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Planet Sound

Planet Sound is a Teletext music page on ITV and Channel 4 in the UK. It is broadcast on analogue Teletext from page 340, and on digital Teletext from page 820. Since May 24, 2007, Planet Sound is also available to read online via the Teletext website. The pages are all simultaneously updated daily at 10pm.

History

Teletext's predecessor ORACLE ran a similar music section in the 1980s. Future PS editor John Earls had reader reviews printed, aged 14, in ORACLE's Blue Suede Views of 1987 albums by ABC, Pet Shop Boys and Westworld under the pseudonym Jetty.

Planet Sound (named after the Pixies song Planet of Sound) began in 1997, when its chief writer was Stephen Eastwood. An early champion of Belle & Sebastian, Eastwood had an album named after him by The Cuban Boys, who had a novelty hit with Cognoscenti Vs Intelligentsia, aka The Hamster Dance, during Christmas 1999.

Other past writers for Planet Sound include Jacqui Swift, now a music writer for The Sun's Friday entertainment supplement Something For The Weekend; Alistair Clay (who is also singer with an unsigned band and Andy Panos.

Its chief writer since January 2001 has been John Earls.

The most regular freelancers are Ian Gittins, who also writes about music for The Guardian; Colin Irwin, the former Planet Sound editor and folk music expert who is regularly a judge on the Mercury Music Prize; Ric Rawlins, who is also Reviews Editor of online music magazine Artrocker; Kat Lister, a freelancer for NME; Innes Weir, who also contributes to music magazine M8, and Natalie Shaw, a freelancer for Gigwise, Clash and Notion.

Music coverage

Planet Sound deals with all genres of music, mostly of the Indie rock variety. It promotes various artists that are underground as well as more established acts.

Planet Sound also helped to discover the band Hope of the States (now split up), via its weekly demo page. Others to receive favourable demo reviews include Maxïmo Park, Nine Black Alps, Kubichek!, Luxembourg, Komakino, Shady Bard, Calvin Harris, The Twilight Sad, The Strange Death of Liberal England, The Coolabahs and The Others.

Other acts that have been promoted at the earliest stage of their careers include Arctic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Razorlight, Arcade Fire, Franz Ferdinand, Keane, Editors, Snow Patrol, Klaxons, Kasabian, HARD-Fi, Elbow, The Magic Numbers, The Feeling, Scissor Sisters, The Killers, Guillemots, iLiKETRAiNS, The Maccabees, The Twang, Jamie T, Liam Frost, Amy Winehouse, Dizzee Rascal, Little Man Tate, The Courteeners, Patrick Watson and The Metros.

Page content

  • Page 340 / 820 - PS Index
  • Page 341 / 821 - PS News
  • Page 342 / 822 - PS News & Tours
  • Page 343 / 823 - Single reviews
  • Page 344 / 824 - Album/gig reviews
  • Page 345 / 825 - Mainstream feature
  • Page 346 / 826 - PS feature
  • Page 347 / 827 - The Void
  • Page 348 / 828 - Demos (Mon-Friday)/Quiz (Saturday-Sunday)
  • Page 349 / 829 - Charts (Top 40 singles and Top 40 albums, updated at 7pm on Sunday)
  • Page 350 - Gig Guide

Page 341 / 821 - PS News

In July 2006, Teletext's pop pages Ace closed. Until November of that year, 341 became the home of mainstream music news for acts including Justin Timberlake, Girls Aloud etc. However, when Teletext management imposed a 6-page limit on all sections (not just Planet Sound's pages), the two news pages became like the PS News of old, concentrating mainly on indie/rock stories. The pages update daily.

Page 342 / 822 - PS News & Tours

This page deals with all the daily music news from all sources.
As with 341/821, each page has a headline referring to the first article on the page. (There are 1-3 articles per page). As well as rounding up tour information and announcing artists' new singles/albums, PS News is often used to trail interviews with artist quotes. News stories from other sources are generally credited. It features stories on both new and established acts. Since November 2006, this became the home for all stories on artists announcing tours, though it generally has other non-tour stories here on non-mainstream acts also.

Page 343 / 823 - Single reviews

Known as Launchpad, this is where singles are reviewed each week. The pages change on Thursday and Monday. The Thursday single reviews are for the more mainstream singles out the following week. Monday's reviews focus on new and esoteric acts' singles.

