From the Vaults

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Missing Persons: Words (1983)

19 Feb 2011  |  <1 min read

Anyone who stumbled onto this LA New Wave band on You Tube can't help note what others are saying: Lady Gaga has ripped off the style (and some of the sound) of frontwoman Dale Bozzio's sense of big-hair and glammed-up look. Perhaps more corrrectly Lady Gaga has simply taken it as a starting point, just as scantily-clad former Playboy bunny Bozzio took a little from Lena Lovich, Blondie and... > Read more

Cronkite, Chamberlain and King George VI: The king's speech

19 Feb 2011  |  <1 min read

The critical and popular success of the film The King's Speech -- hardly what one might have thought would have made a persuasive pitch to any production company -- has raised interest in that period of British and world history. Here then, from a scratchy old album Blitzkrieg! -- "a dramatic countdown of events leading up to and including the early days of World War II (1933 to... > Read more

Galaxie 500: Cheese and Onions (1991)

18 Feb 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

When Frank Zappa asked "does humour belong in music?" you knew he was being rhetorical. He certainly poked fun, ridiculed and parodied -- all long before Spinal Tap and the Rutles. The Rutles -- the brainchild of Monty Python's Eric Idle and with music by Neil Innes -- were a brilliant Beatles parody: the casting was excellent and the songs sailed just close enough to Beatles... > Read more

The Woofers and Tweeters Ensemble: Daytripper (1983)

15 Feb 2011  |  <1 min read

And you thought YouTube threw up fly-by-night stars and oddities? This one puts the surfing cat and dancing pig into perspective. In the early Eighties a couple of Australians -- over a few wines -- fiddled with computer technology to simulate the sound of dogs barking and used it to have the "dogs" "sing" a Beatles song. And lo! An album of barked-out Beatles songs... > Read more

Kyu Sakamoto: Sukiyaki (1963)

11 Feb 2011  |  1 min read

It wasn't really the name of the song that Sakamoto recorded, but that hardly mattered. When this catchy piece of MOR pop from Japan made it to the West it enjoyed enormous success. Sakamoto, who was 22, was the first and last Japanese artist to top the Billboard charts. It was also his first and last international success. Back home of course he wasn't a one-hit wonder, he was a national... > Read more

Kyu Sakamoto: Sukiyaki (1963)

Gil Scott Heron: Winter in America (1974)

9 Feb 2011  |  <1 min read  |  1

The great pre-rap, spoken word-cum-jazz-poet Gil Scott Heron is perhaps best known for his angry The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (see clip below) in which he assailed those uncommitted or comfortable blacks who seemed to be standing on the sideline while the streets ran red and Black Panthers had their fists raised. For him it was never "if" but "when" the people's... > Read more

Ashokan Farewell/Sullivan Ballou Letter (from 1861)

8 Feb 2011  |  1 min read

Among the many remarkable documentaries which American filmmaker Ken Burns has helmed (Jazz, Baseball, those on various architects) the most outstanding and compelling is perhaps his series The Civil War. To keep your attention over so many episodes was a feat in itself, but to do so with no moving footage -- just period stills -- was extraordinary. Of course the story being told --... > Read more

Laibach: Get Back (1988)

7 Feb 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

The Beatles might have been about "peace and bloody love" as a droll Ringo noted at the end of the Anthology DVD series. But in the hands of Laibach out of what we used to call Yugoslavia of the late Eighties, their music sounded like it was ready to invade Poland. Laibach -- in a thoroughly post-modern and ironic manner (and don't those words sound like cliches of that... > Read more

Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam: Is 'e an Aussie, is 'e Lizzy (the Thirties?)

3 Feb 2011  |  2 min read  |  1

This is one of those songs which, once heard, is never forgotten: how can you ever erase lines like "seems this digger likes my figure" or "he being well-born, lived in Melbourne". Mr Flotsam and Mr Jetsam (not to be confused with the metal band of similar name, of course) were a UK-based comedy duo of the Twenties and Thirties. Flotsam was Bentley Collingwood Hilliam... > Read more

Chris Thompson: Hamilton (1990)

1 Feb 2011  |  <1 min read  |  3

The reissue of some early Seventies recordings by New Zealand folk-blues singer-songwriter Thompson allowed us to hear again one of the great lost musicians of that era. Thompson's broad spectrum folk style in that period incorporated Indian music influences and black rural blues -- but later on he also delivered a fairly droll line in Kiwiana . . . as with this song, written in that... > Read more

