from the vaults

The contents of this page relate to from the vaults.

John Cale; Chinese Envoy (1982)

John Cale; Chinese Envoy (1982)

As with anyone who was there, I have a vivid memory of John Cale's show at the Gluepot back in September '83, and in fact I still have the poster ("Tickets sold! Limited door sales. Be early!") Cale's Sabotage/Live from '79 can't be topped for the sheer intensity he brings to material like the thrilling seven minute version of...

DON CUNNINGHAM: Exotic and erotic lounge-jazz in a Playboy world

DON CUNNINGHAM: Exotic and erotic lounge-jazz in a Playboy world

Some albums come with a great back-story. There have been books written about Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme. The recording of a Britney Spears album might not be quite so interesting, although the picture book or dress-me-up doll might have some market value. And as Britney proves, you cannot judge...

JANIS JOPLIN: Singing out the painful sparks within

JANIS JOPLIN: Singing out the painful sparks within

Of all those admitted to that illustrious pantheon of Dead Sixties Rock Stars, Janis Joplin has been the one least well served. Jimi is revered and regularly remarketed; and Jim has his reissued albums, an Oliver Stone bio-pix, a new headstone in Pere La Chaise and people still seem to refer to him as “a poet”. And Janis?...

GANG OF FOUR, A 100 FLOWERS BLOOM: Would you like politics with that?

GANG OF FOUR, A 100 FLOWERS BLOOM: Would you like politics with that?

The ideas and ideologies which came in the late 70s with punk, new wave and anarcho-pop threw up some extraordinary bands, not the least of which was Gang of Four, an outfit from Leeds whose 1979 debut Entertainment! brought together minimalist punk-funk bass and drums with guitarist Andy Gill's switchblade guitar and howling feedback. Oh,...

Tommy Quickly: Tip of my Tongue (1963)

Tommy Quickly: Tip of my Tongue (1963)

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....

The Warlocks: Can't Come Down (1965)

The Warlocks: Can't Come Down (1965)

By the mid Sixties the spirit and style of poetic Bob Dylan was everywhere as singers and writers tried to match his surreal wordplay. Dylan's harmonica, image heavy lyrics and monotone is everywhere in this demo by the Warlocks out of San Francisco. Of all the Bob-copyists the Warlocks had the best claim to similar territory: they were...

Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson: Dope Head Blues (1927)

Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson: Dope Head Blues (1927)

When Lou Reed took a bit of flak for writing about street life (drugs, hookers, transvestites) he just picked the wrong idiom. These topics were common enough in literature and pulp fiction, but new to rock music. Dope songs were certainly common in jazz and the blues -- in fact there has been a long tradition of singing about marijuana, cocaine...

Ronnie Spector: Girl from the Ghetto (2006)

Ronnie Spector: Girl from the Ghetto (2006)

Revenge is a dish best served cold -- and with a pointed, fuckin' still-angry-at-you-bastardfucker lyric. And Ronnie got her chance when her former husband Phil Spector was facing a murder charge. Ronnie Spector, the voice of the classic girl group the Ronettes of the Sixties which Phil produced, married the mad boss and spent years as a...

Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs: Wooly Bully (1964)

Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs: Wooly Bully (1964)

When this out-of-the-blue single raced around the globe at the height of Beatlemania it sounded like a typically gimmicky hit of the period. The band name, Sam wearing a turban and the group dressed like Arabs didn't exactly deny it. You might have expected them to disappear immediately. But they didn't. They came back with a...

Sky Cries Mary; 2000 Light Years From Home (1993)

Sky Cries Mary; 2000 Light Years From Home (1993)

A tip? Eat your acid drop right now . . . and . . . and waiting and waiting and  . .. now? Shall we around this point try to be serious? Let us try.  At the same time as grunge was emerging in Seattle there were other things going on in that city, it wasn't all lumberjack shirts and flailing emotional intensity. The...

The Beatles; You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) (1970)

The Beatles; You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) (1970)

The 2009 remastering of the Beatles' catalogue allowed listeners not only the chance to reassess their sound, but also the breadth of their musical reach. Here was a band which created great pop, beautiful ballads, economic psychedalia (Strawberry Fields, Walrus, Lucy in the Sky and others barely broke the 4.00 mark), raga pop and had a sense of...

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...

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Big Ones Get Away (1992)

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Big Ones Get Away (1992)

There are three distinct but overlapping public faces of Native American singer/songwriter Sainte-Marie: the woman who wrote and sang Universal Soldier and the theme to the film Soldier Blue in the Sixties; the permanent cast member of Sesame Street between '76 and '81; and a lifelong activist in the Native American movement. But there was...

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...

Dean Martin: My Rifle, My Pony and Me (1959)

Dean Martin: My Rifle, My Pony and Me (1959)

As Nick Tosche revealed in his remarkable biography Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, Dean Martin didn't have to try hard at anything: he was good looking, could sing whatever was put in front of him, was a natural straight man and comedian, and he'd just turn up on a movie set and do his lines with charm, ease and utter...

Larry Wallis: Police Car (1977)

Larry Wallis: Police Car (1977)

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...

Lesley Gore: You Don't Own Me (1963)

Lesley Gore: You Don't Own Me (1963)

For someone who was only semi-professional, tiny Lesley Gore (5' 2") was astonishingly busy in the Sixties: Between '63 and '69 she released 29 singles (19 of them went Top 100) and eight albums - outside of greatest hits packages. And she had some great hits: her first was It's My Party ("and I'll cry if I want to") when she...

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ROY BUCHANAN: The Messiah who isn't coming back

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ROY BUCHANAN: The Messiah who isn't coming back

There have been any number of Southern blues, soul and rock'n'roll musicians who have struggled with their pull of their secular and spiritual sides: Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Son House, Al Green . . . and the great guitarist Roy Buchanan. Arkansas-born Buchanan -- who died in an apparent jail-cell suicide in 1988 at age 48, although...

King Kurlee feat. Blackmore Jr: Smoke on the Water (1991)

King Kurlee feat. Blackmore Jr: Smoke on the Water (1991)

The merging of hip-hop and rock (via Run DMC with Aerosmith, Anthrax with Public Enemy, and others) lead to nu-metal and its many unfortunate bands such as Limp Bizkit. But, as with the early days of hip-hop when there was an innocent and enjoyable experimentation, some of nu-metal's predecessors were more interesting than their offspring....

Gary Lewis and the Playboys: This Diamond Ring (1965)

Gary Lewis and the Playboys: This Diamond Ring (1965)

The offspring of Hollywood were just as swept up in Beatlemania as anyone. The two sons of comedian Soupy Sales -- Hunt and Tony, drums and bass respectively -- were in Tony and the Tigers who appeared on Hullabaloo and had a couple of records out . . . although went on to more interesting things later when they joined Todd Rundgren, Iggy...

Jackie De Shannon: She Don't Understand Him Like I Do (1964)

Jackie De Shannon: She Don't Understand Him Like I Do (1964)

Jackie De Shannon (born Sharon Lee Myers) had great hits and an even better life: As a teenager in Illinois she recorded and wrote a few songs; Eddie Cochran heard a couple of her country tunes and got her to California where she teamed up with Sharon Sheeley to write (notably Dum Dum for Brenda Lee and The Great Impostor for the Fleetwoods);...

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...

Brenda Lee, I'm Sorry (1960)

Brenda Lee, I'm Sorry (1960)

Little Brenda Lee -- who stood 4'9" -- was never a threat. Not to girls in her audience. "My image wasn't one of a heartbreaker," she once said. "I was the little fat girl your mother didn't mind you playing with." When Lee went to number one with this powerful and aching performance she was one of the few women --...

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...

Genya Ravan: Junkman (1979

Genya Ravan: Junkman (1979

By the time New York singer Ravan got to her album And I Mean It, from which this track is taken, she'd already had a few careers: she'd been the singer in the Escorts in the early Sixties (the line-up included soon-to-be-producer Richard Perry); she was Goldie of Goldie and The Gingerbreads who scored a top 10 UK single with Can't You Hear My...

Jim Carroll: People Who Died (1980)

Jim Carroll: People Who Died (1980)

When Jim Carroll died in September 2009 at age 60, it went largely unnoticed by the rock culture which had once embraced him, and had 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...

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

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

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...

I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER: THE PSYCHEDELIC YEARS 1965-69 edited by JAMES HENKE AND PARKE PUTERBAUGH

I WANT TO TAKE YOU HIGHER: THE PSYCHEDELIC YEARS 1965-69 edited by JAMES HENKE AND PARKE PUTERBAUGH

Somewhere among my old photographs at home is one of me standing beside John Lennon’s psychedelic Rolls Royce. It was London in late ‘69 and -- aside from revealing the embarrassing affectation of a black cape -- it‘s most interesting for what is in the background: a Morris Minor of the kind that was considerably more common...

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...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Television; Marquee Moon

THE BARGAIN BUY: Television; Marquee Moon

Because they only recorded this debut and the rather indifferent Adventure the following year before breaking up, you might expect this New York four-piece to not really have made a mark in the manner of their long-running peers the Ramones, Talking Heads and Blondie. But this debut album was so exceptional -- and so different from the...

The Easybeats: Sorry (1966)

The Easybeats: Sorry (1966)

In 1980 EMI released an excellent double vinyl on the Joker imprint entitled The Easybeats: Absolute Anthology 1965-69. It might well have been titled The Rise and Fall of a Pop Group because across 43 tracks in chronological order it traced Australia's Easybeats from their first tentative attempts at being the antipodean Beatles, through...

Kyu Sakamoto: Sukiyaki (1963)

Kyu Sakamoto: Sukiyaki (1963)

It wasn't really the name of the song that Sakamoto recorded, but that hardly mattered. When this catchy piece of MOR pop from Japan made it to the West it enjoyed enormous success. Sakamoto, who was 22, was the first and last Japanese artist to top the Billboard charts. It was also his first and last international success. Back home of...

13th Floor Elevators: 7th Heaven; Music of the Spheres (Charly/Southbound)

13th Floor Elevators: 7th Heaven; Music of the Spheres (Charly/Southbound)

As with Syd Barrett, the music of 13th Floor Elevators has been overshadowed by the story of the madness, in the case of the Elevators the increasingly bizarre behaviour of their frontman Roky Erickson. Out of Austin, Texas in the mid Sixties, the Elevators were a raw and elemental garageband along the lines of England's Downliners Sect and...

Various Artists: The Gerry Goffin and Carole King Songbook (EMI)

Various Artists: The Gerry Goffin and Carole King Songbook (EMI)

While Carole King went on to greater fame, it is worth remembering that of the songs she wrote with her writing partner-then-husband Gerry Goffin in the early Sixties it was he who penned those memorable and often extremely adult lyrics: think of the pre-sex doubt in "will you still love me tomorrow", the post-sex pleasures of...

CAROLE KING AND JAMES TAYLOR INTERVIEWED (2010): Attitudes and platitudes

CAROLE KING AND JAMES TAYLOR INTERVIEWED (2010): Attitudes and platitudes

Carole King and James Taylor hardly need an introduction. For 40 years -- more in King’s case, she started writing the music for Gerry Goffin‘s lyrics in the early 60s -- their songs and lives have been public property. No classic hits station (or student flat in the early 70s) could be without a copy of Taylor’s Sweet Baby...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Boz Scaggs; Silk Degrees

THE BARGAIN BUY: Boz Scaggs; Silk Degrees

These days singer/songwriter Boz Scaggs is more of a jazzman -- as witnessed by his album Speak Low of 2008. But in the mid Seventies, in those days just before disco started turning into a formula and a cliche, he made some beautifully soulful dance-pop which was not only radio-friendly but was subtle, understated and tasteful. He'd come a...

The Raincoats: The Raincoats (We Three/Southbound)

The Raincoats: The Raincoats (We Three/Southbound)

I'm pretty sure I shared an elevator with some of the Raincoats at a hotel in New York in the mid Nineties, but I may be wrong. And that's the end of my anecdote. This is a reissue (The second? Third?) of their important '79 debut album when this London group of Ana da Silva, Gina Birch, Palmolive and Vicky Aspinall were hailed as the first...

Stan Freberg: The Old Payola Roll Blues (1960)

Stan Freberg: The Old Payola Roll Blues (1960)

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...

Lou Reed: Families (1979)

Lou Reed: Families (1979)

Lou Reed never strikes you as having a sentimental streak, but this song (from his album The Bells) is as nakedly autobiographical and pained as John Lennon's Mother. It is the sounds of a son who knows he has disappointed the family but equally realises there is no way back. Interesting too is the tone of regret and sadness at what has...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Joy Division; Unknown Pleasures

THE BARGAIN BUY: Joy Division; Unknown Pleasures

Joy Division's debut album, for the sound of Martin Hannett's production alone, changed the way people thought about music in the post-punk era. Here was glacially smooth and dark music with theatrical intent and a poetic sensibility. It sounded astonishingly gloomy (lines like "where will it end" and "she's lost control...

Hayseed Dixie: Killer Grass (Cooking Vinyl)

Hayseed Dixie: Killer Grass (Cooking Vinyl)

You might have thought the Hayseed Dixie joke -- a band from the fanciful Deer Lick Holler playing bluegrass treatments of (mostly) rock songs, interviewed here -- would have run its course by now. But eight albums in they are still going. And of course it is still kinda fun: here they knock off Queen (Bohemian Rhapsody), Black Sabbath,...

The Ivy League: Four and Twenty Hours (1966)

The Ivy League: Four and Twenty Hours (1966)

Britain's Ivy League were one of those bands which appeared in the wake of the Beat Boom and the Beatles and scored a couple of quick hits -- Funny How Love Can Be, then Tossing and Turning -- in '65. And that would seem to be it because a couple of key members left and . . . But there is more to their story that that. The band were...

Frank Zappa: I'm the Slime (1973)

Frank Zappa: I'm the Slime (1973)

The life, times, opinions and music of Frank Zappa are too huge and diverse to come to terms with easily. What is beyond question (and some of his music and opinions were questionable) is that the man had a rare and impressive musical reach -- from doo-wop to orchestral music and all points between and beyond -- and when he was in satirical mode...

Lou Christie: Lightnin' Strikes (1966)

Lou Christie: Lightnin' Strikes (1966)

Few people can say they celebrated their 23rd birthday in quite the same way as Lou Christie, this single was number one the US -- and just starting to go global. It was quite a comeback for Lugee Alfredo Giovanni Sacco from rural Glenwillard near Pittsburg: he'd had some skirmishes with the charts and been on Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Jesus and Mary Chain: Original Album Series (Rhino)

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Jesus and Mary Chain: Original Album Series (Rhino)

The Jesus and Mary Chain out of Glasgow certainly alienated audiences when they first appeared: not the least for performances which barely stretched past the 15 or 20 minute mark. But it was their noise-drenched guitar sonics and distant, droning vocals on their debut album Psychocandy in '85 -- which took aspects of the Velvet Underground...

The Gun: Race with the Devil (1967)

The Gun: Race with the Devil (1967)

In the age of Cream (mid '66 to late '68), Blue Cheer and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, the power trio became an established form and this group from Buckinghamshire -- two brothers and another -- took the hard rock, guitar pyrotechnics sound to the top of the British charts with this single. And that was about it for them. That's actually...

Frank Zappa: The Talking Asshole (1978)

Frank Zappa: The Talking Asshole (1978)

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...

MGMT: Congratulations (Sony)

MGMT: Congratulations (Sony)

Anyone who tuned in for the pop-silly, enthusiastic debut Oracular Spectacular by these guys knew they were smart cookies and going to be around for a while: they seemed the perfect post-modern pop package which drew from all kinds of sources with knowing winks and nods -- and are so knowing and winking this time out that on the cover they say...

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...

The Fall: Your Future Our Clutter (Domino)

The Fall: Your Future Our Clutter (Domino)

Mark E Smith of Britain's marathon-running post-punk agit-prop outfit The Fall, is nothing if not consistent: He's still annoyed at the world and putting his anger and observations into a brittle, confrontation garage-noise, electro-distorted musical context. His vocals on Bury Parts 1 and 3 here come from the bottom of some sulphur...

Javelin: No Mas (Luaka Bop)

Javelin: No Mas (Luaka Bop)

After internet chatter last year about how cool, kitschy and carefree this now Brooklyn-based duo of George Langford and Tom Van Buskirk (and friends) were for their loose borrowings from all parts of pop history (cheap Farfisa pop, reductive disco, New Wave bubblegum) on their widely circulated demos (Jamz n Jemz), you hoped they would...

The Searchers: Love's Melody (1980)

The Searchers: Love's Melody (1980)

Despite the durability of Gerry and the Pacemakers' Ferry Cross the Mersey, there is little question that the most successful group out of Liverpool in the Sixties -- aside from that other one -- was the Searchers. In the wake of the Beatles there were a dozen or so bands who rode into the charts -- Gerry, The Big Three, Billy J Kramer and...

Timothy Leary: You Can Be Anyone This Time Around (1970)

Timothy Leary: You Can Be Anyone This Time Around (1970)

Older, if not wiser, "heads" will know exactly who Dr Timothy Leary was -- an advocate of the widespread use of LSD to change cultural consciousness and to open individuals to the vastness of the cosmos within and without. Tune in, turn on and drop out became a mantra in the late Sixties. His album You Can Be Anyone This Time...

Solomon King: Happy Again (1968)

Solomon King: Happy Again (1968)

Solomon King -- not to be confused with the equally enormous late Solomon Burke -- was something of a one-hit wonder when his big voiced ballad She Wears My Ring went racing up the charts in the UK in '68. Like Engelbert Humperdink, King's style seemed to belong to an earlier era . . . and the album which accompanied the hit confirmed...

ROTTEN: NO IRISH, NO BLACKS, NO DOGS by JOHN LYDON: Reviewed 1994

ROTTEN: NO IRISH, NO BLACKS, NO DOGS by JOHN LYDON: Reviewed 1994

“With the Sex Pistols we were hated, absolutely despised. There was no audience there at all to any great extent. We sold a few records in a small banana republic called Britain.” – John Lydon John Lydon -- better known as the sneering Sex Pistols frontman Johnny Rotten -- enjoys lying. He says as much in his...

The J Geils Band: No Anchovies, Please (1980)

The J Geils Band: No Anchovies, Please (1980)

The J Geils Band out of Massachusetts is best known for their terrific single Angel in a Centrefold (aw, c'mon, it's great, in a rock'n'roll Benny Hill way . . . see clip below) and Freeze Frame -- and in this country probably not a lot else. No one I know has ever had a J Geils Band album -- or has admitted to as much. I do. Just the...

Larry Williams: Slow Down (1959)

Larry Williams: Slow Down (1959)

R'n'b/rock'n'roll singer-songwriter Williams didn't have a particularly long time in the spotlight -- he appeared in '57 and was effectively gone from the charts within three years -- but his small catalogue influenced a generation of British singers, among them John Lennon who was a huge fan. In fact the Beatles covered three Williams'...

The Twitch: Time for Change (Rangi)

The Twitch: Time for Change (Rangi)

The album title is slightly misleading: if it is a time for change then acccording to Auckland's Twitch it is back to the future -- back to stabbing post-punk power-pop with a sharp New Wave delivery. Rock'n'roll Mirror could have come from any time in the past three decades: a touch of metal in the guitar chords, a boastful Joan Jett-style...

THE BARGAIN BUY: James Taylor; Sweet Baby James (Warners)

THE BARGAIN BUY: James Taylor; Sweet Baby James (Warners)

After his brief signing to the Beatles label Apple and his self-titled debut in '69 (which included a song entitled Soemthing in the Way She Moves which Harrison also used), Taylor moved over to Warners as Apple broke up and delivered this album which really launched his career -- and gave impetus to the whole sensitive singer-songwriter...

The Wonders: That Thing You Do! (1996/1964)

The Wonders: That Thing You Do! (1996/1964)

In his Grammy-grabbing career -- between Philadelphia, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13 and Saving Private Ryan, You've Got Mail and The Green Mile -- Tom Hanks did a small, cute, mostly inconsequential and slight pop movie, That Thing You Do! Clearly this story of an imaginary one-hit wonder pop group from Pennsylvania in '64 was something close to...

The Archies: Sugar Sugar (1969)

The Archies: Sugar Sugar (1969)

Okay, it's irritating rot-your-teeth bubblegum . . . but wait, there is more to this than you might think -- and remember it came out in the year of Altamont, Hendrix, the Manson murders and so on. The Archies weren't a proper group of course, they were actually singer Ron Dante, session musicians and the great Toni Wine (more of her...

John Cale: Mercenaries (1980)

John Cale: Mercenaries (1980)

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,...

Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music (1975)

Lou Reed: Metal Machine Music (1975)

Metal Machine Music is the Lou Reed album that even many Lou fans haven't heard -- or did hear and said, "Never again". Many who bought this double album at the time (which now fetches absurd prices on-line) returned it because not only does Reed not sing on it, but it has no songs (there are four pieces, each around 16 minutes...

Northside: Shall We Take a Trip (1990)

Northside: Shall We Take a Trip (1990)

The difference between the American psychedelic experience of the Sixties and that of the British can be captured in two phrases: in the States Timothy Leary was telling people to "tune in, turn on and drop out" which clearly demanded some committment. In Britain however George Harrison -- on It's All Too Much -- was offering the more...

Caveman: I'm Ready (1991)

Caveman: I'm Ready (1991)

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...

Renee Geyer: You Broke a Beautiful Thing (1999)

Renee Geyer: You Broke a Beautiful Thing (1999)

Lord knows some artists can be "difficult" -- and many of those who have tried to interview Australian Renee Geyer (never my doubtful pleasure) have returned chastened, frustrated and sometimes downright angry. It was hardly surprising then when Paul Kelly produced an album for her entitled Difficult Woman in '94. Her 2000...

