Tuesday, 29 January 2013

The attention seeking of North Korea…

As attention seeking behaviour goes, North Korea’s recent declaration that its rocket launches "are targeted at the United States, the arch-enemy of the Korean people," lies somehow between burning a copy of the Quaran, and your average Joey Barton tweet.

It's the hallmark of a pantomime villain who's put out to find Widow Twankey's protruding belly is frightening the children more than he does. Because on the international stage, North Korea has become a sideshow; and it's throwing its toys well and truly out of the pram because of it.

To be fair, you can see where they're coming from. As recently as last December, The Democratic People's Republic of Korea was still the only game in town when it came to uptight, paranoid-aggressive regimes. But then, Team America star and Dear Leader, Kim Jong-il finally proved true to his name and died. For a while, the eyes of the world lingered, but soon enough we became bored with the choreographed weeping and decided the new Kim on the block was too chubby to take seriously.

Since then, every despot, crackpot and whatnot in the Middle East and North Africa has been doing their level best to take Korea's Public Enemy Number 1 title. As you'd expect for a country raised on a diet of UN sanctions and enriched uranium, North Korea has not taken its fall from grace too well. There's been satellite launches, rocket tests, and even the old fail safe of threatening to wipe out the “puppet group of traitors”, (South Korea to you and me). But to no avail, North Korea has slipped into obscurity.

So now this: grandstanding. Calling the Americans out like a drunk in a bar. The whole thing is just tinged with desperation. What have they become? What's happened to the nation that humbled the mighty Brazil at the last World Cup? Whose ‘fans’ were paid Chinese actors; less any North Koreans use the trip as a chance to flee the nation. A country governed by the most oppressive regime in the world, but which still demonstrates its good sense of humour by describing itself as “Democratic”.

Well, for one, there’s been a change of personnel at the top. And whilst DPRK is still keeping it in the family, Kim Senior left some pretty big size 4 shoes to fill. On his watch North Korea wasn't just in the axis of evil, it was the bloody axis. But now, if you’re an aspiring dictator or international terrorist and you want to get something done, it isn’t the 38th Parallel you’ll head to, but the Sahara Desert.

It’s not that the new boss, Kim Jong-un, hasn’t tried hard enough to arrest this decline. Far from it. The ‘Pyongyang Pretender’ has done everything short of defecating on the American flag in order to get noticed. But then that’s precisely the point. No doubt haunted by comparisons to Jordi Cryff, Kasper Schmeichel and Calumn Best, Jong-un the youngun (as he’s affectionately known there), has turned into something of a drama queen in a frantic attempt to avoid becoming his father’s footnote in history.

This is not the North Korean way. By all means be a threat to world peace, that's what you do best, but please try and be a little bit less showy with it. Remember the quiet dignity of your secret nuclear weapons programme? Oh how we feared you then, but we also respected you. You wouldn’t give anybody the time of day; you just kept on denying you were building those nuclear weapons, even though we all knew you really were. You’re young Kim, and you’re learning you’re trade, I get that. Just don’t pimp yourselves out to the world’s press talking about this ‘rocket’ or that ‘space satellite’. Leave that to the media whores in Tehran, Tel Aviv and Tripoli. International interest is as fleeting as it is fickle, you know this. Keep your head up and don’t stoop to their level. After all you’re North Korea, you’re better than that. Form is temporary, but being the nemesis of those capitalist dogs in the West, well that’s permanent. 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

A Very 21st Century Proverb

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest chances you don't own a horse. In fact, maverick that I am, I'll go further and say chances are you've never owned a horse, never will own a horse, and have never even thought about the possibility of owning a horse. Since the invention of the motorcar, the public's need for horses has vastly diminished. Those horses which people kept on for recreational riding were largely sold or eaten at the start of the recession, leaving most of the country's equine stock in the hands of horse-nuts like Clare Balding and Zara Whatsherface. The improbability of your horse-possession hopefully established, I'd be bold enough to venture that the chances you've neither flogged a dead one, looked a gift one in the mouth, or led one to water but struggled to make it drink. Although the overarching lessons we can learn from such adages remain true, there's no question these proverbs are a bit outdated; and so perhaps it's a good thing that the 21st Century has seemingly got its act together and invented a new one.

