From the Vaults

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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

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