Farewell, Glastonbury’s plastic portable toilets: organic loos offer sweet relief

Andrew Radion | ,

Festival organisers promise more fragrant alternative after phasing out old-style toilets

Farewell, Glastonbury’s plastic portable toilets: organic loos offer sweet relief
The new compost toilets at Worthy Farm, Glastonbury. Photograph: Guy Bell/Rex/Shutterstock

For decades they have been the worst part of Glastonbury, and an inevitable talking point among the traumatised revellers who dare to enter them. But no more. The plastic portable toilet is on the way out at this year’s festival, which starts on Wednesday, after organisers decided it was causing too much anguish.

The portable toilets – last year there were 3,000 on site – have been replaced almost entirely by organic compost toilets designed to minimise smells. These are supplemented by open-air “long drop” toilets.

The festival management team felt the plastic “Tardis-like” toilet had passed its sell-by date. There was particular concern at how the toilets filled up too quickly and frequently overflowed.

Jane Healy, Glastonbury’s sanitation manager, said: “The old plastic Tardis style is gone. Toilets have always been a massive talking point, and no one ever talks about toilets in everyone’s day-to-day life, but as soon as they get to a festival that’s all they want to talk about.

“The horror stories around the portable toilets often involved the ‘pyramid of poo’. When you went in, you had this pile of poo. They filled up so quickly that they become unusable. You don’t get that with the compost toilets because of the nature of the bins.”

Healy said the inspiration for the replacement of the portable toilets with 1,300 compost toilets and 2,500 long drops came from a trip to a massive festival at Indore, India, where the organisers have to provide 40,000 toilets to deal with 50 million visitors over a month. “We wanted to see similarities between the two and how they coped. It would be the equivalent of the entire population of England coming to Glastonbury for a month.”

She said feedback about the compost toilets at other festivals had been universally positive. “People comment on the change, how they don’t smell, how they don’t have that horrible toilet experience which is so connected to not just Glastonbury but most outdoor events.”

To sweeten their appeal, the toilets will be adorned with street art and graffiti to reflect each location within the Glastonbury site. But the upgrade in sanitation has led to calls for revellers to resist urinating outside the toilets.

Early weather reports for next weekend predict only light rain showers interspersed with sunshine. On Thursday full details of Glastonbury’s plans to commemorate David Bowie, Prince and Lemmy were revealed, including sculptures in honour of each of them, a 50-piece orchestral performance and a DJ set offering the 177,000 crowd a chance to both mourn and celebrate the three stars, who all died in the last six months.

Salim Mehajer says his wedding video is in same league as The Godfather

Andrew Radion | , , ,

Flamboyant former deputy mayor of Auburn is being investigated over allegations council planning decisions benefited him and his family members

Salim Mehajer says his wedding video is in same league as The Godfather

Auburn’s flamboyant former deputy mayor Salim Mehajer has put his wedding video in the same category as films like The Godfather and Apocalypse Now at an inquiry into alleged controversial council decisions.

The Auburn City Council Public Inquiry is investigating allegations some councillors, including Mehajer, made planning and development decisions that benefited themselves and family members before they were sacked in February.

Mehajer was on Friday asked about his August 2015 wedding which involved four helicopters and a cavalcade of sports cars.

The inquiry heard he made an application to have part of his Lidcombe Street closed for the purposes of making a “feature film” after doubts arose about whether roads could be blocked for a wedding.

Mehajer, who is also a property developer, maintained the re-categorisation was justified and offered to show the 45-second trailer to the inquiry.

“A feature film is The Godfather isn’t it, Apocalypse Now?,” counsel assisting the commissioner Paul Bolster said.

“I got my very own feature film, I guess,” Mehajer said with a smile.

The inquiry has previously heard former deputy general manager of the council, Hamish McNulty thought only one helicopter was going to be involved in the wedding until the night before the extravagant celebration.

But Mehajer said he always intended to have more than one and would have included more if logistics allowed.

“Four [helicopters] was limited to the space we had,” he said.

Mehajer, who denied knowing there had been an issue with the number of helicopters used in his wedding, did not answer journalists’ questions as he left the inquiry and got into a Porsche.

On the stand, he denied lobbying a councillor to change his mind about returning half of a $650,000 deposit his company had put on a council-owned car park.

He also denied a decision before he was a councillor not to extend a time limit he needed to secure the contract made him decide to run in the election.

Both the deposit refund and extension of time were granted while Mehajer was in council.

