Category Archives: Video Music

Sacked! What happened to members fired from famous bands?

Most groups appear to burst into the limelight fully-formed, but in reality there’s usually been plenty of chopping and chiselling to get to that point. Often there’s a Pete Best figure, elbowed out of the picture just before fame came knocking because their face didn’t fit. Or perhaps they couldn’t keep up, or they kept getting “tired and emotional” on tour. And when success does come, it can sometimes be divisive, leading to further sudden personnel changes. The official press release may say “mutual consent” but the look on everyone’s face suggests summary dismissal.

So what happened to those unfortunate musicians left clutching their P45s as their former bandmates marched on to glory? Here are the stories of seven high-profile rock firings, and what the recipients did next.

Tony McCarroll (Oasis)

Oasis’s original curly-haired drummer played on Definitely Maybe but once the band became megastars, his relationship with the Gallagher brothers deteriorated. Noel repeatedly derided McCarroll’s musical chops in public and would pretend to forget his name in interviews; amid rumours of a punch-up with Liam, it was no surprise to anyone when McCarroll was sacked in April 1995. “I like Tony as a geezer but he wouldn’t have been able to drum the new songs,” said Noel, referring to Oasis’s notoriously complex rhythm tracks.

Now: Having sued Oasis for unpaid royalties, McCarroll took further revenge on Noel in his 2010 autobiography, Oasis: The Truth, although his allegation that the Oasis songwriter regularly echoed melodies from other sources was hardly a revelation. These days – minus the hair – McCarroll is still drumming, and, according to The Mirror, was primed to take part in an Oasis reunion for the One Love Manchester concert, until Noel nixed the idea. McCarroll was also recently immortalised as a garden gnome, as the Manchester Evening News reported.

Kim Shattuck (Pixies)

When Kim Deal quit the reformed Pixies in summer 2013, former Muffsfrontwoman Kim Shattuck was drafted in as her replacement. All seemed to be going well until Shattuck was unexpectedly relieved of her duties less than six months later. No reason was given, but the bassist speculated to NME that an over-enthusiastic stagedive may have sealed her fate. “When I got offstage the manager told me not to do that again. I said, ‘Really, for my own safety?’ And he said, ‘No, because the Pixies don’t do that.'”

LaTavia Roberson / LeToya Luckett / Farrah Franklin (Destiny’s Child)

Let’s face it, Destiny’s Child were always going to be Beyoncé’s group – especially with her dad Mathew Knowles as their manager. The moment original members LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett voiced their dissent about the band’s uneven power structure, they found themselves unceremoniously airbrushed out of the picture; according to MTV, the first they learned of their sacking was when they saw the video for Say My Name and realised they weren’t in it. Not that one of their replacements, Farrah Franklin, fared much better. After missing a promotional trip to Australia, she was turfed out of the band after just five months; Franklin complained that she was ill with stomach flu and had actually quit of her own accord due to the Knowles family’s stranglehold on the group, as MTV also reported.

Now: LaTavia featured in season three of reality show R&B Divas: Atlanta and on 25 June 25 will deliver the keynote speech at the Dare 2 Aspire conference for “women and moms in business”. LeToya has starred in 13 films and recently released her third solo album, Back 2 Life. Farrah made headlines for the wrong reasons last year following an arrest for public intoxication, but hopes to finally release her debut solo album soon.

Crazy instruments invented by famous musicians

There comes a time in every forward-thinking musician’s journey when it seems the possibilities of traditional instruments have been exhausted, every string already plucked, every chord already strummed. Computers and samplers are one contemporary solution to composer’s block, but they don’t provide quite the same satisfaction as being able to hit, blow or caress a physical object in order to create a pleasing noise. For some, the only solution has been to invent their own instrument.

Here are eight examples of when musicians ditched the guitar, bass and drums for something more outlandish of their own creation. Most of these bespoke instruments led to some pretty interesting music… even if you’re unlikely to see any of them being played at your local open-mic night any time soon.