Around this time two-years ago the now exiled football pundit Andy Gray said something infamous. On a damp, mid-week evening in Manchester, Gray, debating the nominations for the Ballon d'Or prize, questioned whether Barcelona and their superstar striker Lionel Messi could perform on a "wet, Tuesday night in Stoke". To provide a bit of context, at that time Stoke City were in a fairly respectable 13th position in the English Premier League, renowned for their direct and physical playing style and intimidating home ground. Barcelona on the other hand were in the midst of a 16 game consecutive winning streak at the top of La Liga, a position they would retain to finish as champions. Later that year they would also win the Champions League, and a domestic cup win completed an impressive treble. Lionel Messi, the player singled for special treatment, would go on to score 51 goals and win the Ballon d'Or - football's most prolific individual prize for the third consecutive year (a record). It's fair to say that as queries go, this wasn't a sensible one.

A month later Gray and his monkey-resembling co-presenter Richard Keys were sacked for "unacceptable behaviour", but it was the remark which did more harm to their credibility than the sexist comments ever could. So ridiculous was Gray's hypothetical nonsense that the phrase began to take on a meaning of its own. Combining a healthy dose of xenophobia with a misguided faith in the homegrown underdog, "could they do it on a wet, Tuesday night in Stoke", came to signify a partisan view - predominantly used ironically - in which good old fashioned British traits like 'brute force', 'bravery' and 'blokishness' put pains to pesky foreignisms like 'ability', or 'talent'. "He may well be the best pianist the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra has ever had", you could imagine proponents shouting, "but could he do it on Last Night of the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall when the crowd are impatiently waiting for Land of Hope and Glory? I don't think so".

The reasoning behind the 'Stoke question' is fundamentally perverse, superficially comforting and incredibly arrogant. Its premise is that people in other countries can only do the things we like better than us, (in this case football), because they are abroad and everything is easier abroad. If they came over here, the rationale goes, they'd get found out. It turns our deficiencies into strengths which, in this alternate reality, outweigh their skills. Never mind that we're tactically naïve because we're physically stronger. So what that if their technique is better than ours, have you seen how far our right back can throw the ball?

Recently the 'Stoke question' reared its ludicrous head again after Lionel Messi broke another record, this one for most goals in a calendar year (Messi is currently on 90). Understandably keen to make sure this talent doesn't go elsewhere to ply his devastating trade, Barcelona extended Messi's contract to 2018. This prompted pundit Adrian Dunphy to call Messi a "bottler" and to ask "why he doesn't come to the Premier League so we can find out if he can do it out of his comfort zone?" which is a bit like calling Usain Bolt a chicken because he wont run in your school sports day.

Dunphy concluded his diatribe by asking if Messi was "scared of Stoke". In the face of such a pointless question it's tempting to pose another, that's equally easy to answer: "Could Stoke do it on a balmy summer evening in Catalonia?"

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

1000-odd words in the mind of a chugger

I resent the word "chugger", I really do. I mean, it's trying to give us a bad name isn't it? Saying we're muggers for charity - that's not true. I've never mugged anybody and neither have most of the people I work with. Plus some people might get the wrong idea and think we're actually mugging the charities themselves, which nobody at Justice for Overweight Kenyan Elephants has ever done as far as I'm aware. Do you know what I think would be a better name? "Charmers". Like people that are "charming" in one sense, but also "charity armers" yeah? 'Cos that's what we do - we arm charities with cash. We give them the tools and then they use them to fix the world. Either "charmers" or "chegends". "Chegends" means - oh you can? Well okay, well done!

Anyway the key to being a Charmer is to be charming. There's no point going up to somebody saying "Do you have a minute to talk about bowel cancer?" if you're looking down at your feet and generally acting miserable. People might think you have bowel cancer and that isn't the impression we want to give at all. What a good Charmer does is engage their Tardo- that's what we call the public - it's short for "target donor", but it's also funny because a lot of them are actually quite thick. Some of the charmers from Mencap, and Mind don't like the word "Tardo", they say it contradicts their message or something, but generally speaking they're all wankers anyway.

Where was I? Right, engagement! Not to brag but I do know thing or two about this - I have the lowest blank rate of any mobile-urban-fundraising-agent I know. 99.9% of all Tardos are evasive. Rather than curing cancer or liberating Tibet they'd much rather spend their lunch breaks calculating the calorific intake of a Tesco meal deal or mentally composing risqué out of office emails they're never going to use. But that's Tardos for you and we can only work with what we're given. The key is to make them acknowledge your presence, once you've done that it's plain sailing down easy street all the way to the promised land. Of course Tardos know this. Despite being self-absorbed, self-obsessed, self-centred, selfish scum, Tardos are not self-delusional. They know that once they get into a battle of wits with a Charmer there's only going to be one winner, and it's the person wielding a clipboard. So naturally Tardos try to elude us.