McNulty has said the council originally understood Mehajer wanted to have a helicopter land on a street but was given advice that would not be approved.

The inquiry is expected to continue next month.

Ricky Gervais goes on tour in new David Brent: Life on the Road movie trailer

Andrew Radion | , , ,

The former office manager is now a travelling salesman and part of a band in this big screen follow-up to the award-winning sitcom The Office

Ricky Gervais goes on tour in new David Brent: Life on the Road movie trailer
‘It’s not The Office. It mustn’t be. That was very then’ … Ricky Gervais on his David Brent movie. Photograph: YouTube

Ricky Gervais’ award-winning comic creation is heading to the big screen in David Brent: Life on the Road.

The first full trailer has arrived for the film, which catches up with Brent, now a travelling salesman, as he heads on the road with his band Foregone Conclusion.

It’s the first cinematic outing for Brent, initially introduced in The Office but resurrected in the years since for Comic Relief skits as well as a YouTube web series about learning the guitar.

Gervais has been keen to stress that the film is not a continuation of his hit BBC sitcom. “[Brent] thinks this is like Martin Scorsese following the Rolling Stones around,” he said to BBC Radio 5 Live. “Whereas it’s really a ‘Where are they now?’ file. It’s not The Office. It mustn’t be. That was very then.”

The film has been picked up in the US by Netflix after Gervais recently directed, wrote and starred in their original comedy Special Correspondents, which received largely negative reviews and a 13% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

David Brent: Life on the Road will be in UK cinemas on 19 August.

Expert testifies Stairway to Heaven chord progression used 300 years ago

Andrew Radion | , ,

Former bandmate says Jimmy Page never mentioned American band Spirit, whose song Led Zeppelin is accused of stealing a riff from

Expert testifies Stairway to Heaven chord progression used 300 years ago
Led Zeppelin lead singer Robert Plant (left) and guitarist Jimmy Page. Photograph: STAFF/Reuters

Led Zeppelin’s attorneys on Friday brought in music expert Lawrence Ferrara, who testified that the only similarity between Taurus and Stairway to Heaven was a “descending chromatic minor line progression”.

Ferrara said that musical element was used 300 years ago, as well as in many pop songs since then.

Also on Friday, Led Zeppelin musician John Paul Jones testified that his former bandmate Jimmy Page had never mentioned American band Spirit, whose song Led Zeppelin is being accused of stealing a riff from its 1971 hit Stairway to Heaven.

Jones, 70, appeared in federal court in Los Angeles on Friday in a copyright infringement trial in which the British rock band is accused of copying the opening riff to Stairway to Heaven from the 1967 instrumental Taurus by Spirit.

When asked if guitarist Page, the co-writer of Stairway, had ever mentioned Spirit, Jones said no.

Jones also said that he himself had never heard of Spirit until the current lawsuit that was brought in 2014 by Michael Skidmore, a trustee for Randy Wolfe, the late guitarist of Spirit and composer of Taurus.

The lawsuit seeks a writing credit for Wolfe on the song and damages in an amount to be proven at trial.

Lawyers for Skidmore on Friday called Michael Einhorn, an expert on music royalties, to testify about damages related to the case. Einhorn said Plant and Page have made $58.5m in total as composers of Stairway to Heaven.

The trial has been closely watched this week as Page, 72, and Plant, 67, attended court, both wearing suits with their long silver hair tied into ponytails.

Page took the witness stand on Wednesday and Thursday and was questioned on whether there were any similarities between Stairway to Heaven and Taurus.

The British musician said he did not recall hearing Taurus until recently, after he had been made aware of comparisons being made between the two songs.

He also testified that the descending chromatic structure of the guitar riff at the center of the lawsuit is heard in numerous other songs, including Chim Chim Cher-ee from the 1964 Disney film Mary Poppins.

Earlier in the trial, Skidmore’s lawyers simultaneously showed the jury two video clips of expert Kevin Hanson playing the openings of both songs. Hanson said the two clips “play together as one piece of music. It is not discordant”.

Leonardo DiCaprio ordered to testify in $15m Wolf of Wall Street lawsuit

Andrew Radion | , , ,

Leonardo DiCaprio will appear in court over claims that the depiction of a supporting character in Martin Scorsese’s fact-based comedy has resulted in libel

Leonardo DiCaprio ordered to testify in $15m Wolf of Wall Street lawsuit
Witness … Leonardo DiCaprio. Photograph: Steve Granitz/WireImage

Leonardo DiCaprio has been ordered by a judge to give testimony in a lawsuit surrounding 2013 comedy The Wolf of Wall Street.

