From the Vaults

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David Bowie: This Is Not America (1985)

18 Jan 2021  |  <1 min read

Accidentally catching David Bowie in Labyrinth on television recently reminded just how much he put himself about for a while there. Recording Peter and the Wolf, singing the Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby, strutting with Mick Jagger for Dancing in the Street, the Absolute Beginners and When the Wind Blows soundtracks, knocking off stuff for Labyrinth which allowed him to dance in very... > Read more

Massiel: La La La (1968)

4 Jan 2021  |  1 min read

In 1968 middle-class, middle-aged (and some kids) Britain held a collective breath. That year the Eurovision Song Contest was being hosted at the Royal Albert Hall, after a bare-footed Sandie Shaw had won it the previous year with Puppet on a String. This time success was assured because the committee had put up Britain's favourite pop star Cliff Richard . . . and the song chosen was... > Read more

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

23 Dec 2020  |  <1 min read

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. For this B-side however they went even... > Read more

William Burroughs: What Washington? What orders? (1953)

6 Dec 2020  |  <1 min read

As guest writer Andrew Schmidt noted in his Other Voices Other Rooms piece on writer William Burroughs, his influence has been profound on many areas of the arts. We might also note that he had an astute and cynical eye and ear for global politics, as in this reading from his collection Exterminator! The idea of the hologram British royal family in a television serial/soap opera might... > Read more

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

30 Nov 2020  |  <1 min read

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 -- was singing "press my button, give my bell a... > Read more

Art Pepper: Smack Up (1960)

23 Nov 2020  |  <1 min read

Art Pepper hardly hid his dependency, so he must have been amusingly drawn to the title of this piece by Harold Land. Pepper had already served time for heroin possesion but after the sessions for the album of this name, he would be in and out of San Quentin on almost consecutive terms for a long time. It would be almost 15 years before he made any kind of serious comeback to jazz -- on... > Read more

Billy Brooks: The Jagged Edge (1974)

9 Nov 2020  |  <1 min read

Not a lot of people could say they were signed to Ray Charles' label and had the great man himself there co-producing with them. Enter longtime trumpeter Billy Brooks who could not only claim that but had done time in Charles' band and also played with Lionel Hampton, Cal Tjader and others. Brooks had very good company on his Windows of My Mind album which comes on with the swinging... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Take Me As I Am (1970)

2 Nov 2020  |  2 min read  |  5

When it was confirmed in 2013 that the next installment in Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series would be a revisit to the Self Portrait period (and a few years either side it would seem) it seemed courageous. That double album from 1970 was met with critical derision at the time ("Greil Marcus' Rolling Stone review famously opened with "What is this shit?") because it was a somewhat... > Read more

LaVern Baker: Soul on Fire (1953)

12 Oct 2020  |  <1 min read

In her long life -- she died in '97 age 67 -- LaVern Baker (born Delores Baker) sang everything from blues -- she started as Little Miss Sharecropper in Chicago -- through soulful ballads, jazz, fairly vacuous pop (see clip), creditable covers of Bessie Smith . . . And this minor classic included in the soundtrack to the '87 film Angel Heart and which could have brought her to attention... > Read more

John Lennon: I'm Losing You (1980)

20 Sep 2020  |  <1 min read

The remastered Lennon catalogue (released on the anniversary of what would have been his 70th birthday in 2010) naturally allowed a reconsideration of some of his material. (See essay here.) This song -- when it appeared on Double Fantasy, see clip -- had a brooding quality and the anger seemed self-directed. But this version, taken from the Lennon Anthology set of 2003, reveals a very... > Read more

Stan Freberg and Daws Butler: Elderly Man River (1957)

24 Aug 2020  |  <1 min read

The best satire is timeless because it pokes fun at human frailties and foibles, and the most pompous and authoritarian among us. These days we don't hear quite so much from “the grammar police” (although don't get me started on the those who use potential instead of possible) but they are still out there and – when conjoined with the new generation of woke... > Read more

