CMU Daily - on the inside Wednesday 21st December

yesterday's Daily - Daily archive

Well, review of the year fans, this one is for you. 2005 is on its very last legs, and it is time once again for CMU to take a rather self-indulgent look back at the year in music. Once that is done we're out of here, off to places slightly North. But we'll be back on Tuesday 3 Jan, with more updates, round ups, insightful analysis, Doherty gossip and mediocre gags. Meantime, have yourself a satisfying Yuletide and wonderful Hogmanay.


Well, a record number of votes on the CMU Track Of The Year this time round, so thanks for that. We've been busy counting them all up, which has been quite a task, because you're an eclectic bunch and something close to 250 different tracks were voted for. Here, then, is the final ten. And despite all our best efforts to cheat, McFly didn't make it. Damn.

1. Maximo Park - Apply Some Pressure (Warp)
2. Arctic Monkeys - I Bet You Look Good On The Dance Floor (Domino)
3. Gorillaz - Dirty Harry (EMI/Parlophone)
4. Arcade Fire - Wake Up (Rough Trade)
5. The Futureheads - Hounds Of Love (679)
6. Bloc Party - Two More Years (Wichita/V2)
7. Pendulum - Slam (Breakbeat Kaos)
8. Hard-Fi - Cash Machine (Warner/Necessary)
9. Tom Vek - I Ain't Saying My Goodbyes (Tummy Touch/Island)
10. Goldfrapp - Number One (EMI/Mute)



So 2005 was the year of digital music. Though, we did say that about 2004, so it's possibly no way to open a review of the year. But as the MP3 file format reached its tenth birthday, digital music really did take off in 2005, with more people downloading from more platforms to more devices than ever before. If nothing else, the decision of the Official Chart Company to integrate download sales data into the overall singles chart was surely proof that the MP3 (or, rather, the DRMed WMA or AAC) was a file format to be taken seriously. Even if the indies thought the OCC had gotten ahead of themselves in integrating the digital and physical sales charts so soon.

The choice of where to buy your digital music from also increased in 2005, and at one point it seemed like every newspaper, magazine, radio station, supermarket and drinks brand in the world wanted its own download spin off. Nevertheless one download platform continued to stand head and shoulders above the rest - Apple's iTunes. Despite an outstanding lawsuit with Eminem over the unauthorised use of some of his lyrics in a TV ad, and some controversy surrounding defects with iPod batteries and the screens on the new nano player, Apple's download platform remained far and away the most popular. Because of their arrival on iTunes, podcasting and video downloads became the flavour of the month, and by the end of the year the computer firm had not only reached an agreement with Slim Shady, they were using his greatest hits album to sell their increasingly slimline players.

The only people not impressed with Apple's continued success in the digital music space were the record companies. Increasingly convinced the iTunes pricing model of 79 pence per track for all artists isn't sustainable in the long term, the majors are keen to renegotiate their deals with the download company, but doing so isn't easy when Apple dominate the market so much. Certain label chiefs gave speeches this year confidently predicting that Apple will be forced to rethink on pricing, and maybe even on keeping their AAC file format to themselves. But Apple don't seem keen to negotiate, so it remains to be seen how this one pans out. The record companies could really do with Microsoft's newly announced partnerships with MTV or former rivals Real Networks, the newly launched download stores from high street names like HMV and Virgin, or the as-yet confusing but potentially huge mobile music platforms gaining some ground on Apple so the music industry can renegotiate from a stronger position.

The mobile music platforms might hold the most hope for those that want Apple's stranglehold on legitimate downloading to be broken. While most mobile music platforms to date have been a bit rubbish, and Motorola's iTunes compatible phone was poorly received when it was launched back in September, those working in the mobile sector point out that they already have a global consumer base that dwarfs that of any of the download companies, including Apple. Which means if they can only find the right user-friendly cost-efficient delivery platform, they could be quids in. Whether they will stumble across that delivery platform in 2006, remains to be seen.

The growth in digital music sales in 2005 came despite an ever increasing use of P2P networks to access music illegally. And this despite ever increasing litigation against the individuals who share music online, especially in America, but, through a proactive campaign by the International Federation Of The Phonographic Industry, in most other territories too.

