Jonathan Ashby, music journalist who founded a news agency

13 Jul

Jonathan Ashby, music journalist who founded a news agency

Fleet Street reporter who used his knowledge of rock to good effect

Jonathan Ashby, music journalist who founded a news agency
Jonathan Ashby, described as ‘a true media visionary’. Photograph: Family

Jonathan Ashby, a music journalist who founded the entertainment news agency WENN, has died at the age of 66.

I worked with him at the Sun, where he contributed to the Bizarre column, which was then headed by John Blake. He was a hugely enthusiastic pop music reporter with excellent contacts.

In a tribute to him on the Press Gazette site, a former colleague described him as a “true media visionary” for creating WENN (World Entertainment News Network).

He started it in the back room of his house in Barnet and saw it grow into a profitable international organisation, with offices in London, Los Angeles, New York and Berlin.

Ashby, born in Norwich, started his journalistic career at the city’s main newspaper, the East Anglian Daily Times. He moved to Spain for a while to teach English and play electric violin with a rock band.

On his return to England, he joined the Watford Observer before doing shifts and freelancing in Fleet Street, initially for the London Evening Standard, followed by the Sun and Daily Mirror.

He also acted as correspondent for the US-based ABC News and found himself regularly swapping stories with an American counterpart, Shelli Sonstein.

In 1988, when Blake was editor of the Sunday People, he gave Ashby his own celebrity rock column, Sunday Brunch. But his story-sharing partnership with Sonstein gave him the idea of launching a news agency.

So, the following year, he founded the World Rock News Network, which later became WENN. It soon established itself as a major supplier of music and show business-related news to outlets across the world, breaking many headline-making stories.

It later expanded to include photography, radio and TV divisions. Its current chairman Lloyd Beiny described Ashby was “a true media visionary”.

Ashby served as WENN’s chief executive until 2001, when he was forced to step down due to ill health. He had bipolar disorder, and became a committed mental health advocate by running an information network.

Blake told Press Gazette: “Jonathan was very eccentric but a fantastic journalist… a natural talent. He was a lovely, fabulous character… a proper old- fashioned hippy, very sweet-natured, kind and hard-working.”

A series of tributes have been posted on Ashby’s Facebook page. One of them, Sean Fitzpatrick, wrote: “I can still hear his instructions to ‘get outrage’. A legend.”

Ashby is survived by his former wife, Jackie, a co-owner and director of WENN, and two daughters, singer-songwriter Juliette and Jessica, a performer specialising in aerial acrobatics and skating.

*Jonathan’s family will be holding a private service to celebrate his life on Tuesday (19 July). Donations to the Bipolar Support Group set up by Jonathan would be welcome: MIND in Barnet, 55 Christchurch Avenue, London N12 0DG (reference ‘Jonathan Ashby’).

*Jonathan Clifford Ashby, born 12 July 1949; died 6 July 2016.

13 Jul

Police appeal after missing T in the Park man found dead

Body of James Richardson discovered near Forteviot, several miles from site of the festival at Strathallan Castle in Perthshire

Police appeal after missing T in the Park man found dead
The T in the Park campsite at Strathallan Castle, Perthshire. Photograph: Jane Barlow/PA

Police are appealing for information following the discovery of the body of a man who went missing after last weekend’s T in the Park festival in Perthshire, Scotland.

Police Scotland said the body of James Richardson, 29, was found near Forteviot on Tuesday morning, and the death was being treated as unexplained.

The father of three had not been heard from since he got off a bus leaving the Strathallan Castle festival site on Monday to smoke a cigarette and failed to get back onboard.

Officers are appealing for information from anyone who may have seen a man wearing a grey waterproof Regatta jacket, red shorts and black work boots near Forteviot between 2.15pm on Monday and 9.15am on Tuesday to contact Police Scotland on 101.

Police are continuing their inquiries into the possibly drug-related deaths of two teenagers and an alleged rape at Scotland’s biggest music festival.

Music fans leaving the festival on Monday were warned that a number of potentially toxic green Rolex-type pills had been recovered at the festival and that others may be in circulation.

In 2013 the green pills – some of which were found to contain the dangerous stimulant para-methoxyamphetamine, known as PMA – were linked to 15 deaths across Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Police Scotland said there was no evidence to link the pills, which are stamped with the distinctive Rolex crown, to the deaths of two 17-year-olds at the campsite on Friday.

The families of the two victims spoke of their losses on Wednesday.

Police Scotland can confirm that the two teenagers who died at T in the Park are Megan Bell, aged 17, from Sunderland and Peter McCallum, aged 17, from Lochgilphead.

The deaths are not being treated as suspicious and a report on the circumstances has been sent to the procurator fiscal.

The family of Peter McCallum said that he was a “kind and caring brother and son”, as well as a talented singer who had ambitions to become an architect.

