Absolute Elsewhere

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THE ROLLING STONES, AN ESSAY: Living in Memory Motel

20 Oct 2007  |  4 min read

If memory serves me still, it was schoolmate Chris Gilbert and I who went to see the Stones together at Auckland's Civic Theatre on March 1, 1966. I know I wore a black polo-necked sweater (of the kind that Stones Brian Jones and Keith Richard favoured), and that the show, while not actually changing my life, had a profound --and not entirely favourable -- effect on me.Even as a spotty... > Read more

The Rolling Stones: What A Shame (1964)

JOHNNY CASH REMEMBERED 2006: Solitary, and singular, man

20 Oct 2007  |  4 min read

The last photographs of Johnny Cash told their own story: the thinning grey hair, the once tough jaw bent out of shape by years of painful dental surgery, the lines which spoke of a world-weariness. And the ineffable sadness in those dark eyes as if he was looking into the beyond where he would once again be with his wife June, who died just nine weeks before Johnny passed on in September 2003.... > Read more


20 Oct 2007  |  11 min read

From the back row of Chicago's United Centre, about four storeys above the stage, Mick Jagger - not the biggest of men anyway - is the size of a matchstick held at arm's length.But even without his roadmap features projected on the screen behind him, this is undeniable Mick. He struts'n'thrusts across the stage and still possesses that animal sexuality he learned from watching Tina Turner... > Read more

JOHN CALE INTERVIEWED (2005): Flipping the Velvet

20 Oct 2007  |  7 min read

At the end of a digressive conversation with John Cale, I thank him for his time then add, "and I didn't even mention The Other Band". Cale -- Welsh, classically trained and fiercely intellectual -- lets go a baritone chuckle and says, "and thank you" -- then makes his escape, as if fearing inevitable questions about it may come. The Other Band was The Velvet Underground.... > Read more

IGGY POP AND THE STOOGES, AGAIN: Loud, fast and out of control

20 Oct 2007  |  4 min read

A few years ago, a cartoon in a rock magazine captured the essence of the Stooges. It showed a guy in headphones whose head had exploded and his friend in the other room saying over his shoulder, "So what do you think of the remastered version of Raw Power?" The Stooges, fronted by Iggy Pop, delivered that kind of sonic intensity on albums like their drug-addled, self-titled debut in... > Read more


13 Oct 2007  |  8 min read

In an airless room backstage at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre after the concert, Australian promoter and entrepreneur Michael Gudinski is buzzing. "Wasn't that bloody fantastic?" he says to no one in particular. "I want that set list," and he reaches for his phone. Minutes later a guy appears at the door with it. Gudinski scans the 20 or so songs then says, "Only... > Read more

STEPHEN STILLS INTERVIEWED (2007): The fuller figured star

15 Sep 2007  |  4 min read

Call it Californication if you like, but there are a lot of 70s singer-songwriters from the sun-tanned state around right now: Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and the re-formed Eagles all have new albums out (Shine, Chrome Dreams II and Long Road Out of Eden respectively), and America -- the British-based masters of Cali-styled soft-rock who borrowed heavily from Young -- are touring soon. So are... > Read more

STEVIE NICKS OF FLEETWOOD MAC INTERVIEWED (2006): Actually, not such a gypsy queen

17 Aug 2007  |  22 min read

Stevie Nicks -- the fairie queen singer in Fleetwood Mac -- is in a plush Melbourne hotel room ready to go off to another soundcheck. In a few days she will perform her ethereal songs with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, but "the waiting" -- as her old friend Tom Petty once offered, and with whom she sang on the memorable Stop Draggin' My Hear Around-- is "the hardest... > Read more

TONY ORLANDO INTERVIEWED (2007): First career over at 18, second still going . . .

15 Aug 2007  |  3 min read

About 45 fascinating minutes into what could have been just a 10 minute knock-off interview with Tony Orlando -- best known for the early Seventies hits Knock Three Times and Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree with the group Dawn -- I say, “Wow, you are about two degrees of separation from my record collection”. Orlando laughs like a drain. But it is true.... > Read more

DAVID CROSBY INTERVIEWED (2007): Survivor stories

14 Aug 2007  |  10 min read

The life of 65-year old David Crosby is an open book. In fact, it is two open books.   In the late 80s Crosby wrote his autobiography Long Time Gone which, in compelling detail, outlined his career from a Greenwich Village folk singer to being a founding member of the Byrds, his friendships with the Beatles and Bob Dylan, being fired from the Byrds and forming Crosby, Still and Nash... > Read more

