From the Vaults

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Hancock, Carter, Williams, McFerrin: Chan's Song, Never Said (1986)

18 Jul 2022  |  1 min read

When it comes to movies about jazz, the jazz audience is almost impossible to please. Every detail – even in fictions – must be authentic, or at least ring true to the art, the artists, the milieu, the audience . . . Tough call, and why Clint Eastwood's Bird was often curtly dismissed despite its many strengths (however replacing the original musicians behind Charlie Parker's... > Read more

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

11 Jul 2022  |  <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

Bob Marley and the Wailers: Let the Lord Be Seen in You (1965)

4 Jul 2022  |  1 min read

Bob Marley only had about seven high-profile years between No Woman No Cry and Redemption Song, about the same length of time the Beatles had between Please Please Me and the break-up. But of course, like the Beatles, there was Bob before and after that. After that was, notably, the posthumus album Confrontation in '83 which contained Buffalo Soldier, one of his greatest songs. And... > Read more

Jacqueline Taieb: 7 heures du matin (1967)

27 Jun 2022  |  <1 min read

The attractive young Taieb (who had been born in Tunis) was one of the generation of "ye-ye" girl singers which emerged in France in the Sixties as the Beatles swept through. The French took to the hip fashions and Carnaby Street style with a passion and Talieb was an overnight sensation at 19 with this cool, slightly detached song which was her first, biggest and last hit under... > Read more

Elmer Fudd: The Fool on the Hill (1995)

19 Jun 2022  |  <1 min read

There have been thousands of covers and interpretations of Beatles' songs -- from the refined (orchestral and chamber groups) to the ridiculous (dogs barking out She Loves You), from jazz and Hawaiian (by way of Belgium), from reggae to trip-hop and . . . well, then there were the Rutles (whose parodies were also covered). There are also these exception and bizarre collections which manage... > Read more

The Tickle: Subway (1967)

13 Jun 2022  |  <1 min read

These none-hit wonders have quite a remarkable claim to fame, if fame can be reduced to a footnote in rock history. The Tickle from Hull were the backing band on the debut album of a guy called David Bowie. Doubtless they got the gig playing with an unknown singer through producer Tony Visconti who twiddled the studio knobs on this song. They were certainly up to the task of sounding... > Read more

Nina Simone: Alone Again Naturally (1982)

6 Jun 2022  |  <1 min read

One of the most bitter songs Nina Simone -- indeed anyone -- has ever recorded, this revision of Gilbert O'Sullivan's rather maudlin hit now gets down into dark vengeance in Simone's hands. It appeared in 2020 on the album Fodder on My Wings, a collection of songs from various places, and -- recorded in '82 -- it is very hard to listen to. But her relationship to her father was... > Read more

Jimi Hendrix: God Save the Queen (live 1970)

4 Jun 2022  |  <1 min read

"Stand up for your country and start singin'," says Jimi when he played this to open his set at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 where half a million people turned up, just eight months after the Rolling Stones' disastrous free concert at Altamont. It might have been the Seventies but for many this was the last great festival of the Sixties, and just 18 days later Hendrix was... > Read more

Annie Ross: Twisted (1952)

29 May 2022  |  <1 min read  |  2

Annie Ross -- who died in 2020 at 89 -- had an extraordinary career for a kid born Annabelle Short into a family of vaudevillians in London. When she was four, the family migrated to New York and by the time she was 15 she'd performed with Paul Whiteman, moved to Los Angeles, played Judy Garland's younger sister in the movie Presenting Lily Mars and had changed her name to Annie Ross. She... > Read more

John Lennon: Cold Turkey demo (1969)

22 May 2022  |  1 min read

These days it's not uncommon for artists to air their drug problems in music, interviews and – as Johnny Depp has shown us -- in open court. But when John Lennon's Cold Turkey – about heroin withdrawal – was released it was something honest and rare. Here was one of the most famous musicians on the planet acknowledging his dependency (he sniffed rather than injected by... > Read more

Lee Clayton: Industry (live, 1989)