Andrew Greene, a former associate of the film’s subject Jordan Belfort, has claimed that a supporting character, presented as a “criminal” and “degenerate”, is loosely based on him. He’s now suing producers, including Paramount Pictures, for $15m (£10.5m).

A judge has already rejected claims of defamation, but has allowed Greene to amend his initial objection to malicious libel.

Greene’s lawyers have been trying to depose DiCaprio but he has been “too busy”, and the defendants have stated that the testimonies of director Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Terence Winter should suffice. But his involvement as a producer has led to judge Steven Locke requiring him to testify “at a reasonable time and place agreed to by the parties”.

Greene, a childhood friend and ex-colleague of Belfort, believes that Nicky “Rugrat” Koskoff is modelled after him. The character is played by PJ Byrne; Greene claims the portrayal repeatedly mocked his hairpiece, as well as depicting the character as a drug user.

“The motion picture’s scenes concerning Mr Greene were false, defamatory, and fundamentally injurious to Mr Greene’s professional reputation, both as an attorney and as an investment banker/venture capitalist, as well as his personal reputation,” the suit says.

The Wolf of Wall Street tells the true story of stockbroker Jordan Belfort and the excesses that ultimately led to his downfall and arrest.

Gary Barlow teams up with BBC for Take That talent show Let It Shine

Andrew Radion | , , , , , ,

Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc will present Saturday night contest seeking stars for stage show

Gary Barlow teams up with BBC for Take That talent show Let It Shine
Gary Barlow is teaming up with hosts Graham Norton and Mel Giedroyc for BBC talent show Let It Shine. Photograph: Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns

The BBC has turned to Gary Barlow in its hunt for the next Saturday night hit as he attempts to find a new Take That to take part in a Mamma Mia-style stage musical.

Let It Shine will be presented by Graham Norton and The Great British Bake Off’s Mel Giedroyc.

With distinct echoes of BBC1’s Andrew Lloyd Webber shows such as I’d Do Anything – also fronted by Norton – the new show will put together a group to join new stage show The Band, featuring the music of Take That.

The musical has been created in association with Barlow and his Take That bandmates Mark Owen and Howard Donald.

The BBC will hope it will help fill the hole left by another of its Saturday night talent shows, The Voice, which it lost to ITV.

BBC1 has struggled to come up with new Saturday entertainment formats, with flops including celebrity gymnastics show Tumble and big-budget adventure gameshow Prized Apart.

Culture secretary John Whittingdale has criticised BBC1 for not being distinctive enough. It remains to be seen if the Barlow show will pass this test.

It is at least not a bought-in format, like The Voice, which prompted much criticism of the BBC by MPs, and will be made in-house by BBC Studios.

It may also attract some of the criticism levelled at Lloyd Webber’s Saturday night shows for BBC1, which also included Any Dream Will Do and Over The Rainbow.

Critics said the BBC was serving Lloyd Webber’s commercial interests by devoting a sizeable chunk of its Saturday night schedule to a programme about one of his shows.

Actor and theatre director Kevin Spacey was among the most prominent critics, saying the Lloyd Webber shows unfairly distorted the West End theatre market.

“I felt that was essentially a 13-week promotion for a musical – where’s our 13-week programme?” Spacey said in an interview in 2008 in which he said they were “crossing the line” and “unfair”.

Unlike the Lloyd Webber shows, the Take That musical will start out as a touring production. The BBC has no commercial stake in the stage show.

Contestants do not have to be lookalikes to have a hope of winning because the show is a story which features Take That songs, rather than the story of Take That.

The show may also pose a few interesting diversity questions for the BBC, including whether women can take part (the band is expected to be all-male).

Barlow said: “Back in 1989, we were just a group of normal guys from Manchester who came together to become Take That.

“The secret to our success was that each of us brought something different to the group and that the five of us had real chemistry.”

He added: “Now with Let It Shine we’re looking for people from all walks of life to form another unique group who can recreate that magic.

“If you think you’ve got what it takes, we want to see it.”

Over eight weeks of competition, Barlow and three mentors will be looking for talented individuals to form a new group exuding Take That’s showmanship and stage presence.

Co-presenter Norton said he was looking forward to helming the forthcoming series.

“The combination of the BBC, everyone’s favourite band and Saturday nights made this an offer I simply couldn’t refuse,” he said.

