Absolute Elsewhere

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THE LATE GREAT TOWNES VAN ZANDT, AGAIN (2013): The troubled and troubling troubadour

31 Jul 2013  |  3 min read

When I interviewed Townes Van Zandt in 1988, I had to ask him about his '73 album, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, the title of which was written in a stark Gothic typeface above a black'n'white photo of him at some emotional and physical distance. He looked a remote figure hunched awkwardly in a corner. It seemed a typically mordant move on his behalf, a man whose lyrics were steeped... > Read more

Snow Don't Fall

THE CLEAN, VEHICLE (2013): Running again at 33 1/3rpm

30 Jul 2013  |  3 min read

By the closing years of the Eighties, Flying Nun -- which had got off to such a brilliant start -- was in trouble, businesswise. The little label that flew had -- like Icarus -- gone too high too fast and had had its wings burned. It was just putting out too many records too quickly and couldn't keep up with demand, had a cash-flow problem and distribution issues (overseas you couldn't get... > Read more

Diamond Shine

SHADOW MORTON (1941-2013): Who knows? The Shadow knows

29 Jul 2013  |  3 min read

Only a fiction writer could make up the life of New York's George Morton, the man who got his nickname "Shadow"  because he would simply disappear from work for days at time and whose private life few knew anything of. He was a diligent alcoholic (until hitting a Betty Ford Clinic in the Eighties) and doubtless that explained some of the disappearances. But it was when he was... > Read more

Remember (Walking in the Sand)

WINGS OVER AMERICA (2013): Flying again, but with excess baggage

20 Jul 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

When Paul McCartney was approached by Bob Geldof to appear at Live Aid in 1985 he was understandably nervous. He not only didn't have a band – and he'd always been in bands – but he hadn't played live in six years after breaking up Wings which he felt had run its course. It's easy to make jokes about Wings (as Allan Partridge famously did) but rather harder to ignore just... > Read more

Maybe I'm Amazed (Cow Palace)

JOE BOYD INTERVIEWED (2013): The Zelig of the zeitgeist

1 Jul 2013  |  13 min read

In 2005 Joe Boyd published his memoir, White Bicycles, of what he did in the Sixties. At the end he wrote; “I cheated. I never got too stoned. I became the eminence gris I aspired to be, and disproved at least one Sixties myth: I was there and I do remember”. Where he was and what he remembered was extraordinary. As an educated son of the American university system, he... > Read more

Teddy Thompson

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . KLAUS NOMI (2013): Twinkle twinkle little star . . .

1 Jul 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

There have been some remarkable voices who have landed in rock culture -- that strange world where people like Tom Waits, Antony Hegarty (of Antony and the Johnsons), Yoko Ono and other people clearly not "rock" end up in the same magazines as Aerosmith, U2 and Lady Gaga. One of the strangest voices -- and most visually engaging images -- belonged to Klaus Nomi who began his... > Read more

Valentine's Day

BOBBY WHITLOCK CONSIDERED (2013): Sideman at centrestage

28 Jun 2013  |  5 min read

If rock listeners know keyboard player, guitarist and songwriter Bobby Whitlock at all, it's because he was in Derek and the Dominos, the band in which the Derek was Eric Clapton and delivered the exceptional album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs in 1970 . . . before drugs and disagreements saw them implode rapidly. On that album Whitlock co-wrote five of the 14 songs with Clapton, and... > Read more

A Day Without Jesus (with Harrison and Clapton)

CLASSIC GIRL GROUPS (2013): All the fine young elles

24 Jun 2013  |  3 min read

Even in a very long list of great groups there will be omissions. And today, despite constant reissue programmes, repackaging and a trawling of the backwaters of pop music's past, there can still be amnesia when it comes to some of the most important groups of an era. The Shirelles, for example, have gone woefully overlooked given how many hits they sprang, how they defined a sound and a... > Read more

Uptown

SLIM WHITMAN PROFILED (1923-2013): A song to save the world

20 Jun 2013  |  4 min read

In the early Eighties, the late Slim Whitman – who had recorded more than 65 albums -- still held down the record for the longest number one on the British charts, 11 consecutive weeks, a feat unmatched by Elvis or the Beatles. But back home in the States he was a singer without a song. He was a household name but few Americans could name a song by him. And despite that... > Read more

The Love Song of the Waterfall

ZZ TOP IN A BOX (2013): A whole lotta Top

17 Jun 2013  |  2 min read

When you hear the answer you'll go; “Oh yeah”. But you need to know the questions first: What would you get if you cross-bred the Ramones with denim-clad and simple-formula Status Quo, then brought the offspring up on a diet of Texas blues? Oh yeah: Z.Z.Top There's something in our genes which attaches itself to the simple stuff: dramatic Phil Spector pop, flat-tack Sex... > Read more

THE OUTER LIMITS OF THE HUMAN VOICE: That sound, it haunts me still!

