Absolute Elsewhere

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OVER THE RHINE INTERVIEWED (2013): At home in a place called Nowhere

30 Sep 2013  |  8 min read

The phonecall catches Linford Detweiler of the American band Over the Rhine in the lobby of a hotel in Iowa City, kids are screaming in the background and when he ambles outside to try and find the tour bus the air is pierced by sirens. “Wow,” he laughs, “maybe Iowa City is pretty interesting after all.” With his other half in Over the Rhine, Karin... > Read more

Highland County

WILLIS EARL BEAL INTERVIEWED (2013): The reluctant Nobody who knows

27 Sep 2013  |  12 min read  |  1

In that broad spectrum of characters, craziness and genius in popular culture – from Mormon rockers to gun-carrying hip-hoppers – Willis Earl Beal is unique. And it's not for his backstory which involves medical discharge from the military, itinerancy and a period of homelessness, recording dozens of songs cheaply and giving them away before being discovered by Found... > Read more

ROKY ERICKSON AGAIN (2013): After getting off the elevator

23 Sep 2013  |  4 min read  |  2

The pleasure of seeing Roky Erickson when he came to New Zealand is 2012 was that he was Roky Erickson, and he was in New Zealand. Just a few years before, given Erickson's damaged mental state, few would have counted on that happening. As a friend said a week out from the show, "I'll buy a ticket when I know he's on the plane". Having just interviewed Erickson I said,... > Read more

I Have Always Been Here Before

ELVIS COSTELLO INTERVIEWED (2013): And he's differently the same

20 Sep 2013  |  14 min read  |  1

Although Elvis Costello will tell me “I haven't accrued a massive fortune but am well off and have a degree of freedom of movement”, you suspect he quite likes upsetting whatever preconceptions people bring to his albums. So when it was revealed his new one Wise Up Ghost would find him working with the American instrumental hip-hop group the Roots, he guessed what people... > Read more

Stick Out Your Tongue

TAMA WAIPARA INTERVIEWED (2013): Hope you like my new direction

16 Sep 2013  |  8 min read

About 10 minutes into a wide-ranging conversation with Tama Waipara – genial, self-effacing without false humility, and a ferociously gifted musician – we finally get around to talking specifically about his new album Fill Up the Silence. I compliment him on making “an album” (reviewed here) and define my terms: a series of distinctive and separate songs that... > Read more


BOB DYLAN, THE ART OF SELF PORTRAITS (2013): More back pages

2 Sep 2013  |  4 min read  |  1

For most people, Bob Dylan arrived as fast as lightning and with the power of a hurricane. Fifty years ago last week – fewer than 18 months after his largely ignored debut album – Bob Dylan was at Martin Luther King's famous March on Washington. King delivered his famous “I have a dream speech” and Dylan sang When the Ship Comes In (with Joan Baez) and a solo... > Read more

Went to See the Gypsy

GARETH LIDDIARD OF THE DRONES INTERVIEWED (2013): Existential and everyday horrors

2 Sep 2013  |  10 min read  |  1

Australia's outsider rock band The Drones – essentially a vehicle for singer-songwriter Gareth Liddiard aka Gaza – have survived against the odds. They've been through changes of physical location (founded in Perth, ended up in Melbourne), litigation which saw their album Wait Long By The River And The Bodies Of Your Enemies Will Float By in 2010 held up for a year, a... > Read more

Nine Eyes

BELLE AND SEBASTIAN CONSIDERED (2013): A journey of light and shade

30 Aug 2013  |  3 min read

In a world awash with attention-demanding acts like Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Queens of the Stone Age and so on, it's inevitable that many artists – the more discreet ones usually – go right past most people, even if they've had long and creditable careers. One such band is Glasgow's delightful Belle and Sebastian whose thoughtful albums – eight studio releases, a live... > Read more

Your Secrets

SNEAKY FEELINGS CONSIDERED (2013): The Nuns that really flew

23 Aug 2013  |  3 min read

Although Flying Nun was renowned as a label for indie bands (“college rock” as they were known in the States in the Eighties), there were always those on the roster who had a pure pop heart beating: none more so than Sneaky Feelings (1980-89). Along with Martin Phillipps in the Chills and Andrew Brough who brought gorgeous melodies into the early Straitjacket Fits, Matthew... > Read more

LEE HAZLEWOOD REVISITED (2013): Whisky and honey

19 Aug 2013  |  4 min read  |  1

When the producer/songwriter and distinctive singer Lee Hazlewood relocated to Sweden at the end of the Sixties -- he said so his son wouldn't get drafted and end up in Vietnam -- it marked the close of a remarkable decade, and perhaps the last most people heard of that oak-barrel baritone which he used on duets with Nancy Sinatra, for whom he wrote her massive seller These Boots Are Made for... > Read more