Ironically, given the rising P2P usage stats, the music industry seemed to fare better in its anti-download litigation this year. A string of court rulings in 2004 seemed to err on the side of protecting web users' privacy over protecting content owner's copyright. But in 2005 more judges than not seemed to order internet service providers to hand over the contact details of individuals who were accused of sharing music via P2P. Most of those individuals settled out of court, though a handful plan to fight, and there could be some tricky PR challenges for the record labels and their trade associations as those cases go to court next year.

Success also in the court room over the companies who make P2P software. Most famously the long running MGM v Grokster court case reached the US Supreme Court, and judges ruled that Grokster was guilty of copyright infringement by encouraging and allowing consumers to use its software for illegal file sharing. It was a landmark ruling that meant P2P companies could no longer rely on the defence that they could not be held responsible for how people chose to use their software, in the US at least. A similar ruling against Kazaa in the Australian courts meant that the future of some of the big names in P2P was looking increasingly grim at the end of 2005. This would be a victory for the record industry, except for the fact that most file sharers stopped using Grokster and Kazaa ages ago, and now rely on the likes of LimeWire and eDonkey for their free MP3s.

In the end the fight against P2P might become redundant in 2006. Possibly as the likes of Mashbox and iMesh launch their legimate subscription based P2P platforms. But more likely
because legitimate download sales become so big that the fact a certain percentage of the population are using illegal sources to get free music becomes less and less relevant in the overall scheme of things.

The one music sector that has generally been avoiding the stresses of the digital age is the live industry, which continued to go from strength to strength in 2005 - with some promoters, Clear Channel in particular, moving into the recorded domain by offering recordings of gigs within minutes of a performance - online or at the venue on CD.

There were sell outs galore in the last year, despite an increasingly crowded calendar of major tours and festivals. That said, overall US ticket sales were down on 2004, 6.2% in terms of numbers of tickets sold, 3.8% in terms of revenue, and some still worry that ever increasing ticket prices and a reliance on older artists like the Stones, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart and Elton John to fill out major arenas might eventually backfire on the American live music business, kicking off a similar trend over here. Time will tell, I guess.

A good year also, seemingly, for Clear Channel, whose dominance on the UK live music scene continued to grow when they acquired London based Mean Fiddler, and with it the Reading and Leeds Festivals and a stake in the ever popular Glastonbury Festival. Meanwhile in China they announced a partnership with the Beijing Gehua Cultural Development Group. With the announcement that Clear Channel's whole live entertainment business would be spun off to create a new company - to be called Live Nation - it wouldn't surprise me if their dominance on all things live music doesn't continue in 2006.

As for the big live events of 2005, well, U2 topped Billboard's tour of the year poll thing, but the gigs that surely dominated this year were the major charity events, many of which hadn't even been conceived this time last year. 2005 began with a plethora of benefit events in response to the tsunami that caused such major devastation to the countries surrounding the Indian Ocean during last year's Christmas break. But as the year developed all eyes fell on Bob Geldof, Midge Ure and Bono as speculation grew that the three musicians were planning on marking the 20th anniversary of Live Aid with another massive charity event. In the end Live 8 was more about politics than charity, aiming to put popular pressure on global political leaders meeting at the G8 Conference in Scotland to act on the issues of aid and fair trade. Ten concerts took place around the world on Saturday 2 Jul 2005, with an additional event in Edinburgh later that week. Whether Live 8 had any real effect on what then happened at G8 is debatable, though the concerts certainly raised awareness of the Make Poverty History campaign, in Europe at least.

Despite remaining cautious about the future, and hardline on the sharing of music via P2P networks, the four major record companies seemed more optimistic in 2005 than in recent years, most probably because of the huge increase in revenues coming from the legitimate download platforms. This was despite considerable discussion in the investment community regarding the future of the music industry in the digital age in the run up to Warner Music's flotation in May. That flotation came in for quite a lot of criticism in the financial press (and elsewhere - Warner signed Linkin Park gave it quite a dissing for a start), but while some analysts focused on the general challenges facing the music business, most spent their time bitching about the major label's management, and in particular their overly high valuation of the company.