Henry Phillips: The Bitch Song (1995)

Henry Phillips: The Bitch Song (1995)

Not everything in life is serious and Henry Phillips takes a skewed view of the world. The title track of his album On the Shoulders of Freaks notes that all those great Greek philosophers "had a thing for little boys", that Katherine the Great enjoyed large animals, Hemingway put a bullet through his head, Salvador Dali's paintings...

Bob Dylan: Who Killed Davey Moore? (1963)

Bob Dylan: Who Killed Davey Moore? (1963)

Bob Dylan's Hurricane in '75 is one of the best known songs about a boxer -- but very early in his career Dylan also sang another about a boxer, the fighter Davey Moore who was knocked out by Mexico-based Sugar Ramos from Cuba during a bout in March 1963. Moore spoke to the media afterwards (the illustration is taken from a famous post-fight...

TOWNES VAN ZANDT INTERVIEWED (1988): Say hello and wave goodbye

TOWNES VAN ZANDT INTERVIEWED (1988): Say hello and wave goodbye

You hate to say lt, but Townes Van Zandt had probably already written his own obituary - many times. Try this as a sample of his cut-to-the-bone, white knuckle lyrics: “There ain’t much I haven’t tried -- fast llvin’, slow suicide, I try to tell myself I’m fine but it just aln’t so.” Van Zandt has...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Jeff Buckley; Mystery White Boy (Sony)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Jeff Buckley; Mystery White Boy (Sony)

Jeff Buckley -- who died in '97 -- didn't have much time to make an impression, but the scant recorded evidence in his lifetime was enormously impressive. And of course posthumous releases like the So Real album, and these live tracks taken from shows on his world tour in '95 and '96 confirmed the feeling that we had lost a wonderful, if...

Hotlegs: Neanderthal Man (1970)

Hotlegs: Neanderthal Man (1970)

It's not unusual for studio experiments to end up on records, less common that they become the record itself -- as was the case with this single. To backtrack a bit. The successful British songwriter Graham Gouldman who had penned hits for Herman's Hermits (No Milk Today), the Yardbirds (For Your Love, Heart Full of Soul, Evil Hearted You)...

Al Stewart: Clarence Frogman Henry, Audrey Hepburn and The Year of the Cat (1980)

Al Stewart: Clarence Frogman Henry, Audrey Hepburn and The Year of the Cat (1980)

He may be a bit of a bore in interviews (see here), but Al Stewart did tell a great shaggy-dog story in concert -- and of course wrote Year of the Cat among many other fine songs. So here you get both as he tells a bizarre story then swings into a sharp version of that huge hit live at the Roxy. You had to take your hat off to Stewart:...

ANTON FIER PROFILED (1988): A new career in a new town

ANTON FIER PROFILED (1988): A new career in a new town

Anton Fier was, until recently, a star without a bank account -- or manager come to that -- and yet at the nucleus of the hippest collection of New York’s avant-garde ever to hit vinyl. When Fier gets going, the going gets fearful as left-field jazz players, peripheral rockists and unusual combinations of singers,squawkers and...

The Ramones: Hey! Ho! Let's Go: Ramones Anthology (1999)

The Ramones: Hey! Ho! Let's Go: Ramones Anthology (1999)

Like many of my generation, I can remember exactly where I was when JFK, RFK and John Lennon were shot. And when Kurt Cobain proved, contrary to what he sang, he did have a gun. But with as much clarity I can also remember when I first heard the Ramones’ Sheena is a Punk Rocker. It came on a tape from a friend in London and I was...

Johnny Devlin: Matador Baby (1958)

Johnny Devlin: Matador Baby (1958)

It's widely known that Johnny Devlin was New Zealand's own Elvis Presley -- but unlike Elvis, Devlin wrote his own material. Certainly he covered the hits of the day -- Hand Jive, Wild One, Bony Maronie and so on. But he also wrote some creditable originals like Hard to Get, High Heeled Shoes, Nervous Wreck and so on -- which all were firmly...

Kay Starr: The Rock and Roll Waltz (1955)

Kay Starr: The Rock and Roll Waltz (1955)

Cheap Trick scored a lot of favourable press for their Surrender (see clip below) in which the kid wakes up to find mum and dad rocking and rolling (rolling numbers) and having his Kiss records out. If that song had a forefather it was perhaps this gimmicky and safer song by Kay Starr whose chart career had taken a bit of fall until she...

Jeff Healey: Last Call (Stony Plain/Southbound)

Jeff Healey: Last Call (Stony Plain/Southbound)

When the singer/blues guitarist Jeff Healey first emerged in the late Eighties there were two critical camps set up: those who heard him as a fiery young player in the tradition of a Stevie Ray Vaughan, and those who thought he was getting the sympathy vote because he was blind. Playing guitar on his lap, he could certainly strip the...

JEFF HEALEY INTERVIEWED (1989): Keeping the future open

JEFF HEALEY INTERVIEWED (1989): Keeping the future open

Sitting in his Sydney hotel room, Canadian guitarist Jeff Healey talks lovingly about his collection of 11,000 78rpm records (“I bought another 30 or 40 today in a shop near here.”) And he talks about how he played with Albert Collins onstage in Toronto as that guitarist's guest. It was the turning point in his career. At the...

Superturtle: About the Sun (Ode)

Superturtle: About the Sun (Ode)

Mainman behind Superturtle Darren McShane certainly has prior form, among other things he formed Chainsaw Masochist (on Flying Nun, for those old enough to remember) and more recently he was in Figure 60 as well as having been a sound engineer -- which is how he met some of the fellow travelers here (bassist Ben Furniss from the Broken...

ANDY WARHOL'S LOOK: Glamour, Style, Fashion and Moron

ANDY WARHOL'S LOOK: Glamour, Style, Fashion and Moron

“People are always calling me a mirror and if a mirror looks into a mirror, what is there to see?” -- Andy Warhol. There's a scene in an Austin Powers movie in which the superspy and international man of mystery is in his London bachelor pad. Amid the iconography of the Swinging Sixties is a large multiple portrait...

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....

Screaming Lord Sutch: Til the Following Night (1961)

Screaming Lord Sutch: Til the Following Night (1961)

In later years Screaming Lord Sutch was better known for being the founder of the Official Monster Raving Looney Party in Britain and standing in various electorates (from '63) in weird outfits. He's in the opening scenes of The New Statesman standing against Alan B'stard (Rik Mayall). In the Stones' Get Off Of My Cloud, Sutch was the "guy...

Tom Waits: Mr Henry (1980)

Tom Waits: Mr Henry (1980)

Here's a beautiful old rare one -- with surface noise included -- taken from that period when Waits was writing barfly short stories in song. This outtake from the Heartattack and Vine album of 1980 only ever appeared on an Asylum compilation Bounced Checks ('81) and that record hasn't been released on CD. So here is Waits from three...

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

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

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...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The J. Geils Band; Original Album Series (Rhino)

THE BARGAIN BUY: The J. Geils Band; Original Album Series (Rhino)

Way before their mainstream commercial success with songs like Centrefold, the J Geils Band were a highly successful blues-rock outfit with the harmonica of Magic Dick front'n'centre. In the early to mid Seventies they peeled off great and likable slices of boogie rock, and would cover material by the likes of John Lee Hooker, Albert Collins,...

THE JOE STRUMMER STORY, a documentary by MIKE PARKINSON (DV1 DVD/Southbound)

THE JOE STRUMMER STORY, a documentary by MIKE PARKINSON (DV1 DVD/Southbound)

With each passing year the myth and power of Joe Strummer seems to grow as his story has its contradictions and inconveniences ironed out. His wilderness years after the Clash are all but ignored and increasingly it seems as if Strummer moved seamlessly from agit-prop rocker to senior statesman who took his message of tolerance and commitment to...

BILL LASWELL INTERVIEWED (1994): In the den of the alchemist

BILL LASWELL INTERVIEWED (1994): In the den of the alchemist

The apartment seven floors up on Park Ave South, just around the corner from the exclusive Gramercy Park area of New York, is much as you might expect. Albums and CDs line the walls. Over there the new Last Poets 12-inch single leans against the wall, on that shelf there the Yoko Ono CD box set sits alongside books by Carlos Castenada....

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...

Moby Grape: Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot (1968)

Moby Grape: Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot (1968)

Varying the speed of tapes in the studio is not uncommon, but asking that your listener get up and change the speed of their record player on an album is another thing entirely. Certainly there have been singles which play one side at 45 and the other at 33 (often 12" singles or EPs from the Eighties) -- but in '68 the increasingly...

Lucille Bogan: Shave 'Em Dry II (1935)

Lucille Bogan: Shave 'Em Dry II (1935)

In these days of earnestly crotch-thrusting young women on video clips you long for something which has that long forgotten ingredient: wit. Old time blues is ripe with innuendo, downhome analogies and suggestive lyrics. When Lonnie Johnson sings of being the The Best Jockey in Town he doesn't mean he brings home the winners. Lil Johnson...

Pavlov's Dog: Julia (1975)

Pavlov's Dog: Julia (1975)

Sometimes there is just That Voice . . . a vocal delivery which is arresting, sublime, idiotic and otherworldly all that same time. And so it was with the vocals of David Surkamp, the singer with the prog-rock band Pavlov's Dog out of St Louis, who seemed to possess in equal parts the sound of Robert Plant's high drama, Leo Sayer on steroids...

George Strait and Alan Jackson: Murder on Music Row (2000)

George Strait and Alan Jackson: Murder on Music Row (2000)

There has been quite a tradition in country music of complaining about how it has lost its roots, lost its way, been taken over by big business and stars selling out for the almighty dollar. Way back Waylon asked Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way? and ol' Hank Williams (something of a rebel himself, remember) seems to be the touchstone for...

THE OUTER LIMITS OF THE HUMAN VOICE: That sound, it haunts me still!

THE OUTER LIMITS OF THE HUMAN VOICE: That sound, it haunts me still!

Blame punk’s redrawing of the map - or Yoko Ono, or the much more irritating Celine Dion if you will -- but the limits of our tolerance to the human voice have certainly shifted over the past few decades. We can now listen with impunity to Natacha Atlas’ careening Arabic trip-hop as much as be in awe of Whitney...

The Pointer Sisters: How Long; Betcha Got a Chick on the Side (1975)

The Pointer Sisters: How Long; Betcha Got a Chick on the Side (1975)

Long before they became a smooth soul-pop machine in the mid Eighties and beyond, the Pointer Sisters (then a quartet of June, Bonnie, Anita and Ruth), delivered some slashing r'n'b funk such as this self-penned (Anita and Bonnie, with producer David Rubinson) single which went to number one on the soul charts and 20 on the main Billboard...

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...

Peter Wolf: Midnight Souvenirs (Verve)

Peter Wolf: Midnight Souvenirs (Verve)

The J Geils Band popped up recently at Elsewhere with a cheap set of their early albums as a Bargain Buy -- and here is the world-worn r'n'b blues voice of their singer Wolf in a collection of memorable (and often vaguely) familiar songs which sound peeled off from the Stones '68 to '76 or the more ballad end of Chris Bailey of the Saints (who...

Freur: Pronunciation/Audiobiography/Hold Me Mother (1983)

Freur: Pronunciation/Audiobiography/Hold Me Mother (1983)

A decade before Prince became TAFKAP (The Artist Formerly Known As Prince) and adopted an odd symbol instead of a name, this band of mysterious origins also did the same. They insisted their name was the even more odd pictogram which appeared on the cover of their Doot Doot single, but at the counter-insistence of their record company CBS...

Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs of Love (Concord)

Alejandro Escovedo: Street Songs of Love (Concord)

From the breathless pace he sets on this hard rocking album you'd never know that Escovedo out of Texas (formerly of Rank and File, a fellow traveller with John Dee Graham, co-writer with Chuck Prophet and now managed by Springsteen's Jon Landau) nearly died a few years ago. Such is the high regard he is held in by his peers that for a...

Carl Perkins: Dixie Fried (1956)

Carl Perkins: Dixie Fried (1956)

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...

George Formby: When I'm Cleaning Windows (1936)

George Formby: When I'm Cleaning Windows (1936)

In his later years George Harrison developed an affection for the ukulele, and one of its greatest practitioners, English music hall comedian, singer and actor George Formby. Right at the end of the Free As A Bird single Harrison threw in a nod to Formby, and specifically to this mildly naughty song which had them rolling in the aisles in...

Jona Lewie: You'll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties (1980)

Jona Lewie: You'll Always Find Me in the Kitchen at Parties (1980)

Stiff Records in the UK pulled together an unlikely roster of acts in the late Seventies from Elvis Costello to Ian Dury, Rachel Sweet to Jona Lewie, Larry Wallis to Graham Parker and Wreckless Eric. Lewie was in his early 30s when Stiff picked him up (Rachel Sweet was 17) and he'd already had his career: he'd played boogie woogie piano in...

Graham Parker: Between You and Me (1975)

Graham Parker: Between You and Me (1975)

It's all every well to ridicule Dick Rowe of Decca Records for turning the Beatles down after an audition in '62 ("Not to mince words, Mr Epstein, we don't like your boys' sound. Groups are out: four piece groups with guitars particularly are finished"). But if he had just addressed the music he was probably right. The Beatles'...

CLEOPATRA; HISTORIES, DREAMS AND DISTORTIONS by LUCY HALLETT-HUGHES

CLEOPATRA; HISTORIES, DREAMS AND DISTORTIONS by LUCY HALLETT-HUGHES

It seems curious that Madonna, who has had the unerring instinct to reinvent herself in the image and iconography of others (yesterday Marlene, today Marilyn) has never – at least not yet – alighted on Cleopatra for inspiration and a new dress code. Here, at least in myth, is a wannabe seductress and style-setter for...

Leon Russell: Back to the Island (1975)

Leon Russell: Back to the Island (1975)

Leon Russell is like the Kevin Bacon of rock: there are six degrees of separation between him and anyone else. Actually, that's not true. There are about three. Leon to the Beatles? Well he was at Harrison's Concert for Bangladesh so that takes care of that one . . . and opens enormous doors to others. And Leon to Dylan? Same gig, more...

ROGER GUINN, BACK FROM RIO (1991): The return flyte

ROGER GUINN, BACK FROM RIO (1991): The return flyte

When Jim McGuinn changed his name to Roger in ’67 during a period of chaos without and within for The Byrds, there were those who thought it was an elaborate hoax. Jim had taken off to Rio and been replaced by his lookalike brother, said Paul-is-Dead paranoids and conspiracy theorists. Hence the wry in-joke title on his album Back...

Jerry Lee Lewis: The Return of Jerry Lee (1958)

Jerry Lee Lewis: The Return of Jerry Lee (1958)

When Jerry Lee Lewis arrived in Britain in May 1958 the rock'n'roll crown was his for the taking. He was the wildman at the piano with crazy stacked-up hair, had delivered seminal, sweat-inducing hits with Whole Lotta Shakin' and Great Balls of Fire, and he was repressed sex personified and unleashed. He may have been a country boy at heart...

Victor Borge: Phonetic Punctuation (1955)

Victor Borge: Phonetic Punctuation (1955)

Denmark-born pianist Victor Borge was a child prodigy who could have had a distinguished career playing concert halls. Fortunately for us he chose another direction. Born to Jewish parents in 1909, he studied and played the classics, but in his late teens began adding stand-up comedy to his repertoire. He married an American (Elsie Chilton)...

Kurt Vonnegut, Simon Heselev: Tock Tick (1973/2003)

Kurt Vonnegut, Simon Heselev: Tock Tick (1973/2003)

Kurt Vonnegut seems an unlikely collaborator with a jazz bassist from Melbourne -- but that is what happened in 2003 when the famous author allowed Australian musician and studio engineer Heselev to put music to his '73 reading of a section from his famous book Slaughterhouse Five. Heselev takes up the story about how, after graduating from...

Renee Geyer: The Definitive Collection 1973 - 1998 (Mushroom)

Renee Geyer: The Definitive Collection 1973 - 1998 (Mushroom)

This great Australian soul, funk and blues singer appeared at Elsewhere recently -- more of that in a minute -- but here by coincidence is 18 track collection of some of her finest moments from her four decade career, including her gutsy take on James Brown's classic It's A Man's Man's Man's World on which she really shines. Also here is her...

The Checkmates: Love is All I Have to Give (1969)

The Checkmates: Love is All I Have to Give (1969)

It is widely believed that crazy Phil Spector "retired" from pop production in '66 because he had been broken by Ike and Tina Turner's River Deep Mountain High -- what he considered his finest "wall of sound" production -- not going to the top of the charts. Certainly after it failed to be embraced by DJs and the American...

Various Artists: Eccentric Soul; Smart's Palace (Numero/Southbound)

Various Artists: Eccentric Soul; Smart's Palace (Numero/Southbound)

An earlier volume of not dissimilar desperate, crazy, urgent, cheaply-recorded and often exciting soul from the Sixties and Seventies drew great praise at Elsewhere (see here) -- and, once again -- although you might never have heard a single name previously -- you can't help but be hooked by the sheer energy these artists bring. Smart's...

Various Artists: Teach Me to Monkey (Vampisoul/Southbound)

Various Artists: Teach Me to Monkey (Vampisoul/Southbound)

Chris Kenner wasn't kidding when he wrote Land of 1000 Dances in '62 – which became a minor hit for Cannibal and the Headhunters, then the wicked Wilson Pickett and dozens of others. In the early 60s it seemed like America was kicking up a new dance craze – the Monkey, the Pony, the Jerk, the Mashed Potato, the Watusi...

Sebastian Cabot: Like a Rolling Stone (1967)

Sebastian Cabot: Like a Rolling Stone (1967)

Portly English actor Sebastian Cabot was best known for his role as Mr Giles French, the "gentleman's gentleman" (butler etc), in the long-running late Sixties US sitcom Family Affair alongside Brian Keith (as his master). With his commanding English accent he was also in demand for voice-over work and -- like David Niven before...

Joel Grey: White Room (1969)

Joel Grey: White Room (1969)

Actor Joel Grey won a best supporting actor Academy Award in '72 for his role as the MC in the Liza Minnelli vehicle Cabaret, following his hugely successful portrayal of the character in the Broadway musical which had won him a Tony award. After that however his successes and appearances were fewer and of lesser consequence (he appeared in...

JOHN LEE HOOKER INTERVIEWED (1990): What's in his name?

JOHN LEE HOOKER INTERVIEWED (1990): What's in his name?

Talking to 72-year-old blues singer John Lee Hooker - even in a cursory 15 minute interview - you know you are confronting a legendary, influential figure. And The Hook, as he is commonly known, isn’t afraid to tell you so. “I have inspired so many rock 'n' roll singers and blues singers and stars - more than any other blues...

Hank Wilson: She Thinks I Still Care (1973)

Hank Wilson: She Thinks I Still Care (1973)

Back in '99, the country singer Garth Brooks adopted an alternate persona as the Australian-born pop singer "Chris Gaines" and released an album under that name. The idea was that Gaines was a real characterand Brooks would be playing him in a bio-pic to be called The Lamb. The line between fact and fiction was to be so blurred...

The King: Come As You Are (1998)

The King: Come As You Are (1998)

Although there aren't Elvis sighting in gas stations and supermarkets any more -- Presley would be in his late 70s -- there is still no shortage of lookalikes and impersonators around. While there seems no great call for Kurt Cobain and Mama Cass impersonators, those who swish their hair back and sneer a little seem to be always out there....

DOWN AT THE END OF LONELY STREET by PETER BROWN and PAT BROESKE: The rise and fall of the King

DOWN AT THE END OF LONELY STREET by PETER BROWN and PAT BROESKE: The rise and fall of the King

With the second volume of Peter Guralnick’s definitive two-part biography of Elvis, Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley there would seem little reason to be interested in this more modest paperback subtitled with blunt literalism The Life and Death of Elvis Presley. However, Brown and Broeske have done their homework and...

Elvis Presley: Always on My Mind (1972)

Elvis Presley: Always on My Mind (1972)

Unlike the Beatles -- especially John Lennon and often George Harrison -- we rarely think of the Rolling Stones writing autobiographical songs, or lyrics which have come from some deep emotional place in their lives. And even less so with Elvis Presley who, after all, didn't write and would pick up anything from a Christmas carol to a raw...

Bill Kirchen: Word to the Wise (Proper/Southbound)

Bill Kirchen: Word to the Wise (Proper/Southbound)

It really doesn't matter if you don't already know of guitarist/singer Kirchen, judge him by the friends he keeps. Here are his longtime friend Nick Lowe (on the wonderfully overhauled Merle Haggard number Shelly's Winter Love, with Paul Carrack); Elvis Costello on Kirchen's outstanding Man in The Bottom of the Well; Commander Cody playing...

Peter Cape: She'll Be Right (1959)

Peter Cape: She'll Be Right (1959)

Peter Cape was New Zealand's unofficial poet laureate in the days before television, when men were "jokers" and women were "sheilas" . . . and when you could afford to assume that "she'll be right". (ie no matter what happens, it'll be okay.) Cape wrote and sang of awkward young men and women at a rural dance...

The Erica Miller Experience: Reconsidered (Universal)

The Erica Miller Experience: Reconsidered (Universal)

Obviously there is a curiosity factor at work here: 63-year old Erica Miller is the woman Shayne Carter (Straitjacket Fits/Dimmer) calls "Mum" and so the album comes with acquired cachet in some circles. That it is also an album of covers of songs first recorded by Elvis and arrives on the anniversary of Presley's death adds...

Johnny Cash: Understand Your Man (1964)

Johnny Cash: Understand Your Man (1964)

The friendship and mutual admiration in the late Sixties between Johnny Cash and Bob Dylan has been well documented: they did some sessions together in '69 (their duet on Girl From the North Country appeared on Dylan's Nashville Skyline), and Cash subsequently invited Dylan onto his television show as a guest. But their friendship went back...