“We hope that people, especially the younger members of society, learn a lesson from Peter’s death and that they don’t put their families through the devastation we are experiencing just now.”

The family of Megan Bell described their devastation at their loss. “Her death leaves an irreplaceable gap in our lives and she will be so sadly missed by all her family and friends.”

13 Jul

Theo Parrish 'embarrassed' at dance artists' failure to support Black Lives Matter

Deep house pioneer expresses regret at the lack of response from music genre ‘birthed in struggle’ following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile

Theo Parrish 'embarrassed' at dance artists' failure to support Black Lives Matter
‘How do you dance when we still swing from trees, when we still are murdered in front of our loved ones?’ wrote Theo Parrish in a Facebook post. Composite: Getty Images

The Detroit deep house veteran Theo Parrish has released a statement condemning the dance music world for its lack of support for the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of recent incidents of police brutality in the US.

In a Facebook post, the musician said that he was “overwhelmed” and “embarrassed at the lack of overt commentary from this art form”.

Written amid protests in both the US and UK following the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Parrish’s post goes on to question dance artists who perform their music, “when on the same weekend you’re playing, in the same city, a man just like you has quietly, arbitrarily, been silenced by one paid to protect him and the public?”

He concludes his statement with a final call to arms:

How do you dance when we still swing from trees, when we still are murdered in front of our loved ones, murdered while subdued and harmless? How do you dance when our very image as a people is used to manipulate sympathy for a system of belief that wants you and your children to be dead or in jail? You better. You better learn to listen with your body, you better play from your heart. It was a preference before, now it’s essential. Escapism has always been an adjective used to describe the dance. That’s an outsider’s view. Solidarity is what it really offers …

Parrish also uses his post to express how he is struck by the apathy from house artists given how the genre’s lineage is “rooted in reaction to racism, birthed in struggle”.

While now often regarded as a preserve for hedonists, house music’s origins lie in uniting communities who felt ostracised from mainstream American culture, the genre especially embraced by black and LGBT crowds. Frankie Knuckles famously described the Chicago Warehouse club in which the genre was founded as “a church for people who have fallen from grace”.

13 Jul

Jennifer Aniston takes on tabloids in scathing essay about pregnancy rumors

She’s rich, famous and thin – but the actor is fed up enough to take on the press, which has focused its lenses on her and her flat belly for ‘the bajillionth time’

Jennifer Aniston takes on tabloids in scathing essay about pregnancy rumors
The latest swirl of pregnancy rumors led Jennifer Aniston to erupt in the Huffington Post about the ‘body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of ‘journalism’’. Photograph: Allstar/Columbia Pictures

News flash No 1: no, Jennifer Aniston is not pregnant.

News flash No 2: if she ever is in the family way, she will tell you first, honest.

Now, will you just leave the woman alone?

Or as she put it in a scathing essay in the Huffington Post on Tuesday: “[Women] are complete with or without a mate, with or without a child. We get to decide for ourselves what is beautiful when it comes to our bodies … We don’t need to be married or mothers to be complete. We get to determine our own ‘happily ever after’ for ourselves.”

Yes, she’s rich. Yes, she’s famous. Yes, she’s talented. Yes, she’s thin. Thin enough so that every burrito becomes a baby bump shortly after swallowing.

But the actor is also fed up enough to take on the tabloid press, which has focused its many lenses on her and her very flat belly for “the bajillionth time … but who’s counting”.

And if Twitter is any indication, much of female Hollywood is firmly behind her. “AMEN!!!!!” was actor Anna Paquin’s short but emphatic response. “i loved this”, tweeted lower-key and lowercase singer Sara Bareilles. Comedian Margaret Cho: “Good for her!”

A few filled up most of the 140-character space with support, like singers Tegan and Sara, who piled on to the media-bashing with “YES. The media needs to cover REAL news. Stop shaming, stalking + grading womens bodies/lives”.

Responding to Aniston’s essay on Entertainment Tonight, actor Melissa McCarthy said she supporting Aniston’s stance “one hundred thousand billion percent”.

“Everyone needs to stop tearing down women,” McCarthy said. “It’s always about the way we look – saying, ‘He’s very interesting,’, ‘He’s a good writer,’ ‘She’s looking older than she was last time we saw her.’”

The latest swirl of pregnancy rumors led Aniston to erupt in the Huffington Post about the corrosive nature of the “sport-like scrutiny and body shaming that occurs daily under the guise of ‘journalism’, the ‘First Amendment’, and ‘celebrity news’”.

It’s not, she pointed out, that there hasn’t been other news to cover beyond her non-pregnancy, her non-divorce, and did we mention her non-pregnancy?

“In this last boring news cycle about my personal life,” she wrote, “there have been mass shootings, wildfires, major decisions by the Supreme Court, an upcoming election, and any number of more newsworthy issues that ‘journalists’ could dedicate their resources towards.”