Despite criticism of Warner Music in investment circles, rumours still circulated of a possible merger between Warner and EMI, who are now both dwarfed by their two main competitors following the SonyBMG merger last year. However, no actual moves to merge were made, with lawyers on both sides no doubt keen to see whether pan-European indies trade body IMPALA wins its lawsuit against the European Union. They want the European courts to say EC officials were wrong to give the SonyBMG merger the go ahead in the first place. If the EU courts rule in IMPALA's favour there is very little anyone can do about the already merged SonyBMG, but such a ruling would suggest an EMI Warners merger would never get the green light from the Euro-bods, making any discussions of a merger now pretty pointless.

With a major label merger off the cards, both EMI and Warner were rumoured to be interested in buying the Sanctuary Music Group, the London based independent music company with interests in most sectors of the music business. Sanctuary has probably had the worst year commercially, with management admitting that over-expansion has left them in a difficult position. But in the end they decided to opt for a major restructuring and possible share sale rather than allow a major label takeover. For the time being at least.

Meanwhile, despite IMPALA still disputing the SonyBMG merger, the mega major label set about implementing its post-merger restructuring early on in 2005 - which meant lots of job cuts, oh yes. But by the end of the year it wasn't IMPALA's legal action that was causing problems at the merged company, rather reported tensions in the board room between those execs that came from Sony, and those from BMG. As the year closes, the US business press seems convinced SonyBMG boss Andrew Lack, who came from Sony Music, will have to go, in order to ease those tensions. But some on the Sony side stand firmly committed to their man. Blood may spill in the SonyBMG boardroom in 2006 (metaphorical blood though, we hope).


Talking of tricky mergers, as we wrote our Review of 2004 the Office Of Fair Trading had just given the go ahead to the merger of UK radio majors GWR and Capital, and so in the Spring the strangely medical sounding GCap was born. As the year developed, and especially after former Capital boss David Mansfield quit the post-merger management board, it became very much a GWR takeover of Capital, with an increasing number of former GWR execs taking top jobs, and the brunt of the job cuts seemingly falling on the Capital side of the new organisation.

One of the tasks the GWR dominated GCap management team now have to tackle is the group's flagship London station, Capital FM, which continued to struggle in terms of listening figures during 2005, facing ever increasing competition from Chrysalis' Heart 106.2 and EMAP's Magic. GCap bosses seemed to criticise their Capital Group predecessors for taking Capital FM down a more blokey route, though how GCap will change that when they are committed to Johnny Vaughan's blokey breakfast show, remains to be seen. GWR, of course, have some very successful local radio stations, and the team behind them are planning on getting involved in the Capital FM revamp. That said, those execs have less experience in the competitive and unique London market - if they churn out the same crap they specialise on in the regions, they may find their flagship station is in even more trouble.

Then again, radical turnarounds in listening-figure-fortunes happen all the time in local radio - especially in London. Former success story Kiss FM had a very hard year in 2005. While Heart 106.2 started the year in poor health, and ended it on a real high. I can't believe that change in fortune was completely down to the appointment of Jamie Theakston to the breakfast slot. It may be, in fact, because the Rajar listening figures that the whole radio industry relies on are so unreliable that the fluctuations in performance could be completely written off as a statistical margin of error. Criticism for Rajar's antiquated research methods decreased in 2005, partly because the organisation has been busy developing a more sophisticated approach that they plan to launch next year, but more so because their biggest critic, Kelvin Mackenzie, moved out of the industry when his Wireless Group was sold out to Ulster TV, and he got a new job running magazine publisher Highbury House.

Of course, when it came to those Rajar figures, the BBC stations continued to perform the best. In the October figures the Beeb recorded its highest ever share of the radio market - up to 54.6% - which means, of course, more than half of the UK's radio listeners were out of the reach of advertisers this summer. Radios 1, 3, 4 and 5 all enjoyed increases in listening figures, while Radio 2, although seeing its audience fall a little, remained the nation's favourite. All of which means that, while the big commercial players compete with each other, especially in London, they all also recognise that the real competitor is the BBC - another reason why the GWR top guard can't rely on more of the same old crap. There has been much talk of the commercial stations launching more syndicated shows, fronted by big names, and with national reach via the local stations owned by a combination of networks. That said, there hasn't been much sign of that concept in action, although the massive cross network Radio Aid radiothon in aid of the Tsunami relief effort at the start of the year proved the idea could work.