ERIC CLAPTON; THE FIRST 25 YEARS CONSIDERED: The living link between hippie and yuppie

ERIC CLAPTON; THE FIRST 25 YEARS CONSIDERED: The living link between hippie and yuppie

It's hard to pinpoint exactly when Eric Clapton -- once called "God" by his devotees -- ceased to be relevant. Certainly he still plays to huge audiences and his guitar playing remains technically undiminished. But his albums are --with rare exceptions -- anodyne, his playing often bloodless and despite genuine efforts to find...

B.B. KING; KING OF BLUES: It's good to be King

B.B. KING; KING OF BLUES: It's good to be King

B.B. King (born Riley King on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi in 1925) has arguably been the blues' greatest populariser, so his track record includes performances with the Duke Ellington Orchestra, Stevie Wonder and the Memphis Horns, Joe Walsh, the Crusaders, Gary Moore and, of course, U2 and Eric Clapton. That kaleidoscope of...

PHILIP LARKIN ON JAZZ: The poet laureate of swing

PHILIP LARKIN ON JAZZ: The poet laureate of swing

Because we listen to the jazz of the Thirties and Forties at such an emotional distance, it is almost impossible for the 21st century, iPod-carrying, cool post-modernist to feel something -- possibly even anything -- of what so affected those who heard it as fresh, exciting, innovative and daring at the time. It is hard to sell the idea, let...

Various Artists: The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle (EMI)

Various Artists: The Great Rock'n'Roll Swindle (EMI)

Although very different, Brian Eno and Malcolm McLaren had one trait in common: after the event both would attribute philosophical and/or political meaning to something they had done. In the case of the late McLaren, the prime mover behind the Sex Pistols -- Johnny Rotten/John Lydon denies he was ever their "manager" -- would have...

Hawklords: 25 Years On (Esoteric/Southbound)

Hawklords: 25 Years On (Esoteric/Southbound)

This will be reasonably brief because there is perhaps a limited audience for this double CD reissue of the '78 album and EP by an off-shoot of the sci-fi prog-rock band Hawkwind. Inspired by the science fiction of Michael Moorcock, Hawkwind's Dave Brock and Robert Calvert created Hawklords after Hawkwind briefly fell apart (they are still a...

Joe Medwick: Letter to a  Buddie(1963)

Joe Medwick: Letter to a Buddie(1963)

Soulful singer Joe Medwick coulda been a contender but somewhere along the way he lost many of the songs he wrote for the likes of Bobby Bland, and his own singles and albums didn't really get much attention. He also had a thing for the drink, and preferred to play bars and nightclubs around Houston than chance his arm on the wider circuit....

Brave Combo: My Girl Lollipop (1982)

Brave Combo: My Girl Lollipop (1982)

It was a brave combo indeed that took piano accordion polka-rock to the good people of Denton, Texas -- but in the early Eighties this four-piece pulled together ska, Tex-Mex, rock, waltzes, rumba, zydeco and tango (with polka) and delivered their own versions of Hendrix's Purple Haze, Iron Butterfly's Inna Gadda Da Vida and The Twist, Perfidia...

Endless Boogie: Full House Head (Shock)

Endless Boogie: Full House Head (Shock)

In his rock'n'roll essays and fiction collection The Boy Who Cried Freebird, the American writer Mitch Myers traces the notion of “boogie” from its name (having sex, basically) through the blues (John Lee Hooker's Boogie Chillun in 48) and boogie-woogie piano a building block of early rock'n'roll and then into those endless jams...

Romeo Void: Never Say Never (1982)

Romeo Void: Never Say Never (1982)

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...

Johnny Guitar Watson: Funk Beyond the Call of Duty (1977)

Johnny Guitar Watson: Funk Beyond the Call of Duty (1977)

By the time Johnny Guitar Watson made the album of which this was the title track, he was 42, had been on about 15 different labels and had really paid his dues: he'd started recording at 17, been something of an r'n'b star in the Fifties and by the Seventies had edged his way to streetcorner funk. He pioneered feedback on Space Guitar in...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Eric Clapton; Journeyman (Reprise)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Eric Clapton; Journeyman (Reprise)

By the time he got to the end of the Eighties, the title of this album must have been greatly appealing to Eric Clapton: he was in his mid 40s, had been a solo artist for almost two decades and had been playing for a living for 25 years. He'd been putting out a studio record about every 20 months on average, and this was released on the back of...

Bernard Butler: Woman I Know (1998)

Bernard Butler: Woman I Know (1998)

Was it Bob Dylan who said something to the effect, "amateurs borrow, professionals steal"? Not to encourage plagiarism, but Bernard Butler certainly took a leaf or two -- if not a whole chapter -- from the Book of Fleetwood Mac for this track which uses Albatross as it's starting point -- but then doesn't go too far with it....

LISTENING TO VAN MORRISON by GREIL MARCUS

LISTENING TO VAN MORRISON by GREIL MARCUS

Music writer Marcus is so well ensconced in the pantheon of great rock writers that his books are universally hailed on publication. But this one -- a series of essays on Morrison's music which, confusingly, comes in the same cover photo as another similar Morrison book and appears in the US and UK entitled When That Rough God Goes Riding --...

Van McCoy: The Hustle (1975)

Van McCoy: The Hustle (1975)

So how long does it take to write a song? James Taylor says he wrote Steamroller Blues in as long as it took to scribble the words down, but maybe that doesn't really count -- especially if you've heard Steamroller Blues. If you look at the credits on some current r'n'b songs and see the artist's name alongside that of the four producers...

THE NEO-FOLKIE BOHOS OF THE NINETIES: Talking New York City

THE NEO-FOLKIE BOHOS OF THE NINETIES: Talking New York City

In the early Nineties – three decades after the original urban folk movement in Downtown – there was a whole new neo-boho scene in New York. Michelle Shocked was just the first and copped the publicity but behind here were Kirk Kelly, Roger Manning and Cindy Lee Berryhill - all of whom dressed like fashionable...

The Yardbirds: Shapes of Things, The Best of the Yardbirds (Music Club/Triton)

The Yardbirds: Shapes of Things, The Best of the Yardbirds (Music Club/Triton)

Aside from the obvious ones -- the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and arguably the Small Faces and perhaps the Animals -- was there any other group in the mid-Sixties which was such a magnet for, and breeding ground of, talent? And it's not just the roster of guitarists who passed through its ranks -- Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page...

Joanie Sommers: Johnny Get Angry (1962)

Joanie Sommers: Johnny Get Angry (1962)

While not quite in the league of He Hit Me and It Felt Like a Kiss, this sliver of semi-innocent pop sounds slightly uncomfortable these days. Poor Joanie, just wanting to get a response from the meek boyfriend ("I want a brave man, I want a cave man") and hoping for a lecture from Johnny. She wants Johnny to be the boss, but wimpy...

White Town: Your Woman (1997)

White Town: Your Woman (1997)

Long before there were overnight internet stars, there were -- and still are -- those who simply sat at home and made their songs on rudimentary equipment -- and then tried to sell them into the world. That is difficult, especially if you were Jyoti Mishra who is White Town. "I'm not exactly the easiest package to sell: some fat Asian...

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

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

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...

INVISIBLE REPUBLIC; BOB DYLAN'S BASEMENT TAPES by GREIL MARCUS:

INVISIBLE REPUBLIC; BOB DYLAN'S BASEMENT TAPES by GREIL MARCUS:

When Bob Dylan skidded off his motorcycle in upstate New York in mid-1966, it allowed him an extraordinary career hiatus. Before his accident - which some Dylan bores still insist never happened - he’d been a Woody Guthrie wannabe, a folk troubadour and protest singer. Then, by plugging in an electric guitar and touring with a...

Various Artists: Head Over High Heels; Strong and Female 1927-59 (Trikont/Yellow Eye)

Various Artists: Head Over High Heels; Strong and Female 1927-59 (Trikont/Yellow Eye)

Much as some might like to think strong females arrived with Madonna (or maybe in the late Sixties with feminism), there were always those independent, tough-minded and free-spirited women out there -- especially in the world of jazz and blues. This collection which opens with Pearl Bailey and You Can be Replaced (from her album Pearl Bailey...

Roy Hall: Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On (1955)

Roy Hall: Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On (1955)

The origins of some songs are lost, but often a definitive version will stand out. So it is with Whole Lotta Shakin Goin On which exists in the minds of most as the Jerry Lee Lewis hit in '57. Most would even think that Lewis wrote it. He didn't, although his whipped-up version is almost a different song than the one which existed...

Climie Fisher: Here today and gone . . .

Climie Fisher: Here today and gone . . .

Climie -- or maybe it was Fisher -- almost had me. The conversation was, in the late Eighties, about why so many pop duos were turning up with little or no live experience, and why record companies were signing them. Climie -- or Fisher -- said that, if you thought about it, the Beatles were essentially just two guys and so were the Rolling...

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

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

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...

Pete Townshend: Behind Blue Eyes (1983)

Pete Townshend: Behind Blue Eyes (1983)

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...

Section 25: Looking from a Hilltop, Megamix (1980)

Section 25: Looking from a Hilltop, Megamix (1980)

The jury is perhaps still out on Blackpool's Section 25: dismissed in some circles as a pallid version of Joy Division/New Order for their electronica dance music, hailed by others who heard in them an innovative band well in the vanguard of post-punk dance pop. Sharing a label with Joy Division/New Order and A Certain Ratio (also with whom...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Ramones; Anthology (Warners)

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Ramones; Anthology (Warners)

This is easy: any album which makes it into the Essential Elsewhere list is obviously recommended (for one reason or another, the list is absurdly diverse). But this one gets through on sheer firepower and pop value alone. Smarter than they looked and smarter than they sounded, the Ramones were the Bay City Rollers/Monkees of bratty NYC...

Bannerman: The Dusty Dream Hole (Rhythmethod)

Bannerman: The Dusty Dream Hole (Rhythmethod)

Bannerman is New Zealand singer-songwriter Richard Setford whose purpose in life seems to be to confound those who would easily pigeonhole him. He appeared at Elsewhere previously with his quietly intense EP (here) which stood at some distance from his work with the roiling Batucada Sound Machine and the soulful One Million Dollars. For this...

DEE DEE RAMONE INTERVIEWED (1998): Life in the grim lane

DEE DEE RAMONE INTERVIEWED (1998): Life in the grim lane

First, there is a moral here, honest. But there's a lot of drugs to get through first. So, let’s set the scene: the Chelsea Hotel on West Twenty Third, New York City, for decades home to the talented and the tragic. Within these thick walls Arthur Miller wrote three novels, a plaque outside acknowledges Dylan Thomas “from...

Eric Clapton: Clapton (Reprise)

Eric Clapton: Clapton (Reprise)

It's fair to say Eric Clapton at 20, while playing with John Mayall's Blues Breakers, never gave much thought to a “career”. Yet with this new album he can reflect on more than 40 years in the game, of highs and lows, successes and mis-steps (most of the 80s). Inevitably Clapton at 65 doesn't have the fire which propelled...

Jim Reeves: He'll Have To Go (1960)

Jim Reeves: He'll Have To Go (1960)

One of the saddest songs ever penned, He'll Have to Go became a signature ballad for the man they called Gentleman Jim Reeves. Reeves (1923-64) had the vocal ease of Bing Crosby but with less of the Crosby's lower register scuff: if Bing was brown, Jim was tan. And there was something about his slow aching honesty that made him the perfect...

Various artists: The Cramps' Jukebox (Chrome Dreams/Triton)

Various artists: The Cramps' Jukebox (Chrome Dreams/Triton)

The Cramps' passion for old rock'n'roll is well known: they are archivists for music styles, bands and old singles which might have otherwise been forgotten or lost. This double disc (with a useful backgrounder booklet) pulls together 30 obscure songs on one disc and on the other Lux Interior and Poison Ivy speak about their passions through...

The Buckinghams: Foreign Policy (1969)

The Buckinghams: Foreign Policy (1969)

Very few today would even remember the MOR group the Buckinghams from the late Sixties. Their big hit was Kind of Drag ("when your baby don't love you") -- although Hey Baby ("they're playing our song") got a little radio mileage. The Chicago-based Buckinghams (and think about that location in the late Sixties) were a...

Louis Armstrong: Why Did Mrs Murphy Leave Town? (1970)

Louis Armstrong: Why Did Mrs Murphy Leave Town? (1970)

At the very end of his long career the great Louis Armstrong seemed rather detached and indifferent to the material he was playing. He'd scored huge and cross-generational hits with Hello Dolly and Wonderful World and seemed to be searching for direction. After all, he'd done it all. You wonder who thought a country'n'western album was a...

LOST IN MUSIC, by GILES SMITH

LOST IN MUSIC, by GILES SMITH

Pop obsession can be tragic stuff: those long days in record shops searching for an obscure Flock of Seagulls 12-inch; the nights spent putting all your albums into alphabetical order (do solo projects by Roddy Frame go with Aztec Camera or get their own space?); the decisions to be made when moving in with someone (do you pool your records...

Neil Young: Cocaine Eyes (1989)

Neil Young: Cocaine Eyes (1989)

Given his tendency to release as much music and as often as he can, it's increasingly hard to make the case for anything by Neil Young as being rare. His Archives Volume 1 scooped up vast tracts of early material, and when Vol 2 rolls around (no one would dare put a date on that, the first volume was spoken about for decades) then maybe...

Cilla Black: Liverpool Lullaby (1969)

Cilla Black: Liverpool Lullaby (1969)

Liverpool today is a very different place from the tough port city it was in the years after the war: a world perhaps only familiar from documentaries about the Beatles' early years where bomb-scarred buildings still littered the landscape. That lost world is celebrated in song and commemorated in film.  Today, if nothing else,...

Turtle Island String Quartet: Have You Ever Been . . . (Telarc/Ode)

Turtle Island String Quartet: Have You Ever Been . . . (Telarc/Ode)

Classical artists playing the music of Jimi Hendrix is hardly a new idea: the Kronos Quartet had a crowd-pleasing built-in encore of Purple Haze when they first started out, and of course Nigel Kennedy finally made good on his threat/promise to do an album of Hendrix. Before them however in the mid Seventies Gil Evans arranged some Hendrix...

Jerry Lee Lewis: Mean Old Man (Verve Forecast)

Jerry Lee Lewis: Mean Old Man (Verve Forecast)

In a You Tube comment someone said Jerry Lee looked a little rough for someone only 74 years old. In his defense -- he's actually 75 now -- they were pretty full years, especially in the late Fifties, and he wasn't called the Killer for nothing, the man gave it all on the night. And of course there were the tragic (and slightly mysterious,...

Del Shannon: Keep Searchin' (1964)

Del Shannon: Keep Searchin' (1964)

Del Shannon -- who died in 1990 age 55 -- is best and perhaps only remembered for the great chart-topping single Runaway of '61, even now a thrilling slice of energetic pop. But far from a one-hit wonder as classic hits radio would have you believe, he also did top 10 business with Hats off to Larry and Little Town Flirt -- and he was smart...

Paper Knife: title unknown (1996?)

Paper Knife: title unknown (1996?)

At some time in the mid Nineties while in Tokyo I ambled through Yoyogi Park where the Fifites rock'n'roll stylists slick back their hair and dance to old Elvis, and girls and boys alike dress like manga-mad characters. It is a vibrant and slightly circus-like atmosphere -- and that was where I saw Paper Knife, two young and slightly...

GREAT LOST KIWI SINGLES: Rock follies

GREAT LOST KIWI SINGLES: Rock follies

They are found at the back of cartons at record fairs, under beds in long abandoned houses and sometimes stored lovingly -- but rarely played -- in the collections of the obsessives. They are those great, and not that great, singles by Kiwi artists which existed either in limited pressings or were simply so awful the artists themselves tried to...

Dierks Bentley: What Was I Thinkin' (2003)

Dierks Bentley: What Was I Thinkin' (2003)

One of the features of country music which make it a great soundtrack when driving is that the songs often tell stories. Sometimes those narratives are maudlin and sentimental, sometimes they really hit a spot in the heart -- and sometimes they are just kinda dumb fun. Like this one. In '04 while driving across the Southern states, this...

BLUE SMOKE: THE LOST DAWN OF NEW ZEALAND POPULAR MUSIC 1918-1964 by CHRIS BOURKE

BLUE SMOKE: THE LOST DAWN OF NEW ZEALAND POPULAR MUSIC 1918-1964 by CHRIS BOURKE

In the introduction to Stranded in Paradise, his 1987 survey of New Zealand rock'n'roll from 1955, John Dix addressed the question he had been constantly asked, “What's happening with the book, Dix?” Doubtless Chris Bourke – a former Rip It Up editor, longtime music writer and author of the Crowded House biography...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Jim Jones Revue: Burning Your House Down (Liberator)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 The Jim Jones Revue: Burning Your House Down (Liberator)

You really gotta love the JJ Revue who deliver hotrod rock'n'roll which draws from the Fifties (Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis) as filtered through the most wild and dissolute of Rod Stewart/Faces (or the Quireboys with more rocking honky-tonk blues in their soul) with the kind of trash energy of Grinderman. Produced by Jim Sclavunos (who...

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

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

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...

Aztec Camera: Jump (1988)

Aztec Camera: Jump (1988)

By the time of their third album Love in 1987, Aztec Camera out of Scotland had effectively become just singer-songwriter Roddy Frame and whoever he chose to work with. Love was their/his most successful UK album and the single Somewhere in My Heart lifted from it went to number 3 on the British charts. The 12" remix of that single...

Tom Waits: What Keeps Mankind Alive? (1985)

Tom Waits: What Keeps Mankind Alive? (1985)

How do you describe Hal Willner? Is he an arranger (yes), producer (definitely) or a facilitator (most definitely)? Over the years he has brought many diverse artists together on projects to celebrate and reinterpret the work of composer Nino Rota, Thelonious Monk, and most recently the Rogue's Gallery collection of pirate ballads, sea songs...

Becky Lamb: Little Becky's Christmas Wish (1967)

Becky Lamb: Little Becky's Christmas Wish (1967)

In 2003-04 John Michael Montgomery's Letters From Home was one of the biggest hits in America -- although its success there didn't translate internationally. But if you check the clip below -- not the official video, many people adopted it as their own and posted personalised You Tube versions -- you will see why: America was in a war and...

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...

David Bowie: Station to Station, Expanded Edition (EMI)

David Bowie: Station to Station, Expanded Edition (EMI)

Rock critics and civilians are generally divided over David Bowie: people on the street seem to prefer the stabbing pop-rock of Ziggy Stardust and Aladdin Sane (with party favourite The Jean Genie) and singles like Rebel Rebel and Let's Dance. Critics – because they famously don't dance – gravitate towards the sonic...

Ken Nordine: Now Nordine (extract only, 1975?)

Ken Nordine: Now Nordine (extract only, 1975?)

In the mid Seventies a friend of mine living in West Virginia started sending me cassettes of a programme that beamed out late at night on Public Radio. It was called Now Nordine and all I knew at the time was that it was "made possible by a grant from . . . anonymous". They were weird half-trips into strange references (snippets...

Ken Nordine: Word Jazz; The Complete 1950s Recordings (Chrome Dreams/Triton)

Ken Nordine: Word Jazz; The Complete 1950s Recordings (Chrome Dreams/Triton)

Ken Nordine's voice -- assured, resonant, clear -- was his passport into radio where he worked as an announcer and narrator. But he was also of the Jazz Generation and in the Fifties he anticipated the Beats by blending poetry and music and then creating his Word Jazz recordings in which he would recite poems, unusual prose-poems and stories...

Wreckless Eric: Hits, Misses, Rags and Tatters; The Complete Stiff Masters (Stiff/Triton)

Wreckless Eric: Hits, Misses, Rags and Tatters; The Complete Stiff Masters (Stiff/Triton)

Long overdue for a revival, reconsideration and wider recognition, Eric Goulden aka Wreckless Eric has been usually dismissed as a one-hit wonder (but was it Whole Wide World, Semaphore Signals, Veronica, I Wish It Would Rain or A Pop Song?). Or written off as a kind of punk comedy act (just because he had a sense of humour?) Of course...

Dread Zeppelin: All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth (1990)

Dread Zeppelin: All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth (1990)

Christmas is upon us. And in the spirit of the day here is one of the funniest bands ever. Whoever thought pulling together reggae rhythms and Led Zeppelin riffery was an odd fish . . . but then they went one step beyond and fronted the band with an Elvis impersonator. This was classic rock-comedy . . . and their shows were hilarious....

Various Artists: Murder; Songs from the Dark Side of the Soul (Trikont/Yellow Eye)

Various Artists: Murder; Songs from the Dark Side of the Soul (Trikont/Yellow Eye)

The seemingly endless CSI and such like on television, movies about killers and cops, as well as news reports of real life murders suggests that what began with Cain and Abel still fascinates us -- and we didn't need Nick Cave to tell us that murder songs were kind of interesting. This 23 song r'n'b, blues and country collection brings...

Honeyboy: Bloodstains on the Wall (1953)

Honeyboy: Bloodstains on the Wall (1953)

Not much is known about Honeyboy (Frank Patt) other than he was born in 1928 in Fostoria, Alabama -- and that this song, considered his finest outing on the Speciality label in the Fifties, sold around 50,000 copies. You can see why: Jimmy Liggins plays tense and moody guitar, Gus Jenkins offers similar low key piano . . . and the lyric...

Lou and Simon: Converted Maori Car (1965?)

Lou and Simon: Converted Maori Car (1965?)

Lou and Simon (Lou Clauson and Simon Meihana) were one of the most popular and entertaining groups of the early Sixties. Like the Flight of the Conchords they were a kind of folk-comedy duo and very adept at parodies. The other side of this single is a medley which pokes fun at Les Andrews' then-current song Click Go the Tollgates (itself a...

Ringo Starr: Early 1970 (1970)

Ringo Starr: Early 1970 (1970)

It was one of the great ironies that after the Beatles broke up the solo careers of the songwriters Lennon and McCartney languished for a while, and that George Harrison unleashed the phenomenally successful All Things Must Pass triple album (with the chart-topper My Sweet Lord) But the most succesful solo Beatle was -- and here's the real...