Björk – the gameleste

Icelandic innovator Björk has a history of using strange or bespoke instruments and incorporating them into her digital world. Having used a celeste – a kind of small, spectral piano – to great effect on 2001’s Vespertine, Björk decided that for her multimedia Biophilia project, she wanted to cross-breed it with Balinese gamelan tonebars, adding remote control for good measure. British percussionist Matt Nolanand Icelandic organ craftsman Björgvin Tómasson were commissioned to build the hybrid instrument, which they managed to do in a very intense week-and-a-half. You can hear the bewitching results on the track Crystalline, below. The gameleste isn’t the only instrument Björk invented for her Biophilia tour; she also created a visual synthesiser, a pendulum harp and a crystal trombone. OK, we made that last one up. But maybe next time, Björk?

10cc – the Gizmotron

In the days before sampling, 10cc’s quest to cheaply reproduce the sound of an orchestral string section led them to invent the Gizmotron – a device that clamped across the strings of an electric guitar, its small motor-driven plastic wheels providing a hypnotic sustain effect. 10cc used the Gizmotron widely on 1974’s Sheet Music and its two subsequent albums. Drunk on possibility, Kevin Godley and Lol Creme then quit the band to develop the instrument, showcasing its charms on their 1977 triple album Consequences. Mass production commenced, yet despite further exposure on albums by Wings and Led Zeppelin, the Gizmotron proved unreliable and ended up bankrupting its manufacturer, Musitronics. Luckily, there’s a happy ending – in 2013, a new team of engineers took up the concept and you can now buy your very own Gizmotron 2.0 for $289.99.

Pat Metheny – the Pikasso

This incredible mutant guitar looks like a photoshop creation but we can assure you that jazz virtuoso Pat Metheny has been witnessed playing the Pikasso at many of his concerts since the mid-80s. The four-necked, 42-stringed beast was invented by Metheny in conjunction with Canadian luthier Linda Manzer and was named the Pikasso because, well, you can see why. It took two years to build and includes a ‘hexaphonic pickup’, allowing Metheny to trigger samples as he plays. More recently, Metheny has unveiled his Orchestrion – a whole ensemble of custom-built, self-playing instruments that serve as his backing band. Which is one way to get the tour bus to yourself

Who was the greatest Glastonbury headliner of all time?

Glastonbury has been graced with extraordinary headline slots from the start, but who was the best? One of the legendary sets from the Britpop era? That moment when hip hop stole the headlines? Something from way in the past?

Here’s a selection of great sets for your consideration, from T. Rex and a Cadillac, through to Suzanne Vega in a bulletproof vest, Beyoncé with an unexpected guest, and up to a fantastically profane Adele just last year.

And now, just for fun, it’s over to you to rank these 11 performances and come up with the ultimate answer (until, of course, Radiohead, Foo Fighters and Ed Sheeran make us re-think this all again)…

Radiohead, 1997

Michael Eavis has described this watershed moment in the band’s career as the best Glastonbury performance ever and, well, he’s seen a few headliners play. There’s also the fact that readers of Q Magazine once voted this their best concert of all time (though that was back in 2006, so maybe they’ve seen a better one since then; you’ll have to ask a Q reader). The set came just a fortnight after Radiohead released OK Computer, and the band played Paranoid Android, Karma Police and No Surprises. It remains to be seen if they can eclipse their own fearsome reputation this time around.

David Bowie, 2000

Here’s a great yarn, reported by Music Week: according to promoter John Giddins, who worked on David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour, Michael Eavis originally didn’t want the star to perform at Glastonbury, having described his recent drum ‘n’ bass tour as “the most boring thing he had ever seen”. In a cunning ruse, Gidding ‘leaked’ information to the press that Glastonbury was desperate to book Bowie and Eavis’s phone exploded with excitable phone calls. He swiftly did an about-turn and the resulting show – Bowie’s first at the festival since a low-key appearance in 1971 – was a greatest hits stomper that packed in the likes of Rebel Rebel, Starman, Changes and, of course, Heroes.