Google “Jennifer Aniston kids” and the results are creative to say the least. She is variously “expecting a boy”, “adopting two girls”, “welcoming first child via surrogate” and, with husband Justin Theroux, has “decided to adopt kids to save their marriage”.

No wonder she’s annoyed.

Women like her – and you and your mom and your sister and your grandmother – are being judged daily, she writes, by a toxic standard of beauty and cultural norms that “define a woman’s value based on her marital and maternal status”.

In other words, you have to be thin. And pregnant.

“I used to tell myself that tabloids were like comic books, not to be taken seriously, just a soap opera for people to follow when they need a distraction,” she fumed. “But I really can’t tell myself that anymore because the reality is the stalking and objectification I’ve experienced first-hand, going on decades now, reflects the warped way we calculate a woman’s worth.”

At 47, Aniston is nearing the average of menopause for US women – not that that’s any of your business either. Although she does raise the reproductive issue in her rebuke to the tabloids: “Yes, I may be a mother some day, and since I’m laying it all out there, I’ll be the first to let you know. But I’m not in pursuit of motherhood because I feel incomplete in some way.”

Along with her anger, though, Aniston did express a sliver of hope that women – famous and otherwise – could actually fight back.

“We get to decide how much we buy into what’s being served up,” she wrote, “and maybe some day the tabloids will be forced to see the world through a different, more humanized lens because consumers have just stopped buying the bullshit.”

To quote a tweeting Keltie Knight, Canadian television presenter and former dancer for Beyoncé and Kanye: “Bravo #JenniferAniston (and for the record I also, just god-forbid ate a sandwich.)”

Meat Loaf goes on new fitness regime after collapsing on stage

The singer says he has lost 20lbs since incident in Canada last month and is due to start physical therapy and gym training sessions four times a week

Meat Loaf goes on new fitness regime after collapsing on stage
Meat Loaf … life changes. Photograph: Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters/Reuters

Meat Loaf has begun a diet and started a fitness regime in the wake of his onstage collapse during a gig in Canada last month. Meat Loaf fell to the floor while singing I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), during a show in Edmonton on 16 June.

He has now told Classic Rock magazine: “I’m OK. Weak. I’ve gotta go to physical therapy. I had back surgery and knee surgery within the last two years, and the knee surgery failed, so I haven’t been able to work out on tour. So I’m going to acupuncture, physical therapy, and a trainer, starting Monday for four days a week.”

He added that he had been on a diet and lost nearly 20lbs and intended to lose another 15 before coming to the UK to undertake promotional duties on 28 August.

Meat Loaf has had health-related gig problems before. In 2003, he had to abandon a show at Wembley after collapsing on stage, and had heart surgery the following week. In 2007, he stopped a show in Newcastle, later saying he had been using steroids and had been unable to continue. He told the crowd he was going to retire.

Meat Loaf had previously retired in 2003, and in 2013, when he told the Guardian: “This time they’re not going to rope me back in.” At that time, he told the Guardian of his health problems: “I’ve had 18 concussions,” he says. “My balance is off. I’ve had a knee replacement. I’ve got to have the other one replaced. Two weeks before the knee surgery, I literally couldn’t walk from the bedroom to the kitchen. They took me to the hospital in an ambulance to get my knee replaced. And when they did, it was so damaged and torn up it’s going to take a year to come back.”


Jennifer Lopez comes under fire for saying 'all lives matter' on Twitter

The performer included the controversial hashtag in a tweet to promote her Orlando charity single that she’s since taken down

Jennifer Lopez comes under fire for saying 'all lives matter' on Twitter
Jennifer Lopez also used the hashtag in a photograph posted on Instagram on Monday. Photograph: Raymond Hall/GC Images

Jennifer Lopez deleted on a tweet on Tuesday that contained the hashtag #AllLivesMatter.

The tweet also included the hashtag #LoveMaketheWorldGoRound, the title of her Orlando benefit song co-sung by Tony winner Lin-Manuel Miranda of Hamilton fame, as well as a photograph of the pair performing the track on Good Morning America.

The phrase #AllLivesMatter has been used as a counterargument to #BlackLivesMatter, though the latter phrase was inspired by the fact that the disproportionate numbers of black people killed by police in the US suggests black lives are less valued. #AllLivesMatter has been used by a range of people including those who profess themselves opponents of America’s new civil rights movement.

Twitter users were quick to call out Lopez for including the phrase in the post, probably prompting the quick removal of the tweet.

According to Page Six, the outlet that first reported the news, Lopez has yet to comment on the development.

As Refinery29 points out, this doesn’t mark the first time Lopez has used the controversial hashtag. In a photograph posted on Instagram on 11 July, again to promote the single, she included it in the caption.

