Absolute Elsewhere

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DAVID BOWIE IN THE SEVENTIES (2013): Ch-ch-changes

6 Mar 2013  |  3 min read

That one of the most identifiable and famous men on the planet, David Bowie, managed – in this age of tweeting and endless internet gossip -- to spend the past two years recording his new album The Next Day without anyone knowing (or at least saying they knew) is surprising. Then again, Bowie always had the capacity to surprise. In fact, for a decade from the mid 60s he was... > Read more

Art Decade

HAL WILLNER INTERVIEWED (2013): More rum, sodomy and the lash

4 Mar 2013  |  11 min read  |  2

So how do we describe Hal Willner? He's a musician and producer, of course. And while he's a music supervisor for Saturday Night Live (a role had throughout the Eighties) he also stages concerts based around concepts which interest him, like the songbook of Doc Pomus or civil rights songs. He's also a man with a very fat contact book because on tribute albums to Italian composer Nino... > Read more

Off to Sea Once More

RICHARD THOMPSON INTERVIEWED (2013): Audiences and the art of the song

27 Feb 2013  |  9 min read

Richard Thompson should need no introduction. He has been an acclaimed songwriter/guitarist for over 40 years dating back to his innovative work with the pioneering English folk-rock group Fairport Convention. There were albums with his wife (the ex) Linda – some of which appear in many critics favourite-ever lists -- then a solo career stretching to well over 20 albums under... > Read more

Another Small Thing in Her Favour

MAREE SHEEHAN INTERVIEWED (2013): The beginning of the second act

18 Feb 2013  |  8 min read  |  2

After a fine start with a series of singles in the mid Nineties (Make You My Own, Fatally Cool which used taonga puoro), awards, her debut album Drawn in Deep, and the song Kia Tu Mahea on the soundtrack to Once Were Warriors, Maree Sheehan seemed to suddenly fade and disappear. By the turn of the century this talented woman – part of wave of smart young Maori women... > Read more

In the Light

THE STEVE MILLER BAND (2013): From blues to smooth, and back

18 Feb 2013  |  2 min read  |  2

Hearing Steve Miller play his fine-tuned and smoothly upholstered hits like Abracadabra, The Joker, Fly Like an Eagle and Jet Airliner – as he will do when he tours with Santana in March – it might be hard to reconcile them as coming from the same guy who earned his chops playing rhythm guitar in Buddy Guy's band in Chicago's toughest blues clubs, and then was one of the more... > Read more


18 Feb 2013  |  4 min read

Pity anyone coming new to Lou Reed these days and wondering where to start: there is that Velvet Underground catalogue (brilliant start, diminishing returns), a couple of dozen albums under his own name, almost a dozen live albums (Rock'n'Roll Animal essential, Take No Prisoners hilarious as Lou becomes beligerent stand-up) and a bunch of other odds'n'ends. A greatest hits (of a man who had... > Read more


WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . WILD MAN FISCHER (2013): Psycho street singer and shouter

11 Feb 2013  |  2 min read  |  2

Given Frank Zappa's proclivity towards oddball performers and different musicians -- Captain Beefheart, the GTOs, the Shaggs -- it's hardly surprising he should be the one who brought Wild Man Fischer into the vocabulary of outsider musicians. And Fischer was very outside. in '68 Zappa recorded a double album of Fischer's singing and rants as An Evening with Wild Man Fischer, the title... > Read more

Monkeys Vs Donkeys

FLEETWOOD MAC; RUMOURS (2013): Decades of discussion and dissection

1 Feb 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

Popular culture is certainly taken -- and takes itself -- very seriously these days. There are university courses on everyone from Elvis to Gaga and the bookshelves sag with biographies and autobiographies of people like Cher, Justin Bieber, that guitarist in Kiss, U2 . . . There seems no part of Bob Dylan and John Lennon's lives which have gone unexamined, and the Beatles' recording career... > Read more

For Duster (studio jam)

THE STONE ROSES (2013): Here, for the first time, the second coming

28 Jan 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

Some concerts have a disproportionately greater effect than what might have seemed at the time. The Sex Pistols gig in Manchester in June '76 was attended by only a couple of dozen but many there – notably organisers Howard Devoto and Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks, Devoto later founding Magazine – went on to form bands. The punk spark had been lit outside of London. At... > Read more

Ten Storey Love Song


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  |  3

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