Pat Boone: No More Mr Nice Guy (1997)

Pat Boone: No More Mr Nice Guy (1997)

When the cleanest white-bread rock'n'roll singer of the late Fifties sings "no more Mr Nice Guy, no more Mr Clean" you know he's well in on the joke -- and that if you bought the album this came from (In a Metal Mood) then the joke was on you. First, they might have been hard rock songs he was covering (Smoke on the Water with...

Tony Lambrianou: Product of the Environment (1999)

Tony Lambrianou: Product of the Environment (1999)

Gangsta rappers may bang on about putting "a cap in yo ass" (trans: a bullet in your bottom) but much of that is posturing. The London 'ard men on the album Product of the Environment (1999, produced by Tricky's offsider Gareth Bowen) were the real thing: safe-breakers, hitmen, mad (Frankie Fraser certified mad three times), mates...

Human Instinct: Midnight Sun (Ode)

Human Instinct: Midnight Sun (Ode)

When thirtysomething guitarist Joel Haines invited me to the launch of the new Human Instinct album he told me he'd joined the group. I said, “ You've joined what used to one of the most dangerous bands in the country! Good luck.” They might not have been, but in the late Sixties/early Seventies New Zealand bands like Human...

Various Artists: Native America Calling; Music from Indian Country (Trikont/Yellow Eye)

Various Artists: Native America Calling; Music from Indian Country (Trikont/Yellow Eye)

A few Native Amercans have appeared previously at Elsewhere: the late jazz saxophonist Jim Pepper has an Essential Elsewhere album with Comin' and Goin'; the activist, poet, singer and actor John Trudell is interviewed here; and the great Buffy Sainte-Marie appears at From the Vaults with this track from an album which equally might have made...

PAT BOONE INTERVIEWED (1995): Still the same Mr Nice Guy

PAT BOONE INTERVIEWED (1995): Still the same Mr Nice Guy

If conventional wisdom and the rock'n'roll history books are to be believed, Pat Boone was one of the villains - simply because he was so nice. He was the square when his contemporaries were the sneering, hip-swinging Elvis, the outrageous Little Richard and the adult, knowing Chuck Berry. Boone – who turned down a film role...

Public Image Limited; Death Disco (1979)

Public Image Limited; Death Disco (1979)

Described by Peter Shapiro in Turn the Beat Around; The Secret History of Disco as "perhaps the most uncompromising record ever to make the Top 20 chart [in Britain]" this extraordinary piece is not just musically demanding but is also John Lydon dealing with the death of his mother -- in a warped dance/disco song. Curiously this...

THE BEATLES; LIVE IN 95: All back to the Beeb

THE BEATLES; LIVE IN 95: All back to the Beeb

It was a curious thing, but in '95 the Beatles released a new single, Baby It’s You, which came on seven-inch vinyl with extra tracks (an EP no less!) and there was an accompanying video. The Beatles in ’95'? What could they teach us 30 years after the event? Quite a lot, actually. While it was easy to be cynical...

JIM CARROL INTERVIEWED (1996): Writing the junk and Basketball Diaries

JIM CARROL INTERVIEWED (1996): Writing the junk and Basketball Diaries

Keep a diary and some day it’ll keep you. -- Mae West. The blizzard which has engulfed New York has abated a little although snow is still piled over parked cars and a flesh-freezing wind whistles between the tenement blocks. And Jim Carroll - former junkie and rock singer, writer, poet and most recently movie actor on the...

Bilders: Mindful and Mean Time (both Powertools)

Bilders: Mindful and Mean Time (both Powertools)

Bilders (sometimes Bildrine) is the nom de disque of Bill Direen -- and that French there is not being pretentious as Direen spends much of his time in France, and the Mean Time album was largely recorded in Paris this year. The Mindful album was recorded in Berlin in 2008 as an art collaboration between singer/guitarist Direen and Jon Evans...

THE SACRED TRIANGLE; BOWIE, IGGY AND LOU 1971-1973 (Sexy Intellectual/Triton DVD)

THE SACRED TRIANGLE; BOWIE, IGGY AND LOU 1971-1973 (Sexy Intellectual/Triton DVD)

It's hard to believe but in the same year as the Velvet Underground's debut album came out, David Bowie's new single was The Laughing Gnome, a gimmick song and another desperate step in trying to crack the charts. As this interesting doco makes clear, for many years Bowie was trying all kinds of tricks and tropes (from new clothes to new...

The Rolling Stones: Continental Drift (1989)

The Rolling Stones: Continental Drift (1989)

For reasons which were never clear or explained, in 1989 the Rolling Stones included this interesting piece of rock exotica on their Steel Wheels album, which was otherwise business as usual in the riffery stakes (the most memorable track which appeared in subsequent concerts was Mixed Emotions). The album wasn't too bad at all actualy (a...

Elton Motello: Jet Boy Jet Girl (1978)

Elton Motello: Jet Boy Jet Girl (1978)

Most people have heard Belgian faux-punk Plastic Bertrand's one-off single Ca Plane pour moi of '77 (see clip). Fewer will have heard this bastard half-sister version by the UK rock'n'roll punk band Elton Motello (also the adopted name of singer Alan Ward) out of South London around the same period. But the backstory is a little...

Elvis Costello: National Ransom (Universal)

Elvis Costello: National Ransom (Universal)

The prolific Costello's last album – Secret, Profane and Sugarcane of last year – was his most interesting in years with its mix of rock, raw country, edgy ballads and bluegrass, all helmed by co-producer T Bone Burnett. Although Costello is not one to jog on the spot, this new one – in a cover by the same artist, Tony...

Blue Jeans: Reflections of My Life (1988)

Blue Jeans: Reflections of My Life (1988)

Does anyone buy CDs for their covers? Hmm. I've certainly bought more than a few records (more than a few score at a guess) for the cover art, whether it be funny, bizarre or just plain cool. The reward is that when you play the albums you always find one thing which has been worth it (because, let's face it, you never pay more than $10 for...

ROBIN GIBB INTERVIEWED (2010): To Bee Gee, or not to Bee Gee

ROBIN GIBB INTERVIEWED (2010): To Bee Gee, or not to Bee Gee

Robin Gibb of the Bee Gees – younger brother of Barry and twin to Maurice who died in 2003 – is on the road again, this time singing the Bee Gees' classics as a solo artist. And he's done it before. Forty years ago in fact when he briefly quit the band after their Sixties fame (half a dozen chart-topping singles) and was...

Gene Pitney: A Town Without Pity (1961)

Gene Pitney: A Town Without Pity (1961)

Because many of us used to read album covers with something approaching an obsession when we were first buying records, we got to know the names of songwriters (Charles and Inez Foxx always sounded so mysterious when I found them on the first Downliners Sect album) and even producers. So imagine my confusion when I saw the name "Gene...

Various Artists: Viva Elvis, The Album (Sony)

Various Artists: Viva Elvis, The Album (Sony)

Let's be very clear here, this astonishingly awful album has very little to do with Elvis Presley -- the man, as these people have forgotten, who recalibrated popular music and culture. This has a whole lot to do with a Cirque du Soleil show which sampled Elvis' vocals and then pasted them over backings which, in most instancers, sound like...

SPINAL TAP, NIGEL TUFNEL INTERVIEWED (1992): The wind cries Spinal

SPINAL TAP, NIGEL TUFNEL INTERVIEWED (1992): The wind cries Spinal

Rock history is littered with legendary bands, some more legendary than others. Some of these legends will live for ever, others even longer. But there is one rock hand which stands above all others, the most legendary of all legends. It is, in a word, Spinal Tap. The story of Spinal Tap is now part of rock’s rich tapestry, an...

Eden Kane: Boys Cry (1964)

Eden Kane: Boys Cry (1964)

When Peter Sarstedt had his smash hit single Where Do You Go To My Lovely? in '69 some unfairly asked . . . where did his brother Richard go? Richard, who used the stage name Eden Kane, had enjoyed some chart success in those pre-Beatle days (hence the name change, he was in there with Adam Faith, Marty Wilde, Billy Fury et al) but had...

MOVE ON; STORMING THE GATE, a doco by ALEX JORDANOV and SCOTT STEVENSON (Roadshow DVD)

MOVE ON; STORMING THE GATE, a doco by ALEX JORDANOV and SCOTT STEVENSON (Roadshow DVD)

Because it in their interest to do so, many people exaggerate the power and influence of the internet. Websites inflate their readership and traffic, bloggers would pretend to have more sway than they actually have, and the champions of the new technology -- now quite old in fact -- see its power in every flicker of changing public taste....

LIVE; GIGS THAT ROCKED NEW ZEALAND by BRUCE JARVIS AND JOSH EASBY

LIVE; GIGS THAT ROCKED NEW ZEALAND by BRUCE JARVIS AND JOSH EASBY

At a recent Paul Weller gig at the Powerstation -- me with a wide smile, it was thrilling -- I was reminded again just how many great concerts it has been my pleasure to have been at, and the collective power of music to bring people together for a shared experience. There are many of us who count milestones in our lives which have a great...

The Puddle: Playboys in the Bush (Fishrider)

The Puddle: Playboys in the Bush (Fishrider)

For those many of us who lost touch with Dunedin's the Puddle in the Nineties, last year's album The Shakespeare Monkey (a 2009 Best of Elsewhere album) came as quite a revelation for its literary lyricism and captivating alt.pop. This one might not have that same frisson of (re)discovery, but it is no less an album for that: there is a...

Tom Ze: Estudando a Bossa; Nordeste Plaza (Luaka Bop)

Tom Ze: Estudando a Bossa; Nordeste Plaza (Luaka Bop)

Tom Ze was one of the stars of Brazil's Tropicalia movement in the late Sixties and his edgy music and approaches to song structure and instrumentation was collected by David Byrne for the Best of Tom Ze album on Byrne's Luaka Bop label in 1990. It was quite exceptional (Ze used household appliances like a blender and vacuum cleaners to get...

Charles Amirkhanian: Just (1972)

Charles Amirkhanian: Just (1972)

Unless he was blessed with some weird insight, it's a fair guess that American sound-poet and composer Amirkhanian could not know how this text-sound piece would be heard in the wake of what happened in Auckland's harbour in 1985. One night in July as the Greenpeace vessel Rainbow Warrior was moored at a central wharf in downtown it was...

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...

BADFINGER (1968-73): The shop-soiled Apple band

BADFINGER (1968-73): The shop-soiled Apple band

There are two stories every young musician should read, the first is obvious. The Beatles story is full of magic and coincidence; McCartney's meeting with a drunk Lennon, Harrison getting in by playing Raunchy to them while on a bus, the Hamburg days and the death of Stu Sutcliffe, the firing of Pete Best and Ringo entering just before...

Various Artists: The Rarest Rockabilly Album in the World Ever! (Chrome Dreams/Triton)

Various Artists: The Rarest Rockabilly Album in the World Ever! (Chrome Dreams/Triton)

As with the blues, rockabilly is always out there, but only occasionally gets its time in the spotlight when artists such as the revivalist Stray Cats or -- more recently -- the great original Wanda Jackson get some serious attention. Expect then for rockabilly -- the up-tempo white country-based music which was a precursor to rock'n'roll in...

Jimmie John: Solid Rock (1959)

Jimmie John: Solid Rock (1959)

Rockabilly is a genre that seems to enjoy the fact that it doesn't change or grow, develop or move too far from a simple template of a backbeat and the invitation to dance. It is shamelessly self-referential (in truth it just borrows or steals from itself) and back in the early Fifties when it emerged it didn't take it too long to establish...

The Chicks: The Rebel Kind (1966)

The Chicks: The Rebel Kind (1966)

New Zealand has no great tradition of political pop or rock. All those years of high unemployment during the Flying Nun heyday . . . and who mentioned it? Very few. Even the Springbok tour in '81 barely generated a whisper from musicians. (Riot 111 here being the noble exception.) And during the Vietnam period? Barely a dickey-bird . . ....

GEORGE BENSON INTERVIEWED (2010): King for the night

GEORGE BENSON INTERVIEWED (2010): King for the night

Just the thought of it amuses George Benson and he lets go a low chuckle: he'd recently found a tape of himself at age seven playing ukulele. “This was before I started playing guitar, and I was singing Mona Lisa. You know, I think you'll hear that because we'll play a bit of that before our concert. It'll knock your socks off....

BILLIE COMES TO TOWN (1999): The working life of pop princess

BILLIE COMES TO TOWN (1999): The working life of pop princess

You don't see it often and when you do it’s only briefly -- but it drains through Billie’s face for an instant. “Yeah, I’m really tired. I’ve been up since 5.30 so now I’m like, urghh.” She forces a smile, then momentarily disappears back into her own world. It’s Wednesday afternoon...

Buddy Guy: Living Proof (Silvertone)

Buddy Guy: Living Proof (Silvertone)

The great Guy has been one of blues' most enduring and endearing characters: he upstaged the Stones in his cameo slot on their Shine A Light doco, and way back influenced Hendrix. He's been picking up awards for the past couple of decades, but unlike some others who have become part of the institution (and tailor albums for awards, as...

TICKET, HALF-REMEMBERED (2010): Hair today and gone until tomorrow

TICKET, HALF-REMEMBERED (2010): Hair today and gone until tomorrow

Two things I remember clearly about Ticket: their hair was long and their songs were even longer. And back in the early 70s those were two very good things indeed. In truth I don't remember much else – definitely not the names of the long gone Auckland clubs I saw them at – but they were at that Elton John show at Western...

I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW, a doco by SEAN DONNELLY (MVD DVD)

I THINK WE'RE ALONE NOW, a doco by SEAN DONNELLY (MVD DVD)

For those who don't know, or perhaps would prefer to forget, Tiffany was a sky-rocketing teenage pop singer in the late Eighties who had two hits: I Think We're Alone Now (a cover of the Tommy James and the Shondelles hit) and I Saw Him Standing There (a gender flp on the Beatles song). Tiffany was 16, played shopping malls, became a poster...

TIFFANY INTERVIEWED (1988): I Think She's Alone Now

TIFFANY INTERVIEWED (1988): I Think She's Alone Now

It's a pretty ordinary kind of success story by American showbiz standards, nothing to get too excited about. It's your standard tale of a girl of average talent from the suburbs north of Los Angeles who, by astute management and a radio craving for the Next Big Thing, gets to sell four million copies of her debut album, earn the contempt...

Charles Bukowski: I've Always Had Trouble with Money (1970?)

Charles Bukowski: I've Always Had Trouble with Money (1970?)

The notorious barfly-poet Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) lived longer than most of those who have been careful and healthy and, like Keith Richards, used his body as a laboratory (for booze in Bukowski's case). But he was no drop-down drunk (well, he was but . . .) and wrote often funny but moving prose poems and short stories. He inspired...

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes: Hearts of Stone (1978)

Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes: Hearts of Stone (1978)

With his big band the Asbury Jukes (a 10-piece), Southside Johnny out of New Jersey could only ever run a distant second to his friend Bruce Springsteen as the Seventies unfurled. Springsteen had the impetus, the big label, smart management and a kind of destiny -- but they were pals and E Street guitarist Steven Van Zandt was a Juke in...

Billie: Honey to the Bee (1998)

Billie: Honey to the Bee (1998)

That the innocent wee Billie Piper -- 16 when she did a promo tour in New Zealand on the back of her debut album (see here) -- should later go slightly off the rails and start behaving in an "adult" way should have come as no surprise. Her short-lived marriage to UK DJ Chris Morris in 2001 -- she 19, he 16 years her senior -- was...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Various Artists: Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2010 Various Artists: Tradi-Mods Vs Rockers (Crammed Discs/Southbound)

Subtitled “Alternative Takes on Congotronics”, this well-annotated double disc lets loose alternative and post-rock acts on the lo-fi but compelling music from Kinshasa dance clubs where cheap keyboards and beat-machines were slammed alongside traditional thumb piano, found instruments (pots'n'pans), megaphones, electric guitars...

Elvis Wade: Professional Lovemaker (1977)

Elvis Wade: Professional Lovemaker (1977)

In an alternate lifetime, singer Wade Cummings could have been Elvis Presley, the man he resembled and came to impersonate. He was born into a poor but musical family in rural Tennessee (his dad a moonshiner) and he was the youngest of nine children. That's the kind of almost mythical backstory we like in our rock stars. As a kid he saw...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Bruce Springsteen; Born to Run (Sony)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Bruce Springsteen; Born to Run (Sony)

It's commonly enough noted that this was the album which got Springsteen onto the covers of Newsweek and Time in the same week in October 1975. But looking at the size of those magazines today -- thin, articles of almost haiku length -- it is hard for many to understand now what that actually meant. They were massive-selling and influential...

Gary US Bonds: Quarter to Three (1961)

Gary US Bonds: Quarter to Three (1961)

In the DVD doco accompanying the box set version of The Promise -- the songs recorded while waiting to start a new album after Born to Run -- Bruce Springsteen talks about how he was a product of Top 40 radio, those great three minute songs which set you free just for that moment in time. And E Street Band member Steven Van Zandt later says...

BRIAN WILSON; SONGWRITER 1962 - 1969 (Chrome Dreams/Triton DVD)

BRIAN WILSON; SONGWRITER 1962 - 1969 (Chrome Dreams/Triton DVD)

Although this three hour, double DVD set comes with the disclaimer "not authorised by Brian Wilson, his record company or management" it features contributions from significant players in the Brian Wilson/Beach Boys story during this crucial decade. Here Bruce Johnston -- who replaced Brian in the touring band in '65 -- and BB...

The Creole Choir of Cuba: Tande-la (Real World/Southbound)

The Creole Choir of Cuba: Tande-la (Real World/Southbound)

Already tipped to be one of the highlights at next year's New Zealand Womad in Taranaki, this choir of Haitian ancestry certainly sing up a powerful sentiment (see clip). But this isn't an easy album: Cuban creole (a meltdown of French, various words and phrases from African languages and some other seasoning thrown in) means whatever they...

Various Artists: Kris Needs Presents Dirty Water; The Birth of Punk Attitude (Future Police/Southbound)

Various Artists: Kris Needs Presents Dirty Water; The Birth of Punk Attitude (Future Police/Southbound)

This excellent, wayward and musically diverse double disc is like a mix tape/vanity project from a friend who just wants to get down his/her favourite raw rock'n'roll/mad attitude songs in the one place for you, the stuff that has been inspirational and still stands up. Here UK rock journalist (Zigzag) and sometimes band frontman Needs takes...

Various Artists: Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah; 70s New York Disco (Backbeats/Triton)

Various Artists: Yowsah Yowsah Yowsah; 70s New York Disco (Backbeats/Triton)

Some music -- even from the first few bars -- is time-specific. The merest whiff of a particular drum sound and guitar can conjure up rockabilly of the Fifties, and some beats plus swooping strings or a horn part can just scream "disco" at you. In that case, this 11 track compilation is unnecessarily subtitled because you get its...

Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Knight: Hush Now (1965)

Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Knight: Hush Now (1965)

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...

Jimi Hendrix: West Coast Seattle Boy; The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (Sony)

Jimi Hendrix: West Coast Seattle Boy; The Jimi Hendrix Anthology (Sony)

In 1964 the Isley Brothers – a doo-wop/r'n'b outfit from Cincinnati who had scored a hit with Twist and Shout – were playing a show in a baseball stadium in Bermuda. They had their own in-built support act, they simply sent their band out to warm up the crowd. But on this night there was whooping from the audience and a guy came...

David Peel and the Lower East Side: Up Against The Wall (1968)

David Peel and the Lower East Side: Up Against The Wall (1968)

New York's David Peel was living proof of the adage, "It isn't what you know, it's who you know". And how you could milk that association -- however brief -- for all it's worth. He was also one of those "only in New York" guys. In the late Sixties when this insightful if reductive piece of political rhetoric was...

THE BEACH BOYS: GOOD VIBRATIONS IN A BOX

THE BEACH BOYS: GOOD VIBRATIONS IN A BOX

As with any great and long-running band, the Beach Boys were capable of the sublime, the superfluous and the downright stupid. Were. The use of the past tense is quite deliberate. Nobody – except perhaps organisers of those weird American commemoration days where the remnants of the band made their tedious appearances for...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Velvet Underground; White Light White Heat/Velvet Underground and Nico

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Velvet Underground; White Light White Heat/Velvet Underground and Nico

Brian Eno once said that there would come a time when the Velvet Underground were discussed in the same breath as the Beatles with regard to their influence and importance. He said that when very few people in rock culture had really given serious consideration to this band out of New York which recalibrated the coordinates of rock music....

The Remains: Don't Look Back (1966)

The Remains: Don't Look Back (1966)

Pub quiz time: Which four-piece Sixties group quickly became adept at wrting their own material, built a local following, eventually appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show, hung out with the Byrds in Hollywood, listened to Indian music . . . and played their final concert at Candlestick Park in San Francisco on August 29, 1966 before a crowd of...

7 Walkers: 7 Walkers (Response/Southbound)

7 Walkers: 7 Walkers (Response/Southbound)

Singer-guitarist Papa Mali here has a story: the late bluesman John Campbell spotted his talent when Mali (born Malcolm Welbourne in Louisiana) was in his teens; he was given his nickname by reggae figurehead Burning Spear while playing in Jamaica; he brought reggae and Southern funk together with rock'n'roll . . . But he's only one...

Groucho Marx: Churchill, Chicago critics (1972)

Groucho Marx: Churchill, Chicago critics (1972)

The great Groucho has been so often copied (Alan Alda, Welcome Back Kotter etc) and parodied down the decades we forget how irreverent he was in his day. By the time of this recording however he was an old man and just five years away from his death at 86. Yet remarkably he undertook this stand-up show at Carnegie Hall and other venues where...

