Wednesday, February 04, 2004


Posted by AmishThrasher at 8:10 pm
Okay, I've just contributed a couple of articles to Wikipedia.

For those who haven't seen it, Wikipedia is a free, open-source encyclopaedia. Basically, anyone is free to contribute an article, or edit an article - somewhat like GPL software. You can view it at

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

Truth Of The Music Industry: The Billboard Charts

Posted by AmishThrasher at 4:39 pm
Two popular arguments defending top 40 songs are that:

1) They're on the radio, so there must be a lot of station managers who like them.
2) They're in the charts, so they must be good.

Well, I've already demystified the radio bit. Record companies, and managers, hand over huge sums of money to various 'Indies' associated with various radio station chains. Said Indies hand over cash on condition that a song gets added to the playlist, and regular rotation. Oh, but the cash is for 'promotional materials' (in theory, so the station can buy merchandise or albums to give away); in practice the station spends it on whatever they like. So, just because it's on radio doesn't instantly make a song anything.

But, hey, that song has made the Billboard Top 100; it must be great! Lots of people have bought it!

And that might just be slightly true, or at least a good indicator of the sheep mentality, if the Billboard Chart was a sales chart. Too bad it's not a pure sales chart at all. In fact, only 20% of the Billboard chart is determined by sales. Guess where the other 80% comes from?

Radio play. And MTV.

I wish I was kidding on that, but (as sad as it is) it's true. 80% of what ends up is determined by the Billboard Chart, which is determined by the record companies. Now, consider the following:

The control of what is advertised does not stop there. Instead, it only increases through payola and exclusivity contracts between MTV and record labels. MTV entered into a deal with CBS records in which MTV could choose 20% of CBS's annual clip production for exclusive broadcast on MTV networks, provided they agreed to play another 10% of videos, chosen by CBS, in light or medium rotation. Deals similar to this are common with all the major labels. According to these various contracts, MTV is required to play videos chosen by the labels, in effect guaranteeing promotions for major label artists. These contracts constitute a form of payola, a practice that is illegal according to the Communications Act. However, Section 508 applies the Act to broadcast outlets only, in which cable television is not included.

This payola applies to more than just contracts. Channels like The Box (a station where you call in to request what is played via a 1-900 number) have been part of payola-like practices as well. Large record companies oftentimes hire groups of people to call in and continuously request song from their artists. This practice can also be applied to MTV's new popular video show "Total Request Live." In this show, all requests in that day are tallied up and the eight most requested videos are played on MTV. There is no limit on how many times one person or company can vote, so the ballots are often stuffed by the record companies.

In other words, a record label can buy its way into the Billboard Charts.

Billboard's methodologies for compiling the charts have gone through several changes over the years. Since switching to Nielsen's BDS and SoundScan (see below for a little background), Billboard changed the weighting of airplay versus sales. Because tracking a single song through album sales isn't exactly accurate, singles sales have always been used to track the sales side of song popularity. But, since only about 20% of people actually buy singles and over 90% listen to the radio, it made sense to alter the ratio of points. Now, the overall points are weighted to 20% sales and 80% airplay.

Truth Of The Music Industry - Lou Pearlman and Johnny Wright

Posted by AmishThrasher at 1:58 pm
Okay, I've finished that last post, bar a little spell-checking. I'll post more about the Jackson Case later on this blog. Time to recap my comments on this blog thus far.

We've seen the machinery of the music industry in action. Despite protests from the RIAA, your favourite artist is probably earning pennies on the dollar. And the notion that the announcer on your favourite radio station sorts through hundreds of albums and only plays the best is ridiculous. Record labels, through shadie middle men known as "indies", basically bribe radio stations to play what they want to have played. And, making matters worse, most of those stations in the US are concentrated in the hands of ClearChannel Communications.

Beyond that, we've met some of the sharks and hucksters of the music industry.

They include Tommy Mottola, who decided to pay indies with Sony money to make his ex-lover, Mariah Carey, the biggest star in the world; then made sure to destroy her (and Sony's investment with it) as the divorce papers came through. Mottola is also noted for manufacturing Beyonce, and losing Sony several hundred million dollars during his reign; what remained of Sony after Mottola was done with it ended up merging with BMG. But that didn't prevent Mottola from gaining employment elsewhere.

Also included is Spice Girls huckster Simon Fuller. After giving the world the manufactured pop act, he gave the world the next manufactured pop phenomenon, "S Club 7". His most notable recent achievement is the glorified kareoke contest, Pop Idol / World Idol. He takes anywhere from 25% - 50% of the earnings of the popstars he manufactures live on TV in a number of markets.