No Way Sis: I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (1996)

26 Jan 2011  |  <1 min read

For the Oasis tribute band No Way Sis their work was done for them: Oasis were notorious for borrowing/plagiarising/thieving melodies which songwriter Noel Gallagher cheeerfully admitted -- and their song Shakermaker owed more than a nod to the Greenaway-Cook song I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing (a hit for the New Seekers and also used as the ad I'd Like to Buy the World a Coke). The... > Read more

Mel Brooks: To Be Or Not To Be; The Hitler Rap (1984)

21 Jan 2011  |  3 min read  |  1

Very few people -- and arguably only Jewish comedians? -- can get away with making fun of Hitler and the Nazis. Mel Brooks has been relentless in his ridicule which some find tasteless and others say is a necessary corrective. Whichever way you cut it, it is dark humour which Brooks makes seem genuinely funny. By way of comparison, is this as funny? (Actually, in a different way it is.)... > Read more

Byron Lee and the Dragonaires: Elizabethan Reggae (1969)

20 Jan 2011  |  1 min read

Long before the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra of the late Eighties/early Nineties, Jamaican musicians were appropriating classical music and turning it around over ska and reggae rhythms. The provenance of this particular hit is perhaps a little muddied: it is variously attributed to (singer/bassist) Boris Gardiner of the Upsetters, and also to producer Byron Lee and his studio band the... > Read more

Larry Williams: Slow Down (1959)

19 Jan 2011  |  1 min read

R'n'b/rock'n'roll singer-songwriter Williams didn't have a particularly long time in the spotlight -- he appeared in '57 and was effectively gone from the charts within three years -- but his small catalogue influenced a generation of British singers, among them John Lennon who was a huge fan. In fact the Beatles covered three Williams' songs in their early career -- Bad Boy, Dizzy Miss... > Read more

Chicago Transit Authority: Free Form Guitar (1969)

19 Jan 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

This band -- who later shortened their name and became simply "Chicago" -- have appeared at Elsewhere previously with their thunderous and extended version of the old Spencer Davis Group hit I'm a Man (here). The point was made then that after a fine start as an underground and somewhat radical band -- their debut double album from which this and I'm a Man come from had recordings... > Read more

The Beatles; You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) (1970)

13 Jan 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

The 2009 remastering of the Beatles' catalogue allowed listeners not only the chance to reassess their sound, but also the breadth of their musical reach. Here was a band which created great pop, beautiful ballads, economic psychedalia (Strawberry Fields, Walrus, Lucy in the Sky and others barely broke the 4.00 mark), raga pop and had a sense of humour. How few bands today would dare do... > Read more

The Beatles; You Know My Name (1970)

Victor Borge: Phonetic Punctuation (1955)

13 Jan 2011  |  <1 min read  |  1

Denmark-born pianist Victor Borge was a child prodigy who could have had a distinguished career playing concert halls. Fortunately for us he chose another direction. Born to Jewish parents in 1909, he studied and played the classics, but in his late teens began adding stand-up comedy to his repertoire. He married an American (Elsie Chilton) in 1933 and when the Nazis invaded Denmark they... > Read more

Jerry Lee Lewis: The Return of Jerry Lee (1958)

11 Jan 2011  |  1 min read

When Jerry Lee Lewis arrived in Britain in May 1958 the rock'n'roll crown was his for the taking. He was the wildman at the piano with crazy stacked-up hair, had delivered seminal, sweat-inducing hits with Whole Lotta Shakin' and Great Balls of Fire, and he was repressed sex personified and unleashed. He may have been a country boy at heart but he was the pulse of rock'n'roll. Britain was... > Read more

Van McCoy: The Hustle (1975)

10 Jan 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

So how long does it take to write a song? James Taylor says he wrote Steamroller Blues in as long as it took to scribble the words down, but maybe that doesn't really count -- especially if you've heard Steamroller Blues. If you look at the credits on some current r'n'b songs and see the artist's name alongside that of the four producers (and the lyrics are "oh baby, give it up... > Read more

This Nation's Dreaming: Room Full of Clocks (1989)

15 Dec 2010  |  1 min read  |  3

It was a good idea at the time which turned into an even better one: follow the story of band playing its first public gig from their rehearsal room to that moment under the lights . . . or in this case on the grubby "stage" at the Rising Sun Hotel in Auckland. And by sheer chance -- and I cannot remember who suggested This Nation's Dreaming -- the people we picked were... > Read more