‘Amy’ Documentary About More Than Just Obvious Villains

Amy movie poster

Amy movie poster

There’s a lot to be uncomfortable about when watching Asif Kapadia’s newest documentary Amy, which traces the rise and fall of British singer Amy Winehouse, who died from accidental alcohol poisoning at age 27 in 2011.

The first, and most obvious point is crystallized during footage from a televised interview where Winehouse states rather simply, “The more people see of me, the more they’ll realize I’m only good for making music.” When Winehouse said those words her star was in ascension. Her Back To Black album was a worldwide hit and she had become a magnet for tabloid attention. Winehouse was in demand. Unfortunately, that demand came with a cost.

Winehouse was a singular singing talent, a unique voice weaned on jazz classics whose confessional songs about drinking, drugs, relationships and nightlife misadventures brilliantly modernized the form. But Winehouse was also frail. A delicate soul perhaps too sensitive and ill-equipped to handle the impact of the music she created once the world had decided how important it was.

Kapadia, who also helmed the brilliant Senna documentary in 2010, mines an extensive collection of home movies, concert footage and interviews with Winehouse and her friends, family, acquaintances and business associates, to weave an open-ended tale with a few obvious villains. Amy’s father Mitch Winehouse comes across as particularly odious, a stage dad dazzled by his proximity to new fame and the rewards it garners. Love interest Blake Fielder-Civil, generally considered the cause of her drug addiction, is a parasitic, enabling presence. And there’s a not-so-subtle suggestion that manager Raye Cosbert had little concern for Winehouse, at least when weighed against Winehouse as a vehicle for worldwide earning potential. It’s primarily these people who kept Winehouse on the road when she didn’t want to be, and who allowed her to remain in drug and drink when it was clear these things were having a horrible, dangerous effect on her.

While they all make good and suitable objects of scorn, there’s every indication that Winehouse desperately wanted these people in her life. Her need for her father’s approval is a constant, she fired long-time manager Nick Shymansky in favour of Cosbert, and Fielder-Civil, “her Blakey,” is the compass point of romantic clarity for an otherwise scared, confused girl. What she saw in these people, what they provided her, we don’t know.

There’s another more difficult relationship to quantify in all of this, though, and that’s Amy Winehouse’s connection to the rest of us. After all, every news story that every one of us clicked through about her bloody ballet shoes, every Amy Winehouse Halloween costume we encouraged, every bizarre incident with Pete Doherty we tittered about, all these things built up a cult of personality around Winehouse that she couldn’t properly navigate.

This is perhaps the most difficult part of Amy Winehouse’s life and death for regular people to deal with. That her inner circle failed her is obvious. And that Winehouse was a troubled soul who died tragically is obvious, too. But what psychic toll did the rest of us wreak? Every concert ticket sold, every song request on the radio, every breathless click through to the latest Amy scandal, all these things contributed to her downfall. The very act of being interested in Winehouse actually made her life worse. Our fandom, our curiosity feed a machine that Winehouse couldn’t handle and because of that we’re all a little bit to blame.

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Creed Fans Not Happy With Creed Film

The band Creed's Scott Stapp

The band Creed’s Scott Stapp

There’s a new Rocky film called Creed coming out focusing on the next generation, specifically on Rocky Balboa adversary/trainer Apollo Creed’s son.

There’s also a bad Christian rock band called Creed.

There’s also, also, now a “petition” from the musical Creedmunity declaring the film Creed is abusing the Creed name and should be changed.

Sarah wrote about this fight for Fightland.

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Polaris Music Prize Long List By The Numbers

Polaris 2015 Long List by the numbers

Polaris 2015 Long List by the numbers

My benefactors at Aux let me unleash my inner numbers geek on the 2015 Polaris Music Prize Long List for a statistic-y feature.

The result was a document where I tracked the number of references to IKEA hotdogs amongst the 40 nominated albums (one), the number of appearances from F-117 Nighthawk stealth fighters (one) and other fascinating data.

Check out the By The Numbers feature.

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16 Things Morrissey Hates

Morrissey

Morrissey

Former Smiths lead singer Morrissey is a curmudgeon of near-legendary proportions.

The caustic British 53 year old isn’t shy about voicing his opinions on things, and those opinions usually involve outlandish, withering insults directed at his enemies. For example, a couple weeks ago he teed off against the “blustering jingoism” of the London Olympics with a sideline rant connecting England to Greece and Nazi Germany in 1939.

