Vaingloriousness-burying placeholder post.

Hmm. It has been a busy week, but it hasn’t been the sort of week that has inspired much in the way of bloggable thoughts. Nevertheless, since I’m sick of the sight of that vainglorious ONE MILLION PAGE VIEWS! post perching at the top of the page, I’ve been feel an increasingly burning urge to bury it with something, however content-free.

So what’s been on my mind these past few days?

Lots of music-related stuff, for starters. I’ve been taking on work for t’local paper to the point where I’m in danger of over-committing, but it’s all been good fun so far. Interviews are imminent with Duke Special and CSS, and I should have a couple of pieces in Friday’s entertainment supplement.

I’m also hoping to squeeze in some time to pen a few reviews for the Stylus Jukebox, which has recently re-launched itself in a blog format, updated daily. Under the new regime, contributors won’t be lumbered with vast numbers of singles to review in one fell swoop, which means that weekends are no longer in danger of sinking under the pressure of deadlines.

And then there’s the Nottingham kitchen project, which lumbers on into its second week, coating all of our surfaces in a light film of dust. But we’re nearly there now, and it will be good to have the additional floor space.

Meanwhile, over at the cottage, we’ve been doing up the “snug” area which leads off the kitchen, and which we had never got looking quite right. Thanks to a generous cash donation from my aunt and uncle on the occasion of their golden wedding, which came with specific instructions to spend it on something lasting and beautiful, we’ve purchased an old wooden sideboard (or “server”, to give it the correct technical term), and an old Windsor chair, and a weathered leather chest which is being put to use as a table. (Hand-made by the man who makes similar pieces for Ralph Lauren at vastly inflated prices, but ours was sensibly priced.)

We’ve been benefitting from a renewed spate of hospitality in the village, and have strengthened some friendships in the process, widening our social circle beyond the usual suspects.

The dressage-to-music sound collage is slowly assembling itself, and I shall look forward to seeing it being put to practical use during the spring.

Oh, and I’ve re-instated the “We Listen” chart on the sidebar, temporarily retiring the “Recently Spotted” section in the process (we have Post of the Week for that sort of thing now), and have made the long-dreaded switch to New Blogger, which turned out to be mostly painless. Gotta love those labels! I could become obsessed.

And now it’s time to head off to Saltwater, to celebrate MissMish‘s birthday.

This has been my week thus far.

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Spot the million, and WIN A MUG!

It is 11:10 on Sunday morning, and my stats counter is currently showing 999,804 page views. This means that Troubled Diva will be passing the one million mark later today.

To mark this intensely ego-gratifying occasion, I’m going to run a quick little competition.

The first person to e-mail me with a screenshot of this page, showing a Total Page View count of 1,000,000, will win – what else? – a Troubled Diva mug, in any one of the three popular designs: Classic, Novelty or Personality.

On your marks… get set… CLICK.


Update: We have a winner. Congratulations to Lindsay, who grabbed a screenshot of the millionth page view at 13:42.

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Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. Nottingham Trent University, January 26.

An edited version of this review first appeared in the Nottingham Evening Post.

gcwcfOn his first visit to Nottingham two years ago, Sam Duckworth played to a scattering of sweaty punters upstairs at the Old Angel. Last night, performing as Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. (no, me neither) to a capacity crowd, he faced his largest headline audience to date. Not bad going for a 20 year old whose debut album briefly grazed the lower end of the charts last autumn.

Although barely registering on the radar of anyone over 25, Duckworth’s student-based audience displayed a hearty familiarity with his lyrics, which reflect the concerns of his generation in a way that is almost without precedent in today’s decidedly smug musical climate. (*) Unashamedly political and idealistic, his songwriting and performance style hark back to the traditions of the protest singer – but with a contemporary sound that mixes acoustic and electronic elements in a fresh, invigorating way.

At the back of the stage, each intricate, skittering backing track was synchronised to video footage, and fleshed out by a two-piece brass section and an outstanding drummer. Up front, a wide-featured, chubby-cheeked Duckworth (**) proved to be an able, articulate performer, radiating an understated yet unmistakable charisma.

Between numbers, we were variously urged to buy from fair trade suppliers, to campaign against racism, to boycott unauthorised merchandise sellers (***), and to shun the dubious and exploitative agendas of reality TV.

