From the Vaults

Subscribe to my newsletter for weekly updates.

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

Alvin Robinson: Down Home Girl (1964)

10 May 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

When the Beatles and the Stones covered songs by black American artists on their early albums and championed Motown soul (Beatles) and Chicago blues singers (Stones) they undoubtedly drew attention to the genius which many locals had overlooked. The Stones' early shows and albums were stacked with songs by Chuck Berry (Come On, their first single, and Down the Apiece, Around and... > Read more

John Hiatt: She Loves the Jerk (1983)

9 May 2011  |  1 min read

Songs of spousal abuse or domestic violence are never going to be pretty or common, in fact on a countback the most outstanding one prior to this by Hiatt was probably the gloomy and dark He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King in the early Sixties. They'd heard from Little Eva (who'd had a chart hit with their The Locomotion in '62) that she was being beaten... > Read more

The Searchers: Love's Melody (1980)

6 May 2011  |  2 min read

Despite the durability of Gerry and the Pacemakers' Ferry Cross the Mersey, there is little question that the most successful group out of Liverpool in the Sixties -- aside from that other one -- was the Searchers. In the wake of the Beatles there were a dozen or so bands who rode into the charts -- Gerry, The Big Three, Billy J Kramer and the Dakotas, not to mention evaporating acts like... > Read more

Peter Sarstedt: Mary Jane (1969)

5 May 2011  |  1 min read

If people remember UK singer-songwriter Peter Sarstedt for anything at all it is his European-sounding ballad Where Do You Go to My Lovely? . . . and perhaps his summery follow-up One More Frozen Orange Juice. Both were hits in '69, the former winning him an Ivor Novello songwriting award. Sarstedt was the younger brother of Eden Kane -- he of Boys Cry fame -- and his other brothers... > Read more

Half Man Half Biscuit: Time Flies By (When You're the Driver of a Train) (1985)

4 May 2011  |  1 min read  |  2

Never let it be said Elsewhere doesn't listen to its constituency. When the cry went up, "Why no Half man Half Biscuit at From the Vaults?" the solution was obvious. (The answer however is, because they're pretty awful -- but that's neither here nor there) For those who have lived happy and fulfilled lives in the absence of any knowledge of this often hilarious, satirical and... > Read more

Victoria Spivey and Lonnie Johnson: Dope Head Blues (1927)

3 May 2011  |  <1 min read

When Lou Reed took a bit of flak for writing about street life (drugs, hookers, transvestites) he just picked the wrong idiom. These topics were common enough in literature and pulp fiction, but new to rock music. Dope songs were certainly common in jazz and the blues -- in fact there has been a long tradition of singing about marijuana, cocaine and heroin. These drugs were familiar in the... > Read more

The Rolling Stones: Child of the Moon (1968)

2 May 2011  |  1 min read

Although the Stones' psychedelic album Their Satanic Majesties Request of late '67 has taken a bad rap, they didn't entirely abandon the trippy sound even as they put it behind them and moved into a more blues-based rock for their next single Jumpin' Jack Flash and the album Beggar's Banquet (which had Street Fighting Man on it). They might have been toughening up -- spending hours in a... > Read more

The Flying Pickets: Get Off Of My Cloud (1983)

26 Apr 2011  |  <1 min read

Songs by the Rolling Stones have suffered a number of indignities -- usually when an orchestra is involved -- but few have been made over in a humorous way, as was done by this British a cappella outfit in the early Eighties which enjoyed a number one Christmas single in '83 with their version of Yazoo's Only You. The group -- mostly theatre and stage singers -- took their name from the... > Read more

Janis Joplin: Trouble in Mind (1965)

21 Apr 2011  |  <1 min read

The great Janis Joplin has been dead for over four decades now but it would be fair to observe that no woman in rock has ever approached her deep understanding of the blues and earthy, powerful delivery . . . let alone her self-destructive approach to life. Yet she has been largely forgotten and, as this essay notes, no one seems in any mind to try to honour her legacy by reissues, unlike... > Read more