Norton added: “If I wasn’t a part of Let It Shine I know I would be watching it at home – this way I just get the best seat in the house.”

Giedroyc, who will soon be back on screen co-hosting The Great British Bake Off with Sue Perkins, said Let It Shine will be “utterly spectacular”.

“This show brings together so many of the things I love – singing, dancing, Gary Barlow and Graham Norton. What’s not to love?”

Giedroyc continued: “I can’t wait to meet the singers and see the performances which I know will be utterly spectacular.

“If you know someone who’s got the moves, whether they already sing in the shower or on the stage, we want to see them.”

Charlotte Moore, BBC controller of TV Channels and iPlayer, said: “BBC1’s new Saturday night show will bring families together to celebrate Britain’s love of musical theatre, combining singing, performance and dance in a hotly contested search to find a new group.

“Masterminded by Gary Barlow, our hosts will guide viewers through eight weeks of unmissable competition, all to win a dream place in a new stage show.”

Lady Gaga set to take over from Beyoncé in A Star is Born remake

Andrew Radion | , , ,

Gaga is rumored to be nearing a deal to lead Bradley Cooper’s directorial debut, in which he would also star

Lady Gaga set to take over from Beyoncé in A Star is Born remake
Lady Gaga: a star reborn? Photograph: Ian West/PA

It appears that Lady Gaga has lined up her next major acting gig.

The singer, who recently won a Golden Globe for her work on American Horror Story: Hotel, is said to be nearing a deal to take on the lead role initially offered to Beyoncé in a remake of A Star is Born. According to Deadline, Gaga screen-tested successfully, and is director Bradley Cooper’s first choice for the project.

The film would see Gaga take on a part played by Janet Gaynor, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand over the years: an aspiring young actor on the cusp of fame. Cooper would also star in the film as the troubled, alcoholic movie star who helps her achieve her dreams.

Cooper’s remake, which marks his directorial debut, was to have initially been filmed by his American Sniper director, Clint Eastwood, with Beyoncé in the lead. Eastwood left the project in 2011 to make Jersey Boys. Beyoncé allegedly followed suit in March, after Cooper and Warner Bros balked at her asking fee. Deadline reports that the film will be made for around $30m, a relatively low budget by today’s studio standards.

Prior to starring in American Horror Story, Gaga had small appearances in Sin City: A Dame to Kill For, Machete Kills and Muppets Most Wanted. It was announced at the Cannes film festival in May that she was to play Cilla Black in a biography of singer Dionne Warwick, but Gaga subsequently denied her involvement.

She is next slated to return to American Horror Story for its sixth season.

Glastonbury tributes to Bowie, Prince and Lemmy revealed

Andrew Radion | , , , , , , ,

A 50-piece orchestral performance, a DJ set and giant sculptures in honour of each of them among the plans

Glastonbury tributes to Bowie, Prince and Lemmy revealed
The Glastonbury crowd is reflected in Lemmy’s sunglasses as he plays the festival six months before his death. Photograph: Samir Hussein/Redferns/Getty

Full details of Glastonbury’s plans to commemorate David Bowie, Prince and Lemmy have been revealed, including sculptures in honour of each of them, a 50-piece orchestral performance and a DJ set.

The festival’s co-organiser, Emily Eavis, had previously hinted that the event would honour the three stars, who died in the last six months, giving the 177,000 crowd a chance to both mourn and celebrate.

Eavis has commissioned the counter-culture sculptor Joe Rush, who has created artworks for the Glastonbury site for years, to build a giant Ziggy Stardust lightening bolt across the top of the Pyramid stage, where bands including Coldplay and Adele will perform. It will be flanked by a giant set of silver wings and emblazoned, in the middle, with an open grey eye.

“It felt important to capture Bowie’s very particular eye, which was such a part of his look”, said Rush. “But I also really liked the idea of Bowie looking out and watching over the whole festival. And if we are going to have an eye in the pyramid, it should be Bowie’s eye.”

To commemorate Motörhead’s frontman Lemmy, who finally performed at Glastonbury last year before his death in December, Rush has built a vast structure for the Other stage. The sculpture will be a peace sign formed of spanners, adorned with an aluminium ace of spades, a v-twin engine and a vast set of shiny black ram’s horns.

In a fitting nod to Prince’s flamboyance, Rush has built a statue almost four metres tall for the Park area of the festival. It will take the form of a giant glittery hand carrying a purple crown with a white dove flying from the top.