THE JAM and TOM PETTY in '79: Two bands separated by a common language

THE JAM and TOM PETTY in '79: Two bands separated by a common language

At the fag-end of the Seventies, the sound of the Sex Pistols explosion in Britain had faded and in the place of furious punk anger came the more intellectual and cooler sound of post-punk: bands like Magazine, Wire and Joy Division. Across the Atlantic the Ramones' flat-tack energy was faltering and the names to note were Talking...

JACK BRUCE INTERVIEWED (1994): Cream rises to the top

JACK BRUCE INTERVIEWED (1994): Cream rises to the top

Talk to Jack Bruce and the of name of That Band just cannot be avoided. Yet this Band That Dare Not Speak Its Name occupied a mere three years in the life of this 51-year-old musical polymath - and that ending as far back as ’69. Then he took his phenomenal bass playing skills and distinctive, strong tenor voice into a series of...

Bob Dylan: You Belong To Me (1994)

Bob Dylan: You Belong To Me (1994)

The idea of "possessing" your lover isn't a pleasant thought these days: the subtext is spousal abuse, just plain creepy stuff and not a few killings you read about on page five. But there are a few songs where that idea of possessive passion has a wistful, oddly lost and sympathetic quality on the part of the singer. At one end it...

This Nation's Dreaming: Room Full of Clocks (1989)

This Nation's Dreaming: Room Full of Clocks (1989)

It was a good idea at the time which turned into an even better one: follow the story of band playing its first public gig from their rehearsal room to that moment under the lights . . . or in this case on the grubby "stage" at the Rising Sun Hotel in Auckland. And by sheer chance -- and I cannot remember who suggested This...

Odetta: A legend ignored

Odetta: A legend ignored

To be honest, I had largely forgotten about Odetta until she died in 2008 at the age of 77. I imagined her as much older actually as she seemed to have been around since Biblical times, or at least all of my life. The great folk singer and activist had been an influence on the young Bob Dylan and Joan Baez, had sung in small halls and cafes,...

ODETTA INTERVIEWED (1989): The human touch

ODETTA INTERVIEWED (1989): The human touch

Folk singer Odetta has kept her sense of humour about the 15 year lull in her recording career. “I’ve just been practicing," she says, but is delighted by at last having another record out there in the marketplace. Despite her acclaim by audiences as far spread as Russia and Nigeria and accolades by Yale University,...

Unknown artist: The Spelling on the Stone (1989)

Unknown artist: The Spelling on the Stone (1989)

Of the innumerable "Elvis is Alive" hoaxes, this song has to count as having one of the best/funniest back-stories. So let's get this right: Elvis wanted you to believe he was just pretending to be dead . . . but he really wanted you to know he was alive by singing this song? That just like, sooooo, doesn't work. Right? ...

IN THE CITY; A CELEBRATION OF LONDON MUSIC by PAUL Du NOYER

IN THE CITY; A CELEBRATION OF LONDON MUSIC by PAUL Du NOYER

Some cities are shaped and defined by their soundtrack: Salzburg and Mozart; Liverpool and the Beatles; Seattle and Nirvana . . .   But you don't envy anyone undertaking the task of writing about the music of London given the city's long musical history and its exceptional diversity. Is there a link between the barrow boys of the East...

GREGG ALLMAN INTERVIEWED (2010): The Road Goes On Forever

GREGG ALLMAN INTERVIEWED (2010): The Road Goes On Forever

Scroll down the Wikipedia entry for Gregg Allman and two things will surprise: first how brief it is for a musician who has lived such a full, creative and often dangerously self-abusive life. And second the interestingly inexact sentence which reads, “Allman has been married at least six times . . .” By the time he was...

Chicago Transit Authority: Free Form Guitar (1969)

Chicago Transit Authority: Free Form Guitar (1969)

This band -- who later shortened their name and became simply "Chicago" -- have appeared at Elsewhere previously with their thunderous and extended version of the old Spencer Davis Group hit I'm a Man (here). The point was made then that after a fine start as an underground and somewhat radical band -- their debut double album from...

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Elizabethan Reggae (1969)

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Elizabethan Reggae (1969)

Long before the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra of the late Eighties/early Nineties, Jamaican musicians were appropriating classical music and turning it around over ska and reggae rhythms. The provenance of this particular hit is perhaps a little muddied: it is variously attributed to (singer/bassist) Boris Gardiner of the Upsetters, and also...

Mel Brooks: To Be Or Not To Be; The Hitler Rap (1984)

Mel Brooks: To Be Or Not To Be; The Hitler Rap (1984)

Very few people -- and arguably only Jewish comedians? -- can get away with making fun of Hitler and the Nazis. Mel Brooks has been relentless in his ridicule which some find tasteless and others say is a necessary corrective. Whichever way you cut it, it is dark humour which Brooks makes seem genuinely funny. By way of comparison, is...

Hawkwind: Spaced out in the suburbs

Hawkwind: Spaced out in the suburbs

Aside from meeting some interesting (and ocassionally odd) people, interviewing musicians gets you into some different places. In another life I doubt I would have ever been backstage at the Village Vanguard and Carnegie Hall in New York, inside Abbey Road, in expensive hotel rooms in places like Tokyo or Los Angeles, or sitting in a BBC studio...

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

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

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...

Delroy Wilson: Mash Up Illiteracy (1974)

Delroy Wilson: Mash Up Illiteracy (1974)

In Third World countries music is often the vehicle for social messages and political comment because it gets directly to people who may be unable to read a newspaper or otherwise have access to information. Reggae singer Delroy Wilson (who died in '95) was one of those who used songs to actually say something . . . although not always so...

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Freebird (demo, 1970)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: Freebird (demo, 1970)

It's a joke that never ages, at a rock concert someone yells out "Free Bird". It's such a standard that the American writer Mitch Myers entitled his collection of rock anecdotes and fiction The Boy Who Cried Free Bird. Whoever that guy is, he's as notorious as the one who shouted "Judas" at Dylan. The joke -- for those...

The Beatles: Twist and Shout/Mr Moonlight (1962)

The Beatles: Twist and Shout/Mr Moonlight (1962)

In 1977, after years of rumours about it and litigation, the album The Beatles: Live! at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany; 1962 appeared. For those -- like John Lennon, ironically -- who believed the Beatles were a better rock band before their manager Brian Epstein put them in suits in Liverpool, here would be the evidence of them at their...

THE RUTLES. RON NASTY and NEIL INNES INTERVIEWED: I have always thought in the back of my mind . . .

THE RUTLES. RON NASTY and NEIL INNES INTERVIEWED: I have always thought in the back of my mind . . .

In the Sixties they changed the world -- in 1970 they changed their mind and broke up. They were the Rutles, lovable legends from Liverpool who launched their career with innocent hits such as Hold My Hand. Within two years the cynical Ron Nasty and cheery Dirk McQuickly had penned dozens of enduring classics. As they matured through...

LISTEN TO THIS by ALEX ROSS

LISTEN TO THIS by ALEX ROSS

One of the many funny lines in the profanity-strewn satirical film In the Loop came from the character Jamie Macdonald, the senior press officer in 10 Downing Street and the “angriest man in Scotland”. On hearing opera he bellowed, “It's just vowels! Subsidised, foreign fucking vowels!” The New Yorker music...

Galaxie 500: Cheese and Onions (1991)

Galaxie 500: Cheese and Onions (1991)

When Frank Zappa asked "does humour belong in music?" you knew he was being rhetorical. He certainly poked fun, ridiculed and parodied -- all long before Spinal Tap and the Rutles. The Rutles -- the brainchild of Monty Python's Eric Idle and with music by Neil Innes -- were a brilliant Beatles parody: the casting was excellent and...

MICHAEL CHUGG INTERVIEWED (2011): Rock'n'roll never forgets

MICHAEL CHUGG INTERVIEWED (2011): Rock'n'roll never forgets

It would be a fair guess to say Michael Chugg has been at more shows than any musician you can name. Because when musicians take a break Chugg is at another show. Not that he actually sits down and sees them, as a promoter he's more likely to be backstage somewhere or, as at Gorillaz last year, just popping out to stand at the side of the...

Ticket: Awake (Aztec/Southbound)

Ticket: Awake (Aztec/Southbound)

When Kiwi acid-rockers Ticket from the early Seventies re-formed towards the end of 2010 for a couple of gigs it was hoped that this reissue of their trippy classic, Hendrix-inspired album would be available at the door. But that didn't happen because . . . Lots of reasons I suppose. But here it is now, remastered and in a gatefold sleeve...

Kid Rock: Born Free (Atlantic)

Kid Rock: Born Free (Atlantic)

Having always been a fan of Bob Seger in that classic period in the mid Seventies (especially the Stranger in Town album) it was a real pleasure to shove this disc in the car player and crank it up . . . because by halfway through the first track I was thinking this was the great and largely forgotten Bob accidentally put in a Kid Rock cover....

JOHN LEE HOOKER REMEMBERED: Face to face with the blues

JOHN LEE HOOKER REMEMBERED: Face to face with the blues

John Lennon once said the blues was a chair. Not a fancy chair, just the first chair. No, it doesn't make much sense - but you know what he means. And by making this analogy he placed himself alongside a swag of blues artists who have their own pithy statement: the blues is a feeling, the blues is healing music, and so on. John Lee...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Who; Who Are You and The Kids Are Alright (Polydor)

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Who; Who Are You and The Kids Are Alright (Polydor)

The Who -- with as few living members as the former Beatles -- continue to tour and record, and while we wouldn't deny their current firepower, it is worth noting that the explosive energy of their early years was when they really excelled. From the late Sixties onward Pete Townshend started to over-analyse in a way that perhaps blunted the...

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: George D. Henderson of the Puddle

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: George D. Henderson of the Puddle

George D. Henderson founded Dunedin's psych-pop band the Puddle in 1983/84 and over the following decade the group recorded an EP, an album and a single for Flying Nun, all of which are curently out of print. However "a Lazarus-like comeback over the past five years" (as the press release says) has seen three new albums in the past...

Haysi Fantayzee: Jimmy Jive Jive (1983)

Haysi Fantayzee: Jimmy Jive Jive (1983)

It's entirely possible that this British pop duo (with the svengali figure of Paul Caplin guiding their brief career) spent more time in make-up than they did on the charts: they knocked out four singles and an album  . . . but their chief feature was their risque glam-raggamuffin look which was used to greater effect by their contemporary...

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...

The Doobie Brothers: World Gone Crazy (Shock)

The Doobie Brothers: World Gone Crazy (Shock)

The Doobies' great Listen to the Music, Long Train Running and China Grove in the late 60s/early 70s were driven by urgent guitars and hammering keyboards delivering a forward momentum (which denied the stoner reference of their chosen name). But surely no old fans could fall for the limp, lame and geriatric opener here A Brighter Day...

Waylon Jennings and Steve Cash: They Laid Waste to Our Land (1978)

Waylon Jennings and Steve Cash: They Laid Waste to Our Land (1978)

Melody Maker was blunt about the country music concept album White Mansions on its release in '78: "A dilemma -- on the one hand we have some exceptionally good music; on the other, a project of doubtful worth". Because White Mansions -- which featured Jessi Colter and her husband Waylon Jennings, John Dillon and Steve Cash with...

LE DONK AND SCOR-ZAY-ZEE, a film by SHANE MEADOWS (Madman DVD)

LE DONK AND SCOR-ZAY-ZEE, a film by SHANE MEADOWS (Madman DVD)

Many rock musicians don't need much help to appear stupid. (The court calls Nikki Sixx.) But there has been a long line of films and television shows which parody or poke fun at musicians and their apparent lack of smarts, or even a sense of reality. Bad News, The Rutles, the classic Spinal Tap, Hunting Venus, Fear of a Black Hat (which...

THE HOLLIES. TONY HICKS INTERVIEWED (2010): The road is long . . .

THE HOLLIES. TONY HICKS INTERVIEWED (2010): The road is long . . .

A couple of years Noel Gallagher of Oasis saw Tony Hicks of the Hollies in a local supermarket and felt compelled to yell, "Love yer band, man. You've got the songs". And the Hollies certainly did. Pop-rock classics among them. So when in March 2010, the Hollies out of Manchester, were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame...

JOE MASSOT INTERVIEWED (2001): And after all, you're my wonderwall . . .

JOE MASSOT INTERVIEWED (2001): And after all, you're my wonderwall . . .

Joe Massot – who died in 2002 – had a short but reasonably spectacular career as a film director who had passing glances at rock'n'roll culture. He directed the first rock'n'roll western Zachariah in 1971 (pretty awful) and was working on the '76 Led Zeppelin concert film The Song Remains the Same when he was removed from the...

Joanne Shaw Taylor: Diamonds in the Dirt (Ruf)

Joanne Shaw Taylor: Diamonds in the Dirt (Ruf)

It would be easy to describe -- and acclaim -- this fiery British singer-guitarist as a blues artist, and she is. But there's more to her than that. Certainly she can peel off blazing solos like Stevie Ray Vaughan (whose producer Jim Gaines is again on hand here) and can also conjure up the more gentle blues-soul of Hendrix (World on Fire)....

Red Hot Chilli Pipers: Music for the Kilted Generation (Rel Records)

Red Hot Chilli Pipers: Music for the Kilted Generation (Rel Records)

This can be brief, and perhaps something of a consumer warning for those who only scan things. Look very, very carefully at the band name here. Yes, this is Scotland's revenge, a group of rock'n'roll bagpipers (Bagrock by any other name), and if you don't like the sound of the pipes then you should pass by rather quickly. It's a weird...

MOTHER OF ROCK: LILLIAN ROXON, a doco by PAUL CLARKE

MOTHER OF ROCK: LILLIAN ROXON, a doco by PAUL CLARKE

Australian writer Lillian Roxon (1932-73) was in the vanguard of feminism, a scene-maker in New York as she held court in Max's Kansas City with her pals and peers (Iggy, Alice Cooper, Andy Warhol), was a correspondent and columnist filing on everything from the mundane to the remarkable (Warhol's Factory, Janis Joplin, Hendrix) and was one the...

The Woofers and Tweeters Ensemble: Daytripper (1983)

The Woofers and Tweeters Ensemble: Daytripper (1983)

And you thought YouTube threw up fly-by-night stars and oddities? This one puts the surfing cat and dancing pig into perspective. In the early Eighties a couple of Australians -- over a few wines -- fiddled with computer technology to simulate the sound of dogs barking and used it to have the "dogs" "sing" a Beatles song....

Laibach: Get Back (1988)

Laibach: Get Back (1988)

The Beatles might have been about "peace and bloody love" as a droll Ringo noted at the end of the Anthology DVD series. But in the hands of Laibach out of what we used to call Yugoslavia of the late Eighties, their music sounded like it was ready to invade Poland. Laibach -- in a thoroughly post-modern and ironic manner...

FRANK ZAPPA. AGAIN: Just one more time . . .

FRANK ZAPPA. AGAIN: Just one more time . . .

The irritation, pleasure and difficulty with Frank Zappa was that he was always part of rock culture - but not exactly a rock musician. Well, not when it suits him. “Being a rock star is nothing to aspire to," he once said. “Rock stars have to be cute and I`m a realistic guy. I shave this face every day. I know the...

WANDA JACKSON INTERVIEWED (2011): Still ready to have a party

WANDA JACKSON INTERVIEWED (2011): Still ready to have a party

Wanda Jackson – at 73 – has had a number of careers: in the Fifties she was a rockabilly star and touring with (and dating) Elvis Presley while delivering belters like Fujiyama Mama and the classic throat-tearer Let's Have a Party; in the Sixties she went back to her country roots as rock'n'roll faded; by the Seventies she had...

Wanda Jackson: The Party Ain't Over (Third Man)

Wanda Jackson: The Party Ain't Over (Third Man)

The first Jack White-produced single from this album -- a shuddering Shakin' All Over and a discreetly revised version of Amy Winehouse's You Know I'm No Good -- were hints that White wasn't going to simply reheat the career of this 73-year old rockabilly star with some rock'n'roll nostalgia. In an interview with Elsewhere for this album...

The Savage Rose: A Girl I Knew (1968)

The Savage Rose: A Girl I Knew (1968)

Since Richie Unterberger wrote Unknown Legends of Rock'n'Roll: Psychedelic Unknowns, Mad Genuises, Punk Pioneers, Lo-Fi Mavericks and More in 1998, many of the artists he unearthed (Wanda Jackson, the Chocolate Watch Band, Roky Erickson, Can etc) have enjoyed some considerable cult -- and sometimes even mainstream, success. Jeez, Sandy Denny...

Various Artists: Riddim Box (Soul Jazz/Southbound)

Various Artists: Riddim Box (Soul Jazz/Southbound)

Perhaps just a heads-up for DJs and samplers on this one? Here be a double disc of UK underground and dancefloor tracks which should pull the punters to a spot under the mirrorball: chipping electro-bleep from MJ Cole (Volcano Riddum); lo-tech beat merchant NB Funky with the title piece; the slightly squelchy (Tubby T's Ready She Ready given...

World Party: You're All Invited to the Party (1990)

World Party: You're All Invited to the Party (1990)

Because he wrote She's the One which became a hit for Robbie Williams in 1999 -- and more so because he was sidelined for four years by a brain aneurysm in 2000 -- little has been heard of Karl Wallinger (who is the sole constant in World Party) since his creative peak in the mid Nineties. At that time he'd cracked the Grammy-nominated album...

ERIC CLAPTON, LAYLA 40 YEARS ON (2011): I don't want to fade away

ERIC CLAPTON, LAYLA 40 YEARS ON (2011): I don't want to fade away

By the time Eric Clapton flew to Miami in 1970 to record what would become the Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs double album, he had spent six years in an emotional wringer: he was the acclaimed guitarist in the Yardbirds before he abruptly quit over dissatisfaction with their pop direction; took time out; joined John Mayall in his Blues...

Nils Lofgren: Valentine (1991)

Nils Lofgren: Valentine (1991)

Some would say Nils Lofgren never fulfilled his early promise. Certainly his band Grin were pretty good but then he scored with a couple of excellent solo albums. His self-titled album in '75 was terrific and contained his plea to an increasingly drug-abusing Keith Richards in Keith Don't Go, a fine version of the Goffin-King classic Goin' Back...

Son House: Levee Camp Moan (1970)

Son House: Levee Camp Moan (1970)

By 1964 when the British blues explosion was starting to take off, the great and tetchy Son House was living in retirement and spent most of days drinking. He hadn't played much since his friend Willie Brown had died more than a decade previous. He'd preached some but mostly got drunk, he hadn't played guitar in five years. But when his...

Various Artists: Womad; Sounds of the Planet 2011 (Border)

Various Artists: Womad; Sounds of the Planet 2011 (Border)

A Womad festival -- like the Big Day Out -- rather sells itself these days: many people will go knowing only a couple of names in the line-up but will make discoveries on the day. This 14 track sampler of acts at the Taranaki Womad (March 18 - 20) might be a useful intro to some of them and it kicks off fine fashion with the upbeat...

ROCKSTEADY; THE ROOTS OF REGGAE, a doco by STASCHA BADER (Aztec DVD)

ROCKSTEADY; THE ROOTS OF REGGAE, a doco by STASCHA BADER (Aztec DVD)

Somehow, between the reggae revolution and the ska revival, the rocksteady style which was prominent in Jamaica in the late Sixties never quite got its due. This beautifully shot and cleverly conceived doco should rectify that because while it contains fascinating historical (and contemporary footage) of Jamaica, it is the generous spirit of...

Beady Eye: The Roller (Liberator)

Beady Eye: The Roller (Liberator)

Elsewhere doesn't usually trouble itself with singles -- but this one may be of some interest for longtime Oasis fans, or those just curious to know what's up with the Gallagher brothers since Noel quit. Beady Eye are Liam Gallagher, Gem Archer and Andy Bell (from Oasis) with Chris Sharrock. This is the first single from the forthcoming...

ALLIGATOR RECORDS 1971 - 2011: Four decades of brittle and often brilliant blues

ALLIGATOR RECORDS 1971 - 2011: Four decades of brittle and often brilliant blues

In his excellent book More Miles Than Money, subtitled “journeys through American music”, the expat London-based writer Garth Cartwright meets Bruce Iglauer who founded the Alligator blues label in Chicago which became that city's most important label after Chess went belly-up in 1975. As Cartwright notes, the label was home...

Bob Dylan: Copper Kettle (1970)

Bob Dylan: Copper Kettle (1970)

When Bob Dylan's 10th album -- the double vinyl Self Portrait -- was released in 1970 it was received with bewlidered or damning reviews, the most notable being Greil Marcus in Rolling Stone who began his abrasive review with "What is this shit?" Fair call perhaps, because this mish-mash of odd covers (a ragged treatment of Paul...

Cronkite, Chamberlain and King George VI: The king's speech

Cronkite, Chamberlain and King George VI: The king's speech

The critical and popular success of the film The King's Speech -- hardly what one might have thought would have made a persuasive pitch to any production company -- has raised interest in that period of British and world history. Here then, from a scratchy old album Blitzkrieg! -- "a dramatic countdown of events leading up to and...

Tiny Tim: We Love It/When I Walk With You (1968)

Tiny Tim: We Love It/When I Walk With You (1968)

If you were there at the time, Tiny Tim was novelty act: the long-haired eccentric with a ukulele singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips in an impossibly high falsetto. But that was the late Sixties for you, a time when the retro sound of Winchester Cathedral by the New Vaudeville Band and I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman by Whistling Jack Smith could...

Procol Harum: The Best of, Then and Now (Salvo)

Procol Harum: The Best of, Then and Now (Salvo)

It is hard to believe -- and somewhat sad -- that the authorship of Whiter Shade of Pale, this group's defining moment (and which also captured the dreamy, surreal English Summer of Love in '67), should only have been resolved in Britain's House of Lords a few years ago. It's also a shame that -- just as in any film about the war in Vietnam...

