From the Vaults

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Daniel Lentz: On the Leopard Altar (1984)

1 Feb 2013

To be fair to Paul McCartney, he's always said he can't pick a hit single and never knows if he's written one until people line up to buy it. Even so, when Mojo magazine asked him in '97 -- as part of their 100 Greatest Singles of All Time issue -- to name his favourite songs, and then one that should have been a contender he went for this odd item by the American contemporary classical... > Read more

Carl Perkins: Dixie Fried (1956)

31 Jan 2013

Known mostly these days as the writer of Blue Suede Shoes (he sang it before Elvis' chart-topping cover), Carl Perkins was the man who was the most hillbilly cat of them all in the early rock'n'roll era. Looking like a cadaver with his sunken cheeks, and a heroic drinker, the married Carl was the Hank Williams of rockabilly . . . and Sam Phillips knew Perkins could be his next big star... > Read more

Dinah Washington: Big Long Slidin' Thing (1954)

30 Jan 2013    1

It's about a trombone player's instrument, of course. Well, of course it is . . . But the sexually voracious and seldom satisfied Washington (seven husbands, countless lovers) knows exactly what this is about and manages to milk the innuendo in her typically sassy way. Her real forte was torch songs and she crossed effortlessly between jazz, blues, pop and rhythm and blues -- and songs... > Read more

Cliff Richard: Schoolboy Crush (1958)

29 Jan 2013

Although there is still some debate about which was the first rock'n'roll record, the critical consensus appears to have decided on Rocket 88 written by Ike Turner at the famous Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale, Mississippi. When it comes to the first British rock'n'roll record there is no doubt. It is Move It by Cliff Richard. Recorded at Abbey Road in July 1958 with entrepreneur Norrie... > Read more

? and the Mysterians: Can't Get Enough of You Baby (1967)

25 Jan 2013

It's a common enough sentiment, but in the fast-changing world of pop "If it ain't broke, why try to fix it?" just doesn't work. That idea would have kept the Beatles singing variants of She Loves You and I Want To Hold Your Hand for a few years and in all likelihood they would have become one of those rapidly redundant pop sensations remembered only for their Ed Sullivan Show... > Read more

Alberta Hunter: You Can't Tell the Difference After Dark (c1936)

24 Jan 2013

When Alberta Hunter enjoyed a career revival in the late Seventies -- when she was in her mid 80s -- people who had forgotten her were scrambling to acclaim her saucy and sassy blues, and to look back at where she had come from all those decades previous. Hunter had been born in 1895 and wrote the classic Downhearted Blues in 1922. Her peers included Bessie Smith who had a hit with... > Read more

Maurice Rocco: Darktown Strutters Ball (1945)

23 Jan 2013    1

No matter how innovative a musician can appear to be, you can almost always track down a predecessor. There usually seems to be someone who was doing something similar a little earlier, most often to no great acclaim. The impeccably attired boogie-woogie pianist Maurice Rocco from Ohio was, however, widely hailed for his lively style and he appeared in a number of movies (notably 52nd... > Read more

Pete Townshend: Behind Blue Eyes (1983)

22 Jan 2013

In '83 Pete Townshend of the Who released the first of three double albums of demos, outtakes, working drawing for songs and unspecified instrumental tracks. Under the generic title Scoop -- not definitive, just scoops he said -- these were fascinating documents for anyone interested in the creative process. You could hear how some of his songs underwent major overhauls between conception... > Read more

Mamie Van Doren: Separate the Men From the Boys (1958)

21 Jan 2013

Mamie Van Doren's not inconsiderable assets -- big breasts, bleached blonde hair and a breathy speaking style -- served her well for a career in cinema and self-promotion when she emerged as a kind of second-tier Marilyn Munroe in the Fiftes. She, of course, always denied being a mere copyist ("I have never been a Marilyn Munroe wannabe, I have always been happy in my own skin")... > Read more

Larry Wallis: Police Car (1977)

18 Jan 2013    3

The punk era tossed up -- threw up? -- some real oddities, few more unexpected than Wallis who was no spring chicken in the world of short haired rock'n'roll for angry 18-year olds. He'd been in the music game for over a decade and in the Sixties had been in such household names as The Entire Sioux Nation and Shagrat. To be fair, Shagrat morphed into the Pink Fairies (which had... > Read more

