From the Vaults

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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  |  5

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  |  1

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