For a musician with a hangover, Jamie N Commons sure talks a lot about destiny. He’s up early to chat to Music Week, fuzzy-headed in his Los Angeles bedroom after a late night at a major label party.
That’s how ...
Liam Gallagher’s stunning album sales performance, shifting over 100,000 copies of solo debut As You Were to land at No.1, could be significant in all sorts of ways.
It shows there’s still an audience for rock music. Even more remarkably, the record’s very healthy streaming figures show there is actually an audience for guitar music on Spotify. Meanwhile, Warner/Chappell’s successful partnering of Gallagher with top songwriters shows that the co-writing trend can potentially benefit anyone, not just pop producers churning out bangers.
But for me, the most significant aspect of his success may involve Gallagher’s style of promotion. This was old school rock stardom reinvented for the social media age, Liam’s brand of sweary wit and charisma working just as well on Twitter as on Graham Norton’s sofa or in last week’s much-buzzed-about Music Week cover feature.
As You Were is, as it turns out, a great album. But it’s being able to see Liam’s personality in full effect that has showed it in its best light. Ditto Eminem, whose blistering attack on Donald Trump has fired up excitement for his own imminent return. So too, Wolf Alice singer Ellie Rowsell, whose forthright opinions and staunch support for Labour sparked a rallying tweet from Jeremy Corbyn during her band’s recent chart battle with Shania Twain.
Social media can easily trip up a star in public, particularly the younger ones with less experience. But the biz should be wary of taking all the rough edges off its talent with media training and carefully controlled campaigns.
After all, a huge part of music’s appeal is still down to personality and having something to say. Liam knows that and that’s why he’s not only No.1, but crossing over to a whole new audience. As you were.
It’s been a terrible week for the US music business. After the horrors of Las Vegas, the death of Tom Petty was perhaps inevitably somewhat over-shadowed, but even amidst such tragedy, his passing should not go unmarked.
It’s become standard to say, as another rock legend leaves us, that we won’t see their like again. But in Petty’s case, you do wonder if we ever will. He was the kind of musician that used to seem commonplace, particularly in the US; not a megastar (although Petty certainly had his moments in the sun, particularly Stateside), but one who carved out a great career and a large fanbase without ever compromising on the reasons he got into the business in the first place.
It was notable that, on his death, everyone seemed to have a different favourite Tom Petty album. For what it’s worth, mine is Long After Dark, his under-appreciated - at least in the UK - 1982 record that sticks resolutely to the old-fashioned notion that a collection of really good songs played really well is all you need - a resolution that, as it happens, turned out to be correct.
Because Petty’s appeal was not built on a single hit, nor could it be boiled down to a handful of songs with mass appeal. Instead, his name guaranteed songwriting quality across a range of projects and decades. In the streaming age, with its emphasis on blockbuster contemporary songs and classic hits, that’s precisely the sort of career that could fall through the cracks.
That, thankfully, never happened to Petty, whose last UK gig at British Summer Time Hyde Park was surely his biggest-ever headline show here. But the next generation of heroes outside of the mainstream might not be so lucky. We owe it to Petty - and the business - to handle them with care.