Give Duckworth an early evening slot at Glastonbury (****), and there’ll be no stopping him. Just you wait and see.


(*) Flippant example, enthusiastically roared back at him by the studey throng: “You don’t need a degree, to deconstruct this melody.” That’s the undergraduate market sewn up, then…

(**) Anyone remember Danny from Supergrass? He looked like Danny from Supergrass. In the old days. But without the mutton-chop sideburns.

(***) Successfully, as it turned out – particularly since the Capester explicitly linked the sale of unauthorised merchandise with cheap labour and funding for the drugs trade. He even offered a part exchange with his official merchandise, for anyone who had already made a purchase. As we left the venue, not one single person so much as stopped and looked at the dubiously sourced tat on offer. Consumer power in action! I’ll bet the street price of smack-n-crack has, erm, shot up. Hell, they’ll have to recoup their costs somehow.

(****) Much like David Gray in 2000, but this time with a point and a purpose. Imagine that!

DANGER, CLIQUINESS ALERT: It’s the obligatory annual “Hurrah for my mates at the Bloggies” post.

Yes, it’s Bloggies finalists time!

No, of course I wasn’t. Don’t mind me. I’ll just sit here snivelling for a while, with only my nearly one million page views for comfort. No need to, you know, leave me a comment or anything. Why break the habit of a lifetime?

(Look, I’ve been going five and a half chuffing years. My Gloria Swanson phase is long overdue.)

Anyhow. It’s double congratulations to Tokyo Girl Down Under, who achieves the unique distinction of qualifying for the “Best Australian/New Zealand” and the “Best Asian” categories. Now, that’s what I call globe-straddling.

Over in the “Best African or Middle Eastern” category, I am pleased to see the delightful My Marrakesh – a blog which I only discovered yesterday, via my, erm, comments box. (Shut. Up.)

In “Best European”, it comes as no great surprise to see My Significant Other Is A Silly Sausage popping up for the 50th year running. Oh, the ennui. As Annie Lennox was to the Brits, so Zoe Twat is to the Bloggies. Wouldn’t be the same without, etc etc.

Ah, but look at this! What a turn-up! Joining last year’s winner Girly One Track in the “Best British/Irish” category, what do we find but that inseparable pair of subversive scallywags: Andre of A Beautiful Revolution (“Woe Is Me, I Am All Alone, Like An Empty Drinks Can Tossed Into The Gutter, Now I Know How Joan Of Arc Felt, That Will Be 73 Comments Please Thank You Oh When Will This Misery End“), and Unreliable Witness of An Unreliable Witness (“Oh How I Loathe And Despise The Very Concept Of So-Called Blogging Awards Continued Page 94 Everybody Please Nominate Me Thank You.“) The game’s up, boys!

Pausing only to cup our hands to our mouths at the stultifying predictability of the “Best American” section, to wonder how the hell Pitchfork qualifies as a weblog in any meaningful sense of the word, and to sigh with dismay at what the “Best GLBT” category tells us about the state of the Queer Nation in 2007 (I’ll leave Joe. My. God. to go into more detail on that one)…

…we skip merrily on to “Best Writing”, where we find the awfully well-written Pandemian (I knew her when she was a Green Fairy) jostling for position with the splendid (even though I haven’t read it in yonks, mea culpa) Waiter Rant.

And finally, making his second consecutive appearance in “Lifetime Achievement”, we have darling Peter from Naked Blog, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Dooce, Fark, Slashdot and Wil Wheaton. Life begins at sixty!

If you feel the need to offer your condolences in the face of the scandalous snub that has been meted out to Troubled Diva (nearly one million page views and counting!), then my box is always open.

(In our business, we call this “drumming up trade”.)

Update: Er, wow. I’ve just had it confirmed (Twitter private messaging, I salute you) that TD did in fact make the long-list for “Lifetime Achievement”. That’s totally awesome, and as much as I could possibly wish for, and greatly appreciated. Many thanks to everyone who took the trouble to vote.

Things that I am enjoying more than blogging.

1. Writing lengthy e-mails defending the manifold virtues of Lionel Richie’s All Night Long (All Night), (my second favourite single of all time), with particular reference to West Berlin in late 1983. I am enjoying this more than blogging, becuase I can be as detailed and rambling as I damn well please, without worrying whether my words are “good enough”, or of sufficiently general interest, for Troubled Diva.

