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Aieee! It’s an alias invasion

Special to The Times

A lot of high-profile CDs have come across the desk recently. There’s that one from Fern Holloway, not to mention Arthur Moore, Fur Trees, Black Swarm, Barney Rubble and that act you’ve known for all these years, the one and only ... uh, Pete Mitchell?

Oh, yeah, there’s also a new one from that prized band Let Me See the Fish.

Never heard of them? Perhaps you know them better under these names, respectively:

Faith Hill, Alanis Morissette, Coldplay, Depeche Mode, Big & Rich and Paul McCartney. And that Fish thing? That’s the pride of Iceland, Sigur Ros.

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The pseudonyms are the latest subterfuge devised by record companies intent on preventing Internet leaks of pre-release copies of new albums sent to the media. The idea is that a CD inadvertently left on the desk of a radio executive or a journalist is less likely to be stolen and put online if it says “Pete Mitchell” than if it says “Paul McCartney.”

“It is really a practical thing for protection when there are people walking by desks wanting to take things,” says Mitch Schneider, the publicist for both Morissette and Depeche Mode.

Sometimes, though, the plan works too well and even the intended recipient is fooled.

“I’ve called people to say, ‘I’m following up on the CD I sent you,’ and they say, ‘I don’t think we got it,’ ” Schneider says. “And I have to say it was under an alias and the journalist has to re-look throughout the office.”

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In some cases, several publicists report, journalists or radio programmers have discarded or given away the CDs, since they didn’t recognize the name. Even though most have included a cover letter explaining what it really is, the note often gets lost or overlooked.

“You can actually out-clever yourself in these situations,” says Geffen Records publicist Jim Merlis.

At least some of the fake names use the artist’s initials, or contain a clue to the true identity. That’s not the case with the Sigur Ros advance, though. “Let Me See the Fish” (it’s unclear whether it’s meant to be the band’s name or the album title) came from the punch line of a story Geffen Records President Jordan Schur was telling in a marketing meeting about Tommy Lee and a tropical fish. Merlis did his best to alert people who would be receiving the disc of what was going on.

“We sent out very few of them,” he says. “But I called or e-mailed people and said they would get a Sigur Ros CD, but it wouldn’t say Sigur Ros on it.”

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Despite the precautions, the Sigur Ros album, “Takk,” which won’t be in stores until Sept. 13, did leak to the Internet from one of the discs sent to a writer. (The CD was watermarked with an identifying electronic code allowing it to be traced.) Merlis says it is unclear exactly how it got into the hands of the person who posted it online.

While it’s hardly the perfect solution, most publicists are adamant that it is better than some of the other security measures that have been imposed around certain albums, including requiring journalists to come to the record company office to hear it -- hardly the ideal situation from which to write a well considered review.

At this point, though, the pseudonym method has been limited. If it becomes the norm, it could create a whole new set of problems.

“At some point you’ll need a list of what CDs you’re actually getting so you can cross reference them,” Merlis muses. “Someday there could be two different things coming with the same fake name. That’s going to happen, I’m sure.”

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Cars out and running again?

RUMORS are growing about a tour by the Cars, who broke up nearly 20 years ago after a run as one of the most popular rock acts of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. However, the version being discussed would be a hybrid model.

The talk is that two Cars, guitarist Elliot Easton and keyboard player Greg Hawkes, would team with musician Todd Rundgren and Blondie drummer Clem Burke for a tour centered on Cars music. Rundgren would presumably fill the frontman roles of Ric Ocasek, who has opted out of a proposed reunion tour, and Benjamin Orr, who died of pancreatic cancer in 2000. Ocasek and Orr were the primary writers and singers of the band’s biggest hits, including “Just What I Needed,” “Shake It Up” and “Drive.”

Eric Gardner, Rundgren’s manager, says the rumor is just that -- something emanating from a note posted two months ago by a wishful Rundgren fan on an unofficial website dedicated to the musician. Rundgren has just finished a co-headlining tour with Joe Jackson and will soon do a brief run opening Hall & Oates shows on the East Coast.

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Attempts to contact Easton and Hawkes were unsuccessful. A spokesman for Ocasek was unaware of the rumors and said that the former band leader was concentrating on plans for the Sept, 27 release of his own solo album, “Nexterday,” and would be rehearsing a band for several television performances.

But sources close to the situation say that discussions have taken place and the Rundgren-Cars tour is a possibility.

How well could such a tour do?

“Honestly, the Cars coming back even with Ric Ocasek would be something of a question mark,” says Pollstar magazine editor in chief Gary Bongiovanni. “You don’t know what has happened to the public after all these years.”

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Small Faces

* A soundtrack for the video game “Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland” turned into a collection of current punk-influenced bands paying tribute to some of their heroes. Among the tracks on the set to be released on CD by Vagrant Records on Oct. 18 are Saves the Day doing the Dead Boys’ “Sonic Reducer,” Fall Out Boy doing Gorilla Biscuits’ “Start Today,” Rise Against doing Black Flag’s “Fix Me” and Senses Fail having a go at Suicidal Tendencies’ “Institutionalized.” . . .

* Elton John, blues veteran Delbert McClinton and knuckleball pitcher Tim Wakefield of the Boston Red Sox make for an odd teaming, but all three guest on “Dream #29,” a new album by singer-songwriter Cindy Bullens. John, with whom Bullens got her start as a backup singer in the ‘70s, plays piano on the title song, McClinton duets on “This Ain’t Love” and Wakefield, a friend of Bullens, sings on “7 Days.” The album is due Oct. 4.


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