Over in the US the big radio story was Howard Stern, who began preparations to quit his daily show for the Infinity network, which is syndicated US-wide, in order to go and run his own channel on the Sirius satellite radio network. Contractual obligations to the Viacom owned Infinity meant that while the Stern Sirius channels launched, the man himself had to stay on the terrestrial airwaves for the whole of 2005. Not that he was too bothered, that gave him plenty of Infinity owned air time to plug their satellite rivals. This placed the Viacom company in a tricky position. If they sacked Stern they'd enable him to move to his new job quicker. If, as they did, they tolerated him, they were in risk of losing half their listeners to Stern's new employers. Some of the stations that syndicated the show complained, and one particular Sirius plugging incident did lead to a one day suspension for the shock jock. But in the end Stern saw his contract through. It remains to be seen if he does, indeed, take his audience with him to Sirius, or whether Infinity can keep his listeners with their new collection of regional shows, including one in New York fronted by former Van Halen man David Lee Roth.

While the buzz in the US was around Sirius style satellite radio, over here the key word in broadcasting was still 'digital'. Listening figures for digital only radio stations began to grow in 2005, though they remain tiny compared to terrestrial stations - a fact represented by the frantic bidding that has taken place everytime one of the few remaining terrestrial radio licences was put out to tender by OfCom. The digital success story of 2005, surely, was the continuing growth of Freeview. Whether anyone watches the extra TV and radio channels that come with the terrestrial digital TV platform I'm not sure, but the number of households with a Freeview box under their telly certainly grew. Whether the take up of digital TV is anywhere near enough for the government to commit to the schedule they announced this year for turning off analogue signals (2008 in the Scottish borders), remains to be seen.

Staying with telly, both the main terrestrial networks revamped their flagship pop shows this year. CD:UK jazzed things up a bit after the complete departure of long time host Cat Deeley, bringing in Xfm's Lauren Laverne as one of the show's main presenters, presumably hoping to score some 'cool points' by her presence. Top Of The Pops, meanwhile, was promoted to, erm, a Sunday tea time slot on BBC2. The channel change and consequent revamp was meant to overcome the once great music show's flagging performance, though said revamp failed to remove the programme's biggest problem - its presenter, Ms Fern 'could you be any more irritating?' Cotton. Anyway, all that's irrelevant, cos all the proper pop kids were tuning into Channel 4's still on top form Popworld instead. Such was the popularity of this show, Channel 4 shifted it into a slightly-less-painful-to-get-up-for Saturday morning slot.

NME seemed to maintain its resurgence this year, perhaps because of its editorial direction and increasingly high profile live activity, possibly because the NME will always do well when indie is dominant. Over at EMAP, Q and Kerrang! continued to do well, while Mixmag was flogged off to the relatively young Development Hell media company. Future Publishing's rock and guitar titles also fared well, while the company expanded into a new domain by acquiring DJ Mag.

In the independent sector, we kept on reading Touch, Rocksound, RWD, HHC, The Fly and the Record Of The Day's 'magazine of the year' Clash, and we presume you guys all did too. Not enough of you were reading Rip & Burn, though. The magazine concerned with digital music closed its doors in April - presumably ahead of its time.

Online ... well ... what? Channel 4 launched their Slash Music what not, MTV went a little bit more down the broadband route, AOL in the US opened up its music channel to non-AOL types, and a plethora of music websites came, while others went, some both within the year. Needless to say, the CMU Daily and all its online offshoots went from strength to strength to strength. And you can quote us on that one.