We met Lyor Cohen. Cohen lost a lawsuit in which he was accused of fraud by TVT Records, and sued for $132 million, $54 million of which he paid himself. Cohen left Universal Music, the music arm of ailing media conglomerate Vivendi Universal, and jumped ship to Warner Music. Ironically, AOL Time Warner sold off Warner Music to Edgar Bronfman, who wants to cut costs at the label (good luck with Cohen at the helm!). He is guilty of "giving" the world the Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, Jay-Z, DMX and Ludacris.

He is to be replaced by OutKast, Pink, and Toni Braxton manufacturer Antonio Reid. Reid, like Mottola, lost his old label $100 million in the space of one year (however, his label was Arista-BMG).

We've also met Max Martin. Ever wondered why all those late '90s pop songs sounded the same? It was quite possibly because the same guy wrote many of them (Backstreet Boys, `NSYNC, Britney Spears, etc.); and that guy was Max. But Max was not alone in the travesties that were the manufactured boy bands: meet his accomplices, Lou Pearlman and Johnny Wright.

CBS News wrote this puff-piece about Pearlman in 1992. Bold text is mine, italics is theirs (like always):

(CBS) We know the names of the stars that got teen-age girls screaming. Frank Sinatra could do it, and so could Elvis and the Beatles. And so can Lou Pearlman, it seems.

Pearlman, a 47-year-old native New Yorker, has the recipe for creating teen sensations that get kids to part with their pocket money. Who is this supermogul with his finger on the pulse of young America? 60 Minutes II Correspondent Vicki Mabrey reports that Pearlman gave us N SYNC, whose debut album sold 7 million copies, three times as many as Elvis Presley's first album.

He also is responsible for the Backstreet Boys, whose album - "Millenium" - sold more copies in its first week than any other album before it.

When the fans are going crazy, what's Pearlman doing? "Sitting back, taking it all in smiling because that's exactly what I like to see happen," he said.

"I'm there because I want to make everybody happy. I like to see the artists happy. I like to see the fans happy. You know, of course, there's a tinkle to the cash register, and everybody's getting some financial happiness," Pearlman added.

Actually it's more like a flood to the cash register. Pearlman has created these sensations, many of them from scratch, and he banks on the fact that these young fans, once infatuated, will spend millions of dollars on everything from compact discs and concert tickets, to T shirts and posters. And if their allowance money won't cover it, Pearlman calculates rightly that their parents will chip in.

A $30 T shirt here, a $15 disc there - these teenyboppers' buying power is estimated at more than $100 billion per year.

Pearlman is hoping to grab a chunk of that. An entrepreneur who backed into pop-mogul status just six years ago, he made his fortune in the aviation business. His path crossed with the music industry when he started outfitting luxury jets and leasing them to rock stars like Paul McCartney, Phil Collins and a boy band called New Kids on the Block.

"I was invited to a concert. And I saw New Kids performing," Pearlman explained. "And it wasn't hard for me to see the stage, because all the people they were like this big, so I sort of looked right over their heads. And I was able to see the stage; I saw everybody, and I was like amazed."

What amazed Pearlman was that the fans were buying every product the New Kids offered. Pearlman wanted a piece of that gold mine, so he set out to create his own teen idols.

Starting from scratch, and with the advice of some friends in the music business, he held auditions and eventually put together a group intended to drive young girls wild.

What was the winning formula? A young one, a cute one, a sensitive one, a jokester, a bad boy and the older hunk - all between the ages of 12 and 20. He then spent more than $1 million over the course of two years, training and molding them into what would become the Backstreet Boys.

The Backstreet Boys caught on, racking up an estimated billion dollars in record sales alone. Pearlman heard the cash register ringing and figured if he could do it once, he could do it a dozen more times.

So on advice from singer Smokey Robinson, Pearlman set out to recreate the Motown model, with white kids singing pop instead of soul at a place that he calls "O-Town."

O-Town operates from an industrial park in Orlando, Fla., within an $8 million state-of-the-art facility where Pearlman basically grows his own bands, like the group Take 5.

Pearlman finds his raw material using talent scouts and word of mouth. There's no need for open-casting calls. The kids then go through a combination boot camp and charm school, complete with vocal coaching, public relations training, image styling and choreography. Pearlman hires studio musicians for backup, the best producers in the business and well-known songwriters to craft instant hits.

All of this is tailored to what his market research tells him the fans will buy.

"We try to create that image and sound that we hope they like," he said. "We go out there and test market it."

Pearlman said the bands must have a clean look as well as a good look. The good look is to win the hearts of the kids, the clean look, to win the approval of the parents, and in the end, the wallets of both.

But being cute is not enough. Pearlman insisted they all must have talent. Contrary to what the critics say, no lip-synching is allowed.