The Cult’s singer, Ian Astbury, recently uttered the same phrase while performing at the RBC Bluesfest in Ottawa on 9 July, and on Tuesday apologized.

Astbury tweeted from the Cult’s account: “I sincerely and deeply apologize to everyone I offended by using the phrase ‘all lives matter’ … I fully support #blacklivesmatter and wished to show my solidarity. So disheartened to know that I have offended people of color. Thank you for enlightening me that this phrase is offensive.”

12 Jul

Ellen DeGeneres and BuzzFeed planning film about China's Brother Orange

In 2015, the story of a stolen iPhone went viral and led to a friendship forged on China’s Twitter. Now, the Finding Dory star is working on a film about it

Ellen DeGeneres and BuzzFeed planning film about China's Brother Orange
The future’s orange … Ellen DeGeneres. Photograph: Anthony Harvey/Getty Images

Ellen DeGeneres and BuzzFeed are working together on a film inspired by a series of articles about a stolen mobile phone, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

Brother Orange will take its cue from BuzzFeed editor Matt Stopera’s online response to having his iPhone stolen in 2014. When mysterious pictures started appearing in his photostream a year after the theft – most notably of a Chinese man in front of an orange tree – Stopera’s story went viral on Weibo, China’s answer to Twitter. Stopera then travelled to the Chinese city of Meizhou to meet “Brother Orange”, becoming something of a celebrity in China in the process. Brother Orange subsequently came to the US for a reciprocal visit, and the pair appeared on DeGeneres’s talkshow.

DeGeneres and Stopera will act as executive producers for the planned feature, which will tell the story of “an unlikely, accidental friendship that transcended cultural divides”. The project will be produced by BuzzFeed’s film development arm alongside Flagship Entertainment, a joint venture between Warner Bros and China Media Capital, which aims to make films that will appeal to the Chinese market.

12 Jul

"Zhara Festival" due in Baku 2016

Zhara Festival Baku
Zhara Festival Baku

Zhara Festival this summer residents of Baku and guests of the city will experience two extremely hot days!

For the first time more than 30 stars of Russian and Azerbaijani stage will perform on the ground of SEA BREEZE recreation center on July 9-10.
Blue sea, bright sun and the friendly atmosphere will help you relax and gain strength at the unforgettable nights surrounded by celebrities. The festival will surprise you with a number of star guests, including Valery Meladze, Nyusha, Grigory Leps, A-Studio, Nikolay Baskov, Valeriya, Polina Gagarina, Ani Lorak, EMIN, Glory, MBAND, IOWA and many others.
The organizers of the festival are: Azerbaijani singer Emin Agalarov, honored artist of the Russian Federation Grigory Leps and founder of the Russian radio award “Golden gramophone” Sergey Kozhevnikov.
Tickets for “ZHARA” fest can be bought at city offices and ASAN Xidmət branches.
The ticket prize is 30 – 350AZN.
For any information call +994 55 993 95 93, +994 12 310 00 04.

11 Jul

Warning after toxic green fake ecstasy pills found at T in the Park

Police say Rolex-stamped pills which were linked to several deaths in 2013 may be back in circulation

Warning after toxic green fake ecstasy pills found at T in the Park
Special ‘amnesty bins’ for revellers to dump their drugs in were stationed around the T in the Park festival site. Photograph: T in the Park/PA

Music fans leaving the T in the Park festival have been warned that a toxic batch of fake ecstasy pills may be in circulation while police continue their inquiries into the possibly drug-related deaths of two teenagers and an alleged rape at the Perthshire event.

As the Red Hot Chili Peppers closed the festival on Sunday evening, Police Scotland warned that a number of Green Rolex-type pills had been recovered at the festival and others that may be in circulation.

In 2013, the green pills – some of which were found to contain the dangerous stimulant para-Methoxyamphetamine, known as PMA – were linked to 15 deaths across Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Police Scotland said there was no evidence to link the pills, which are stamped with the distinctive Rolex crown, to the deaths of the two 17-year-olds at the campsite on Friday. The youngsters have been named locally as Megan Bell, from Seaham in County Durham, and Peter MacCallum, from Lochgilphead, Argyll.

The Guardian understands that this is the first time the potentially toxic pills have come to Police Scotland’s attention since the 2013 deaths, which led to warnings from police and drug agencies in Scotland and Northern Ireland. At the time, there were unconfirmed reports that drug dealers were burying their surplus supplies in order to introduce them back into circulation once concerns had faded. Police said inquiries were continuing as to where this latest batch could have come from.

T in the Park organisers urged anyone carrying drugs at the festival to leave them in special “amnesty bins” stationed around the site.

