From the Vaults

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

John Lennon: Cold Turkey demo (1969)

22 May 2022  |  1 min read

These days it's not uncommon for artists to air their drug problems in music, interviews and – as Johnny Depp has shown us -- in open court. But when John Lennon's Cold Turkey – about heroin withdrawal – was released it was something honest and rare. Here was one of the most famous musicians on the planet acknowledging his dependency (he sniffed rather than injected by... > Read more

Lee Clayton: Industry (live, 1989)

15 May 2022  |  1 min read  |  1

Rocking country singer Lee Clayton out of Alabama and Tennessee almost made the big time at the end of the Seventies with two exceptional albums, Border Affair and Naked Child. In some ways he was ahead of his time and if they had arrrived around the same time as James McMurtry, Chris Whitley and a few others a decade later he might have been seen as a part of a tough-minded and poetic... > Read more

Moana and the Moa Hunters: Moko (1998)

9 May 2022  |  <1 min read

In the late Nineties, this song by Moana Maniapoto with her band the Moa Hunters was the Grand Jury Prize Winner in the International Songwriting Competition. It beat out over 11,000 other entries -- and, without hearing any of the others, we might say "rightly so". It is a remarkable piece, not just in its low and powerful delivery by Moana and the haunting production by Simon... > Read more

Jagger, Lennon, Nilsson and others: Too Many Cooks (1973)

2 May 2022  |  <1 min read

Superstar sessions are often disappointing: too many competing egos (not so with the Traveling Wilburys) and mostly inferior material (often rock'n'roll covers or just lesser originals knocked together). In December 1973 when John Lennon was on his famous Lost Weekend with May Pang and even more famously being drunk and obnoxious, he was palling around with Harry Nilsson, guitarist Jesse Ed... > Read more

Tom Russell: Chocolate Cigarettes (1991)

2 May 2022  |  <1 min read

Whether his stories are literally true or not (and some, like the Leadbelly song about boxer Jack Johnson being denied passage on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, aren't), the American singer-songwriter Tom Russell always tells a great story. He also has a fine sensibility for history, the heartland of America, how the rest of the world sees his country and . . . . Actually he just... > Read more

Flow: Call (Neda) (2010)

25 Apr 2022  |  <1 min read

So, what are the first words which come to mind when you hear the word "Iran"? Probably not hip-hop, heavy metal, folk-rock or blues. Or Pink Floyd, as in this piece by the Iranian band Flow. This tribute is to the 26-year old music student Neda Agha-Soltan who was killed in student demonstrations in Tehran during June 2009 and became a symbol of resistance for young,... > Read more

Hallelujah Picassos: Perfect (1995)

18 Apr 2022  |  1 min read

Thanks to the enthusiasm of former member Peter McLennan, Auckland band Hallelujah Picassos -- once a fixture on the New Zealand music scene in the late Eighties to mid Nineties -- were given their dues through a series of reissues in the 2010s. First out of the blocks was the compilation disc Rewind The Hateman (here) and then an 11 track collection of their covers entitled Picasso Core... > Read more

Mae West: A Guy What Takes His Time (1933)

11 Apr 2022  |  1 min read

Hard to believe from this distance, but Mae West -- who was born in 1893 and lived long enough to be in a movie with Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Alice Cooper (the forgettable Sextette in '78, released two years before her death) -- was once a young woman. Those who came to her career late just knew her as that blonde bombshell old lady who had been famous for her one liners. Among them:... > Read more

Kay Starr: The Rock and Roll Waltz (1955)

4 Apr 2022  |  <1 min read  |  1

Cheap Trick scored a lot of favourable press for their Surrender (see clip below) in which the kid wakes up to find mum and dad rocking and rolling (rolling numbers) and having his Kiss records out. If that song had a forefather it was perhaps this gimmicky and safer song by Kay Starr whose chart career had taken a bit of fall until she picked up on the rock'n'roll craze and took this... > Read more

John Cage: Mushroom Haiku (date unknown)

28 Mar 2022  |  <1 min read

The American composer John Cage (1912 - 92) was best known for something he did in '52, which was nothing. The composition which he performed was entitled 4'33" and involved Cage sitting at a piano for exactly that duration and not playing a note. Since then the work has been much discussed by musicologists and comedians, and has been performed many, many times, and on a variety of... > Read more

Felius Andromeda: Meditations (1967)

