Absolute Elsewhere

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28 Jan 2013  |  2 min read

There is an interesting photo of singer and one-man band Abner Jay in the late Seventies playing at what is described as a folk festival. As he pours his all into whatever song has captured him, by his side is a young girl playing the bones. That is, she has what looks like the skull of a horse or cow strung around her neck and she is playing it with what appears to be a femur. The... > Read more

My Testimony (1963)

CLIFF RICHARD ENCOUNTERED (2013): Is Cliff a voice in the wilderness?

28 Jan 2013  |  5 min read  |  33

Cliff Richard was never my pop star. I was the perfect age for the Beatles and the Stones, so when She Loves You and It's All Over Now got their hooks in to me, Cliff seemed old fashioned, redundant and unnecessary. However amidst my older sister's Elvis and Bill Justis 78rpms had been Cliff and the Shadows' Don't Be Mad At Me/Voice in the Wilderness single (from 1960) and before I had... > Read more

One Night (live, 1959)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE COMMERCIAL ALBUM (2013): Well, if you're so smart . . .

14 Jan 2013  |  3 min read

The code for a commercially successful pop song is relatively simple to crack: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, a different but similar bit (usually referred to as the bridge or middle eight), then verse, chorus, chorus . . . Of course there are variants (the Beatles' She Loves You for example cleverly starts with the catchy chorus) but basically that's it. It comes down to verse/chorus. You... > Read more

Picnic Boy

THEY ARE ALL THE WALRUS: The story of the Exotic Beatles series

12 Jan 2013  |  3 min read

Some people -- like Allan Rouse and Steve Rooke at Abbey Road studios who remastered the complete catalogue -- listen to an awful lot of Beatles' music. Others -- like Jim Phelan -- listen to a lot of awful Beatles' music. Phelan from London is the man behind the hilarious Exotic Beatles collections -- now up to Volume Four -- on which he compiles often terrifyingly bad, frequently... > Read more

I Want to Hold Your Hand


7 Jan 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

Because his music and career was so diverse, heretical and dispirate, few would try to follow in the footsteps of Frank Zappa. He seems to have spawned no progeny. With one notable exception: Zoogz Rift. Mr Rift -- born Robert Pawlikowski in '53 -- recorded a couple of dozen albums for the SST label, among them Idiots on the Minature Golf Course, Amputees in Limbo, Can You Smell My... > Read more

With My Bare Hands (extract only)

2012, THE YEAR IN REISSUES: Look out behind you!

17 Dec 2012  |  6 min read  |  1

At a rough count rock'n'roll is getting close to pensioner age. Elvis's first hits are a long time gone (so is he, 35 years), there are only two remaining Beatles and Who members, and in the Who Shot Rock and Roll photographic exhibition at the Auckland City Art Gallery (which runs until March) there are a lot of dead people framed on the walls. Little wonder then that so many people... > Read more

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HASIL ADKINS (2012): Howling at the night

16 Dec 2012  |  2 min read

Whatever his style was, fame had no interest in embracing it. The closest this rockabilly blues screamer -- who started in the mid Fifties -- came to wider recognition was when the Cramps covered his song She Said and some of his music appeared in the film White Lightin'. But for Hasil (pronounced "hassle"), he just had to make do with juke joints and bars, and being a punk rocker... > Read more

She Said (1955)


13 Dec 2012  |  2 min read

Initially inspired by T.Rex and classic rock like the Stones, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, guitarist Ken Matsutani has helmed the ever-changing line-up of Tokyo's Marble Sheep since their formation in 1987. But right at the start Marble Sheep – who play dates in New Zealand in January, see below – aimed for cosmic rock. Cement Woman which opens their live in Tokyo 1988... > Read more

Melted Moon

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . THE SHAGGS (2012): Sisters doing it for themselves

3 Dec 2012  |  3 min read  |  2

When Don Emerson realised his sons Donnie and Joe had musical ambitions he was enormously supportive. He bought them instruments and then, on the family farm in Washington state, built them a studio and started on a venue (with a backstage area) for them. Although the Emerson's sole album Dreamin' Wild in '79 didn't sell, disappeared and became a cult item until recently (that story and... > Read more

What Should I Do?