He said: “People do need to have these places to come to, especially for an artist who has really affected or shaped their life, and pay tribute. Particularly at Glastonbury, where you have so many music fans gathered in one place, it feels important to give these artists the recognition of the fact that they are our heroes.”

There will also be musical tributes to Bowie and Prince over the weekend, the most ambitious of which will take place at midnight on Saturday, when a 50-piece orchestra dressed entirely in white will perform Philip Glass’s fourth symphony, which is based on Bowie’s album Heroes.

It is the first time a classical act has headlined a stage and the performance will be accompanied by a laser light show created by Chris Levine.

Charles Hazelwood, who will conduct the orchestra, said he had wanted to create a tribute to Bowie that was not mawkish but instead in the “spirit of the man himself”, while not simply putting on a tribute band playing old Bowie covers.

“Bowie was a massive fan of Glass’s and said on many occasions that he was one of his most important influences, so this seemed perfect,” he said. “If you look back to that amazing set that Bowie did in 2000, the standalone moment was when he sang Heroes. So there’s something so beautifully pertinent about bringing back not just the song, but the album re-imagined through Glass.”

He said Glass was very excited about the performance. “This is after all the other stages have fallen silent, so there will be a sense of a vigil, of a happening of a pilgrimage, of people flocking here to just absorb this moment, and I think it will be a really magical midnight experience,” Hazelgrove said.

The Hot Chip frontman Alexis Taylor, will pay tribute to Prince by playing a DJ set dedicated to the singer at the Block 9 stage on Friday night.

“I like the idea of it being somewhere that amongst everything that goes on at Glastonbury, this can be a moment where people come together to celebrate that legacy of music,” Taylor said.

“I found it quite hard initially when he died to listen to Prince because when you feel sad in that way, you expect to listen to sad sorrowful music, but there isn’t so much of that in Prince. But I think this set is a decent enough time after the event to be in a more party frame of mind.”

Taylor, a lifelong Prince fan, said his set would include some of his biggest tracks, such as Controversy, Raspberry Beret, Sign of the Times and Little Red Corvette, as well as obscurities such as an early demo of Irresistible Bitch and a track called Cloreen Bacon Skin.

“With Prince’s catalogue being so full of life and spark and energy, it feel like a nice way to celebrate him. It’s very joyous music, very passionate music,” he said.

Nicole Kidman to join Colin Farrell in Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos' thriller

Andrew Radion | , , ,

The Oscar-winner Nicole Kidman is in talks to play the Irish actor’s wife in supernatural revenge film The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Nicole Kidman to join Colin Farrell in Lobster director Yorgos Lanthimos' thriller
Lined up for Lanthimos’ latest … Nicole Kidman. Photograph: Paul Zimmerman/WireImage

Nicole Kidman is in talks to join Colin Farrell in the new psychological thriller from Yorgos Lanthimos.

The Greek film-maker, who made his English language debut with dystopian dating satire The Lobster, has also co-written the project, titled The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, Kidman is set to star as the wife of Farrell’s character, a surgeon who is compelled to make a sacrifice after a teenager he has brought into his family starts exhibiting sinister behaviour. There is also reported to be a supernatural element to the film.

The Lobster became an arthouse hit in the US last month and has already made over $5m (£3.5m) after receiving positive reviews at last year’s Cannes film festival. Lanthimos is also set to make The Favourite, a period drama starring Olivia Colman, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz, which will focus on Queen Anne during the end of the 17th century.

Kidman was recently seen opposite Chiwetel Ejiofor and Julia Roberts in thriller remake Secret in Their Eyes and with Colin Firth and Jude Law in literary biopic Genius. Later this year, she has roles with Dev Patel in Lion and Elle Fanning in How to Talk to Girls at Parties as well as dark HBO comedy Big Little Lies with Reese Witherspoon and the second season of Jane Campion’s Top of the Lake.

This week has also seen news that she is set to reprise her role of scientist Rosalind Franklin in the big-screen adaptation of the acclaimed play Photograph 51.

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page denies stealing guitar riff in Stairway to Heaven

Andrew Radion | ,
  • Guitarist testified he hadn’t heard the song Taurus until a few years ago

  • Lawyer says chords that begins Stairway were lifted from the Spirit tune

Led Zeppelin's Jimmy Page denies stealing guitar riff in Stairway to Heaven

The Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page testified on Wednesday that until a few years ago he had never heard a song that the megastar band is accused of ripping off for Stairway to Heaven.