Peter Lewis and the Trisonic: Four City Rock (1960)

20 Apr 2011  |  1 min read

Outside of folk songs (eg this droll one), New Zealand has had no great history of name-checking local places in rock music. But back in 1959 Jack Urlwin of the Christchurch label Peak scribbled down some words and handed them to young singer Peter Lewis and his guitarist Pat Nihonihoni. The scribble didn't have a title but they were words to a song which name-checked Auckland (the Queen... > Read more

Age of Consent: Fight Back Rap (1983)

19 Apr 2011  |  <1 min read

Who said the gay power movement lacked humour? Quite the opposite in fact, and humour is a powerful weapon. This one-off appeared on the Harvey Kubernick-curated double album English as a Second Language in 1983 on Freeway Records, another in his series of recordings of poets and spoken word artists from LA which included people like Jeffrey Lee Pierce, Wanda Coleman, Henry Rollins, Charles... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Jet Pilot (1965)

17 Apr 2011  |  <1 min read

Although things would come to a literal grinding halt in mid '66 when he was tumbled from his motorcycle -- and he used the break to recover from emotional exhaustion after his lightspeed career of the previous four years -- in '65 Bob Dylan was still enjoying his position as the man who was taking folk and smart words into rock. During the sessions for what would become the Highway 61... > Read more

Barry McGuire: California Dreamin' (1965)

15 Apr 2011  |  1 min read

After his growling and apocalyptic version of PF Sloan's Eve of Destruction in '65 the former folkie Barry McGuire -- who had been in the New Christy Minstrels and had co-written their big hit Green Green -- was looking for new material to include on his second album. Producer Lou Adler lined up a number of covers -- the Beatles' Yesterday and Dylanesque You've Got to Hide Your Love Away,... > Read more

LaVern Baker: Voodoo Voodoo (1961)

14 Apr 2011  |  1 min read

The sudden revival of Wanda Jackson's career - courtesy of Jack White and the album The Party Ain't Over in early 2011 -- has singled her out as a great female rock'n'roller at a time (the late Fifties) when she was out there on her own amongst all the boys. Not exactly true. There was also -- albeit briefly -- Janis Martin (whose hit My Boy Elvis she co-wrote with Aaron Schroeder... > Read more

Jelly Roll Morton: I'm Alabama Bound (date unknown)

12 Apr 2011  |  <1 min read  |  1

The origins of jazz are lost in the mists and of course few would be so bold as to say it started on any particular date. One who did however was pianist Jelly Roll Morton who claimed to have invented jazz and was even happy to give a date when asked. Morton was, like so many blues players at the time, not averse to borrowing and adapting from others then claiming them as his own --... > Read more

Ronnie Ronalde: If I Were a Blackbird (1950)

11 Apr 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

Roger Whittaker does it, and so does Bryan Ferry when he sings John Lennon's Jealous Guy. They whistle on stage, which isn't the easiest thing to do -- least of all if, as with Roxy Music playing in Auckland earlier this year, it's a breezy night and the wind is in your face. Whistling was once a commonplace and every now and again in the Eighties there would be letters to the New Zealand... > Read more

The Little Willies: Lou Reed (2005)

8 Apr 2011  |  <1 min read

The idea of the improbable is always enjoyable. It is the basis of Dada and Surrealism, not to mention a few good dreams and a whole lot of Monty Python-type humour. And so you can guess when this band -- Norah Jones, Lee Alexander, Richard Julian and others -- got together to indulge their love of country and music by playing material by Kris Kristofferson, Hank Williams Jnr,... > Read more

Gary Lewis and the Playboys: This Diamond Ring (1965)

6 Apr 2011  |  2 min read

The offspring of Hollywood were just as swept up in Beatlemania as anyone. The two sons of comedian Soupy Sales -- Hunt and Tony, drums and bass respectively -- were in Tony and the Tigers who appeared on Hullabaloo and had a couple of records out . . . although went on to more interesting things later when they joined Todd Rundgren, Iggy Pop (on Lust for Life) then David Bowie in Tin... > Read more