N SYNC fits the Pearlman profile perfectly, with teen magazines dubbing J.C. "the serious one," Lance "the ashy one," Chris "the prankster," Justin "the young, cute one," and Joey "the bad boy."

The members play along with those labels but bristle at any implication that the group is manufactured. They say the nucleus of N SYNC was formed before Pearlman's charm school was even built.

"It wasn't like people were trying to whip us or say, 'You need to do this,'" Joey said. "It's just something that we wanted to do."

Added Justin: "We were very lucky and very blessed of course. But we feel like, you know, that takes you so far."

"He definitely was there in the beginning, and he gave us the opportunities that, you know, a lot of people don't have," Chris said.

Still to the nonnfatuated, N SYNC may seem strikingly similar to Pearlman's other groups.

"Ask the fans and they'll tell you they could tell everyone apart. Maybe the concept, the style, or where we're going might be clean cut and that could be the commonality," Pearlman said.

Pearlman continues to dig deep in his pockets to finance one group after the other. With several cute boy bands up and running, he's started a girl group at O-Town called Innosense.

Then there's LFO, whose single was at the top of the charts. It's supposed to stand out as the group with a harder edge.

Recently several of his groups have lost money and disbanded. Still it doesn't stop Pearlman from bringing ourt new bands. Once they succeed, Pearlman starts to recoup the money he's paid to support them, and he gets a hefty chunk of their profits. But not everyone is pleased with the setup.

In separate lawsuits, the Backstreet Boys and NSYNC accused Pearlman of cheating them. Both groups have left Pearlman and settled their lawsuits for undisclosed amounts of money.

"The lawyers that got in the middle of it kind of blew it out of proportion in a sense," Pearlman said. "As time progressed, like in any situation, you want to get paid more when you deserve more. But there was a legal way to go about doing it."

Pearlman is not looking back, though. He's had so many requests to turn his pop stars into movie stars that he figured he'd do that himself. He's making a movie featuring his singers and using focus groups to tailor the script to young fans.

"Two little sayings you might want to put in there, which is something to go into the movie: 'You snooze you lose,' and, 'My way or the highway,'" said Pearlman.

He often refers to himself as the sixth Backstreet Boy, and in some circles, he is almost as famous as his young stars.

But if it all crashes tomorrow, and people want a whole different sound, what will Pearlman do?

"We had a lot of fun," he said. "And I'll break my guitar out and try to see if I can start feeling that new sound. Hey, maybe I'll get my time!">/i>

This guy had manufactured boy bands rolling off the production line like sausages. Producing an album or 3 of instant hits, and then left to be forgotten (or become the punchline of jokes). In some cases, like Justin Timberlake, when a new trend comes along (like "urban" pop), the popstar gets the 'honour' of being repackaged. More on this later.

Most of the article is the kind of spin you'd expect from Pearlman, though I was kinda surprsied to see him admit how blatantly he ripped off the late '80s boy bands. Also surprised that he was as forthcomming on the fact that marketing departments probably have more input into these boy-bands than the "artists" (and I use the term loosely) themselves ("We try to create that image and sound that we hope they like," he said. "We go out there and test market it").

With the show "Making of the Band", Lou portrays himself as a caring, concerned father type figure.  In reality, as JC of *NSYNC has said, Lou was not as involved and concerned with prior groups' well being as he is in front of the camera for all of America to see.

To set the record straight, ten years and seven albums is an unrealistic task for a "boy band" to fulfill.  For O-Town to have a career and profit from it, they would have to switch record labels, thus the ugly lawsuits all over again.  Lou makes 60% of all THEIR profits, leaving the other 40% to be split five ways.

That leaves each member with only 8%!

Lou is selfish and disrespectful towards these guys health.  *NSYNC
repeated showed signs of being over worked, over stressed, and under paid. When they confronted him with their decision to leave TransCon., he slapped them with a multi-million dollar law suit.  Does this sound like the type of man who is a concerned father figure?

In front of the camera,  Ikaika Kahoano can be absolved of his contract when he chooses to leave O-Town.  When away from the public eye and other pop groups must endure the complete terms of the contract or be prepared to be slapped with a mega lawsuit.

60% is outrageously high; no wonder all these boy bands disbanded... then again you could argue they got what they deserved. Next time, try coming up from the underground! His partner in crime, Johnny Wright, goes back even further, to the New Kids On The Block:

Johnny Wright was born on August 17, 19X0 in Hyannis, Massachusetts and began his musical career at the young age of 19 at WCOD as a radio DJ. From these beginnings, Johnny began his ascent to the top of the music management business under the guidance of Maurice Starr with the New Kids on the Block. When New Kids opted to take a year off, Johnny could not sit still and began managing the dance club act, Snap.