“Something like that would stick in my mind. It was totally alien to me,” Page said of the instrumental song, Taurus, by the band Spirit.

A lawyer for the estate of Spirit’s late guitarist, Randy California, contends that the famous descending-chord guitar riff that begins 1971’s Stairway was lifted from the Spirit tune, which was released a few years earlier.

An eight-member jury is hearing the copyright infringement case in federal court. Jurors must decide whether the two sequences are substantially similar.

Earlier in the day, former Spirit member Mark Andes testified that riffs from both songs, played by an acoustic guitarist on a video aired in court, were the same.

Musical experts not involved in the case have said the sequence is common and has appeared in other pieces from decades and even centuries ago.

Page, clad in a dark gray suit, a vest and tie and wearing his white hair in a ponytail, acknowledged that he had three Spirit albums in his collection of some 10,000 record albums and CDs.

But Page said he only discovered he had Spirit’s first album, which contained Taurus, a few years ago after his son-in-law told him that comparisons with Stairway were cropping up online.

Page acknowledged that Led Zeppelin used a riff from another Spirit song in a medley during their first tour in Scandinavia but Page said he had heard it on the radio – and never heard Taurus.

In his testimony, Andes said Spirit played Taurus in 1968 at a Denver show where Zeppelin was the opening act, and that in 1970 he and Zeppelin singer Robert Plant drank beer and played the billiards-like game snooker after a Spirit show in Birmingham, England.

“Yeah, we hung out. We had a blast,” Andes said.

US district judge R Gary Klausner ruled in April that evidence presented in hearings made a credible case that Led Zeppelin may have heard Taurus performed before their song was created.

Plant and bandmate John Paul Jones are expected to testify at the trial, though Jones has been dismissed as a defendant in the case.

Led Zeppelin has settled several similar copyright disputes over songs such as Whole Lotta Love and Dazed and Confused, but the judge has barred a lawyer for the late Spirit guitarist from introducing evidence from those cases.

Stairway to Heaven has generated hundreds of millions of dollars over the years.

Jackie Chan: Warcraft's success in China scares Americans

Andrew Radion | , , , , ,

Jackie Chan says fantasy adventure’s £156m gross during its first week will cause an influx of Chinese-language blockbusters

Jackie Chan: Warcraft's success in China scares Americans
‘People from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese’ … Jackie Chan. Photograph: VCG via Getty Images

Jackie Chan thinks the success in China of video game adaptation Warcraft: The Beginning could lead to an increase in homegrown blockbusters.

The $160m (£113m) film, which grossed a mere $24.4m in the US its opening weekend, surprised analysts with $156m at the Chinese box office from its first five days in cinemas.

Speaking this weekend at the Shanghai film festival, Chan said the result will worry Hollywood execs. “Warcraft made 600m yuan [£64m] in two days. This has scared the Americans. If we can make a film that earns 10bn [£1bn], then people from all over the world who study film will learn Chinese, instead of us learning English.”

The annual gross of China’s box office is expected to surpass North America, according to the Hollywood Reporter. The popularity of blockbusters in China and financing from companies there have influenced both where some blockbusters are filmed and who stars in them. Transformers: Age of Extinction, for example, was partly funded by the China Movie Channel, which led to Li Bingbing joining the cast and part of the film being set in Hong Kong. Iron Man 3, meanwhile, added footage for Chinese audiences that included the Chinese actor Fan Bingbing.

A sequel to Pacific Rim, which underperformed in the US, was greenlit after it became a hit in China. Pacific Rim and Warcraft were produced by Legendary Pictures, which the Chinese company Dalian Wanda Group bought in January for a reported $3.5bn.

Trent Reznor: YouTube is built on the back of stolen content

Andrew Radion | , , , , , , , , ,

Nine Inch Nails musician and Apple Music executive joins music industry’s debate over Google’s video service: ‘I find YouTube’s business to be very disingenuous’

Trent Reznor: YouTube is built on the back of stolen content
Trent Reznor is not a fan of YouTube and its approach to music rights. Photograph: David Wolff – Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images

Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor is the latest artist to join the music industry’s war of words with YouTube, attacking Google’s video service over the role it plays for musicians.

“I find YouTube’s business to be very disingenuous. It is built on the backs of free, stolen content and that’s how they got that big,” said Reznor in an interview with Billboard.

Reznor was not speaking purely as an artist, however. He is also chief creative officer at Apple Music, the streaming service launched by Apple in 2015, which is one of the key rivals to YouTube in the digital music world.