Following the deaths on Friday, Police Scotland’s gold commander for the festival, Ch Supt Angela McLaren, said: “We are continuing to investigate these deaths and are following lines of inquiry, including the possibility that they may be drug related. I would remind all persons attending the festival that there is no safe way of taking drugs.”

The alleged rape of an 18-year-old woman happened in the festival campsite. A Police Scotland spokesman said: “Police are making inquiries into a report of a rape of an 18-year-old female on Thursday evening. Our inquiries are ongoing.”

11 Jul

Michael Hutchence: unreleased songs and documentary on his final years due

According to Ron Creevey, who has been developing the project, of the 15 songs, ‘at least five are brilliant’

Michael Hutchence: unreleased songs and documentary on his final years due
Micheal Hutchence, the lead singer and lyricist of INXS, who died in 1997, is to be the subject of a new documentary. Photograph: ITV/REX

Previously unreleased songs recorded by INXS’s Michael Hutchence and a documentary about the last years of his life are set to be released over the next year.

Sydney entrepreneur Ron Creevey, who runs Kings Cross studio and venue the X Studio, said he has spent the last two years working on the project alongside LA-based producer Danny Saber.

“I heard some time ago about some unreleased music that was sitting out there, and then I approached [Hutchence’s] trust directly,” Creevey said. A total of 15 songs will be released.

“At least five songs are brilliant,” he said.

“There’s going to be two duets that will come out with two very big artists that I can’t legally name at the moment, and then there’s singles he did himself.”

Saber, a producer on Hutchence’s self-titled, posthumous solo album which was released in 1999, said he and the singer had been working on music together not long before he died.

“Me and him sort of connected and started writing towards the end. It’s sort of like a little treasure trove of stuff – essentially there were vocals and ideas, and that’s the stuff that I’m reworking and we’re going to be releasing,” Saber said.

Creevey has also been gathering artefacts and documents belonging to Hutchence to build up a picture of the final years of his life. Along with Hutchence’s diaries and notes, Creevey says he has also developed film that was in a disposable camera the singer used not long before he died.

Michael Hutchence: unreleased songs and documentary on his final years due
INXS studio group portrait, circa 1983 Photograph: Michael Putland/Getty Images

All of this will be used in a documentary that Creevey plans to release next year, to mark the 20th anniversary since Hutchence’s death.

When news first surfaced in May of a potential Hutchence release, INXS manager, Chris Murphy, threatened legal action against anyone who released anything under the INXS and Hutchence copyright.

“I do know every single individual and or company who interfere with INXS/Michael copyrights are about to find themselves in very deep legal trouble,” he wrote in an email to AAP.

Creevey denies Murphy has any claim over the new music.

The first song is set for release before Christmas, close to the 19th anniversary of Hutchence’s death in November.

The documentary is due for release next year, with the rest of the music to be released in the run up to the 20th anniversary.

11 Jul

Stevie Wonder tells audience at London concert 'black lives matter'

Singer urged 65,000-strong crowd in Hyde Park to choose ‘love over hate’ after week of violence in the US

Stevie Wonder tells audience at London concert 'black lives matter'
Stevie Wonder performs live on in Hyde Park. Photograph: Simone Joyner/Getty Images

Stevie Wonder urged fans to choose “love over hate” as he performed in London at the end of a week that saw the US rocked by deadly race-related violence.

The singer opened his set at the British Summer Time Festival in Hyde Park with a message for the 65,000-strong audience to live in hope “in this horrible time we’re living in”.

“I encourage you to choose love over hate. It’s just that simple. Choose love over hate, right over wrong, kind over meanness. Hope over no hope at all,” he told the crowd.

The gig celebrated his 1976 Grammy-winning album Songs In The Key Of Life, with the star telling fans he was glad it still held significance today.

But the sentiment was tinged with sadness, as he added: “The songs and the words that we talk about, those conditions still exist in the world and that hurts my heart.”

Wonder called on the fans to implore world leaders to “cut the bull … and fix it”, adding: “We were all made in God’s image. When you hate someone, you’re hating that image.

“If I’m blind and I can see it, you can see it too.”

Stevie Wonder tells audience at London concert 'black lives matter'
Stevie Wonder on stage in Hyde Park. Photograph: Richard Isaac/REX/Shutterstock

Wonder performed in London after a week when the US saw five police officers killed in apparent revenge for the deaths of two black men in police shootings.

There was an outpouring of anger across America in the wake of the death of Alton Sterling, 37, who was shot dead by police in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on Tuesday.

The following day tensions rose further still with the killing of 32-year-old Philando Castile in Minnesota during a police traffic stop. His death was shown live on Facebook as his girlfriend filmed the incident on her phone.

On Thursday evening Micah Johnson, 25, opened fire on officers monitoring a Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, killing five and injuring seven more.

Wonder said: “All life does matter, but the reason that I say black lives matter is because we are the original people of this world. So in essence, everyone here has some black in you. You’ve all got some soul in you so stop denying your culture.”

