The Glorious Corner: U.K.’s NME Closes, Bond 25, Elton John, Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber and More!

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G.H. Harding

NME CLOSES SHOPNME and its rival, Melody Maker, battled for popularity throughout the decade but NME began to fail in the early-70’s when it was viewed as out-of-touch with current trends. In 1972, Alan Smith was brought in as editor and he went after some of the best underground and counterculture writers of the day making the publication a must-read for those following the huge changes in mid-70’s music.

By the end of the 70’s and into the 80’s, NME not only became the foremost publication for music but also became involved with British politics but, by the end of the decade, readers were starting to desert as the paper couldn’t decide if it was about rock or the burgeoning hip hop scene. Once again, they were able to recover, getting on top of trends in music during the early-90’s and, with the issue of March 21, 1998, they transitioned from the newsprint to a glossy magazine. 

It was also during this time that NME established their on-line presence which became more and more important over the years.  They transitioned from a newsstand presence to a free magazine with the issue of September 18, 2015 but advertising alone was not able to sustain the magazine and, this week it was announced that publication would cease.

NME’s owner, Time Inc. UK, also cited the rising cost of printing in their decision and noted that they would be “focusing investment on further expanding NME’s digital audience”. There are also plans to launch two new radio channels covering emerging artists and NME Gold, which will stream online and via various UK radio companies.

Melody Maker was a British weekly pop/rock/electronic music newspaper, one of the world’s earliest music weeklies. It was founded in 1926, largely as a magazine for dance band musicians, the first editor was Edgar Jackson. In 2000 it was merged into “long-standing rival” NME.

Back in the day Melody Maker and NME was must-reading for music-fans. Melody Maker was my favorite and it was always a thrill to find it, buy it and read it. Hip-music stores even sold it.Those two, with Rolling Stone, in its early days, were the real deal. England’s current-music mag, Mojo, sort of approaches it. I read it every month.

To have lost NME and Russ Solomon in the same week is indeed an ominous sign for the music business.

BOND LIVES — Via Roger Freidman/Showbox 411Big news from the UK: the Daily Mail’s premier columnist Baz Bamigboye reports that Oscar winning director Danny Boyle will helm the next James Bond movie. This has been in the air for some time, but Baz has apparently nailed it down in the Bond universe. He says producers Barbara Broccoli and Michael Wilson and star Danny Boyle are “willing” this into existence.

Danny Boyle, of course, is the perfect choice to take over from Sam Mendes. He has a long list of smart hits. Slumdog Millionaire is his Oscar peak, but if you look at 127 Hours, Boyle knows how to make a tense action movie. His other hits include Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and A Life Less Ordinary.

Bond 25 won’t come right away, Baz says. First comes a musical project with Richard Curtis called All You Need is Love that will be a take on the Beatles.

LORD ANDREW — From the L. A. Times: Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber’s astonishingly successful career in musical theater caught fire in 1969 with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, a 20-minute ‘pop cantata’ he composed as a teenager. The following two decades were a juggernaut of inspirations, compositions and negotiations that produced Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Cats and Phantom, to name only the most record-breaking, wealth-generating, paradigm-changing of his projects. During the same period he married twice, fathered two children (he has since been married a third time and fathered three more) and bought and restored an English country estate.

Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice

His agent once quipped, “Andrew is too busy to have a wee.”

Then, after the success of Phantom, Lloyd Webber experienced a dry spell. “When things are not going your way, you discover who your true friends are,” he writes, explaining why it may be for the best that this volume ends where it does (at the creation of Evita). “I have found some toe-curling truths about so-called friends and colleagues and I really don’t relish the thought of raking over them.”

This statement seems implausible, if only because Lloyd Webber’s tone throughout Unmasked is one of such exuberant pleasure in raking over things. He writes as if he is chatting with the reader over a bottle of Barolo. (Although he no longer drinks alcohol, he mentions casually, he put away “gallons” in his time.) The effect is enhanced by a breezy disinterest in commas, as well as his distinctive turns of phrase: People “ankle” places instead of going to them, and exaggeration is “elasticating the truth.”

He has some dishy tidbits to share, but it is not always easy to catch hold of them in his torrent of anecdotes. He loves to reminisce as much about the business side of his career as about the art, and he regularly lists the sums he earned or disbursed over the years, all translated into their current value in British and U.S. currency.

Sometimes these financial reports spool on for pages and pages without, ultimately, rewarding close attention. Other, far more diverting tales about his and other people’s love affairs could stand more fleshing out.

In several instances, he builds up a juicy revelation, only to pull away at the critical moment: “What happened is beyond the scope of this volume,” he’ll airily conclude, or, “I will leave it at that.”

Such omissions, of course, can be chalked up to the peculiar resignation of survivors of British boarding schools. Lloyd Webber later alludes to a “sadistic” gym master from his youth, adding jauntily, “I don’t think I’m vindictive by nature but when I read in the school magazine one morning years later that Mr. Murray had died, I wrote two tunes and had a bottle of wine for lunch.”

