-to-head sales competition, the marketing ploy became overhyped and far eclipsed the newsworthiness of the singles themselves – both b to c level moments in the catalogs of the bands. In the end, Blur outsold Oasis by about 50K singles, amid strong objections from the Oasis camp disputing the sportsmanship, unfair advantage of a lower price point and actual barcode fraud in relation to the final tally. Oasis had their feelings further injured when Blur started touring at the same time they did and using a light projection of the number 1 to mark their status.

The sniping continued, with Gallagher making and then apologizing for his infamous AIDS comment. In the 2003 Live Forever Britpop documentary, Albarn summarized the wars in a surly quote, saying, “How did I feel [about it]? I felt stupid and I felt, I just felt very confused. Basically I didn’t really realize that my kind of flippancy was going to have such profound resonance in my life. I changed quite dramatically after that period.”

But that flippancy and the hard-hearted pot shots both bands took at each other in the press were exactly what supremely confident, successful and rich rock stars should do. It is the stuff that rock ‘n roll legends are made of and the emerging American rock bands at the top of the charts in the mid-’90s (think Foo FightersGin Blossoms,Collective SoulStone Temple Pilots) were either faceless or guileless. Coming out of the excess of the Sunset Strip hair metal scene of the ’80s, the rockers of the ’90s were the dullest bunch of drips possible. Nirvana and Pearl Jam fashioned themselves as anti-rock stars, taking the polar opposite pose of the self-indulgent excess of the L.A. scene that dominated before them. With the lone exceptions of the Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, whose singers Billy Corrigan and Courtney Love rarely met a microphone they couldn’t say something petty into, rock music in the ’90s was marked by a parade of dull rock stars with derivative hits. At least Blur and Oasis were willing to go balls to the wall about it.

If anything, Blur and Oasis could be compared to the hip hop wars happening in America. They were not Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G., as no one quite took it to the lengths of having a shoot out, but they were ostensibly the Jay-Z and Nas of the rock universe. The posturing and rock star behaviors that had marked stars of the ’60s and ’70s were being taken over by hip hop stars in the ’90s. Blur and Oasis were the last men standing on the “bad behaviors allowed only by rock stars” mountain — to epic proportions we have not seen since.

1996 would bring Oasis their greatest success in the form of their enduring single “Wonderwall” and turning their album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory into the biggest selling British album of the ‘90s. The band who had not considered themselves part of the Britpop movement had cut the definitive, best selling and most critically lauded Britpop album of all time. Both are regarded as the pinnacle of Noel Gallagher’s career.

Blur would see a major overhaul when “Song 2” from their 1997 self-titled album became a world-wide hit and the noose with which the band almost hung itself. While the album was a step away from the British-centric songs that defined their early career, it was also a reinvention.

The song Albarn, Coxon and Gallagher played together is from Blur’s 1999 album, 13 – an ode to Albarn’s failed relationship with Frischmann and one of the best in their catalog. “Tender” is a ballad with the same enduring sing-along quality of “Song 2” for very dour people. That this particular group of people would collaborate on any song is a miracle, but naturally the choice would have to be a song released well beyond the days of their Britpop rivalry.

At this point in their lives, the men of Oasis have gone their separate ways. Noel Gallagher left the group in 2009 and Liam rechristened them Beady Eye. Blur took a well-documented break after their 2003 album Think Tank, with Albarn leaving to create two supergroups: Gorillaz and the Good, the Bad & the Queen. Blur reunited in 2008 and have focused on festival performances, releasing only a few new singles and killing off a recording session for a new album for the time being.

Time heals all wounds. Noel Gallagher has undoubtedly become more tolerant, possibly owing to the removal of Liam the instigator from his life and his arrogance certainly took a backseat after critical and sales reception to Oasis albums tapered off in the 2000′s. Albarn has spiraled off from Britpop into more obscure musical endeavors, with forays into African, world and electronic music under his belt. Neither seem keen to hold on to that Mick Jagger swagger “rock star for life” pose. But for a decade, they were the picture perfect examples of a rock star feud.


roger waters israel boycott
Roger Waters wants you to lend him your ears / Photo by Getty Images

Pink Floyd singer convinced Stevie Wonder to cancel gig

In what’s becoming an annual tradition for the curmudgeonly former Pink Floyd frontman, Roger Waters has once again asked his fellow musicians to refrain from performing in Israel. For years, Waters — who is at the forefront of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement — has raged against Israel and its allies over their treatment of Palestine. While Waters initially hoped music would help mollify this ancient turf war, he doesn’t see that happening anytime soon, so instead he’s called upon musicians to boycott the country altogether. “They are running riot and it seems unlikely that running over there and playing the violin will have any lasting effect,” Waters told Electronic Intifada (via Rolling Stone).