Neil Young/Pearl Jam: I'm the Ocean (1995)

21 Aug 2020  |  <1 min read  |  1

Some hardcore grunge fans (read: Nirvana devotees still mourning the suicide of Kurt Cobain the previous year) didn't warm to the Mirror Ball album which paired “the godfather of grunge” Neil Young with Pearl Jam (whom many Nirvana fans thought were just a hard rock band coat-tailing the Seattle/grunge scene). However the album got pretty good reviews and very sound sales... > Read more

Ginsberg/McCartney/Kaye/Glass/Mansfield/Ribot: Ballad of the Skeletons (1996)

17 Aug 2020  |  1 min read

Here's an unlikely supergroup: poet Allen Ginsberg with Paul McCartney and Lenny Kaye (of the Patti Smith Group and Nuggets fame) and others. Now they may not have all been in the same room for this seven minute-plus piece in which Ginsberg nailed down the “moral majority”, Christian conservatives, right wing types all persuasions as well as those on the Left.... > Read more

Big Daddy: Within You Without You (1992)

13 Aug 2020  |  <1 min read

Recently Elsewhere retrieved from our vaults a drone-folk version of George Harrison's Within You Without You by the American singer-songwriter Stephanie Dosen. It was interesting and she was serious. Big Daddy, a kind of retro doo-wop/satirical ensemble who did a tribute to Sgt Pepper, certainly aren't. So here they take Harrison's song into a cool, late Fifties coffee bar-cum-club... > Read more

Paul McCartney: Rainclouds (1980)

7 Aug 2020  |  <1 min read

The day that Britain and the world woke to the news that John Lennon had been shot in New York both George Harrison and Paul McCartney went to work, Harrison in his home studio and McCartney in London. That may seem strange, but what else to do? As Paddy Moloney of the Chieftains – who had been booked for the McCartney session – said later, “there were a lot of... > Read more

Stephanie Dosen: Within You Without You (2007)

31 Jul 2020  |  1 min read

For centuries a wide strain of folk music existed without the appellation “drone folk”, a convenience label which seemed to emerge some time in the Nineties. There was always an element of drone in many aspects of British folk, notably Celtic music where the pipes/bagpipes or hurdy-gurdy created an effect not dissimilar to that of a tanpura in Indian music. Folk artists... > Read more

The Rolling Stones: Continental Drift (1989)

26 Jul 2020  |  1 min read  |  2

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 actually (a considerable improvement over its predecessor Dirty... > Read more

Bobby Parker: Watch Your Step (1961)

18 Jul 2020  |  1 min read

American r'n'b singer Bobby Parker couldn't possibly have known that the young Beatles used to play his '61 single Watch Your Step in clubs, although he may have heard Adam Faith's cover of it. In fact the song was so popular in the UK that a number of acts performed it (Manfred Mann among them) but it was the Beatles who got the most mileage out of its distinctive riff which they... > Read more

Joan Baez: Simple Twist of Fate (1975)

6 Jul 2020  |  <1 min read

In late '74 Joan Baez went into a studio with hot session musicians and jazz players (Jim Gordon, Larry Knechtel, Joe Sample, Larry Carlton, Wilton Felder), and she had been hanging around with her new friend Hampton Hawes. So jazz -- and Joni Mitchell -- was in the air, and Baez responded by delivering the album Diamonds and Rust which was a step well away from her folkie image. But... > Read more

Martha Reeves and the Vandellas: Third Finger Left Hand (1967)

28 Jun 2020  |  1 min read

Beyonce's thrilling Bollywood-influenced dancefloor hit Single Ladies; Put a Ring On It reminded of the long tradition of songs about wedding rings, or the lack of them, or how tarnished a memory can be . . . Elsewhere has already posted a number of such songs: Gary Lewis and the Playboys' pop hit This Diamond Ring and Freda Payne exceptional and ambiguous Band of Gold (about... > Read more