From the Vaults

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Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: I'm a Man (2006)

24 Jan 2012  |  <1 min read

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have not been short of greatest hits, collections, a bio-doco or a box set anthology. So in 2009 when the four CD set Live Anthology rolled around you might be forgiven for passing it by. Certainly there were flat spots in the running order which drew from three decades of shows, but the high points were many -- especially if you were a fan of the pre-Free... > Read more

John Lennon: Real Love (1979 demo)

23 Jan 2012  |  1 min read  |  1

When, in early 1994, the remaining Beatles (aka the Threetles) got together to work on the demo of the late John Lennon's Free As A Bird they at least had the bare bones of a vaguely interesting, if somewhat stodgy, song. Lennon's widow Yoko Ono had previously given McCartney three Lennon home demos at the induction of Lennon into the Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame, and with the Beatles Anthology... > Read more

Peter Dawson: If In The Great Bazaars (date unknown)

20 Jan 2012  |  1 min read

So who sold a lot of records then? Oh yeah Rihanna, right? And the Beatles and Elvis? And, of course, Peter Dawson. Peter Dawson? Yep, according to the liner notes on the (possibly) mid-Seventies album this track is lifted from, Dawson -- born in Adelaide in 1882, died Sydney in 1961 -- sold at least 14,000,000 records in his long career. His career reached from cylinder discs with the... > Read more

The Checkmates: Love is All I Have to Give (1969)

13 Jan 2012  |  1 min read

It is widely believed that crazy Phil Spector "retired" from pop production in '66 because he had been broken by Ike and Tina Turner's River Deep Mountain High -- what he considered his finest "wall of sound" production -- not going to the top of the charts. Certainly after it failed to be embraced by DJs and the American public he shut down his Philles label -- but as... > Read more

The Adverts: Gary Gilmore's Eyes (1977)

12 Jan 2012  |  1 min read

A noble entry in the "one-hit wonder" category, this punk era single by London's Adverts had all the key elements of the genre: short and buzzy, sounding just enough like the Damned et al to be recognisably punk, and also a subject matter that seemed to provoke. Ironically for the Adverts this was almost their second "one hit wonder" because their first single was in... > Read more

Sonny Boy Williamson: Your Funeral and My Trial (1958)

11 Jan 2012  |  1 min read

By the time he went to Britain in the early Sixties and toured (and recorded) with the Yardbirds and the Animals, the career of Sonny Boy Williamson II was still at something of a peak, unlike many other blues artists like Howlin' Wolf who went to Britain in their declining years. Williamson had toured with Elmore James and Big Joe Williams, and he was a direct and clear link back to the... > Read more

John and Jackie: Little Girl (1958)

5 Jan 2012  |  <1 min read  |  2

Simulated female orgasm on records isn't overly common, but there are certainly a few high profile examples. Counting back from Vanessa Daou's Zipless album (1994) and Donna Summer's Love to Love You Baby (1975) through Yoko Ono's moan-groan-screaming in the late Sixties/early Seventies (you wouldn't want to live next door let alone be in the next room) and the steamy Serge Gainsbourg's Je... > Read more

Little Esther Phillips: Hound Dog (1953)

12 Dec 2011  |  1 min read

Although Big Mama Thornton was the first out of the block with Leiber and Stoller's Hound Dog -- subsequently a hit for Elvis Presley -- Thornton wasn't the only one to hear its bluesy potential. Esther Phillips -- later to find fame in the disco era with her cover of Dinah Washington's What a Diff'rence A Day Makes (see here) -- almost got it to the charts before her. Little Esther as... > Read more

Lee Dorsey, Yes We Can (1969)

8 Dec 2011  |  <1 min read  |  2

From regional hits then through increasing international success on the back of songs like Ya-Ya, Ride Your Pony and Working in a Coal Mine, Lee Dorsey -- a childhood friend of Fats Domino -- exported the sound of New Orleans. He was produced by Allen Toussaint, had the Meters back him on albums and singles in the late Sixties (they are on this cut), and had a natural gift for putting the... > Read more

Kurt Vonnegut, Simon Heselev: Tock Tick (1973/2003)

6 Dec 2011  |  1 min read

Kurt Vonnegut seems an unlikely collaborator with a jazz bassist from Melbourne -- but that is what happened in 2003 when the famous author allowed Australian musician and studio engineer Heselev to put music to his '73 reading of a section from his famous book Slaughterhouse Five. Heselev takes up the story about how, after graduating from Berklee in Boston and doing studio work in LA with... > Read more