This isn’t Waters first time running afoul with the country. Back in 2006, Waters relocated a tour date from Tel Aviv to the small town of Neve Shalom, where Palestinians and Israelis peacefully coexist, to voice his disapproval of the Israelis’ handling of Palestine. He also spray-painted the lyric “We don’t need no thought control” on the Israeli side of the West Bank wall. In 2010, during his tour celebrating The Wall, Waters’ concert projected imagery of Star of Davids morphing into dollar signs and dropped bombs, which drew the ire of the Anti-Defamation League. Then in 2011, Waters asked his fellow musicians to boycott playing Israel until the West Bank barrier came down. While that plea was largely ignored, Waters’ latest effort to get an artistic boycott of Israel going has convinced at least one person to refrain from playing there: Stevie Wonder.

Wonder was scheduled to perform in front of the Israeli Defense Forces this past December, but Waters convinced the singer to cancel his appearance. “I wrote a letter to [Wonder] saying that this would be like playing a police ball in Johannesburg the day after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960. It wouldn’t be a great thing to do, particularly as he was meant to be a UN ambassador for peace,” Waters told Electronic Intifada. “It wasn’t just me. Desmond Tutu also wrote a letter.” Waters  said that he hopes E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt, who penned the all-star Artists United Against Apartheid‘s protest track “Sun City,” will join him in his crusade.

While Waters is probably pumped that Lollapalooza Israel was canceled, he might be bummed to hear that Barbra Streisand and Alicia Keys have elected to perform in Israel this summer despite BDS pressure. Read more here:


Justin Timberlake Manager Johnny Wright on Secret Plans Around ‘20/20 Experience,’ Touring, Myspace,  More

Justin Timberlake has a rare ability to seem to be everywhere without actually being in that many places. In a way, the marketing around his new album, The 20/20 Experience – out on RCA today – has taken a note from the way he managed to keep his solo musical career in the spotlight by not releasing any music of his own for six years: It might seem like he’s ubiquitous, but he’s not. He’s just chosen what he’s doing to promote the album very strategically for maximum impact: Some strategic online marketing; a couple of high-profile branding and radio campaigns; appearances on the Grammy and Brit Awards, “Saturday Night Live” and a week on “Jimmy Fallon”; a few buzz-building concerts; announcing a summer stadium tour with Jay-Z — sure, it’s all big, and it all came within two months. But compared with a lot of other album-release campaigns, it’s much more quality over quantity — and very, very few artists could be so selective and still go so big.

As RCA Records president/COO Tom Corson told, “While it feels like he is everywhere, he has been going with less-is-more. The looks he has been getting have either been large events or strategic. He hasn’t been doing every TV or print opportunity.”

But perhaps most impressively of all, Timberlake, his management and label kept the entire project — and the marketing campaign around it, exhaustively detailed in this timeline — secret from the public for months. A couple of gossip sites reported that an album was underway, but the reports were denied and word didn’t get out. The fact that David Bowie – who had been largely off the radar for nearly a decade –announced that he’d completed a secret new album a couple of weeks before Timberlake announced his only adds to the skill of the stealth campaign around The 20/20 Experience.

Here, in a phone conversation last week from the set of the Fallon show, Timberlake’s longtime manager Johnny Wright talks at length about how the album came together, how they and RCA planned an international marketing campaign so quietly, the partnerships around the album, Justin’s role with Myspace, touring plans and much more.

Billboard.Biz: When did the planning for The 20/20 Experience really begin?
Johnny Wright: I guess the conversation really started off three years ago, when I thought maybe Justin would be interested in going back into music. We had a general discussion about how, [because] a lot of the physical record sellers were gone, by the time we’ve got music again we need to think about different ways to deliver it. So we started a general conversation about maybe putting an app together, and maybe doing a situation where we [released a song] every month. There were multiple things we actually talked about, but there wasn’t any movement for him to go back into music [at the time].