15 May 2022  |  1 min read  |  1

Rocking country singer Lee Clayton out of Alabama and Tennessee almost made the big time at the end of the Seventies with two exceptional albums, Border Affair and Naked Child. In some ways he was ahead of his time and if they had arrrived around the same time as James McMurtry, Chris Whitley and a few others a decade later he might have been seen as a part of a tough-minded and poetic... > Read more

Moana and the Moa Hunters: Moko (1998)

9 May 2022  |  <1 min read

In the late Nineties, this song by Moana Maniapoto with her band the Moa Hunters was the Grand Jury Prize Winner in the International Songwriting Competition. It beat out over 11,000 other entries -- and, without hearing any of the others, we might say "rightly so". It is a remarkable piece, not just in its low and powerful delivery by Moana and the haunting production by Simon... > Read more

Jagger, Lennon, Nilsson and others: Too Many Cooks (1973)

2 May 2022  |  <1 min read

Superstar sessions are often disappointing: too many competing egos (not so with the Traveling Wilburys) and mostly inferior material (often rock'n'roll covers or just lesser originals knocked together). In December 1973 when John Lennon was on his famous Lost Weekend with May Pang and even more famously being drunk and obnoxious, he was palling around with Harry Nilsson, guitarist Jesse Ed... > Read more

Tom Russell: Chocolate Cigarettes (1991)

2 May 2022  |  <1 min read

Whether his stories are literally true or not (and some, like the Leadbelly song about boxer Jack Johnson being denied passage on the maiden voyage of the Titanic, aren't), the American singer-songwriter Tom Russell always tells a great story. He also has a fine sensibility for history, the heartland of America, how the rest of the world sees his country and . . . . Actually he just... > Read more

Flow: Call (Neda) (2010)

25 Apr 2022  |  <1 min read

So, what are the first words which come to mind when you hear the word "Iran"? Probably not hip-hop, heavy metal, folk-rock or blues. Or Pink Floyd, as in this piece by the Iranian band Flow. This tribute is to the 26-year old music student Neda Agha-Soltan who was killed in student demonstrations in Tehran during June 2009 and became a symbol of resistance for young,... > Read more

Hallelujah Picassos: Perfect (1995)

18 Apr 2022  |  1 min read

Thanks to the enthusiasm of former member Peter McLennan, Auckland band Hallelujah Picassos -- once a fixture on the New Zealand music scene in the late Eighties to mid Nineties -- were given their dues through a series of reissues in the 2010s. First out of the blocks was the compilation disc Rewind The Hateman (here) and then an 11 track collection of their covers entitled Picasso Core... > Read more

Mae West: A Guy What Takes His Time (1933)

11 Apr 2022  |  1 min read

Hard to believe from this distance, but Mae West -- who was born in 1893 and lived long enough to be in a movie with Ringo Starr, Keith Moon and Alice Cooper (the forgettable Sextette in '78, released two years before her death) -- was once a young woman. Those who came to her career late just knew her as that blonde bombshell old lady who had been famous for her one liners. Among them:... > Read more

Kay Starr: The Rock and Roll Waltz (1955)

4 Apr 2022  |  <1 min read  |  1

Cheap Trick scored a lot of favourable press for their Surrender (see clip below) in which the kid wakes up to find mum and dad rocking and rolling (rolling numbers) and having his Kiss records out. If that song had a forefather it was perhaps this gimmicky and safer song by Kay Starr whose chart career had taken a bit of fall until she picked up on the rock'n'roll craze and took this... > Read more

John Cage: Mushroom Haiku (date unknown)

28 Mar 2022  |  <1 min read

The American composer John Cage (1912 - 92) was best known for something he did in '52, which was nothing. The composition which he performed was entitled 4'33" and involved Cage sitting at a piano for exactly that duration and not playing a note. Since then the work has been much discussed by musicologists and comedians, and has been performed many, many times, and on a variety of... > Read more

Felius Andromeda: Meditations (1967)

21 Mar 2022  |  <1 min read  |  1

There are a number of stories about John Lennon being so smitten by Procol Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale that he would play it over and over, often while tripping. This from a man whose band had just delivered Sgt Pepper's on an unsuspecting world? But Lennon was not so taken with the song's melding of classical allusions and dreamy lyrics that he went out and tried to replicate it, as... > Read more