Phew, were the pop courts busy this year - we really must get that CMU legal practice set up in 2006. The biggest event, of course, was the long awaited much anticipated Michael Jackson trial. You would have to have been dead to miss this one. None of you were dead, presumably, so we don't really need to tell you that Michael Jackson was on trial accused of sexually abusing teenage cancer sufferer Gavin Arvizo and then holding his family hostage at his Neverland home. The trial, aggressively fought by now-celebrity lawyer Thomas Mesreau, was punctuated with bouts of illness and lateness from Jackson, who became progressively more gaunt as the weeks wore on whilst rumours began to circulate about his financial difficulties. Ultimately, the case was undone by lack of material evidence and poor performances in court from several key witnesses, and in particular the accuser's mother, Janet, who was painted as a money grabbing fraudster. Of course it didn't help that one of the key witnesses for the prosecution, Jacko's ex-wife Debbie Rowe, took to the witness stand and told everyone just how great Jackson was, especially around children. Either way, the trial may have exposed the pop superstar's eccentric lifestyle and put the phrase 'Jesus juice' into popular usage; it may have had the majority of sensible people thinking 'Who would be stupid enough to let their child sleep in a room with Michael Jackson?'; but it was not enough to convict him. The jury found Jackson not guilty on all ten charges, prompting one (possibly deranged - though that's not confirmed) fan to release ten doves into the sky over the Santa Maria courthouse where the trial took place. Of course Jackson's troubles aren't over, despite the court victory. Word is his financial troubles could come to a head any day now, with his creditors considering seizing his 50% share of ATV/Sony Publishing in return for the $270 million he owes them. Meanwhile Jacko resides in Bahrain while his Neverland home reportedly goes into rack and ruin. Oh yes, and Santa Maria district attorney Tom Sneddon, the man who spearheaded this year's prosecution, seems keen to find some other reason to get Jacko in jail, so his legal problems may not be over either.

Believe it or not, other things happened in the pop courts this year that did not involve Michael Jackson. Take the world of urban music, for example - it's peppered with incident. Megaman of So Solid Crew fame was on trial for murder in London, accused of inciting his friend Carl Morgan to kill love rival Colin Scarlett. The rapper, aka Dwayne Vincent, was forced to rap on one occasion in an attempt to prove his innocence in the matter, with uncertain results: Morgan was found guilty in October and handed a life sentence, but Megaman faces a retrial in March next year after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Elsewhere, rapper Young Buck went on trial over allegations that he stabbed one Jimmy James Johnson after Johnson lashed out at Dr Dre at last year's Vibe awards. After some plea bargaining, he was sentenced to probation and community service for the stabbing, whilst victim Johnson got sentenced to a year in prison for landing that punch, which all seems a bit unfair if you ask me. Rap mogul Suge Knight was investigated over allegations that he paid Johnson to attack Dre in the first place, though those claims were never proven. Not that the Deathrow boss managed to completely stay out of trouble; in a separate incident he ended up in prison over a parole violation involving marijuana possession.

Corey Miller, aka C-Murder, was denied a retrial over his conviction for allegedly killing a teenage fan in New Orleans in 2003. The denial came around the time he released a new album, arousing ire and suspicion from local authorities, which no doubt improved LP sales. Talking of albums and prison, Lil Kim released the former, and was incarcerated in the latter; you may remember that she was convicted of perjury, but still thinks it's a bit unfair that she has to serve time. What's a little lie between a top lady rapper and a US grand jury after all? And finally, of course, the big Murder Inc case came to trial, and brothers Irv and Chris Lorenzo "Gotti" were cleared of laundering money for New York drug lord Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff. They didn't release an album during their trial. Fools.

In the civil arena we saw Simons Fuller and Cowell not actually making it into court, when they settled over the claim that Cowell had stolen Fuller's 'Pop Idol' format to create 'The X-Factor'. Malcolm McLaren was found not guilty of plagiarism after being taken to court in France by musician Benjamin Beduneau, who accused him of plagiarising his work for a track included in the 'Kill Bill' soundtrack. Bono, meanwhile, was facing up to a former stylist, Lola Cashman, and demanding to have his pants returned - luckily for the Irish singer, the court found in his favour. Over in the US, Outkast reached a settlement with Rosa Parks over the use of her name in one of their songs amid claims from members of Parks family that her lawyers and carers were to blame for the action, which Parks would allegedly never have brought, had she not been suffering from dementia.

Meanwhile, there's plenty to, er, look forward to in the pop courts in 2006. R Kelly's trial for allegedly engaging in sex acts with an underage girl should reach trial in the next year, as well as the long awaited Phil Spector case over the death of actress Lana Clarkson at his home back in 2003. A newer case, those relatively recent drugs charges against Boy George in New York, should also go to court. Gary Glitter, of course, is still being detained over allegedly having sex with underage girls - a case which will no doubt warrant a few headlines in the new year.

So, which artists (other than those involved in legal action?) were grabbing the headlines in 2005?