He added his voice to a growing list of global artists who have spoken out in protest at the use of deadly force by police in the US, most often involving the shooting of young black men.

Before the Dallas shootings on Thursday, singer Beyonce paused a Glasgow concert to hold a minute’s silence for the two men and “countless others” killed by police in the US.

On Saturday hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of Brixton, south London, in a show of solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

11 Jul

Matt Damon: I'm going to be replaced as Bourne – and that's fine

The star of the action franchise has expressed equanimity at the prospect of a younger actor taking over the role, saying it’s inevitable and desirable

Matt Damon: I'm going to be replaced as Bourne – and that's fine
Bourne again … Matt Damon and co-star Alicia Vikander at the South Korean premiere for Jason Bourne on 8 July 2016. Photograph: Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

The actor Matt Damon has declared himself unconcerned about the prospect of being replaced in the action franchise with which he’s become synonymous.

Speaking in South Korea ahead of the premiere of the fifth Jason Bourne film, Damon declared himself “totally fine” with someone new taking over the role.

“I’m definitely going to be replaced some day by some new young Jason Bourne,” he said. “That happens to everybody and they reboot these things, and that’s totally fine.”

Damon, now 45, said he found the action sequences more taxing than he had at 29, when shooting the first Bourne film.

“It’s difficult when you’re 45 compared to when you’re 29, but you still have to run as fast as you can. That part was a challenge but to get to revisit the people was wonderful.

“But I said, let’s smell the roses and appreciate that we get to be here together, and make sure we have fun.”

In 2012, an attempt was made to continue the franchise with Jeremy Renner and Tony Gilroy replacing Damon and Greengrass. But The Bourne Legacy only made marginally more than the 2002 original, and about half the total of 2007’s The Bourne Ultimatum.

Damon’s remarks come as debate still rages over casting for the next James Bond, despite Daniel Craig not having officially thrown in the towel.

10 Jul

Island that rocked to Bowie and the Stones stakes claim as true home of British R&B

Museum planned to celebrate the Eelpiland dance club, the 1960s venue in the middle of the Thames

Island that rocked to Bowie and the Stones stakes claim as true home of British R&B
The Rolling Stones at Eel Pie Island. Photograph: Mike Peters

Back when rock music was deemed antisocial, and even traditional jazz bands were frowned upon, it cost just fourpence to gain entry to a place where the young were free to dance, drink and kiss. The Rolling Stones, a teenage David Bowie, Rod Stewart, Eric Clapton, the Who and Pink Floyd all first found regular audiences in this hidden haven.

The venue was Eel Pie Island: a tiny enclave in the middle of the river Thames at Twickenham, which is now claiming its place in Britain’s cultural history. A museum dedicated to the island’s past glory as the centre of a British R&B boom is set to have a permanent home. Curator Michele Whitby has been promised £8,000 from the London mayor’s office and now has until next month to raise another £4,000 on a crowdfunding site to see her scheme come to life.

“I want to run a museum just a stone’s throw from the island itself, in Twickenham’s main street,” she said. “People describe Eel Pie Island as like nowhere else and so seven years ago I wrote a book about it. Now I have a fantastic wealth of material to share.”

Whitby, 49, now lives on a boat moored to the island, but first arrived on its shores aged 21, when she rented space for a photographic studio. “The Stones had 15 dates here early in their career and were paid around £45 for a gig; good money then, although you could not get tickets to see them for that now,” said Whitby. “I made a montage of photographs of the band from 1963 and sent it to them. It came back signed by them all ‘to Eel Pie Island’.”

Island that rocked to Bowie and the Stones stakes claim as true home of British R&B
The Jazz Club at Eel Pie Island in January 1967. Photograph: ANL/Rex/Shutterstock

Once known as Twickenham Ait, the island takes its current name from the snacks once sold to passing traders from its banks. It was a leisure destination as early as the beginning of the 17th century and a map of 1635 marks a plot of land with “hath bin A Boulding Alley”.

Henry VIII is said to have used it for discreet courting. With the construction of the grand, three-storey Eel Pie Island hotel in 1830 it became a popular holiday destination for the rest of London.

But its modern influence dates from the launch of the Eelpiland dance club in 1956. When an arched footbridge to the mainland was built a year later, clubbers paid fourpence admission and were wrist-stamped as they queued to join dancers in the ballroom adjoining the neglected hotel. They were given a passport instead of a ticket, underlining the notion that different social rules prevailed.

Island that rocked to Bowie and the Stones stakes claim as true home of British R&B
A beatnik jazz party on Eel Pie Island in August 1960. Photograph: Peter Hall/Getty Images

The passport read: “We request and require, in the name of His Excellency Prince Pan, all those whom it may concern to give the bearer of this passport any assistance he/she may require in his/her lawful business of jiving and generally cutting a rug. Given under our hand this first day of November 1963 PAN Prince of Trads.”