B.B. King: Makin' Love is Good For You (SBird/Southbound)

B.B. King: Makin' Love is Good For You (SBird/Southbound)

With the great B.B. King due to arrive in Australasia for concerts, this now-readily available album from 2000 is timely. It caught him on a career high with his road-tested band in the studio just peeling off some tough-minded songs which had been part of their repertoire for while, as well as some new songs. Set aside King if you can and...

Gang of Four: Content (Growland)

Gang of Four: Content (Growland)

There's enjoyable nostalgia -- for example the Hollies who, against expectation delivered a fine show some weeks ago -- and then there are old bands who still sound relevant, like Children's Hour who delivered a deafening but impressively irritable set at the Auckland Laneway's Festival just days before the Hollies served up their classic...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Wilson Pickett; Original Album Series (Rhino)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Wilson Pickett; Original Album Series (Rhino)

For many people their sole knowledge of Wilson Pickett might be as the guy who did/didn't turn up at the end of The Comittments, the invisible inspiation for that band. A few might know of his great song Land of 1000 Dances which -- ironicaly, like the Beatles' Twist and Shout -- came right at the end of the so-called dance craze era, or...

Sir Douglas Quintet: Lawd I'm Just a Country Boy in This Great Big Freaky City (1968)

Sir Douglas Quintet: Lawd I'm Just a Country Boy in This Great Big Freaky City (1968)

When this song was written, Doug Sahm -- singer, writer and frontman for the Sir Douglas Quintet -- was feeling somewhat jaded about the hippie paradise that had been San Francisco. He and the band were from Texas and in the mid-Sixties had, like so many, moved to the Bay Area to enjoy whatever was happening there. But increasingly the...

The Maytals: Disco Reggae (1977)

The Maytals: Disco Reggae (1977)

You could almost understand Kay Starr singing Rock and Roll Waltz as the waters around her rose in the Fifties. Her style was being swamped by the likes of rockabilly and rock'n'roll, so she was probably just trying to keep her head above water. But quite why the Maytals would have wanted to lean towards disco for this single when reggae was...

Jeff Beck: Rock'n'Roll Party (ATCO)

Jeff Beck: Rock'n'Roll Party (ATCO)

Even those who have been his most ardent champions concede that guitarist Jeff Beck has always taken his own wayward path, often following a great album with an indifferent one. He may lack career focus -- he takes time out frequently -- but his recent years have seen him acclaimed for the consistency of his live performances, and the petty...

Pine Top Smith: Pine Top Boogie (1928)

Pine Top Smith: Pine Top Boogie (1928)

Aside from this being considered one of the first, if not the first, reference to "boogie woogie", there are a number of other interesting things about this recording by the pianist Clarence Smith. It was recorded in Chicago on December 29, 1928 and just three months later he was accidentally killed when hit by a stray bullet in...

Bertie Higgins: Key Largo (1982)

Bertie Higgins: Key Largo (1982)

Bertie Higgins -- born in Florida despite his London East End-sounding name -- didn't make much long-term impression on the charts, except for this ballad about the romantic Golden Age of the Silver Screen which topped Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart in '82. Higgins, who had been a drummer in Tommy Roe's backing band in the Sixties,...

Poly Styrene: Generation Indigo (Future Noise/Southbound)

Poly Styrene: Generation Indigo (Future Noise/Southbound)

The voice, face and braces of X-Ray Specs back in the punk era, Poly Styrene had a sassy line in probing and poking at convention (even the codes of punk) and despite an intermittent career ever since she bounces back with this often satirical album driven by techno-beats and Seventies synths. She nails relationships on the internet (Virtual...

THE CRAMPS LIVE (ABC/Triton DVD)

THE CRAMPS LIVE (ABC/Triton DVD)

Anyone coming to this 50 minute DVD hoping to get a whiff of the Cramps' psychobilly rock'n'roll black magic is bound to be disappointed. The intensity of their performances was at its best on small stages in crowded (cramped?) rooms but here they are stranded on a huge stage at the 2006 Lokerese Festival in Belgium. So try as he might,...

JOHNNY CASH; THE MAN IN BLACK (Xelon/Southbound DVD)

JOHNNY CASH; THE MAN IN BLACK (Xelon/Southbound DVD)

Despite it's promising subtitle "A Documentary", this 90 minute overview of Johnny Cash's career is little more than a Reader's Digest synopsis where much is glossed over (just why was the death of his older brother so traumatic?) and important events are left hanging or unexplored. It is also scrupulously free of a single note of...

THE MANGANIYAR SEDUCTION: From religion and red light

THE MANGANIYAR SEDUCTION: From religion and red light

Inspiration doesn't always come in the proverbial flash. It may emerge over a period from a number of disparate sources, as it did for Roysten Abel and his theatrical staging of The Manganiyar Seduction. The 43 performers from a caste of Rajasthani musicians from Northern India are housed in four tiers of 36 separately illuminated...

George Harrison: Bye Bye Love (1974)

George Harrison: Bye Bye Love (1974)

And it's happy birthday to the former British model Pattie Boyd who turns 67 today, March 17 2011. Boyd is something more than a footnote in pop culture – she was only a model for a few years – because she inspired a remarkable number of songs from her two husbands, George Harrison and Eric Clapton. She first met George...

Portia Faces Life and Dr Paul (from the Fifties)

Portia Faces Life and Dr Paul (from the Fifties)

It seems peculiar to state the obvious, but there is at least one generation which may not know this: before television people listened to radio. And not just for music and news, radio was the home of drama and for decades people tuned in to hear the on-going melodramatics of Britains' The Archers (which started in 1950 and still runs...

SLY DUNBAR INTERVIEWED (2003): Pull up to the drummer, baby

SLY DUNBAR INTERVIEWED (2003): Pull up to the drummer, baby

Silly question maybe, but you have to start by asking drummer Sly Dunbar -- one half of the legendary Sly'n'Robbie rhythm section alongside bassist Robbie Shakespeare -- what he's been up to lately. In the past couple of years the formidable Riddum Twins have played on No Doubt's career-reviving Rock Steady album, shared equal billing...

Imelda May: Mayhem (Universal)

Imelda May: Mayhem (Universal)

Irish singer Imelda May Higham started her profesional life singing folk, rock'n'roll and rockabilly but has made her way towards saucy, raunchy old-time jazz while losing none of her original passions. Which is why on the recent Jeff Beck tribute to Les Paul she could weigh in with everything from rockabilly to haunting torch singing, so...

LEON RUSSELL INTERVIEWED (2011): Ever the journeyman

LEON RUSSELL INTERVIEWED (2011): Ever the journeyman

When Leon Russell left his home in Tulsa for Los Angeles after having played in teenage rock bands, a career in music wasn't what he was expecting. But in a couple of months he will receive two major awards: he will be inducted into the Rock and Roll hall of Fame and the Songwriter's Hall of Fame. Russell – now 68 -- spent time as...

Leon Russell: Sweet Mystery (1979)

Leon Russell: Sweet Mystery (1979)

Careers rise and fall all the time in popular culture, but few with the perfect arc of Leon Russell's. In the mid Sixties he was an anonymous session pianist playing on albums by Frank Sinatra, the Beach Boys, Herb Alpert and Gary Lewis and the Playboys, five years later he had two Beatles (George Harrison, Ringo), three Stones (Mick, Bill...

I FELT LIKE A FIGHT, ALRIGHT? by RUTH CARR

I FELT LIKE A FIGHT, ALRIGHT? by RUTH CARR

While it seems to be going too far to suggest, as the reviewer of Radio NZ National did, that these "one-liners, poems, lyrics and tales" are "reminiscent of Cohen's mid-career poetry and writings" they are certainly more than merely diverting. The writer -- Ruth Carr of the band Minuit -- has some snappy aphorisms, odd...

Papercuts: Fading Parade (Sub Pop)

Papercuts: Fading Parade (Sub Pop)

Although San Francisco's Jason Robert Quever – who is for most purposes Papercuts – opens this fourth album with the drilling indie.pop of Do You Really Wanna Know and the dreamy Do What You Will, which puts them in the lineage running from the power pop of Shoes in the late Seventies through the shoegaze dreamscapes of...

k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang: Sing It Loud (Nonesuch)

k.d. lang and the Siss Boom Bang: Sing It Loud (Nonesuch)

A common complaint amongst those who interpret the lyrics of others is that very few people write good words anymore. Incidentally Sinatra had the same gripe in the late Forties, although some might say he was just picking badly. Lang here with her new band (and they are superb, more in a minute) has no such problem with classy material, she...

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE; THE SIDE PROJECTS 1970-74: The Baron and the Nun go it alone, together

JEFFERSON AIRPLANE; THE SIDE PROJECTS 1970-74: The Baron and the Nun go it alone, together

The New York garageband Blues Magoos' Psychedelic Lollipop of 1966 was one of the first albums to have the word “psychedelic” in the title, but it wasn't quite the spaced-out sweet thing the name suggested. 13th Floor Elevators out of Texas the same year with their debut The Psychedelic Sounds of the 13th Floor Elevators...

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Darren Watson

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Darren Watson

Darren Watson of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, has long been a multiple-threat; powerful and souldful singer; excellent blues guitarist; great songwriter. He first came to attention in Chicago Smokeshop (an appropriate name for a blues band from another city full of politicians) which later became Smokeshop, and released a series...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Tom Paxton; Original Album Series (Rhino)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Tom Paxton; Original Album Series (Rhino)

In the late Seventies, Tom Paxton was still appearing in rock encyclopedias. It was a time when rock was still close enough to some of its folk roots (post-Dylan) for him to still be relevant. These days Paxton -- now in his early 70s and still performing -- may seem just a footnote in rock (usually mentioned in passing with regard to...

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

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

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...

The Great! Society: Somebody to Love (1966)

The Great! Society: Somebody to Love (1966)

There were at least three different versions of this psychedelic classic which is best known in its third incarnation by Jefferson Airplane. But the song dated back to before that '66 single/album track -- back to the band that singer Grace Slick was in before she joined the Airplane. Her previous group -- with her husband Jerry and his...

Frank Sinatra: High Hopes (1960)

Frank Sinatra: High Hopes (1960)

When the handsome young John F Kennedy ran for the US presidency in 1960 (and beat Richard Nixon), there were planty of people weighing in with support. And one of his biggest fans was Frank Sinatra who courted JFK and brought his high profile friends in the Rat Pack, as well as other Hollywood types, into the spotlight in support....

A MICRONAUT IN THE WIDE WORLD; THE IMAGINATIVE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRAHAM PERCY by GREGORY O'BRIEN

A MICRONAUT IN THE WIDE WORLD; THE IMAGINATIVE LIFE AND TIMES OF GRAHAM PERCY by GREGORY O'BRIEN

Perhaps because he is a poet and curator, Gregory O'Brien here approaches the life of the New Zealand-born artist Graham Percy with an eye for subtle (and sometimes strong) artistic connections more than strict chronology. And this is a fitting approach to an artist whose work slipped easily between many styles and practices, from...

Twinkle: Terry (1964)

Twinkle: Terry (1964)

There's quite a tradition of death ballads in rock -- Pearl Jam tapped into it when they covered Last Kiss which had been recorded to no great public interest by Wayne Cochran in '61. Perhaps the greatest of them all was Leader of the Pack ("look out look out look out!") by the Shangri-Las in '64. Coincidentally at exactly the same...

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...

Jeff Beck: Rock'n'Roll Party (Shock DVD)

Jeff Beck: Rock'n'Roll Party (Shock DVD)

Excellent though the recent Jeff Beck, Imelda May and others CD of this concert was -- a salute to the late guitar player and designer Les Paul -- this DVD film of the concert (and then some) is a leap ahead, and not just because the live show by these people is such fun, but because the extra footage is engrossing. At some point you may...

Nick Lowe: Basing Street (1979)

Nick Lowe: Basing Street (1979)

Nick Lowe's remarkable career to a kind of alt.American balladeer today began way back in UK pub rock with Dave Edmunds in the band Rockpile, a band dubbed "Dad's Army" in the late Seventies because they were all past 30. But their fired-up rock also caught the attention of the post-punk crowd, Lowe was a producer in demand for the...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Specials; The Specials and More Specials

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Specials; The Specials and More Specials

What the most recent waves of ska revivalist don't quite get is, aside from the terrific beat, their mentor bands from the UK like the Specials and the Beat in the late Seventies/early Eighties (the first wave of ska revival) also nailed home some pretty important lyrics. Message songs in many cases. The Specials were in the vanguard of...

The Scavengers; The Scavengers (2003 vinyl issue of '78 sessions)

The Scavengers; The Scavengers (2003 vinyl issue of '78 sessions)

We all have musical moments written into our autobiographies. The emblems afterwards -- the album, concert ticket or scar beneath the eye -- are inadequate to convey the emotion you experienced, whether it was when Tina Turner belted out your favourite-ever song to you personally (and 35,000 others), or when you got nailed at Zwines in...

Peter Bjorn and John: Gimme Some (Cooking Vinyl)

Peter Bjorn and John: Gimme Some (Cooking Vinyl)

By giving themselves three thumbs up on the cover of this, their sixth album, Sweden's pop-friendly outfit are doubtless hoping for some similar critical consensus for their return to a more power pop sound after the rather more interesting but failed experiment of the darker Living Thing two years ago. Nothing here will rattle rafters or...

The Fleshtones (featuring Lenny Kaye): Brooklyn Sound Solution (YepRoc)

The Fleshtones (featuring Lenny Kaye): Brooklyn Sound Solution (YepRoc)

The limited edition of this album comes with a DVD doco about this New York garageband. It's entitled Pardon Us For Living But the Graveyard is Full and that's apt, the Fleshtones have been around forever (well, at least 30 years) and in all that time they have studiously avoided anything like polish or finesse. Here they crank out...

The Little Willies: Lou Reed (2005)

The Little Willies: Lou Reed (2005)

The idea of the improbable is always enjoyable. It is the basis of Dada and Surrealism, not to mention a few good dreams and a whole lot of Monty Python-type humour. And so you can guess when this band -- Norah Jones, Lee Alexander, Richard Julian and others -- got together to indulge their love of country and alt.country music by playing...

Ronnie Ronalde: If I Were a Blackbird (1950)

Ronnie Ronalde: If I Were a Blackbird (1950)

Roger Whittaker does it, and so does Bryan Ferry when he sings John Lennon's Jealous Guy. They whistle on stage, which isn't the easiest thing to do -- least of all if, as with Roxy Music playing in Auckland earlier this year, it's a breezy night and the wind is in your face. Whistling was once a commonplace and every now and again in the...

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...

LaVern Baker: Voodoo Voodoo (1961)

LaVern Baker: Voodoo Voodoo (1961)

The sudden revival of Wanda Jackson's career - courtesy of Jack White and the album The Party Ain't Over in early 2011 -- has singled her out as a great female rock'n'roller at a time (the late Fifties) when she was out there on her own amongst all the boys. Not exactly true. There was also -- albeit briefly -- Janis Martin (whose...

Barry McGuire: California Dreamin' (1965)

Barry McGuire: California Dreamin' (1965)

After his growling and apocalyptic version of PF Sloan's Eve of Destruction in '65 the former folkie Barry McGuire -- who had been in the New Christy Minstrels and had co-written their big hit Green Green -- was looking for new material to include on his second album. Producer Lou Adler lined up a number of covers -- the Beatles' Yesterday...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Paul Simon: So Beautiful Or So What (Hear Music)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Paul Simon: So Beautiful Or So What (Hear Music)

One of the things Paul Simon is seldom given credit for is his sense of humor. He too often comes off the kind of earnest New York Jewish singer-songwriter you imagine reads Dostoevsky at night but listens to doo-wop and old soul because he thinks it might be good for him. Yet this is the man who did that clip for You Can Call Me Al with...

BOB DYLAN IN THE 21st CENTURY: And the road shall not weary him

BOB DYLAN IN THE 21st CENTURY: And the road shall not weary him

In his recent collection of essays Listen to This, the New Yorker music critic Alex Ross has an interesting and provocative piece on Bob Dylan. It opens, “America is no country for old men. Pop culture is a pedophile's delight” then he ask what – in this world of manufactured teen pop – we are to do with “a...

Atlanta Rhythm Section: Imaginary Lover (1979)

Atlanta Rhythm Section: Imaginary Lover (1979)

There's no real reason for this particular installment of From the Vaults other than the sheer silliness of it. The trick here is to look at the video clip first before you play the sample track: what you get is singer Ronnie Hammond up front of the Atlanta Rhythm Section who were a band of seasoned session musicians pulled together...

Peter Lewis and the Trisonic: Four City Rock (1960)

Peter Lewis and the Trisonic: Four City Rock (1960)

Outside of folk songs (eg this droll one), New Zealand has had no great history of name-checking local places in rock music. But back in 1959 Jack Urlwin of the Christchurch label Peak scribbled down some words and handed them to young singer Peter Lewis and his guitarist Pat Nihonihoni. The scribble didn't have a title but they were words...

TROMBONE SHORTY INTERVIEWED (2011): Born to blow

TROMBONE SHORTY INTERVIEWED (2011): Born to blow

Troy Andrews – better known as Trombone Shorty – is one of the rising stars of the New Orleans jazz scene. But he had a head start, he was playing trombone in local brass bands when he was six. He attended the same arts college as Wynton and Branford Marsalis and Harry Connick Jnr, got out and played with rock bands (Lenny...

Janis Joplin: Trouble in Mind (1965)

Janis Joplin: Trouble in Mind (1965)

The great Janis Joplin has been dead for over four decades now but it would be fair to observe that no woman in rock has ever approached her deep understanding of the blues and earthy, powerful delivery . . . let alone her self-destructive approach to life. Yet she has been largely forgotten and, as this essay notes, no one seems in any mind...

Gabor Szabo: Breezin' (1969)

Gabor Szabo: Breezin' (1969)

The Hungarian guitarist Gabor Szabo -- often described as a gypsy musician -- was a sophisticated player and composer, as witnessed by those who had success covering his material, not the least Carlos Santana who picked up Szabo's Gypsy Queen. Szabo studied at Berklee in Boston, played at Newport and in the early Sixties was in Chico...

Bob Dylan: Jet Pilot (1965)

Bob Dylan: Jet Pilot (1965)

Although things would come to a literal grinding halt in mid '66 when he was tumbled from his motorcycle -- and he used the break to recover from emotional exhaustion after his lightspeed career of the previous four years -- in '65 Bob Dylan was still enjoying his position as the man who was taking folk and smart words into rock. During the...

JIMI HENDRIX; SOUTH SATURN DELTA (2011): The sun rises again

JIMI HENDRIX; SOUTH SATURN DELTA (2011): The sun rises again

As with Bob Marley's "catalogue", it seems only right that Jimi Hendrix's messy existence -- he seemed to a sign a contract at the drop of an offer, and would record with whomever when the mood took him -- should be reined in and given some coherence. So when the Hendrix family finally wrestled a measure of control after years of...

Joan Baez: Play Me Backwards (Proper)

Joan Baez: Play Me Backwards (Proper)

Joan Baez has never had her rediscovery by a new generation, but this reissue of her excellent folk-rock album of ' 92 – with an extra disc of demos including Dylan's early Seven Curses which only appeared on his recent Witmark Demos 1962-64 – is a smart starting place as it found her back in Nashville after a 20 year absence and...

Trombone Shorty: Backatown (Verve Forecast)

Trombone Shorty: Backatown (Verve Forecast)

This hot young trombonist, trumpeter and singer from New Orleans -- who plays the National Jazz Festival in Tauranga at Easter, and is interviewed here -- brings more than just the local funk and groove to his style. There is a gritty guitar part all over the urgent opener Hurricane Season here (and on the political/socially responsible...

The Flying Pickets: Get Off Of My Cloud (1983)

The Flying Pickets: Get Off Of My Cloud (1983)

Songs by the Rolling Stones have suffered a number of indignities -- usually when an orchestra is involved -- but few have been made over in a humorous way, as was done by this British a cappella outfit in the early Eighties which enjoyed a number one Christmas single in '83 with their version of Yazoo's Only You. The group -- mostly theatre...

ROY ORBISON 1960-65: The years of monumental pop

ROY ORBISON 1960-65: The years of monumental pop

Looked at one way, the great Roy Orbison (who died in late '88) had five separate careers, but he only ever changed musical direction once. "The Big O" -- or "the Caruso of Rock" -- as he was known, had long periods away from the spotlight and it would be fair to observe his defining work was done in an exceptional period...

Faster Pussycat: You're So Vain (1990)

Faster Pussycat: You're So Vain (1990)

Jac Holzman's Elektra was one of the most diverse record labels in the last half of the 20th century. He started it in 1950 and the first recording pressed (just a couple of hundred copies) was of a modern classical lieder by composer John Gruen and sung by Georgiana Bannister which Holzman -- a student at St John's College in Annapolis,...

THE GRAND OLE OPRY PRESENTS . . . CLASSICS (Time Life 5-DVD set)

THE GRAND OLE OPRY PRESENTS . . . CLASSICS (Time Life 5-DVD set)

Can you have too much of that old time mainstream country music? Some might say that five discs and 10 hours of country singers at the Grand Ole Opry might just be that bridge too far . . . and to be honest I didn't get more than halfway through this set which draws mostly from the Fifties and Sixties. It is hilarious of course if you just...

RAY CHARLES 1954-1960: A soul brother movin' on

RAY CHARLES 1954-1960: A soul brother movin' on

The word "genius" was used so often about Ray Charles that people probably ceased to believe it in this age where a minor sports figure is referred to as "an icon" and "awesome" has long since lost any meaning at all. But Charles was a genius -- "The only genius in our business," said Frank Sinatra --...

FRANK: THE VOICE by JAMES KAPLAN

FRANK: THE VOICE by JAMES KAPLAN

When he died, Time ran an eight-page tribute and put him on the cover with a simple tag-line: “Francis Albert Sinatra 1915 – 1998”. They might have added “The Voice”, “Old Blue Eyes”, “He Did It His Way” or some other catch-phrase, but none could have encompassed the complexity of...

