Category Archives: Music

Lily Allen, the Ashes, Twitter and the big fight

agnewAmongst all the post-Ashes euphoria, it’s been easy to miss the feud that’s developed between Test Match Special commentator Jonathan Agnew and Observer sports writer Will Buckley. As it all revolves around Lily Allen it’s pretty interesting. What makes it very interesting is how important Twitter has been in fuelling it.

The spat started when Buckley wrote a comment piece about Agnew’s interview with Allen on Saturday. You can read the piece for yourself, but the long and short of it is that Buckley described Agnew’s interview technique as “firmly on the pervy side of things.”

Agnew took offence at being labelled a ‘pervert’ (though strictly speaking that’s not true), and demanded an apology from Buckley. With an apology unforthcoming, he then used Twitter to launch a viral campaign against his tormentor:

“I gave Will Buckley 24 hrs to apologise for calling me a pervert, and he has declined. If you feel moved by this….

“his boss is brian.oliver@observer.co.uk”

The background to the whole story is that Agnew has spent the summer delivering potted updates from the Ashes on Twitter. When Allen mentioned she was watching the cricket in one of her own Twitter posts, Agnew invited her to appear on A View from the boundary. Her upcoming appearance then became Twitter’s worst kept secret as she Tweeted about the attractiveness of Graham Onions, Stuart Broad and anyone else who owns a thigh-pad.

The interview itself featured Agnew playing up his love-struck schoolboy act and asking lots of questions that weren’t entirely about cricket. It was exactly what you’d expect of an interview between a middle-aged cricket correspondent, and a 24-year-old pop star who had only recently started watching the game.

I don’t want to get into the rights and wrongs of the interview or of Buckley’s article, but I will say that the interview was entirely harmless and that most people seemed to enjoy it. Buckley then wrote it up using language that was probably more inflammatory than was wise. However, I don’t see Buckley’s article as a personal attack – it was meant to be funny, and it only really exaggerated a persona that Agnew himself had adopted during the interview.

What has been astonishing though is the reaction of the Twitter community to Buckley’s piece. At the last count 235 people had left mostly negative comments on the Observer website, and Agnew’s Twitter feed has been inundated with messages of support.

But interestingly, the article itself isn’t the only thing Buckley has done to cause offence. The Twitter community seems to have taken umbrage with Buckley because he hadn’t bothered to find out the back-story of how Allen and Agnew had regularly sent each other Tweets before the show.

Agnew is on Twitter, and has won the hearts of the community by answering their questions and taking part. As Buckley isn’t on Twitter (as far as anyone knows), there seems to be a general feeling that he shouldn’t be attacking one of Twitter’s best beloved. Here are just a couple of posters on the first page of Buckley’s comments section:

“It’s terrible when a story like this is written when the author doesn’t know or understand the background. Everyone who regularly follows TMS and @aggerscricket would know how Aggers (and Tuffers and David Lloyd) has built up this interview for the last week.”

“As regards Buckley’s piece above, it is a nasty, jealous dig typical of journalists who are scared that Twitter and Web 2.0 will put them out of a job.”

Which just goes to show the power that Twitter has at the moment. If such a groundswell of opinion can be generated by some fairly harmless remarks, imagine what could happen if something serious was to occur. Not being on Twitter to take part in the conversation seems – in some Twitter users’ eyes – to be a serious offence, and one that renders non-participants unworthy of even expressing an opinion.

This is probably because everyone likes to feel part of something, and once they do they’ll angrily pounce on anyone who attacks one of their crew. This is clearly a massive over-reaction from the Twitterati, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

So watch out – Twitter is powerful, and it’s very easily offended.

Checking out the Gents

gentlemen

I got the new album by The Gentlemen the other day. It’s called A Candid History of Faith, Hope, Love and it’s excellent – you can listen to some of the tracks here, and buy it here.

The Gentlemen are a Christian group but don’t let that put you off – even if like me, you’re a bit of a heathen. I first saw them at a village festival last year and I’ve been a big fan of their rock / pop / keyboards combination ever since.

Bands that actually have ideas are few and far between at the moment – reference the Kaiser Chiefs’ bizarrely un-self-aware Everything is Average Nowadays. But The Gentlemen are certainly not unthinking, and I loved their first album for the way it tackled the big issues head first.

The first album, Smile Back at Me, included the brilliant My God You are Beautiful. I can’t find a good quality video of it to link to, so you’ll just have to take my word that it’s an incredibly catchy number that you can’t help but sing along to. It’s about God, though I spent a good few weeks assuming it was about a girl until all was explained to me.

The song reminds me of a story told by 70s’ punk and gay-rights activist Tom Robinson. His most famous song, Glad to be Gay, is equally catchy, and features the chorus: “Sing if you’re glad to be gay, sing if you’re happy that way.” “Of course,” he joked, “just because you sing along it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re glad.”

One of music’s greatest qualities is to get you to sing along to things you wouldn’t normally even think about. Which is part of the reason I think The Gentlemen are such a great band. The other part of the reason is that they rock. So check them out, especially Ecoutez Moi – it’s my new favourite song.

Van and the old Romantics

van1

I bought Van Morrison’s new recording of Astral Weeks the other day and I’ve hardly listened to anything else since. It’s hard to improve upon perfection but I think Live at the Hollywood Bowl might just do it.

As you can tell, I’m a fan. Which is why I was interested by a blog I came across on the BBC website ridiculing the idea that Van is Ireland’s greatest poet. Now, clearly Van isn’t Ireland’s greatest poet but that’s not to say he isn’t great. His lyrics may often be indecipherable on record, but get the album sleeve out and you’ll realise the gems you’re missing out on because he can’t be bothered to enunciate.

I once wrote an essay comparing Van to the Romantics.  The essay got absolutely slated by my supervisor, presumably because she thought Van wasn’t a proper poet either. But I’m still very much in Van’s camp, and it’s going to take a pretty strong argument to persuade me that Astral Weeks wouldn’t sit very comfortably in The Complete Works of John Keats.

“Philosophy will clip an angel’s wings.” – John Keats, Lamia

“To dig it all and not to wonder, that’s just fine.” – Van Morrison, Sweet Thing