[Last year], probably around the late part of May/first week in June, he asked me to dinner and he said, “Guess where I’ve been the past couple of nights?” I said I don’t know, where? He said, “I’ve been in the studio with Timbaland.” I said what are you guys working on? And he said, “I’m working on my stuff.” I was kind of shocked because, you know, I wasn’t prepared for that!

Immediately that started the conversation of, “Okay, how are we gonna put it out?” I like to do this thing where we do a countdown clock and then deliver music from it — so what are we gonna deliver? At one point we even talked about having the countdown clock go into streaming the whole album, but then obviously we had to have conversations with the label and partners who wanted to be involved with the release of his music. So we ended up compromising and putting a single out and shortening the window to the album [release], because [usually artists] put the single out then wait three or four months for the album. But we said we really want to do this in a shorter period of time, so let’s put the single out and [release the album] seven or eight weeks after that — make it a short window, and because we have such a short window, we have to make a big impact.

Justin Timberlake and manager Johnny Wright (second from right)

We were lucky that there were some [big] platforms coming up in that window of eight weeks: One of them was the Grammys, so let’s go have a conversation to see if we can perform a song there. Another one was the Brit Awards in the UK, then “Wetten, dass..?” a huge television show in Germany, and then Justin’s relationship with “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon.” As the plan between us started to come together, it was like, instead of doing the single on every one of these performances, why don’t we perform a different song? We figured at some point the album would in some way get out, but we kind of wanted to deliver it to them first in visual way. So when we performed on the Grammys, that was the first live television performance of “Suit & Tie” with Jay-Z, and then we segued into a new record from the album called “Pusher Love Girl.” For the Brit Awards [and Wetten, dass…?”] we performed “Mirrors,” another song off the album. And then when we came back to do “SNL,” we decided to do “Suit & Tie” and because visually no one in America had seen “Mirrors,” so we did that. And knowing that we had five nights on “Fallon,” it was like, let’s deliver a bunch of new records. The theory was that by the time we got to the release of the album, at least half of it would have been performed on major TV platforms.

And then we have relationship with iTunes where we agreed to allow them to stream the album a week before it was released, because again we weren’t afraid of letting people hear the music. We want people to be engaged; this whole album is an experience. And then from a radio perspective we had Clear Channel Radio, CBS, and all of our radio friends that embraced us — Clear Channel is doing what we call a “road block” [within] 24 hours, playing the new single every hour. And now on Monday night, we’re gonna take over 175 radio stations and have a live performance from El Rey in L.A., where Justin is gonna perform a half hour and Ryan Seacrest is gonna do an interview with him.

We have Target and Budweiser, who became a big partner with us, and we created two big TV commercials promoting the album. That gave us a great visibility and they’re the underwriters of the event that we are going to do in L.A. So in a short period of time we were able to have a great relationship with radio, we were able to stream the album, we were able to have a great relationship with iTunes, we were able to have able to have a relationship with a lot of great TV partners being a part of Justin’s career. Everybody basically came to the table and presented an opportunity for us to get a lot done in a short period of time. And it’s been a fun experience. We were very lucky that we had all these opportunities and these partners that wanted to give us these platforms. Read more the interview here: Justin Timberlakes Promotional Run-Up to The 20/20 Experience: A Timeline | Billboard.



<p>Justin Timberlake's "The 20/20 Experience"</p>

Justin Timberlake’s “The 20/20 Experience

Have you heard of the 800 lb. gorilla? Next week, Justin Timberlake will be the 800,000 lb. gorilla as it looks like “The 20/20 Experience” will sell up to 800,000 copies, making it the fifth biggest debut of the decade.

Sales projections for “20/20” keep increasing. At the beginning of the week, it appeared that his first album in seven years would sell at least 500,000; then the number soared to 750,000 and with two days left until the chart close, it’s at 800,000, according to Hits Daily Double.

At that rate, the title will handily sell more than the rest of the nine titles in Billboard 200 top 10 combined. In fact, no one else looks to even top 50,000 copies.