Bob Dylan: In Concert, Brandeis University 1963 (Sony)

Bob Dylan: In Concert, Brandeis University 1963 (Sony)

As has been noted here, there is a lot more of Bob Dylan's past out there in the world than there ever was -- and of course he has quite some past. This from the very distant days in May '63 was recorded at the peak of his politicised folk period (the anthems Blowing in the Wind and Masters of War, the former not here, would be on his album...

Bob Dylan: The Very Best of Bob Dylan's 80s (Sony Legacy)

Bob Dylan: The Very Best of Bob Dylan's 80s (Sony Legacy)

As it was happening, Bob Dylan's Eighties seemed somewhat of a wasteland only sparsely populated by songs which had any great resonance. And many which did -- Brownsville Girl co-written with playwright Sam Shepard for example, on the largely awful Knocked Out Loaded in '86 -- weren't sympathetically produced. Certainly songs like Jokerman...

Sonny and the Sunsets: Hit After Hit (Unspk)

Sonny and the Sunsets: Hit After Hit (Unspk)

Here's a guess. This enjoyable but rather superficial pop outfit from San Francisco have in their collections albums of one-off Sixties pop by the likes of the Hombres (Let It All Hang Out), Sam the Sham, Tommy James and the Shondelles, the Shangri-Las, Brill Building songwriters, the McCoys (Hang on Sloopy) and plenty of early Kinks, Beatles,...

Half Man Half Biscuit: Time Flies By (When You're the Driver of a Train) (1985)

Half Man Half Biscuit: Time Flies By (When You're the Driver of a Train) (1985)

Never let it be said Elsewhere doesn't listen to its constituency. When the cry went up, "Why no Half man Half Biscuit at From the Vaults?" the solution was obvious. (The answer however is, because they're pretty awful -- but that's neither here nor there) For those who have lived happy and fulfilled lives in the absence of any...

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 --...

Hellsongs: Minor Misdemeanors (Lovely/Yellow Eye)

Hellsongs: Minor Misdemeanors (Lovely/Yellow Eye)

This outing follows a similar path to the previous Hellsongs album Hymns in the Key of 666 where metal songs were delivered in a quiet, almost pastoral manner or inna lounge style. A rather familiar route as I pointed out then. This is not dissimilar: with a fine new vocalist (Siri Bergnehr), Sweden's Hellsong take material by Slayer, Meat...

Various Artists: SIN-ATRA (Armoury/Shock)

Various Artists: SIN-ATRA (Armoury/Shock)

After Hellsongs who take metal songs and render them in a lounge or country-folk manner, this might be subtitled "Metal's Revenge!!!" Here bellicose and bellowing heavy metal frontmen from Anthrax, Deep Purple, Twisted Sister, Judas Priest, Cheap Trick, Warrant and others take on the catalogue of Frank Sinatra (New York New York,...

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...

Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams (Reprise)

Stevie Nicks: In Your Dreams (Reprise)

For her first album in a decade the fairie queen and producer Dave Stewart have opened their fat Rolladecks and made some calls. Here are Fleetwood Macs' Lindsey Buckingham and Mick Fleetwood, Mike Campbell from Petty's Heartbreakers, guitarists Waddy Watchel and Glen Ballard (among other six stringers), Greg Leisz on mandolin, percusson player...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Carole King: Tapestry Legacy Edition (Sony)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Carole King: Tapestry Legacy Edition (Sony)

The literary term "roman a clef" refers to a novel which is a thinly disguised story based on real events, and maybe we could also use it in the context of film and telelvision. Certainly the '96 movie Grace of My Heart by Allison Anders -- which starred Illeana Douglas as a jobbing songwriter turned solo singer -- followed fairly...

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap: Young Girl (1968)

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap: Young Girl (1968)

Because they are often offered the temptations of the flesh, musicians will inevitably write and sing about it. There are a lot of songs about sex, some of them rather coded. There's also a decent sized sub-genre of songs about the temptations of very young flesh. The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian weighed in with the beautifully dreamy...

Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring For My Halo (Matador)

Kurt Vile: Smoke Ring For My Halo (Matador)

The captivatingly named rock troubadour Vile from Philadelphia offers a kind of alt.folk-cum-indie rock skew which refers to Cohen as much as Cobain. But he also has an ear for a mainstream rock melody (Puppet the the Man here with AOR guitars behind his echoed alt.rock vocals) and recently said his current listening includes the Stones'...

STEVE WINWOOD PROFILED (2011): From teen-soul boy to mainstream man

STEVE WINWOOD PROFILED (2011): From teen-soul boy to mainstream man

When the salty bluesman Howlin' Wolf growled “the men don't know, but the little girls understand” on the 1961 Willie Dixon-penned Back Door Man we know he was talking about something more earthy and sexual than pop singers like Justin Bieber. But when Bieberfever arrived to what appeared to be the surprise of anyone over...

THE BEATLES Vs THE ROLLING STONES by JIM DeROGATIS and GREG KOT

THE BEATLES Vs THE ROLLING STONES by JIM DeROGATIS and GREG KOT

At a first glance this lavishly illustrated and beautifully presented book -- with dozens of relevant, interesting and never before seen photos of the bands, and of period-piece memorabilia, movie posters and the like -- looks fairly lightweight. But fun. A quick read and you've got it: the two authors posit a rivalry between these two...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Flight of the Conchords: I Told You I Was Freaky (Sub Pop)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Flight of the Conchords: I Told You I Was Freaky (Sub Pop)

Writing parody songs is harder than it seems -- one Neil Young is possible but then try for Neil Diamond, the Bee Gees, Hendrix etc. Yet the Flight of the Conchords accomplish it with what seems an effortlessness, which just shows how smart they are. This album was given a major review at Elsewhere on release (here) so we needn't go over the...

Steve Earle: I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

Steve Earle: I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive (New West)

Perhaps because there is already so much Steve Earle in the world -- this is his 14th studio album by my account -- there is very little frisson of delight or surprise coming from this album. Little Emperor would seem to be addressed to George W Bush ("no pomp and circumstance, no more shock and awe, you're just a little emperor that's...

Joe Bonamassa: Dust Bowl (J&R/Southbound)

Joe Bonamassa: Dust Bowl (J&R/Southbound)

There are some extraordinary guitar talents -- Roy Buchanan comes to mind immediately -- whose gift just seems to go right past an audience you know would appreciate it, if they just shifted their attention in that direction. Bonamassa -- who also has lungs like leather and can write terrific blues rock songs also -- is another. He's...

JIM DeROGATIS INTERVIEWED (2011): Nothing if not critical

JIM DeROGATIS INTERVIEWED (2011): Nothing if not critical

Rock critic, writer and most recently university lecturer Jim DeRogatis doesn't pull his punches, but keeps a sense of humour, about his music and its stars. With Gregg Kot, he has hosted Sound Opinions on Chicago Public Radio since '99 (“the world's only rock'n'roll talk show”) and they banter about fallen heroes,...

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ABNER JAY (2013)

WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT . . . ABNER JAY (2013)

There is an interesting photo of singer and one-man band Abner Jay in the late Seventies playing at what is described as a folk festival. As he pours his all into whatever song has captured him, by his side is a young girl playing the bones. That is, she has what looks like the skull of a horse or cow strung around her neck and she is...

The Hombres: Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) (1967)

The Hombres: Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) (1967)

The great thing about disposable pop is that the minute it gets stuck to the bottom of your shoe you just can't shake it. Like this from the one-hit-wonders the Hombres out of Memphis whose members had knocked about on the road as the Daytonas then the Bandits. Written by two of the band's members, Let it Out (Let It All Hang Out)...

Craig Scott: Smiley (1971)

Craig Scott: Smiley (1971)

It is a sad reflection on New Zealand's counter-culture that at the height of the war in Vietnam there were so few songs addressing the most important international event of that generation. Maybe because there was no conscription in New Zealand, but the musicians of the day were almost mute in their response to the war. And oddly enough the...

Eartha Kitt: The Heel (1955)

Eartha Kitt: The Heel (1955)

She might not have been the best Catwoman* because she was a little past her best, but the great Eartha Kitt straddled sultry pop, blues-noir and cabaret. She was also in a Faust film by Orson Welles (playing Helen of Troy), her suggestive Santa Baby became a classic (and was covered by Madonna) and in this dramatic track she imagines white...

The Webb Sisters: Savages (Proper)

The Webb Sisters: Savages (Proper)

Best known in the wider world as part of Leonard Cohen's touring band – the backing vocalists, multi-instrumentalists and cartwheelers – Charley and Hattie from Kent have at the studio desk here uber-producer, heavy-hitter and fan Peter Asher (James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, longtime senior vice-president at Sony). And you can guess...

Boris: Attention Please (Sargent House)

Boris: Attention Please (Sargent House)

Witnessing the full firepower of this Japanese psychedelic drone-rock band at Sydney's Vivid Festival last year – earplugs supplied – was a revelation. When they were loud they were very, very loud but when guitarist Wata stepped up to bring her ethereal voice into play they were dreamily psychedelic and rather special in a...

TEX PERKINS INTERVIEWED (2011): Cash money and black is back

TEX PERKINS INTERVIEWED (2011): Cash money and black is back

The hotel's drawn blinds shut out the mid-morning Auckland sun, pills are scattered on a table, the remains of takeaway food are on another and there's a pervasive air of “the morning-after”. “Yeah, very Johnny Cash,” says Tex Perkins, the room's slightly disheveled occupant, in a husky and weary voice. The...

Juanes: La Camisa Negra (2005)

Juanes: La Camisa Negra (2005)

Unless you follow Latin pop then La Camisa Negra/The Black Shirt might be the biggest hit you never heard by a global star don't even known about. Juanes from Colombia has sold 15 million albums, won 17 Latin Grammy awards and one Grammy. The album Mi Sangre (My Blood) which included La Camisa Negra (The Black Shirt) debuted at...

Paul McCartney: Check My Machine (1980)

Paul McCartney: Check My Machine (1980)

In the Seventies Paul McCartney enjoyed a remarkable revival of fortunes -- at the start of the decade the Beatles broke up, he released a couple of feet-finding solo albums, got the band Wings together and did a lowkey tour of the UK, delivered Band on the Run, conquered America and the rest of the world with hits singles then witnesed Wings...

Willie Nelson: Cowboys are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other (2006)

Willie Nelson: Cowboys are Frequently Secretly Fond of Each Other (2006)

When this Willie Nelson song started to get a bit of attention around the time of the movie Brokeback Mountain, many people -- myself included -- assumed it had been prompted by that film. But the story of it goes back quite a way and the song's writer Ned Sublette tells it in his excellent book The Year Before the Flood about his time in...

Seasick Steve: You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks (Liberator)

Seasick Steve: You Can't Teach an Old Dog New Tricks (Liberator)

Steve – who makes or adapts his own guitars, counted Janis Joplin and Kurt Cobain as friends and had Grinderman, Ruby Turner and KT Tunstall on his raw 08 album Started Out With Nothing And I Still Got Most of It Left – has been a hobo, busker and record producer in his time, and his blues-infused albums reflect stories of a...

Rosalie Allen: Hitler Lives (1945)

Rosalie Allen: Hitler Lives (1945)

Because the name "Hitler" became such a signifier for all that was evil and his name a shorthand for the inhuman and demonic, it was inevitable that any portrayal of him as a mere man (albeit a very bad one!) was bound to offend many. Better to think of him as an aberration than a possibility. In this song by Rosalie Allen --...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Abba; 4 Original Albums (Polar)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Abba; 4 Original Albums (Polar)

To be honest, I didn't get the appeal of Abba (beyond the obvious pop hooks) until the darkness in some of their songs was explained to me by Chris Knox -- whom I had never taken to have had much interest in them. I was wrong and he was enthusiastic -- and I still don't fully get it. Certainly you can scan their song titles and get melancholy...

Howlin' Wolf: The Howlin' Wolf Album (Set on Down)

Howlin' Wolf: The Howlin' Wolf Album (Set on Down)

One of the assertions on the cover of this album – released in 69, reissued after a long absence – isn't true. Bluesman Howlin' Wolf had been an “early adopter” of electric guitar. What is true is he didn't care for this album (“dog shit” was his considered judgment) which had him being made over in...

LOST IN SHANGRI-LA by MITCHELL ZUCKOFF

LOST IN SHANGRI-LA by MITCHELL ZUCKOFF

As with many of his generation, American president Franklin D. Roosevelt had been taken by the idea of “Shangri-La”, that tolerant refuge from a troubled world James Hilton had written about in his 1933 novel Lost Horizon and which Frank Capra had adapted four years later for his enormously popular film of the same name,...

EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS, a film by MARTIN DAVIDSON (Triton DVD)

EDDIE AND THE CRUISERS, a film by MARTIN DAVIDSON (Triton DVD)

Although this B-grade rock-cum-mystery film from '83 has plot holes and continuity problems so big you could drive a pink '57 Chevy through them, it isn't without some interest, especially if Bruce Springsteen means anything to you. In the most broadest of terms, it starts like Citizen Kane (a television reporter Maggie Foley -- played by...

Tedeschi Trucks Band: Revelator (Masterworks)

Tedeschi Trucks Band: Revelator (Masterworks)

Anyone who caught the husband and wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi in New Zealand recently were perhaps familiar with guitarist Trucks' impressive Allman Brothers/Eric Clapton pedigree, but she came as something of a surprise to most. Looking like what Americans call a "soccer mom", the slight Tedeschi could sing...

Perry Como: (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 (1959)

Perry Como: (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 (1959)

In the hands of Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, Route 66 became a classic rock song -- but its history goes further back and the song has been rendered in the styles of earlier eras. And later one too. Written in '46 by jazz pianist Bobby Troup -- who said he penned it after making the trip, got the chorus quickly but couldn't think of...

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Isley Brothers; The Essential Isley Brothers (Sony Legacy)

THE BARGAIN BUY: The Isley Brothers; The Essential Isley Brothers (Sony Legacy)

The great Isley Brothers out of Cincinnati have hardly received their due by rock and pop writers (although they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in '92). Yet they crafted some of the sassiest, slippery and and most sexy funk-rock'n'pop of their era, which was long. They first troubled the charts in '59, were dominant if not...

Urge Overkill: Rock&Roll Submarine (Redeye)

Urge Overkill: Rock&Roll Submarine (Redeye)

Possibly the most coolly knowing, confidently aloof band since Steely Dan, Urge Overkill out of Chicago were touring mates with Nirvana and Pearl Jam but their stylish and increasingly power pop sound (and cover of Neil Diamond's Girl You'll be a Woman Soon which was used in Pulp Fiction) took them to a mainstream, but small, audience....

Mickey Newbury: An American Trilogy (Saint Cecilia Knows/Southbound)

Mickey Newbury: An American Trilogy (Saint Cecilia Knows/Southbound)

Not many people know about Texan Mickey Newbury, who died almost a decade ago, age 62. Maybe it's enough Elvis (who made Newbury's medley An American Trilogy a cornerstone of his latter performances) did. And that Mickey's songs were covered by Johnny Cash, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Joan Baez and dozens of others. Often spoken of...

The Unforgiven: All is Quiet on the Western Front (1986)

The Unforgiven: All is Quiet on the Western Front (1986)

Some time in the early Nineties I met up with two of the guys from Cracker at a bar in New York, and towards the end of our conversation the talk turned to what they had done before their alt.rock incarnation. John Hickman said he'd been in another band . . . and after a long pause said they had been called the Unforgiven, but that I...

Peter Cape: Coffee Bar Blues (1959)

Peter Cape: Coffee Bar Blues (1959)

The idiosyncratic Peter Cape (1926-79) has appeared at Elsewhere's From the Vaults previously, with his Kiwi vernacular classic She'll Be Right (here). He wrote about things that ordinary jokers and sheilas could understand and were interested in: rural life, the All Blacks, the train on the Main Trunk Line (and the food), trams, beer and...

Ernest Tubb: It's America, Love It or Leave It (1965)

Ernest Tubb: It's America, Love It or Leave It (1965)

The great patriot Tubb has appeared at From the Vaults before with his mind-numbingly awful It's For God and Country and You, Mom written by Dave McEnery. Ernest clearly like to keep things simple and the same year he recorded this little pearler by Jimmy Helms which became adopted as a satirical statement by those hippie draft-card...

Highway: Highway (Ode)

Highway: Highway (Ode)

A decade or so ago there was a major excavation undertaken of New Zealand pop and rock of the Sixties, thanks to enthusiasts like John Baker and Andrew Schmidt, and Chris Caddick at EMI who actioned a series of terrific compilations. Some of the work of these people spilled over into the early Seventies. Thierry Pannetier at EMI was...

Lil Johnson and Black Bob: Press my Button, Ring My Bell (1932)

Lil Johnson and Black Bob: Press my Button, Ring My Bell (1932)

When Anita Ward scored a big disco hit with Ring My Bell in '79, the saucy yet somewhat lyrically bland song was in a long tradition of "ring my bell" metaphors in popular music. As far back as '32 the raunchy Lil Johnson -- about whom little is known other than her catalogue of songs about sex, getting drunk, sex and more sex --...

THEY ARE ALL THE WALRUS: The story of the Exotic Beatles series

THEY ARE ALL THE WALRUS: The story of the Exotic Beatles series

Some people -- like Allan Rouse and Steve Rooke at Abbey Road studios who remastered the complete catalogue -- listen to an awful lot of Beatles' music. Others -- like Jim Phelan -- listen to a lot of awful Beatles' music. Phelan from London is the man behind the hilarious Exotic Beatles collections -- now up to Volume Four -- on...

Various Artists: Watch the Closing Doors (Year Zero/Southbound)

Various Artists: Watch the Closing Doors (Year Zero/Southbound)

This ambitious double disc compilation of New York's musical melting pot (1945-59) by writer Kris Needs – who delivered the free-wheeling collection Dirty Water; The Birth of Punk Attitude – scoops up jazz (Ellington, Armstrong, Mingus), pop (Frankie Lymon), folk (Dave Van Ronk), blues (Sonny Terry, Big Maybelle) and Latin...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Margie Joseph; Original Album Series (Atlantic/Rhino)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Margie Joseph; Original Album Series (Atlantic/Rhino)

The point of the on-going weekly Bargain Buy suggestion is not just to direct readers to fine music going cheap, but to also encourage you to take a chance on an unknown or only vaguely familiar name because the album(s) recommended are . . . yes, cheap. A perfect example is this five CD set by Margie Joseph out of Mississippi whose pedigree...

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis: Smoking in Heaven (Sunday Best)

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis: Smoking in Heaven (Sunday Best)

While some have be quite taken by KD&Lewis' retro look and sound -- which is undeniably entertaining on the surface and live -- I have remained immune and indifferent to their charms. And nothing on this album of all originals can persuade me to be otherwise. These songs sound lame when they aren't just plain dull, or working out...

The Rainmakers: Let My People Go-Go (1986)

The Rainmakers: Let My People Go-Go (1986)

Bob Walkenhorst of Kansas City's Rainmakers had a good line about his fellow Americans' willingness to get out of it. "The generation that would change the world is still looking for its car keys." The smart line came from the song Drinkin' on the Job off the band's self-titled, major label album in '86 ("Everybody's...

Neil Young and the International Harvesters: A Treasure (Reprise)

Neil Young and the International Harvesters: A Treasure (Reprise)

While many of us would wish Neil Young release the next long-awaited installement of his Archives series (ho ho ho, like that'll happen any time soon), in his wilful and non-chronological release schedule it was almost expected a follow-up to the terrific and raw Le Noise would be . . . a country music album. But even so, A Treasure is a...

Neil Young and the Bluenotes: This Note's For You (1988)

Neil Young and the Bluenotes: This Note's For You (1988)

An artist, sportsperson or public figure who doesn't accept, let alone solicit, corporate money these days is a rarity, possibly even considered somewhat odd -- and maybe even suspect. But back when people like Michael Jackson and Madonna were lining up for Pepsi/Coke dollars and rap stars were schilling for shoes, Neil Young stepped out and...

Johnny Cash: The Chicken in Black (1984)

Johnny Cash: The Chicken in Black (1984)

Fortunately for Johnny Cash he didn't die around the time he hit rock bottom in the mid Eighties. If he'd gone then -- before his career resurrection through the American Recordings and the Walk the Line film -- he might not have been remembered as the man-mountain solid rock of country, the troubled man of faith or the middle-finger...

Ira Cohen: Ornette Comes Home (1994)

Ira Cohen: Ornette Comes Home (1994)

The late poet/filmmaker and documentarian Ira Cohen (who died in April 2011 age 76), was one of those rare voices from that co-joining of the Beat Generation of the Fifties and the Sixties counter-culture. He lived for many years in North Africa and India where he sampled the earthly and esoteric delights, and raised his consciousness...

The Pictones: Hashish (1962)

The Pictones: Hashish (1962)

Not a lot is known about New Zealand's Pictones out of Levin, an instrumental group who delivered a nice line in country'n'western rock'n'roll on their 1961 single Pistol Packin' Mama which opened with galloping hooves, a whip cracking and a whinny. (The flipside of which was My Bonnie, recorded around the same time as the Beatles did it in...

Steve and Eydie: Black Hole Sun (1997)

Steve and Eydie: Black Hole Sun (1997)

The fad for lounge music in the late Nineties was amusing enough, but inevitably most of what emerged was forgettable. (Although who could expunge this from the memory.) Still, groups like Pizzicato Five were kind of amusing, and it was good to hear the great Esquivel and Martin Denny's names being mentioned in hip'n'fashionable...

BOB DYLAN'S HIGHWAY REVISITED AT 33, 45 AND 70: Back to mono

BOB DYLAN'S HIGHWAY REVISITED AT 33, 45 AND 70: Back to mono

When it was announced Bob Dylan had recorded an MTV Unplugged session in late '94, a wag within earshot guffawed and said, "But wasn't he always?" Which was sort of true. There are any number of people across a few generations who have imprinted in their consciousness the image of the impossibly young Dylan, acoustic guitar in...

