'None of us," said Radiohead's singer Thom Yorke this week, "want to go into the creative hoo-ha of a long play record again... We've all said we can't possibly dive into that again. It'll kill us." When the coolest member of the coolest band around speaks, we listen.
I rather liked the fact that Yorke still refers to "long play records", a concept that must have puzzled a fair percentage of his fan base. But, massive fan as I am of this tremendous band, I liked less his worry that the creative hoo-ha of making an album could kill him and his bandmates.
Creative hoo-ha is what artists have to deal with. It goes with the territory. And in most art forms the practitioners tend to get on with it and add to their output on a regular basis. Film directors are normally found working on a movie; painters are in their studios; actors are desperate to stay in constant work.
It is only in rock music that it has come to be seen as unseemly to produce regular work – in other words, an album a year. With the biggest bands, a gap of a few years is not unusual. It wasn't the case in the early days of pop. The Beatles made two albums a year for their first three years of recording, then one a year for the rest of their career. Their peers were similar. When I asked Mick Jagger recently why he believed in the work ethic so strongly, he said it was the way he was brought up. I don't think musicians are brought up so differently now. I think it has simply become accepted in rock and pop that the bigger you are, the longer should be the gap between your last and next bit of creative hoo-ha.
Exactly why and when that habit became ingrained I'm not sure. Probably around the time that it also became the norm to tour only when you have an album to promote. It's hard to think now that bands once toured for the love of it, with no new album in the shops. Bob Dylan clings steadfastly to the old tradition, possibly because no one has dared to tell him that times have changed. But few others tour when there's not a commercial imperative.
Of course, it sounds almost absurdly like an exasperated schoolteacher to demand that rock stars regain their work ethic. But the lifespan of bands is often short, and the legacy is albums. When you are capable of producing the most absorbing, uplifting and life-transforming soundscapes that Radiohead do produce, then there is, to use another word inappropriate to rock music, a duty to share those gifts.
The creative hoo-ha is worth it. And when the results are as brilliant as they are with Radiohead, it's a criminal waste not to make it a regular hoo-ha. Give that old long play record another chance, Thom.
Is Stewart Lee afraid of the critics?
What shrinking violets big-name TV comedians become when they have to be judged before a live audience on the Edinburgh Fringe. Stewart Lee, for example, is not allowing reviewers into his show as it is "work in progress". That's "work in progress" as in charge audiences to see it, but it's not ready enough for people to read about. His charmer of a producer adds that The Independent is "slime" and "filth" and is banned. That's charm as in charm in progress. Jimmy Carr has banned reviewers out of philanthropy. His spokesman says that Carr would rather critics went to see other comics who needed a review more than he does.
As for work in progress, I understand. And though you have paid good money for this newspaper, please do not judge this column too critically. It is work in progress.
Consider yourself a potential father
Child stars tend to come to a bad end. Some turn to drink, some to drugs. Some die young; some end up on I'm a Celebrity – Get Me Out of Here!. But Mark Lester, who starred in the title role in the 1960s film Oliver!, has shown that there is a career path when your voice breaks and the agent doesn't call. Mark became a sperm donor for Michael Jackson.
I did a double-take when Mark Lester's admission was reported early this week. How did he and Michael Jackson become friends in the first place? Did the late King of Pop have a private screening of Oliver! and, humming along to Lionel Bart, resolve there and then that this cherubic figure was to be the father of his child?
Lester is, of course, no longer a film star, but a respected osteopath living in the West Country. Nevertheless, Oliver claiming to be the father of Michael Jackson's daughter Paris was not the easiest concept to grapple with. Still, I guess the headlines would have looked even weirder if it had been Fagin or the Artful Dodger or Mr Bumble.