From the Vaults

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Hotlegs: Neanderthal Man (1970)

16 Aug 2011  |  1 min read

It's not unusual for studio experiments to end up on records, less common that they become the record itself -- as was the case with this single. To backtrack a bit. The successful British songwriter Graham Gouldman who had penned hits for Herman's Hermits (No Milk Today), the Yardbirds (For Your Love, Heart Full of Soul, Evil Hearted You) and others hit a dry spell in the late Sixties. So... > Read more

(Warning, from vinyl so has enjoyable surface noise)

The Funky Kings: Singing in the Streets (1976)

15 Aug 2011  |  1 min read

So just how pervasive was Bruce Springsteen's influence? One listen to this track by the short-lived Funky Kings from LA would suggest that even by his second album he'd managed to infiltrate the consciousness of these guys. Well, maybe. But the Funky Kings, who only lasted one album, were a supergroup in reverse. Just about all of them went on to other things, or had come from some... > Read more

Chubby Checker: Mexican Hat Twist (1962)

12 Aug 2011  |  1 min read

It's entirely possible Chubby Checker knew his time was up when Parkway released his album Twist with Chubby Checker. On the back cover he looks alarmed. Maybe he'd seen the inner sleeve where five other of his Twist albums were advertised -- Your Twist Party with the King of Twist Chubby Checker, Don't Knock the Twist, Let's Twist Again, For Teen Twisters Only ("Adults Twist at Your... > Read more

Lenny and Squiggy: Foreign Legion of Love (1979)

8 Aug 2011  |  1 min read

You don't dig into From the Vaults looking for good taste or class, but you do find oddities like this which resonates on many levels throughout rock culture. Lenny and Squiggy were the dumbcluck characters in the television show Laverne and Shirley and had very little to recommend them as on-screen characters. They were hammy klutzes who were given terrible lines to deliver. So far, so... > Read more

Waylon Jennings: Are You Sure Hank Done it This Way (1975)

5 Aug 2011  |  1 min read

Just from the repeated electric strum here, Waylon Jennings was announcing a different kind of country music: and its minimal sound threw even greater attention on his lyrics which questioned the whole country music establishment as epitomised by the smooth Nashville Sound, the Grand Ole Opry and the Music Row writers cranking out generic songs. Long hairs and post-hippies had started to... > Read more

Robert Plant: If It's Really Got to be This Way (1994)

4 Aug 2011  |  1 min read

When the unexpected, Grammy-grabbing album Raising Sand by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss arrived, it reminded many of what a great interpretive singer Plant could be outside of his throat-abusing belting in Led Zeppelin. Even within the mighty Zepp however he offered some exceptional interpretations (Gallows Pole stands out). Well before Raising Sand however, he appeared on a tribute to... > Read more

The Ugly's: Wake Up My Mind (1965)

3 Aug 2011  |  1 min read

Among the many unusual things about the story of the Ugly's is why a band (with an unnecessary apostrophe?) from Birmingham should have enjoyed a huge hit in Australia and New Zealand with this song, and not made a ripple back home. The Ugly's had emerged from the Dominettes which had been caught up in the skiffle boom of the late Fifties. But as they embraced r'n'b and had new members... > Read more

The Royal Punkharmonic Orchestra: Germ Free Adolescents (1995)

2 Aug 2011  |  1 min read

The recent death of Poly Styrene threw attention back onto her short career in the often interesting band X-Ray Specs where she was more adept at social comment than many of her phlegmatic punk peers. That was a trait she explored on her final if somewhat indifferent album also, Generation Indigo. One of X-Ray Specs' most memorable songs was the monotone Germ Free Adolescents and it is... > Read more

Jimmy Patton: Okies in the Pokey (1959)

1 Aug 2011  |  <1 min read

Jimmy Patton (1931-89) was never really a rockabilly singer although this, his biggest hit, was certainly a rave-up in that style. But Patton's heart had always been in hillbilly country, right up until Elvis came along. Like so many others he grabbed a backbeat and made the shift sideways into rock'n'roll, and specifically the rockabilly end of it. For Okies in the Pokey he had help... > Read more

Superman is Dead: Kuta Rock City (2003)

29 Jul 2011  |  <1 min read

Those who head to Bali for some r'n'r and an escape from stress (as I did, see here) will probably come back with the memory of quiet ambient gamelan music which drifted from speakers in the restaurant or by the pool. Lovely. There is however a whole lot of other music in Bali, not the least of it coming from this long-running post-punk trio whose rock credentials probably aren't... > Read more

