From the Vaults

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National Lampoon: A prog-rock epic (1975)

6 Aug 2015

If you enjoyed the parody of a feminist anthem Elsewhere posted some time back (the terrific I'm A Woman) then you've clearly got a sense of humour and might just be up for this. From the same album Goodbye Pop (which skewered drippy Neil Young, soppy soul and c'n'w) comes this stab at the pretensions of prog rock. If I recall the liner notes about this song (and you can guess it was... > Read more

Barbie Gaye: My Boy Lollypop (1956)

3 Aug 2015

Because we are so used to hearing the most famous versions of songs -- like Blue Hawaii by Bing Crosby which pre-dated Elvis by more than two decades or Al Jolson's earlier version of Are You Lonesome Tonight  -- it can come as a surprise to hear the original song before a famous name or a freak hit took it into the wider domain. So it is with My Boy Lollypop which was a massive... > Read more

David Peel and the Lower East Side: Up Against The Wall (1968)

2 Jul 2015

New York's David Peel was living proof of the adage, "It isn't what you know, it's who you know". And how you could milk that association -- however brief -- for all it's worth. He was also one of those "only in New York" guys. In the late Sixties when this insightful if reductive piece of political rhetoric was recorded, he was a street busker in the city who sang... > Read more

Eddie Bo and Inez Cheatham: Lover and Friend (1968)

1 Jul 2015

When Cosimo Matassa died in September 2014 there were lengthy obituaries for a man whom many may never have been aware of. But as a record producer he defined the sound of his hometown New Orleans on recordings from the Forties onward and was inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. He probably could have got in on just two songs alone, Fats Domino's The Fat Man and Little... > Read more

Hambone Willie Newbern: Roll and Tumble Blues (1929)

30 Jun 2015

The provenance of some blues songs is so obscure as to be impenetrable. Many would know Rollin' and Tumblin' from the rock version by Cream in the late Sixties where the credits simply had it as "Trad". The song -- in various versions -- dated back four decades prior to Cream when Roll and Tumble Blues was recorded by Willie Newbern during his sole recording session in 1929. He... > Read more

Grady Martin and the Slew Foot Five: Bimbo (1954)

29 Jun 2015

Having your own website like this is to some extent a vanity project. And it also allows for some personal indulgences, like posting this throwaway by the great Grady Martin. People of certain advance years may remember this song becase it was a regular on the childrens' session on Sunday morning wireless. I seem to recall there may also have been a version by Doris Day or someone like... > Read more

Blue Jeans: Reflections of My Life (1988)

15 Jun 2015

Does anyone buy CDs for their covers? Hmm. I've certainly bought more than a few records (more than a few score at a guess) for the cover art, whether it be funny, bizarre or just plain cool. The reward is that when you play the albums you always find one thing which has been worth it (because, let's face it, you never pay more than $10 for these things found in dump bins). I can't... > Read more

Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here with Stephane Grappelli (1975)

5 Jun 2015    2

If the recent reissue of Led Zeppelin albums proved something less than interesting, let alone exciting, in the "bonus tracks' department, the same couldn't be said for the Pink Floyd reissue of a few years ago. Without going the whole Pete Townshend into demos and second thoughts, the previously unreleased tracks on many of the Floyd discs were interesting for being expansive live... > Read more

Little Willie John: Leave My Kitten Alone (1959)

1 Jun 2015

R'n'b singer/songwriter Little Willie John -- born in Arkansas in '37, raised in Detroit and perhaps best known for his crossover hit Fever which Peggy Lee famously covered -- clocked up more than a dozen songs on the US Billboard charts in his short recording career which effectively only ran for about five years until the very early Sixties. Booze was his downfall and in '66 he was... > Read more

Billy Fury: I'm Lost Without You (1965)

21 May 2015

One of the most interesting songs on Marlon Williams' debut album -- and certainly the least expected from someone whose forte is along the folk/country axis -- is his heavily orchestrated cover of the old Teddy Randozzo song I'm Lost Without You. Randozzo was one of those classic Sixties songwriters who also wrote Gonna Take a Miracle (covered by Laura Nyro), Hurt So Bad (covered by Linda... > Read more