It's amazing how many Tardos think that pretending to be on the phone is all they have to do to avoid debating the planet's most pressing issues. In my younger days even I would sometimes fall for the old 'I'd love to but I'm in the middle of a phone call' look, combined with an apologetic shrug. "Excuse me sir", I'd ask "could you spare a minute to talk about muscular dystrophy?" but alas, he never could. "Morning madam, do you think literacy rates in Sub Saharan Africa are acceptable?" No response, maybe she did, maybe she didn't. Either way she wasn't going to interrupt her 'conversation' to tell me. "Alright squire, how do you sleep at night knowing that every year on average 146 stray dogs die of loneliness?" Not even a flicker - they were always busy on the phone.

Gradually it dawned on me: was it really likely for around half of the people passing through the patch of high street I work - an area I call the N Zone, partly because N stands for Nigel, my name, partly because its directly outside Next - to be on the phone? I started to do some research, going to the same place on my days off dressed in civvies and counting phone users. Guess what? There were significantly fewer!
This insight into the dark, callous heart of the Tardo revolutionised my tactics. If they were going to play dirty then so was I. If it was guerrilla warfare they wanted, I'd become King Kong. I began snatching phones from their owner's hands triumphantly screaming "Destiny Calling!" before exposing their dirty secret. Occasionally this would shame someone into a donation, but more often it drew unwanted attention from the police.

So I refined my technique. As Tardos passed me I would also pretend to be on the phone, causing them to drop their guard and in many cases end their fictional conversations. 'He must be on a break' they'd think, visibly breathing a little easier and then at that exact moment I'd pounce - spinning round, looking the Tardo straight in the eye and enquiring "Do you know what percentage of the polar ice caps have melted since this time last year?" I should point out that I've worked as a Charmer for many different charities; it's never really been the causes that have attracted me, but the thrill of the chase.

And "On a break"! Don't make me laugh, Charmers don't take breaks. We're like sharks, if we stop swimming we die. Except in our case it's not so much swimming, but charming. And we wouldn't actually die, but we would make less commission than we'd like. Oh and strictly speaking we do take breaks, but only to comply with EU working time directives and for most of that time were still thinking about charming.
When I'm asked - as I regularly am - what my favourite part of my job is, I always smile and recall the Tardos that I've enjoyed a bit of verbal sparring with. They're the exception rather than the rule this lot, but when you come across one it's like finding an extra veggie sausage hiding under your free-range, corn-fed, organic poached egg at breakfast. They really do brighten up my day.

You often find them in a rush. "I'm sorry, I'm in a rush" they'll say, as you ask them their views on lack of funding for Third World immunisation programmes. "You're in a rush?" I reply "well what a coincidence, so is the anopheles mosquito on its quest to spread Malaria in Africa". It's at this point the verbal sparrers like to make themselves known. "Listen", they say, "I've had a busy day and I'm not in the mood for being hassled on my lunch break." I anticipate this type of response and counter: "Well at least you can afford lunch unlike the billion plus people who have to survive on under $1 a day".

Jousting like this can go back and forth, three, four sometimes even five times. Such is the speed and ferocity of our ripostes foreign tourists often think this is a scripted show put on for their benefit . It usually ends when the Tardo - intellectually defeated - calls me a parasitic, hypocritical or mercenary cunt and storms off. But deep down I know they don't really mean it and I like to think we've both shared a special moment.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

All Artists Are Liars

It doesn't speak well for us as a species that when the going gets tough we take solace from the thought that somewhere out there, it's going that little bit tougher for someone else. Lost your job? Well at least you've got your health, unlike Mrs Jones whose just been struck down with that rare, tropical flesh eating disease. Wife left you? Just count yourself lucky it wasn't for your twin brother, citing you sexual inadequacies as a reason, like the couple on this talk show I saw; that kind of thing.

These pearls of consolation are usually dispensed by our nearest and dearest, who in times of trouble often prove themselves most skilled in making light of our own problems whilst simultaneously making fun of other people's. Occasionally though, for reasons that may include but are not limited to: an absence of any friends or family; a strong dislike and/or long running feud with all your friends and family; or an outstanding phone bill which leads your network provider to disconnect your phone making it very difficult to contact your friends and family, people turn to the next best shoulders to cry on - the shoulders' of artists.

