From the Vaults

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Death: Politicians in My Eyes (1976)

22 Mar 2021  |  <1 min read

Until the 2012 doco A Band Called Death, few outside of Detroit had heard much about Death, the three brothers Hackney who formed a funk band but then, influenced by rock music, turned into a serious, proto-punk rock band inspired by the politics of the late Sixties/early Seventies (which was very volatile, especially in Detroit and Chicago). They stumbled at the first... > Read more

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

12 Mar 2021  |  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

Stephen: Windy Day (1988)

1 Mar 2021  |  1 min read

Unless you happened to be in Dunedin at the time, the late Eighties Flying Nun trio Stephen -- guitarist David Kilgour (Clean etc), bassist Alf Danielson (Goblin Mix) and drummer Geoff Hoani -- seemed to last little longer than their EP Dumb (which was about 13 minutes). There was, as far as I am aware, just the EP Dumb (six songs) and . . . Oddly enough though they had formed three... > Read more

Aztec Camera: Jump (1988)

22 Feb 2021  |  <1 min read

By the time of their third album Love in 1987, Aztec Camera out of Scotland had effectively become just singer-songwriter Roddy Frame and whoever he chose to work with. Love was their/his most successful UK album and the single Somewhere in My Heart lifted from it went to number 3 on the British charts. The 12" remix of that single was more interesting when you flipped it over: the... > Read more

Bob Dylan: The Usual (1987)

15 Feb 2021  |  1 min read  |  1

Although in these days of online-everything there could be very few Bob Dylan songs described as rare, this one isn't too readily available . . .  unless you have the soundtrack to the Eighties film Hearts of Fire on which it appeared. The movie itself -- in which Dylan plays an elusive and reclusive rock star, in very bad Eighties clothes -- was widely disparaged and didn't even get... > Read more

Joe Tex: Buying a Book (1969)

1 Feb 2021  |  <1 min read

The great Joe Tex has appeared at From the Vaults previously (with his wonderful soul screamer'n'stomper I Gotcha from '72) but this -- his 21st single (out of 33 US r'n'b chart hits between '65 and '78) -- deserves special mention. A narrative that is part (im)morality tale, philosophy-cum-humour and a bit of street-soul in the chorus, Buying A Book came out of Muscle Shoals and -- while a... > Read more

David Bowie: This Is Not America (1985)

18 Jan 2021  |  <1 min read

Accidentally catching David Bowie in Labyrinth on television recently reminded just how much he put himself about for a while there. Recording Peter and the Wolf, singing the Little Drummer Boy with Bing Crosby, strutting with Mick Jagger for Dancing in the Street, the Absolute Beginners and When the Wind Blows soundtracks, knocking off stuff for Labyrinth which allowed him to dance in very... > Read more

Ann Peebles: I Feel Like Breaking Up Somebody's Home (1972)

11 Jan 2021  |  <1 min read

Well, if anybody in '72 could break up somebody's home it would have been the steamy Ann Peebles who delivered this classic Memphis soul gem and the following year cemented her reputation with two classics, the much covered and sampled I Can't Stand the Rain and I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down. Peebles originally came from St Louis and sang gospel as a child but found her feet in Memphis... > Read more

Massiel: La La La (1968)

4 Jan 2021  |  1 min read

In 1968 middle-class, middle-aged (and some kids) Britain held a collective breath. That year the Eurovision Song Contest was being hosted at the Royal Albert Hall, after a bare-footed Sandie Shaw had won it the previous year with Puppet on a String. This time success was assured because the committee had put up Britain's favourite pop star Cliff Richard . . . and the song chosen was... > Read more

Dread Zeppelin: All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth (1990)

23 Dec 2020  |  <1 min read

Christmas is upon us. And in the spirit of the day here is one of the funniest bands ever. Whoever thought pulling together reggae rhythms and Led Zeppelin riffery was an odd fish . . . but then they went one step beyond and fronted the band with an Elvis impersonator. This was classic rock-comedy . . . and their shows were hilarious. For this B-side however they went even... > Read more

William Burroughs: What Washington? What orders? (1953)