David Bowie, 2000

Here’s a great yarn, reported by Music Week: according to promoter John Giddins, who worked on David Bowie’s Glass Spider tour, Michael Eavis originally didn’t want the star to perform at Glastonbury, having described his recent drum ‘n’ bass tour as “the most boring thing he had ever seen”. In a cunning ruse, Gidding ‘leaked’ information to the press that Glastonbury was desperate to book Bowie and Eavis’s phone exploded with excitable phone calls. He swiftly did an about-turn and the resulting show – Bowie’s first at the festival since a low-key appearance in 1971 – was a greatest hits stomper that packed in the likes of Rebel Rebel, Starman, Changes and, of course, Heroes.

Pulp, 1995

The Stone Roses cancelled their show when guitarist John Squire broke his collarbone on a bike ride (the most un-rock ’n’ roll mishap ever?), leaving Jarvis Cocker and his merry band of misfits to storm the Pyramid Stage with a performance that marked the zenith of Britpop. The oddballs had the world’s attention at last – although Primal Scream, Blur and even Rod Stewart were approached first. Cocker played up the stroke of luck, joking that he looked somewhat out of place on the main stage at the world’s most famous music festival. When Pulp played Common People, the anthem of the underdog, it underlined the feeling that culture had shifted and – for a time – anything seemed possible for anyone.

Artists you never knew had headlined Glastonbury

One of the hot topics in the toilet queue at Glastonbury is always: who should headline the next one? But as anyone who’s ever been will tell you, Glastonbury isn’t all about the headliners. The wealth of entertainment on offer at Worthy Farmmeans that the organisers have always been fairly relaxed about exactly who is topping the bill. In the early days in particular, a highly personal approach to booking bands led to some memorably eccentric line-ups that defied contemporary pop trends.

Looking back at old Glastonbury posters also reveals a number of headline bands whose star has since waned, but who were undoubtedly big at the time, particularly with a festival-going audience. Here are 12 of the unlikeliest Glastonbury headliners from years gone by – and by headliners, we mean any act who closed out a night on the main/Pyramid Stage or received top billing on the official poster.

Ash, 1997

When reminiscing about the glory days of Britpop, Northern Irish pop-punk outfit Ashare rarely one of the first bands mentioned. But a string of hit singles in the mid-90s earned them an Other Stage headline slot on the Friday. Then, when Steve Winwoodwas forced to pull out of Sunday night’s bill – supposedly his truck got stuck in the mud – Ash were asked to perform again, becoming the youngest-ever Pyramid Stage headliners. Come to think of it, had Winwood played, he’d probably be on this list instead…

Ginger Baker, 1981

The notoriously irascible former Cream drummer Ginger Baker, appearing with his new band, was the first act to headline the newly-built Pyramid Stage on 19 June, 1981. In a moment that certainly trumps Lee Nelson’s stage invasion during Kanye West’s set, Baker caused an almighty ruckus by setting up his equipment while the previous act, folk-rocker Roy Harper, was still playing. Understandably miffed, Harper confronted him and the two ended up scrapping on-stage. According to an eyewitness account on UK Rock Festivals, the crowd then pelted Baker with bottles during his set, with one hitting him square on the forehead. Some claim that Baker, hardman that he is, simply carried on drumming.

Basement Jaxx, 2005

Another last-minute stand-in, Basement Jaxx were bumped up the bill in 2005 when Kylie Minogue pulled out after being diagnosed with breast cancer. The Brixton-based dance outfit rose to the occasion with a carnivalesque show, paying tribute to Kylie by covering Can’t Get You Out of My Head.