Page 344 / 824 - Album/gig reviews

This is where albums and gigs are reviewed. These are updated daily, with the main album reviews repeated at weekends. Albums are reviewed from Wednesday to Tuesday, so that next week's biggest albums are reviewed on Wednesday.

Rating system

Planet Sound rates albums, singles, demos and live performances out of 10. Usually this can be explained as such:

  • 0 = Godawful album. According to them, the worst album ever is Steriogram's Schmack!.
  • 1-3 = Terrible album.
  • 3-5 = Disappointing.
  • 5-7 = Middling. Some good points, some bad points.
  • 8 = Very Good Album.
  • 9 = Excellent Album. Contender For Album Of The Year.
  • 10 = ?. To Date, No Album has ever received 10 out of 10.

Live reviews

Live acts have rarely received 10/10.

The first 10/10 rating was awarded for a Hope of the States gig at Camden Verge in 2003. Other gigs to receive 10/10 since are:

The Polyphonic Spree can claim the greatest credit - 24/10 - referring to the number of people in the band for a gig at London's church venue Union Chapel in 2002.

The lowest ever mark for a gig was awarded to London-based indie band Rocket for their gig at Hoxton Bar & Grill in 2006, who not only received 0/10, but were specifically identified as the worst live band Planet Sound had ever seen.

Page 345 / 825 - Mainstream feature

While Planet Sound traditionally always ran exclusive interviews with musicians, this mainstream feature - launched like page 341 in July 2006 after Ace's closure - includes general background articles on populist acts such as Justin Timberlake and Madonna as well as background features on topics such as Glastonbury. It often carries exclusive interviews with mainstream acts too.

Page 346 / 826 - PS feature

This usually is an interview with a music artist. These include new, cult and established musicians during the week. The weekend interview is with the biggest artist of that week, such as Muse, Razorlight or Kaiser Chiefs.
On Fridays, there is Sound Patrol - a listing on the week ahead's Radio, TV and Gig listings, plus Quotes Of The Week.
There are two extra pages of "Champs Of The Week" & "Chumps Of The Week".

----Champs of The Week---- This is a section that gives cheers to two people who did something of brilliance in the last week. Winners of this accolade have included:

----Chumps of The Week---- Also run at the same time is Chumps of The Week which gives jeers to someone that has done something rubbish in the last week. "Winners" of this accolade have included:

  • John Earls - While meeting Frankie Poullain of The Darkness, Frankie remarked that there was one reviewer (John Earls himself) who severely disliked the band. Earls disingenuously responded "I know, it's not me", to which Poullain responded: "That's funny, his name is John too," leaving Earls suitably sheepish.
  • The panel of judges for the 2003 Mercury Music Prize - for picking a quite poor shortlist (including The Darkness.) The page said it would like to take the opportunity to fill the rest of the page with what the judges knew about music, before leaving a good two-thirds of the page blank.

Both Champs And Chumps of The Week were discontinued in 2005, but returned on January 31, 2008. It was revived once during its hiatus, in June 2006.

Page 347 / 827 - The Void

This is a free forum for people to write in and give their opinions on music.
This segment is usually eight pages long, with the last two pages for ads and contact information.
Usually, one page is a Top Ten list. This can be as diverse from Top Ten Imaginary Metalcore Bands to Top Ten Songs Of This Month.

In mid 2002, when Leeds-based band The Music were coming into the scene, a Voider wrote saying they were a Stone Roses karaoke band. The Music's singer Robert Harvey saw the letter, and wrote to Planet Sound. His letter was printed, with Robert offering the Voider free tickets to any of their gigs so he could say his views to the band's faces.
In March 2006 Paul Heaton of The Beautiful South wrote in to mention "Why do bands go on about Myspace, when they can promote themselves here for free? Buy our Album!" The reply from the writing team said "Damn. We forgot to ask for a bribe."

In March 2007, Heaton was revealed on The Void to be have been the cause of Simply Red getting an 8/10 album review. Earls wrote an apparently sincere review of their album Stay but, after a letter asking him if he'd gone deaf, Earls replied he'd only written the review after losing a game of bowling to Heaton.

