Absolute Elsewhere

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

ROBERT SMITH OF THE CURE INTERVIEWED (2001): Hits and the one that missed out

6 Feb 2008  |  5 min read

He's had a day of interviews yet few people have asked Robert Smith of the Cure the obvious. Something to do with the age of those asking the questions, he laughs. The question is simple: The Cure have a Greatest Hits album out - not their first such collection - but there's a notable omission.So Robert, was it the political climate, pressure from the record company, or are you just so sick of... > Read more

BUDDY GUY INTERVIEWED (2001): One of the last men standing

6 Feb 2008  |  6 min read

Oddly enough, this is not the best time to talk to 64-year-old bluesman Buddy Guy - despite him having released Sweet Tea, one of the finest albums in his long career.It is days after the death of his contemporary John Lee Hooker and Guy is understandably philosophical rather than keen to talk up his new album which was, uncharacteristically for this seminal figure in Chicago blues, recorded in... > Read more

NORAH JONES INTERVIEWED (2002 and 2003) AND ALBUM REVIEWS: Great Expectations -- and then some

6 Feb 2008  |  29 min read

Somebody up there obviously likes Norah Jones and blessed her with extraordinary good looks. Those are her cheekbones and ruby lips which have been replicated in their thousands and grace the cover of her album Come Away With Me.  And just in case her looks alone weren't enough to draw attention to this 22-year-old singer/pianist, that somebody up there also blessed her with musical... > Read more

BILL PAYNE OF LITTLE FEAT INTERVIEWED (2001): Feat don't fail me now

6 Feb 2008  |  5 min read  |  1

Bringing up the "famous dead member" is never easy when you are talking to a band. It can seem ghoulish, is most often unnecessary and can result in suddenly finding yourself alone in the room or that telephone tone which says you've just been hung up on, don't bother calling back. When the American band Little Feat lost their founder, main songwriter and slide guitarist Lowell... > Read more

XTC's ANDY PARTRIDGE INTERVIEWED: A man in the middle ages (1999)

6 Feb 2008  |  6 min read

The last time XTC had a new album out, Oasis didn't. In fact Oasis didn't even exist back when Andy Partridge, Colin Moulding and Dave Gregory dropped their assured 1992 album Nonsuch on a world which simply looked the other way. Since then these veterans of the 70s punk-new wave wars have been on strike (their deal with Virgin ensured the company would make money, but they wouldn't) and... > Read more

JOHN PAUL JONES OF LED ZEPPELIN INTERVIEWED (2003): The songs remain reissued

6 Feb 2008  |  13 min read

They might have been the biggest band in the world at the time, but they were openly despised, ignored or condemned by critics. Even later, after the shouting had died and a clearer perspective was possible, Dave Marsh, one of America's most venerated rock writers, couldn't resist another attack.He damned one of their classic songs as "the most vulgar record in [rock history]" and... > Read more

TIM AND JEFF BUCKLEY: Their short musical legacy (2004)

6 Feb 2008  |  4 min read

The shoreline beneath the Memphis Visitors Centre -- with its massive statues of Elvis and BB King -- isn't that appealing. There's a rocky bank scattered with litter leading down to Wolf River, a sliver of thick water between the city and Mud Island, renowned for its swirling eddies and unpredictable undercurrents. You wouldn't want to swim in dirty and dangerous Wolf River, least of all... > Read more

RANDY NEWMAN INTERVIEWED (1999): What's the Buzz?

6 Feb 2008  |  5 min read

Randy Newman is a problem in popular culture, a man misplaced into the rock textbooks simply because there's nowhere else to put him. He's part of rock culture by association (his albums are reviewed in rock magazines) but more correctly he's an ironic, acerbic songwriter who has populated his songs with an extraordinary collection of bigots, misfits, racists and cynics for three decades.He... > Read more

YOKO ONO INTERVIEWED, THE TOURING LENNON ART EXHIBITION (1997) In his own draw

5 Feb 2008  |  7 min read

For anyone who has only experienced her singing -- which slews wildly between a visceral scream of anguish and an orgasmic howl -- Yoko Ono’s remarkably quiet speaking voice, barely above a whisper, comes as a surprise. And this week as she talks about art and music from her home in New York it is aggravated by a cold and initially reduced to being almost inaudible. “I’ll... > Read more

PAUL SIMON INTERVIEWED (2000) The Attraction of Opposites

5 Feb 2008  |  11 min read

Paul Simon calls from New York 15 minutes early, polite and apologetic. He needs to put the kids to bed -- his three children aged 7, 5 and 2 with his third wife, 34-year-old singer-songwriter Edie Brickell -- and read them stories. Could he call back in maybe an hour and a quarter?And, as you might expect from the man's almost obsessive, meticulously crafted music, punctually 75 minutes... > Read more