6 Dec 2020  |  <1 min read

As guest writer Andrew Schmidt noted in his Other Voices Other Rooms piece on writer William Burroughs, his influence has been profound on many areas of the arts. We might also note that he had an astute and cynical eye and ear for global politics, as in this reading from his collection Exterminator! The idea of the hologram British royal family in a television serial/soap opera might... > Read more

Lil Johnson and Black Bob: Press my Button, Ring My Bell (1932)

30 Nov 2020  |  <1 min read

When Anita Ward scored a big disco hit with Ring My Bell in '79, the saucy yet somewhat lyrically bland song was in a long tradition of "ring my bell" metaphors in popular music. As far back as '32 the raunchy Lil Johnson -- about whom little is known other than her catalogue of songs about sex, getting drunk, sex and more sex -- was singing "press my button, give my bell a... > Read more

Art Pepper: Smack Up (1960)

23 Nov 2020  |  <1 min read

Art Pepper hardly hid his dependency, so he must have been amusingly drawn to the title of this piece by Harold Land. Pepper had already served time for heroin possesion but after the sessions for the album of this name, he would be in and out of San Quentin on almost consecutive terms for a long time. It would be almost 15 years before he made any kind of serious comeback to jazz -- on... > Read more

Billy Brooks: The Jagged Edge (1974)

9 Nov 2020  |  <1 min read

Not a lot of people could say they were signed to Ray Charles' label and had the great man himself there co-producing with them. Enter longtime trumpeter Billy Brooks who could not only claim that but had done time in Charles' band and also played with Lionel Hampton, Cal Tjader and others. Brooks had very good company on his Windows of My Mind album which comes on with the swinging... > Read more

Bob Dylan: Take Me As I Am (1970)

2 Nov 2020  |  2 min read  |  5

When it was confirmed in 2013 that the next installment in Bob Dylan's Bootleg Series would be a revisit to the Self Portrait period (and a few years either side it would seem) it seemed courageous. That double album from 1970 was met with critical derision at the time ("Greil Marcus' Rolling Stone review famously opened with "What is this shit?") because it was a somewhat... > Read more

LaVern Baker: Soul on Fire (1953)

12 Oct 2020  |  <1 min read  |  1

In her long life -- she died in '97 age 67 -- LaVern Baker (born Delores Baker) sang everything from blues -- she started as Little Miss Sharecropper in Chicago -- through soulful ballads, jazz, fairly vacuous pop (see clip), creditable covers of Bessie Smith . . . And this minor classic included in the soundtrack to the '87 film Angel Heart and which could have brought her to attention... > Read more

John Lennon: I'm Losing You (1980)

20 Sep 2020  |  <1 min read

The remastered Lennon catalogue (released on the anniversary of what would have been his 70th birthday in 2010) naturally allowed a reconsideration of some of his material. (See essay here.) This song -- when it appeared on Double Fantasy, see clip -- had a brooding quality and the anger seemed self-directed. But this version, taken from the Lennon Anthology set of 2003, reveals a very... > Read more

Stan Freberg and Daws Butler: Elderly Man River (1957)

24 Aug 2020  |  <1 min read

The best satire is timeless because it pokes fun at human frailties and foibles, and the most pompous and authoritarian among us. These days we don't hear quite so much from “the grammar police” (although don't get me started on the those who use potential instead of possible) but they are still out there and – when conjoined with the new generation of woke... > Read more

Neil Young/Pearl Jam: I'm the Ocean (1995)

21 Aug 2020  |  <1 min read  |  1

Some hardcore grunge fans (read: Nirvana devotees still mourning the suicide of Kurt Cobain the previous year) didn't warm to the Mirror Ball album which paired “the godfather of grunge” Neil Young with Pearl Jam (whom many Nirvana fans thought were just a hard rock band coat-tailing the Seattle/grunge scene). However the album got pretty good reviews and very sound sales... > Read more

Ginsberg/McCartney/Kaye/Glass/Mansfield/Ribot: Ballad of the Skeletons (1996)

17 Aug 2020  |  1 min read

Here's an unlikely supergroup: poet Allen Ginsberg with Paul McCartney and Lenny Kaye (of the Patti Smith Group and Nuggets fame) and others. Now they may not have all been in the same room for this seven minute-plus piece in which Ginsberg nailed down the “moral majority”, Christian conservatives, right wing types all persuasions as well as those on the Left.... > Read more