THE PRETTY THINGS INTERVIEW (2012): Dick Taylor on life in the wild lane

2 Dec 2012  |  8 min read  |  4

Dick Taylor of the Pretty Things says he can clearly remember when they cut a wide and notorious swathe of mayhem, drunkenness and shock-horror headlines through New Zealand in late 1965. At the time they had the longest hair, a raw garageband blues rock sound which made the Stones seem tame, and their name alone was perfect for headline writers. Yes, Taylor -- now 69 and coming back... > Read more



1 Dec 2012  |  4 min read  |  3

There's an interesting local observation to be made about this four-CD box set of what is essentially low-rent, lo-fi American garageband rock. But first, a little history. Back in 1972 Lenny Kaye -- later guitarist in Patti Smith's band -- released the original double-vinyl compilation Nuggets. In a garish psychedelic cover (faithfully reproduced here across the four discs,... > Read more

Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) 1967

THE STEVE MILLER BAND (2012): The space cowboy taking flight

30 Nov 2012  |  6 min read

In rock'n'roll call of great West Coast bands in the late Sixties -- from the Airplane and Big Brother to the Youngbloods and Zappa's Mothers -- one name is almost consistently ignored: the Steve Miller Band out of San Francisco. Yet well before they broke through with the famous hit The Joker in '73 ("some people call me the space cowboy . . .") they had been playing blues-based... > Read more

Going to Mexico


25 Nov 2012  |  10 min read

Kenney Jones has had a busy time of it lately. The former member of the Small Faces and then the Faces (with Rod Stewart and current Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood) was inducted into the Hall of Fame in April, has overseen the remastering and reissue of the Small Faces' albums -- which includes a double disc version of their semi-classic Ogdens' Nut Gone Flake -- and been actively involved in... > Read more

Song of a Baker

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . JANDEK (2012): Stranger in an even stranger land

23 Nov 2012  |  3 min read

In his very interesting 2001 book about cult figures and outsider musicians Songs in the Key of Z, Irwin Chusid had chapters on some figures (Wild Man Fischer, Syd Barrett, Florence Foster Jenkins, Daniel Johnston, Tiny Tim, Harry Partch etc) who have largely been accepted into the grand pantheon of the weird but rather wonderful. And then there were the others like the talentless Shaggs... > Read more

Cave In On You

ROB ST JOHN PROFILED (2012): A voice from the North

21 Nov 2012  |  2 min read

Variously described as "new folk", "alt.folk, "a troubadour" and likened to both Nick Cave and Nick Drake, Rob St John -- born in Lancashire, longtime musician in Edinburgh and latterly of Oxford -- is also a noted writer on ecological and environmental matters. But it is his dark folk, especially that on his debut album Weald released a year ago -- which evokes... > Read more

Sargasso Sea

LED ZEPPELIN, CELEBRATION DAY (2012): Bring the noise

20 Nov 2012  |  2 min read

When the surviving members of Led Zeppelin – singer Robert Plant, guitarist Jimmy Page and bassist/keyboard player John Paul Jones – gathered in London recently there were two items on the agenda. The first was the launch of Celebration Day -- the DVD/Blu-ray/double CD of their December 2007 reunion concert -- but the second was that question which dogged the solo Beatles... > Read more


LED ZEPPELIN REVISITED (2012): A celebration of excess

16 Nov 2012  |  3 min read  |  1

Recently I played Led Zeppelin's Whole Lotta Love at high volume through very large speakers. Nothing unusual I suppose, except it was to university students, none of them pursuing a music degree, Maybe only a dozen out of the 150 had heard it before. Fair enough, it came out over 40 years ago – about two decades before most were born – and it doesn't get airplay beyond... > Read more

Whole Lotta Love

NUGGETS AT 40 (2012): We are the young Americans . . .

15 Nov 2012  |  1 min read

In a year which tripped over itself with anniversaries (the Stones' half century, 45 years since the Velvets' debut and 35 for the Sex Pistols' Bollocks), most of the inevitable reissues played the nostalgia card. But one stands out as different. Forty years ago Lenny Kaye -- later guitarist in Patti Smith's band – compiled the double-vinyl album Nuggets; Original Artyfacts... > Read more

Hey Joe

JOHN MARTYN'S 1980 ALBUM GRACE AND DANGER: How can you mend a broken heart?

14 Nov 2012  |  2 min read

Like his peer Richard Thompson, with whom he sometimes recorded, Scottish singer-songwriter and guitarist Martyn came from a folk background in the mid 60s then incorporate rock gestures into his playing. Unlike Thompson however he also explored jazz deeply and so his guitar playing has a kind of free-ranging, adventurous sound that is rare. Again like Thompson though he worked with... > Read more

Some People Are Crazy, first version, from the bonus disc (1980)

JOHN CALE ON GETTING NOOKIE (2012): Music for another new society

12 Nov 2012  |  4 min read

In the current issue of Britain's Mojo magazine there is an interview with John Cale, artist-without-portfolio and one of the most interesting musicians of the past half century, and more. In his capacity for reinvention and shapeshifting, Cale is on an equal footing with Bowie and Madonna . . . so it was understandable the Mojo interviewer might sidestep the customary career... > Read more

Vampire Cafe