After too many years dealing with the cold, New England winters, Johnny relocated to Orlando, FL. In 1993, he formed an alliance with Lou Pearlman and in 1995 began managing the Backstreet Boys. With hard work and perseverance, Johnny successfully positioned the Backstreet Boys at the top of the charts and launched an international phenomenon that still resonates to this day.

In 1996, Johnny had the opportunity to hear a group that was already formed called NSYNC. Recognizing immediately their immense talent he persuaded them to sign to management and they very quickly became the number on pop sensation in the world. Under Johnny’s direction the Wright Entertainment Group has continued to grow and has developed and added several other stars to its incredible roster. The number one female performer in the world, Britney Spears is one of those artists, whose potential and abilities are limitless. With WEG’s reputation firmly established, Johnny has recently begun the mission of taking on previously recognized acts. R&B sensation, Sean “Puffy” Combs and Boys II Men are just two such examples. In all, WEG currently manages and guides 10 musical acts, which include: NSYNC (JIVE), Christina Milian (Island/Def Jam), Sean “P. Diddy” Combs (Bad Boy), Triple Image (WIRE), Daniel Lopes (BMG), Justin Timberlake (JIVE), Nick Cannon (JIVE), Megan McCulay, Dream (Bad Boy), and Boyz II Men (Arista).

From these successes, Johnny was able to launch Wright International Records and Entertainment (WIRE) in 2002. With this move, Johnny has once again raised his positioning in the recording industry. WIRE currently is taking the tween market by storm with three new artists: Triple Image, Stevie Brock and Jer-z.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Jackson Trial: Oscar Wilde on trial again?

Posted by AmishThrasher at 1:34 pm
Okay, I know that there are many more important things in the world than whether or not Michael Jackson is a paedophile. However, as it will end up being perhaps the biggest news story of the year, I'm going to post my opinions on the case here. This will be a big post, and I'll probably end up posting it in bits and pieces rather than in one big chunk; as well as posting other things.

Don't worry, I won't quit posting about the corruption and injustices of the music industry; I encourage anyone reading this to check out my archives for the truth. However, I think it might be an interesting excercise to understand what's really going on in this trial, so time in this blog will be given to the topic.

After all, one of the great aspects of history is to use it as a tool to find out about what happend in previous, similar situations. Time to witness history in action.

To look at the Jackson trial, I'll use an analogical inference that compares Jackson's trial to an earlier one. The key premiss is this: Jackson is not the first (once) popular, arguably eccentric entertainer to have faced charges of sexual deviance in a conservative society; a trial that gets described as the "trial of the century". In fact, there are many similarities between the trial Jackson will face in the coming months, and the trials of Oscar Wilde.

In this post, I'll look at some of the similarities between Jackson and Wilde.

Oscar Wilde was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and later at Oxford--where he discovered the dangerous and delightful distinction of being different from others. Although he won numerous academic prizes, he eschewed the normal pursuits of academic life; his greatest challenge at University, he would frequently confide, was learning to live up to the blue china he had installed in his rooms.

While at Oxford Mr. Wilde fell under the influence of Walter Pater and the doctrine of art for art's sake. Mr. Wilde moved to London in 1879 and set about establishing himself as the leader and model of the aesthetic movement. He wore velvet coats with contrasting braid, knee britches, loose-fitting wide-collared shirts with flowing ties and lavender-colored gloves. He frequently carried a jewel-topped cane and was caricatured in the press flamboyantly attired and bearing an over-sized sunflower--an icon of the movement.

Part of Jackson's original appeal was his extravagent lifestyle, and outlandish dress sense. And, at first, it worked in his favor. In 1983, red leather jackets necame fashionable off the back of Jackson's wearing one, while Sears sold single white gloves covered in rhimestones. So, like Wilde, Jackson became a fashion trendsetter.

In both cases, we also see an underlying life philosophy, and other behavior in their personal lives, that deviates from normal behavior in that society. In contrast to Wilde's aestheticism, we see the arrested development of Michael Jackson. However, from the early '80s through to the early '90s, the public somewhat accepted him taking Bubbles the pet chimp to see President Reagan, the private theme park at Neverland Ranch, and some of the early plastic surgery.

The thing we learn is that, in conservative societies, it is still often okay for high profile entertainers to dress, and in some cases act, in a flamboyant and somewhat eccentric manner; especially at the peak of their success. In fact, it can be an endearing characteristic.

But it's a dangerous game, and a game that, in itself, has limits.

While endearing, it can also be threatening, or lead to an uncomfortable silence around it. It leads people to wonder whether said individual is a sexual deviant. And it's tollerable as long as the eccentricities are kept within the tollerable limits of the society.