Here’s the bulk of it, slightly re-jigged. Engage at your peril.

…when it came out, I was living outside the UK for the first time, and was immediately struck by the sheer internationalism of West Berlin, with its three occupying armies (UK, US, France), its foreign students (at the Freie Universität where I was “studying”, yeah right), and its sense that just about everyone was a temporarily nesting visitor from somewhere else.

My radio dial constantly flicked between the German language Berlin stations, AFN, BFBS and the BBC World Service, all broadcasting on FM. I was following the UK Top 40 (Paul Burnett on the World Service, who was to sniffily say when excluding Relax: “We really don’t think it’s suitable” – exact quote!), the US Top 40 (Casey Kasem in full stats-geek flow on Sunday afternoons), the German Top 75 (Laidback, Trans-X, Boytronic, Nena, a bunch of cod-sci-fi jokers called Deutsch-Österreiche Feingefühl (!) at #1, the final sputterings of Neue Deutsche Welle), the Billboard soul chart (which had its own show on AFN), the Billboard dance chart (detailed rundowns on an incredible Berlin dance show on Saturday nights called Studio 89 – there’s a tribute website to this day – electro megamixes direct from NYC radio, Double Dee & Steinski’s Payoff Mix, the works)… and then there was Pop Over Europe on BFBS, which tracked the Top 10s in half a dozen other European countries, most of whom seemed to be buying Gazebo’s I Like Chopin in vast quantities…

…and, for a couple of months that Autumn, All Night Long (All Night) was everywhere, riding high on all of the above charts and radio shows, blaring out of every shop and café down the Ku-Damm, shunned only by the regulation-black hipster bars in Kreuzberg. You got the clear sense that this was a truly international hit – that moment of total shared access, as someone once put it – and as a piece of musical internationalism, it worked superbly well.

I don’t hear a “watered down” version of anybody – I hear a blended fusion of varying styles, all mushed together into a beige (pace Julie Burchill) soul-pop stew, served with the kind of lavish mega-production that had worked so well on Thriller. I love the teasing dynamic, building up and exploding into joy with those glorious, exultant brass runs and stabs towards the end. It feels like a travelogue. It feels like the whole planet is either partaking in its construction, or getting on down to it, from America to Africa to Asia, one nation under a groove, a glimpse of Utopia.

But, yeah, naff old Lionel Richie with his jacket sleeves rolled up, darling of the suburban barbecue set… If I’d been elsewhere, then maybe I’d have responded differently, but you can’t divorce pop from its subjective associations, and mine were wonderful ones.

2. Getting back in the gig-reviewing saddle. I am enjoying this more than blogging because the sheer urgency of the task precludes any dithering, and because the exercise forces me to be economic with language, and because I am forced to abandon the first person… because, hey, it’s not all about ME for once.

Since it hasn’t gone up on their website, and because I like to park these things for posterity, here’s the review which ended up in yesterday’s Nottingham Evening Post. (And yes, now I know that “Love Hurts” didn’t originate with Gram Parsons, but I didn’t know it then.)

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy – Rock City, Tuesday January 23.

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, aka Will Oldham, is an infrequent visitor to these shores. Indeed, this is only his third UK tour in eleven years. Although some later dates will be performed solo, we were treated to a full backing band, who fleshed out Oldham’s sparse and mournful alt-country stylings with a surprisingly muscular, rock-based sound.

Oldham cut an arrestingly singular figure, with a demeanour that combined the whiskered wooliness of Bob Harris, the brooding solemnity of Clement Freud, and the gangling eccentricity of a Victorian gentleman explorer – all topped by an immense, protruding forehead that looked ready to explode from the rest of him.

Opening with a sprightly cover of Willie Nelson’s On The Road Again, Oldham turned in an epic two-hour set, peaking at around the 40 minute mark with a spellbinding rendition of John Martyn’s John The Baptist. At this point, it seemed he could do no wrong. Unfortunately, the momentum proved impossible to sustain – particularly when support singer Dawn McCarthy joined him to perform some awkward, ragged duets from his most recent album.

For the encore, the rapidly tiring audience were rewarded with a stunningly intense New Partner and a good-natured lurch though Gram Parsons’ Love Hurts.

3. Interviewing THE STARS!!! for the self-same organ; an experience which might well have peaked yesterday with the double whammy of Shayne Ward and Joan Baez. God, but the temptation to swap their questions was almost irresistable.

