From the Vaults

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Joan Baez: James and the Gang (1987)

14 Apr 2017  |  1 min read

Recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Joan Baez has written very few original songs but after her painful separation in '73 from her activist husband David Harris – who had been imprisoned for refusing to be drafted into the army – she raised their son Gabriel who mostly lived with her. In the Eighties Gabe, as he was known and is now drummer in her touring band,... > Read more

Gerry Mulligan: Mr Tambourine Man (1965)

10 Apr 2017  |  1 min read

By the mid Sixties the once-popular jazz had been pushed to the margins of mainstream interest by the arrival of pop culture in the form the Beatles, the British Invasion and then the American response of the Turtles, Byrds and many other bands. And of course by Bob Dylan whose literary sensibilities and political subtexts proved that popular music could be about something more than... > Read more

Dinah Shore: The Gypsy (1946)

23 Mar 2017  |  1 min read

Here's a pub quiz question for you: What was so remarkable about the song The Gypsy in the year 1946? And the answer isn't that it's sentimental pop. That was an odd year in American popular music. The war had just ended and people went back to work, including the musicians who had been on strike until late '44. But you'd have to also say there was no great... > Read more

Delroy Wilson: Mash Up Illiteracy (1974)

20 Mar 2017  |  <1 min read

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 positive. He did also deliver withering Lee Scratch... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Things We Said Today (2014)

13 Mar 2017  |  1 min read

Given the breadth and depth of his catalogue – even if we remove maybe 60 percent of the sentimental journeyman tripe – Sir James Paul McCartney deserved a much more interesting and digressive tribute than the mostly mundane double disc Art of McCartney of 2014. Despite the stellar line-up, many of the artists simply played Paul at his own game (using McCartney's touring... > Read more

Ebba Gron: Staten och kapitalet (1980)

6 Mar 2017  |  1 min read

The regular postings at From the Vaults have previously picked up this punk band from Sweden and although their single Scheisse in '81 went higher on the local charts (to number three) this is perhaps the song they are most known for. It is a furious tirade against capitalism and corporations, and they certainly seemed to be in the vanguard of something in conservative and state-controlled... > Read more

Mahalia Jackson: Consider Me (1953)

27 Feb 2017  |  <1 min read

Although widely recognised as the greatest of all American gospel singers and a prominent civil rights activist, Mahalia Jackson (1911 - 72) also flirted with some crossover chart success. Her mentor and main songwriter was Thomas A Dorsey who found salvation after recovering from an illness. He left behind the juke joints and rent parties and in 1930 started to write gospel songs, among... > Read more

Otis Blackwell: Daddy Rollin' Stone (1953)

24 Feb 2017  |  <1 min read

Otis Blackwell is best known as a songwriter, and he was one the most prominent and best in the rock'n'roll era. Among his classics were Fever, All Shook Up, Don't Be Cruel, Great Balls of Fire, Return to Sender . . .  But he was, at the start of his career, a performer himself and the slinky Daddy Rollin' Stone was his single which influenced the likes of Leiber and Stoller.... > Read more

Brews Springsteen: Shoot Me in the Dark (1988)

23 Feb 2017  |  <1 min read

More correctly this should be attributed to "artist unknown" but this bent cover appeared on an SST album from the late Eighties of which I only have a test pressing. Others on it are Revolution 409 doing the Osmonds' Crazy Horses, Celebrity Skin (Abba's SOS), I Love You (Burning' Love), Chemical People (It's Not Unusual) and so on. The biggest names are Sonic Youth and Das... > Read more

Bruce Springsteen: Born to Run (alternate version, 1975)

21 Feb 2017  |  <1 min read  |  3

Back in 1978 when he played the Roxy in LA for a three and half hour concert that was being broadcast live, Bruce Springsteen famously said, "all them bootleggers out there in radioland, roll your tapes". Well, people did and those tapes became legendary (you can hear a good recording here) and Springsteen became one of the most bootlegged artists out there. Dozens and... > Read more

Ringo Starr: Early 1970 (1970)

13 Feb 2017  |  1 min read

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 irony -- the drummer who wasn't much cop as a... > Read more

Chubby Checker: You Better Believe It Baby (1964)

6 Feb 2017  |  1 min read

Poor Chubby Checker. In thge popular imagination andf the history books he is forever associated with the early Sixties dance craze the Twist. In a sense he also only had himself to blame. After his letter perfect cover of  Hank Ballard's '58 flipside The Twist in '60, the former chicken plucker from Philadelphia rode the twist train for all it was worth. He recorded L:et's Twist Again... > Read more

Public Image Limited; Death Disco (1979)

6 Feb 2017  |  <1 min read

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 extraordinary, cathartic and emotionally bruising... > Read more

Son House: Levee Camp Moan (1970)

30 Jan 2017  |  1 min read  |  3

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 sessions from some 20 years previous were reissued... > Read more

Young John Watson: Space Guitar (1954)

27 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

It's become common to hail Fifties out-there guitarists like surf king Dick Dale, Link Wray and others . . . but the man who became the great Johnny "Guitar" Watson has been somewhat sidelined. In the mid-to-late Seventies this journeyman -- who had done the hard roads with Little Richard, the wonderful rock'n'roll/soul shouter Larry Williams, Johnny Otis and many other greats --... > Read more

The Merrymen: Saigon Girls (late Sixties/exact date unknown)

27 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

Anyone who has watched Armed Forces television broadcast to American military personnel abroad -- often conclaves of very young men and women on bases which are like gated communities with all the home-comfort US amentities from grocery stores selling candy bars to movie theatres screening the recent Hollywood movies -- will recognise the veiled fear and warning behind this song. The... > Read more

Roy Orbison: She Wears My Ring ( 1962)

23 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

If anyone could have the operatic reach for She Wears My Ring it was the big-voiced Solomon King who scored a hit with it in 1968. Trained as a cantor, King was a balladeer of the old style (although his Happy Again is hilarious, you could imagine Groucho Marx dancing along like a demented puppet). Elvis also covered the song in '73. Neither were the first to undertake it, and in... > Read more

Hank Williams Jr: Don't Give Us a Reason (1990)

20 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

War is good for business (if you are part of the military-industrial complex), but also a fine time for stay-at-home patriots to get bellicose . . . among them songwriters who can reduce heroism to cliches and danger to duty. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in '90 the American songs about it came thick and fast. Sometimes pretty thick. There was Penny Gilley's Line Drawn in the... > Read more

Elvis Presley: Edge of Reality (1968)

16 Jan 2017  |  1 min read

By the time Elvis Presley's execrable film Live a Little Love a Little – he plays a photographer/Lothario – was released in '68 he was a man rendered irrelevant by the rapidly changing times. The film attempted to get hip more than a year on from the Summer of Love and Sgt Peppers. While some people were tuning in, turning on and dropping out, Elvis was still doing his... > Read more

The Avengers: Waterpipe (1968)

5 Dec 2016  |  1 min read

Warwick Freeman's useful book New Zealand Top 20 Singles of the Sixties confirms – using his formula – that Wellington's Avengers were one of the most successful bands of the decade. They charted five top 10 singles, among them the number two hit Love Hate Revenge, and using Freeman's ranking system were one of only four local acts in the top 50 of the Sixties. With... > Read more