JIMMY WEBB INTERVIEWED (2005). The songwriter's songwriter

13 Aug 2007  |  18 min read

When Jimmy Webb, one of the most sophisticated and successful songwriters of his generation, speaks of making music it is like eavesdropping on genius. And that is what he is considered to be by his peers and those who have followed his long career. Before he was 21 Webb had already written some of pop’s most enduring songs, including By The Time I Get To Phoenix (which Frank Sinatra... > Read more


10 Aug 2007  |  5 min read

Thirty years on from his spectacular debut '77 album My Aim is True, released at the height of the UK punk era -- Elvis Costello's most recent albums (four in fewer than three years) had been as follows: Il Sogno, a classical album with the London Symphony Orchestra written for a ballet; Piano Jazz with 89-year old jazz pianist Marian McPartland; My Flame Burns Blue, a live album of old hits... > Read more


7 Aug 2007  |  18 min read

The bare facts in any encyclopaedia of rock can't even approach what Pere Ubu out of Cleveland in the late 70s have been about. They once described themselves as the sound of things falling apart. That was close.To hear frontman David Thomas tell it however they are the mainstream and everyone else has deviated."Rock music from the 50s to the 70s was a straight line of growing complexity... > Read more


28 Jul 2007  |  18 min read

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones, in a hotel in Tokyo, calls an hour after the appointed time but his manager has previously been full of apologies, and fielding three phone calls simultaneously. Richards is polite, friendly and his conversation is peppered with laughter which sounds like marbles rattling around in the bottom of a muddy barrel. 'Ello, 'ello, Graham Hi Keith, how are you... > Read more

STEVEN VAN ZANDT INTERVIEWED (2003): The punks and the godfather

19 Jul 2007  |  24 min read

Silvio Dante, Tony Soprano's loyal soldier and owner of the famous Bada Bing strip club, is in the lobby bar of a Sydney hotel and, as you might expect, a lot of people are looking at him. Menacing and permanently pouting, Silvio wears silk shirts, loud ties, great suits and gold chains. And that hat of motionless black hair which gives even the most ill-fitting wigs a good name. But on... > Read more

BOB DYLAN: A CAREER OVERVIEW (2007): Yes, do look back

14 Jul 2007  |  8 min read

At 66, Bob Dylan has been through many musical changes in the course of his career, from fresh-faced young folkie to senior statesman of his generation. He's been folk, what we now call alt.folk, folk rock, psychedelic rock, rock’n’roll, country, alt.country, troubadour, country and western . . . And he made movies, changed hats and jackets as often as he changed his musical... > Read more


6 Jul 2007  |  16 min read  |  1

For a man who changed the landscape of rock -- and not so coincidentally my life -- his last resting place looks extremely modest. It is late 2002 and I am standing at a simple plaque in the grass with only a single glass of fading flowers on it. There are no visitors here other than me and my companion Tommy, a Norwegian music journalist from Los Angeles. A few minutes ago I walked into... > Read more

The Jimi Hendrix Experience: Purple Haze

DALVANIUS PRIME REMEMBERED (2002): from little things, big things grow

1 Jul 2007  |  2 min read

It's a fair if not entirely original observation that the late Dalvanius Prime made an immediate impression. I'll never forget the day we shook hands in Patea. The big man was, typically, wearing his body-hugging pink tracksuit. Back at his modest, almost alarmingly small home he showed me his memorabilia and treasures, and was especially proud of the magnificent image of King Tut... > Read more

RONNIE SPECTOR INTERVIEWED: Time has come today (2006)

5 Jun 2007  |  4 min read

Steven Van Zandt of Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band said it best: " 'Everybody love Ronnie.' It's the first bylaw of rock'n'roll." Ronnie Spector, lead singer of the archetypal 60s girl-group the Ronettes, defined the exuberant spirit of pre-Beatles American rock'n'roll through the alchemy of a street-wise image adopted from Spanish girls in her New York neighbourhood, a sensual... > Read more


5 Apr 2007  |  2 min read

When Keith Richards fell out of that palm tree -- or fell off a stump as we later heard -- he was hospitalised in Auckland and underwent brain surgery. Given the seriousness of his condition and his age it was widely anticipated at the Herald that he might not survive, so in addition to having the "official" obituary ready to go I was asked to write something personal about the guy.... > Read more

The Rolling Stones: You Got the Silver (live, 2006)