Tim Blake, 1979

The first-ever three-day Glasto in 1979 was also the first since 1970 to charge for tickets, becoming a significantly more professional operation complete with healthcare facilities, children’s entertainment and a state-of-the-art Funktion One sound system. So who was chosen to headline this momentous event? Why, Tim Blake of course! Er sorry, who? Let us explain… Peter Gabriel was undoubtedly the biggest name on the bill, delivering a rousing set on the main stage (not yet a pyramid) with the help of a band that included former Genesis cohort Phil Collins and ex-Gong guitarist Steve Hillage. Yet it was another former Gong member, prog synth wizard Tim Blake, who was asked to close out the festival after Gabriel’s set – largely because of his pioneering use of lasers. “I spent the whole evening s****** myself,” Blake told UK Rock Festivals. “But yes, I headlined the ’79 Festival with P.G. as support! Never forget it!”

Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine, 1992

It seems improbable now, but in 1992, pun-loving electro-punks Jim Bob and Fruitbat – aka Carter USM – were kinda a big deal. Riding high on the chart-topping success of 1992 – The Love Album and its attendant Top 10 single The Only Living Boy in New Cross, the duo celebrated their Pyramid Stage headline appearance by firing thousands of Carter-branded rubber balls into the audience. However, their set was forcibly cut short due to previous bands overrunning; as a result, Fruitbat badmouthed Michael Eavis from the stage and Carter were never booked again.

misleading album titles and the stories behind them

Album titles are often a signpost offering directions to the music within. Sometimes they suggest what the songs sound like, sometimes they’re a statement of a theme; a clue as to why the album was written. But sometimes albums are given titles that appear to be deliberately trying to mess with people’s expectations.

This can be for mischievous reasons – such as Paul McCartney’s 2012 album Kisses on the Bottom – or an attempt to remain coy and open to misinterpretation by listeners (especially in the field of live recordings). And some, as in our first example below, are just plain shifty.

20 Jazz Funk Greats – Throbbing Gristle

With the driest of wits, industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle titled their third album 20 Jazz Funk Greats partly out of scorn for people who might like an album with that title, and partly because their music had started to incorporate elements that could loosely be termed either jazz or funk. Even the cover was deliberately misleading, as Cosey Fanni Tutti explained to Music Academy: “It was a pastiche of something you would find in a Woolworth’s bargain bin. We took the photograph at the most famous suicide spot in England, called Beachy Head. So, the picture is not what it seems, it is not so nicey-nicey at all, and neither is the music once you take it home and buy it.

“We had this idea in mind that someone quite innocently would come along to a record store and see [the record] and think they would be getting 20 really good jazz/funk greats, and then they would put it on at home and they would just get decimated.”

Alive! – KISS

When KISS were thinking about making their first live album in 1975, they realised that to get a good recording they were going to have to make some substantial compromises to their natural performance. As Gene Simmons told VH1: “In those days, I’d be taken over – I’d be possessed, and I’d make tonnes of mistakes on my bass. I remember talking backstage with the guys, and everybody agreed that we would jump around less – that we would try to hit the notes more.”

But even being less frantic on stage didn’t prevent the band from having to take their live tapes into the studio to fix missed notes, out-of-tune harmonies, and, well, sometimes everything but the drums. So, the name Alive! is an artful sidestep of the fact that it’s not entirely a live album in the accepted sense, despite looking (and trying to sound) like one. Not that Paul Stanley minds. In his autobiography, he embraced the improvements to the tapes, saying: “Who wanted to hear a mistake repeated endlessly? Who wanted to hear an out-of-tune guitar? For what? Authenticity?”

10 from 6 – Bad Company

10 from 6 is a compilation album that came out in 1985. It was given that slightly clunky title because it has 10 songs, and Bad Company had released six albums by that point. The fun part is that there are no selections from their album Burnin’ Sky. Not one. The album that was compiled should be called 10 from 5 (With 1 Remaining).