Yeah.

These tirades have made him more than a few enemies over the years — it’s reached the point where other bands write songs about how much they hate him — but it’s also made him someone who’s always worth paying attention to.

At Spinner we’ve been having a hard time keeping track of all the things the Mozzer has been hating on lately, so we decided we needed to build a list. So here it is… 16 things Morrissey hates:

CANADA

The Canadian flag

The Canadian flag

In 2006 Morrissey declared he would never play in Canada again until the annual seal hunt that takes place in the country is ended.

Said Morrissey, “We will not include any Canadian dates on our world tour to promote our new album. This is in protest against the barbaric slaughter of over 325,000 baby seals which is now underway.

I fully realise that the absence of any Morrissey concerts in Canada is unlikely to bring the Canadian economy to its knees, but it is our small protest against this horrific slaughter — which is the largest slaughter of marine animal species found anywhere on the planet.

The Canadian Prime Minister says the so-called “cull” is economically and environmentally justified, but this is untrue.

The seal population has looked after itself for thousand of years without human intervention, and, as the world knows, this slaughter is about one thing only: making money. The Canadian government will stream all of the pelts into the fashion industry and this is the reason why the baby seals are killed with spiked clubs that crush their skulls – any damage to their pelts is avoided. The Canadian Prime Minister also states that the slaughter is necessary because it provides jobs for local communities, but this is an ignorant reason for allowing such barbaric and cruel slaughter of beings that are denied life simply because somebody somewhere might want to wear their skin.

Construction of German gas chambers also provided work for someone — this is not a moral or sound reason for allowing suffering.

If you can, please boycott Canadian goods. It WILL make a difference. As things stand, Canada has placed itself alongside China as the cruelest and most self-serving nation.”

MIKE JOYCE

Mike Joyce

Mike Joyce

A drummer and one half of the rhythm section of Morrissey’s former band The Smiths (the other half, bassist Andy Rourke, claims Morrissey fired him from The Smiths via postcard), Joyce sued Morrissey and fellow Smiths member Johnny Marr for an equal share of the bands’ royalties in 1989 and won his case… and a one million pound settlement.

Moz had once compared Joyce and Rourke to “session musicians who could be replaced like parts of a lawnmower.”

NATALIE MERCHANT

Natalie Merchant

Natalie Merchant

The band 10,000 Maniacs, featuring prominent mom rocker Natalie Merchant covered Morrissey’s “Every Day is Like Sunday” on their 1993 EP Candy Everybody Wants.

Morrissey hated it.

His response? “Have a Go Merchant,” a b-side to the 1995 single “Boxers.”

The song is notable because he actually went there, and called out her mom rock-ness, singing “A small baby girl cradled in your arms/Your one big contribution.” As far as withering insults go, it was pretty vicious.

RECORD LABELS

Parlophone, one of Morrissey's many record labels

Parlophone, one of Morrissey’s many record labels

The Moz has been on the following labels: HMV, Parlophone, Sire, RCA, Reprise, Mercury, Attack, Sanctuary, Decca, Lost Highway, Major Minor.

And that doesn’t even count co-signs, weird distro deals, etc. Basically, he hopscotches from one label to the next each album because he hates record labels.

“Labels for the most part want to sign new discoveries so that that label alone is seen to be responsible for the rise of the artist,” he told Pitchfork last year. “There are no risks taken with music any more. No social commentary songs, no individualism. This is because everyone is deemed instantly replaceable.”

Maybe they hate him, too?

MEAT

Meat is murder

Meat is murder

Morrissey’s so militantly vegetarian he probably has an FBI file on him about it. His defining song in this regard is Smiths tune “Meat is Murder” but it’s far from the only time veggie politics has reared its head in his professional life.

One of his favorite threats is to cancel shows if he so much as smells a hot dog and he infamously left the Coachella stage in 2011 after catching a sniff of meat.

His quote: “I can smell burning flesh and I hope to God it’s human.”

BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY

British royal family

British royal family

Moz has made numerous attacks on the British royal family over the years and recently got his band to wear ‘We Hate William And Kate’ shirts during a show in Argentina.

BIRTHDAYS

Birthday cake

Birthday cake

You’ll never truly understand how dark Morrissey is unless you’re the sort of person who listens to the song “Unhappy Birthday” from The Smiths 1987 album Strangeways Here We Come each year.