“I think any free-tiered service is not fair. It’s making their numbers and getting them a big IPO and it is built on the back of my work and that of my peers. That’s how I feel about it. Strongly,” said Reznor, widening his criticism to other rivals like Spotify in the process.

YouTube has faced a barrage of criticism from musicians and music-industry bodies in 2016, as part of a campaign in the US and Europe to rework copyright legislation that grants the service “safe harbour” status when users upload copyrighted material without the permission of the rights owners.

Rightsholders have also argued that YouTube’s vast catalogue of free music could impede the growth of paid music-streaming subscription services like Apple Music and Spotify’s premium tier – important context to Reznor’s comments, given his role.

In its most recent public statement, following an open letter to Alphabet boss Larry Page from rock band Sixx:AM, YouTube indicated that the criticism is having an impact on the company’s plans.

“The voices of the artists are being heard, and we’re working through details with the labels and independent music organisations who directly manage the deals with us,” a spokesperson said.

“Having said that, YouTube has paid out over $3bn (£2.1bn) to the music industry, despite being a platform that caters to largely light music listeners who spend an average of one hour per month consuming music – far less than an average Spotify or Apple Music user. Any comparisons of revenue from these platforms are apples and oranges.”

 

Former Wings guitarist Henry McCullough dies, aged 72

Andrew Radion | , ,

The Ulsterman also played with Joe Cocker’s Grease Band, as well as Marianne Faithfull and Donovan

Former Wings guitarist Henry McCullough dies, aged 72
Henry McCullough … ‘A super talented musician.’ Photograph: Ronnie Norton/PA

Henry McCullough, who played guitar in Paul McCartney’s band Wings, has died. He was 72.

His live music agent Nigel Martyn said McCullough died on Tuesday after a long illness. He said the guitarist never fully recovered from a severe heart attack suffered four years ago.

McCullough played with the Grease Band with Joe Cocker at Woodstock, and worked at various times with Marianne Faithfull and Donovan, and he also appeared on the original cast recording of Jesus Christ Superstar.

The Northern Irelander was recruited to join the second version of Wings in 1971, and his guitar solo on My Love on the album Red Rose Speedway marked a career peak. He improvised it in a single take.

With music, sometimes you come across something and it’s a gift from God and it’s channeled through you,” he said in a 2011 interview with the website Pennyblackmusic. “I swear, I never heard those notes before that way.”

McCullough, who also played on the single of Live and Let Die, walked out of Wings in July 1973 after clashing with McCartney.

The rift was patched up in later years. “Just because there’s a little hiccup along the way, it doesn’t take away from what you’ve built up,” he said in a 2011 interview with the website Musiclegends.

McCartney paid tribute to his former bandmate. “He was a pleasure to work with, a super talented musician with a lovely sense of humour,” the former Beatle said in a statement. He said McCullough’s solo on My Love was a “classic that he made up on the spot” in front of a live orchestra.

McCullough also worked with George Harrison’s Dark Horse label, which produced his solo album Mind Your Own Business in 1975.

During his time with Wings, McCullough was one of the people whose voices are heard answering questions at the end of Pink Floyd’s song Money from the album The Dark Side of the Moon. His contribution: “I don’t know, I was really drunk at the time.”

McCullough grew up in Portstewart on the north coast of Northern Ireland, and one of his earliest musical memories was of the power of the singing at his mother’s church. “The choir would be singing all these harmonies and it would scare me half to death,” he said.

His reaction to the church was summed up in Failed Christian, one of the few songs he composed. In the song he said: “I’m going to meet my maker / A firm believer / Of spirit in music / There’s a prayer in a song.”

McCullough remained active on the music scene until the heart attack in November 2012.

“Always open for offers, you know,” he told Musiclegends. “It’s the only way I know to make any money, to be honest with you.”

Legendary producer and songwriter Chips Moman dies, aged 79

Andrew Radion | , , ,

He produced arguably Elvis’s best album, helped write some of soul music’s enduring classics, and won a Grammy for his country work

Legendary producer and songwriter Chips Moman dies, aged 79
Chips Moman … Hero of American music. Photograph: Fiona Hanson/PA

Lincoln “Chips” Moman – the producer, musician and songwriter who helped Elvis Presley engineer a musical comeback in the late 1960s and then moved to Nashville to record Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard and other top country performers, as well as co-writing some of the best loved soul songs of all time – died on Monday in LaGrange, Georgia. He was 79.