It’s tempting to add a further layer of mathematical significance, because Burnin’ Sky was their fourth album, and 10 from six equals minus four (yeah? Do you see?). But that might just be overthinking things…

Most heartwarming letters written by musicians

We may not send nearly as many letters as we used to, but we remain fascinated by them as historical documents and because they provide insight into the private worlds of people we admire. And while email and other forms of instant digital communication might have made the purpose of a letter in its simplest form redundant, it’s online that we’re now able to investigate many centuries of letter writing.

Here are six sent by musicians that have come to light in recent years…

Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash, 1994

We may not send nearly as many letters as we used to, but we remain fascinated by them as historical documents and because they provide insight into the private worlds of people we admire. And while email and other forms of instant digital communication might have made the purpose of a letter in its simplest form redundant, it’s online that we’re now able to investigate many centuries of letter writing.

Johnny Cash to June Carter Cash, 1994

This 1995 response to a young French fan called Laurence comes with quite a backstory, as detailed on Letters of Note. Laurence, 21, had written a 20-page letter to Iggy Pop telling the former Stooges frontman about “being the child of an acrimonious divorce with a string of social workers, lawyers, greedy estate agents and bailiffs at the door, the fear, the anger, the frustration, the love”.

Laurence didn’t receive a reply until nine months later – the exact day she was being evicted from her Paris home, along with her family. A day later and she may never have got the letter, which reduced her to tears.

Iggy wrote: “thankyou for your gorgeous and charming letter, you brighten up my dim life. i read the whole f****** thing, dear. of course… i want to see you take a deep breath and do whatever you must to survive and find something to be that you can love. you’re obviously a bright f****** chick, w/ a big heart too and i want to wish you a (belated) HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY 21st b’day and happy spirit. i was very miserable and fighting hard on my 21st b’day, too. people booed me on the stage, and i was staying in someone else’s house and i was scared. it’s been a long road since then, but pressure never ends in this life. ‘perforation problems’ by the way means to me also the holes that will always exist in any story we try to make of our lives. so hang on, my love, and grow big and strong and take your hits and keep going.

“all my love to a really beautiful girl. that’s you laurence.”

See the letter on Letters of Note

Fiona Apple to South American “friends”, 2012

It’s frustrating when your heroes cancel tours, especially if you’re fobbed off with a generic excuse sent out by a promoter or press officer. American singer-songwriter Fiona Apple, however, has always treated her fans to the personal touch and few of them in South America would have felt short-changed by her heartfelt reasons for postponing shows on the continent in 2012.

Apple posted a long hand-written letter on her Facebook page, addressing “a few thousand friends I have not met” and explaining that her dog Janet had been “ill for about 2 years now, as a tumor has been idling in her chest, growing ever so slowly. She’s almost 14 years old now. I got her when she was 4 months old. I was 21 then – an adult, officially – and she was my kid.”

She went on to say Janet, who she’d rescued in Los Angeles “with a rope around her neck, and bites all over her ears and face” had been been “the most consistent relationship of my adult life”, adding: “She slept in bed with me, her head on the pillow, and she accepted my hysterical, tearful face into her chest, with her paws around me, every time I was heartbroken, or spirit-broken, or just lost, and as years went by, she let me take the role of her child, as I fell asleep, with her chin resting above my head.”

Apple concluded: “I just can’t leave her now, please understand. If I go away again, I’m afraid she’ll die and I won’t have the honor of singing her to sleep, of escorting her out… I am staying home, and I am listening to her snore and wheeze, and I am revelling in the swampiest, most awful breath that ever emanated from an angel. And I’m asking for your blessing.”

pop stars you wouldn’t expect to play tennis

Plenty of tennis players have fancied themselves as pop stars. John McEnroe has jammed with Springsteen and Santana, as well as joining fellow ex-pro Pat Cash – along with The Who’s Roger Daltrey and two members of Iron Maiden – in one-off charity supergroup The Full Metal Rackets. Jimmy Connors sang on a Lionel Richie album. Both Serena Williams and Andy Murray have tried their hand at rapping, while former French Open champion Yannick Noah even crossed the line permanently, releasing a string of reggae albums, including a couple of million sellers (in France).