Well, sadly, it seemed to be a year for long and drawn out reportage of long and drawn out illness for some music celebrities. The most high profile of these was pop princess Kylie Minogue's shock announcement that she was suffering from breast cancer. The star was, of course, forced to cancel the Australian leg of her Showgirl tour, subsequently having surgery in her home country before returning to Europe for a course of chemo. Now staying with boyfriend Olivier Martinez in Paris, rumours have been flying about Minogue's condition and weight loss over the last few months, but the latest talk is that Kylie is planning to record and release a new album next year, and has allegedly let it be known that she would love to appear at Glasto in 2007 to make up for the performance she was forced to cancel at this year's festival. Which is the kind of news we want to report on.

Meanwhile, we documented Edwyn Collins' slow recovery from surgery for a brain haemorrhage in February, which was unluckily followed by a post operative MRSA infection. However, Collins is now making a speedy recovery, and the musician's wife Grace Maxwell, who has been consistently communicating with fans on behalf of her husband via his website, has recently promised that Edwyn himself will be back in touch, saying "My reign as mouthpiece, control freak and fascist dictator is all but over. By next year Edwyn will be back on the computer, I promise you." Elsewhere in the pop emergency room, former East 17 star Brian Harvey received buckets of treatment after a freak car accident that nearly killed him and provoked rumours that he was attempting to take his own life. Harvey has since made a full recovery.

When it's a matter of life and death (more death in a minute I'm afraid) the petty squabbles of pop seem a little silly, though splits and tiffs also helped fill the CMU Daily this year. From the top: Charlie Simpson, James Bourne and Matt Jay (or is it Willis?) - the artists formerly known as Busted - split up in January, to the disappointment of teenage fans everywhere. The break up was instigated by Charlie, of course, who wanted to devote himself full time to his other band Fightstar. James and Matt were clearly very upset, but James went out and got himself a new band, Son Of Dork - and it will be interesting to see how they do in 2006. There's no sign of Matt though, and we're starting to worry.

The Darkness didn't split up - but they fired their bassist Frankie Poullain, and bitterness and rancour would seem still to be emanating from both sides. Blur are still together, but are still without Graham Coxon - not news, you might think, except that Damon Albarn has spoken out about how much he misses Coxon more than once in the last few months. It seems that Albarn still cherishes the idea that his former bandmate might one day return to the fold, despite the fact that Coxon quite clearly has absolutely no plans to do so. But in happy reunion news, guitarist Porl Thompson has returned to The Cure, and The Fugees really really have reunited - expect a new release soon.

Music celebrity public scrapping never goes away though, of course. 50 Cent and The Game have been providing us with copy through their widely publicised feud (especially when the two rappers' entourages seemed to get a little trigger happy outside a New York radio station), whilst The Killers and The Bravery barely seem to miss a chance to diss one another in print. Charlotte Church and Girls Aloud's Cheryl Tweedy weren't above getting their handbags out either. Though most documented, possibly, was the Gallagher brothers feuds with any young British band of the moment, oh, and some American ones too - let's not forget that in addition to dissing Bloc Party and Franz Ferdinand, amongst others, Liam Gallagher did threaten to rip out the vocal chords of Scissor Sisters' Jake Shears, although he possibly didn't mean it literally.

Of course, a lot of 'speaking out' was done for slightly worthier reasons too - Bono and Bob, of course, had a lot to say about Africa, especially in the run up to aforementioned Live 8, while Thom Yorke, Chris Martin et al were also trying to make poverty history, and Kanye West and Harry Connick Jr were speaking out against George W Bush regarding his inaction in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

What else? Well, frankly too much to fit in here. But we should probably note Tony Christie's extraordinary career revival courtesy of the comedic patronage of one Peter Kay, Courtney Love's brush with Steve Coogan (actually, she should probably have been in the pop court section, she's been in and out so much), Jonathan King's release from prison and persistent claims of innocence, Take That's reunion tour plans, Antony And The Johnsons' Mercury Prize win, and the fact that it's twenty five years since John Lennon died. And that's that.

What? We forgot someone?

You don't really think we'd forget Doherty did you?

Given we dedicated some 30,000 words to the Peter Doherty soap opera in 2005, we thought he probably ought to get his own review of the year. You can read it by clicking here.