Sunidhi Chauhan and Vishal: Naa Puchho (2007)

28 Jul 2011  |  <1 min read

More scenes from the global village? While walking through Kuala Lumpur's Little India I heard this track rocking out of the speakers in a small record shop. I was transfixed: urban, English language in place, Hindi in others, samples from car horns, block rockin' beats, rock guitars, hip-hop in the house . . . As it turned out this was from the soundtrack to a Bollywood blockbuster... > Read more

Sunidhi Chauhan and Vishal: Naa Puchho

Riot 111: 1981! (1981)

26 Jul 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

New Zealand has no great popular history of topical, political songs -- and the few that there are tend toward the humorous (My Old Man's An All Black with its reference to no Maori being allowed into South Africa in our representative rugby team during the apartheid era, or Click Go The Toll Gates about tolls on the newly constructed Auckland Harbour Bridge). Perhaps it is because folk... > Read more

Cilla McQueen: Crikey (2006)

22 Jul 2011  |  <1 min read

Today -- Friday July 22, 2011 -- being New Zeaand National Poetry Day it seems only right we should acknowledge it. It would be easy to go to the collection Contemporary New Zealand Poets in Performance for some Very Serious Poetics or link back to our particular favourite Selina Tusitala Marsh, but this being Elsewhere -- the place where music is important -- this one by Cilla McQueen... > Read more

The Archies: Sugar Sugar (1969)

20 Jul 2011  |  2 min read  |  1

Okay, it's irritating rot-your-teeth bubblegum . . . but wait, there is more to this than you might think -- and remember it came out in the year of Altamont, Hendrix, the Manson murders and so on. The Archies weren't a proper group of course, they were actually singer Ron Dante, session musicians and the great Toni Wine (more of her shortly). At the time this song was selling millions,... > Read more

Stan Freberg: Rock Island Line (1956)

19 Jul 2011  |  <1 min read

Because a parody only works if you know the original it might be useful to check out the video clip here (kinda cute in its own way) before playing American comedian Freberg's poke at it. The original of Rock Island Line was by Leadbelly in the Thirties but Donegan's version of 1955 was emblematic of the skiffle era in Britain where young white guys with acoustic guitars, home made... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Dirge (1974)

18 Jul 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

While flicking the pages of a rock magazine the other day I came on an interview with a young musician who cited among his current favourite listening Bob Dylan's Planet Waves. When that album was released it was met with polite but hardly laudatory reviews, and even the enormously successful and highly profitable tour with the Band (Dylan's first since '66 during which many of the... > Read more

Bo Diddley: Say Man (1958)

15 Jul 2011  |  1 min read

The late Bo Diddley was perhaps best known for that distinctive self-titled riff that he bequeathed to rock. He used it on a number of songs -- Hey Bo Diddley, Pretty Thing, Hush Your Mouth and others -- and it came into rock with Buddy Holly's Not Fade Away, the Downliners Sect's Be A Sect Maniac and Sect Appeal and many others. Bo referred to it as his "shave and a haircut, six... > Read more

Clem Tholet: Rhodesians Never Die (1973)

14 Jul 2011  |  1 min read

Aside from songs about dance crazes, the most immediately redundant songs in popular music are those which attach themselves to a political cause. Times change quickly and today's patriotic or revolutionary song can just sound plain quaint if not simplistic within a year or two. And because political songs can't deal in nuance or contradiction, they tend to be little more than slogans . . .... > Read more

Mr and Mrs Mattis: I'll Never Move Again (date unknown, 1970s?)

13 Jul 2011  |  <1 min read

Here is a real mystery single: on the Narrow Way Gospel "label" out of Jamaica (crudely hand-printed, with a quote from Isaiah) comes this oddity which is clearly Jamaican singers but has a peculiar Pacific feel to it in the guitars. Another one-off bought in Brixton just simply because it sounds so good -- but whoever Mr and Mrs Mattis are might remain unknown . . . unless you... > Read more

The Pictones: Hashish (1962)

11 Jul 2011  |  <1 min read

Not a lot is known about New Zealand's Pictones out of Levin, an instrumental group who delivered a nice line in country'n'western rock'n'roll on their 1961 single Pistol Packin' Mama which opened with galloping hooves, a whip cracking and a whinny. (The flipside of which was My Bonnie, recorded around the same time as the Beatles did it in Hamburg.) Unusually however, they named this... > Read more