But when the tennis shoe’s on the other foot, which singers can hit a mean cross-court forehand? Our list of tennis-playing pop stars may serve up a few surprises…

Elton John

Sir Elton’s love of Watford FC is well-known, but he’s an equally big tennis nut. A lifelong friend of Billie Jean King, his 1975 single Philadelphia Freedom was a tribute to her pro tennis team of the time. Since 1993, the pair have hosted the annual WTT Smash Hits charity tournament, often partnering up to play doubles together. At last year’s event, held at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, Elton teamed up with Martina Navratilova for a narrow defeat to Maria Sharapova and Andy Roddick.

Drake

Drake certainly loves sport. Rarely an NBA fixture goes by without the rapper trying to gatecrash the pre-match huddle of whichever team he’s supporting that week. But Drake’s also been spotted watching baseball, football, ice hockey, American football, even polo. And, of course, tennis. From 2011 onwards, Drake was often seen chilling in the VIP box wherever Serena Williams was playing, including when he cheered her on to victory at Wimbledon 2015. Were they dating or did they just enjoy hitting a few rallies from time to time? “Tennis matches at the crib,” he rapped on Worst Behavior, at pains to underline his own on-court credentials. “I swear I could beat Serena when she playin’ with her left…”

Justin Bieber

Pop’s answer to Nick Kyrgios certainly looks the part here, competing in 2015’s 11th Annual Desert Smash – a charity tournament hosted by Will Ferrell. Bieber teamed up with his compatriot, Canadian tennis pro Eugenie Bouchard, for a doubles match against Kevin Hart and TV presenter Billy Bush.

Shakira

As Shakira made clear, hips don’t lie – and the Colombian singer uses hers to swivel and hit a series of unstoppable volleys in this tennis training session she shared on Instagram. She may have picked up a few tips from her pal Rafael Nadal, who smouldered through the video to Shakira’s 2010 song Gypsy.

What was the most annoying novelty song of all time?

Annoying songs are largely in the ear of the listener. But some songs transcend subjectivity to reach a plateau of irksomeness that is almost universally acknowledged, a state of affairs that is only made worse by the fact that those songs are, at the point of peak irritation, hugely popular too.

Star Trekkin’ by The Firm

An affectionate swipe at a beloved sci-fi franchise, Star Trekkin’ became such a massive hit in 1987 that it coloured the public’s view of the thing it set out to celebrate. To this day people assume the phrase “it’s life Jim, but not as we know it” appears in the original series, and it doesn’t. And it could be argued that this song inspired Bill Drummond and Jimmy Cauty (The KLF) to adopt the pseudonym The Timelords and create their own fandom hit Doctorin’ the Tardis. Not that either of these facts makes listening to Star Trekkin’ any more pleasurable nowadays, of course.

Axel F by Crazy Frog

The voice came from a daft teenage impression of a moped engine, the song came from the movie Beverly Hills Cop, and the whole thing was an early example of the viral nature of web culture. Daniel Malmedahl’s comedic vocal noises were an early internet hit that resulted in a TV appearance, the soundtrack of which was popular on file-sharing sites in the early 00s. Animator Erik Wernquist used the voice to create a cartoon character called The Annoying Thing, which then became its own viral hit. Then in 2004 the voice was used to launch an obnoxious ringtone called Crazy Frog, which proved so popular, it was then set to Harold Faltermeyer’s 1984 electro hit Axel F and released as a global hit single. Thanks a lot, Tim Berners-Lee.

Mr Blobby by Mr Blobby

This 1993 Christmas No.1 will make absolutely no sense to anyone who wasn’t around at the time. And even less to those who were. Mr Blobby was the anarchic slapstick measley balloon sidekick to Noel Edmonds in Noel’s House Party who would interrupt proceedings, shout “blobby!” in a Dalek-y voice and knock everything over. So in a sense, a song that sounds like a fairground ride in a nightmare – complete with children’s choir – is very fitting. In another, more relevant sense, listening to it feels like riding a supercharged merry-go-round where all the horses are real.