The Girl on Death Row

ELVIS PRESLEY (2013): The King is gone but he's not forgotten

16 Aug 2013  |  4 min read

When John Lennon was told in August 1977 that Elvis Presley had died, he apparently said, “Elvis died when he went into the army”. That comment is glib, dismissive and inaccurate. But we know what he means. Elvis the rebel rock figure who shook up popular music in the mid Fifties with That's All Right Mama, Blue Moon of Kentucky, Hound Dog, Heartbreak Hotel, Blue Suede... > Read more

It's Different Now (rehearsal)

ROTOR+ CONSIDERED (2013): A beautiful journey into the black

12 Aug 2013  |  5 min read

For many decades Avis, the international rental car outfit, had slogans which were variations on its position as number two in the market. Among them was “When you're only No 2, you try harder”. To advertise its ethic the company promoted itself with “We try harder” buttons . . . and it worked. People like it when others make an effort on their behalf. ... > Read more

End: A Boundary and An Edge

JAMES BROWN REVISITED (2013): The Godfather, Parts I, II and III

9 Aug 2013  |  2 min read

If you never saw him at his peak, it's hard to imagine how exciting the late James Brown must have been in concert. I saw him twice when he was past his best, although that first time . . . It was New York in the early 90s and he was at the NBC Radio City Theatre and – having spent the previous day ambling around the famous Apollo Theatre – I couldn't believe my luck at... > Read more

I'll Go Crazy

THE LATE GREAT TOWNES VAN ZANDT, AGAIN (2013): The troubled and troubling troubadour

31 Jul 2013  |  3 min read

When I interviewed Townes Van Zandt in 1988, I had to ask him about his '73 album, The Late Great Townes Van Zandt, the title of which was written in a stark Gothic typeface above a black'n'white photo of him at some emotional and physical distance. He looked a remote figure hunched awkwardly in a corner. It seemed a typically mordant move on his behalf, a man whose lyrics were steeped... > Read more

Snow Don't Fall

THE CLEAN, VEHICLE (2013): Running again at 33 1/3rpm

30 Jul 2013  |  3 min read

By the closing years of the Eighties, Flying Nun -- which had got off to such a brilliant start -- was in trouble, businesswise. The little label that flew had -- like Icarus -- gone too high too fast and had had its wings burned. It was just putting out too many records too quickly and couldn't keep up with demand, had a cash-flow problem and distribution issues (overseas you couldn't get... > Read more

Diamond Shine

SHADOW MORTON (1941-2013): Who knows? The Shadow knows

29 Jul 2013  |  3 min read

Only a fiction writer could make up the life of New York's George Morton, the man who got his nickname "Shadow"  because he would simply disappear from work for days at time and whose private life few knew anything of. He was a diligent alcoholic (until hitting a Betty Ford Clinic in the Eighties) and doubtless that explained some of the disappearances. But it was when he was... > Read more

Remember (Walking in the Sand)

WINGS OVER AMERICA (2013): Flying again, but with excess baggage

20 Jul 2013  |  3 min read  |  1

When Paul McCartney was approached by Bob Geldof to appear at Live Aid in 1985 he was understandably nervous. He not only didn't have a band – and he'd always been in bands – but he hadn't played live in six years after breaking up Wings which he felt had run its course. It's easy to make jokes about Wings (as Allan Partridge famously did) but rather harder to ignore just... > Read more

Maybe I'm Amazed (Cow Palace)

JOE BOYD INTERVIEWED (2013): The Zelig of the zeitgeist

1 Jul 2013  |  13 min read

In 2005 Joe Boyd published his memoir, White Bicycles, of what he did in the Sixties. At the end he wrote; “I cheated. I never got too stoned. I became the eminence gris I aspired to be, and disproved at least one Sixties myth: I was there and I do remember”. Where he was and what he remembered was extraordinary. As an educated son of the American university system, he... > Read more

Teddy Thompson

BOBBY WHITLOCK CONSIDERED (2013): Sideman at centrestage

28 Jun 2013  |  5 min read

If rock listeners know keyboard player, guitarist and songwriter Bobby Whitlock at all, it's because he was in Derek and the Dominos, the band in which the Derek was Eric Clapton and delivered the exceptional album Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs in 1970 . . . before drugs and disagreements saw them implode rapidly. On that album Whitlock co-wrote five of the 14 songs with Clapton, and... > Read more

A Day Without Jesus (with Harrison and Clapton)

CLASSIC GIRL GROUPS (2013): All the fine young elles

24 Jun 2013  |  3 min read

Even in a very long list of great groups there will be omissions. And today, despite constant reissue programmes, repackaging and a trawling of the backwaters of pop music's past, there can still be amnesia when it comes to some of the most important groups of an era. The Shirelles, for example, have gone woefully overlooked given how many hits they sprang, how they defined a sound and a... > Read more