Hit & Run: When the band becomes a brand
Wednesday 23 September 2009
The Sugababes aren't over. They just look a little different. That's the story that the group's record label, Island Records, expect the public to believe this week after news broke that the 'Babes are to undergo their third change in line-up in 11 years, following the departure of one of their singers, Keisha Buchanan, to pursue a solo career. As Buchanan was the last original member of the group, its current line up of Heidi Range, Amelle Berrabah and Jade Ewen (Buchanan's replacement) is effectively a completely new group (Siobhan Donaghy and Mutya Buena having already walked out in 2001 and 2005 respectively).
Which begs the question, if a band contains none of the original members people, is it really the same band? Yesterday, Twitter was set aflame. "Sugababes without Keisha, that's nonsense," tweeted the handbag house DJ Calvin Harris. "[She] has been my favourite member since I was 16. I'm distraught."
Others made jokes about having the "same broom" for decades, even though they'd changed its head and handle several times.
But the question of whether you can really market what amounts to a completely new band under an established muscial brand is a serious business – particularly in the sub-genre of tribute acts. For instance, Abba imitators Bjorn Again has turned itself into a franchise, with no less than six bands touring the globe and using the same name at any one time, and has enjoyed great success. The original Status Quo drummer John Coghlan has performed with Quo tribute act Counterfeit Quo. Pop has been eating itself for years. What's the difference between this pragmatic approach and replacing all the members of a fragmenting musical act?
"These other bands have been set up to be fake, they are not trying to sell the real thing whereas with this new Sugababes line-up there is a certain element of the management and label trying to pull the wool over people's eyes," argues Peter Robinson, editor of music website Popjustice. "There is no way this is still the Sugababes. It's a different band now. They think, well, we've pushed this so far, if go a bit further perhaps no one will notice. You can see why they want to protect their investment; the label has probably put £300,000 into their forthcoming album [Sweet 7, released on 23 November] and they've got nothing back. But I think it's unconvincing ."
Reports that newly-split cockney crooners Chas and Dave are to be reformed by Suggs and Mike Skinner are, so far, unconfirmed. Rob Sharp
The Manson family rides again
The very title Bouquet of Barbed Wire – shortly to be remade by ITV, starring Trevor Eve – will bring a muck sweat to the brows of viewers who saw the 1970s original. Based on Andrea Newman's novel, it hit TV screens for seven weeks in 1976, and left the nation spent and quivering with second-hand passion. Anxious parents took one look at Frank Finlay's cruelly brooding eyes, or Susan Penhaligon's bruised plum of a pouting lower lip, and shooed children off to bed before pouring a stiff drink and thanking Providence that their sex lives weren't as, um, absorbing as the Manson family's.
No, not the Charles Manson family of killers. This was the British Manson family of shaggers, plotters and manipulators. Peter Manson, played by the lycanthropic Finlay, is a wealthy, Surrey-dwelling publisher whose spoilt daughter Prue (Penhaligon) is in her first year at university. When she brings home one of her teachers, Gavin Sorenson (James Aubrey,) and announces that she's pregnant by him, her father's response is disproportionately furious. It takes the quaking viewer 20 seconds to intuit that he has a hotly incestuous lust for his daughter, who is well aware of it, and exploits it to the max.
While Manson tries to sublimate his passion for Prue by sleeping with a young colleague, Sorenson marries Prue, then turns his attention to Manson's wife, Cassie (Sheila Allen.) Lechery, incest, jealousy and infidelity start crashing around everyone's head, Manson's job is under threat and his family is torn apart.
When first broadcast, it was taboo-busting, gusset-moistening stuff. The remake, by Guy Andrew, will be a must-see, no doubt; but nothing could recapture that first careless rapture it gave us in 1976 – that the world is even more wicked, corrupt and sexy than we prayed it would be. John Walsh
Tie on your apron, it's fashion week!
It's only butchers and surgeons that appreciate aprons these days, but that's about to change. At London Fashion Week, catwalks looked like hospital corridors, so numerous were the bib-fronts and apron skirts. Since Prada showed peplums on dresses for autumn 2008, small waist-height frills have been adorning trendy trunks all over the place, but at the spring 2010 shows this week they had lengthened. There were thigh-skimmers at Nicole Fahri, bustles at Betty Jackson (basically a backwards apron) and full-length pinafore styles at Danielle Scutt on dresses that should be worn anywhere but over a hot stove.
If this is a look for you, remember this: don't spill anything on it, or risk looking like an off-duty dinner lady. Harriet Walker
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