Gangnam Style by Psy

This is where definitions of novelty become a little more hazy. Psy’s breakthrough hit is a masterpiece of attention-grabbing dance-pop dynamics, and was not created to cash in on anything or to mock anything or to be cheesy or annoying in any way. That said, it’s as perky, upbeat and incomprehensible (to English-speaking ears) as Crazy Frog, has a silly dance routine like Agadoo, and is unlikely to be followed by any other hits of the same ilk, because really, nothing sounds quite like it. So it’s a novelty hit, and has definitely annoyed enough people to deserve inclusion in this list.

The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?) by Ylvis

There’s a stark lesson in this song, which was created as an “anti-hit” by the Norwegian comedy duo Ylvis. Pulling in a favour from actually-very-good songwriters Stargate, they created the song so they could tell a funny story about messing up: “We thought it would be more fun from a comedian perspective to come home to the talk show and say, ‘Listen we had the chance, we could’ve made it big, but the only idea we got for the song was this old idea about what the fox says so we’re sorry. We screwed up.’ That was the plan.” So it was supposed to be the worst song ever made, and it may well be (which is a success of sorts), but it did not stop The Fox becoming a fairly instant worldwide viral sensation. As a failure, it failed horribly.

acts of everyday heroism by pop stars

We often refer to our favourite musicians as ‘heroes’ but when it comes to an actual emergency, could we really trust them to apprehend that bag-snatcher or haul us out of that burning car? In some cases, yes. As we will learn, not all pop stars are cosseted snowflakes, insulated from the hazards of real life by a phalanx of minders and eight inches of reinforced concrete.

In situations where even the bravest and most clear-headed of us might have frozen, sometimes it’s been the badboy rapper, or the country star, or the singer of 80s piano ballads who has taken charge, diffused a tense situation or even saved a life. Here are eight acts of spontaneous bravery by pop stars who really do deserve the ‘hero’ tag.

Garth Brooks rescues two boys from a bushfire

Country singer Garth Brooks scored a minor UK hit in 1994 with Standing Outside the Fire, which he performed on Top of the Pops to a backdrop of seething flames. Six years later this became a terrible prophecy when a bushfire tore through grasslands near his in-laws’ home in rural Oklahoma. As ABC reported, Brooks evacuated two boys from a nearby house, driving them through thick smoke to safety. He then stopped to push the family’s boat out of a barn that was threatened by the fire. “He gets my vote,” said the boys’ father, a new convert to country music.

Anthony Kiedis gives CPR to a baby

Squint a little, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers logo looks rather like the Star of Life symbol used by American emergency services. Frontman Anthony Kiedis could certainly have been mistaken for a paramedic when he rushed to help a baby with breathing difficulties during a recording of James Corden’s Carpool Karaoke. “A woman came out of her house holding a child, saying, ‘My baby, my baby, my baby can’t breathe!'” Kiedis told Radio X. “We all ran across the street. The lady thrust the baby into my arms. The baby was not breathing. I thought, ‘I’m going to try and do a little baby CPR real quick to see if I can get some air into this kid. I tried to open the mouth. [It was] locked shut. So I started rubbing the belly, bubbles started coming out of the mouth, the eyes rolled back into place. The ambulance showed up and I handed the baby over who was breathing and fine. Then we went back to shooting Carpool Karaoke.”

T.I. saves the life of two suicide jumpers – including Creed’s Scott Stapp

In 2010, rapper T.I. drew on the uplifting words of his biggest hit Live Your Life to talk a potential suicide jumper down from the ledge. Hearing that a man was threatening to jump from the roof of Atlanta radio station V-103, T.I. raced to the scene, as reported by Rolling Stone. After consulting with police, he recorded a video message for the troubled man in which he said: “Nothing is that bad. Nothing in life is worth taking your life. I’m here to help you. Please come down to talk to me.” It worked – the man stepped back from the ledge and received a comforting word from T.I. before being taken to hospital.

