From the Vaults

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The Great! Society: Somebody to Love (1966)

24 Mar 2011  |  1 min read

There were at least three different versions of this psychedelic classic which is best known in its third incarnation by Jefferson Airplane. But the song dated back to before that '66 single/album track -- back to the band that singer Grace Slick was in before she joined the Airplane. Her previous group -- with her husband Jerry and his brother Darby, who wrote this -- was The Great!... > Read more

Bill Haley and His Comets: Oriental Rock (1958)

22 Mar 2011  |  <1 min read

There are a few views of rock'n'roll pioneer Bill Haley whose Rock Around the Clock provided the revolutionary soundtrack to the '55 Glenn Ford movie Blackboard Jungle: that he was the rebel voice of a post-war generation . . . or that he was the accidental John the Baptist to Elvis' rock'n'roll Jesus. There is the view that Haley -- who looked like your receeding-hair uncle who was... > Read more

Portia Faces Life and Dr Paul (from the Fifties)

19 Mar 2011  |  1 min read  |  1

It seems peculiar to state the obvious, but there is at least one generation which may not know this: before television people listened to radio. And not just for music and news, radio was the home of drama and for decades people tuned in to hear the on-going melodramatics of Britains' The Archers (which started in 1950 and still runs today), the Australian comedy show Life with Dexter, the... > Read more

Dean Martin: My Rifle, My Pony and Me (1959)

13 Mar 2011  |  1 min read

As Nick Tosche revealed in his remarkable biography Dino: Living High in the Dirty Business of Dreams, Dean Martin didn't have to try hard at anything: he was good looking, could sing whatever was put in front of him, was a natural straight man and comedian, and he'd just turn up on a movie set and do his lines with charm, ease and utter indifference. No, Dean didn't have to try -- so... > Read more

Renee Geyer: You Broke a Beautiful Thing (1999)

11 Mar 2011  |  <1 min read  |  1

Lord knows some artists can be "difficult" -- and many of those who have tried to interview Australian Renee Geyer (never my doubtful pleasure) have returned chastened, frustrated and sometimes downright angry. It was hardly surprising then when Paul Kelly produced an album for her entitled Difficult Woman in '94. Her 2000 autobiography was Confessions of a Difficult Woman.... > Read more

Bertie Higgins: Key Largo (1982)

10 Mar 2011  |  1 min read

Bertie Higgins -- born in Florida despite his London East End-sounding name -- didn't make much long-term impression on the charts, except for this ballad about the romantic Golden Age of the Silver Screen which topped Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart in '82. Higgins, who had been a drummer in Tommy Roe's backing band in the Sixties, neatly captured a couple of generations' nostalgia for... > Read more

Pine Top Smith: Pine Top Boogie (1928)

9 Mar 2011  |  <1 min read

Aside from this being considered one of the first, if not the first, reference to "boogie woogie", there are a number of other interesting things about this recording by the pianist Clarence Smith. It was recorded in Chicago on December 29, 1928 and just three months later he was accidentally killed when hit by a stray bullet in Chicago's Masonic Hall -- which tells you that they... > Read more

The Maytals: Disco Reggae (1977)

2 Mar 2011  |  <1 min read

You could almost understand Kay Starr singing Rock and Roll Waltz as the waters around her rose in the Fifties. Her style was being swamped by the likes of rockabilly and rock'n'roll, so she was probably just trying to keep her head above water. But quite why the Maytals would have wanted to lean towards disco for this single when reggae was under no threat at all is another matter. At... > Read more

The Mississippi Sheiks: Bed Spring Poker (1931)

1 Mar 2011  |  <1 min read

The blues is often blunt and to the point when it comes to sexual imagery, at other times it is coded -- although no one should be in any doubt that when Lonnie Johnson says he is the best jockey in town he isn't boasting about his horse riding skills. This song by the Mississippi Sheiks -- Walter Vincson on guitar and vocals, Lonnie Chapman on violin and vocals -- manages to be subtle and... > Read more

Sir Douglas Quintet: Lawd I'm Just a Country Boy in This Great Big Freaky City (1968)

28 Feb 2011  |  <1 min read

When this song was written, Doug Sahm -- singer, writer and frontman for the Sir Douglas Quintet -- was feeling somewhat jaded about the hippie paradise that had been San Francisco. He and the band were from Texas and in the mid-Sixties had, like so many, moved to the Bay Area to enjoy whatever was happening there. But increasingly the hippie movement became a freak circus and runaways... > Read more

Reverend J.M. Gates: Hitler and Hell (1941)

26 Feb 2011  |  <1 min read

The Rev Gates (b 1884) was preacher-cum-gospel singer whose style was often call-and-response in the manner of Baptist churches. He worked out of Atlanta and aside from sermonising he was a prolific recording artist, some estimates say he recorded around 200 songs and sermons from around 1926 when he scored big with Death's Black Train is Coming (see clip below). He was pretty big on hell... > Read more

Tiny Tim: We Love It/When I Walk With You (1968)

23 Feb 2011  |  1 min read

If you were there at the time, Tiny Tim was novelty act: the long-haired eccentric with a ukulele singing Tiptoe Through the Tulips in an impossibly high falsetto. But that was the late Sixties for you, a time when the retro sound of Winchester Cathedral by the New Vaudeville Band and I Was Kaiser Bill's Batman by Whistling Jack Smith could be hits alongside Hendrix, the Who and Procol... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Copper Kettle (1970)

22 Feb 2011  |  2 min read  |  3

When Bob Dylan's 10th album -- the double vinyl Self Portrait -- was released in 1970 it was received with bewlidered or damning reviews, the most notable being Greil Marcus in Rolling Stone who began his abrasive review with "What is this shit?" Fair call perhaps, because this mish-mash of odd covers (a ragged treatment of Paul Simon's The Boxer), instrumentals, standards (Let It... > Read more

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