“So, Shayne Ward: is there room in 2007 for a civil rights movement?”

“So, Joan Baez: can we expect to hear more of a Justin Timberlake influence in your new material?”

As a comparative study between Ancien Régime and Tin Pan Alley Nouveau, you couldn’t have hoped for two more starkly contrasting examples. While Shayne Ward – affable if a tad over-defensive, and clearly media-trained to within an inch of his life – parrotted the sort of stock answers which I could have written myself, Joan Baez – bright, articulate, thoughtful, committed, occasionally funny and entirely her own woman – gave a dream of an interview, which left me in a state of dazed euphoria for most of the rest of the evening. I’d say “living goddess” – but you know how we queens can over-pedestalise our divas.

I am enjoying this more than blogging because it’s a new challenge, forcing me to acquire new skills and learn on the job – and because, at heart, I’m such an easily impressed little star-f**ker. Hey, know thyself.

(And speaking of self-knowledge: I’ve never heard myself “in conversation” before, and it’s proving painful to listen. Christ, do I always sound like Marvin the Paranoid Android?)

4. Keeping a close paternal eye on Post of the Week. I am enjoying this more than blogging because, once again, it’s not all about me me me. And because I find that I have enjoyed the experience of micro-managing a new creative project. And because it’s fun to collaborate; something which I don’t often get the chance to do, in either my professional or in my blogging lives. And because I’m delighted that the sometimes complex design concepts behind POTW have been represented in such a deceptively simple way. And because I genuinely think this has the potential to contribute something useful and worthwhile.

5. Keeping a close paternal eye on my referral stats, as Troubled Diva rapidly approaches its one millionth page view, probably at some time over the weekend. I am enjoying this more than blogging because, somehow, stats speak to me in a way that words never can (and let’s face it: compared with the arid deserts that many of my comments boxes have become, stats are sometimes all I have). One million! What a beautiful number that is!

Post of the Week is ready, and open, and waiting for YOU.

THE MISSION.

1. To highlight great writing on personal blogs.

2. To draw attention to blogs that you might not have heard of before.

3. To point you to one absolute guaranteed humdinger of a blog post, once a week, every week.

Finally, and almost a year after the idea was first mooted, Post of the Week is ready for public display. I bet you never thought you’d live to see the day, did you?

Absolutely everyone everywhere is heartily recommended to do any or all of the following:

1. Nominate cracking good blog posts for inclusion, via the comments box in the “Call for nominations” section.

2. Volunteer their services as a guest judge, for one weekend only.

3. Publicise the site on their own blogs. Pimp it, kids. Pimp it HARD.

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Boundless thanks to Gordon, Lionel, Lyle, Nick and patita for all their efforts behind the scenes, and congratulations to The Overnight Editor for writing this week’s inaugural featured post.

This is all very exciting. Good luck, Post of the Week! May you live long and prosper!

Nottingham Blogmeet, Saturday March 10th.

(This is a cross-post with Rullsenberg Rules.)

It’s time, don’t you think? Since Nottingham is so centrally located – 1:40 by train from London, 1:16 from Birmingham, 2:25 from Manchester – and since we’ve never yet hosted a public blogmeet, and since Lisa Rullsenberg and I have been infected with a sudden dose of The Keens…

…and since, as we all know, the Best Fun is Organised Fun…

…well then, here goes.

The date: Saturday March 10th 2007.

The time: From around 2pm until mid-evening. Come when you like, leave when you like, stay for as long or as little as you like.

The venue: The ground floor café/bar of Broadway Cinema on Broad Street, in central Nottingham. 10 minutes by foot from the train station, or a short tram or taxi ride.

Here’s a map (PDF format).

Licensed bar, hot and cold food available throughout the day, open plan, large tables, pleasant buzz, appropriate arts/media milieu. Because we do like a good milieu. No smoking, but it’s only a quick hop outside for a crafty chuff.

The vibe: Friendly, welcoming and resolutely non-cliquey. Hell, Lisa and I have never even met; how could we be cliquey?

The door policy: All are welcome – from the Nottingham area, or from any other part of the UK. Or, indeed, The World.

Hope you can make it. See you there. I’ll be the one in the nice smart shirt, trying to (*cough*) maintain level eye contact.