The gaping holes in Britrock's royal tapestry

Glam Rock? Gary Glitter at the Palace might have been a bit awkward
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The Independent Online

There are some angry band managers and record company bosses this weekend. Organisers of the Party at the Palace last Monday did, I gather, invite a number of big names who felt it wasn't their scene, and said they were washing their hair that night.

There are some angry band managers and record company bosses this weekend. Organisers of the Party at the Palace last Monday did, I gather, invite a number of big names who felt it wasn't their scene, and said they were washing their hair that night.

Absentees included Coldplay, Travis, Stereophonics of the newer wave; Blur, Oasis and Pulp of the older wave; David Bowie and the Rolling Stones from an even older wave. A couple of numbers could have given a big boost to the Stones' forthcoming world tour. Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon still regret not appearing at Live Aid. The Queen's jubilee concert has also spawned its bunch of "wish we were there" acts.

Britpop was not the only era unrepresented in a concert supposed to cover the span of the Queen's reign. Though the Queen may not be alone in wanting to forget it, what happened to Glam Rock? It did, after all, dominate the charts for the first four years of the Seventies. I suppose with Marc Bolan and a few others dead and David Bowie declining the invitation, it was hard to find any respectable survivors. Gary Glitter at the Palace might have been a bit awkward for the next day's headlines.

But if the BBC and the concert's creative director Sir George Martin couldn't do anything about the refuseniks, they could have done something about the choice of songs. Outdoor events, often with just one number per artist, demand a different repertoire from an intimate indoor concert. They need anthems, as the crowd-stirrers from Brian May and Queen, and the Beatles songs at the end showed. "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" was less effective than "Something" as a George Harrison tribute; Ray Davies could have sparked a Kinks revival if he had sung "Waterloo Sunset" rather than "Lola"; and "Eleanor Rigby", "Penny Lane" or a dozen others would have been a better Paul McCartney choice than the acoustic "Blackbird".

*Mind you, if the British Council is to be believed, the success of Monday's concert may be blinding us to a worry about the state of British rock music. British acts are having enormous difficulty breaking in to the American market. So the Council is setting up a UK Music Office in New York to help bands and solo artists emulate the success of Dido, either by getting American management as she did, or by helping them with marketing and introducing them to concert promoters and radio programme hosts.

Reading through the council's report "Supporting UK Music in the USA", I was struck by the dissenting words of Richard Griffiths, former president of Epic Records, who said that a deliberate decision was taken in the case of Westlife to forget the North American market and concentrate on Europe and the rest of the world. Westlife's second album wasn't even released in the USA, but sold seven million copies. If there's a Diamond Jubilee concert, bands are more likely to be appearing fresh from a record breaking tour in Europe rather than America.

*On Thursday morning a special event took place at the National Theatre. Playwrights including Alan Bennett and some of the cream of British acting paid tribute to the late Nigel Hawthorne in the Olivier Theatre. It made a fascinating change from the conventional memorial service, and was a fitting venue for an actor who created one of his greatest roles in the Olivier, George the Third in The Madness of King George. While it did not contain the pomp or the spiritual and religious associations of Westminster Abbey, at least everyone could see, which they certainly can't at a memorial service in the Abbey.

Among a host of anecdotes, there was a bizarre one from the redoubtable West End producer Thelma Holt. She recalled how Hawthorne bought her a pair of jeans in Brighton, then insisted she "break them in" by taking a dip in the sea. It was November and the English Channel was rather colder than the seas around the South African Cape where Hawthorne was brought up. Ms Holt had to remove the jeans and her underwear when she emerged from the sea. Hawthorne gallantly gave her his Y-fronts and brand new Burberry, both of which she defiantly wore for the rest of the day.

Ms Holt got an even bigger laugh from those who knew Hawthorne, not least those who had directed him, when she remarked that had he been there, he would have been interrupting every few seconds to declare: "No, no you've got it wrong, you should tell it this way."

*Sir Simon Rattle is already having an effect on the Berlin Philharmonic. Just a few months into the job he is overseeing the establishment of an education department, the norm with subsidised British orchestras, but something that has never before been thought necessary in Berlin. There clearly isn't much expertise on hand at the other big German orchestras, either. the Berlin Phil has telephoned the London Symphony Orchestra asking if it can share the LSO's education officer.

d.lister@independent.co.uk

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