Artists, we think, are great. They're such tortured souls! Such fragile creatures! They spend their lives sharing their innermost thoughts, fears and desires with a cruel world. They've had their fair share of hardships. Some of them even had to wait until they had died before people they decided they were actually quite good after all. When Van Gogh got dumped he didn't just mope around the house, he lopped his own ear off. With an artist it's like your meeting Mrs Jones with the flesh eating disease in the flesh. They exist to tell us mere mortals - "yes your life may be a bitch, but mine's a mother fucker, which anyway you want to look at it is worse".

Take the King, Elvis Aaron Presley, when his baby left him, he was forced to move into a hotel, literally named the Heartbreak Hotel, which - and you're not going to believe this - was actually on the corner of a Lonely Street! Elvis is reminding us we've no right to complain about the breakdown of our own relationships until we are forced to move into substandard accommodation situated on cruelly named roads. Or what about poor John Winston Lennon?

Although fronting the most successful act in musical history, the demands of an unreasonable and unnamed girlfriend (I'm guessing Yoko), meant he had to take up additional employment carrying out demeaning dog's work. Clearly traumatised by the whole experience John doesn't go into specifics, but it most likely involved the guarding of property and the herding of sheep. No wonder he lost the ability to tell whether it was morning or evening. We may moan about the demands of work ruining or lives, but remember, we've got the EU Working Time Directive, the Beatles didn't.

There's only one problem... it's all lies. Elvis Presley was a man so attractive that his entire bottom half had to be banned from American television after scientists discovered that witnessing Memphis Flash's gyrating hips was in fact 13 times more dangerous than staring directly at a solar eclipse. The notion that a sentient being would leave "the pelvis" of their own volition is not only far-fetched, it directly contradicts the laws of physics. John Lennon meanwhile drove around in a psychedelic Rolls Royce and was so disinclined to work in the traditional sense, that when protesting the Vietnam War he decided a sit in protest somewhere significant required too much stamina and opted for a bed-in one in his hotel room instead. The war continued unabated.

Start looking and you begin to realise just how widespread deception of this sort is. The Rolling Stones claim they are perennially dissatisfied despite the fact that the lead guitarist is allowed to dress up fulltime like a pirate. Janis Joplin could have afforded her own Mercedes Benz without praying for divine intervention and she knew it. Dolly Parton hasn't put in a 9-5 shift since God knows when and as for Bob Geldof - he may not like Mondays - but it's not like he's got to get up and actually do anything on them, or indeed any other day of the week for that matter.

Opinion is split, but a school of thought exists which says successful artists may have been people once. Some even believe they may have contended with the same misfortunes as the rest of us. Nobody however, not even the artists themselves, believe that they still do so now. Hearing millionaires' sing of their money worries and heartthrobs' lament their heartaches I can't shake the feeling we're the butt of a joke. A joke told by imposters, who, like an alien race, visit our world of pain for inspiration, ape or torments, turn them into 3 minute catchy pop songs and then sell them back to us for the privilege.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

It’s all over now baby blue

"In order to show proper respect for your future, you must sometimes show some insensitivity to your past”. Such were the words and rationale of Roberto Goizueta, the former CEO of The Coca Cola Company, who 27 years ago changed the formula of the world’s most popular soft drink and launched a new product, imaginatively named New Coke. At the time Goizueta and his team were faced with a dilemma: the Pepsi challenge was in full flow and consumers seemed receptive to the idea of switching from Coke to its sweeter, blue packaged alternative. Fearing a loss of ascendency in the fizzy drinks duopoly the company took decisive action and in April 1985, amid great fanfare, Coca Cola was replaced by New Coke. 79 days and some 400,000 complaints later though, the original drink returned. 

Fans of Cardiff City FC will be hoping the backlash to the announcement of their own rebranding yields similar results. From next season, the team nicknamed The Bluebirds will play their home games in a red kit bearing a new club crest.  The switch from red to blue has been enforced as a condition of investment from Cardiff’s Malaysian owners, who feel the changes will “help [Cardiff] develop its brand and to allow it to expand its appeal to as wide an audience as possible”. Due to its association with prosperity and good fortune, red is seen as more attractive colour in the Far Eastern markets identified by the club as potentially lucrative. Although it may sound like marketing spiel borrowed from HSBC’s “the world’s local bank” campaign, Cardiff are adamant that they need to go along with this rebranding exercise to  safeguard the immediate and long-term future of the club.”