Oh, and as both Jackson and Wilde have learned, tollerable social limits include both commercial success, and no open accusations of 'sexual perversion'. If this happens, it becomes a free-for-all, and any eccentric acts, or fashion choices, will be held against you in the court of public opinion, if not court.

In 1881 his collected poems were published. In 1882, short of money, Mr. Wilde accepted an invitation to embark on a lecture tour of America. The tour was an unmitigated smash and Mr. Wilde returned to London in triumph and richer by several thousand pounds.

Mr. Wilde married Constance Lloyd, the daughter of an Irish barrister in 1884. They had two sons, Cyril and Vyvyan.

The eccentricities of both Wilde and Jackson were accepted because of the facade of their private lives. People saw Wilde with his wife and children, and (at least some) assumed that beyond the public persona lived a normal, Christian family man. In both cases, there were already rumors of sexual deviance. At the peak of his success, Jackson was often publically accompanied by "girlfriend" Brooke Shields.

Even after the first round of accusations, Jackson married and had (what some assume to be a series of sham) marriages (Debbie Rowe, Lisa Marie Presley) and 3 children. However, this was enough to convince at least some - with time - that Jackson may not be a sexual deviant, as did Wilde's marraige to Constance Lloyd.

What we see here is the utmost importance of maintaining a facade of what a conservative society deems 'normalcy', especially with other behavior and dress choices that push the limits on what a conservative society finds acceptable.

Neil McKenna puts down Frank Miles as the first man (perhaps the first person) to have had sex with Wilde, when Wilde was 22. This is perfectly possible, as Miles was definitely a sexual predator and was so close to Wilde that they later shared a flat. The most commonly reported view, however, is that Wilde first had sex with the 17-year-old (but very promiscuous) Robert Ross, at Ross's instigation, when Wilde was 31. McKenna has every right to challenge this position but he does not proffer any reference or evidence for his contrary view.,6121,1070373,00.html

In 1891 a guest of the Wilde's brought a young man to tea. Alfred Douglas--Bosie--was the foppish, poet son of the Marquess of Queensberry. They were immediately attracted to each other. Bosie was taken with the brilliance of Mr. Wilde's conversation and wit, and Mr. Wilde was entranced by young Queensberry's good looks and title.

It may be, as McKenna suggests, that Ross was the first man with whom Wilde experienced anal sex, and with previous lovers had engaged only in mutual masturbation and fellatio. If so, Oscar soon made up for lost time.,6121,1070373,00.html

This would be easier to enjoy as an epic of sexual liberation if Wilde and co really were arguing for the acceptance of love between man and man. In fact, as McKenna's extensive quotations make quite clear, many were standing up for the righteousness and desirability of sex between men and boys. McKenna exhaustively documents Wilde's relationships both with young men who were his social equals, and with the teenage working-class boys or "chickens" who were to his taste. One encounter at a hotel in Worthing was with a 15-year-old boy, an event which, if it happened today, would have Wilde castigated as a celebrity paedophile.,6121,1070373,00.html

I would like to point out at this point that Michael Jackson should be considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law, and that hasn't happend yet. However, accusations of paedophilia is certainly something both men share in common.

On the heels of the success and titillating scandal of The Picture of Dorian Gray (1891), Mr. Wilde produced his best known plays. Among these timeless social comedies were: Lady Windemere's Fan (1892), A Woman of No Importance (1893), Salome (1893), The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), and An Ideal Husband (1895). These were well received by the public and Mr. Wilde became the toast of London society--lionized for his brilliant wit, his gregarious charm and manner.

I won't argue the relative merits of Jackson vs. Wilde. However, I will point out that both men, even with gossip of their personal lives, managed to be quite succesful. Amist the gossip and innuendo about Jackson, we need to remember that Off The Wall, Thriller, Bad, and Dangerous are still amongst the biggest selling albums of all time, and that Jackson - for better or worse - has had an impact on pop culture in the past couple of decades. We certainly aren't talking about Joe Blogger here; we're talking about men at the peak of pop culture success.

On February 14, 1895, Wilde's new play The Importance of Being Earnest was set to open at the St. James Theatre.  Wilde learned that Queensberry planned to disrupt the opening night's performance and harrangue the audience about Wilde's alleged decadent lifestyle.  Wilde arranged to have the theater surrounded by police.  His plan blocked, Queenberry prowled about outside for three hours before finally leaving "chattering."

Certainly, the chattering has affected the success of recent efforts by Jackson in the decade since the first public accusation. HIStory, Blood On The Dancefloor, and Invincible have been significantly less successful - arguably - than they would have been if Jackson had never been accused of deviant behavior.

