From the Vaults

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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

Bob Dylan: Neighborhood Bully (1983)

24 Nov 2012    3

As I write, the fragile "peace" between Israel and the Palestinians on the West Bank looks to be holding. At least, the missile attacks from both sides have stopped and some people are talking. Others are doubtless re-arming themselves while rebuilding their lives and homes. Without getting into the rights and wrongs of aggression and the usual "you started it"... > Read more

Aretha Franklin: Don't Play That Song For Me (1970)

23 Nov 2012    1

It's a well established fact that some songs write themselves into our autobiographies: we remember our first love by our favourite song, can be taken back to exactly where we were and who we were with when a certain piece of music plays, songs conjure up time and place . . . Talkin' 'bout them Night Moves. The Classic Hits radio format plays on this fact, and rock'n'roll has become a... > Read more

Aretha Franklin: Don't Play That Song For Me

Roy Loney and the Phantom Movers: Born to be Your Fool (1979)

22 Nov 2012

Some songs hook you in with a great opening line or couplet, something which just makes you want to hear more. There are plenty of them about and it's a fine rock'n'roll parlour game after a few drinks to start ticking them off. Feel free to add to these. "When you get out of the hospital, let me back into your life . . ." (Modern Lovers) "I walked 47 miles of barbed... > Read more

Push Push: Do Ya Love Me? (1991)

20 Nov 2012

Much loved for their confident rock-star swagger, astonishing vocals by frontman Mikey Havoc, guitarist Silver's good looks and their Kiwi classic single Trippin', Auckland band Push Push were the pivot of the "five bands for five dollars" nights at the Powerstation which gave many now-forgotten groups their first shot on a stage before an audience. Whatever happened to Bad Boy... > Read more

The Beatles: Yes It Is (Take 2, 1965)

19 Nov 2012    1

The Beatles' b-sides were always worth hearing and Yes It Is -- a gloomy piece from an otherwise upbeat pop band and on the flipside of Ticket to Ride -- was a venture into the close harmony dark side they'd explored in Baby's in Black on their previous album Beatles for Sale. It was a melancholy side of Lennon and McCartney's increasingly mature writing which would emerge more fully on... > Read more

Caveman: I'm Ready (1991)

15 Nov 2012

Just as Run DMC found when they hooked themselves up with a metal guitar part from Aerosmith for Walk This Way (here) -- and King Kurlee confirmed when he got Blackmore Jnr in to play the classic Smoke on the Water riff (here) -- when hip-hop appropriates from tough rock the results can be pretty powerful. Caveman out of High Wycombe, were the first UK rap act signed to a US label (Profile)... > Read more

John Cale: Mercenaries (1980)

13 Nov 2012

Born of its political era and John Cale's peculiarly damaged consciousness at the time, this menacing live recording captures an embittered spirit, a rare rage and a grim humour. As Mikal Gilmore noted in Rolling Stone at the time, the Sabotage/Live album this comes from is "without apology, and more importantly, without ideology, something of a rough and ready homage to the business... > Read more

(from vinyl, some enjoyale surface noise and pops)

The Beau Brummels: Two Days 'til Tomorrow (1967)

12 Nov 2012

Producer Lenny Waronker -- who worked with artists as diverse as Nancy Sinatra, Randy Newman, Ry Cooder and Rickie Lee Jones -- recognised in the voice of the Beau Brummels' singer Sal Valentino a sense of drama . . . and so for this song he went all out with arrangers and a number of other musicians beyond the remaining three-piece he had in front of him. Written by the band's Ron Elliott... > Read more

Jimi Hendrix: 1983, A Merman I Shall Turn to Be (1968)

9 Nov 2012

Because of the sheer number of his recordings out there, you'd be forgiven for thinking that when he wasn't playing a gig (and being recorded), having sex or sleeping, the great Jimi Hendrix was in a recording studio jamming, putting down demos or just simply noodling around. Which seems to have been true.  The man only saw the release of four albums in his lifetime, but since his... > Read more

Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood: Down from Dover (1972)

8 Nov 2012

Interest lies perhaps not in this dark song but what is written in ballpoint on the cover of the album I have. A thick line is drawn through the title on the back cover and in block capitals beside it is written "DON'T PLAY". There is even a scratchy ballpoint scribble through the title on the record itself. The other telling inscription on the cover is "4ZB" and an... > Read more

Eddie Floyd: I Stand Accused (1967)

7 Nov 2012

Although best known for his backbeat-driven hits Knock on Wood and Raise Your Hand in 1967 -- both of which came from his Knock on Wood album -- and for writing 634-5789 with Steve Cropper for Wilson Pickett, Eddie Floyd was also a deep and moving soul singer. On that album (in a ridiculously literal cover, right), Floyd went deep into his own heartacher Got to Make a Comeback and in fact... > Read more

Stan Freberg: The Old Payola Roll Blues (1960)

6 Nov 2012

While British commentators congratulate their culture on its history of comedy and satire (Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, David Frost, Peter Cook, Monty Python et al) they conspiciously fail to note that America had a similar, but often darker and more biting, tradition. Stan Freberg was -- although at the time of this writing he is still alive at 83 -- one of the great satirists of... > Read more

Jean Claude Vannier: Les Mouches (1973)

5 Nov 2012

French writer/arranger and producer Vannier has worked with anyone who counts in his home country (Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy, Juliette Greco, jazz pianist Martial Solal etc) as well as Astor Piazzolla, American pop writer Mort Shuman and many others. His trippy and conceptual sonic journey album L'enfant assassin des mouches in '73, from which this track comes, was reissued in 2005 and... > Read more

Frank Zappa: The Talking Asshole (1978)

1 Nov 2012    1

Here's a rare and odd one, taken from the vinyl album You're A Hook: The 15th Anniversary of Dial-A-Poem (1968-1983), a record which came through the label Giorno Poetry Systems. The idea behind Dial-A-Poem was exactly that: call this phone number and hear a poem. The contributors included John Giorno (who initiated the project), William Burroughs, Patti Smith, Allen Ginsberg, Lenny... > Read more

Screamin' Jay Hawkins: Alligator Wine (1963?)

31 Oct 2012

When Oasis celebrated cigarettes and alcohol on their debut album Definitely Maybe, they were onto something. These twin poles of working people are traditionally the escape from the drudgery of life (if these days much frowned upon)  . . . although we'd have to concede for an increasing number of young people they seem to be de rigueur for a lifestyle with not a lot of back-breaking... > Read more

Howard Tate: Keep Cool (1972)

30 Oct 2012    1

In this column about shameful record covers I'm proud to own, I noted you should never judge Eastern European -- or bellydance -- albums by their covers. They are often an afterthought and the contents can be often much more interesting and exciting than the kitsch covers might suggest. You'd guess perhaps only soul singer Howard Tate's family though the cover of his self-titled '72 album... > Read more

Wilson Pickett: Land of 1000 Dances (1966)

25 Oct 2012    4

Although Bob Dylan brought a literary sensibility into popular music in the early Sixties, most pop music -- whether it be rock, soul, reggae, hip-hop or whatever -- isn't poetry. Most lyrics don't stand much serious scrutiny. But that is not a criticism, there's a very good case to be made that, as Little Richard once memorably said, "It ain't what you do, it's the way how you do... > Read more

Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Knight: Hush Now (1965)

19 Oct 2012    1

It's well known that Jimi Hendrix didn't have much business sense, but he sure knew how to play guitar. This track -- one of about 60 recorded with the little known singer/guitarist Curtis Knight at a small studio in New York -- is a measure of both. Hendrix -- at that time Jimmy James -- had recently been fired from Little Richard's touring band and had done a few gigs with Ike and Tina... > Read more