It’s fair to say the reaction from fans has been less than enthusiastic. In an effort to prevent their clubs nickname – The Bluebirds - becoming a painful and ironic reminder of what once was, supporters fought an unsuccessful campaign to keep Cardiff blue. Even for those who have taken the pragmatic approach - arguing a financially secure Cardiff City that plays in red is better than a potentially insolvent Cardiff City that plays in blue – last week’s announcement can hardly be considered a victory. Instead, it’s a rather depressing example of football’s financial realities running roughshod over supporter sentiment and years of tradition. 

Unlike Cardiff, in the two years prior to the disastrous launch of New Coke, Coca Cola extensively canvassed its customers’ opinions about the proposed change. Over 200,000 Americans participated in taste tests, the results of which compelled Goziueta to boldly describe the launch of New Coke as “the surest move ever made”. There problem was that while Coca Cola had been making sure people liked the way their new drink tasted, they had neglected to consider customers’ sentimental attachment to the (old) brand. Unusually, the spectacular U-Turn that followed proved mutually beneficial to all parties. So pleased were customers to get their much loved product back, that they bought it in huge numbers, revatalising Coke’s stagnating sales and consolidating the company at the top of the pop pyramid. Indeed such was the speed with which Coca Cola snatched victory from the jaws of defeat in the New Coke debacle, that many have speculated that the entire episode was a marketing ploy from day one. 

Sadly for Cardiff the world’s conspiracy theorists have yet to devise a plausible scenario in which this colorful saga turns out to be anything other than what it is: the epitome of all that’s wrong with modern football. The Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano described the game as “a primordial symbol of collective identity”. Alan Sugar said it’s “the only business in the world where it's embarrassing to make money”. In a roundabout way both men made the same point: football is exceptional. It’s a game where fans’ emotional ties and tribal allegiances to clubs, their traditions, heritage and yes, the colour in which they play, takes precedence over commercial activities and the will to turn a greater profit. Except it isn’t. Football’s sacred cows have been on auction to the highest bidder for some time now. Clubs have moved cities, changed names, ceased to exist. The beautiful game has been contaminated by ugly language:  leveraged buy-outs; administration; liquidation. For their owners, clubs are no longer symbols of local pride; they are global brands, whose merchandising potential must be maximized at all costs.

In 1985 fearing dissent among its customer base Coca Cola relented to their will. In 2012, the course of action taken by Cardiff’s owners shows, in black and white, that shirt sales in Asia are more important than the views of fans from the city whose name the club bears. And when the leopard’s spots are up for sale, it’s a sign that the tail must be well and truly wagging the dog.

Friday, 4 May 2012

The adverts on the bus go round and round

"We are in drought", Thames Water latest add boldly declares, urging us to conserve water in two-foot high letters from the side of a London bus. If you saw this add sheltering from torrential rain in a bus stop as I did, you might think the water company had developed a taste for irony. More likely, they're just the latest group to have fallen foul of the great British weather.

What interested me most about this advert though wasn't the message; it was the medium. Buses, particularly London buses, seem to be making a habit of acting as mobile billboards for some debatable pronouncements lately.

It started in 2008, when the British Humanist Association, bankrolled by atheist in-chief Richard Dawkins, adorned the capitals double-deckers with the words: “There’s probably no God, now stop worrying and enjoy your life”. 

The Christian Party, a minor political organisation supporting, er, God, surprisingly took issue with such overt displays of agnosticism and responded with a bus ad of their own: "There definitely is a God. So join The Christian Party and enjoy your life."

This was all quite childish, and dare I say it, pointless. After all it’s unlikely that many devout Christians suffered a crisis of faith because the number 19 to Finsbury Park station told them to. Equally, I doubt lots of uncompromising atheists found God on the strength of a poster plastered onto the side of the N253. The phrase preaching to the converted has never seemed so apt. I personally take solace from the fact that both sides agree we should definitely be enjoying life.

But after gay rights group Stonewall emblazoned 1000 London busses in April with the seemingly innocuous phrase “Some people are gay. Get over it!”, it all got a bit ugly.  A group known as The Core Issues trust, (one must assume ironically since they seem to spend a great deal of their time taking offence at bus advertisements), prepared a response. Their now infamous “Not Gay! Ex-Gay, Post-Gay And Proud. Get Over it!” campaign, was pulled after TfL understandably ruled it didn’t quite fit with their ethos of promoting “a tolerant and inclusive London”.  