Despite taking to task people who hurt or disappointed him, Lloyd Webber really doesn’t come off as vindictive. His reflections on his first collaborator, lyricist Tim Rice — they wrote Joseph, Superstar and Evita together before falling out — are far more wistful than spiteful. His rapturous description of their first meeting at his apartment door could be plagiarized from a Harlequin romance: “Silhouetted against the decaying lift was a six foot something, thin as a rake, blond bombshell of an Adonis.“

Even after the acrimony, betrayals and litigation set in, Lloyd Webber continued to dream that he and Rice would be writing partners for life.

“I have long been baffled about Tim’s preoccupation with billing,” Lloyd Webber writes. “On all our shows he has insisted his name goes first. I couldn’t care less. I just think Lloyd Webber and Rice sounds better than the other way round.”

Although this argument does not suggest profound self-awareness — you can practically hear Rice wailing with frustration, deep in his own country mansion, when he gets to this page — Lloyd Webber can also be endearingly tough on himself. After describing an early tantrum he pitched over sound quality, he muses, “Looking back, I realize that my angst in the studio was the first of many meltdowns I have had. … I have behaved appallingly in theaters because of bad sound more times than I care to mention.”

‘The story of Evita is simple’ is perhaps the book’s most controversial claim, starkly undermined by the ensuing plot summary.

He developed such a reputation that director Milos Foreman approached him to play Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in his film Amadeus. When Lloyd Webber protested that he was a “hopeless actor,” Foreman rejoined, “Oh, no. I hear you’ve got a foul temper. You’ve just burped brilliantly and you are a hot-headed perfectionist who can be extremely obnoxious. I want you to play yourself.”

A notorious ladies’ man, Lloyd Webber is also up front about his occasional caddish treatment of women, particularly his first wife, Sarah Hugill, the woman he married when she was barely 18, then abandoned a decade later for soprano siren Sarah Brightman, his Phantom muse.

He seems to take a perverse pleasure in quoting the worst reviews each of his shows received — perhaps because they make the ensuing Tony Awards and decades-long runs even more triumphant.

It is fashionable among theater intellectuals to look down on Lloyd Webber’s musicals: their catchy tunes, their ripe orchestrations, their puzzling stories (“The story of Evita is simple” is perhaps the book’s most controversial claim, starkly undermined by the ensuing plot summary) and of course their commercial success.

But by his own admission in Unmasked, Lloyd Webber has never been fashionable. He had a difficult childhood with neurotic, demanding but distant parents. As an “effeminate boy in a smart school suit clutching poncy architectural guidebooks,” he had to run away from bullies. He infuriated teachers with his admiration of Victorian architecture and the operas of Puccini. He loved melody, and throughout his lifetime, melody was never in vogue. He once asked a conductor friend to explain minimalism to him. After a few vain attempts, the conductor gave up: “There’s no point in explaining this to you, Andrew. You are a maximalist.”

I have a brief history with Lord Webber; I was somewhat provisionally involved in the original vinyl-release of Superstar. He was most definitely full of himself, but Superstar was an instant classic; a movie followed as did yet another soundtrack album and this Easter, it’s on TV with John Legend and Alice Cooper! Even though industry innuendo had the second disc of Superstar, a musical re-write of the first disc, it was a hit and everyone loves a hit. I found him brash, indulgent and downright mean, but he had written, with Rice, a bona fide masterpiece.

500-pages for any book is a long haul. I want to reads this and will do my best to do just that. He’s a talent, no question. Nice guy? Definitely not. Truth be told, I always thought Tim Rrice was the real deal … and, their work together was the best thing he ever did.

Elton John, Mary Wilson and Mark Bego.

SHORT TAKES —Great shot of Supremes-Mary Wilson and author Mark Bego at the elton John-Oscar party last Sunday. Bego two days later celebrated Wilson’s Birthday at Pip’s in L.A.(Thanks to Mark Kovac for the Elton-pic) … Micky Dolenz plays two shows tomorrow night at the Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center in The Villages, Florida. Earlier today he was interviewed on Fox’s Good Day Orlando … and,

George Harrison

celebrations for George Harrison’s 75th birthday (February 25th) began with a special reissue of Concert for George. Now available for the very first time on vinyl, as a 4-LP Box Set via Concord Music.The 180-gram audiophile vinyl set represents the first time that all songs from the concert have been available on an audio configuration – including performances from Eric Clapton, Joe Brown, Dhani Harrison, Jools Holland, Jeff Lynne, Paul McCartney, Monty Python, Tom Petty, Billy Preston, Ravi and Anoushka Shankar, Ringo Starr and many more. 

NAMES IN THE NEW — William Schill; Doug Morris; Regis Philbin; Charlie Gibson; Tom & Lisa Cuddy; Zach Martin; Robert Miller; Peter Abraham; Steve Walter; Hap Pardo; Vinny Rich; Adam Pollack; Dina Pitenis; Jacqueline Boyd; Tyrone Biljan; Eppy; Joanna Bonaro; Robert Funaro; and CFS.

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