For Whitby, and for older fans who saw the Stones or Eric Clapton play, Eelpiland is the birthplace of a youth movement, comparable to the Cavern Club in Liverpool, the Wigan Casino, the pubs of Canvey Island or the Hacienda in Manchester. “Fans used to have to get there by ferry before they built the bridge and even then there was very little residential accommodation here,” said Whitby. “It was all boatyards. They thought the police would find it more difficult to come over and so they were free to make more noise.”

Island that rocked to Bowie and the Stones stakes claim as true home of British R&B
The stage at Eel Pie Island. Photograph: Mike Peters

Last year Whitby put together artefacts and memorabilia for a pop-up museum, housed in two rooms in Twickenham library. It also told the story of the remarkable Arthur Chisnall, the antiques dealer and philanthropist who set up the club. He started by booking trad jazz stars, such as Acker Bilk and George Melly, at the weekends, but the bar and large, sprung dance floor also made it suitable for rock’n’roll gigs. Chisnall, a pipe-smoking guru in tweed, booked visiting American blues stars such as Buddy Guy and Howlin’ Wolf.

“Arthur really was the centre of it,” said Whitby. “He was not a massive music fan, but was fascinated by young people and their problems in a genuine way. A lot of people have told me that he changed their lives for the better.”

The pop-up museum contained a recreation of Arthur’s living room in nearby Strawberry Hill, with his original desk. In June 1961, on the club’s fifth birthday, he was interviewed by the News of the World. “This place started as a jazz club. Now it is one of the biggest political discussion centres in this part of greater London. There are 8,386 members. The bands only play at weekends. During the week the members jam the bar … while discussing all sorts of serious topics. We are not tied down to any one line of political thought,” he said.

Island that rocked to Bowie and the Stones stakes claim as true home of British R&B
Watching the Stones at Eel Pie Island. Photograph: Mike Peters

By the end of Chisnall’s reign the club had also welcomed the Yardbirds, John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, the Tridents with Jeff Beck, and Long John Baldry and his Hoochie Coochie Men, featuring Rod Stewart. In his 1998 autobiography, All the Rage, Ian McLagan, keyboard-player with the Small Faces and the Faces, recalled supporting the Stones at Eelpiland and first meeting Rod “The Mod” Stewart, dressed up and “on the pull”. “It was one of the best places to hear blues bands at the weekends,” McLagan wrote.

Chisnall lived on until 2006, but lack of funds closed down his club in the late 1960s. Threatened with demolition, it briefly reopened as Colonel Barefoot’s Rock Garden, when Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd performed. But eventually squatters and anarchists took over and the hotel was home to 100 hippies.

“One particularly cold winter, squatters started cannibalising the building for firewood and in 1970 it was pretty much destroyed by fire,” said Whitby. The coveted homes of the 1970s residential block Aquarius now stand on the site, surrounded by a small community of artists living and working in former boathouses. The maverick inventor of the wind-up radio, Trevor Bayliss, is a proud local and would surely approve of Chisnall’s vision for the island: “You must realise that what goes on here is the expression of the latent desire among the young to get away from mass media and regimentation,” he said during Eelpiland’s heyday.

10 Jul

AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams says he is retiring

Bass player who joined the band in 1978 says it is a ‘changed animal’ in the wake of the departure of other members

AC/DC bassist Cliff Williams says he is retiring
AC/DC pictured in 2014, with Cliff Williams, right, and the since departed Brian Johnson, left

AC/DC are set to lose another of their number – the fourth core member of the group in two years. Bassist Cliff Williams, who joined in 1978 has said that after the band’s Rock or Bust tour ends, “I’m backing off of touring and recording.”

Williams, 66, was talking to Gulfshore News, a Florida paper, in a feature about rock stars who live in southwest Florida. “It’s been what I’ve known for the past 40 years, but after this tour I’m backing off of touring and recording,” he said. “Losing Malcolm, the thing with Phil and now with Brian, it’s a changed animal. I feel in my gut it’s the right thing.”

The three members he referred to were founding guitarist Malcolm Young, whose departure was announced in September 2014, following the news that he was suffering from dementia and had not played on the Rock or Bust album; drummer Phil Rudd, whose time with the band came to an end in November 2014 after he faced criminal charges in New Zealand, for which he was sentenced to home detention; and singer Brian Johnson, who left earlier this year after doctors told him he faced irreversible hearing loss if he carried on touring.

Young and Rudd were replaced with Stevie Young – Malcolm’s nephew – and Chris Slade, while Guns N’ Roses singer Axl Rose has replaced Johnson for the rest of the Rock or Bust tour.

