Wednesday, 31 March 2010


Even though the world 'funeral' contains the word 'fun', we, as civilised human beings should not take this to mean they are entertainment.

The first day I turned on the TV in Korea to see a funeral procession was the day I witnessed something that shocked me more than almost anything else I had ever seen on TV. Not since the days of The Word and their 'I'll do anything to be on TV' segment, which saw hopefuls eat worms, bathe in maggots, lick sweat off fat people and do repulsive things in order to get featured on the programme, have I been so repulsed.

Korea is obsessed with the cult of celebrity and this would seem to be the apex of this frankly sick obsession.

The most recent funeral was for actor and singer Choi Jin-young, who is thought to have committed suicide in his Seoul apartment. His elder sister Choi Jin-sil also killed herself in October 2008.

The live show isn't nearly enough however with news stations broadcasting, in true Korean style, the pictures over and over again. A segment on a news program I came across was called 'Star News' and these harbingers of gloom had a reporter following the procession. As he talked, scenes from earlier were replayed yet again, scenes that depicted despondent friends and relatives bathed in a sea of camera flashes. The mother of the deceased, having now lost two of her children after she herself discovered the body of her daughter, was utterly broken and had to be held up by two other mourners. She too was bathed in flashing lights so ferocious that it was like something you might expect at a rave. People outside the family and friend circle do not need to see this.

The grandmother's next job is to tell her grandchildren, the nephews of Choi Jin-young and children of Choi Jin-sil, that their uncle has joined their mother, this after burying her second child in less than 18 months.

Choi Jin-young appeared on the KBS "Park Jung Hoon Show" after his sister's death and said "There were times when I resented her for passing on this huge burden to me," a burden he has now added to and passed on to his mother, make of that what you will.

Friday, 12 March 2010

This Month in Music History

A version of this article may or may not have appeared in Groove Korea Magazine's March 2010 issue.

This month is Groove's big music issue and so while the other pages celebrate the best of the present and the future, this article will take a look back at the musical births, deaths and cataclysmic occurrences, as well as a lot of insignificant and sometimes ridiculous events, that have helped shape the world of music we all inhabit in 2010.

Starting with perhaps the most significant event of any March in musical history, John Lennon puts his foot in it! It was March 4th 1966 when Lennon made his now infamous "We're more popular than Jesus now" quote. The controversy however didn't erupt until some months after the original interview was published in The London Evening Standard. An American "sensationalist, disposable fan mag" called DATEbook published an excerpt of the interview which turned out to be enough to enrage Christians in America and eventually in other parts of the world. Records were burnt, threats were made and the Ku Klux Klan even nailed a few of their albums to a few crosses. Since then two very interesting things have happened. To mark the 40th anniversary of The Beatles' White Album, the Vatican's unofficial mouthpiece, L'Osservatore Romano, forgave Lennon for his transgression and said Lennon's comments were "showing off, bragging by a young English working-class musician who had grown up in the age of Elvis Presley and rock and roll and had enjoyed unexpected success." In perhaps a more significant development (or maybe not) in the Beatles V Jesus debate was the revelation that for a brief moment in September last year Google Trends traffic stats revealed that The Beatles were in fact more popular than Jesus (yes it was because of the release of The Beatles Rock Band and yes Kanye West's VMA stunt drew more hits than both Jesus and Beatles combined but the whole debate is stupid anyway!)

Lennon went on to marry Yoko Ono on March 20th 1969 before heading to Amsterdam for their honeymoon to stage their now famous week long bed-in.

On St David's Day 1966, or March 1st if you like, Gene Clark of The Byrds gave many people a chuckle when he announced he was leaving the group due to his fear of flying. Byrds and flying. Well I thought it was funny. In a slightly less funny incident in 1994 Nirvana played their final ever concert at The Terminal Einz in Munich, Germany, in front of 3,000 fans before Cobain blew his own head off a month later. Back to funny again with Michael Jackson's visit to Madame Tussauds Waxworks in London to unveil his waxwork look-alike. Jokes about the ensuing confusion between Jackson and the waxwork on a postcard to Groove magazine.

On the 5th in 1998 Mancunian muppet Liam Gallagher was released on $10,000 bail after being charged with head butting a fan and on the same day in 2004 another muppet demanded money she was in no way entitled to. The estranged wife of Lionel Richie went to court seeking $300,000 a month in maintenance support. She had the bold faced cheek to ask for money to pay for things like plastic surgery ($20,000 a year), $15,000 a month for clothing, shoes and accessories and $600 on massages.

In 1973 Paul McCartney was fined £100 for growing cannabis at his farm in Scotland but probably made more than that selling it, so that worked out fine. He did try to claim that some fans gave him the seeds and that he didn't know what they would grow into, which is a complete lie but McCartney was in The Beatles so it's OK.

March 10th 1977 at 7am in the morning and The Sex Pistols signed to A&M Records outside Buckingham Palace but the contract lasted for just six days. More drugs and more former Beatles now with George Harrison and wife Patti. In 1969 they were arrested after police found 120 joints in their house.

In 1982 Randy Rhoads died in a plane crash while 'buzzing' Ozzy Osbourne's tour bus and on the 20th in 1991 Eric Clapton's 4 year old son fell from a 53rd story New York City apartment window, inspiring Clapton to write one of his best loved songs. 12 years earlier Clapton married George Harrison's ex-wife Patti Boyd, who inspired Clapton to write Layla, based on Layla and Majnun, a classical Arabic story of star-crossed lovers. Interestingly Boyd is also said to have been the inspiration behind Harrison's, "Something" and "For You Blue" as well as Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight" and "Bell Bottom Blues" although Harrison denied he had written "Something" for Boyd, claiming instead " when I wrote it, I was thinking of Ray Charles."

More Jackson madness with his interior decorator telling a newspaper on March 21st in 2001 that that he kept 17 fully dressed life size dolls in his bedroom for 'company.' Freaky as it is, why would Jackson tell a bloody decorator anything? 5 days and 5 years later readers of Total Guitar magazine voted Jimmy Page's solo in 'Stairway To Heaven' as the greatest guitar solo of all time. The Boss jumped a Graceland fence in 1976 to get a glimpse of his idol and on the 30th in 1967 perhaps the greatest album cover of all time was shot in London. The cover for Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band was comprised of cardboard cutouts, a few wax works and a few homages, notably a nod to the Rolling Stones, who later returned the favour. The cover won a Grammy.

Almost at the end, but first a story about the Clash being naughty and the greatest rock guitarist ever. On the 30th in 1978 four police cars and a helicopter were sent to arrest Paul Simonon and Nicky Headon after they shot down racing pigeons with air rifles, enter your own 'they fought the law' jokes.

And finally on the last day of the 3rd month in the year ninteen hundred and fifty five, Angus McKinnon Young was born in Glasgow. In 2006 Young received Kerrang! magazine's Legend Award and the magazine's editor called AC/DC "one of the most important and influential rock bands in history" and to prove they can still cut the mustard, AC/DC won the 2010 Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance, beating pretenders to their crown Alice In Chains, Linkin Park, Metallica and Nickelback.

Rock 'N' Roll.

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