dirty red

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Dirty Red: Mother Fuyer (1947)

Dirty Red: Mother Fuyer (1947)

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...

Peter Sellers; The Trumpet Volunteer (1958)

Peter Sellers; The Trumpet Volunteer (1958)

There has been a long tradition of mocking the pretentions of rock and pop singers, which isn't that hard. Many of them take themselves very seriously. When National Lampoon for example got stuck into a Pink Floyd-like musician who wanted to create a massive rock opera (on their '75 album Goodbye Pop, helmed by Christopher Guest of Spinal...

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HASIL ADKINS (2012): Howling at the night

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . HASIL ADKINS (2012): Howling at the night

Whatever his style was, fame had no interest in embracing it. The closest this rockabilly blues screamer -- who started in the mid Fifties -- came to wider recognition was when the Cramps covered his song She Said and some of his music appeared in the film White Lightin'. But for Hasil (pronounced "hassle"), he just had to make do...

Ian Dury: Razzle in My Pocket (1977)

Ian Dury: Razzle in My Pocket (1977)

With Will Birch's biography and the film of his life Sex and Drugs and Rock'n'Roll (Andy Serkis as Ian), there was something of a revival and re-appreciation of Ian Dury recently, a bit more than a decade after his death at age 57. Dury came to the punk era as someone more than a decade older than most performers, and he had considerable...

Various Artists: The History of Rhythm and Blues 1942-52 (Rhythmandbluesrecords/Southbound 4 CD Set)

Various Artists: The History of Rhythm and Blues 1942-52 (Rhythmandbluesrecords/Southbound 4 CD Set)

If the previous collection in this excellent series -- which went from country blues in the Twenties to swing, boogie and jump jive in the early Forties -- laid out the ground, this equally fine (and fun) set picks up the pace and moves from the clubs of Harlem into proto-rock'n'roll. In the early part of the first disc (entitled Jumpin'...

Hank Ballard: The Twist (1958)

Hank Ballard: The Twist (1958)

The Twist wasn't the first dance craze of the pop era but it was certainly the biggest -- and the last. When Chubby Checker demonstrated the dance on American television in mid 1960 -- "Just pretend you're wiping your bottom with a towel as you get out of the shower, and putting out a cigarette with both feet" -- the simple...

Nick Curran and the Lowlifes: Reform School Girl (Eclecto Grooves/Southbound)

Nick Curran and the Lowlifes: Reform School Girl (Eclecto Grooves/Southbound)

I'm sure the heavily tattooed Curran from Austin, Texas wouldn't make any claims of great originality (although he does pen more than half this album, his song titles include Reel Rock Party, Psycho, Lusty L'il Lucy, Filthy and so on). But he simply slices off large and rowdily enjoyable slabs of Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Little Richard, Gene...

Alfred E Neuman: It's a Gas (1963)

Alfred E Neuman: It's a Gas (1963)

There's the widely held if rather snooty view that fart noises and belching are only amusing to adolescent boys. This rather ignores the obvious: that there will always be adolescent boys, and even more people who have been adolescent boys. Which perhaps explains the enduring if low appeal of this outing by Mad magazine's Alfred E Neuman....

Reverend J.M. Gates: Hitler and Hell (1941)

Reverend J.M. Gates: Hitler and Hell (1941)

The Rev Gates (b 1884) was preacher-cum-gospel singer whose style was often call-and-response in the manner of Baptist churches. He worked out of Atlanta and aside from sermonising he was a prolific recording artist, some estimates say he recorded around 200 songs and sermons from around 1926 when he scored big with Death's Black Train is Coming...

Noel McKay: Sweater Girl (1963?)

Noel McKay: Sweater Girl (1963?)

Noel McKay had a drag act in New Zealand in the early Sixties (and lesserly so into the Seventies) but always walked both sides of the line. He released albums in covers with him in drag but also had a series of EPs on the Viking label entitled Party Songs; For Adults Only which were directed at the straight audience. These included...