Four days later at the Albemarle Club--a club to which both Wilde and his wife belonged, Queensberry left a card with a porter.  "Give that to Oscar Wilde," he told the porter.  On the card he had written: "To Oscar Wilde posing as a somdomite [sic]."  Two weeks later Wilde showed up at the club and was handed the card with the offensive message.  Returning that night to the Hotel Avondale, Wilde wrote to Douglas asking that he come and see him.  "I don't see anything now but a criminal prosecution," Wilde wrote.  "My whole life seems ruined by this man.  The tower of ivory is assailed by the foul thing.  On the sand is my life split. I don't know what to do."

Jackson has had a number of Albemarle Club moments, the most noted of which were the first accusations against him, a decade ago, by the Chandler family. Indeed, there is a self-righteous conservative man behind the accusations against Jackson; Santa Barbera DA Tom Sneddon. Many believe the song DS to be about Sneddon, though the official lyrics suggest a man named "Dom Sheldon", a man who holds the title of "USTA" (rather than "DA") is the subject of the song...

Tom Sneddon is a Cold Man...

On April 3, 1895, the first trial of Oscar Wilde--with Wilde in this case cheering the prosecution--began at Old Bailey.  Queensberry, wearing a blue hunting stock,  stood alone, hat in hand, in front of the dock.  Wilde, wearing a fashionable coat with a flower in his button-hole, chatted with his attorney.  Meanwhile, in another room in the building, a group of young men--gathered by Queensberry to substantiate his charge--laughed and smoked cigarettes.

Sir Edward Clarke delivered the prosecution's opening statement.  Clarke's address impressed even Edward Carson, Queensberry's attorney, who said "I never heard anything to equal it in all my life."  Clarke attempted to take some of the sting out of on key piece of evidence that Queensberry planned to introduce.  He read one of Wilde's letters to Douglas that might suggest to many readers the existence of a homosexual relationship.  Clarke admitted that the letter "might appear extravagant to those in the habit of writing commercial correspondence," but said it must be remembered that Oscar Wilde is a poet, and the letter should be read as "the expression of true poetic feeling, and with no relation whatever to the hateful and repulsive suggestions put to it in the plea in this case."

After brief testimony from Sidney Wright, the porter at the Albemarle Club, Wilde took the stand.  He began by lying about his age, which he said was thirty-nine (he was actually forty-one).  Under questioning by Clarke, Wilde, with easy assurance, described his earlier encounters with--and harassment by--Queensberry.  To Clarke's final question, "Is there any truth in any of these accusations [of Queesnberry]?", Wilde answered: "There is no truth whatever in any of them."

After lunch, Edward Carson--a rival of Wilde since their days together at Oxford College--began his skillful cross-examination. The cross generally broke into two main parts: a literary part and a fact-oriented part focusing on Wilde's past relationships.  In the literary part of the examination, Carson asked Wilde about letters to Douglas and two of his own published works, The Portrait of Dorian Gray and Phrases and Philosophies for Use of the Young.  Wilde defended the works against Carson's suggestions that they were immoral or touched on homosexual themes.  "There is no such thing as an immoral work," Wilde asserted in Dorian Gray, rather "books are well written, or badly written."  "That expresses your view?" asked Carson, "a perverted novel might be a good book?"  When Wilde replied, "I don't know what you mean by a 'perverted' novel," Carson said, "I will suggest  Dorian Gray as open to the interpretation of being such a novel."  Wilde answered indignantly, "That could only be to brutes and illiterates.  The views of Philistines on art are incalculably stupid."  Carson asked about a suggestive letter to Lord Douglas: "Was it an ordinary letter?"  "Certainly not," Wilde answered, "it was a beautiful letter."  "Apart from art?" Carson wondered.  "I cannot answer any questions apart from Art," Wilde replied.  And so it went.  Wilde did his best to turn the proceedings into a joke with flippant answers.  Always the artist, he seemed to be reaching for creative, witty answers, even if they contradicted earlier ones.  Though immensely interesting reading, the literary part of Carson's cross was not the most incriminating.  Rather, one senses that Carson enjoyed toying with his old rival.

When Carson began to ask Wilde about his relationships with named young men, Wilde became noticeably uncomfortable. The jury appeared astonished when Carson produced items ranging from fine clothes to silver-mounted walking sticks that Wilde admitted giving to his young companions.  Suspiciously, the recipients of the gifts were not, in Carson's words, "intellectual treats," but newspaper peddlers, valets, or unemployed--in some cases barely literate.  Wilde tried to explain: "I recognize no social distinctions at all of any kind, and to me youth, the mere fact of youth, is so wonderful that I would sooner talk to a young man for half-an-hour than be--well--cross-examined in court."  Soon after that confident response, Carson asked Wilde about a young man, sixteen when Wilde knew him, named Walter Grainger.  Did Wilde kiss him?  "Oh, dear no!" Wilde replied, "He was  a peculiarly plain boy."  Carson zeroed in on his prey.  Was that the reason he didn't kiss him?  Why then did he mention his ugliness?  "Why, why, why, did you add that?" Carson demanded to know.

