Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Randomiser #2: 2 January 2007

Today's song: "One Sailor Was Waving", Ballboy.

Ah, Edinburgh's leading indie band. Not that the competition is exactly fierce - there hasn't been a really successful band from Edinburgh since the Bay City Rollers. They're also the flagship act on SL Records, a label I used to vaguely follow simply because it was a spin-off from Edinburgh Student Radio, where I had a show at the time. SL Records started off as a vehicle to release acoustic tracks by local bands which had been (haphazardly) recorded in the studio. The "SL" stands for "Student Loan." Given their humble origins, SL Records have done okay for an indie label.

My copy of "One Sailor Was Waving" comes from Club Anthems 2001, a compilation of Ballboy's first three singles. Actually, it started life as the B-side to "I Hate Scotland" - which is an absolutely fantastic, unpatriotic rant of a single - and it's a pleasingly delicate acoustic track. I haven't listened to this in ages, but I'm thinking I should probably give that album another listen.


- The biggest selling single in the UK last year was, apparently, "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, a record which will live forever as the answer to the trivia question "What was the first record to reach number one in the UK singles chart on download sales alone?"

The rules for the singles chart change this week. Until now, record stores have fought tooth and claw against allowing download-only singles, since that would leave gaps on the shelves for their chart displays. The result was a bizarre compromise where a legal download counted towards the chart in the week before the physical single was released, and also for several weeks after it was deleted. The argument, in theory, is meant to be that this keeps the singles chart meaningful. This overlooks the fact that the singles chart hasn't been remotely meaningful, or even interesting, for several years.

However, as from this week, that's all out the window, as the single chart is now going to be primarily download-oriented - something that might actually make it interesting again. Under the new rules, apparently, anything can count as a single - album tracks, archive material, anything. I presume there's still some sort of limit based on track length, and presumably if you buy the whole album that doesn't count as twelve to fifteen singles. But otherwise, this has the potential to make the singles chart an awful lot more interesting, by disconnecting it from the release schedules of the record companies. If I'm understanding this rule correctly, then there will no longer be any such thing as a "release date" for the second single from an album, because you'll be able to download the song as a single album track, and that'll count for the chart. If so, this should mean the end of the tiresome current format where everything enters high and then plummets, because it's been hyped for six weeks before release. We could go back to the days when records slowly climbed the charts - which was what made the chart interesting in the first place.

The final number one single of the old regime, by the way, is "A Moment Like This" by Leona Lewis, the rush-release single by the winner of The X-Factor. It's everything you'd expect from such a thing, complete with cutting-room-floor video, but any vaguely curious Americans can see it in its syrupy glory here on YouTube. (Best adoring comment from a fan: "This is a brilliant song for her, though, because she hits all the right notes.") No doubt Leona will be entirely conscious that two years ago, Britain's number one was "Against All Odds" by her predecessor Steve Brookstein, who is allegedly still in the music business but for all practical purposes has fallen off the face of the earth.