From the Vaults

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

Peter Cape: Coffee Bar Blues (1959)

22 Jun 2011  |  <1 min read

The idiosyncratic Peter Cape (1926-79) has appeared at Elsewhere's From the Vaults previously, with his Kiwi vernacular classic She'll Be Right (here). He wrote about things that ordinary jokers and sheilas could understand and were interested in: rural life, the All Blacks, the train on the Main Trunk Line (and the food), trams, beer and betting on the horses, small towns and so on. It... > Read more

Northside: Shall We Take a Trip (1990)

21 Jun 2011  |  1 min read

The difference between the American psychedelic experience of the Sixties and that of the British can be captured in two phrases: in the States Timothy Leary was telling people to "tune in, turn on and drop out" which clearly demanded some committment. In Britain however George Harrison -- on It's All Too Much -- was offering the more measured and slightly detached perspective of the... > Read more

The Pretty Things: Don't Bring Me Down (1964)

17 Jun 2011  |  3 min read  |  2

Most people lie about their school days: no one wants to admit they were ordinary. Better to say you hung around behind the bike shed, that teachers and kids hated you for your music, clothes or whatever. Oh, and you smoked. Just makes you seem more cool and interesting -- and most people weren’t. One of the lies people who formed their musical taste in the mid Sixties... > Read more

Perry Como: (Get Your Kicks on) Route 66 (1959)

16 Jun 2011  |  <1 min read  |  1

In the hands of Chuck Berry and the Rolling Stones, Route 66 became a classic rock song -- but its history goes further back and the song has been rendered in the styles of earlier eras. And later one too. Written in '46 by jazz pianist Bobby Troup -- who said he penned it after making the trip, got the chorus quickly but couldn't think of enough words so just put in the place names -- the... > Read more

Paul McCartney: Check My Machine (1980)

13 Jun 2011  |  1 min read

In the Seventies Paul McCartney enjoyed a remarkable revival of fortunes -- at the start of the decade the Beatles broke up, he released a couple of feet-finding solo albums, got the band Wings together and did a lowkey tour of the UK, delivered Band on the Run, conquered America and the rest of the world with hits singles then witnesed Wings slowly decline. In 1980 he went into a small... > Read more

Bunny Wailer:Amagideon/Armagedon (1976)

9 Jun 2011  |  1 min read

As Bob Marley was advancing a more light-filled, if still serious, face of Rastafarianism into the world, it fell to deep roots groups like Culture, the great Burning Spear and Bob's old bandmate in the original Wailers, Bunny Livingston (aka Bunny Wailer) to deliver the darker and deeper themes. The mighty Spear sang as if he had just been freed from the shackles of slavery in a voice like... > Read more

Rosalie Allen: Hitler Lives (1945)

6 Jun 2011  |  <1 min read

Because the name "Hitler" became such a signifier for all that was evil and his name a shorthand for the inhuman and demonic, it was inevitable that any portrayal of him as a mere man (albeit a very bad one!) was bound to offend many. Better to think of him as an aberration than a possibility. In this song by Rosalie Allen -- "The Prairie Star" who popularised the... > Read more

The Ivy League: Four and Twenty Hours (1966)

3 Jun 2011  |  1 min read

Britain's Ivy League were one of those bands which appeared in the wake of the Beat Boom and the Beatles and scored a couple of quick hits -- Funny How Love Can Be, then Tossing and Turning -- in '65. And that would seem to be it because a couple of key members left and . . . But there is more to their story that that. The band were Ken Lewis, John Carter and Perry Ford, and they... > Read more

Juanes: La Camisa Negra (2005)

2 Jun 2011  |  1 min read

Unless you follow Latin pop then La Camisa Negra/The Black Shirt might be the biggest hit you never heard by a global star don't even known about. Juanes from Colombia has sold 15 million albums, won 17 Latin Grammy awards and one Grammy. The album Mi Sangre (My Blood) which included La Camisa Negra (The Black Shirt) debuted at number one on the Latin Billboard charts, held that... > Read more

John Cale; Chinese Envoy (1982)

1 Jun 2011  |  1 min read  |  4

As with anyone who was there, I have a vivid memory of John Cale's show at the Gluepot back in September '83, and in fact I still have the poster ("Tickets sold! Limited door sales. Be early!") Cale's Sabotage/Live from '79 can't be topped for the sheer intensity he brings to material like the thrilling seven minute version of Mercenaries (play at full volume and then put on Pere... > Read more