That afternoon the prosecution closed its case without calling, as was widely expected, Lord Alfred Douglas as a witness.  No testimony that Douglas might give, no matter how forceful, could save Wilde's case.

When Carson announced, in his opening speech in defense of Queensberry, that he intended to call to the witness box a procession of young men with whom Wilde had been sexually associated, the atmosphere in the courtroom became tense.  Edward Clarke understood his client was in serious personal danger.  An 1895 Act, the Criminal Law Amendment Act, had made it a crime for any person to commit an act of "gross indecency."  The Act had been interpreted to criminalize any form of sexual activity between members of the same sex.

After trial that evening, Edward Clarke met with his famous client.  "When I saw Mr. Wilde," Clarke later recalled, "I told him it that it was almost impossible in view of all the circumstances to induce a jury to convict of a criminal offence a father who was endeavoring to save his son from what he believed to be an evil companionship."  Clarke urged Wilde to allow him to withdraw the prosecution and consent to a verdict regarding the charge of "posing."  Wilde agreed, and the next morning Clarke rose to announce the withdrawal of the libel prosecution.

The first trial of Oscar Wilde, where Wilde tried to clear his name, bears a striking similarity to a Jackson attempt to clear his name. The biggest difference, however, is that where Wilde chose court, Jackson chose the court of public opinion. I'm talking, of course, of the now infamous interview with Martin Bashir.

Fans of Jackson's were outraged at how editing and voice-overs made Jackson appear dangerously out of control, and a paedophile. Aside from one tabloid story that erroneously dubbed the episode the "The World's Largest Suicide Note" (though Michael hasn't committed suicide in the year since it aired), they most heavily promoted the parts that suggested he was paedophile.

As the general public enjoyed the wit of Wilde, many felt sympathetic to the story of Jackson's childhood. However, like the unusual silence when Wilde made the joke in court about not kissing a particular boy because he was far too ugly, a large section of the general public deemed Jackson defending the practice of sharing his bed with young children as either proof that Jackson was indeed a child molestor, or at the very least, a very naeve man.

Many also suggest Jackson was liberal with the truth with the ammount of plastic surgery he has had.

A poorly calculated move in both cases. And one that would come to land both men in further legal trouble.

Wilde, however, had lapsed into "a pathetic state of indecision."  Meeting with Douglas and his old friend Robert Ross at the Cadogan Hotel, Wilde wavered back and forth between staying and fleeing until, he said, "The train has gone--it is too late."  When Wilde learned from a journalist calling at the hotel that a warrant had been issued, Wilde went "very gray in the face."  He sat quietly in his chair drinking glass after glass of hock and seltzer.  Soon Wilde's name was removed from the ads at playbills at the St. James Theatre, where The Importance of Being Earnest was still being performed.

Similarly, Jackson still holds a large fan base in continental Europe. Similarly, there was speculation that Jackson was planning to move to the homesteading state of Florida last year, where he would be outside Sneddon's jurisdiction. Perhaps he, too, will regret not leaving before the train departs?

The jury failed to reach a decision at the first trial, but at a second trial Mr. Wilde was found guilty and sentenced to two years in Reading Gaol (pronounced redd-ing jail). He was forced to labor in prison and his meals consisted mainly of gruel, suet, water and greasy cocoa. While in prison Mr. Wilde was declared bankrupt; his house and possessions were sold to pay his debts.

Similarly to this, there have been two attempts at a criminal prosecution against Jackson, the first in 1992 began as a (settled) civil trial, the second is set to begin later this year. I wish Jackson luck in finding a fair jury.

Prurient Victorian England denounced Wilde and sentenced him to more than prison. Performances of his plays were cancelled. Wilde's wife changed her surname and with her two young sons, moved abroad to escape the scandal. On his release, Wilde lived in Paris. He was received into the Catholic Church on 29 November 1900, and died a day later.

I know there are certainly differences between the two men. To borrow a quote, history appears to always repeat to those who don't know the details. To my knowledge, Wilde never bleached his skin or had extensive plastic surgery. However, this is not (contrary to what the media will have you believe) going to be a unique trial; rather it's a trial of a public figure that a conservative society has already dubbed an eccentric. Again, I'd like to point out that Jackson is innocent until proven guilty.

In fact, it wouldn't surprise me if, in a century, some group holds up Jackson as a trail-blazer, as the gay community now holds Oscar Wilde. But Jackson has already been deemed guilty by many in our conservative society, and a large part of it has been due, perhaps, to his outlandish excess elsewhere.