12 Jun 2013  |  5 min read

Blame punk’s redrawing of the map - or Yoko Ono, or the much more irritating Celine Dion if you will -- but the limits of our tolerance to the human voice have certainly shifted over the past few decades. We can now listen with impunity to Natacha Atlas’ careening Arabic trip-hop as much as be in awe of Whitney Houston’s lung capacity, or delight in the qawwali music... > Read more

David Thomas: Who is it?

CAN, THE LOST TAPES 1968-1975: On the way to mother sky, again

10 Jun 2013  |  1 min read  |  1

Anyone who knows anything of Can, the German experimentalists who were post-rock before the term had been invented, knows the title of this three CD box set is perhaps a joke. Being efficient Teutonics, Can probably never lost anything in their collective lives but rather had everthing scrupulously catalogued, filed and numbered. Cross-referenced too, of course.  And in the... > Read more

Millionenspiel

BLACK SABBATH, AGAIN (2013): Back in black

10 Jun 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

One day in the late Nineties before a solo tour by Ozzy Osbourne, I phoned him for a chat. This was five years before the notorious television (un)reality family drama The Osbournes so I wasn't quite prepared. I only knew the history and the music, not the language. Ozzy and I chatted for half an hour and most of the time I just laughed and offered the next starting point for a... > Read more

Evil Woman

MIKE McGEAR'S VANISHED MASTERPIECE: Brother can you spare me the time?

5 Jun 2013  |  3 min read  |  2

Perhaps "masterpiece" is too strong a word, but the singer-songwriter Mike McGear -- a member of Liverpool's poetry/music group the Scaffold who scored the '68 hit single Lily the Pink -- did crack quite a remarkable album in 1974, which seems to have disappeared entirely. Simply entitled McGear, it was originally released on Warners and in 1991 given CD reissue by Rykodisc. The... > Read more

The Man Who Found God on the Moon

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . G.G. ALLIN (2013): Pottymouth not potty-trained

3 Jun 2013  |  2 min read  |  1

We might as well get it out of the way quickly: G.G. Allin was a shit-eater. He also threw his excrement -- poos and wees -- at his audiences, punched people in the crowd and told Jerry Springer's television show he would rape women on stage but that was okay because women at his performances should expect that so couldn't be surprised. He took as many drugs and as much booze as he could... > Read more

I Live to be Hated

BERNARD STOLLMAN INTERVIEWED (2013): Lawman with ESP for new music

31 May 2013  |  12 min read  |  1

For a large part of his adult life, Bernard Stollman was just one of those New Yorkers in a suit going to work. He had an honorific title as an assistant attorney-general in New York City – “one of 600” – and an office on the 46th floor of the World Trade Center. As a lawyer, he represented the interests of patients in psychiatric facilities across the state.... > Read more

Marion Brown Quartet

KIKI GYAN (1957-2004):From dancefloor to death's door

30 May 2013  |  2 min read

Although we can agree there are certain qualitative assessments which can be made about disco tracks, at core the function of the music was clear: get people on the dancefloor and keep them there. In that sense anything in the world of disco with a beat which moves a crowd could be considered successful. Which may also explain why, when hip-hop was getting out of the starting gates at rent... > Read more

Sexy Dancer

R.E.M. GREEN REISSUED (2013): This is a call . . .

27 May 2013  |  2 min read  |  2

When Green was released in late 1988, Allan Jones in Melody Maker said he was reminded “how much REM are the group that U2 so deafeningly want to be: visionary, bold and lucid, prophets of the slipstream, our first line of defence against the mediocre”. That observation was itself lucid and bold, but you only needed to look at the relative positions of both bands at the... > Read more

Hairshirt

JOSH RICHARDSON OF FLAVOR CRYSTALS INTERVIEWED (2013): And the dream goes on

13 May 2013  |  5 min read

There's something important we need to know from Josh Richardson of the Minneapolis psyche-rock band Flavor Crystals: Is that square where Mary Tyler Moore threw her beret in the air during the opening credits of her famous television show still there? Like, can we go there and throw our caps up as a homage to her? “Oh yeah,” laughs the singer-guitarist, “Where's... > Read more

Blue Haiti

SWAMP DOGG PROFILED (2013): Covering up his talents

6 May 2013  |  3 min read

The world of popular music is populated by lost prophets, wandering souls, damaged geniuses and those taken too young. There are also musicians who couldn't handle the sudden fame thrust upon them, and those who couldn't handle it when fame never knocked on their door or suddenly abandoned them. This is a world of venal villains (record companies, managers and lawyers usually) and... > Read more

Predicament #2