That means that of the five members who first played together on 1980’s Back in Black album, and last played on 2008’s Rock or Bust and its subsequent tour, which lasted until June 2010, only lead guitarist Angus Young will be left.

Johnson’s departure had particularly angered fans. On AC/DC messageboards the manner of his leaving – a terse statement on the band’s website – was questioned, and many wondered whether the band should continue without him, including the Guardian’s music editor. However, he was one of many to change their tune after Rose took his place in the group, with his performances winning rave reviews.

AC/DC’s publicist said the band had no comment on the story.

10 Jul

Celebrity shirts: getting the message off their chest

Tom Hiddleston and Taylor Swift are just the latest stars to use a wordy garment to have their say in public

Celebrity shirts: getting the message off their chest
The evolution of the slogan tee. Composite: Rex/Eagle Press/XPOSURE

The very public romance between singer Taylor Swift and actor Tom Hiddleston has been charted from their first meeting (awkwardly dancing at New York’s Met Gala last May), to an early beach date in June (long lensed, like a photo love story from a teen mag) and then, last week, Hiddleston wearing a “I ♥ TS” vest.

This spoon-fed narrative of Hiddleswift reached its ridiculous pinnacle in Hiddleston’s top – the words, just clear enough to be deciphered through the blurry snaps, declared to the world that this was the “next stage” of the couple’s relationship. In the age of the visually focused Instagram feed, the slogan or image-led garment has become the new press release.

“A slogan on a piece of clothing has instant impact on social media,” says Kay Barron, fashion features director at Porter magazine. “It becomes more relatable than another picture of a pretty dress. It’s the fashion equivalent of a dreadful inspirational quote that Instagram loves so much.”

A decade ago, with the rise of websites such as Perez Hilton, Just Jared and TMZ, the appetite for celebrity photographs increased. The link between publicists and photo agencies strengthened and clothes played a key role. “Forget ‘Frankie Say Relax’ – I lay the blame for celebs’ love affair with slogan tees directly at the feet of Paris and Nicky Hilton, who wore ‘Team Aniston’ and ‘Team Jolie’ outside LA boutique Kitson in 2005,” says Heat magazine news editor Issy Sampson.

Celebrities began to use this blurred private/public space to create a visual dialogue, whether it was wearing a slogan T-shirt, a baggy top to indicate a possible pregnancy, or being seen without a significant piece of jewellery (the celebrity missing wedding ring, a perennial tabloid story). It was perfect for websites: they could editorialise the pictures, creating a story around the garment.

“Before Twitter and Instagram, the best way to get your message out there without issuing a publicist-approved statement was to get caught by TMZ with a slogan T-shirt,” says Sampson.

As the online tabloids flourished, the sassily sloganed T-shirts of designer Henry Holland (who began his career on Sneak magazine, a teen version of Heat) gained popularity. Holland’s designs harked back to the tongue-in-cheek sensibility of Katharine Hamnett in the 80s and presaged the reflective, hall-of-mirrors world that Twitter and Instagram would create. In 2006, when designer Giles Deacon appeared at his London fashion week show in Holland’s black-and-white “UHU GARETH PUGH” shirt, it began a new age of sartorial commentary.

On the catwalk the slogan has never gone out of fashion. “Slogans on clothes have been used as a way of attracting attention and getting a point across (whether political or ironic) for years and years and years,” says Barron. “Recently it has been popular in menswear, mainly thanks to Christopher Shannon’s signature witty phrases or slogans, but that Vetements’ literal DHL T-shirt brought it into womenswear too, and now has become part of their repertoire.”

Celebrity shirts: getting the message off their chest
Rihanna wearing a Princess Diana top in New York. Photograph: Buzz Foto/Rex/Shutterstock

There seem to be three key types of celebrity T-shirt slogans. The first features an image of another celebrity and indicates a twinning with that person: Rihanna sporting a Princess Diana T-shirt, or model Jourdan Dunn casting herself as a supermodel with a top featuring the names Naomi, Kate, Cara, Jourdan. The second is the existential crisis top, such as Ben Affleck or Megan Fox signalling their marriage woes (“I give what I have. I make what I am” and “I need more space” respectively). The third, like Hiddleston’s shirt, indicates their relationship status, like the sartorial version of a Facebook update: Miley Cyrus wearing a T-shirt that sported Chris Hemsworth’s surname, or Kristen Stewart wearing Robert Pattinson’s “Irie” shirt, because a shared wardrobe means true love.

More recently, Rita Ora’s sheer bikini top featuring two lemon emojis fuelled speculation that she was the other woman in Jay Z’s life and part of the narrative of Beyoncé’s Lemonade album.

Back to Hiddleswift though, Sampson is sceptical. “If he really loved her, he’d be posting loved-up, carefully filtered selfies online – that’s how it works in 2016.”