Steve Hillage: Hurdy Gurdy Man (1979)

29 Nov 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

True story of my first experience with this track off Steve Hillage's double live album Live Herald which appeared at the peak of punk/New Wave era when men with long hair, beards, bell bottoms and guitar solos were incredibly unfashionable. It was late one evening and in the privacy of my own home I quietly self-medicated and slapped on this for some deep immersion. Hillage was that... > Read more

Roger Daltrey: Giving It All Away (1973)

28 Nov 2011  |  1 min read

When the Who's Roger Daltrey went to make his first solo album in '73 he certainly made some interesting choices of collaborators, not the least being calling on Adam Faith as co-producer with Dave Courtney. Faith had been one of those artists swept aside when the Beatles arrived, but he had always had great credibility because he wrote his own songs. When the hits stopped coming he moved... > Read more

Eartha Kitt: The Heel (1955)

24 Nov 2011  |  <1 min read

She might not have been the best Catwoman* because she was a little past her best, but the great Eartha Kitt straddled sultry pop, blues-noir and cabaret. She was also in a Faust film by Orson Welles (playing Helen of Troy), her suggestive Santa Baby became a classic (and was covered by Madonna) and in this dramatic track she imagines white powder in his drink as she, a jealous woman, prepares... > Read more

Bob Dylan: If Dogs Run Free (1970)

23 Nov 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

Given that Bob Dylan has long been considered the greatest poet in rock, it seems a little surprising he never published a volume of verse or recorded some poems. But as he noted in his autobiography Chronicles, "For sure, my lyrics had struck nerves that had never been struck before, but if my songs were just about words, then what was Duane Eddy, the great rock'n'roll guitarist doing... > Read more

George Harrison: When We Was Fab (1987)

22 Nov 2011  |  1 min read

Among the many seeming ironies of George Harrison's long career was that, despite being the Beatle who most wanted out of people's expectations and what that meant, he would frequently draw on that period for inspiration or make overt references back which were unmissable. His solo career songs This Guitar Can't Keep From Crying and Here Comes the Moon refer to While This Guitar Gently... > Read more

Lakshmi Shankar: I Am Missing You (1974)

21 Nov 2011  |  <1 min read

When George Harrison established his own Dark Horse record label it allowed him to release projects that were close to his spiritual heart, if not exactly commercial propositions. That said, both the Shankar Family and Friends (1974) and Ravi Shankar's Music Festival from India ('76) albums were absolute delights of immacuately produced, beautifully played Indian music which gently roamed... > Read more

The Chequers: Ask for Reggae (1973)

17 Nov 2011  |  <1 min read

The Chequers were a fairly minor league reggae outfit who quite quickly moved away from the template and into what some have called on-line "dodgy disco" (which is a little unfair, it was more Philly soul) and then they evolved into a soul-funk band. But certainly their star never rose very high although their version of Rudy's In Love (with Philly soul-strings) showed how smooth... > Read more

The Jiants: Tornado (1959)

15 Nov 2011  |  <1 min read

When the rock'n'roll wave hit Marion, Indiana in the late Fifties what else was a poor boy to do but play in a rock'n'roll band . . . The short-lived Jiants (1959-61) were an enthusiastic five-piece but their star was guitarist Jerry Hedges who on this, their local hit, worked a throbbing and twanging style which was such an aural fingerprint for many of the best acts of the era. And you... > Read more

Sagittarius: My World Fell Down (1966)

14 Nov 2011  |  1 min read

Elsewhere doesn't go much for conspiracy theories -- although I've been to the Texas Book Depository in Dallas and, hmmm. But here's one that might be of interest. LA musician/producer Gary Usher was working on the single My World Fell Down with a bunch of session musicians at the same time as Brian Wilson was meticulously crafting Good Vibrations for the Beach Boys. Usher and Wilson... > Read more

Bunny Walters: To be Free with Labour (year unknown)

9 Nov 2011  |  1 min read

Right now in New Zealand it is the run-up to the election and -- unlike in what some of like to call "the old days" -- none of the main parties seem to have a high-profile election song. There was always something pleasing about those sentimental, patriotic and reductive songs of yesteryear which played while the party leader posed alongside Kiwi cliches -- snow-capped mountains,... > Read more