Thanks to Sara for proof-reading this post.

Truth Of The Music Industry: Another look at Simon Fuller

Posted by AmishThrasher at 12:29 pm
Today's post is going to take a second look at the man guilty of creating and marketing some of the world's most commercial, mass produced pop. Yeah, I'm talking about Simon Fuller, with this article from BBC World. Simon is the puppetmaster behind such acts as The Spice Girls, S-Club-7, 21st Century Girls, Will Young, Gareth Gates, Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, and the various Idol shows around the world.

If you've been noticing more Victoria and David Beckham on your TV screens in recent months, Fuller is also the man responcible.

Performers managed by pop svengali Simon Fuller have claimed the top three spots in the United States charts. BBC News Online looks at his career.

When music fans look back on the charts of the last 10 years, they will see the unmistakable handprint of one man - Simon Fuller.

Described by some as the man with the Midas touch and by others as an evil genius, the pop impresario has swept the globe with his creations from the Spice Girls to Pop Idol.

Unfortunately, those creations took precious air time from more talented acts. Look, there's no doubt that Simon Fuller is good at what he does, but his glorified kareoke acts (and - let's face it - that's what they are) have, in the past decade, come at a price for western culture.

Estimated to be worth £90m ($150m) and rising, there is no disputing that he has his finger on the pulse of youth culture, and knows how to exploit it.

He began his career at record company Chrysalis, climbing through the ranks to become an A&R scout, finding new talent.


When he discovered Paul Hardcastle in the mid-1980s, he set out on his own and propelled Hardcastle to number one with his Vietnam war song, 19.

Fuller named his company 19 to mark the success.

His next discovery was singer-songwriter Cathy Dennis, who was guided to a string of global hits in the early 1990s.

He still manages Dennis, who has moved behind the scenes to write songs like Can't Get You Out Of My Head for Kylie Minogue.

Spice success

Fuller also took former Eurythmics singer Annie Lennox onto his books, helping her revive her career to become the UK's favourite solo female.

He still manages her too, and her latest album, Bare, has gone into the top five in the US and UK without any single releases.

But he first hit the headlines himself with the Spice Girls, whose carefully constructed brand of bubblegum pop swept through the global charts like a whirlwind in the late-1990s.

He did not bring them together, but took over their reins at the start of 1996, months before they hit the big time.

"On the first day I sat down with the girls, before we had a deal, and it was agreed that we would go for it on a worldwide basis," he said.

Fuller embarked on a strategic campaign to create excitement among record companies and the media, enticing them with their slick pop and energetic, appealing personas.

Shallow, one dimensional personas created by his marketing department. 'I like sport', 'I'm wealthy' - even the personas were plastic and boring.

By July 1996, their debut single, Wannabe, had gone to number one in the UK and went on to do the same in 36 other countries.

Fuller's plan was so successful that there were few places in the world where the Spice Girls name was not known.

But they grew unhappy with his style and sacked him less than 18 months after finding success.

The act fell to pieces without its puppet-master guiding the strings, and the various members didn't have the talent to carry on alone without the puppet master. As is, unfortunately, the case with most of the pop acts he manufactures.

Fuller stumbled with his first attempt at a comeback, launching another group, 21st Century Girls - "a female Slade for the millennium" - who soon sank.

S Club hits

But success was not far away, launching S Club 7, a young men and women who went on to have 11 UK top five hit singles.

Their success spanned music, TV and movies, with the success of each strand propelling the others.

When S Club (they dropped the 7 after one member left) split earlier this year, Fuller already had a ready-made replacement to pick up the mantle, the younger S Club Juniors.

"My business is creating fame and celebrity, and I'm one of the best in the world. I know it to the finest detail," he said recently.

It is his TV venture Pop Idol that has doubled his fortune in the last 12 months.

The programme - sold to the US as American Idol - has helped redefine the TV talent show, making viewers a vital part of the process by asking them to vote, and bringing the glamour of the pop world to screens.

The top artists, such as Will Young and Gareth Gates in the UK, and Kelly Clarkson, Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard in the US, were then taken under Fuller's wing.

Singles that were rushed out to capitalise on the hype broke sales records.

Future projects

Pay attention to what this guy does; undoubtedly it'll be shoved down your throat next.

For those wary of Fuller's hold over popular culture, there is much more on its way.

Second Chance Idol is expected to give former stars the Pop Idol treatment, while American Juniors - a TV show to create a US version of S Club Juniors - has just launched.

There have been rumours of a UK prime time quiz show where one million viewers could compete on the phone at the same time, and a new version of The Monkees is in the pipeline.

He has talked about reinventing the beauty pageant with a show called All American Girl, and even rolling Pop Idol out to China.

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