Donny Turner, a family friend who spoke with his wife, Jane, said Moman died at a hospice facility after a lengthy struggle with lung disease.

A fixture for decades in the Southern music scene, Moman hitchhiked from Georgia to Memphis as a teenager and worked at the fledgling Stax Records in the 1950s. He produced some of first hits for the famous label, including Last Night by the Mar-Keys, Gee Whiz by Carla Thomas and You Don’t Miss Your Water by William Bell.

He started his own studio, American Sound Studio, and formed the Memphis Boys studio band, which helped define the funky, down-to-earth Memphis sound of the 1960s. He helped produce hits from the Gentrys, BJ Thomas and Neil Diamond. With Dan Penn, he co-wrote the soul classics Dark End of the Street, a hit for James Carr and Do Right Woman, Do Right Man, a hit for Aretha Franklin.

One of his most notable collaborations was with Presley. For much of the 60s, Elvis had turned out soundtrack albums as pallid as the movies they were derived from. But by the end of the decade, Presley was anxious to challenge himself and chose the American Sound Studio for his intended comeback, with Moman producing.

The result was a prolific and productive session, with Presley re-establishing his mastery of soul, gospel, country and blues and showing he could keep up with the latest sounds. The album From Elvis in Memphis, released in 1969, received some of the best reviews of his career and was followed a year later by Back in Memphis. Hit singles included Kentucky Rain, In the Ghetto and what became the signature song of the latter part of Presley’s career, the chart-topping Suspicious Minds.

Moman left Memphis in 1972 and tried to start again in Atlanta, but when that didn’t work out, he moved to Nashville. There, he continued his streak of musical success by writing and recording for country artists.

He earned a Grammy in 1976 for co-writing the country song (Hey Won’t You Play) Another Somebody Done Somebody Wrong Song, a hit for BJ Thomas, and also wrote Luckenbach, Texas, recorded first by Waylon Jennings.

He produced Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow up to Be Cowboys for Jennings and Willie Nelson, Pancho and Lefty for Nelson and Merle Haggard, and persuaded Nelson to record a cover of You Were Always on My Mind, which became one of Nelson’s biggest hits and earned him a Grammy for country vocal performance of the year.

In 1985 Moman produced the first and most successful studio recordings of the country supergroup the Highwaymen, featuring Kris Kristofferson, Johnny Cash, Jennings and Nelson.

He went back to Memphis in 1985 briefly, lured by the city’s mayor with financial incentives in the hope of revitalising the city’s music scene. There he produced the Class of ’55 recording sessions featuring Jerry Lee Lewis, Cash, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison.

He is survived by his wife, his daughter Monique and son Casey.

2016 summer box office falls 22% on past record-breaking year

Andrew Radion | , , ,

With no blockbusters to rival Jurassic World, failing sequels blamed for poor start to summer season in North America

2016 summer box office falls 22% on past record-breaking year
Down but not out: not all sequels have bombed in North America this year. Photograph: YouTube

Blockbuster season has got off to a shaky start with US profits down 14% between 1 May and 14 June compared to the same period last year, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

The downturn was predicted by industry analysts in late 2015, after hits like Jurassic World, Fast & Furious 7 and Minions helped drive a summer season that lead to the year being a record-breaker at the global box office.

Twelve months ago, Jurassic World was on its way to a $524.9m global take in its opening weekend, the highest on record until Star Wars: The Force Awakens posted a bigger tally in December. In comparison the global box office this weekend, lead by the video game adaptation Warcraft, is down 44%.

2016 summer box office falls 22% on past record-breaking year
Off target … The Huntsman: Winter’s War was a disappointing performer. Photograph: Universal Pictures

The summer season was kicked off this year by the release of Captain America: Civil War on 6 May. Bringing 2016’s tally forward a week increases the difference between this year and last to a 22% loss.

“No matter how you slice or dice the calendar, there is no question that the summer of 2016 thus far has been a bit of a bummer, with the underperformers outnumbering the overperformers, and a general malaise that has struck the early part of this most important movie-going season,” comScore box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian told the Hollywood Reporter.

He went on to blame failing sequels for the slump, a theory that was put forward by commentators from the main trade papers last week. Big budget seconds that failed to make the same impact as the original include Alice Through the Looking Glass and The Huntsman: Winter’s War. But, more recently The Conjuring 2 and Now You See Me 2 posted opening weekend takes equal to their source material, suggesting the industry’s bout of “sequelitus” was not as severe as some had feared.