How do they manage?

Rich beyond her wildest dreams? That’s Adele, now one of the most expensive living musicians on this planet.

Having signed a contract worth £90 million with Sony, the Cockernee superstar has usurped Robbie Williams (the original wild dreamer) who was, perhaps generously, awarded £80m back in 2002. Quite what the former Take That ‘fat dancer’ (cheers Noel, as ever) spent his cash on is unclear, but Adele will probably take full advantage of the new ISA rules. She’s famously down to earth, her demands modest – her pre-gig rider a cup of rosie lea and a jar of jellied eels. But having put ink to paper she will be forced to keep writing songs, rather than following in the footsteps of Babz Windsor, erstwhile landlord of the Queen Vic.

This new record sum isn’t the largest, however. It doesn’t top Michael Jackson, who has / had a $250m deal.

Sadly he’ll see nowt, the posthumous arrangement giving Sony (them again) the rights to ten new(ish) recordings, plus back catalogue and franchising. Not included in the deal was Jacko’s Beatles catalogue, which Sony picked up for $750m this year, or anything by Bubbles The Monkey (the King of Simian Pop having been smart enough to have an exemption clause inserted in his contract).

If Jackson’s experience with the label is anything like that of some other acts he may be better off out of it. George Michael went on strike while at the label, and Prince described his time at Warner as “professional slavery” – even writing it on his cheek.

It could be worse. Spare a thought for the familiar-looking lad in your local venue, collecting glasses. Wasn’t he in a band, the next big thing? Shouldn’t he be driving his Jag into a guitar-shaped swimming pool rather than pocketing the fag ends when he thinks no-one’s looking? Sadly, he’s likely up to his eyeballs in debt having signed a ten-album deal and blown the advance on fast cars (or more likely, “debts and essentials”) with his label now ‘recouping’ this ‘cash advance’.

A famous quote attributed to Hunter S Thompson goes: “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side”. Cynical perhaps, but based on truth – Nirvana (ahem) producer Steve Albini also saw the ‘biz’ as a trench, though less fragrant than Thompson might have envisaged. The contract being dangled at the other end was far too far away to read the small print, plus the contents of the channel of chunder were making everyone’s eyes water. Albini’s ‘The Problem With Music’ details how a million-selling band can end up on minimum wage thanks to bad management (in both senses of the word).

A good manager should look out for their artist, as I’m sure Colonel Tom Parker would claim he was doing for Elvis as he ruled him with a rod of iron. And The Beatles’ Brian Epstein offered the band £50 per week – for life. Not a great long-term deal for the Fab Four.

There are examples throughout history of evil Svengali-type figures doing deeds too wicked to report here. But more often the management are simply eccentric, their odd schemes great publicity stunts, like Malcolm McLaren, who may have orchestrated quite a bit of the outrage which surrounded the Sex Pistols. Or Factory Records boss Tony Wilson, who signed up New Order in blood.

Mind you, I once saw (and signed, against my better judgement) a management contract which covered releases of electro combo Cruiser worldwide as well as “the Solar System” – which given the progress of Voyager 1 may be a little under-ambitious. Mind you, this impresario – Some Bizzare boss Stevo Pearce – sent a teddy bear dressed as Robin Hood to clinch Soft Cell’s record deal. Adele should be aware – not every record executive is quite as cuddly…

The Cosmic Dead
Set the controls for the heart of… your psyche. Described as ‘space travellers’ that ‘transcend the living’, this foursome make a noise that certainly goes beyond the ears. Even the vinyl album is a trippy green and cream swirl, while the fuzzy low-frequency bass on opener ‘Human Sausage’ comes like a blow to the solar plexus. Higher-frequencies swim around as the sounds of Hawkwind come to mind, while the motorik drums set up a repetitive beat built to please fans of Krautrockers like Can or Neu. The four tunes here pretty much run together with only the hypnotically blippy ‘Skye Burial’ dipping the pace, before the prog workout of ‘Inner C’ and the sprawling title track explode into our senses. All 20 of them… HHHHH

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