A wave of shock had paralysed the music industry with the news yesterday that Paul Weller, one of its biggest and most popular artists, had died - until everyone realised it was Friday.
That is the day when a tiny minority of bored, and sometimes malicious, industry insiders have traditionally chosen to start rumours. And, to the relief of music lovers everywhere, the one that swept through the business like wildfire yesterday turned out, like so many others, to be false.
A television company, four newspapers and Music Week magazine had been targeted by the hoaxers before Island Records were able, angrily, to scotch the rumour. While staff at Island and at Independiente music, whose management team includes some of Weller's closest friends, were reduced to tears by calls from journalists about the rumour, the musician was safe and well at the east London studio of TFI Friday, rehearsing for last night's show.
Within minutes, the hoaxers struck again, this time claiming that Gary Glitter was dead. Again, check calls were made, and, again, the rumour was denied by his management team. Once, at the Reading Festival, similar rumours circulated about Cliff Richard - but there have been many others.
"This sort of thing always seems to happen on a Friday," said Selina Webb, editor of Music Week. "A while ago a rumour went round that Mick Jones of the Clash was dead - and, thankfully, he wasn't. Before that, it was Billy Bragg, and he was all right too.
"The problem is, the rumours fly around so fast, and, until they can be reliably checked out, an awful lot of people get very upset. No one knows who starts the rumours, but they simply aren't funny."
The music business was also involved in one of the most damaging rumours ever to sweep a stock exchange when, in 1987, share prices in Tokyo crashed on the news that Ronald Reagan had suffered a heart attack.
Despite repeated denials from the White House, stock went into free fall until it became clear that the person struck down was not Ronnie, the ageing president, but Lonnie Donegan, the Sixties skiffle star.Reuse content