What is the reason for that strangely philosophical subtitle here in the middle of our review of the year? I don't know, but it seemed like a good way to introduce the 'Marriages, Births and Deaths' bit.

Lots of music types were getting married this year. Vince Neil of Motley Crue married girlfriend Lia Gerardini, Christina Aguilera married music exec Jordan Bratman, Jack White married model Karen Elson, Seal married model Heidi Klum, country star Kenny Chesney married movie star Renee Zellweger (although four months later divorce proceedings began), Kelis married Nas, Garth Brooks married fellow country star Trisha Yearwood, and Marilyn Manson married Dita Von Teese. Meanwhile, expect more pop marriages than ever in 2006 now that gay people can do it too - Elton John and David Furnish are leading the way, of course, sometime today methinks.

And on to progeny. Some of those mentioned in the marriage section are also here, which seems reasonable. Giving life to brand new children this year were Seal and Heidi Klum, Britney Spears and Kevin Federline, Jamelia and footballer Darren Byfield, Danny Goffey from Supergrass and Pearl Lowe, Victoria (she used to be a pop star) and David Beckham, Duncan James out of Blue with ex-girlfriend Claire, Rod Stewart and model Penny Lancaster and Sugababe Mutya Buena (not sure who the father was on that one). And, I might add, more pop-babes expected in the coming year courtesy of Fran Healy and his fiancée Norah Kryst, Jack White and wife Karen Elson, Gwen Stefani and Gavin Rossdale, and, it's rumoured, a brother or sister for little Apple, courtesy of Chris Martin and Gwyneth Paltrow.

And so, to the bad news. There have been many deaths in the last year - some you might consider more important than the rest - Tommy Vance, for instance, Crowded House drummer Paul Hester, singer songwriter Chris Whitley, Synthesiser pioneer Dr Moog, reggae star Junior Delgado - but we're not just going to talk about the high profile ones. These pop related brethren all left this world in 2005.

Artie Shaw, band leader and clarinettist, aged 94
Paul Waterman, son of Pete Waterman, aged 33
Danny Sugerman, The Doors' manager, aged 50
Spencer Dryden, former drummer with Jefferson Airplane, aged 67
Jimmy Griffin, former guitarist with Bread, aged 61
Jim Capaldi, of sixties group Traffic, aged 60
Keith Knudsen, Doobie Brothers drummer, aged 56
Hunter S Thompson, journalist, aged 67
Edward Patten, of Gladys Knight & The Pips, aged 65
Chris Curtis, original drummer for The Searchers, aged 63
Pam Bricker, longtime Thievery Corporation collaborator, aged 50
Tommy Vance, legendary DJ, aged 63
Kathie Kay, big band legend, aged 86
George Scott, Blind Boys Of Alabama, aged 75
Saul Israel Holiff, former manager of Johnny Cash, aged 79.
Paul Hester, former drummer with Crowded House, aged 46
Johnnie Johnson, Chuck Berry collaborator ('Johnny B Goode'), aged 80
Junior Delgado, reggae star, aged 46
Jimmy Martin, bluegrass star, aged 77
Laurel Aitken, 'Godfather Of Ska', aged 78.
'Long John' Baldry, blues singer, aged 64
Patrick Sherry, frontman of Bad Beat Revue, aged 29
Ibrahim Ferrer, legendary Cuban singer, aged 78
Dr Robert Moog, synthesiser pioneer, aged 71
R L Burnside, blues star, aged 78
Clarence 'Gatemouth' Brown, guitarist and singer, aged 81
Peter Bossley, Macc Lad, aged 42
Willie Hutch, Motown musician and producer, aged 60
Mike Gibbins, drummer of Badfinger, aged 56
Nick Hawkins, former guitarist with Big Audio Dynamite, aged 40
Shirley Horne, jazz artist, aged 71
John 'Beatz' Holohan, drummer with Bayside, aged 31
Mana "China" Nishiura, former Shonen Knife drummer, aged 34
Link Wray, the man credited with inventing the power chord, aged 76
Chris Whitley, singer songwriter, aged 45
Tony Meehan, original Shadows drummer, aged 62

You wouldn't necessarily believe it if you're busy reading the tabloids, but our music stars do actually make some music from time to time. And sometimes it's even good. 2005 was the year of the big release of course, with many of the pop aristocracy releasing their new long players - Oasis, Westlife, The White Stripes, Madonna, Coldplay, Gorillaz, Robbie Williams, and The Rolling Stones among them. All good news for the music industry and especially EMI, whose previously flagging financials got a real boost courtesy of the last four there mentioned. The big albums got most of the mainstream attention, of course, not that they always deserved it. Though just for the record, McFly's 'Wonderland' and Moby's 'Hotel', both arguably in the 'big release camp', did deserve it - both surprisingly fine new releases.