In addition to Timberlake, the other debuts will be Kacey Musgraves’ excellent “Same Trailer, Different Park” (read our interview with the up-and-comer here) at No. 4, with sales of around 40,000, and an expanded edition of the soundtrack to “Les Miserables” at No. 7.

Otherwise, it looks like Bruno Mars’ “Unorthodox Jukebox” will be at No. 2, Luke Bryan’s “Spring Break…Here To Party” at No. 3 and this week’s No. 1, Bon Jovi’s “What About Now” at No. 5.

Pink’s “The Truth About Love” climbs several notches to No. 6 on the strength of her well-received concert tour and her new single with fun.s’ Nate Ruess, “///. Rihanna’s “Unapologetic” is at No. 8,  Mumford & Sons’ “Babel” at No. 9, and Imagine Dragons’ “Night Visions” at No. 10, according to Hits Daily Double.

David Bowie’s “The Next Day” which bowed at No. 2 this week, likely drops to No. 11 with sales of 21,000-24,000.

In case you’re wondering, the top two biggest debuts of the decade so far belong to Taylor Swift, followed by Lady Gaga and Lil Wayne. Read more at


Fifty-one years ago today (19 March 1962), Bob Dylan’s debut album ‘Bob Dylan’ was unveiled to a largely disinterested United States. They’d soon change their tune as Dylan spread his artistic wings, but this album stands up as a snapshot of where he was at the time – mainly in a Greenwich Village café, cribbing Woody Guthrie’s notes. Here are some red-hot facts compiled by Matthew Horton for you might not know.

Bob Dylan

1. The album’s producer, John H. Hammond, was instrumental in Dylan signing to Columbia Records in 1961 after he heard his harmonica work on folk-revivalist Carolyn Hester’s third album.

2. In a pleasing piece of symmetry, Hammond also signed Bruce Springsteen – Dylan’s natural successor – to Columbia in 1972.

3. Check out any 60s Dylan cover that features the Columbia logo and you’ll see that it’s on left. The photo on the cover of ‘Bob Dylan’ has been flipped so the neck of the guitar doesn’t obscure it.

Bob Dylan

4. The cap Dylan’s wearing on the sleeve was a regular element of his walking, talking homage to hero Woody Guthrie.

5. ‘Song For Woody’ makes full use of its tribute status, basing itself on Guthrie’s own 1941 ballad ‘1913 Massacre’. David Bowie would make a Russian doll of it, aping Dylan’s “Hey hey, Woody Guthrie, I wrote you a song” with “Oh hear this, Robert Zimmerman, I wrote a song for you” on Hunky Dory’s ‘Song For Bob Dylan‘. As for songs about David Bowie, Bowie’s got that covered.

6. The album reputedly cost $402 to record.

7. Dylan had another go at ‘See That My Grave Is Kept Clean’ – originally recorded by Texan bluesman “Blind” Lemon Jefferson in 1927 – with The Band in 1967. It didn’t make the official release of ‘The Basement Tapes’ but was familiar to Dylan bootleggers.

8. Leading up to the recording of the album, Dylan immersed himself in listening to the Folkways label’s ‘Anthology Of American Folk Music’, an exhaustive collection of cuts that had been recorded between 1926 and 1932 but forgotten in the intervening years.

Bob Dylan

9. The liner notes on the original inner sleeve were written by a “Stacey Williams”. This turned out to be New York Times critic Robert Shelton – whose favourable live review had brought Dylan to label attention – moonlighting under a pseudonym.

10. ‘Gospel Plow’ is a traditional tune based on Luke 9:62 – “Jesus replied, ‘No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.'” So there you go.

11. UK blues band The Animals claimed Dylan stopped playing his version of ‘House Of The Risin’ Sun‘ when The Animals hit big with theirs, because he was accused of ripping them off.

12. The line in ‘Talkin’ New York’ – one of only two Dylan originals on the album, alongside ‘Song For Woody’ – that goes “Now, a very great man once said/That some people rob you with a fountain pen,” is yet another fanboy reference to Guthrie. Specifically ‘Pretty Boy Floyd’, Guthrie’s 1939 ballad to the 1930s gangster.

13. The cover image was shot by Columbia in-house photographer Don Hunstein, later responsible for the iconic sleeve photos for ‘The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan‘ and Simon & Garfunkel’s ‘Sounds Of Silence’.