PATTI SMITH INTERVIEWED (1998): On the road again

5 Feb 2008  |  19 min read

The first phone call to Patti Smith at home in New York catches her weary and breathless. She's apologetic but disarmingly courteous. It's been quite a few years since I've been called "sir" and never, that I recall, by someone from rock'n'roll culture.   But it is also an inconvenient time to talk she says. She's been working all day, it's now 5.30 pm and she wants to do... > Read more

STEVE EARLE INTERVIEWS (2004, 2002): A hero on the homefront . . . and relevant album reviews

5 Feb 2008  |  25 min read

By 2004, Steve Earle could reflect on a career and life which had been one of the most extraordinary in American music. He crashed into country music with his 1986 classic rockin' country album Guitar Town then spun through a drug-fuelled downward spiral which earned him a prison term in the early 90s. He emerged a stronger man, vocal advocate of free speech persuasively arguing against... > Read more

BEATLEMANIA IN '64: Good times and bad politics

5 Feb 2008  |  4 min read

Some photographs are deafening. Consider the images of American kids screaming at the Beatles in late 1964. Even now, more than four decades later, those who remember the times or have seen the footage will hear an inexplicable noise as if it were alive and ear-shattering right now. Beatlemania from this historical distance -- a world of moshpits, gangsta rap killings and bellicose stadium... > Read more

The sound of Beatlemania

BRIAN EPSTEIN: Behind the music (2002)

5 Feb 2008  |  3 min read

When Brian Epstein died in August 1967 at the age of 32, he was one of the most famous men in Britain. His death by an accidental overdose of prescription drugs made the front page of newspapers at home and abroad. Yet a mere five years earlier Epstein was known only to a few close friends and family in his native Liverpool where he managed a popular record shop as part of the family... > Read more

BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN, THE TRACKS BOX SET (1998): The creation, rise and redemption of the Boss

5 Feb 2008  |  11 min read

For Bruce Springsteen -- born in the unpromisingly named town of Freehold, New Jersey, in the promised land of America -- rock 'n' roll was the redemptive force which delivered him from his working-class existence in the "20 years of schoolin' and they put you on the day shift" world Bob Dylan once sang of. Springsteen is a Horatio Alger story -- with a backbeat. But he also... > Read more

Bruce Springsteen: Johnny Bye-Bye

BOB DYLAN: PORTRAIT OF THE YOUNG MAN ARTIST AT 60 (2001): The road goes on forever . . . and ever

2 Feb 2008  |  6 min read

The guitarist G. E. Smith must have great stories to tell. For a little over two years in the late 80s he was, for want a better description, Bob Dylan's band leader.During those difficult years when Dylan was emotionally adrift, Smith would audition players and introduce them to a repertoire of well over 100 songs, and replace members as some inevitably dropped out or Dylan would obliquely... > Read more

LUCINDA WILLIAMS INTERVIEWED (2007): Out of the Blue

29 Jan 2008  |  7 min read

Almost 20 years ago on her self-titled album, Lucinda Williams sang Am I Too Blue, a penetratingly drained song about loneliness and self-doubt. If it hadn’t been for some flashes of jangling pop and a few light-hearted romps in the intervening years, the essence of Am I Too Blue and its honest weariness might stand as Williams’ signature emotion in an impressive if small body of... > Read more

THE BEE GEES INTERVIEWED (1999). Inside Hitsville FLA

23 Jan 2008  |  26 min read

South Beach in Miami where tanned, bodies beautiful in stamp-sized bikinis parade the boardwalk, the sky is permablue and as you lie in the warm ocean watching the sun set over pastel Art Deco buildings you can hear the distant sound of Cuban music wafting from a seaside bar in the humid night air.Miami, USA. A great place for a holiday - and not bad if you have to work here either.And... > Read more

ELVIS PRESLEY (2007): Merchandising, marketing and maybe some music?

22 Jan 2008  |  4 min read

So Elvis is back in the building? That’s the impression we must draw on the 30th anniversary of his death with the announcement of plans to expand the visitor’s centre in Memphis. As part of some grand design the current centre will be bowled and a new one -- seven times the size of his home of Graceland across the road -- will be built. And some kind of 3D hologram imaging will... > Read more

CHARMAINE NEVILLE INTERVIEWED (2000): Who's in a name?

20 Jan 2008  |  3 min read

Sometimes, as with those Lennon children Sean and Julian, and of course Bob Marley's offspring, you just have to live  -- sometimes live up to -- with the name you've been bron into. A help . . .  but a hindrance no doubt.  Yes, the name was an issue when she started, says singer Charmaine Neville, daughter of Neville Brothers' saxophonist Charles and one of the... > Read more