Sample lyric:

I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday
I’ve come to wish you an unhappy birthday
‘Cause you’re evil
And you lie
And if you should die
I may feel slightly sad
(But I won’t cry)

JOURNALISTS

A media press scrum

A media press scrum

People who write about Morrissey are amongst his least favorite people. The subject of numerous salacious biographies in England, his response was the song “Journalists Who Lie” from the 1991 “Our Frank” single.

Says Moz on the topic:
They’re only trying to make their name
By spreading sickening lies
About the ones who’ve made their name
Mate, give us the knife
Give us the knife

He doesn’t like bloggers either.

RAIN

Rain puddles

Rain puddles

You’re probably all, like, rain? But that’s got to be his third favorite thing next to the dramatic tears of a virgin bride left at the alter and the existential crises of 40 year olds who still have student loans, but no.

Just ask the Swedes who missed out on seeing him because it was raining outside.

DOGS

Morrissey with dogs

Morrissey with dogs

Dogs? But Morrissey loves animals? Sure… until they attack him.

THE MARRIAGE OF KATY PERRY AND RUSSELL BRAND

Katy Perry and Russell Brand

Katy Perry and Russell Brand

When Perry and Brand met Morrissey he had no kind words for their then-impending union.

“I met Morrissey for the first time the other day and we had tea together,” Perry said. “He’s Russell’s mate and he is fascinating, but he was giving us a hard time about getting married. He swooned and sighed, ‘Oh, left hand third finger, don’t do it.’ It was just so eloquent and poetic and like one of his songs.”

Considering the two are now divorced perhaps we’ll just consider him right on this one.

LAWYERS

Better Call Saul

Better Call Saul

We’re pretty sure the below lines, from “Sorrow Will Come in the End” of 1997’s Malajusted album, sum up Mr. Mozzer’s feelings on the topic:

Lawyer… liar
Lawyer… liar

DAMIEN HIRST

Damien Hirst

Damien Hirst

Predictably, Morrissey would have problems with a guy who likes to string up dead animals in a tank and call it “art.”

And, as if on cue… Bam! … “I dislike the ‘use’ of animals in art, such as in the work of Damien Hirst… Do you agree that Hirst’s head should be kept in a bag for the way he’s utilised — and sold — dead animals?”

SUCCESSFUL FRIENDS

Noel Gallagher, Russell Brand and Morrissey

Noel Gallagher, Russell Brand and Morrissey

It’s songs like 1992 Your Arsenal gem “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” that really cement Morrissey’s status as an A list grump. That said, maybe we give him a little leeway on this one because we’ve all got a couple buddies we’re envious of in some way or another.

ROLLERCOASTERS

A rollercoaster

A rollercoaster

Ask Billy Bragg. Rollercoasters make Morrissey puke. In the actual sense.

NME

Morrissey on the cover of NME

Morrissey on the cover of NME

The NME gets its own category above beyond all the regular journalists because of the weird Batman-Joker thing they’ve had going on with the Moz for decades.

There’ve been good times and bad between the two. Nowadays though, it’s mostly lawyers letters due to libel suits based on the paper calling him racist because he referred to the Chinese as “a subspecies” for being cruel to animals.

This story originally ran August 23, 2012 on Spinner.

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Guitars 4 Vets Helps Soldiers With PTSD

A Guitars 4 Vets lesson

A Guitars 4 Vets lesson

The folks at Guitars 4 Vets Canada have a pretty simple mission — put a guitar in the hands of veterans suffering from post traumatic stress disorder or other disabilities.

Jim Lowther, the man behind the program, says this simple act is life-changing for someone who’s suffering.

I spoke to him about this form of self-help for Samaritan Mag.

Head over there to read the full interview.

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When Bears Fight Humans Nobody Wins

A bear fighting a human

A bear fighting a human

Stephen Colbert’s worst nightmare (bears) has more basis in reality than his old fictional right wing TV nut persona let on.

See, humans have been fighting bears for a long time.

Sarah researched this sad history for Fightland and wrote a story about it.

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There’s A Song About Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor

High flash Irish fighter Conor McGregor has been making a name for himself both with his fists and his mouth lately, with his winning streak and shameless self-promotional streak propelling him to a title shot versus UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo on July 11.

Perhaps more legacy building than the opportunity to win the title belt, though, McGregor has now been immortalized in song.

Folk musician King Daniel wrote the song “There’s Only One” about McGregor.

Sarah spoke to King Daniel about the song for Fightland.

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