Other musicians to have written in include Stuart Murdoch of Belle & Sebastian, Ian McCulloch of Echo & The Bunnymen and Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai, who corrected one Voider's assertions that said band ran a Glasgow metal night purely as an exercise in irony. At the height of their fame, Travis singer Fran Healy told Planet Sound that his Aunt Babs read PS, leading her to write in regularly for several months.

On 19 August 2006, Simon Ratcliffe from Basement Jaxx wrote in to say hello to his grandad, who tells the band about any time they are mentioned on Teletext. The letter also mentions that if there was a Basement Jaxx Radio station, Simon's grandad would be the first to DJ, despite being 93.

In December 2007, Maximo Park singer Paul Smith wrote to praise the blues musician Jandek as part of a debate on "What is the world's heaviest music?", initially inspired by a Voider's letter about Sunn O))).

Peter Pinsent

One Voider, Peter Pinsent, gained cult notoriety with his constant letters praising the merits of Geri Halliwell and is considered by some to be a huge bore. Each letter would praise her as being a million times better than any band recently discussed. On one occasion, all the pages in The Void were by Pinsent.
He was quiet throughout 2006, which left fellow Voiders to theorize that Geri's pregnancy was the reason for this. However, in January 2007, Pinsent returned to The Void with a letter heavily criticising Kylie Minogue. A second letter the following week explained that he had been absent from The Void because he had been looking after his terminally-ill father.

Since his return, Pinsent has regularly had letters screened, with Halliwell inevitably dominating his missives.
Some say Pinsent is actually Geri Halliwell herself, writing in under an alias to get her back in the public eye. This is without foundation - a letter by then-regular Voider Tony Satan in 2004 revealed that Pinsent was a former bodybuilding champion from his native Pinner, Middx.
One reader parodied Pinsent under the anagram alias Pennie T Spert, which many readers assumed was a pseudonym of Pinsent.
Many of the people who write into The Void become regulars, such as Rebecca Nahid, Robbie Mavis Vornstar, Tony Satan, Tyler Durden, Mark de Sade, Big Fat Flying Bloke, DJ Rhimes, DJ Gordy, Fluffy the Evil One, Baby Firefly, Simon Ellis, Brian The New Rave Snail, Tracey Bousfield, Kirkland Ciccone, The Doc, Bradders and Matt Robgret.

End of year polls

Planet Sound runs a Top 50 for the best singles and albums each year, as decided by John Earls and - until he left Teletext in 2005 - its then-editor, Colin Irwin. Planet Sound has a policy of only including one release per artist per year, so that anyone with a mention in Top 50 singles of the year won't be included in that year's Top 50 albums, and vice versa.

Past winners of Album of the year:

Past winners of Single of the year:

Albums that have received 9/10

Note: This list is incomplete.

On reviewing Viva la Vida by Coldplay, John Earls mentions how "Other than wanting to give a thick ear to whichever colleague gave Barenaked Ladies a near-perfect score, it's a list we'll defend to the hilt. Except X&Y by Coldplay - our version of those five-star reviews for Be Here Now. Apologies for getting over-excited about a 7/10 album, one the band too recognise had its faults." Although the Wikipedia article on the album, states Barenaked Ladies got a 9/10 mark, there is a possibility the album gained a mark of 8/10, and so has been removed from the list until a reliable source can be found. Coldplay's A Rush Of Blood To The Head and Muse's Absolution both only received 8/10 and have also been removed until a reliable source can prove otherwise. John Earls has also said at one point that the 5/10 given to Illinois by Sufjan Stevens when it was released was a mistake, and that he would now give the album 8/10.

Singles that have received 9/10 (or 5/5)

''Note: Singles also used to be rated out of 5. Many got rated 5/5, but keeping with the album rating, no single has gotten 10/10. This list is incomplete.

Planet Sound's editors had said that no single or album would ever get a 10/10 rating. However, on the October 29 2007 Launchpad, new freelancer Kat Lister gave The Cinematic Orchestra's single To Build A Home a 10/10 review while John Earls was on holiday and at the time unaware of the error. This shouldn't be considered an official 10/10 mark. Incidentally, the song didn't even make the Top 50 Singles list of 2007.

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