14. ‘Fixin’ To Die’ is a cover of a track by delta blues dude Booker T. Washington “Bukka” White, but Dylan messed about with the melody and lyrics. When asked on a radio show in 1962 exactly how much of the recorded version was his, he replied, “I don’t know. I can’t remember.” That’s that cleared up then.

15. After the album shifted just 5,000 copies in its first year, reaching No.13 in the UK and absolutely nowhere in the States, Dylan was nicknamed “Hammond’s Folly” by waggish Columbia execs. They’d soon be eating their leopard-skin pill-box hats.

16. John H. Hammond himself was investigated by FBI Director J Edgar Hoover for alleged communist activities. In reality he was a determined campaigner against race discrimination in the music industry, cutting his teeth with the launch of Billie Holiday’s career.

Bob Dylan

17. “I first heard this from Rick Von Schmidt/He lives in Cambridge/Rick’s a blues guitar player/I met him one day in the green pastures of Harvard University,” goes the spoken opening of ‘Baby, Let Me Follow You Down’. That’s folkie Eric Von Schmidt, who was mistakenly credited as the writer of the song but had adapted it from a Blind Boy Fuller number.

18. Opening track ‘You’re No Good’ was incorrectly listed as ‘She’s No Good’ on the original record label.

19. ‘A Man Of Constant Sorrow’ is of course most famous for its appearance in the Coen Brothers’ movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? where it’s performed by the fictitious Soggy Bottom Boys, named in tribute to the Foggy Mountain Boys, the bluegrass duo who were know to perform several Dylan songs in the 60s. No, there’s nothing tenuous about that.

20. ‘Pretty Peggy-O’ is adapted from the Scottish folk song ‘The Bonnie Lass o’ Fyvie‘ and would later be tackled in various shape-shifting forms by Joan Baez, Simon & Garfunkel and former hairspray-rockers Jefferson Starship.


Pixies Surfer Rosa


Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Pixies‘ second album, “Surfer Rosa,” a seminal LP that has gone down in Rolling Stone history as one of the 500 greatest records of all time. Read more here:

Every indie rock band of the past two and half decades owes a great deal to the Pixies, the Boston-bred quartet that seamlessly merged psychedelia, noise rock and alternative grunge to create one of the 1980’s most memorable music projects. Formed in the collegiate environment of University of Massachusetts, the band — comprised of Black Francis, Joey Santiago, Kim Deal and David Lovering — predates Nirvana as a catalyst for the immeasurable rock boom of the 1990s.

Like most indie rock bands, the Pixies were not a chart topping force, but their second album, the lyrically named “Surfer Rosa,” earned accolades on its own after its 1988 release. Robert Christgau of The Village Voice dubbed the Steven Albini-produced record “the Amerindie find of the year,” while Kurt Cobain proclaimed it the inspiration for his band’s masterpiece, “Nevermind.”In celebration of the 25th anniversary of “Surfer Rosa,” we’ve put together a slideshow of 10 things you might not have known about the Pixies. Scroll through the slides below and let us know how you are celebrating this holy indie holiday in the comments.

sigur ros 2013

Just 14 months after the release of ValtariSigur Rós will return with a new studio albumKveikur will arrive June 18th through the band’s new label, XL Recordings. Described as “more aggressive” than their previous work, the latest entry marks the band’s seventh to date and first since the departure of multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson.

In anticipation of the album’s release, the band has shared a video for the album track “Brennisteinn”, which you can watch below. Meanwhile, fan footage of the band performing three other album tracks, “Kveikur”, “Yfirborð”, and “Hrafntinna”, is streaming here.

Tonight, Sigur Rós will appear on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, before heading to Washington, D.C. for the start of their latest U.S. tour. All ticketholders will receive a free digital EP containing “Brennisteinn” and two bonus tracks.

Update: Check out the album’s artwork and tracklist below.

Kveikur Tracklist:
01. Brennisteinn
02. Hrafntinna
03. Isjaki
04. Yfirbord
05. Stormur
06. Kveikur
07. Rafstraumur
08. Bláprádur
09. Var

Sigur Rós 2013 Tour Dates:

sigur ros kveikur


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