21 Mar 2022  |  <1 min read  |  1

There are a number of stories about John Lennon being so smitten by Procol Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale that he would play it over and over, often while tripping. This from a man whose band had just delivered Sgt Pepper's on an unsuspecting world? But Lennon was not so taken with the song's melding of classical allusions and dreamy lyrics that he went out and tried to replicate it, as... > Read more

Luv: You're The Greatest Lover (1978)

14 Mar 2022  |  1 min read  |  2

August 2012 marked a sad day in global pop. On August 12 the off-and-on group Luv played their final ever performance. If that means little to you it is perhaps because you weren't tuned in to bland, efficiently produced Abba-style dance pop in the late Seventies and early Eighties when this trio were at their peak. Perhaps more photogenic than musical, Luv were one of those pre-Spice... > Read more

Patrice Holloway: Those DJ Shows (2005)

7 Mar 2022  |  1 min read

Ridiculous to observe, but there was once a time when radio people weren't "shock jocks" (and ain't that the second easiest job in the world?) or "taking callers now." Once upon a time radio people actually played music they loved which was right-then/right-now important and they brought new sounds to their audience. Here's one stunt I fell for as a teenager.... > Read more

Luke Leilani and His Hawaiian Rhythm: Hawaiian Holiday (1966)

28 Feb 2022  |  <1 min read  |  1

Although there is no shortage of albums by Luke Leilani (and his various groups), getting solid information about him is more difficult. He doesn't rate a mention in the thick Hawaiian Music and Musicians collection edited by George S. Kanahele which makes me think Luke might have been as about authentic a Hawaiian as the Waikikis (from Brussels, see here). I am happy to be proven... > Read more

Mark Dinning: Teen Angel (1959)

28 Feb 2022  |  1 min read  |  1

When songwriter Jean Dinning died in 2011 at age 86, the obituary writers got the bare fact down straight. How she'd been reading about juvenile delinquents and someone had commented these kids weren't so bad and should be called "teen angels". Her then-husband Red Surry suggested that might be a good title for a song and so the two of them came up with the maudlin,... > Read more

RM Hubbert: Sunbeam Melts the Hour (2012)

21 Feb 2022  |  <1 min read

Okay, here's what you need to do. Just play the posted track, shut your eyes and try to pick where you think this piece might have come from. Don't read on. If you've done that and stabbed in the dark a bit then let's flip all the cards slowly and tell you this is from the album Thirteen Lost & Found which was produced by Franz Ferdinand's Alex Kapranos. And the album is... > Read more

Haysi Fantayzee: Jimmy Jive Jive (1983)

14 Feb 2022  |  2 min read

It's entirely possible that this British pop duo (with the svengali figure of Paul Caplin guiding their brief career) spent more time in make-up than they did on the charts: they knocked out four singles and an album  . . . but their chief feature was their risque glam-raggamuffin look which was used to greater effect by their contemporary Boy George. However their album Battle Hymns... > Read more

Davy Graham: Maajun (1964)

7 Feb 2022  |  1 min read  |  1

In his exceptional book Electric Eden: Unearthing Britain's Visionary Music, the author and folk excavator Rob Young shines his astute and poetic spotlight on not only the more well known names in British folk -- Donovan, the Incredible String Band, Pentangle, Fairport Convention, Strawbs et al -- but traces links to William Morris, Ralph Vaughan Williams and gives equal time to the likes of... > Read more

Susanna and the Magical Orchestra: Love Will Tear Us Apart (2006)

7 Feb 2022  |  <1 min read

The Susanna here is Norway's Susanna Wallumrod and the Magical Orchestra is keyboard player Morten Qvenild . . . and this Joy Division classic is right in their frame of reference because her vocals often work this ethereal and moody area, usually on originals. She is quite some esthete also -- her siblings are renown musicians also -- and among her recent collaborators have been jazz... > Read more

Elvis Presley: US Male (1968)

31 Jan 2022  |  1 min read  |  1

In '67-'68 very few people were listening to Elvis Presley in the way they once did. The mode of the music had changed, the musical cultures of London and San Francisco were dominant and the new heroes were the Sun Kings (the Beatles), Jimi Hendrix, psychedelic bands and so on. Tough minded rock'n'roll singles  -- aside from those by John Fogerty for Creedence -- weren't of as much... > Read more