Ann Peebles: I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home (1972)

15 May 2015

Well, if anybody in '72 could break up somebody's home it would have been the steamy Ann Peebles who delivered this classic Memphis soul gem and the following year cemented her reputation with two classics, the much covered and sampled I Can't Stand the Rain and I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down. Peebles originally came from St Louis and sang gospel as a child but found her feet in Memphis... > Read more

Al Jolson: Are You Lonesome Tonight? (1950)

13 May 2015

It's widely accepted that after he came out of the army in Germany, Elvis Presley's career quickly went on the skids with lousy movies and soft songs. Well, not quite. His first album when he came back to the States -- entitled somewhat obviously Elvis is Back! -- was an interesting collection, at a pinch you might even call it his Rubber Soul (although there would be no... > Read more

Blitzen Trapper: To Be Young (2014)

11 May 2015

There are some beautifully simplistic but uplifting songs about being young between Cliff Richards' Young Ones in the early Sixties and Supergrass' Alright ("we are young, we run free") in the Nineties. It's not all running free as a teenager however (just check out Janis Ian's pained At Seventeen) and there is quite a body of work about that too, Quite what Ryan Adams was... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Who Killed Davey Moore? (1963)

4 May 2015

Bob Dylan's Hurricane in '75 is one of the best known songs about a boxer -- but very early in his career Dylan also sang another about a boxer, the fighter Davey Moore who was knocked out by Mexico-based Sugar Ramos from Cuba during a bout in March 1963. Moore spoke to the media afterwards (the illustration is taken from a famous post-fight photo) but then complained of headaches, slipped... > Read more

Carole King: Pleasant Valley Sunday (1966)

13 Apr 2015

There's something to be said for getting up and going to work each day. If it is doing something you love -- and maybe even if it isn't -- you do get good at it, if nothing else. Songwriting is no different than playing an instrument: the more you do the more you learn and the better you get. The Beatles -- by writing and singing their own songs -- may have been the death knell for Tin... > Read more

Cynthia Lennon: Walking in the Rain (1995)

2 Apr 2015    1

It was inevitable that after their divorce, Cynthia Lennon -- married to John for six years from '62 -- would live in the shadow of her famous husband and struggle to find a meaningful place in the world. Cynthia Lennon -- who died from cancer at her home in Spain yesterday, aged 75 --  remarried twice and subsequently divorced both times, opened a restaurant in Wales (and later... > Read more

Archie Bleyer: Hernando's Hideaway (1954)

2 Apr 2015

The photo of Archie Bleyer here looks more like the portrait of buttoned-down but likeable banker or real estate agent. But he was at one time a middle-sized player in American music. He was a bandleader, singer, producer from th Thirties onward and had his own label Cadence Records which he started in '52 and recorded the likes of Andy Williams. He got especially lucky when he signed... > Read more

Jimi Hendrix: Hornets Nest (1965)

30 Mar 2015

In the year before he left for London and subsequent wild acclaim in late '66, JImi Hendrix was gigging around New York and during that time hooked up with soul singer Curtis Knight and his band the Squires with whom he'd sometimes play. Knight introduced Jimmy (as he was then) to record producer/entrepreneur Ed Chalpin and JImi, Knight and the Squires did some sessions for Chalpin's PPX... > Read more

Wattie Watson and Friends: Ye Cannae Shove Yur Grannie Aff a Bus (date unknown)

25 Mar 2015

When I was a little boy growing up in Edinburgh I was doubtless surrounded by Scottish songs (I certainly heard the pipes) but it wasn't until I came to New Zealand that I can clearly remember particular songs (like The Cherry Rhyme which was played on the childrens' session on 1ZB on Sunday mornings). I also had comics like The Broons and Oor Wullie, and a couple of years ago when back in... > Read more

Elvis Costello: Wave a White Flag (demo 1976)

23 Mar 2015

When Elvis Costello was an aspiring singer-songwriter, desperate to get a foothold and using the name DP Costello, he was fronting the pub-rock band Flip City. But he was also recording his own songs at home and passing these demos to (the now late) Charlie Gillett who hosted the Honky Tonk radio show. This song was the first of those that Gillett played and it's intersting for two... > Read more