Whether it’s imploring us to vote in local elections, persuading us that one sexual preference or belief system is better than another, the humble bus is in danger of becoming an unwitting mouthpiece for all those things they warn you not to talk about at dinner parties.

Personally, I’m thankful TfL stepped in when they did. The morning commute is stressful enough without adding moral dilemmas to the mix. Do I agree with the message on this bus? Do I object enough with the message on this bus to not get on and hope the next one is more agreeable and on time? Would this be an acceptable reason to arrive late to work?  Does getting on a bus sporting a controversial message somehow signify consent for the viewpoint advertised, or is this whole matter entirely inconsequential? These are just some of the many questions I don’t want to have to negotiate first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Singing the praises of music biopics

To my mind since 2005 there has already been four great musical biopics: Walk The LineControlRay and I’m Not There. And now, in 2012 alone, it looks like we might see three more.

Following Friday’s release of Marley, the late, great reggae star joins fellow musicians Johnny Cash, Ian Curtis, Ray Charles and Bob Dylan in being immortalised by the big screen. It’s the type of company that must be making Dylan understandably nervous. But fear not Bob, as later in the year you’ll be making room for the decidedly still-living Paul Simon and James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem.

Starting with the other Bob though, it’s surprising a “definitive story” of Marley has taken such a long time to reach the big screen. Scotsman Kevin Macdonald is the third director to work on the project. First Martin Scorsese, well schooled in musically themed documentaries, (The Last WaltzShine a LightNo Direction Home), dropped out, then Jonathan Demme, whose previous credits include Talking Heads’ concert movie Stop Making Sense and a Neil Young documentary trilogy left the project citing creative differences with Marley’s producer Steve Bing.

Macdonald’s ambition for Marley was to produce a “man behind the legend” flick. No easy task then, considering the man in question has been dead for 31 years, while his legend, healthy as ever, continues to accrue mystique. At times the film cannot resist the type of hero-worship Marley inspired in his fans. But insights into the artist’s troubles as a mixed-race boy growing up in black, rural Jamaica and a warts and all account of the singer’s infidelity, help tell the lesser-known, more human side, of his story. However, after close to two and half hours of thoroughly researched documentary footage, the “ordinary” Bob Marley felt as elusive as ever. This is not meant as a criticism of Macdonald’s filmmaking abilities, but merely recognition that his subject was an exceptional man who led an extraordinary life.

Not quite in Marley’s mythic class, although they both still have time on their sides, there’s a strange symmetry to the forthcoming LCD Soundsystem and Paul Simon films.

Shut Up and Play The Hits documents LCD Soundsystem’s farewell gig in Madison Square Garden last April. Released at London’s Sundance Festival at the end of this month, the film’s trailer opens with an epitaph: If it’s a funeral let’s have the best funeral ever”. Throughout, a tired looking Murphy is questioned by a radio presenter over his decision to break up a band in their prime. LCD’s farewell has long been thought of as a defining moment, an end, or at least an evolution, of the hipster era they inadvertently helped usher in a decade earlier. As Brandon Stosuy, editor of US Magazine The Believer put it: "How many upcoming 30-something novels can we expect to use LCD Soundsystem's final show as a metaphor for something?"

Under African Skies (released in June), the story behind the creation of Paul Simon’s Graceland album, on the other hand is a film that promises to put the band back together, 25 years on, for one last hurrah. Again the trailer features a series of radio voiceovers, alluding to the album’s success and the social, political and racial controversy that surrounded its creation in Apartheid era South Africa.

Three releases in as many months seems ample evidence of the growing popularity of music biopics and documentaries. And that’s discounting, (due to matters of taste), the forthcoming Elton John film, rumoured to be starring Justin Timberlake and set during the singer’s obligatory rehab phase. If there's any justice that will be a straight to DVD release. Music journalism is derided in certain circles for it's irrelevance, “like dancing about architecture” as Elvis Costello put it, most likely, after a less than enthusiastic review. Undoubtedly the difficulty encountered when writing about sounds does tend to encourage a certain nonsensical vernacular - with bands usually described, like dogs at Cruft's, as the product of cross-breeding between two unrelated musical acts. Perhaps finally then, music biopics can put this archaism behind us and become the preferred medium for telling the story behind the stars; introducing fans of old music to new films and vice-versa.