Harry Partch: And on the Seventh Day, Petals Fell in Petaluma (excerpt, date unknown, possibly Sixties)

31 May 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

When Tom Waits swerved left from his barroom piano ballads and into using new or found sounds on his clank'n'grind albums in the mid Eighties, he was hailed as an innovator . . . but conspiciously few followed him down that path. These days albums where musicians use unusual instruments are increasingly common and any number will name-check American composer/instrument builder and musical... > Read more

The Warlocks: Can't Come Down (1965)

30 May 2011  |  <1 min read

By the mid Sixties the spirit and style of poetic Bob Dylan was everywhere as singers and writers tried to match his surreal wordplay. Dylan's harmonica, image heavy lyrics and monotone is everywhere in this demo by the Warlocks out of San Francisco. Of all the Bob-copyists the Warlocks had the best claim to similar territory: they were heavily into acid, had made their own way to folk-rock... > Read more

Craig Scott: Smiley (1971)

26 May 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

It is a sad reflection on New Zealand's counter-culture that at the height of the war in Vietnam there were so few songs addressing the most important international event of that generation. Maybe because there was no conscription in New Zealand, but the musicians of the day were almost mute in their response to the war. And oddly enough the most widely played and discreetly delivered... > Read more

The Hombres: Let It Out (Let It All Hang Out) (1967)

25 May 2011  |  1 min read  |  3

The great thing about disposable pop is that the minute it gets stuck to the bottom of your shoe you just can't shake it. Like this from the one-hit-wonders the Hombres out of Memphis whose members had knocked about on the road as the Daytonas then the Bandits. Written by two of the band's members, Let it Out (Let It All Hang Out) captures something of a stoned Dylan/country psychedelic... > Read more

Frank Zappa: I'm the Slime (1973)

19 May 2011  |  <1 min read

The life, times, opinions and music of Frank Zappa are too huge and diverse to come to terms with easily. What is beyond question (and some of his music and opinions were questionable) is that the man had a rare and impressive musical reach -- from doo-wop to orchestral music and all points between and beyond -- and when he was in satirical mode he could be witheringly accurate. As a social... > Read more

The Newbeats: I Like Bread and Butter (1964)

18 May 2011  |  <1 min read

This should come with a consumer warning: It's one of those songs you wake up with nagging away in the back of your brain, the song you can't shake and sticks with you all day. So you have been warned. The Newbeats from Shreveport, Louisiana were never destined for greatness or longevity. There was only so much you could do after a novelty hit sung in an irritating falsetto. But they... > Read more

Anthrax: Bring the Noise (1991)

16 May 2011  |  1 min read

It's hard to believe, but a radio station in New Zealand -- which always seemed to be playing car dealer ads and 20 year old Led Zeppelin on the rare occasions I tuned in -- had as its slogan "No crap, no rap". We can guess they weren't actually distinguishing between the two but by implication rap was crap. It must have come as a shock to them when Run DMC covered Aerosmith's... > Read more

Gary Puckett and the Union Gap: Young Girl (1968)

15 May 2011  |  1 min read

Because they are often offered the temptations of the flesh, musicians will inevitably write and sing about it. There are a lot of songs about sex, some of them rather coded. There's also a decent sized sub-genre of songs about the temptations of very young flesh. The Lovin' Spoonful's John Sebastian weighed in with the beautifully dreamy Younger Girl and you could draw a straight line from... > Read more

Jim James and Calexico: Going to Acapulco (2007)

14 May 2011  |  1 min read

Acapulco in Mexico is widely known as a party destination for many Americans, but in Bob Dylan's Goin' to Acapulco -- which appeared on The Basement Tapes -- the mood is anything but celebratory, party-on-dude and joyous. Dylan and the Band drag their way through the lyrics as if the weight of the world was on their shoulders, and the idea of "goin' to have some fun" (in a Mexican... > Read more

Sky Cries Mary; 2000 Light Years From Home (1993)

13 May 2011  |  1 min read

A tip? Eat your acid drop right now . . . and . . . and waiting and waiting and  . .. now? Shall we around this point try to be serious? Let us try.  At the same time as grunge was emerging in Seattle there were other things going on in that city, it wasn't all lumberjack shirts and flailing emotional intensity. The quite exceptional Green Pajamas were delivering... > Read more