The Mississippi Sheiks: Bed Spring Poker (1931)

The Mississippi Sheiks: Bed Spring Poker (1931)

The blues is often blunt and to the point when it comes to sexual imagery, at other times it is coded -- although no one should be in any doubt that when Lonnie Johnson says he is the best jockey in town he isn't boasting about his horse riding skills. This song by the Mississippi Sheiks -- Walter Vincson on guitar and vocals, Lonnie Chapman...

Anna Russell: Folk Songs (1952)

Anna Russell: Folk Songs (1952)

With her beautifully modulated tones and remarkable voice -- which went from a soprano squeal to a screech quite effortlessly -- Anna Russell was an enormously popular comedy-cum-classical act in the Fifties. She would poke fun at Wagner and contemporary classical music equally: of the latter she said it was music for the singer who was tone...

Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam: Is 'e an Aussie, is 'e Lizzy (the Thirties?)

Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam: Is 'e an Aussie, is 'e Lizzy (the Thirties?)

This is one of those songs which, once heard, is never forgotten: how can you ever erase lines like "seems this digger likes my figure" or "he being well-born, lived in Melbourne". Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam (not to be confused with the metal band of similar name, of course) were a UK-based comedy duo of the Twenties and...

Geeshie Wylie: Skinny Leg Blues (1930)

Geeshie Wylie: Skinny Leg Blues (1930)

Blues singer Geeshie Wylie -- probably not her real name, more likely a nickname because she was of the Gullah people of South Carolina and Georgia -- recorded even fewer songs than Robert Johnson. Just six known recordings and no photograph of her exists either. She may have been with a traveling medicine show in the Twenties but, other...

Jelly Roll Morton: I'm Alabama Bound (date unknown)

Jelly Roll Morton: I'm Alabama Bound (date unknown)

The origins of jazz are lost in the mists and of course few would be so bold as to say it started on any particular date. One who did however was pianist Jelly Roll Morton who claimed to have invented jazz and was even happy to give a date when asked. Morton was, like so many blues players at the time, not averse to borrowing and adapting...

Peter Sarstedt: Mary Jane (1969)

Peter Sarstedt: Mary Jane (1969)

If people remember UK singer-songwriter Peter Sarstedt for anything at all it is his European-sounding ballad Where Do You Go to My Lovely? . . . and perhaps his summery follow-up One More Frozen Orange Juice. Both were hits in '69, the former winning him an Ivor Novello songwriting award. Sarstedt was the younger brother of Eden Kane --...

Alvin Robinson: Down Home Girl (1964)

Alvin Robinson: Down Home Girl (1964)

When the Beatles and the Stones covered songs by black American artists on their early albums and championed Motown soul (Beatles) and Chicago blues singers (Stones) they undoubtedly drew attention to the genius which many locals had overlooked. The Stones' early shows and albums were stacked with songs by Chuck Berry (Come On, their...

Joe Jones: You Talk Too Much (1960)

Joe Jones: You Talk Too Much (1960)

Sometimes there is an eloquence and directness in simplicity: "Wild thing, you make my heart sing . . ." Hard to improve on that. Or this blunt sentiment by Joe Jones, a rhythm and blues singer from New Orleans who once had the gall to claim he wrote the classic Iko Iko for the Dixie Cups whom he managed. Wasn't the first time...

Green Jelly: Three Little Pigs (1993)

Green Jelly: Three Little Pigs (1993)

There just aren't enough fairy tales at From the Vaults. Only the clip of Sam the Sham and the Pharoah's Little Red Riding Hood as far as I can recall. Time then to resurrect this from the grunge era, the delightful Green Jelly (an umlat over the Y meant it was pronounced "Green Jello") with their update of the old story of the...

The Contours: First I Look at the Purse (1965)

The Contours: First I Look at the Purse (1965)

One of the first groups signed to Berry Gordy's Motown label, the Contours had a huge hit with the much-covered Do You Love Me ("now that I can dance") which was in the set of Beatles-era bands like the Dave Clark Five, the Hollies and the Tremeloes. After their next couple of songs failed to ignite it seems they were relegated...

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