Ernest Tubb: It's For God And Country and You, Mom (1965)

17 Jan 2013

War always produces songs from all sides of the trenches and Vietnam was no different: a slew of patriotic and tally-ho songs in the early days then more cynical, anti-war sentiments coming through as the body count rises. Here Ernest Tubb and His Texas Troubadours deliver one from those early days of US military involvement when some saw the issue very simply: there was a line drawn to... > Read more

The Lemonheads: Hey, That's No Way to Say Goodbye (2009)

16 Jan 2013

When, in 2004, I interviewed Evan Dando -- the golden boy of great promise who fronted the Lemonheads -- he was pleasingly unapologetic about having taken most drugs known to man . . . and a few only familiar to animals. He thought taking drugs, getting out of it and generally having a good time were part of the contract in rock'n'roll. But of course, these days he was clean and sober... > Read more

Rod Stewart/Long John Baldry: Up Above My Head (1964)

14 Jan 2013

Serious rock writers -- or more correctly, those who want to be considered serious --  will always prefer tortured artists over those who sailed along and were seen to be be enjoying themselves. Which is why Rod Stewart's The Autobiography was either dismissed, overlooked or snidely condemned by most . . . and of course unfavourably compared with Pete Townshend's Who I Am, which is a... > Read more

Ronald Frankau: I'd Like to Have a Honeymoon with Her (1930s)

12 Dec 2012

With his fruity, aristocratic tone, the London music hall comedian and actor Ronald Frankau (1894-1951) had the perfect voice for innuendo. And his choice of material included Everyone's Got Sex Appeal for Someone which, along with many of his songs and skits, was banned on British radio during the Thirties and Forties. Ironically then, he was actually best known as a broadcaster . . . but... > Read more

Hank Williams: The Funeral (1952)

11 Dec 2012

The great country singer Hank Williams died a rock'n'roll death, in the back of a car from a heart attack brought on by too much booze and too many pills somewhere between gigs. They don't write endings much better than that. Unfortunately as with most such deaths, it came far to early. He was only 29. Williams' music provided a cornerstone for country music in his barndance songs (Hey... > Read more

The Rolling Stones: I'd Much Rather Be With The Boys (1965)

10 Dec 2012

Right at the end of the recently released Rolling Stones doco Charlie is My Darling -- which captures extraordinary footage of a brief tour in Ireland in '65 with a stage invasion and general mayhem -- we see the Stones goofing off and playing a song that was a rarity. This one. And it's rarity value is two-fold. First it was credited to Keith Richards and their manager Andrew Loog... > Read more

Tommy Quickly: Tip of my Tongue (1963)

5 Dec 2012

At the end of '63 the fresh and freckle-faced 18-year old Tommy Quickly was standing at the door of his dreams: he'd been signed by Beatles manager Brian Epstein (who had changed his name from Quigley in the manner of manager Larry Parnes' school of stage names like Vince Eager, Marty Wilde and Billy Fury) and was tipped for massive success. His first single Tip of My Tongue was even a... > Read more

Nina Simone: Backlash Blues (1967)

3 Dec 2012

When the bio-pic of Nina Simone -- Nina, due 2013 -- arrives it will be interesting to see just how much, or little, of her life it manages to encompass. She was classically trained, a political activist, furiously intolerant and increasingly strange and self-serving as her life rolled on. And that's just the broad strokes. She was also something of a genius when it came to marrying... > Read more

Dirty Red: Mother Fuyer (1947)

29 Nov 2012

Blues and jazz artists often used coded language to get their lyrics past record companies and radio programmers, so you would get a song like When I'm In My Tea (by Jo-Jo Adams, 1946) about marijuana or Dope Head Blues by Victoria Spivey about cocaine. Coded sex was everywhere . . . although there is no mistaking the meaning of songs like Poon Tang (by the Treniers), Big Long Slidin' Thing... > Read more

Brian Eno and David Byrne: The Jezebel Spirit (1981)

27 Nov 2012    1

When the Brian Eno and David Byrne album My Life in the Bush of Ghosts appeared in 1981, the musical, social and cultural climate was very different. Hip-hop had yet to establish the widespread use of sampling (although of course there had been artists who had used the technique), and the idea of a beat-driven album by two intellectual boffins was something unfamiliar also. But on... > Read more