From the Vaults

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Jim Carroll: People Who Died (1980)

26 Apr 2012    1

When Jim Carroll died in September 2009 at age 60, it went largely unnoticed by the rock culture which had once embraced him, and spoken about this New York poet-turned-singer in the same breath as Patti Smith and Lou Reed. Carroll's rock career was admittedly short -- a few albums in the early Eighties and little else -- but his literary life was fascinating. And well known to the... > Read more

The Herd: From the Underworld (1967)

25 Apr 2012

It's not often Greek mythology cracks the top 10, but the Herd managed to do it with song from the autumn of love (September '67) which is based on the Orpheus and Eurydice story. After the death of Eurydice, Orpheus travels to the underworld and by using music he melts the hearts of the gods down there who agree to let the missus come back into life. The deal however is that she must walk... > Read more

William Burroughs: What Washington? What orders? (1953)

24 Apr 2012

As guest writer Andrew Schmidt noted in his Other Voices Other Rooms piece on writer William Burroughs, his influence has been profound on many areas of the arts. We might also note that he had an astute and cynical eye and ear for global politics, as in this reading from his collection Exterminator! The idea of the hologram British royal family in a television serial/soap opera might... > Read more

Roy Milton: The Hucklebuck (1949)

23 Apr 2012

The career of band leader, jump jive and rhythm and blues singer Roy Milton (1907-83) is long and convoluted, and full of crossover chart hits in the Forties and Fifties. His story is best told here, so let's just focus on this song -- which New Zealanders will recognise because it was given an upbeat overhaul in 1965 and became a chart hit for the hugely popular sister duo The Chicks out... > Read more

Howard Morrison Quartet: Rioting in Wellington/Mori the Hori (1962)

21 Apr 2012

Recorded live in concert in 1962, these two tracks by the enormously popular Howard Morrison Quartet show just how little things have changed in New Zealand, and how much they have. The reference to Aunt Daisy in Rioting in Wellington won't mean much to anyone who wasn't there, but it is a reference to a radio star making the move to television. Ironically in New Zealand right now many... > Read more

Broadcast: Chord Simple (2006)

20 Apr 2012

The British electronica band Broadcast were very big, in a quiet and inconspicuous way. And regrettably dogged by misfortune, if not tragedy. They formed in the mid 2000s, had a track on the first Austin Powers soundtrack (the somewhat forgettable Book Lovers), changed line-up a bit, and Simpsons' creator Matt Groenig had them on the bill for the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in... > Read more

Gene McDaniels: Tower of Strength (1961)

19 Apr 2012

When Nick Lowe sang this oldie in concert at the Powerstation recently (see review here), it's a fair bet many in the audience either didn't recognise it, or hadn't heard it in over four decades. Lowe's treatment -- slow, less dramatic -- made the lyrics act as a neat counterpoint to his own bitter I Trained Her to Love Me. But in McDaniel's hands this song he co-wrote with Burt Bacharach... > Read more

Romeo Void: Never Say Never (1982)

18 Apr 2012    1

The British label Stiff Records (which gave the world Jona Lewie, Lena Lovich and Wreckless Eric alongside Elvis Costello and Ian Dury, among others) said everybody had one good single in them. Romeo Void out of San Francsisco had Never Say Never, a smart sliver of New Wave pop which rode a relentless beat and was elevated not just by the ennui and indifference of singer Debora Iyall but by... > Read more

Le Roi Jones: Our Nation is Like Ourselves (1970)

17 Apr 2012

Recorded at Buffalo State University, Le Roi Jones -- aka Amiri Baraka -- wasn't taking any prisoners in this powerful reading where he was among the first to reclaim and redefine the "N" word and throw "motherfugga" into the public domain. It was also -- like the earlier work by The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron -- a call to arms, or at the very least a cry against... > Read more

John and Jackie: Little Girl (1958)

16 Apr 2012    1

Simulated female orgasm on records isn't overly common, but there are certainly a few high profile examples. Counting back from Vanessa Daou's Zipless album (1994) and Donna Summer's Love to Love You Baby (1975) through Yoko Ono's moan-groan-screaming in the late Sixties/early Seventies (you wouldn't want to live next door let alone be in the next room) and the steamy Serge Gainsbourg's Je... > Read more