With those big releases eating into the marketing budgets and media space, you might argue 2005 wasn't quite as good a year for new music as 2004, and I think you might be right. But that's not to say there wasn't some feckin good stuff out there. Whatever Liam Gallagher might say, there's plenty of great music coming from the newer kids on the block.

It's impossible to mention them all, except to say that the CMU team were particularly excited about the Arctic Monkeys, Hard-Fi, El Presidente, The Magic Numbers, KT Tunstall, Hal, Tom Vek, Clor, Editors, Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park, The Futureheads, The Subways, Arcade Fire, Superthriller, Antony And The Johnsons, The Rakes, MIA, White Rose Movement, Infadels, Rooster, The Dead 60s, Akira The Don and Diefenbach. Hell, even James Blunt. (But not the Crazy Frog).

And of course, we were treated to new work from some old favourites; Ben Folds' long long awaited 'Songs For Silverman', Hot Hot Heat's 'Elevator', Princess Superstar's 'My Machine', Joseph Arthur's 'Our Shadows Will Remain', Supergrass' 'Road To Rouen', Mew's 'And the Glass Handed Kites', Goldie Lookin Chain's 'Safe As Fuck', Joy Zipper's 'The Heartlight Set' and Kate Bush's 'Aerial', to name but a few.

Oh, and don't forget dance music - boy was it a good year for dance music - Tiefschwarz, Breakfastaz, Coburn, Evil 9 and Pendulum to mention but a few. Then there was those great cover versions - Flatpack's take on 'Sweet Child Of Mine' and Honeyroot's much underplayed version of 'Love Will Tear Us Apart' - and that genius Crazy Covers compilation courtesy of Tom Middleton. And hurrah, the world finally caught on to long term CMU favourite Goldfrapp.

And of course some of the best music once again wasn't even released. The bootleg genre championed by Xfm's The Remix show and our Remix Update continued to boom in 2005. Two bootlegs originally played on The Remix years ago got full on proper releases - Phil n Dog's Mylo/Miami Sound Machine mash up via SonyBMG, and GoHomeProductions Blondie/Doors bootleg from EMI. Meanwhile the bedroom producers continued to produce genius bootlegs - again too many to list, but do check the websites of GoHomeProductions, Team 9, Loo & Placido, IDC, Hideous Wheel Invention and DJ Riko for just a basic taster of how good these unofficial mixes can be.

Hell, we could go on for ever with this, but we've already picked out our favourite ten albums of the year, and you can read a lot more about all of them and the artists behind them on our website. They being, of course:

Princess Superstar - My Machine (K7)
Superthriller - Superthriller 1 (Mint)
Tom Vek - We Have Sound (Tummy Touch/Island)
Goldie Lookin Chain - Safe As Fuck (Warner/Atlantic)
Soulwax - Nite Versions (Pias)
Hal - Hal (Rough Trade)
Hard-Fi - Stars Of CCTV (Warner/Necessary)
McFly - Wonderland (Universal/Island)
Pendulum - Hold Your Colour (Breakbeat Kaos)
Ben Folds - Songs For Silverman (SonyBMG)

You can check the interviews at

Enough said, methinks. Except to requote something said by Tim Clarke of management firm ie Music at a MusicTank event earlier this year. "I was fortunate enough to work in the music industry in the sixties, which was an incredible time," said Tim. "What about the present? Well, I think it is an incredible time for music. I think now is the most exciting time in music since the sixties. There are more artists and more distribution channels - we can get more content to fans quicker, and in a more transparent way. That is a very good thing".

And he's right, you know. The digital age of music is really taking shape, and with some shit hot bands and producers providing the tunes, 2006 is all set to be another damn fine year for music. Either way, rest assured CMU will be in your inbox every day to make sure you don't miss any of it. And, surely, that is also a good thing.

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