Amazingly, T.I. has previous as a lifesaver. Four years earlier, he happened to be staying in the same Miami hotel as Creed frontman Scott Stapp when the rocker leapt over his balcony during an episode of drug-induced psychosis, fracturing his skull and breaking his hip in the fall. “I laid out there for two and a half hours and my guardian angel showed up – rapper T.I.,” Stapp told VH1. “He immediately took care of the situation and saved my life.”

Liam Payne saves a friend from a patio heater fire

In the One Direction film This Is Us, Liam Payne revealed that he might have joined the fire service if fame hadn’t come knocking. He certainly has the credentials to be a fireman, if this story is anything to go by. In 2013, as reported by The Mirror, he was quick to react when a patio heater exploded at his luxury flat, leaving his friend Andy trapped on a burning balcony. Liam hauled Andy from the blaze, which eventually took 35 firefighters to extinguish.

The Japanese obsession with girl bands – explained

At first glance, the Japanese pop scene can be baffling. The music is super-sweet and hyperdynamic, an offshoot of Japan’s kawaii culture of cuteness and a literal world away from earnest singers with guitars or scathing rappers with laid-back beats. While there are solo stars and boybands, just as in western pop, there’s a particular cultural excitement around girl groups.

These can be relatively small troupes like Perfume or Momoiro Clover Z, or bands who have so many singers they run the risk of outnumbering their audiences, such as AKB48, who can boast 130 singers on their payroll and are not only Japan’s biggest selling group, but the world’s largest pop troupe.

As East Asian culture has traditionally valued teamwork and harmony above individualism (see How East and West think in profoundly different ways), so groups and collectives have tended to be more popular in Japan than solo artists. In the case of AKB48, competition to join the band is not only fierce, it’s televised, in a tense spectacle that makes The X Factor look calm and sedate by comparison.

As part of the BBC’s Japan Season, Storyville presents the documentary Tokyo Girls, a film by Kyoko Miyake, which explores the phenomenon of idol groups, who have come to dominate J-Pop, through the eyes of Rio, an aspiring performer, and her devoted fans, who call themselves Rio Brothers.

Rio’s fans are, in the main, adult men, some in their mid-40s, and they call themselves otaku, a word used to describe someone with an obsession with an item of popular culture that is so great it can detract from their abilities to socially interact, ie. an equivalent to nerd or geek. Otaku display the same passion and devotion as any teenage Justin Bieber addict, and in some cases are prepared to give up their careers and devote all their savings to following their favourite performer.

This isn’t an isolated situation. While J-Pop remains hugely popular in Japanese culture, idol fans are an entirely different social demographic than pop fans in Britain. More male than female, and older too. So while some Japanese music fans of a certain age might spend their time painstakingly recreating the music of Radiohead, others are bent over the craft table, making immaculate glittery gifts for their pop idols.

In the main, idol singers are presented as fantasy versions of perky schoolgirls, full of pep and vim, and entirely innocent about adult matters. Even Babymetal, a band who apply J-Pop sensibilities to heavy metal, sing far more about chocolate and dancing than they do about Satan or sex.

Babymetal

There are a lot of performers to choose from, as the film explains, there are over 10,000 teenage girls who perform as idols in Japan at present. They perform live webcam shows and in small venues similar to karaoke bars, called idol cafes. Tokyo’s Akihabara district is the hub of idol activity, in a business that is said to be worth $1 billion a year.

According to cultural commentator Akio Nakamori, there’s a distinct – and surprising – economic reason why these men devote their time and attention to idol performers, and it’s to do with the Japanese recession: “There are parallels between 1970s London and Tokyo today. The economy stagnated and the cultural scene was dead. People were looking for something new. London invented the Sex Pistols. The Japanese answer was idol culture.”