Lee Harvey: Crawfish for Elvis (1991)

14 Apr 2012

Lee Harvey was, if I am not mistaken, Chris McKibbin who was briefly on New Zealand's Flying Nun label. So briefly I believe he only did the one EP entitled Security 198 and I seem to recall he went off to Ireland at some point thereafter. The latter may not be true, but his EP was certainly a very interesting one in that it roved from fairly straight acoustic ballads to experimental pieces... > Read more

Bill Elliot and the Elastic Oz Band: God Save Us (1971)

12 Apr 2012

The problem with political songs is that so often they are merely sloganeering and headlines. Fine print and nuance can't make it into a three minute song. Still, there's nothing quite like a chant such as "power to the people" -- even if we are never quite sure which people should have the power. For a few years from the late Sixties, John Lennon's "political"... > Read more

The Temptations: Message from a Black Man (1969)

11 Apr 2012

In its early days Motown didn't directly address political issues -- although there's a good case to be made that its very existence and popular success was, like rock'n'roll of the Fifties, a political act in itself. But as the decade rolled on and young black men were either being shipped off to Vietnam or getting edgy in the streets back home, it was hard to ignore the rise of the Black... > Read more

Karen Dalton: God Bless the Child (1966)

10 Apr 2012

The new wave of folk artists have belately come to Karen Dalton, who palled around in Greenwich Village in the early Sixties with the likes of the young Bob Dylan (who was hugely impressed with her singing and guitar playing) and Fred Neil. It's said that she is the subject of Robbie Robertson-Richard Manuel song Katie's Been Gone on the Basement Tapes with Dylan. She was also admired by... > Read more

Eddie Hinton: I Want a Woman (1986)

9 Apr 2012

Alabama-born Eddie Hinton (1944-95) is hardly a household name but was one of the great Southern soul songwriters and sessionmen. As a Muscle Shoals musician he played guitar on scores of sessions (for everyone from Aretha Franklin to Boz Scaggs, Elvis to Solomon Burke) and was a prolific, if under-recorded, songwriter. His most notable hit was Breakfast in Bed, a co-write with Donnie... > Read more

Peter Cook: Bedazzled (1968)

5 Apr 2012    1

Although best seen in the context of the hilarious Bedazzled film -- where poor Dudley Moore is granted wishes by the Devil (the smarmy and petty Peter Cook) -- this song still resonates for its emotional coolness and distance. Some context then? Moore plays a nervous cook in a cheap London diner who is smitten with the beautiful waitress Eleanor Bron. He meets the Devil (in the guise of... > Read more

Tintern Abbey: Vacuum Cleaner (1967)

3 Apr 2012    1

Without a doubt one of the least promising song titles ever (were they announcing this sucked?) and the band's name similarly tapped into the obvious Anglo-fashionability of the period when the Beatles' Sgt Peppers album and shops like Granny Takes a Trip were London's cultural reference points. But, with lines like "fix me up with your sweet dose", the bent and careering... > Read more

Will Geer: Reading Woody Guthrie (1947)

2 Apr 2012

Will Geer (born William Ghere) enjoyed quite a remarkable acting career but was perhaps best, and possibly only, known by many for his role as Grandpa in the popular television series The Waltons. When he died in '78 his passing was written into the series -- and only when the tributes flowed and the obituaries were written did many fans of that show realise the kindly old actor was gay,... > Read more

Unknown: A Teen Talks/Count Your Blessings (1965)

30 Mar 2012

Even in these days of cheap downloads you'd still say $1.50 for 13 pieces of music and a spoken word track is kinda cheap. Possibly even good value . . . until you play the Teen to Teen Around the World album put out on the Word label from Illinois. According to the liner notes, the Youth for Christ organisation would send out groups of American teenagers ("each including half a dozen... > Read more

Hallelujah Picassos: Perfect (1995)

29 Mar 2012

Thanks to the enthusiasm of former member Peter McLennan, Auckland band Hallelujah Picassos -- once a fixture on the New Zealand music scene in the late Eighties to mid Nineties -- are being given their dues through a series of reissues. First out of the blocks was the compilation disc Rewind The Hateman (reviewed here) and now there is an 11 track collection of their covers entitled... > Read more