Bo Diddley: Say Man (1958)

Bo Diddley: Say Man (1958)

The late Bo Diddley was perhaps best known for that distinctive self-titled riff that he bequeathed to rock. He used it on a number of songs -- Hey Bo Diddley, Pretty Thing, Hush Your Mouth and others -- and it came into rock with Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away, the Downliners Sect's Be A Sect Maniac and Sect Appeal and many others. Bo referred...

Bob Dylan: Dirge (1974)

Bob Dylan: Dirge (1974)

While flicking the pages of a rock magazine the other day I came on an interview with a young musician who cited among his current favourite listening Bob Dylan's Planet Waves. When that album was released it was met with polite but hardly laudatory reviews, and even the enormously successful and highly profitable tour with the Band...

Stan Freberg: Rock Island Line (1956)

Stan Freberg: Rock Island Line (1956)

Because a parody only works if you know the original it might be useful to check out the video clip here (kinda cute in its own way) before playing American comedian Freberg's poke at it. The original of Rock Island Line was by Leadbelly in the Thirties but Donegan's version of 1955 was emblematic of the skiffle era in Britain where young...

Cilla McQueen: Crikey (2006)

Cilla McQueen: Crikey (2006)

Today -- Friday July 22, 2011 -- being New Zeaand National Poetry Day it seems only right we should acknowledge it. It would be easy to go to the collection Contemporary New Zealand Poets in Performance for some Very Serious Poetics or link back to our particular favourite Selina Tusitala Marsh, but this being Elsewhere -- the place where...

HOWL, a film by ROB EPSTEIN and JEFFREY FRIEDMAN

HOWL, a film by ROB EPSTEIN and JEFFREY FRIEDMAN

The three parallel, intercutting narratives here in this story of Allen Gisnberg's famous, half-hour poem Howl and the subsequent obscenity trial can be off-outting at first, and in truth don't serve the film or poet especially well. But for those new to the subject its slightly racy, post-modern attitude is bound to have considerable appeal....

Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor, Dani Wilde: Girls with Guitars (Ruf)

Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor, Dani Wilde: Girls with Guitars (Ruf)

Nothing like naming your album with a product description, right? This lead/bass/rhythm trio (with drummer Jamie Little) bridge sultry blues, a soul-kiss and rock'n'roll blues (bassist Cassie the daughter of the great Otis). Wilde's Stax/Aretha/sexy vocals impress and she's a double threat, pulling out mercurial and razor sharp lead...

Pixie Williams: Maori Land (1949)

Pixie Williams: Maori Land (1949)

If Pixie Williams had done nothing else, she would still be in the history books for what happened on October 3, 1948 when she turned up at a makeshift recording studio in Wellington, New Zealand, still wearing her hockey uniform. On that day she sang with the Ruru Karaitiana Quintette on Ruru's Blue Smoke, the first song to be written,...

Jimmy Patton: Okies in the Pokey (1959)

Jimmy Patton: Okies in the Pokey (1959)

Jimmy Patton (1931-89) was never really a rockabilly singer although this, his biggest hit, was certainly a rave-up in that style. But Patton's heart had always been in hillbilly country, right up until Elvis came along. Like so many others he grabbed a backbeat and made the shift sideways into rock'n'roll, and specifically the rockabilly...

The Ugly's: Wake Up My Mind (1965)

The Ugly's: Wake Up My Mind (1965)

Among the many unusual things about the story of the Ugly's is why a band (with an unnecessary apostrophe?) from Birmingham should have enjoyed a huge hit in Australia and New Zealand with this song, and not made a ripple back home. The Ugly's had emerged from the Dominettes which had been caught up in the skiffle boom of the late Fifties....

BOB DYLAN; 1990-2006: THE NEVER ENDING NARRATIVE (Chrome Dreams DVD)

BOB DYLAN; 1990-2006: THE NEVER ENDING NARRATIVE (Chrome Dreams DVD)

Although Bob Dylan closed his shapeless and directionless Eighties with the acclaimed Oh Mercy album produced by Daniel Lanois, no one would really have considered him ripe for a career reinvention. And Under the Red Sky of the following year -- a cast which included Slash, Bruce Hornsby, George Harrison and numerous others on material as...

1950s RADIO IN COLOUR; THE LOST PHOTOGRAPHS OF DEEJAY TOMMY EDWARDS by CHRISTOPHER KENNEDY

1950s RADIO IN COLOUR; THE LOST PHOTOGRAPHS OF DEEJAY TOMMY EDWARDS by CHRISTOPHER KENNEDY

Cleveland, Ohio has a formidable reputation as a rock'n'roll city -- today it is the home of the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame and Museum -- but you'd have to guess there was more to it than just that old adage about "something in the water". Back in the Fifties there, as everywhere, the emerging musical culture was fed by radio,...

Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents: Keeping Time (Fuse/Border)

Jenny Dee and the Deelinquents: Keeping Time (Fuse/Border)

Retro seems to be the way of the future if your current CD collection is made up of albums by Pete Molinari, Kittie Daisy and Lewis, Sonny and the Sunsets, the Young Veins etc. Most of these artists are fun but you suspect there's not much longevity in being quite so referential (Molinari is getting by on the skin of his teeth) and while I...

Rory Block: Shake 'Em on Down (Stony Plain)

Rory Block: Shake 'Em on Down (Stony Plain)

Singer-guitarist Rory Block learned directly from Mississippi John Hurt, Son House, Bukka White and others and here – through originals and retooled covers – acknowledges the great innovator Mississippi Fred McDowell who (despite singing I Do Not Play No Rock'n'Roll) influenced blues-rock musicians like the young Stones, and...

Lenny and Squiggy: Foreign Legion of Love (1979)

Lenny and Squiggy: Foreign Legion of Love (1979)

You don't dig into From the Vaults looking for good taste or class, but you do find oddities like this which resonates on many levels throughout rock culture. Lenny and Squiggy were the dumbcluck characters in the television show Laverne and Shirley and had very little to recommend them as on-screen characters. They were hammy klutzes who...

Boyd Rivers: Fire Shed in my Bones (1985)

Boyd Rivers: Fire Shed in my Bones (1985)

Not a lot is known about the Mississippi-based country-blues and gospel singer Boyd Rivers who died in '93, but his growling voice seems to belong to a much older time. He was born near the town of Pickens in December '43 and after being injured at his casket-making job in '72 he lived off his music and the pay-out. He was also a Reverend....

Various Artists: High Life Time 2 (Vampi Soul)

Various Artists: High Life Time 2 (Vampi Soul)

The enjoyable reissues of West African music by the Strut, Sound Way and Vampi Soul labels (Funky Lagos, Ghana Special, High Life and others) have brought back music from the Sixties and Seventies on well annotated double-discs. This Vampi Soul sequel wraps up more legendary artists/bands from Ghana and Nigeria (E.T. Mensah and the...

Chubby Checker: Mexican Hat Twist (1962)

Chubby Checker: Mexican Hat Twist (1962)

It's entirely possible Chubby Chcker knew his time was up when Parkway released his album Twist with Chubby Checker. On the back cover he looks alarmed. Maybe he'd seen the inner sleeve where five other of his Twist albums were advertised -- Your Twist Party with the King of Twist Chubby Checker, Don't Knock the Twist, Let's Twist Again, For...

THE MOODY BLUES INTERVIEWED (2011): Voices in the sky

THE MOODY BLUES INTERVIEWED (2011): Voices in the sky

In the late Sixties, when the boundaries of pop and rock were being extended into jazz and quasi-classical areas, the Moody Blues were one of the most musically innovative and productive groups of the period. Their albums between Days of Future Passed in 67 and Seventh Sojourn in 72 – an extraordinary seven albums in five years...

Jeff Bridges: Jeff Bridges (Blue Note)

Jeff Bridges: Jeff Bridges (Blue Note)

After his multiple awards-winning turn as broken down country singer Bad Blake in Crazy Heart, and the spin-off T Bone Burnett-produced soundtrack, there should be interest in this (also produced by Burnett) where Bridges again sings persuasively on originals and material by John Goodwin, Stephen Bruton (who wrote most of the Crazy Heart...

The Nudge: Big Nudge Pie (Keen)

The Nudge: Big Nudge Pie (Keen)

The primal, almost otherwordly moan most often over a relentless thudding rhythm – the sound of rural blues – or a gutteral growl which harks back to something more primitive have seldom been heard from New Zealand bands. Blues artists here generally aim for the raw edge of Chicago blues or the tough twang of Texas...

The Funky Kings: Singing in the Streets (1976)

The Funky Kings: Singing in the Streets (1976)

So just how pervasive was Bruce Springsteen's influence? One listen to this track by the short-lived Funky Kings from LA would suggest that even by his second album he'd managed to infiltrate the consciousness of these guys. Well, maybe. But the Funky Kings, who only lasted one album, were a supergroup in reverse. Just about all of them...

AMY WINEHOUSE: THE BIOGRAPHY 1983-2011 by CHAS NEWKEY-BURDEN

AMY WINEHOUSE: THE BIOGRAPHY 1983-2011 by CHAS NEWKEY-BURDEN

As with many of my acquaintance, when I heard of Amy Winehouse's death it was with mixed emotions: a gloomy sense of the inevitability of it, sadness and then anger. That weird anger we reserve for those who have committed suicide or gone out in the manner of so many talented people, before their time and by their own actions. Winehouse was...

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...

Maxine Brown: Funny (1961)

Maxine Brown: Funny (1961)

There's something very satisfying about don't-care-anymore songs. The world is awash with the luvvy stuff but every now and again a song comes along which says, "Yep, but I'm over you". An Elsewhere favourite is Solomon King's exceptional Happy Again which really put that grand passion into perspective. Yeah, I loved and I lost...

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...

45 SOUTH IN CONCERT by NEIL McKELVIE (Southland Musicians Club)

45 SOUTH IN CONCERT by NEIL McKELVIE (Southland Musicians Club)

There are a number of big and ambitious books about New Zealand popular music (like Chris Bourke's Blue Smoke and John Dix's Stranded in Paradise) and then there are others which are smaller and more focused in their subject matter, like Roger Watkins' When Rock Got Rolling: The Wellington Scene 1958-70. But this book about music in...

Phil Spector: Wall of Sound; The Very Best of Phil Spector 1961-1966 (Sony Legacy)

Phil Spector: Wall of Sound; The Very Best of Phil Spector 1961-1966 (Sony Legacy)

This judiciously selected, 19-song collection arrives half a century after Spector's distinctive "wall of sound" started to make an impact on the charts and his "little symphonies for the kids" changed the way people thought about how to use a recording studio. And what talent Phil Spector had on his hands at Gold Star...

Duke Robillard: Passport to the Blues (Stony Plain)

Duke Robillard: Passport to the Blues (Stony Plain)

Multiple award winner Robillard founded Roomful of Blues in the late Sixties, was in the Fabulous Thunderbirds and has been playing for more than four decades, and shows no signs of slowing with this fist-tight collection of (mostly) originals. He's toured with Tom Waits (an influence on the gritty Hong Kong Suit, and whose Make It Rain...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Frank Sinatra: In the Wee Small Hours

THE BARGAIN BUY: Frank Sinatra: In the Wee Small Hours

As with jazz artists such as Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonious Monk who had complex careers, so too Frank Sinatra poses a problem for beginners. Where to start? Let's make it simple. You start right here with this album from 1955. In the Wee Small Hours -- only Sinatra's second album, he'd been recording for years but the LP...

Jerry Butler: Mr Dee Jay, I Got A Heartache (1968)

Jerry Butler: Mr Dee Jay, I Got A Heartache (1968)

Jerry Butler, one of the greatest soul singers to emerge out of Chicago, came up through the usual route: gospel in church, inspired by Sam Cooke and the Soul Stirrers, formed a group (the Impressions) and recorded for Vee-Jay down on what was known as Record Row. "Record Row was the scene," he said. "It went from just south...

CHICAGO SOUL, BLUES AND FUNK IN THE SIXTIES: Moving the Chess pieces

CHICAGO SOUL, BLUES AND FUNK IN THE SIXTIES: Moving the Chess pieces

In 2002 after a Rolling Stones concert in Chicago I asked my friend, who lived in the city, to take me down to 2120 South Michigan Avenue, the old home of Chess Records. Aside from wanting to see this legendary place where Howlin' Wolf, Bo Diddley, Etta James, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon once held court, I also half thought...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Amy Winehouse: Back to Black (Universal)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Amy Winehouse: Back to Black (Universal)

If you were one of the few who didn't buy Amy Winehouse's second album Back to Black on release in 2006 you doubtless picked it up when it came out as an expanded edition a couple of years later. Or, failing that, picked up the four-CD box set which coupled the expanded version with her debut Frank and some extra tracks which accompanied that...

Artists unknown: Bastille Rock (1962)

Artists unknown: Bastille Rock (1962)

Curious what tourism authorities believe will attract people, or what methods they might use to achieve a result. Right now many New Zealanders are shaking their heads a little over the promotion of the Rugby World Cup (am I allowed to use that combination of words without permission?) but at least with the games we get tie-ins like that...

The Smithereens: 2011 (eone)

The Smithereens: 2011 (eone)

It was probably helpful for the long-running power-pop/rock Smithereens out of New Jersey to remind themselves what year they are in with this album's title. Their most recent outings have been covers of the Beatles' first US album Meet the Beatles! (Meet the Smithereens!), one of Beatle b-sides then a truncated run through the Who's...

Bruce Springsteen: You're Missing (2002)

Bruce Springsteen: You're Missing (2002)

On the 10th anniversary of 9/11 there are the inevitable think-pieces and essays on how the world was changed by that astonishing act of terrorism. Do people in the West feel more safe for the "war on terror"? How do you measure success in Iraq and Afghanistan? Are civilians in those country more or less secure now?...

Nick Lowe: The Old Magic (Proper)

Nick Lowe: The Old Magic (Proper)

Perhaps after the series of excellence on his albums The Impossible Bird (1994), Dig My Mood ('98, Elsewhere's pick), The Convincer (2001) and At My Age (2007), it was maybe too much to expect the standard from Nick Lowe could remain as high again. But The Old Magic -- while including some beautifully delivered bitter-sweet songs couched in...

Jerry Jeff Walker: Jerry Jeff Walker, Expanded Edition (Raven)

Jerry Jeff Walker: Jerry Jeff Walker, Expanded Edition (Raven)

First released in 1972 and only now available on CD (here expanded with  five extra songs including a 2002 version of his classic Mr Bojangles), this album was one which introduced Texan Walker as part of the left-field non-Nashville country acts of the day alongside Kris Kristofferson, Willie Nelson, Guy Clark and Waylon Jennings. In...

Ann Peebles: I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home (1972)

Ann Peebles: I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home (1972)

Well, if anybody in '72 could break up somebody's home it would have been the steamy Ann Peebles who delivered this classic Memphis soul gem and the following year cemented her reputation with two classics, the much covered and sampled I Can't Stand the Rain and I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down. Peebles originally came from St Louis and...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Bob Dylan; Time Out of Mind (Sony)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Bob Dylan; Time Out of Mind (Sony)

After his erratic recordings of the Eighties -- redeemed only perhaps by Oh Mercy ('89) produced by Daniel Lanois -- Bob Dylan entered a new decade looking like a long-spent force. The impressive three CD set The Bootleg Series Vol 1-3 in '91 only served to re-enforce what a spendthrift of genius he had been. With Good As I Been to You ('92)...

Gary US Bonds: From a Buick 6 (1981)

Gary US Bonds: From a Buick 6 (1981)

Because he was just a great rock'n'soul, one-off belter in that dead air between Elvis-in-the-army and the Beatles-on-Ed Sullivan, there was no reason to think Gary Bonds would have had any second life in rock'n'roll. He was, for many, just a space-filler in history with minor hits like the exceptional Quarter to Three in '61 and . . ....

TREASURES OF THE BEE GEES by BRIAN SOUTHALL (Carlton Books)

TREASURES OF THE BEE GEES by BRIAN SOUTHALL (Carlton Books)

If the Beatles were the greatest songwriters since Schubert as William Mann, the chief music critic of The Times, once asserted (in the very early Sixties, they got better) then what is to be said about the Bee Gees? Brian Wilson's comment that they were "Britain's first family of harmony" when inducting them into the Rock and Roll...

Freaky Meat: Delicatessen (Bright Yellow Beetle Records)

Freaky Meat: Delicatessen (Bright Yellow Beetle Records)

On what has already been described as "one of the unlikeliest liaisons -- in a musical sense -- that you're ever likely to find" (John Brinkman, Groove Guide), Freaky Meat pull together ragged-edge performance poet (Shane Hollands) and a funk-rock rhythm section. It's a debut album which will be something of a revelation for those...

Wooden Shjips: West (Fuse)

Wooden Shjips: West (Fuse)

Wooden Shjips (sic) out of San Francisco once again serve up their particular brand of astral plane psychedelic drone-rock which sounds filtered through steel wool. Their appealing tripped-out grunge sits somewhere along the faultline of their city's Grateful Dead and Jefferson Airplane and a full volume, garageband metal overhaul of...

Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse: Body and Soul (2011)

Tony Bennett and Amy Winehouse: Body and Soul (2011)

Yes, March this year doesn't seem to be digging too far back in the vaults . . . and maybe even that notion of "vaults" might seem a little distasteful to some given Amy Winehouse dying so recently. But here is a measure of the high regard in which she was held by someone who knows his way around a standard, 85-year old Tony...

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Glen Campbell: Ghost on the Canvas (Inertia)

BEST OF ELSEWHERE 2011 Glen Campbell: Ghost on the Canvas (Inertia)

Alongside his Alzheimer's diagnosis and a farewell tour comes this self-announced “final studio album” by the 75-year old legend whose career spans from LA session guitar work in the late 50s as one of the famous Wrecking Crew on Phil Spector productions, to being a touring Beach Boy, solo hits with Jimmy Webb songs and movies...

BOB DYLAN'S THEME TIME RADIO HOUR: Turn your radio on

BOB DYLAN'S THEME TIME RADIO HOUR: Turn your radio on

In the excellent DVD doco The Never Ending Narrative, a legion of rock writing worthies line up to discuss Bob Dylan's remarkable late-career reinvention. Nigel Williamson is both amused and slightly annoyed that not only did Dylan start making some of the best music of his career, but he also took on Williamson's area and proved to be one...

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Jeff Kelly of Green Pajamas

THE FAMOUS ELSEWHERE QUESTIONNAIRE: Jeff Kelly of Green Pajamas

Jeff Kelly from Seattle has made some of the most eerily beautiful and economic psychedelic pop-rock with his long-running band Green Pajamas although his reputation travels below the radar and usually by word of mouth between loyal fans. Kelly/Green Pajamas have released a couple of dozen albums since 1984 (which includes the handsome box...

Green Pajamas: Green Pajamas Country! (Green Monkey Records)

Green Pajamas: Green Pajamas Country! (Green Monkey Records)

Although we have learned that Jeff Kelly of Seattle's Green Pajamas -- a band which has consistently delivers seductive and intelligent paisley-pop grounded in the spirit of the mid-Sixties, see here -- grew up playing country music with his father, this new album is something of a surprise. But a surprise in a good way. With...

JIMI HENDRIX IN 2011: Return to Winterland 1968

JIMI HENDRIX IN 2011: Return to Winterland 1968

From the moment Jimi Hendrix arrived in London in the early hours of September 24 1966 to his death in the same city just a few days short of four years later, he seemed to be constantly moving, playing and recording. He played his first jam in London the night he arrived, and a fortnight later -- after jamming with the Brian Auger Trinity,...

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...

Koko Taylor: Wang Dang Doodle (1960)

Koko Taylor: Wang Dang Doodle (1960)

Although you never need an excuse to play this strutting Willie Dixon-penned classic from Chess Records' studio with the great Koko Taylor growling her way through it, it does seem timely on this very day as Tom Waits' new album Bad As Me has a terrific track inspired in part by its raw spirit. Waits' Satisfied might nod to the Rolling...

Nick Lowe: Dig My Mood (1998)

Nick Lowe: Dig My Mood (1998)

It is coming up close to two decades since Nick Lowe -- once a laddish and witty figure in British rock in the immediate post-punk days -- decided to take the long view on his career and reposition himself. As he told Elsewhere late last year, “Back when I first got noticed in the Seventies it was for being rather irreverent and...

THE BARGAIN BUY: Neil Young; Official Release Series Discs 1-4 (Reprise)

THE BARGAIN BUY: Neil Young; Official Release Series Discs 1-4 (Reprise)

Just as you could argue that on his debut album Are You Experienced, Jimi Hendrix sketched out the map of sounds and styles he would explore in his short career, so you could make the case that on his first four albums Neil Young did much the same for his long career. With the obvious exception of the electro-pop Trans, of course. But...

U2: My unforgettable fire

U2: My unforgettable fire

It was quite a few years ago now but I'll never forget it. U2 damn near killed me. Them, the Arizona sun, a famous architect and tequila actually. It was during their Pop-Mart tour -- the one with the giant Spinal Tap-like lemon -- and I happened to be driving around America. They were scheduled to play at the huge Sun Devil Stadium in...

Donna Summer, Bad Girls (1979)

Donna Summer, Bad Girls (1979)

In musical arguments, as with political ones, the area of grey between the black and white can be as big as the other two combined. History books say you were either a Beatles or a Stones fan, but my friends and I liked them both -- and the Four Tops, the Dave Clark Five, Lou Christie, Sam the Sham, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Roy Orbison...

B.B. King, Live at the Regal (1965)

B.B. King, Live at the Regal (1965)

With his royal surname, a 60-year career which has earned him Godfather status, a sophisticated demeanour and dapper suits, and his own chain of nightclubs it is hard to see BB King as an earthy and edgy blueman: the guy who used to play 300 nights a year, who has fathered at least a dozen children to as many different women, the...

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